Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Publishing 2

Spinrad then did a second post on how one of his novels got really bad treatment from the big New York house Alfred Knopf.

I posted this on facebook:
Spinrad's horror story is pretty ordinary, except that he was dealing with a 'literary' press, whose people thought they were better than those tacky sf publishers and editors. The snobbery and lack of courtesy sounds seriously angering; and the sub-under-editor he was dealing with sounds far less competent than any sf editor I have ever met. The other stuff -- a bad cover, lack of marketing, a publication date that was shifted into a dead month -- sounds not unusual. My take, which could be wrong, is they didn't pay a huge amount for his book (though his advance was far more than I have ever gotten) and they weren't paying much attention to it. But it's really hard to see a book handled badly and realize that there's no malice, just lack of attention.

A lot of authors have stories about bad covers. I have some, which I am not going to tell, because they make me angry even after many years.

A lot of authors have stories about lack of marketing. My impression is, the average science fiction book is dropped over the side to float or sink on its own. It may get an ad in Locus, but nothing other than that. If it does okay, the publisher may buy another book from the author. If not, not.

Maybe -- as I suggest above -- Spinrad's advance of $75,000 was not enough to justify serious marketing. According to him, he was promised a half page ad in New York Review of Books and did not get it; and the publisher had no interest in sending him on a book tour.

I did some quick checking via Google and discovered that Tom Clancy got $45 million for a two-book contract in 2001. The same year Michael Crichton got $40 million for a two-book contract. This is serious money, and the publishers will work hard to recover it. $75,000 is a lot less, though boy I would love to have it.

Spinrad's novel did not do well, and Knopf was not interested in his next book. Spinrad thinks the experience ruined his chance of selling in the US. It sounds like a bad experience, and I can understand why he is upset.

But in a lot of ways I thought his description of his trials was in the same class as "sun rises in east" and "rain makes most people wet."


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