Friday, July 24, 2009

Shop Talk

I had some interesting conversations while at the recent conference in Washington, D.C.. One such conversation, with the Director of Sales for one of my houses, was particularly sobering. He said that they’d just run the numbers on all their New York Times bestselling authors for the year to date, and that the sales of every one of them were down between 15 and 30% compared to last year.

Think about that. James Patterson: off 21%. A big selling romance writer I won’t name since she gave me the figure herself: off 30%. This director of sales says he’s been in the business for 30 years and he has never seen a downturn like this. You know how bookstores will sell something like, say, Dan Brown at 40% off? It’s a “lead loss.” The bookstore takes a loss on the bestseller in order to lure buyers into the store. Normally, readers will buy the lead loss and four or five other books. Now, they’re buying the lead loss and just walking out. Not good.

He does say he’s hopeful things will turn around this fall. But here’s the part that worries me: It seems all the houses have been holding back the books of many of their traditional big sellers, hoping the market will improve later in the year. So there are going to be lots of books by big-name authors coming out this fall. And as my source said, they’re going to cannibalize each other’s sales.

Unfortunately, I have three books coming out this fall—one paperback original, one paperback reprint, and one hardcover original. Not good news. Not good news, at all.


Lainey said...

I'll be there, debit card in hand, on release dates for The Solomon Effect and What Remains of Heaven. I'm in bad need of a Sebastian St. Cyr fix and another shot of Tobie and Jax.

Lainey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charles Gramlich said...

A flood doesn't exactly "raise" all boats. More like "raze" perhaps. Like you, I don't think putting out a bunch of big books all at once is likely to be a good thing. For anyone.

cs harris said...

Well, thank you, Lainey!

Charles, it does seem like a strange thing for them to have done. I guess it didn't occur to anyone that all the other houses were doing the same thing. What I find weird is that this is the first I've heard of this.

Rick said...

Sounds like whoever is planning this fall goat rodeo needs to go back to marketing school. The good news is that I'll be buying copies of your new releases just like Lainey (she, at least, seems to have a good plan).

Steve Malley said...

Ouch. :(

Lainey said...

LOL Rick.

I live from one release date to the next for the 4 authors that remain on my auto-buy list. Prior to discovering C.S. Harris/C.S. Graham, I was down to three.

orannia said...

I have to be honest, I borrow the vast majority of my books from the library (and I know that my library has your fifth book on order Candy because I have a hold on it already :) That hasn't changed because of the recession (can I use that word?) - I've always been a library junkie :)

Saying that, I adore your Sebastian St Cyr series - I finished the third book yesterday and immediately placed a hold on the fourth book - so much so that I have bought the first three in MMP format and will buy the others as they are released in that format ('cause they have to be the same size :)

Just wondering, are people reading less or buying less? Maybe more people are borrowing from libraries, in which case perhaps library sales will increase?

cs harris said...

Rick, thank you!

Steve, ouch indeed.

Lainey, I'm honored. I only have three or four authors on my auto-buy list, too. But Steve more than makes up for me!

Orannia, library sales are an important part of my hardcover sales, so readers who borrow books from their local libraries help authors, too.

Lainey said...

Orannia -
My friends are reading more, watching TV less. And it appears the local population is borrowing from the library lots more!

I'm #740 on the request list for the 15th book in an author's series; #167 for another author's latest release.

cs harris said...

Lainey, Wow, that's a long list. Which I guess is why large libraries buy multiple copies a popular new releases.

Lainey said...

Thank goodness there have been no significant budget cuts at my public library to date.

orannia said...

Lainey, you're #740? WOW! I think I'm about 500 and something for the latest Lee Child book.

And my library orders multiple copies - they have four copies of your next release Candy!

And I have Where Serpants Sleep waiting for me to pick up! *happy dance*

kc said...

I am a collections librarian and I can tell you that most libraries watch their pre-pub holds and adjust orders accordingly. For example, some would order additional copies when the hold ratio hits 4 to 1, meaning 4 customers want that copy of the title. The last large public system I worked with often ordered several hundred copies, if the pre-pub reserves showed that sort of demand. So, it does help authors to put yourselves on those lists.

cs harris said...

Lainey, that's good to hear. I know some cities are actually CLOSING libraries.

Orannia, four copies! Wow. That's great news.

kc, that's interesting. It makes sense, but I must admit it never would have occurred to me. Thanks.