TK Success

originally posted by ishmael smith

Janny my copy of TK when it arrived was marked 16 of 960…I am taking that to indicate that MM had 960 orders of TK to ship…

Does this make TK a success? If not what number of copies/units does a title have to move to be considered a success, or to ellicit from the publishers a request for the follow-up or committment to other titles from the same author


ishmael - thanks for your interest - it takes a LOT MORE!!! than this number…a whole lot more.

What number determines a book as "successful?" - this is a good question. It's a sliding scale. The number "this" year may change next, as costs rise. As distribution changes. As readers online find other ways to get books (used, pirated, borrowed)

A "success" in the mainstream is considered one number. A "success" in the sf/fantasy market, another…

I saw a rundown once that said any hardback that didn't sell at least 5000 - 10,000 copies didn't earn enough to pay itself back. I have seen rundowns that considered a 35,000 hardbound sales figure to be a success, in SF/Fantasy circles. I know that some fantasy/sf titles have done 100,000 hardbound or even a lot more…knowing what the "magic" number is gets murkier - as publishers change their ideas of profit margin, and - it gets easier to just "wait for the overstock" - if you buy a book "overstock" or "remaineder" at that deep discount - two things happen.

The author doesn't get PAID (the publisher is recouping their costs, etc, and there is no royalty) and perhaps worse: the author doesn't get CREDITED for that number - that sale. All readers who get a book "remainder" - are saving money, but NOT helping that author's marketshare…even though they are reading the book.

I recently had a reader buy a "used" online copy of Hell's Chasm from a major distributor (who hasn't bought from Amazon" - and they were horridly chagrinned to learn - that this "sale" did not a thing for Meisha Merlin, or me…they thought they were "supporting" the book's creative team! I am not knocking used book sales, either - people just want to read, and will do so at a bargain…I am glad books get resold and reach new hands - but I do wonder - at the listings of "ex library copies" for sale after a book is UNDER A YEAR OLD - in a major distributor or on e bay - how may libraries got ripped off, by a thief doing resale - and so, how many readers??? No library I know of gets rid of books under a year old!

Please note: I am NOT saying anyone is bad or wrong for getting remainder copies or used books - it's part of the industry practice, and who doesn't want to save a dime? I have…but when it's an author I truly care for, I get the hardback on release, new, ONLY because I know the push and the pull of what happens offstage.

If your book has a black mark, or a stamp on the edge of the pages - this was a remaindered copy, and never credited toward that authors "success"

Fact: I know that Peril's Gate reprinted twice in hardback - but - oddity - when I sign at Cons, I have almost NEVER seen a copy that did not have a black stripe on the pages…even from readers who had all the hardbacks from Mistwraith, and were loyal fans…which said to me, the "numbers" were still very much there, but NOT CREDITED on the balance sheet, which equals, less clout when it comes to the author's credibility on the marketplace.

Ah, the maze of this industry…and the competition for the dollar value for "entertainment" which is such an ephemeral term - how does such an experience get its value??? Or hold it?

If a publisher prints a LOTTA books, but sells less than it "expected to" - that book could have quite a successful "number" relative to the market, but be considered a "failure" and even be perceived as a "non runner" because the expectation was so much higher.

If a book was "expected" to sell the extremely modest, break even 5000, but it did a few thousand MORE than that, then it broke "expectation" and would have been perceived to be "a seller" though its numbers may have been pittance, compared to the "also ran" listed above.

It's ALL perception!!!

For TK to start turning heads, it would have to "outperform" expectations…and how many readers will realize I have NO mass market edition planned, and may not even realize it's out…I depend on the book's quality to create reader appreciation.

Publishers have to earn on a project - they don't waste time on "just broke even."

I am a writer, not a printer of books - therefore, the books have to pull their share of the weight…

If you, the reader, the printer/publisher/book distribution/shop network are all rewarded, we have a successful venture.

I don't know what the "numbers" are today - when I last checked at one corporate oriented publishing house, a title had to do 20,000 hardback, and over 50,000 in paperback to bother with. This was in SF, and this info is DATED. I have read articles that broke down costs - and one a few years ago said, hardbacks had to sell at least 5,000, and paperbacks, SELL (not ship!) 40,000 to break even with print costs in largescale distribution, to pay for returns. This informaton is dated, too.

Cost of trucking copies hither and yon, yes, will be affected by the rising gas costs, too.

It goes back to the basic - if you love something, genuinely, you will support it. If you don't, expect it won't be there, tomorrow.

A story as complex as Wars of Light and Shadows takes a LOT of peoples' time to produce. A full commitment on my part, as well.

I don't know how many pre-orders Meisha Merlin filled…I do hope that the book follows through. Hell's Chasm when it shipped last year did NOT get national distribution…many readers never found it.

I hope sincerely they do, as Traitor's Knot makes the shelves. I appreciate the question here - and am glad for every reader who notices the quality and the care gone into this book.

How many books would it take for this one to be a "success?" - I'd say, if Meisha Merlin sells out its first press run and goes into reprint in hardbound. For that, we'll see…I don't know how many readers bailed and went to Britain (which is OK, I got credit for those numbers too) AND I really cannot guess how many readers are lazy since FP/Grand Conspiracy/Peril's Gate - how many just "expect" they might be able to "wait" until the hardback goes "remainder" as a large house would, as a matter of course (Meisha Merlin probably won't!!!) so they as consumer can save a few bucks…and so, well, they might miss out, this time, as the handling here will be different.

How many readers are willing to "try out" a new author in Trade Paperback (as in, how many newbies will try Hell's Chasm this August?)

I can hope I did my share - produced a passionate, intense, even controversial story - assuredly I chose a publisher who's committed to creating a quality book, and who's committed to growing into the marketplace.

If those qualities translate into value - word of mouth will carry, and a book title will gain its "legs"

Let's see TK's initial press run SELL OUT!!! And then, do it again.

originally posted by ishmael smith

I must apologise to you here. I had not realized the immense pressure that you are under as a writer in producing copy…when you speak passion for work often clouds my perception and does not reveal the underlying angst that must be present…it must wound at times to read uninformed critiques such as i may offer without knowledge of the entire process.

I am definately one who has long waited on trade paperbacks for purchase; and one who filled his backlog of Athera based works from ebay and other online second hand facilities (which i now must try and replace as my box of "favourite texts" was mislaid during moving along with my copy of TRHC)…I just could not see myself paying close to fourty dollars for a hardbound book…i had always viewed those texts as the priviledge of the "priviledged"…

I will, however, endeavour to refill my collection from sources that will "count" towards your overall sales…although i will be honest and upfront…my actions my not always reflect my intent…

If you could share with me sources that will allow me to replace my missing volumes that are either second hand or discounted i will make use of them…

originally posted by ishmael smith

on another note altogether…would poor sales of TK (knot on wood) result in non-publishing of Stormed Fortress?

Ishmael - an author is only as good as their last performance - this has always been true (and is my responsibility, ultimately).

I would never knock a reader for doing what they enjoy - reading - provided they didn't actually STEAL their copy. (grin)

On upfront creative productions that will reward the original creators - shops/publishers/author's efforts:

Any title bought new, that was not remaindered.

To save money - there are mass market editions, new - HarperCollins USA has some titles listed. HarperCollins UK has the reissues.

If you read from libraries or get used copies - then, if you spread lots of word of mouth, post reviews that reflect your enthusiasm - make sure your library GETS a copy for its shelves - tell your friends - this will translate into some new readers and the effort rolls forward.

I repeat, I do not knock anyone for saving a buck, particularly if they haven't GOT the leeway for discretionary funds. Just one has to realize - when there's whinging that "this or that" author isn't available, it isn't "they" who are responsible (the publishers) - it is, bluntly, the consumer who determines what the publishers support.

Demand = supply.

Folks say life is more than food for thought - well, then, it needs to be prioritized as food is…farmers don't grow their crops for free, they can't, and survive themselves.

originally posted by Laurence J Johnson

Hello Janny, thanks for the information on the publishing world, it's all education!

Is Raymond E Feist's Magician available in a large print edition, I have the revised edition in paper back, but the print is very small. Skol from Laurence.

originally posted by Ketrilla

Why is there no mass market edition planned for TK? Does this mean there wont be a regular paperback sized edition? Why not? I prefer reading books in paperback form. I'll probably buy the hardcover, but all my other wolas books are in paperback. I did buy To Ride Hell's Chasm in hardcover, but is it also only going to have a tradepaperback and not a regular paperback sized version?

For every mass market paperback SOLD to you, the reader, two OR MORE are destroyed - "stripped" of the cover, which is sent back to the publisher for a full refund. The printed book that's left is BURNED, not recycled.

Therefore: the mass market paperback you buy and read costs THREE TIMES as much as it should…and the waste is - utterly wasted.

This practice of "returns" in mass market began when paperbacks were racked and sold by the same terms as the magazine industry. Returns were low to nonexistent THEN, but have swelled to monster proportions, now.

Publishers cannot band together and eliminate this practice - due to antitrust law. The one who stops, voluntarily, will go bust, because book outlets now run by this practice, and would shun that house, pronto. (need an infusion of cash? Strip your paperbacks and get a check…)

DO PLEASE LISTEN TO THE RADIO INTERVIEW posted here - it details so much of the backstage history of publishing - why and how things got to this pass.

Paperbooks made not to last - paper books made to be BURNED - not acceptable to the health of this planet. Consumers who are forced to pay for this waste - so books cost more than they should -

For me? Simply, I want to – and hope I can afford to! – draw the line.

originally posted by Ketrilla

That's horrible! What can we as readers do to help?

What could be done?

Get educated - the radio interview posted here detials alot of the facts. Then educate other consumers. Demand = supply - publishers would probably be Glad to end this practice if there were a practical way to do it and not lose their marketshare.

Support hardbacks, trade paperbacks - they do not get stripped, but "returned" to publishers. And if they are not damaged, they get sent back out to be re-sold.

Support ORDERS. If you special order a book, you get what you pay for, and it doesn't get stripped. Further, the computer instore will notice this.

Buy your books on or near release date – this way, initial press runs SELL OUT rather than get stripped.

When a book becomes "backlist" - it gets wasted less - because backlist titles are only stocked as much as a bookseller expects to sell…the book is allowed to hang out on the shelves to find a reader.

New books that don't move get taken off faster than a tried and trusty backlisted title.

ORDER from backlist, even better.

I believe if consumers knew what was going on, they'd respond, too…demand something better. If people were more willing to ORDER books, and if shops only stocked what they actually sold…we'd all be better off.

It's hard, too, because all those "big displays" of multiple copies are PAID FOR by publishers. Bookstores get big kickback for those displays…why should they stop doing this when they can strip what they don't sell for full refund, AND cash in on the publisher's front money for having the display there in the first place.

Where and how a book is oriented in a chain store is most often PAID FOR by the publisher…believe it…a little known deal that astoundingly, I found an editor at a big house was unaware of…they'd been signing up this book or that, but not that title, UNAWARE it was a kickback system…

Get educated. Make informed decisions…it's not "them" it IS us, where we choose to place our consumer dollars and creative efforts.

originally posted by Mike Morency

A really interesting discussion. Another of my fav. authors, Daniel Hood touched on much the same on his website. He's having a hard time getting follow up novels to his "Fanuilh" series released also, for some of the reasons you've described.

It is maddening how hardback books are released two weeks after the trial/scandal of the week (like books covering the Scott Peterson case, for example). Many Sci-fi/fantasy readers are also collectors, and I personally don't see the draw of the garbage scandal/political books that are published and delay the printing of the more important novels (grin). Noone will even read those books a year later. I don't doubt that publishers lose money to these celebrities of the week, and try to recoup their payments from sales by authors of fiction.

Janny, I know that other publishers refuse to accept returns of stripped books, i.e. the front cover of a paperback returned for credit. They require the entire book to be returned, in order to prevent fraud. An example of this is White-Wolf's World of Darkness novels. They print and sell a LOT of books, and I personally own 84 of their novels.

Here in the US, WW is also carried by all huge bookseller chains such as Borders, Barnes and Noble and Waldenbooks (prob'ly a lot more, but I know of no other large chains in the NE US). Their return practice doesn't seem to influence their distribution to the stores at all. If WW can require the entire book to be returned for credit, other publishers should gang up together and do the same. I am not writing to create an argument, by the way, this is just an observation.

originally posted by Laurence J Johnson

Hello one and all, in one of her recent postings, Janny mentioned spreading the word, this does work! I e-mailed the links for a number of author's websites to a friend of mine, since then he has started colecting the works of several of these authors. Passing on paperbacks to friends also introduces them to our favourite authors. Skol from Laurence.

originally posted by Auna

Score at least two of my WoW buddies into reading the WOLAS series :wink:

I bought a ton of used books when in school and now I'm trying to rebuy them when I can find them. Many are out of print unfortunately. I also buy hardbacks from my favorite authors and later buy the paperbacks, since I prefer to read those.

I'm curious how ebooks fit into the picture (these would be ones you can download and read).

originally posted by Trys


other publishers should gang up together and do the same.

I think Janny said something about 'anti-trust laws' in regards to this kind of activity.

originally posted by Walt

Auna! Is that WoW as in World of Warcraft?? What server are you on in WoW? (I'm on Frostmane)

originally posted by Auna

Yes, I'm a WoW addict when I'm not a book reading addict :wink: I'm on Lightbringer and I'm a level 52 fire spec mage along with lower level alts (altaholic too!). I also play Asheron's Call on Harvestgain and I did a stint in CoH.

originally posted by Laurence J Johnson

Hello Janny, I have just finished listening to your radio interview. I enjoyed listening to your viewpoint!

Do the UK., publishers operate in the same way as the large USA., publishers ? Skol from Laurence.

originally posted by Tom Balogh


The trouble with hard copies is the size. My solution with your books (due to sheer addiction) has always been to buy the hardcopy as soon as it comes out (generally pre-ordering) and then the paperback when it does. My hard copy then gets given to someone who doesn't know the series to hook them.

I'm happy to do this but my shelf space is simply too limited for hardback versions of all the WoLS books. Paperback is much easier.

originally posted by Cheryl Detmer

I buy WOLAS in hardback when it's first out on the shelves usually. I have been eager for the book and ordered it on the UK Amazon for Traitor's Knot when I realized it would take awhile to get to the states. I'm buying the US version for the artwork too and I never do that, buy the same book twice. This one is special and unique with the artwork so I want to own the US version too. I always buy the book when it first comes out on the shelves. I use to do trade in's but got tired of the books being in bad condition and spilt coffee. I finally just buy them new for me. That is interesting to read all the info. on selling books Janny. I didn't even know about books remaining. Never had heard of that. I think I did have one book with a black mark on it and wondered what it meant, now I know. My favorite authors like Janny will get their books sold the first week from me on the shelves though. It is good to save money. Books are so expensive anymore. It was $2.50 to buy a paperback when I first started reading fantasy. Can't believe they have gone up this much in that time.

originally posted by skeoke

What is backlist?

If I order hardbound of the early WoLaS books, is it too late to help your numbers?

Do you get credit for the paperbacks I buy and give to new readers?