I am totally stoked guys! Today we have Eric from Pimp My Novel, which is like the goldmine of publishing blogs. Eric works in the sales department of a publishing house and always has awesome, palatable advice.
I think a lot of the time we get so hung up on getting an agent that we don't think about what the heck happens afterwards (sheepishly guilty as charged). Kind of like a house cat that gets outside, and finally catches a bird, then doesn't have a clue what to do next. So, when I first discovered PMN, it was really exciting. And continues to be invaluable. It is overflowing with all the stuff us writers need to know, with lots of Eureka! Jackpot! OMG! moments. Go check it out! After the interview...
What aspect of the publishing process most often takes first-time authors by surprise?
I think it's probably the fact that publishing a book takes a long time. A really long time. This is likely exacerbated by our growing preference for e-books over physical media, since most people imagine it takes almost no time at all to generate an e-book from an electronic file.
Physical books generally take up to a year (sometimes more) to progress from acquisition to publication, and since most publishers that produce physical books and e-books try to release the two formats simultaneously, the e-book usually takes just as long to appear. Even e-only titles or electronic titles put out by presses publishing predominantly in electronic formats can't be made available instantly—copyediting, formatting, and exporting files to various retailers takes time. Just as a printed-out Word document isn't immediately ready for publication, neither is an electronic Word document fit for immediate release as an e-book.
What can a new author realistically expect to have control over in the publishing process? And is it solely the agent's job to champion the author's rights, or should the author take initiative to be more involved in the process?
This generally depends on the size of the publishing house with which the author has signed. If an author is self-publishing, (s)he can theoretically control all aspects of publication, but almost universally at the cost of having a professional cover designer, editor, marketing team, and sales force on board (all of whom are virtually certain to want to make changes). Smaller publishing houses usually allow the author more latitude with things like the title and the cover image; larger houses will entertain some input, but almost always have the final say in these matters. Authors signing with large houses like these generally won't be able to select their cover image, on-sale date, and so on, and may even be asked to change their titles (if, for example, a given title is too similar to that of another well-known work).
While the agent is certainly a champion of and for the author's rights/interests, I absolutely think authors would do well to take active roles in the publishing process. The agent/author relationship is unique to each agent and author, however, so I'd encourage any author who wants to get more involved in shepherding his/her book through publication to talk to his/her agent first. Poor communication between agent and author leads to missed opportunities/duplicated work at best, and outright conflict at worst.
What are the smartest marketing moves an author can make to increase their sales, aside from blogging, Facebook and Twitter?
In my opinion, an author needs a solid website. In the age of social networking, blogging, and micro-blogging, we often overlook the simple website: a place for readers to learn about authors, read about their other/previous books, view a schedule of upcoming readings, book signings, and events, and find out how to get in touch with them. A good website serves as an author's digital hub, and accounts with services like Facebook, Blogger, and Twitter serve as great peripherals to that hub.
It's also important for an author to be easily found on the Internet. It's worth looking into methods of search engine optimization (SEO) to figure out 1.) how search engines like Google and Bing actually work, and 2.) how to create a site and link to it in such a way that it shows up earlier on a list of search results for a given set of terms; for an author, this is usually his/her name or the title(s) of his/her recent book(s). Websites, blog posts, Facebook events, and Tweets all provide searchable content, so authors should keep this in mind when producing on-line promotional content.
Finally, it's essential for authors to maintain their on-line presences—that is, regularly update websites, write blog posts, actively participate in social networking sites, and so on. While it's by no means necessary for authors to participate in all available social media, it is important for them to consistently use those in which they choose to participate.
Eric, you rock! Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!!
Seriously, writer friends, follow his blog if you are not already.
Other quick news - Colene at The Journey and I are hosting a St. Patrick's Day blogfest! A round of green beer for everyone! The linky thing is over at her blog. So go check it out, sign up, be happy, spread the Irish love!