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A Note About Book Sales
WordTech Communications is unusual among American poetry publishers: we do not charge reading fees for submissions, and we do not receive outside funding from governmental or private agencies. As a for-profit business, we derive our revenue solely from book sales. Before we go to press with an author's book, we require 125 pre-ordered copies. We also expect each book we publish to sell a minimum of 250 copies in the first year. If a book does not meet its first-year goal, it may be taken out of print. A book must also sell 12 copies a year thereafter. If it does not meet this goal, it may be taken out of print. Please see our FAQ for more questions about our sales policies.
Because book sales are not just important but are the foundation of our work, they play a major role in how we select manuscripts for publication. The first criteria for selection, of course, is excellence. We will not publish a manuscript that is less than excellent in both the individual poems and the organization of the collection as a whole. But once we identify those outstanding manuscripts that merit the closest consideration, we will consider whether we can successfully market the book. We ask submitting authors, in their cover letters, to discuss their experience in doing readings and similar events, because author events are by far the most successful avenue for selling books. If we are weighing two equally good manuscripts, the author with a demonstrated record in doing readings will usually be the one selected. And if we are considering a manuscript by an author who has already published with us, the sales performance of the earlier title will undergo scrutiny.
With the recent, dramatic changes in the book industry (such as Borders going out of business), more than ever authors need to be dedicated to promoting and marketing their work through public readings and related efforts; author efforts are by far the biggest factor in the success or failure of a book in terms of sales. We support and encourage these efforts by offering a generous discount on author copies, and paying a 10% royalty on non-author sales once the book is profitable. We do a great deal on our end to market an author's book as well, by doing electronic marketing for that title; by sending the book to such high-profile online venues as Writer's Almanac, which have an excellent track record of featuring our authors; and by making the book available for purchase at a professionally-designed website.
It is possible to place a high emphasis on sales and also adhere to the traditional values of a literary publisher. As noted, excellence is the first and foremost criteria in our selections. We will not hesitate to turn down a manuscript that we feel is less than excellent, even if the author has published with us before and has a strong record as a performer of his or her work.
We need to reiterate: Our authors must be comfortable with the public aspect of bringing poetry to an audience. By far, our best-selling titles are those by authors who do extensive readings, both at the publication date of their book and afterwards. If you do not enjoy doing readings and becoming actively involved in promoting your work and would prefer that only your publisher worry about selling your book, then we are not the publisher for you. If you feel the 250-copy goal is too difficult a goal, then we are not the press for you. We support our authors to the very best of our ability, and invest considerable resources in marketing their books through website design and e-commerce. But these resources will be for naught if the author does not become actively involved in the promotion of his or her book.