Monday, May 16, 2005

About Publishers

Though I'm still considered a new author, my outgoing personality (i.e. big mouth) has helped me meet a lot of professional writers. I know several hundred, and count a few dozen among my friends.

Many of them sing the same refrain: they're unhappy with their publishers. They recite similar woes--- not enough money, not enough marketing, not enough enthusiasm in-house, not enough whatever.

Rather than comment on if their complaints are justified, I wonder what these authors are doing FOR their publishers, other than giving them a book. Relationships are give and take. So I ask this to all writers:

What have you done for your publisher lately?

On that note, I recently got back from my annual meeting with Brilliance Audio, my audiobook publisher.

I love Brilliance. Not only do they put out a top-notch product, they also lead the industry in technology and innovation, have a wonderful staff, and run their business the way all publishers should; by caring about their artists, keeping meticulous control over sales and inventory, and spearheading trends while actively striving to improve.

As with WHISKEY SOUR, BLOODY MARY was performed rather than read, with male and female voice actors (Audie winners Dick Hill and Susie Breck) playing each part in dialect. I got to play the character of a sleazy agent, and it was a joy being in the sound booth with these pros.

I also gave Brilliance the rights to a short story, which they tagged onto the audiobook as an extra. I read this as well, and am proud to say I knocked out 6000 words in under half an hour.

Just like last year, the president of the company invited me to dinner, and put me up for the night in a hotel room (thanks Eileen!)

I sat in on a sales meeting (I brought the staff bagels), hung out with the voice actors and the tech folks, got to tour their factory (Brilliance does all the manufacturing in-house), and brought my editor a plant. I was touched to see the plant I'd bought her last year still in her office.

The point?

When my agent sold the audio rights, I made an effort to contact the company and express my gratitude. This led to an invitation to watch the recording process. So I drove out there, spent some time getting to know the staff, and gave the company a free short story to add to the audiobook, which I read.

I brought food and gifts and was gracious and thankful to everyone I met (not hard to do--they're a wonderful group of people).

Our business relationship could have been conducted entirely through my agent. But we each made an effort, and a mutual admiration blossomed.

Ultimately, though, isn't it all about money?

Absolutely. And I can honestly state that I'll do whatever I can to help Brilliance make money from my work. That means when I do signings, I make sure the bookstore has the audio versions. I have a section on my website devoted to Brilliance, along with excerpts from the audiobooks. I talk about how good the audio versions are (and they're damn good) when I do author appearances, events, and conferences.

I actually feel a sense of loyalty towards Brilliance (and to Hyperion, my print publisher, with whom I've made a similar effort.)

Am I being naive? Time will tell.

But when I speak with other authors, who think of their publishers in terms of a paycheck, and I can't help but wonder if my approach is better...


Anonymous said...


I agree, the more you can do the better, and I bet the trip to Brilliance was well worth it, and interesting. Just added you to my list of 'must read' blogs.

:) Pam

Anonymous said...

Now I have to add another blog to my page? Crap.

Anyway, welcome, and... you're freaking A right.

Or is it Freaking-A?

Anyway, what you speak is the truth. As someone plotting the transition from screenwriter to prose scribe, I've been "studying" the industry your work in for the past few years and yes, many - too many - authors think that when they type "the end" they're done.

And they usually are. (See what I did there? clever.)

I think Lee Child is a great example - here's a best selling writer who is still out there hawking every chance he gets. And then I hear other just-as-big name authors saying, "Where did Lee come from? How's he selling so many?"

From this day on I will call you Template Joe.