As one century ended and another began, what did publishers learn? Here are the results from one report.
“Books could not permanently create their market through advertising alone.” Advertising could help those books with good potential for sales but couldn’t lift others on the basis only of advertising.
Extensive use of endorsements proved generally helpful. But if even a highly placed, well-respected person gave too many endorsements, the commendation was devalued.
Authors who could be their own salesmen had great success. For authors willing to get out in front of the public and draw attention to their books, sales could pile up.
The right title can be as key as any other type of promotion. A boring title could kill a project. The right amount of spice and intrigue could break it out of the pack.
What was the report? John Tebbel’s history of American book publishing, Between Covers, in which he recounts what publishers were learning a hundred years ago (pp. 175-77) as the nineteenth century became the twentieth.
The well-known, overly prolific endorser? Theodore Roosevelt.
The greatest salesman of his own books? Mark Twain.
If you wonder where to go in the future, one helpful place to look is the past.