Wednesday, November 19, 2008
What Authors Will be Happy When Royalty Statements Come out in Early 2009?
The answer is the same even when the economy is good: hard working authors who never stop and never give up. This is especially true this year.
Our national bookstore chains are suffering (Borders is in deep financial trouble and is ordering new books in smaller quantities, which makes them less widely available nationwide), Barnes and Noble's business is down, and returns across the board are way up.
We have spent the past eighteen months aggressively opening new markets (specialty, corporate, and others outlets outside the normal bookstore trade channels), and our authors whose books are attractive in those venues will see the difference. Some of our books, however, are not suitable for strong specialty sales, and that means the primary revenue stream from those books is through the book trade. The returns, once fully calculated, will stagger some.
I can't wait to get the call from Author X about this. The conversation will go something like this:
"I just got my royalty statement. I only made $59.26 all of last year?"
"That's impossible! What kind of business are you running?"
I explain the numbers, the trade returns, and so forth, and then ask. "How many radio interviews did you do last year?"
"Ah, well, I have been busy. I can't just drop everything like some can."
"How many tours did you lead? How many speaking engagements did you schedule? Bottom line: How many of your own books did you help promote and sell?"
"Well, I don't have time . . ."
"That's fine," I interupt. Of course it is true that some authors are better situated to promote their own books. "There is no rule that you must work harder. But the realities of the business we are in dictates the result for authors who will not, or who can not, go the extra mile week after week. I don't control that. The rules of the free market, however, do."
So are some authors having a banner year? Yes. Who? Those authors who are actively blogging about their book, continually finding ways to sell them, scheduling and leading tours of battlefields, etc. We have many authors booking events weekly (or even more often) in local rotaries, Elks Clubs, VFWs, colleges, high schools, libraries, and even churches. Every group, large and small, welcomes speakers who have suitable talks for their members (and a creative author can always come up with an angle to address any group).
Many of our authors also work close with our marketing director to set up special events and radio interviews. Why is this good for the everyone? Because the author gets to sell his own books and keep a big chunk of the money, the buyers get personally inscribed copies, and we move inventory. It is a win-win-win situation.
There is another benefit. Showing the flag anywhere results in more sell-through in the chains, on Amazon, and direct sales here at the office, which means returns are fewer in number. Why? Because people who don't have their checkbook when an author speaks go home, go online, and buy a copy. Or drive to their local bookstore. Or log onto our site and purchase a copy.
With returns, steep discounting requirements, and a population being steadily dumbed down and turned off to history (and books in general), everyone is getting squeezed. The dirty secret is that the author is at the bottom of the food chain in this equation. Those writers who rely upon the book trade for the large bulk of their sales have a shovel in their hands are and digging themselves an oblong-shaped hole.