A guide to POTSDAM
Are writers really at the heart of book production?
27th October 2016
“In a world where publishing is huge business, readers should be made aware of the financially struggling elephant in the room: publishers need to change their attitudes to authors and to recognise that the writer of the book is at the heart of book production.” (Source: – Article in The Guardian by Richard Lea quoting Lucinda Hawksley)
The paragraph above recently caught my eye. Publishing is a huge industry at the heart of which is surely the author? But no, not really, apparently – I was struck by the heartfelt words of author Lucinda Hawksley, in the article by Richard Lea, who decries some of the constraints that many authors experience (constraints unique to the UK within Europe it would seem) in that only a few authors can make a real living from writing, which she expounds further in her article. These thoughts seemed particularly pertinent with “Super Thursday” just gone on 20th October, when a blizzard of titles was launched in the build-up to Christmas.
As we build the TripFiction website, we observe some of what goes on in the world of publishing. Much of it is wonderful, mutually supportive and successful for all involved. I see the first-time author plucked by a good publisher, given the support and nurture to bring an excellent piece of written fiction to fruition. I then see that same publisher stand behind the author and promote his/her work amongst diverse bloggers, across social media, and more, and I see that same publisher bend over backwards to make that one book – and any follow-ups – work for all involved in the process. It is of course a tireless pursuit but that is surely what a publisher needs to be doing?
Authors move between publishers all the time. Money is bound to be a lure, of course. But part of the complex picture is believing that your own publisher will stick by you, get your work out there, and shout from the rooftops how great your book is. A sizeable advance cannot make up for a lack of pre and post publication hype, dismal support and a poorly drawn strategy of book promotion going forward.
Yet I see several publishers mount a wall of silence when it comes to promoting their own author’s work. I am totally flummoxed why this should be. They have Twitter and Facebook accounts, they have the wherewithal to use them adroitly, they have bloggers aplenty with whom they can work, and surely it is in their interest to promote, promote, and promote! But this so often does not happen, there are some publishers who remain mute and dare I say singularly aloof.
What is going on? This lack of back-up got me wondering… early days authors aren’t necessarily familiar with marketing in the publishing industry and are accepting of what they are given because they don’t have the experience to push for more. They are just very glad to have found a publisher in this complex and competitive book world.
I have a mental list of publishers who I know will not step up to the plate and promote the work of an author. My heart sinks when they approach us because I know that once the book has landed for review, de facto that is pretty much it. Off you go with our book, they seem to intimate, and see what you can do to support our author. They are keen to send out ARCs, but thereafter they stonewall (it seems) on the many reviews that are circulating from all sectors for their author’s book. As for a humble Re-Tweet from them down the line, forget it. Are some publishers actually struggling to come into the 21st Century perhaps?
The work of promotion comes in many cases down to author networking, bloggers and any form of exposure the author can personally garner. The effect of poor support from the publisher is often reflected in very simple terms: to wit the number of reviews for an author’s book on, say, Amazon/Goodreads. Authors with a supportive publisher have, in my tiny straw poll, significantly more reviews than authors who have an unsupportive publisher. True or false, I don’t know whether my extrapolation of what I witness is valid, but it might be worth a little more research. And reviews are a critical element vital to most authors, so that their book gets talked about…
Being an author is essentially a solitary profession and therefore many have chosen to set up networks and work on getting their titles promoted. Maybe it would be a fruitful discussion amongst authors to share personal experience of their own publisher, and compare it to other publishers. Maybe authors need to pose themselves the question: “Am I really getting the best deal possible, and if not, how can I motivate my publisher to give me more support?” I really do wonder how many authors truly feel supported by their publisher. Maybe indeed there are some publishers who need to change their attitudes to authors and invest in their authors by giving them their time as well as their money, and follow the lead of publishers who put their heart and soul into their authors.
Tina for the TripFiction Team