Before you drag that dried-out, dead fire hazard to the curb, let’s drink some lukewarm eggnog to celebrate a successful Christmas season of bookselling with our December sales update.
Weekly Book Sales Slow…Then Sprint into the New Year
After months of torrid sales reports for print books, we did see some intermittent slowing from week-to-week as we moved into the fall – as prognosticated by the Market Update, because the comparable prior year numbers from fall of 2020 had cast off any remnant of the early-year COVID slow down and were turbo-charged by the quadrennial fuel of a presidential election cycle. So, we continued to see some fits and starts in the November sales figures.
Thanksgiving week saw print sales up 9.7% over the prior year’s Black Friday week, with Barnes & Noble reporting double-digit sales increases for that all-important shopping weekend— strained supply chain and all. The following week stalled, reporting an essentially flat...
What’s the one habit that will change your writing in 2022?
Recently during an Author Coaching University session, one of our students, John, asked: "I want to set some writing goals for 2022, so I'm curious about your experience working with many other authors. How do you encourage them to build daily writing goals and habits? Are there goals that you've seen be most effective as you coached other authors?" Great question from John, and we wanted to share it with you here because we know New Year’s resolutions are on our minds.
It’s true, writing is a habit. “Writing requires writing. It demands work,” as we like to say. To do your best work, the type of work that isn’t compromised by noise and distraction, you need a writing habit.
In our last blog post, we recommended James Clear’s Atomic Habits. It’s a great book for building good habits (and maybe breaking some of those bad ones). As Clear points out, “You don’t rise...
In Pursuit of Simon & Schuster’s Big Numbers
Last month, the Market Update reported in-depth on the Justice Department’s lawsuit to stop the acquisition of Simon & Schuster by industry behemoth Penguin Random House – a move the DoJ claimed would leave one entity in control of two-thirds of the market for acquiring new books. The next highest bidder for the Viacom subsidiary opined on the oversized PRH offer for S&S, saying there was “clearly no market logic to a bid that size – only anti-market logic.”
Well, he may have spoken too soon. S&S is having a huge year, which just might end up justifying that oversized bid—or at least making a colorable argument. While the regulators have spent months mulling over the legality of the proposed deal, CEO Jonathan Karp and his team at S&S have been doing their darndest to grow into that massive valuation. Q3 of 2021 was up 15% in sales and a whopping 66% in profits from...
The United States v. Penguin Random House
Well, at the last minute, the Department of Justice decided to make a little noise in the PRH/S&S merger that we’ve been talking/worried about. In recent issues, we reported that PRH CEO Markus Dohle assured literary agents on a video conference that after the merger the imprints of the “Big Two Become Huge One” publisher would continue to bid against one another for publishing rights—something that would be an industry-first for co-owned publishing imprints. But the DoJ doesn’t believe them. In the suit, the DoJ called that a “proposal that defies economic sense, can be evaded or violated without detection, and is unenforceable.” The DoJ scoffed, pointing out that, “in short, after securing nearly half the market for publishing rights to anticipated top-selling books, PRH asks this court to trust that PRH will not use its market power to maximize profits for the benefit of...
The Broken Links in the Supply Chain
Have you driven by any new car dealerships lately? Look closely. That lot full of new cars is probably only one row deep. Dealerships have resorted to parking the cars from the service department out front, just to create the illusion that they have a full lot! Something about a global shortage of microchips, along with numerous logistical challenges stemming from the pandemic.
Well, the book business is in the same boat…and that boat is probably moored a hundred ships deep off the California coast (we can literally see them out the window at Y&Y world HQ in Orange County, CA).
The supply chain problems in the publishing industry are a perfect storm of the pandemic-related labor shortage, shipping and transportation problems, and in recent years the bankruptcy and consolidation of US-based printing companies. Plus, with the stratospheric growth of online shopping, many mills switched their manufacturing from paper to cardboard (all...
Writing is hard.
You wouldn’t be reading this email right now if you didn’t feel the tension and resistance that goes along with trying to write and publish your books and ideas. Too often, we see authors on social media and wonder, “Why not me?”
The truth is: when you see a book, you’re really seeing more than the author’s work. You’re seeing the work of a village - because that's what it takes. In the publishing process, dozens of people will help bring a book to market.
It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap. You’re measuring yourself not against an author or a book, but a team of people. That’s why we want you to stop going it alone.
When we created Author Coaching University, we wanted to help writers go from idea to bookshelf. Imagine having a mentor to walk you step-by-step to getting published? What if you had an expert guide from within the publishing industry to help you navigate your journey?
Big Numbers for the Big 5
With the first 6 months of 2021 in the books, we have seen an industry-wide increase in same-period sales up 18.1% over 2020. Some of that jump can be attributable to the adversely COVID-impacted March and April 2020, but if you’ve been hanging with us for the past year and a half, you know that by May 2020 and on through the rest of that year, we were on a hot streak. So, these are some terrific numbers to report, with Publishers Marketplace conjecturing that we may have just seen the best 6- and 12-month periods ever!
The Big 5:
Penguin Random House: Up 10.8% worldwide; 22% ($1.3 billion) in the U.S.
Lagardere/Hachette: Up 16.4% worldwide; 14.8% in the U.S.
HarperCollins: Up 20%
Simon & Schuster: Up 9.2% (reporting separately from PRH pending merger approval)
Macmillan/Holtzbrinck: (privately held, but presumably performed similarly well)
Hachette Book Group knows what to expect, and it’s expecting to...
Your book’s promise is what fulfills your commitment to the reader.
When we are talking about a book’s promise, here’s what we mean: let’s say you were sitting with one of your readers telling them what your book was about (the premise). And then you say, “I promise that after you finish reading my book you will …”
One of the most critical mistakes a book can make is breaking its promise to the reader. So much of the success of a book is tied to its promise. Without a great promise, there’s nothing for the reader to pass on or look back at. Oftentimes the reason why you forgot about a book is that its promise went unfulfilled. Broken promises are a huge factor in determining its success.
Think about a couple of recent bestsellers that deliver on their promise: Greg McKeown’s, "Essentialism," promises to help the reader identify their highest contribution, and does; Jennie Allen’s book, "Get Out of Your Head" ...
More Reading = More Book Sales
A U.S. Department of Labor survey among Americans aged 15 years and older showed that reading time increased 21% during the second half of 2020. Turns out people were actually reading all those books they bought during the heart of the pandemic. Reading time increased from 28 minutes a day during July through December 2019 to 34 minutes a day for the same period last year. The biggest age-group increases came in the 20-34 and over-65 age brackets. The over-75 crowd won the event . . . which they do every year – clocking in a whopping 95 minutes per day (can you say “retirement,” anyone?).
The biggest surprise came from men, who ratcheted up their reading time by 30%! I wonder if that will stick.
Here We Go Again
We spent the first year of this blog telling you how pleasantly surprised we were to see the 2020 sales reports come in, month after month, ahead of what we all felt was a really decent 2019. Well, here we go again. The...
Have you signed up for our upcoming free training, The Secret Path to Getting Published?
The truth is many writers and potential authors are lost on the publishing trail. They know where they want to go, but they don’t know how to get there. That’s why we are excited about our upcoming webinar, The Secret Path to Getting Published.
In it, you’ll discover:
Here’s a sneak peek at pro tip #1.
Pro Tip #1: Understand that your book proposal is a marketing tool that agents and editors will use to evaluate your book and platform. Therefore the writing needs to be concise and compelling.
Your book proposal is NOT a manuscript. And your...