Three Cardinal Rules of the Book Business

January 1998
by Robert Holt

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Cardinal Rule #1: Respect requests of publishers who assume the financial risk of your book. Why do so many intelligent authors court disaster by making emotional decisions instead of business decisions? Among local fellow fiction authors, two recently had “15 minutes of fame” similar to my ’88 experience. For privacy, I refer to these authors as “A” and “B.”
A, getting a fine boost from coverage in The New York Times, rocketed into the rarefied air of a medium six-figure advance with a cleverly penned first novel. This advance covered republication of the first novel, and the publishing of A’s next two manuscripts.
(Keep in mind as you read this that I cannot know with absolute certainty the conclusions drawn concerning New York editors/publishers. I can only surmise my conclusions, since I was not physically present and listening in their offices when they began, altered and sometimes surreptitiously and subtlety concluded contractual obligations with their authors).
Author A finished his second novel, and again received rave reviews. This book also sold well, but may have sold better had it received royal treatment at the publicity department. With his third novel, A ran into roadblocks. His reaction: “I told the folks at (_____) to go to hell. I had completed a third full-length novel that they liked, but they wanted to make a major plot change, one that undercut the entire theme of the story . . .” I winced as I read this reaction. I’ve seen this disaster befall oth…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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