Yesterday I posted the first of a four-part interview with Ted Savas of the Savas Beatie publishing house. Below is the second installment of this discussion.
JW: What are some of the ways you focus Savas Beatie to better compete against all the other books on the shelf?
TPS: For starters, let’s establish that bookstore shelves are the worse place sell books! Just walk in a take a look around. Thousands of titles, most shelved spine out, and the average author expects people to throng in and yank his book off the shelf. If you aren’t driving people into the store for your book, you won’t sell too many copies that way.
So competing "better," to use your word, is important. We work hard to sell outside the normal trade channels. For example, we sell foreign language rights, co-editions, special signed editions for various large groups, and so forth. Our goal is always to avoid having to rely on trade sales for success. Let me also mention that authors play a huge role here.
JW: How so?
TPS: Over the years, we have turned down many good manuscripts because we didn’t believe the author was committed to supporting his own book, or didn’t feel comfortable with his general demeanor or attitude. For example, if an author won’t sign books, won’t make an effort to promote his work, won’t bother to establish a decent website, why should we support him with our marketing dollars and labor? There is a direct correlation between how hard an author works to sell his book, and the sell-through on that book. Therefore, one of our competitive advantages resides in our outstanding, hardworking authors. And we have a lot of them.
JW: Will you name one for me and tell me about his special efforts?
TPS: Sure, and you know him. Gary Moore, the author of Playing with the Enemy: A Baseball Prodigy,
a World at War, and a Field of Broken Dreams. A good author works
tirelessly to sell his book both before and after it appears in print.
Gary realized getting his work published was just stepping off the ground onto the first rung of a very, very tall ladder. Gary established what I believe is the finest single-book website I have ever seen at www.playingwiththeenemy.com, he stops in every bookstore he spots (and goes hours out of his way to do so) to sign books that are in stock and personally meet with store managers. He makes himself available for media interviews 24/7/365, he signs books and mails them to customers. He is the hardest working author I have ever been associated with in 16 years of publishing. He is also one heck of a great guy I am proud to also call a friend.
JW: Why should an author go with a publishing house like Savas Beatie instead of a larger one?
TPS: I think my earlier answers swerved into this question a few times. Let me expand on it by listing three good reasons: We publish superior quality books and have never remaindered a single one; we have good distribution and a solid reputation in the marketplace; and there is almost no bureaucracy in our company, so each author gets personal attention and is never, ever ignored.
Joe, earlier I used the word "craft" when referring to a book. I meant that. We "craft" our titles. We visualize how a book will look with nothing else but the raw manuscript in hand and then breathe life into it. We spend a lot of time and money on professional covers, editing, outstanding maps, good illustrations, good paper, and good binding—all in a step-by-step process with our authors. I speak directly with authors every day, as does our marketing director Sarah Keeney. This helps us keep a pulse on our authors and meet their needs and expectations. Every author and book is important to us, and we represent each one at every major book fair in the world, either personally or through our distributor. And we will not publish something unless we love it.