Discover more from Ventorship with Jason June
Hitting the Jackpot!...Maybe
In Which We Discuss Big A$$ Advances Without the Marketing Support
You know how those gigantic cruise ships all have casinos? Well, let’s pretend there’s a fabulous casino and we’re all dressed like Daniel Craig and Ana de Armas, going about playing blackjack and roulette. Or if you’re like me, you’re a Sex in the City slot machine girly. And let’s say you pull that lever and get FOUR CARRIES! That’s right, you’ve just won half a million dollars!
But then what if I told you there were a bunch of strings attached. Say I didn’t like the outfit you were wearing when you got said iconic SJP characters so I take away some of your winnings. Or if the cruise director said, “I actually prefer Samantha” so while you’re the big winner, they’re going to hold it against you that you ever mentioned Carrie to begin with, so you can’t leave your room for the rest of your trip, even to get fresh air when we hit that rough patch on the open seas.
That’s sort of the situation our fellow Ventorship passenger is in, minus the SATC tie-ins. They write:
The Big 5 literally sell more books than anyone. A whole machine is behind them that has BEEN selling hella books for centuries. lol They pay nearly half a million dollars for your book, say no to your most creative ideas for their marketing department, refuse to put your book in the hands of the on-staff TikTok gworls (because while your trade reviews are all great, none of them have stars, and speaking of stars, no way would they enter your artsyass book for awards even though they believed in it so much that they paid nearly half a million dollars for it), then blame YOUR lack of efforts to attract readers on social media for your lower-than-expected book sales. Like. Do they want to sell the book and get their money back, or naw? The fuck.
On paper, a nearly $500,000 advance seems like you’ve hit the ultimate of jackpots. But as this author tells us, that’s not always the case. A huge chunk of change is amazing and life-changing, but when you’re looking to also have a long career, lack of publisher support on the marketing side can feel worse than just getting a smaller advance to begin with. And it puts you in such a Catch-22 when it’s held against you if the novel doesn’t earn out, despite the fact that it could earn back all those cents if the publisher put the marketing dollars to help their six-figure investment.
I don’t necessarily have any specific advice, Jaded After Jackpot. But sometimes for me, validation of what I’m experiencing can be just as helpful, so I hope it is here too. I totally agree with you that a premium is placed on starred reviews, despite the fact that reviews are subjective and most of our intended audience doesn’t actually subscribe to any of the trades reviewing our books. That’s not to say that those publications aren’t valid or that it’s not a wonderful compliment when we receive a star, but it is to say that with so many other avenues to focus marketing efforts on (like the in-house TikTok gworls!), no book should be pushed to the side because of not getting starred reviews. That’d be like the movie studios going, “Because none of the Fast and the Furious movies will get an acting Oscar, we aren’t going to make them anymore.” We’re not going to those for the acting noms, we’re going for Vin Diesel to roll a truck over a baddie and come away as unscathed and husky-voiced as ever. I don’t think readers are going for the trade review stars, they’re going for the journey you’re taking us on as the author. In fact, when I got the one and only starred review I’ve received so far across eleven books, everyone I told who wasn’t an author was like “…what does that mean…” I’m so appreciative for that star, but it definitely did not influence my sales in a quantifiable way.
I am also shocked by how little publishers would put behind such a big investment. Like you said, don’t they want to get their money back? My Virgo brain says to me, “Okay, if this much money’s going out in an advance, they’re doing a multi-city book tour with huge authors to be in-convo with, we’re doing full page ads in every magazine/newspaper you can think of, and so help me we better be talking to Hoda and Jenna about this book.” I’m sorry that didn’t happen and it’s as baffling to me as it is to you. There are so many antiquated and wonky business practices in publishing, it’s shocking at times that this industry can stay afloat!
I know that isn’t advice or changed your situation in any way, but the key word in Ventorship is VENT, and I hope you know you are seen. I totally won’t take your slot machine winnings down in the casino!
What about you, readers? Any advice or similar experiences you’d like to vent? Feel free to put them in the comments, or write them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll anonymously include them on this post.
If you’d like to vent about anything author/writing related, write to me at email@example.com with the subject: VENTORSHIP. I’ll give you my take in a post, and we’ll crowdsource author opinions in the comments. You’ll remain anonymous, and any haters will be thrown overboard. Ultimately, I think you’re going to be buoyed up by the boatload of author love and support 🛳️