Sunday, April 06, 2008

Are these books even worth promoting?

HarperCollins is launching an imprint which will be led by Robert S Miller, founder of Hyperion. A new imprint, you say. Wow! Great!

Well, not so much. The new HarperCollins imprint, the name of which hasn't yet been announced (or this book publicist has missed it), has two drawbacks. First, it doesn't pay an advance to authors (or the advance is so small that it may as well not exist, since it won't cover the author's time in preparing the book and waiting for it to pay royalties). Also -- and this is the biggie -- the books will be nonreturnable.

I've just read a Guardian Weekly article that quotes Miller as saying that he'll have to figure out a way to get booksellers to buy his books on a nonreturnable basis. Yes. And right after he figures that out, he can end world hunger, get the U.S. troops out of Iraq, and cure AIDS.

I'll sit here and wait.

The new HarperCollins imprint begs the question: Are the books they publish even going to be books, given the fact that -- unless Miller pulls a rabbit out of a hat that has long proven itself hostile to bunnies -- bookstores won't even entertain the idea of carrying them? Worse, since the books are nonreturnable, most bookstores won't even know how to order the books and will, mostly likely, turn customers away. Even an appearance on "Oprah" couldn't turn a book that probably won't be ordered by bookstores into a success.

I just hope that, before authors sign on with the new HarperCollins imprint do their homework and determine whether they can live with its drawbacks. With changes occurring in the publishing industry, the homework never ends.