Thursday, April 05, 2012
Rob W. Hart
By OFW editor: Katrina Monroe
Published: January 07, 2012

Accomplishment: Vice President of Novel Publicity, Blogger and Columnist at LitReactor, and Website Administrator at

Rob W. Hart is the website administrator for, the vice president of Novel Publicity, and a blogger and columnist at LitReactor. Despite his busy schedule, Rob kindly agreed to sit down with OFW to discuss writing and publishing from the informed and refreshingly honest perspective of a writer who wears many hats in the publishing industry.

Traditional publishing in ten years: what do you see?
It'll still be around, though it'll have to change to survive.

In the music industry, the internet and digital distribution have taken power away from the large record labels and given smaller, independent labels the chance to succeed. That’s what’s happening in the publishing industry now.

The publishing houses are going to have to give new consideration to things like publishing timelines, contract terms and digital rights. I think they will.

At the same time, smaller imprints will build bigger bases, even though some of them will never put out a print book. And self-publishing will continue to give new writers the opportunity to bypass the entire “traditional” publishing process.

Self-publishing has become very popular recently. What would your advice be to an author wanting to self publish rather than wait through the long process of traditional publishing?

The most important thing to know is that self-publishing is not the Promised Land.

A lot of the advocates tell great stories about maintaining rights and earning more royalties and creative control. It’s easy for them to talk about their success because they’ve already had it. There are also self-published authors who sell four books over the course of six months.

If you’re going to self-publishing, you need to start with a great product. That means you need to write your book, edit the hell out of it, hire someone to edit the hell out of it some more, and hire someone to design a cover (if you’re not graphically inclined). When your book hits Amazon it needs to be clean, correct and pretty. Building your brand, reaching your audiences – that’s all important, but first your book has to be flawless.

Is there a bias against self-published authors in the industry? If yes, why do you think this bias exists?

There is a bias, and some of it is deserved.

It used to be that, if you self-published, people assumed you did it because your book wasn't good enough to be real-published. Some people still feel that way, though it’s not as pronounced. Now there’s a bigger problem: For every beautiful, well-written self-published book, there are a hundred that are barely coherent. Just because you can publish a book in the blink of an eye doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not against self-publishing. It is a viable alternative to traditional publishing. But here’s the thing: If I read your self-published book, and it’s full of typos, then I’m going to assume you didn’t take it seriously. Which means I’m not going to take you seriously.

We all joke about Snooki getting a publishing deal. That same problem persists in self-publishing – people self-publishing dreck and dragging the rest of the pack down by association.

What's the best piece of advice you can give to a new author about navigating the publishing industry in today's market? How might that advice change taking into consideration your response to my first question?

First, do your research and know your options. Big press, small press, self-publishing – they all have their pros and cons. Second, take that information and decide what you want.

It didn’t used to be that way. All the research you needed to do was on which agents to query. Now, some people might be more attracted to the self-publishing paradigm, and that’s cool. But anyone with a book to publish needs to know the angles, and they need to decide what’s going to work best for them.

In regard to marketing, what is the most common mistake you feel writers make? In regard to writing?

In regard to marketing: Not letting your personality shine through. I want to throttle every writer who tweets the link to his or her book on Amazon ten times a day. Less networking, more social. I’m much more inclined to pick up a book from a writer if they’ve managed to engage me, make me laugh or make me think.

In regard to writing: Wanting to publish more than wanting to write well. Amy Hempel told me that, and it’s the best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten. Last year I queried out a novel, and only after getting back a handful of rejections did I sit down and make an honest assessment: It needed more work. It’s been a year and I’m much happier with what I have. Nothing about writing comes quick.

Do social media sites really make a difference when promoting an author's "brand?"

Without any doubts or reservations, yes. If you’re trying to promote a book – and especially if you’re self-published – you need to be using social networks. Twitter has more than 200 million users. Facebook has more than 750 million. And they’re free. And easy. An advertisement in the back of a book catalogue or on some website will never sell as many books as engaging people through a social network profile.

Can marketing alone make a bestseller? If you don't think so, can you explain the horribly written bestseller phenomenon?

Marketing sells books. So does talent. Part of it is luck, and some of the factors that make a bestseller are completely unknowable. In a rational world, Twilight should not be a multi-billion dollar property. There’s no way to explain it, other than say that the consumer – the reading public – is more interested in buying books like Twilight than something that’s intelligent, or challenging, or beautiful. So it goes.

Here’s the thing: It’s hard to feel good when you put blood, sweat and tears into your work, and then Kim Kardashian gets a book deal because she whored herself in a porn tape. That sucks. But you know what? Forget about all that. Write the book you want to read, keep calm, and carry on. That’s all that should ever really matter anyway. There will always be readers who demand good writing.

Rob lives in New York City and is finishing his first novel. You can find him on Twitter at @robwhart.

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