In Which Our Heroine Worries and Has a Sick Day

Blargh… I have a cold which is making me lose time on the proof–it’s exhausting concentrating on the words and punctuation and the smaller type on the mass market galley forces me to squint even with my reading glasses on, so I feel a bit dizzy after an hour or so. But it’s mostly done, so I don’t feel too bad, though I’ve only found 2 typos… so maybe I’m just missing things.

But just in case, if any of you have noticed typos in the text of Greywalker, let me know which page and the context of the typo and I’ll go check on it in the new format.

Meanwhile, I’m finding myself a bit worried about things bookish. I keep hearing from other authors that their books are being moved from hardcover to tpb or mmpb (or from tpb to mmpb) due to demands from bookstores for cheaper books. There seems to be concern that the more expensive hardcovers won’t sell in the current financial freak out. But my books were moved up to hardcover last year. So… will they drop back down to tpb? or mmpb? And if so will that leave Underground as the one orphan in the bunch that came out in hardcovers? I also find the absence of the book from chain store shelves worrying. If they stay in hardcover, will all the successive books face the same 8-month absence during which they don’t make money for anyone? And if they don’t make money in the first year (when they will actually be less available since they’ll be off shelves for 8-9 months before mmpbs come out) will my publisher decide I don’t make them enough money and drop my contract…? All these little worries run around in my snot-clogged brain and make me want to hide under the boat. And I imagine a few other authors have similar panicky thoughts right now, though they probably don’t include huddling underwater.

One of the tricky things about being an author is that you really don’t know how well your books are doing most of the time. If you have access to Bookscan (the chain retail sales tracker) through your agency or something like that, you have a weekly spot-check of how well the book has sold in the chains and big online outlets but no idea how they are doing elsewhere. Chain store sales represent anywhere from 50-80% of fiction sales and that percentage tends to get bigger as the books age. (Why this is true I don’t really know, since a lot of chains drop older books to make room for newer ones where an indie might hold on to all the books in a series just to be “completist.”) But anyhow. Even when you can see the Bookscan numbers, you don’t really know how the book is doing until the publisher sends you a royalty report. However, that, also, is a bit misleading, since most publishers hold a percentage of the sales “against future returns.” So, you never really do know how many books you’ve sold, only how many the publisher is willing to pay you for or how many the retail chains have sold.

Now if you make a list–like the NYT or USA Today Best Seller lists or the Ingrahm warehouse top seller list, or a chain store best seller list–then you can be pretty sure you’re doing all right. But if you don’t… well, you don’t know dick. And this lack of dick-knowledge can be mightily unsettling when it’s contract time. Or time to pay the bills. Great reviews won’t save your bacon if the sales numbers stink.

Oh Publishing Gods… please let my bacon be self-sustaining….

And send me softer Kleenex: this brand is turning my nose into a tomato.

Woe, woe, woe….


About Kat Richardson

Writer, editor, eccentric pain in the tail, bestselling author of the Greywalker novels.
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6 Responses to In Which Our Heroine Worries and Has a Sick Day

  1. Adele says:

    Honestly i’m not buying any less books than usual. Actually my reaction to a crisis is usually to stockpile them so I have plenty to read if I ever can’t afford more.

  2. Barb Hendee says:

    Oh Kat,

    You do not have to worry about our publisher dropping your contract. I know you are considered one of the hot “stable” writers.

    Your B&N numbers for Underground are outstanding–really good for a book that came out last August:

    Do not worry at all.

    I did notice that our new hard cover (just out a few weeks ago) ended up with a few less copies than normal on the shelves, but last year’s hard cover came out in mm paperback the same day, and it’s being scooped up.

    This is exactly what will happen with your books. Underground is doing very well in hard cover, and then it will come out in mm next year, and all the folks who couldn’t afford the hard cover will hurry out to grab the mm paperback. I’ve learned to like this pattern, and I know you will too.

    You’re a rock star. Don’t worry.

  3. Sam Sattler says:

    Readers, like me, tend to forget that it’s not as simple for authors as writing a book and then waiting for the money to come rolling in every month while merrily working on the next book.

    The publishing business is a tough one and in this economic environment it is more brutal than it has been in years.

    Best of luck to you.

  4. Thanks all. I don’t mean to whine. It is a scary prospect though, when you see really good writers you respect being dropped to smaller, cheaper formats or dropped from publication all together because the numbers didn’t come up right. Everyone tells you “just write better” but I’m pretty sure that’s not really enough. A lot of it seems to be luck and timing and dodging bullets.

  5. Sandy says:

    Actually, I think in this economic climate [what an overused phrase that is], that even more books will be bought because people will not be going out as much…. well, sounded good to me. As for me, there will be no change in my book buying habits. Hang in there! 🙂

  6. I hope you’re right!

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