Archive for the ‘success’ Category

Controlled Success

February 27, 2007

Some days as I slug along in the trenches of publishing, I believe I could enjoy a bit more success if it came my direction. I know success is all in how you define it. Through my years in publishing I’ve been fortunate to work with some great people and have some terrific opportunities. The projects continue to come and I’m grateful for each experience.

In past posts, I’ve mentioned the final page of Publishers Weekly called Soapbox. They have different industry people give their perspective on some part of book publishing. Often I learn something and find it fascinating. February is African American Month. Several years ago I wrote a book which released in this month called Running On Ice by Vonetta Flowers, the first African American to win a Gold Medal in the Winter Olympics. In the February 19th issue of PW, Curt Matthews, CEO of Chicago Review Press Inc wrote the Soapbox column titled “A Killer Bestseller.”

How could a bestseller be a killer? It’s one of the rarely explained aspects of publishing–at least to authors. Every author assumes they finally write a great book and it lands on the bestseller list (which is often an orchestrated miracle). Then the author figures their book sells and sells. As Matthews explains in this short article, the publisher has to control their enthusiasm and success. I’m talking about the print runs for your book. If the publisher grows heady and unwise about how many books are moving out of their warehouse into the bookstores, they print too many copies. What happens when these books don’t sell after a certain period and are returned? The returns can be a killer to a publisher–even from a bestseller. While it’s not reported in the press, it happens. The supply chain is a delicate dance. You want it to be full so no one runs out of books yet you don’t want to print too many and get stuck with the returns.

These types of book controls are happening throughout the publishing industry and someone in each publishing house is monitoring these numbers–at least if they want to have a killer bestseller on their hands. Most authors are oblivious to this important part of the process.

In April, the American Society of Journalists and Authors will have our annual conference. Jeanette Walls, author of the bestselling memoir called The Glass Castle, is our keynote speaker for the large Saturday gathering at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. As usual, I’ve ordered Walls’ book and plan to read it before the event. Checking different sources on, I bought my book from Wal-Mart (a first time experience for me with books through their online site). This morning I received an email informing me The Glass Castle is backordered and they are trying to get this situation resolved as soon as possible. I admire that Wal-Mart had a system in place to tell me this information but as a first-time customer, my experience isn’t going too well for future orders. It depends on how quickly they are able to resolve it. I suspect this backorder has something to do with the exact subject discussed in A Killer Bestseller.