Blogger: Mary Keeley
You’ve probably heard me stress more than once how important it is to have a fresh, unique hook or fresh angle for your book. That is what editors are looking for in their search for the next big thing that will take the publishing industry by storm. But there is a risk for authors and editors straying too far from status quo. I’m going to address the proverbial elephant in the room and talk about the good and bad of so much sales data.
Data is useful to publishers for catching trends and for making well thought out decisions about contracting a new project and projecting its success. Enthusiastic sales reps can show retailers data supporting a new book’s sales potential in their effort to convince retailers to agree to order copies for their stores.
However, when data is applied too broadly and too quickly, publishers and authors can miss out on a promising success, perhaps even that next big thing every publisher hopes to discover.
The Sales team is the heavyweight in the decision-making whether to offer a contract or not. Data is hard evidence for sales departments, and new technologies make it easy for them to collect sales information on books that have been published. It makes the sales reps’ job so much easier. Executives and editors look to them for the thumbs-up or thumbs-down about extending a contract offer. No sales rep wants to be responsible for a bad decision, so the data they collect becomes their authority. Makes business sense, right?
Not so fast.
Data is only as reliable for projecting a future book’s sales potential as the scope of the research to acquire it and as an apples-to-apples comparison, that is, author-to-author, story-to-story, topic-to-topic, publisher-to-publisher, and if reader interests in a fast-pace world never change. This is a practical impossibility.
The sales department’s expertise is in selling. The editors’ expertise is relative to the story, meeting readers’ felt needs, and the quality of the writing. When the sales team advises against contracting a book that the acquisitions team and editors are excited about simply on the basis of data that XYZ book in the same genre by another author at a different publishing house didn’t sell well, the sales team is using the data in a self-defeating way. This happens, unfortunately. How will the next big thing in CBA publishing see the light of day under this type of constraint?
Last week, I blogged about the resilience of the publishing industry. It’s true. Publishers are trying new things to adapt and grow. But the overuse—or misuse—of data may be the elephant in the room that keeps publishers stuck. When sales reps rely on data alone, they diminish their role from enthusiastic sales professional to order-taker.
The takeaway for authors is to provide details, with sources, in your book proposal that show readers will be interested in your story or setting or issue or approach to your topic, or felt need. In other words, arm an interested editor with supporting information specific to sales potential for your book. Do this succinctly for a quick and easy read. Those editors will appreciate your forethought.
What do you think about this? In what ways can you, the author, validate the potential for your book’s success in your proposal? Social media engagement? People group? Your topic?
The good and bad of so much data for publishers. Read about it here. Click to Tweet.
Overuse and misuse of sales data may stunt a publisher’s growth. Here’s why. Click to Tweet.