Author: Jerry D. Simmons
ISBN: 13: 978-0-9789247-0-6: 10: 0-9789247-0-3
It is said that a good business book can change you, if you let them. And the same principle applies to Jerry D. Simmons' little gem What Writers Need to Know About Publishing
Author: Jerry D. Simmons
978-0-9789247-0-6: 10: 0-9789247-0-3
It is said that a good business book can change you, if you let them. And the same principle applies to Jerry D. Simmons' little gem What Writers Need to Know About Publishing.
Simmons began his career as a sales representative for Ballantine Books, a division of Random House. Subsequently, he joined the book division of Independent News, one of the distribution groups at Warner Communications, where he spent more than twenty-three years in sales and management. Simmon's sales team distributed over a thousand titles a year from a number of large publishing houses and imprints, including Little Brown, Warner Books and Hyperion. In 2003 he retired as VP, Director of Field Sales. He is a well-known speaker and founder of WritersReaders, an informational website for writers.
The organization of the material of What Writers Need to Know About Publishing divides itself into five sections, Writers and Books, The Acquisition, The Marketing of Books, Understanding Numbers and Participate in Decisions. As Simmons points out and elaborates in the book, there is a distinction being a published author and an author that is successful. The latter is proven by retail sales. Consequently, the objective and focus of the book is to provide the reader with an in-depth summary of what occurs behind the scenes in book publishing. If you are an author, it is imperative that you understand how publishers handle your book and how it is possible that your hard work can be damaged or even destroyed by the mishandling of your book. This often comes about due to bad decisions on the part of in-house staff without fully understanding the ramifications. Just remember, as Simmons mentions, when a major house purchases your manuscript, it is the end of one road and the beginning of another.
It is quite interesting to learn from Simmons that fundamentally the basics of how books are sold, marketed and distributed has just about remained the same for the past twenty years. However, what has changed is the way in which business is conducted. Publishers try to resolve the same age-old problems that have encountered for years with the same tired, worn-out solutions, struggling to grow a business that is nearly impossible to grow.
Within the sections of each general topic there are sub-sections that explore the mechanics of the business of book publishing, its language and the principal actors. We learn about agents, editors, book buyers, booksellers, book scheduling, budgets and their importance, three seasons, sale of your book, marketing and how it is done, bestseller lists, strengths and weaknesses of major publishers, six “P's” of marketing, coordination and creativity, understanding the numbers, market share, opportunities, when a book gets special attention, how to overcome a bad sales history. The final section offers great suggestions to the author in how he or she can offer suggestions to the publisher. Once you have an understanding as to how the process works, your chances of becoming a successful author will improve immensely. You must inform your agent and the publisher that you are willing to participate in the process of publishing your book. As mentioned, one of the biggest mistakes writers make is leaving all of the details of the book's publications to their publisher.
What really adds a great deal of value to this book is its many interesting revelations. Did you know there is a 90/10 rule? Each season, on every list of books, the top 10% of the titles get 90% of the orders (the “buy”) from the book seller and, this represents 90% of the billing. The remainder of the titles on the seasonal list can be subjected to negotiation between the sales representative and the book buyer. It is imperative to know if your book falls into the 90% category and what you can do about it.
Another recurrent theme is that “publishers in today's competitive market need to generate revenue by increasing billing, which is the direct result of shipping large quantities of books. This has become the focus of all the major publishers and is the goal of the entire marketing effort.” How is this accomplished? It is done by selling and shipping as many copies as are possible, and to a large extent, selling more copies than their customer can reasonably resell. The result is over distribution. Which today is the model for all publishers. You are probably asking why would a bookseller or retailer buy more copies than they can sell, and the answer is to raise their effective discount. It should be pointed out that book resellers and retailers are guaranteed the sale and are often paid inducements, they keep the payment for buying an over abundance of copies and they are able to return the unsold product.
Simmons has provided his readers with an in-the-trenches overview of the publishing industry. This book will probably prove to be an eye-opener, whether you are an author or just someone interested in the book publishing industry.