There is an excellent review of Theater of The Stars by N.M. Kelby at Bookslut.The review ends with a short history of this novel and what has happened to it since its publication in July 2003.
"The book became buried despite great reviews," writes Kelby, and that was that. No support, no marketing or PR and the book becomes buried. She believes it will probably be taken out of print and with no paperback date in view, she seems to be correct. The irony is that more than anything else this is a book about peace in the context of war, which is generally when the most stirring accounts of peace are realized. It will however, barring a miracle, "soon fade away from the landscape."
"Look how badly they treated Kelby," I said to a very wise man in the publishing biz who I happen to be having lunch with last week.
"No. You -- authors -- have it all wrong. You all keep thinking it's about your publisher or your agent loving you or not loving you. But it shouldn't be about you. It should be about your book and nothing but your book."
It was a provocative statement and I've been thinking about it but most of all I've been thinking about why it sounded so shocking when he said it.
Because he was telling me a hard truth as he saw it about authors and the publishing business as if I was grown up enough to hear it.
And that's just something that most of us rarely hear.
Very few editors, publishers, or publicists ever tell authors what is really going on. (I haven't checked with her but that article made it sound like Kelby's publisher's never told her what was happening to her book.)
Authors probably have less control over their own careers than any group of professionals but it takes us years to understand that. Long past the time it would have benefited us to know it. Most of us go into the dark the minute our agents negotiate our first sale and stay there the rest of our careers.
So we don't find out when our book has been all but abandoned pre-publication. Or that there was poor sell in. Or that the coop's been scrapped. We're somehow not entitled to be told what is about to happen and get prepared.
The non-communication is more than emotionally scarring, it is unfair to us professionally.
It infantalizes us.
An author who just finished taking my buzz class today told me her editor wouldn't give her the last name of a sales rep who did something lovely for her last book. "Just write to her and give it to me and I'll get it to her," she offered.
When the author asked why she couldn’t just sent it herself, the editor said: "We can't have our authors communicating with sales reps."
I've heard stories like that over and over.
Authors on one side of the moon. Sales and marketing on the other.
Because all authors are immature and don't know how to behave?
Or because there isn't room for all of us?
We can't all dance with the head of sales. We can't all have lunch with the publicist. We can't all pick up the phone and call someone in marketing.
No one at the publishing house would get their job done, right? Because for every one of them there are hundreds of us.
I know that when editors buy books, they do so with all good intentions. And I also know that stuff happens and certainly a certain number of books are destined to sink before they have a shot at swimming.
But is it also what my wise friend said taken to the next step?
Was he still not telling me the whole truth?
Do you get to a point where you can only care about the books that succeed? Do you have to stop caring about how many books fail as long as there are a certain number of books that succeed? Is that the only way you can do your job? Or the only way you have time to do it?
You think we can't handle the truth?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Could Kelby have done something to save her book?
We won't ever know unless you try.