How to publish your book and get it attention, an anti-lesson
Well at least now I have an underpriced hardcover coming to me via Amazon Prime.
congratulations on the publication of your book! (i just grabbed the hardcover :-) as someone who has made the attempt, i appreciate what an accomplishment it is. i'm someone who loves books and bookstores, and i'm not ready to give up on books entirely, or sacrifice them to an online model, but i am completely disillusioned with the traditional publishing industry after seeing its inner workings for myself. the things you describe here are real, and they speak to a system too often indifferent to both audiences and art, that justifies its existence through a system of cliquey, self-referential points, rules, and prohibitions. it reminds me more of cutthroat college admissions than a method for discovering and distributing literature to readers. not everyone is willing or able to meet all those requirements, and it shouldn't exclude them from becoming authors. my hope is that a viable indie publishing community will find a way to fill the void and remedy some of these flaws (and not just become a poorer copy.) online may be a part of that, but i hope print remains in the picture as well. i don't have the answers, but i'm curious to see where this all goes.
Ted Gioia, on his wonderful music blog, has written consistently and convincingly about how record companies have been perversely anti-innovation for thirty years, sticking to slow and outmoded business models while Silicon Valley eats their lunch.
Reading this, I get the same feeling about publishing. From the outside, it looks there are all the pieces needed to make a robust, sustainable book business for the future. But is it being built?
Oh man I felt this so hard!! I got a few really glowing reviews in smaller/online outlets, and a couple of brief mentions in more mainstream publications, but the PR coverage vs. my expectations was nonetheless a source of agony for longer than I’d like to admit.
I don’t think readers know much about the corruption and nepotism of the book blurbing business.
Friends blurb their friends. Teachers blurb their former students. Successful students blurb their now less-famous former teachers. Writers blurb other authors who share the same agent, editor, or publisher. Blurbs are written by authors who didn’t read the book they’re praising. Blurbs are bartered for professional benefit. Writers blurb to maintain their brand names. And some authors just blurb everything because they’re kind.
I like to joke that I could do bookstore tours that are based only on blurbs and give my guests a guided tour of personal relationships in the literary world.
And, wow, blurbers tend to wildly exaggerate.
Next time you’re in a bookstore, do a survey of blurbs. You’ll be amazed by how many books are deemed “essential.”
Thanks for this post, Erik! As an (agented) writer working on my first novel, this kind of honest breakdown of the industry is just beyond helpful in shedding some light onto what I know I'll be wading into soon. I also LOVE the sound of your novel - just added it to my audiobook queue. Science, theory of consciousness, super smart protagonist - sounds incredible - my ideal read!
Erik, thanks for sharing your industry experience. It's very concise, and much of the sentiment you shared has been shared by other authors I've read. One thing that fascinates me is how none of the hoops that traditional publishers make you jump through truly matter. It's like playing the stock market. Brokers love to tell you they know because they're on the inside, yet, study after study proves them wrong. In the end nobody knows why the prevailing winds blow the way they do. It reminds me of the movie Moneyball where Billy Beane is arguing with Grady Fuson, the new world order vs. the old world order, and he says "You don't have a crystal ball, you can't look at a kid and predict his future any more than I can." Publishers have lived in that world for so long they can't see any other way. Ideas to the contrary are considered heresy or foolishness. In the end our only response should be to keep writing.
Thank you for about the most concise breakdown of hard knocks re publishing, its nice to be taken out of "the i'm special so it will happen to me " disassociation (that i so love to idle in) to arrive in the creative birthing channel of pain and endless pushing.
Yet another process - how to get it into the library? was bummed that your name didn't pop up on a search
I can't imagine ever publishing a book. I'm so grateful for writers like you who are willing to share their work with the world. It's truly inspiring.
What people are starting to figure out is that you should sell new authors like new food brands at Whole Foods. You write really well for a passionate niche, and feed this highly biased niche of actual readers to review and drive word of mouth. Amazon notices this and will reward you. If you can sell just 1,000 Amazon copies in the first 90 days without PR and without major media reviews...the book grows like a movement from the fan base, not top-down by convincing people to read what elite reviewers tell them. The latter does not work for new authors because the elite reviewers would never dare take the risk of endorsing a flop. So, they will almost assuredly trash the new author’s work for that very reason. It follows the pattern that most new authors fail by making it so. Bottoms up. Not top down that’s why you don’t need a publicist. You need early word of mouth.
Wow, what an article! I've been reading and writing all my life, but haven't yet seriously considered "getting published". Thank you so much for explaining all the steps in such beautiful prose. I'm not much of a fiction reader, but look forward to your non-fiction book.
It’s refreshing to see that you never gave up. The publishing game is so brutal, I never heard all the details. Thanks for this illuminating window into the publishing world, and a big congratulations on your book. I’m looking for a good read for a long flight coming up. I’m very glad now that I ditched my attempted manuscript as soon as I realized “less than minimum wage”. That makes me ever more appreciative of authors who persisted and gave us such great books to read in spite of all the difficulties. I hope your book enjoys much success.
You are a role model, Eirk.
Thank you so much for writing the novel and for writing about what happens behind the curtain in publishing.
I truly believe fiction will help us come to further understandings about the world, will help us to unlock the secrets of the mind (and the universe), and ultimately make the world a better place.
I can't thank you enough,
Harrison (your biggest fan ;) )
What an excellent book! I finished it last week. Ending was a bit confusing, but excellent just the same!
"To be an author is to be authorized. Author, authorized. It's no coincidence." Alan Watt paraphrased
Thanks for sharing your experiences and breaking down the industry so well. Congrats on your book! I've lately veered into feeling more passion finishing my second book (the first one I self-published) over writing my Substack, so I guess we'll have to see what develops. Recommending your Substack now.