Sitting on my countertop right now are a number of printed bound galleys for books coming out in November. Publishing as a rule works so far in advance, editors are now plotting out winter 2011, or even spring 2012, and thinking little about what’s going on in a month or two. That’s marketing and publicity’s department. And, of course, the author’s concern as well.
But if you’re a Dorchester author with a mass market release scheduled for this fall, you are thinking a lot about right now – and from my understanding, thinking you are totally lost, up a creek, sans paddle, with no idea how your vessel changed beneath you from a motor boat into a single-masted sailboat.
With the announcement that beginning next month, Dorchester is a digital-first, print-on-demand publisher, and that any mass market paperbacks scheduled for this fall will be released in trade format sometime in 2011, more than a few authors are wondering what the hell to do now.
One author, who asked that I keep her identity anonymous, emailed with me this morning while I watched publishing change from the waiting room of an auto repair garage. Her book was scheduled to release next month, and she found out this morning that instead of a mass market paperback, her novel will be an e-book only. In the counting-down stages until her book release, this means, as she put it, her advertising and promotional efforts are largely obsolete:
“It is beyond frustrating to hear three weeks before the book is supposed to appear on shelves that it will not appear on those shelves and yes it renders my entire marketing plan moot. I have a large virtual tour setup—I don’t know if that can or should still happen. I purchased advertising in Romance Sells—that is effectively useless now. I printed thousands of pieces of collateral and mailed them to bookstores, including posters that are now hanging up in overseas bookstores. Again, now useless. I’d need to rinse-and-repeat when the print book comes out. I purchased advertising and am now advertising a non-existent book—oh happiness and joy.
Fortunately, I held my advertising budget down, so I’m only out a few hundred dollars. Other authors at Dorchester have spent far more than I.”
When I asked about her royalty rate – since digital first publishers give a MUCH different (and larger) royalty rate than print publishers, she said,
“The Publisher’s Weekly piece indicates that Dorchester may revisit those percentages but so far we appear to not have many options. My agent is not optimistic. I’m as open to e-book publishing as the next author, but I’d like a fair royalty rate, some advance notice, and the opportunity to market (because my marketing campaign was targeted for print publication and they’re just two different beasts).
I honestly don’t know whether or not they’ve even PRINTED mass market copies.”
So how would she have marketed her book differently if it had been digital first all along?
“If I was going to e-pub, frankly, I would have gone with an established e-publisher who had a track record of success and who could provide some guidance as to how to market. I would *not* have invested in print advertising in Romance Sells or bookstore mailings/mailing lists. I would have looked at doing much more online advertising. My real concern is that I don’t know how to market an ebook, am not getting any guidance on this, and have no guarantees that Dorchester doesn’t [screw] this up.
[F]rankly, if was Samhain or Carina Press or someone who had a track record with e-books, I’d be less freaked out by the whole thing.”
Anonymous author also noted that her email messages to Dorchester’s marketing were met with silence, and then messages a few hours later generated “Out-of-office” auto-replies.
When I heard the news that Dorchester was digital-first, and print-on-demand, with less than one month’s notice for September print authors, my first question (after, WTF?) was whether any mass markets had been printed at all for September and even October releases. My understanding is that those books would have to be nearly ready by now, if not already shipping out. If mass markets were printed, what happens to them? And if they were NOT printed, then how far in advance was this decision made, and why weren’t authors and agents and even editors given more lead time to make the requisite changes?
[Sidenote: one author emailed me, and said, “Also, while writing this email, I made an inadvertent-yet-hilarious typo: Dorcheater.” Ahem. OUCH.]
But the real matter at hand, aside from placing bets in the death pool as to whether Dorchester is circling the drain or has bought itself some time, is what do you think authors with print books formerly scheduled to come out this fall should do to shift their marketing and promotional plans as new digital-only authors? There are a LOT of experienced digitally published authors here: what do you suggest? If you’re in this boat, perhaps sharing some paddles will help make some digital success.