With book publishing undergoing such major changes and so many of my colleagues and clients discouraged by these, one wonders whether the experience of having a first book published will ever be as satisfying as it once was. The answer is “yes!” Last week one of my projects, a first book, had an incredibly exciting and successful launch.
Five years ago, I read the obituary of Robert Giroux and I thought that there might be a wonderful story about Farrar Straus & Giroux and its authors during its heyday. I thought about who might write this book and read a very good piece in New York Magazine written by a young writer named Boris Kachka. Boris and I talked and, though he was initially doubtful about whether such a book would sell, he decided to tackle it.
The idea then became his and the result, five years later is HOTHOUSE: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar Straus & Giroux. The success of the book, as is always the case, was dependent on a number of factors:
1) The manuscript was well written and told a compelling story.
2) The editing was brilliant.
3) The launch of the book was thoroughly thought out and extremely well timed.
In fact, Boris produced a terrific manuscript which even in draft form was a real page turner. Then his editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler did an incredible job of editing the narrative.
Finally, with Jofie’s passionate mentorship, Simon & Schuster strategically sent out galleys to writers and independent booksellers for quotes. Authors, including Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, and Larry McMurtry, and dozens of independent booksellers commented on how terrific the material was.
The title topped the August non-fiction Independent Bookseller Recommended list and then the publisher distributed a superb marketing brochure conceived by publishing icon Michael Korda and developed by Jofie, his team and Boris. Check it out:
In this day of digital distribution, the brochure was mailed out to hundreds of people and the reaction was instantaneous and incredibly enthusiastic. Everyone who received it wanted an advance copy of the book.
HOTHOUSE was reprinted before it was published on August 6th and was celebrated at a publishing party in the Roundtable Room at the Algonquin.
Of course we don’t know what will ultimately happen in this story, but of one thing I am sure. As I stood listening to Boris talk at his launch party, I thought, “This is why I love the publishing business!”