I’ve been fortunate to work for publishing houses big and small during my career. I’ve worked in a variety of positions, but mainly as a book publicist. It’s a wonderful job that introduced me to the inner workings of publishing while at the same time giving me access to my favourite people – authors.
In contrast to my experience, many authors write alone and work in other industries. As a result, they don’t understand the behind-the-scenes workings of the publishing industry. In this column, I hope to give some insights that will speed up your learning curve and help you get the most out of your publishing experience.
As well as being a storehouse of creativity, book publishing is a competitive industry. According to the most recent Think Australian report from Bookseller+Publisher, there were 22,144 titles published by 4,247 publishers in Australia in 2016. The titles cover all formats, international and local releases, traditional publishers and indie authors. If you thought there wasn’t a lot of competition for readers and reviewers, think again. The numbers prove that on a day-to-day basis the business side wins out in publishing. Creativity is brought in from authors (that’s you) while the publisher focuses on getting the books to market.
As an author you most likely focus on one book at a time. No one in publishing works on one book at a time. Everyone is multi-tasking, from publishers and editors to cover designers, product and sales personnel, marketers and publicists. The production line never stops (as any indie authors reading this column know only too well). Even if the company only publishers one book a month, the relentless churn of the production schedule means that while they are editing book A, they are designing the cover for book B, typesetting book C and preparing book D for print. When sales reps sell in month 1, they are researching month 2 and reading ahead for month 3. While a publicist is on the road with you, she is contacting journalists to firm up interviews for Author F and preparing long lead pitches for Author G. In a big publishing house, a publicist is often expected to juggle four to six books a month. Some will only go out for review; others will be interview-focused and one or two may tour. The marketer responsible for social media is also working on the Father’s Day catalogue.
What does this mean for you? Understand the deadlines and timelines your team is working to, from editor to publicist. Stick to them. Be available. Plan. Communicate clearly. Today, you don’t have to rely on a publisher. You can self-publish very successfully. However, the joys of being traditionally published include access to additional knowledge and expertise and financial support for producing your book and getting it into readers’ hands. Make the most of the opportunity by being an active participant in the process.
Laura Boon Russell
Laura is a bookaholic and tennis tragic. She became entangled in publishing after reading Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and ‘stealing’ The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss from her father’s bookshelves as a teenager. She has worked as a bookseller, sales rep, publicist and freelance editor. In 2006, Frontrunner Publishing released her DIY guide to publicity for small business, Make the Media Work for You. However, she is forever indebted to the RWA for giving her the courage and the tools to write the stories she wants to tell. The Wild Rose Press will publish her first romance in 2018.