Friday, May 28, 2010

Rankingly Obsessed

Amazon has sold more than 7.5 million unique titles at this point, and rankings indicate a title must sell at least one copy a year to remain above a rank of two million - Morris Rosenthal, Foner Books 
Getting your book published is a exciting, awesome journey, but once it hits the shelves, you might think that writers relax and wait for the royalty checks to arrive in the mail... alas, it's not true. I'd say the majority of the writers I know start obsessing (at least a little) about sales. The first place they look is at their Amazon sales rankings. Your Amazon sales rank is a number that says how many other titles sold more than your book. The smaller the number, the better the sales. The number is re-computed daily (for obsessors who need to know)
 For example, a major publisher tracked 25 titles over a six month period, correlating the weekly Amazon sales rank with actual reported sales from Amazon. Here is what they found correlating Amazon Sales Rank with real sales:

Amazon Actual
Sale Rank              Books Sold per week
---------------------     -------------------------------
75-100                  250-275/wk
100-200                225-249/wk
200-300                150-200/wk
450-750                75-100/wk
750-3,000             40-75/wk
3,000-9,000          15-20/wk
10,000+                1-5/wk

Source: Rampant Techpress
There are fluctuations in Amazon sales rank when the book is first released - When the initial backorder is filled, the sales rank plummets (sometimes below 1,000) for a brief period. Thee there may be a large drops in rank when there is a bulk order. Not all books are treated equally -- the top 1,000 are recalculated hourly, the next chunk (up to 100,000 (estimated)) weekly, while the rest, monthly. 
Also available to obsessed writers are helpful Internet sites which track you sales for you, like NovelRank uses Amazon sales data, and is a free website for authors to track their Amazon Sales Rank on, (United Kingdom), (Canada), (France), (Germany), and (Japan).
So, feel free to go forth and obsess, but not too much!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Glimmer of Hope for Indies

March retail sales at bookstores were up by 1.6 percent, compared with March 2009, according to preliminary figures recently released by the Bureau of the Census - American Booksellers Association
Oren Teicher, chief executive of the American Booksellers Association (ABA), which represents independent stores, reported some good news the other day - membership is up from last years 1,401 to 1,410! But sadly, that is still it low from nearly 3,000 at the height of Independent Book Store ownership.
Independent stores have been struggling with the onslaught of change in the industry:

  1. The spread of superstore chains, like Barnes & Nobles and Borders.
  2. The emergence of and other online retailers.
  3. The rise of the e-book platform, with many versions entering - Kindle, Nook, iPad etc. e-books now account for nearly 8% of sales for some major publishers.
Teicher credits last year’s turnaround mostly to the smarts of the independent community and a willingness to experiment, such as the literary day camp at BookPeople in Austin, Texas, or the clothing store in the Northshire Bookstore in Vermont. ABA president Michael Tucker, co-owner of Books Inc. in San Francisco, says the economy may have helped some stores, making it less costly to find retail space in downtown locations.

As the industry continues to face upheaval, fingers crossed that the Indies keep marching on.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Revisionist Social Studies

Texas is the country's second-largest textbook buyer, behind California, which has more than 6.2 million public school students in grades K-12.
I love Texas, don't get me wrong -- especially the BBQ. But ever since I heard that the Texas Board of Education approved a revised social studies curriculum to include adding language saying the country's Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles and a new section on "the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s," I got a little frightened. The revisions also include positive references to the Moral Majority, the National Rifle Association and the Contract with America, the congressional GOP manifesto from the 1990s.
Critics say if the changes are incorporated into textbooks, they will be historically inaccurate and dismissive of the contributions of minorities. The Texas recommendations face a final vote by the Republican-dominated board on May 21. The amendments to the state's curriculum standards also minimize Thomas Jefferson's role in world and U.S. history because he advocated the separation of church and state, and require that students learn about "the unintended consequences" of affirmative action and Title IX, the landmark federal law that bans gender discrimination in education programs and activities. 
 California may soon take a stand against proposed changes to social studies textbook sas a way to prevent them from being incorporated in California texts. Legislation by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, seeks to protect the nation's largest public school population. "While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes," Yee said (Amen)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lots of Launches

The following fellow 2K10 authors have launched their debut novels! 

Janet Fox's debut novel, FAITHFUL, released from Puffin last week. FAITHFUL, the story of 16-year old Maggie Bennet, is a tale of romance and mystery set in 1904 in spectacular Yellowstone National Park. 

Jeri Smith-Ready also launched with SHADE - In Shade, Aura Salvatore is a 16 year-old girl on a quest to uncover why everyone her age and younger can see ghosts, while coping with her boyfriend's own death and ghosthood.   

Tom Leveen's debut novel, PARTY, released April 29th from Random House. In PARTY, dovetailing perspectives unite 11 wildly different students at a graduation party in Santa Barbara in ways they never expected. 

THREE RIVERS RISING, a young-adult verse novel that combines tragedy, romance, and hope in Jame Richard's debut. Imagine a city under water—not Atlantis—but somewhere in the middle of the very real continental U.S., more than a hundred years before Hurricane Katrina. That city was Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and the year was 1889.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Research Ready

Book publishing -- The term publishing means, in the broadest sense, making something publicly known. Usually it refers to the issuing of printed materials, such as books, magazines, periodicals, and the like. There is, however, great latitude of meaning, because publishing has never emerged, and cannot emerge, as a profession completely separate from printing on the one hand and the retailing of printed matter on the other - Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
At my day job I do a lot of research into different markets and industries in order to understand a product or technology I'm reviewing. I need to establish where the product fits into the marketplace, what its competitors are and who's talking about it. I ran across this report, BOOK PUBLISHERS, by Research and Markets and I had to share since it addresses the publishing industry. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, as a writer you can't just "write" anymore -- you need to be the CEO of your writing career and know how the publishing industry works -- marketing, PR and even finances (ugh your taxes). You need to know where you fit into the publishing industry so that you can sell yourself and your book. 

The US book publishing industry consists of about 2,600 companies with combined annual revenue of about $27 billion. Major companies include John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Scholastic, as well as publishing units of large media companies such as HarperCollins (owned by News Corp); Random House (owned by Bertelsmann); and Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS). The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies generate about 80 percent of revenue.

Demand for books is driven by demographics and is largely resistant to economic cycles. The profitability of individual companies depends on product development and marketing. Large publishers have an advantage in bidding for new manuscripts or authors. Small and midsized publishers can succeed if they focus on a specific subject or market.

Publishers produce books for general reading (adult "trade" books); text, professional, technical, children's, and reference books. Trade books account for 25 percent of the market, textbooks 25 percent, and professional books 20 percent.

About 150,000 new books are published in the US every year; however, most are low-volume products. The number of books produced by major trade publishers and university presses is closer to 40,000.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Agently Advice

My money goes to my agent, then to my accountant and from him to the tax man - Glenda Jackson

Over the past few years dozens of agents have put out their Blog shingle and have shared valuable insights with aspiring authors. They've discussed topics such as how to write that killer query letter, tips on writing, insights into publisher contracts, foreign right sales and trends in the industry. I've learned a great deal and their advice helped has me improve as a writer and eventually land an agent. Recently, Writers Digest announced The Best Agent Blogs of 2010 (one of which I'm proud to say represents me) 

1. Chip MacGregor   
2. Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
3. KidLit
4. Nathan Bransford
5. Rachelle Gardner  

I'd have to add the following as well:  
1. The Greenhouse Literary Agency Blog 
2. Pubrants 
3. Jennifer represents....

You can find all of them on my blog, under "Agently Advice"

Sunday, May 2, 2010


If we're growing, we're always going to be out of our comfort zone - John Maxwell

Well, back in December I'd had a series of posts on Kirkus, the venerable American book-review journal, and how it may be going under. First I mentioned its demise, then a possible resurrection, and then its saving from the chopping block. My agent also spoke about the situation on his blog post - "Farewell Dear Kirkus" - how his emotions were mixed on the journal's sad end. I think he said it well "I don’t think any other publication can make an author cry the same way that Kirkus did."  I myself remarked that I was sad that I wouldn't be going through the fiery initiation of a Kirkus review, then bit my tongue :). Well, I got my wish, the review is in, and I breath a huge sigh of relief!

"Debut novelist Senzai crafts a wrenching tale, based on her husband’s Soviet-era experience, putting a human face on the war in Afghanistan... it’s an ambitious story with much to offer: a likable protagonist in Fadi, an original and engaging plot and a lens through which readers will learn much about the current conflict."