Random House's Sexy New Author Site
Sometimes it's nice to be wrong.
When I wrote this post about how authors can glean free book sales data, I began by saying " For all the speedy change happening to the publishing industry, I rarely hear anyone speculate that publishers’ royalty statements will leap in frequency." Whoops!
Today the CEO and chairman of Random House sent out an email, inviting me (and thousands of my closest friends) to check out Random House's new author portal. I have an in-print RH title published 4 years ago, and was therefore part of the roll-out.
I'd love to show screen shots, but in checking off the user agreement, I think I signed away all rights to share it, rights to my next three books and my first born child. Even so, I liked what I saw. There is some Bookscan sales data, and it says they've added Wal-Mart into those figures as well. The site gives you a much longer history than does the Bookscan data from Amazon's Author Central, but without the geographical breakdown. (Pity.)
But the real innovation is that it shows books shipped from the warehouse. That's something Bookscan can't know.
For a book four years old, the "shipped" numbers are much more telling than the point of sale figures, because many of the bookstore returns have happened already. With a title like Ski House Cookbook, Bookscan can only show less than half of all sales. I never understood why until today. The new site shows which category of buyers took the shipped books: chain bookstores, bookstores, book wholesalers, etc. If you're moving a lot of units through Special Sales, Bookscan doesn't capture those at all. (i.e. Bookscan doesn't see all the little kitchen stores and gift shops that carry cookbooks.)
The site will also show you the most recent of your royalty statements, and it offers advice about how to use social media. It's great, and it's a long time coming. Publishers need to stop Amazon from having all the best information. Also, I can see why having a company-wide go-to place for author training would be useful. As social media trends change, they can centralize the updated information. (There's probably a Random House intern writing a lengthy tutorial on Pinterest as we speak.)
Eureka! We've just entered the 21st century.