Wednesday, March 31, 2010

After the Call, Part II

Continuing with our discussion of things that happen after you get the call....


You'll probably never interact directly with the typesetters or designers any more than you would with the distributors' reps. There may be occasions when your presence or input would be requested -- for example, some years ago following an in-house, behind-the-scenes discussion over the design of our chapter headings, I posted a question about it to our business loop. As I expected, most of the authors didn't have strong preferences on the issue, but those who cared were given the opportunity to weigh in. And their input helped us make the decision.

The process is different for digital and print books. Font selection is more important with print books, for example, because we don't have to worry about the font limitations of e-book readers. And digital books basically require taking the same file and converting it over and over into a list of formats, each of which presents the possibility for surprises and glitches. I won't go into much more detail than this because, to be honest, you'd probably all be bored silly. Typesetters and book designers speak their own language riddled with terms of art, and they're incredibly detail-oriented. We love them for it. But we don't need to know much about the particulars.

At some point, you'll receive a proof copy -- loose or bound galleys, maybe a pdf, depending on house procedures -- and you'll get the first glimpse of how your actual book will look. This is a heady moment. One author commented to me that this was the moment when it stopped feeling like a manuscript and started feeling like a book. You will probably be asked to look over the galleys and check for things like bad indents, funky margins, typos, and other little mistakes that can show up at this stage or might have been missed along the way. Yes, things do get missed despite all the many pairs of eyes that examine the manuscript.

Sales, Marketing, and PR

Author involvement in these areas varies from house to house and from book to book. You might be contacted by salespeople or publicists, and you might not. Some of the decisions (like ad buys and coop, if any) will probably be made without your involvement. It's really hard to get into more detail on this topic because it's so case-specific. But generally, they'll contact you if they need anything specific.

Reviews usually fall under the PR/Marketing umbrella. Authors are always very interested in reviews, right? Some of you are even required to send out your own review copies. At our house, we handle all that. We have a list of reviewers we manage closely, and if our authors want to add or subtract particular reviewers, all they have to do is speak up. Each reviewer has its own set of submission guidelines, and even though there is a lot of commonality in their requirements, it can sometimes be a tricky terrain to navigate.

Authors are taking on more and more responsibility for promoting their work. In a way this is good because you will always be the best spokesperson for the book. Always. Getting out there and actually being the spokesperson is good for everyone -- you, the publishing house, and the readers. That said, my personal opinion is that some combination of in-house and author-driven publicity is needed. The exact measure for that combination is fluid. But there are things we can do more effectively (ad buys, distributing ARCs, etc.), and things you can do more effectively (web-based promotions such as social networking).

As far as sales goes, a few things will happen. Once the release schedule is set, the sales reps will make the books available to all the house accounts. House accounts will be composed of distributors (like Baker & Taylor and Ingram's for print, or Lightning Source and Overdrive for e-books) and direct accounts (retailers like Amazon and some other independent bookstores). For some, this process is as simple as logging or loading the book into a directory. For others, a more traditional sales approach is needed. Again, it's hard to go into specifics because so much of this depends on the parties involved.

Then there's warehousing and shipping and returns, and all the accounting associated with those procedures. One of the advantages of working with the distributors is that they handle much of the counting and accounting between the retailer and the publisher. That's great in theory, but in practice, the publishers and retailers still keep their own sets of accounts, and reconciling all these various numbers can be a headache. There are a million complicating factors, none of which I'll bore you with because they're all mathy and mind-numbing.

I think this wraps up JT's questions. I know some of you have been posting questions in the comments, and we'll get to those next. Ask 'em if you've got 'em!


Leona said...

You guys are awesome! I'm finally getting my daily fix of you between comments and new posts and it's been months. I feel like someone who has been deprived of most of their air supply, barely kept alive, and then given lots of oxygen.

It's a heady feeling :D

You helped reinforce my belief that this is the career I want. Thanks!

PS I'm doing script frenzy to help up my dialogue and lessen my expo/back story I tend to put in too much. Wish me luck!

Genella deGrey said...

Ewwww . . . Mathy.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I love the depth and detail you provide. Thanks for the transparency on the business side!

One topic I don't see discussed much is the role of scouts in publishing. Can you elaborate on how they work, when they work, for whom they work, and if there's anything a writer can do to, um, you know, influence their recommendations? ;o)

Julie Harrington said...

This helps take away so much of the mystery. Thank you so much for tackling all these topics and answering so many questions. It sounds like, even if a publisher doesn't do a lot of marketing per say, the author really does have a lot of options as social networking, blogging, websites, etc., can open quite a few doors. I suppose it gets down to how creative an author can be to get the word spread.

One last lingering question on publicity. Are there things/activities/ideas that an author has for, say, contests or giveaways that a publisher might take issue with or want permission over before the author tries out that idea? Do authors have to bounce giveaway ideas and contests off the publisher for permission?

Oh, and what about graphics? Obviously an author would want to put the book cover on their website, but are they allowed to use that cover in other ways, say bookmarks, or a bag or, geez, I don't know... a t-shirt or a bumper sticker? The image, I would think, is actually owned by the publisher... so is there a "fair use" type deal or is this, again, something the author would have to have permission for?

I'm trying to think of examples and the one I can think of, the author didn't use anything from her book cover. She came up with a different symbol all together (I believe it was a wolf) and she used it on everything from her bags to T-shirts and even gave away wolf stuffed animals.