by Marcus Sakey
So Amazon is having a sale on my second novel, AT THE CITY'S EDGE--they're selling it for $1.72 per hardcover copy. Considering that's about $22 off, it's a pretty good deal.
When I discovered that this morning, I promptly went on Facebook and Twitter and announced it to the world. Which prompted, among other things, a question from a fellow novelist:
"Why are you promoting this? Aren't you a little, well, embarrassed?"
The reason my friend asks, of course, is that the fact that they can sell it at that rate tells you that the hardcover has been remaindered, and that Amazon was left with a larger quantity than they might have hoped.
Remaindering, in case you don't know, is what happens to the hardcovers that don't get sold. You see, publishers have no clear way of knowing how many copies they'll be able to move in advance. They have to estimate, and because of the nature of costs in printing, as well as a lot of other factors I don't want to get into, they not infrequently print more than they end up selling. (Incidentally, those estimates become a part of the promotional process--announcing you are printing a large quantity is a message to booksellers that you expect a book to do well.)
The end result is that after a book has come out in paperback, and a respectful time has passed, the remaining books are sold to clearinghouses which resell them. You know those bargain books in the entryway of your local Borders or Barnes & Noble? The hardcovers going for $5? Those were remaindered.
Many authors are made bitter by remaindering. We don't make money on those sales, and of course the books are sold so cheap that it feels like a personal sting somehow.
Me, I disagree.
See, as a novelist, there are so many things you don't have control over. It's not up to you how many copies are printed, or what the cover looks like, or whether Dan Brown has a new book out that month. You can't control the decision to go hardcover or trade or mass market, or how big an order a store makes, or whether the economy is in the toilet.
The only thing you can control is the book itself.
Luckily, that's great. Because the best advertisement for an author's next book is the one you're already reading.
So I say, go for it! Buy a copy. Buy a handful. Get your holiday shopping done early! If you buy 15, shipping is free. You can stuff stockings. You can leave them on the bus. You can trade them with your friends. Hell, I don't care.
Because a book out in the world--instead of in a warehouse--is a book that might be read. And in the end, that's the game. We're not marketers or sales reps or promotional speakers. We're novelists.
As a novelist, the job is simply to write your damn heart out. Let somebody else worry about the cover price. My only concern is making a reader happy.
Hopefully, so happy that they pay full price for the next one.