When a book doesn’t sell.

Publishing is a hard process.

When writers write books, they hope for a publisher’s attention. And even when a book idea grabs an editor’s attention, it must then pass through something call a “pub board” meeting where other editors get to vote whether the book will actually be approved for publication or not. And even when a book is published, it relies on the publisher’s sales and marketing teams to get it some attention in bookstores or on the internet. The sad truth is that a lot of books will have one print run and then be promptly forgotten by all but the author.

Harsh, eh? Well, I’m just pointing out that some books don’t sell well. But what then? What happens to the book that no one wanted?

In many cases, the books are sold to bargain book distributors at crazy low prices. I’m sure that a lot are recycled. But there are a few possibilities for a book to make it to a bookshelf again.

  • The author of the book may buy up the stock from the publisher and hand-sell them to stores or through their website.
  • The author may buy the rights to the book and try to sell it to another publisher, assuming that the first publisher was not a good fit. This is a legitimate thing that happens from time to time.
  • Or the publisher may try to re-release the book with a different title.

This last point is the one that I want to talk about. You see, I was sitting in on Baker Publishing Group’s sales conference recently and there were at least three books that I noticed being republished with different titles.

For example, there’s a book coming out next June entitled Sharing Christ with the Dying. Its old title was May I Walk You Home?. And there’s Becoming the Dad Your Daughter Needs, which is the reincarnation of That’s My Girl. Do you notice a pattern?

9780800720254The reason these books are being given another chances is because their original title wasn’t clear enough. The publisher is hoping that by re-titling these books,¬†people who are looking for a guidebook on witnessing to the dying or how-to book on parenting to girls will more easily find their products.

There’s just something strange to republishing a book called You’re Born an Original–Don’t Die a Copy with a new title, since the content will be identical to the original.

As readers, would you be more inclined to pick up a book with an interesting title or one with a rather obvious title?


3 responses to “When a book doesn’t sell.

  1. Love this. Especially that last one. I think that while interesting titles are more fun, in the end the more explicit titles are just easier to find for people who will actually buy the book. I might pick a book up off the shelf because it has an interesting title or cover, but once I read the back copy and know what it’s about I’m probably not going to buy it unless it meets my need (in which case, I’d buy it even if it had a boring title, of course).

  2. I think I’d be more apt to take a closer look at a book that has an interesting title, which, like Sarah says, should lead to more people reading the back of the book/dust jacket which should lead to more sales. I would also assume they’re getting new cover art, and that should help as well. While “The Fault in our Stars” is certainly John Green’s best book, it’s hard to ignore that its cover art was by far the most eye-catching and its title the most imagination-catching, and we shouldn’t ignore that when talking about its incredible sales.

  3. Obvious. I’m a hunter not a shopper. It should probably also be mentioned my reading is 3:1 non-fiction vs fiction.

    FYI, I’ve also seen publishers try new cover artwork and republish same, or try selling as part of gift sets. I’m guessing you already knew these tricks.

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