Pub Rants

A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

When An Imprint Goes Bye-Bye

STATUS: For this week, I’ve been ignoring non-urgent emails to make sure I finished up some contract and royalty issues. Today I dug into the 225 that were awaiting my aattention. I’m down to 175. Guess I know what I’ll be doing tomorrow.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I’VE GOT YOU UNDER BY SKIN by Dinah Washington

Yesterday I mentioned that Bowen Press was closed down but not what happens to all the books that were that list. Basically, the answer is not much—in the literal sense and in an ironic way!

Literal Way
Books are sold to a publisher. Imprint might be listed in the contract but publisher still reserves the right to change how a book is published so if the imprint goes bye-bye, the publisher still owns the right to publish the book. In this case, any book sold to Bowen Press is still a book sold to HarperCollins and nothing much is really happening. The books will still be published by HC.

But in a whole other way, everything is happening. Books on this list get moved to other existing imprints. The books get assigned to other editors. The books could be cancelled (although I haven’t heard any stories in this case—yet). And this leads me to the irony part.

In the Ironic Way
Nothing much will be happening for these orphaned books because when the agent originally sold the project, one of the pros in choosing Bowen was to have the title on the launch list. There are lots of big pushes for a launch. It can be a huge benefit.

Well, that just went away.

Instead of the excited publisher, Brenda, who bought the book, we now have an editor who just got assigned a title or titles to his/her already crowded list. Hum… how much attention will that title get? [note: agents can be instrumental in getting a book assigned to a specific editor but this isn’t always possible.]

There was probably a marketing person and publicist assigned to this imprint. Now it goes into the general HC pool.

Now if one of the titles was planned to be big, chances are good the publisher will still do the big push as the momentum started months ago for titles about to be released and stuff is already in play. Those titles will more than likely be fine.

For the other titles? They might be missing out on some love which is where the agent steps in and starts raising some ruckus to find out what will be done for their orphaned project. But we aren’t miracle workers, we can raise a fuss but that doesn’t mean the publisher will respond.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease though. If we are noisy enough, they might step up and do some stuff just to shut us up.

This is also where I, as an agent, would encourage an author to step up on the promo plan. The author should have been working on this before this moment in time so if they have, this is a good opportunity to make sure the new publicist etc. has the promo plan in hand that the author can discuss with him/her and get some positive attention. [Publicists are more inclined to help those who are willing to help themselves.]

And if they haven’t, guess what the author needs to be doing pronto!


7 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Can I be a downer and suggest that “stepping up your own promo as an author” never really amounts to sales? Unless you have a stupendous blog that gets a hundred thousand hits daily, it just doesn’t happen.

    I’ll spare you my own sob story of having a hardcover book from a major pub sent out to sink or swim without support of any kind. Instead I’ll just say this:

    The books that succeed have a publisher’s push. They just do. You can write a killer book and run yourself ragged doing all the promotion you want, but unless you win the lottery of being a lead title you are screwed fifty ways to Sunday.

    Though Kristin has never said this, there is a constant notion in publishing that the “cream rises to the top.” In my opinion this is a false notion. It’s not about the cream rising to the top (though certain books of course are deserving of lead status — though not all) it’s the pub hype raising the book into consummer’s hands.

    For instance, are Ally Carter’s books “better” than Jenny O’Connell’s or Kelly Parra’s? No, they are all unique, strongly written books. But one got lead title status, and that publicity alone spurred sales into a different realm.

    Anyway, my heart goes out to the authors on this imprint. What can any of us do but write another book?

  2. David R. Slayton said:

    Kristin:
    Thank you for putting this information out there.

    A blog post on Promo Plans and what authors can do would be helpful for those of just starting the query process.
    david

  3. Jean said:

    People who help themselves. That’s such a good lesson in any area of one’s life!

    🙂

    I hope the imprint closing doesn’t affect too many in negative ways.

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