The Unexpected Book For Sale
I arrived to the restaurant for my lunch meeting a few minutes early so I went into the nearby Borders. Whenever I enter one of the big box stores, I always like to see the "for sale" material in the entry. For example, I found an audio book by a former President of the United States for only $5.99 and it probably originally retailed for $29.95. Many people outside of publishing don't realize these products are on the path of destruction. If they aren't sold, they will be returned to the publisher and destroyed. As much as I love books, I hate to think about it but it's the reality for unsold products.
As I glanced through the various books, I was surprised to find several copies of Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder by Herschel Walker. The original sticker price of $20.95 was on this book but now it was priced at $2.99.
While holding the book in my hand, I was instantly transported to the last time I held this particular book about eight months ago or last April. In New York City, I spent a day with editors at a number of publishing houses. An editor at a Simon and Schuster imprint showed a copy of Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder. It was his first book at the publishing house and he barely allowed me to hold it for a minute explaining, "This book is embargoed until it's release and Herschel will be on Good Morning America talking about it."
Some books are embargoed where retailers are specifically forbidden to sell the book ahead of a certain release date and Breaking Free: My Life with Dissociative Identity Disorder fell into this category and the publisher had high hopes for the title. It was totally unexpected to see this book for sale as a remainder in Borders.
There are several lessons for any book author or potential book author from my brief experience. First, many authors are dreaming about a major publishing house to take their book proposal or book manuscript and bring it into the bookstore. Those major publishers are impatient for success with their books and often give is a small window to perform in terms of sales or they put it out of print. With a single letter to the author from the publisher, a book can be put out of print and the remainders sold. The smaller publishes are often more patient with authors and keep their books in print for a much longer period of time.
Also remember as a book author, it is all about book sales. An appearance on national television does not make a promotion campaign for a book. The marketing and promotion process is continual for any author who wants to find their audience. Some times books take a while to locate that audience. As the author, you have the greatest passion (and responsibility) for your own book promotion. Yes, you may prefer to be writing the next book but never forget the books in print and the need for a steady stream of sales.
Another lesson is that not every book succeeds in the marketplace--even a name brand sports figure. Publishers gather the best information at the time and make a decision. Some books succeed unexpectedly and others flounder and disappear.
As a book author, you have to be aware of the massive amount of new books and backlist books in the marketplace. There is a continual need to be telling people about your book and it's availability to generate those sales. I love the famous saying from P.T. Barnum in the front of Raleigh Pinskey's fascinating bestseller, 101 Ways To Promote Yourself. "Barnum is the father of a well-known marketing cry, 'Without promotion something terrible happens--nothing!'"
You can't control the future for how the marketplace will receive your books. Instead be committed to doing what you can do.