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?