Friday, September 27, 2013

You Cannot Always Blame The "Publisher" For Your Bad Sales

I received a query letter yesterday that really hit home, and I think, in my humble opinion, is the thought of a lot of writers out there in the publishing market today. Now, I do have to say two things before I proceed. First, this person is probably really out of the loop because what this author submitted isn't even close to what I represent. Secondly, I do understand that there are indeed authors out there (as well as situations) where the publisher really is to blame. But, in terms of this second one, I do believe you will find the numbers of those situations are relatively small compared to the number of authors who did find success.

Now, on with the query.

This author begins by telling me about his first book that he wrote and how much the publisher really screwed things up for him. You could really hear the frustration in his voice as he typed this letter. According to him, he submitted his book, which was only 38,000 words in length, and about his personal hobby, to XYZ Publisher (obviously I am not going to mention that) who happened to be a POD publisher (print on demand). According to him, this company "only sold two of his books."

Let's discuss a couple of things here.

First of all, the length of the story is closer to that of a novella, so the odds are this could have been a huge factor.

Secondly, I just did a search for the book and it is only available through that company's website. All of the major players showed no price for the book.

Third, and this is a big one, when I did go to the site, the book was for $14.95. This is for a book of only 140 pages in length. Wow!

When I tried to figure out what the book was about, the only thing that was printed there was A) A comment from some random person telling me the author had a realistic and perceptive dialogue" and has "created memorable characters who all figure prominently" in the story. This tells us nothing.

So, what is the real problem? This book is destined to fail from the beginning. We have an over-priced novella with zero marketing. I even tried to track down what he might have done to market the book and my searches for this book and his name only led me to the book sellers who said the product was never available through their site. In other words, if we cannot find the book, how are people to buy it?

In this case, the sales of the book are going to fall 100% on the shoulders of the author. The publisher has it listed in their database so they are taking care of their side of the bargain.

I think what we have to remember is that whether or not you are with a traditional publisher, an independent publisher, a POD publisher or a self-publisher, the author has a responsibility to help out with the marketing. When we move further away from the traditional publisher realm, the responsibility of the author increases significantly.

I think there is another issue here that also needs to be addressed. While there are a lot of authors out there in the self-publishing and POD market that have great products but need to use this forum because the book is unique, there are far too many other authors out there putting out products that are destined to fail from the start. This can be due to the fact that the writing is bad, the premise is weak, or their never would be a huge market from the start.

Now, let's take this a step further and talk about the money side of things. Obviously we have an over-priced book here and that is going to be a huge factor going against sales. But there is also another issue that just came up recently discussing e-book sales that also say a lot. The article noted that books for $1.99 essentially look cheap. $.99 books are nothing more than "promos" and that books in the $2.99-$5.99 sell the best. (Of course you want the link and now I can't seem to find it. If you happen to remember the link, post it here.). We know the price of a product is going to say a lot about a product and the sales.

Look, there will be times when a publisher does fall down on the job in terms of marketing. Books can be released too far apart so there is no name recognition. Mills and Boon have figured this out and now release authors' books in back to back months and sales are much better. Publishers might mismanage where the books show up. I know of one publisher who put out a catalog that was all alphabetical so historical authors might be wedged between self-help books. Not exactly helpful.

I also had an author that happened to be released the week all of the Borders Stores shut down. That was 50% of the sales.

But, authors cannot simply throw the blame on the publishers shoulders every time something goes wrong.

Just something to chew on for the weekend.



  1. Was this the link re pricing:

  2. Nope, that wasn't it. Thanks for this link though.

  3. Found the article!!