Showing posts with label publishing industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label publishing industry. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

What To Do When a Book--Any Book--"Fails"


Determining What Went Wrong to Get Future Marketing Right

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Once upon a time, way back in the last decade, author and researcher Lisa Ann Hewlett's publicity predicament illustrated to the world of books what we authors suspected all along: Huge amounts of publicity surrounding a release don't necessarily translate into massive sales figures. I still remember it today and am haunted by it whenever a client tells me that her marketing isn’t working.

When a major publicity coup like Lisa’s turns out to be the most bitter dose of rejection we could expect to encounter, it’s an indicator that it could happen to anyone. That may happen even when the publicity is the stuff of which dreams—in Surround Sound and Technicolor—are made of.

It is reported (variably) that Hewlett’s Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children sold between 8,000 and 10,000 copies. Many authors would be ecstatic with sales figures that look like that, but everything is relative. It is believed that Miramax paid a six-figure advance for this title and projected sales in the 30,000 range for hardcover alone. Considering expectations for the book, the figures do appear dismal.

Therefore, smart people in the publishing industry searched for reasons for its less than stellar performance, especially with the kind of publicity this book received, and I mean biggies like Time Magazine (the cover, no less) and several "New York" magazines. TV shows like "60 Minutes," "The Today Show," "Good Morning America," and "NBC Nightly News" lined up behind this book, for heaven's sake. Even Oprah's magic book-sale-wand was not effective.

Hewlett’s book made great news! It warned young career women that they have been mislead by petri dish miracles reported in the press. She pointed out that women have come to believe that they can put conception after career and be reasonably sure they can have still have both. She attempts to exorcise that notion in Quest.

So, just what did go wrong?

Many groused that he title was not scintillating nor was the book’s cover. Those in the know wondered if that influenced book sales. But that’s a huge burden to put on professionally produced book cover or title choice in a book published by an experienced, savvy and BIG publisher. Something else was clearly wrong.

My thirty-seven-year-old-daughter who had just returned to college to embark on a career in anthropology suggested that women don't want to hear the dreadful news. She says, "I just flat out don't want to hear this bad news in the middle of something rewarding, exciting and new! Why would I slap down the price of a book to get depressed?" Another unmarried friend who is also caring for an aging mother said, “I wouldn’t buy it. What am I supposed to do with that kind of information once I have it?” For women like them, delaying childbearing isn’t a choice. It’s a necessity.

All this searching for answers may reap results, may help publicists and publishers and authors determine cause and effect so that this syndrome can be avoided in the future.

The problem lies in the fact that this soul-searching and hullabaloo was misdirected. Even Hewlett says, "I don't know what to make of this absence of huge sales." One can see her shaking her head in disbelief. If someone with her research skills can't figure it out, can anyone? It may be the economy, stupid. Or retailing. Or the book biz.

It's surely something completely out of the author's control unless someone had thought to run the idea by a focus group of career women the age of the book’s expected audience. In the publishing industry, the term “beta reader” is often associated with this kind of research, but it must be accompanied by hard questions posed to the readers and that seems to entail some notion of unforeseen exigencies.

That seems like a bit of a conundrum, don’t you think? To do that, a similar trial I might run for my The Frugal Book Promoter might miss the mark for brand new authors because a large percentage still might be operating on decades-old ideas of what big publishers will do in terms of marketing! If that hadn’t occurred to me or my publisher, we wouldn’t have asked the hard question!



But, I think the most valuable lesson that can be learned with the Quest kind of rejection—any kind, really—is that it is not personal, that it pay to search for the lesson even after the fact.

We must keep the faith, keep writing, and keep publicizing, because if we don't, we’ll never know if a book—or a career—was given the best possible chance at success.

Here’s what I know for sure. I now fear publishing less. If my faith should slip a tad, I know it need not be fatal. I know those things thanks to Sylvia Ann Hewlett.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers. She taught editing and marketing classes at UCLA Extension’s world-renowned Writers’ Program for nearly a decade and carefully chooses one novel she believes in a year to edit.

The Frugal Editor (bit.ly/FrugalEditor) award-winner as well as the winner of Reader View's Literary Award in the publishing category. She is the recipient of both the California Legislature's Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award and the coveted Irwin award. She appears in commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Disney Cruises (Japan), and Time-Life CDs and is a popular speaker at writers’ conferences.

Her website is https://howtodoitfrugally.com/



Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hoping to Inspire You to Give Back to the Publishing Industry


Early Year Resolutions: 
Tis the Season for Supporting the Industry

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Aha! You may not not be aware of it, but it's resolution time!

It's resolution time so you don't miss an opportunity to support the book industry.

I love to give authors advice on setting goals for the New Year. Here’s the thing: I’ve done that and—in the doing of it—realize that no one author can help another set goals because each author and each title is so different. And I also realize that it's easier if we start thinking about how we can help now,
rather than on January 1st.

I gave authors a whole book of possible resolutions when I finished the second edition of TheFrugal Book Promoter. I got general and told authors to pick and choose their goals from the book. That they wouldn’t be able to do everything that is in it to help themselves and their industry--and that they shouldn’t. I mean the whole idea behind writing that book was to keep other authors from falling in the same potholes I did. I advised them to choose promotions based on their personalities, the titles of their books (different books call for different kinds of marketing campaigns!), and the health of their pocketbooks.

The same goes for your early resolutions. Each of us is different. Still, I’m tackling this subject because I do think there is one thing that almost every author could and should put on his or her resolution list. Are you ready?

Number one is: Buy books!

I often get e-mails from authors saying that their fellow authors don’t buy their books. And I do understand how that can happen. The longer we’ve been writing, the more author-friends we have and, at some point it’s impossible to support them all. Having said that, we as authors shouldn’t expect fellow authors to buy books that don’t interest them. Books they don’t have time for. Or books that aren’t published the way they want to read them (paperback or e-books, anyone?)  That’s why we promote rather than just depending on friends and relatives—which, after all, isn’t the biggest pool of buyers in the world.

Still, we authors should buy some books each year and I think we should set aside a budget for that. It’s about Zen. It’s about supporting the industry that we expect to support us. I even tell authors that they shouldn’t limit themselves to buying only my book on, say, editing or book proposals or wordtrippers or the marketing of books. Even authors who have read extensively on a particular subject may very well get new ideas from a book on a similar subject or be inspired by it.

But there are other ways to support our industry besides buying books we want to (or need to) read. Authors on strict budgets should find books make relatively inexpensive gifts for holiday giving, for hostess and thank you gifts, for birthdays, and even to give to business associates on appropriate occasions.

We all know that we tend to get lax with our resolutions. So, to make your “Buy Books” resolution work all year, go to your gift-giving list for last year and see how many people on that list could get the gift of reading in this year instead of something that will be promptly tossed in the Goodwill bin or re-gifted. Staple your gift list to your resolution list. And then make another resolution to read your resolutions and that attached list of gift-giving idea list at least once a month.

Heck, you could even give your own book to folks on that list. You are proud of it, aren’t you?
If every author gave books as gifts, I could see a bright, shiny year ahead. A year where agents take on more clients because more publishers are selling more books. And when that happens, just think! Books will be the gifts that keep giving. Books will be the gifts that give back!

Here's another, less expensive gift to the industry. Nominate a few helpful websites, blogs, and newsletters for a Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites nod. I would love it if you'd include mine among them but there are many other great ones, too.

One of my favorites is Joan Stewart’s Publicity Hound (Letting you know about it is sort of my holiday gift to you. It offers ideas from other industries that authors can easily apply to their own campaigns.) 

Here are Writer's Digest suggested categories for nominations, just to help you get your thinking cap on:

Agent Blogs
Writing Communities
Publishing Resources
Jobs and Markets
Creativity and Challenges
Genres/Niches
General Resources
Fun for Writers
This WritersontheMove blog

Send comments and nominations for next year’s list to writersdigest@fwmedia.com with “101 Websites” in the subject line (deadline is Jan. 1, of each year. Learn more at
http://www.writersdigest.com/101-best-websites-for-writers-archive/101-best-websites-for-writers-2009

My SharingwithWriters.blogspot.com is a 101 Best Website pick and Ithank readers who support the industry for that. If you read or just love to pile sweet-smelling books on the stand near your bed, a nomination like this is one of the best gifts you can give.  Second only to reviewing a book you love or think will help others on Amazon.

Please let me know if you buy books, nominate literary websites for awards, or pass along books you love via reviews. I would like to thank you and mention your favorites in my newsletter.  It's part of the marketing fun, part of helping one another, part of the way to keep our marketing efforts rolling along. Part of our industry-aiding resolution putsch.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson is the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally books, a series for writers and a series for retailers. Learn more about them at http://HowToDoItFrugally.com. You can subscribe to her #SharingwithWriters newsletter in the
window at the top right of nearly every page on the website.


And yes, she does give books for gifts. She often gives her how-to books to clients. She gives her poetry chapbooks on most any occasion, from Christmas to Valentine’s to Mother’s Day. And, she does buy others’ books for her own shelves or Kindle reader but only when she actually yearns to read them or needs to read them.

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