from manuscript to bookstore -- the publishing process

Imprint question
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From Rachel:

"What are some potential drawbacks of being published by a specialty imprint?"

The danger in this case is that by calling attention to the book's "literary" ambition, its "unclassifiable" nature, its "divergence from the author's previous work," Bantam might be inviting critics (and to some extent readers, but readers tend to be more flexible) to approach the book with an "Oh yeah?" attitude. My reputation, such as it is, is as a crime writer, and within that, as a writer of first-person private eye novels. There's a possibility that people might wonder who I think I am, trying something like this. Literary territories are sometimes jealously protected. I could be seen as poaching. A critic who feels that way -- who feels crime novels cannot, by their nature, be Literature with a capital L -- will read ABSENT FRIENDS looking for proof that he's right. If the book were published as a straight crime novel that critic wouldn't read it at all.

Of course, the reason Bantam is taking that risk is that they think getting the book noticed outside the crime book world will result in a net gain, even if it does get some negative attention.

All this, by the way, is stuff on which they don't ask my input, or that of my agent. These are marketing decisions. And I wouldn't want to be asked, because I have absolutely no basis for decision. In a general way, I'm pleased that they've gone with the Delacorte imprint, but that's more because it says something to me about what they think the book IS, than because of what it says in terms of how best to sell it.

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