Saturday, November 03, 2007

Two Questions for You All

My first thinking on posting publisher's sales figures went like this: a little bit of accurate information can lead to highly inaccurate conclusions. It is easy to simply say that is the readers problem, but examples of good statistics going bad occur daily. On Friday there were two clear examples, Giuliani's misunderstanding of the survival stats for prostate cancer and general statistic confusion surrounding the current abortion debate in the UK including breast cancer and premature baby survival statistics. Fortunately our data is clearly no where near that important and my role extraordinarily minor in shaping anyone's opinion.

I also proved myself pretty good at jumping to conclusions last month when I was reading Affaire de Coeur magazine. The first article, am interview with Helen Rosberg, begins with the following disclaimer. "First AcC would like to apologize to you. When AdC last did an interview with you there was some confusion about it, and we would like to set the record straight. I hope it did not cause any problem for you."

To which my first reaction is: WTF, what did I miss? And my first leap of assumption is that somebody said some bad and somebody else either had a tantrum or sicced the lawyers on them. Of course I didn't, and don't have any basis for this--it is presented here just as an example of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing. And after hunting around a bit it seems that Rosberg in addition to publishing her own work has developed a pretty decent rep both as an author and a third party publisher that does rather better than a lot of small presses when it comes to getting mainstream sales, distribution and reviews.

All of which brings me, in a round-about way, to my question. Would any kind of context statement or disclaimer really help people understand the way a small, biased and non-random sample can lead to highly unrepresentative sales estimates? Would a statement of exactly how the data is collected and processed be sufficient? And on a related note: it has been raised that no matter how important sales are there are other issues. Perhaps I should give some time to them. If you consider the top twenty erotic romance epublishers, what factor other than sales do you think is most important in deciding which one to submit to?


JMS Books LLC said...

To answer your first question, I don't know. for your second question:

If you consider the top twenty erotic romance epublishers, what factor other than sales do you think is most important in deciding which one to submit to?

For me, there are definitely other factors to consider:

1. What other authors in my genre does the publisher work with? If it's someone whose work I don't enjoy or agree with, I'm not sure I want to be "lumped together" with them in the author's catalog.

2. What types of books to they publish? Romance, yes; erotica, yes. But do they take stories that have low-to-moderate erotic content, or are only looking for (in effect) stroke books?

3. What are relationships with editors like? Will I be able to communicate/work well with my editor, ask questions, etc? Will I have to sign a contract and later find out that the editor wants major changes to the book I don't want to make? Can my editor help guide me through their publisher's process?

4. What about cover art ~ do I get a say in the final art used to promote the book? Or is it just, here you go, hope you like it, if not, tough? Do they use the same stock pictures everyone uses anymore, or do they have more original cover art? Do they use the horrible Poser figures I can't stand? A cover says a lot about a book, and if I don't like the publisher's covers, I'm hesitant to submit to them.

5. What kind of promotions does the publisher do? For this, I gauge it mostly in how much I know of the publisher prior to my submitting to them. For instance, if no one's ever posted to the GLBT promo groups I'm in, how can they claim to promote my books to my target audience?

6. What's their turnaround time? On submissions, yes (I get antsy after a month and am always quick to send off a follow-up query), but also the time between acceptance and final publication. When I submitted a "High Ball" length story to Torquere in June, I had no clue that the book wouldn't get into print before April 2008. Had I known, I may have tried a different publisher.

That's it ... for now :)

Dusk Peterson said...

I definitely think that disclaimers are important for any statistical study, simply because most people don't understand how difficult a science data-gathering is. Including information on how the data was collected and processed is even more helpful, because it allows other folk to pinpoint any weakness in the data collecting and processing, and may even allow you to use their comments to improve your system.

Celia Kyle said...

I think a small disclaimer indicating the size of the pool of your sources could be beneficial. In addition, perhaps the age of the information as well.

To answer your second question:

-Timeliness of payment (Who cares if it sells if we don't get paid on time.)

-Email responsiveness from management, including editors, to questions. Open communication.

-Submission response time and time from contract acceptance to publication.

Anonymous said...

To answer your second question:

Editing, editing, editing. Editing. That means acquisitions editors (do they accept stuff that would embarrass me to be associated with?). That means content editing (does the story make sense? Is there a clear structure? Do the characters behave in believable ways?). That means line editing (For two reasons. One, I'm awful at line editing my own books. Two, I'll notice anybody else's mistakes every time).

I can forgive almost everything else, really, if the editing is tight.

Jules Jones said...

What does their contract look like, and how negotiable is it? Two particular points here:

a) Is it competent? E.g., do they cover themselves, without trying to grab rights they'll never use? Because if it looks like a contract drawn up by someone who's never seen a real publishing contract, then it probably *is* drawn up by someone who's never seen a real publishing contract. This is not a goodness.

b) If they take an option on your next book that gives them the right to take your next book on the same terms as the last (or even your next book in the same genre) -- you've just handed them control of the rest of your career. Which I'd be loathe to do even at a mass market publisher paying me a hefty advance.

For me -- do they actually understand the m/m genre, or have they just seen a bandwagon go by? Ditto for writers in other sub-genres. Because if a publisher has made it clear that they neither understand nor like a particular genre, then suddenly put out a call for submissions when it becomes obvious that it's not just a tiny minority of freaks who read it, one has to wonder how effective they'll be at editing it and promoting it. And how many of the readers will have noticed the same thing.