Sunday, December 10, 2006

Publishing Pariah

In olden times (actually, just a few years ago), most people didn’t consider someone an author until a major publishing house put out their book. You could self-publish, but hardly anyone took the resulting tome seriously -- and if you came out on a small press you could expect to have copies in some specialty stores, but almost nothing on the shelves of the major booksellers.

Recently I went to a book-signing in Orange for a friend of ours. Sally Honenberger has been writing for some time, and her first novel “White Lies” came out November 30.

While this book is being brought out by a small publisher, there’s a good chance it will find its audience. Why? The Internet.

In the bad old days an author with a small publishing house could expect to sell a modest number of copies (with more than a few to friends and family), but that would be it. Chain bookstores only order from distributors, and distributors only carry the offerings of the established publishers. And there was very little possibility of creating any kind of a buzz. At major papers editorial space is tight, and the big releases from major publishers usually get that space.

So Cedar Creek has put out Sally's book, and she’s established a presence online. “White Lies” is available at the world’s largest bookstore -- There’s a dedicated website for the author, with excerpts from the novel and some of her other writings – as well as a blog. The Amazon page already has some reviews – watch for more as the book starts selling. Expect to see some conversations started on her blog as well.

In the past, only the folks in Orange would have known about Sally’s book. Not now. Google her name, and you can quickly find out more about her and what she's doing. For example, you’ll see that she’s slated to be a panelist at the next Virginia Festival of the Book. Anyone in the world can discover Sally, read an excerpt of her book, and order a copy if they want to read the rest. More importantly, they can also leave feedback, write thier own reviews and participate in conversations with the author.

I’ve watched the traffic to our blog grow steadily over the months as more folks discover it, and I expect something similar to happen with “White Lies.”

Granted, this kind of gradual grassroots growth is nothing compared to the big push a publishing house could give it, but that's OK. "White Lies" is a book that -- through the Internet -- has the potential to reach all of its audience.

- Ralph


  1. Loved the coverage and the comments (you are so right about the internet helping sales and getting the story out, particularly this story about a mother who's baby is injured by a vaccine), but the title of your posted article is a little off-putting. White Lies is not a pariah and neither am I. My publisher is small, but very enthusiastic. They've done all kinds of great marketing things for the book, and I can't say enough about the benefits of a small publisher over a big one, not the least of which is the expedited publishing schedule. See for more about the book.

    The best advice on publication I can give to aspiring writers is to only send out your best writing (edit and edit and edit some more), and be sure your story needs to be told. Beautiful writing won't get you anywhere if your story does not resonate with readers. Thanks again.

  2. Just a follow up on the title. I didn't mean to be off-putting. The idea was to have a title that caught the eye and hopefully evoke enough curiousity to encouge further reading (and indulge my weakness for alliteration).

    My point was that small publishers were pariahs with chain buyers and suppliers -- not with readers or the publishing industry as a whole.

    For bookstore chain buyers, many small publishers simply don't enter into their purchasing equation. "If it ain't on the New York Times Bestseller List, then it doesn't get into the store." That may be an exaggeration, but not much of one.

    "White Lies" is clearly finding its audience, and I know that Cedar Creek has a good reputation. And I'm sure you can special order the book from a brick-and-morter Barnes & Noble or Waldenbooks.

    But buyers who decide what books get stocked in the stores -- even ones who may personally like the book -- are hard pressed to justify the investment in shelf space for "small" publications, which them untouchable.

    - Ralph