Proof that all established publishers are nuts…

July 12th, 2011

… and becoming increasingly irrelevant.

I’m lucky to be able to keep in touch with my old profession of books by having a couple of excellent authors as web design clients.

Theresa Breslin is one of the best children’s authors in the world and recently just missed out on a second prestigious Carnegie Medal for her latest novel – though she did win the nod from the children who were shadowing the official judges.

Linda Gillard is a writer who is a little harder to pin down – “intelligent romantic fiction” is maybe the nearest you could get to a short snappy description but really she has a lot more depth than that conveys. She started with the independent publisher Transita for her first two novels, the innovative Emotional Geology which took the brave step of having a heroine who was middle aged and was recovering from mental illness and which was set in South Uist, and the dark and challenging A Lifetime Burning, then moved on to Piatkus for the third, Star Gazing, a slightly more mainstream romance except that the heroine has been blind from birth while the male interest is from Skye and has the second sight. Translated into a number of different languages it has proved a popular and award winning book, but here things started to go wrong when the publisher demanded more of exactly the same and rejected the book she actually wrote next. Like most real writers she was not one to churn out formulaic stuff and wrote the ideas that came to her, and she was forced to part from them and seek alternative publishing.

In the meantime her popularity amongst the online book discussions and bloggers was really taking off – something that could have been easily researched by any publisher – but astonishingly her subsequent books have been consistently turned down by all the publishers they have been submitted to. As a result she decided to publish her most recent book – House of Silence – as an ebook. In that form it has done very well, and despite setting a low price she has done better from the sales so far than she would have done from a full price paperback.

Despite all this, a proven author who has lots of enthusiastic readers and online fans who are waiting impatiently for anything she writes, her latest book has again been turned down by a swathe of publishers. What on earth are they thinking??? A number of them praise the book but say they wouldn’t be able to market it – it seems it’s just not easily classifiable in to their standard categories. As an ex-bookseller my response is that most publishers couldn’t market free beer!

The fact is that many publishers even 30 years ago when I joined the trade had little idea of what readers wanted or how to market to them; it was the booksellers, mainly independent booksellers, that knew how to do that. Now the independents are all gone – forced out of business by the supermarkets and Amazon – and most books that don’t make the supermarket’s top 20, usually riddled with celebrity’s memoirs or the latest semi-literate Dan Brown imitator, have only Waterstones left to promote them, at a cost, or Amazon, at a large discount.

Such is the state of bookselling now that any publisher who wants to have their books succeed must be aware of online support and then make the most of it. Otherwise no-one is going to do their marketing for them and many good authors are going to be ignored. Since most of them don’t seem to have the required understanding it’s inevitable that many more authors will take the path that Linda has and publish themselves, and eventually publishers will become obsolete. And it’ll serve them right!

Last week I had the privilege of reading Linda’s latest book pre-publication so I can design a new page for it on her website, and as usual I found it a compelling read. It’s called Untying the Knot and will be coming out in September and if Linda ok’s it I’ll do a review of it here shortly.

Entry Filed under: Books

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Untying the Knot – &hellip  |  August 30th, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    […] a high order. I can almost, but not quite, understand the inability of publishers to classify it (see my earlier post), because a simple explanation of the plot makes it sound like the sort of throwaway, read-once and […]

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