This week! Books
Controversy erupted in the last few weeks as children’s book authors began posting about Barnes & Noble’s stocking policies for hardcover debuts, complaining their new deemphasis on children’s hardcover hurts new, mid-list and diverse voices in particular. B&N CEO James Daunt confirmed the gist of the hardcover policy, citing that up to 80% of middle grade hardcovers are returned unsold ($ link).
This comes amid an overall industry shift to increasing backlist sales, and some rather devastating revelations in the Penguin Random House/S&S antitrust trial (as noted in Jane Friedman’s newsletter) that out of 58,000 trade titles published per year, half of those titles sell fewer than one dozen books. LESS THAN ONE DOZEN.
Daunt seemed to throw some shade at publishers on this front, saying “the brutal truth is that B&N—and I contend the wider publishing industry—has failed to support new voices and talents adequately for many years.”
If there is a silver lining for authors in all of this, as Jane Friedman notes, while it remains a major player, Barnes & Noble is not the whale it used to be and there are more avenues than ever for authors to reach readers.
It really shouldn’t be this hard for B&N and publishers to figure out how to better support debut and diverse authors, but when publishers are making record profits milking their backlists, I’m unfortunately not particularly optimistic that the economic incentives are there for a shift in thinking.
Meanwhile, what happens to a manuscript when literally everything goes right on the way to publication and bestsellerdom? (Except for an editor’s departure, which turns out to be a minor speed bump). The NY Times profiles the path Jessamine Chan’s The School for Good Mothers took to publication. There needs to be a blaring advisory sticker on this article flashing THIS IS NOT USUALLY HOW IT WORKS, and I’d also really like to see one of these features where everything mostly goes wrong.
Author Alexa T. Dodd writes about what it was like to be taken in by a scammy vanity press as a teenager. And speaking of, the Independent Book Publishers Association has updated its criteria for what constitutes a “hybrid publisher,” amid so many proliferating scams. Some of the bullet points feel a little squishy to me (What does “Demonstrate respectable sales?” mean exactly?) but it’s a decent list of what you should expect if you choose the hybrid path.
Amazon is sponsoring TikTok’s book club, a deeply unsurprising turn of events that tests even my usual techno-optimism.
And speaking of Amazon, their $465 million Lord of the Rings adaptation is coming soon, if you’re into that sort of thing, and the reviews are starting to come in.
This week in bestsellers
Here are the top five NY Times bestsellers in a few key categories. (All links are affiliate links):
Adult print and e-book fiction:
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
- Verity by Colleen Hoover
- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
- Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood
- Soul Taken by Patricia Briggs
Adult print and e-book nonfiction:
- I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy
- Breaking History by Jared Kushner
- The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk
- Diana, William, and Harry by James Patterson and Chris Mooney
- Path Hit By Lightning by David Maraniss
Young adult hardcover:
- Lightlark by Alex Aster
- Long Live the Pumpkin King by Shea Ernshaw
- A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin
- One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus
- Loveless by Alice Oseman
Middle grade hardcover:
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman
- Ground Zero by Alan Gratz
- The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen Kids
This week on the blog
In case you missed them, here are this week’s posts:
- Right back where I started from
- What is the “narrative voice?”
- Don’t get trapped with a cardboard villain (page critique)
Don’t forget that you can nominate your first page and query for a free critique on the blog:
And keep up with the discussion in all the places!
And finally, The Author Who Must Not Be Named has a new novel out that seems aimed at skewering Twitter trolls. Nathan J. Robinson was, shall we say, not impressed.
Have a great weekend!
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
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I hope your move went as smoothly as possible! I know nothing about Pasadena (Rose Bowl, right?) but I hope you are enjoying your new life there. I mean, it’s California, so the weather will be nice and the tacos will be good.
Neil Larkins says
Pasadena. Nice place, a bit warmer than usual this year, but otherwise great climate. Hope you can afford it.
April Henry says
How is it possible that 50% sell less than a dozen books??? That is an amazing statistic, but I can’t find anyone else saying it except The Hot Sheet. (Most selling under 2K I can believe.) How could publishing remain in business if that were true?
Nathan Bransford says
Here’s a post that explains more. Lincoln Michel dug into it: https://countercraft.substack.com/p/no-most-books-dont-sell-only-a-dozen
Neil Larkins says
Clears things up… a little more. This subject reminds me of the old saw, “We lose money on each one we sell, but we make up for it in volume!”
JOHN T. SHEA says
J. K. Rowling! Voldemort! Jehovah! But why are people throwing stones (and gravel) at me?
But seriously, Nathan, thanks for another informative roundup.
Barbara Neiman says
I’m working with a hybrid publisher and they have been great. Although of course I would have preferred traditional. This publisher is allowing me at 72 years old to get a book out there with a message I feel passionate about. My first 3 books were a different genre and traditional publishers. I am verifying along the way.