Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Publishing's Cash Cows

When Doubleday released John Grisham’s novel, A Painted House, Books-A-Million splashed the cover all over its shopping bags.

Like Grisham needed the publicity.

Why not use that marketing budget to publicize the work of new authors, who otherwise have to do almost all marketing on their own? After all, didn’t Grisham have a significant fan base who’d buy his latest book just because his name was on the cover?

Here’s the stark truth: even if Grisham didn’t need the publicity, the publisher did.


See, Grisham is one of publishing’s cash cows.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say a new publisher is going to open a fiction line with fifteen novels this year. They expect twelve of those books will lose money, two will break even or possibly earn a modest amount, but only one book will make a significant profit.

If that were your expectation, you’d have no choice but to bet your marketing dollars on the prime stallion in your stable. (Sorry for mixing farm animal metaphors. I'm running on little sleep while caring for a sick child again.)

Think for a moment how many people--from copy editors to printers--who are all necessary to turn a manuscript into an actual book. Each one needs to be paid. Only one author carries the burden of earning enough to keep everyone afloat.

For those of us who dream of breaking into this crazy industry by penning novels of our hearts, these statistics are a sobering reality. But we must not give up. We need to understand the odds, then continue to overcome them. Our job is to study the craft, then write the best books we can, and to study marketing, then promote our novels without expecting a publisher to do so.

~ Roxanne Sherwood

1 comment:

Beth K. Vogt said...

That's the challenge of being writers: Facing reality without letting it dilute our passion.