Readers, flex your buying muscles for authors you love

Super Reader, as found on freedigitalphotos.net

Super Reader, as found on freedigitalphotos.net

I’ve just had a conversation with an author friend that made my blood boil and my hair curl and I want to share it with you because YOU HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE THIS BETTER.

Seriously, how many things is that true of?  Not many.  But this is a situation that you, as a reader, as a consumer can have a direct and meaningful influence on.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to PRE-ORDER THE BOOKS YOU WANT TO READ.

What, you say?  Why?  What difference does it make when I buy them?  Surely the sale is what matters?

The answer is, yes, it can matter a lot.

Here’s the situation my friend is in:

She has a three-book contract.  Huzzah, you think, she’s home and hosed.  But it transpires that the publisher has decided that, while the first two books sold well in print and are selling in digital form, they aren’t selling well enough in digital.

Now, you’d think that would encourage them to fling themselves into promoting the third book, wouldn’t you?  They’re popular, very well reviewed and history has shown that new readers often only cotton on to series at the third book, then go back and buy up everything the author’s written and clamour for more.

But is this the publisher’s response?  No.  Instead, they have chosen to HALVE THE PRINT RUN.

HALVE IT.  Because the way to sell more of something, is to produce less, apparently.

I don’t think I need to spell out for you what this does to sales.  Bookshops (online or bricks and mortar) have fewer copies.  Visibility is reduced.  Casual sales drop. People wander in (or by, in the online store), find it’s out of stock and move on and never come back.  A sale – and potentially a lifelong fan for that author and money-spinner for the publisher – is lost. Sales taper off and the publisher congratulates itself on seeing the writing on the wall and not printing more.  They apparently aren’t familiar with the concept of a SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY.

And yes, I know I’m shouting, but this makes me so mad!  This sort of behaviour is exactly why so many authors are turning to self-publishing.  But what if you don’t want to do that?  Many writers have day jobs.  They simply don’t have time to do all the additional things that are involved in self-publishing as well as continuing to write the books.  Creating the books and promoting them, so that authors can concentrate on writing is what a publisher is supposed to be for, as far as the author is concerned.  And for the reader, they are supposed to produce quality books and make them available.  This sort of nonsense fails in their responsibility to both author and reader.  GRRRR.

Okay, I’ve taken a breath.

I am a big believer in not getting cross without doing something about it.  It’s wasted energy.

So I am going to make a suggestion.

If there is an author you like and you know you are likely to buy and read their new books when they come out, make a point of PRE-ORDERING THEM.  If you still have a local bookshop, do it there (because that will help keep them in business too).  If you read e-books or use online booksellers, they also allow you to pre-order and most have an option to set favourites or reminders so that you will know when pre-orders are available.  You could also sign up to the author’s newsletter (most have them these days) to receive advance notice of new books coming out.

If you pre-order, the publisher is likely to print more copies, because they know that at least some of those copies are guaranteed to turn into money.  The bookshop will order more, because the pre-orders indicate that it will be popular.  Having more available means more visibility (in physical stores) and more availability (in online stores) and all of those will lead to more casual sales.

All of which leads to an author you like making enough money to be able to afford to keep writing (seriously, that’s what we’re talking about here.  The JKs and the Stephanies and the Stevens of the writing world are rare).  It also leads to their publisher treating them (and by extension, you, the reader who likes their work) with more respect.

YOU HAVE THE POWER TO KEEP AUTHORS YOU LIKE IN PRINT.  And you can exercise it by putting your money where your preferences are in advance.

And if you’ve missed the pre-order, buying as soon as the book comes out is also helpful.  Strong early sales can provide many of the same benefits as pre-ordering, such as more being printed and good vibes with booksellers.

I hope you don’t mind me saying all of this.  It’s just that, as a reader, before I started writing, I didn’t know any of this and certainly didn’t do it (pre-ordering).  It never would have occurred to me that the timing of a sale could make any difference to an author.  But it can.

Flex your reader-y muscles.  Show the publishers how much you like an author.  Keep him or her in a contract.

YOU HAVE THE POWER!!!!

I am off to pre-order my friend’s book.  What about you?  Are there any you want to order?

43 thoughts on “Readers, flex your buying muscles for authors you love

  1. I had a similar situation with my eighth book (which was also a much-requested sequel to one that sold very well!), and it led to over two years without releasing a book at all. I’m only now clambering out of the hole. Incredibly frustrating, so well said!

    • I suspect it’s happened to many authors, Ilsa. And I’m sure most readers have no idea. How could they? In most cases they don’t know they authors, so they’re not going to ask. They just know they can’t get the books. I just don’t get how publishers think, sometimes. Anyway, here’s hoping it helps!

  2. I’m an author so this is not news to me, however, with my readers hat on, what I find disappointing is that often the Publishers punish the loyal readers who pre-order. For instance, recently I didn’t pre-order or rush out and buy several of my favorite authors books, my sister did. So what happened? Those books went ON SALE and I actually got to buy them at a cheaper price. As a ‘reader’ I’d like a bit of price certainty. The publishers are not sure what to do about price at the moment and as such are trialing many things. This teaches readers that it might actually pay for a reader NOT to pre-order.

    • Oh heavens, Bronwen, what a business! You’re right, of course, that’s unfair. And it surely isn’t the way to encourage those loyal readers, as you say. It’s hard to know what to do for the best. Although I’m fairly sure changing the restrictions that make our books so expensive in Australia would be a start. Maybe buying early is still an option though. It seems to be what gets books on the ‘lists’, which I believe is helpful.

      • It is helpful but unfortunately I don’t read books. I’m long sighted and eBOOKs are preferred so I don’t have to wear my glasses at night. You’ll often find, due to distribution rights or the fact the publisher wants the book sold first, the eBook version comes out later or is not available for pre-order. Their is an Australian romance author’s pre-order that is for book only. I want an eBook so I can’t pre-order…I suspect as eBook sales grow this will continue to be the case. eBook readers will wait for the eBook. The Publisher should release them for pre-order at the same time.

    • Thanks Georgie. You can’t (sadly) buy ALL THE BOOKS but I figure for those we do choose, we can buy them in the way that best serves the author – especially the new, getting established authors.

    • It’s always been a tough business and the publishers are running scared. I don’t think they know WHAT to do. And the ones who have ideas within the behemoth pubs are trying to turn on a post-modern dime using systems set up in a time of steam. All we can do is find ways to get our message across (like this – both the conversation and the action) and hope they get the message before they go under. I still believe they have a valuable role to play. But this isn’t the way to handle it.

  3. Yeah, Imelda, your depraved depravity to one side – how do I buy your book? I want to read it! I don’t have a Kindle so is this some sexist, hegemonic anti-me thing going on? I’ll have you know I’ll take you to court if I can. Great headlines, “Man Sues Author Over Book He Hasn’t Read.”

    • I like the headline – I think it has legs! If you don’t have a Kindle, Amazon will happily give you a kindle app to download, for mac or pc, so you can read kindle books on your computer. It’s also available on iTunes (iBooks) if you have an iDevice. If neither of those things works, get back to me and we’ll work something out! Promise, it’s not a conspiracy (although the Wapojif Conspiracy is a great title for a book).

  4. Hey Imelda. I’m boiling right along with you. Not impressed about a friend’s treatment by their publisher. And I, also, had NO IDEA pre-ordering was so important. Will get to and do so, pronto! Thanks for a great post.

    • It’s definitely one of the things that help, Michelle. Early reviews also help as does buying early, if you haven’t pre-ordered. With e-books, pre-ordering mostly helps them get onto lists, which can make a huge difference to visibility. But with print books, it can make a difference to the number printed, which again goes very much to visibility and, by extension, sales, but it has the added clout of AVAILABILITY. If a print book isn’t available when people go looking, that’s usually a sale lost, so print run is important! (feel free to quote me).

  5. The more I learn about how publishers work, the happier I am that I decided to self publish my writing.

    I used to pre-order, but every time I did, Amazon never shipped the book until weeks after the release day. It made no sense to me, so instead of pre-order, I buy on release day, help give the author a good bump up the charts on day one when, hopefully, everyone else is buying too.

    • It certainly doesn’t help with the retailers don’t get with the program, Patricia! But good on you for helping out anyway by buying on release day. This is really what this whole post was about – letting people know that it does make a difference WHEN they buy as well as what. Even for the self-pubbed! You don’t have a publisher deciding print run, but you need visibility as much or more than the trad-pubbed. And in the interests of that, do you want to give us a link to your books? 🙂

  6. Thanks for the Tip.
    I read new authors partly based on tips
    from Authors I Love. And partly by
    Instinct when I read the Cover.
    Who is you friend?
    What is the Series?
    I will order the book and pass on the
    Info.

    • Mar, I so appreciate the offer, but I can’t tell you who it is. That would come under the heading of unprofessional behaviour on my part and hers. And while I believe the publisher has been unhelpful as well – not only in the decision, but in the way it was communicated – two wrongs don’t make a right, especially for her reputation. But one thing they have done for her is great covers, so hopefully you’ll find her books anyway!

  7. The other reason per-orders are so important is that is usually how you hit the best-sellers lists because they are based on sales in one week. All the pre-orders are counted as sales the week of release, leading tongue sales for the week. I’ve been told you usually don’t hit the best sellers list unless your book is available for per-order.

    • Indeed, Bronwen! It’s a bit like movies – if they don’t make a killing on the first weekend, they’re considered no good. Until they get rehabilitated by an Oscar… Awards can also help to give a book a resurgence, so I might have to add that to the follow up post that I feel coming on! Thanks for adding this point. It’s an important one!

  8. I never pre-order anything – but I will rethink that position now, Imelda. Sobering stuff, really – I always want to bury my head when I hear the realities of the publishing game. Not that self-pubbing is any easier, but there is the illusion of control…

  9. Pingback: Cruisin’ with RWA | Romance Writers of Australia

  10. Pingback: Do E-READERS stifle sales? | tryingtowriteit

  11. Reblogged this on My Written Romance and commented:
    I saw this last night on my reader and I just had to repost. It is super important to buy the books that you enjoy reading, before, on or after release date. Publishers don’t know you want to read books that you don’t buy!

  12. Pingback: More on helping authors you love – and finding new ones to love. | Wine, Women & Wordplay

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