Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why You Should Buy that Book Now Now Now.

I am in charge of returns in a largish bookstore in Brisbane.

It's my job to send the books that don't sell back to the publisher, so I see the depressing end of the old literary dream. Basically it works this way, though there are exceptions, there is 3-12 month window in which books that are a bookstore buys are returnable. If they are not returned after this time they become what is called firm sale - basically meaning bookstores can't return them.

Most publishers date this window from the publication date of the book, rather than when the book is bought, so most backlist titles (as opposed to New Release or frontlist titles) are bought firm sale - which means the bookstore takes a higher risk buying them. Most of your favourite books are probably backlist titles*.

Now this system works okay, for one it means bookstores are willing to take a risk on newer authors, but also it gives an author pretty much a three month** window to start selling their book or they're kind of screwed. Three months isn't very long.

Which is why you should never hold off buying that new book, because chances are in three months time - or tomorrow - it won't be there, and once it's gone, it's gone.

It is also why you should go out and buy a copy of Martin Living's Carnies, today - well, tomorrow because it's getting late.

It's a fun read - I've only just started, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it. And I'll feel happier if I don't have to return any copies - it makes my job easier, so you'd kind of be doing me a favour as well, or some other poor chump like me.

*Backlist titles being firm sale was something that came into prominence about four or five years ago (maybe a little longer, I've been doing this for a while). It basically led to more cautious buying from bookstores, and a lot of author's titles going out of print very quickly.

**Because who's going to keep a book for longer than three months if it isn't selling, that book is taking up valuable shelf space.


Martin Livings said...

Aw, thanks for that, Trent! Your collection is on my to-buy list for when I get back to Australia next year (until then, it's just extra space I'll need in my luggage!). Thank god for PoD, no returns, no three month window, just eternal life (or death!) for a book. :)

Trent Jamieson said...

I agree that's one of the benefits of PoD. But it's not quite the same as offset.

You should be proud of Carnies, Martin. To sell a novel in this country is hard enough, but to sell a horror novel....

Martin Livings said...

Right place, right time. That's all it was. Pure luck!

Trent Jamieson said...

Lucky, maybe. Purely lucky, nah! Hope, you're getting all manner of writing done over there in the UK.