"What was a misstep that you (or your publisher) made with publishing your first book--and how would you do things differently if you could?"
I remember the day very well when I heard from my first publisher the great news that they were going to publish my treatise on Musashi’s Book of Five Rings. I was thrilled that my voice would be heard by a large audience and that a relatively major publisher was going to take the task on and the miniscule advance did not deter my ardor to shout and dance. The title was changed according to a mutual agreement and I was off and running. Oh, joy!
Keep in mind that this was back in the early 90’s and the industry hadn’t started to sink into its own detritus and online and self-pub was something to come in the near future at that time. Everything was one by landline and fax and snail mail. For you newcomers, the changes were done through a form called “blues” to indicate whatever changes being contemplated…back and forth.
I had an editor, a real one, (I still see her with glasses hanging from a chain around her neck, pencils pushed into her hairdo and the perennial cigarette dangling from her lips [mi encanta – you’ve no doubt seen pictures of her in motion pictures over the years] not someone who only knows about commas and semi-colons, works with me to polish up what has since become the one of the world’s best-selling interpretations. It just keeps going in spite of the inane management changes and editorial demands that we are presently dealing with today.
All of a sudden, and in the middle of the production process, cost factors raised their ugly head and the bottom line becomes the raison d’etre for publication and decisions are made to curtail expenditures to the max. As a result, the original cover for the book was a washed out line drawing that did in no way enhance the content. Fortunately the merits of the book itself carried it through to great success. The publisher celebrated the release of the book by getting it to distributors…period. They did nothing to promote and they did nothing to put me into the public eye in a more aggressive manner.
Though the book is considered a major classic and a solid part of their backlist, they could have and should have done a lot more.
I do not understand the reasoning behind a manufacturer of anything not wanting to promote their wares. Also, why the insistence of spending money to create a fine product and then chump-changing on the actual presentation of the article?
Those were the good old days and now we have the new old days. Individual promotion is essential unless one has the backing of a substantial publisher who understands the value of their own worth. Authors should be celebrated within reason, of course, but they should be celebrated. And, though the old adage about not being able to tell a book by its cover may be valid in certain situations, it would benefit all concerned if the accounting department would keep the hell out of the way of the art department!