The Right Publisher for the Right Book

From Publishers Weekly:

When my publishing career began in the late 1990s, a period that I refer to as the golden age of New York publishing, it was an enchanting time.

From an outline, my first book, What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), went into a four-day auction between several editors. (This was during the era when imprints within a parent company could bid against each other.) It might have lasted longer, but my brilliant agent, Richard Curtis, called for “best offers on the table before sundown,” when Yom Kippur began. Each publisher placed significant six-figure bids.

Putnam won the hardcover, paper, and audio rights. Then they went to work, intent on delivering a bestseller, which they did to such effect that 22 years later, the book continues as a successful backlist title.

I have published six books between Penguin/Putnam and HarperCollins. All were either auctioned or preempted with large advances. Every person attached to the projects was marvelous and committed. For each release, I traveled on multiple-city tours with generous expense accounts. Publicists delivered remarkable national media spots, including ones with CNN, Fox, the New York Times, People magazine, and The View. The coverage didn’t stop there; in every city, I received substantial local media attention as well, including reviews and television and radio appearances. Speaking at independent booksellers’ conferences, I met store owners who, kindly, hand-sold my book.

With the guidance of tremendous publishers and editors like Phyllis Grann, Sheila Curry, and Michael Morrison, my career was launched. Successful books led me to form a syndication company to distribute a weekly newspaper column—entertaining stories about the South, its characters, and its unique language. Frequent speaking engagements and occasional television work came, including documentaries with Fox Sports (I wrote a critically acclaimed book about my NASCAR days) and a recent HBO documentary on my stepmother-in-law, Mary Tyler Moore, in which I referred to her as a “feminine feminist,” a phrase I coined in my first book.

I self-published two books of columns because I didn’t want to sign away rights to 1,200 columns. With almost a million readers, I have a devoted fan base.

Now comes a new journey. My book, St. Simons Island—A Stella Bankwell Mystery, releases in August from Mercer University Press in Macon, Ga. It is the first in a series of Stella Bankwell mysteries. In every way, publishing this book has been a different experience from working with major publishers. Quite frankly, without a nudge from Mercer’s Allen Wallace and Marc Jolley, I might not have published again. The industry has changed so dramatically, with big publishers today focused much more on books by celebrities, reality stars, and well-established authors.

After an aggressive deadline to finish the book, I slept for three days, then opened an email from Mercer’s marketing department asking when I would deliver copy for the book jacket and online booksellers. I was stunned. I’d never had that responsibility. Fortunately, I am a journalist turned publicist turned author, so it’s in my wheelhouse.

The real game changer—which makes it easier to go to a small press—is social media. I and my husband, a prominent television producer, have celebrity friends and influencers who will join us in posting. But any tour stops, such as the Southern Festival of Books, will be at my expense.

With Mercer’s limited resources, why did I choose to go there? For important reasons. I believe that Mercer is one of today’s best publishers. The catalog is diverse and bold. Mercer takes chances on authors who the big publishers now overlook. They are also my people—Georgians—so it feels like family. Though advances are small, the team there is incredibly passionate. It’s hard not to be drawn in by such devotion and enthusiasm.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The industry has changed so dramatically, with big publishers today focused much more on books by celebrities, reality stars, and well-established authors.

PG was not familiar with the author of the OP, so he doesn’t know her books or history other than what she includes in the OP.

However, the phrase, “kicked to the curb” floated into his mind as he read her story. The phrase, “smiling bravely” also came to mind as she described how “passionate” the folks at Mercer University Press are about her book.

Since PG was unfamiliar with Mercer University, he did a bit of online research and found the institution was founded in 1831 in Penfield, Georgia, by a group of Baptists. From humble beginnings, it has grown to 9,000 students with campuses in Macon, Atlanta, Savannah and Columbus.

PG’s conclusion is that Mercer is a perfectly respectable institution and he has no doubt the university’s press is filled with committed and hard-working people.

However, the mystery book buyer at Barnes & Noble doesn’t have Mercer on speed dial.

PG can’t help wondering why the author of the OP didn’t go straight to KDP, saving time and keeping a much larger percentage of the sales price for each book for herself and controlling her own writing career. That said, if she’d chosen KDP, Publishers Weekly wouldn’t have been interested in her column.