Friday, March 28, 2008

Publishers Scramble to Fit Their Catalogs to New, Depressing Times



In the News:

The L A Times reports that publishers are scrambling to keep up with the new economic (and accompanying political) scene. Books like Michael Corbett's Find it, Fix It, Flip It!: Make Millions in Real Estate -- One House at a Time are just so last year they won't cut it, they think. They want books that tell people how to survive in a recession. Like Stephen Leeb's Game Over: How the Collapsing Economy Will Shrink Your Wealth by 50% Unless You Know Wht to Do.

And as a contrarian I'm thinking, maybe this is a good time to buy real estate, in a down market -- rather like my husband's uncle did in LA during the Great Depression. I'm also thinking, Oh, books on frugality like the HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers? But mine are already published. Lucky me!

That's how getting publicity works.You find what's in your book already that fits with today's news. Unlike publishers who must scramble, we must just make what already exists in our books fit. If we write only what we think will be needed next year, we just might be wrong. Find the article by Josh Getlin in Thursday's March 28 paper.

So, if I were consulting with Michael, I'd suggest he pitch the buy low and hold theory that worked so well in the 30s and 40s to radio shows. Stephen's path is obvious. What about yours? Not just in terms of the market but everything else you find on the front pages (and inside pages!) of your paper. To do this well, you need to take a fresh look at your book -- yes, even a novel, and rethink what's in it.

Look at:

1. What are the professions of your main characters? Journalist? Fireman? Writer who plagiarizes? There are lots of big stories that involve them.

2. Is the town where your book is set in the news or of special interest? (This Is the Place is set in Salt Lake City which was the home of the 2002 Winter Olympics. I managed to put that to very good use.)

3. What about the underlying theme or premise. In This Is the Place, it's the corrosive quality of even what appears to be subtle bigotry or prejudice. Mmmmm. Unfortunately that seems to fit something in the news almost every week.

4. What about the race or ethnicities of your characters?

5. What about the time in which it is set? Does that fit with the politics of today? The economics?

You get the idea. For most of us, the trick is to write what we love and disect what we have written to fit the the way things are going on any given day. Then write articles and/or pitch those ideas to radio and TV hosts.

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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author THIS IS THE PLACE; HARKENING: A COLLECTION OF STORIES REMEMBERED; TRACINGS, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, THE FRUGAL BOOK PROMOTER: HOW TO DO WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T; and THE FRUGAL EDITOR: PUT YOUR BEST BOOK FORWARD TO AVOID HUMILIATION AND ENSURE SUCCESS.
Her other blogs include TheNewBookReview.blogspot.com and AuthorsCoalition.blogspot.com, a blog that helps writers and publishers turn a ho-hum book fair booth into a sizzler.

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