Oh how I love me some Maud Newton. This question-and-answer post from her Secret undercover literary Agent is pretty much exactly why I now wake up happy every morning that I didn't sell my book to a big publisher, and that we get to start our own imprint here at Cupcake:
[Q:] It seems that all my friends who write have been stymied of late. One sank all the proceeds of his advance into promotion, then found he would not even get a PW review. Another has been told that the publisher wants yet another book “like” his first three. I observe my own so-called “career” as moving in this direction: I managed to get a good agent and a top literary publisher. I didn’t manage to be “lead” book. There’s no “push,” no way for the books to become visible, even when they get good reviews here and there in this great big country. Seven books on, I’m wondering what to do. What practical advice can you give a mid-list writer who has never gotten any push? Is there anything he can do? It seems to me that a writer can drive himself crazy attempting to make up for what a publisher doesn’t do–and never make a dent.Thanks, Maud! This feature rocks.
[A:] Publishers take what works for them and try to replicate it ad infinitum, so it’s not surprising to hear your publisher wants more of the same from you. Actually, it would seem to say that you are indeed a successful author if you’ve published seven books. But with over 150,000 books published last year in the US, it is a challenge, to say the least, to get any one book much attention, and clearly only a very few can be “lead” books. So what then? Be creative. That’s both the lamest and best advice I can give. Start a Web site, have a contest, streak at Wimbledon, buy a billboard, self-publish. There’s no easy answer. The one piece of practical advice I always give an author is to hire an outside publicist if he or she can afford it, because the publisher will only be able to afford to do so much in most cases.