Buzz, or How Ellen Degeneres Can Make Your Day

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When I visit schools and complete reading Yalu and the Puppy Room, I like informing students what it is like to be an author with a traditional publishing company.

In my example, I have four students stand up and tell them they are authors, in this case, my March authors. One has the next Harry Potter book. Because I am a book publisher promoting her book, she will be a guest on all the major TV shows. She will be on the Ellen Degeneres Show and her book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I tell the next student that he has a book that is better than Dr. Seuss. He will be a guest on all the major TV shows. He will be on Ellen and his book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The next student has a children’s book better than anything Margaret Wise (Goodnight Moon) Brown ever wrote. She will be a guest on all the major TV shows. She will be on Ellen, and will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

The fourth student has a fantasy book better than Lord of the Rings. He will be a guest on all the major TV shows. He will be on Ellen and his book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I ask four new students to stand. They are my April authors. One has the next Harry Potter book. Another has a book better than Dr. Seuss. The third has a children’s book better than Margaret Wise Brown. The fourth has a great fantasy book that is better than Lord of the Rings.

Like the March authors, these April writers will be on all the major TV shows. They will be on Ellen. Their book will be at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

I stand up four other students and tell them they are my May authors. I mention Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, Margaret Wise Brown, and Lord of the Rings. That’s when I stop and ask the four March authors if they think anything is wrong. Most answer no. They’re published authors who have been on TV shows.

Their books might not be selling well and might not be on the New York Times bestseller list or gasp, Ellen. I instruct them to sit down and ask if anything is wrong with them taking a seat. They do not believe anything is wrong—they’re published authors. Some even make to Ellen’s show. That’s when I tell them something is terribly wrong. Their books are no longer getting promoted. They are not making sales. Ellen has not called back.

New books are lucky to have a six month lifespan. If new releases do not become blockbuster bestsellers, bookstore employees across the country will either rip off the front cover of the paperback or return the hardcover  for a refund. Publishers destroy returned books or sell them as remainders. Book stores that remove the returned covers throw away the books.

If one of the new authors has a book that goes to the top of the bestseller list, those sales pay for all the other authors whose books failed. Bookstores only have so much space to hold books. There are new books coming out all the time.

It has become the job of the author to market their products. Even if I followed the traditional route of finding a literary agent and a traditional publisher, I would still have to promote my book. Literary agents and book publishers expect authors to already have a marketing plan and buzz in place before even considering an unknown or even a known writer. Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing.

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