Last month I was in San Francisco on business, and was granted the opportunity to meet with Alan Rinzler, an editor with John Wiley & Sons. Though my book is published by Wiley, Alan’s not in my division so I don’t get access to him through the company. This was a special one-on-one meeting requested to help me soak up some knowledge.
Alan has been in the book publishing industry forever, and in addition to working for Wiley, he freelances as a consulting editor. He’s edited some impressive titles, and has an excellent blog that discussing the publishing industry. As a fledgling book author, I find his advice invaluable.
I didn’t have a set agenda for our meeting or a list of questions. I know that may sound foolish, as I had one short hour with him, but I just knew that we’d start to talk and magic would happen. Alan didn’t disappoint. What he provided for me was clarity on some of my ideas, excellent focus on the hook for my current book (Essentials of Corporate Fraud), as well as publicity tips to sell more books.
One of the things we talked about was putting together a “demo.” In order to get good television and radio publicity for your book, producers want to see you in action. They need to know that you have good content and an engaging style. How else will they know if you can deliver? The demo gives media outlets a chance to evaluate your content, your presence, and your mannerisms.
Alan pointed out that it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars to do a professional demo. Of course, professionally shot film is never a bad thing. But it’s not verboten to use a simple home video recorder to do your demo. What’s key is good lighting, clear sound, a put-together appearance, good content, and most of all… a genuine performance by the author.
This kind of information is so valuable, and not necessarily easy to find. This week Alan wrote about negotiating the biggest posssible book advance, and these are some of the points that were most helpful to me:
- The number one key – Getting the publisher to project a higher number of books sold. Alan says: It’s not a shot-in-the-dark but a scientific data dump that projects a precise number, based on (total first year unit sales) x (retail price) x (royalty rate) = first year author earnings = advance offered. He later gives an example: Let’s say a total of 54,235 total units projected at $24.95 and an average royalty of 12% retail comes to exactly $162,379.59 first year earnings to the author and that’s my offer: a straight $160K.
- Build a platform – Publishers want to know that you’ll be on national shows to help sales figures. He provides a hypothetical example: This is when I hear hard-nosed feedback like, “We can get 2500 copies into Barnes & Noble nationwide if we can guarantee this author will be on the Today show,” and “Borders is hurting, so this might be a skip or maybe 400 copies with enough publicity buzz, or how about a good review,”…
- Be able to talk on your feet – Good publicity means a good message with good delivery. You have to be authentic, energetic, and likable.
Platform is such a big part of book publishing. Unless you’re a celebrity, you better be able to demonstrate a viable audience and platform with evidence of a professional website, strong blog following, large email list, list of strong endorsers for the book, experience on the speaking circuit, and publishing history in your target market. All of these provide opportunities to market your book, and many of them can feed off one another to multiply your opportunities.
Thanks, Alan, for all the insights you provided to me. Your assistance is much appreciated.