Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Roller Coasters

Yesterday was quite the roller-coaster day, as most book release days seem to be. I hit a number of stores on my way to the signing, and that was all up-and-down. At my neighborhood B&N, the bookseller there recognized me as a customer but hadn't realized I was also an author. They had a TON of books. Then I went to a Borders that had two copies shelved spine-out -- and Borders has always been my big seller, where most of my sales have come, where the order for the last book went up (but not up enough to counter the down order from B&N). Scary. But then the next Borders had a number of copies, plus some of the older books, and the new ones were on a front table. The next B&N had a ton of books, the whole series minus Once Upon Stilettos, which remains the forgotten stepchild book, but again they were just back on the shelves instead of in any kind of new fiction display.

Then I had an AMAZING signing. People were there! People I didn't even know! They asked questions, and we had a nice discussion, then I signed lots of books. I think that may have been my biggest turnout that wasn't part of some other event or where I didn't beg all my friends to come. So here's a shout-out to all the TCU Horned Frogs (yes, that really is the school mascot) and other Fort Worth-area folks who showed up. P.N. Elrod, editor of My Big, Fat Supernatural Wedding, came, and afterward we went out for dinner and shop talk.

It does look like I'll have to cancel my blood vendetta against B&N because they seem to be the one stocking the book in large quantities, after last year when they barely carried the last book. It does appear that they've seen The Error of Their Ways. I think that's the largest number of copies I've seen stuck in the shelves without any kind of front display. Normally, when a chain orders that many copies, the publisher coughs up some co-op money for front-of-store display (or, quite often, the store places a huge order because the publisher agrees to cough up co-op money for front-of-store display). This looks like B&N has more confidence in the book than the publisher does. Meanwhile, my area Borders other than the ones I visited yesterday still aren't showing the book as in stock -- including the one where I have a signing next week. Any reports from the field on that? Where are you finding books? I need to know where to throw my book-buying loyalty for the year. Borders has better coupons, but B&N is practically next door. Wouldn't it be cool if both chains got into a book at the same time?

Now for one more FAQ that came up in comments yesterday but that I'll answer here so everyone can see it:
What are these "numbers" this book needs to hit in order to get book 5?
I honestly have no idea. I have not been given a target. The reason given when they declined to buy book 5 was merely that the numbers didn't warrant it, and that the sales of each book were lower than for the previous book, so they saw it as diminishing returns. A big part of it was the fact that B&N really slashed their order for the third book, which meant the print run was drastically lower, which meant sales were likely to be lower.

However, the earlier books were still selling steadily rather than dying off, which made it nearly impossible for the newer books to catch up to the head start. My agent checked Bookscan, which reports book sales at certain stores, and found that my numbers were comparable to those of other books similar to mine from other publishers where the publishers were continuing the series or doing mass-market reprints. All of my books have gone into multiple printings, even months after release, and the sell-through numbers seem to be what I've generally heard qualify as "success." That muddies the waters somewhat. My unsubstantiated guess is that my particular imprint wanted to move away from chick lit, and nothing short of huge bestselling status would change matters (and bestselling status is a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is the subject of its own rant), so what I can hope for is that the fact that Amazon listing my books as urban fantasy (last I checked, the new one was the #6 urban fantasy) seems to be helping sales, plus the fact that my new editor is on the sf/f side of the house might help get the series new life with a new classification if sales are strong enough. But I don't know what "enough" is.

In short, this is a funny business.

And now I have to work on an essay that's due tomorrow. I should never accept a project with a deadline in a release week, but I sometimes have issues with the word "no" when something sounds fun.

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