November 30, 2009
We’ve had so much fun with the 50 Things Writers Shouldn’t Do post (currently up to roughly a gazillion things writer’s shouldn’t do), that we decided to turn the tables, and solicit your help in creating a list of things publishers shouldn’t do.
- Don’t try to capture lightning in a bottle—just promote your authors instead.
- Don’t publish “the next” anything.
- Don’t look for “the sure thing.”
- Don’t overpay debut authors—nine times out of ten, you’re ruining at least one career.
- Don’t publish debuts in HC—TPO is the way to go!
- Don’t pretend that Bookscan is in any way prescriptive in negotiating author advances.
- Don’t send royalty statements six weeks late.
- Don’t publish so damn many titles!
- Don’t put a dog on the cover of a book as a means of persuading consumers.
- Don’t put a dog on the cover at all (it’s over, okay, O-V-E-R, dogs are 2006)
- Don’t pad the advance print run to buyers to try to get them to buy more. If you’re printing so many of them, I won’t have any trouble getting them later, will I?
- Don’t use props in author photos. (except hats. I’ll accept reasonable hats (i’m looking at you JE), but nothing that belongs in mardigras, and no indiana jones hats for thrillers about archeologists.)
- Don’t let poorly copyedited books go out the door. This is a huge annoyance to me. Half the books I read seem to have typos or punctuation errors in them. Christ, give the intern one last go at it.
- Don’t make the blurbs and blurb authors more prominent than the author or book they are promoting.
- Don’t publish books you aren’t interested in promoting.
- Don’t do what everyone else is doing.
- Don’t pay an advance the book has no chance of recouping.
- Don’t over-distribute to one channel while underselling another.
- Don’t tell accounts who can sell your book now that you are “waiting for returns.”
- Don’t be afraid to edit books by big authors. I love great big doorstop books. 500 pages, 800 pages, whatever, but a lot of books would benefit from a little slicing and dicing, even the big guys.
- Don’t publish a well known literary author, and never reprint the book, even after it gets glowing reviews.
- Don’t sell that well known author in at the chains, leaving almost nothing for the independents, which have to wait for a reprint that will never come.
- Don’t depend on a talk show host to sell your books.
- Don’t pretend like you’re too good to read a query letter. You’re a publisher of books. That’s what happens when you hang out your shingle.
- Don’t publish anymore books about Vampires or Pirates. I don’t care who has died and left a manuscript unpublished.
- Don’t pay comedians six figures to write about their life, unless it’s Jim Norton. That last book was some funny shit.
- Don’t publish a second book from an author whose first book sold well, when the second book is the same thing as the first.
- Don’t publish books that you can’t distribute.
- Don’t pretend that the chains will be here forever. Just because they have all that space, doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
- Don’t pretend like bloggers don’t exist. When we ask for a review copy it’s because we want to talk about how great the book is. Not sell it on Ebay.
- Don’t say in your publicity that you will be working with literary blogs to promote your author and then blow off the bloggers. You have to actually do it if you say that you will.
- If you want to do an interview between your writer and a Blogger, then step out of the way and let the writer and the blogger talk to each other. Why? A good interview depends on the establishment of trust. Two people can’t trust each other if they have to have a go-between in their conversation.
- Every legitimate email to a publishing house should be answered. What amazes me is that most so-called marketing departments don’t want to talk. You want word-of-mouth for your book? Doesn’t that mean that you have to open your own mouth? I dunno…but it doesn’t seem like rocket science to me.
- Now that I got that off my chest…I understand that no one describes a book as “wise and witty”anymore. Thank goodness. But the substitutes for this phrase that involve a double alliteration aren’t any better. Don’t do it.
- Jump into the pool if you want to use social media. If your writers are beating you to the punch, then what are you there for? I just learned that a writer I like has written enough of a new novel to give some preliminary readings. Now I even know what the title of the novel will be. For a fan this is great. But did I learn this from the publisher? No. I learned it from the writer’s Facebook page. Does Facebook mean that publishers don’t need to have marketing departments anymore? You tell me.
- Richard Nash has talked about this: Don’t neglect the fans. Don’t hold them in contempt like you do. What are you afraid of? That they won’t kiss your ass? They won’t. Become a fan yourself if you want to please them. Your smartest writers know this better than you do.
- Don’t inflate announced print runs. Ha…ha…ha. I meant that as a joke.
- Don’t encourage your reps to read galleys that you won’t distribute to your accounts. I don’t want to hear that my rep has read a galley that he can’t get for me. I also don’t want to hear that he had dinner with a writer that I wasn’t invited to meet or that he went to a great movie tie-in screening that I wasn’t given a ticket for. The bigger the house, the more they do this.
- Don’t get afraid if writers decide to talk to their fans and vice versa. No harm will come from this. Fans are good, not something you have to stamp out at all costs.
- As for Jonathan and dogs…I don’t know what’s going on there with his no dogs on the cover. But here’s my cover rule: avoid dark covers, they usually don’t work. They tend to turn off the casual bookstore browser. I am greatly looking forward to seeing the cover of West of Here.