Friday, April 17, 2009

How to Get a Book Published: How Bookstores Select Titles

After the agents, editors, and the marketing departments at publishing houses have all made their decisions about what will be published, in what quantities, and how the finished product will look, there is one final decision maker who ultimately decides what books will be presented for sale to consumers: The buyer for the bookstores. The decision maker for the independent bookstores is often the owner, or the owner and several employees.

The chains have corporate buyers who specialize in different areas. The buyer looks at the prior sales history of the author, or if it is the author’s first book, the buyer will look at similar titles or topics. Of course the publisher’s sales rep, or the distributor, lets the buyer know of the marketing push the title will receive.

If advance reading copies (ARCs) are available or galleys – the uncorrected page proofs of a book, those are sent to the chains and major independents three to four months prior to the title’s publication date.

Booksellers usually buy their first order of a new title from the publisher through their sales reps. Subsequent orders can be placed directly with the publisher, through a distributor or wholesaler, which allows the bookstore to batch their orders to several different publishers and receive one invoice and make only one payment. It allows the bookstore to return books from different publishers to one place –the wholesaler.

The decisions book buyers make about what titles to stock are a blend of taking into account the sales pitches from publishers’ reps, historical sales data available about an author or a topic, knowledge of their customer base—and to a large extent simply what their gut instinct tells them will be popular.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How to Get a Book Published: Bookstores Sell 50% of Books Published

50% of books meant for consumers are sold through bookstores. If you're wondering how to get a book published make sure your publisher's books is stocked in bookstores. The first bookstores in the United States were established at least as far back as 1640. At that time, quite a few booksellers were also book publishers. By 1700 there were 30 booksellers in Boston alone. However, these stores didn’t restrict themselves to just books but sold other merchandise as well. Richard Hoe’s invention of the rotary press, which spewed out pages at the rate of 8000 sheets an hour, opened up the mass market for books. The divergence between bookseller and book publisher began to widen.

Book publishing is a $37 billion dollar industry in the United States. It has been estimated that the five large publishing companies, Random House Inc., Penguin USA, Simon & Schuster, Time Warner and HarperCollins, account for nearly eighty percent of all book sales in the US. This has occurred for the same reasons any other industry goes through consolidation: by combining certain administrative or staff functions, costs can be reduced and profits increased. Publishing, relative to many other industries, has not enjoyed a high Return on Investment (ROI) for investors. Now publishers are much more focused on having every single book they publish be profitable. This means a more risk averse philosophy, with a preference for publishing authors with successful track records--a sound business strategy.

Currently there are about 2000 chain bookstore locations. An additional 2200 independent booksellers belong to the American Booksellers Association. There are some 50,000 locations that sell books. Around 50% of books meant for retail sales are sold in bookstores, only about 10 -15% of new books are sold online.

Barnes and Noble is the largest chain with 796 stores. Annual revenues from those stores are $4.7 billion which translates into sales of almost 445 million books per year. A typical Barnes and Noble store offers 150,000 - 200,000 titles to shoppers.

Oddly enough Barnes and Noble is re-instituting the old fashioned idea that booksellers are also publishers. Its wholly owned company, Sterling Publishing, has the publishing or distribution rights to 10,000 titles and has actively published 5000. They own a chunk of IUniverse, a publish-on-demand company. The CEO of Barnes and Noble, Stephen Riggio, is the Chairman of the Board for IUniverse.

Borders Group owns about 1100 stores in the United States and has revenues of about $3.8 billion. It operates Borders Books and Music and Waldenbooks. The chain is the outgrowth of two independent bookstores. Walden Books was established by Lawrence Hoyt in 1962. Borders Books was established by Tom and Louis Borders in 1971. K-Mart Corporation purchased Walden Books, which in turn purchased Brentano's Books in 1984. In 1991 K-mart purchased Borders Books and formed Borders-Walden Group and renamed it Borders Group, Inc. Borders Group Inc. then went public in 1995.

BooksAMillion was founded in 1917 as a news stand and has grown to 205 stores, primarily in the Southeast. They own a book distribution company, American Wholesale Book Company. Revenues were just a bit over $.5 billion in 2008.

Books are sold in a myriad of other locations besides bookstores, such as grocery and drugstores, at the airport, and in the big box stores like the aforementioned K-Mart.

Getting your book into bookstores is a critical step in how to get a book published.