Schedule and Location

Welcome to the Sarasota Writers Group Blog. We meet the first and third Wednesday of each month at the Nokomis Fire Station. Coming from Sarasota or North, proceed a few blocks south of Albee Road on US 41 (past Matthews-Currie Ford) to Pavonia Road. Turn right (West, toward the bay) at the Fire Station's flashing yellow caution traffic light. If you are coming from the south on US 41, we are 2 blocks north of Dona Bay. Turn left onto Pavonia Road at the flashing yellow caution light. At the Fire Station, drive to the far end, or west side, of the firehall. Please do not block the fire doors! We meet in the training room at the far end of the complex. We Gather for a meet and greet at 6:00 pm Meeting called to order: 6:30 pm Ten-minute break: 7:50 pm Meeting Adjourned: 9:00 pm

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Big Business World of Publishing

Donald Maass is one of New York City's most active and well-known literary agents. He has represented the authors of many best sellers and has published a number of his own novels as well as several non-fiction books having to do with the profession of writing. THE CAREER NOVELIST is one of his most well-known, how-to books. And even though it was published about ten years ago, much of what he says in this book is still relevant today.

This is a book directed primarily toward the writer who has attained and demonstrated a certain amount of skill but wants to know more about the Big Business World of Publishing. And, whether we like it or not, the publishing industry today operates like any other global, market-driven industry. The bottom line and primary question of its corporate leaders is the same question asked by any other business: how much money will we make from this product? The follow-up analysis is also the same: if it isn't selling, dump it.

Working hand-in-hand with the publishers are the bookstore chains who are trying to cope with the thousands of new books being published every week. There simply isn't enough shelf space to accommodate them all. This means the chains have also developed their own set of bottom lines. Even a mid-list book by a fairly well-known writer is often given about thirty days worth of shelf space. If the allotted three or four copies of the book don't sell in thirty days, they are all shipped back to the publisher for a refund. Or else they are disposed of in some other ignominious way. The newly opened shelf space is then immediately filled by another author's product, which has the same thirty-day deadline.

For a writer to enter this book-publisher/book-seller world, he/she needs to be aware of a few indisputable facts. The competition is extremely fierce. The struggle is extremely difficult. The progress is painfully slow. And the financial rewards--for most non-blockbuster writers like us--are depressingly small. Nevertheless, it is a world that the potential career writer must be aware of, accept, and learn how to cope with.

In THE CAREER NOVELIST, Maass explains and defines terms like publisher's profit, returns, sell-through, voodoo numbers, ship-in, 100,000-copy first printing, the $25,000 advance, and rate-of-sale, among others. These are terms that serious writers need to know about and understand, whether they write book-length fiction or book-length non-fiction.

Maass also tells us that most publishers, even the traditional large houses, have also adopted a policy that says the writer--not the publisher--is responsible for his or her own promotion. So the days of the publisher handling all of a writer's publicity, advertising, book tours, reviews, etc. has passed. These chores are now the responsibility of the writer. Exceptions are made, of course, for a handful of writers who consistently produce a best-selling product. For the rest of us, promotion is now a large part of our job, and sometimes takes more of our time than the actual creation of the product, which is the writing part. To adapt to this shift, Maass discusses the effectiveness of such techniques as press kits, publicists, media connections, advertising, free publicity, etc.

In some respects, THE CAREER NOVELIST may be a bitter pill to swallow. But for the realist who is contemplating a career in writing, this book provides a frank, objective, and insider's view of the real world of Big Business Publishing.

Russ Heitz
Sarasota Chapter, Florida Writers Association
Mystery Writers of America
American Crime Writers League