Wednesday, August 27, 2008

For Writers, It’s a Small World

One thing I’ve always emphasized is that writers can’t just sit behind a desk. They also have to get out and meet people, other authors, booksellers, readers. They have to network face to face as well as online, go to workshops or conferences, attend booksignings.

Now here’s one author’s story that fully demonstrates that philosophy.

Author Angela Davis-Gardner had published two books over a nine year period. Once she had the third ready, times had changed and, as she said, she “wore out three agents” and no one wanted her new literary book. Davis-Gardner gave up and even began to throw away various versions of the book.

Then, a funny thing happened. A librarian found a piece of the manuscript on a plane, loved it and wrote to Davis-Gardner. That encouragement inspired her to try again. The acquisitions editor she sent it to sent it to two writers to read. One of those writers loved it. The editor told Davis-Gardner she’d have to cut the book by a fourth and the editor ended up publishing 1,000 copies of Plum Wine.

But that’s not the end of the story. Davis-Gardner’s friend, bookstore owner Nancy Olson championed the book to all her customers. She called an agent she knew and told her about the book. She wrote to other independent bookstore owners and encouraged them to read the book. Plum Wine began to sell. The agent put it up for auction. Big stores began to buy the book. It’s “gone through seven printings and sold 57,000 copies.”

Know what Davis-Gardner’s friend, Nancy Olson, owner of Quail Ridge Books said?
"That's the problem with the industry," Olson says. "These days you need to know someone to get a book published."

She points out that Barbara Taylor Bradford just received a $20 million contract for three novels. As thrilled as Olson is with Davis-Gardner's success, her excitement is tempered by Bradford's $20 million contract.

"How many good writers," she wonders, "went unpublished to support that one contract?"


  1. That's why I'm going for broke and attending Bouchercon in October. A writer friend of mine said her book sales didn't take off until she started attending conferences and meeting people face to face.
    As for Barbara Taylor Bradford, I don't begrudge her the $20 million. What irritates me are the million dollar contracts to nonwriters who happen to be famous for something else.

  2. The celebrity focus in the book biz is the subject of many of my rants, too. At least Bradford writes her own books...but the big-name people whose ghosted tomes are stacked at the entrance to the those really send me into orbit!

  3. I totally agree with both of you. Celebrities get big money because they have the built-in platform, but do they even write their own books? And why should they get millions? I am really tired of seeing celebrities on TV, let alone in print.

  4. Yup. Most pubs in their submission guidelines tell you they won't accept a memoir unless you are already famous, a household word that will guarantee sales.

    And I gotta start saving up my pennies and get out to some conventions.

  5. Okay, I begrudge the 20 million dollars to Bradford just a WEE bit. It's like millions of bucks being siphoned into one Tom Cruise movie at the expense of dozens of other films that will never see the light of day. ANd the celebrity issue - non-writers getting paid tons of money for something they don't even really write... argh.

  6. Yeah don't even mention the celebrity "writers." Gee, can we go and appear in movies and TV and say we're actors?? And worse is the sudden rush for "memoirs" - where tons of money are spent and they turn out to be plagiarized or lies. There goes all the money! Maybe they should spend more on background checkers or check with local newspaper reporters before doling out big bucks.

  7. Velda Brotherton8/27/2008 4:44 PM

    Huge advances are one of the reasons the publishing business is in the dire straits it's in today. When publishers can go back to publishing books because they have something to say to the readers, then the business will begin to recover.

  8. One fledgling trend is to pay lower advances but higher royalties. May not benefit beginning authors, but might work for those above mid-list.

  9. Memoir is a hot commodity right now even if you're not famous.

    As to earning the big bucks... well, how big is enough? How much is name-recognition really worth? And to the average author, is selling 10,000 books and getting 10% of the profit better than self-publishing 2,500 and keeping 50%? There are some serious issues here, that deal with an industry that often doesn't value it's workers, and in some cases is downright abusive. It's time this industry got tipped on its head. And I hope authors start looking at some alternatives, even think about paving new roads.


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