Posts from December 2011
Posted by Carole Stuart on December 01, 2011
More about that 800-pound gorilla –Amazon
These days the publishing world is divided by how people feel about Amazon. I love Amazon…really. Honestly, when they order a book, they don’t return it. Returns are the tragedy of this business. You ship the books out, promote them and hold your breath, hoping they don’t come back at you.
Every so often a bright newbie to the industry comes up with a genius idea: Give booksellers a bigger discount and sell books non-returnable. Why doesn’t that work? Because if booksellers don’t want your books they won’t want them even if they are free. If they don’t sell, back they come. These days, with more people reading on e-readers, sales of actual books are declining. The good news about e-books is they don’t get returned. And sales are increasing for those who use a Kindle, iPad, Nook, etc. Still, not a happy situation for publishers who like to see their actual books on the shelves of stores.
It used to be you had to have a publisher if you wanted your book published. There were and are Vanity publishers who will put anything between covers (or on e-platforms) for a hefty fee. At the same time, writers are getting smarter. More writers are self-publishing. It’s easy to find a company that will design your book, cover and all, edit it, put it into composition and produce it as a digital book.
Some writers are very good at self-publishing. I read about those who have sold thousands of copies of their self-published books but there are many others who have gone through the process and then what happens? Not much. To repeat myself (see the August 2011 Hot News) it’s still up to the marketing to get anyone to know you are there. Some authors are better at this than others. Often, if they haven’t been successful selling their books, they look for a traditional publisher.
Backlist, Backlist, Backlist
Years ago a very talented editor started a new publishing company. It was going to have only front list books. That means you only publish for “now.” But the key to keep any publishing company in business is backlist. Books that are headline driven can have very short lives. If you sell enough of them in the first go, that’s great. And best-selling authors can provide that happy situation for themselves and their publishers. Those books make it through their first appearance and many, many more printings. Barricade has always tried to publish what are called “backlist” books. Those are the ones that are introduced with a big push when they are first published. But the hope is they become backlist titles that sell and sell. Sometimes very well, sometimes modestly. Many go on for years.
Some of my favorite examples:
LIVING THE MARTIAL WAY by Forrest E. Morgan, Major USAF. First published in 1992, it’s still going strong twenty years later. Another favorite is ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNUSUAL SEX PRACTICES by Brenda Love. First published, 1992. Its many foreign editions are still in print and soon there will be an Icelandic translation. As many know, we have a long list of true-crime and Mafia books. One, THE RISE AND FALL OF THE CLEVELAND MAFIA by Rick Porrello made its debut in 1995…nearly 17 years ago. It has been in print for years and is a consistent seller. THE COMPLETE BOOK OF US PRESIDENTS by William A. DeGregorio is now in its 7th edition. Originally copyright 1984. We update it every presidential election.
A brilliant idea that I wish I could take credit for was to republish the cult classic by Helen Gurley Brown, SEX AND THE SINGLE GIRL. We met Helen and David Brown and Lyle suggested bringing her book out again. Helen was pleased but concerned that we not lose any money. We re-published in 2003, a relative “child” on our list – we’ve only had it for 9 years. 2012 marks the book’s 50th anniversary from the original publication. There will be much celebrating this birthday, including a BBC Radio special that interviews many people like Letty Cottin Pogrebin, who was involved in the first edition published by Bernard Geis. We’re printing a “50th Anniversary Edition.”
Before we published, I went to Helen’s office at Cosmopolitan Magazine to talk about the book. She was really the epitome of “That Cosmopolitan Girl” although a beautiful mature woman by then. Her office walls were decorated in a leopard pattern and she was dressed very sexily down to her fishnet stockings.
Hearst, the publisher, in a smart move, later made her Editor of all the international editions of Cosmopolitan. She traveled all over the world as each new edition was launched.
Books into Movies
The fun thing about books is that some times old ones surprise you. We have activity in film options on a number of our books. In development are SHARON TATE AND THE MANSON MURDERS and MY FACE FOR THE WORLD TO SEE, a memoir by the late Liz Renay that has both movie and theatrical interest. Miss Maggie Moore, whose film work has included HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH a one-woman show based on Ann Margret and many other credits, is determined to play Liz in a musical stage production.
BRONX DA, by Sarena Straus, published a few years ago, has been optioned by CBS TV as the basis for a television series. Strong women seem to be very popular on television these days. If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t miss COVERT AFFAIRS an action drama on the USA network. The name of the lead character is “Annie Walker.” Beautiful, blond and very smart.
Previously mentioned is I'LL DO MY OWN DAMN KILLIN' the story of Benny Binion, under option by Nick Cassavetes and BACK DOOR CHANNELS by Leon Charney that covers the peace talks in the Jimmy Carter era. The new paperback edition coincides with the release of the movie based on the book. In addition to theaters it will soon will be broadcast on PBS television stations across the country.
Option money can be good income. I recall a conversation with Melvin Van Peebles some years ago. Van Peebles made a splash with the film SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG in 1971, and over the years sold options on other projects. As the option time expired, it was often renewed -- for additional payment. Or, it could be sold to another party. It was, as he described, "a living."
I’ll end with a few personal notes:
My very dear friend Jeanne Johnson died this summer after a yearlong battle with cancer. Jeanne lived life on her own terms and up to the very end was funny, smart and went out of this world as she wished to – having all her friends and the wonderfully supportive woman who Jeanne worked with, come to visit her. Her son Bill and daughter, Holly, were with her as she knew time was precious. Jeanne had great style and every one of us thought she was our best friend. She was.
Rory Stuart, that master of multitasking, and my stepson, is now a full-time faculty member at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music. Look for notice for his gigs on his website: www.rorystuart.com
Until next time, my best wishes for a happy holiday,
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