Monday, October 19, 2009

Prithee, Inform Me: What's the Deal?

Much like a guidance counselor (or, I suppose, psychotherapist), I like to check in every once in awhile to make sure we're talking about what you'd like to talk about, gentle readers. So once again: what would you like to see me blog about? The future of publishing? The past? Profits, losses, comps, co-op, Sarah Palin, self-publishing, and so on?

To the comments with you, and make haste! The holiday season is once nearly again upon us, and with everyone from agents to booksellers kicking into high-gear these next couple of months, I don't know when I'll get the chance to do another You-Tell-Me-style post.

What are you waiting for? Haste! Make it!


  1. You're doing great, Eric! Your links to other informative sources are greatly appreciated.

    Being a writer, my personal interests vary from day to day, week to week, and I can't even tailor my own blog to a single arena... I'm always interested in what the market wants when it comes to fiction, what you would love to be selling (topic, style, genre etc.). Then when a book is about to come out, my attention moves to promoting and all that jazz.

    What I really would like for you do is tell me exactly what to produce that a publisher simply could NOT turn down because the product (novel) is just what the market gets exicted about and every professional in the sales department of a major publishing house dreams of having assigned specifically to him/her.

    P.S. Any idea for a character name?

    It's your boat, Eric. I'm just drifting along.

  2. I'd love to see you talk about what goes on behind the scenes at a publishing house when an editor decides to bid on a novel that's up for auction, particularly from an unknown debut author. We've seen the P&Ls for a normal acquisition, how does the process change when bids must be made quickly? Does sales have any input then?

    I'm always curious what makes the difference between a book that gets a little deal and one that generates a major deal.

  3. The difference for a writer between working with younger and more-established editors--in terms of money and in-house support.

    WTF is going on with art departments? Half of my books have marginally-competent covers--I mean, really deeply crappy--and my editor agrees and still can't get a new cover. I've worked with three publishers, and at every single one I started to suspect that the art department had evidence of the publisher sleeping with the interns, or something. They're unassailable. Why?

    Talk about series. How are they pitched in-house? How much of a chance (how many books, how many sales) does a publisher tend to give them, before cutting losses? What concerns are there about series that don't exist about stand-alones?


  4. I'm with Anonymous: would love to hear more about series, and what goes on behind the scenes once a book gets read, etc.

  5. I'm still learning. So, I benefit from whatever you're talking about.

  6. What is the difference in value between a big best-selling author and a midlist author? (Obviously money, but how much exactly?)

    And how much value do midlist authors have to publishing houses?

  7. I'd like to see a post on how publishing handles books with non-white main characters and multicultural relationships etc. from the percentage of such books published to the marketing to the cover-selection etc.

    Though I know you may not want to because not a lot of people are comfortable talking about race, but it is a very important subject for those of us authors of colour who aren't writing the 'norm'.

    That being said, this is a really great blog and practically everything here is very helpful! And do you really think steampunk is gonna be big in the future?

  8. What does it really mean to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List?

  9. Yes please explain more about the New York Times Best Seller List & what is exactly does the big craze behind the holiday season mean for a debut author?

  10. I'd love to learn about everything that happens "after the sale": covers, interior layout, galleys, ARCs, blurbs. And, how the sales team view all of this. What gets you excited about a book, excited enough to really push it to buyers?

  11. Anon 11:58, there is a great Editorial Ass post about this if you haven't seen it:

  12. I'd love to know about how you handle different adaptations of the book: how do some books become movies while others become tv shows while still others become graphic novels? If an author is an anime/manga fan, can she push for her book to become a manga-style graphic novel (or even a manga drawn by an actual manga artist)? I know Tokyopop has made quite a few book turned manga in the past, but they're not the only game in town, are they?

    What about deadlines? Let's say the book sells to editors on January 1st. How long does it take for it to get to the bookshelves and how long does the author have to write book 2 (if it's a series). Can deadlines be pushed back?

    How are book tour schedules decided?

  13. I haven't heard enough about balloon boy, can you dedicate a week to him?

    For a publishing-related topic, how about book auctions?

  14. NO Sarah Palin! Otherwise, I'm done. (Oh, and not the balloon boy, please. Haven't we had enough of people taking advance of trying to turn themselves into "news". If I could only find a way to watch TV Guide network to see the television schedule WITHOUT Michael Jackson.
    But how book tour schedules are decided/created - now that's worth writing about/reading/studying.

  15. Any lists of other good sources for "almost ready to hunt down an agent" would be appreciated. And the illustration ideas, too. What about bringing along your own illustrator?
    What if your mss has maps? Do you have to use the publisher's artist for that or can you use your own?

    How about the use of real towns/cities and agencies. My series is all centered on a protagonist who is employed in one particular law enforcement agency. Are there any particular "no-no's" I have to watch out for?

  16. The others' ideas interest me as well.

    I would especially like to hear more about series. I'm under the impression that it's almost mandatory for a murder mystery to be pitched as a series.

    Otherwise you're doing great. You're bringing up issues I haven't even thought about. Not that that's unusual.

  17. Anything with more Shakespearean language please ;)

  18. As much as you can, would love to see your report on what really goes on. I think that's what a lot of us want (well, me)-- an honest account of what goes on inside publishing. I mean, you're pretty much doing that already. You could throw in a few stories about pirates, if you like.

  19. I'd love to know how authors decide on which publisher to sign with. Do editors ever approach writers or just wait for an agent to approach them. Also how do smaller publishers make themselves known to agents and sign books?

  20. I found your break down of how the different genres were doing to be extremely helpful and interesting, and I wouldn't mind seeing that revisited regularly, or in more depth.

  21. Please don't talk about Sarah Palin, Eric. I live in Alaska. I can't take it - or her - any more.

  22. auctions and series

    Thanks for all you're doing!

  23. PLEASE BLOG - lots:
    The future of publishing? YES
    The past? TOO GRIM
    losses - SELF EVIDENT?,
    comps - YES, PLEASE,
    co-op - DONE? BUT, WORTH A REPEAT,
    Sarah Palin - or MICHAEL? ,
    new authors - WHO WILL BE BIG (apart from Nathan) IF ONLY PEOPLE BUY BOOKS WITHOUT HYPE?
    self-publishing - YES, PLEASE,
    Around the world in less than 80 days - GLOBAL VIEWS/NEWS WHAT SELLS NEARLY EVERYWHERE?
    And other stuff of this ilk. :)

  24. I'm especially interested in things the author can do that can help sell a first novel, and science fition novels in general. I've heard selling to libraries can be a two edged sword for a best selling author since they may lose some bookstore sales, but is very good for a new author trying to get their name out there.

  25. I may be in the minority, but I'd like to hear more about Sarah Palin's book sales, once it comes out. Specifically, info about bulk sales, what the numbers really mean, and what profit (or loss) her publisher is really looking at after that humongous advance they gave her.

  26. No to Balloon Boy, Yes to Pirates.

    And more about publishing in Children's books (Middle Grade esp), even though I know that's not your bag.

    Love your stuff!

  27. I would love to hear anything at all about how marketing works, what if any research they do, and how they come to their decisions. Really. Anything.

  28. I'd like to know about publishers' logic behind acquiring and publishing books that are given very little marketing push. You know: ARCs, page in the catalog, and little else. And what happens to those books and their authors when said books get little to no sell-in at the chains? I have several writer friends whose debut novels and 2nd novels have met this fate. In my head I call them "ghost books" -- they're out there, theoretically, but there's almost no physical evidence that they exist. And these are books sold by well-known agents to major publishers.

    Why do publishers continue to spend money packing their lists with books that disappear? And is there anything an aspiring author can do to avoid being in that situation in the future?

  29. They say the time to get yourself into viral marketing is before your book is sold. Give me some examples of what you'd suggest. Blog? Facebook? Website? Frankly, I'd rather be working on my next novel.

  30. i'm new here, and so far i've enjoyed everything.

    someone recently said to me "it's not the bestseller's list, it's the best publicized list." it really got me thinking about how integral the marketing machine is to a successful author. i'd love to hear your thoughts on that topic.

  31. All sorts of good ideas here, looking forward to the definitive answers :) Keep up the great work!

    On a recent trip to Half Price Books I got hit with a giant guilt wave wondering if authors saw any money from these stores. Obviously not the used books, but it looks like many for sale are new, like a giant bookstore had over-purchased. Are these books that would otherwise be returned to the publisher and counted against the author's sales? What is the appropriate guilt level for being seduced by books for half price?

  32. As non-American I'm interested to hear how American publishers (or agents) market their books for translations. Is it based on existing contacts ("This German house has done a lot of our titles, let's contact them again"), are US publishers actively out seeking foreign publishers or do they wait passively somebody from other country contacts them? Do the publishers have a standard contract with foreign house, or is every translation negotiationed case-by-case?

    Thanks for your blog, it's very interesting to learn how publishing works in US!

  33. I'd love to know what the sales curve for a typical novel looks like, including backlist sales if it stays in print. In other words, if a title sells X in hardcover, Y in trade paperback the following year, Z in mass market, A in electronic, B in audio, and C is trade/mass market paperback sales in subsequent years. And how quickly the book's sales decay even as it remains in print. I am guessing it probably varies quite a lot, but I'd love to hear about some typical ratios between X, Y, Z, A, B, C and how they change for books that only sell a few hardcover copies vs. bestsellers.