Monday, May 22, 2006

Promoting Literary Fiction

The Sunday New York Times had a story about promoting literary fiction that drives home several few points.

1. Book promotion -- at least, of literary fiction -- depends on the support of a major publisher.

2. Even with the support of a major publisher, book promotion doesn't guarantee books sales.

3. Publishers can promote only a finite number of books per season, and that means some novelists -- even those with an excellent track record -- won't make the cut.

4. Even when a novel belongs to such a luminary as Philip Roth, it helps to have a nonfiction news hook (as did "The Plot Against America," which received all kinds of media attention because it was perceived to have political overtones).

Major houses lay plans for their A-list literary novels, and editors compete with one another within their own publishing companies to push their book ahead of all of the other competing books in the catalogue. If it's this difficult for a mainstream literary novel to succeed, can you imagine what it takes for a self-published book in the same genre to have a chance? This is why so many book publicists are reluctant to promote novels.