Monthly Archives: May 2014

Amazon is a Wolf Eating Its Own Cubs

The Association of Author’s Representatives, the organization that many top agents are members of to prove their professionalism and ethical approach, has sent a shot across Amazon’s bow.

Currently Amazon is delaying deliver of books by Hachette authors by as much as three weeks. The move is intended to force the publisher to accept terms Amazon wants for book prices. Amazon has used this tactic in the past.

Every time this happens, my first thought has been, What about the authors? They are the ones suffering as their books are withdrawn or delayed. Readers, too, suffer when they can’t receive the books they want easily or quickly. Here’s a comment I made on Publisher’s Weekly’s site about the issue:

When this battle first broke out, my immediate thought was, What about the authors? Amazon has used these tactics in the past against publishers but never has anyone in a place of authority inside publishing stood up for the authors and the readers who suffer. Finally, this time, authors, readers and publishers and their associates are standing up to say, Enough! They are engaging in unfair trade practices, and are acting like a monopoly. Shame on them, especially since a recent court case found other publishers guilty of price-fixing…because of their negotiations with Amazon. Amazon is important to authors and readers…which is why it should be ethical in its approach to business. This is just a wolf eating its own cubs.

Conference Info

The Wyoming Writers Conference takes place June 6-8 in Sheridan, WY. Agents who will attend include April Eberhardt of April Eberhardt Literary and Jessica Sinsheimer of Sarah Jane Freymann Literary.

Sell 3K Books, Hit the Bestseller Lists

Recently I had a client ask how many copies of a book she needed to sell to hit the bestseller list. And she wasn’t talking about Amazon or any other digital retailer’s lists…she meant the oldest and most prestigious lists like USA Today and the New York Times.

She was shocked when I told her the number could be as few as 3,000.

The time factor is important with lists. Selling 3,000 copies a year or even in a month won’t put you on any lists. But selling 3,000 in a day could…or even that number over a week. Let’s look at some hard figures.

Publisher’s Weekly presents the week’s top-selling books. March 31 of 2014, Divergent had sold 87,563 copies to land at #1. This is for the Top 10 Overall listing, not the individual category numbers. Number 10, not that far down the list, only sold 24,494.

Now look at the individual categories. For Mar 24 through Mar 30, number 10 on the hardcover fiction section sold 4,086 copies; number 25 sold 1,818. In paperback mass market, number 10 sold 9,770 and number 25 sold 5,059. Paperback trade’s number 10 sold 7,182 and number 25 sold 3,643.

Note that these numbers might represent only 80% of actual sales due to the flaws in the tracking system publishers use. Still, 3,000 is often the magic number. And since only 3,000 units separate the number 10 slot from the number 25 slot, it is magical in a different way…boost sales just by doubling, and still be in the bestseller slot with fewer than five figures in unit numbers.

Finally, remember this key fact: since the big bestseller lists frequently offer more than 10 slots (some have as many as 100), the chances of hitting the list at any slot increases further.

Excited yet? You should be! Contact Writer’s Resource to discover ways to manipulate the sales-over-time ratio that is so important to creating a bestseller.

What the Author Earns Per Book

On hardcovers, authors earn 30% of the publisher’s gross revenue. This equals 42.5% of the total margin, which is defined as the amount the author and publisher earn combined.

On ebooks, the author earns 25% of gross revenue. For now, most publishers are holding that number steady and will not negotiate higher percentages unless the author is very well-known or the author has a strong agent advocating for them.

This tells us two things. First, publishers are fairly compensating authors for hardcovers. Second, the debate over the fairness of the author’s share of digital revenue is valid. People should be asking why publishers are withholding a larger portion of the profits when the author is the creator of the content on which publishers make money.


Top Three Places to Sell Books

Books can be marketed through a number of channels. Right now, the top three places to sell books are:

Ecommerce, which moved 43.8% of the copies in 11 months of 2012. This was up nearly 9% from the previous year’s figures.

Large chains (bookstores), which claimed 18.7% of the market that same period, down 10% through all of 2011.

The general “all other channels” category moved 15.2%, up half a percent from the previous year.

Removing the general category from the mix, the single channel that came in third was mass merchants (Costco, Walmart, etc.) with 7.7% of the sales.