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Bob RANTS about publishing!!!
I have been involved in the publishing field since 1967, when I sold my first professional short story to IF magazine. That's more than 40 years. During that time, I've written 35 books, around 100 short stories, and edited over 150 anthologies. I worked as a consultant on another 100 plus books, wrote several hundred articles on all sorts of stuff, and gave lots and lots of free advice to small publishers who had all sorts of questions about rights and titles etc etc. By and large, I've maintained my cool about the publishing industry and its faults. Even when those faults directly impact me or my work. But not always. In a few rare instances, once involving comic books and once regarding a major book release, I've vented. Let me summarize the book disaster, because it leads into my rant for today, Columbus Day (the real day, not the three-day weekend day), 10/12/10.

Twelve years ago, right around this time, I was in the hospital with fluid around my heart. I was extremely concerned about being released because I had a new book coming out in a few months and wanted to be ready to handle all the advanced publicity it was going to generate. The novel was a collaboration with another writer, who just happened to be a computer genius who knew all the secrets of hackers and hacking. The book was a high-tech computer thriller, in hardcover, from Random House. We had gathered all sorts of advance quotes from well known computer people including the head of DARPA, the government agency that had invented the Internet. My co-author and I had spent many months rewriting the book to our editors exact wishes. The lead editor and editor in chief of the line had both told us the book was going to be a bestseller. The VP of the company had promised that the book was going to get a huge first printing. We were scheduled for a 21 city tour. Even the president of the company was behind our book. So, needless to say, I was excited and wanted out of the hospital.

But, that's when I learned that German publisher, Bertelsmann had bought Random House. Our editor called me and promised nothing would change. But it did.

Our tour was canceled. Our print run shrank from 80,000 in hardcover to 9,000. Instead of a full page color ad (I still have a copy of it), we got NO advertising. NONE. The book was, to be frank, killed. As were all other hardcovers for that quarter. When Random House was bought, and the VP and president soon fired, the new owners decided the best way to make the company more profitable would be to cut all advertising for that quarter and cut back on print runs. Our editor remained loyal to the company and kept telling us nothing had changed. But it had, and we got screwed. And that was that.

My co-author has since written on her own a bestselling book (six weeks on the NY Times list). I am thrilled for her. But, though I've done well with various books over the years, I've never had a book on the NY Times list. Or the Publisher's Weekly bestseller list. In my middle 60's, I've pretty much given up on that dream. Until I met Tom Wood and saw his art.

Now, finally, we come to the rant for today! The name of the book is HELLFIRE. You can find the name of the publisher using the title. It is a division of the Perseus Book Group.

Tom Wood is an artist. Not any artist, but an incredibly talented artist who is wildly successful. Tom is the owner and talent behind Meridian Design Works that creates art for the NFL, Disney, and Warner Brothers. For a hobby, he paints dragons on his computer. Since 2005, he has sold millions (millions!!) of dragon posters. He is one of the bestselling poster artists in the world. In 2009, Tom was approached by an agent to create an art book featuring his poster art. The way to go, it was decided, was to use the art as illustrations in a novel, ala Dinotopia. Tom had some thoughts on what the book could be about, but he was no writer. For that, the agent contacted me. After seeing Tom's art, I was enthusiastic about the project and signed on to write the story. Together, Tom and I hammered out the basic concepts of the book and I spent the next six months writing it. I was quite happy with the final story and so was Tom. We had what we felt was a winning book. Tom even interrupted a busy schedule to paint several new illustrations and a bunch of spectacular black and whites. When he saw that the book was lacking in design, he designed it himself, a job he normally would be paid thousands of dollars by a regular client. The book was sent to the printer four months before publication date.

This was the book, I felt, would make up for the disaster of twelve years earlier. Both Tom and I expected this book to be a bestseller. But, then the warning sirens started to go off.

The publisher didn't do ARCs of the book. How can you sell an art book without advance copies to distribute to bookstores and more important, to book distributors? The publisher did 8 page arcs, which highlighted a few paintings, but that was it. They ran no ads in trade publications. Though the book was scheduled for a September release, they didn't have copies displayed at the BEA in May. Worse, they had no ARCs to send out for advance reviews in places like Publisher's Weekly or any of the other magazines that librarians look through to advance order books. The catalog of the publisher had a page writeup of the book, but there were other YA books that got twice as much space and ten times as much enthusiasm. When we complained to the agent, she merely told us that the publisher had never promised publicity. And they had not given us any. This was my Random House disaster, on steroids!

This book, HELLFIRE, should have been a bestseller. Instead of 100,000 copies in print, the publisher printed 10,000. Instead of dozens of major reviews, HELLFIRE has gotten two, both from internet sites. TWO REVIEWS!

When people see HELLFIRE, they are blown away. Tom and I have no complaints about the quality of printing or the look of the book. It is a twenty dollar book that looks like it costs double that. You can buy it for around $14 on Amazon.com. Tom has had some incredible signings. But a few signings is not going to get the book noticed or send the book back to press.

I'm 64. I suffer from terrible diabetic Neuropathy in my feet. It feels like a powerful electric current is passing through my feet - all the time, sitting or standing, day or night. I complain about my condition, but a great deal less than I could. I write because I am driven to do so. I am obsessed. If you are a writer, you know what I mean. I need help, and I am not too proud to ask for it.

If you have a suggestion, any suggestion on how I can push HELLFIRE so that it sells more copies, I am all ears. I really, really want this book to be a success. I want to surprise the publisher, I want to surprise the agent that asked me to write the story, I was to surprise Tom Wood with some justice in publishing. Most of all, I'd like to surprise myself.

My career has had its ups and its downs. Lately, it's mostly be down. I'm surely not rich, nor am I famous. I'm not pushing this book for money. As the song says, I feel like I've been running against the wind. I could use some help changing the wind's direction.

bob weinberg
10/12/10

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Current Music: against the wind by Bob Seger

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Comments
martyhalpern From: martyhalpern Date: October 15th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Amazon Associate

Hi, Bob,

I can make a few suggestions:

1. Become an Amazon Associate, and then create both a graphic and a text link for Hellfire in your blog post.

I may have overlooked something above, but I didn't see any actual links that would take me directly to the listing for Hellfire on Amazon (or anywhere). I had to access Amazon.com on my own, and then key in the author and book title. With links, you encourage your readers to jump right to the book and even purchase it should they so choose. And as an Amazon Associate, if enough copies are purchased from your site, you get a wee bit of a kickback.

2. Send out email announcements on the book, along with a blurb or two, a jpeg of the cover art, bios on the two authors, etc. I can provide you a list of about a dozen or more web sites that will publish such announcements.

3. Do you have access to a PDF file of the entire book? If not, you should ask your publisher for a PDF of the final layout file. This can be sent out to reviewers who accept e-files for review.

4. The above websites and/or reviewers may be open to interviewing you and Tom Wood for a follow-up article.

5. Create a Hellfire page on Facebook; invite all your "Friends" to "Like" the page. This simply brings more attention to the book, because the "friends" of those friends will also see the "Like."

Just a few suggestions, but like everything, it takes some time and work. In this day of mass social media a lot of the PR necessary is up to the author.

Cheers, and all the best with this project,
Marty Halpern

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