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08 November 2009 @ 01:25 pm
on signing tours  

For the record, I’m not going on a signing tour in a couple weeks. I’m going home to Alaska to visit family and friends, and am stuffing a couple of book signings in on the way through.

But since I’ve been talking about the signings, many of you have hopefully suggested you would very much like me to come to your location and sign books. I, too, would like to go to your location and sign books. I think it would be tremendously awesome. I would, however, have to sell about 300% more books than I do in order to make it even vaguely feasible. It’s not a lack of promotion on the publisher’s part, or a writer having to do all the publicity leg work herself. It’s pure finances.

As a rule, when you buy one of my books new, I get about a dollar from that sale. That’s the money I live on, day to day. That’s what I pay bills and rent and student loans with. So in order to fly to New York on your average economy ticket, I’d have be certain of selling, oh, say, an additional 600 books at a signing in order to break even. And that’s not including food or hotel, so throw those in and even if you’re being very cautious with money you’re looking at needing to sell an additional thousand or twelve hundred books to not lose money on the prospect. And really, most people at book signings bring the books they’ve already bought to get them signed, so even if by some incredibly unlikely stroke of luck I had 1200 people show up to a signing (and I’m much more in the realm of “if 40 people show up it’s an unqualified success”), the odds of selling 1200 books would be infinitesimally small. So although I have a good solid readership (for which I am *extremely* grateful), there just simply aren’t enough dollars coming in to support a self-financed book tour.

Ah! you say, so get your publisher to send you on a tour!

Well, the finances for the publisher are basically the same. My sales numbers–which, like my readership, are good solid numbers–are not nearly that good. I’m not a bestseller in terms of moving a large enough quantity of any given novel in the first month of publication. Over my career thus far my books have had what the industry refers to as “legs”–in other words, I’m still selling a lot of copies of URBAN SHAMAN, even 4.5 years after it came out. Now, if I could get everybody who’s bought a copy of URBAN SHAMAN to buy my next book the month it came out, yeah, I’d probably all of a sudden get to have shiny words like “USA Today Bestseller” or possibly “New York Times Bestseller” in front of my name. And there’s a degree of self-perpetuation to that, so once you start reaching that status it may become worth it to the publisher to (probably) lose money on financing a tour themselves, in hopes of making it up in sales down the road.

I’d greatly love to reach that status, or be in a position where it’s financially feasible to take myself on a signing tour and go all over the place to meet people. But for the moment, I’m really only ever going to be able to manage signings at places that I’m going to anyway, and sadly there just aren’t that many of those places to begin with. :)

(x-posted from the essential kit)
 
 
Current Mood: quixoticexplanatory
 
 
 
Evil Headdrivingblind on November 8th, 2009 12:34 pm (UTC)
Ahhh, "legs". Yeah, that's an "evergreen" product in my vocab, and always a good thing to have.

The ratios of sales to "worth making the appearance" differ in the RPG industry (where showing up at a convention often means as a publisher selling books in a way that gets you most, or at least half, of the gross), but it's still a very familiar sounding thing you're talking about here. It sucks, and there are plenty of fans who don't understand fully why you can't make it everywhere, but it's how things are.

Edited at 2009-11-08 03:36 pm (UTC)
kitmizkit on November 8th, 2009 12:58 pm (UTC)
Well, I figure most fans probably don't have any *reason* to understand fully why you can't make it everywhere. Especially since what you get in the media as a representation of authorially finances suggests we're all rolling in cash and taking showers in silver pennies, or something. :)
Evil Headdrivingblind on November 8th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
AND you solve murders on the side!
kit: fanboy_fireflymizkit on November 8th, 2009 01:28 pm (UTC)
AND look good in tight pants!
dqg_nealdqg_neal on November 8th, 2009 04:15 pm (UTC)
Yes, but the problem is that you are solving murders on the side. It means that somehow keep ending up in the same places murders occur. How does that happen and you aren't a suspect? *grin*

That a different means of making a killing in the book business!!!
hegemony hedgehogagrimony on November 8th, 2009 12:35 pm (UTC)
Ninja Hedgehog says, "Kill all the people who don't buy your books, then you'll be the best seller in all the land!"

Of course, Ninja Hedgehog has been playing Dragon Age Origins quite a lot and is perhaps not precisely the best moral compass at present.
Geek of Weird Shitgows on November 8th, 2009 02:54 pm (UTC)
Since you will be working (by doing signings) on your vacation, you should look into writing off part of your trip as a business expense, including the cost of your ticket. This is the #1 reason I have a small clientele in Alaska.
kitmizkit on November 8th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Ireland doesn't tax artists, and therefore there's nothing to write off. This would be more advantageous if the average dollar v. euro over the past four years hadn't been somewhere in the realm of $1.45, but that's life.
lannyworldlannyworld on November 9th, 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
Wow no tax for artists? Maybe I should move there...

kitmizkit on November 9th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
It takes at least five years for it to kick in if you're not already an Irish citizen. And believe me, with the dollar where it's been against the euro, it's not a sufficiently compelling reason on its own to live here.

Add in free health care, though...
silkiemom on November 8th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
So, if I'd hired you to paint my house last year, I could've also asked for a local bookstore signing? Man, I missed out! :)
Pamelajeditigger on November 8th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
I remember teasing Chris Moore last year when he didn't come through Charlotte on his book tour for Fool and he answered wryly, "They cut two weeks out of my tour. Apparently there's something going on with the economy?"

Book tours are expensive. Wonderful but expensive. I think the people who will get to see you where you happen to go are lucky...and as I said, I actually checked airfare so I could maybe coincide an overdue visit to Seattle with your trip. ;)
allaboutm_eallaboutm_e on November 9th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
Brief $.02
One good way to encourage the publishers to support the (theoretical future) tour is to buy books at the book signings she does have set up, establishing precedent for possible future signings, as well as demonstrating to the host bookseller that their time and efforts promoting the signing are appreciated.

Edited at 2009-11-09 05:12 pm (UTC)
pgwfolcpgwfolc on November 14th, 2009 04:34 pm (UTC)
Belated response
Meant to comment here before, but then got distracted and never got around to coming back to it.

Thanks for the explanation. I never really thought about things from the author's perspective.

I hope you didn't feel any sort of pressure/demand when I asked about an NY-area stopover. I just thought it'd be kinda cool, and figured it couldn't hurt to ask. I figured you'd have to come this way to get home anyway, possibly even have a layover. It's a logical and common place to change planes.

Well, the good news is that your books have nice legs. Congratulations!

Have a good trip. :)
kitmizkit on November 14th, 2009 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Belated response
Nah, not pressured, but so many people (here and in other places) made hopeful eyes about it that I thought an explanation might be interesting/illuminating. :)