PubFight 2016: It's on like Donkey Kong

Godzilla cat is ready for this jelly.

Godzilla cat is ready for this jelly.

If you dive into the blog archive, there is a long and storied history of the new kid on the data block expressing the excitement and blood-thirsty anticipation that seems to sweep the office when PubFight season is upon us, and this year is no exception. 

I've been with BookNet just shy of a year. My start date just missed last season's Fakefurt auction so I inherited a list of leftover titles that I managed poorly and faded into the relative obscurity of last place as my colleagues duked it out for the title of reigning champion. But that was last year when I was still the rookie, when I was still figuring out what it was that BiblioShare even did and how to run anything more complicated than a bestseller report in SalesData. Since then I've been quietly doing my research, counting down the months until it was time to put my newfound skills to the test, and here is what I've learned about how to win PubFight:

Do your research

 We're talking spreadsheets galore.

 We're talking spreadsheets galore.

If you're participating in a PubFight league this year, run, don't walk, to see which titles are on the auction block this year. You're welcome. 

Here's what you need to make sure you snag at the auction:

  • 4 Fiction titles
  • 4 Non-Fiction titles
  • 2 YA/Juvenile titles 

If there is one thing I've discovered, it's that you have to be prepared when you walk into a Fakefurt auction. With only $200,000 to purchase 10 titles, you have to maximize every dollar. Every year there are a handful of titles that dominate in sales, so you'll want to get as many of those as possible while schilling out as little of your precious capital as you can get away with.

Among the previous office champions there seems to be two schools of thought on how to do this, one involving a complicated formula and the other utilizing the art of the "comp" or comparison title. I say: why not do both? SalesData and CataList are your two greatest assets in preparing for the auction, so utilize both of them. Download our auction helper spreadsheet and start plugging in titles, using the formulas to figure out your potential earnings, and thus, your maximum bids. And make sure to do your research: does this author have a history of award buzz or bestsellerdom? How have comparable titles performed? Or do you just have that feeling in your gut?

Highlight titles to sort them into your most (potentially) profitable titles, followed by riskier ones as backup. Bring this spreadsheet with you into Fakefurt as it is your battle plan.

Bid smart at Fakefurt

This is not a drill.

This is not a drill.

Armed with your wealth of research, it's time for the actual auction. Make sure you have backups for your backups because the auction moves quickly and takes no prisoners. Opening bids start at $5,000 and move up in $2,500 increments. Keep track of the bids happening around you, and be wary of bidding wars. At the start of the auction everyone is going to have a lot of cash to throw around, and risks will be taken to get those heavy-hitting titles, but make sure you know when to tap out and stick to the maximum bids set in your battle plan. While missing out on a big title can cost you, so can over-paying for a title that under-performs.

That being said, sometimes you have to take a risk despite what your spreadsheet may be telling you. You can use a bidding war to drive up the price of a book you know your competitors are thirsty for, then get out of their way as they over pay for it. Or, if you know a title is going to sweep the season, sometimes you have to pay whatever it takes to make sure it's yours.

Also, don't underestimate the power of the dark horse! There could be a risky or overlooked title that you can snag at bargain prices while your colleagues are squabbling for a bigger title. 

This advice may seem contradictory, but you have to go with the auction flow; playing it too safe can impact your bottom line just as much as making too many reckless moves, so remember to balance out your risky maneuvers with sensible purchases later in the auction.

Manage your print runs

Remain organized.

Remain organized.

PubFight is not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of deal. Think you can put in your initial buys and then just watch the season play out? Big mistake. While we did do all that initial research to calculate potential volume sold, it is just that: potential. At the start of the season, use those predictions to guide your initial print runs while taking advantage of the price breaks that come with printing in bulk, but set aside some time every week to monitor your titles when the weekly sales roll in. Make sure you're prepared for the holiday season sales boost, and be ready to print quickly if you find yourself in a tight spot.

Another pro tip for nurturing your frontlist is to keep up with the media buzz about your titles. Is one of your indie darlings getting a lot of press? Did an author scandal break? You may need to be on your toes if their sales get a boost.

There are no friends in PubFight 

From now on this is you.

From now on this is you.

The first rule of PubFight is there are no friends in PubFight. I like to think that in my time here at BookNet, I've bonded with my officemates. They, however, have assured me that all bets are off if I try to outbid them for a title. When you roll into Fakefurt, take no prisoners and be as ruthless as you need to be—we all know what we're getting into. Thicken your skin, sharpen up your memes, and prepare your best (friendly) smack talk because it's about to get real. 

Don't forget to join us on Twitter using #PubFight if you want to brag, cry, bemoan the data, or start something with one of your fellow players. BookNet will be live tweeting our Fakefurt auction on Monday, July 25 starting at 12 p.m. EST, so be sure to follow along; we'll be there with our wittiest GIFs. Bring it.

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