Here are my notes on a second talk at CraftFest, part of the ThrillerFest conference put on by ITW. It was given by Neil Nyren, Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Putnam. The topic of his discussion was "What Editors Do After Your Book Is Perfect."
Nyren broke down into three main areas what your editor will do for you: Timing, Packaging and Marketing.
- It's the responsibility of the editor to ensure that the book is published at the right time.
- A book must be published at the right time in order to be successful.
- For example: a lot of books by big name authors are released in September-November in order to capitalize on the Christmas buying season. As a result, many books are moved up to August or back to January to avoid the juggernauts.
- Timing affects how many books are likely to be bought, how much co-op space is available and how much review space is available.
- Packaging includes the book's size, title, jacket (including color, image, size and style of the author's name and the book's title, author photo, etc.), etc.
- The editor oversees all of these.
- (Note: Neil discussed this point using a lot of visual examples, showing different jacket covers and explaining the different aspects of them and why they were done that way. But you'll just have to trust me on that one, as I can't replicate what he said.)
- The marketing for an author can't be allowed to grow stale. The formula must be updated with every book. What you did last time isn't necessarily what you should do this time.
- Some considerations are things like: the book tour (bigger or smaller), the type of media opportunities that you pursue, the types of advertising, the outreach to online booksellers or B&M booksellers.
- If you did it one way last time, you should do it a different way this time.
- The goal is to make the author appear fresh; make it new/different each time.
- Co-op (co-operative advertising, where publishers pay bookstores to promote their books) is the great "hidden" cost of publishing. It is very expensive and it is also essential to the success of a book.
- The dark secret of publishing is that even the professionals are surprised every day. Great books fail while crap succeeds and there's no way to tell when that will happen. Conversely, some sure bestsellers flop while real art flourishes.
- Book sales are tepid. The current state of publishing is described by the quip: "Flat is the new up."
Advice to authors:
- Work with your editor. Your editor is your connection to the rest of the publishing company and you need to work on having a good relationship with him/her.
- Do your homework, learn the business. Educate yourself.
- Then ask questions. Inform yourself and always communicate with your editor.
- But don't be neurotic. Don't be a pain in the ass. And don't harass your beleaguered publicist.
What do you bring to the table? (factors that influence what a publisher can do for you and your book)
- Do you or the book have an interesting hook? (E.g., FBI agent, topical story)
- Do you have an in with a magazine or newspaper or book review editor or media people?
- Do you know any booksellers?
- Are you TV friendly?
- Are you outgoing and a good speaker?
- What's your sales history like?
(I know this is disjointed -- my notes weren't great and Neil's talk was complicated. But maybe you'll find some of this interesting.)