Friday, January 20, 2012

Searchlight, Nevada

When unhappy with his press release, Ralph rewrote it and sent changes to Northwest. When dissatisfied with Northwest’s marketing, he wrote demanding that they comply with the terms of their agreement.

By letter dated January 22, 1996, Northwest’s account executive told Ralph that 6,800 copies of Searchlight, Nevada had been ordered and shipped. It didn’t say who placed the orders or where they shipped them, but said that another 2,500 copies had been ordered by the chain Books A Million. Northwest promised royalty statements in about three weeks.

On his 1996 Form 1040, Ralph reported $2,600 in gross royalties from his writing activity.

In late 1993, after signing with Northwest for Searchlight, Nevada, Ralph began researching Nevada Nights, San Joaquin Dawn. He wanted to document the difficulties that women face when attempting a break from prostitution. “The story’s never been done before to any degree of authenticity,” he said, explaining that he thought it was commercially viable.

Ralph, however, had learned that rooms at brothels were equipped with listening devices. Therefore he met prostitutes at other locations on “out calls,” paying by credit card. In 1994, during January, February, April, May, June, and July, he spent from one to six days a month in Nevada on “out calls.” He successfully encouraged ten prostitutes to leave their profession. As of his trial, he hadn’t finished Nevada Nights, San Joaquin Dawn.

Some time after signing with Northwest on Searchlight, Nevada, Ralph submitted the 450-page Lightning at Dawn. He thought that Northwest only required a joint venture payment for first novels, and so if Northwest agreed to publish Lightning at Dawn, he’d not have to pay anything. He also tried marketing Boys and Girls Together, but stopped when he was told that there was no need or market for that type of short stories at the time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Making the Deal and Working It

Ralph and Northwest reached an agreement for publication of Searchlight, Nevada on October 13, 1993. This agreement had Ralph paying Northwest $4,375 to publish ten thousand copies. Northwest’s marketing director wrote Ralph confirming receipt of Ralph’s money and described it as a “joint-venture payment.” The company’s operations officer explained via letter that Ralph’s payment represented about a fourth of production and marketing costs for ten thousand copies.

The agreement required Northwest to give a hundred “free” copies to Ralph and two hundred to major bookstores and book reviewers, to sell 2,500 copies through its “test market program,” and to sell the remaining books in the retail marketplace.

Ralph was to get forty percent of the retail amount of each book sold through the test market program and a royalty of fifteen percent of the retail price of remaining books sold to bookstores and wholesalers.

Northwest was expected to pay royalties January 31st and July 31st each year along with interest for late payments. It would do a certain amount of sales promotion, advertising, and publicity. It was to have exclusive rights to the book.

Northwest representatives told Ralph that his book would probably earn him at least $20,000 in royalties.

Northwest published and released the 131-page Searchlight, Nevada in December 1995 with a retail price of $7.95. The book went on sale at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Boynton Beach, Florida, and Falls Church, Virginia, and at Super Crown Books, store #106. People could also acquire it in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia, by special order through Borders Books and Music.

Prior to its release, Ralph worked in all stages of publication. In 1994, having reviewed its galley proofs, he asked about adding two chapters. By letter at the end of February 1995, he suggested cover designs and attached pictures, showing how he thought characters on the cover should look. He promised to provide any additional assistance he could, saying that he realized the cover design equaled the storyline in importance. It didn’t matter if the story was good if readers failed to buy it. Optimistic about the joint venture, he believed they’d have a “hot seller” and sell over 100,000 copies.

Ralph gave Northwest’s public relations department mailing lists and telephone numbers of bookstores, newspapers, magazines, and radio and motion picture companies. On his own, he mailed about sixty complimentary copies of the book along with individualized letters to bookstores, newspapers, magazines, and hotels. He worked with Northwest’s marketing expert to get it stocked with distributors and to set up book signings at major bookstores.