Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Realistic Expectations

Over the last few days, I’ve been writing about PyroMarketing by Greg Stielstra (Harper Business). I was fascinated with a short section of the book which shows Greg’s realistic yet serious marketing intentions for his own book. Here’s the section:

“Each year between 120,000 and 150,000 new books are published in the United States. Last year 5,301 of those titles were business books, a 30 percent increase from the year before. They join a library of 3.2 million books already in print. To put this in perspective, it helps to realize that a typical Barnes and Noble superstore accommodates only about 110,000 titles, or between 10,000 and 40,000 fewer than just the new books published each year. If there are about 56,000 business books in print, and assuming an average cost of approximately $20, that means individual business titles sell only about 323 copies per year—and yet my publisher and I expect my book to sell many times more...

“The challenge is daunting, and yet the business book market hit $828.6 million this year and some business titles sell millions of copies. People are buying them. The trick is to understand the process and their motivations. No one steps through the front door of a Barnes and Noble and, after drawing the smell of books and coffee deeply into their lungs, determines, “Today I'm going to buy me a book and I don’t much care which one.” People aren’t like that. They care deeply about certain books and not the least about others. So, who are these people? How do they discover new books? Why do they choose the ones they do? What kind of person will choose mine, and why?” (PyroMarketing, page 50) 

Notice the realistic perspective about his book and how it will enter the marketplace. I’ve met way too many authors who lean entirely on the publisher for any marketing and expect their book to rocket to the top of the bestseller chart (or at least quickly earn back any advance from the publisher), then they are sorely disappointed when it does not happen. See the questions that Greg asks in the final section of the quotation? These questions will give you some insight about the questions you need to be asking about your particular book project—but more than the questions, you need to be finding the answers to them. 

If you find these answers and build the results into your book proposal (particularly the marketing section), then your proposal will receive serious consideration from the publisher.  To be realistic, serious consideration is the only reasonable request that a writer can make from a publisher. Then the publisher has looked at the idea, considered if it’s right for them, then either taken it ahead in the consideration process or rejected it. As writers, we want to rejection-proof our submissions. I believe we can learn a great deal from the principles that Greg has written in PyroMarketing.

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