This post is not about Web sites, or blogging, or e-books. Today, data management is probably the single most important thing a publisher can do to “market” their books (that is, bring a book to market). And, a publisher's relationships with the national accounts make data submission one thing the publisher can do to market a book that many authors cannot do for themselves.
Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, and other national accounts order their books six months or more before the pub date so they can plan their seasonal promotions. There are seasonal cycles when the book buyers at the chains will meet with sales reps who must have their data submitted by a certain deadline, generally a month before the sales call. In some cases, the publisher must have a minimum number of new titles in the same category to even get an appointment with a buyer. That is another reason why it is so important for authors to work with publishers that are established in their categories.
Cumberland House operates on two cycles a year. Our Spring list includes titles that will publish between February and July, and our Fall list includes titles that will pub between September and January. The data we compile for every title on the list includes title, subtitle, series title, ISBN-10, ISBN-13, author name, author hometown, format, trim size, page count, number of illustrations, type of illustrations, retail price, ship date, pub date, carton quantity, category/BISAC codes, previous edition title and ISBN, three comparable titles with author, ISBN, and sales figures. As you can see, there are a lot of questions to answer for every title. This schedule is why a publisher typically needs a manuscript at least 12-18 months before the book is scheduled to release, and sometimes months and months (and months) will pass without hearing a word from anyone after you submit your manuscript .
A finished manuscript allows the publisher to accurately complete the data. The more complete the data, the more successful job we can do selling it. Accuracy is also critical. Once data is put into the market it is very difficult to get it changed. With all the distributor, retailer, library, and Internet databases feeding each other it is not uncommon for bad data to resurface even months after it has been caught and corrected.
The great news is that once we have all this data correct for the national chains it works for everybody else too, including independent retailers, special markets, and the media.