Don Westlake-John D. MacDonald; Signings; Blockbusters
Elizabeth Foxwell has a photo of Don Westlake and John D. MacDonald together. John D. looks like a delighted child.
----------------------------THE ETERNAL QUESTION
Who Are These Fools, and Why Should You Care?
"A couple of the responses to my Greg Egan post theorized, to my surprise, that Egan’s relative lack of commercial success is due largely to his reclusivity—“no book tours, no signings, even his website has no blog or reader feedback area, nor any email address.” This started me wondering: how much of a personal connection to authors do most readers nowadays want and/or expect?
"I suppose I’m surprised because I’ve long been on the other extreme. I’ve never even considered sending fan mail to a writer whose books I like, much less searching online for a picture. Except for those years during which I accidentally stalked William Gibson1, and that time I was sternly scolded by Michael Ondaatje1, I don’t think I’ve ever attended a reading or signing2. I care about authors’ work—a lot—but I don’t really care about them."
Ed here: In more than a quarter century I don't think I've done more than a dozen signings. This may be why only a tiny fraction of the reading public has ever heard of me let alone read any of my books. But I'm not sure of that. In twenty-five years I've seen dozens of writers spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars packing themselves off to innumerable signings, meetings, workshops and remain solidly mid-list for their trouble.
I admit that I'm not especially sociable in groups of any kind. I tend to head for the corner. I just never know what to say. So I've never thought I was doing anybody any favors by inflicting myself on them. Easier just to stay home and write.
But my sense now is that (and I may be full of beans of course) with indy bookstores dying signings will become even less valuable for mid-listers. The indies know the books and the writers and know how to sell them. The other types of stores aren't very good at it.
Now, as with any truism, there are many exceptions. There are mid-list writers who can move a fair share of books at signings. And promotion of some kind--especially media promo--is vital. But I know there are writers who spend more money on travel and promo than they receive as advances. I'm not sure that makes any sense.
I'd like to hear what you writers think.
-------------------------More Mid-List Blues
Interesting article posted on the PW online. The topic is why in these dire economic times publishers will throw even bigger money at certain titles. The ones most of us groan about when they make the news.
"Yes, that's right -- amid the worst economic crisis to hit the United States in decades, publishing executives are still making what many see as outrageous gambles on new manuscripts."
"The move by HarperCollins is only one of the latest in a string of big bets by companies employing a blockbuster strategy -- a common approach among movie studios, television-production companies and music labels. A spokeswoman for the publishing house says it doesn't disclose author advances. (HarperCollins Publishers is a unit of News Corp., which also owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.)"
"In the past, the strategy seemed to work wonders. For example, Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group USA, generated roughly 80% of its sales and an even larger share of its profits from just 20% of its titles in 2006. In 2007, Grand Central purportedly shelled out $1.25 million for the rights to Vicki Myron's "Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched The World," a nonfiction book about a fluffy orange kitten found abandoned in the returned-book slot of an Iowa public library."
Vicki Myron's book about her adopted orange tabby cat, Dewey Readmore Books, briefly occupied the No. 1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list and now sits at No. 2. The feline inhabitant of the Spencer Public Library in Spencer, Iowa has passed away, but a sequel might be in the works -- last month Ms. Myron reportedly adopted a cat named Page."
"A prudent manager in any other industry might be left scratching his head: Why would Grand Central put itself in the position of having to outsell all cat books released in recent memory to earn back its seven-figure advance? Rather than putting all its eggs in one basket, wouldn't it be smarter for a publisher to place a larger number of smaller bets -- particularly in today's harsh economic climate?
"Hardly. Despite its double-or-nothing daring, the blockbuster strategy remains the most sensible approach to lasting success."
(for the rest go here)