Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Promotional Quantity

First: 300th post! Thanks again for reading, gentle authors, and here's to another 300! — E

I've blogged about co-op before, mes auteurs, but I haven't really touched on one important aspect of the co-op system: the promotional quantity.

A promotional quantity is the number of copies a store or chain needs to take in order for them to have enough to put the book into co-op placement. This number varies widely depending on the retailer: an independent book store might only need a couple dozen copies in order to put a title front-of-store, whereas a chain will need to buy several thousand. Essentially, you need enough copies to make a sizable display somewhere in the store (or in every store, assuming placement at a national chain) for at least a couple of weeks.

Without quoting numbers or otherwise divulging non-public information, I can tell you that unless your announced initial print run is roughly in the mid- to upper tens of thousands (as you may or may not know, announced first prints are always higher than actual first prints) or higher, it's unlikely that your book will get a large enough buy at a major retailer to ensure national co-op placement. You might get placement at a few independent retailers, but as I've mentioned before, their co-op programs are much less rigid than those found in the national accounts, and (unfortunately) due to their smaller size, their influence is limited.

It would be a mistake, however, to underestimate the grassroots/guerilla/word-of-mouth campaigns that independent book store owners and employees are capable of waging. LibraryThing, Twitter, Facebook, and the blogosphere at large are all arenas in which the indie store can be king: recommendations from knowledgeable, non-corporate industry insiders can go a long way, and I've seen books take hold at the independent store level and work their way up to become national bestsellers. Your book might get skipped at a major chain, get buzzed by a handful of independent booksellers, and end up getting ordered at a promotional quantity by that same chain when the paperback comes out. Opportunities abound, meine Autoren, and you need to be ready to take advantage of them.

So: whether your initial print run is 10,000 or 100,000, befriend your local independent retailers; pimp yourself and your novel on-line, in person, at readings, and at conferences; and don't get discouraged by the myriad setbacks you'll no doubt encounter.

6 comments:

  1. Yet another post that gives me hope. Thanks!

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  2. Congratulations Eric on 300! I guess I've got a lot of catching up to do.

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  3. Love it!..."Opportunities abound, meine Autoren, and you need to be ready to take advantage of them."

    Your success is our collective success, so bring it on strong.

    Cheers!

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  4. 300 posts wow! And yep pimp that novel *grin* working on polishing it first!

    http://damselinadirtydress.blogspot.com

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  5. The novel is polished, and the author is practically a hermit...pimping said self is more difficult than it sounds.

    Congrats on the 300!

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  6. I can tell you that unless your announced initial print run is roughly in the mid- to upper tens of thousands (as you may or may not know, announced first prints are always higher than actual first prints) or higher, it's unlikely that your book will get a large enough buy at a major retailer to ensure national co-op placement.

    Perhaps this varies by category -- and perhaps you're just talking about the kabuki dance of ever-escalating fake "first printing" numbers -- but, taking those as actual sell-in figures, it's entirely untrue for the category I work in, where substantially lower figures (under ten thousand) are still considered "promotional."

    Five copies on the front table of a chain store is a promotional quantity, and the largest of the US chains has about 800 stores. Do the math, add in independents and the smaller chains, and even getting 10,000 copies out into the market implies a decent-sized stack in every store in the country.

    So a book that has a 20,000 first printing -- low, according to your formulation -- and no promotional quantities would still have 90%+ of that first printing still sitting in the warehouse, twiddling its thumbs. The big fiction publishers do waste a lot of money and effort, but I still have my hopes that it's not that much.

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