Carl Lennertz on Book Marketing and More

We spoke with Carl Lennertz from HarperCollins about book marketing, e-books, and what makes a novel successful.

A Conversation with Carl Lennertz

Q: Could you tell us a little bit about the kind of work you do at HarperCollins?

A: I am very lucky. I get to work with all of our retail customers – and I love the variety of the bookstore landscape, from the indies to the chains, from Costco to Target, Amazon to Walmart – and, well, everyone. I am keen to work with anyone who sells books in a proactive and creative way. I do help my colleagues here with books that are a priority for the independent bookstores, places where many new authors find their start.

Q: What are some of the factors that distinguish novels that sell well from novels that flop?

A: Sorry, I believe there is no formula for success. Writing comes from the heart, and its success can only be judged by the writer. I know that sounds naïve, but really, the art comes first and then the marketplace speaks. I have found that most authors – and I am one, also – have too-high expectations, when instead it’s about the long haul, one book at a time, one reader at a time, one bookseller at a time. It’s hard work and it takes time.

Okay okay, if I was forced to identify a few things that seem to set some books apart?

  1. A main character that is complex but generally sympathetic;
  2. A story that takes us out of our daily world for awhile, i.e. unique, odd, interesting experiences set in a different time and place;
  3. Hook the reader early, layer in details later, and
  4. The oldest advice in the world and still true: write what you know.

Q: What are some of the ways that the nature of publishing and book marketing is changing?

A: E-books are taking off even faster than expected. Still, the text on the page, whether printed or backlit, still rules. E-books are just another format; it’s still about storytelling. And how we market books has been changing for awhile, with social media augmenting traditional methods, esp. with book review space shrinking. Still, word-of-mouth is alive and well, and again, that comes from the story.

Q:What are some of the ways in which authors can help with marketing their own books?

A: Authors just have to be out there on social media. And in old school ways, too; writer personal notes to indie booksellers. And list as many store website links on your website as possible. Visit stores, buy books, make friends.

Q:Are there any exciting new HarperCollins titles that we should look out for?

A: Oh my, I can’t do that. We love all of our books equally. Seriously, I come in every day to serve all of our authors in any way I can, and I avoid picking favorites. I have too long a list.

Next Steps

Did you enjoy this conversation about book marketing and publishing? Then you might also be interested in our interview with Merric Davidson about magazine publishing.

Also, be sure to check out our free creative writing courses in fiction.

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