Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Honoring Commitments

At a recent meeting of several publishers, editors and book store personnel, we heard an earful about authors who do not honor their commitments to appear at booksignings. In some instances, the author submitted their photographs and biographical information and the stores issued press releases to local media; placed the author on promotional literature in the store, which was picked up by book clubs and store patrons; and sometimes posters were developed in-house advertising the author's upcoming appearance.

Then the author does not show.

Sometimes the author will call or email and tell the store that they are backing out. The excuses range from no excuse at all... to they didn't feel like making the trip... to a legitimate emergency. When it's an emergency, the store understands and will usually try to reschedule the appearance. But when there is no excuse given at all or the author backs out because they didn't feel like it or they got what they believe is a better deal elsewhere, it hurts not only that author but other authors trying to get an appearance in that store.

Authors who have been in this industry for any length of time know that every commitment reflects on their professionalism and ultimately, their image.

Authors who are new in this industry often do not realize just how small a community this is, and how long the memories.

To be sure, there are a host of problems from the other side as well: book stores who don't order the books for the signing, or who fail to tell anyone else in the store or out of it that there is a signing... And publishers are trying to work with those venues to make things easier and smoother.

But when it's the author who simply does not show up or provides a flimsy excuse at the 11th hour, it reflects very poorly on that author, on their publisher or publicist, and impacts other authors. Book signings and appearances are like any "real" job. Would you take a job as an account executive, for example, allow your boss to schedule you for a convention, and then fail to show up there? How long do you think your job would last if you kept doing this?

Why do some authors believe their commitments should be anything less?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Author's Face

Does the author's face sell a book?

This question was posed during one of my recent meetings, and I am soliciting opinions.

Some authors want their photographs on the cover of their book. A cover is like expensive real estate so when we take up space with their faces, we'd like to know that those faces will help to sell the book. If the faces don't sell the book, then what is the purpose of having them posted there?

Other authors are good with having their photographs inside the book, usually accompanied by "About the Author" which follows their story. But is it really necessary to have their faces in front of the public? Or is reading about their qualifications sufficient?

I have to admit, when I think of F. Scott Fitzgerald, I can't picture him. Neither can I picture Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, William Faulkner or Tennessee Williams. I know I can Google their images, but did their faces help sell their books to me? Obviously not.

Some authors are opposed to having their faces on their books, and they avoid them on their websites. This could be due to a wide variety of reasons. Sometimes, they write under a pen name and they wish to keep their private lives and their public writing completely separated. Sometimes they have issues with the way they look - maybe they think they're overweight or they have a physical handicap or they don't think they take good pictures.

At Drake Valley Press, we solicit the author's opinion regarding using their likeness, and we try to accommodate them - whether it means their picture will appear on the cover, inside the book or not at all.

But I'm wondering: when you are considering purchasing a book, how much does the author's photograph sway you one way or the other?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Love of the Printed Book

As Senior Acquisitions Editor at Drake Valley Press, I receive a copy of each book that we publish, in both eBook and printed book format. And while I am an avid eBook reader, I have to admit that as a publisher I prefer the printed book.

eBooks have qualities that I enjoy as a reader, such as the ability to change fonts and font sizes. But that also means, as a publisher, I am constrained in what I can do to make the eBook more visually appealing.

In contrast, I can select various fonts for the printed book. I can have beautiful symbols underneath chapter headings or as section breaks. I can arrange a 1/3 or 1/2 page drop at the beginning of each chapter, drop caps to begin each chapter or section, and I can make the appearance an extension of the story itself.

But with an eBook, I am limited to a few fonts and symbols, page drops and drop caps will often appear funky on certain devices. I expect this to change as technology changes, which means at a later date we'll take the most popular books and bestselling books in our arsenal and redesign them to take advantage of the improved format opportunities.

However, eBooks allow us to release up-to-date versions more readily, and they also permit us to change the covers as the market changes, without the concern of an inventory that we must sell first.

Which do you prefer - the printed book or the eBook format, and why?