Thanks everyone so much for your thoughts on Monday's post. I'm really not so concerned about my son - who demanded a book last night at dinner - but I thought it was great fodder for a discussion, and I certainly picked up a few tips. Hope you guys did too.
So, the question I'm most asked, now that TDLF is out there in the world is, "How are sales going." I mean, I'm seriously asked this several times a day. And I have to give the vaguest answer, which is, "They seem to be going well. It's still in the front of stores." And that's the truth. They do seem to be going well, but the reason that this is such a bland answer is that honestly, from what I've gleaned, no one has concrete numbers about the sales of books.
Huh? Seriously? What?
Okay, for real. From what I understand, publishers don't track exact sales, and even when your royalty statement comes in - which, incidentally, isn't until six months or so after your release date - these still might be incomplete or inaccurate. It's mind-boggling. Truthfully, I don't understand the intricacies of it all - and maybe someone else here can explain it - but evidently, while publishers do get numbers from Bookscan (which your agent can occasionally prod your editor to receive), which reports sales at Borders, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Walden and some others, these numbers aren't complete. And this doesn't then include the libraries, independents, and a slew of other distributors, including the big box stores like Costco.
I just don't get it! I'll talk more in the future about how publishing seems to be one of the few industries that does little to no market research, but this just seems like such a glaring situation. I mean, beyond the obvious accurate numbers for royalties and monetary situations, don't publishers want to know say, what actually sells books? If, say, there's a review in the Seattle Times and sales shoot up, or if doing a radio tour has some impact on overall sales or whatever?? It's not a huge surprise that some people equate buying a potential best-seller with throwing something against the wall and hoping it sticks because this situation is just an clear indication of one of the major lapses in the industry, IMO.
(Disclaimer: I do want to say that I have nothing but happy things to report about my own publishers, so please don't take this as an indictment on them!)
Anyway, this has been really eye-opening for me. It's truly mind-boggling that the publishers don't have all the fine print on how books are selling, and true, someone, somewhere, probably does have those details, but in general terms, most people at the house don't receive them.
Have you ever heard of anything so crazy?? Now you see why my answer to my sales question is so vague. Because, other than Bookscan estimates, I really have no idea.