Thursday, September 16, 2010

Comment on Promo Quantities

This was a comment over at Pimp My Novel -- whom I respect, and try not to disagree too much with in public, since I'm not sure how much of the disparity in what he says and what I know is due to a) what he's not saying, b) the things his shop does differently from mine, and c) how young and junior he is, d) how wasteful big-fiction publishing really is -- that I decided to port over here as well, particularly since my posting has been thin lately:
Him: I can tell you that unless your announced initial print run is roughly in the mid- to upper tens of thousands (as you may or may not know, announced first prints are always higher than actual first prints) or higher, it's unlikely that your book will get a large enough buy at a major retailer to ensure national co-op placement.

Me: Perhaps this varies by category -- and perhaps you're just talking about the kabuki dance of ever-escalating fake "first printing" numbers -- but, taking those as actual sell-in figures, it's entirely untrue for the category I work in, where substantially lower figures (under ten thousand) are still considered "promotional."

Five copies on the front table of a chain store is a promotional quantity, and the largest of the US chains has about 800 stores. Do the math, add in independents and the smaller chains, and even getting 10,000 copies out into the market implies a decent-sized stack in every store in the country.

So a book that has a 20,000 first printing -- low, according to your formulation -- and no promotional quantities would still have 90%+ of that first printing still sitting in the warehouse, twiddling its thumbs. The big fiction publishers do waste a lot of money and effort, but I still have my hopes that it's not that much.

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