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Jo Zebedee
02-20-2015, 12:15 AM
Does it stand the chance of hitting your long term chances? If your sales aren't in line with the big boys does it make it harder to sell to them later? If so, what do you do? Trunk things rather than sell them? Change your pen name? Or does it get your name out there? What would an agent advise?

Drachen Jager
02-20-2015, 12:27 AM
Does it stand the chance of hitting your long term chances?

Yes.

If your sales aren't in line with the big boys does it make it harder to sell to them later?

Yes.

If so, what do you do? Trunk things rather than sell them?

That's what I do, but each writer must make their own choices.

Change your pen name?

That's for readers. Don't try to trick editors and agents by changing your name. They will be upset when they find out.


I don't think it hurts that much to have low sales figures, but it does hurt. Publishers prefer debut novels, but I can't say how much any of this could hurt you.

I'm not an agent, but I've seen these questions answered before.

slhuang
02-20-2015, 12:44 AM
When it comes to big 5 vs. small press vs. self-pub for a book you absolutely believe in:

I'm not an agent either, but from what I've seen I'd say it depends on the small press. Some small presses offer amazing support for a release. When it comes to others, I would self-publish any day before signing with them.

Like with any publisher, I'd say do your research, and if they'll be right for your book, then sign.

When it comes to small press vs. trunking for a book you're not sure about:

Well, what do you think of your book? What do your betas think about it? And what kinds of other books does the small press publish -- does it put out quality books? If so, that can be an outside confirmation of the quality of yours.

If you believe in the book, move toward getting it out there in some way -- just do some research to find the right way. If you think you'd be embarrassed by it, trunk it.

In the event that you put a book out there that you believed in (via some manner of publishing) but then it didn't do well:

I'd say cross that bridge if/when it comes time, and until then you're just borrowing trouble. If it's truly disastrous, you can always restart with a new pen name, but not publishing doesn't put you in any better position. :)

Jo Zebedee
02-20-2015, 01:20 AM
Thanks, both.

The book is good. I've my fair share of trunked stuff. This was agented by a top agency but marketed as YA and found to be too young for its market (it started as crossover). It's come back to me now and I'm loathe to let a book of its quality go and have returned it to adult crossover (and it's much the better for it.) The small presses looking at it are good established ones and I'm querying my next at the moment with a very good level of interest.

But! My first trilogy is coming out with a start up publisher. Having said that, they are using an excellent editor - Teresa Edgerton - and the trilogy is one I'll be proud to have my name on it. I also have bookstore support through a chain of Irish bookstores and launches etc happening, plus the support of a large sff site, so I hope to get reasonable sales through that.

I'm just a bit worried I'll be classified as small pub despite getting my first four novels published/agented and all the experience with that. Plus I have a distinctive name so it would be hard to escape a building history.

Jamesaritchie
02-20-2015, 06:24 PM
This is why God invented pseudonyms.

Having said this, it isn't so much low sales that harm a writer, it's sales that fall below expectations. There's a serious difference. If you go with a small press, and have sales at or below what the average small press book of that kind sells, it's going to hurt. But if you have sales above what the average small press book of that kind is expected to sell, it can help you, even if the numbers are well below what they would be at a large publisher.

You do need to find a reputable small press, but many exist. Anyway, the goal is to outsell your direct competition, not to outsell a writer who is with one of the giant publishers.

But, again, this is where a pseudonym can double up your chances. If the book doesn't sell at all well, the pseudonym can give you a layer of protection. If it does sell well, the pseudonym won't harm you in any way.

BookQueenie
02-20-2015, 08:13 PM
Moved to another thread.

Laer Carroll
02-21-2015, 05:54 PM
I'm dubious that most small presses sell fewer copies of each book. They DO sell fewer books, anywhere from 6-60 titles on the average. But readers don't care whether the pubber is small or large or in-between. They only care if they like the book.

Old Hack
02-22-2015, 02:10 AM
I'm dubious that most small presses sell fewer copies of each book.

They do, on the whole. Why do you doubt this?


They DO sell fewer books, anywhere from 6-60 titles on the average.

I think you've misunderstood.

When I say smaller publishers sell fewer books, I don't mean they have fewer titles to sell: I mean they sell fewer copies per title. Often by a large way.


But readers don't care whether the pubber is small or large or in-between. They only care if they like the book.

True. But to like the book they have to know about it, and this is where smaller publishers struggle. They often don't have the marketing expertise or distribution services in place to get their books in front of those readers, and so the books don't sell.

Jo Zebedee
02-22-2015, 02:15 AM
And does having bookseller support help me eradicate that a little, Old Hack? To be frank, I don't think I'm in the position to get another agent for this one - that horse has bolted. I could trunk it, wait a few years and see if I break it with another one. Or I could try to ride things out and see if I can build a name?

And thank you everyone, for your help. :)

Old Hack
02-22-2015, 11:40 AM
And does having bookseller support help me eradicate that a little, Old Hack? To be frank, I don't think I'm in the position to get another agent for this one - that horse has bolted. I could trunk it, wait a few years and see if I break it with another one. Or I could try to ride things out and see if I can build a name?

And thank you everyone, for your help. :)

So much depends on the press and the bookshop.

If it's a major chain, and it will stock your book for a good time, then yep, your book might do well in your home territory.

To do well, not only will your book have to be stocked by that bookshop, your publisher is going to have to work very hard too. It will have to invest money into promoting the book by buying good shelf-space in that bookshop, getting it into the three-for-two lists (if you have those there), and so on; it will have to have sufficient stock of the book (which means a costly print-run and warehousing), and it will have to have an efficient way of getting the books swiftly into place in those bookshops when required (which means a full distribution contract).

Sales in your home territory are good, obviously: but if you don't have an agent, who is handling foreign and subsidiary rights to this trilogy? Without those, your book is not going to do brilliantly, ever. If you sold those rights to your publisher, do they actively market those rights elsewhere? Or do they just hang on to them in the hope that someone will come along and ask for them? Most tiny presses do the latter, and it's not going to make the most out of your work, I'm afraid.

There are so many variables here. It's difficult to know what will happen. But an awful lot of work is required by all sorts of people to give your book the best chance.

Jo Zebedee
02-22-2015, 03:44 PM
Thanks, Old Hack, thought provoking.

My current publisher is very supportive with direct supply set up at agreed terms. And the chain are being supportive with events and a table plus promo at the local Comic con. We'll see how it goes, starting locally and building up. There is some US distribution in place, but not bookstore distribution as yet.

But your thoughts about rights is a good one and, as I'm agent hunting again and more confident this time, one I will follow up with anyone who offers representation. :)

Old Hack
02-22-2015, 04:54 PM
My current publisher is very supportive with direct supply set up at agreed terms.

Has the bookshop agreed to shelve the book in all (or most) of its stores? If not, this does not seem to me to be enough to get your books into those shops: it just means the bookshops can order it in if they want. And without a proper sales and marketing push they're not going to know about it, let alone want to order it in.

Sorry to be so negative, but I am not going to sugar-coat things. I don't think it helps in the long run.


And the chain are being supportive with events and a table plus promo at the local Comic con. We'll see how it goes, starting locally and building up.

A table plus promo at one convention is not going to be enough to make your book sell well. You need your book in those bookshops, on the promo tables, and that costs.


There is some US distribution in place, but not bookstore distribution as yet.

If they don't have co-publisher in the US, and they don't have a distribution deal in place (and nope, listing it in a few online retailers doesn't really count as "distribution"), then don't expect any sales there.

There won't be any stock held in US wholesalers, I suspect, which rules out bookshop sales. And few readers are going to be keen enough to wait for a copy to arrive by post from another continent.


But your thoughts about rights is a good one and, as I'm agent hunting again and more confident this time, one I will follow up with anyone who offers representation. :)

You know it's too late for this book, though, right? Now it's signed to a publisher that's that. It's out in the wild. I hope it sells well for you.

Jo Zebedee
02-22-2015, 05:47 PM
Yes, I'm aware of all that. The chain, dependant on individual managers - most of whom are supportive - will stock it in shop and are offering some events and also support for the sequel. I'm well aware it's never going to be a bestseller but I got agented for my second book and the trilogy was going to be lost - I'd rather it came out with a small publisher and gave me something to build on. And it gave me the chance to work with a great editor in Teresa Edgerton, and learn some of the ropes of publishing. So I have no doubts about going with a small press in this instance - it was that or lose the book. I'm also aware how many genuinely first books get trunked so I'm happy to see it appearing. I'd be pleased for the trilogy to wipe its face and get me a few readers - I already have a small but building online following through one of the big sff sites.

The second one is more problematic. It has been agented. It's been subbed to most of the big houses. But it was subbed as YA and it's now a crossover (based on editorial feedback, which was good about the writing, less sure about the market) and no longer agented.

I'm assuming no other agent will touch it and am already querying my next project. Which leaves me either small publishing again or holding it back in the hope whoever takes my next project would consider it. And I don't hold out much hope on that front.

Jamesaritchie
02-22-2015, 08:24 PM
I'm dubious that most small presses sell fewer copies of each book. They DO sell fewer books, anywhere from 6-60 titles on the average. But readers don't care whether the pubber is small or large or in-between. They only care if they like the book.

If small presses sold as many copies of a book as the big publishers, they wouldn't be small presses very long at all. It's not about whetehr readers care, it's about number of copies printed, how wide the distribution is, how many marketing dollars the book gets, and a host of other things.

Small presses, on average, sell one heck of a lot fewer copies of the books they release. The numbers aren't even in the same ballpark. This is true even when it's the same book.

A lot of best sellers began life at small presses. One of the biggest was Tom Clancy's The Hunt For Red October. It was firt published by the Naval Institute Press. Ronald Reagan read it, ravbed about it, and it started selling well, but even with this backing, it didn't achieve real bestseller numbers until it was picked up by a large publisher.

This has happened to many books. Simply put, there would be no reason to try for a large publisher, if you could sell as many copies with a small publisher. We'd all be trying to place our books with small presses.

Really, numbers aren't even remotely close. Print runs for small presses are tiny, compared to big publishers, availability is tiny, and readers can't buy a book they can't find.

You just are not going to make much money selling books to small publishers.

blacbird
02-23-2015, 07:40 AM
I'm dubious that most small presses sell fewer copies of each book.

You really don't understand the publishing business, do you?


But readers don't care whether the pubber is small or large or in-between. They only care if they like the book.

You really don't understand how most readers obtain the books they read, do you? In order to "like" the book (and remember that verb now has Facebook residue dripping off it), you have to find the book. The vast majority of the book-buying public is really really lazy, or harried, or whatever, but just can't take the time to search for books. Most people either go directly to Amazon, where sales figures etc. matter, or visit the big racks in bookstores or grocery stores, where the BIG BESTSELLERS are displayed with author names twice the size of title names, in embossed metallic letters. And most are looking for, or attracted by, names like James Patterson, Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Janis Evanovich, Faye Kellerman . . .

You really think those readers are going to become enamored of a book published by a small press and to be found only by making a concerted effort to browse and search?

There are a lot of respectable small presses that publish respectable books that the BIG GUYS won't bother with, UNLESS some form of lightning strikes, like having the President of the United States, or Oprah Winfrey, praise the thing to high heaven in a public forum. But I don't think anybody associated with those small press publishers makes a big amount of money, and that includes the authors they publish. Their business model is geared toward smaller avenues of gratification and success.

And don't bring up J.K. Rowling as a template for how other writers can hit the big time. Her story is about the most anomalous outlier on the bell-curve of writing success that I know of.

You know where most people buy books from small presses in my town?

The big used bookstore thriving here. I'm often among buyers there. They have lots of wonderful books no longer in press. No longer available anywhere else. And which generate exactly zero dollars for the author.

caw

Laer Carroll
03-12-2015, 11:37 PM
One problem I have with this discussion is that most posts seem to divide publishers into big & little.

They are a continuum. In the middle are publishers who put out several dozen books each year in both print and ebook formats.

Just as one example is Baen Books, a sci-fi/fantasy publisher which has been slowly growing and diversifying over the years. In 2014 it put out 78 titles. They fell into hardbacks: 16 new and 1 reprint. It put out more large-format (trade) paperback titles: 24 new and 9 reprints.

For the smaller-format (mass-market) paperbacks it published only reprints: 28 in all. This suggests to me that it is increasingly putting reprints into ebook formats rather than print.

For distribution it uses one of the larger publishers, S&S I think. Which means it gets much the same bookstore distribution, though probably not the up-front kiosk displays which publishers sometimes pay for their titles.

Any generalization about "big" and "little" publishers is likely to be wrong.

Roxxsmom
03-12-2015, 11:53 PM
But Baen is a big 5 subsidiary, aren't they? Their books certainly do make it onto the shelves at the B&N and other brick and mortar book retailers, and they're easy to find on Amazon. They've got many well known fantasy and SF writers in their stable.

amergina
03-13-2015, 12:15 AM
But Baen is a big 5 subsidiary, aren't they? Their books certainly do make it onto the shelves at the B&N and other brick and mortar book retailers, and they're easy to find on Amazon. They've got many well known fantasy and SF writers in their stable.

Nope. Baen is an Independent press (in the original sense of that term). They're not owned by one of the big 5. They are distributed through Simon & Schuster, but that's quite different from being an imprint of S&S.

DAW books, actually, is also independent though it has a tight relationship with (and distribution through) Penguin. It's still wholly owned by Wollheim and Gilbert.

Laer Carroll
03-13-2015, 12:20 AM
But Baen is a big 5 subsidiary, aren't they?

No. They've simply partnered with one of them for distribution. Old Hack may have more details, but I'd guess this is not an unusual practice for the smaller publishers.

Several smaller publishers have become part of a bigger publisher. DAW is a example. Acquired by Penguin, they remain independent editorially but share the same accounting, publicity, human resources, and distribution facilities of the conglomerate. They have a long history and a unique brand and the larger company wants to use that and not destroy it. (They are also one of the few who accept unagented submissions, according to their guidelines (http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/daw/), and respond within a fairly short time.)

Laer Carroll
03-13-2015, 12:38 AM
To expand a bit on my previous post: most of the bigger companies are conglomerates. When the acquire a smaller company they may go different ways.

One is predatory. They fire everybody and break up the company and sell the parts. At the other extreme, the acquired company remains essentially the same but shares some resources with the bigger company. Then there are middle paths. Which of the several paths depends in part on how established the smaller company is and how useful their brand is.

Good agents understand all this and more. When they submit our works to an editor they know the editor and the company they work for. Editors and companies are individuals, not clones. The agent knows what that particular company offers and what the individual editor's tastes are and what s/he believes will sell.

Bryan Methods
03-13-2015, 08:59 PM
Where do mid-sized presses figure into this? There are some pretty great - and sizeable - publishers that aren't in the Big 5.

veinglory
03-13-2015, 09:03 PM
If the small press you choose has some source of prestige (e.g. it wins literary awards, it is in a narrow niche and serves it well, it is run by people with standing in the industry) this is very different from just going with whatever one-person kindle-only publisher will take it.

Old Hack
03-14-2015, 11:28 AM
Veinglory is spot on.

A smaller publisher which has strong distribution is well worth working with: such publishers routinely have good marketing and promotional strategies, they publish their few books very well indeed, and make good sales.

A tiny publisher with no distribution? You can do better self publishing.