The Bard Press Essays
Week 9 – March 30, 2021
“I want to change how publishing reaches out to authors.”
That is how Yahdon Israel, newly hired senior editor at Simon & Schuster, described his approach in his Instagram Live last week. Editors using social media to talk directly to authors is not something you see much. Israel spent almost an hour breaking down his view of book publishing and kept nodding my head up and down, agreeing with every point. I should just publish a transcript of the entire thing, because there is so much gold in his talk.
I encourage anyone interested in book publishing to go watch the whole thing.
Here were a few highlights of what was all the highlights for me…
Who is your audience?
In his video, Israel talks about his experience talking with editors and agents about book ideas he had. He knew his audience through the classes he taught, the bookclub he ran, and his people at the barber shop.
He recounts, “Instead of saying, ‘We don’t know how to reach the people you talk to?’, what they would say to me is “The people you talk to don’t buy books,” ‘The people you talk to don’t read,’ ‘The people you talk to don’t care about writing.’ I knew that was B.S.”
I know I have talked with authors and not been able to see their audience or how I was going to help them reach those readers. I almost missed publishing a book that hit big, by taking a small view.
Israel goes further and makes sure that authors know they need to have an audience. He talks about how Toni Morrison was an editor for 20 years and taught for 10 of those years. By the time she wrote her first book, she had been in service to the world for a very long time.
This is a business.
“If you are not business-minded, wait until you are…The minute we say we want to be published, it goes from a creative or artistic conversation to a business conversation. Art is part of it but commerce is another part of it. If you are coming into this system and you don’t understand it is business, I am telling you to wait.”
Yes. Yes. Yes. Understand that it is a business and learn how the business works. Find other authors and ask them how they published their books. Ask about terms. Ask about creative ways they marketed and sold their books.
Calling for entrepreneurs
“I am looking for people who are entrepreneurial in mindset…We are asking people for more in this art form than any other…What are you willing to do to get someone to read you?”
‘“That’s not my job,’ [is what authors would say]…I understand where you are coming from but this is your book. This book only has your name on it… Our work should be reflected in every stage of the publishing process…As an author, you have a wide range of responsibilities.”
Every book starts in the same place with zero customers. You have to find the community/market for your work. You need to have made something for that group. And you need to be ready to promote it from the street corners and mountaintops. It is all about the hustle.
It has to be good.
“You need to do the selfless work. You need to ask yourself, “Even if my name wasn’t on the book, would this book still matter in the world?” Because of the communities it could reach and help…’If you had your last five(teen) dollars, you would buy a sandwich or this record?’…Your book should be as important as sustenance. It should be like food for the soul.”
This is the most important one for me. This is the place that authors need to do the work. They need to read the other books in the category. Authors need to know how their work is in relationship to the others which it will sit next to on the shelf.
Big shout-out to Yahdon for that IG Live. Thank you!