Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A watched book never sells...

...or does it? Why, Why, Zed? is up on Fictionwise this week - you can get it here for a discounted price. I must confess I'm a chart watcher, always checking the Phaze list there to see what is doing well for the week, and imagine my surprise to see YYZ at number one. Of course, as I have access to the back end of the site, I have a better idea than most about actual sales - when they are updated. A book can be tops on their publisher's list, yet the numbers reveal single digits. I won't be able to glean true success from Fictionwise until the end of the month, at least.

One author's success, too, is another's middling meh, and yet another's utter failure. In my exploration of writing sites and boards, there is a natural and expected concern for how much an author can stand to earn in royalties for a book. You will find some sites offer estimated sales figures per various eBook publishers, while others tackle averages for print houses. If you plan to make writing your career, it helps to go in with an idea for where to submit first. From what I have gleaned in my travels, I suppose it is safe to say the following:
  • Some authors published with ePubs are averaging 100-200 sales of a title in the first month of release
  • Some authors publisher with the more popular ePubs are averaging even higher sales in the first month of release
  • Some authors average close to 1-2K copies sold of one title within the first year (pretty good, since it is the common belief that the average number of overall sales hovers around 500 units.

I won't reveal my own numbers, but I will let you know that I fall into the first and third categories with two different ePubs, and this is figuring eBook sales combined with print. I know of some ePublishers that had a "hall of fame" of sorts where they would recognize titles that reached a certain sales milestone - presumably this is done to motivate others, but I don't know if it's something I would do because, honestly, authors promote in different ways. What a bestseller is doing for promotion might not work for everybody else. And, one must also consider that even in the higher echelon publishers, there will be dud sellers.

Now, I'm not discouraging authors from research publishers with regards to author sales. It is important to know, if you are considering a publisher, how well it performs overall in terms of sales and distribution. Just remember that if you learn an author at Spiffy eBooks sells 500 of one title a month, doesn't mean you will. I am only returning to the dance of submission and rejection/acceptance, and while I am targeting a few higher-end houses, I am more concerned for my book's potential performance rather than those of other authors. Not everybody at Stephen King's house gets the money he gets - it's a nice number to aim for, but I have to do it.

With this in mind, the author will want to place his/her work where it stands the best chance of selling well. Naturally in eBookdom you'll hear the same 4-5 houses recommended over and again. Good places to start - your name attached to a reputable house will garner some attention from readers. However, if a reader has in mind a particular book or genre to buy, you want to be sure your name, cover, and title are within sight.

Do you write a specific genre - M/M, interracial, vampire? You might find Spiffy eBooks, while popular with readers, can't seem to corner your specific market. They come for the hot westerns and romantic comedies, but M/M falls flat. Does it mean you should skip them in the submission process? Not necessarily. You might find, if you are accepted, that you have the opportunity to carve that niche with the house. You may find, too, your chances of being published with Up-and-Comer eBooks are higher if you write a genre that does well for them.

If your target ePubs list monthly top sellers, study the lists. See what is selling month after month. Do you see a theme? If it matches your style, it would be worth a look if you think you can attract readers.

I'll say this, of course, and add my own caveat that pubbing a hot genre with any house isn't always a golden ticket. I've seen it at my own house, where we have released works in our biggest genres that didn't do anything. The waltz continues, with dance cards falling to the floor like puzzle pieces. I'm still collecting them, trying to figure out the whole picture. If I find the answer I'll let you know. In the meantime, you can read Why, Why, Zed? while you wait.

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