The Sales Cycle and the Author

In Publishing Industry by RWA Blog CoordinatorLeave a Comment

Many traditionally published authors are unaware of how early the sales team is involved in the publishing process. For starters, the sales department is always represented in acquisitions meetings. If sales say they can’t see a market for a book, it will rarely get across the line and earn a publishing contract for the author, no matter how much the acquiring publisher loves it. This is different from earlier times when publishing departments were totally autonomous. Nowadays every department has input into the buying process, but the need to turn a profit and stay in business means it is vital that your acquiring publisher or editor (and you) win over the sales team.

After the contract is signed, one of the first tasks for the publishing team is the design of the book cover. This is because it is a critical sales tool – as the saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words. Once the cover and the blurb are in place, “selling” starts internally, drumming up excitement and support. The sales team will also decide where your book is best placed. Some books are pushed across all sales channels, but most are directed in a specific direction – the Discount Department Stores (DDSs) such as Big W, bookshop chains like Dymocks, ebook stores like iBooks, online booksellers like Booktopia and Amazon (both key players in the sales of romance novels), the airport bookshops or independent booksellers such as Better Read than Dead.

The sales kit for booksellers is assembled between nine and six months out from publication. During this period, sales will also earmark any promotions your book is suited to and pitch accordingly, for example Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day. Sales meetings are scheduled six to four months out, starting with buyers from national stores and chains and finishing with independent bookshops including those in regional Australia that are serviced via tele sales.

Two months ahead of publication, stock is delivered to the warehouse. By six weeks out, most orders are in. The invoice run is done four weeks prior to release, then stock is picked, packed and distributed around the country. Ideally it arrives one to two weeks before publication, giving the bookseller time to unpack, shelve and display it by release day.

What does this mean for you, the author? First, if you are given input into the cover design process, pay attention as soon as it happens. If you really love or hate some element in the design, say so straight away. Particularly if you don’t like it, give reasons as to why you think it doesn’t represent the story properly. Do not make the mistake of assuming it can be revisited closer to publication. It won’t be.

Second, if you have any sales connections, or you would like to see your book stocked in your local bookshop, pass on the details to your editor to forward to the sales team as early as possible in the process.

Third, understand that all bookshops are not equal for individual genres. The DDSs and online bookshops are big supporters of romance authors. Dymocks will support some romance sub-genres. Many independent bookshops stock hardly any romance. Neither do the airport shops. Support the sales team’s efforts by directing readers towards outlets that hold stock (including the publisher’s website if they sell direct). Understand that the bookseller has the final word about whether they want to stock a title or not. It’s not obligatory; your publisher can’t force a bookshop to carry your book if they decide it’s not for them. Don’t worry about where your book isn’t but rather focus on where it is and promote those links.

Fourth, if you have local bookshops you would like to stock your book, take a moment to stop by and introduce yourself to the manager or buyer. Do not pop in during busy periods such as lunch time or Saturday mornings when your presence will be unwelcome and distracting.  Don’t visit after hours either, as these time periods are staffed by casual workers who can’t influence the buying process. Offer to be available for talks or signings. Be sure to print a handout you can leave behind, including the cover image, blurb – including basic sales information such as price, ISBN and publisher contact details – and your bio with a note that you are local to the area.

If you or your publisher are publishing in ebook only, the timelines will be shorter. However, the general principles will remain the same. Printing and distribution timelines in America are quicker than in Australia and so will run closer to release date than described above.

Coming up in forthcoming posts: learning from a rejection; identifying your sub-genre; why you need a brand; first print runs, advances, royalties and other publishing terms; publishing trends; paperback vs ebook sales; defining success, and more.

Laura Boon Russell

Laura is a bookaholic and tennis tragic. She became entangled in publishing after reading Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades and ‘stealing’ The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss from her father’s bookshelves as a teenager. She has worked as a bookseller, sales rep, publicist and freelance editor. In 2006, Frontrunner Publishing released her DIY guide to publicity for small business, Make the Media Work for You. However, she is forever indebted to the RWA for giving her the courage and the tools to write the stories she wants to tell. The Wild Rose Press will publish her first romance in 2018.

Visit Laura’s website, follow her on Twitter or Instagram, or find her on Facebook and Goodreads.

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