A Dirty Little Secret of Publishing
The proposals and manuscripts come into my office almost daily. Many of these proposals are from new and unpublished authors. They expect the publisher to do all of the marketing for their books and their task is simply to write. It’s true you have to write a great moving novel or a dynamic, can’t-put-it-down book. Yet you also have to learn everything you can learn about the way books are marketed. Today I’m going to focus on one of those secrets.
This past weekend publishers poured into New York City for the Book Expo America trade show (now over). In preparation for the event, The New York Times Book Review included some fascinating articles about the business of books. If you don’t read the online version of The New York Times, then you need to be doing it. It’s free but you do have to register.
Randy Kennedy, a New York Times Arts reporter, investigated one of the open secrets of bookselling—the fact that publishers purchase display space in major bookstores. The article admits that almost no one would talk about this practice—even off the record. So when you walk into your local big box bookstore (Barnes & Noble or Borders) and see those three tiered racks with a new hardcover or paperback, you should know the publisher has purchased that advertising space. Does it work? Kennedy talked with one publishing executive who said a book with sales of about 800 copies a week when the book was placed in one of these racks instantly increased to 3,000 to 4,000 copies a week. It’s a substantial increase and these displays occur in every store in the country—as an advertising/ marketing expense.
Two paragraphs jumped out as I read this article, “While publishers disagree about the merits of paying for display, one thing about the arrangements is clear: they further concentrate money and attention on the books that need it least.”
“The phenomenon, which has been called a reverse Robin Hood effect, happens because publishers pay huge advances to star authors and then feel they must support that author's book with substantial promotion money. Of course, this was happening well before bookstore display emerged as a force. But publishers say that display arrangements have made promotion budgets even more lopsided in favor of the Stephen Kings and Danielle Steels of the book world, meaning that new authors or less prominent books are given increasingly little advertising or display help.” (I added the bold).
I encourage you to read the entire article for your own education about the book business. It will give you some more motivation to include a stellar marketing proposal in your next submission to a publisher. Whether you write novels or nonfiction, you can gain more of my insight in Book Proposals That Sell. If you read the book and following the advice in it, it might help you look at publishing with a different vision and fresh insight.