Friday, June 17, 2005

Shelf Life

If it's payday, and you're a writer with aspirations of being published, try to buy yourself at least one of the resources listed in this previous blog entry I wrote in March. Or at least try and find one at a library.

Just this morning I was glancing through one of the books and just getting myself prepped for a day of book work. Opened up right to a section focusing on the shelf life of a book... aka, how long your book has to make it or break it according to publishing industry rules.

You get three months, basically.

Commercial publishers develop lists of their books: spring, summer, fall, winter. Each list has certain types of books, depending upon what types of audience they're going after, or what awards they want the book considered for, or what holidays your book may appeal to, or what season holds less competition for your type of book, etc...

After that season, it's time for the next list. And those books that came out in the previous season are no longer A-List news. And unless they're a knockout hit, the publisher will no longer concentrate its efforts on your book. Time for the next season's books. They get packed away and sent back to warehouse, or remaindered, or sent to those $1 book stores. My editor joked with me a couple weeks ago: that's not good when that happens. So, for example, my book comes out July 5. I have until late September or early October to "work" the book, but really concentrating on July and August. After that, time to shift to book number two.

Now, what's important about this is that even though most books, theoretically, get three months of sink or swim treatment, authors must do a lot of prep work prior to those three months. Sometimes working six months or a year prior to publication date. Developing mailing lists. Sending out preview copies. Making relationships with book clubs. Working with editor and agent (if with a commercial publisher) on a successful launch. Looking for every possible lead for events and readings (it's not just the publisher's job to develop events, unless you're Jackie Collins or Terry McMillan).

Books can get another life. For example, when/if your second books is published, you can go back and promote that you have a first book for your new readers. Or, if your early books suddenly tie in with a breaking news story. Or, if one of your early books gets optioned for stage, tv, or film production.

Anyway, this is all interesting to me... and just wanted to pass it along.

Have any thoughts on the book shelf life subject?

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