Meet John Tintera. You might not recognize the name, but if you’ve been in a bookstore, lately, you’ve probably seen his work and the work of his team. I was introduced to Tintera by Matt Forbeck, whose Amortals and forthcoming Vegas Knights are published by Angry Robot. Tintera is the Sales and Marketing Director for the Osprey Group, which includes the imprints Osprey Publishing, Shire, and Angry Robot.
What does that mean? It means Tintera is one of the team-members who loves books and who talks numbers, marketing plans, and release schedules. It also means that he does the stuff they didn’t teach us in creative writing workshops—the business, the promotion, the P&L [profit and loss] reports.
So, without further ado, meet John Tintera…
How long have you been working in the publishing industry, in what roles in general, and as a book publicist in particular?
John Tintera: I’ve been in the book industry for over 15 years. I’ve spent most of my career in sales, but I’ve had a couple of jobs where I was responsible for sales and marketing, including my current gig, where I’ve been for four years. Until January we outsourced our PR to a freelance publicist, but now we’re handling it ourselves.
What is your role in the life cycle of a book and in an author’s career?
John Tintera: I sit on the pub board and am responsible for supplying the committee with an estimate of what I think the first year’s sales of a book will be in North America. Most publishers evaluate new book proposals based on a three year P&L [profit and loss], but our company uses a one-year timeframe; if we don’t think a book will be profitable in its first year we don’t publish it.
After the book is signed-up, I’m involved in shaping the cover, writing the marketing copy, selling the book to our sales force, and writing and executing the marketing plan. I also do a lot of special markets sales research and pitching. Authors are funny creatures—most of them only want talk to me about their next book, while my goal is to maximize the sales for the one that is coming out now. Savvy authors understand that they need to partner with us on the publication just releasing because that will influence how we evaluate their next project.
What should an author expect from a publisher in terms of PR?
John Tintera: At the very minimum the author should expect that his or her publisher will follow-up on every lead that is given to him or her by the author. Authors also have a right to expect some creative marketing ideas to arise from the publisher. If I’m an author of a fun book on potty training your child, I would want to hear that the publisher is pitching my book to a display marketer or to Babies R Us. Saying that, both the author and publisher need to be thinking not just about PR, but also about special markets sales ideas for the book. For example, right now we’re selling the heck out of our Angry Robot books at US military bases overseas.
What should an author do on her own to publicize and promote her book?
John Tintera: If the author is writing fiction, then he or she needs to get involved with the writing community. That means going to cons and using social networking to make friends within whichever genre she or he is writing. We published a book recently where the author used her social networking skills to become friendly with one of the top authors in the science fiction community. That led to a blurb from the author on her first novel, which led to a promotion for the book at one of the top chain booksellers here in the States.
After building community, it’s important to have an open line of communication with the book’s publicist and/or marketing manager. As I said above, it’s the publisher’s job to make the pitches that the author suggests—there’s no shame in being persistent.
If you could tape a sign over the desk of every published author, what would it say?
John Tintera: The sign would say, “Persistence.” Book publishing is a marathon sport, not a sprinting event. That’s true for writing, for finding a publisher, and for promoting your book. In terms of sales and marketing, my motto is, “Always Be Pitching.” An old boss of mine used to say, “There should be a daily outflow of review copies from your office.”
Any last bits of advice for writers?
John Tintera: When I first began working in publishing, I was very idealistic. I thought that everything I might work on could be the next great American novel. I quickly learned, however, that publishing is actually the poor cousin of the entertainment industry. Most books that we churn out have only a six to twelve week shelf-life. Even so, I feel lucky to be part of such a quirky industry that on the one hand exists to promote creative talent and on the other is so utterly devoted to the bottom line.
If I could give one word of advice to writers it would be to become a student of the publishing industry. Doing so would help them in every aspect of their professional careers. In fact, many writers actually work in the industry and I think those people are best positioned to profit from the publishing game. They also have the most realistic expectations about it.
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. He is the staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly. He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC. He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.