power to the people

I had one of the strangest things ever happen to a book by one of my clients recently. B&N cancelled their shipment order. I’ve yet to find out the reason but a little bird told me that there was a new buyer. Imagine the power. That one person can decide whether this book gets carried by the biggest brick-n-mortar chain. You can write the best book, have a great agent, and a marvelous editor and still get cut off at the knees right out of the gate. Is this fair? (I would say, um… no, no it’s not.)

Well, the author and I were brainstorming ways to get the book on readers radar regardless and she’s going to attempt to get some more traction in the blogosphere. You can see the first of hopefully many reviews here: http://thecompulsivereader.blogspot.com/2008/02/manderley-prep-bff-novel-by-carol.html

ETA: And here’s another review from a site where all the reviews are written for YA by YA: http://www.flamingnet.com/blog/2007/09/manderley-prep-by-carol-culver.html

Earlier this week, I went and special-ordered the book myself in my local B&N. It’s available through the usual distributor so it can still be gotten — it’s just not on the shelves, killing possibly 1/3 of the novel’s potential brick-n-mortar sales. I thought it be would just lovely if bunches of people would do the same. And that’s a real grass roots effort and would show whether the power was with the single buyer for the chain or the fans of the genre who could band together. Any takers? The book is Manderley Prep: A BFF Novel (and if you can’t order it from your local B&N, Amazon can just show them a thing or two).

I mean, not everyone can get a full-page ad in PW (like this week’s page 7 for another book by one of my clients!). BTW, I will be on a panel at RWA National this summer with both of these clients at once — and we’ll see what a difference such things can make. We could make an entire panel topic out of just that, I’m sure!

And just to be sure you all understand that this is not a self-serving gesture…. I was not the agent-of-record for this book. The contract pre-dates my work with this author, so I will not be seeing any of the potential royalties (except, I suppose, that if this series finds its feet, I will perhaps be the agent for the next, which is a really great idea that I’m just getting out to editors).

16 responses to “power to the people

  1. Buyer whims terrify me. A friend and I were doing a bookstore tour in Chicago. In my case, B&N had decided not to carry my books after the initial release, but almost every Borders store had them in stock. In his case, it was the reverse — the Borders people had canned him, but B&N loved his stuff.
    It makes me nuts that it’s so easy to eliminate a huge chunk of a writer’s sales like that…
    ::Off to check out Manderly Prep::

  2. Fair?
    I am not accustomed to looking for fairness in the writing/publishing industry. Agents beat that drum constantly. It’s too bad that there is yet another unfairness in the industry, but to me it looks like more of the same.
    The odds seem to have gone from 1000 to 1 down to 1002 to 1. Time to write again!
    John

  3. Amazing what buyers can do. LAW’s fate was pretty well sealed when a wholesale buyer ordered 12K copies, then returned them all in fairly short order. I don’t know if they made a mistake and ordered an incorrect title or what, but whatever they did, they really did it.

  4. Even just $100 spent carefully on advertising online would probably go some way to boosting sales, especially if there’s a pre-order or special order number right there on the ad (or if the ad itself links to Amazon, obviously). I know that many graphic novels use that trick to increase their Diamond sales… putting the number out there with pretty pictures, or putting up a printable “Pre-Order Request” form for readers to take into their local comic shops is fairly common, and while we haven’t done it yet, all reports I’ve had from industry friends who have are that it works quite well. It may be a trick that can work across genres.
    I have a few friends who like YA. I’ll also mention the book to them, I’ve heard about it in a few other places already.

  5. I’ve forwarded the link to the YA review to my Elder Daughter. She has a few bookstore bucks to spend.

  6. broke but I have a venue
    I have no book budget right now, so I can’t buy it, and my library didn’t get this, but if anyone who has read it wants to guest blog about it on my Need To Read page on my YA site, I’m open. Contact me through the site.
    Joelle Anthony
    http://www.joelleanthony.com

  7. That’s annoying.
    And unprofessional!

  8. This is the one facet of the publishing industry that I still have only an inkling on. I have actually been waiting for you to open up the next round of open questions to ask about the buying process.
    I’m imagining that once a book is bought based on P&L someone talks to Ingram (as an example) about volume purchases (or perhaps this is done prior to? As an idea weather or not the distributor will want to carry x amount of backstock seeing as we forecast x amount of sales, market trend analysis etc etc) —then a seller at Ingram talks to buyers at Brick n’ Mortar corporate etc about purchasing x amount for distribution?
    I’m sure this process varies with say Harlequin who probably sales to Wal-Mart outright? Maybe using a company warehouse and direct distribution to them save for stock sent to Ingram (as an example again) for distribution to Brick ‘n Mortars.
    Then I bet there’s the smaller independant book distributors that deal with mom ‘n pop and regional distribution. Or perhaps it’s also done through Ingram through smaller distributor…
    *huff*huff*huff*
    (Clue?Clue?)

    • Actually, Ingram is a small part of the distribution. The bigger portion of the books will go to B&N, Borders and, depending upon the type of book, the big box stores like Costco, Sams, etc…
      Generally, the buyers at B&N and Borders give the sales rep an estimated buy figure about four to six months prior to pub. This is used to set the initial print run. Most of the time, the initial estimate and the actual initial order are only off by a small percentage.
      But when a major chain cancels an order AFTER a print run has been set, it’s a problem. It almost never happens.
      Ingram is a second-tier jobber for most stores. In essence, they serve to facilitate quick replenishment of stock for fast moving titles, while they wait for a bigger – and more generously discounted – order to arrive from the publisher’s warehouse. Most stores still go direct to a publisher for the majority of their initial buys and replacement stock. (Some small presses do use Ingram, B&T, Diamond and other distributors, however.)
      Hope that was helpful.

  9. Hey, she got that far…
    Don’t tell me your troubles, as my much more overweight mother would say when I complained about being overweight.

  10. Power to the People
    Thanks everyone for your sympathy and suggestions. Onward into the blogosphere and the libraries and the bookstores!

  11. B&N
    Order from a local B&N when they canceled the shipment that would have had their stores stock it in the first place? No! Order from a local bookstore, an independent that actually gives lesser-known authors a chance. I know your point is to convince B&N that they need to carry it, but how about trying to convince independents to carry it instead? The managers/owners of these non-chain stores actually have buying power that the big box managers don’t. They–not some corporate head in an office somewhere who probably hasn’t read a book since he took the job–decide what should be on their own shelves. As a writer (not yet an author) myself, I can honestly say I would be okay with foregoing the big chains, even if it took longer to get the word out on my book, in favor of supporting the independents.
    See? You went on got me started on Big Boxes.
    As for where the independents get their books: primarily Ingram and Baker-Taylor. Sure, they may order direct from the publisher for things like the Harry Potter books, but for everyday stock, it’s the distributor. Simple word-of-mouth has made many a book a local bestseller that stores like B&N have overlooked.

    • Re: B&N
      Certainly one should support independents — I’m all for it!
      However, I sure would like to convince B&N to carry this and the rest of the series. If it takes too long, the publisher won’t print enough for anyone, independent or otherwise, to make a difference for this series.
      And…. I don’t have a local independent (definition of local being within 30 minutes of where I actually live). I can choose between two B&N stores, one Borders or a Borders Express. Or the Christian bookstore.

  12. Wow, that’s too bad that they are dropping The BFF novels. I’m only a few months into this sort of thing, so I don’t quite understand it all yet, but I was surprised to hear that. True, I hadn’t heard of the series before I was sent copies to review, but my review was very honest. I do believe that is a unique new series, and I’ll see if I can do a little more in the way of advertising them than just a simple review (if interested, contact me via my site, I’ve just found some great new ways to reach readers).
    I think that’s a great idea to go the blog route of advertising (and I’m not just saying that because it helps people like me out!). I’ve been at blogging for about 3 1/2 months, and I find that people are generally VERY responsive to this sort of advertising. As a small and new site, I was so surprised to see that I had over 60 views this morning before ten AM!
    The best of luck to you in getting the word out about the BFF novels! I would love to see every one of them published!
    All the best,
    The Compulsive Reader

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