Friday, February 29, 2008

Who's your publisher???

By Lonnie Cruse

When writing a mystery novel and having it published was just a far away dream for me, I was, of course, an avid reader. Still am. But I rarely, if ever, checked the spine to see who published the books I was buying. I looked for my favorite writers' names first. Failing to find that, I looked at the cover to see if it caught my attention. I have no idea who came up with the saying: DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER, but it sure wasn't me. A beautiful cover will suck me into a book quicker than anything. Where was I? Publishers? Right.

Who's your publisher?" is a question that rarely interests readers who aren't also writers. Readers just care about the book, or rather the quality of the story inside. Are they familiar with the author, and therefore fairly certain money spent on that particular book won't go to waste? And if the author is someone the reader isn't familiar with, is the cover attractive? Does the synopsis on the inside flap sound interesting? Does a "flip-through" or a perusal of the first chapter cause the reader to want to take a chance on the book? These are the questions readers need answers to. Who published the book is generally of little or no interest. But to writers, it seems to be of utmost importance. Why is that?

When I joined Sisters In Crime, the Internet Chapter, I began looking at the signature lines of each author to see who published their books. Then I'd go check out the publisher to see if that publisher was interested in the kind of books I wrote and if there was even a whisper of a prayer that the publisher in question would be interested in publishing me. So who publishes other authors is of the utmost importance to new authors.

Experienced authors ask the same question. Sometimes it's to warn fellow authors off a publisher with a poor to bad reputation in the business. Or to congratulate an author on snagging a well-known publisher. And yes, who publishes an author can be used as a measure of respect for that author, just as what day job you hold is often used as a measure. Whether you mop floors for a living or do brain surgery.

At the Love Is Murder conference, I chatted with various authors about the subject of publishing. There is nothing easy about getting published OR staying published. If you choose a small publisher, you will probably be published much sooner, but you will not get as much respect from your peers, you will have much more difficulty getting your books into book stores, and getting attention by snagging spots on panels at conferences, etc. If a larger publisher chooses you, you will get far more respect, but you may not be given as much time or opportunity to grow a fan base, and you might be dropped if your series doesn't continue to sell well.

If you are a younger writer, you have a longer career ahead of you and therefore can afford to take more time about getting your work published. If you are of a, ahem, "mature age" you will be in far more of a hurry to find someone/anyone to publish you before you become too feeble to hold a copy of your own book in your hands. And you'll likely be trying to decide how much longer it will be worth your while to spend time writing, editing, getting published, promoting your work, and wearing yourself out in the process.

Do I have a point here? Um, no, not really. Just some random thoughts inspired by the discussions I've recently had with other authors. Whichever path you choose, there are NO guarantees in this business. And no easy way. So you write the best book you can and cross your fingers, praying that if you write it, they will read it. And that you will still be young enough to remember your name when you are asked to sign it.

1 comment:

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Lonnie, I can attest to the respect. I had a long journey to publication with many rejections--I came really close with the poetry loving bikers in Wisconsin--and then got a top publisher by a stroke of unbelievable luck. As a result, for the first time in my life, when I say, "I'm a writer," I don't dread the next question: "Who's your publisher?" As for what a major publisher does, for example: they may not arrange or pay for a book tour for a new and unknown author like me--but I don't have to worry about getting my book into the hands of reviewers. That's done--at the right time--by the in-house publicist without my lifting a finger.