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sarahdalton
10-01-2013, 02:02 PM
I just read Girlyswot's comments in the Epublishing section and had a thought -- I don't know about you guys but I'm still interested in the ins and outs of trade publishing. Sometimes I venture into the 'ask the agent' threads and glean a little bit of information about how trade publishing works, but not much.

I thought it might be interesting to have a thread for any trade-published authors who fancy popping in and sharing a few diary style posts on the process they've been through in the trade world.

Perhaps it could be a weekly or monthly thing? Every now and then an AWer could let us know how they're getting on. It might be useful to know when self-publishers are trying to make decisions on which process to take.

Some things I'd be interested in:

- frequency of agent queries
- time it takes from signing with a publisher to publication date
- what is considered a success in terms of sales?
- expected royalties (percentages)
- how long books are kept in print and what influences the decisions behind it?
- are there any trade published writers on AW who are doing this full-time and how are you getting on?

I understand that different writers will have different experiences, so a diary thread might be an interesting way to go, rather than Googling.

If this is a stupid idea feel free to ignore, but if anyone else is interested please shout up, especially if you're trade published.

Obviously the last thing I want is for it to be turned into a 'versus' thing. I know a lot of us have strong opinions about publishing, but this would be for information only, not a discussion on the merits of different processes.

Putputt
10-01-2013, 02:23 PM
What a great idea for a thread! Can't wait to read all about the trade publishing experience.

/subscribe

EMaree
10-01-2013, 03:47 PM
I really like this idea, I hope it kicks off.

merrihiatt
10-02-2013, 12:10 AM
I'd be interested, too.

Perks
10-02-2013, 04:27 AM
I'll see how many of these I can answer ---



Some things I'd be interested in:

- frequency of agent queries

I'm not entirely sure I understand the question. With my first novel and a short story, I racked up over 80 rejections from agents and magazines over the course of three and a half years. That novel is now in a drawer with its training wheel marks preserved for posterity.


- time it takes from signing with a publisher to publication date

I was offered a contract for my second manuscript on October 24, 2011 and the book hit the shelves on February 12, 2013

- what is considered a success in terms of sales?

Hmmmm. No one tells you that. Or they don't talk to me about it anyway. I'm sure sales are the bottom line, but what they tend to talk to me about, success-wise, are things like starred reviews in the trade papers, the Indie Next List, the New York Times review, landing shelf space in places like Costco and Target.

They've been wonderful about maximizing momentum from these little milestones and getting ads in good timing with the release dates. (The paperback came out on August 20th.)

- expected royalties (percentages)

It's a sliding scale and different for each medium (hardcover, trade paperback, mass market paperback, large print, bookclub edition, audio, etc.) I don't know if it's cool to lay out the specific terms of the contract on the forum. I'll check on it.

- how long books are kept in print and what influences the decisions behind it?

After the initial print run, they would go back to the presses as needed. They'll print it as long as it sells, I guess. There is a provision for getting my rights back if they let the books stay out of print for a set amount of time. These are the things that my agent has been essential to get ironed out. I wouldn't know a good deal (or a bad deal) in these specific details -- but she does.

- are there any trade published writers on AW who are doing this full-time and how are you getting on?

I don't really know how to answer this. As it is, writing is the only thing I do for money. I'm also the mother of two children. If I were on my own, I would have been able to pay all my bills with what I've made from this book this year, but that's not really the whole picture.

I've been at this for twelve years total -- seven in earnest. Without other income before last year, I would have had to have another job if I were on my own.



Helpful?

Torgo
10-02-2013, 04:51 AM
- time it takes from signing with a publisher to publication date

Really depends. I've seen books go from contract to bookstores within a month; I've seen it take five years or more. I think the average is probably in the 20-30 month range, for my sort of thing, but that's not something you could take as a rule of thumb.

The retailers want at least nine months' notice of new books so they can plan what to buy, so that's a minimum unless you give them some compelling reason to change complex long-standing plans. "Hey, we're dropping a new JK Rowling next week," would be the most extreme example.


- what is considered a success in terms of sales?

A success means the book makes a profit. So the more the publisher paid for it, the more books they need to sell for it to be successful.


- expected royalties (percentages)

Varies wildly, and any given book is going to be sold at a wild variety of different royalty rates depending on where and how and in what form it's sold. Probably in the region of 7.5-12.5% on print and 15-25% on digital, but again, don't quote me.


- how long books are kept in print and what influences the decisions behind it?

Demand. Retailers will order books from us, and if we don't have a copy in stock, we note down a 'due'. If we build up enough dues on a book, we'll reprint it. Ideally we don't want to be carrying a lot of stock there's no demand for, so if there's none we don't print a run just to sit in our warehouse costing money.

So on an initial print run you look to print enough copies to satisfy preorders from booksellers (your 'subscription') and enough to keep in stock and last for, say a year. I might think, I estimate I can sub in 3,000 copies and keep 3,000 as a year's stock; and I might sell 1,000 ebooks, and a couple of coeditions, and all in all we make x on the first run. Is x bigger than y, the amount of money we spent acquiring and publishing the book? Then I feel good about going ahead. (If not, I'll want to pay less for it, or get more bullish about my sales projections.) If the print run doesn't sell out over a reasonable period? I probably don't reprint.

Most publishing contracts specify a minimum level of yearly sales needed to avoid triggering reversion. If I'm not selling a book, authors can ask for the rights back. So there might be situations where a publisher prints a short run and shifts it somehow in order to keep it in print and keep the rights from reverting - this is worth paying attention to with POD and SRDP.

merrihiatt
10-02-2013, 04:54 AM
Thanks, Perks and Torgo.

K.B. Parker
10-02-2013, 06:19 AM
Thanks Perks and Torgo, we appreciate the information. I'm always fascinated with personal journeys in publishing, trade or self pub.

sarahdalton
10-02-2013, 11:14 AM
That's great, thank you! Very helpful. :)

girlyswot
10-02-2013, 01:20 PM
Well, I've sort of held off from having a self-publishing diary, because I am a hybrid author. But if you think it would be interesting to see how the two processes work alongside each other, I could maybe do that?

sarahdalton
10-02-2013, 01:52 PM
Well, I've sort of held off from having a self-publishing diary, because I am a hybrid author. But if you think it would be interesting to see how the two processes work alongside each other, I could maybe do that?

That would be awesome! Go for it! :)

Cathy C
10-02-2013, 02:55 PM
It would definitely make for an interesting thread. It would have been easier if I would have thought of doing it back at the first book. Now, 20 novels into the process, it's a little trickier to remember it all. :ROFL:

But we'll give it a try, in general:


-frequency of agent queries

It's a little hard to remember at this point (10 years later) but I believe once the agent accepted the first book, she sent it out to four editors she believed would be a good fit. Three responded right away. Two rejections, one acceptance. That was Tor and we accepted the offer. A year later, the fourth editor responded, asking if it was still available. It wasn't, because it was scheduled to hit the shelf the following month. Once the first contract was signed and we liked working the publisher, there haven't been any other queries. Once we turn in the final book of a contract, we just let our agent know and she contacts the editor to negotiate the next deal. The contract is generally signed (or at least the terms are agreed to) by the time the final book of the contract hits the shelf.


-time takes from signing with a publisher to publication date

It's generally a year to 18 months from signing of the contract to publication of the first book. Since all of my contracts have been multi-book ones, the only way to judge it is from signing to the first book. Thereafter, it's just per the contract terms as to the next books.


-what is considered a success in terms of sales

Pretty much universally from authors I've talked to is "earning through." If the royalties on the sales of the book (or group of books, if there's bucket accounting) equal or exceed the royalty given over the course of 24-36 months. The 2-3 years is necessary to determine success because the bookstores don't have to report back for a year. The royalty statement for most publishers is semi-annually, so twice per year. The first royalty statement won't show any sales because the book is still in production. The second royalty statement will show how many initially shipped, but not how many sold. The third royalty statement will begin to show sales but will have a line for "reserves on returns" so it won't pay out any royalties that exceed the advance. The fourth royalty statement will show a (frequently) drastically reduced sales figure as returns start to flow in. The fifth royalty statement will level off and will show how many new orders come in. Frequently, the fifth royalty statement is about the time that the second book of the contract is hitting the shelf, or at least pre-orders are open for booksellers. So, if the book sold well in a chain, the store will often order a few copies of the first book to sit on the shelf when the second one comes out--for those readers who want to buy both. But the first book will ship back faster if the second book isn't the hit the first one is. By the sixth royalty statement (so three years, 36 months) the first book will have either earned through or the publisher will know for certain whether the author has staying power to sign the next deal.


-expected royalties (percentages)

I work on 8% mmp, 10% trade paper, and 12% hardback with a sliding scale of bonuses if we hit a major bestseller list at certain levels.


-how long books are kept in print and what influences the the decisions behind it

This is a sort of tricky question because it depends entirely on the marketplace. "Out of print" isn't always a negative connotation. For example, our first book is still in print. Our second book (same series) has gone in and out of print several times even though it still sells well. Sometimes, a book will go out of print not because it's not selling, but because a publisher wants to offer a re-issue. A re-issue gives a publisher the chance to put on a new cover for a new group of readers, slap on a new ISBN and offer it to booksellers. Sometimes, the two issues stand side by side on the shelf, including other forms (trade, hardback, etc.) Sometimes, a publisher will put the first two or three books out of print or unavailable to buy for a short term while they ready an omnibus of two to three of the first books under a single cover. It can get pretty complicated.


are there any trade published authors on AW who are doing this full time and how are you getting on

I actually did write full time for about five years. The trick is finding enough money to survive from month to month. It can be hard to survive on advances for as long as it takes to start to get money to flow in again. Usually, the advance is split into parts to make it a little easier, but I couldn't seem to convince my electric company in July that I'd pay them when my check came in November. :ROFL:

Does that help a little? :)

sarahdalton
10-02-2013, 04:30 PM
It would definitely make for an interesting thread. It would have been easier if I would have thought of doing it back at the first book. Now, 20 novels into the process, it's a little trickier to remember it all.

Congratulations on 20 books! That's quite an achievement.


Pretty much universally from authors I've talked to is "earning through." If the royalties on the sales of the book (or group of books, if there's bucket accounting) equal or exceed the royalty given over the course of 24-36 months. The 2-3 years is necessary to determine success because the bookstores don't have to report back for a year. The royalty statement for most publishers is semi-annually, so twice per year. The first royalty statement won't show any sales because the book is still in production. The second royalty statement will show how many initially shipped, but not how many sold. The third royalty statement will begin to show sales but will have a line for "reserves on returns" so it won't pay out any royalties that exceed the advance. The fourth royalty statement will show a (frequently) drastically reduced sales figure as returns start to flow in. The fifth royalty statement will level off and will show how many new orders come in. Frequently, the fifth royalty statement is about the time that the second book of the contract is hitting the shelf, or at least pre-orders are open for booksellers. So, if the book sold well in a chain, the store will often order a few copies of the first book to sit on the shelf when the second one comes out--for those readers who want to buy both. But the first book will ship back faster if the second book isn't the hit the first one is. By the sixth royalty statement (so three years, 36 months) the first book will have either earned through or the publisher will know for certain whether the author has staying power to sign the next deal.

This is really interesting, thanks. It's one of the things I find the hardest to get my head around, mostly because I'm maths challenged. :)


I actually did write full time for about five years. The trick is finding enough money to survive from month to month. It can be hard to survive on advances for as long as it takes to start to get money to flow in again. Usually, the advance is split into parts to make it a little easier, but I couldn't seem to convince my electric company in July that I'd pay them when my check came in November. :ROFL:

Congratulations for writing full-time for so long. I hope I'm lucky enough to keep things going for that long.

I must admit, the monthly payments are one of the things I really like about self-publishing. It means I can shove most of it in a saving account and keep bills ticking over. It's good to know what it's really like to receive advances and royalties. It'd certainly give me something to consider if I'm ever offered a contract in the future.


Does that help a little? :)

Absolutely. Thanks so much!

merrihiatt
10-02-2013, 11:33 PM
Cathy, your posts are always so informative and helpful. Thanks!