Learning the Book Biz


51oiXXHMtrL._SS500_New Orleans     This book thing is a trip!  Every time I turn around I’m getting slapped up the face by the learning curve.

It’s not easy to write a book or get one published, so I’m not complaining, just explaining.  But, it also turns out that in this brave new, internet dominated world, it’s also a stitch getting the book out there where it can be seen amid the tens of thousands of other titles, find a place, and, gee, get read, which is the point after all…saying something that people are willing to hear, and in my case, hoping that they will act on it.

So in misery there is company, so I want to lure y’all into all I’m learning, so we can build yet more character together.  A lot of this I’m learning from the very good and wonderfully supportive folks at Berrett-Koehler, a smallish independent, trade press based in San Francisco.  I’m sure they told me all of this before, but I’m one of those guys who clearly learn by doing, so has to learn the lessons the hard way.

Thinking like an organizer, rather than an author, the numbers are not staggering.  If you sell 4000-5000 hard cover books, then everyone is happy and someone (not the author) makes enough money to be willing to do this again (and that’s very important to this author!).  A lot of academic presses hardly print 1000 books so the risk and outreach is smaller.   BK considers a book to be a bestseller if it moves 20,000 books.  Meanwhile the publishing industry is getting hammered just like the rest of the economy and no one knows what to make of the economics, the internet, and electronic books either, so it’s a brave new world and everyone is veering maddeningly along the learning curves.

Pricing is part of it.  Take Citizen Wealth (please!), which the publisher prices for just shy of $25.00 (ok, $24.95).   The book became available on July 1st.  Amazon prices the book for $16.47 right from the beginning.  There is no Kindle version yet, though one is coming, but BK put out an e-book edition of Citizen Wealth (which is great because this allows all of my friends outside of the North American market to grab one off the web for $ $17.46 USD simply by double-clinking http://www.bkconnection.com/pdf.asp).  Yes, that’s right, the Amazon version of the hardcover is about $1.00 less than the e-book version from the publisher, but, hey, there’s shipping, too, ok.  Kindle usually charges $9.99.  Nobody is making any money here.  On the other hand the publishers LOVE to sell to Amazon, because (read the book about the long tail), they keep what they buy with no returns.

And, then there’s book reviews.  Ok, skip them.  The publisher says reviews are hard to get and don’t sell books.  Who knew?  That must be up there higher on the mountain top that I’m breathing.  Radio?  That’s the thing, they say.  Hmmm.  Ok.  This is all old school.  Radio and books.  Peas in a pod, I guess.

Book events are great, but you are pretty much on your own.  If they have 30 days head start, and you guarantee 60-70 people at a bookstore, then “maybe” they can get that together.  Of course then you start doing the math, and you start to understand the religious book phenomena, where folks you have never heard of sell a gazillion books, largely by hauling the books place to place with them from church to church and church bookstore to church bookstore and moving the titles out.  One of my publisher’s folks told me that as a “rule of thumb,” you should hope to sell to 25% of the crowd at a bookstore event.  Figure out the math.  If you pull 60 folks, then you might average selling 15 books.  On the other hand if you get friends to reach out for you, as we saw in Seattle and Vancouver last week, you can move 25 books at a pop.

Internet?  They all seem to be rookies still (just like me!).  Facebook fan page for the book, sure, but the publisher seemed to have no real interest.  Amazon has an “author’s page,” but I pretty much just stumbled onto it, and I’m not sure how it all works.

Slap!  Just got hit by the learning curve again!!!

Anyway, when you read the book, put up a review on Amazon or wherever…Turns out it makes a big difference and moves Amazon, and they seem to move the world.  We’re just the little people trying to find people to listen and care.

Stay tuned!