(The second printing of two of our Spring 2014 titles — Andre the Giant and This One Summer. You can tell that they’re second printings just from looking at the cover — we didn’t print the first printing with ‘New York Times Bestseller’ on it.)
Figuring out when to reprint books is always a challenge for publishers.
When a publisher does their first printing, they take a lot of different factors into account. These include (but aren’t limited to):
How many copies of a book does the imprint generally sell?
How many copies of a book does the author generally sell?
What are the company sales expectations for this particular graphic novel?
How good is the book?
How commercial is the book?
Is the book likely to win an award, hit the New York Times Best-Seller list, or get a lot of media attention? Or all three?
How many copies of the graphic novel have the different distributors and bookstores the publishers work with estimated that they’ll buy?
How accurate do the distributors and bookstores the publishers work with tend to be?
Is the author doing a lot of events that will boost book sales?
How many months or years of sales is the first printing meant to cover?
Despite carefully taking all of these factors into account, publishers do sometimes find themselves in the situation where they have run out of books sooner than expected.
That’s great news, because it means the book is selling really well! But it’s also not great news, because the publisher can’t sell any additional books (and therefore no new stores and readers can get their hands on copies) until it gets some more copies printed.
So, how do publishers figure out when to reprint a book?
Ideally, careful monitoring of stock levels ensures that each book is reprinted with enough time that the new copies get to the warehouse just as the previous printing runs out.
Unfortunately, in the real world, this is often a challenge, no matter how carefully you monitor how many books are sold each week or each day. That’s because the different things that drive book sales — like a feature in the New York Times or winning the National Book Award — are often very difficult to predict. And in addition to that, depending on what the book is and who your author is, a feature in the New York Times or winning the National Book Award can indicate drastically different sales for different books.
Consumers are another X-factor! Until the book is published and out in the world, it’s really difficult to answer the question, ‘how much are people going to like this?’ In publishing, we use our extensive knowledge of the industry and of books being awesome to try to figure this out, but sometimes, people like books much more than we predict. (Those are good times! Except that generally means we’ve run out of books and need to reprint them.)
This consumer factor is especially difficult to figure out before the book is published. Six months or a year after the book has been published, it’s a lot easier to look at sales patterns and have a good idea of how many copies people will buy of a particular book each month. But before a book is published, who can tell? This book might be everyone’s next favorite graphic novel — and no one knows.
Because of this, a lot of books end up being reprinted in the first month of publication, some even right before the book comes out.
How soon will the new books come in?
The timing of the second reprint arriving in the warehouse depends on a number of factors. These include:
Is the book black and white or color?
Is the reprint happening in the United States or in another country, where it may take more time to ship to the US?
Do corrections need to be made to the book?
How extensive are the corrections that need to be made to the book? Is this a matter of fixing one typo on the copyright page or changing whole pages of art?
Does the book design need to be altered to include new information (like, ‘A New York Times Best-Seller’)?
Do the author and the publisher need to see and approve proofs of any changes? Are digital proofs okay, or are printed proofs needed?
Does the printer have the correct paper in stock?
How busy is everyone at the publisher? Can they drop everything and deal with this situation?
How busy is everyone at the printer? Can they drop everything and deal with this situation?
The answers to these questions can produce a widely variable situation — with the time involved being anything from two weeks to four months. (The two weeks is a situation where the books are reprinted in the US as is; the four months one where the books need lots of corrections and are reprinted overseas.)
That’s a pretty big difference!
Because no one likes books to be out of stock, publishers try as hard as they can to print a first printing that won’t run out immediately.
But, mixed blessing! Sometimes books are more popular than a publisher expects, and then they’ll go out of stock temporarily while the new reprint is on its way. If this happens, a publisher will do everything they can to get the reprint as quickly as possible, without sacrificing the quality of the book.