Thursday, August 09, 2007

Print Run Posturings

So, I was cruising the forums at Backspace, and stumbled upon this fabulous blog entry by best-selling author, Tess Gerritsen, in which she talks about the impact of print runs and what they mean for making the best-seller list. It's funny: before my book came out, all of my friends were like, "Oh, I can't wait to see you on the NY Times list!," and I'd just snicker because I knew it was such an impossibility. And as her blog indicates, yeah, it pretty much is. To make the best-seller list, you have to sell thousands per week. (I believe that 2k in hardcover is what I've read, though I might be wrong - correct me if so.)

From what I understand about print runs, which, btw, means how many books the publisher prints of your book (I know that's basic info, but some people might not know), the initial print run is basically based on how many pre-orders they have from their sales team. So - if the sales team has gone out there and sold the hell out of it, and Barnes and Noble wanted, say, 50,000 - your print run will sizeable. And this, when it comes to best-seller lists or really, even for your book to do well at all, is a tricky situation, sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy, if you will. Because if your print run is, say, 100,000, your book is going to be well-stocked in stores, so people will gravitate to it, simply because it will land in their hands, and because publishers will have a bigger incentive to buy co-op space, advertising, etc for it. But if, for some reason, the sales team screws the pooch, well, your book is screwed too because no matter how much promotion you do or if the buzz spreads like wildfire, if it's not in stores, it's simply not going to sell, much less reach the best-seller list. So the books with huge print runs are already given a huge leg up.

But - and this is where it gets interesting - these BIG books also have a lot more to lose, both for the author and the publisher. As Gerritsen notes on her blog, the books that have enormous print runs might have poor sell-throughs (the number of books sold compared the number of books printed), even though in total, they might have sold more than a book with a smaller run. Following? For example: a book with a 100,000 print run might sell 50,000, which is an okay sell-through, but a book with a 25,000 print run might sell 20,000, which is a much better return on the publisher's investment.

It's an interesting situation, and I don't know which I'd prefer. Probably the shot to at least make the best-seller list, but with these huge print runs comes a lot of pressure, and even though you have the machine of the publishing house behind you (which, incidentally, you really MUST have to reach the upper echelons of sales...I can't think of any book, barring perhaps, Sara Gruen's Water For Elephants, that took off without a HUGE publisher push and gobs of marketing/co-op money), you can certainly fall flat on your face. And the downside to that is that no one is going to give you a big advance again. In this industry, you don't get a lot of chances to prove yourself.

So which would you rather: start small and work your way up or start with a bang and hope to soar?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Blah, Blah, Blurbs

So I'm chatting about blurbs - getting 'em, what they can do for you, what readers think of them - today on Writer Unboxed. Check it out!

I'll be back later this week to talk about print runs and best-seller lists.

Monday, August 06, 2007

GCC Presents: Ellen Meister and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA

Girlfriend Cyber-Circuit time! Today, I'm thrilled to present Ellen Meister, whose laugh-out-loud Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA premiered with a bang last year. And guess what? If you didn't check it out then, now's your chance to grab the paperback version.

Here's the juicy scoop: When a Hollywood location scout comes to Applewood, Long Island, and announces that the local elementary school might make the perfect backdrop for an upcoming George Clooney movie, the PTA's decorum crumbles like a cookie from last week's bake sale.
Enter Maddie, Ruth, and Lisa, three women who become the glue that holds the project together, forging a bond of friendship stronger than anyone could imagine. And not a moment too soon, as marriage woes, old flames, and scandalously embarrassing family members threaten to tear each of them apart. Is their powerful alliance strong enough to overcome the obstacles to getting the movie made in their town? And will their friendship be enough to mend their hearts and homes? Join them as they reach for the stars . . . and try to pull off a Hollywood ending of their own.

And now, Ellen answers five questions just for Ask Allison readers! Here ya go:

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
Back in 2000, I finally got the gumption to stop procrastinating and pursue my lifelong dream of writing a novel. I was determined to find the time to do it, even though I had three small children, one of whom wasn't yet in school full time. Only problem was that I didn't know what I wanted to write about.

My head was swimming with the notion when I attended the first PTA meeting of the year at my local elementary school. As I smiled, greeting all the other women with my best soccer mom persona, I thought about the fact that no one in the room knew I had this special dream. In fact, no one knew I had an inner life at all. Then it occurred to me that everyone there could be feeling something pretty similar. As soon as I had that thought, I knew I wanted to write about these types of women--to explore the pain, passion, heartache and joy hidden beneath facade of the perfect suburban housewife--and do it with humor and compassion.

From there I set out to construct a plot around an event that could affect the community as a whole and the women as individuals. Eventually, I got the idea to bring a Hollywood movie studio to their town, and select their schoolyard as a possible location for the filming of a George Clooney movie.

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?
This has been a big issue for me. Since I'm ON the PTA in a Long Island town and I WROTE about a PTA in a Long Island town, everyone in my community assumes the book is autobiographical. Alas, I can't seem to convince them otherwise! I have a lot of interesting conversations in the supermarket.

Truth is, if I wrote about my own life I'd bore the reader to death. All I do is take care my kids, laugh with my husband, and write. So I have to dig pretty deep into my imagination to find my stories and my characters.

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
Hard work, patience, and more than a little bit of luck! I worked hard on the book, hard on finding an agent, and hard on revisions. Still, it's such an insanely competitive market that I consider I consider myself lucky I found such a wonderful agent ... and an editor who was willing to take a chance on me.

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I wrestle the procrastination bear, too. But I find a busy schedule is the thing that propels me to get off my butt and get it done.

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal! Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I've given this a good amount of thought over the past few years! As Maddie, the emotionally-needy ex-lawyer, I'd cast Amanda Peet, as I need someone who can do physical comedy and also be touching. Ruth Moss, my brash and bosomy protag, could be played by Virginia Madsen or Joely Fisher. Keith, Ruth's brain-damaged husband who makes inappropriate sexual remarks to every woman he sees, could be a great fun role. I'd love to see Paul Giamatti, Steve Carrell or Alec Baldwin do this. For modest and timid Lisa Slotnick, who suffers a relationship with an alcoholic mother, Laura Linney would be perfect. Maddie's sarcastic friend Beryl could be played by Janeane Garofalo or Rosie O'Donnell. And last, but most definitely not least, a certain someone who has still not called to thank me for the signed book I sent him, could do a cameo as himself.(George Clooney, are you reading this?)