poetry book sales

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Are You My Reader? The Story of a Newborn Poetry Book

With apologies to P.D. Eastman’s classic children’s book, Are You My Mother?, here’s what it might look like for a first poetry collection written by a new-to-the-scene poet. (It happens every day!)

are you my mother

A poet worked on his manuscript.

The manuscript grew.

“Uh-oh,” said the poet, “my manuscript will be ready for submission. It will need a publisher!”

“I must send my manuscript out to poetry publishers. I will check the submission guidelines and mail it as an attachment.”

So away as a pdf. the manuscript flew.

The manuscript was rejected. It was rejected, and rejected, and rejected.

Then came an acceptance! The book was published!

“Where are my readers?” the book said.

It looked for them.

It looked up. It did not see them. It looked down. It did not see them.

“I will go and look for them,” the poetry book said.

Down in the Amazon best sellers rank the book went.

Down, down, down! It was a long way down!

The book could not sell on its unknown author’s name alone. It had no budget. It had no PR help. It had no reviews.

“I will go and find my readers,” it said. “I will go to poetry readings and events!”

The book did not know what its readers looked like. It could be passing right by them.

It came to a best-seller reader holding a John Grisham. “Are you my reader?” It said to the best-seller reader.

The best-seller reader just looked. It looked and looked, but did not say a thing.

The best-seller reader was not its reader, so the book went on.

Then the book came to a mystery, thriller, and suspense reader holding a Michael Connelly. “Are you my reader?” it said to the mystery, thriller, and suspense reader.

“No,” said the mystery, thriller, and suspense reader holding a Michael Connelly book.

The John Grisham buyer was not its reader. The Michael Connelly buyer was not its reader.

“I have to find my reader! But where? Where could he or she be?”

Then the book came to a YA reader holding a J.K. Rowling book.  “Are you my reader?” it said to the YA reader.

“I am not your reader,” said the YA reader. “I am a YA reader.”

The John Grisham buyer was not its reader. The Michael Connelly buyer was not its reader. The J.K. Rowling buyer was not its reader.

So the book went on. Now it came to a history reader holding a Doris Kearns Goodwin.

“Are you my reader?” the book said.

“How could I be your reader?” the history reader said. “I am a history reader.”

The John Grisham and Michael Connelly buyers were not its reader. The J.K. Rowling and Doris Kearns Goodwin buyers were not its reader.

Did the poetry book have a reader?

“I did have a reader,” the poetry book said. “I know I did. I have to find him or her. I will. I WILL!”

Now the book did not wait for readers, it ran looking for readers.

Then it saw a Shakespeare reader with a mustache. Could that person be his reader? No, it could not. The book did not stop. It ran on and on.

Now it looked down. It saw a Robert Heinlein reader. “There he is!” said the poetry book. It called to the reader but the reader did not look up. The reader flipped the page.

The poetry book looked way, way up and saw a St. Billy of Collins reader. “Here I am, reader!” it called out. But the St. Billy of Collins reader did not notice. The St. Billy of Collins reader knew St. Billy of Collins and liked St. Billy of Collins and so read St. Billy of Collins religiously.

Just then the poetry book saw a big thing. This must be his reader! “There she is!” it said. “There is my reader!”

The book ran right up to it. “Reader! Reader! Here I am, reader!” it said to the big thing.

The big thing was a small group of friends and relatives. The friends and relatives were thankful for the poetry book and read some of its poems. The friends and relatives said kind things, even though most had not read a poem since that Robert Frost one in high school that the teacher had spent 5 1/2 classes analyzing, utterly destroying it.

“Oh, you are not my real readers,” the poetry book said. “You are a friends and relatives who are kind. I want my poems to have new friends who actually find them relative. They are my real readers!”

Then something happened. Time passed and the friends and relatives put the poetry book in magazine piles or on book shelves or in the local consignment store bin. They were not sales. They were not marketing. They could not give the poetry book’s author any word-of-mouth sales.

Finally a poetry reader never seen before decided to adopt the book after a reading. The poetry book felt important. It had a buyer and a reader, and for the newborn, first-time book, the hands of the reader felt as warm and feathery as a nest.

“Do you know who I am?” the poetry reader said to the poetry book. “I am a poetry reader, very rare and seldom seen in the wild, but a poetry reader.”

Having learned the hard way, the poetry book said, “Yes, I know who you are. You are one poetry reader. You do not make a blip on the Amazon sales list and you will likely not write a review, but you are a poetry reader and I cherish you,” said the poetry book.

“You are not a John Grisham reader.

“You are not a Michael Connelly reader.

“You are not a J.K. Rowling reader.

“You are not a Doris Kearns Goodwin reader.

“You are not a Shakespeare or Heinlein or St. Billy of Collins reader.

“You are someone who loves poems and is willing to buy a new book with a new name because you actually liked what you sampled. You are a true poetry lover, someone a poetry book could love.

“You are my reader.”

 

The End

 

 

 

 

Wanna Buy an Overpriced Book?

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Book prices are a funny thing, except to your wallet. Alcoholics may suffer from cirrhosis of the liver; bibliophiles’ wallets and pocketbooks may suffer from cirrhosis of book purchases.

Where do pricing decisions come from? My first book, 98 pages of poetry, goes for $15.95 retail, which is publish-speak for $16, thank you (consider gas prices at $181.9 cents a gallon… where does the 9/10ths of a penny come from?). And my second book, 105 pages of poetry, logs in at a straight-up $17.

High? Probably. But anyone who’s browsed the poetry section in a bookstore (two shelves, hidden in a corner near the water cooler and the rest rooms) knows that poetry books run high. Why that is, I cannot say. Don’t poetry sales have enough going against them? (Rhetorical question)

But I come not to wonder about retail prices on books that earn royalties (a petty day’s pay for authors), I come to wonder about scurrilous pricing by third parties bent on cashing in—not only on book buyers, but on authors, too.

As Exhibit A, I give you this website offering my book, Lost Sherpa of Happiness, for a mere $119.86.

That’s right. You can buy a new book from Amazon for $17, but this site provides a better deal—a mark-up of some $103. Who would spend such a sum? God knows, but it apparently happens, else this practice would not be so widespread. Right?

The psychology could be that some people, without looking, think a book is rare or out-of-print. Or maybe they think it’s a special copy. Or maybe they buy from the first website they find in a Duck-Duck-Go (who uses Google anymore?) search. Or maybe they are confused. Rich and confused, a combination beloved by swindlers.

Whatever the reason, if anyone buys my book at that price, I will get a royalty payment of nothing, nada, zilch, while the mysterious seller will take home over $100 for my work (and yes, writing is work).

Is this stealing? In my dictionary it is. But others might use the euphemisms “capitalism” or the “free (haha) market,” maybe, or the “American way,” perhaps.

This practice is most visible on Amazon itself, where every book is available both new and used from “other sellers,” who tack on $3.99 (translation: $4) shipping. If you scroll down Amazon’s listings here you will see that my book, for example, runs as high as $49.06 (bargain hunters take note!).

Heck, my wares can even be had at Everyman’s favorite store, Walmart! At a $1.80 mark-up, yet. And hurry! As Wally (Mart) kindly warns you on the site, there are “ONLY 5 LEFT!” (Not to worry, I have more than 5 available, not only at a better price but signed.)

Explorations on the web will even turn up sellers both exotic (South Africa!) and far-flung (Europa!). Yep. This book is, as they say, IN DEMAND. In some cases, I may see a pittance royalty (more aptly called “pauperty”), and in other cases, I will see nothing but the back of the Artful Dodger making off with both the cost of the book and the mark-up.

But such are the prices of authorship and fame. It’s the law of supply and demand, I tell you. The fewer copies of a poetry book there are and the higher the demand, the more the price will go up. And up. And up.

And if you think no fool will purchase a book at that price and at that cost to the author, think again. Donald Trump is the President* of the United States. Think of purchases as votes. Think of asterisks as saying it all.

See what I mean?