YA Book Council discussion

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Alethea A (frootjoos) | 246 comments Mod
So, Suzy wants to pick our brains about books, art, culture, etc. I think this is going to be a really fun discussion!!

So, Suzy, fire away!!!


message 2: by Suzy (last edited Oct 16, 2008 09:05AM) (new)

Suzy | 46 comments Thanks Alethea for setting this discussion up. My first questions would be, currently, what trends to you see driving book sales? For example, Vampire related YA books due to the success of the Twilight series or Political Season driving increases in political book releases and sales.




Suzy | 46 comments How much impact does a bookstore/bookseller have over creating demand for certain books (with promotions, signings, displays in front), vs. the demand being purely driven by customers?


Suzy | 46 comments What was the most surprising trend in books that you have seen, odd influx in an unusual style or subject? What do you think was driving that?


Suzy | 46 comments Which genres do you feel are the most popular, has that changed in past years, and do you forsee it changing in the future?


Alethea A (frootjoos) | 246 comments Mod
Currently, what trends do you see driving book sales?

Well, right now everyone's worried about money and the economy, so books about economics, stocks, personal finance, and The Great Depression are really moving right now. Our store in particular has always had strong sales for history/politics and religion, so I don't know if that's going up or down--that seems pretty constant to me.

I think the genres that really stick out for me are the huge surge in Manga and Graphic Novels, not just of people buying but people writing, developing, and publishing. There's such a broad age range for this type of book.

How much impact does a bookstore/bookseller have over creating demand for certain books (with promotions, signings, displays in front), vs. the demand being purely driven by customers?

I think this varies from store to store and from company to company. I think a lot of the sales are customer-driven. We end up selling a lot of crap! Look at inspirational books and The Secret. I'm not saying they're wrong, I'm just saying people don't really need a book to figure out "stop feeling so negative and expecting the worst about everything and maybe I'll be happier than I am now"...

I don't think very many of our signings/events drive book sales. Big stuff like Harry Potter and Twilight, yes. But I hate having small authors at our store. More often than not, no one shows up unless the author brings their own friends and family. They expect us to do a lot of the promotion for the event, but 1) I don't think people read! signs when we put them up and 2) it's hard to convince people to like something they're not interested in at all.

When I handsell, for example, I always "read" the person first before deciding to go ahead and tell them about Poison Study, In the Woods, Dune, Graceling, or The Shadow of the Wind, or whatever. I don't just randomly recommend things to people. I wait to see what they've already got, where they're browsing, what they pick up and put back. If I can, I ask questions. I am not selling them these specific things to make money (since, until I own my own shop, I'll never see any of that money aside from my meager paycheck). I genuinely want people to read more, and I want to show them cool stuff that they are really going to enjoy.

What was the most surprising trend in books that you have seen, odd influx in an unusual style or subject? What do you think was driving that?

Last year, tons of really cool bird books came out! I have really been wanting to become a birdwatcher--if I couldn't be a librarian, I'd love to be an ornithologist ;-)

I am not quite sure what drove this. I highly recommend the Science Talk podcast for March 19, 2008-- http://www.sciam.com/podcast/sciam_po... -- "For the Birds: A look at birds, habitat conservation and environmental economics" for more insight.

Another one that never seems to lose steam is anything related to The Da Vinci Code. The Knights Templar, the Masons, Illuminati, Opus Dei, etc. Just when I think I'm gonna go a week without having to find a book for one of these topics, someone asks me for one.

Which genres do you feel are the most popular, has that changed in past years, and do you forsee it changing in the future?

That's a really hard question! Trends change really fast, I think. Very few of them hang in there for as long as The Secret or Twilight or Da Vinci Code.

I think YA is seeing a big rise thanks to Twilight, and that's becoming the "in" genre to write in. I think Sci-Fi Fantasy for young readers peaked with Harry Potter and is doing reasonably well at staying up.

I think self-help will continue to be big--we all need some kind of help!

I don't know how that will change in the near future. I'm pretty insulated from outside influences (no cable, no tv, and no radio! I don't even read the paper) so I can only tell when the trend starts to grow!

I'll try to post some more when I think of more answers...


message 7: by Alfonso (last edited Oct 19, 2008 10:06PM) (new)

Alfonso | 64 comments Political & Current Affair Books are always popular. Obviously with the extreme focus on this presidential race any book that leans to the left or right will be popular. Mostly I think that when it comes to political books people generally want to read something that re-affirms their beliefs. Books that attack Obama are currently on the bestseller lists as well as his biographies. I have started to see some anti-McCain books. Current Affairs is always a section that is growing. Books on the Environment have been growing.


message 8: by Alfonso (last edited Oct 19, 2008 10:10PM) (new)

Alfonso | 64 comments The bookstore and bookseller have a lot of impact. I know that for me I notice it a lot. For instance, I recommend an art book at my store (The Private Lives of the Impressionists) and we have sold over 170 copies of the book since it came out last October. Our other store has sold 3 copies since last October. Now there could be a couple of factors: our store is bigger than our other store or it could be the demographics. We have a lot of liberty at our store than maybe a corporate store has. We do take into account what people are looking for. Our buyers do a very great job at anticipating customer requests and trends.


Alfonso | 64 comments Because of the economy we have noticed a lot of personal finance and investment titles that are requested. YA titles have also appealed to more and more people of all ages. No longer are the titles geared towards only YA. I have seen women that are a lot older than 25 read the books. I think that with the YA titles, the books have become more engaging when it comes to dealing with different subjects.


Alfonso | 64 comments For my store, Fiction and Mystery is the most popular genre. I think that that is pretty common to many stores. I don't think that it will change much in the future.


Alfonso | 64 comments As far as events go, we do very well at my store. As you might know we have all kinds of authors at our store throughout the week. We have small authors and big authors, and like Althea said we can have a small turnout or a large turnout depending on the author. Some people are very devoted to their authors and will know in advance if someone will be at our store at when their book is released.


message 12: by Jane (last edited Oct 19, 2008 06:10PM) (new)

Jane (janeg) | 248 comments Mod
Alethea gave you the insight on Borders; Alfonso for Vromans; I'll be for school book fairs and libraries (and the stores if I can remember).

What trends to you see driving book sales?

Movies really drive sales (if the movie is good), so earlier this year, Spiderwick was very popular with the middle school kids; and the Disney channel stars are always popular. I think trends always follow what the previous big best sellers are-- and yes, this year it was vampire and werewolf stories... But I also think the big thing of late is writing style. When it comes to adults and YA books, it's all about how a story is written rather than the specific plotlines; of course, a combination of the things would make it sellable.

Also, books about current events are popular: the presidential race, politics, and the economy are always getting a lot of attention.

For the purpose of your field of study, advertised books drive the most sales. A book that has received good reviews, was on the Daily Show, or has an Oprah sticker on it are always going to stay at the top of the bunch.


message 13: by Jane (last edited Oct 19, 2008 05:44PM) (new)

Jane (janeg) | 248 comments Mod
How much impact does a bookstore/bookseller have over creating demand for certain books (with promotions, signings, displays in front), vs. the demand being purely driven by customers?

As far as best sellers go, those are driven by customers and word of mouth. For a bookseller to make a book a best seller, it takes much more work than just putting up signs and writing a staff pick. No matter how much Alfonso likes to believe that he single handedly sold his staff pick with a tiny staff blub, my belief is that most of those people have either heard about the book beforehand, or Alfonso himself had persuaded the customer.

Signs are usually ignored unless it's placed very prominently at the line of sight at the entrance (like at Vromans). It also really depends on what kind of promotions went into the planning. Besides the obvious: big authors=big crowds, small authors=small crowds (or none at all sometimes), proper advertising can make a difference-- but like most things, it takes a lot of work. First, the author or publisher needs to do their own advertising, then the store. Putting up a sign is hardly advertising when it comes to a small author. If you take that artist event I planned way back when (4 years ago), you can see what I'm referring to. I had to do everything from bag stuffers, to signage in individual sections, to posting it on the net-- and for an unknown artist, the turnout was about 20 people. It took a lot of work. Most stores don't have someone who takes care of that. The impact is slim compared to the work. Usually if an author is already well known, it wouldn't take much work at all to drive a crowd.

With hand selling, the better the seller is at doing it, the stronger the result. For the most part, the three of us (Alethea, Alfonso, and I) have been able to sell most of what we put ourselves out to sell. Reading the customer is the most important. It's never random. Even now at the library, I'll look at what they're borrowing and see if I can gage what would be the best to recommend. If a patron looks like they're just borrowing a book for a class, than I usually don't recommend something unless I do a little investigating of their interests (asking them if they enjoyed so and so book--if yes, than recommend away!). I've also been able to indirectly sell books while working at the library by sending them to either Vromans or Borders.


Suzy | 46 comments Thanks everyone! I'm just absorbing everything at trying to align some thoughts. This really gives me a lot of insight into the industry. I'll be replying with more questions soon.


Alethea A (frootjoos) | 246 comments Mod
Aha! I thought of something. Someone needs to write a book about the importance of good design for business/"stickiness"/success.

Here's an example:

I bought Pretty Monsters: Stories by Kelly Link based on the cover (great book it's turning out to be, btw)

and going to the author's website led me to her web designer: Theo Black

Who is husband to Holly Black. And look who else is on there: *big* YA authors

City of Bones (Mortal Instruments, Book 1) by Cassandra Clare A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray [image error]

What do they have in common? Good book covers. I'd say even Holly Black's least well-written books have pretty good jacket art.

And yes, I will think twice about buying a book even if I heard it's good, if the book itself looks kinda crappy.

More examples: Chronicle Books, Harper Collins's new Olive Editions, Dorling Kindersley's entire catalogue of books... compare these to print-on-demand books (never ever publish your own book unless you are desperate--get a big house, or a little independent house with a *real* *recognizable* name like Ten Speed Press--right, Jane?), and seriously anything put out by Borders's proprietary house, State Street Press which is not a lot, and which have all been bloody awful inside and out.

So yeah. Good design, always! And you have to know what that is...


Jane (janeg) | 248 comments Mod
I agree, Holly Black is not a great writer and I've purchased several of her books because the cover was cool.

Ahhh, State Street Press... you should've been there when I told the author he had a crappy cover. He looked rather upset about the cover as well and made it clear that it was not his decision. Seems no one wants to take credit for it.

Don't publish your own book, unless you have the time and money to do your own marketing, and for those of us who have experience in this (Alethea), you'll know that it's an incredible amount of work. Christopher Paolini is one of the few that self publishing paid off-- and he had a lot of help from his parents.

Really, for a browser, books sell by cover.


Amber Lessa (Amber_Lessa) | 2 comments Hi Suzy,

I think that the bookstore/seller has everything to do with creating buzz around certain authors or books. No amount of advertising or publicity can sell a book as well as someone who loves the book placing it in your hand.


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Books mentioned in this topic

The Da Vinci Code (other topics)
The Shadow of the Wind (other topics)
Graceling (other topics)
Dune (other topics)
Poison Study (other topics)
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Authors mentioned in this topic

Holly Black (other topics)
Christopher Paolini (other topics)