Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Publishing Your Lottery Ticket

To enter into the world of book publishing is to sign up to win the lottery; few generate the big payoff but everyone loves owning a ticket for the big drawing.

What are the odds of success for today’s author?  It depends on how you define success.  If it’s to be measured in book sales, how many sales constitute a “win”?  If it’s to be measured by some other standard, how do you measure it?

For many, books that don’t sell well enough to even break ever still serve a purpose and a need or desire.

But when it comes to sales, how many people make real money?  When you subtract the value of your time that was invested to write, publish, and market the book, how much did you really net?  When you compare what you made to what you could have made if you put your time and resources elsewhere, what do you discover?

People become authors for many reasons-
·         To share an interesting story and enlighten or entertain others.
·         To inform and educate others.
·         To brand themselves so they can write future books.
·         To position themselves as an expert or authority and then cash in with consulting, seminars, speaking gigs, etc.
·         To build their resume qualifications to get a better job.
·         Ego and legacy-building.
·         To sell other rights: movie, audio, foreign, digital, etc.
·         Professional requirement.
·         To shape opinions and minds for political or ulterior motives.
·         To expose a secret, confess a wrong, or set the record straight.

You can’t get into publishing expecting to make a lot of money from book sales but you can make money in other ways as a result of the book.  Further, some do break through and sell a butt load of books.  Kardashian-supersized butt load!

According to Publishers Weekly, only 340 titles sold 25,000 or more e-books.  Just 35 of those executed sales of 200,000 copies.  Many of these big sellers were written by celebrities and best-selling authors—or the books were about famous people, such as Steve Jobs.  James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Janet Evanovich, Tina Fey, Stephen King, Nicholas Sparks, Lee Child, Bill O’Reilly, and Nora Roberts surprised no one as they had e-book hits.  Some of these authors had multiple titles sell well.  But what does that say for the millions of other authors looking to win the lottery?

In print books the numbers are bleaker.  Only 194 books sold over 100,000 copies in 2011.  234 hit that level in 2010 and 247 in 2009, so there’s a downward trend.

But these stats are not telling the whole story.  They only calculate sales through certain sales channels.  For instance, no one is tracking sales through authors.  If you sell books on your Web site that aren’t processed by B&N or Amazon or a few other sources, the sales aren’t counted, nor are various bulk sales such as when an author speaks somewhere and sells hundreds of books—unless they are processed by a standard retailer.  For mass market paperbacks, the decline is steeper.  A decade ago, 47 books sold a million.  In 2011, only eight book sold a half-million plus copies, the lowest amount recorded since PW tabulated these numbers.  At its peak, mass market books had 226 sell at least one hundred thousand copies.  In 2011, that number was more than halved, to 106. 

The bigger issue for authors for profitability rests in two areas.  First, how does the book fit in with your overall strategy/ability to make money?  Will the book help you sell other materials, such as a CD or DVD?  Will you earn more money as a speaker with a book?  Can you repurpose the book’s content and earn money from other sources such as an ad-based blog or a fee-based Web site?  Secondly, can your book serve as a loss leader to sell other books?  Can you sell your book at a lower price—even give it away—in hopes of building up a readership or capturing customer names so that you can sell a massive amount of copies of the next book?

While the industry experiments with publishing formats, pricing, and marketing strategies, what will happen to how writers create their content, to bookstores, and to the supportive cast of professional editors, publicists, and cover and book designers, etc?

According to PW, e-book sales jumped 117% last year while print sales declined by 17% but the massive increase in digital sales failed to offset the revenue lost on print.  The combination of print and digital sales fell 5.8% last year, according to a survey of major publishers.  But despite the lower sales figures, profits are up.  This means publishers are making more with less income.  Further, audiobooks are up by 4.7% from 2010.  The CD sales fell 8.1% but the digital downloads shot up 25.5%.

What all of these numbers add up to us hard to decipher in terms of what they mean to authors.  Only the individual author can tell you if they “won” the lottery with their book.  Though the odds of achieving significant sales numbers from the sale of a book are astronomical, authors can find success in publishing if they have a long-term strategy and a broad plan.  A well-written book that is packaged nicely is the starting point, but a well-executed PR and marketing plan coupled with publishing-related sources of income could help more authors to feel like they won the lottery even without hitting the jackpot.

Personally, I believe that once you put pen to paper or finger to screen/keyboard you have taken the biggest step of all and you greatly improved your chances of winning the lottery because in order to win it, you have to be in it.  They only cost of your ticket is your ego.  It may get bruised along the publishing highway but the journey is worth it.   

Interview With Lori Foster,  also writing as L.L. Foster, Author Of A Perfect Storm

  1. Lori, what is your upcoming book about/called? A PERFECT STORM is the 4th and final book in my “Men Who Walk the Edge of Honor” series featuring ultra-Alphas opposing human trafficking. Because I write romance, each hero finds and falls in love with a woman who’s in some way been impacted by human trafficking. A PERFECT STORM is a little different in that Arizona has a more tragic background. Part of the backstory is that she wasn’t immediately rescued. Now she wants to join the fight against human traffickers so that she can both get revenge, and prevent other women from being hurt. It takes a very strong-minded, capable, and understanding hero to break down her barriers, and to accept her for who she is, and what she wants in life.

  1. What inspired you to write it? Human trafficking has become a fast growing problem for ALL areas, in ALL societies. Many don’t realize that it’s happening in our own back yards. It’s catastrophic, and it has to be stopped. After seeing the movie “Taken” with Liam Neeson, I both wanted to bring awareness to the issue of human trafficking, and show that even in the most tragic situations, people are survivors. But finding the focus and drive to survive is always easier when we have love.

  1. Why will consumers want to read it? I hope that readers will be entertained by the fast pace, the action, the characterization. I’m also told that even though the subject matter is heavy, there’s plenty of humor involved with dialogue (people need to laugh!) and I’m known for writing sensual scenes. Publishers Weekly has already put A PERFECT STORM in the top ten for romance. PW said, “Foster has an amazing ability to capture a man’s emotions and lust with sizzling sex scenes and meld it with a strong woman’s point of view.” Romantic Times gave the book 4 Stars HOT. ;-)

  1. Do people often ask you if your writing is in anyway autobiographical? All the time, and obviously, pieces of “me” float in there. Things I believe in, personality traits that I value. I write “good” people, and that’s definitely MY perspective on what is considered good. But as far as characters as a whole, of course not. I’m a 53 year old woman, married for 34 years to the same wonderful guy, with 3 wonderful sons and now 2 adorable grandsons. My life is beyond blessed –but thankfully I’ve never needed to be “rescued,” have never faced major danger, and I’m not in the least adventurous. LOL

  1. What do most readers look for when reading fiction? I write romance, so I can only speak to that. And we always want a happy ending. There can be all types of hurdles on the way to the end goal, but we want to see a resolution that makes us happy, one that leaves us satisfied that people can get past the bad things in life, and find the “happy ever after.”

  1. As a former NYT best-selling author,, where do you think the book publicity industry is heading? Hey! I’m a CURRENT NYTimes bestseller. Don’t bump me out of that bracket yet! LOL.  You know, I don’t bother myself with the realities of a shifting industry. I can’t control that. I write the best book I know how, I turn it in on time, I try not to give my publisher grief while at the same time protecting my voice, and I never forget my blessings. Yes, I know the industry is changing, and sure, eventually it’ll affect me. But grieving over it, trying to forestall it, is a waste of energy. I’d rather be writing and talking with readers and enjoying life – so that’s what I do!

  1. Any advice for struggling writers? Stop trying to cut corners. For the majority of authors, it takes time. Lots of time. You write the best book YOU can write (get away from critique groups!) and you submit it to the appropriate publishers in the appropriate manner, then you start writing another book. And so on, and so on. Don’t get caught up in entering contests. You’ll fall into that cycle of writing the requested 3 chapters, and nothing more. Don’t decide to self publisher because you receive rejections. We ALL received rejections. I wrote 10 books that never sold before I finally got an editor to take a chance on me.

Write what you love to read, in YOUR voice (again, get away from those critique groups!) and remember to have fun with it. Not to diss critique groups, but honestly, the only thing you have to sell is your voice, and how unique will your voice be if it’s honed by committee!? Your critique group can’t edit your book – only an editor can do that. And they can’t buy your book – only a publisher can do. Other than checking for obvious mistakes and typos, critiques groups are a very bad idea. My advice – take it or leave it! LOL

For more information, please consult: http://www.lorifoster.com

Brian  Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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