Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Box of Hope

Yesterday I received a box of the new releases from a publisher.  Like many houses, each season they have a new series of books to introduce to the retailer. The telemarketing sales staff at the publisher are calling their various accounts to sell the book into the store. Other members of the publishing house are traveling to key accounts to present the books in person—and hopefully collect their orders.  Then when the books are printed, they are automatically shipped to these various places.

I carefully looked at each book in the stack of releases. Some were targeted as gift books. These colorful packages have a lot of graphics inside the pages of the book and a small design size. They are the perfect impulse buy item and ideally will be sold near the cash register for those impulse purchases.  Because I’ve worked inside a publishing house, I know that someone had a vision for these books and guided the design and the finished product. The writer produced an excellent manuscript but someone had to guide the production until it became a real book.

Other books were targeted to mothers of small children. Yet other books were for fathers and other titles were for grandmothers. These books will find their way into the marketplace over the next few weeks. Notice they were each targeted for a particular segment of the marketplace.

I’ve talked with many would-be writers about their potential audience. They proudly tell me, “This book is for everyone.” Internally the editor cringes when you say that sentence. It’s the pure sign of the rookie, unskilled writer. Every book needs a target audience. This target has to be large enough to merit publishing the book and gaining a broad distribution. Yes, there will be people outside the target who purchase the book—but they will only be a few people. The bulk of the sales will be from the target audience. I discuss this principle in Book Proposals That Sell. Each book has a target.

As these books get into the marketplace, some of them will be successful and find their audience. Their sales will climb to an appropriate level. Others will not make it. It’s a reality of the publishing business.  Each year books go out of print. But at this point in time, this stack of new releases represents a box of hope.

Writers are a hopeful bunch of people. We pour our energy and effort into our manuscripts, our query letters, our proposals and our storytelling. Why? We hope some editor will read our material, champion our cause and get it into print and help people.

A few weeks ago, I received an email which thanked me for a series of sticker books I wrote many years ago. Each one represented a key Bible figure.  This person had enjoyed hours of imaginary fun playing with these stickers and learning about these Biblical characters from these books. I responded to the email and one key question was asking the writer’s age. She responded that she was twelve.  I was encouraged to learn my writing had encouraged this young reader. I thanked her for her email and writing. What are you doing in your writing today to bring hope to others? If it wasn’t a part of your plan, maybe it will be now.

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