Saturday, May 1, 2010

Elizabeth Law wants a big, juicy tomato

Reported by Martha Brockenbrough

She promised us a talk titled “more cowbell, less vampires,” and Elizabeth Law—Vice President and Publisher of Egmont USA—delivered. Never mind that there was no audio in the room and she had to do the Christopher Walken bits herself.

We got some insight about what she’s looking for in submissions, and she gave us the analogy of a “big tomato”: something juicy, specific, and personally identifiable. She's not looking for a formula or to fill a slot on her list. Rather, she's looking for something she recognizes and likes.

Elizabeth learned this the hard way by publishing something she didn’t like but thought would make a lot of money. She’ll never do that again, she says.

There are a number of questions she has to answer every time she buys a book. Here are a few:
• Who is the audience?
• Where will it sell?
• What is it like and how have those books sold (she doesn't love this part)
We should know what the selling points are for our own books. "Tragically, 'this book is really great' does not work."

But it can once a book is published, and this is her strategy for helping a good book do well.

“You get behind it and bang the drum for it,” she says. “WHEN YOU REACH ME was not an easy book to sell into bookstores. It just kept on selling, and then Rebecca Stead went on NPR, and it sold 40,000 copies in a month.”

Note to any NPR producers who happen to be reading: Elizabeth says she’d sleep with one to be able to sell that many books.

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