Apropos of Jane’s post earlier this week, in which she discusses advising a client to turn down an offer from a major New York house in favor of an offer from a smaller company far from the epicenter of publishing, I’ll add another note of praise for the small press. In the following series, indie publisher Melville House discusses “How do you market a book written in a foreign language by an author who’s now dead, that was originally published 60 years ago, and has been overlooked by mainstream publishing ever since”. Good question, and it’s fairly extraordinary that they venture to ask it. Conventional wisdom has it that exhuming a forgotten title (one in translation no less) is about as effective as attempting to resuscitate its dead author. Unless there was some extraordinary circumstance involved, few mainstream commercial houses would take this kind of chance.
The campaign that Melville House came up with is thoughtful, innovative, and in this era of celebrity-dominated book publishing, (check out this article in The Daily Beast and pray that this era is ending) exceedingly rare. There are scores of reasons that books are seldom re-launched, but one oft-cited problem is that book releases are treated like “news,” and getting traditional media coverage for older books can be all but impossible. Most media outlets are also desperate for readers/viewers, so from a sales perspective, lavishing coverage on juicy, star-studded stories makes more sense than writing about old, forgotten books.
Are there any obscure/overlooked books that you’d point to as worthy of a Melville House-style campaign? What do you think of celebrity books?