Friday, December 11, 2015

#7 Publisher's Catalog Copy: "We Need It By Tomorrow."

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In fifty to a hundred words or so, who are you? Really?

Tell me only the best, most impressive things about yourself.

While you're at it, tell me what your book is about in 200 words or so.

Attach a great photo of yourself and get it all to me by the end of the day.

Tomorrow morning at the latest. 

Oh yeah, make it really impressive because your whole future depends on it. Or at least the success of your first book.

Okay - go! 

If someone asked you to do this, could you? And could you do it well?

Because you're going to have to for your publisher's catalog.

The catalog is a publication that resembles a trade paperback that's sent out by your publisher every season.

It lists all the titles being released by that particular publisher in the coming months. Organized by imprint - for instance, I wrote for Atria, which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and St. Martin's Press, which is an imprint of MacMillan - the catalog is intended to get early interest in the publisher's new books.

It's sent to important reviewers and other literary publications like Publisher's Weekly, various media outlets that focus on books, as well as to buyers at bookstores big and small.

Each new title usually gets one page in the catalog. Included in the info will be an image of the cover (I'm saving book covers for later), your author bio, your photo, a synopsis of your book and any details about promotion and/or tours because it helps buyers know what kind of support your publisher is giving you. If you've already garnered some nice 'blurbs' by other authors your editor works with, they'll be included too.

You'll eventually get a copy of this catalog with your editor's business card paper-clipped to it.

The editor will have scrawled 'You're on page 36!' on the card. 

And I do mean 'scrawl.' Editors have to write so much, so quickly, on manuscripts every day that penmanship suffers a bit. At least that's what I noticed.

Luckily, you'll already have bought new reading glasses (and, possibly, a secret decoder) because you needed them throughout the editing process - so it shouldn't take you too long to figure out what your editor wrote.

You'll flip to the page and - gasp! - there it will be. Bona fide, irrefutable proof that you're actually going to get published! It's pretty exciting.

But it's also a vital step in early promotion for your book, so you're going to want to make your page as impressive as possible.

But that's not going to be easy because you're going to be very busy editing or copy editing, depending on your release date and how much lead time your publisher needs. (Trust me, you'll be busy, no matter where you are in the process!) And just when you least expect it, an email from your editor's assistant is going to drop into your inbox and it's going to go something like this:

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"Can you send your author bio, photo and a summary for the catalog? We need it by the end of day. Tomorrow morning at the latest. Thanks!"

The assistant might ask for a 'synopsis' or 'catalog copy' instead. One way or the other, you won't know what a 'catalog' is and nobody will explain it to you.

But you haven't known a lot of other things about getting published and nobody's explained those either.

However, you can probably figure out that because it has the word 'catalog' in it, it's about sales, so it must be important.

If you're  smart author - and you will be now - you'll be prepared.

But if you're like me - a naive, disorganized, confused newbie who thought publishers looked
after all this themselves - you're going to have a heart attack. Or maybe I should say another heart attack because you've probably had a few during the process already.

After reading the email, you're probably going to think the following things:

Are you serious? Don't you guys already have a synopsis? Didn't I have to send it to you to get the book deal in the first place? Ditto for the bio. And the photo, frankly. 

And, by the way, don't you actually have, like, marketing-type people who write summaries for important things like sales catalogs? 

The answer to all of those questions is: no. 

So you'll have to drop whatever you're doing and try to hunt down the old synopsis - which probably doesn't apply anymore because the book will have evolved during the editing process. Which means you'll have to spend the day - and the night - and the wee hours of the next morning (because there's no way you're getting it in by the end of the day, forget that!) trying to make your book sound like the Next Big Thing.

If you're like me, you are going to hate everything you say about yourself - and your book - and when you do get your catalog in the mail a couple of months later, and you do turn to the page your editor told you about, and you do see all the information about your book laid out professionally for the first time, you're going to think ...

Holy crap, I did a terrible job. This book is going to tank! Help!

So be prepared for this step before you get a book deal.

Start honing your skill as a professional advertising copywriter now - because you're going to need it.

If you're an indie who scored a book deal based on your success in the self-publishing world, you'll be used to doing all these things for yourself already. So when your editor's assistant emails you, all you'll to do is hit 'send.'

But if you're a wide-eyed, first-time dreamer who thinks that your publisher (even a big publisher!) is going to handle all of this for you, nope. I'm not sure what the case is for big time bestsellers, but as a newbie, it's definitely part of your job.

So, quickly, who are you and what's your book about?

I need it by the end of the day. Tomorrow morning at the latest. ;) Give it a shot. It's not easy!

Subscribe to the blog for #8 and lots more! And see you on Twitter!! @SLMcInnis


  1. Been there, done that and yes, I wish I had done a better job (oh, how I wish!). The thing is, other published authors had warned me of such things but for some reason I thought that I was different, that it would all be easier for me, blah, blah, blah (it's embarrassing to admit this, now). Cheers and thanks for another great post.

  2. Hi Cinthia!! :) I know, right? I feel embarrassed about most of what I did too!! ;) I'm going to check out your website! Thanks for leaving the addy!

    And thanks so much for writing!! :) I love that a few of us can connect out there, commiserate - and maybe help some first timers have an easier go of it. (If there's such a thing!!) If we don't talk before, have a great holiday!! Thanks again for writing!

    Sheri :)