Thursday, February 7, 2008

Essay excerpt on mystifying publishing process

Here's a brief snip from an excellent essay in the New York Times.

February 3, 2008

Waiting for It

For writers, few steps in the publishing process are as strange as the state of suspended animation between submitting a manuscript and seeing the book appear in stores. The sudden change in cabin pressure from writing to waiting can be jarring — and can last a very long time. “It comes as a huge shock when it happens the first time,” said the Irish writer Colm Toibin, whose first novel, “The South,” appeared in 1990, a year and a half after he turned it in. “It was all slow and strange.”

... Of interest to all authors, the essay concludes:

The presidential election in November should help move political books, but other titles may suffer. Nan Graham, the editor in chief of Scribner, said she was releasing very little fiction from July to January. “I’m never publishing a novel in the fall of an election year,” she said. “I feel bad about every single person whose novel I published in the fall of ’04 because they absolutely got no attention or no sales.” Other publishers worry that in election season it’s hard to get coverage for nonpolitical titles in book pages and on radio and television, especially “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” which have become central to publishers’ publicity strategies.

Whether it’s Comedy Central or the Internet, the same media that can call attention to a book are also drawing attention away from readers. So word of mouth is still the name of the game. “If you’re trying to explain this to someone from Mars or the Harvard Business School, they’d kind of scratch their head and say, ‘There must be a better way,’” Kirshbaum, the former Time Warner Book Group chairman, said. “But so far neither Martians nor H.B.S.-ers have solved this riddle.”

Rachel Donadio is a writer and editor at the Book Review.

Full essay here - requires NYTimes free log-in

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