Sell-in, Sell-Through, Earn-Out

Sell-in, Sell-Through, Earn-Out (and Returns) Today I want to explain some publishing terms that sometimes get confused: sell-in, sell-through and earn-out (and I’m reluctantly throwing in returns at the last minute.) SELL IN: This is the number of copies ordered by retailers (or any other entity) prior to publication of the book. Sometimes this number is called the “lay down” and you’ll hear publishing types say things like, “What was the lay down?” The number tells you how many copies are available to consumers on the day the book first goes on sale. The sell-in figure helps to determine the initial print run. Of course, the publishing industry has this lovely little tradition called returns* so the sell-in could be just the beginning of your skyrocketing sales figures… or it...
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Reversion of Rights

Reversion of Rights Blog reader Sue Harrison said: I’ve found myself in a frustrating situation with a publisher regarding the definition of “out-of-print” [and not being able to obtain] a reversion of rights to two of my novels. These novels have earned back their advances but are no longer available to the public. I’m guessing this situation has come about because I signed these contracts before e-book rights were contracted. Do authors still have so much difficulty obtaining a reversion of rights when their books are no longer in print? An anonymous blog reader said: I am especially interested in how you handle e-books—is it possible for the author not to sell those rights at all, and how do you negotiate when (and if) those rights revert? Good questions. Rights reversion is an...
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Q4U: Too Much Information?

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TFuOzhAWLFI/AAAAAAAAEAc/vMkK_XHtBEE/s320/math_400.jpg I’m wondering if the plethora of publishing blogs and the wealth of advice available for aspiring writers is making it more difficult for you, rather than easier. It seems the more information and advice we give via our blogs, workshops, webinars and books, the more writers clamor for even more detailed advice. It also seems writers are stressing more about the details of publishing than ever before. Even with all the information available, one commenter on yesterday’s post said “good, comprehensive and transparent information is extremely hard to find” and called it one of the “flaws of the industry.” I’m flabbergasted by that. If you shop on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble, you will find hundreds of books on every aspect of getting published—many of them “comprehensive...
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Stuff You Pay For

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TDvrT8TWxZI/AAAAAAAAD-M/IjROq_eqMQk/s200/cash.jpg A client of mine was reading over his contract with a Big Six publisher and he emailed me wondering, If my book needs an index, do I really have to pay for it myself? “Yep.” And how much would it cost? “Depends, but most likely in the neighborhood of $500 to $1200. Don’t worry, the publisher will front the cost and take it out of your royalties.” And that got us started discussing “author costs” – about which most writers are blissfully unaware. So let’s talk about those for a minute. Yes, the index is, believe it or not, the author’s responsibility. You can hire a professional indexer or DIY (but it’s specialized and tedious work, so I wouldn’t recommend it). In addition to that, it’s the author’s...
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A Splash of Cold Water

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S93XnanJCsI/AAAAAAAADws/KZAApTghyNY/s320/drinking-from-garden-hose.jpg Some of you may have read the post from agent Kristin Nelson last week about agents fighting over writers. She wrote that every single time she offers a writer representation lately, she ends up competing with several other agents who want the same client. You can go read her post now: Hot Commodity In response to her post there was quite a bit of talk on Twitter, with writers saying, “I better get my query out there soon because agents are fighting over writers!” But I think the excitement may be based on a misunderstanding of what Kristin wrote. Time for a reality check. Kristin’s post is absolutely spot-on about agent competition, and I’ve seen the same dynamic lately. I’m typically competing with several other agents for the clients I really want....
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What About Market Research?

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S9ZVtFFlJHI/AAAAAAAADvs/pXnSjELSS58/s200/marketresearch.jpg I’ve been asked this question several times by various people outside the publishing industry: Why don’t publishing houses do more market research? Most industries that sell to the public invest heavily in things like focus groups, surveys, and product testing. This is even done with TV shows and feature films. But it doesn’t seem the publishing industry engages in much market research. Why not? While many publishers do limited market research when they need an answer to a specific question, it’s not an area of huge investment nor does it drive publishing decisions in general. There are good reasons for this – it’s not an oversight or an accident. Here are my thoughts: → Primary market research is suited to a specific product, which wouldn’t be...
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It’s Not Like Other Businesses

I get weary of hearing people complain about publishing, comparing it to other industries and saying, “In no other business…” followed by whatever their complaint is. People even go so far as to claim the entire publishing industry is “incompetent” because it doesn’t work like other industries with which they’re familiar. To me, those complaints are irrelevant and unhelpful. In some cases, you’re trying to compare apples and oranges. In other cases, the complaint is simply untrue because other businesses have the same pitfalls publishing does. In most cases the complaint comes from simply not understanding how publishing works. It’s not like other businesses many people are familiar with, and that frustrates them. So let’s take a...
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Publishing Smackdown: Let the Games Begin

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/S2Wfk16zULI/AAAAAAAADiU/NdZX85T8Pj0/s320/smackdown41.jpg If you think things were starting to get crazy in publishing, the last week just turned everything upside down again. As you know, Apple introduced the long-awaited and much-hyped iPad (here’s a quick overview from PW), which looks to me like it’s going to live up to the hype. (Watch this video if you haven’t already.) Do I want one? You’d better believe it. But I’m not going to buy a first generation iPad. In fact, I’m hoping they’ll eventually introduce a smaller one that will fit into my handbag, at which point I’ll pretty much sell everything I own just to get one. But I digress. The big news for publishing is not just the iPad itself, but the way that Apple has been working with the Big Six publishers to create a new business model for...
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Finances of Publishing:

Answering Questions from Last WeekI’m glad my two posts last week, How Do Book Royalties Work? and Is Your Book Worth It? seemed to be helpful. There were quite a few questions, a few of which I’ll try to answer here. Sara asked: If an author wants to help sell their own books (lectures, readings, etc), how does that work? Is there a price break for authors who want to sell directly (say for 100 books)? Is that considered helpful or what do publishers think of authors pushing their own books? A: Yes, it’s definitely a huge plus if an author is going to sell their own book! Many non-fiction authors are the driving force behind their own book sales because of their speaking engagements and back-of-room sales. The author’s contract with the publisher specifies the...
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Is Your Book Worth It?

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/Svcy-J1XfbI/AAAAAAAADO0/DvebA7jLEtM/s200/dollar_signs_color.jpg Yesterday I told you how book royalties work, so today I want to go further and explain a little more about the finances of publishing, this time from the publisher’s perspective. One of the things that’s hard to remember is that the publisher makes a significant financial investment in each writer, with no guarantee that the book will sell. It’s one of the reasons publishers have to make such careful decisions. There’s so much competition out there, and each book costs a substantial amount of cash before your book ever hits the shelves and makes a dime. But what does that mean? How much will a typical publisher spend on your book before they’ve sold a single copy? Here’s a hypothetical overview. Keep in mind this is simply an example and the numbers...
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Myths vs. Facts of Publishing

The comments on Friday’s post confirmed that myths about publishing are alive and well, as they always have been. Of course, every myth has its basis in some kind of fact, and it’s not always easy to tease apart the truth from the lie. I’ll address a few common myths here, but just realize, for everything I say, there’s going to be an exception. I’m saying this from my perspective based on what I’ve seen. 1. Getting published is a catch-22.I hear this all the time… it’s probably the single biggest myth about publishing and it drives me CRAZY because it’s so untrue. People say, “You need an agent to get published. But you can’t get an agent if you’re not published.” Writers believe this lie and then spend all...
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My Tweets from QueryDay

As you know, Friday was QueryDay on Twitter. I think it went exceptionally well. Lots of great questions from authors, lots of agents and editors chiming in with answers. An incredible wealth of information was passed around! Several people asked me to compile my tweets from the day. So here they are. Just a whole bunch of random bits of information in 140-or-fewer characters. Keep in mind that many of these are in response to a specific question from someone on Twitter. Let me know if you want me to expand on any of these in a future blog. * * *“Learn your craft” = nothing to do with grammar. Style, voice, story, plot, pacing, dialogue, characterization, etc A query that makes me laugh out loud is a great thing! Whether or not the book is for me, it gets my attention. A query...
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Are Newcomers Welcome?

by Greg JohnsonPresident, WordServe Literary People ask me all the time if today’s tough publishing climate is a good time for newcomers to get noticed and get published. Let’s start with some obvious negatives: → Publishers are cutting their lists and delaying books until the economy turns (and they may stay lean thereafter… this may be the “new normal”). → Publishers have to concentrate on their core authors who have established platforms and broad readerships. → Publishers are dealing with an ever-changing retail climate where whole chains are going—or can go—out of business at any moment. Consequently, they’re hedging their manuscript buys until they see the economy stabilize. Is there any good news for new authors? → Great writing will always get...
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Responding to the Difficult Economy

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.Charles Swindoll The biggest news in our world today is the economy, and many are suffering the effects. Last week we were bombarded with news of difficult realities in the publishing industry. What should our response be? I asked a handful of literary agents the question: What’s the one thing you’d like to tell writers in these difficult economic times? Here are some of their responses; I’ll post more on Thursday. Wendy Lawton, Books and Such: We all flinched at the painful reports of layoffs in our industry and at the grim prognostications that followed. No one is buying. The industry is grinding to a halt. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, “Reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated.” Good...
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