I have an author friend who signed with one of the big 5 publishers* a few years ago. She has done well by many standards. She has received great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. She has received various accolades denoting her writing talent. She has a huge social media following. She works hard and works consistently to market herself and her work, and as a result has sold more than ten thousand copies of her last published book. This surge in sales also triggered purchases of her earlier releases.
Recently she sent her latest book in the series to her Big 5 publisher. She waited to hear the release date. She kept writing to complete the next book in that series. Then she got word. Her Big 5 publisher dropped her mid-series. Why? Because she didn’t sell enough. Her Big 5 publisher wanted twenty-five thousand copies sold. Keep in mind that less than 2% of books published sell more than five thousand copies. This means that 98% sell less than five thousand copies. Moderately successful books sell around two to three thousand copies. My author friend did considerably better than average which put her in that 2% range.
My author friend made a profit for her Big 5 publisher, but not enough profit. The focus of New York publishing is best-sellers and celebrities. They want virtually guaranteed profits. They don’t want to bother with less successful authors and so are dropping authors in droves. It is devastating for the authors. It is troubling for readers. The Big 5 are corporations now. They no longer care about the quality of books and they almost never sign new authors.
I understand that publishing is a business and business decisions have to be made. But I suspect all the focus on celebrity and best-sellers by the Big 5 leaves book buyers wanting for new authors, new series, and new stand-alone books to enthrall them.
Readers love discovering new authors, and new books, hence the success of Goodreads, Library Thing, Shelfari, weRead, The Reading Room, Libb, Booklamp, Reader2, Anobii, Riffle Books, BookLikes, Thirdscribe…and the list goes on.
I think the publishing hub of New York has forgotten about the majority of readers. This is why I formed Literary Wanderlust. We care about quality and diversity and craft and all those magical things that go into creating the best possible books.
Quality matters to us in Denver.
*The Big 5 publishers consist of Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Shuster. All of them are located in New York.
**Adapted from DenverLit. First published August 2015.