Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Business of Books ..... Again

This is from the blog of Stephen Dubner, one of the authors of Freakanomics, the #1 best-selling non-fiction book in the U.S. They’ve just completed a tour of California.

“Earlier in this space we asked if book ads work; now we are led to the next obvious question: how about the author's tour? Can it possibly be worth all the money and time it takes to fly two people across the country and put them in hotels and drive them around and feed them? We aren't complaining (last night was the first night in ages that one of my kids didn't pounce on my bed before dawn), but in this day and age, it's hard to imagine a less-efficient means of promotion. Maybe HarperCollins will let us see the resulting California sales data as well as the final expense reports. I'm guessing the cost per sale will rival the cost per vote of most Congressional elections.”

If authors with true word-of-mouth success feel this way, imagine how regular mid-list authors feel. (via Shelf Awareness)

This is another description of the publishing world that made me shake my head in amazement. It’s a quote from Nicholas Sparks from the book, The Making of a Bestseller, by Brian Hill and Dee Power.

“Tell us how you got started with your career as a novelist?”

“I may be somewhat different from other authors because I’ve focused on the business side of publishing ever since I first began writing. Even before I’d written a single page, I knew that I wanted to write a book that would reach a large audience, but we all know that’s easier said than done. But in the hopes of raising the odds of success, I began studying the publishing market, to see if I could discern any patterns that might be beneficial.

I used the USA Today Top 50 bestseller list – because it lumps all types of books together on a single list….. Essentially, I came to understand that genres could be broken down into subgenres – for instance thrillers could be legal thrillers, techno-thrillers, etc. And EACH SUB-GENRE COULD SUPPORT THREE MAJOR AUTHORS.

If you looked at techno-thrillers, you had Tom Clancy, Dale Brown, and Dale Ellis. In horror, you had Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dean Koontz. In legal thrillers, you had John Grisham, Scott Turrow, and Richard North Patterson. In political thrillers you had David Balducci, Robert Ludlom, and John Le Carre. There were, of course, other successful authors in the subgenres but not quite at the level of the Big Three.

Once I realized this simple fact, I SET ABOUT FINDING A SUBGENRE THAT, AT THE TIME, DIDN’T HAVE THREE MAJOR AUTHORS. I came upon love stories. In 1994, only Robert James Waller was writing them, and I decided to give that subgenre a try. From there, I drew upon the loves of my wife’s grandparents and told their story, one that I hoped readers would enjoy. That book became The Notebook.

Once completed, it sold for $1 million up front.

And I thought writers felt compelled to tell a certain story, not approach it from a business point of view.

1 comment:

Colleen said...


I read this when you first posted it and can't stop thinking about it. I really didn't know much about this writer, but his approach is so... professional that I am still pondering how this might help me. Certainly as a nonfiction writer you take this kind of approach and figure out what the market is for your kind of book, but that approach to fiction surprises me. And he had a best seller right out of the gates.

Thanks for sharing.