Monday, December 3, 2012

Do Sales Truly Demonstrate A Quality Book?

Publishing is a strange beast? The whole concept of appreciation of a novel is purely subjective. We talk about this all of the time and it is certainly something I frequently find myself writing in rejection letters - "While this did not work for me, it might certainly work for someone else." I think this is the one thing we can all agree on. And yet, when we start talking about "quality writing" we often turn our heads to a purely "objective" measurement tool - total sales. This leads to the question, "Do sales numbers truly tell us the book is a quality book?"

I honestly have to say no to this. When it comes to sales of a book, there are far too many factors that come into play. A book can be totally amazing and then tank it in sales. On the reverse side, a really bad book can suddenly soar to the top of the sales.

Let me talk about two potential books that I think demonstrate this example well:

Stephanie Stiles book from NAL - TAKE IT LIKE A MOM had great reviews and yet sales were less than what we wanted? Every person I talked to loved the book. Reviewers loved the book, but again, sales were simply not there. Now, we cannot simply place blame on the lack of sales on others, but we do have to consider many factors that "potentially" came into play.
  • The release date was during the summer but came out after the early "summer" reading hype happened. Could it be that people had already picked up the summer reads and were simply not looking? Potentially.
  • Her book came out the week Borders crashed. What did this mean? 50% of the potential sales outlets were now gone. Could this have had an impact on sales? Sure.
  • She did have a change of editor and publisher in the middle of all this. Could this have had an impact? Sure.
  • Could the great reviews been less than accurate? Sure.
In the end, we simply cannot place blame on any single factor. And yet, the low sales does end up having an effect on Stiles next book sales.

A second example would be Michele Young's NO REGRETS and THE LADY FLEES HER LORD with Source  Books. Both books also had amazing reviews and great feedback. Again, every sign pointed to a potential successful book. Add in also that Michele is an AMAZING (I can't say that any louder) promoter of her books. Sales simply weren't there.
  • Could it have been that readers struggled to find the books in the bookstores? Certainly.
  • Could it have been the marketing approach? Sure.
  • Could it be that the story was simply too unique and readers weren't ready for it? You bet.
The point is simple. Sales are not the end all, be all. Sales are simply one more factor that we have to look at when we check the quality of a book. Please, however, do not use sales to justify what you wanted all along. In other words:
  • My sales were low and my book was amazing so it is someone else's fault.
  • My sales were amazing and I made the NY Times Best Seller list so therefore the book is great.
In logic, making statements like this would be considered fallacies.

1 comment:

  1. This post made my eyes fly open:("Michele is an AMAZING (I can't say that any louder) promoter of her books.")

    Promotion. Of course. After writing the book and finally getting it published, one should promote it. Ok…and now my eyes have glazed over.

    How does one learn to promote one's books? Especially, if one suspects they are not a natural born salesman (or lady as the case may be)?

    I checked your blog topics list and found only one post that focuses on promotion -- 10/09/2009. Several other posts touched on the subject. But overall, I only found bits and pieces of information, maybe not the entire picture. (If I missed something, I apologize.)

    So, I have to ask. Will you ever write a blog or series on promotion: how to learn do it and the right stuff to do? Otherwise, can you recommend a good resource for this information?

    (Personally, at some point, I hope to be thinking seriously about this matter because it's come time to do it. But until then, I would like to be absorbing the same kind of valuable information that you give on how to dress and act professionally when proposing a book. Invaluable.)

    Again, your blog is a goldmine. Thank-you for sharing your knowledge expertise.