Apparently Mr. Barnes misunderstood or misinterpreted our conversation, and became angry over our editor-in-chief rejecting his submission. Here’s what happened. A Durban House editor, looking for books with western themes, ran across a sample of Mr. Barnes’ manuscript (submitted September, 2003) in the slush pile. After reading the sample, I called Mr. Barnes to discuss his book that was set in New Mexico. I told him Durban House planned to do several books with western themes. After a short discussion, I asked Mr. Barnes if he would be able to carry out usual things authors are expected to do, such as promoting his book through book-signing tours in key markets, talks to book clubs, libraries and civic organizations, attend book festivals, and writers’ conferences. He said because of his age he was unable to travel very far from Conroe, TX, the town where he lives. I told him for his book to have a chance at success it was essential for him to promote it, and that Durban House would have to pass. He asked if there were any alternative ways he could get his book published, given the fact he was unable to provide physical promotional support. I told him since Durban House planned several books with western themes, we might be able to do a cooperative effort, or joint venture, giving him a 50% stake in his book, if it was accepted for publication by our editor-in-chief, Robert Middlemiss. I reemphasized that before we could move forward Mr. Middlemiss had to first agree his book would be a good match for Durban House. Also, I explained if we moved forward this would be a comprehensive marketing strategy aimed at building a platform to introduce him to the book world in lieu of his ability to help market his book. A strategy that included: developing an author webpage; helping arrange television and radio talk show appearances, mailing hundreds of advance reading copies to primary and secondary reviewers, independent book stores, libraries, and foreign publishers; entering his title in appropriate contests; trade advertising; full color catalog mailings twice a year to bookstores and libraries throughout North America; promoting his books yearly at the Book Expo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and London Book Fair, the largest book fairs in the world. I estimated such a campaign would cost around $25,000.00. We discussed how his joint venture contribution would be returned if the project got launched. Fifty percent of the wholesale cost (less reprint costs) would be paid back to Mr. Barnes on each of his books sold. Mr. Barnes asked to see some material. I agreed to send, for his information only, a letter summarizing our conversation, several DHP books, catalog, sample postcards, a modified blank publishing agreement, and a service agreement I would prepare the next day. I told him based on my and our editor’s initial read of his sample material I thought his book would make a good fit. However, as a caveat, I warned Mr. Barnes again that I was making no promises and his book first had to be accepted by our editor-in-chief, Robert Middlemiss, who had final say on all titles Durban House published. Mr. Barnes said he understood and sent a copy of his manuscript to Mr. Middlemiss. A short time later, Mr. Middlemiss informed Mr. Barnes and me that his book would not be a good match for Durban House because the western theme books he had in mind involved cowboy characters, which were not part of Mr. Barnes’ title. Shortly after receiving Mr. Middlemiss’ rejection, Mr. Barnes made his posts on the internet.
After three and a half years of selling books, Durban House has achieved some remarkable results. Among them are: international distribution; recognized by Booklist as one of the top four new mystery imprints; a Ben Franklin book of the year award, seven titles selected as finalists for book of the year awards, and numerous Booksense76 recommendations. Durban House writers have appeared on national and regional cable news programs, multiple regional and national radio and television shows related to books and travel. The company has had a dozen titles licensed for foreign rights. This kind of success could not have happened without total dedication from Durban House writers, editors, and promotional people to achieve excellence. Hardly the track record of a vanity press.
It has never been a Durban House policy to accept books based on an author’s ability to provide promotional consideration. Every title considered for publication is carefully vetted for originality and consumer appeal. Once a title is accepted it goes through a comprehensive editing process, insuring the highest quality of writing before going to the printer.
Placing fiction in today’s market is a daunting task. Here is but one indicator about how bad conditions are: If you took the top 100 bestselling fiction (not necessarily best written) books between 1986 and 1996 you’ll find that 63% of these titles were written by six writers. A recent television book show talked about the “Crisis in Publishing.” Mid-list writers spoke about how their publishers gave them little or no promotional backup. Many hired publicist to promote their book(s), and most had to pay their own expenses to booksignings and book shows. Buyers at major chains increasingly look for hard hitting marketing plans to support titles they order. So, in reality, it doesn’t matter how good a book is if it winds up as a spine out in a genre section. It could be the best written book of all time, but it won’t sell if no one knows about it.
The staff at Durban House passionately believes in producing quality books that connect readers with new, exciting writers. Durban House is proud to have launched more than 40 outstanding writers’ careers; some with two, three and four books to their credit. We have fought to overcome obstacles of payment and distribution that plague the entire entertainment industry. I invite you to see the quality of a Durban House book, inside and out. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
and you will be sent a complementary copy. If anyone wishes to directly discuss the prose and cons of this post or our mission statement, please feel free to call me at (214) 890-4050 and I’ll be happy to speak with you. If for some reason I’m out of the office leave a convenient time for me to return your call.