The Misery of Being Published....

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selfridge
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The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 4:16 pm

My first book, a work of non-fiction, was published in in Sept. It was published in hardcover in both the US and the UK. The book was bought at 4-way auction by a large UK publishing house. The deal they put on the table included US rights going to their American branch.

The UK publisher have had a big enthusiasm for the book from the start and their publicity department has really pushed it and it's gotten an enormous amount of press coverage.

The US office have never seemed interested in the book. They did what I would guess is the bare minimum of marketing in that they sent ARCs to the major publications. I got great reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly and also in national press including Entertainment Weekly, People Mag and USA Today.

Last week I was told that my book has "only" sold 3500 copies in hardcover so far in the US. The hardcover print-run was 4500 copies which means they are left with 1000 unsold hardcovers. Apparently that is a big failure and a big disappointment. Therefore the US publisher has now dropped plans to publish a paperback edition of my book as they think very few bookstores would be interested in stocking it.

I feel disappointed. I also feel hurt by my US publisher's indifferent attitude towards the book. Presumably there is no point now finishing the second book I have been writing?

Is this a fairly typical publishing experience?

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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by Fenris » December 2nd, 2010, 4:35 pm

Well, I'm afraid I can't answer the larger question as I've never been published.

However, maybe it was a localization problem. It seems there would be less of that in nonfiction, but maybe the subject matter impacted those in the UK more than they did in the US, hence lesser sales in America. It's hard to tell without knowing what it was about, though. I'm sorry for your misfortune--I hope things start looking up.

As for continuing to write, yes you should. Never stop trying, and never give up hope. Even if your this one didn't make it in the US, that doesn't mean your next one won't. Plus, what about all that success in the UK? That's definitely a positive, right?

You can't please everyone, and trying won't get you anywhere. So don't worry about it! Keep your chin up.
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selfridge
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 4:42 pm

Thanks for your kind reply Fenris!

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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by steve » December 2nd, 2010, 4:53 pm

You're whining about being published?

Really?

What's the name of your book? I'll read it and let you know if it's any good.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by polymath » December 2nd, 2010, 4:56 pm

How well is the title performing in the U.K.? A big advertising push doesn't guarantee sales anywhere.

I concur with Fenris, topically, thematically it might not fit U.S. niche tastes as they are at this snapshot in time. Lackluster U.S. advertising could reflect that uncertainty. A 5,000 copy print run further suggests that possibility. On top of that, U.S. book advertising channels are unique to the U.S. What works in Britain doesn't always work the same across the pond. Different cultures, similar languages. The listing given of U.S. advertising venues is pretty standard for unknown authors, and far more than most first time published domestic authors garner.

In one sense, yes, it is a typical publishing experience. In another, no, the title went international. That's one significant step above solely and typical domestic publication.

3,500 copy U.S. sales is nearly twice the domestic average first time published author average. Not a disappointment, but an introduction, albeit lackluster. And 3,500 sales out of 5,000 is 70 percent, about average for a domestic title's sales/unsold-returns ratio.

If the title does well domestically in the U.K., future potentials elsewhere aren't forever unlikely. A more broadly appealing second title could reinvigorate interest in the previous one.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 5:13 pm

Thank you very much for your reply Polymath
polymath wrote:How well is the title performing in the U.K.? A big advertising push doesn't guarantee sales anywhere.
It hasn't had any advertising whatsoever in the US or in the UK. It has had lots of press coverage in the UK - TV appearances, radio interviews, interviews in the major newspapers and magazines as well as reviews. In the US it's just been the reviews. Anyway, UK publisher said it's performing "brilliantly", whatever that means and they are definitely plunging ahead with a paperback edition next year.
polymath wrote:A 5,000 copy print run further suggests that possibility. On top of that, U.S. book advertising channels are unique to the U.S. What works in Britain doesn't always work the same across the pond. Different cultures, similar languages.
It was actually a 4,500 copy print run. My agent said that was "average" but it seems from what you're saying that maybe it is below average.
polymath wrote:The listing given of U.S. advertising venues is pretty standard for unknown authors, and far more than most first time published domestic authors garner.
What listing of US advertising venues?
polymath wrote:3,500 copy U.S. sales is nearly twice the domestic average first time published author average.
Really? So is the domestic average 1,750? Is that for traditonally published books or self-published books?

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polymath
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by polymath » December 2nd, 2010, 5:49 pm

Okay, a difference in semantics here probably due to a cultural divide.

Promoting, marketing, advertising, and word of mouth are the four corners under a business model advertising heading. They all serve the same purpose, getting the word out to consumers. Book promotion in the U.S. doesn't buy a lot of television time, very little in fact, and not much of any kind of traditional advertising for that matter. Robert Paterson's latest book is currently running on broadcast TV commercial segments. No one else's is and it's been awhile since any other book has. The U.S. is the land of the soft sell because consumers are bombarded with advertising. In a sense, entertainments in the U.S. are for bribing consumers to consume advertising.

Book review by noteable reviewers are the stock in trade for advance promotion, targeted publisher catalogs for trade book shows and book retailers and some kinds of copy ads in book trade publications. That's about it for advertising. Press coverage, interviews, television appearances by author celebrities consume broadcast allotments for literature promotion here in the U.S.

Sarah Palin's latest book and George Bush's book right now are in the limelight, but fading fast after a Thanksgiving push. This is the peak book selling season in the U.S. The Christmas buying season isn't over, but if a product isn't on the shelves now, it's not going to be until after the New Year.

Anway, what you listed are standard advertising practices for noteworthy books, though promotional in nature, here in the U.S.

2,000 copies is the average print run in the U.S. The domestic average sales for a 2,000 copy print run run about 1,200 copies. Self-published has no average to speak of. Most U.S. self-publishing models rely on print on demand and print quantity needed production practices. A self-published title selling 500 copies is considered a runaway bestseller compared to most self-published books marketplace performances.

Yours didn't so far underperform or generate great buzz. At 3,500 copies It's about a wash in terms of profits and losses for the domestic publisher, but probably accounted on the books as a loss for bean counter purposes. 7,000 copies is a best practice business model break point for profitability.
Last edited by polymath on December 2nd, 2010, 5:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by sierramcconnell » December 2nd, 2010, 5:50 pm

I totally wouldn't be sad about being published. Non-fiction or not. XD
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by Margo » December 2nd, 2010, 6:01 pm

selfridge wrote:Last week I was told that my book has "only" sold 3500 copies in hardcover so far in the US.
78% of the books sold, in an industry where 50% returns are common? And they want to dump it? That doesn't sound right. I'm leaning toward polymath's thoughts on niche.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 6:09 pm

polymath wrote:
Yours didn't so far underperform or generate great buzz. At 3,500 copies It's about a wash in terms of profits and losses for the domestic publisher, but probably accounted on the books as a loss for bean counter purposes. 7,000 copies is a best practice business model break point for profitability.
Surely the size of the author advance would determine how many copies needed to be sold to break even though?

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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 6:13 pm

Margo wrote:
selfridge wrote:Last week I was told that my book has "only" sold 3500 copies in hardcover so far in the US.
78% of the books sold, in an industry where 50% returns are common? And they want to dump it? That doesn't sound right. I'm leaning toward polymath's thoughts on niche.
Yeah it's really weird. They're not exactly "dumping" it I suppose but they are not bringing out a paperback edition. They are selling off the remaining hardcover copies they have and it is available as an ebook as well. They did say that given all the good reviews it got they had expected to sell more copies.

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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by Margo » December 2nd, 2010, 6:18 pm

selfridge wrote:Yeah it's really weird. They're not exactly "dumping" it I suppose but they are not bringing out a paperback edition. They are selling off the remaining hardcover copies they have and it is available as an ebook as well. They did say that given all the good reviews it got they had expected to sell more copies.
Perhaps if you do what you can with self-promotion, and the remaining copies sell relatively quickly, and the e-sales are strong, they will reconsider. That's the course I'd follow, anyway.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by polymath » December 2nd, 2010, 6:29 pm

selfridge wrote:Surely the size of the author advance would determine how many copies needed to be sold to break even though?
Foreign rights aren't typically sold based on royalty advances. And disproportionate advances are uncommon and vigorously avoided. Advances for first time published authors are becoming if not already extinct. If yours had originated in the U.S., and assuming it was sufficiently thematically relevant to stand on its own, because it's a non-fiction, it might have gotten a thousand dollar advance, half on contract signing, half on delivery of final galley proofs. Royalty earnings on 3,500 copies would amount to in the range of $0.65 per copy, or about $2,275. Then there's 35 percent reserve against returns, and other creative math, that spreads royalty payment out for months if not years. U.S. copyright law only requires annual royalty distributions, not quarterly as many U.S. publishers practice.

An example of a huge advance gone awry is Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons. $8.5 million advance, 750,000 copies sold. I'm given to understand he's having a tough time placing a project now in spite of the runaway success and profits from Cold Mountain, the novel and the film. It doesn't help that he jumped ship with his first publisher to take the Thirteen Moons advance from a competing publisher.
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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 6:43 pm

polymath wrote:
selfridge wrote:Surely the size of the author advance would determine how many copies needed to be sold to break even though?
Foreign rights aren't typically sold based on royalty advances. And disproportionate advances are uncommon and vigorously avoided. Advances for first time published authors are becoming if not already extinct. If yours had originated in the U.S., and assuming it was sufficiently thematically relevant to stand on its own, because it's a non-fiction, it might have gotten a thousand dollar advance, half on contract signing, half on delivery of final galley proofs. Royalty earnings on 3,500 copies would amount to in the range of $0.65 per copy, or about $2,275. Then there's 35 percent reserve against returns, and other creative math, that spreads royalty payment out for months if not years. U.S. copyright law only requires annual royalty distributions, not quarterly as many U.S. publishers practice.

An example of a huge advance gone awry is Charles Frazier's Thirteen Moons. $8.5 million advance, 750,000 copies sold. I'm given to understand he's having a tough time placing a project now in spite of the runaway success and profits from Cold Mountain, the novel and the film. It doesn't help that he jumped ship with his first publisher to take the Thirteen Moons advance from a competing publisher.
In addition to my UK advance, yes I got an advance for US rights. The advance was significantly more than the thousand dollars you suggested and it was not paid in two halves - it was paid one-third on signing, one-third on delivery and one-third on publication.

I got an advance for the other rights I've sold too (in 2 European countries). I'm not quite sure where you obtained your information from but advances for first time published authors are absolutely not becoming extinct.

I do agree that advances like Charles Frazier's ($8.5 million) are very rare indeed and not very sensible.

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Re: The Misery of Being Published....

Post by selfridge » December 2nd, 2010, 6:45 pm

Margo wrote:
selfridge wrote:Yeah it's really weird. They're not exactly "dumping" it I suppose but they are not bringing out a paperback edition. They are selling off the remaining hardcover copies they have and it is available as an ebook as well. They did say that given all the good reviews it got they had expected to sell more copies.
Perhaps if you do what you can with self-promotion, and the remaining copies sell relatively quickly, and the e-sales are strong, they will reconsider. That's the course I'd follow, anyway.
Thanks, I think that makes sense. Good advice! I guess even if they don't ever bring out a paperback, the ebook will be available indefinitely.

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