A Game of “Chicken”

I got a call from a publisher pal the other day asking me to help him rework his 2009 sales estimates.

Book #1? 1500 units. Book #2? 1000 units Book #? 2000 units….

As I go through the list it becomes clear that he cannot afford to publish most of his Fall line.

Looking over his list again, I see wonderfully written, smart, quirky books that in 2006 would have charmed the socks off of the media. At least one of them would have become a minor sensation and carefully nurtured by a score of pr and marketing people. The books would have sold between 5000 – 10000 in the first year to the bookstores and libraries who support new authors and small presses.

Today, the books are not going to receive any pr or marketing outside of the author’s efforts and a few press releases from the publisher’s office. In addition, while the publisher is realizing he has no money to promote, bookstores are realizing that they have no money to risk on smaller books without promotion.

It is a vicious game of chicken… publishers lament the lack of distribution and bookstores bewail the lack of promotion. And more and more consumers go on line. How are small publishers going to get the word out about new authors with print media crumbling in on itself and the online cacophony rising with each passing day?

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