Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How a Book Makes a Bestsellers List, and Why Tuesday is an Important Day in Publishing

In addition to heavy marketing, promotion, blood, sweat, tears, and a fair amount of good luck, there’s another key ingredient that helps a book make a bestsellers list. Many new authors and most readers have misconceptions about how a book makes its way to that status, and I would also venture to say that a large majority don’t realize the importance of Tuesday in the publishing industry, or how that day directly impacts a books ability to claim a spot on a list.

A lot of people think that a book makes a bestsellers list based on the cumulative amount of units sold. That theory is true, but the distinction lies in the timeframe in which the books are sold. Bestseller lists are compiled each week by retailers who report their sales, and the reporting week starts on Tuesday. This is true for the recording industry as well.

If you look at the publication date of books produced by traditional publishers, you will find that no matter the date, the day of the week always falls on a Tuesday. If you see a book with a publication date other then Tuesday, it’s a dead giveaway that the book is self-published, and by someone unfamiliar with industry standards. When I was self-published I made that mistake with my first book, releasing it on a Friday, only to discover my misstep that next Monday through doing research that I’d overlooked on the front end.

Retailers report the number of books sold (based on ISBN’s that are recorded by Nielsen BookScan) within the reporting period (Tuesday thru the weekend) to various industry outlets such as the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, etc. A book makes a list according to how many units were sold within that week’s reporting period. Each Tuesday is a fresh start for the reporting to begin anew. This is why you see books that boast, “4 weeks on the such and such list.” It’s because that particular book garners top sales each week. If a book sells well enough to make the list at a bookstore, newspaper, magazine, book club (Black Expressions) industry publication (PW, Library Journal) etc.,  that book can forever be called a bestseller.

Many authors, particularly established ones, stress the importance of first week sales. They do this because the first week of publication is the launching pad for the success of their book, and is generally the author’s best chance of making a bestsellers list. This isn’t true for all authors, though. New authors typically build momentum as time goes on and readers discover their work. But even if it’s the author’s debut book, sales for the first week of publication is still important and serve as a foundation on which to grow. Pre-orders are also very important and count toward book sales.

Personally, I always stress pre-orders. Just as the first week of sales is important, pre-orders help to build momentum before the book is released. When I published my first novel I sold enough pre-orders to pay for my second printing the month after my book was released. I’ll talk more about pre-orders in my next post. Until then, happy writing and reading!

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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Writing: How To Get Started

A lot of people say they don't know where to begin when it comes to writing a book. "How do I get started?" is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear from aspiring writers. I'll be honest, writing a book is no easy feat. Many new writers obsess about how their story will unfold, the pacing of their plot, and the likability/believability of their characters. And they wonder how their beginning, middle, and end will all come together to form a good book. All those concerns are valid ones. But I think the most important aspect of "getting started" involves discipline.

Books are not written overnight, they are written over time. It is a process, and that process involves making a huge time commitment for the endeavor. Sure, there are some writers who can complete a book in record time and can churn out 10,000 words in one day. I once did 9,000 words, but the next day I felt as though I'd suffered a mild concussion. The truth is, writing requires long, uninterrupted hours of solitary time, where it's just you and your characters filling up blank pages.

How do you fill up those pages? One day at a time.

Getting started requires an every day commitment. If your lifestyle won't allow you to write for long hours every day, do something, even if you only write a few paragraphs or go over what you've already written. When you engage in the exercise of writing each day, your mind and body will soon grow accustomed to the familiar journey, and it will become a habit. Initially, it can be a challenging thing to do, so I tell aspiring writers to schedule writing time on their electronic calendar. Set the alert/alarm so it reminds you and holds you accountable. Just as you would schedule a hair appointment, doctor's visit, or a night out with friends, schedule your writing time!

Another thing I've found helpful is to record your word count every day. I keep a writing journal for each one of my novels. When I start writing in the morning, I record how many words I have on paper and I do it again at the end of my writing day. This allows me to see my progress (or lack thereof) and gives me the push to do more than I did the day before. 

Each writer will find their own rhythm and what works best for them. But the main thing is to commit yourself to doing something every day. Disciplining yourself will help you get started and before you know it you'll have a completed book.

Trice Hickman

Monday, January 14, 2013

Wow All Over Again!

Wow, I can't believe we're already into the third week  of 2013. I think I may have said the same thing and had the same feeling this time last year! It's "WOW" all over again!

But there's one thing I know that will be very different this year...I'm going to take better care of ME!

So often in the past I've neglected my health--physically and emotionally--trying to do too many things all at once. It was maddening, and after a while it wore me down. Last year many of my friends and close family members were affected by health challenges. I even had my own battles. The one thing I realized is that without good health nothing else really matters. Without good health you can't enjoy the things you work so hard for.

I also realized that once you slow down, things still manage to get done, maybe not in the time you would have liked, but they still get done. And even if they don't, it's not the end of the earth, so to speak. Taking a breath to gather yourself in the face of stressful situations can prove more productive than plowing through the work and ending up with an ulcer, high blood pressure, or worse.

Will I work hard? Absolutely! Will I work non-stop? Absolutely NOT! Moderation is going to be my motto. I know I'll have to adjust in order to ease into this knew way of being, but I'm looking forward to the experience!