Where There's a Will There's a Way
As you may know, over last weekend Will Tuttle's World Peace Diet
became the number one bestselling book on Amazon.com
. It's the first time Lantern's had a number one bestselling book of its own. Although we've republished bestsellers from other companies (notably The Love-Powered Diet
) that were once bestsellers, none was ever number one.
Will asked his supporters, friends, and readers to buy books for themselves and others in a concentrated period of time. In doing so, he understood that Amazon counts its numbers by simultaneity rather than absolute sales, which means that a few people buying copies of the same book at the same time will register higher numbers than many people buying copies of the same book over a longer period of time. Of course, Amazon may have tweaked that algorithm over time more accurately to reflect overall demand, but the results that Will attained suggest that the simultaneous sale is still more important.
Lantern has now received its first order from Amazon, and while big, it's not colossal, which leads me to suspect that Lantern will be receiving further orders from wholesalers such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor, whom Amazon often uses to supplement its demand. All good news, of course: However, that demand for copies will also require careful management on Lantern's behalf. Here's why.
Over the last eighteen months, Amazon has become a more conventional distributor of book titles. It used to be the case that Amazon would only order books for which it had demand, which meant returns of books to publishers were minimal. However, Amazon now attempts to anticipate demand, which means that it can "over-order" books, and, therefore, return a fair proportion of the titles it orders. What we at Lantern don't know is how much of Amazon's initial order consists of actual sales and how much are anticipated sales that may or may not materialize.
A further wrinkle is that Amazon's order, which will result in an immediate reprint for the book, ties up a lot of inventory and cash, with payment occurring four or five months down the line. For a small publisher such as ourselves, overnight blockbuster status for any title can drain much-needed cash very quickly. It's one of the infuriating quirks of publishing that not enough success and too much success too quickly can be equally devastating to a small company—and all because of cash flow.
Thankfully, the proven success of Will's book over a number of years makes the reprint not much of a risk, since we will sell these copies over the long run. After all, we've already reprinted his book some five times. Will's amazing commitment to his work and continuous speaking engagements mean that an audience for his important message will always exist. Furthermore, the judicious (we like to think) financial management we've maintained at Lantern will ensure that we can handle this very positive and welcome result.