Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An Ugly Truth for Writers: Sell-Through

Over on the Dorchester Bulletin Board, there's a discussion taking place about buying used books, and to an extent, loaning books, and the affect both have on author sales. I'll admit it, I've been guilty of both. However, this discussion has been a huge eye-opener.

Following are some cold, hard facts on just how detrimental buying used books, or loaning out books, can be to a new writer (printed with permission from Deborah MacGillivray :

Less than 15% of writers across the board make enough money to barely live on. For every writer I know writing full time, I know 100 who would love to write full time but cannot. Also, remember if a writer were to live on their writing, all health care and retirement plans is out of their pocket, too.

I don't think people realise there will be authors -- great authors that had a chance for a long term career let go by publishers because 2-6 books didn't make sell-through. If you are not familiar with the term - sell-through is where the print run of 20,000, sells 1/2 of that. At that point, a writer's advance is paid back, and they and the publisher both start looking at profits.

Some new writers taken on by publishers often see print runs of 10,000. So their sell through is a 5000. If 1000 people buy her book, and each of them give the book to four friends, then she has just lost the possibility of sales on 4000 books!! At that point, if all those friends who had a free read and bought their own book, the writer would made sell-through.

It's important to hit that target. It's important that your book doesn't get sent back by bookstores. If a bookstore order 15 copies and sends back 10 copies, your second book order from that same bookstore will be FIVE copies. It's a downward spiral.

Used books keep writers from making decent money-- not BIG money, but decent money. But worse, used books -- book that are selling used when they could be purchased new, are seeing those same writers losing out the chance to continue their career.

I could name several dozen writers who have been cut -- wonderful writers -- 2-6 books out, but the sales weren't there. Not all was because of used books, but how many were? Too many, I fear.

I had a friend call me tearful, her friend wrote beautiful Westerns for Dorch and she just loved her writing. She was let go, because her numbers were just not there.

You think a writer's life is cool. Trying sleeping with that on your mind every night!

You know what this means, right? Do NOT loan out your copy of Deliver Me. Just say no! Tell your best friend to get her own. Or, better yet, you can buy it for her--or him--as a gift. :)

To read the entire discussion, jump on over to the Dorchester Forums: