Recently I found myself on a site discussing how to gauge the real meaning of the Amazon sales ranking numbers which we’re told change hourly on a book’s sales page on the Amazon site.
First, two confessions. Number One: I am functionally innumerate. I understood not one word of what the author of the page was trying to explain about the complexities of the logarithms Amazon uses to come up with their rankings. Number Two: I am nonetheless as addicted as any other writer to checking that Amazon information. Why wouldn’t I be when it’s the only info I or any author has about real numbers? (Leave aside how you can say they’re real when you don’t know how they’re arrived at… There they are, on the printed page, and as I said, they’re all you have.)
That said I began this post wanting to tell you that just because you read something on the Internet does not make it true. The same site that was trying to give me authoritative information about the Amazon rankings insisted that royalty statements come from the publisher every month or three months, and show the numbers of copies sold.
Royalty statements from publishers who actually put books in bookstores (not print on demand or e-books or some sort of vanity press) come twice a year and reflect activity that took place six months previously. In other words: The sales activity for the months from June to December 2006 will arrive some time in the spring of 2007. And they do not say simply we sold this many books in that time. They reflect the fact that bookstores take books on the basis of sale or return, and do not pay the publisher until both are agreed that the books really were sold and are no longer in the store. But that judgment is further complicated by the fact that the books are not usually actually returned, though sometimes the covers are, but destroyed on the basis of some kind of honor system. (Which honor or lack of same is the source of many of the books you find in second-hand book stores or on E-Bay.) So your royalty statement which tells you only how the book was selling yesterday or maybe will sell tomorrow, but never how it’s selling today, has mysterious numbers (frequently disturbingly large) of amounts of money being held against returns. And in the next statement these numbers may not have changed. Leaving you wondering if the Second Coming will arrive before your publisher actually pays you anything beyond the initial advance. Which is why that advance is so important. And getting the agent who will maximize it is vital.
So bring on the Amazon rankings. They are transparent by comparison.
Tea will be served with the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen tomorrow at 27:07 sharp.
It’s hard for me to fathom, but apparently there are lots of people who come to this site and don’t know that Bill Martin’s wife is Beverly Swerling Martin who is also Beverly Swerling the novelist. In other words, c’est moi. And believe me, it’s not egomania that makes me care.
A short while back we sent out announcements of the fact that - drum roll - Beverly Swerling’s new book, City of Glory from Simon & Schuster, the sequel to City of Dreams, was just about to hit the bookshelves. We were not so crass as to send a buy-now coupon - heaven forfend. We simply directed folks to click through to www.beverlyswerling.com and take a look. No big offense surely. You’re not interested? Hit the delete key. And we were careful to mention AR&E and remind folks that they’d signed up to receive e-mail from us, and we sent it ONLY to those folks. Incidentally, the vast majority of these folks had done so in order to use our FREE Agent Verification service.
We get e-mails daily from the folks who use that service and discover, for example, that the agency they were checking on is run by a guy who is said to be wanted for fraud in some state, or has never had a sale of a book to a major publisher show up in the public record, etc. These folks are effusive in their thanks for the accurate and fair info that we’ve been providing for going on eleven years now.
But when I pitched the new book to them - and there were many, many thousands - we got reported for spam, and plaintive e-mails were sent to us asking why we had sold our mailing list.
WE HAVE NEVER SOLD OUR MAILING LIST. WE NEVER WILL.
And as we all try to cope with spam - we get as much as anyone else, maybe more - let’s be careful we don’t wind up killing our ability to communicate with each other in this new and wonderful and immediate way.
Rant over. Something positive next time, I promise. And if you’re interested, City of Glory, is at your local bookstore now. And the site has tons of advice for writers. And here’s that link again: www.beverlyswerling.com