Publishers: Seven Types of Outreach To Cement The Publisher-Author Bond & Boost the Sales of Every Single Book

by @thewritermama on February 1, 2010 · 11 comments

I’m just back from Digital Book World and rather than offer a play by play on Twitter (I didn’t), a long blog post synopsis (I am sure others will do it), or a bunch of cheeky comments about how nobody in publishing knows anything (after all TOC is coming—oops, that was cheeky!), I’m going to offer up several constructive responses this week that I hope will unite publishers, editors, agents, authors, sales people, and book sellers and remind us that we’re all on the same team.

Whenever a publisher seeks, receives, underwrites, and curates a promising manuscript, the potential for a team is formed. That possible team is composed of the people I just mentioned. It would be terrific if the pod of people supporting the release of each book would actually form a team around and support each book, instead of just giving lip service to the prospect or going through the motions.

Every team needs a leader. For an A-list book, the leadership for steering that book team to success typically comes from inside the publishing house from the beginning and all the way through until the end of the publishing process. For books not on the A-list, authors are often left completely in the dark about the perception of their book from within the publishing house. And because of this void of communication, often no one steps up to lead the team, because the author is busy writing or fretting about a lack of attention to the book.

At this point, the A-list cat is out of the book-publishing bag, folks. Authors talk. We are all connected to each other. And we all know which publishers are team builders and which publishers are not. If you say that you give all authors/books the same consideration, when it’s common knowledge that this is not true, consider using the future tense and start doing it.

Let’s not kid ourselves, folks, authors pretty much know that not all books are created equal as far as publicity is concerned. (And if they don’t know, they can read these books and find out.) Therefore publishers, who don’t plan to invest in marketing and publicity for every book launch, need to “tap” authors to steer their own book-marketing ships.

What is desperately needed here is better communication, education, and just the tiniest bit of ongoing support. Nothing any editor or publisher shouldn’t be able to handle even with diminished editorial staffs. (And P.S., transparency and honesty in difficult publishing times is always appreciated more than you will ever know.)

The way to make this kind of non-A-list author support plan successful is to systematize the communication between the publishing house and the author as much as possible. Perhaps you think that systematized communication would disappoint or upset the author. If you think this, you have not been talking to authors who have been left completely in the dark about the fate of their books, who are crave any kind of communication from their publisher beyond deadline management.

Systematized communication looks something like this. Feel free to customize these suggestions to your own needs:

  1. After signing: A letter from the CEO or President welcoming the author to the imprint, which describes why the publisher is proud of their long, successful history.  If the imprint is new or recently moved, describe to the author why this is good news to them.
  2. Shortly thereafter: A letter from the acquisitions editor, also welcoming the author to the imprint, and then outlining what to expect from the editorial process with a copy of the imprint’s specific editorial guidelines.
  3. An editorial phone conversation with the author about the book production schedule: And if you possibly can spare five minutes to answer the author’s questions or just make small talk, that would bring a level of human connection to the process, which is sorely needed. Update this conversation with an e-mail if/when it changes.
  4. A fresh correspondence each time you hand your author off to someone new in the production chain: Another letter, this time of introduction from the new person welcoming the author again to the imprint and saying that the new person is excited to work with them and is interested in the best possible outcome for the book.
  5. Paced phone outreach: Each new person in the production chain should be required to reach out to the author on at least one Friday afternoon during the book process to chat and answer questions for five/ten minutes at the appropriate junctures in the book production process. Fridays are a good, more relaxed day for these chats. Perhaps right before the employee leaves for the weekend, so there is a cut-off time. These conversations can lead to bonding between publishing insiders and authors, which can inspire authors to write better, network more, and market the book better because they feel connected to something bigger than themselves.
  6. A minimum of one phone meeting with the in-house publicist, the author, the agent, and the editor. One meeting is better than none. Time it about six-three months prior to launch. It’s really up to the author and agent to get as much out of this meeting as possible. So authors and agents, be prepared and have your questions ready.
  7. Publisher-endorsed book marketing techniques: Get your folks who are working with the A-list into a conference room or call and jot down all the book-marketing techniques that seem to be working from an in-house point of view. Add a caution to the author at the end of this list, which contains warnings about the types of “exposure opportunities” that can eat up the bulk of an authors book promotion time (see my post on the topic for examples) with scant, poor or negative results. Ask your authors what is working and stealing their time away from better quality marketing opportunities. Compile this info into a PDF and update it quarterly. (See agent Rita Rosenkranz’s free e-book as an example and feel free to send your authors over to download a copy or share it with them yourself.)

Wouldn’t these bare bones types of team-building strategies create more positive outcomes for the non-A-list author, than him or her sitting alone in his or her workroom, wondering what the heck is going on with his or her book?

An intern could certainly assist an editor with managing and streamlining this process. The systematized communications alone, even without the more personal support calls, could double your future book sales if an author feels included and valued by the imprint rather than captured, indentured, and then forgotten.

Now that authors are as connected as we are and are as connected to our own audiences as we are, and publishers are lowering advance sizes, the publishers who are the most sophisticated and successful team builders are going to ultimately attract the best writers and sell the most books.

Because success in today’s economy means leveraging all of you assets, including the publisher/author relationship. Authors likely know and are going to continue to know going forward which publishers team-build best (take my publisher, for one example).

What have I forgotten here?

Any authors who have been through the process care to chime in?

~ Photo by oooh.oooh

Like this post? Subscribe to my Feed!

Previous post:

Next post: