From an article in the Wall Street Journal:

Simon & Schuster is delaying by four months the electronic-book editions of about 35 leading titles coming out early next year, taking a dramatic stand against the cut-rate $9.99 pricing of e-book best sellers.

A second publisher, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group, said it has similar plans in the works.

"The right place for the e-book is after the hardcover but before the paperback," said Carolyn Reidy, CEO of Simon & Schuster

The article is here.

I don't know much about book marketing, but this seems wrong to me. I would like to see every version of a book available at the same time - give the customers the choice.

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Borders is in trouble and has been for a while. They are ordering fewer books and the local store actually has bare shelves. It may be that bookstores will go the way of Blockbuster Video. It's too bad. I like the idea of communal gathering places based on books, and I like to see the actual physical book. I am one of those people for whom a book is fetishized: the physical object means something. I remember when books were well made -- any book -- good binding and rag paper.

I guess I really am an old fart.
I have a library!
Most stores already do order modestly. I agree that I'd love to have all the backlist from all my authors in stock in every store -- I hate it when I go into a store and there are gaps. And why do I hate it most? Because it means that particular title isn't selling enough for the store to restock it. They do not have infinite space. If the backlist book isn't rating for them, then they have to make room for a book that is.

You mention grocery chains, I.J. If your brand of potato chips isn't selling for them, do they keep it? No, there are too many other potato chip brands that are. And if you have a line of clothing in a department store and it's not moving, they're going to replace it with one that is. We all want it to be different for books, because we love them so much, they mean so much to us, they have for our entire lives, and for many of us here on Crimespace, it's how we make our living. But they aren't different. Publishing is a business. Bookselling is a business. There's no point complaining about it.

I'm sitting here at the computer, wearing a blue shirt. I could tell you it's green. I could tell you I wish it were green. I could tell you I wish everybody wore green shirts all the time. But the shirt's still blue.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but this reply by Neil seems to contradict an example he used earlier. Here you compare publishers buying shelf space to a Frito-Lay buying shelf space in a supermarket, and the store won't continue to stock chips it can't sell. That store also doesn't have the luxury of sending them back; bookstores do. We're told a lot here that publishers get it coming and going: they have to pay for shelf space, and they have to allow for returns.

Okay, fine. It seems to me a publisher whop was paying for shelf space should have a little say as to which books get that space. Sure, Stephen King gets the biggest part, but it's also an easy deal for the store to keep a few cases of King's new book in the back to be brought out on a moment's notice, because they know those books will sell.

With that in mind, why doesn't the publisher request shelf space for some of the mid-list books? He paid for it., and it won't adversely affect the guaranteed big sellers.

This is always presented as a situation where the publishers have no power or control, and I can't believe these big houses are ij such a conundrum, or the big conglomerates wouldn't buy them, as the model is desigbed to lose money.

No offense meant, Neil, but you're an articulate spokesman for the status quo. Your comments can largely be interpreted as telling the writers to suck it up, this is how it is. What would you change, and how do you see things moving?
Thanks, Dana, delighted to be considered articulate -- hey, I'm a word guy! But let me be clear: I'm not defending the status quo, I'm explaining what the status quo is. I see so much misinformation ricocheting around the Internet all the time, and it doesn't help anybody. I know change is coming. The nature and extent of that change is a subject for considerable debate, but if it helps everybody, it's a good thing. But in order to effect actual change, you have to know exactly what your baseline is. That's what I'm trying to do here.

Regarding your question above re midlist books: Promotions aren't bought in job lots. We're not buying general shelf space. Each promotion we buy is for a specific book for a specific period of time. And often those promotions we buy are, yes, for midlist books. When you go into a B&N superstore and look at the front tables, some of those books are from the big guys and some are decidedly not. We've paid for the latter, too.
A question for you on this. For what I'll generally describe as mainsteam fiction - something B&N would display on the front tables - how would you define midlist? I guess I'm mostly thinking sales numbers, but I could imagine there might be other criteria as well.
Then, if I may ask, Neil: are those aspects (how much promotion the book will receive) discussed with the agent at the time of the sale or is that something that will be decided in-house later?
I like blue. :)
My understanding of midlist is "mainstream" or serious fiction along the lines of Joyce Carol Oates. It's another one of those categories that are becoming irrelevant. I guess what defines midlist books is an anticipated smaller audience and print run than say, Wally Lamb, who is straddling midlist and popular.
I have actually never heard that midlist means serious fiction. I thought it had to do with authors who are not top best-sellers but sell well enough to have repeated books printed over time. It may very well be that quite a bit of serious fiction ends up falling into the category, though. I suspect a lot of serious fiction falls into a lesser category as well.

We'll see what Neil has to say.
Yes, midlist are general fiction books that get moderate to modest sales. There used to be the "long tail" theory, which implied (I think) that the large numbers of midlist titles taken together made them profitable for the publisher. My guess is that midlist gets pruned periodically to increase its profits.
"Midlist" usually refers to sales numbers rather than to any particular type of book. As to what those numbers are, there's nothing hard and set, and they can vary from house to house. For me personally, I tend to think of midlist (in hardcover) as from mid-teens to about 30K, but as I say, others will have different definitions.

I.J., we usually don't discuss promotion with the agent at the time of sale, though it can happen. Later on, when we're actually planning the book, we'll get all the departments together and pull together the plans in detail, swapping ideas to get the best fit for the book.


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