Publicity - (Small Publisher Route #6)


First a bit of history, the old and tired route. I arranged a meeting with my editor and publicist in the Random House complex in New York, six months before the publication date for I Was Carlos Castaneda. Every idea I came up with for promoting the book was blocked, my editor leading the way. The book's promotional budget was zero (despite an earlier promise that money I had saved the company would be added to the budget). I was assured that advertising would not help sell the product in the least (obviously one of the industry lies). The notion of paying to promote the book on the likes of Amazon was deemed criminal. Even my offer to send printed postcards with a handwritten message to bookstores who were likely to stock the title was dismissed. I was assured the effort would be redundant, that the representatives and catalogue had the matter more than covered. It was a quaint idea - my notion was that independent bookstore owners loved books and might be amused by a personal note from an author.

Maybe they were right to dismiss the idea. However when I visited the bookstores I would have sent my postcards to, though they knew of me and my earlier work, this new title was unknown to them. The book's only review came from my own contact.

I understand the other side of the coin. The author sees his or her own book as unique, but the corporate machine has to multiply it by a factor of the other scores of books they are bringing out in that season. Almost every department in publishing has trimmed down to a skeleton staff while increasing their workload. One exception in terms of time and money sets a dangerous precedent. My ideas were a nuisance that just needed to be batted back at me.

How's the current situation regarding the publication of On Sacred Mountains by Heart of Albion different in this regard? First of all there is some budget, going on a direct mailing to bookstores and libraries. And just recently Bob sent me the draft of five different press releases - something I have always thought appropriate and previously fought for in vain. Different journals and organizations are sparked by different interests, so the release should highlight those particular facets of the book. It's great that he's bothering to focus interest in this way - it's not the automatic approach that fits the accountancy practices of the big houses. And fine that I am brought into the process, my opinion and comments deemed worth having. Who knows what success this approach will have? The fact is that you get nowhere without trying, and whatever the results I already feel one huge benefit. As the writer of the book, I feel engaged by the publishing process rather than abandoned by it.

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