So long…

“He told me how long it was, but honestly it didn’t feel half as long as he’d claimed.”

“Too much of a good thing can drive you crazy.”

“There’s no such thing as too much.”

Perhaps the last is true of chocolate. Or bacon. These are experiments I am willing (for science, of course) to try. Too much money, is at least for me, an impossible paradox. Give me as much as the whole US national debt this morning and I could still ride a camel through the eye of a needle by tonight. Or at least, by next week. I am a sort anti-financial genius. I have volunteered my services (for a fee, natch) to various financial institutions. But no, instead of paying me a mere pittance and profiting and growing rich by doing the opposite of what I tell ‘em, they continue blindly on their disastrous course.

But of course, what I am talking about is books. How could you possibly have thought otherwise?

Now, I am not the only reader out there who has read the appendix and checked earnestly to see if perhaps one page at the end has stuck to another.

I’m probably not the only reader here who has read till 4 AM to finish a book he just couldn’t put down (if I am, what the hell are you all doing here? This is a writer’s site. If you’ve never loved a book that much, you shouldn’t be wanting to write one.).

The issue, from, a writer’s perspective, is just how long should a book be?

The length of itself, naturally (and the tears of it are wet). Seriously, that actually is the right answer: different stories take… as long as they take to tell, well. They are what they are. Stretching them or shrinking them is always at a cost. Sometimes that is a price the writer has to pay (there are better and worse ways of doing both but that’s a topic for another post. There’s a definite connection between the skill of the author and their ability to sustain an audience for very long books. Aside from anthing else, they get confusing. Very short, on the other hand, requires even more skill if anything. That’s why short stories are hard – you’re often trying to do what would be done across a whole novel, setting, character development, plot, action in a few thousand words. Most shorts don’t really succeed that well at all of the above, because it is a tough task. If the author has a choice, I’d plump for somewhere in the middle, myself. The sweet spot… from 40K to around 120K (as the actress said to the bishop, I have big sweet spot).

Historically, of course, things were considerably more constrained, in paper, than they are as e-books. Firstly, there was literally the cost of the paper, and shipping. On a 1500 page goat-gagger that could add up. And secondly… which I know all too well about, the mental toll for a 300K book is far higher than for three 100K books. They are harder to write well. That’s a lot of time, and lot of focus and a lot to keep in the little furry monkey’s wooly pate at the same time. And, to add insult to injury, they pay pretty much what one 100K book does.

Still: some stories demand a long book – or series of books. They have their fans. Many of us, myself included, like going back to a universe and story that we loved. This may be very different as a writer. The reader spends days, at most, in the books – the writer may well have spent years. I’m pretty sure there are a lot of polite authors out there when asked when they’ll be writing the next XYZ… will manage not to say ‘when hell freezes over’ (is hell exothermic or endothermic?) – but you can judge by the non-appearance of the sequel…

However, there is something which needs be seriously considered here: and that is the price. With a big fat book, or series telling the same story, in paper, well, there was something of a perception of value, especially for voracious readers. A _little_ extra could be got away with. Too short and too thin would be ‘punished’ by buyers. For some time quick buck artists made some extra on e-books – particularly scamming the KU system, by basically publishing chapters as serial-books, but now that that has been fixed – it’s kind of back down to perceived value.

It’s quite hard for the reader to perceive a difference in value of a download… be it 1000K or 50K. Yes, on reading it, they may discover that was great value for money (or berate you because they think it wasn’t. I’ve had that for $2.99 novella.) Yes, there is a size estimate. But in real terms, buyers don’t notice this.

So how much price elasticity is there on size? Is it: (as the bishop said to the actress) worth more if is a bit bigger. Or (as actress said to the bishop) are they all pretty much the same? Is there a ‘sweet spot’ for readers? Does it intersect with the one for writers? Do readers even consider length when looking at price?

Numbers I wish someone would do. Perhaps Natalie Luhrs – who seems to have ample free time — could do it. She’s copped some stick for doing a spreadsheet on their annual Hugo slate…. Sorry, recommended reading list from Locust… uh Locus. Personally I think doing numbers is a great idea, but then, I am biased. I’m not interested enough to comment, or comment on ‘all the usual suspects’ on Locus, but I will point out that she is missing the crucial data – what is the actual make-up of the readership? Without knowing that, the writers may realistically represent the demographic of readers – or may be far more skewed.

Now, there is no reason why the demographics of English sf/fantasy readers (and therefore writers, and therefore recommended books in a fair listing) in the US should not broadly reflect the demographics of literate English reading Americans. That would apply to race AND religion AND sex AND politics AND orientation (not just what was convenient to your argument). It would logically be different in smaller ‘specialist’ sub-genres – you would expect a different demographic from say Military sf or Gay Paranormal Romance (and yes, such sub-genre ID is valuable if it helps match readers to books.) Of course we have no real idea if it does, which renders her work rather futile.

I suspect that there are historical factors and perceptions to be dealt with, and the key is building additional readership in underserved areas, instead of losing it in successful areas, in the hope of gaining something else. FWIW, I would guess that women buy more traditionally published fantasy (which outsells sf) and men more sf. On current readership, my feeling is that yes, women are probably under-represented in the Locus list. I’m not sure why, although one cannot rule out historical cohorts or the Bumiputera effect, as well as simple bias. Last time I looked there were substantively more new female entrants to the traditional publishing fold, than male.

Both sf and fantasy, in traditional publishing, are in a steep decline and have been on a downhill curve for quite some time. One of the sensible measures (if I was in Traditional publishing) I would to start looking at is who buys what – and who doesn’t (which I think would be a cheap survey to run, really), and who in that English reading, literate demographic, and is missing across all the fields that I mentioned above.

But I don’t think they – or Natalie, would enjoy the answer.

However, if not asked, it’s one of those questions that will answer itself in Indy.

It’s not always the medicine that tastes great that’s good for you.  Facts are worth exploring even if they don’t appeal.

63 Comments

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63 responses to “So long…

  1. I am up at 2 minutes to 4 am reading this!
    oh,
    That’s because I gotta go to work, and got up at 3 am.

    • 🙂 10/10 And have a good day. I will be making Shrove Tuesday pancakes on mine.

    • I also get up at around three, but I’ve learned to avoid the internet so early- it makes me late for work!

    • I hadn’t been asleep long by then, and had to get up at 6. Woke up at 5:30 instead.

      • When I was working second shift, I often was heading to bed at 3am. I often woke up by 9 though my alarm went off at 10:30. Cannot seem to feel as rested even if I get 7-8 hrs sleep working the early shift.

        • There seems to be this weird set point where, after a certain wee hour, you get your second wind. Only carries you through for so long, and then you get to the point where caffine doesn’t work anymore.

          We used to work with all personnel non-stop for days to restore power. Day three without sleep tended to get interesting. Now we stagger things. Even a few hours of sleep helps tremendously.

  2. Draven

    Or Military SF Paranormal Romance.

    totally a genre.

  3. greyratt

    have you been occupied by a saint while writing this, or at least by Simon Templear. ( so says the actress to the bishop )

  4. FrancisT

    I think one could usefully do a “Harry Potter” scale based on the gradually expanding lengths of JK Rowling’s books.

    Personally, as a fairly fast and voracious reader, I think HP4 or HP5 is about right and HP7 is excessively long. HP1 OTOH left me wanting more. I suspect that less dedicated readers might prefer HP3 length and perhaps slower readers who are not yet engaged by the series or writer would think HP1 was about right.

    I think it probably makes sense to have the first book in a series shorter than the rest

    • A sensible approach. I like it. The truth is I tend to have it the other around… (a lot of background is established).

    • Forrest

      Harry Potter is a children’s series, and one of the interesting things about children’s series is that they tend to get longer and more difficult to read as the series goes on. I say tend to, because some series (Nancy Drew, Michael Vey) seem more “formulaic” (not necessarily a bad thing) and pretty much stay the same. But you find this trend in a lot of older children’s lit. Not all, mind you. (I know that someone is going to point out the exceptions.) 🙂

      • FrancisT

        I think in the case of JK Rowling the problem was that the series became such a best seller that editors were scared to complain. We’ve seen this with other bestsellers…

      • That can work, if it’s thought that younger readers will start at book 1 and work forward. The Dan Frontier is written around that premise, beginning at easy reader level and reaching a high grade level toward the end.

        Reading to the kids, chapter length was more of an issue to them than book length. The assumption was two chapters per night: one chapter as the bedtime read, and the other as the “please, daddy, read one more” chapter. They were undaunted by the size of the one-volume Narnia series, but the length of the chapters proved tiresome, noticeable by The Horse and His Boy. Kids quickly learn to look at the page numbers in the table of contents to judge chapter/story length.

      • Reality Observer

        Hmm. Is that lit for older children, or children’s lit that is older?

        On the latter, I think an analysis of the Oz books would show, at the most, a 1K variance among them.

  5. I remember looking up from reading a Little House book, and being surprised to realize that it was daylight, I was not in a one room log cabin, and there were no wolves circling round.

    • Forrest

      My favorite was _The Long Winter_. Have you read _Free Land_ by Rose Wilder Lane? Rose was Laura’s daughter, and when you read her book you will see the events of the Little House series retold from a different perspective. It is an excellent read in its own right. (Rose Wilder Lane was a professional writer herself and some people speculate that she actually wrote Laura’s books, but I don’t believe it. There is no evidence for it and frankly, the styles are completely different. In addition, Laura left a large body of her own writings, mostly columns in farming magazines and Rose could not have written all of those.)

  6. Freddie_mac

    Ebooks make this question that much harder to answer as readers don’t have the physical product to evaluate. As I’m mentally shifting from paper to elec, I tend to compare the estimated pages to the price. Do I feel that this is under/overpriced for the estimated number of pages? Failing that, let’s look at file size: do I feel that this is under/overpriced? Both pages and file size give me something to wrap my mind around (pages are easier to visualize), which give me a perception of value.

    Granted, a 500-750pg book could be horribly boring (and a waste of money) while a sprightly 250pg book might be read until it falls apart (or the pixels wear out). Looking back at some old favorites, I’m still surprised at how much story Andre Norton packed into 100-125pgs — there was a certain amount of precision in her writing.

    For now, my holy trinity is description, price and estimated pages/file size. Failing one of these items will usually knock an item out of the running (in rare cases, it may just be relegated to the wishlist).

    • TRX

      As a reader, once I pay money for a book I have an investment in finishing it. So when I look at the size of a book, more is better (value for money) up to a point… and past that point size becomes a negative factor, as I’ve wrestled with too many overlong, boring, plodding, bloviating messes to face another without flinching a bit.

      Back in a day when some directors allowed an actor a bit of leeway, a young Steve McQueen did a movie with an aging John Carradine. Years later McQueen said that Carradine had watched him do a long scene and commented, “Steve, say what you need to say. Then shut up.”

      “Gee, this novel isn’t long enough. I’ll add some more irrelevant backstory. And then I’ll add some more irrelevant subplots. And send everyone off on some adventures that do nothing to advance the plot, which the reader has probably forgotten by now anyway. And since it’ls getting pretty long I’ll add some tension by making one of the characters a traitor, or making a couple of them hate each other. And…”

      The “novella” is a particularly awkward length of story; overlapped at one end by the short story, the other by the novel. Generally, I think, novellas come about because the author felt that was the natural size for the story he wanted to tell, and he stopped there instead of puffing it out.

  7. I’m one of those writers who “writes by the seat of his pants,” though I prefer the far more exotic mysterious sounding “writing into the dark.” I begin with an opening scene, a basic plot, and a general idea where I want everything to end.

    Given that lack of initial structure, I anticipated writing novels of widely varying lengths. Instead, the last five I’ve written have all fallen ended up in the 60K to 65K range. My current WIP is running longer and may end up hitting 70K. Since I just write until the story is over, I guess it’s safe to say the novels are as long as they need to be.

    I think shorter novels are one thing Indie publishing has re-popularized. In a world where publishers want at least 80K words, what happens to the story which can be told in 62K words (non-randomly selected because my latest novel comes in at that length)? Ten years ago, the author either ruined the novel’s flow by stuffing 18K words of padding into a story or they just put their novel in a drawer. I can’t be the only person who’s read books which weren’t as good as they could have been because of all the extra padding added to reach a specified word count. Now, authors of shorter novels can just go the Indie route and give us better, tighter stories.

  8. My longer books tend to get reviews that say “Confusing” but tearing them apart and making the subplots into separate stories reap “short” “simplistic” “overpriced” type comments.

    I have started putting clear signaling in the descriptions, right at the start, helps. “A novella. Twenty-fifth story in the Wine of the Gods Series. Ericka Northerly is . . . ” It seems to help minimize the kvetching.

    • There seems to be a “sweet spot” for me as far as length of book.

      My main SF (The Fallen Race) series seems to net generally positive reviews, enough content and characterization to keep readers happy and enough action and explosions to keep readers engaged.

      My epic fantasy novels are stupendously large and start off slow and I’ve had several reviews saying the reader couldn’t be bothered to finish them (which I understand). The majority of readers who make it through and tell me they love it tells me that, yes, I could edit it, but all the same, I don’t know that I could take out enough to shorten it without removing the emotional impact of the final chapters.

      My other SF series seems to fall on the other side, short plot line, just touching on the characters and their motivations, with lots of action. I get some criticism on it that they need “more” from fans of my other stuff but the books bring in fans of rapid paced action.

      As for labelling as you mentioned. I’ve tried it… and still had reviews complaining about the shortness of a novella or that they read the series out of order. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him comprehend what he’s reading or something like that.

    • mrsizer

      You are in my “read it all” category so I don’t pay much attention to the price because I’m going to buy it anyway. (Should I have kept that to myself?) That said, I do notice. I think you do an excellent job matching price to length. There was one (no idea which) that was $1.99 and I thought to myself I thought, “what a steal!” Turned out to be a short story. While I was disappointed (MOAR XEN!), I didn’t feel it was your fault or bad pricing.

      • mrsizer, I’m flattered and will try to stay in that bracket. But it makes no difference to the price, really. Not if I am setting it anyway. I’ve spent too much of my life broke and wanting a book to overprice myself. That would also seem like taking advantage of friends. Realistically one thing you can be sure of: Dave will always price comfortably under paperback prices – that’s what I’d pay 😉

  9. Christopher M. Chupik

    What’s really funny is how badly Luhrs takes it when anybody disagrees with her methodology. It’s like she expected to get nothing but praise.

    • Well, she’s a protected class. Totally unused to the idea that anyone would dare. Actually, I must say that I regard her work as a win:win for the wider world of sf/fantasy no matter what outcome it has. If the protected and promoted darlings of Locus turn on her and destroy her for pointing out that it is an incestuous clique… shrug. Will sf be poorer? Will Joe Six-pack sf reader (my audience, me) be impacted? Not in any negative way. If she succeeds in persuading them to let in some new blood -well, that would be a win too. If she talks Locus into considering sex and orientation ahead of publisher… er old clique chums… er merit, yes merit… Well that should hasten the demise of Locus, and, because of the Bumiputera Effect see that the quality of those nominees goes down. They can be Locus recommended and entirely female (bet she wouldn’t complain) and entirely ‘non-binary’ (I do not think she understands the meaning of ‘binary’ – at least not as the rest of us do) and about as relevant to the wider world of sf-fantasy as the Cricket score in Berkshire is to the Baseball championships in the US. Everyone will be happy, except the publisher who hoped to make money, and the author who thought this ‘prestige’ would sell much. But they and their little circle would have the ‘recognition’ for comfort, and we would know what to avoid.

      • TRX

        Are you writing for the critics or Joe Sixpack?

        I’ve mentioned Mickey Spillane here before. Dale Brown and Larry Correria weren’t even a pimple on the amount of butthurt the literati had when they looked at Spillane’s sales figures.

        Having a critic approve of your work is nice, but real appreciation is when people fork over their own money for your work.

        • This. And not all the affirmative action in the world changes the fact that people buy what they enjoy. Talk, and awards, and commendations and critical acclaim that don’t translate into sales are all worthless.

  10. What I planned as my second novel (after my first, which was a brisk 258 pages long) was going to be about the same length; an adventure romance set in the historical American west, focusing on the German settlement of the Texas Hill Country. But as I got more and more into research – of which there was a lot – and had more and more ideas for sub-plots and characters – it turned into an epic 458,000 words. I wound up slicing it into three parts, stopping at handy places to pause in the arc of the story. One long story – in three parts, but each one more or less free-standing, and a ripping good yarn if read separately or out of sequence.
    I’ve honestly rather disliked those epic series where you have to read every one in exact order to make sense of the overall story. I don’t like it done to me, and I don’t do it to readers. I think of my own books as a kind of web, with one particular geographic setting, over a period of 75 years, and a large collection of characters, and the reader can just pick up any one little corner of the web at a time.

  11. One of the overlooked causes of bloated books was the Carterized spike in printing costs in the 70’s. A 60k novel for two bucks was tolerable; for five or six bucks not a cost effective entertainment investment. 120,000 words at five bucks? Hello, Shannara and bring on the trilogies!

    • Richard – what most readers don’t realize was it was a great way of screwing authors by the publishers – authors – who were getting 6-8% didn’t get much of that increased price. The people getting 45 % – publisher – hadn’t had their costs co up by that much (the price of printing and paper remain a tiny part of the cost of a book -around what the author gets, if the volume is high enough) but the author was still getting paid for one book… but in effect getting far far less per word.

  12. I’m in the process of going through my trunk (actually several file cabinet drawers) in search of short pieces I can rewrite and put up on Kindle in order to keep having new stuff coming out on a regular basis between the novels. One thing I’m noticing again and again is stories messed up by trying to write to the length dictated by the markets of the time. Again and again I’m coming across stories that were forcibly squeezed down to an arbitrary length (usually 4000-5000 words, because that was as long as you could write and have any hope of selling unless you were a Known Name) or abandoned mid-flight as it became increasingly obvious that no, I wasn’t going to be able to hold it down to the prescribed length without doing serious violence to the story.

    I’m going to really enjoy being able to finally expand them out to the lengths they deserve to be and give them the development they need. However, I’m also going to have to watch myself to make sure I don’t concentrate on shorter works to the exclusion of the novels I’m really supposed to be making progress on (still, it’s a much better problem to have than the old one that led to folder after folder of projects abandoned because I decided there was no hope for getting the gatekeepers to like it enough to give it a chance).

  13. Pat Patterson

    The last three items I’ve read and haven’t reviewed yet were all either a single short work or a collection of short stories. (oh, dammit, I lied. Just realized have #4 open in a tab on the browser right now. And for the record: Laura Montgomery, Max Florschutz, Cedar Sanderson, and the opened tab: Ben Bova.)
    (Can you have two colons in the same sentence? Ummm, of course you can, I just did it.)
    I was intimidated as a young reader (age 9 – 15) by long books, and much preferred short stories. The juveniles I read most were the Tom Swift series, starting, I believe, with Tom Swift and the Flying Lab. IIRC, every book was 180 pages, and included frequent illustrations.
    I hope that indie will turn out to be a great market for short fiction. Maybe not single stories, but collections.
    Consider: “Cold Equations” only works as a short story. If it was expanded into a book, at some point it would become evident that there is no way it could happen. “Nightfall” works BEST as a short story. “The Sentinel” had to be Kubricked in order to work as “2001,” and I already told you why I never worked for him after THAT little debacle (http://www.habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2015/10/why-i-never-talked-to-stanley-kubrick.html).
    On the other hand, while I believe that the primary reason for the Game of Thrones phenomenon was that HBO filmed it with mammaries exposed, for the rest of the universe, it seems there is a market for this (not for me any longer by the way. George: COME TO THE FRAPPEN POINT!!!).

  14. mrsizer

    (or berate you because they think it wasn’t. I’ve had that for $2.99 novella.)
    I don’t think I’ve said anything, but are those stories about the good magic/bad magic conflict the ones (girl with violin is the first one, I think)? Ah. Found them. Not you. Tales of the Unquiet Gods (David Pascoe). They are all in the same universe but each “book” is more like a long chapter? I bought two before deciding $2.99 was too much. As an author, I can see how one could think $1.99 was not enough. Perhaps a new price point? $2.49? (I still think $1.99 – they’re short – but it’s not my work)

    BTW: I sucked it up and bought more Elemental Masters books (Mercedes Lackey) at $7.99. Suddenly the next one was $13.99. That’s just not happening; I didn’t even bother checking the length. The plots were getting a bit formulaic, anyway. I know, I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s Mercedes Lackey: Bad thing happens to child (50% of book), who then becomes (50% of book) the hero (epilogue). Nice break from that theme in the Heirs of Alexandria series.

    • Yes, BUT:
      1. Minor point: “She played until her fingers hurt and her heart didn’t.” When you get lines like that, it’s cheap at. $2.99. It’s been a year since I read/reviewed the series, but that line will be with me…well, not forever, maybe but a long time.
      2. Medium point: It’s my understanding that Amazon does something hinky with the royalties up until the $2.99 price point, and by that, I mean royalties are SIGNIFICANTLY less below $2.99.
      3. Major point: This is where KU shines. I pay $9.99 per month, and I read the FRAP out of books, and it doesn’t MATTER what the price point is, because they are all equally free, upon my payment of the entry ticket. Like the rides inside Six Flags. Except there are no lines. Now, with RARE exceptions, I can’t buy any non KU books, but it surely isn’t limiting me.
      4. Unknown value point: I THINK, but do not know from direct experience, that there is a sub-class of short works (20 ish pages) on Amazon that have a $2.99 price point, and that sell well. I speak, with a modest blush, of erotica. I have no direct experience with the genre, you understand, but somebody recently referenced an item of dino porn, and I had to go read the reviews. None of the negative reviews (I think) had to do with the brevity of the, er, piece.

      • Medium point? Hinky? Nah, they are right up front about it. Here, let me find it…

        https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A301WJ6XCJ8KW0

        Note: Two levels. 35% royalty and 70% royalty.

        35% royalty: Minimum List Price depends on the file size
        Less than 3 megabytes $0.99
        3 to 10 megabytes $1.99
        10 megabytes up $2.99

        70% royalty: Minimum List Price $2.99

        So…

        If you, the author, want the high return — go for the $2.99 price. Willing to accept half that? Check your file size…

        Note. This is list price, and there are various sales and stuff that may lower the price. Also, as a foreign buyer, I can tell you that sometimes Amazon does odd things based on where the customer lives…

    • Yeah, well, that’s Eric and me plotting, let’s be blunt. Her input isn’t large.

  15. As you know, that demographics question interests us both. The best overall data I’ve found is this Pew Research report http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/01/16/a-snapshot-of-reading-in-america-in-2013/

    • Interesting. I shall probably go through it in a future post. My first glance is of course that the black/hispanic difference may well relate to language of available reading matter. Having books available in first/home language probably affects the popularity of reading

      • Nice analysis. I wonder about some causes, for instance audio books drop off sharply at age 65+. Hearing issues, I suspect. Few people read ebooks on their computer? How many books are available in a format optimized for computers? And as Dave says, possibly low availability of books in other languages.

    • TRX

      The raw numbers show a much flatter demographic spread than I expected.

      • The high number of young readers was especially welcome, although I wonder if that was corrected for required reading for school and college, as opposed to reading for pleasure.

      • I agree – there could be an issue with people saying that they read more than they actually do. Possibly the demographics for what we could call avid readers (i.e. people who read lots of books) might be different but in what way I couldn’t say.

    • Okay -having had time to read through it I’d like to add a few words of caution to this survey. It remains interesting and worth looking at as some sort of idea. BUT – certain strong caveats here. 1) It’s based on voluntary telephone survey of 1005 adults. So:a) they’re self-selected as being willing to participate in a survey, b)In a survey about reading. The response rate was an average of 8%, co-operation rate is around 18% – which is probably not reliable. 2)If it is representative to a reasonable degree of demographic accuracy we start getting down to some fairly small numbers, and these have been corrected by weighting – with an error margin of 3.5% – (So we notice for example that categories like Asian or mixed are simply not reflected – so either these are being pushed into another group or being excluded. My bet is on the former). 3)There is a substantive social cachet (both negative and positive, depending on your social peers) associated with reading. I know and have worked with poorer people who publicly denigrate reading and readers, because that’s quite common in their peer group, and a social acceptance marker, but that I know read. The opposite is true of some wealthier folk and graduates, where the ‘right’ books are right there… but when you ask a question they haven’t read them. So one group lies down, and the other lies up. Kinda like sex partner surveys. 4)There is no differentiation between fiction and fact reading. Or pleasure or study/work related. There are real differences, and this applies to our industry. 5)There’s no cross-correlating work (for example a separate study looking at media consumption finding statistically acceptable close figures. When I worked in fisheries we correlated working hours claimed (a part of Catch per Unit effort, which, if it rose could crimp the quota) with sales of marine diesel for example. No, the two didn’t correlate well.

      So without going on too much longer: It’s interesting, but probably only indicative at best, and probably doesn’t translate all that well to sf/fantasy consumption.

      • Sound points Dave. The study is about as good as it could be but you are right that people are not necessarily going to report accurately and that will add statistical biases.
        I think the data I’d really like (aside from all of Amazon’s data ever!) Is the demographics of AVID readers ie people who read lots & lots. Not that occasional readers don’t count but I think the avid readers tell us more about books beyond the bestsellers & the big publishing houses.

        • Well, yes, I’d like all the data possible :-). I did read an article from an agent – Galen – who I dislike intensely FWIW and who I would love to have been wrong, but I suspect is right. He broke readers into tiers -with your ‘avid’ reader being the inner circle who get through at least 100 books a year, buying per capita far the most books. His answer – at that time – that an author had to break at least one tier lower to be financially viable. Now, that was pre-e-books, and at the 6-8% royalty traditional publishing paid, rather than the 70% an independent can earn now, but his experience was pointing that to be very small group. Based on fantasy-sf and the experience of myself and some friends (across the political and book-type spectrum) this group is smaller than we realize – a few thousand (some really good authors selling less than 1000 copies – at least two of those are ‘award winning’ BTW.) Much as I’d like the jerk to have been wrong, I suspect he had good reason to know. The bestsellers are the one book a year – and it probably doesn’t get entirely read by a lot of people – tier. The real value to authors sits in the huge group between. You can make a reasonable living and support an industry on selling to people who read a couple of books a month. Mickey Spillane supported a lot of authors who sold very little, because he kept the publishing houses alive and people reading. Of course _I_ would like everyone (the good, bad, ugly, rich, poor, black white, sky-blue pink marxist, liberterian – everyone) to read at least a book a day :-). Sadly I think it’s not going to happen.

  16. Reviewing short fiction is harder than reviewing novel length work. Heck, I bet I could write reviews LONGER than the work itself, in some cases. But the hardest part is not giving the gimmick away, when it’s one of those short stories based on a gimmick.
    Dave, Max Florschutz has a story in his latest release called “Workday” which you will like, I betcha: coming of age on a fishing boat. The review JUST went live on Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R314ULOXY58JTU/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B01AMMWI32