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The Final Push

The Final Push

As the on-sale date of a book gets closer, book buyers will do a store-by-store, title-by-title order that will be used to generate a purchase order for the publisher and an inventory for the stores. If they plan to do any advertising or promotion for a book, they’ll set it up at this point. Many companies produce catalogues or bookmarks or signage or websites listing their new releases—the material to do that is assembled now. A lot of this is financed through co-op advertising dollars provided by the publisher. For every dollar an account makes in a given year for a publisher, the publisher provides a tiny percentage of that money to be spent on advertising by that account the following year. Sell enough books, and the money really adds up. The publisher has to approve how it’s spent, of course, but everything from store catalogues and author signings to newspaper advertising and visits by costumed characters (Barney, Madeline, and Strega Nona are very popular) is supported through co-op advertising dollars.

A lot of independent bookstores will order all of their books from a wholesaler like Ingrams and Baker and Taylor rather than dealing with each publisher individually. Wholesalers that sell to bookstores typically ship much faster than publishers—inside of a week as compared to six weeks or longer. This means stores that order from them can order later and keep lower inventories, refilling them faster, reducing their costs. Chains will deal with the publishers individually because the base cost of each book is slightly lower buying direct from the publisher, but will often use Ingrams and Baker and Taylor for reorders. The wholesalers produce websites and catalogues in various formats for booksellers, listing the books that they are carrying from the various publishers, and their accounts order from those.

In addition, the publisher’s marketing department and publicists really start working, arranging publicity for when the book is out. For lead books, this process is often quite demanding on an author’s time. It can mean an author will be scheduled to do book tours, sometimes just in this country, sometimes in Europe and Australia and Asia as well. These sound glamorous, and they do have their moments, but on the whole they’re an exercise in stamina. And they’re not always as useful as you might think. The signings and appearances are set up with input from the publisher’s local sales reps, and generally have more to do with which accounts the rep wishes to appease than they do with how many copies will actually be sold at them. After a month on the road, sixteen cities, seventy-five interviews, and fifty signings, complicated by a variable amount of jet lag and indigestion, the poor bestselling author often comes home to discover that the next book in her contract has been moved up in the schedule, the publisher wants it three months sooner, and she hasn’t written a word of it while she was on the road. In addition to touring, authors can also be scheduled for talk show appearances, media interviews of various sorts, live website appearances, and satellite radio or television tours. The publisher can set up an author in a single studio, and through the magic of satellite broadcasting, she can appear on programs one after another, all over the nation or world. Even if a book isn’t a lead title with a big marketing budget and signings arranged by the publisher, an author can arrange signings, interviews, and publicity on her own. Be sure and keep your editor, the marketing department, and the publicist, if you’ve been assigned one, up to date on what you’re doing, especially if it’s successful. If you’ve got something good going on, they’ll be much more likely to help you pay for it on the next book if they’re aware of your previous triumphs. And, thanks to the internet, any author with a well-organized reader list and/or website can send out a targeted mailing to her fans in any area in the country and actually pack them in at a signing, as opposed to depending on the publicity the publisher puts together to bring in readers. But all of that, though arranged prior to publication, takes place after the book is out. Back to our book…

Next: The Book hits the Bookstores!

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