There are two very different activities involved in publishing a successful book.
First, authors need to be artisans. They need to find the inspiration in the ether and manifest those ideas through words on the page. Artists listen to the world and work to express their truth and the truth of the moment. There is always a need for artists because the moment is always changing. Create and make is the mantra of the artisan. This is the magic that makes (yes, business) books.
Authors also need to be promoters. Obscurity and indifference sink most books before they even start. You have to be your own hype man, selling the sizzle and the hustle with the never-ending belief that each step brings you closer, but also knowing that you never arrive. This is the tireless effort that makes books succeed commercially.
As I said, these are two very different activities and for this reason, the activities are functionally split in the world of book publishing. Authors work with agents, ghostwriters, editors of all flavors to create the book itself. Then, authors shift to a different set of people to promote—marketers, publicists, speaking agents, journalists and producers of all media stripes.
Now, these two groups do talk to each other. More and more, all parties are providing their expertise in the decision around what books to acquire. They also come together for the discussions about the title and development of the cover art. And everyone wants the same thing—a great book that will sell.
At Bard, we see that objective—creating a great book that will sell—as one uninterrupted arc of continuous activity from editorial product development through marketing launch planning. We think you have to build a book, with the same people, from the start, to be the kind of book that will be successful in the long run.
A book proposal to us is exactly that; it is a starting point. We have a series of discussions at the very beginning with each author about what their book is about. That probably sounds obvious, but you’ve seen the result in having read too many books where the message gets jumbled or lost. For us, we talk about the framing of the book and if there is a clearer, more impactful way to package the idea that the author wants to convey. We pick the title at the start of the project because we want to reinforce that framing and give the author something to help direct the writing they will be doing. That doesn’t mean things won’t shift, but having a clearer starting point gives a powerful cohesiveness to the project.
That arc continues as you start building the package for the book. That initial work gives us conceptual anchors for the front cover, back cover, and inside jacket copy. You start to see the colors for the book jacket. You can visualize the right people to endorse the book. In our process at Bard, the same people that framed the book are the ones who design the visual aspects of the packaging.
And that leads to marketing. What are the right messages for this book? What are the right channels to reach potential audiences? What is going to be the core message? And the core activity to launch this book? How do we engage retailers? Who does the author have around them that can jumpstart all the activity?
When message and marketing are in sync, you create a different kind of momentum. The customer clearly understands what they are getting, the author can confidently promote their book and the product speaks for itself from the shelf.