Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Not a Frequently Asked Question contd

EA, what do you think of this business of authors spending their advance on promotion?
I think it's a little nutty. But each author should be the judge of their own promotional skill and be guided by that.
I'm not sure all editors are so quick to offer up these numbers, especially print runs. I've asked this question in the past and I've gotten a lot of hemming and hawing instead of a clear answer...
That doesn't mean they don't have a guess. They have to have a guess to calculate your advance.
I agree with the mystery around print runs. I've never heard this information volunteered as part of the initial offer.

But foreign publishers and agents always ask.
Out of curiosity...I assume that the stated print run is a measure of the publisher's expectations. As such, are those numbers generally accurate? I mean to say, if the catalogue says "print run: 500,000" and then there are a million retail orders, you could quickly print more - but if there are only only 35 retail orders and people just don't seem that into it, would you not print as many? ... and at what point is it too late to pull the plug entirely?
Print runs are usually set ahead of the orders coming in, but there are last-minute changes. Yes, sometimes we knock the print run down a few thousand. We're extremely unlikely to pull the plug on anything simply because early orders are lower than we hoped. The market's had plenty of sleeper titles. Pulling the plug is pretty much saved for titles where we're getting actual resistance (anger, outrage, etc). You can see how the abort button got pushed for If I Did It (in its first incarnation. Alas, it has risen again). But that sort of reaction is pretty unusual in kids books, not counting The Rainbow Party, which seems to have been published just to give parents aneurysms and bible thumpers something new to burn.
EA, a question about this kind of negotiation--Does the publisher generate a range of estimates for the advance (for example, $4000-$6000) and offer $4000, being prepared to go up to $6000 during negotiations, or do they just generate one estimate and say, "Take it or leave it"?
Depends on the book. Usually there's some room for negotiation, and if we're dealing with an agent, we'll make sure we leave room for negotiation, even if it means low-balling at first. Because agents won't leave us alone until we raise the advance from our initial offer, no matter how fair we feel it is.


Deirdre Mundy said...

I hadn't heard of The Rainbow Party so I looked it up on Amazon....

uh... yuck? and even more yuck... check out what other books people who liked it bought.....

When I was a teenager, this was the sort of book that convinced me the YA section had nothing to offer and I might as well drift back and forth between children's and Adult SF/Fantasy......

Unless, of course, EA was referring to the board book about balloons......

Anonymous said...

>I think it's a little nutty.

Thank you! Thank you!! THANK YOU!!!

Anonymous said...

"...When agents are involved we make sure we leave some room (for advance negotioating)... Agents won't leave us alone from our initial offer no matter how fair we feel it is..."

Thank you for clarifying this.

I KNEW I shouldn't have accepted that in initial offer, regardless of that agent's advice! Live and learn.

Anonymous said...

in general, great advice. but... I am a children's editor, and I would probably not divulge the estimated print run I plopped into the p&l to the author when making an offer.

That number in the P&L is usually way off, for various reasons, and it WILL change. It will change when we do cover comps, it'll change when we first preview the list for sales folks, it'll change a lot when we present the list to sales folks, and it'll change AGAIN after we've launched and the sales people come back with their estimates. Not to mention, we never ever actually print our final "first print" numbers--it's usually a lot less.

The real problem is the with the word "projected" or "estimated". The editor may say estimated, but does the author hear estimated, or does the excitment of the offer overwrite "estimated" with "OMG they're thinking 20,000! OMG!"?

things are so tentative at the offer stage, and no one wants a pissed off author throwing numbers mentioned at offer back in my face if the print run goes down, or the price changes.

I'm guessing also that the authors reading this will say "oh no, not us, we'd never get pissed when the runs go down. we understand the business!" And you probably do, but it's REALLY hard to keep the expectations for the project at the time of the offer separate from the expections for the project a year or more later when there's finally something to read and trends have morphed and B&N is telling you that the writing is great but he's seen a lot of this "type" lately and so his numbers are going down, and did he mention he hates the cover that you, the author and everyone inhouse loved and is too late to change. God, it's hard for us, and we're party to these insanely difficult conversations.

Just something to keep in mind.

Rather than honest to goodness print run numbers, I'd rather have a conversation with the author who says to me "hmm, so if you're offering me this advance of $6,000, and I say sell, X amount at what, like $16.99? I'd earn out or not...." A knowledgable conversation is a lot better than being grilled for facts.

(and yes, we leave a little room most of the time. but sometimes? the first offer is also the best and only offer we can do. for me, it depends on what I think the author/agent will take.)

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