Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas miracle - sales numbers easily available!

Tip of the day: Trader Joe's eggnog cookies are delicious - you should try them even if you don't care for eggnog. 

So, if you were on twitter yesterday, you may have heard agents and authors talking about the new deal between BookScan and Amazon. (You can read the article that announced it HERE). If an author participates in the Amazon Author program, he/she can access BookScan sales numbers for books he/she wrote and see sales figures for four weeks time.

Up until now, BookScan numbers were too expensive for most authors to get. Subscribing to BookScan costs thousands and thousands of dollars, from what I understand. Editors have the numbers, but they generally don't give authors those numbers unless they ask. And even then, information is usually handed out with an explanation of what it means for YOUR books and a reminder that BookScan is known for being highly inaccurate. Plus it doesn't include library sales and sales through places like Walmart, Target, etc. Apparently numbers on your statement will vary anywhere from 15-75% from BookScan numbers.

I sort of have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, we get SO little information about how our books are selling. Royalty statements only come out twice a year and they often don't tell the whole story because returns can take a long time to show up. So, it's nice to have something that says - your books are selling, and here's how many in a week.

On the other hand, how many authors are going to know what that particular number means? I mean, pick a number. Is it good or bad? Is 500 copies a week good? 100? 50? 25? I've heard that it takes probably 4,000 - 5,000 books sold to hit the NYT list on any given week, so in that context, 500 doesn't seem that good. But then, I think - 500!? That's pretty good. I'd be happy with that! Other things that come into play - how long has the book been out? How many books were printed in the first place? Is it hardcover or paperback?

And let's say your book is down there in the 25/week range. And you get a stomach ache and go UGH! Now you have a stomach ache, but what can you do about it? Most of us do as much as we can already when it comes to promotion. So how does knowing really help us?

One person on twitter did suggest that when you tried something new promo-wise, or did some signings in a particular week, you could watch your numbers and see if it had an affect on the sales that week and take note.

My guess is that Amazon got tired of the questions - what does the Amazon ranking mean? Can't you give us more information about it? So, somehow they struck a deal with BookScan and here we are. One author on twitter asked, how long before they make us pay for this information? Good point. Give it to us free for a while, suck us in, and then start charging. It'll be interesting to see if that happens.

So... what do you think? Do you like the idea of having access to these numbers or not?

~Lisa, Miss Crafting a Career


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I think it's valuable in context: if you can see the sales from the moment your book releases and follow them over time, if you compare it to your royalty statements, if you also consider WorldCat holdings. It may be helpful to see where in the country your book is selling (or not), if you have the ability to do geographical promo. It may be useful to observe trends in sales (e.g., did you see a bump after a promotional activity?)
Or, it can be just one more thing authors use to torment themselves with. Many people will say authors should just forget about obsessing over this and do what they do best: WRITE.

Kate Fall said...

Yeah, 5,000 books a week is a lot of books. And should you really be depressed about selling 25 books a week? I know, it makes people worry that publishers won't pick up their next book. But that's still a nice amount of people who want to read YOUR BOOK. It is quite amazing how many thousands of copies have to sell quickly to be a "smash hit."

DeenaML said...

If you look at the number as just a percentage of sales, and see if that ever goes up or down, then it seems yeah, it COULD be helpful.... I'm sure I'd check it, lol!