Is there any publishing award which rewards sales? Every publishing seminar I give starts with the same line, “Writing is a love, and Publishing is a business”. The “business” of publishing is to sell books. Yet, that simple fact is rarely recognized. There are dozens of so called literary awards available to the independent publisher, who are willing to pay an entry fee to join the lottery.. But as far as I know, there is no award which recognizes sales success until now.
Introducing the Glengarry Book Sales Award.
I remember the first day I walked into Central Printing in Dayton, Ohio and was impressed by the square foot after square foot of “Printing Excellence” awards that covered the company’s hallways. “This must really be a quality printer”, I remember thinking. In the fifteen years of so, previous to that, I don’t remember ever winning an award, and I had worked for some pretty “high end” printers who printed books for publishers like Abbeville Press, Aperture and Rizzoli. At some point I got around to asking the sales manager what the secret was to winning so many awards. I was expecting something like “we have developed the perfect dot” or “our equipment is all rebuilt for additional quality” or some other item that would put this printer above the rest. Keep in mind that I considered myself a pretty savvy street guy from New York City. You can imagine my surprise when the “matter of fact” answer to my question was, “entering contests is the major part of our advertising budget”. Huh? This point was driven home a year later when a mass market Brittney Spears poster of mine won an award. Nothing against Brittney Spears posters but…. my publishing customer, who sold tens of millions of copies of product per year, chuckled when I gave him the award. It was my first, after 20 years and his first, after 35 years. We both got a chuckle out of the whole thing over lunch that day.
When I entered the publishing side of the business, I was struck by the similarities with the printing industry. There seemed to be dozens of “Literary Awards” given out each year and 99% had one thing in common. They charged an entry fee and if you didn’t pay, you didn’t win. I’ll make these awards the subject of a whole article later on, but for now, let’s just say that, with few exceptions, there is big money involved in the awards business.
The above is a fairly long winded lead into what this article is all about…. The introduction of a new award…. The Glengarry Award for book sales and marketing. The primary difference between this award and anything I described earlier is you don’t “enter” a contest for this award…. you qualify for it. There is no “panel of judges” deciding whether your paid entry is better than some other paid entry. This award does not cost you a nickel. If you qualify for it, you are awarded it.
Backtracking to the printer I worked for prior to my experience in Ohio… there used to be a parking place by the front door with a sign over it saying “Salesman of the Month”. The single qualification to win that award was simple… sell the most printing for the month. I used to love winning that award and it had nothing to do with the fact that whoever sold the most probably earned the most for the month. Heck, I didn’t even have a car or live in Baltimore, where the plant was located. The reward was the thrill of a real quantifiable accomplishment.
Writing is a love and publishing is a business…. the business of selling books. The Glengarry Award recognizes author/independent publishers who sell books. We are not looking for the elegantly designed cover or perfectly crafted words. We are looking for sales… period. If you sell enough books… you win the award. The Glengarry is awarded at four different levels… Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. To qualify for the Bronze level you need to sell 1000 copies of your title. How did we come up with 1000 as the minimum? One of the major vanity presses makes a huge deal out of someone who sells 500 books. This is a big deal for them when you consider their average author does not sell more then a hundred or so. We took that “top of that mountain” number and doubled it for the minimum. There is a huge difference between vanity POD publishing and true self-publishing. No better are the differences demonstrated then in sales. The business of publishing is about selling books. True self-publishing is publishing… with the same goals…. to sell books.
A recent article in Writers Digest pointed out that one of the main things an agent looks at in a self-published book, prior to determining whether or not to pitch the book to a major publisher, is sales. Sales count. The number thrown out in that article is 3000 copies. Anyone who reads this column with any regularity knows that this 3000 quantity is a fairly common theme. It is the number where the printing price to retail price ration fits virtually any discount scheme. It is the number that a joint PMA/BISG report came up with as the average print run of all the titles published during any calendar year. We chose this number as the number of sales needed to qualify for the Silver level of the award.
The Gold and Platinum Levels are reserved for those special author/publishers who have clearly risen above the rest. As you look through the list of those initially being awarded this level, you will notice no common subject theme. The only thing all of these author/publishers have in common is they know what the publishing business is all about… selling books…. lots of them.
How do you apply for the Glengarry Award? It’s simple. Once you have the sales, all you need to do is fill in the entry form at http://www.rjcom.com/marketing/glengarry/ If you are en existing customer of RJ Communications, we can confirm your sales as of your latest reprint. If you printed 1000 books and come back and reprint another 1000, it is assumed that you sold the first 1000 so you will be awarded the Bronze level. If you are printing 100 copies at a time, on the 11th reprint, you will be awarded the Bronze level. On the 4th reprint of 1000 copies, you will be awarded the Silver Level. The same criterion is used for awarding the other levels. Remember, it’s not how many you print its how many you sell.
If you did not print with RJ Communications (I know there are one or two of you out there who didn’t print with me) you will need to supply copies of your printer invoice confirming your quantity printed and reprinted. Feel free to white out any thing you want, if you think you’re getting secret pricing, although my pricing is live for the world to see at www.rjcom.com .
As soon as your level is confirmed, your name and book title will be posted on the website and included in any press releases we issue concerning the award. You will also be able to download a hi-res image of the award to use on your next printing, if you’d like or on any of your own promotion.
My prediction is that a year from now, the Glengarry Award winners will be not only sought after by agents and other book publishers but the award will be recognized, in the industry, as a mark of a book that sells and a book that can make money for the seller. (That’s all bookstores are looking for in the first place.) If you qualify, apply. If you don’t… get out there and sell more books… that’s what the publishing business is all about.
See you next month.