Do Awards = Sales?

How much impact on sales volume does being an award winner (such as a the Whitney awards) make?

Is there a place to find out how many books a certain author sells? Or publisher?

The answer to the first question is “I don’t know” because the answer to the second question is “No.”

Most publishers do not give good information on their sales. They might tell you that a particular book has sold over X number of copies, but that’s about it. Or they might claim a book is a best-seller, which could mean that it’s hit an unspecified sales level or that it’s simply sold more copies than the other books they publish. No one knows.

An author might be willing to give specifics on sales if they’re having a one-on-one conversation with you, but there’s no way to check the accuracy of those numbers. Also, their numbers will run anywhere from three months to a full year behind, depending on how their publisher pays royalties.

As far as awards boosting sales, in general, an award will have a positive influence on sales. All things being equal, a customer tends to believe that if a book got an award, it must be good. Obviously, a Newbery is going to really boost sales. A Whitney, not as much, due to market size.

Any Whitney winners want to comment on how they feel the award impacted their book sales?

Best Seller Numbers

How many copies could a first time author expect to sell?

There are so many variables that effect sales…you can “expect” whatever you want but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. If you are with DB or Covenant, with good access to the LDS market, your expected sales numbers are going to be higher than if you’re with a smaller publisher who may or may not be able to get you into the DB or Seagull stores/websites. It also depends on whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.

When we take on a new fiction author, we aim for their first book to sell around 2,000 copies. That’s our break-even mark.

What is the “magic number” of copies that makes a book a best seller in the LDS market?

Best seller is open to interpretation. There really isn’t an industry-defined standard. Some companies figure they have a best seller if they go into a second printing. In my opinion (and I’ve been told by colleagues that my numbers are both too high and too low), for fiction in the LDS market only (not titles that are intended for a national market), I wouldn’t award that label until sales went over 10,000; at 40,000+ I’d be dancing in the streets.

LDS Book Pricing

Why are most books in the LDS market larger and more expensive than mass market paperbacks? Why are fiction titles by certain well-known authors published in hardback and sold for $25, while other authors’ works are published in paperback and sold for $15 or less? Why should I spend $25 for a book that I will read once, when I can buy something for much less that I will enjoy just as much? If LDS publishers sold mass-market size paperbacks at a lower price, I would be more inclined to buy them instead of borrowing them from the library or my sister-in-law, finding a used copy, or waiting until the overpriced hardback copy hits the bargain shelf and I can buy it for $4.99 or less.

“Mass-market” is the key to this question. Mass-market paperbacks are printed in massive quantities on a web press and on newsprint paper. The LDS market isn’t massive. Most LDS fiction books start with a printing of around 2,000. At those quantities, it costs us the same amount to print a typical mass market size book as it does to print the larger trade paperback book (6×9; better paper). Since we have to charge the higher price for the books anyway, we might as well give our customers a little better quality so they don’t feel so bad shelling out the extra money.

The decision to print the book in hardback or paperback is based on how many copies the publisher thinks they will be able to sell and if they think readers will want to keep it and re-read it. Historical LDS series fiction is more likely to go hardback. Romances, mysteries, YA and children’s books are more likely to be in paperback.

Actually, LDS pricing on trade paperbacks and hardbacks are pretty competitive with national releases. National trade paperbacks range from $9 to $14, and national hardbacks from $19-$25 or more.

I’m not one to say you should buy an LDS book just to “support the industry.” Yes, I’d love people to buy our books but only if those books have value to the reader. You, as the reader, have to decide if a particular book is worth the price the publisher/bookstore is asking. If it is, buy it. If it isn’t, borrow it.