Publishing Is Just Guesswork

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: May 14 2007

Whenever I’m asked what I think an author will get for a book, I always let them know that it’s all a guessing game, but give my opinion. It looks like I have plenty of backup on how much of a guessing game this entire business is:

7 responses to “Publishing Is Just Guesswork”

  1. Avatar Sharon Page says:

    Thanks for posting this fascinating article! My fiction professor from university (author Tom Henighan) recently sent me an aricle from the Guardian (March 25 07) on “That Difficult First Novel”. I was really intrigued to read the following, since I’d read the book in question, was wowed by author’s voice, and intrigued by the gothic-style story. I liked the story, but wondered why an editor latched on it as a bestseller.

    So from the article, “According to the latest edition of Private Eye, first novel The Thirteenth Tale by ex-teacher Diane Setterfield (author’s advance £800,000) has sold 13,487 copies to date. Only 516,129 to go and the
    book’s paid for itself… Anny Shaw”

    I wouldn’t mind not selling another book after being the 1.6 million dollar gamble. 🙂

  2. Avatar Anonymous says:

    I thought this was the most interesting part of the article:

    Television stations have created online forums for viewers and may use the information there to make programming decisions. Game developers solicit input from users through virtual communities over the Internet. Airlines and hotels have developed increasingly sophisticated databases of customers.

    Publishers, by contrast, put up Web sites where, in some cases, readers can sign up for announcements of new titles. But information rarely flows the other way: from readers back to the editors.

    “We need much more of a direct relationship with our readers,” said Susan Rabiner, an agent and a former editorial director.

    Bloggers have a much more interactive relationship with their readers than publishers do, she said.

    “Before Amazon, we didn’t even know what people thought of the books,” Rabiner said.


  3. Avatar Conduit says:

    As William Goldman said of the movie industry: “Nobody knows anything.”

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Great article. And it makes me that much more curious when I see deals in Publishers Marketplace with these two words combined “debut” and “major”.

    I’ll never understand a publisher taking that much risk on a novel NO ONE knows if it will be a hit.

    I would love to hear from an agents perspective how that can happen? Is it the fever of a the aucion that keeps driving up the price?


  5. Avatar Gina Black says:

    Ouch! Sharon, I’m amazed “The Thirteenth Tale” has sold so few copies–although I wouldn’t expect it to be a best seller, either. Like you, I was wowed by the author’s voice. Hmmmm.

  6. Avatar bhadd says:

    Why have blogs not contacted publishers and provided data to analyze? Readerships are marks demographical!
    The Hood Company

  7. Avatar Mark Terry says:

    I shared this link with another novelist friend of mine. We both agree the money quote is:

    “It’s the way this business has run since 1640,” he said.