Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

You Show Me Yours and I’ll . . .

There was quite the dust up last week involving Laura Lee Guhrke and her opinions that Ellora’s Cave is a fringe publisher and the authors for Ellora’s Cave were not making “good money.” When confronted with Ellora’s Cave authors saying that they do make good money, Ms. Guhrke challenged these authors to prove it with royalty figures. (She asks them to scan in their statements)

There is a little known service (little known to readers, I believe) provided by Ingram. Ingram Book Group is the world’s largest wholesale distributor of book product. They have an automated telephone service that provides Ingram numbers of sales for any book with an ISBN. I read that if you use the multiplier of 6, you can get a good idea of approximate sales overall. So I did a little investigating. You’ll be shocked at the results. All numbers are unadjusted until the summary at the end.

Da Vinci Code Paperback (released 2006)

5610 copies in warehouses
4752 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 2475
Last week adjusted demand 5480
***Sales this year –" 37046
***Sales last year –0

Memory in Death
by Nora Roberts
279 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 5
Last week adjusted demand 3
***Sales this year –" 34549
***Sales last year –0

Don’t Look Down by J Crusie and B Mayer

3983 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 31
Last week adjusted demand 62
***Sales this year –" 6,387
***Sales last year –0


Taming of the Duke
by Eloisa James

885 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 18
Last week adjusted demand 17
***Sales this year –" 2736
***Sales last year –0

A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole

541 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 79
Last week adjusted demand 83
***Sales this year –" 2766
***Sales last year –0

Kiss Me Annabel by Eloisa James

202 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 6
Last week adjusted demand 8
***Sales this year –" 504
***Sales last year –"2355

———– The above numbers kind of give you a baseline——-

Now, let’s compare LLG’s 2005 release with a Jaid Black 2005 release:

LLG’s The Marriage Bed:

27 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 1
Last week adjusted demand 2
***Sales this year –" 43
***Sales last year –1542

The Possession by Jaid Black

160 copies in warehouses
33 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 52
Last week adjusted demand 56
***Sales this year –" 1555
***Sales last year 2917

Deep, Dark, and Dangerous
by Jaid Black (released 3/2006)
isbn for deep dark dangerous 3/06

169 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 15
Last week adjusted demand 7
***Sales this year –" 1169
***Sales last year — 0

How about a midlister? I chose Jaci Burton’s Bound to Trust

Boundto Trust
1-84360-970-3

58 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 6
Last week adjusted demand 10
***Sales this year –" 170
***Sales last year — 677

Compare that to a book I really enjoyed by newcomer and midlister, Marianna Jameson’s My Hero.

My Hero by Marianna Jameson
12 copies in warehouse
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:
Unadjusted demand 5
Last week adjusted demand 3
***Sales this year –" 92
***Sales last year –769

What about a superleader like Lora Leigh?

Elizabeth’s Wolf

107 copies in warehouses
16 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 41
Last week adjusted demand 36
***Sales this year –" 653
***Sales last year –"2227

Sarah’s Seduction
106 copies in warehouses
0 copies on order
0 copies on back order

And sales data:

Unadjusted demand 39
Last week adjusted demand 48
***Sales this year –" 587
***Sales last year –"1789

To summarize, it appears that LLG sold approximately 9,510 copies of her book the Marriage Bed. Jaid Black’s Ellora’s Cave publication sold 26,832 and is still selling at a brisk pace. Superleader, Eloisa James sold 17,154 of Kiss Me Annabel while Elizabeth’s Wolf sold 17,280 during approximately the same time period. The midlister’s Jaci Burton and Marianna Jameson had similar numbers with Jaci’s books selling better in the second year (a better long tail), meaning bookstores are more likely to keep the Burton book in stock v. the Jameson book.

I know that these numbers do not take into account the Anderson Merchandiser factor. AM supplies books to Wal-mart. In 2003, Business Week reported that Wal-mart accounted for 15% of all book sales. In a blog post, Sarah Weinman estimates that 60% of a bestseller’s sales were from AM. Other authors posted in that blog that Wal-Mart/Costco/Target comprise 1/3 of all sales. It’s apparent that EC authors aren’t in those big box discount stores (although I haven’t seen LLG there recently either). On the other hand, LLG and the like don’t have a continuous backlist and a share of the downloadable market.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that LLG’s numbers must be increased by 1/3 to account for the big box discount stores. That would make her total sales approximately: 12,680 which is still substantially lower than both Jaid Black’s and Lora Leigh’s sales. The other interesting fact is that EC books are trade paperbacks and sell at a cover price of $10.99 or more, making each sale more valuable than a mass market sale.

Of course, I don’t have the full story. I don’t have royalty statements. I don’t have access to Neislon Bookscan numbers (although I did email a request for some). But Ingram is the largest book distributor in the US (according to its website). If I am wrong, that’s what the comments section is for. Educate me. Jane, you ignorant slut . . .

I also thought that the comparison of Kresley Cole’s book, A Hunger Like No Other, v. Eloisa James’ book, The Taming of the Duke, was also fascinating. James’ book spent four weeks on the NYT Bestseller list (albeit the extended version). Kresley Cole was on the USA Today list but I couldn’t find the number (for some reason she’s not listed at the RWA website as a bestselling author or I completely missed it which is entirely possible) but not once on the NYT list. I guess Monday, I’ll be ranting about the speciousness of the bestseller lists.

Best regards,

Jane

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

17 Comments

  1. Tara Marie
    May 27, 2006 @ 05:04:05

    Jane your numbers still may be somewhat skewed. Most small independent booksellers rely on Ingram or other wholesale distributors, but unlike most big publishers, Ellora’s Cave will sell directly to any book store. I only know this because my girlfriend orders directly from EC. So, the EC numbers may be higher than expected.

    I also wonder what type of service supermarkets use. My local IGA (independent grocery association) sells a huge number of Avon and Harlequin releases and little else. My local large chain supermarket, sells mostly Avon, Harlequin, bestsellers and bestseller backists for authors like Nora Roberts and Dan Brown.

    How does the NYT and USA Today determine bestseller status?

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  2. May
    May 27, 2006 @ 05:37:14

    I could be wrong, but what I’ve heard about the NYT list is this:

    The bookstores involved get a form to fill out each week with the bestselling titles and how many copies they sold of each. This form has books that they think will hit the list (Nora Roberts, for instance), but they can add other titles that have been selling very well too.

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  3. Jane
    May 27, 2006 @ 07:47:31

    NYT is a bit like the Nielsen ratings in that certain bookstores and distributors represent the total reading population and some books which “debut” on the list before they are even sold are based on anticipated sales rather actual sales. There is a great link on the internet that explains this pretty well. I’ll hunt it down.

    The numbers for EC authors and other epubbed others like Samhain may also be even higher because it doesn’t account for the ebook sales at all. I was just so surprised by LLG’s anemic numbers for The Marriage Bed. If she is a superleader, I thought she would have print runs in the 60 – 80K but if she did she is not selling through her print run. If she is not a superleader, she wouldn’t be in Wal-mart, Costco etc and the Ingram numbers would be even more representative of her sales.

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  4. Cece
    May 27, 2006 @ 08:39:24

    If I remember correctly the Times list is based a lot on independent bookstore sales too?!

    And Neilsen Bookscan says on their website their #’s are only based on about 5500 stores which doesn’t seem like a lot.

    I read an article in PW a couple months back about the co that distributes in most grocery stores but I’ll be darned if I can remember the name *sigh*

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  5. Tara Marie
    May 27, 2006 @ 11:34:01

    I bought The Marriage Bed at WalMart, so she’s in WalMart and Sams…

    ReplyReply

  6. raine
    May 27, 2006 @ 11:39:17

    Wow.

    Just…wow.

    ReplyReply

  7. Bev (BB)
    May 27, 2006 @ 16:09:04

    You know, it’s possible we’re looking at something entirely backwards here. Maybe it isn’t erotica trying to hone in on the romance label but traditional publishers trying to cash in on the erotica one . . . still think it’s going to bite them in the backside, though, if they don’t get their acts together.

    ReplyReply

  8. Dennie
    May 27, 2006 @ 16:15:10

    ditto what Raine said!

    ReplyReply

  9. Shiloh
    May 28, 2006 @ 07:10:15

    One thing… this isn’t taking into account the ebooks royalties. You get a decent backlist built up, those ebooks become a very, VERY stead source of income.

    I’m not naming figures and I sure am not scanning my monthly royalty sheets for somebody to look at, unless it’s my agent, but here’s a good idea of just how steady that income is.

    I’ve been writing full time now for two years. Two years ago, I had NO print books out. So it was just my ebook sales that I was living on. And I quit a full time job as a nurse so I could write. Granted, it was done in the heat of the moment because my boss ticked me off, but still… I quit a good steady job that paid well so I could write. And our quality of living didn’t go down in the least. Since then it has steadily gone up… we’ve bought a new house, I’m finally out of debt and I recently got a new car.

    Sooooooo….still not naming figures, but implying that we can’t make a living from writing for EC, or saying that we don’t get paid squat just goes to show how very little that person knows.

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  10. Maili
    May 28, 2006 @ 07:27:35

    OK, many know that I’m not very good with numbers, but if Jaid Black sold more copies than LLG ever did this year, why would LLG make a claim that print authors earn more than typical EC authors? The way she explained her reasoning why she considered EC’s income a “drop” in an ocean makes sense, but now with your stats you got off Ingram, it seems not the case.

    EC is a RWA-recognised publisher, right? So wouldn’t it stand to reason that LLG – since she says she likes studying markets and such, therefore I assume she’d have access to info via RWA – would figure out that EC books do make profits? She has to have some credible info to back her up. Or at least for her to be confident enough to stand by her comments, even under fire. That makes me wonder.

    OK, I’ve been thinking [please don't faint, Js]. Perhaps she was basing her comments on numbers of authors, not book copies sold? If that is the case, it’d make sense.

    I mean, how many top-selling authors are there at EC? Comparing with top-selling romance authors at all major publishers. I’d say that for every EC bestselling author, there must be at least ten to twenty best-selling authors.

    If we were to combine book sales of print authors from these major publishers and compare it against book sales of ebook/small-print publishers, I think it’s safe to say that major publishers make more money than the group of ebook/small-print publishers ever would

    Of course, if we were to compare an individual author with another individual author, then yeah, Jaid Black owns LLG. So, I think those stats you have up are best used on author-by-author basis, rather than on publisher-by-publisher basis.

    Like I said, I’m not good with maths and such, but there you go — that’s your peek to my muddled mind. :) I’m all for an explanation on how it really works, though. Fewer mentions of numbers would be appreciated, mind. :D

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  11. Maili
    May 28, 2006 @ 07:38:39

    Maybe it isn’t erotica trying to hone in on the romance label but traditional publishers trying to cash in on the erotica one . . .

    Of course. There has always been a series of ‘hic cups’ – authors who push [as well as pull back] boundaries – in romance genre, but not enough to rock the industry hard. Nikita Black came out with Cajun Hot [or Cajun Heat] a few years ago and that is what slowly kicked off the whole ‘romantica’ movement, but it wasn’t until – off my head – three epublishers and one small press publisher to get it rolling.

    All that said, it didn’t take – IMO – until MaryJanice Davidson’s success in print that major publishers finally made the association between her popularity and ebook publishing. Of course there were some former ebook authors who made successes in traditional publishing, but I can’t think of any who’s made a huge impact as MJD did. One editor was savvy enough to realise this, especially how she – I assumed – saw some moved to a certain publishing line and did well, that she’s been talent scouting for more by checking out ebook publishers’ backlists, especially EC’s. It was largely due to her successes that the whole thing finally rocked the traditional publishing house.

    I’d lay it out more clearly, but I’m still groggy, so excuse those gaps and dodgy timeline. Someone more informed will come up with a better grasp on the history of ‘romantica’ [dating back to 1970s].

    FWIW, anyway. *off to have coffee to bring her brain back to life*

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  12. Maili
    May 28, 2006 @ 07:42:01

    Last one: authors who push [as well as pull back] boundaries

    I’m referring to authors like Robin Schone, Gayle Feyrer, etc.

    Now I’ll bugger off.

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  13. May
    May 28, 2006 @ 07:43:49

    I think we are not considering the fact that most e-pubbed authors sell just a few hundred copies of their books.

    I don’t know about EC, but they have to have at least a few authors who do much worse than a print-pubbed in NYC author, right?

    Given how many books they release each year, and how many authors they have…Well, there have to be bombs somewhere.

    ReplyReply

  14. Jorrie Spencer » Follow up
    May 28, 2006 @ 08:08:17

    [...] Dear Author investigated sales at Ingrams. Now, I don’t quite follow all the numbers and Jane certatinly doesn’t claim to have the whole story, but the results are interesting. Below she compares authors who have been traditionally published to those e-pubbed. To summarize, it appears that LLG sold approximately 9,510 copies of her book the Marriage Bed. Jaid Black’s Ellora’s Cave publication sold 26,832 and is still selling at a brisk pace. Superleader, Eloisa James sold 17,154 of Kiss Me Annabel while Elizabeth’s Wolf sold 17,280 during approximately the same time period. The midlister’s Jaci Burton and Marianna Jameson had similar numbers with Jaci’s books selling better in the second year (a better long tail), meaning bookstores are more likely to keep the Burton book in stock v. the Jameson book. [...]

  15. Allison Brennan
    May 28, 2006 @ 17:16:38

    You absolutely can not use Ingrams as representative of most sales numbers. I know what my sales numbers are, and Ingrams are such a small, small (one digit) percentage of my total sales that I don’t bother to call. I did it once, was totally disheartened, then got numbers from my editor. It’s not just excluding Walmart/Target/big box clubs to make Ingram’s accurate for total sales.

    Bookscan, for example, is representative of about 25-40% of the total sales of a book. Bookscan is what’s used to compile the USAT list (I think). So to compare anything to EC or epub books Bookscan would be a better start. Bookscan, for example, includes Target but not Walmart, and I don’t think it includes grocery store/drug store distribution.

    My bookscan numbers are much higher than my Ingram numbers.

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  16. Tara Marie
    May 29, 2006 @ 05:24:55

    You absolutely can not use Ingrams as representative of most sales numbers.

    I thought this would probably be the case, because Eloisa James’ numbers seemed smaller than expected.

    ReplyReply

  17. maureen mceldrew
    Oct 07, 2008 @ 15:37:30

    i will like know how to get a job with anderson merchandisers. there is no apllication on line or a their very own website. maureen mceldrew

    ReplyReply

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