Archive for March, 2011

Book Publishing by the Numbers: 2010 Best Selling Books

March 27, 2011

   

And the winner is......

 

Publishers Weekly just released its list of the bestselling books for 2010. Here is the list of the top 10 Hardbacks in fiction and nonfiction along with sales estimates for the year. (Disclaimer. The sales are for the year 2010 for domestic sales of  hardback books only. E-book sales are not included. Nor are international sales.)

 

Fiction

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, Stieg Larsson, 1,900,000

The Confession, John Grisham, 1,360,000

The Help, Kathryn Stockett, 1,317,397

Safe Haven, Nicholas Sparks, 929,397

Dead or Alive, Tom Clancy, 921,358

Sizzling Sixteen, Janet Evanovich, 903,000

Cross Fire, James Patterson, 902,906

Freedom,  Jonathan Franzen, 761,701

Port Mortuary, Patricia Cornwell, 700,000

Full Dark, No Stars, Stephen King, 675,000

As usual, this list is very heavy on name brand commercial authors. ( If you are a literary snoot, one might even call some of these “franchises”. ) If you look at the 20 runner up titles, you will see that there are 5 more books by James Patterson and a co-author. This is sort of a dead giveaway that Patterson probably has little to do with the book other than providing his name as a marketing tool. Other authors who are perennial bestselling authors  on the 20 book runner-ups are: Janet Evanovich (who also has book #6 above), Vince Flynn, David Baldacci, Nora Roberts, Clive Cussler, Robert Jordan, and Lee Child.

Non-Fiction

Decision Points, George W. Bush, 2,653,565

Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure, Glenn Beck, 860,002

Women, Food and God: An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything,  Geneen Roth, 850,000

Life, Keith Richards, 811,596

America By Heart:  Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, Sarah Palin

The Daily Show Presents Earth, Jon Stewart, 782,871

Sh*t My Dad Says, Justin Halpern, 761,000

Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That?, Ina Garten, 722,608

Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama, Bill O’Reilly, 662,950

Chelsea, Chelsea Bang Bang, Chelsea Handler, 653,321

As usual, public figures (usually conservative) top the list. Last year the best selling non-fiction book was Sarah Palin’s selling 2,600,000 copies. Glenn Beck and Bill O’reilly seem to reliably make the top ten every year. They are offset, just barely, by Jon Stewart far back in the pack.

The Indie Publishing Option

March 23, 2011

Laurie McLean is a literary agent specializing in genre fiction and  middle-grade/young-adult children’s books. She has really become a guru on this subject and is the agent I always turn to when I need to know the ever-changing fads and fashions of fantasy, science fiction, supernatural fiction and young adult fiction. A few months ago we had a great interview with her about the subject on “Ask the Agent.”  If you want to know whether the vampire train left the station, ask Laurie. 

Laurie has been a literary agent for 6 years and works at the Larsen Pomada Agency in San Francisco.  She has a fantastic blog, Agent Savant,   which is a good place to start learning about genre fiction.

Laurie has started a new consulting business separate from her agency called Agent Savant Inc. She specializes in creating custom digital marketing plans for eBook authors, authors with significant back lists of titles who want to get their rights reverted and sell them as eBooks and POD books, and midlist authors who want to know how they can market their books more effectively online.

Today the publishing landscape is changing almost weekly. Commercial publishers are struggling to redefine themselves in the new digital marketplace. And new venues seem to be sprouting up almost daily that give writers alternatives to traditional publishing. Today I want to talk about what these transformations mean to writers. Both the challenges and the opportunities.

 Andy: First of all, Laurie, congratulations on your New York Times best seller. Tell us a little about it.

 Laurie: My client, Julie Kagawa, writes amazing young adult fantasy. Her Iron Fey YA series, with The Iron King, The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen out now and The Iron Knight coming out in the fall, has really resonated with today’s teens. She put her own spin on the traditional mythology of Oberon, Mab and the summer and winter fairy courts by adding a new dimension—The Iron Fey. They are cobbled together out of what kids truly believe is magic today: technology.  The Iron Queen is the book that landed Julie on the NYT bestseller list a mere year after her debut, and we just sold three more books in this series plus three more in a new post-apocalyptic series.

 Andy: It seems to me that there is an awful lot of good writing being done today and most of it is having a hard time getting published in traditional channels. That’s true isn’t it?

Laurie: That’s one of the reasons I am so bullish on digital publishing and eBook publishing. A writer commented during a writers conference workshop I was giving several years ago that the worst part of my job must be reading so much bad writing, and I replied, “No. The worst part of my job is reading good or very good writing and knowing that I was going to have to reject it because it either wasn’t marketable at that point in time or because it wasn’t perfect.”  The bar has been placed so high for writers,  it’s made it nearly impossible for even the strong writers to break in. You must be good at every facet of writing and marketing and know the publishing business inside and out to even have a chance at the brass ring. But now opportunities have opened up with eBook and POD (print on demand) indie or self publishing, and the successes of some of the early adopters have destroyed that notion of who is a published author and how you can make a living as a writer. You can publish your book on Kindle Direct Publishing,  Smashwords,  or Barnes and Noble PubIt! sites and, voila, you are now a published author. Does that mean you don’t have to put in the hard work of always improving your craft and marketing your books? Hell, no. Cream will always rise to the top. You still have to learn and grow and pay attention and be diligent.

Andy: I know this changes every week, but can you go over the kinds of options available if you can write great books and still can’t find a publisher?  Tell us the pros and cons of each.  (POD, ebooks, smashwords, etc.)

Laurie: Boy, I could blog about this for weeks on end, Andy. So instead I will challenge your readers to discover how easy it is to post an eBook themselves. And I’m not doing this to be mean. Part of do-it-yourself publishing means you have to roll up your sleeves and actually do it! No agents or editors or cover designers or sales force will be there to hold your hand and make it happen. Give one more polishing edit to that  work in progress –or to an old manuscript, novella, short story or article that has been sitting in a digital drawer on your computer–and at the very least go to Kindle Direct Publishing  and then Smashwords  and see how simple and straightforward it is to take your MS Word document, cobble together a cover from clip art or the like,  and publish that book. Oh, and did I forget to mention that  IT IS FREE TO DO THIS? Well, it is. Price your book anywhere you like it or give it away for free to generate some buzz. Then dive into social media (Twitter, blogging, Facebook, etc.) to let the world know you’re out there. If readers request a print copy of your book, go to Lulu.com, CreateSpace, Author Solutions or directly to a printer and make POD available. Some options will give you a number of books in return for a price and then you keep 100% of the sales dollars, like in the old days of vanity publishing, but newer options like Lulu cost you nothing up front and you collect a small royalty on each book you sell and they ship.

 Andy: So it is pretty cheap and easy to get your book published either in print on paper or in e-book format. But the real challenge is how do you get the word out. Can you give some advice to the reader on marketing your books?

Laurie: Here’s a link to my blog post  that presents a digital marketing plan writers can use as a starting point. I spent 20+ years in high tech marketing and publicity before I became an agent, so this has a lot of knowledge behind it.

Andy: Internet gurus used to use the term “disintermediation” to describe the new world of Internet commerce. What they meant was that the Internet would eliminate the middleman and allow consumers to buy direct from the producers at a reduced cost. It hasn’t exactly come out that way. In our business Amazon.com is a classic middleman. A typical retailer, really. But with the explosion of self-publishing, disintermediation seems to be a real possibility, no?

Laurie: That’s the billion-dollar question, Andy. How will this incredibly disruptive technology change the publishing industry? No one knows the answer, even though many offer their guesses daily. My informed opinion is that indie publishing will progress along the same lines as indie movies and indie music. You’ll have some overnight indie sensations that either thrive (for example American Idol megastars Carrie Underwood or Jennifer Hudson) or fizzle (can anyone remember AI runner ups?). For every  self published Amanda Hocking superstar (and if you don’t know who she is, please find out), you will have hundreds of eBook authors making a decent wage and doing what they love without the baggage of being a household name. Yet, like Carrie Underwood, 26-year-old Minnesotan Amanda Hocking now has an agent who is about to sell her next series to a traditional publisher for seven figures.

Andy: Laurie, if Amanda Hocking is doing so well self publishing, why on earth should she bother to sign a contract with a commercial publisher. I bet she is getting better royalties on her own.

 

Laurie: Why? Because Amanda would rather spend her days writing than tweeting, giving media interviews, working with cover artists and editors, and negotiating with foreign publishers. There is so much work that must be attended to if you want to become successful in publishing—whether indie or traditional. And so when fame finds them, I predict indie authors will eventually straddle the line. They may continue to self-publish work that the traditional publishers don’t think will sell (short fiction, non-fiction, blogged books of advice, experimental writing, co-authored work, etc.), but their bread and butter mainstream books will come out in digital and print from established multi-national conglomerates. That’s why this chaotic stew is driving publishers insane. It’s impossible to predict the outcome of any decision. Everyone’s experimenting from authors to agents to publishers. I think your concept of  “disintermediation” is really a fancy word for do-it-yourself. And some DIY projects look homemade, while others look crafted. It all depends on skill level and attention to detail.

Andy: Other than Amanda Hocking, are people really making money doing this kind of self-publishing?

Laurie: Some are, some are not.  Self-publishing juggernaut Author Solutions estimated that the average number of books sold by their customers last year was 150. That’s not a lot. It’s not going to make you rich. But one of my new clients, Kait Nolan, sold 1,000 copies of an e-novella herself in January at 99 cents each. And she’s sold more copies of her three short stories in the first three months of 2011 than she did in all of 2010. So her momentum is growing to the point where I found her because of her awesome social media presence last month and offered her representation before she had even written one query letter to an agent or editor! The point is that some indie authors who really work at it are making money. Some are not. Which one will you be?

Andy: You have set up a separate business recently to help people navigate the new landscape. Can you describe what you do?

Laurie: Anyone interested in Agent Savant Inc. should  check it out. For a flat fee I help authors discover their unique author brand; I help them publish their writing online as an eBook; and then I create a customized digital marketing plan to help them sell their eBooks and POD books more effectively. I don’t do the work for them. I create the plan and get them started. Sometimes all it takes is a push with some direction behind it to take off.

Andy: Thanks, Laurie. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have to go make a phone call to Amanda Hocking to see if she needs a new agent. I think I’ll tell her that I can get her an 8 figure deal!

E-book Wars, Episode 10: Revenge of the Killer Librarians

March 4, 2011

Your local librarian

Book publishers, take cover. The librarians are at the gate. The issue is, like almost everything else in publishing right now, e-books.

 If you go to your library website, chances are that you will see that it has a new program where you can check out e-books. Cool! Right? Hey, I’ve done it.  It’s free. All you have to do is select the book you want, hit the button, download the book, and voila!

 And you  can avoid the usual inconveniences that detract from the library experience. You  don’t have to go into one of those shabby old buildings , filled up with shabby old people,  and try to find one of those shabby old books. (Who knows what person may have been picking his nose while reading it last?) Furthermore the library rarely has a copy of the book you really want anyway, right?  Sure, if you are looking for  The Muncie Indiana Junior League Cookbook of 1954, you are likely to find one – or more than one. Maybe an old broken spine volume of Funk and Wagnall’s Desk Encyclopedia.  But if you are looking for  Freedom by Jonathan Franzen,  get  in line. You’re number 205 on the waiting list. And when you lose the book,  or maybe your kid cuts it up and makes paper airplanes out of it,  or when you just  bring it back late (which you almost always do), ka-ching!

The new e-book checkout program gets around all that. You do it all  from your home or maybe from the beach in Hawaii with your slick new  iPad2 with 3G .  Hit the button. Read the book. And  if you forget about it, the book automatically gets checked back in after 14 days. No muss, no fuss. No lost books.  No late fees.

 I went to the e-book check out site for the Oakland Library.  It wasn’t perfect. It is, after all, still a library. There were some of the usual library annoyances. The selection wasn’t great and half the titles available were in Chinese. And the books I really wanted were all on hold. But the list is growing, and it’s going to be pretty nifty.

Publishers have been concerned about this and with good reason. These  new library e-book lending  programs, which are all managed by a wholesaler called “Overdrive“,  are so easy that it really is the same experience  as buying one from a bookseller.  It’s just like going to Amazon.com – except no charge.

This week, HarperCollins decided to put the brakes on this. They implemented a new policy where instead of just selling the library  an e-book like they do to bookstores, they will only sell libraries a license to download the book 26 times. That is the estimated number of times that an ink-on-paper  book would be checked out in a year. After that, the library would have to buy another copy. Harper would also impose rules that the libraries could only provide this service to members located in the communities they serve.

The librarians are pissed. They and their knuckle dragging goons are already planning  to punish HarperCollins. They’ve even launched a boycott.  Check out the website. Josh Marwell, Harper’s president for sales pointed out that with the millions of e-reading devices expected to be purchased by consumers in the coming year, HarperCollins decided that the terms of sale of e-books to libraries “if left unchanged, would undermine the emerging e-book ecosystem, hurt the growing e-book channel, place additional pressure on physical bookstores, and in the end lead to a decrease in book sales and royalties paid to authors.”

Look, I don’t want to say anything bad about libraries. Just like I don’t want to say anything bad about puppy shelters.  But dammit!  I’m tired of all these people who think that authors shouldn’t get paid for their work. “Ask the Agent” has previously written about the noxious idea that “information wants to be free.” It is a view espoused in books by Internet gurus who get paid quite well for promoting this idea.

The United Kingdom has a curious notion that authors should – well — get paid. In 1979 parliament passed the Public Lending Rights Act   that mandated that authors receive a royalty every time their book is checked out of a public library.  The royalty  amount is 12 cents per check out with a yearly maximum of  about $10,000 US. Other countries that offer some form of compensation to writers for library check outs are: Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Canada, Australia, and Denmark. Civilized societies who honor intellectual labor. And what countries do not pay royalties for library check outs? Libya, Yemen, North Korea, and The United States of America.

Librarians, listen up! It is written. “He who troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind.”


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