Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Les Réponses

As promised, ladies and gents, my answers to your questions from yesterday:

christicorbett writes:

How much does author initiative for marketing and promotion matter to a first book deal?

As with everything, it's secondary to your writing, but authors who are willing to do more for their book absolutely have a leg up over authors who aren't. MORE TK.

Lydia Sharp writes:

Define "midlist."

According to Wikipedia:
Midlist is a term in the publishing industry which refers to books which are not bestsellers but are strong enough to economically justify their publication (and likely, further purchases of future books from the same author).
According to Wikiquote:
Unlikely to be more than modestly successful.
According to Bookjobs:
Midlist: Books with a strong intellectual or artistic bent which have a chance of significant success but are not assumed to be likely bestsellers.
According to me: an author with potential.

Scott writes:

Has the vampire thing about run its course?

Who knows? In my opinion: yes, unless Stephenie Meyer releases a new book in the next year or two. Zombies already seem to be the next cool thing, followed by (ostensibly) steampunk.

-30- writes:

If I were to publish my book, and in the course of my travels to visit friends and family wanted to stop in at my favorite old book shops and retailers to sign some copies, would I have to coordinate with the publisher or just give the store a call directly?

You generally want to run these sorts of things by your agent, as (s)he will be in touch with your publisher and will be aware of any media opportunities that may arise from such visits, but if you're a debut author, you'll probably be able to call the store directly (if you want to schedule a signing event). If you just want to sign some stock, you might be able to just drop in, but again, best to check with your agent.

Jodi writes:

If I were to sell my books at a signing—say at a library—do I have to charge tax, have a tax ID number, or what?

I don't recall anyone charging tax at any of the smaller signings I've attended (and I've attended several), but you'd want to check with your state government regarding applicable tax law. Some states will require that you have a state tax license (and this may change depending on how much revenue you're generating), and others won't.

Eric (not me!) writes:

When I sent out my nonfiction book proposal, I had two publishers interested. As one consideration in selecting the publisher, I went to Barnes and Noble to see how many books from these publishers were on the shelves. Turns out quite a lot for one of them. I went with that publisher, considered a leading religious publishing house.

Now that the book is published (this past November) I don't see any books from this publisher in my local Barnes & Noble. Including mine. Has there been some sort of re-organization or winnowing of publishers by Barnes & Noble bricks-and-mortar over the past couple of years?

No, not to my knowledge. It's possible something specifically occurred between Barnes & Noble and your publisher, but without knowing who they are, I really couldn't say. Feel free to e-mail me if you want to discuss further.

writingstudio writes:

How do you find out what books were/are considered successes within a publishing house? Years ago I asked an editor at a conference about a book that I had thought was a success and he just shook his head and said 'it didn't earn back its advance.'

And, as an adjunct to that question, is there a place to find out what books took off with the buying public versus those that disappointed when both were on the bestseller lists?

Without talking to someone in-house, it's pretty difficult to tell. You would have to know the author's advance, royalty structure, the number of units sold (and at what discount), and a host of other details that you would probably only find in the P&L or in-house POS data to know whether a book, regardless of how many copies it sold, was profitable.

As for a place where one might find out which bestsellers outperformed others, your best bet is our old friend BookScan.


  1. Eric,

    I swung by to catch Lydia's question, and found myself surprised at your answer instead:

    "According to me: an author with potential"

    I'm going to try not being snarky and exhibit some maturity for once. Of all the rambling inspirational or motivational jargon (read: nonsense) out there, this is actually truly noteworthy.

    Seriously. No sarcasm. That one sentence is going to keep more writers clicking at their keyboards or scribbling into note books than you realize.


  2. I'm surprised zombies even still have traction. Or even paranormal. But then again, I am the only person I know who doesn't like True Blood. ;)

  3. ...authors who are willing to do more for their book absolutely have a leg up over authors who aren't. MORE TK.

    Can you define TK? Google didn't help.

    And as for steampunk, Elle, I had to look that up just last week. Instead of computer cyberpunk, it's steam(engine)punk, meaning back in the days of early technology. It seems to also include books written then, like THE TIME MACHINE and 20,000 COC... LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA.

    Two lists:

  4. Sorry to post jack, but Maine's 20,000 comment was too funny to pass up. Lydia should be ashamed of herself. :P

  5. Scott Westerfield's Leviathan is considered steam punk.It's set in the 1900's and all of the technology is new and different and it's a very technology based story.