Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why More Authors Are Turning To Amazon

Last Sunday the New York Times ran an article about Amazon's latest attempt to woo authors over to their imprints. They will be sharing numbers with them. Not only will they tell them how many books they sold over a period of time but they'll tell them how many they sold in each location around the country. The New York Times article suggests that this will do nothing more than make authors more neurotic or obsessed about their sales then they already are.

To me that's kind of insulting. I have never been given numbers on my sales from my publisher without asking for them. I have to wait a year before I find out what percentage of my sales are ebooks, what percentage are paperbacks and what percentage are audio. And until I read that article I didn't even know it was possible to find out what areas of the country my books sell best in. I don't think it makes me neurotic to want to know this information. After all, it's my career. But to be honest, my main motivation for wanting those numbers is because it would make self-promotion so much easier! 

Every publisher expects their authors to promote their own works. Even Jennifer Weiner has to design, buy and place her own ads in the New York Times and whatnot and only celebrity authors and A-listers get sent on tours these days. The reason for that is that publishers don't believe that tours work for authors. I don't think they necessarily believe that ads work either. That may be true in some cases but I really think it depends on the individual situation, book and author.

For instance, publishers will always tell you that at any Author event a large percentage of attendees will leave without buying a book. Okay, I believe that's the norm. It's never actually happened to me because if nothing else I'm really good at connecting with my audience. I have sold out of books at more than one event. I've never had more than one or two people leave a book event without buying a book excluding those who bought the book shortly before the signing. The problem for me when it comes to public readings has nothing to do with getting those who attend to buy a book. My problem is figuring out which locations I should tour to that will give me the biggest turnout. For instance, I toured in Denver and didn't get much of a turnout at all. I toured Orlando and people drove up from Miami and Fort Lauderdale just to see me. Apparently I have a big following in Florida. If I had known that I would have scheduled tours there for other books. But I don't know. So I've spent my money touring around to places hoping that maybe this is a location where my sales have been strong. I always inform my publisher of what my publicity plans are and they have never stepped forward and said, "Oh, that's great! Here's some info that might be helpful to you!" This by the way is in no reflection of my editor who has always been incredibly supportive and as helpful as he can be. But honestly, I don't think even he has the numbers as to how my ebooks are selling or where my paperbacks are most popular. That's all with another department that can't be bothered.

There's currently a TV show in development that's based loosely on my books. That enables me to shop my next book to several different publishers. However after sitting down with my agent and talking to her about Amazon it's hard to argue that their imprint might not be the best place to go. In addition to being able to access numbers, authors are presented with marketing plans before they sign the contract. So you know exactly what Amazon is going to do for you and what they won't. I defy you to find me an author who has ever gotten such a deal from one of the New York publishers. Sure, after they sign you they'll tell you they plan to publicize your work...assuming there is a plan which is rarely the case. But again, sometimes there is and if you're really lucky they may even contract a publicist to work with you. But the publicity and marketing is not a contractual obligation. If you think their plan is ineffective it's unlikely you'll be able to sway them in another direction and there's always the very likely chance that the entire plan will fall through without being fully executed.

I know the publishing houses hate Amazon. I know that they do have a few very valid reasons for that. But I also know that if Amazon continues to focus on the business angle of book-selling, focusing on marketing directly to consumers while publishers continue to focus all their marketing efforts on booksellers then more and more bestselling authors will go to Amazon.

Because it's not just about the art of writing. It's also about making a living.

Kyra "Fashionista Fatale" Davis


rourri said...

Wow... Amazon has done damage to retailers and the like...But it is absolutely AWESOME that they are standing up for the authors and giving stats and a marketing plan to them! The power is shifting from the publishers and the retailers to the authors and the public... and you know what, that is what it SHOULD be!

Terri Osburn said...

Thanks for sharing facts in this blog that only the published would know. I'm amazed how little publishers are willing to tell their authors. As a business major, that doesn't even make sense to me.

Ironic they're all about telling you what to put in the book, but not how to sell it once it's out there.

Anne R. Allen said...

Amazon really has been a fairy godmother to writers, even if it's been an evil troll to brick and mortar stores. Without the Kindle and the Amazon 70% royalty on low-priced ebooks, there would be no indie revolution--something that has benefited Big Six, small, and self-pubbers alike. Writers have choices now. We no longer have to be treated like serfs, to be exploited and discarded by international conglomerates.

Suzan Harden said...

That article blew my mind. If I'm a retailer who keeps an eye on the daily number of plush Angry Birds I'm selling, I'm a responsible business owner? But if I'm a writer who wants to know how many books I sold, I'm neurotic?

Best of luck on your next step, Kyra!

kyradavis said...

It really is crazy. The publishers want us to be publicists but not business people, creative but not inquisitive, ambitious but not capitalists. I'm sorry but I'm all of the above. If Amazon gets that I'm happy to throw my hat in with them