Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Friday, October 10, 2014

What it Takes for a Book to Become a Bestseller

Jerry D. Simmons, Guest Author

The term “bestseller” is synonymous with a book being selected for a position on a list, in a recognized print medium, anywhere in the country. The designation of a book being a “national bestseller” is synonymous with a book being selected for a position on a list of the best selling books in a particular print medium that has national distribution. The selection of a book for a best-selling list does not mean that title has sold a certain number of copies; it only means that the book was selected for a position on that print medium’s list of the best selling books in that market.

When you see the word “bestseller” printed somewhere on the cover, or more commonly the words “national bestseller,” it gives the prospective reader the feeling that the book has sold a lot of copies. Which means it must have been read by a lot of people. The flap or jacket copy makes the story sound interesting and the publisher is comparing this book to (any mega-best-selling title). All misleading and part of the company’s marketing effort used as a way of selling you that book.

BestsellerIf that were your book and you had written a novel, for example, that was being compared to the latest #1 national bestseller, you would be ecstatic! Place the shoe on the other foot, you are now the consumer, you buy a hardcover for a bit less than $30, you get home and soon discover it reads nothing like the particular book it was compared to. You are probably upset, especially if the book was not a good read and certainly not worth the price you paid.

Since publishers are keenly aware that they are not considered a brand in the minds of the consumer, that their author is the brand, they assume that readers will not retaliate against them, if at all, but against the author of the over priced, non-comparable book that was purchased for slightly less than $30. So whom can you trust? All publishers are guilty of the same over-aggressive marketing, aimed at readers who buy books. The truth is, few if any of the books labeled as “bestsellers” are truly best selling books.

Why is almost every new book published labeled a bestseller? It goes back to the fact that the industry today is focused on selling as many copies as possible to as many unsuspecting readers as they can. They stretch the truth as far as reasonably possible without violating standards. If a book is selected as one of the best selling titles by the local newspaper in Anywhere, USA and is placed on a printed list that appears in the paper, then it can be called a “bestseller.”

The “national bestseller” is a bit more of a stretch, but, for example, if a newspaper selects a title anywhere on a list of best selling books and is placed on a printed list that appears in that paper, and the newspaper just happens to have distribution or even less, subscribers in far reaches of the country, then the title can be called a “national bestseller.” There was a time many years ago when the term was used only with books on the New York Times or USA Today list, but that line was erased long ago and that’s why today there are so many books that are bestsellers.

The obvious conclusion here is that almost any book can be called a bestseller. If the author’s local hometown newspaper hears from the only bookstore in town that the new book is selling “pretty good,” and the paper puts that in print, even though it is not positioned on what could be described as a bestseller list, then the publisher can call the book a “bestseller.” If challenged, all the publisher has to do is produce a copy of the newspaper where the title is listed. Of course who’s going to make such a challenge? Certainly not another publisher since they are all guilty of the same tactics.

In this example, the local bookstore may have only received four or five copies and could have sold as few as two or three, or none for that matter. The fact is that the book was listed or described in a recognized print medium as selling “pretty good.” Translation: the book is a bestseller. Of course you can’t just start your own newsletter and suddenly call your book a bestseller. It has to be an objective source, but the size of the source is not in question. The hometown newspaper may only have a distribution of a few hundred, as long as it is recognizable and objective.

As for the major national bestseller lists, that is a completely different story, to an extent. The major chain bookstores and discount retailers all have exact numbers of copies of books sold and paid for through their cash registers. They can provide any publisher with information on how many copies that publisher’s titles sold the previous week by title, format, price, in what region of the country, and in which individual store location. However, these numbers are not always shared with the most recognizable national bestseller lists.

The USA Today has become a leading national newspaper and they describe their bestseller list as a compilation of sales from a variety of sources. They are secretive about their sources, but you can imagine it’s practically the same as their competitor, which happens to reside in the heart of the publishing world. This newspaper will seldom follow any other national lists in position or duration of titles on their list.

The one list that everyone in the industry follows closely is, of course, The New York Times. Here is where the publishers have learned how to influence as many of the best-selling decisions as possible. The Times also uses a variety of sources to make decisions on what books should be listed on their weekly bestseller list. These sources are chosen from independent booksellers, chain bookstores in selected cities, and as they call them, “other credible booksellers,” to make selections.

Having been directly involved with some of the largest retailers in the country for over twenty years, I can tell you that the Times, as late as the Fall of 2002, rarely used the single largest retailer in this country as a source for their weekly bestseller lists. Every publisher in New York City knows which sources or bookstores the Times uses and which carry the biggest weight in helping the Times make bestseller decisions.

Armed with this information, which is rotated periodically, every marketing department makes absolutely certain that every source is amply supplied with the latest and best of everything about the titles for which they strongly lobby. If you are one of the sources, you would assume the publisher is sending the same material to every single bookseller, but of course they would be wrong. Publishers pay particularly close attention to the source the Times uses for their bestseller list.

So every week the reporters for the book review call the sources and ask for a list of titles that have been selling the most copies. Would it surprise you to know that some of these sources do not use computers? Well, don’t be shocked, but there are book retailers around the country who still count inventory by hand and thus they do not have actual unit sales to share. Let me be clear, as late as the Fall of 2002 this was the case. Things may have changed, but it’s doubtful.

The reporters then combine the lists, sit down around a big table in their conference room and make decisions based on the all the information from their sources. Whether they actually try to make tabulations based on actual unit sales is still unclear, but their lists are definitely distinctive and are often questioned for their validity compared to the lists of actual unit sales the publishers accumulate on a weekly basis.

There is no threshold of a certain number of copies a book must sell to be a bestseller, there never has been and I doubt there ever will be. Until all booksellers are able to supply similar information on actual unit sales, there is no reason for the Times to change the way they make selections. Besides, there are publishers who will always be opposed to an actual unit sales mechanism for selecting bestsellers. Such a selection process would take away their ability to use any and all influence to impact the selections of the Times.

Hopefully this description of how bestsellers are determined has not disappointed you. This is the business, and when your book is published, you now have the ammunition to make certain it too becomes a bestseller.

JerrySimmonsCopyright © 2014 – Jerry D. Simmons. Jerry D. Simmons spent more than twenty years as an executive with The Time Warner Book Group in New York. He is the author of “INSIDE The Business of Publishing: What Writers Need to Know” and the creator of www.WritersReaders.com, where information essential to writers and their careers is available, FREE.

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Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com and CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com

NOTE: All articles and “LoveNotes” listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/larry.james
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why Care About the Business of Publishing?

Filed under: Author Tips,Self-Publishing — Larry James @ 8:30 am
Tags: , , ,

Jerry D. Simmons, Guest Author

Part 1 of 2

Writing is difficult. After spending enormous amounts of time perfecting your craft, do you really want to know that there is another important part to becoming a published author? The answer is an unequivocal, YES! If your goal is to become a published author then here are some serious questions that you need to consider.

WHYpublishingWhy should you care about the business of publishing? The simple answer is that you want a career as a writer. Your dream is to become the next Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling. Of course, at this point you’re not sure why knowing the business is relevant to your new superstar status, but after you’ve read both parts of this article you should begin to understand why you need to care about and understand the basics of the business of publishing and how it relates to your career as a writer.

There was a son of a famous politician that was published too much fanfare. He knew little about the business and even less about what goes on behind the scenes. After all, he had a famous last name. His career as an author went south fast. Why? He didn’t understand the business and his name and writing could only carry him so far. If he’d taken the time to learn the basics of the business, his name and writing could have carried him much farther and he might even have made a career out of writing.

What are your goals as a writer? This is not a philosophical question, but one that deserves an answer. As with most writers, your goal should be to get your work published, whether it’s with a major trade publisher, small publisher or you decide to self publish. You want your book to have a chance of getting placement in all the major bookstores and a shot at making some bestseller lists around the country, not to mention being an Oprah pick of the month or having your face on the cover of PEOPLE magazine.

There is a wonderful lady who lives in Iowa that has been a published author for over thirty years. During each publication of her books, she took the time to communicate to her sales representatives, thanking them for their work and how much she appreciated their support. Her sales were only so-so, but the company had faith she would eventually find her readership. Instead of giving up on her, the sales group rallied and did everything they could to help her sales. Eventually, after more than twenty-five years, she became successful and the financial reward she had always hoped for came to be. She reached her goal.

Are you doing everything you can to improve your chances of being a published author? If you’re a member of a writer’s critique group or writer’s group, that’s an excellent start. If you’ve attended or plan to attend in the near future a writing class or writing seminar at a local community college or university, that would be highly recommended. If you don’t read books by authors in the genre you’re writing or plan to write in, you should start. If you don’t regularly visit a local bookstore and pay attention to the market and what is happening, you should begin as soon as possible.

You need the support of other writers. Authors that I have toured with appreciate the feedback they receive from other writers. This is, of course, a very select fraternity of established and recognizable authors that critique and support each other. The same is true for you as a writer with the goal of getting your manuscript published. Seek the support and critique of your colleagues.

What do you need to know to be successful as a published author? Not only do you need to know how to write, but you must also understand what is happening in the publishing industry, especially behind the scenes of the major trade publishers. Until now, that information wasn’t readily or easily available. However, with the launch of my Website, www.WritersReaders.com, not only can the information be accessed easily, it’s FREE. For a broader coverage of the business of publishing, let me suggest that you read my book. However, the basic information is FREE.

How should you allocate your time to become a successfully published author? Obviously you need to write, and write, and write some more. The best way to improve your writing is to write, so you must spend a large chunk of your available time writing. If you attend critique or group meetings where you can have a support system that would be time well spent. Classes, workshops and seminars on writing are also a good investment in time. A portion of your time should be spent visiting bookstores, reading books written by your competition, and most importantly, visiting my web site to get the inside information on the business of publishing.

Are you doing everything you need to do to put yourself in a position to make writing your career? If you’re doing everything that I’ve written about up to this point, then you’re doing as much as can be expected. If you avoid visiting bookstores, reading books written by your competition, or don’t take the time to read articles about the business, then you’re not doing everything you need to do. A basic understanding of the business of publishing is essential to your career as a writer and successful author.

Writers and authors need to become some of the most marketing savvy people in the business. They should read anything and everything in their own category including what’s on the current bestseller lists. They need to be voracious readers and keen observes of the marketplace and their category.

If someone told you that you are doing all the right things to eventually get a book published but your career may only be good for one book, would you still be interested in a career as a writer? No one wants to be a one-book author. Why would you spend the time and energy, not to mention money, to have only one book published? Spending all your time perfecting your writing skills and not spending a portion of that time learning the basics of the business of publishing is tantamount to being a one-book author.

So what’s the fun of learning the basics of the business of publishing? The fun of writing and challenge of becoming a published author could end abruptly if you make a bad decision or relinquish your decision making to the publisher. That is why in order for all your hard work to pay off handsomely, you need to learn what’s happening to your book from the day you sign the contract to the day it goes on sales.

If your goal were to someday get your book published, why would you even consider signing a contract with a publisher without understanding what they do, why they do it, and how they do it? The only conceivable answer is that you, as a writer, consider the publishers to be the experts. Of course that is correct, they do have the expertise, but they don’t have the time or resources to devote to your individual book. That’s why the more you understand about the business the better chance you have of making writing a career, avoiding the one-book syndrome, and eventually making your publisher your partner in the publication process of your book.

Read “Part Two” of this article ~ click here!

JerrySimmonsCopyright © 2014 – Jerry D. Simmons. Jerry D. Simmons spent more than twenty years as an executive with The Time Warner Book Group in New York. He is the author of “INSIDE The Business of Publishing: What Writers Need to Know” and the creator of www.WritersReaders.com, where information essential to writers and their careers is available, FREE.

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Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com and CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com

NOTE: All articles and “LoveNotes” listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/larry.james
Follow Larry’s “once daily” Relationship Tweet at: http://www.Twitter.com/larryjames
Follow Larry’s “Relationships” BLOG at: http://CelebrateLove.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Networking” BLOG at: http://NetworkingHQ.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Weddings” BLOG at: http://CelebrateIntimateWeddings.wordpress.com
Visit Larry James on LinkedIn

Monday, February 28, 2011

What is the Percentage of Sale for YOUR Book?

Filed under: Author Tips,Book Sales,Guest Author Articles — Larry James @ 7:00 am
Tags:

SimmonsBookJerry D. Simmons, Guest Author

Many authors think that having a large print order for their published book is important, this in effect hopefully means a lot of copies are getting placed into retail bookstores. When it fact the number of copies being shipped in total is not as important as the sell-through or percent of sale for that book. Every book has a guaranteed sale to the bookseller. When a company orders copies from a publisher directly or through a distributor those copies are guaranteed to sell. Otherwise the unsold copies can be returned to the publisher for full price.

For example, if a bookseller receives an order for 1000 copies from the publisher or distributor and is only able to sell 600 copies to consumers, the 400 remaining copies are called “returns.” In this case the author’s sell-through would be 60 percent. If 300 copies were returned the sell-through would be 70 percent. Sell-through, also referred to as percent of sale, is the key to a successful career as a writer. The higher the sell-through, the more likely any writer will have a bright future as an author.

For published authors it should never be about the total copies out in the market rather the placement of those copies and their potential to sell is the key. Higher sell through or percent of sale is preferred over the number of net copies sold. The higher for both the better, be smart about the business and you have a better chance of continuing as a publisher author.

jerrysimmonsCopyright © 2011 – Jerry D. Simmons. Jerry D. Simmons is a 33-year veteran of publishing, 25 with Random House and the former Time Warner Book Group. He directed a sales division that generated hundreds of millions of dollars in book sales across the United States and Canada. Over the years he has worked on thousands of New York Times bestselling titles and hundreds of New York Times bestselling authors including: James Patterson, David Baldacci, Sandra Brown, Nicholas Sparks, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connelly. His own book, “WHAT WRITERS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PUBLISHING” is described by the #1 New York Times Bestselling author Sandra Brown as “The good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of book publishing, told in a straight-from-the hip manner. New writers take note.” Today Jerry speaks around the country and his articles have appeared in Writers Digest and numerous publications. He spends his time writing and speaking with writers about the importance of understanding the marketplace and educating them about the business of publishing while sharing the secrets of the largest booksellers and publishers in the world. Visit Jerry’s Website: www.WritersReaders.com and BLOG: http://www.WritersReaders.com/category/blog/.

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Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com and CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com

NOTE: All articles and “LoveNotes” listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/larry.james
Follow Larry’s “once daily” Relationship Tweet at: http://www.Twitter.com/larryjames
Follow Larry’s “Relationships” BLOG at: http://CelebrateLove.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Networking” BLOG at: http://NetworkingHQ.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Weddings” BLOG at: http://CelebrateIntimateWeddings.wordpress.com

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