What Should a Strong Authors’ Advocacy Group Be Doing? [Smart Set]

Smart Set

Welcome to the weekly The Smart Set, where I share three smart pieces worth reading about the publishing and media industry. I also point to issues and questions raised, and welcome you to respond or ask your own questions in the comments.

“To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers.”

—Terry Tempest Williams


For the Authors Guild [a wish list] by JA Konrath

The Authors Guild is one of the key organizations that advocates for authors’ interests. It has been under fire recently from the indie author community (and many others besides) for being ineffectual and ultimately supporting publishers’ interests.

A Twitter discussion sparked JA Konrath to put together a sincere and excellent wish list of what an effective Authors Guild would do, including:

  • Help authors get their backlist rights returned
  • Help get ebook royalties increased
  • Demand that unconscionable terms be removed from boilerplate contracts
  • Find better group health insurance for authors who don’t live in New York

You can read the full list here.

Thoughts & questions:

  • Konrath’s list offers insight into issues that, at the very least, the Guild should be raising awareness about—specifically #1, #2, #3, #7, #10. I have little hope that it will do so.
  • I don’t understand the Authors Guild well enough to know how they decide what to expend their resources on. Perhaps someone with more knowledge can comment on that.

Book Publicist Wanted: But Not Just ANY Book Publicist by Mary Walters

Walters writes:

Increasingly, book promotion through traditional media doesn’t work for any author. (Not that it ever was that effective.) People just aren’t reading newspapers and magazines cover to cover they way they used to. TV audiences are no longer captive, either: thanks to PVR/DVR, people only watch the programs that they want to watch. How many people download a book review or author interview from Netflix?

So what does book publicity look like today? Well, aside from the inundations of book promotion by self-published authors on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, we have traditional book-promotion strategies that no longer work – and people who have been trained in those strategies who are no longer useful.

Walters goes on to describe the kind of help she needs in a publicist:

What we need is a promotional program that is specifically designed for each of our individual books. If I have two books to promote (which I do right now, although several others are waiting in the wings), I need two promotional programs. I need to sit down with my book, think clearly and honestly about its prospective audience (and recognize that it is not for everyone–no book is for everyone), and devise really ingenious ways to find its audiences and tell them about my book. Once I’ve found them, I need to make contact. After that, the quality of my book will do the work for itself. People will love reading it, and they will tell other people, and once the ball is rolling, I’ll be able to turn my attention to one of the other books I want to tell the world about.

I would probably consider this person a marketer more than a publicist (or both), but regardless, her post captures exactly what kind of help authors need—I get e-mails every day from people who want this help. But where to get it? It’s not easy.

Thoughts & questions:

  • Do you know strong freelancers or businesses who serve the functions described in Walters’ post? Please comment and let us know about them.

10 Things Nobody Tells You About Being a Debut Novelist! by Tim Federle

Just go read it if you are one (or will be one).

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Posted in Smart Set.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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