from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

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I've gotten three interesting questions in the "Comments" department that I'll answer over the next couple of days.

First, from Steven Torres (author of PRECINCT PUERTO RICO, available at your neighborhood bookstore, and BURNING PRECINCT PUERTO RICO, due in May 2004):

"I've heard that some writers get publicity budgets written into their contracts. Do you know if that's common? Also, are you getting a feel for what kind of appearances (live, TV, radio, etc) you'll be doing? Anything different from previous books?"

About the publicity budgets, I've heard of this, but I don't think it's very common. The hugest writers might have it. For the rest of us, so much depends on what your previous-book numbers are as your publisher prepares to sell your new book; on what else they and other publishers are bringing out the same season yours comes out; on what kind of "buzz" develops around your new one. This is true no matter what the contract says. A clause like that would be almost impossible to enforce, and slightly beside the point. They can show you numbers for how much they spent on print advertising, on radio, on bookstore co-op ads, etc. But what you really need is a publicist at the publisher who's not handling 42 other writers at the same time she's handling you, and who will call in favors for you, as opposed to for the next guy. This has little to do with how much they're spending on the balance sheet and a lot to do with how much they believe in your book. If they believe, they'll spend not just money but resources to push it. If not, money won't be enough.

It's also said that the bigger your advance, the more resources you can expect your publisher to pour into promotion, to protect their investment. To a certain extent that's true, but it's not a straight line. My advance for the 2nd book in this deal is already set. If ABSENT FRIENDS hits big, they'll put more into the promotion of the 2nd book. And if AF falls on its face, you can bet they'll cut the budget for the 2nd one.

About appearances, I have absolutely no idea yet. That varied from book to book over my past books; part of it depends on what kind of "hook" you have to interest the media -- and whether they actaully get interested. We should be starting to have meetings about this sort of thing soon. I'll blog about that process as it develops.

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