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View Full Version : Hypothetical author situation...how would you handle it?



Silverhand
02-07-2007, 11:01 PM
So, lets say you signed with a publishing house that budgeted zero dollars for marketing, promoting, or advertising your book.

For this scenario, I am going to list out a few assumtpions. First, you are a beginning author who has signed a three year contract.

Next, lets assume this publisher fully beleives that free internet marketing methods work...if not better...then on par with traditional marketing means.

Lets also assume that when you challenge this methodology, the reply will be, "This company is not in a financial situation to spend any money on marketing." Note: By marketing, I am not talking about spending thousands of dollars, either. This assumption means finding a very specific audience and spending $150 a month for three months on specific niche advertising.

Lets also assume that any ideas that DO cost money, are being passed on to you to take care of. For example, lets say they talked with a PR firm..and then said, "If "you" are interested, then we will get prices for "you", due to the fact that we aren't in the financial position to afford it." Things such as buying banners on niche websites would also be left for you to pay for if you wanted them.

Lets also assume that what marketing has been done, is absurd. A good hypothetical scenario would be...I dunno, something like creating sweatpants with the title of your book on them. They then tell you that the concept in mind is that it will get your name out there.

Now, finally, lets assume that you are an executive director of marketing at a company. That, though you have no idea about the publishing industry, you know about marketing in general. Due to your experience, you have a grasp about what is retarded...and whats not. You will also understand basic principles of marketing and promotion...and the things assosciated with them.

So, with all those assumptions intact....how do you react?

Will Lavender
02-07-2007, 11:17 PM
I probably curse myself for signing a contract with them in the first place.

Then I try to get out of the contract.

If that's impossible, I begin to think of ways to promote the book on my own. Website? Local exposure? Press releases? Etc. etc.

Sounds like a nightmarish scenario that probably should have been discussed before the pen was put to the contract.

Shadow_Ferret
02-07-2007, 11:17 PM
I wouldn't have signed with them in the first place.

The Lady
02-07-2007, 11:26 PM
What exactly do they do for you?

Try and get out of it. Sounds like it's going nowhere. Do they put your book into bookshops for you?

maestrowork
02-07-2007, 11:27 PM
I wouldn't have signed with them in the first place. Anyone who believes in zero budget is not really serious about the business of selling books.

aadams73
02-07-2007, 11:31 PM
No budget for marketing and a three year contract? Sounds dodgy to me.

Marlys
02-07-2007, 11:32 PM
Weird contract in the first place--three years? Do they know they won't keep the book in print longer than that? What would happen to unsold copies that are still in bookstores/warehouses at that point?

But it's not that unusual for even major publishers to skimp on marketing for first-time authors. Since you have a lot of experience in marketing, you might be able to find cheap ways to promote, or at least know what might give you the best return. Me, I don't have that kind of background, and limit my spending to a web page and a few promo copies.

Good luck with it!

KCathy
02-07-2007, 11:33 PM
After making absolutely sure, based on the opinion of a legal expert, that I'm already stuck in the contract, I would try to do better myself. I've always assumed that I will have more interest in launching my new baby than the publisher of a first-timer would anyway and have planned to do a lot of my own marketing.

I wouldn't pay for their dumb ideas, especially if I have the marketing expertise to accurately evaluate those ideas as being dumb AND come up with something better. I'd just very politely say that if I am paying for my own marketing, I would prefer to do so in this magazine or that bookstore.

Bubastes
02-07-2007, 11:34 PM
I'd look for a termination clause in the contract and find a way to get out. I wouldn't have signed it in the first place, though.

Silverhand
02-07-2007, 11:42 PM
Remember guys, this is all hypothetical...and you have already signed the contract. Obviously, a company who has no money to promote either themselves or their product is going to be limited. And, it is also not the best way to go about doing business. Saying that, for this scenario you are now caught in this web. :)

Lets assume that the contract states something like, "We will help in both the marketing and promotion of your book. etc etc" However, the "definition" of marketing, through this particular publisher anyway, is through purely free means.

For this scenario, I will add some positive stuff. The publisher, other then being unbelievable about their marketing, promotion, and advertising methodology...have been great to work with. They have been professional. They have put together a great end product with an outstanding cover (that no one will ever see). They even provided solid editing and good advice regarding the direction of your work. In this scenario they even treat you with respect.

Oh, and since it was asked if they put the book in stores. Since there is zero budget for any kind of promotion...which means no funds for making press releases, business cards, posters, boomarks, or advertising in the places that stores expect..it is not likely.

Discuss on...:)

Cav Guy
02-07-2007, 11:52 PM
Not much to discuss. Sounds like something to avoid in the first place or get out of at the first opportunity.

Marlys
02-08-2007, 12:01 AM
Hmm. Well, if this hypothetical publisher is upfront on its FAQ page about being POD (and thus not getting into bookstores), and says it doesn't have a distributor nor a sales force, then I'm thinking the hypothetical author might have had a few clues that there wasn't going to be a huge marketing campaign.

It's a great reminder to do your homework before signing any contract.

Shadow_Ferret
02-08-2007, 12:14 AM
For this scenario, I will add some positive stuff. The publisher, other then being unbelievable about their marketing, promotion, and advertising methodology...have been great to work with. They have been professional. They have put together a great end product with an outstanding cover (that no one will ever see). They even provided solid editing and good advice regarding the direction of your work. In this scenario they even treat you with respect.


Well, when coupled with the fact that all they are going to do is print the book and everything else is left up to you, I really don't view any of this as positive. Who cares how "professional" they might be, or how great the book will look if no one will ever see it?

These are all things I would have checked on BEFORE I signed the contract. But, if I had signed, I'd hire a lawyer and see if he couldn't get me out. Barring that, then I'd try to sell the books myself through myspace, through another website, I'd send copies to my local paper for review, and whatever other media outlets I could find. If I was able to get copies of the book, I'd take them myself to several area bookstores to see if they'd shelve them for me, and offer to do signings as a promotion for them.

Not sure what else you could do.

roach
02-08-2007, 01:11 AM
I'd keep in mind that any publisher that can't get books into a bookstore isn't going to sell many copies anyway, so any marketing would be a mostly wasted effort. Then I'd forget this book, get my next one finished and look for a different publisher.

I'm presuming with this hypothetical situation the book in question is fiction. A niche non-fiction book or a book meant to be sold at presentations, lectures and the like, is a different beast.

Sean D. Schaffer
02-08-2007, 01:19 AM
So, lets say you signed with a publishing house that budgeted zero dollars for marketing, promoting, or advertising your book.

...Snipped for Length...

So, with all those assumptions intact....how do you react?


I react by realizing I signed a contract with a PublishAmerica copy-cat and do everything I can to get out of the contract.

All kidding aside, I've seen a lot of PublishAmerica authors who claimed they were marketing experts for other businesses... which they might very well have been. But I'm willing to wager the experience a person has with marketing in one form of business will not do much good in the publishing industry. I think if the publisher is not willing to market your book at all because of financial reasons, they've already sunk themselves and their authors. Marketing is one of the most important parts of getting a book published, IMO. Not marketing through conventional means (i.e. means that cost money) will most likely not give you the effect you're looking for.

Silverhand
02-08-2007, 01:26 AM
Hmm. Well, if this hypothetical publisher is upfront on its FAQ page about being POD (and thus not getting into bookstores), and says it doesn't have a distributor nor a sales force, then I'm thinking the hypothetical author might have had a few clues that there wasn't going to be a huge marketing campaign.

It's a great reminder to do your homework before signing any contract.

You are using the FAQ of my publisher as the hypothetical example? heh I am not talking about my publisher, though. I am talking about situations that other writers may come accross...adding reasonable events as I think of them. :P

So, lets say that the FAQ didn't have the aforementioned material. Now, what do you do?

Roach, while I agree that this is mostly true...I dont think we can safely say "any" publisher. Though I have a few other examples, I will use theses self-published authors to prove you wrong...Christopher Paolini, Jeremy Robinson, and James Redfield. Each of these authors sold more then 7500 copies without making it into bookstores.

roach
02-08-2007, 03:45 AM
Roach, while I agree that this is mostly true...I dont think we can safely say "any" publisher. Though I have a few other examples, I will use theses self-published authors to prove you wrong...Christopher Paolini, Jeremy Robinson, and James Redfield. Each of these authors sold more then 7500 copies without making it into bookstores.

First of all self-publishing is different from small-press publishing and so your examples don't really work. Also, Paolini was published by his parents who ran their own small press. Jeremy Robinson's book was reviewed by PODdy Mouth (http://girlondemand.blogspot.com/2005/12/didymus-contingency-by-jeremy-robinson.html) which I'm sure helped with publicity. I'd catagorize James Redfield's Celestine Prophecy as psedo-fiction, but that's quibbling. Notice that while he managed to sell 100,000 copies of his book before Warner got involved (and that's not a number to sneeze at) it's sold over 20 million total (if publisher's numbers are to be believed) which would point to the idea that getting one's book into an actual bookstore is by far a better way to get one's book into the hands of readers.

So taking into account Robinson and Redfield, that's still only 2 out of how many self published authors in any given year? Why hamstring oneself even further by going with a publisher who isn't getting its books into bookstores? Which is why I stand by my position: if I had been hoodwinked into signing up with an operation that couldn't get my book into bookstores, let alone had a budget for promotion* I'd count that book as lost. In the three years I had to wait for a reversion of my rights (the rights do revert back to me at the end of 3 years right?) I'd write three other, better books and find a more competent publisher for them.


*By promotional here I mean standard things like sending out ARCs to reviewers, putting together a catalog, and the like, not buying ads in magazines or online venues as those don't really translate to many - if any - sales.

finch
02-08-2007, 09:18 PM
So, with all those assumptions intact....how do you react?

By kicking myself for having signed the contract in the first place, and then by running, not walking, to the nearest IP lawyer I can find to help me wriggle out of it.

Sorry I'm not adding much to the discussion, but there's not enough win in your scenario to make a debate out of it.

Maryn
02-08-2007, 09:33 PM
Some stats to muse over regarding POD and the "success" stories that encourage some writers to go that route:

This was printed in this week's Publisher's Weekly (5/18/05):

IUniverse by the numbers

2004
18,108: Total number of titles published
14: Number to titles sold through B&N's bricks-and-mortar stores (nationally) (0.0007)
83: Number of titles that sold at least 500 copies (4 tenths of one percent of the total number of books they published = 0.0045836)
792,814: Number of copies printed
32,445: Number of copies sold of iUniverse's top seller, If I Knew Then, by Amy Fisher

Maryn, also not adding much to the discussion

Cathy C
02-09-2007, 12:34 AM
:Huh: Define "marketing." The way your original post was worded, it sounds like you're talking about marketing the book to the public. Obviously, that's not the goal of any publisher. Their business is to market to those who SELL books to the public. So, if there's no marketing budget, do you mean to say that there's no catalog to send to book buyers, no time or expense to send sales reps to stores, no cover flats to send out, no distribution contract to get the book INTO stores---or do you mean making the public aware of the book? If you mean the public, that's generally considered the job of the bookstore.

Dave.C.Robinson
02-09-2007, 11:48 AM
If they aren't at least sending a catalog out to the book trade you have a problem. If they're just relying on a distributor's sales team to put their catalog in front of buyers they're on the small side but at least they're going in the right direction.

Mac H.
02-09-2007, 12:49 PM
.. lets assume this publisher fully believes that free internet marketing methods work...if not better...then on par with traditional marketing means.

Lets also assume that when you challenge this methodology, the reply will be, "This company is not in a financial situation to spend any money on marketing."The reply shows that the publisher doesn't truley believe that free internet marketing methods work.

The simple fact is that they aren't marketing because they can't afford it.
They are simply lying when they claim they are doing it for other reasons.

Mac

Sean D. Schaffer
02-09-2007, 06:27 PM
The reply shows that the publisher doesn't truley believe that free internet marketing methods work.

The simple fact is that they aren't marketing because they can't afford it.
They are simply lying when they claim they are doing it for other reasons.

Mac


One thing I'll give this company, whomever it might be: at least they're not saying "Do the marketing for us first, then when you sell enough books we'll help with our own marketing."

KCH
02-11-2007, 05:55 PM
This hypothetical publisher's business model/practices suggests that hypothetical is the only operative word in the term "hypothetical publisher."

If this hypothetical publisher has no money or means for marketing or getting a book into bookstores or into the hands of readers, they're not a publisher. And they don't have money for attorneys either. So I'd suggest to the hypothetical author that he/she has signed a hypothetical publishing contract and can therefore do whatever he wants to.

You can saddle up a bunch of squirrels and call yourself a riding academy too, but just try to enforce a three year contract for lessons.

Celia Cyanide
02-11-2007, 07:22 PM
I would also not sign a contract like that in the first place. From my own perspective as a book buyer, I would not want to buy a book that I only heard about via free internet marketing. And I wouldn't see it in book stores, because if the publisher has zero dollars for marketing, then they aren't marketing to bookstores to get them to carry it.

That doesn't necessarily mean the book is awful. It could be great. But I would assume the book was self-published or POD, even if it wasn't, and I would have no way of learning any more about it. I assume zero dollars also means no money for ARCs, and no book reviews to read. If all I see is the author saying, "Buy my book! It rocks!" on free websites, then, sorry, that's not enough for me. Because, hey, that's exactly what the author would say if the book sucked, isn't it? There are enough books out there that I am interested in buying, that I have heard about from multiple sources, and have seen reviews for.

CheshireCat
02-12-2007, 12:16 AM
I've signed a lot of contracts in my career, and not a single one was for a certain number of years, but a certain number of books. The deadlines shape the length of time for the duration of the contract, but finish the last book before deadline and have it accepted, and the contract requirements as far as the author's work is concerned have been fulfilled.

Of course, that's the least of this hypothetical author's problems.

Silverhand
02-13-2007, 03:31 AM
:Huh: Define "marketing." The way your original post was worded, it sounds like you're talking about marketing the book to the public. Obviously, that's not the goal of any publisher. Their business is to market to those who SELL books to the public. So, if there's no marketing budget, do you mean to say that there's no catalog to send to book buyers, no time or expense to send sales reps to stores, no cover flats to send out, no distribution contract to get the book INTO stores---or do you mean making the public aware of the book? If you mean the public, that's generally considered the job of the bookstore.

Good question, Cathy. I would assume at this point in the publisher's life, and their worry over spending any money...that having a dstributor would be out the door. In my example, I was figuring that the publisher would do the next best thing....go after the public?

Celia Cyanide
02-14-2007, 12:41 AM
If that is the case, then I guess all I could do would be to market the book using free internet marketing and kick myself when I realize I probably would have gotten a bigger cut if I had just printed the book myself.

And I'd give it away to some of the published authors who know me here and see if they could scrape together some flattering words to put on my website. I might not make back enough in royalites to cover the cost of all the books I'd sent out, but it would be nice. :)

Jaycinth
02-15-2007, 10:42 PM
I've read your descriptions a couple of times.
It did not sound like a publisher to me.
It sounded like a commercial printer with a smarmy salesman who calls HIMSELF a publisher.

I would avoid signing a contract like that.

civilian chic
02-18-2007, 07:22 AM
A Donald Rumsfield quote comes to mind: "You go to war with the army you have." (or something like that.)

You hypothetically signed a contract. You already hypothetically entrusted your book to the direction of another. Water under the bridge. Use the resources you have. You're hypothetically in marketing ... that gives you a significant leg up. You're a hypothetically talented writer ... that gives you a major leg up over so many self-publishers. You're web saavy? Fight the war with the resources you have, and if you're not happy with the product, next time, hold out.

That said, it is increasingly common for micro publishers (and big presses, too)to use POD technology; I suspect we'll see publishers increasingly use POD as the impact of a law recently passed (anyone know the name? something to do with having to pay tax on books printed, warehoused, but not sold? And being cheaper to burn the remainders than keep them?) becomes apparent, so POD is kind of a non-issue.

... And good editing is nothing to sniff at.