Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Big Publishers, ARCs, and the promotion of a Black Writer

On May 18, Jessica, a co-proprietor of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York and who also goes by the handle "booknerdnyc," tweeted: "Who's got two thumbs and an ARC of @colsonwhitehead's Zone One? This girl."

An ARC or Advance Reading Copy is distributed by publishers months before a book is released. The ARCs help build buzz for a book well before its official publication date.

Whitehead's Zone One is scheduled for publication on October 18. Leading up to that date, Doubleday Publishing -- a division of Random House, Inc. -- has already been working to make sure the novel is publicized in all the right places prior to its release.

Yesterday, May 24, at the Book Expo America (BEA) in New York City, Doubleday/Random House arranged for Whitehead and other authors who publish under their imprint to sign ARCs of their upcoming books. In a report on the day's events at BEA, Carolyn Kellogg wrote on the book blog for the Los Angeles Times that "There was a very big line for Colson Whitehead signing his upcoming book."

Large publishers can afford to market their authors and distribute ARCs, for instance, in ways that smaller publishing operations cannot. Although there's always popular lore about upcoming authors who sell their books out of the trunks of their cars, those writers who have publishers with the resources to distribute ARCs typically have an edge in the marketplace.

So I'm sympathetic to the struggles of novelists who have smaller publishers.

Admittedly though, I have enjoyed Whitehead's books over the years, and my interest in black publishing history make me drawn to the various processes by which his publisher markets and presents his works. I'll look forward to following the continuing developments related to the marketing and publication of Zone One.

Related content:
How Major Writers Become Legendary on Twitter: The Case of Colson Whitehead
The Early Buzz on Colson Whitehead's Newest NovelColson Whitehead Novel on Twitter

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