board-meetingEvery month the entire staff gets together and the editors officially present their titles to folks in Marketing, Sales, and Production. Tomorrow we happen to be going over August 2009.  We typically start with any updates from the previous meeting – changes in titles or scheduling, updates to ISBNs and page counts.  Ooh, I can sense your excitement. 

Then one by one the editors present the titles they’ve acquired for the month that we’re discussing.  Tomorrow I’ll be talking about STOLEN HEAT by Elisabeth Naughton and WHERE THE WIND BLOWS, a debut by Caroline Fyffe.  I usually tend to start with a reminder of the author’s previous books (if there are any) and how they’ve performed.  If it’s a new author, I try to give a sense of whose work the book will appeal to.  Then usually I give a brief plot summary of the new book. Next comes some of the author’s background, if relevant, and a generalization of what I like about the writing and why I think it will appeal to readers. Basically, it’s my five-minute pitch.

If we have preliminary cover art, a printout is passed around the table.  If there are any major objections (man nipple seems to be a constant problem with some accounts, though obviously the readers never seem to mind), we talk about how they might fixed.  And then we open discussion for promotion and sales ideas.   if the author has strong sales, we discuss ways to try to bring her to the next level.  If the author’s initial draws have been slipping but sell-throughs remain high, we try to figure out whether an incentive at the sell-in level will help – extra discounts, a matching program, or something of the sort. If the sell-through is the issue, we talk about the best way to reach readers – advertising, buzz campaigns, in-store placement, preview excerpts in similar books and other tactics.  Then we go over any other marketing ideas.

When we’ve exhausted everything we can think of, our sr. v-p of sales gives a budget number–the number we must get out to meet the annual budget numbers–and a target number–what we want the sales reps to shoot for in the field.  And that signifies that it’s time to start all over again with the next book. 

What’s most important for authors to note is that their book is constantly being pitched:  from the agent to the editor, the editor to publicity and sales, publicity and sales to media and booksellers, then media and booksellers to readers.  It’s why it’s so vital that a book have a strong hook and a great pitch line.  The more authors work on honing that from the very beginning the greater the dividends will be down the line. 

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Art from Pop Portraits.

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