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How to Fail in Publishing

I love my job.

I love my job.

I love my job.

Sometimes I find myself randomly repeating that mantra when, let’s say, I really feeling like punching someone (generally an author) or hurling someone (also an author) out the window.

So we have this author who we published, granted we took a chance on his book but he’s a nice guy (or was) and he has a great story about karma, in fact that’s what the book is about: generating good karma. Well, we are at the end of his promotion and he just got his first royalty check which, guessing from his response, probably couldn’t buy him a cup of coffee. We promoted him heavily, he also promoted himself and, much to my chagrin and constant warning, decided to drive around the country handing his book to bookstores nationwide. No kidding. I told him not to do this, but alas – what do I know?

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday he called me and screamed. Now, I don’t mean yelled or raised his voice, I mean screamed at me for not doing my job, for not helping him become famous, for not moving more book copies. He screamed that I had ruined his life, that I’d gutted him and ripped out his heart. Seriously. I’m just the publicist, not someone’s reason to live (unless you are George Clooney in which case, I’m all over that). And, frankly, if your book not selling equates to being “gutted” you need therapy, or a life or a pet. Try a goldfish and work your way up. So, he screamed endlessly, I couldn’t say a word. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my career.

This brings me to my point. Be nice to the people you hire or the people who promote or publish you. We are here to help you, believe or not and though this industry is often unforgiving, we really are on your side.

Years ago a friend of mine who was the head of the sales department of a publisher who shall remain nameless told me about a time they were publishing a book by a well-known journalist. The team was very excited about the book until the day the author in question decided to sit in on a sales meeting. As discussion turned to his book, the author demanded an update: Which bookstores was the book going to be in? Who was going to interview him? Then, he flipped open his phone and started dialing random bookstores around the country to check stock. When he got a “Sorry, we’re not carrying that title” response, he would scream at the team sitting around the table. When he was done, an hour later, he had torn through a dozen stores and each time he found one store that didn’t have stock, he would unleash his wrath on the sale team. After the meeting, my friend took his team aside and said “Let’s pull the book.” And they did. In a matter of hours the publisher recalled copies of this book. Did it mean the title tanked? You bet it did. Now, look, we all want to succeed in publishing. We want books to do well. But when you mistreat your team, or hire freelancers only to abuse them, we can and will fight back.

So, the moral of the story is that we love the books we work with, but if you’re a pain in the ass we will love them less.

Publishing is a small world. If you are cruel to us we will remember you. Oh and one more thing:

The only time screaming is ever appropriate is if you are on fire.