Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyHegemony

  • Sun, 31 Mar 2013 07:07:32    Permalink

    (Just as a courtesy I want to inform you at the outset that this is not in any way an April Fool blog, though it is April and I have done my fair share of foolish things.)
    When I published Gone Boy, my first book, in 1999 my publishers Kodansha and  Random House did what companies did back then to publicize a book; they took out ads in print media, arranged a long string of radio and television interviews, and sent me on book tours to the Pacific Northwest, LA, the greater Atlanta area, and, of course, the Northeast.

    I published Demon of the Waters a few years later, this time with Little, Brown, and by then the publishing industry was starting to reassess marketing and publicity in light of changes brought about by the Internet. Unless you were Stephen King or James Patterson, you were not going to get a lengthy book tour. They gave me a single ad in the New Yorker, to coincide with a one-paragraph mention there, and a similar ad in the New York Times when the book was reviewed in that publication. My reading tour consisted of appearances in Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket (the book was about a mutiny on a whale ship, and the market was supposed to be vacationing beach readers.) Instead of sending me on an all expenses paid junket around the country, the publishers mailed me a thick sheaf of papers instructing me on how to construct my own website. Little, Brown considered a website crucial to a books success.

    Huberts Freaks was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2008, and by this time they had really figured things out. No book tour, no print media, no free copies. Instead, they hired a firm whose job it was to get me on as many radio talk shows as possible. So for weeks on end Id do two or three spots a morning, via telephone, ranging from one to five minutes, invariably conducted by interviewers who had not read my book, would not read my book, and didn't give a damn about it or me.
    Interestingly, Houghton Mifflin also gave me a fat Internet publicity manual. Except, now that we were firmly embedded in the digital age, they emailed it to me and made me print it out myself. It told me that the website was still important, but My Space and Facebook were absolutely mandatory. (Back in the day My Space was Facebooks competitor.) In Houghton Mifflins printed-out manual on how to publicize my new book, there were dozens of pages devoted to these two sites, and to social media in general.
    So I constructed, at considerable expense, a beautiful website for my book Its still up at hubertsfreaks.com and in some ways I love it as much as I love the book itself. It's even got a video. I also blogged earnestly, faithfully, and, I hope, entertainingly about my book for months on end. And, as instructed, I signed up on Facebook and My Space.
    Almost immediately, Facebook and My Space bored me. I thought they were inane and narcissistic. I failed to post and failed to respond to the posts of others. Of course, the people at Houghton Mifflin were right. Without the support of inane narcissists, my book was largely ignored.

    Now its 2013 and The Old Turks Load,  my noir crime novel, is coming out April 2. (I think my publishers were nervous about a book launch on April Fools Day.) I emailed the marketing director at Grove/Atlantic and asked him what the marketing plans for this book were. He did not reply.
    Or perhaps I should say his reply was, in essence, Nothing.
    I had a long talk with my editor about this. She is of the opinion that, beyond sending out review copies, these people are not focusing on creative ways to market their products. In this new publishing environment, theyre probably too stressed out and overworked. Anyway, by now every author knows about social media, and if they are so inclined they blog or post 27 times a day to Facebook and Twitter and Google+ and whatever else all. 
    But I reckon its mostly because of Amazon.com.
    It seems to me that Amazon has so dominated the market, has been so successful at bringing formerly big-time publishing houses to heel, that the publishers have simply rolled over and given it all up to the big A. At least insofar as pipsqueak authors like me are concerned.
    Now what you do is sign up for Author Central. Once you get in there, you post your bio, trade review, and book description on your books page on Amazon. Then you get all your friends to write glowing reviews and post them on your page. As your book accumulates reader notice and rises in Amazon ratings, more people interested in your particular category (Crime, for example) will be made aware of it by Amazon, read the rave reviews, and purchase it. If your book attracts enough customers, maybe Amazon will run a special on a Kindle edition, boosting your sales by 50,000 or so, and inching you toward best-sellerdom.
    Book tours, readings, print reviews and advertisements in literary journals are completely bypassed. If you want a book tour, or advertising, or even radio spots, you can jolly well do it (and pay for it) yourself because now, as far as modern publishers marketing schemes are concerned, theyre irrelevant. Amazon has seen to that.
    If that doesnt qualify as Hegemony, I dont know what does.
    Anyway, heres a pull quote from my favorite review so far. Now all Ive got to do is figure out how to get it onto Amazon:
    character descriptions that shine like pistols in sentences that burst like bullets...With its sparse dialogue and nonchalant treatment of sex and violence, The Old Turks Load is probably the fastest neo-noir read on crime novel shelves. Exquisitely hardboiled, this crime novel is the perfect beach read for those nurtured on Tarantino and Spillane.  --Dominic Viti New York Journal of Books
    So buy my book and give it great reviews on Amazon, and some day when Im a best-selling author, you can say you knew me when.











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