"Other highlights in the February 2011 report (all February 2011 vs February 2010 unless otherwise noted):
E-Book sales were $90.3 Million, growing 202.3% vs February 2010. Downloaded Audiobooks were $6.9M, an increase of 36.7%.
Adult Trade categories combined (Hardcover, Paperback and Mass Market) were $156.8M, down 34.4%. [that's Catherine's emphasis. ]Children’s/Young Adult categories combined (Hardcover and Paperback) were $58.5M, a decline of 16.1%
*Year-to-date 2011 vs YTD 2010: E-Books increased by 169.4% while all categories combined of print Trade books declined by 24.8% . . . .The AAP monthly and year-end sales report represents data provided by 84 U.S. publishing houses representing major commercial, education, professional, scholarly and independents. Data on e-Books comes from 16 houses. The report does not include all book and journal net sales but provides what’s acknowledged as the best industry snapshot currently available."
The report says that the spike in E-Book sales is credited to people receiving Kindles & other E-readers as holiday gifts. (Have one yet? Remember 2008 when Kindles were new and $399 and now they're going for half that?) E-Book sales have been slightly lower in subsequent months. But you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...Those of you with books, how will you rethink your sales strategies?
A: You can't. Book reviewers have editors who assign them books. Book bloggers have their interests and out of many competing volumes they are unlikely to choose yours if they do not know you. A young blogger will not choose a book by a middle-aged person, and vice-versa. You may get one local reviewer if the book is about local matters. Then there is a 50 percent chance it will be a negative review. There is 100 percent chance the reviewer will find "something wrong with it." There is 100 percent chance you will think the reviewer missed the point of the book entirely.
If you are an unknown with a first book by a small publisher, or if your book is somehow countercultural, self-published, local, or a fine press book that is handcrafted, you will probably not get a review. A million titles are published in the US each year. There are not nearly enough editors, reviewers, or outlets to give most books any notice. Local reviews must appear within a few weeks of the book's appearance because after 90 days the book is old news and bookstores often return them to the publisher.
Q: What does the reviewer consider while reading the book?
A: There's no standard for assessing a book. Reviewers don't so much read a book as apply themselves to the book, hearing from it what they wish to hear, and then they react. Some critics merely summarize the book so readers can pretend they read the book. Others want to showcase their own expertise or wit or forward their agendas. Some will brown-nose publishers, employers or advertisers, and all such books are reviewed as great, ground-breaking, etc., and all competing books are dross.
Because it is hard to get reviews, any review, good or bad, is better than none, but good reviews do not sell many books because so few people read reviews. The day of the "Time magazine's positive book review creates a bestseller" is over. Book bloggers' influence is overestimated; their blogs are read mostly by the writers who contribute to them. A celebrity endorsement (a celebrity in the field -- let's say you can make Kay Ryan give you a good blurb for a book of your poetry) may help sell it to those who like Kay Ryan. A nonfiction niche book might be reviewed in niche publications (let's say a how-to book about buying vintage muscle cars might get a review in Car & Driver).
So know your niche, and send your book to whoever does the reviewing at a niche publication or blog. But your very best bet for sales is to forget reviews, and somehow get you and your book on TV.
President Mom's cabinet will be working women who know how to juggle everything and get things done. She will award medals to stay-at-home mothers, nurses, cancer patients, and graduate students. Dick Cheney will soon be laughing out of the other side of his mouth. When the Democrats and Republicans have stupid arguments she will say "Cut it out or I'll knock your heads together."
Call me picky, but here's how I see these book covers. The darkest two of these are poetry books: wonderful poetry books. One is self-published and one is from a chapbook press. The dark covers do hint at the type of poetry within, and there is nothing wrong with dark covers, but the titles and author names are also dark, and in one case the title and author name is in script typeface, and undersized, and barely visible. CivilWarLand is a great book of short stories, but its cover is too busy. With its photographic image, multiple typeface colors (red, yellow, white), the orange oval, and the black sidebar with reverse (white) type, the hardest kind of type to read, this cover is a lot of work for the reader's eyes. You get tired even before you open the book. The publisher, a big commercial publisher, figured this out, because later printings have a different cover. A university press commissioned this folksy painting for this book of really fine short stories, on the right. The painting included the title and author's name. That's a baby in a violin case at the bottom, but it looks like The Scream to me. I would have a hard time buying a book with such an amateurish cover although the book is a prizewinner (see the golden sticker) and truly a gem. The middle book is self-published (I've removed the author name) and its red-hot cover and stark, type-only simplicity is supposed to entice me to open the book. It says it's a novel. It'd be nice if it said what kind of novel; the red and yellow, although they tried, were not enough to convey to me that it was a serial-murderer mystery. (That red isn't "blood red"; it's Soviet Union flag red and yellow.) The cover's oddness may have caught my eye but I would never take the book from the shelf; obviously a self-published effort by someone who doesn't know that covers have to inform readers, just a little, as well as attract their attention.
1. Research book covers you like and determine why you like them: Color? Typeface? Images? The way the title or image is placed?
2. While looking for covers you like, look for unappealing ones, and determine what makes them unattractive.
2. Although the book may well be for or about you, the cover is for your readership.
3. A good book cover contributes greatly to the book's success; a bad one repels buyers and readers.
4. #1 source of cover disasters: drawings, paintings, or photo images by, or of, the author's friends and relatives. Even your friend who is a professional artist will draw you a disaster when you dictate to him exactly what you want, such as a watercolor of the old home place, or a symbolic image.
5. No one will understand the symbolism of your symbolic image.
6. Script or fancy type fonts render titles unreadable. People who can't read the title can't want the book.
7. A book's title should be readable from 12 feet away.
8. If a book cover is solely words (title, and name of author) it had better be professionally designed, or it positively SCREAMS "self-published!"
9. A truism from the printing industry (where I began my career): Readers shun books with purple covers; no one knows why. Go into a bookstore and I will give you a dime for every purple cover you find.
10. Book covers are NOT the place for old family photos, a watercolor of the old home place, or a photo or image of you (costumed, or being yourself). These may mean a lot to you; they mean nothing to readers. A cover is not about you; it is a responsibility you have to your readership. If you must have those pictures, put them INSIDE the book.
11. Images from the Internet may not be used without express written permission from the creators or you can be sued and have to change your cover.
12. Self-publishing companies offer generic covers. Everyone will recognize that they're generic and no one will respect your book.
13. If you plan to list on Amazon.com and other sites, remember that online, your book cover image will be one inch high. Can readers still see your title when your book cover is shrunk for online selling?
What costs money: Professional advice. Professional graphic artists familiar with book-cover standards. This is money you WON'T regret spending.
I'll soon post some disastrous covers so you can see what I mean.
- Kathleen Finneran, author of The Tender Land, a memoir
- International bestselling mystery novelist Qiu Xiaolong, his latest, The Mao Case, published in 14 languages
- Harper Barnes, journalist, novelist, editor, and historian, latest book, Never Been a Time, about the East St. Louis Riot of 1917
- Winnie Sullivan, publisher, Penultimate Press, publisher of Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis
- Lisa Miller, publisher, Walrus Publishing, publisher of FloodStage: An Anthology of St. Louis Poets
- Claire Applewhite, author of noir detective novels, the latest featuring the Coral Courts Motel: St. Louis Hustle
- Suzanne Rhodenbaugh, prizewinning poet, author of The Whole Shebang
"We are paying speakers $100 this year"
As soon as I read that I wrote back:
"Sorry, I will not do it for a pay cut. Gas prices, etc."
Why is it that everything goes up in price except what writers are paid? After 14 years, a 33 percent cut in a speaking fee? I'm no less experienced than I was in 1997. I'm no less published. I'm no less of a speaker. I'd be offended if it wasn't such a common occurence. But I respond differently than I once did. I DO NOT ACCEPT such insane offers. I don't accept the gig and then resent it and steam. I stay in the sanity bubble. Their budget is less this year? That's not my problem, it's theirs.
Yes, they may get someone else, but they will not be getting Catherine Rankovic. They have met their match. Maybe they will think twice before lowballing any other writers.
. . .Intimate essays and memoirs and poems serve as antidotes to daily low-grade mandatory dishonesty. My motives for writing intimately, besides the pleasure of telling my version of events, include exploring what happened and why, finding excuses for myself, getting even, and nailing hypocrisy—and I am as honor-bound to nail my own as I am to nail someone else’s. It’s not just a matter of honor, either. If I know I did wrong and in my writing I don’t admit to it, my writing will lack the voltage of honesty.
The personal essay or the memoir provides a portal through which the reader may pay a visit to himself, his real self, the one who doesn’t have to dissemble or lie. Just as an athlete has a moral obligation to not use performance enhancers, the writer of first-person nonfiction is obliged to present readers with an honest record of human experience, not only because it is human but also because honesty itself needs preserving.
On my computer I have stuck a little note: “I have a doctor’s excuse to tell the truth.”
Hidden in that note is a piece of folk wisdom: that the truth is medicinal, that it cures. We believe this so fervently that when we hear a memoirist has lied, we feel outraged, as if we had been given poison instead of medicine. . . .
-Catherine Rankovic, excerpt from St. Louis Magazine essay, Dec. 2006