The Forgotten Story Continued
In yesterday's entry, I wrote about the forgotten story of Dan Brown, the author of The Da Vinci Code and some of his not-too-long ago days in the publishing business. I included a short quotation from a court document. Just ahead of the quotation is another element in the story and points to a common situation within book publishing--change.
Authors are trusting of their publisher that they will carry out all of their promises for promotion. These marketing plans are nonbinding since they are normally not included in the actual book contract yet are used to show the publisher's intentions for your book. These plans are offered in good faith but many things change within a publisher between the signed contract and when the book is actually released into the marketplace. Editors leave. Marketing people change houses and financial priorities shift. Many years ago I signed a contract with one of my books and the editor told us about plans to market the books in airports around the country with distinct displays and other such ideas. In between signing the contract and the release of the book (often separated by as much as 18 months), my editor left and none of those plans occurred. Yes the book was published but in a much more modest fashion.
For Brown's earlier novel, Angels & Demons, he changed publishers from St. Martin's Press to Simon and Schuster. Here’s the promised plans from his publisher, "Simon & Schuster said they were extremely excited by Angels & Demons. They promised to give the book considerably more publicity and support than my previous publishers. Their proposed publicity included a much larger print run (60,000), advertising in major newspapers, web advertising, a 12 city tour, an e-book release, and other exciting prospects."
For a writer like Brown who was financially struggling, such a promise was a major encouragement. Yet the court document continues and reveals what happened: "Unfortunately, when the book came out, my print run was slashed down to 12,000 copies with virtually no publicity at all. I was once again on my own and despite enthusiastic reviews, the novel sold poorly. Blythe and I were heartbroken as we had put so much work into this book. Once again, we took matters into our own hands, booking our own signings, booking our own radio shows, and selling books out of our car at local events."
You have to understand this incident took place in 1999 or 2000. Angels & Demons has gone on to become a bestseller. After the success of The Da Vinci Code, readers purchase Brown's other books.
OK, what do you gain from this little historical trip? First, it's a reminder of the ever changing nature of publishing. Also it's encouragement for every author to take a pro-active stance with their own marketing and reaching their own grassroots audience. It's not easy for anyone but if you are consistent (and have a book which is compelling and excellent), then you can eventually find your audience and success. Hold on to the dream yet realize it may take years of consistent work and effort to reach it. Everyone is looking for the quick way and more often than not, there is no quick way. If publishers understood it, then they would use it on the next book and the next book (which so often doesn't work on a regular basis).
Authors need to keep working on building the audience for their books through forming relationships and the dozens of tools out there. If you need any inspiration in this area, pick up a copy of John Kremer's 1001 Ways to Market Your Books and start something that you haven't been doing. In this area, I've been learning about virtual book tours and teleseminars. Last night my first teleseminar was successful. After the teleseminar, I edited the tape some at the beginning and the end using Sound Forge which is a terrific piece of software. You can get it from Mike Stewart, the Internet Audio Guy. Then I uploaded the file to the replay page using audio generator. I selected the "snazzy player" which allows you to fast forward or rewind the teleseminar. It was not complicated and I believe I created a great result--and learned a bit more about marketing books through teleseminars. Also I helped people learn about a great resource for authors, Author Law.
My encouragement to each of you is to continue forward--learning the craft of writing, forming new relationships and crafting better submissions for the editor.