I'm bummed. For some reason and sadly, in the last week, in my capacity as a journalist, I’ve talked to a half dozen editors and agents who all have mentioned just how horrible the fiction market continues to be. Dire and dreadful are two words that stuck in my mind.
But in Publisher’s Lunch yesterday, Michael Cader posted a snippet of a press release about higher earnings at HC along with this graph:
[Jane] Friedman believes that one reason for the company's good results is that--in contrast to how the marketplace seems to want to go--"We're selling our books longer, promoting them longer, and getting every sale."
Selling a product longer and promoting is not revolutionary. It’s marketing 101 in every industry other than ours.
No other product/commodity/thing spends a year in development and then gets three weeks on the shelf.
Over the years I’ve explained publishing to everyone I everyone I ever knew in every other business and get back blank stares. From CEO’s to marketing mavericks, no one gets the logic of what we do. Especially when they hear that the way we do it doesn’t work with the majority of books.
Even in the film industry – and movies are probably closer to books than anything else – each film is promoted for months to the CONSUMER before it’s released. And what’s more about hundreds of thousands of filmgoers see every film FREE before it’s released to get buzz going.
I’ve written about this before on the blog.
Word of mouth takes at least 12 - 14 weeks to build. Yet, the publishing industry continues to give a book – at best – 3 to 4 weeks of promotion and co-op. What’s more, there is no pre-promotion of the book to the READERS. (Yes, there is some pre- pro to the booksellers but that’s only addressing a small part of the promotional needs in an environment when only such a small percentage of booksellers hand sell. We can’t rely on hand selling alone to make a book anymore,)
In addition, the number of readers in the US has not increased in the last six years but we have managed to double the number of novels we’re putting out there. Meanwhile we’ve lost 50% of our review sources and we’ve increased competing sources of entertainment (DVD players, wireless computers, pdas, ipods, 300 chancel cable boxes on our TV’s, services like Netflix). And the cost of books has gone up and up. And used bookstores online proliferate.
Where is the logic?
Less readers with less time +
Less media attention for books =
More choices of books that are all competing for the same attention the same way for the same amount of time in the bookstores.
Sure, sounds like a plan to me.
A book should have a two to three month pre-promotional push to the bookseller and then it needs to have a two to three month pre-promotional the reader and then it needs to have a two to three month promotional push to the reader.
And it has to stay on the shelf in plain sight for that time.
It really wouldn’t take too much to test this. Not every publisher has to do it with every book. But if every publisher took two novels on their summer lists and did it – we’d actually have some substantial results.
And the cost?
Just buy two fewer debut novels for six figures – if you can’t get ‘em for 25K let some one else take the risk - and spend those dollars on this promotional effort for two mid list author who you’ve always wanted to break out and whose books are on your back list.