Monday, September 25, 2006

Jane Dystel asks, "Where has all the planning gone?"

Where has all the Planning Gone?

One of the biggest issues I see with the books I sell to publishers these days is that there is no planning beforehand for promotion, publicity and advertising. Most of the time, the book is acquired with absolutely no thought as to how the Publisher will sell it. Oh sure, there is a sales estimate sometimes supplied by the sales department and sure, the author and agent are grilled about the author’s credentials and platform, and sure there is an author questionnaire that the author fills out (and is often never read by anyone) but after that – nothing.

And so when the publishing date approaches, publishers scramble to put some kind of plan together for the book’s launch and way too often, I find that plan is insufficient and not at all thought through. And shockingly, the publisher almost never consults with the author as to what they think might work. And then, when there are no initial results, the publisher says, “Well, I guess the book didn’t connect with the reader.” And, they move on to the next title.

This last season on two books I have represented and sold very successfully, we were very disappointed in the promotion, publicity and advertising efforts of the publishing houses. In each case, the publisher spent a significant amount of money trying to promote the book; in one, they promoted the book with the totally wrong message and didn’t involve the author (a major media person) at all; and in the case of the second book, there was no thought out strategy about exactly what to do, where and when. Not only did the books suffer; the publishers, I fear, lost significant money and the relationship between the publisher and the author went south.

In my opinion, promotion and marketing mishaps could be avoided by planning carefully for a book’s launch from the very beginning. Why don’t publishers think out of the box more in terms of internet and special events marketing? One of my clients got himself invited to give a talk about his book and its message at one of the giant churches that have cropped up all over the country in recent years. The congregation’s reaction was overwhelming and, as a result, he has been invited to deliver a number of other similar talks. Why couldn’t this have been done by his publisher?

At the time of acquisition, there should be some kind of initial idea as to how the book will be sold to consumers. This should then be followed immediately after the manuscript is accepted by a more elaborate plan developed in collaboration with the author and with the editor who, after all, is more familiar with each book than anyone else in the company.

In this day and age, when there is so much competition for the consumer’s attention, it is in all of our best interests, I think, to improve this part of our business drastically. In that way, every one of us will win.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Our first post

We here at Dystel & Goderich are an opinionated bunch. Conveniently, there’s always something new for us to have an opinion about: new books, new trends, new formats, etc. We’ve also noticed that as we continue to meet more and more authors (the aspiring and the published), some questions are universal and will almost always come up at some point.

As such, we’ve decided to give ourselves a spot to spout off. Every week, a different DGLM staffer will visit this space to share thoughts and information relating to publishing or writing in general. We won’t be able to answer every question anyone has, but we hope to be able to share a little of what we’ve learned over the years. For some added perspective, we’ll have guest writers from our client list every so often to weigh in on important issues or merely to rant about whatever they feel is rant-worthy.

The tables are turned, and now we’re the ones sitting at our keyboards trying to fill the pages. Wish us luck, and feel free to let us know if there are particular subjects you’d like to see covered.