Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Getting the bloody thing published and more

By R.J. Harlick

What’s the most important thing a publisher can do for an author?

Publish their book was my immediate thought. With so many authors clamoring at publishers’ doors for publication, getting a yes is a very rare eureka moment for any author, particularly if they have been knocking on publishers’ doors for many years. It is likely the single most important moment for that author. I certainly felt that way when Death’s Golden Whisper was finally accepted for publication in 2002. If the publisher did nothing else other than publish my book I was happy.

But after the publication of eight books, I’ve learned that publishing involves much more than getting my treasured words printed and bound. Rather than identifying any one ‘thing’ I thought I would list a number of actions my publisher has done for me over the years that I felt were very valuable.

Editing is crucial. My submitted drafts were far from perfect. No author writes a draft that can be immediately turned into a book without further refinement.  I was lucky to have the same editor for all but one of my books and he helped turn my Meg Harris mysteries into far better and more engaging novels. 

The book cover is key. Many a potential buyer will be persuaded to investigate a book further if they are attracted by the cover, regardless of whether it is a printed book or an ebook.  I was lucky. Though my publisher designed all my covers, I had input, sometimes going as far as providing photos.  Plus, my publisher has a very good designer.  So, I have been very happy with my book covers which have enticed many a prospective buyer at store signings to check them out.

Reviews sell books. The best way to get the word out into the big wide reading world is through reviews, particularly those in major publications. Only a publisher can get a review in a major publication. The author can’t. Like most publishers, at least six months before the release date, my publisher sends out Advanced Reader Copies more commonly known as ARCs to a host of reviewers and review publications.  As a result, I have had reviews of many of my books in major American and Canadian publications, like Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist, Mystery Scene Magazine and the Globe and Mail. But I will say waiting for the reviews is a very nerve wracking time for any author. You never know how it will be received.

The importance of a review was re-enforced at one particular store signing, when a customer rushed into the store waving the Globe & Mail review of my latest book and demanding that the store owner fetch her a copy.  She was overjoyed when she realized I was actually in the store signing them.

Distribution gets your book into bookstores, bricks n’ mortar and online.  If your book isn’t readily available people can’t buy it. So the wider the distribution network of your publisher the better. I am happy to say that my books can be found all across Canada and some stores in the US. They can also be found in most online bookstores around the globe.

Getting your books into libraries is also key. My publisher markets to library wholesalers and places ads in library journals. As a result, my books can be found in many libraries across Canada and some libraries in the US. Silver Totem of Shame was selected as one of the top ten summer reads by the Seattle Public Library the year it came out. 

You are probably asking about book tours and the like. In this day and age, most publishers only arrange book tours for a very limited number of their authors, generally those who are already selling millions of copies. For the rest of us, it is up to us to organize our own tours, which I have done for most of my books. On occasion my publicist has contacted local media to alert them to my store signing and to arrange for the book to be reviewed.

I’m sure there are lots of other things a publisher can do for their authors, but for me the above standout as key. 


Dietrich Kalteis said...

Well said, Robin. I think you hit on all the key points.

RJ Harlick said...

Thanks, Dietrich. Looking forward to your take on this question tomorrow.