Friday, May 05, 2006

Follow-Up Questions to Bestseller List

Happy Friday, BGs (bloggees). Here are the follow-ups I promised to your questions about this topic.

1. Am I deducing correctly that NO ONE really knows which books are actually selling the best--real sales in customers' hands, regardless of where they purchased their copies? That's really an amazing thought in this era of computer data.

Well, not really. It’s typical in any kind of data-gathering that a certain percentage represents the whole, whether we’re talking Christian or secular bestseller lists, the Neilson Ratings for TV, polls and surveys, etc. It’s just the way these things work.

2. What is it with the paranoia about divulging actual sales numbers? Seems like even authors have a terrible time getting a hold of what their book is doing.

That’s because we authors are an impatient, worrisome lot, and we want to know right now. We do get sales numbers on our royalty statements—that is, the number of books the publisher shipped to bookstores, which is different from the number of books sold off the shelves. If those books don’t sell off shelves, we eventually know it because we see the returns on our next royalty statement.

3. Are secular store sales excluded from these numbers [STATS]?

Yes. Christian bookstores are not included in any secular list, such as the New York Times, or Publishers Weekly, or USA Today, or any of the other newspapers lists. Nor are secular bookstore sales included on the Christian bestseller list.

4. How is placement of a book in a secular store determined? I'd love to see your books in the "thriller-suspense" section so non-Christian readers can pick them up. Won't that increase sales too?

There are two sides to this argument. One, you’ve stated. The other is that those who do want to buy Christian fiction know where to go. This does not seem to be changing anytime soon. Thing is, in many stores, such as in Borders, Christian fiction sells well, and the bookstores therefore don’t want to “fix the system if it ain’t broke.” Apparently they don't think it would help sales to mix our books in with others.

5. And finally, regarding the question from a few days ago about the line “Bestselling Author of Violet Dawn” on the Coral Moon Cover. One BG questioned whether the marketing people were “getting ahead of themselves” in making such a statement when Violet Dawn hasn’t released yet. I asked Zondervan about this, wondering if we'd have to change the tagline if Violet Dawn didn't make the list. The reply:

"That will be the tagline no matter what. You ARE a bestselling author and you wrote Violet Dawn. I also assume it will be a bestseller. However, on the remote chance that it isn’t, we can still use the phrase. If we said 'Author of the bestselling Violet Dawn,' that would be a problem."

And that’s the scoop on all fronts. Meet ya back here Monday for some new topics.


Mary DeMuth said...

This was very helpful and enlightening. Thanks so much!

Linda Fulkerson said...

And now for something completely different...i.e. this comment has nothing to do with with book sales! (sorry!) Just wanted to let you know that I was in the middle of a plot fog and went back through your archives and printed off your plotting workshop. VERY HELPFUL! Thanks for all the hard work you do to help us rookies! And thanks for clearing up the BG thing by putting "Bloggees." I really thought it meant "Brandilyn's Groupies!" LOL--just kidding! Thanks so much--Linda

Cheryl said...

Thanks for all the work you put into your blog, Brandilyn. It's a wealth of information, no matter what the topic and a great help to this writer. :-)

Anonymous said...

Of course your publisher can call you a "bestselling author." It's not like "Violet Dawn" is your first book--or your first appearance on a bestseller list. :)

As far as the CBA vs. ABA argument - I suppose this will always be a chicken or egg kind of thing. The thing is, I think a lot of secular folks would love to be shelved in religious fiction (in the B&Ns and Borders of the world), because religious fiction is a growing category. There's not as much competition on those shelves as there is in the "mystery/suspense" section, and you have a better chance of getting a face out display. Those are a few good reasons why it's better to NOT be shelved with "secular" suspense.

There is the argument about reaching new people, of course. And I don't discount that argument at all. I'm just saying it's not bad to be in the religious fiction section. A lot of the cool kids want to be there. :)

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Brandilyn, you really do a wonderful job explaining the business side of writing as well as the craft side. Thanks.

I have to say, I am still stuck on that "who really are readers reading" issue. I mean, what about sales through the likes of Amazon (your numbers for WoL have been quite low of late) or CBD? How does Wal-Mart, Sam's Club etc. affect sales (and no "best-selling" list counts those, am I right?)

I guess what I'm thinking is, since the bottom line has to matter for a business, is there really accurate information available to make informed decisions? Obviously companies know if an author is making money for them, but in comparison to a similar author (same genre perhaps or similar style) for another house? Who are readers reading? Does anyone know?


~ Brandilyn Collins said...

The houses see STATS comparisons for authors, so, for example, Zondervan and I can know where I stand in relation to sales of other suspense authors. The secular stores and online stores aren't counted, you're right. But I think you can relax, really. Sales of Christian novels start in Christian bookstores and fan out from there. Amazon, B&N, etc., tend to stock more books of authors whom they see on the bestselling lists. So the same authors selling well in secular venues are typically selling well in the Chrisian bookstores. So this system does work for general comparison data.

But when a house is, say, looking to take on an author who's currently published elsewhere, they'll ask for the totality of sales numbers--that is, the numbers off the royalty statements. These data are what lead a house to figure how many units of a novel they think they can sell, which in turn determines amount of advance and amount of dollars put in the marketing budget.

Bonnie S. Calhoun said...

Thanks Brandilyn for all the info. Now I need to digest it all to get a good understanding of it :-)

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