Tuesday, May 29, 2007

What's "Good Sales" in CBA for an Author?

This is something a bunch of us have been wondering. It seems as if publishers won't or can't (for some good reason we aren't privy to) tell us.

I actually wondered this out loud--what is considered good to great sales for a CBA book, what's a breakout book's sales figure--over at Becky Miller's blog.

Well, Karen Ball stepped up to answer it from her perspective as AUTHOR, not as an editor, not as a publishing house rep. As an author. Still, that gives us at least a range, and that's one step out of the shadow of the Valley of Cluelessness. She wrote this in a comment over at A Christian Worldview of Fiction:

And I wish I was free to tell you what the publishers I’ve worked for consider strong sales, but that’s not possible. Why the big secret? I don’t know for sure. I know a lot of it has to do with the different companies’ financials, and that’s all confidential info. But what I can do is give you my goals as an author. The list below gives you my FIRST-YEAR sales goals/hopes/analysis, because that’s what publishers look at: first-year, out-the-gate sales numbers. So for each of my books, here’s what I think:

18-25K–if my books aren’t selling this in the first year, I don’t consider them successful.
30-35K–This is my break-out goal. If my books ever hit this level of first-year sales, I’d consider myself a strong midlist author.
50K–if my books ever hit this first-year sales figure, I’ll know I’m nudging best-seller status
70-80K–First-year sales in this category would definitely make me a best-seller. Not a blockbuster (I’d have to hit over 100K minimum for that)

Karen specifies this is her talking about her own sales as an author (she wears two hats, editor and published fiction author of bestselling CBA novels), and that CBA would differ from ABA, and one house from another.

But, hey, it's some kind of range.

Remember when there was discussion about what would constitute a "breakout" bestseller of CSF in the CBA: Well, now we know. It's gotta be above 100K minimum, methinks, and perhaps A LOT above that, considering the sort of stigma the genre has.

But there's more. It's not just the first year. It's within a shorter time frame that the great sales need to come in for it to really register. And we had come to this conclusion in our discussion. That the sales needed to be hot, but hot and fast, for it to be seen as a hit, a blockbuster, a breakthrough novel that would change perception. Karen Ball again:

So those are my numbers. Realize, too, that 60% of a book’s first-year sales happen in the first 2-3 months of publication. (Some houses say as much as 80%.)So using the 60%, for me to hit my first-year goal of, say, 20K, I need to see sales of 12K in the first few months. That’s sell-through, not sell-in.

So, here's to the CSF novel that's gonna blow out 250K copies before its first season is past.

Or, hey, 500K in the first year!

May it be soon.

(Oh, and that makes me wonder what Dekker sells, since he writes CSF, imo, and so does Peretti, imo, as does Bill Myers. And, hey, even LEFT BEHIND is in spec fic territory, cause not all of us, or even most of Christendom, believes in that scenario, ergo, that vision of Revelation is in the realm of utter speculation, yea, complete fantasy to legions of believers.)

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