Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Burning Question

Here's today's question: Do you pay close attention to sales figures and your place on the charts? If not, why not? And if so, what charts/lists do you think are the most important and why?


Betina Krahn said...

Whether we like it or not, lists are a major factor in our publishing lives. They're seen as a measure of a book/author's salability. . . even though the initial push of sales may ultimately be a poor predictor of overall sales.

So yes, I check when I have a book out. Though when you're big enough in this game, you don't have to check. Your editors and publishers haunt the lists and get pre-pub faxes of all the lists. . . and they CALL you if you're high on one of the two biggies. Occasionally, if you're out of the top twenty-five or so, they'll just send an e-mail congratulating you. Either way, you're notified for celebration.

Having experienced that. . . it's very clear when you're NOT high on the lists. Silence out of New York. Deafening. So then you go look up things on the lists yourself. And read 'em and weep. Figuratively, that is. Somehow poor list performance isn't half as traumatic for me as a BAD (snarky, unfair) review. Even though it's probably more important in the long run.

And yeah, since they matter to the publishers, they matter to authors.
The NYT is still the granddaddy of them all. But USA Today is important. Publisher's Weekly is a weak third. . . so few people ourside publishing know (or care) about PW. There are some big city newspapers that do their own lists. . . I was very big for a while on Chicago Tribune's list. Go figure. I don't even have many relatives in Chicago.

Michele said...

Sigh... You mean there are lists? :-)

I wouldn't know how to check my sales, and I haven't a clue where to go online to find any lists. But I don't think I have to worry about that at the moment, so I am blissfully unaware. Oh, to have Betina's problem!


Helen Brenna said...

Michele, can't you check your sales somehow on your royalty statements? Or is that a mathematical nightmare?

Melissa said...

I write category so no. I don't.

anne frasier said...

my ablility to support myself depends on those first 2 or 3 weeks of sales. so yes, i watch. if the book only does moderately well, it could very well mean i'll be shopping for a new publisher and maybe even reinventing myself. i've been known to develop ulcers before a book comes out, and i'm on pins and needles now. Pale Immortal has gotten good reviews so far, but a lot of those early sales depend on random shoppers noticing the cover and picking up the book. this is the first book in a long time that might appeal to romance readers. not sure though. it's pretty violent.

Kathleen Eagle said...

The buzz word for sales is VELOCITY. A book's "street date" is supposed to be a magic day--the day it goes on sale everywhere. Imagine starting gates flying open and books bursting forth. Publishers watch sales closely at that time, and with everything computerized, they can get sales figures pretty quickly. They're looking for velocity, which is what gets books on bestseller lists. That's why word-of-mouth is important. We need for people to be waiting for that book to come out and snatching it up during that first week.

The first time I made the NYT-extended list, I was having some sort of a party, and as I recall Susan Kay Law called to congratulate me. I had no idea what she was talking about. Now, I know full well that Susie knows her lists, but I was sure she'd made a mistake, so I had to go online. Then I paraded the guests through my office--damn, what a show off! Oh, and the really fun part? My agent sends a case of very good champagne whenever one of his authors makes the Times.

My December (November 28!) book is a hardcover. The measure of its success doesn't depend on lists or velocity quite as heavily as a mass market. The shelf life is a bit longer. But, yeah, I'll call before the release date to get the printrun, and I'll get sales reports. As Anne says, the next contract depends on those numbers.