Books At Auction
The other day, at the end of our Writers’ Guild meeting, a common theme arose in conversation: how do we find a publisher and market our books to the right demographic segment to be successful?
Questions like this are a common staple of the many many websites out there to help struggling writers get their stuff out into the world and be successful writers. This post won’t be about that per se, but about another side to publishing.
The next day I am at work and in this slow moment I check out what the Pocket app has to show me on a new tab on the FireFox web browser. One of the items was a New York Times article (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/23/books/zakiya-dalila-harris-other-black-girl.html – likely behind a pay wall) about a book by first time author, Zakiya Dalila Harris, who has actually worked in the publishing industry (as an Assistant Editor at Knopf Doubleday).
The book’s name is “The Other Black Girl”
Now when you look at all those websites designed to help you be a better author and be successful with your writing they’re not only talking about which publishers you should or shouldn’t go for they’re also trying to dial your expectations down to something approaching reality. “Don’t quit your day job just yet” is one of the more common pieces of advice given to new authors.
That is because new books by unknown authors tend not to get a huge reception. Until you build readership numbers respectable enough for a publisher to see a profit there you are not going to be wooed by, or get a good reception from, big publishing houses.
So I was rather surprised to read the following line which I’ll quote here:
“ … her debut novel, “The Other Black Girl,” and it has captivated the publishing industry’s attention since it sold at auction to Atria Books for more than $1 million. A television series, whose pilot Harris is writing with Rashida Jones (“#blackAF,” “Parks and Recreation”), is planned for Hulu.”
“sold at auction” . . . how often do you hear that? I didn’t think publishers ever fought over a first time book unless it was by a Celebrity of some other ‘Personage’ with a guaranteed fandom that would buy anything they wrote.
From this HuffPost article https://www.huffpost.com/entry/book-auctions_b_935645
Not long after U.S. Airways Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger dramatically landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, his memoir sold at auction to publishing house William Morrow for between $2.5 million and $3.2 million. In another auction, Tina Fey’s book of humorous essays went from $5.5 million to $6 million, while former President Jimmy Carter’s White House diaries sold for “around $1 million“ according to underbidders.
All qualify as celebrities.
So ‘Book Auctions’? Apparently book auctions take place on a daily basis.
But unless you have some sort of reputation that gives you ‘marketability’ you should put off wishing your book would go to auction for a while – at least until the world knows who you are and a publisher can be more confident of sales numbers.
For more on Book Auctions and the hows and whys of them check out the HuffPost article.