Barry Eisler here, for my third and last day trying to fill M.J.'s estimable shoes... it's been fun, but after this I think I better get back to the manuscript for the next Rain book. Otherwise, my editor at Putnam, the talented Dan Conaway, could become irate... (Dan, are you there? This was just a brief diversion... I swear...)
I wonder from time to time how writers choose publishing houses. Mostly we think of the choice as running in the opposite direction, but sometimes for a first time novelist there are multiple bids. Other times a rival house will try to lure an established novelist away from her current publisher. In those situations, what do publishing houses offer to try to persuade the writer to come on board?
I'm not talking about the size of the advance or the nature of the proposed marketing campaign. Those items will vary; they're a function of who the author is, what she's written, and how badly the house in question wants her. I'm talking about items intrinsic to the house itself -- what it's known for, its reputation.
What distinguishes one house from another? Size? Number of bestsellers? Weight in a given genre? Physical quality (paper, binding, etc) of books? Others?
I'm still a little new to the business, so I might be missing something, but my sense is that there's not that much to distinguish one house from another. Which makes me wonder, why don't the houses do more to distinguish themselves? Wouldn't it be a competitive advantage for X house if an agent could tell a writer, "It's true Y house has offered us a little more money, but I think X house is the better bet because of X house's reputation for _______."
One way I could imagine a house distinguishing itself would be via transparency. Create password protected computer access so authors could have the same access to their sales data that the publisher has.
Another way a house could distinguish itself might be by garnering a reputation for paying advances and royalties promptly.
I'm sure there areas I'm missing -- what are they? How many ways are there to fill in the blank here: "Oh, you're published by X? You're lucky, because they _______."
Okay, another musical recommendation: Charles Webster, Born on the 24th of July.
Thanks for sticking around these three days. I'll be back at some point if MJ will have me; in the meantime, if you get a chance, stop by Heart of the Matter and say hello.