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February 15, 2005


Ray Rhamey


In regard to your wise man's statement that it should all be about the book, I read this statement online made by a book publisher's publicist regarding promoting a book: "It's not about the book. It's all about the author."

When you have two opposing views such as this within, potentially, the same firm, no wonder things go in circles.

Ray Rhamey
Flogging the Quill

M.J. Rose

You're missing the point a bit. Yes, PR is about the author, because how else can you promote a novel? Strategies of publishing may involve making the public feel that the author is what it's all about, but that public and perception and reality are distinct. There's a difference between what a publisher says to the media, what they say to the author and his agent, and what's at the heart of matter.

Jenny Bent

There was an article on a similiar topic in Poets and Writers maybe about a year ago, and I wrote a letter to the editor commenting on it, and I think I used the exact same word as you: "infantalize." I'm an agent, and it drives me crazy the way publishers really do try to hide information from authors--there's a certain perception that they "can't handle the truth," so we don't tell them when the print run is low, when the sales reps aren't responding, when there's a bad kirkus. The fact is, when you treat people like babies, they act like babies. Giving them information, even when it's bad news, empowers them. Low print run? OK, not great, but not the end of the world either. There's always another printing down the road if an author works hard enough to promote his or her book. But if you don't have any information, if you're kept in the dark, how can you sucessfully handle the situation? How can you best know how to promote your book if you don't have all the facts? I have a section on my site, "WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE GETTING PUBLISHED" and I try to be as honest as possible about the whole process: many authors don't realize that their book can be deemed a failure in house before it even hits the book stores, but it certainly (and often) can. I'm just really glad you wrote about this, and that Poets and Writers wrote about this, because it's a huge pet peeve of mine. Please, please, let's stop treating authors like small children, and then complaining when they "act up." I'd act up too if I slaved for years to write a book and then was consistently lied to, or at least left out of the publication process. A little information and honesty go a long, long way.

Katharine Weber

I believe that P & W article was written by a certain MJ Rose.

Taking a devil's advocate stance just for a quick moment before I scurry back over to the author side of the room, I do think it needs to be said that there are some authors who need to stop acting like children.

Yes, the entire publishing situation and atmosphere as described by MJ and others is indeed deplorable. But what do some authors do that contributes to the problem rather than the solution? Let's be honest. We all know (and publicicts really, really know) horror stories of badly behaved, egomaniacal author behavior. We can;t pretend that doesn't exist. Should it drive the publishers into an adversarial stance with their own authors? Absolutely not. Does it hurt all of us? Absolutely yes.


Infantile Authors?

Did these same people write something with enough depth, nuance, humor, mystery, etc plus continuity and resolution to make a sale in a very tough market? This makes them, what, too juvenile to understand or respond to problems?

Duh! We do all the above but once we write "the end" our intellect slips back into shadow?

Oh, silly me, maybe we are likely to become EMOTIONAL because we are ARTISTS and you never know what one of those strange beings might do!

Enough already. It's a business. We know that. Give us the courtesy of exposure to the reality and we just might, with our strange but creative little minds, come up with a solution to a problem.

JoAnn Chartier


Having worked for a large publishing house in NYC, it often frustrated me that there was a ranking system of lead and lesser titles. Yes, it made sense, that resources were devoted to those with the best chance for success. Except, the books that were chosen had a gimmicky title, but were invariably mediocre. Of course, if any author managed to succeed through the adversity, then the doors to sales and marketing were opened. It seems that getting published is no longer enough. It's the author with the marketing plan that is given the chance to succeed.

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