Saturday, November 29, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust

The closing of Impetus Press located in Iowa City reminds us here at Wylie-Merrick what it’s like to fight the good fight and lose. Although we are not closing our doors, we have had to close to new writers. However, this story reminds us of the extra effort it takes to operate in what’s known as “Fly Over Country,” the backwater a few of the editors we deal with probably will never see or understand.

Art happens where it happens and, even though New York City thinks of itself as the center of the universe, most art happens elsewhere. It just ends up on one of the coasts because that’s where all the big buildings are, and it’s way easier and much hipper to have a book launch in a big building next to a great catering facility than it is to have one in the school gym next to a local steakhouse, even if they have really good steak.

Excuse me for being bitchy, but when I read about Impetus Press closing, it saddened me to think that yet another source for good books had been defeated by the unrelenting tide of mega bookstore returns. It’s also sad that poor distribution has claimed yet another victim in the war of art—or at least a good read--over commercial glop. It saddens me that what Willy Blackmore, whose great-grandfather was John Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and writer Jennifer Banash have failed not because they didn’t have a decent product, but because of a bad economic climate and the overwhelming tide of book returns. And yet another small publisher is gone. What would John Farrar think of a present publishing system that allows a distribution mess that favors the bookstore over the publisher? What would he think of an industry in which his great grandson failed even while trying to publish in the tradition that made his press world famous?

Impetus tried to publish books in the old tradition, books that created readers instead of cookie cutter novels that are published to give their readers instant gratification-beach reads and glop that’s forgotten the instant the book is dropped in the sand. As was once said, a great novel changes its reader—not anymore.

Not anymore.

Publishing today looks for the next best-seller or which small publisher’s backlist can be next acquired. Art is not even considered as great new authors wait in the wings for spaces consistently occupied by the same big name authors. They wait patiently for their voices to become silent or fall out of favor. Unfortunately, many of them give up.

Impetus was only in business for three short years, but they made quite an impact during that time. Jennifer loved her authors and she and Willy are trying to place them with other presses. We wish them all good luck and God’s speed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Market Your Ass Off

Someone asked a question the other day that went something like this: When a contract is signed and edits are completed, does the publisher place the book on its Web site and is the author allowed to post his or her book on his own site? This got me to thinking maybe there are others out there who don’t understand the importance of marketing. Hopefully, the answer to this writer’s question will be of value to others.

Note: In the following, I will refer to both fiction and non-fiction works as books. I refer to them as books, because that’s what they are—books, as in bookstore, a place where books are sold.Yes, I know that a novel is fiction and book is used to designate nonfiction. I also know that the word "book" is used as catch all terminology for both fiction and nonfiction.

As far as what a publisher does to market books, that would be a question you should ask your publisher. However, generally, if the publisher has a Web site, they would put their entire list there and, in the case of very small publishers, might even sell the book from their Internet site. But that doesn't mean an author SHOULD depend solely on his publisher to market his or her book(s). Each author should also have a Web site, a blog and should, whenever possible, promote his/her books on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace along with links to any and every site possible. A writer must use all avenues open to him to do whatever he can to make sure that his book is in as many readers' hands as possible. A writing career is built on making readers aware of who you are and what you write. If you don’t do this, you are just another name among the hundreds of thousands of names of people who have offered their literary wares. It’s imperative that you, literally, make a name for yourself.

Never pass up an opportunity to market your product. The reasoning behind this is that an author, as the book's creator, is a celebrity in the eye of his/her readers. Most readers don't know, or care, who published their favorite book. Publisher promotion is never as effective as an author’s, thus most publishers depend on the writer to promote his or her own books. It's imperative and an author's duty to market his or her books to any and everyone possible. The Internet is there for the taking and it reaches more people than just about any other communication device ever known to man. Take complete advantage of this wonderful marketing tool. Study marketing techniques. Learn from what has succeeded and what has failed. Be a marketing guru.

If the author fails to do this--to do his or her own marketing--there is a good possibility that his book, especially a first book, will fail. And if it does, there’s a good chance it will be the end of any writing career the author had anticipated. Publishers are never anxious to waste money on authors whose books have failed. If a book flops, it's usually because the author did little or nothing to promote his or her book. So get out there and sell those books. You’ll profit from it.