Capitalizing on Disaster

Posted by admin on November 5th, 2012

We are often advising clients to find news hooks in order to help promote their work and spread the word about their particular areas of expertise. We suggest they offer themselves and their work for platform building and name recognition. This is very important when it comes to book publicity. Finding a way to stand out from the thousands of books published every month. However, there is a line. When you are trying to profit from a disaster, things can turn ugly. The old adage is “any publicity is good publicity” but does this stand true?

Superstorm Sandy left millions without power and created massive destruction and fatalities. It was a tragic event with catastrophic results. Some companies, however, used the storm as a “hot story” to garner sales. Gap, Urban Outfitters and American Apparel offered online “Sandy Sales.” American Apparel released an ad targeting the states that got hit the hardest by Sandy with a 20% off for 36 hours, “in case you’re bored during the storm.” The problem with a PR stunt like this is that you are going to offend people. Yes, some sales might be incurred, but the end result is going to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths and might result in a backlash. The public doesn’t like to be taken advantage of or used. They want to be educated, informed and enlightened. We advise our authors to use their expertise, their experience and the work they created to open people’s eyes to things they may not have been aware of before, not to take advantage.

What are your thoughts on the Sandy PR? 

New York Friends

Posted by admin on November 1st, 2012

All of us at Kelley & Hall are sending our thoughts and prayers to our friends and colleagues in New York for a safe and speedy recovery after Sandy.

Happy Halloween

Posted by admin on October 31st, 2012

Happy Halloween from all of us at Kelley & Hall!

What are some of the scariest books you’ve ever read?

Jon Clinch on The Thief of Auschwitz

Posted by admin on October 30th, 2012

Jon Clinch, author of the bestselling novels FINN and KINGS OF THE EARTH, is making a big publishing move. In January, he will be releasing his riveting novel, THE THIEF OF AUSCHWITZ, and publishing it independently. Recently, he was interviewed by Ron Charles of The Washington Post. Check out that piece here.

Below Jon answers a few questions about the direction of publishing today and why he chose to forge a new path for himself.

Q:        We hear a lot these days about the death of big publishing. Are the rumors true, or premature?

A:        It’s not over yet, that’s for certain. What becomes of publishing in the months and years ahead will be a matter of making the best use of technology on one hand and humanity on the other. Technology is really good at the physical stuff—at solving manufacturing and distribution problems. Witness e-books, and the electronic marketplace that has sprung up around them. But when you start looking beyond the physicality of the book as an artifact, you begin to see the parts of it that technology can’t touch. Not just the skill that goes into writing it, but the intelligence that goes into vetting it, the insight that goes into marketing it, and the personal connection that goes into getting it into the hands of readers. Big publishers have been fairly competent at those things all along—particularly as regards large, commercial projects—but the distribution side of things has begun falling apart under its own weight.

I believe that the technology-savvy independent who managed to deliver on the human part of the equation—the connecting with readers part—will be the one who thrives.

Q:        What have you given up by going independent? Editorial input? Marketing support? Credibility?

A:        Editing is a very personal thing that varies by the writer. When the time came for a detailed discussion of Finn, for example, my editor had three little Post-It notes stuck to the manuscript. We dispatched them in a couple of minutes.

Marketing support, of course, is huge. Big publishers create bestsellers by spending energy and money on them. They also create failed books by ignoring them. It’s pretty simple. As a long-time marketing guy myself, I believe that I can make something happen in that department on my own. I can certainly make enough happen on my own. (A big publisher will, of course, define enough very differently than I do.)

As for credibility, I’m lucky enough to have published a couple of novels that were extremely well received by the press. Finn was named an American Library Association Notable Book and was chosen as one of the year’s best books by the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. Kings of the Earth was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and led the 2010 Summer Reading List at O, The Oprah Magazine. So I enter into this with some good credentials and name recognition.

Q:        Why haven’t other literary writers done this?

A:        I have friends who write all kinds of books. Literary stuff, of course, but also thrillers and mysteries and horror and chick lit and so on. The genre folks have been much more willing to adapt to the new world of self-publishing than the literary folks have been, and I suspect it’s a matter of perspective. Literary writers revere the publishing system itself and everything that goes with it—the imprints where their heroes were published, the long apprenticeships through Bread Loaf and Squaw Valley, the physical weight of a hardcover book—far more than they revere the part of the business that has to do with commerce. They’re willing to take a small advance or no advance at all to be published by even the smallest of small presses, because it signifies that the house has found them worthy. Writers in the genres don’t see it that way. To them, a reader is a reader is a reader. I have to confess that they’re probably right.

The 50 Shades of Grey Phenomenon

Posted by admin on May 25th, 2012

It seems that everyone is talking about 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Libraries are debating stocking it, more than 10 million copies have been sold, it is putting feminism in the hot seat, but most importantly it gets people talking about publishing. According to The Atlantic, “The erotic novel became a New York Times bestseller without a traditional publisher, thanks to word of mouth.” 

More than anything, I think 50 Shades of Grey highlights the attractiveness and ease of e-books (which is where it got its’ early notoriety) and the power of word-of-mouth, whether spoken, emailed or sent via text. The fact that it started as an e-book meant women could buy it and read it without anyone knowing. And the more women who bought it, the more they talked about it. It became a secret club, it was the definition of a Buzz Book.

It also has a David and Goliath edge to the story. According to Sarah Fay in The Atlantic, “Self-published authors are the literary equivalent of self-made men and women.” E.L. James had no traditional distribution channels and therefore had to go through other methods to get her book read…and read widely. She tapped into a genre that has a huge fan base and it became the scandalous book everyone was itching to read out of pure curiosity. The more people talk, the more books sell.

Whether or not you agree with the fanfare, you can’t deny it has become the publishing story of 2012.

Why do you think 50 Shades of Grey has taken on a life of its own? Have you read it? Do you plan to read it? Do you agree with the attention?