What You Wish They Knew: A Conversation Between Authors, Publishing Folks, and Booksellers

Elizabeth Bluemle - February 10, 2010

Publishers, what do you wish booksellers knew? Booksellers, what do you wish publishers, editors, and authors knew? Editors and marketers and reps, what do you wish booksellers, or your authors, knew? ShelfTalker is not just a blog; it’s a wonderful opportunity for people from all sides of the children’s book industry to come together and talk about our field: the good, the bad, and the bunny. (Sorry, the bunny cliché hopped out—har har—before I could stop it.)
Whenever I’m at a writing or bookselling conference, I’ll be surprised by at least one comment made by an editor, sales rep, art designer, or publisher, which suddenly clears up some misperception about that person’s work. For instance, I didn’t know for a long time that at most trade shows, publishers must pay for their authors to sign books (in addition to badge and travel and meal expenses for the author, publishers also pay a fee for the table signings). Now, when my author friends are confused about their publishers not leaping to have them sign at a trade show, even when the author is planning to attend on his or her own dime, I can share that infomation: it just may be too expensive. Understanding the business better can only help everyone involved.
Even experienced book-industry folks are limited by their own blinders. For people new to the field, or with just one perspective, how overwhelming must it be to navigate the ins and outs, the etiquette and netiquette, the expectations and taboos?
I’m convinced that most of the frustrations we face in our work lives come from misunderstandings, miscommunications, or poorly understood expectations. I’d love to start a website—but am too lazy to do it—where people in various kinds of jobs could articulate to their co-workers, customers, and clients, the things they wish the other side knew. Like coffee shop baristas: I can imagine them saying, “I really wish customers would move to the right after paying. I could help six more people an hour if they wouldn’t just stand there, blocking the register.” You know, something simple, that people should know, but may not realize.
I have a little ambition for this post: for people to bookmark it, and when something comes up that triggers familiar annoyance, you come here and post a tip for the rest of us (albeit kindly, understanding that ignorance, not malevolence, is behind most people’s missteps). Anonymity is perfectly fine. Label your comment: “What Xs Wish Xs Knew,” and fill in the Xs with the appropriate nouns. It’s fascinating and helpful to learn from each other. Personally, I’d love to know what marketing people wish authors knew, and what publishers wish booksellers knew.
I’ll start with a few:

What booksellers wish art directors knew: Static covers that don’t invite curiosity, ask a question, or begin to tell a story will be a tougher handsell than those that do. Also, teens are getting sick of photographs of teens (and parts of teens) on covers. They’re starting not to be able to tell the books apart, and to make fun of the sameness of the covers. Some teen wags lined up all the leg/feet books in a row on one shelf, and the half-faces on another. It was pretty funny, and definitely revealed 2008-9 cover trends.
What booksellers wish book designers knew: PLEASE put clear, legible, easily located series numbers on book spines and covers. This is such an easy thing to do, but you’d be surprised how hard some designs are to read; customers shouldn’t have to work so hard to locate (and decipher, often) those series numbers.
What booksellers wish authors knew: If you come to the store and we don’t have your book, please don’t be discouraged. Chances are we’re just out of it at the moment. Booksellers carry thousands of titles in our stores (the Flying Pig has about 40,000 items, including non-book goods, for example) and if we’re out of your titles, it doesn’t mean we don’t carry it or don’t like it. It can be reordered quickly, and is usually just a day or two away. Better yet, give us a heads-up that you’re coming, so that we can restock in time for your visit. (Caveat: not all stores will be able to do this, though. Distributor orders require large-ish minimums to meet free freight threshholds, and bookstores operate on slim margins. Every book on our shelves for longer than 30 days has been paid for by us. That’s a lot of money tied up in inventory. If a store can’t/doesn’t get your book in time for your visit, it may be because, at the moment, these factors are in play.)
Anything you wish people knew? Please add your comments!
It’s okay for editors, art directors, etc., to post anonymously. The information is so helpful and important.
And everyone, please try to keep your comments constructive and not let frustration get the better of helpful, open communication. Particularly helpful are the insights into your own end of the business.

54 thoughts on “What You Wish They Knew: A Conversation Between Authors, Publishing Folks, and Booksellers

  1. Carol Corbett

    This is a GREAT idea! So many things come to mind! I’ll start with one: What publicists wish authors knew/understood: It is not up to us whether or not you have an event in a store, it’s up to the store. It is unreasonable and unfair to think that we can set up an event at a moments notice. Author tours take a long time and are complicated tasks with much work between many people.

  2. A review editor

    What reviewers wish publicists knew: Please print the pub date on the spine of galleys, and print it prominently on the cover. I think publicists don’t realize the organizational/shelving challenge involved in managing an ever-rotating collection of hundreds of different review copies. We sort them by date, and have to constantly move them around so having to open a book or find a press release in order to get that date makes it so easy for the book to be misshelved. And if it’s misshelved, it’s quite likely to get lost until it’s too late to cover it at all. I’ve even resorted to tossing out ARCs with no detectable pub date because they muck up my system too much. There’s no reason why publicists should know this, BTW; they rarely visit our offices. It’s a little thing, but it helps everyone.

    1. JessB

      Good point A Review Editor. Everyone at my work has started writing the date on the spine ourselves, but it would be easier if it was there in the first place.

  3. anonymous

    Just a note on the above: Publicity doesn’t see the ARC or BG cover until it’s been printed. So the request for dates on the spine and front cover should be directed at designers. But I agree, it’s a great piece of information to know. Thank you!

  4. PublishingWorks

    What Editors/Designers wish Authors knew: Once a book has been laid out and is in page proofs, author alterations can cause hours of extra work, as well as introduce new errors. Many publishers charge authors for AAs, but still are subject to complaints. As often as I’ve explained this to some Authors, they still just don’t get it!

  5. AnneMarie

    What Booksellers wish Customers knew: Many of us who work in retail have made a CHOICE to do so (for any number of reasons), and it is frustrating that some customers assume we (my co-workers and I) are incapable of pursuing, or unqulified to pursue professional careers. Quite the opposite is true (at least where I work as a bookseller). We are all well-educated and fiercely interested in books and in people, and we are extraordinarily well-qualified to assist them with their purchases. I wish more customers noticed the excellent service we extend.

  6. BookFestival

    What Booksellers wish Customers knew: I love my job as a bookseller, so maybe I’m overly sensitive. I hate it when customers tell me they can get it cheaper somewhere else. Sometimes I say that they may save a couple of dollars but they could lose a book store. Sometimes I remind they that they have to pay shipping. And, I hate people who come to browse to find out what they want to order for their e-reader. I know, I’m fighting a losing battle.

  7. Kenny Brechner

    Lest Elizabeth be led to including a category on what Bloggers wish Readers attended to I’ll jump back to topic and note something I know many other booksellers have voiced, namely that books whose content reaches both genders, but whose covers exclude one or the other, are a constant source of frustration. Not only does it make handselling very difficult indeed, but it doesn’t appear to make sense. Why limit a book’s reach?

  8. Carol Chittenden

    Brilliant idea as always, Elizabeth. I’m sure I’ll make a hundred entries over time. But here are two this bookseller has wished for again and again and AGAIN: 1) I wish designers knew how much easier it is to locate the book on the shelf when the spine is the same color as the front cover. So many hours are wasted searching! 2) I wish editor’s names were on their books. (Of course it’s bound to be more complicated than that, but I do wish somebody would stand up for each title.) It would make it so much easier to advocate for your work and your jobs! More to come… Carol

  9. shelftalker josie

    What Booksellers Wish Publishers Knew: Either packing slips should include discount and shipping info, or invoices should be used in boxes instead of packing slips. It’s hard to receive books quickly if we have to wait for an invoice to arrive separately in the mail. Also, there’s a lot of paper waste with packing slips and invoices, especially the ones with several pages’ worth of “This Page Left Intentionally Blank.” Surely, technology has advanced enough for this not to be necessary?

  10. cjomololu

    Great post! I just had an interview with Jennifer Laughran on my blog telling all of us new authors what she wishes we knew about coming in to sign stock. Can I expand to add that I wish family/friends/fans knew that authors usually only get a few “free” copies from the publisher. Any other books we give away come out of our own pocket. Bookmarking this!

  11. shelftalker elizabeth

    Given yesterday’s article in the NYTimes, I think we’ll need to add this: What Authors Wish Readers Knew: That they are not responsible for the pricing of books or e-books, and are certainly not trying to gouge readers! Ouch. nytimes.com/2010/02/11/technology/11reader.html?ref=books Also, here’s the link to Cynthia Omololu’s interview about stock signings. cynjay.blogspot.com There’s a lot of great stuff on your blog, Cynthia! Glad to know about it.

  12. Julianne Daggett

    For new bookstore workers and authors: fans can and do recognize authors in bookstores. The author is usually looking for a book to buy from your store or to see if their book is out yet. Bookstore owners shouldn’t get frustrated at fans asking an author to sign his or her book, even though there’s no signing event and fans do recognize authors and the author was and is usually there not to sign books but buy one like everyone else. And that happens to me when young and old fans recognize me in a bookstore and I always have a pen or pencil on me to take notes with and use it to sign books. Authors should be prepared for this to happen to them. And bookstores should be prepared for this to happen in their stores. No bookstore has gotten mad at me signing books yet but I do know some other authors whose young and old fans created a scene, to put it politely, when an author says yes or no to signing a book. Fans do scream and yell when they recognize an author and if its the real author and it usually is unless its a look a like then thier screaming and yelling anyway at someone who looks like their favorite author. And I’ve heard horror stories from authors who reach for a pen to sign and the bookstore owner says “no you can’t do that in here” or some phrase like that. The tact an author should use that my author friends have said to do is “Okay, I’ll sign it outside.” And then they step outside with the fan. Not only is this a terrible way for bookstore owners to miss an oppotunity to sign stock but a way to loose customers who never come to your store again because you said no for the author and the fan and if you try to sign the author the author always said because it was a bad experience. And if leaving the store to sign does nothing sometimes the bookstore owner comes outside and yells at the author and fan and then you get into some author war stories in a conversation with them.

  13. rgreen

    What customers wish jacket designers knew: Jacket copy is actually important. I see a trend from some publishers (often those without dust jackets) where the back of the book contains either a) nothing, b) a blurb from someone that basically just says, “Read this book!” or c) a random (but not particularly interesting) few lines from the book that don’t tell what it’s about. Time after time I see kids pick up these books and then put them back because they can’t tell what they’re about and if they want to invest that much time in figuring it out. (Readers, like editors, want to know what a book is about before deciding to buy it.) Also, the shiny covers are eye-catching, but as libraries are switching over to the check-it-out-yourself system (as well as electronic systems that check things in automatically), there are more and more problems with those kind of books clashing with the checkout/in machines. (The foil does not like the checkout sensor.) So perhaps a solution could be found for the library editions of those books…

  14. shelftalker elizabeth

    To piggyback on rgreen’s excellent comments: at Winter Institute, I just heard the results of a study that found that back-cover copy is more important than the cover image for middle-grade readers. [Edited to add that the study that Carol F refers to in the next comment is the one I’m referencing. Thanks, Carol, for the precise info!] What Booksellers Wish Jacket Copywriters Knew: The back-cover copy really is crucial for kid and teen readers. It should give a flavor of the tone and writing style of the book (if the copy is flat, kids will think the book is, too. They all assume the author writes everything in or on the book). Also, it’s really important not to give away critical elements of the plot. Spoilers really affect the experience of a story unfolding. It’s a tricky balancing act: enticing the reader without ruining the experience of the story unfolding as the author intended.

  15. Carol Fitzgerald

    Quick comment on the What Booksellers Wish Jacket Copywriters Knew comment: In our Teenreads.com Survey (cover story in PW,Oct 26th) we found that consistent with our 2005 survey the book description copy on the back/flap was the most important influence (besides recommendations from friends, other media, websites) that would make those “18 and Under” pick up a book with a stunning 91% seeing this as the most important influence; it was 86% for those “Over 18.” For Kidreads.com readers aged 6-12 the flap copy again was again was the biggest driver in making them want to read a book with 65% of them noting this.

  16. Carin

    for editors/jacket designers, related to back copy comments: I recently noticed many of my friends flip over a jacketed hardcover to the back, read whatever blubs are there and… that’s it. We in the book biz assume everyone reads the front flap on these books but a lot of people who don’t read hardcovers often just don’t. Wish I’d realized that when I was an editor. I’ve had to hand the book back to them and open it up to the front flap to get them to actually read the description before they reject it.

  17. fin

    What jacket designers wish booksellers and readers knew: Some, not all, publishers give the designer/illustrator a very vague blurb to follow for cover design. It is challenging to capture everything that the book is about when given bare bones information. At times, we’re not even given a description of the hero/heroine. Rich information = rich and compelling jacket art. Vague information = bland cover art.

  18. Maggie

    Elizabeth, I second the motion for highly visible series numbers on the spine & cover. While libraries try to do face out display as often as possible because we know that cover art will “sell” the book, the majority of our titles are spine out. Recently we’ve been getting some children’s books with just the spine of the book in a “cloth” material with the title imprinted in metallic ink. That is very unappealing and definitely will not last. Would love to know the reasoning behind that.

  19. Joanne Fritz

    Great thread, Elizabeth. Thank you. At last, a chance to air my pet peeves (was planning to do this in my own blog, but I don’t have very many followers yet). What booksellers wish publishers/designers knew: 1) If you print three volumes in a row of a series and use the same color cover, it’s nearly impossible for us to shelve or for customers to distinguish. As an example, check out the spines of Vols 9, 10 and 11 of Guardians of Ga’hoole by Kathryn Lasky. Sorry to single out Scholastic here, because I’m sure all the major publishers are guilty of this. Make each volume a different color than the one before or the one after (and I second the comment above about making the volume numbers distinguishable). 2) When you design a cardboard display, PLEASE include two locking tabs, one at the top and one for the base. And make sure the locking tab that goes into the base is long enough and sturdy enough to actually go into the base and to not rip when customers knock into the display. 3) No diecuts. No cut-outs on book covers. Ever. They just tear. I can’t sell the book if the cover is torn. 4) All Pop-up books should come with a free display copy and the others should be double-shrinkwrapped to keep customers from opening them. Next time I’ll comment on what booksellers wish customers knew, but I have to say I’m grateful to AnneMarie for her comment.

  20. Anony Mouse

    What authors wish publishers knew: We want to help you sell our books! It would be great if you had a well-designed booklet for your authors that clearly stated your policies and procedures as they relate to us (especially about publicity). If we get these, we will ask fewer questions, saving all of us a lot of time 🙂 It should cover general info on editorial processes, cover design, publicity, discount policies and procedures, publisher preferences regarding author contact with booksellers and reviewers, etc. Also publishers: I LOVE what Carol said – editors should put their names in the books they’ve edited. Authors, librarians, teachers, booksellers and even readers want to know.

  21. david e

    I’d like to second the blurbs on the back for What Bookseller’s Wished Jacket Designers Knew, with an expansion: Stop printing testimonials from other writers on a book. Readers see this as a sign of desperation (“If X likes it, so should you!”) and it makes them suspicious. They want to know what the book is about, not what someone else (usually an adult) thinks about it. This also works as a double-edged sword against the authors giving the testimonial. If the reader hates the book, it isn’t likely they’re going to trust the author on the back cover who recommended it. Kids are smart and they have loooong memories of those who have wronged them.

  22. fin

    Just to clarify, since it seems that many folks here assume that jacket designers write jacket copy: Jacket designers do not write jacket copy. The publisher’s or marketing department’s copywriter provides jacket copy. The designers then incorporate that copy onto the jacket. If the designer is provided with a file of only testimonials, then that is what goes on the jacket. To recap: What designers/illustrators do is create the overall visual integrity of the cover and/or series. They do not write the copy.

  23. Children's Book Author

    What established authors wish aspiring authors knew: A well-published author does not have a magic “in” to publishing houses, and getting published is NOT a matter of “who you know,” but of many factors–the professional value of the work being foremost. An author may be reluctant to read your work because she knows that she is, essentially, powerless to do anything for you. If she does agree to read it, and does get excited about your work, she may ask your permission to pass it along to an editor or an agent, but that does not guarantee that these readers will like, need, or acquire your work. Keep in mind: -one author may be published by many houses, and many of those trails may have become cold, -the editor with whom an author worked on a book may have moved on, -it’s very likely that the author still gets rejections–even from houses with whom she has a successful book, -even her own agent may decide that a particular work of the author’s is not marketable, -if an author does not offer to show your work to someone in acquisitions, she may see something in it that needs improvement -or, it may mean that she sees so many instances of amateurism that she feels that the kind of help you need is beyond her, especially if she is swamped with the myriad tasks connected with freelancing. -the professional author’s writing suggestions and leads to classes, critique groups, etc, may be the most valuable help she can give you.

  24. designer

    Elizabeth, thanks so much for this wonderful post! I’m a designer who finds the spine design comments very helpful. Never realized that there were so many issues with spine color and type. Thanks for the input! This helps me make more educated design choices.

  25. Jill

    I just want to reiterate the above Joanne Fritz comment: NO DIE-CUT JACKETS! Please! They tear, immediately which results in either less stock, no stock, or unsalable stock. Either way, lots of grumbling and exasperation. If anyone could answer my question about what the draw is for designing books with a die-cut jacket with seemingly no regard to its real-life applications, please let me know.

  26. shelftalker elizabeth

    What Booksellers Wish Designers Knew: That we appreciate your wonderful talents!! I think it seems like you’re getting picked on, and fln, thanks for telling folks who might not know it that jacket designers have nothing to do with the text of the jacket except to choose a font and place the block. I liked Carol C’s point that having spine colors that don’t match the cover really can make a book harder to find on the shelf! It’s something that I as a designer wouldn’t think of, and might not even like, since the contrast can look so sharp and sleek; but when we’re trying to find that book with the yellow cover, we’re rarely going to remember that its spine is black. Designers, of course, should be focused on design–I’d hate to sacrifice art for utility–but being aware of our practical struggles can perhaps be one factor in bookmaking decisions. We all have the common goal of making books as appealing and saleable as possible.

  27. allisonm610

    SO MUCH AGREE about the number-in-series notation. Many series don’t have these at all, and customers will give up on them if they can’t find Book One. This is *especially* important when all the book titles sound the same – and I mean you, Charlaine Harris.

  28. allisonm610

    What booksellers wish customers knew: While we should certainly be on top of official Oprah’s Book Club selections, we do not know of every single book every mentioned on Oprah. Same goes for NY Times Bestseller list vs. something just mentioned in the NY Times. Next time, write down the title or author.

  29. Young Adult Novelist

    What Authors Wish Publishers Knew: Authors would love to be a part of the selling/promoting process. Publishers, PLEASE, let us have a say about the cover art. It would make a huge difference if we collaborated and worked together in that department.

  30. Animus

    What authors wish editors knew: Many of us have full-time jobs in addition to the writing. Many of us have children. Asking for large-scale rewrites in a couple of weeks is ridiculous and will only result in poor-quality, rushed work. You need to give us a reasonable time for revisions.

  31. Animus

    What customers wish booksellers knew: Stocking book 2 or book 3 in a series without stocking book 1 is insane! I can’t even count the number of times I’ve picked up a book, found myself interested, then realized that it’s not the first book in the series and that the first book isn’t in store. Each time, I’ve gone on to buy something else or not buy at all. In the worst case, I’ve had to go and order the first book from Amazon instead!

  32. anon

    What editors wish authors knew: Illustrators are people, too. We love to get an author’s feedback on covers and interiors as long as the author understands that not every one of the suggestions will be taken. We cannot force an illustrator (or a designer) to do what you want. We flatter, beg, and cajole in order to get the best cover/interiors that we can. But illustrators have their breaking points and we try not to push them too far. In the same way that an author may refuse to change something in the text, an illustrator may refuse to change something in the art, and we have to respect this. (I’m not talking about a LIAR situation here where something is clearly in conflict with the text, but more of a case where, for example, an author wants to remove a tree, but the illustrator says the tree is important to the composition.)

  33. Caleigh

    What a customer wishes marketing departments knew: Unlike a few of the other commenters here, I REALLY appreciate author testimonials on the back of the book, at least if it’s an author I’m familiar with and respect! If only for the fact that, when there isn’t any author testimonials on the book, the book ends up being (in my experience) pretty terrible. My thought process: “Wow, they couldn’t even get one of their authors to vouch for it…” And in my experience this has proven true! If I end up still disliking the book, after the author testimonial, I don’t lose respect for the author — everyone has different tastes. Don’t stop with the author testimonials! 🙂

  34. Random Reader

    Not to be disrespectful but could I see some data that “teens are sicking of seeing teens on covers.” Because I’ve got marketing data that suggests otherwise. Focus groups, field research… I understand this wasn’t meant to be a scientific study but it does seem to be a gross overgeneralization based on a relatively small sampling of what would appear to be highly intelligent teens that aren’t necessarily representative of all thoughts on the matter.

  35. Alison

    What this librarian (purchaser – childrens and teens) wishes publishers knew: 1. We do indeed buy nonfiction in paperback. If there were more published in paperback we’d buy more. A book can’t go on our summer reading list unless it’s in paperback. 2. We don’t buy the library binding for fiction unless it’s all that’s available. Having library and hardcover bindings today seems really redundant. Thanks!

  36. shelftalker elizabeth

    Animus – bookstores always carry book 1 of a series! But another customer may have purchased the last in-stock copy minutes before you were looking for it. The good news is that it’s a quick proposition to re-order! When we place our orders with distributors, they come in the next day or the day after. Publisher orders take a little longer, but most indie bookstores build at least one distributor order every week.

  37. a small publisher

    What (indie) publishers wish (indie) booksellers knew: We are independent just like you! Just as you can’t necessarily offer the same discounts as, say, Amazon, we can’t necessarily offer the same discounts or terms as some bigger houses. We’re small, and what works for big houses doesn’t always work for us. So if our terms aren’t exactly what you’re used to, please remember that ultimately we indies are all in the same boat.

  38. Anonomous

    What Distributors wish Independent Publishers knew: First, we love indie publishers, so don’t take this the wrong way. Second, You can’t rely on us to create demand for your book. We make your book available for bookstores and try to sell it based on what you are doing to market and publicize the book. Most distributors do offer marketing and publicity services and they should be taken advantage of. Please budget for marketing and PR when you are thinking of publishing a book. Also, remember that it is not going to be a cheap process and it probably won’t pay off on your first print run. But hey, it is not realistic to write a book thinking you are going to get rich. Do it for the satisfaction and if you are able to quit your day job, you are on the right track! Third, don’t quit your day job until you are really, really sure it is necessary.

  39. Andrea

    What Book Buyers wish Indie Publishers and self-published authors knew- We rarely are in a position to buy cases of any book, unless it is for an event. When trying to place your book in a store, it is really helpful if it is available through a wholesaler. With 38,000+ titles in one store, we don’t have room (or $$) for more than one or two of most items. So if you are requiring a full case purchase the answer will always be “no”.

  40. Laura

    What booksellers wish authors knew: Please don’t come into my store and redo my display by featuring your newest title and discarding my selections. There was a reason for the display and your chance of a prime spot and handselling just went way down (unless you are Kevin Henkes or Jerry Pinkney-you guys can do whatever you want :)). You would be surprised how often this “merchandising” happens in NY.

  41. shelftalker elizabeth

    I’d like to add to Laura’s comment. What authors might do (instead of ‘sneak face-outs’ and rearranging store displays) is to bring a friend into the bookstore and introduce yourself, saying, “I’m So-and-So, a YA author, and I brought my friend in to see your wonderful store.” That will endear you to a bookseller; you’ve gone out of your way to show your support for THEM, which will make them more inclined to be interested in supporting YOU. Let them ask more about your books instead of trying to “sell” yourself or your book. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk, but booksellers are approached every single day by authors of varying levels of tact and accomplishment; graciousness from all participants, including booksellers, is hugely appreciated. I’m loving hearing from people throughout the children’s book world, and it’s especially helpful when y;all offer constructive alternatives! A small publisher, you make an excellent and important point about us needing to support one another. Your margins are as skimpy as ours, I suspect, and there’s got to be a better way of getting the word out about indie publishers’ titles and stocking them in our stores. As Andrea said, we can’t order case quantities—barring bestsellers or author events—and we find that shipping can add up to 20% or more to the cost of a book—which, of course, all but eliminates any profit. Ordering through free-freight distributors takes much less of a chunk out of our bottom line. It would be interesting and helpful to hear about the distribution obstacles facing small presses.

  42. Carol Chittenden

    This is SUCH a good thread! Especially love hearing from the book designers. And please know that a great cover, a clever solution to a design problem, a beautiful new color combination, a smart typeface — these DO get attention, and they DO help sales. Next point: I wish publishers (or maybe this is another design item) knew how helpful it is when they use large typefaces, even 16-18 points, for readers age 10 and under. You can see it on the kid’s faces when they open a book. I routinely show and sell Candlewick’s Stink series ahead of others for emerging readers, just on that point alone. Sadly, other wonderful books are unsaleable due to a tiny font size. I doubt increasing font size would require more paper in most cases, and I’ve never heard anybody complain or flinch at a book because the type is too large.

  43. Jess

    What librarians wish publishers knew: We like library bindings – we WANT library bindings – but please oh please, either give it a dustjacket or put the equivalent of jacket copy on the back cover. Unless it’s a popular title or part of a series, it’s really hard to get those titles to check out.

  44. Anon

    What editors want illustrators to know We love you, and we know you are human, and that you work incredibly hard. But when you are late…very late…with your artwork, it makes publishing, marketing, and selling your book much more difficult. Publishing schedules are fixed in stone near the end of the production cycle and any major change to the timing of the full-color sales materials (especially) or the printing of the book (in some cases) will only end up hurting your publishers ability to promote (can’t get the reviews in time) and sell the book you slaved over. Booksellers often have slotted the purchase of your book into a purchasing schedule–if we miss that date, the money may be spent elsewhere and your book passed over. Perish the thought! Sometimes your editor is late getting back to you; you deserve more time on your end if that’s the case. But if that’s not the case, treat your deadlines as the serious business they are. If you have to take another job or have other obligations or get the flu or…., be sure to keep an open dialogue with your editor or art director. Late books hurt everyone in the business, all the way down the chain.

  45. dkm

    What a great blog. You had me at “a conversation between authors . . . ” As a yet unpublished author who is working hard at that dream, I find every entry from every support beam of the network to be of intense interest. For instance, at this point in my journey I can’t imagine having the chutzpah to be upset with a bookseller for not having my book on shelf. I would be more likely to faint from the shock of finding it there. dkm

  46. shelftalker elizabeth

    I’ve decided to write a separate post on book spines, because not only have several people posted thoughts, but I have found some great examples of effective spines (one of which is a completely different color from its cover, but it doesn’t matter because the text is so clear and readable), and I want to post pictures. Stay tuned for that one.

  47. illustrator

    In reference to Anon’s “What editors want illustrators to know” Personally, I ALWAYS try to meet my deadlines. However, please know that if publishers delay approvals, or don’t get things to us in time, deadlines will need to be moved. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had publishers sit on things for weeks or even months and then expect the same deadline to be met on the art. It’s impossible to be timely in those circumstances, and yet, it makes us look bad for not meeting a deadline. Not really fair.

  48. bookseller

    I heartily agree with the above requests for clearly marked series numbers. Of course, sometimes what was intended to be a stand-alone may later end up becoming a series, but at the very least make it very clear which book came first, second, etc. when the sequel(s) pub. For marketing folks: I love well-designed displays and generous give-aways to entice customers, BUT… please don’t send huge cardboard displays with a ton of imprinted plastic bags, sample chapters, etc. just on spec! Postcards, flyers, ARCs, sure! But getting huge amounts of cardboard and plastic to promote a book I don’t even intend to stock (sorry) is a burden on my storage space and my conscience when I have to throw it out (I recycle what I can–but you’ve cost me time). It’s also a big waste of materials and your time and shipping costs. If you have a nifty display like that, great! Please send out an offer by email and I’ll let you know if I want one.

  49. Serendipity Books

    I’m in the Caribbean and what I have to say applies also to the UK but may not in the US. There are many books written of general interest to teenagers, but a white teenager will not buy a book with a black girl on it and vice versa. If the cover doesn’t feature one race or the other the book has a much bigger market. The kids don’t mind who is featured in the book. I did very well with Push, but less well with Precious until the film came here. This applies equally to urban fiction.

  50. Christine Tripp

    “Illustrator” I agree with you. What Illustrators would wish all to know is we do meet deadlines, and even when editors, art directors go on holiday, we continue to work. The only time things come to a halt are when we everyone is gone and we get no feed back on changes. For some reason or other, Illustrators are the last to be contacted and contracted and then, are expected to do a whole pic book in 3 months or less. Of course, not if you are a name illustrator, contracted by a large publisher, but if you are just a working illustrator, with a mid to small pub.
    You are then expected to pick up the slack and produce in 60 days a product that will sell.
    I do believe authors are given a wee bit more time from start to finish of their manuscript.
    Of course, name illustrators with good size pubs are given much more time.
    As there is mention of covers, another thing that has always bothered me is the publisher wanting the cover art right away for the catalogue, before I have even got a sense of the story and the characters. I hate that, as the cover is most important, yet must be done in a day or 2.
    One other small thing, it would be nice if booksellers who have web sites would list Illustrators as the second author of pic books.

  51. kathy e.

    If word of mouth doesn’t sell the book, a good cover design helps. I am all kinds of disgusted with the cover of Rick Yancey’s Monstrumologist. I have read 20 percent of the books, and the book is really good (with lots of expected gore). It is going to take a lot of hand selling and word of mouth to push this book. An attractive cover matching the audience’s interest (teens) would have helped.

  52. it ain't me

    What Most Booksellers Wish Some Other Booksellers Knew: There are a number of booksellers who don’t seem able to be in a room with a publisher (or someone who works for a publisher) without sounding off on whatever issue they’re ticked off about concerning (usually) that particular publisher. I internally refer to this as the “Where’s my co-op?” syndrome. A panel of higher-ups in the publishing industry gets together to discuss the future of publishing or whatever, Q&A time comes along, and everyone in the room knows that somebody is going to use this “forum” to air their grievances. It’s embarrassing, frankly, and it happens pretty much every time. Air out your laundry, please, in the proper venues with the proper people. We’re all pretty much on the same side here.

  53. shelftalker elizabeth

    What I wish publishers knew about backlist: booksellers and librarians (and teachers) LOVE to know when books come back into print. There doesn’t seem to be much money for backlist promotion, but I think you’d hit gold targeting independent booksellers with strong children’s sections, as well as the library market, for those OP treasures you’re bringing back!


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