Hey y’all, more behind-the-curtain stuff today, so if you don’t want to see how the sausage gets made, run away now. We’re going to talk about “the produce model,” advance escalators, bestseller lists, and lots of other stuff that you might have heard about but might not completely understand. Hell, I might not completely understand it all and may throw some questions out to the Magical Words brain trust before we’re all done.
Yeah, that’s really the best thing about being part of this site for me. As much as I love all y’all, having a bank of people who know more than me to consult on stuff is the shizzle. Fo’ Rizzle.
BTW, I’m thinking of changing my last name to Lion. What do you think?
I think if you understand the last couple of sentences, you should write more and pay less attention to pop culture.
First, I want to let everybody know that the pre-order for Paint it Black, Book 4 of The Black Knight Chronicles, is now up! You can click here to order my latest book.
Now why do I want you to pre-order? Why do we as authors spend so much time working our butts off on release dates, release blitzes, book tours, blog tours, release parties, and all that other jazz?
It’s the ugly business side of things, but the first week or two of a book’s like are the most important, especially for those of us published by bigger houses. My situation is a little different, but I’ll get to that later. Most major publishing and bookselling outlets work on what we refer to as the produce model of sales and stock. This is just what it sounds like – the stocking model stolen from the produce department at a grocery store. You see, for those of you who cook, you already know this, but for folks like me who think a stove is just another place to pile books, you might not understand that fruits and vegetables spoil. So they have to be sold by a certain date. And you always want to keep your stock rotated and fresh, so it’s appealing and an awesome shopping experience, and so that people aren’t seeing the same old stale bananas every day.
Bookstores follow a lot of the same logic. Someone somewhere determined that books have about 90 days to sell, and then they’re done. They’ve spoiled. At some point we’ll discuss the fact that bookstores don’t actually buy books, but have books consigned to them, but that’s a discussion for another day. But there are several reasons for this thought process among publishers, all of them flawed at the root, but it makes no difference – this is how the world is run today.
It will likely be different tomorrow. The world changes a lot recently. This gives lots of people ulcers. I personally enjoy it, but I have yet to be terribly vested in any one way of doing things, so I can ride the waves a little more easily.
So a book has a very limited time to make a splash. And if you’re a mid-list author, you have even less time. You need to debut on that NY Times or USA Today list, or your chances of getting there at all have boiled down to “better luck with the next book.” And that’s why pre-orders are so important to us – because even if a book has a six-month pre-order period, all those sales get counted as happening on release day. Which gives us a better chance of making a list, which gives us negotiating power with our next contract, and gives us the ability to put “__________ Best-Selling Author” after our name when we blurb books for our friends, which in turn helps them sell a few more books. Another thing that happens is pre-orders and early sales for one book in a series helps determine initial print runs and reprints for hardcover releases of subsequent books, if you’re fortunate enough to have a hardcover release.
So that’s a big part of why we spend so much time promoting our pre-orders and releases – because our careers very often depend on the first couple of months of a book’s life. A bad release, or a botched pre-order can have a serious negative effect on our ability to get another contract. So go pre-order something! I have a suggestion, of course.
My situation is a bit different, because I’m with a small press, and my publisher, Bell Bridge Books, takes a long-tail view of sales. For example, they have not allowed any of their books to go out of print. At all. And they continue to promote backlist heavily. They also release far fewer titles than the big New York publishers, so they can give more of their resources to each release. But I care about a fast release because I have an escalator clause in my contract that earns me a larger advance on my next book if this one earns out quickly enough. Now obviously an advance isn’t free money, and to keep meeting the escalator clauses I have to keep hitting higher and higher pre-order and release week numbers, but the numbers are very reasonable and the increases aren’t crazy, so it’s not out of the question for me to hit this escalator and pocket a few extra bucks on the next book in the series.
So there’s more than you wanted to know about produce, escalators and pre-orders. I warned you that it would be a lot of sausage-making.
Come see me at Dragon*Con next week!