The Fallible Book Excerpt
Because the excerpt is just one weapon in the publicity arsenal, publishers are hard-put to assess its role in the campaign. Still, they can point to recent successes like "It Ain’t All About the Cookin’" by the restaurateur and Food Network host Paula Deen, which was serialized in Ladies’ Home Journal and hit the New York Times best-seller list immediately after publication.Publishers in the past were motivated to place excerpts because the money for them could hit $100,000 - and that's the equivalent of a lot of copies at one shot without the actual cost of producing them. Yes, writers get a big chunk - sometimes 90% of such serial sales - but that's still a lot of cash for a single book. When the magazine paid big money, they wanted big and juicy parts, sometimes even taking a bit here, some there, and putting them all together, even if they've given away important parts of the book.
On the other hand, Time magazine’s excerpt of "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story," by Rick Bragg, put a dent in book sales, according to Mr. Bogaards of Knopf. "The excerpt gave away too much — I think people felt they’d had their fill," he said. "We sold 175,000 in hardcover but had expected to do twice that."
Now the fees are less and the benefit less obvious. As the publisher of Hyperion was quoted, "For $1,500, why risk exposure of all the juicy bits if it’s going to hurt sales?" That's pretty short money, which means someone will have to explain why this is all a good idea and just how many copies moved as a result. For authors the point is clear: You have to take significant interest in the marketing of your book, because there are so many ways it can go wrong. So much habit, so little desire to do something new, which only shakes up the status quo and leaves everyone at the publisher feeling less comfortable. Oh, and then the entire marketing department is so overwhelmed with work and titles and lack of resources that all they can do is plod along like automatons. If you're not keeping watch, there's little chance that anyone else will.