Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Benefit of Experience

Sometimes, meine Autoren, we publishing folk seem to do perplexing things. We tell you the cover image you love won't sell your book and will need to be changed (everything from the color scheme to the imagery to the very title). We tell you the proposed on-sale date is all wrong and we'll actually need to get the book out the door two months earlier. We tell you you'll need to make author appearances in far-flung locations because those regions are where your book (or books like it) sell(s) best.

As much as it might seem otherwise, we generally don't do these things because we want to make you unhappy or are utterly incompetent at our jobs. The reason we ask for these (often annoying and occasionally apparently pointless) changes is because we have (wait for it!) the benefit of experience. We might not know for certain which covers will look best on the display table or what the absolute perfect on-sale date for your book might be, but we certainly know what probably won't work in terms of everything from overall appearance to release date to promotional placement.

We know what the co-op deadlines and promotions are; we know what season your book will compete best in; we know (historically speaking) what covers have worked and which ones have tanked; we know who your audience is and how to target them; we know how much your book should cost and what format it should be; we're starting to get a pretty good handle on this newfangled "e-book" nonsense (electronic sales chez moi are quite excellent; I'm not sure how publishers elsewhere in the industry are faring). Are we perfect? Absolutely not. But we've done this for awhile now, and we are (again, generally speaking) pretty damn good at it.

So rest assured, mes auteurs, that should you one day know the glory of representation, advances, royalties, and the nightmare joys of shepherding a book through the publication process, there will be plenty of industry professionals available to help you (even if, at times, it doesn't quite feel like help).


  1. I agree with said points. With all the recent cover scandals and my own anecdotal preference of preferring foreign covers to those in the US, I often wonder how much confirmation bias is included in cover experience. If you rarely create a cover with an ethnic character on it, then the sample is skewed disproportionately and it's easy to say they don't sell.

  2. Makes sense to me. The process of elimination is a valuable tool in decision making. Throw out what you know won't work.

  3. It's great to here this kind of thing as an aspiring writer. There's no way us wannabes could make it without good, sound advice from more experienced people. Writing does require patience, and like you said, there will be people there to help us when the time comes.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  4. The professionals are called that for a reason. And we all want to make naturally, it only makes sense to trust experience and what has worked in the past.

  5. Haha, the nightmare, um, joys...

    Great post! I see what you mean. I suppose it's a matter of trust. And fingers crossed.

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