Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Author, the Book and the Ties that Bind

    My guests on The Novel Road are often at sea. Not literally, but they experience something akin to stormy seas and heaving ship’s deck every time they release a new book.

    Very soon a few of my past guests will weigh in on the importance of the author in the marketplace, and why their efforts in the promotion of books is more important now than ever. Why now?

    I have come to believe the author has been left out of the conversation between traditional publishers and, the 500 pound gorilla in the room, e-book publishing. Print publishers talk about the physical nature of a book. E-book advocates talk about convenience and affordability, not to mention the many apps being developed for e-readers. In all of this back and forth, where is the author? I’m not talking about the story written. I want you to consider the iconic nature of the author.

    Think about how you hear about a book. Only debut books are immune to the iconic nature of sale by author name. The second book of any author is sold in two ways: Franchise character and/or  by author name.

The Gods of Greenwich
gratuitous plug
of a friend's
    I’m going to use as an example my friend Norb Vonnegut. His first book, Top Producers, was sold based on the story. It was well received by reviewers and readers bold enough to reach for and read something that wasn’t written by the top iconic novelists of our day (i.e. Patterson, Atwood, Crais, Coban, etc…) The book he has coming out in this week is being sold by the author’s name: Norb Vonnegut’s newest book…

   This isn’t rocket science, it is the way things are in the world of books. Yet the importance of the author has been excluded from the discussion in the publishers and Kindle-Nookist revolution. If you think they haven’t, think again. Re-read the um-teen jillions of articles and opinions on the future of publishing and see how many times the iconic nature of an author has been tied to why people reach for a book on a bookstore shelf. The only mention of the author is where royalties come into play.  A customer reaches for an author first, title and cover art a distant second or third.

    An author builds reader confidence through great characters and storylines. The author becomes synonymous to a Alex Cross, or Elvis Cole. They are one grasshoppers. The author is the balance point, without which Yin is without Yang. Because of this, the world of an author has changed drastically of late and will change further in the next few years. Authors will do more self promotion or self financed publicity than ever before, or be relegated to the whatever bins of Amazon or Google E-Bookstore. Let’s have another look at mi amigo, Norb Vonnegut. He is an incredibly smart guy. His time in the financial world has equipped him with the tools to analyze whether investing both time and money in his writing is a smart move. He took a look at the market for his work, the expandability of his financial thriller genre, strength of characters, feedback from reviewers and publishers… The list is long and takes a truly objective person to apply all the positives and negatives to a formula for success.

    Now Norb has a few things going for him that many authors don’t when they search for a point of diminishing returns. First, Norb is extremely talented, and yes, he has that whole DNA thing going for him (see cousin Kurt). Second, he has an ocean of friends that respect him as a person and will help him. Norb is a good person and gosh darn it, people like him (and Al Franken’s SNL character) and because of this, he’s one of those people everyone wants to succeed. His readers are loyal because of his relentless efforts to include them in his author world. All of this is to say his name, not just his stories, are becoming iconic or in other words: a known commodity.

Product Details
Enzo is a tough act
 to follow, but Garth
Stein is an amazing
   The top echelon of authors today have name value. Put any one of their names on a billboard, the story can be about anything and people will give the book a try. Granted, this loyalty can be whisked away by faulty or flawed work. Readers expect a certain standard to be maintained. An author can take a mighty fall if subsequent works fall off in quality. People like Franzen and Stein have to live up to works like“Freedom” and characters like Enzo. If their next story isn’t up to snuff, the comments are about the author’s take on new characters or storyline.

  So I hope you will all join John Lescroart, Peter Ginna, Mark Di Vincenzo, myself as well as assorted guests as we explore the author as Icon, as marketer and even as an asset. We are going to take a stab at examining the author’s place in publishing’s future, both print and electronic. While we take a look at what some authors are doing to fill post release voids in publicity dollars, we will take a look at how they want to shape a readers view of who each author is and will be down the road. Publishing is going to weigh in on how publicity budgets are allocated and spent.
  Authors have to work together to have a voice in the future of the published word.
  In fact, I’m thinking of getting cool jackets for my guests on The Novel Road. Maybe trenchcoats? I wonder how hard a “Bat Cave” is to build?

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OK, my batcave isn't
for fighting crime
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