The Book Package, Part II

In the last posting we discussed the specific elements of the book package, using a definition that included the author’s platform (e.g. how actively and effectively he or she is able to promote the book). Let’s pick up where we left off to discuss how the package impacts several key parts of the book’s campaign and its ultimate success:

* The # of copies advanced into bookstores: This is really a critical number. Based on the book’s depiction in the publisher’s catalog (e.g. picture of the cover, the author bio, description of book, etc), the book buyers will make their decision on how many copies of the book to order for their stores. Remember that in a weakened economy business book orders will suffer. If your book is able to advance, say, 10,000 copies or more into stores that’s a good number. That will ensure pretty wide distribution—meaning that if someone goes to a store looking for your book there is a good chance they will be able to find it. But  remember, your publisher does not get to decide how many copies each chain or store will order, or which stores they will put them in, or where in the store they will be placed. Those decisions are made by the bookstores themselves.

* Whether or not your book will be “green lighted” into a special placement promotion: Sometimes your book will appear on a table near the front of the store—either on a “just published” or a special business book table. When that happens, chances are your publisher paid a special promotional fee for that space (like “slotting” fees in grocery stores)—and the bookseller agreed to take the publisher’s money. Both the publisher and the bookseller must be on the same page for this to work. Put another way, publishers try to get special placement (tables or “end caps”) for many more books than the bookseller can handle, so the bookseller decides which of these books will be included in a promotion. If an author’s book does not get on a table (and the vast majority don’t), then it’s more than likely that your book will appear spine out in the business section. With something like 10,000 business books published each year, it makes sense that the vast majority of books go spine out on a shelf in a business book section.  

 * The licensing income: This is something authors hardly ever think about. However, a book that has a great package and global appeal will be highly sought after by publishers in other countries. For example, we recently published an incredibly timely book by David Smick entitled The World is Curved: Hidden Dangers to the Global Economy, with a reading line that says “The Mortgage Crisis was only the Beginning.”  We would classify this as a “globalization” book, and publishers in many countries have purchased the rights to publish this book in their native languages.

* The actual sell-through: This is, of course, where the rubber meets the road. The number of copies sold—week in and week out—is the authors’ and publishers’ primary concern. The book’s package will play a huge role in book sales, especially at the outset. But after a few weeks, word of mouth will come in and rule the day, making the package somewhat less important.  Nielsen Bookscan has made the entire publishing world one huge open book test, telling us how many copies every book sells each week, in each category, from what city, at what rate, etc. We can now see how each book sells vs. every other book, which is incredibly informative. A decade ago we had no way to measure this.

So when your publisher agonizes over the subtitle or the table of contents of your book, you will know why. They are trying to get the package exactly right.  


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