The Very Short Retail Life of Bree Tanner

Josie Leavitt - June 8, 2010

Well, the release of the novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, the latest missive from Stephenie Meyer, has been a bookstore dud. I read the listservs for ABC and NECBA and according to booksellers on those lists, sales have been pretty disappointing.
One bookseller even had a midnight release party with bands, pizza and giveaways, only to end the night having sold two, count ’em two, books. Other bookstores reported sales of no greater than four. We’ve only sold three. Why is this, I wondered.
Well, it seems that the book, all 192 pages of it, has been available as a FREE download since noon yesterday. So let’s do some math here. Buy the book for $12.95 at your local indie or wait a mere day and a half after the on-sale date and read it for FREE. Let’s guess what the kids are going to do. However, I totally understand and applaud Stephenie Meyer’s impulse to reward her readers. But if she wants to help actually sell the book and ensure the Red Cross gets its a dollar for every book sold as promised, maybe waiting for a month after the release date would have been a nice compromise. I know there was a push to have folks read the book before the movie, but some sort of distance between the book’s release and the free download would have been great. Maybe, just maybe, this novella would have been better as a web-only read — think of the money the publisher could have saved on not producing a book that doesn’t stand a chance competing against a free download.
What really irritates me is that I was not told when I placed my order for 50 books that it would be available FREE fewer than 36 hours after my strict on-sale date. This kind of competition, directly from the publisher, is frustrating and disheartening. It’s hard enough to compete with the steep discounts of Target, Walmart and Amazon, but to have free downloads available to anyone with a computer fewer than two days after I get the book makes me want to weep.
My only consolation is the book isn’t too heavy, so our five boxes of returns won’t strain my back.

21 thoughts on “The Very Short Retail Life of Bree Tanner

  1. Lexie

    I wondered about those who bought the book when it was avail online not so long after. I mean, the diehard fans will buy it, but most of the girls in my sister’s group said they’d rather wait for it free because $13 is a lot to shell out for a book they have only a passing interest in and won’t occupy them beyond a day (if even that, these girls are used to books being somewhere past 300pages and giving them at least 2 days of enjoyment).

  2. Charles

    Well, I work for one of the big chains, and it’s flying out of the store. With a 40% discount, the book is less than $10, and of our initial shipment of 120 copies, we are close to running out. The death of the book is not here yet…..

  3. librarygirl01

    While I can certainly understand your frustration with the process it’s not like they didn’t tell anyone that the book would be available for free. That information was in the press release and included in the USA Today article about the book (which is where I read about it). While we can’t remember every detail regarding books, I struggle with the idea that with this e-savy teen market, that retailers didn’t have a better idea that this was going to happen.

  4. Jacqie

    It’s not moving as well for those stores that can’t afford to sell it at 40% off. And the stores that are selling them at 40% off are making 10% per book, if they’re making anything at all. (Unless you work at Walmart, in which case all bets are off.)

  5. Angela

    I’m with Josie (and Jacqie).
    I’m sorry, but at 40% off, you’re not SELLING THE BOOK, you’re giving it away. This seems to be the premise of the entire marketing platform for BREE TANNER.
    Frankly, our sales reps should have told us about the immediate “competition”. As a buyer, I shouldn’t have to sift through other news websites to get the basic sales information for a book. Especially not when a publisher’s representative sits down to sell me said book.

  6. arlene

    I’m still not understanding how the publisher and author are making any money if they are giving the book away for free. Must be some kind of creative financing I’m unfamiliar with.

  7. librarygirl01

    Arlene – not to be ‘smart’ but I don’t think the author intended to make a lot of money off the book. She said on her site that this one was essentially for charity and the fans. That’s why the book is available for free on her site for a month.

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  9. Helen

    And I think the main problem is that there was a heavy reliance on PR, with very little strong marketing behind it. Only 2 of my customers actually knew about the release on the day, everyone else was surprised (and most delighted) to see it.

  10. Heather Lyon

    My sales rep, Tom McIntyre, did tell me about the free online book. He found out after I ordered, called to tell me, and I downgraded my order right then on the phone. It’s interesting and not cool that some reps discussed this with their accounts and others didn’t. They knew.

  11. Hehe

    Now it’s Amazon #3 in sales, it was #1 yesterday. On kindle it was #5 yesterday. Looks like it was just too pricey, and when the air has been taken off the price, it now competes pretty well with FREE!

  12. Kay

    Josie, That stinks (both about book sales and the unsucessful event – I also read about it on the ABC list-serv). It’s unfortunate when intentions for a book aren’t communicated more clearly.
    Every time I read about how well a book is doing at a 40% discount, it just makes me want to go pay full price at my local indie (which is Anderson’s!). I’d rather buy one more book at full price to support my local bookstore and one less meal at a fast food restaurant – in a case like this, the dollar amount is about the same.

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  15. Califbooks

    Unfortunately, some reps did not realize the need to inform their customers and indie booksellers took it on the chin. With 1 sale after ordering 50 books, I take umbrage with the comment that “retailers didn’t have a better idea that this was going to happen.”. An obvious comment from someone who has no idea about ordering books, running a business etc. The fact that the publisher did not tell me at the time of ordering the book some 4-5 months ago, that the book would be available for FREE download 2 days later is outrageous. Little Brown should be ashamed. Or perhaps they are smirking at the poor indies who did not have Tom McIntrye as their rep.

  16. Amy

    I liked the Twilight books, so I took a look at this even though she was never a character I was particularly interested in. I downloaded a sample, but it appears she’s already a vampire as the book begins? Not what I was hoping for. And the voice is quite flat – I guess I expected something far crazier with a “newborn vampire”.
    I’d be willing to try a little more to see if it gets any better, but the free site isn’t much help. Unless I was looking in the wrong spot, it’s not a download – you need to read it online. And it’s in Flash, so iPad readers can’t read it. I’m not sure I want to bother with it when I get to a regular computer.
    I don’t know that the problem is the free version but that the book just doesn’t appear to be a must-buy, even for Twilight readers. Still, you should’ve been told. I’m glad you can return them.

  17. Sherri

    Started reading the free version on line, got to page 140 and the rest of the novella didn’t download. Couldn’t pull the website back up either. Guess I’ll have to buy the book if I want to finish reading it. Maybe I’ll just go back to reading Shutter Island.

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