Westporter Richard Marek is no stranger to publishing.
He spent 40 years in the business, including a stint as president and publisher of E.P. Dutton. He discovered Robert Ludlum, edited 4 books by James Baldwin, and published people like Peter Straub and Richard Condon.
But when he and his wife, social commentator and author (The Erotic Silence of the American Wife) Dalma Heyn wrote their 1st book together, more than a dozen editors had strong suggestions.
All of them different.
Change the hero, one said.
Change the heroine, advised another.
Add more sex.
Take out some of the sex.
Exhausted, Richard and Dalma put A Godsend: A Love Story For Grownups in a drawer.
They thought there was a market for this tough-to-classify “love story for all of us who are no longer kids,” but the people who offer contracts and actually publish books were not so sure.
A year later, Richard and Dalma talked to David Wilk. The “head trickster” of Booktrix — a publishing consultancy firm — and son of noted Westporters Max and Barbara Wilk, David thought Godsend would be a good candidate for digital publishing.
David handled all the details. He got the book onto every popular e-reader: Kindles, Nooks, iPads.
Now Richard and Dalma are sitting back, waiting for the money to roll in.
“I’ve published 3 books,” she says. “They all had advances. We’re not sure what will happen with this one.”
“No one knows how to make any money on ebooks,” he adds.
So why are they publishing this way?
“The industry is changing,” Richard notes. “After so many years in it, I’m fascinated to see how this works.”
“It’s a great book,” Dalma says. “It’s fun to see how this Wild West of publishing handles something like this.”
Without a standard publisher, e-book authors must handle all the marketing themselves.
“You have to be knowledgeable about the internet, and spend 17 hours a day at it,” she says. They’re not, and they aren’t.
But, according to Richard, the flip side of e-publishing is “your book never dies. When I was in business, books died after 3 months.”
With no shelf life — because there are no shelves — books can gain audiences slowly. Every Valentine’s Day, Dalma says, she and her husband will launch a new marketing campaign.
Of course, Richard and Dalma are doing a bit of old-fashioned marketing too: book talks. Tomorrow (Thursday, March 29, 7 p.m.) they’re at the Westport Barnes & Noble.
They’ll discuss their latest work. They’ll share insights on e-publishing.
They’ll also hold a drawing for a Nook Simple Touch.
So the winner can read A Godsend — and 2.5 million other books — without ever having to set foot in a bookstore again.