Monday, January 05, 2009

Book promotion is easier when ... your work seems familiar.

An interesting January 3, 2008 Wall Street Journal article claims that the major publishers are acquiring titles that they can turn into blockbusters. They're paying millions of dollars for such books as Tina Fey's and Sarah Silverman's that will have to sell a million copies to earn back their advances, and then they'll spend even more money on book marketing and book promotion.

Great. So how do you convince a major publisher that your title will be the next blockbuster? That's apparently easy enough if you're Tina Fey or Sarah Silverman (while I understand the former, the latter leaves me just scratching my head, but that's a whole other story). For the rest of us, it helps to have a book that reminds an acquisitions editor of another runaway hit. The WSJ article cites Vicki Myron's Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World, which was published by Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group USA. Myron was a first-time author, and she supposedly received a $1.25 million advance for the book that reminded many industry insiders of an earlier hit by John Grogan called Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog. That was all Myron's book needed to convince publishers that it was worth almost any amount of money.

So if your book feels like another bestseller, then book promotion, book marketing, and even book selling will be a whole lot easier than if you're trying to reinvent the publishing wheel. While there's still room for a break-out book that succeeds on its own merits, the WSJ article points out that life is a whole lot easier for authors whose works are less fresh and seem a whole lot safer than the Harry Potters or the Tipping Points of the publishing industry that pretty much invented, and then came to define, their own categories.

For a while, then, book promotion will be easier for titles with blockbuster potential. Of course, publishers can be wrong ... and publishers can miss something. As a book publicist, I'm still willing to let the media and readers decide which books, and which topics, are the most entertaining and informative. And I'd still rather work with authors whose titles break new ground rather than build on past successes. I'm hoping others in the publishing industry feel the same way.