Wednesday, March 14, 2012

From Book Idea to the Book Shelf: The Process & Business of Publishing

From left to right: (standing) Susan Walker, Quinlan Lee, MaryBeth Whalen, Carin Siegfried
Angela Harwood, Amanda Phillips, Nancy Clare Morgan, (standing) Sally Brewster
photo courtesy of Daniel Coston
Recently the Charlotte chapter of the WNBA hosted a soup-to-nuts panel on the publishing industry. The panel was moderated by chapter president, Susan Walker. 

Quinlan Lee, an agent with Adams Literary, serves the children’s and young adult market. She defined her job as a matchmaker. “I dig for gold all day long,” she said. She finds authors and illustrators and matches them with editors. Despite the fact that the agency receives 7000 manuscripts a year, and each agent only signs about ten new clients a year, she encourages writers to “beat the odds!” In her spare time, Lee goes into the local Barnes and Noble store and re-shelves Adams Literary books so that their covers are facing out.

Marybeth Whalen, author of She Makes it Look Easy and The Mailbox, advised writers to “work on your hook!” In her book, the mailbox was an inanimate object that drew people together; an idea which editors latched on to. When asked how much an author can estimate to earn she said, “Authors can figure they get about a $1 a book. For me, it’s either this or WalMart. I feel blessed to be writing from home rather than taking on a part time job.” 

Carin Siegfried is a freelance editor with Carin Siegfried Editorial who also has worked at St. Martin’s Press. She shared how many professional readers and editors, as well as members of the marketing and sales departments, weigh in on manuscripts.  Books are often shopped around to several publishers before acquired. Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber made the publishing rounds for four years before being purchased by Carin at St. Martin's. It went on to become a NY Times bestselling book and a television film starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and Joey Lawrence. 

Nancy Clare Morgan
brought her expertise as the former Publicity Manager with Random House, Inc. to the panel. As a publicist she always thinks about how to get free media attention for a book. A publicist asks the editor, “What make this book stand out?” She asks the author:

  • What inspired your book? What are its talking points?
  • What pre-marketing work have you done?
  • What is your media profile?
  • Who are your contacts?
  • Do you know any bookstore owners?
  • Do you have an Internet/social network presence?
  • Who should get the galleys and review the book?

Morgan advised authors to be involved, respond to all fan mail, and be ready to create a “Media fire storm” the week your book comes out. 

Angela Harwood, the VP of Sales and Marketing at John F. Blair Publisher spoke about marketing. Her days consist of working on databases and Excel worksheets; she typically works on a book six to twelve months before it is scheduled for release. “We have hoops to jump through to make a book available; we want to make sure that it’s for sale everywhere there’s a potential audience.” She works with the author to develop a marketing plan and agreed with Morgan about the importance of an online presence, a significant fan base, and potential readership before a book comes out. 

Amanda Phillips is the MarComm Manager at wholesaler Baker and Taylor. This well-known distributor buys books from publishers and resells them to schools, stores, and libraries. “This streamlines the ordering process for the buyer,” Phillips said. “We also offer collection development service, e-commerce solutions, as well as additional advertising.” The company also generates preorders, which helps publishers decide how many books to print. Distributors such as Baker and Taylor also foster relationships with niche stories such as Michael’s or other specialty markets. 

Independent bookseller, Sally Brewster, hosted the event at Park Road Books. “Book publishing is the weirdest industry in the world—but we do it because we love it,” she said. She encouraged writers in the group to keep writing and to remember that publishers don’t want to publish just one book; have at least two or three ideas ready. Her store is one of the few in the country that carries self-published books. “I want to give writers a chance.” Although she agreed with other presenters that traditional book tours might be dead, an author who takes the time to talk to a bookseller will find that her books will be more likely to be recommended and sold. 

The next meeting of the Charlotte WNBA chapter is on April 9 and will feature SCBWI Crystal Kite winner, Monika Schroeder.


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Sounds like a great event. Glad you could be there. And Monika Schroeder at the next one! Cool.

Joy said...

Thanks for sharing this information with us. Great post.

Edupreneur said...

Thanks for the summary of the meeting. Changes in publishing are encouraging to me.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, everyone for leaving comments on this post. It was a pretty comprehensive event and I am looking forward to meeting Monika in person!

Carolyn Abiad said...

Thanks for the write up! See you in April.

UPSIDE DOWN MAGIC- Part I by Guest Blogger, Elliott Kurta

Please welcome back Elliott Kurta with his evaluation of an 8-book series by Sarah Mlynoski, Lauren Myracle , and Emily Jenkins.          R...