Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Stocking Books

So it's been awhile, much longer than I would have liked, since I've made a post. Without going all livejournal-ly on you, my life has been crazy, between trying to find a new apartment, health, my two jobs, and my book coming out.

My book did come out (no, I won't tell you what it is). And it did well. Went to second printing in the first week of publication. It's not gonna be on a bestseller list, but nobody's really on a bestseller list. But, healthy sales, beyond expectations, and books 2 and 3 in the series are in contract negotiations.

One of the little-known facets of publishing houses is that nobody actually knows what they're doing. A lot of guesswork is involved in every stop in the process. In my case, the publishing house (no, I won't tell you which one) had a good idea that my book would do better than the others on its list in that genre coming out at the same time, but still underestimated the demand, as did the buyers at B&N and Borders and whatnot. Some of this is the company's fault, for not pushing the book enough at the buying meeting. Some of it is the buyer's fault, but buyers have a really hard job and I'm a first-time author, so I'm surprised they bought as many as they did.

Unlike magazine publishing, where they'll happily print 1000 extra copies than lose a single sale, bookstores don't really like to be overstocked. The books take up space and cost money to ship back to the publishing houses when they don't sell. So it's a guesstimate. The problem is, when the book sells out and they put in for reorder (or they get low and put in for reorder), the order takes a good week to fill at best. Books take awhile to be printed, so if the publisher is clean out, you know, whoops. Which means a lost sale, because people are less likely to buy if it has to be ordered for them, and of course casual browsers aren't going to see it if it's not on the shelf in the first place.

Technically there is a policy that bookstores aren't supposed to stock the book until the actual publication date, which was never a solid date but at some point was September 1st and at another point was September 8th. Only the local bookstore in my hometown, which ordered a whole ONE copy, had it in stock but was unwilling to admit it until my mom told them I was the author, and then they were unwilling to sell it to her because it was August 29th at the time. The reason she'd gone there, other than out of interest, was that it HAD been in the closest Barnes and Noble and all 8 copies sold within a few days, so she didn't have a copy of her daughter's book.

What actually happened was the publishing house shipped the books out in a "staggered" form mid-August, and B&N, Borders, and Amazon decided to just start sellin' and filling orders. No reason to waste space in the storage room. I actually found out my book was on-sale around August 20th because someone emailed me to say they had gotten an email that their Amazon pre-order had shipped early (mine hadn't). So I went to the local B&N and damn, there it was. I have to say, I was very composed. The shouting for joy was minimal. I blame my heavy medication. Stupid dampening of emotions to prevent severe depression.

An amusing thing happened, which was suddenly the publishing thought it might be a good idea to do some publicity for the book, seeing as how it was doing so well within its little niche genre, or at least better than the other books on their list. So they called me up and were like,"So do you want to do a book signing?"

"Have you ever tried to schedule a book signing in Manhattan?"

"No." (this particular publicist hadn't)

"Well, I'm not a former President or Richard Dawkins, so good luck."

The blog tour thing is going very well, though. Basically we sent review copies to a bunch of bloggers who review books, and some of them offered to interview me, and I wrote answers to their questions. It's a bit difficult after the 5th interview or so to keep the material fresh, because there's only so many ways to answer the question, "So why did you decide to write about ___?" But since it's the internet, I figure some people are going to be surfing around and reading multiple websites, so I ought to say something different if I can. I came THIS close to talking about my sword collection. THIS CLOSE. What stopped me is that it's not a very impressive collection. Only one is folded steel and it's only apprentice quality.

I will be back to answering questions soon, as this apartment search thing clears up for me. That or my head will explode from the state of the New York real estate market, and I won't be answering questions.