View Full Version : Why good books disapear....

09-08-2005, 06:24 PM
I am an Fantasy Artist ,(but am working towards being a writer too).

I have learned that the reason why some our favorite books, wether they be instruction books, non-fiction, fiction, etc, go into the "out of print", "rare", "was selling for 19.95 but is now 150.00 dollars", is because how they were or are sold. (If you are a published artist with an instruction book, maybe you can give some opinion here).

I learned that if i want to keep my favorite author in the business and their books on the shelf, i should order through my local stores, and NOT through the internet. Below is a detailed explination as to why: (WARNING, THIS IS LONG, BUT VERY WORTH IT. AND THERE IS A DISCLAIMER AT THE BOTTOM).

It works like this. The chains put in an order for 10 books per store. (Thatís pretty high, incidentally, but Iím ever the optimist.) Of those, seven sell, one is read to death in-store and has to be scrapped, and two are still sitting on the shelves. This is a 70% sell-through, which will have your agent and you and your editor and your publisher dancing in the aisles. Nobody ever sells through at a hundred percent. 50% is considered acceptable, a 70% sell-through is considered terrific, 80% or better and you might as well be walking on water where you publisher and editor are concerned.

Iíve had a number of books sell through at 70% or better . . . a couple way better. The sounds of jubilation are spectacular. While they last.
Because then the chains reorder. Logically, if you have a book that sells through at 70%, you will order twice or even three times as many of that authorís next book, because sell-through remains constant. If you sell 70% of ten books, you will sell 70% of twenty books. Independent booksellers know this, and follow it. Chain stores do not. Chain stores order to the net Ė that is, they let the computer automatically reorder only the number of books that sold before. Therefore, they will not order twenty copies of your next book. They will not even order ten. They will order . . . seven. Why? Because they sold seven.
And because sell-through remains constant, they will sell roughly five copies of your next book. (70% of seven is four-point-nine, or about five.) And because they only sell five copies of your second title, they will order . . . you guessed it . . . five of your third title.
And because sell-through remains constant, the chains will sell three-and-a half copies of your third book, and will also show a three-book pattern of dwindling sales.

The fact that they and their computerized ordering system caused this pattern will not be brought out in your favor. The fact that your books are still selling through in great percentages will not be brought out in your favor. Only the fact that the computer has been ordering less and less of your books will ever be considered within the chains. So after three books, all things being equal, you are probably doomed. The chains wonít order your titles. Your publisher wonít be selling enough of your books to make it worth his while to publish you. And you can go forth to write under a new name, or you can go back to work as whatever you were before.
You as a reader are the key that can break this destructive chain. If you can, buy the books you want locally. Special-order them if they arenít in stock.

Tell the booksellers that these books and this author, whichever books and whichever author it might be, need to be in stock. This may be futile with chain stores (nothing seems to slow the onslaught of the chainsí computers), but you might be able to get through to someone somewhere. It cannot hurt to try. Special-ordering the books you want and recommending titles to keep on the shelves will definitely be helpful with independents.


Now if you actually read all the above, and would like to keep our favorite authors on the shelves, please pass on the information.


09-08-2005, 06:43 PM
I started to say this sounded a lot like Holly Lisle's explanation of the book ordering business and sure enough! I used to be over there on her chat board a lot but don't seem to know anyone over there now...not sure where everyone went.

For any interested in fiction writing, hollylisle.com is to writers what Wet Canvas is to artists. Great web resource!

09-08-2005, 06:53 PM
Thank you, Now i dont feel so odd about posting that then lol.

Yes her website has inspired many, me included. I seem to be spending every waking hour there, either reading her workshops or her blogs. She was an artist also which had me feeling a little more kinship to her than when i first started reading her site.

I think the reason alot are not on there now is because of Ms. Lisle's schedule. But she has been posting this week because of the Hurricane Katrina, and there are some families displaced that she is fundraising for. Just have to look for the stuff, i could tell you where it is but im lost in my own "saved that site somewhere in my billion folders of Favorites" world ;-)

09-08-2005, 07:21 PM

I understand, but don't agree that it may happen in most of the cases of good books.
In my opinion, if a book is good there will be people wanting to buy it, so the store - even if it's a virtual one - will have to order it. Not in descendent quantity like you posted, but according to constant demand. Otherwise, if they don't have it, people will buy elsewhere and when a customer goes elsewhere it may never come back.
Well....this is my opinion.



CM Neidhofer
09-08-2005, 09:52 PM
Being in retail, your explanation sounds more like a management problem than a computer problem. If books are indeed ordered according to the sales, by computer, then there is usually a "shelf capacity" for an item. This sounds like a POS (point of sale) system, used in most retail establishments. If that's the case, the shelf capacity allowed for one title..in your example, seven books...should always be seven books and that same quantity orderd when down to one, or none, of a particular title. It sounds like more of a change in stock, of sorts. After those three books have been sitting on a shelf for a while, they are discontinued by a particular chain, to make room to bring in new, fresh titles. Just my opinion, though.


09-09-2005, 03:28 AM
This is interesting. I would not own a quarter of the books I have without Amazon, which may be true with the masses. How would that affect sales?

I really do feel that it is the author (even my faves) and the publisher that need to figure out how to keep themselves in business and on the shelf. I do support them in buying and recommending the book if it is well done.

As a consumer my biggest concern is price and availability not whether the author's future is in jeopardy, I have bigger fish to fry and need my money to do it.

I also believe that if I were to decide to pay more just to support something it would probably be to benefit those truly in need and not able to help themselves.

I dislike placing and waiting for special orders and this is a must on many titles in the chains. Have you seen the pastel book selection?

Amazon fills most needs and I can find out-of-print books at great prices. Usually even LESS than retail, the rarity is over $30-40. I have purcased close to a hundred of out-of-print books in the last 3 years, most less than $15-20, many less than $10.

After being at Barnes & Noble the other day I will use Amazon even more, B&N prices are so much higher even with the silly club card. I don't have Border's anymore.

I feel certain that if the book keeps selling, even 3 at a time, Amazon will continue to order.

And even worse, I buy Northern Light books from Amazon, I hate the dang cards coming or having to go to their site so I don't get yet another book I don't want. This is an exception I would make, I would pay more to support No Light and their authors but they add to my list of chores with their system.

my http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Sep-2005/7846-2cents.gif (well more, did I go overboard?)


09-09-2005, 03:42 AM
"As a consumer my biggest concern is price and availability not whether the author's future is in jeopardy, I have bigger fish to fry and need my money to do it."

So your saying that since writers do not need money to live on and to continue with THEIR chosen medium that not only (pays their bills, feed their children, ect) but also helps others plus offer various forms of entertainment, then their futures are not worth putting in the hands of consumers who would rather get others hard work for free because your money is better off serving you? I think this is the first time ever that i have come across someone in a field of creativity that would offer their hard work for free. I mean, you are painting your best and "giving" away those paintings, right? The people who want them could use the money they save from giving it to you on say, bigger fish. I think i would like to be the seller that is offering said fish, i would be able to pay my bills in that line of work.

Theres more that you said that i could reply to, but i have strayed to long from my job of writing AND painting to do so.

09-09-2005, 03:58 AM
No! I say they are not helpless and neither am I.

I, too, have to market myself and would never ask the consumer to pay more if they didn't have to or could buy it for less elsewhere. In reverse, this is why galleries have you sign agreements not to sell for less and compete with them.

"Please shop here and pay more because I am an artist" or "Because you are an artist you should pay more to support artists" is really not a good sales pitch.

Also, you are quoting her as to the fact that out-of-print books are not reasonably priced. I have too much personal experience and must disagree respectfully.

I would hate to see this thread stop someone from even looking with that figure you threw in.

I don't mean this to be argumentative. So I have given you fact as I know it and this consumer's point of view.

As an artist knowing how consumers feel could help you better market yourself. If you don't have time for this why did you post it?


I apologise about the fish frying but my humor doesn't translate in type, LOL.

09-09-2005, 04:13 AM
Alright, then i will also apologize if i seemed a bit ........bent out of shape at what i quoted.

May i ask what "figure" you are referring to? that i threw in?

The statement i made about "rare books" was not a quote from Ms. Lisle's website, that quote is from me.

I asked for opinions from artists who have ever had anything published in books or a book of their own published, before i gave the quote. Looking for some input from published artists/writers, but not so much from consumers, or those who work behind the counter. But please do not take that statement personally, i should have been clear about this in my first post.

09-09-2005, 04:22 AM
I see that you edited to add the bold type to ask why did i post.

I will explain again, that i was looking for opinions from published artists. I did not however expect to get negative opinions about the quote or Ms. Lisle's estimate from her experience with publishing in the past 10+ years.

However, i will apologize for the last statement i made that warrented you to edit and accent in bold, your question.

09-09-2005, 04:54 AM
Hi again :wave:

You were clear and as a writer I found this interesting. I am not published so I was out of place jumping in, maybe. But I looooooove Amazon, they keep me fed, and I can afford more. And as a fellow writer you must understand the need for books and saving money when you buy so many. I know you must own one or two yourself.

The mention or quote of $150 was high in my experience of purchasing well over a hundred rare and out-of-print books, of many different genres, recently. Maybe close to 200 now, eeek:eek: .

I believe these books are more easily found and at way better prices due to the numbers of them and the competitve vendors at Amazon Marketplace. In the past just finding one copy was a challenge, now you can select from old and used to rare and signed.

One of my great pastel book finds was Elizabeth Mowry's 1st of 4 books, well out of print, and SIGNED, for $10. Yippee skippy. Do you think she would be mad? This book has been re-done but without the instructional part and color selections. I hope one person reads this, clicks Amazon, and gets a great treasure like this. I didn't know it was signed when I bought it, so you can imagine my delight. Just getting the book was fantastic.

The tone of the quote seems to blame the consumer, whom the author should be kissing not criticizing. I really think the issue belongs with the publisher and not the writer or consumer. They are the ones getting paid to sell it, right?

You could have a field day with this if you post it in debates as many different opinions hang out there.

You may not get as many published author replies as artists in Pastel Talk. I bet there is a better place to post this for the response you want but I am not sure where. I hang here for art more than writing ('cept tonight, lol).


09-09-2005, 05:03 AM
Now if you actually read all the above, and would like to keep our favorite authors on the shelves, please pass on the information.

This invited me to respond. And I read the whole thing so felt it was ok.

09-09-2005, 05:24 AM
Point taken. I will only post here when it regards to pastel works.

Thank you.

09-09-2005, 05:38 AM
I am not trying to get rid of you :cat: . I just want you to realize you may not get the response you would like here (from only published authors).

Jackie Simmonds is here from time to time and I hope she spots this. There are others, too.

I like a lively and friendly discussion and I know there are other authors the feel that same as you.



although Kyle may have our heads in the morning :D

Kathryn Wilson
09-09-2005, 08:18 AM
Yes, I'd like to hear Jackie Simmonds opinion of this, just to keep this Pastel Forum talk related. I imagine you would get a greater response if you also posted this in the Debates forum - you would get a greater field of comments.

09-09-2005, 03:46 PM

Just a point :

You were talking that writers need to feed their children and so on. And I agree with you on that of course. The problem are the editors who want to take all the money. But that goes with anything : the farmer who works hard, but it's the intermediary who has the biggest piece of the cake; the writer who works hard and the publisher has the most profitt (and don't come with those promotion and etc expenses that the editor has to support); it's the DVD disc that is cheapper than the cassette and is sold more expensive (ok I know it has more extras), etc etc.
Usualy in this world, who works harder gets less.

Best regards,