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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

From an Agent's Perspective

At the RWA National conference in Orlando, I heard Ethan Ellenberg speak. He talked about Book Marketing from an Agent’s Perspective. Since my historical novel, The Tapestry Shop, comes out this fall, I was especially interested in what he said about sales and how they affect your career. He packed a lot of information into that one hour.

I pass this along, for those whose goal it is to be on the NY Times best-seller list. He said that the initial sales number is most important, and that when books sold before the release date, it had a negative impact on the numbers, because the sales, for rating purposes, go week by week. Thus, if a bookstore sells a book before the release date, it will minimize the sales the week of the release. By way of explanation, he said best-sellers might be number 4 one week, and number 257 the next, so if an author’s sales are dispersed over a period of weeks, his rating will stay down. Before this, I never quite understood the ratings.

Mr. Ellenberg, contrary to what we all hear, said he believes an author should spend 90 percent of their time writing, and 10 percent on marketing. That may be fine for Palin or King, but most publishers have cut their budgets and an author is expected to take an active part in marketing. In fact, most of the burden has now shifted to the author.

Someone from the audience asked how much of the print run needed to be sold in order to be deemed successful. He said that 50 percent of the print run was the usual dividing line. Less than 50 percent sales is considered unsatisfactory. Fifty percent is “okay”. If your book sells above the 50 percent mark it’s doing well.

Print runs are frequently between three and six thousand, with big houses printing fifteen to thirty thousand.

As for the demise of printed books, he believes there will always be physical books and readers to buy them. They make beautiful gifts, they stay on your shelves, and don’t get read and deleted. He emphasized that our goals as authors should be a presence in all markets: audio, print, and digital. Like TV and radio, the industry will evolve and thrive.

14 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Joyce,

I also read your post on your own blogspot and appreciate the new information you shared about publishers. Please continue to blog about
your experience at RWA for those of us who could not attend.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks for this information. Of course, being on the NYT list is probably more of a dream than a goal, since there are way way way too many factors the author can't control. But good pointers here.

Janet Lane said...

Very informative, Joyce. Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Fleming said...

Interesting insights from an active agent are always useful, and I find it comforting that this one believes there will always be print books. As long as I am around, that's what I will read and buy.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jacquie: I'm glad to share when I can. His talk gave me new insights into a subject that was always a bit foggy for me. He's a great speaker and must be an awesome agent.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Terry: Like most of us, I have no grandios ideas, but found his remarks interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Janet: Glad you stopped in! Wish you could have been there to hear him. I made notes like a crazy person. Thanks for dropping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Barbara: I agree with you. I want to hold a book and turn the pages and have the really unforgettable ones sitting on my shelf. My daughter, who has the latest Iphone and electronic gadgets, said she wants to hold a real book in her hands, but who knows what the industry will be ten years from now? Like Ellenberg said, the industry is evolving, like TV and radio did. Thanks for stopping by.

Terry Stonecrop said...

The rating system is an eye-opener. I didn't understand it either. Thanks for sharing this info:)

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Ethan Ellenberg is certainly a agent we'd love to have for representation. Glad you got to hear him speak and share his info with us.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terry: Glad I helped. If nothing else, when people ask, now at least I'll know a little something about the ratings factors. Thanks for stopping by.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Jacquie: Yes, he was informative and seemed very approachable, plus his love for the industry came over loud and clear. I'm glad I went and took notes, because there were a lot of other sessions at the same time to choose from. Thanks for stopping by.

Drue Allen said...

Interesting summary of what Mr. Ellenberg said, and pretty much echoes what I heard other agents say at RWA last week (waving at ya', Joyce). Though those sell-through numbers will vary with what type of book you have - mass market, trade or hardback. Also the talk I was in said that SOMETIMES pre-sales are added into the first week's numbers.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Hi Drue: Dern, wish we could have met up for a drink. It was one mad rush, getting around, with all the good classes and stuff going on. You're right, of course, about the numbers--depends on lots of variations, but it's a little clearer to me than before. I have a regional Fla. book that pubbed 12 years ago and is still doing well. Go figure. Thanks for stopping by.