from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

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An update on two fronts.

One, marketing and publicity. The plans for ABSENT FRIENDS are up to Bantam, and involve all sorts of things I don't know anything about -- meaning, some of them I don't know what they are, and some of them, even if I know what they are, I don't know what's the right way to approach them. I do know that marketing and publicity are different, in this sort way: marketing is, for example, buying an ad, or buying placement in a store. It depends relatively little on getting anyone interested in the book. Publicity, on the other hand, is aimed precisely at getting people interested: enough to write a review or feature, to have you on their TV show, etc. Where it gets cloudy is when you're dealing with the publisher's in-house sales force. These are the people who go to, e.g., Barnes and Noble, and say, "This book's going to be really big, you'll want to have a lot on hand." B&N will want to know what's going to make it so big. The sales reps can say, "Because the author's going to be on Oprah." That impresses B&N, and that's a great publicity dept., if they can get you on Oprah. The sales reps can also say, "Because I read it, everyone here read it, and it's GREAT!" As long as the rep doesn't say that a lot, that impresses B&N, too.

So right now, the Bantam sales force is gearing up. They're reading the ms. as it's being made into page proofs, and I'm hoping they like it. (Okay, I'm hoping they LOVE it!) They've asked for sales figures from my former publisher for my previous books, to figure a way to approach booksellers. The page proofs will be made into plain-paper galleys, which will be sent to other writers to read and blurb, if they're willing. And my previous publisher, it turns out, is planning a big push on my backlist -- jargon for previously-published books -- to coincide with the release of ABSENT FRIENDS. That's good, because each publisher's push will make the other's more credible.

The other update front is the cover. According to my editor, she hasn't seen anything yet that she likes. A publisher keeps a writer pretty much in the dark about covers unless you're so big you're able to get veto power over the design in your contract. Still, that's only a veto: most publishers don't allow authors to have anyting to do with actual cover design, which is probably a good thing. If we were visual artists we wouldn't be writers. But still, I'm anxious to see what they come up with.

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