The One With Five Questions

I've gotten a couple interesting questions about the industry lately, and I thought I'd throw them together for a Friday Five. These are pretty random, but I have a feeling people wonder about them from time to time. 1. Have the rise of ebooks decreased author advances?

I think it's important to remember that despite everything you're reading about, ebooks still comprise only a small (though rapidly growing) part a company's sales--and most of these sales are for adult titles, not children's titles. (I hate to say this, but I'm sure just as many YA books are being read electronically--just not through legal, trackable ways like iBookstore and the Kindle Store.) Now that (most?) of the publishing houses have established their right to publish ebooks of their backlists and frontlists is reflected in their contract language, most of the dramarama/debate that's still ongoing between agents and publishing houses doesn't have to do with advances, but the royalty rate the author gets from ebook sales. I think the industry standard has settled at 25%, which is still causing some grumbling. So no, ebook sales haven't affected advances by way of decreasing them--at least not that I've heard.

2. Why do some books get a completely new and different cover from hardcover release to paperback release?

There are a few explanations for this, but the most common is that the hardcover underperformed sales-wise from the publisher's expectations, and they're choosing to blame it on the cover. BUT! It could also be the result of one of the accounts like B&N (they are so picky!) asking for it to change, or because of controversy, or because an author hates it with the flaming passion of 10,000 suns, or because the book has turned into a series and they want to give the books a more uniform appearance. But let's just say that they wouldn't change the cover of a book selling well.

3. Why are some new books out early in stores?

Where I work, all books have three dates: the release date, the pub date, and the on sale date. The on sale date is the day it's supposed to officially go on sale in bookstores. The release date is when it's released from the publisher's warehouse (ummm... I think). The pub date falls between the two and I honestly have no clue what its function is other than to give a general gist of when the book will be on shelves. (This was so helpful, I know.) To give you an example of the three, one of our Summer 2011 titles has a release date of 5/25/2011, an on sale date of 6/14/2011, and a pub date of 6/1/2011.

4. Is it okay to call and pitch a manuscript to an editor?

NO! THIS IS NEVER OK AND IT MAKES ALL OF THE ASSISTANTS WHO ANSWER THE PHONE VERY GRUMPY! AND STOP SENDING ME UNSOLICITED MATERIALS. I HAVE ENOUGH STUFF* PILED UNDER MY DESK ALREADY.

* And by stuff, I totally mean the three month backlog of author fanmail for one Very Famous Author who really should just hire someone to answer it for her because this Editorial Assistant feels like weeping every time she looks at the hundreds and hundreds of letters from little children trapped in bins under her desk.

5. What are these "titlesheets" you were complaining about?

And why did I stay late all week trying to finish them only to find out that they're not due until next week? (siiiigh) They're called by all different names in the biz--some people call them titlesheets, others call them TIP Sheets, some probably call them title information sheets. At least at my Place of Employment, all of the different departments and programs we use feed information about a book into this one page on our intraweb. It contains things like a pitchy keynote, a description of the books, marketable/selling points, what the publicity and marketing plan for the book is, quotes from reviews, etc. They're very helpful for Sales reps and in developing the aforementioned marketing and publicity plans. No one outside of the company sees them, including the author.

Got anything else for me?