God's War by Kameron Hurley

There has long raged a debate about the quality of UK vs. US cover art and the different ideals behind design aesthetics in the two regions. In general, fans seem to consider the UK to be the stronger market, and for a long time they were, but it’s my feeling that in the past couple of years, thanks to publishers like Tor, Night Shade Books, Pyr Books and Orbit Books, that the US has eclipsed the UK and is generating much more interesting cover art in general. Hurley herself said, “I am told the UK market is way more stuck-up about their covers. I adore my Conan covers, but $1 says the more mainstreamy-cover sells more books.”

If this is a ‘mainstreamy’ cover, I’m not sure I like where Del Rey UK is taking the series. Still, It’s nice to see Hurley seeing a release from a major publisher. What some people might not know is that Del Rey was originally meant to publish Hurley in the US, first picking up her novel, God’s War, before, for a variety of reasons that I’m not clear on, deciding to let Hurley and the series go. It, and its edits, were then picked up by Night Shade Books.

Later in the conversation, Hurley revealed that eBooks make up 50% of her total sales, and Teresa Frohock, a fellow Night Shade Books author, revealed that a whopping 70% of her sales are eBooks. This suggests that this argument about book covers will change, or even become moot, as eBook sales, which seem less dependant on cover art and more dependant on word-of-mouth and active marketing by their authors, continue to eat up a larger share of the market. To balance that discussion, however, one reader pointed that before now Hurley’s novels were not available outside of North America, suggesting that non-US and -Canadian readers might have been turning to eBooks when they otherwise would purchase this UK edition. These are important factors to consider when contemplating Bradley P. Beaulieu’s recent departure from Night Shade Books and his announcement that he will be completely self-publishing his eBooks going forward. Also worth considering, Elspeth Cooper and Mazarkis Williams both revealed that eBooks count for less than 10% of their sales, a stark contrast to the earlier reported numbers and a reminder that cover art still plays an important role in the bookselling business… for now.

Hurley indicated to me that we might hear some news regarding her eBooks in the near future. In the meantime, Hurley’s trilogy, the Bel Dame Apocrypha is available now from Night Shade Books.

  • Joel February 22, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Er, isn’t the obvious reason the fact that Night Shade’s distribution sucks?

  • Aidan Moher February 22, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    I think that distribution is only one factor in NSB’s ongoing issues. To be fair, I can buy their books in all of the local bookstores in my city.

  • Martin February 23, 2013 at 1:16 am

    thanks to publishers like Tor, Night Shade Books, Pyr Books and Orbit Books, that the US has eclipsed the UK

    NSB is a given but they are a small publisher. When I look at the covers for the new releases from Tor or Pyr they just look like the same old shit. Even Pyr’s website is of Baenesque visual quality.

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 6:36 am

    I would find it very hard to believe that they have any issues with distribution, honestly. After all, they sold over one hundred thousand copies of The Windup Girl and still sell more than a thousand copies a month of just that one title. Their problems lie elsewhere.

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 7:02 am

    Having said that, if we exclude past successes, and after looking at their current sales, for 2011-2013, so far, their ambitious debut programme may have dealt them a heavy blow. Very few are actually selling well, which means they may be dragging down the entire company’s revenues, and that they may be better off dumping those authors as quickly as possible. Between this, and the switch in distributors (which is never a good idea), long-term debt, B&N’s heavy returns, the loss of Borders, and the recent loss of Ross (and Amy) . . . they would need a few home-runs, right now.

  • Joel February 23, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Adam, I am interested in where you are seeing the figures on the sales for the debut program.

    Wind-up Girl was an anomaly. Might even be the reason for some of their current issues — they got too much money coming in too quickly and made some bad bets.

    I wish they could get it together as well as Angry Robot. Both publish some weird and interesting stuff and take bets on new authors, but only AR seems to have the leadership and business model to make that work.

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 8:37 am

    I’m utilising the services of a friend with access to the us bookscan, honestly, which I hear can be a bit off, whereas here the book trade is nearly completely tracked by our local bookscan. In any case it’s quite easy to scan all their titles for the last two years and see a disturbing trend. The introduction of the debut authors programme seems to be have backfired on them, and could be something that the sales channels might be shying away from. After all, if you’re no longer striking gold there’s no reason to keep stocking titles that aren’t moving.

    If it was an anomaly, it doesn’t explain the nearly hundred thousand copies of The Living Dead sold, six thousand copies of Wastelands sold, and so on. I can cite many more that have sold in quantities that small presses in the past could only dream of. But it’s only when they shifted to more debut authors and moved away from anthologies, that they started stumbling . . . with some books selling only a few hundred copies, at best.

    Angry Robot? You don’t want me to discuss their sales. Or lack thereof. Some sell only a few hundred copies into the States. What helps them, however, is they’re distributed on both sides of the Pond, which may help cover their risk a bit more. That’s an entirely different beast altogether, similar to Solaris Books, whose sales are even worse off. And the other variable we’re not privy to is their ebook sales, though ebook sales are usually reflective of print sales, ie, if it does well in one, it does well in the other . . .

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Sixty thousand copies! (Not six thousand!)

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Let me put it to this way. In 2011 they had nine books that sold over two thousand copies, according to your bookscan. Five of them were anthologies. One was from an established author, and two were from newbies (Hurley and McIntosh.) The vast majority of the debut authors that year sold terribly, however, and even worse when you take out the factor that the Borders liquidation means that their numbers are inflated. Fast forward to 2012: only one title, an anthology, has sold over two thousand copies. Nearly all the debut authors are selling between one hundred copies and less than a thousand. Now, that could be poor distribution, but PGW has no issues getting product out to sales channels, is my impression. The only conclusion to draw from this is that while a small vocal minority like the debut authors programme, that the reality is something else, that readers do not . . . fandom is an echo chamber, after all, but it’s a small part of the market. :)

  • Adam Walker February 23, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Their decision to drastically cut back their schedule, and jettison poor-performing projects may actually be a good thing in the long run, though 2013 isn’t looking too good for them, so far, either. With the exception of just one book, the rest are pretty much selling just as badly :(

  • Jared February 24, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Interesting. Del Rey chooses her BFS win to headline, which doesn’t seem like the most relevant fit – the win wasn’t for God’s War and the book isn’t a fantasy. The Nebula or Tiptree nominations may have been more appropriate. Or The Kitschies win, of course – especially since that’s where Lauren’s cover blurb comes from.

    Anyway, my personal agenda aside: great book. Glad it is coming to the UK properly.

    Adam, I know you’re just doing good journalism, and it is fascinating, but I’m not sure any Night Shade author will appreciate having their sales figures shared in this fashion. I realise you’re very consciously not blaming the authors for their books’ performance, but there’s now a danger that anyone can snaffle that information and share it around without providing the same context.

  • Kameron Hurley February 24, 2013 at 9:20 am

    I think there’s a really, really interesting post one could do interviewing “established” authors and anthology editors, asking them why they aren’t working with Night Shade right now and why it is only debut authors are signing with them…

    re: Book #’s. It’s important to note that Bookscan only catches 30-70% of sales, so it’s not very accurate (when I looked at my Bookscan #’s the first 6 month after GW came out, I thought it had completely tanked, but when I got royalty statements, it turned out I’d earned out and was already making $$ on it). Plus, anybody can get access to Bookscan, so it’s not like it’s a huge secret. That said, by Night Shade’s own admission, only 1 book in the new author voices program wasn’t profitable for them (this info went out in a letter to authors in 2011). The rest made NS money. That’s because NS pays comparatively small advances, and even books that don’t earn out actually make NS money. So do keep that in mind when you look at #’s. It’s not *NS* that’s “dumping” authors for “not being profitable,” I assure you.

  • Mazarkis Williams February 24, 2013 at 11:25 am

    One correction – when I gave the figure of 10% for my eBook sales, I was referring to my UK sales with Quercus/Jo Fletcher Books. I do not receive royalty statements from Night Shade Books (they report to Jo Fletcher, not me). Therefore I have no numbers for eBooks sold in the United States, or print books for that matter.

  • Elspeth Cooper February 24, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I’m in a similar situation to Maz: the only sales figures I have access to are those provided by Orion Publishing Group, so the 10% ebook sales refer to the UK, Eire and Australia only. I have no idea how well any of my titles are selling in the other countries in which subrights have been sold.

  • Aidan Moher February 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I just wanted to point in and comment on the absolute ridiculousness of even authors being held in the dark about their sales. The opaqueness of this industry is infuriating and old-fashioned. It’s no wonder some publishers are losing their authors to self-publishing.

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Originally I mentioned my ebook to print was about 65% ebook to 35% print. But that actually is wrong. The problem is I was working off of the royalty statement that was SEVERELY under-reporting the paper sales because of return on reserves. Once I requested a unit ledger and saw the “actual” sales as opposed to what I “was paid for” I now find that I too an in the 50%/50% range.

    The reserve on return thing is a whole additional can of worms. I will “eventually” see money as the amount of royalty held in reserve starts to reduce but as of my last royalty statement there were about 17,000 paperbacks books sold that I’ve not been paid for. Holding back 40% – 60% for possible returns when the actual returns are running 4% – 10% means that the publisher is able to earn interest on my money because they are holding onto it. On the positive side, it means that I have earned out and did so much sooner than I had thought that I had.

  • Adam Walker February 24, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Kameron: “By Night Shade’s own admission.” Not to poke fun at that statement, but NS has made a lot of statements recently, and I wouldn’t believe many of them. Do you think that over nineteen books in 2012 that sold _less_ than five hundred copies that they made profit? Even if you double them, that wouldn’t be considered to be break-even, by any p/l statement that you can imagine :) Once you total up the costs of editing, cover art, design, advance, co-op, printing, and the like you’re at easily ten thousand to fifteen thousand dollars per project. Selling five hundred or even thousand copies is only three thousand dollars to six thousand dollars in revenue, against those costs. If you have enough that lose money, and then are returned three to six months down the road, then it counts against your monthly distributor revenues. You can suffer negative cash flow, which impacts later months. It’s not pretty.

    Mind you, I don’t disagree with you, that some authors and editors are fleeing NS, and I don’t disagree with you about the reason why NS is picking up debut authors, but if books were profitable, then NS would be in a better position, and not having to let go of employees, reducing their schedule, and a lot more. Something is simply not very consistent in your argument that they’re making money, especially since they were near bankruptcy last year. (Yes, this is confirmed.) This is what caused them to incorporate suddenly, last year, in fear that they were going to lose everything, as they were scared what would happen if they were successfully sued for unpaid royalties by certain authors/editors. The facts speak for themselves. The debut authors programme was a failure, when contrasted against their earlier books selling ten to over one hundred thousand copies. When you’re selling only a few hundred or a few thousand copies, that’s a warning sign. Of what I don’t know!

    Mazarkis: I’ve seen your bookscan numbers, but this isn’t the place to talk about them, in any case. If you drop me a private email at vita.sine.libris.mors.est at gmail.com I’ll ask someone to pull those up for you, if you wish? (With the warning that US Bookscan is not like our Bookscan, in that it may be off by a bit!) I assume you have no need of the British sales, which Jo would be able to get for you a lot quicker than I can, though.

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 4:24 am

    So I took a look at the USA Today Bestseller list (because they list “which version” of the book sells the most (e-book, paperback, hardcover) and I found some interesting stuff
    90% of the top 10 are ebooks, 10% paperback, 0% Hardcover
    75% of the top 20 are ebooks, 20% paperback, 5% Hardcover
    64% of the top 50 are ebooks, 12% paperback, 24% Hardcover
    52% of the top 100 are ebooks, 20% paperback, 28% Hardcover
    54% of the entire list are ebooks, 19.3% paperback, 26.7% Hardcover

    Some other interesting points
    8.6% are self-published
    38.5% of the self-published where priced at $0.99
    46.1% of the self-published were priced at $3.99
    15.4% of the self-published were priced $1.99 – $2.99

    Of the 40 Hard cover books on the list
    17.5% were fiction
    40.0% were children/youth books
    22.5% were history/memoir/current affairs
    17.5% were cookbooks, diet/health, self-help, or religions/inspirational
    2.5% were business books

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 4:27 am

    @Adam, All authors have access to “their own” bookscan numbers – it’s made available through Amazon’s Author Central. Although they mean so very little other than to compare one author to another as you are. I think based on unit ledger numbers my bookscan numbers aren’t even 1/2 of the actual sales…plus non of the ebooks are in bookscn.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 5:45 am

    @ Michael, the author’s bookscan access is actually very limited, and does not give you a historical overview of something that has sold for years. So, of course, it would not match up with your figures. You have to ask someone with complete access and ask them, and take into account that library holdings are not included or Commonwealth sales. It’s a mistake to say that Bookscan doesn’t track a good portion of your US trade sales. :p

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 6:36 am

    Let’s take for example your THEFT OF SWORDS, which you publicly reported somewhere as selling a little over ten thousand copies in the States. If we take out the library sales (at least five hundred holdings, with multiple branches, and multiple copies), it’s probably closer to seventy-five hundred copies. (Maybe even less, but I’m not about to trawl through those holdings to get a proper number!) Bookscan US says you sold 6819 copies. So I would state that Bookscan tracks 90% of your US trade sales. This is something that very few authors understand. The mass-“market”, the library market, and the trade market are three distinct markets, and only one of those are tracked by Bookscan, in the States. On this side of the Pond, though, there really isn’t a mass-market, so Bookscan tracks a lot higher than 90%. You can do this yourself, in any case, if you know your Bookscan numbers, your royalty statements, and access to whatever library database that you guys use over there. I can ask my friend which one he uses, though, if you want to know!

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Let’s tackle another example: for HEIR OF NOVRON, you “sold” near twelve thousand copies? (I’m ignoring reserves, because honestly it’s been a full year for you, so they would have released.) Library holdings: three hundred. Bookscan: almost nine thousand copies. Let’s assume libraries carry about two thousand copies. So . . . bookscan accounted for 90% of your trade sales, again.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 7:19 am

    Kameron: Let’s analyze NS’s claims a bit more: eight NS releases in 2012 sold less than 250 copies, and four of those sold even less than 150 copies, into the trade. Two sold less than 100 copies. In 2012, their bestselling title, _The Windup Girl_, sold more copies than the entire debut authors programme, which was twenty-five titles, at least. So that’s why I question the statement. By any comparison it was an overall failure. And that might explain their new schedule plans more than anything else, honestly.

  • Tom Lloyd February 25, 2013 at 8:03 am

    maybe worth pointing out that authors can ask about foreign sales, quite aside from the fact that will be allowed to see the royalty statements if they want them and often will have a contractual right to be sent them. Myself, Lou Anders tells me sales figures direct when I ask and my major translation markets have sold badly so I don’t want to see the figures, but I could!

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 8:17 am

    Kameron: I made a mistake, I was looking at 2012. If we pull up 2011, out of seventeen debut authors, only three books sold more than 2,000 copies, with seven selling than 1,000 copies. Now, you say that’s great, Adam, that’s not bad numbers. But, a big but, you didn’t take into account Borders liquidating all its inventory. Once you subtract those out, then the numbers are even worse. (For example your numbers are inflated considerably.) But here’s the rub: the publisher was already paid for those books. And the authors get fucked, essentially. Why? Books that sold one thousand copies, from B&N/Borders, actually turned out to sell far less at B&N, which means the law of diminishing returns comes into swing. Let’s say you sold, realistically, 1000 copies at B&N, with the first book. You think, great numbers, heh? Well, they might take half that, for the second book. And half of that, for the third book. It’s a nasty cycle and in the long run what it means is that, yes, the first book could be marginally profitable, but subsequent releases are not and they just drain time, energy, and cash. Does that all make sense?

  • Joel February 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Adam, I’m sure you have a good source, but your numbers make no sense and you seem overly reliant on Bookscan, which most sources have always indicate underreport drastically. Unless you believe that Michael sold 6800 copies of book one of his series and 9000 of book two (bookscan numbers only), and think that seems accurate.

    Also you can’t call a program a failure without accounting for ebooks. Ebooks have a much higher profit margin, and for all you know, Night Shade sold a healthy number of ebooks for those debut authors — I know I bought a bunch, mostly because I was more willing to risk $6 from the Baen Library on a new author than the full cover price of a trade paperback. Audible has also done some nice deals with NSB, buying up the rights to entire series. Probably not big bucks, but a few extra grand in the coffers per series/title.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Joel: Most sources don’t understand Bookscan. That’s not my problem :) If people want to mistake tracked sales for anything other than trade market, then that’s on their shoulders. Give me any author’s reported royalty statement numbers, and I will bet you it’s at least 80%-90% of what’s reported to Bookscan. How many times would it have to be proved for you to accept it? I’ve done this for many professional authors, who also wondered if their reports matched up with Bookscan. Time after time it was proven to be rather close, once you took into account taking out the library sales from the statements.

    Ebooks are usually a function of print sales, unfortunately. What that translates into is this: if a publisher sells ten thousand copies of a book, they’re also likely to sell a megaton of ebooks. However, if I have a book that does shabbily in print, then it will do just as bad in ebook, nine out of ten times.

    Who told you ebooks have a higher profit margin? Once you take into account the distribution fee, and splitting of the royalties to the author, the margins are fairly close. Let’s take a $14.95 trade paperback vs a $7.99 ebook. The author gets a $1.196 print royalty and with ebook they get maybe 20% of net proceeds., or 80 cents. (This is what Tor was paying a few years ago). This may have changed. I can check some recent Tor contracts. Even assuming 25% of net, that’s still only 99 cents. And you are far more likely to sell a lot more in paperback than you are in ebook. So, even for a publisher, the margins aren’t necessarily that far apart from the two formats, at all.

    You are right, NS has done some deals with Audible, but Audible only pays $1000-$1500, and half of that must go to the author. So it’s only $500-$750 for the publisher. That’s a drop in the bucket, honestly, and with all the unpaid royalties NS has on its hands, that money is going to pay past debt or barely cover the losses on any series. You may make money on the first book, but if you lose $5,000 on subsequent books, then the measly money you get from Audible isn’t going to cover it.

    Anyway, we are not the totality of readership. We can’t assume that because we love NS’s books that everyone else bought shit-tons of copies, unfortunately. :(

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Joel: I checked with Tor’s contracts, and they’ve gone with the agency model, which means a 70%/30% split, which is closer to 25% for authors. Random House is around 20%-25% but we’re still only talking a small difference in profit margins, for a print edition versus an ebook. Maybe eighty cents? But you generally sell a lot fewer in ebook than print, anyway. So it’s a wash, either way.

    I’m happy to start posting from some Big Four royalty statements, with print and ebook sales broken down, confidentially, to show you what I’m talking about.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Here we go, from a recent Tor statement from 2012: over 2,000 copies sold in paperback, and only 300 sold in ebook.

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Adam your numbers aren’t anywhere close on my sales. Looking at my Unit ledger as of 6/30/2012 I sold 17,630 ToS but Bookscan had 9,792 copes. Similarly Heir of Novron for that period is 11,903 and bookscan 5,507. When my publisher reports me numbers she gives me bookscan numbers, and warehouse numbers, and the bookscan numbers she gives me align with the numbers I get from Amazon so I do believe that Amazon is reporting the accurate Bookscan numbers.

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 11:06 am

    And no my reserves have not been released. As of last royalty period I had almost 17,000 book sales sold that are still being reserved. (That is data as of 6/30/2012). I don’t have royalty or unit ledger statements through the end of the year yet. Those numbers will come in March.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 11:16 am

    Michael, you know as well as I do that reserves are applied to sales, so I’m buggered if I know why you’re not telling people about this, when you throw out numbers. I’ll tell people: a publisher can “sell” 15,000 copies, but it’s only distribution. It’s not real sales. What Bookscan tracks, however, is POS (point of sale). So, what actually sells at the register (online or physical), in other words. You can’t look at your royalty statement, mid-way, to get a proper idea of what’s going on, necessarily. :)

    If you want to count distributed books as “sales” that’s your business, and a bit iffy, at best. But at the end of the day what matters is what happens after the reserves are released, and you get a better accounting of what actually happened :)

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Michael, I didn’t see your subsequent post, before mine went up, so our messages crossed. Me, I don’t count “sales” as “sales,” until the reserves release. So it’s all imaginary numbers, at that point, and the easiest way to know what has actually sold, pos, is with bookscan. And then at the end of two or three or four royalty periods, you can compare the numbers and see what happens.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Michael: For THEFT OF SWORDS, as of right now, Bookscan says 14986 copies. (The earlier number that I came up with is was tagged to your June 2012 totals, I should point out, which is why it’s not making much sense.) Without your March statement, we can only speculate, though. How about we call a truce and wait to see what happens when that comes in, no? Either way my educated guess is that Bookscan is still 90% of your trade sales, and I’ll stick to that. Basically, what we need is a book that has nearly finished its reserve release cycle, and tie it directly to a bookscan accounting, in other words. It sounds like THEFT OF SWORDS would be perfect once you get that next statement.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Let’s use that 2010 Tor Books example, as something that has fully released. It’s a hardcover, which is great, because Tor does wonderfully getting books into the library market, but not sometimes into the trade (when it comes to hardcovers). Bookscan says it sold only a little over four hundred copies, but the statement says two thousand copies. How do we explain the discrepancy? Well, I already did, by mentioning the library market, which has more than 250 holdings. Well, you can figure, then, at least, maybe 1500 copies held at libraries. Toss in the 400 copies sold in the trade. And chalk the rest up to Canadian sales, or independents. Thus, once you subtract the library holdings, you get 400 out of 500. Or 80%. Does that make sense?

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 11:45 am

    Michael, sincere apologies for possibly confusing the issue and if I went overboard in my responses. I think we’re speaking past each other, when we probably have similar experiences, if at different stages, certainly, and we can agree to disagree on the usefulness of Bookscan, certainly.

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    @Adam your 14,986 bookscan number does indeed agree with my bookscan numbers – so your speculation about Amazon not giving “full data” can be dismissed (at least for my books – I’m not sure how far back their historical data goes – but it is at least as far back as Nov 2011 when ToS came out. Sure we can look at it again when I get the statement – but I can tell you that my publisher reports data to me regularly and the bookscan numbers are NO WHERE near 90%. 45% – 55% is more accurate. Also the reserve being held 40% – 60% is MUCH higher than the 4% – 10% of “actual returns.”

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 25, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    @Adam yes we can agree to disagree about the usefulness of Bookscan. Yes it is PoS sales – but it’s not ALL PoS sales. It is only a small % – and even bookscan says so. I’m not sure why you say 90% I’ve never heard of any author seeing anywhere near that. The BEST I’ve heard is 65% of sales but as I said when tracked against my sales (both net and gross) it is more like 45% – 55%.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Michael: The US Bookscan data goes back to 2000 and sooner, but its usefulness is more for recent periods, as more and more accounts signed up to report their pos to them. I tend to agree with it around 2004 and later, within reason.

    It’s simply easier to stick to 50% reserves, no matter what. I’ve seen some books go out, some five thousand copies, and thirty-five hundred go back. You can’t assume, as a publisher, that you’re going to sell the vast majority. The rule of thumb is, for p/ls, assume the worst, which would be 60% sell-thru.

    Are you matching the Bookscan numbers to the exact royalty period? In other words, when you get the statement, do you go back into Bookscan, historically, and see what it says for that time period, rather than what it says now? Of course it would always be off, then. That might be one explanation. I have done this for other Orbit authors and theirs is always within 80%-90%., once I take into account the actual month that the statement ends. I’ll pull up another Orbit author’s statement and see if I can get permission to post, okay?

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Michael: I’ve done bookscan analysis for a whole range of authors, and publishers, and I’ve seen very few that dipped below the 80% for _trade_ sales, for hardcovers and paperbacks. I’m just going to keep tossing out author’s royalty statements, with their bookscan numbers, with my analysis, and see what happens, in any case. I’ve got statements for a lot of publishers . . . let’s see . . . I have one from Simon & Schuster. I’ll post it in a second, after checking around, and then I’ll have to head off for today!

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    With permission: for a 2009 S&S paperback, period ending March 31st 2012:

    US Sales: 2500
    Total (Including Export and Canada): 3300
    Bookscan: 1777
    Worldcat: 178 library systems, let’s extrapolate that to 700 units

    So . . . subtract 700 from 2500 and you get 1800. In that case, then the percentage reporting is 94%.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    Another one, from a genre small press, from 2011:

    Sales: 673 (reserve released)
    Bookscan: 339
    Worldcat: 60 library systems (or 250 units)

    So subtract the 250 from 673 and you get 423. Which means the percentage reporting is 80%.

  • Joel February 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Your library assumptions seem potentially off-base. 60 library systems ordering 4 copies each of a small press title? If it is a small enough title that only 60 systems ordered it, I doubt each bought 4 copies. In my library system, which is very big (several dozen libraries), there are maybe two copies of many NSB titles. Or none.

  • helen February 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    not many people buy books:( which aside from arguing over the precise meaning of very small numbers is the real message of this thread

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:31 pm

    Joel: when I say library systems, that number is just the system. The system can contain multiple branches. Each branch can contain multiple copies. And so you extrapolate. For example let’s use God’s War, from the Austin Library system: five copies at various branches. You also have to take into account that not all libraries report to Worldcat, and that libraries discard copies very quickly these days. So my extrapolation takes that into account. I’m lowballing, usually :p

  • Joel February 25, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    I know what you meant. I still think your numbers seem high for small press titles. There are 83 branches in my library system (which is in the Chicago metro area — very large). Altogether, these 80 libraries have 7 copies of God’s War. There is 1 copy of several other NSB titles. There are 0 copies of several. I just don’t think the percentages sound right. Many libraries are strapped for cash and small press titles are not where they tend to put their dollars.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Joel: let me cite a distribution report from a publisher I know, that I can take them at their word. One of their books sold 5,000 copies. Their internal report says that libraries bought some 1500 copies, with chains (B&N, Borders, Amazon) making up the rest.

    Bookscan says: 3270 copies
    Worldcat says: 300 library systems.

    A considerable number of those have multiple branches with multiple copies. It’s easier to break that down, if each system has even just three branches with copies times 1.5, and you get close to the 1500 total. The difference may simply be the libraries not reporting to worldcat, or that copies have been discarded by this point. :-)

  • Joel February 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    For example, the 83 libraries carry 20 copies of Michael’s Theft of Swords, but only 8 copies of each sequel.

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Joel, I would bet with some certainty that some of the small presses have great distribution into libraries, including Small Beer Press and Tachyon Publications. I know that for a fact :)

  • Joel February 25, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Some of them, but apparently not Night Shade Books. Which is how the whole discussion got started.

    (Also I realize Michael is published by Orbit, which is not a small press.)

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    Helen: Books certainly sell. Fifty Shades of Grey has sold six million copies to date to the trade, according to bookscan, and last week sold twenty-one thousand copies. In our field, however, we rarely have anything selling like that, unless it’s The Wheel of Time series :)

  • Adam Walker February 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I would say NS has pretty good library distribution, actually, but if you lack promotion and reviews, you aren’t going to get into those library systems in the first place. But putting that to the side, exactly how many books do you actually think that the average book gets bought by library systems, excluding bestselling titles? :) I don’t know about you, but pick most midlist releases and you won’t find that many stocked, certainly not in every branch!

  • Michael J. Sullivan February 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm

    “Are you matching the Bookscan numbers to the exact royalty period? In other words, when you get the statement, do you go back into Bookscan, historically, and see what it says for that time period, rather than what it says now?”

    Yes I have a spreadsheet that has the bookscan numbers entered each week and if the royalty period falls on a “between” week then I do a linear extrapolation.

    “I’ll pull up another Orbit author’s statement and see if I can get permission to post, okay?”
    Orbit’s author statement isn’t going to give the correct picture because they don’t put the return reserve on the royalty statement (well they do for UK but not US). To really see what the issue is you need the unit ledgers.

    ” The rule of thumb is, for p/ls, assume the worst, which would be 60% sell-thru.”
    Well orbit assumes for “worse than that” as they are assuming 40% sell through (for the first royalty period) then decrease it to 60% for the second. I’m going to be REALLY interested to see what it is for the third. Bottom line, at 461 days out the stores are stocking in quantities of one – and as it sells they buy another so the returns have come in but the money is not in my pockets – but in the “reserve bank’