Thursday, October 23, 2008


Earlier this week, Moonrat's awesome blog Editorial Ass, linked an article by Andrew Wheeler on the practice of 'skipping.'  I won't recount it here since I have nothing of value to add to that particular conversation, but it did drag forward some amazing similarities between publishing and apparel.  Yes, apparel--as in clothes, jeans, jackets, belts, scarves, whatever.  But mostly apparel since that's what I know best.

Booksellers skip when an author's previous work didn't quite meet expectations, even if the author is well-known, respected and otherwise entrenched in the industry.  I can relate to this.  When I was still a business planner, I had to work with buyers, planning managers, executives from marketing and publicity to determine which products put their open to buy dollars to the best use.  And then those products needed to be marketed using co-op dollars and any advertising slicks which might help drive sales.    Placement is key as well--floor space and number of units are important to getting those magic numbers.  Once the crystal ball predicts which products will be your stars for that season, then the vigorous tracking of their rates of sale begin.  Sell-in is only verified by sell-through.   If you get your product through the door, that's great, but it needs to leave the building via the cash register at a shocking rate to guarantee you a smile the next time you see that buyer or general manager.   And last season's dark washed, skinny jean might be this season's high-waisted granny pant.  A dud, in other words.  To pilfer and paraphrase from Project Runway, 'one day you're in and the next, you're out.'  I guess it's the same with books.

My first thought after reading about the amazing similarity was, 'Oh dear, I might be at the wrong end of this horse.'   I never dreamed I was capable of designing a garment but I was very good at the sales, marketing and planning portion surrounding them.  So, I've decided to take a positive tack and hope that if ever I should land an agent and subsequently become published, this information will help me to not be such a pain in the ass because I'll understand the other side equally, if not better.   


Marilyn Brant said...

Oh, this is fascinating! I'm going to have to corner you in a coffeeshop some afternoon and, at biscotti point, force you into telling me all these sales and marketing secrets :). Considering how little I know, we'd be there for hours and hours...

Nancy J. Parra said...

You have it exactly right. Fifty percent is in crafting the most marketable book and the other fifty percent is marketing the sucker.
The most sucessful people can do both!

Pamala Knight said...

Thanks to Marilyn and Nancy, my RWA-Chicago North chapter mates, for stopping by.

Marilyn, I would probably give away state secrets at the business end of a biscotti, so you'll hear more about rate of sale, ROI, turn and plenty of other retail math related items you'll be sorry to have asked about.

Nancy, I think the key word in your post was 'successful' and I'm a ways away from joining that crowd so far. Fingers crossed though.