Plugg-ugly

Now this is taken from that notorious and doubtless arcane source of much that is evil, and also cat memes, the Book of Faces AKA Facebook, from a Tor Editor’s page that someone pointed out to me, doubtless thinking I had weeks of idle time on my hands:

Moshe Feder: “Noteworthy are the presence of nominees from eight small publishers and five that were self-published.

 Are Dragon voters really _that_ much better plugged-into the small press world and more aware of self-published work than Hugo voters or is something else going on here? Theories anyone?”

Ah. Methinks ‘tis Master Wormtongue sowing the seeds to discredit. Note the careful use of words ‘self-published and small press.’ I think most authors concerned refer to themselves “Independent” or Indies, and these are not the ‘traditional small press’ – as in ‘too literary to find much of an audience, never make money’ but rather are ‘not big 5’. Still: let’s pretend to take him seriously, and provide a serious answer. And seeing as he seemed undesirous of any ‘theory’ from me on Facebook, so I’ll let the graphs speak for me here. They speak not with forked tongue, but have great pickup lines in bars. This is the Nielsen data graph of the share of fiction sales.

slide 4

Which is taken from this excellent article, that I can recommend reading

Be aware that this is ONLY sales that have ISBN numbers. Many – probably the overwhelming majority — of e-books brought out by small publishers and independents DON’T BOTHER WITH ISBNs.

Which is something Author Earnings shows here

market-share2

I can recommend reading the whole article.

Which rather shows Moshe Feder’s attempt to cast doubt onto the validity of the Dragon Awards in a somewhat different light, doesn’t it? If the Indies and small to medium publishers weren’t there – awkward questions should be being asked. Let’s be kind and generous, and rephrase it slightly more accurately and honestly for him: ‘Are Hugo voters really _that_ much worse plugged-into the small to medium publisher world and less aware of independently published work than Dragon voters or is something else going on here? Theories anyone?’

The question that needs answering is not why those getting somewhere between 2/3 and ¾ of sales ARE represented in the Dragon Shortlist, as to why those getting between 2/3 and ¾ of sales are absent from the Hugos? You might add in ‘why are all the Hugo winners from one extreme of politics, while the Dragon Award winners more representative of the demographics?’ as a question too. I suspect it rather relates to the first question.

Somehow, I don’t think we’re going to get ‘oops. I hadn’t thought of it that way.’ Let’s face it, they seek to disqualify, because they wish discredit that which they cannot control, that’s all. So: let’s leave them to their delusions, declining market share and desperate popping smoke, and talk about what this statement of Feder’s really raises, and how that affects writers.

You see, de facto, the Small Presses and Indies (often the same thing) ARE much more invested in their readers, and, as a result, their readers are much more invested in (or ‘plugged in’) to them. It’s a logical, obvious product of necessity, not some mysterious and magical force of nature or that Elvis is alive and working on the check-out on Aisle 3 in the supermarket in Roswell type conspiracy by wicked nasty Racists/Sexists/Homophobes etc.

The only barrier to entry for an Indy… is finishing a book. Now that’s non-trivial (trust me, I speak from experience.) but there are still maybe 100 times the number of writers finally getting that book available on Amazon to readers for every one sold to Traditional Publishing, and appearing in bookstores. If you start looking at authors with 5 books out – it evens out a lot, because few people continue unless it works out, and they’re selling.

So: let’s look at why those Indies sell.

Traditionally published authors get what promotion their publisher offers (that can range from nothing much besides being in some bookstores, to advertising, bookbub, book-tours, blog tours organized by their publisher, professional reviews (Kirkus etc.), sweetheart reviews (Locus, and various ‘insider’ reviewers who get free copies), pressure on distributors to get more into stores, and pressure on booksellers to take more, the publisher paying for end-caps, a checkout book-dump and/or a window display, to selected buying by the publisher themselves, to get the book onto the NYT bestseller list), as well as whatever they put in themselves on social media.

Indies get what they do themselves – which is never in a brick and mortar book-shop, may rarely go to advertising and bookbub, and a tour of blogs-of-friends, but mostly amounts to social media… and one thing the Traditionally published authors don’t have – control of price and frequency of publication.

It doesn’t take a genius to see that the Indy-authors who succeed have to put in a huge amount of work at what they do have. Which means, yes, the ones who succeed have 1) put a lot into building those relationships, and have readers they are in frequent contact with. Some are successful bloggers, some have managed to leverage Facebook, some tweet to huge numbers. 2) Have probably leveraged frequency and price to make themselves very accessible and regular reads to readers who will experiment for $3, but won’t for $9. There are a LOT more readers in this bracket than in the ‘will plunk down $9 just to try’ bracket.

Translating this back into Dragon/Hugo terms: Voting in the Hugos costs a minimum of $50. Voting in the Dragons costs nothing. If you’re favoring books because you get three Indy reads for the Trad. Pub’s one… you’re probably not wanting to spend $50 just on voting – especially when the organization you’re paying money-for-nothing treats you like a bad smell. It doesn’t mean you don’t read, don’t love an author, and don’t have a close relationship with the author and their work. So very different audiences come into play, and the $3 an e-book one is probably (looking at the Author Earnings figures again) at least two to three times as big as the $9 one.

So once again, the question really comes down to the validity of the Hugos as a measure of popularity. I think we can safely say they’re not as accurate as the Dragon Awards for the ordinary reading public to whom most sales go.

To the writer, of course, popularity is ‘how much of a living can I make?’ Which comes around full circle to having that invested audience, who want to buy your book, who know, care and follow your writing. Now, Facebook has been a boon to many of us. BUT… they are monetizing it. Facebook throttles back access – A LOT. Twitter, realistically speaking is worth next to nothing, unless your following is in the hundreds of thousands – A sale per 1000. Which leaves blogs (Such as this one, According to Hoyt, Bayou Renaissance Man, Nocturnal Lives, Cedar Writes, Monster Hunter Nation, Torgersen Blue Collar Spec Fic etc.) which are effective, in which readers are very engaged — but they need readers to come to them.

There is one other possibility – and it’s the one I am at now – with my usual skill of going where angels fear to tread without noticing I was even doing something daft – blundering into: and that’s the mailing list. The advantage – for the author, is that Facebook can’t throttle it, and as it is a voluntary sign-up it’s likely you have a high level of actual engagement – people want to read it. It offers opportunities to safeguard the author not only from Twitter censorship, Facebook censorship but also Amazon becoming too predatory (because once they’ve eaten the big five, they’ll start on authors.) as writers can then sell directly. It gives authors a chance to run give-aways and promotions, and the signed readers a chance to benefit from something they want.

So here is my sign up. My writing noose-letter will be very occasional, and I will try to keep it mostly to things you want to know about my books, rather than my piggies or how to not quite drown.

110 Comments

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110 responses to “Plugg-ugly

  1. As a reader I can tell you that the only ebooks I buy over $10 (actually with the exception of a bare handful over $6) are Baen eARCs, I’ve almost stopped buying paperbacks and going to bookstores and the few (generally hardback) print books I buy are generally non-fiction. Now I’m probably an outlier here in that I don’t spend much time in English speaking countries these days (but not much has changed from a year ago when I was living and working full time in the USA) but I know I am very very far from alone.

    I do however buy a lot of books. Apart from the monthly Baen bundle (4-7 ebooks, though the re-releases are dupes and should be omitted, so call it 4) I buy at least one Kindle book a week. All the kindle books are Indie of one sort or another

    In fact to me the wonderful thing about today’s environment is that I can buy books I want to buy. It used to be that the only place I could find the books I wanted was at Baen. Now I have a bunch of Indie authors (such as Pam Uphoff, Amanda and Chris Nuttal) that keep me amused and entertained when I’m out of Baen for the month

    • Francis, I think we’re still in shakedown for the new environment in publishing. What I get is that traditional publishing establishment just are failing to come to grips with the changes – which, in part, is just how ridiculously easy it is for an e-book reader to sample and to buy ANY book. A book can be available anywhere, anytime. Their entire model is based on control of the interface between reader and writer, and that being a very limited gate, that really only their products made it through. The end result is a Comical Ali effect with people like Feder rabbiting on as if Indies and non-big five publishers were some tiny minority – when in truth THEY are the minority. They honestly seem to believe they can still dictate prices, book types, and what is ‘popular’.

    • imnohbody

      I don’t spend much time in English speaking countries these days

      Arguably, you didn’t do much of it even when living in the US. 😛

  2. I find it interesting that some articles written about the Dragon Awards have no difficulty simultaneously dismissing them as a “mere popularity contest” (since voting was open to anyone and there was no entry fee) while claiming that the winners were chosen by a small ideologically driven group.

    • snowcrash

      @Misha, it is eminently possible for both of those to be true.

      RE: Whenever I see the level of work required in self-publishing. I’m reminded of a quote from one of my all-time favourite works, Warren Ellis’s Transmetropolitan

      “Let me tell you how it is. You gather the evidence and write stories. That’s what you do. That’s your job. I’m an editor. That means I do everything else. I get you paid. I move your work to all the places it needs to be. I used to pay your rent. I deal with the complaints and the edicts from above and keep you mollified and all the other bullshit. I get the work out of you and I wipe your ass and keep your nose clean. You write the stories and I do every other damn thing there is to do. And you know why? It’s because you only know how to write, and I’ve had to learn to do everything else.”

      It is even more awesome in context, and it helps provide a certain level of appreciation for those who have had to learn to both write *and* do everything else.

      • Snowcrash, Misha – I think the two of you are talking past each other 🙂

        Misha I assume means the term popularlity means it is popular with the populace in general, and therefore impossible for a small ideological group to control?
        Snowcrash I assume means ‘it is popular within a small group (not the populace in general) and the populace in general did not vote, the voting group remained small enough for a small ideological group to drive the outcome.
        For Misha to be correct the voting pool has to be quite large (so with no barriers to entry) and the outcome quite varied as to ideology (So: Somewhither and Ms Marvel both winning categoties, some big 5, some Indies, some small press, as in the Dragons)
        For Snowcrash to be correct the voting pool has to be quite small (so:with barriers to entry) and the outcome quite uniform. (So for example the novel winner being big 5 and only from one ideological position as in the Hugo Novel winners over years)

        Personally I think the the Hugos are a small insular popularity vote, which is controlled by a small ideological group and I doubt it can change, and the Dragon is in a position where it is still influenced by small ideological groups, but not substantively controlled. The larger the numbers participating the less likely it is to fall prey to any one faction. And that is what I’d like to see, and is a valuable tool to promote sf for everyone.

        Yes, you are quite right, Snowcrash. The demands on an Indy author are large. Fortunately so is the reward. To put it in your editor/reporter terms, in Traditional publishing 10% of the US cover (or 2% of the Australian cover) is a good outcome for the reporter/writer. The editor/publisher gets 35-45% (taking paying the writer out), the retailer the rest. If the reporter/writer does it all they end up with 65-70% for e-books, and I set my paper take at 20% (to keep the price down). So many of the more successful indy authors are able (and do) to pay market price for those services they got from the Traditional publisher. You know I hopelessly idealistic, but I hope this means that writers, good editors, proof readers and cover artists can all make a better living without anyone getting screwed as they aren’t carrying an enormous wasteful dinosaur that has to live in a special expensive habitat – and this means readers get a better deal.

    • kentuckydan

      I am amused by the “mere” popularity label, I mean for me I want to try a book or an author that other people enjoy not one that has high “literary merit” and bores me to tears give me Dragon over Hugo, Popularity IMO is a plus for me.

      Like the commenter above I quite frrequently buy eARC books at $15 and for years I was pretty much a Baen buyer but since I discovered Puppies and Puppy kickers in 2015 I have now a host of new authors and some of them I have managed to read their entire bibiliography. Just love Kindle Unlimited

      • I am not a KU subscriber, myself, since I tend to listen to books on audio for pleasure rather than read them, but my books are on KU, as are most of the self-published authors I know.

        Are the big traditional publishers putting their books on KU? When the program was first launched I read complaints from people who were saying that KU was all indies–has that changed any?

        If it hasn’t, then I suspect that the numbers of readers is even more skewed in favor of indies than the sales numbers above would suggest, because I’m pretty sure none of the market share figures count borrows in addition to sales.

      • At least KU pays -and builds my readership (I’m not that happy with what they pay, but I do believe it’s better than nothing, and a lot more people are trying my books.

  3. But . . . but . . . what if I want you to write a book on how to not quite drown in a sea of piggies?

    😉

    • Uncle Lar

      I smell a best seller there.
      You might even consider setting the story outside the continental United States.
      Of course you’d have to fine a suitable foreign location.

      • Uncle Lar, you can certainly smell the best-seller. A foreign locale… I would have to research that. 😉

        • The Philippines? *chuckle*

          I’m kidding. Just going by the memory of the small-scale hog raising that was done by my younger brother’s former nanny after she moved back to my maternal grandmother’s home; with the young pigs she raised for lechon crowding around her for feeds, and when she’d bathe them (they liked getting water poured on them and scrubbed.)

    • heh. That’s in the ‘non-fiction’ section.

  4. That graph says the “Big 5” have lost 26% of their market share in 4 years. That’s disastrous unless the market has greatly expanded during those 4 years. I think it’s time for them to negotiate a either a subsidy or a monopoly guarantee from the government. We can’t have people choosing for themselves.

    • The market has grown a bit. But I’m fairly sure the total Big 5 sales are flat to down.

    • From the Mike Shatzkin post mentioned by freddiemacblog below (http://www.idealog.com/blog/ebook-pricing-resembles-three-dimensional-chess/ )
      The current round of reporting from major publishers contains some danger signs. Their ebook sales are declining (in dollars and even more dramatically in units) in an ebook market that is probably not declining. The “good” news for the publishers is that print sales are pretty much holding their own, or even growing. And profits are being maintained, which is probably the most important metric in their board rooms. But the bad news is that total revenues are down.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      1. I think a Clinton victory in November is likely. (Note: not a Clinton fan.)
      2. That book of hers could be understood as the publishers bribing her.
      3. There are things in motion that could be understood as prep work to screw Amazon over.
      4. Trump is apparently ticked at Bezos for something the Washington Post did, IIRC, and might be petty and vindictive enough to sink Amazon.
      5. There might be a reason for hearsay that our trad. pub. trolls are heavily heavily in the tank for Clinton.

      • 1. If she survives to November, you mean.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I do not think it any less likely that Trump is concealing serious medical issues.

          • Are you suggesting his health isn’t terrific? Not the best you’ve ever seen? You won’t not believe how healthy Trump is?

            • BobtheRegisterredFool

              The possibility he used coke wasn’t on my radar until his campaign made a point of denying that and homosexual acts, without any prior mention in the media. Yes, I’m that naive and charitable.

              There’s hearsay of some sort of sleeping disorder.

              He apparently sleeps at home every night.

              The pace of his campaigning, compared to other primary candidates, suggests either health limitations or lack of interest.

      • Uncle Lar

        Once released it is damn near impossible to cram a genie back into their bottle. Once people know a thing is possible it will happen.
        Kill off Amazon and a dozen copycats will spring up to fill the gaping hole in society that it leaves.

    • hoban – click on the first link – Jane Friedman has a market size graph as her first graph. She also makes the point that much of the print recovery… is adult coloring-in books.

      They’re in trouble. And yes instead of competing and responding, their reactions have been – to try and use the govt against Amazon, and to try to contractually restrict authors.

      • hobanwashburne

        Dave:
        It’s useless to employ hyperbole when mocking these people. The reality is usually worse than the attempted exaggeration.

        I’ll have to say that indie authors in general and the Puppies especially have made it possible for me to enjoy SF&F again after being forced to abandon the genre 25 years ago. I now know what happened to the field. The SJWs hollowed it out and all that remained was an empty husk.

        Keep up the good work.

  5. Rui Jorge

    Amusingly Feder in Portuguese means to stink. :0)

    Regard,
    Rui Jorge

  6. freddiemac

    There are some people in the trad pub business who have a clue, but they’re not in a position to make any changes. Mike Shatzkin’s recent column, “eBook pricing resembles three dimensional chess” discusses lots of points that have been made here several times and takes a closer look at the publishers’ mindset. Here’s some interesting points:

    The fact that this is reducing publisher revenue and each title’s unit sales is concerning. But it is also making it much more difficult to establish new authors at the same time because lots of competing indies are still being launched with low price points that encourage readers to sample them. …

    High ebook prices — and high means “high relative to lots of other ebooks available in the market” — will only work with the consumer when the book is “highly branded”, meaning already a bestseller or by an author that is well-known. And word-of-mouth, the mysterious phenomenon that every publisher counts on to make books big, is lubricated by low prices and seriously handicapped by high prices. If a friend says “read this” and the price is low, it can be an automatic purchase. Not so much if the price makes you stop and think.

    This puts publishers in a very painful box. When they cut their ebook prices, they not only reduce sales revenue for each ebook they sell; they also hobble print sales. (Although if they cut prices as a promotion, and they market the promotion, apparently higher-priced print will also benefit from the promotion and see a resulting sales lift.) And singling out some of their ebooks for an ebook price reduction strategy could also raise a red flag with an agent. It is easy to understand a temporary price reduction that is promoted; as an overall pricing strategy it could be seen as a bite out of the author’s ebook earnings at the same time their print sale is threatened with the low-price ebook competition. And while an ebook price-reduction strategy would probably make at least Amazon and Apple, very important trading partners, quite happy, it risks angering others, including perhaps Barnes & Noble but certainly including all the indie bookstores.

    On the other hand, the current “strategy” has plenty of risk.

    An unpleasant underlying reality seems inescapable: revenues for publishers and authors will be going down on a per-unit basis. … So publishers are facing one set of challenges with their high ebook prices; they’ll create another set if they lower them.

    • I said just about all of this to Mike Shatzkin a good 7 years back – and got pooh-poohed. He gives the industry advice it wants to hear for a living. Take what he writes in that light. The key -for an author – is ALWAYS volume. That leaves you in position of having demand, having a market, being able to balance greed against caution. The key for a publisher is profit per unit. This means the two are often in conflict.

      The other point Shatzkin is skating around is the size and value of these markets. Some people have done OK out of B&N and Apple. I have heard that.. BUT for most e-books B&N = less than 10% and Apple less than 1%. So While Shatzkin’s customers – with paper markets might worry about B&N, it’s not Shatzkin’s customers competition’s concern. And it is the competitiion they’re losing market share to.

  7. Grrr …. big post got munched. Mike Shatzkin’s recent column, “eBook pricing resembles three dimensional chess” has an additional perspective on this problem with a bit more background on the publisher’s side.

    • That article (http://www.idealog.com/blog/ebook-pricing-resembles-three-dimensional-chess/ ) is a good complement to the original post. However I think that article could be summarized quite simply:

      Big 5 publishers are hitting all the problems of an established industry suffering from disruptive innovation (see the Clayton Christensen book “Innovator’s Dilemma”). Since they show no signs of recognizing this they are doomed.

      Sadly the article doesn’t mention disruptive innovation which means that all the rest of it is pointless rehashing of the problems established incumbents have while trying to protect an existing market from attrition by the new adjacent market. There are ways to survive in this kind of environment but they require the established company to be bold and to be willing to cannibalize its existing sales and market in order to compete with the disruptors. The only publishing house that has made any attempt in this direction is the one beginning with B that we all love.

      • exactly. They’re still worrying about B&N instead of the competition. Oddly I don’t want them to die. They give Amazon something to chew on, rather than us.

    • sabrinachase

      Mr. Shatzkin’s article is actually very interesting–not necessarily for the content, because, as the Passive Voice always refers to him, he is a “veteran industry consultant”, a phrase used there with affectionate irony. Until now, he has ALWAYS been happily singing the song the legacy publishers want to hear. After all, they are the ones who hire his consultancy. If even *he* can see the writing on the wall, it is all over except for battlefield recovery of weapons and corpse retrieval.

      That graph is really damning. Legacy publishers are losing YET other sources are gaining putting paid to the notion that the lumpenproletariat is simply not reading. They (we?) are, just not big 5 books.

      • I firmly believe we’re in for a financial downturn. Now, historically some industries – camping gear, veggie seed sales, cheap beer (not luxury craft beer), and books and cheap movies did well in downturns. Counter-cyclicals – so well known they used as a ‘hedge’ against that. In the last few, the first three performed exactly as expected. Books and movies have not. Partly they’re too expensive. Secondly they have become poor sources for what people want (and need) when things are tough: cheap escapism, uplift, hope… rather like beer – but in the case of books more re-usable. Heinlein was right: We’re competing for beer money 🙂 And that is why I believe that we’re going to gain ground.

        • Might be that good books are more like Chinese food. Or chips (crisps, fried potatoes, same things in different places). They always leave you wanting more soon after. Well, the best ones do. *grin*

        • Civilis

          they have become poor sources for what people want (and need) when things are tough: cheap escapism, uplift, hope

          The beer money is going to video and mobile games such as (most recently) Pokemon Go. Microtransactions are seemingly designed to hit the ‘beer money’ portion of the pocketbook; you can play the game for free, but you can spend the amount of money you’d spend on beer for a temporary boost to the game.

  8. TRX

    > So once again, the question really comes
    > down to the validity of the Hugos as a
    > measure of popularity.

    I figure they’re a true measure of the opinions of the people who pay to vote for the Hugos.

    The connection between those opinions and the Real World(tm) are tenuous at best…

  9. I dunno. “How to Not Quite Drown” could be a really awesome topic, considering the alternative.

    David

    • To quote Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic.” When you’re underwater, in the dark, your leg pinned under a log that shifted at juuuust the wrong moment, panic is the last thing that will help you.

      A handy backhoe might help, if you’d thought to pack one. Never underestimate the usefulness of mechanical leverage. Or a scuba tank, so you could drown longer, that might be seen as a plus. A backflow at the dam, to roll this blasted log back off, now that would be handy.

      But panic? That’s way down the list.

    • How to not quite drown is one of the few books I’m well qualified to write 🙂

  10. Mr. Feder has been a part of major publishing for a long time. It’s not surprising that his views would center around what he knows. In his circle of friends, everyone read Ancillary Justice (Ms. Leckie) and were oblivious to The Martian (Mr. Weir) or Wool (Hugh Howey) until they burst out out of indie markets and had widespread acclaim.

    Those readers and writers of indies and small press, conversely, were aware of The Martian and Wool and may not have read Ancillary Justice.

    Yet look at the difference in Kindle ratings:
    Ancillary Justice: #6,331 Paid in Kindle Store
    The Martian: #794 Paid in Kindle Store
    Wool: #487 Paid in Kindle Store (may be even higher in sales, as Wool was also sold in installments)

    As a reader, I want all the authors I like to do well, whether it’s with the Big 5, indies, or anything in between. There are so many schisms in fandom right now. Some fans have grasped the proverbial elephant’s tail, others have grasped his meaty leg, and still others are caressing his trunk; some think they understand the elephant fully, but many don’t give credence to the other fans’ views. (I could say that Worldcon seems fixated on the elephant’s assterisk, but that would be as unseemly as wildly applauding the crushing embarrassment of the most prestigious awards’ nominees’ while chortling with glee at their mortification.)

    • That’s actually a really interesting point. It would be instructive to rank the Dragon Award winning titles versus the Hugo award winning titles and see what they look like. Actually, maybe I’ll do it myself.

      Hugo Award Winner: “Fifth Season” by N K Jemison Rank #9 in Kindle paid books. Hmmm. Seems mighty high. In fact, looking at the paid books in the Kindle store, I see that N K Jemison is higher ranked than the new book by J K Rowling. Could there be some skankiness going on here? It is weird because “Son of the Black Sword” is at #7000 something for paid books in the Kindle store. Both books came out at the same time, and both have about 250-ish reviews. By any measure other than sales rank, there is no reason for Jemison’s book to be #9 in paid books in the Kindle store. And she is beating out the most popular author of fantasy and science fiction in our lifetimes. Somehow, I smell a rat.

      David

      • Possibility: She was also nominated for a Dragon and less likely to have been read by the Dragon crowd. So a percentage of the Dragon voting crowd bought her book figuring if it was on the list with the others it should be worth it, while they already had the others giving her a late boost to her ranking.

        Not discounting the possibility of hinkiness, but plausible possibilities must be eliminated.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        I wonder if using a botnet to buy kindle ebooks on Amazon would work?

        I seriously wonder if that would work; it’d seem like it might look to Amazon like a legitimate customer. I haven’t the skills to automate that, or the money to spend that way.

        • Much simpler explanation: Ms. Jemisin recently had appearances in, among other publications, The Verge (Sep 4), The Atlantic (Sep 2), The New Statesman (Sep 1), the NYT (Aug 24), and NPR (Aug 18). This sort of staggered media blitz is good for making people who read 4-12 books a year see her name enough times and go “I’ll try this author, as she’s obviously critically acclaimed and therefore good.”

          It’s a wonderful gig, if you can get it. Congratulations to Ms. Jemisin and her publicist, for parlaying “first black woman to” into a wide audience appeal.

      • gutenbergsson

        Jemison’s “The Fifth Season” was a kindle daily deal as of yesterday and plugged greatly on social media. Probably explains the present ranking.

      • SheSellsSeashells

        “Fifth Season” was one of the Kindle Daily Deals today or yesterday, which may explain the bump. It looked pretty appealing from the blurb, but the sectors of the Internet that would like me to DIE have praised her too often and too highly for me to be terribly interested.

        I hate to think that way, but that was the conclusion I arrived at after parsing out the instinctive “oooh! …but…meh, not pushing the button” reaction I had after reading the synopsis.

        • I was faintly nauseous after reading the synopsis. Then I read a review and learned the synopsis was going easy on me.

          While there does appear to be a market for that sort of grimdark “challenging” litfic, I am very much not a part of it. Elsewhere, where camels dwell, I have been berated for this “telling a book by its cover”, which I find hilarious. That’s how you tell if you want to read a book, isn’t it? Cover art, blurb, review?

          • SheSellsSeashells

            For whatever weird reason, “dissolution of worlds/physical laws” absolutely rings my spec-fic bell and makes me go “ooooooh!” (Dark Tower being the best-known example of the type.) As a setting, it fascinates me, so I was intrigued by the Fifth Season synopsis, but “eww, SJW” won out. That well’s been well and truly poisoned for me, and it makes me sad; I used to enjoy works by writers of all political stripes, and these days I have a mental list of “hates everybody like me/wants everybody like me reeducated or killed/thinks I’m stupid” and I can’t read the books without conducting arguments with the author in my head.

      • Possibly this is explained by looking at a site like Goodreads? Jemisin has four times as many ratings, and six times as many reviews. It would not surprise me a bit if hatred of all things Amazon went hand in hand with being a fan of Jemisin. Meaning copies bought elsewhere than Amazon.

        I suppose a counter-argument would be that GoodReads’s demographic is far younger, more likely to be female, etc. than the average reader of a work by Correia, but it is what it is.

        The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1)
        by N.K. Jemisin (Goodreads Author)
        4.32 · Rating Details · 9,083 Ratings · 1,745 Reviews

        Son of the Black Sword (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior #1)
        by Larry Correia
        4.23 · Rating Details · 2,311 Ratings · 225 Reviews

        • Christopher M. Chupik

          “more likely to be female, etc. than the average reader of a work by Correia”

          Larry’s female fans might have something to say about that.

          • Nah, not really. Generally, other female fans I’ve met all acknowledge that Correia’s work appeals broadly to all sorts of folks. This means that the female half of the species is more likely to only be half the readership (or less, for something like Dead Six. Thrillers skew to male readership, demographically speaking.)

            This is awesome, because it means we can introduce the awesomeness of Larry’s books to far more people and have it make their day than, say, Bella Andrews. Great writer, lots of fans, but the demographic spread on her fandom is pretty narrow!

        • Goodreads unfortunately has no measure of WHO is involved. It’s somewhat clique-ish, meaning some groups are heavily represented, and others not at all (I know Vox Day attempted to get an interest group going there, and was promptly banished – along with most of his readers. You may not like him, but that a large section of the market to exclude.) My suspicion with goodreads is that it skews heavily female, heavily volume readers (who actually are not typical readers) and skews heavily to who wish to influence (writing a review is work. You might do it to reward a beloved author, or to complain – or to support a point of view), and skews heavily to those with the income and lifestyle to have time to waste on it. Many of these intersect.

          From what I can work out, goodreads works well for the kind of people who like being part of goodreads, and mediocre for to wrong for the rest. Sort of like the Hugos and worldcon. really.

          • There was a lovely infographic running around a while back about the demographic makeup of Dr. Who fans, as made by said fans on tumblr. I looked at it, and cracked up laughing – because it’s an excellent representation of the demographics of tumblr, not of the fandom as a whole.

            This particular form of blindness applies to most other relatively walled gardens, like Goodreads. The trick is to remember to keep the bias in mind when you’re trying to apply results within a walled garden to wider reality, and understand how it distorts the data. The only way I know to overcome it is with sheer numbers… which does, indeed, appear to be the Dragon’s approach.

      • Someone did it a little while back (before the Dragon) Her ranking then was piteous. This is an artifact caused by a kindle daily deal.

        • Robin Munn

          If Larry’s Book Bombs are anything to go by, her ranking will end up permanently higher than it was a result of the daily deal, because a non-zero number of readers will discover her as a result of her temporarily high rank, and discover that they like her writing. So once her sales rank goes back down to its “normal” levels, it will settle at a higher level than it was two weeks ago.

          What remains to be seen, though, is how *much* of a bounce her sales numbers get from the temporarily higher exposure. Larry’s Book Bomb choices always seem to do well after their numbers settle back down, because they’re usually really fun reads. Now, the impression I’ve gotten from Jemisin’s politics is that her books will be annoying and/or hectoring rather than fun, but it’s possible I’ve misjudged her. If she manages to set her politics aside while writing and write ripping yarns with good characters*, then perhaps she’ll do well out of the Daily Deal bounce. If so, good for her. We’ll know for sure in a couple of weeks.

          * Joss Whedon is pretty good at this. His politics may be standard Hollywood leftist, but he’s the one who wrote Captain America saying (about Loki), “There’s only one God, ma’am — and I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” Whedon is a good enough writer to get out of the way of the characters and let them be who they are. If Jemisin is that good too, then she’ll probably pick up a pretty good bounce. If she isn’t, then her net bounce will be small.

          • Robin, the issue is always a twofold one. 1)You have to catch (Larry’s book bomb, Kindle daily deal etc) 2) You have to hold. For a ‘bounce’ to be worth anything people need to start reading the rest of your work, spreading it around. Why it works so well for Larry’s Book bombs, is that his taste – as reflected in his books, is a close approximation of his readers’ tastes. So people get books they like, and therefore (2) is very likely. I am quite slow at catch, but looking at my Kindle sales i do achieve some ‘hold’ – If I run a special, sales on OTHER books pick up over the next few weeks. Whether that applies to Nora – we will have to see. I have my doubts having waded through it.

      • Yeah, ok, it has to be the Kindle Daily Deal thing. She has already, after 12 hours, tumbled to #34 from #9. I foresee a long slide back to #7000 something with the rest of the proles over the next couple of months.

        David

      • And… back at 14896 today.
        Son of the Black Sword is at 9172

  11. Reblogged this on Miller's Tales and commented:
    Dave Freer nails it again.

  12. Asko

    Very true. I thought about voting in the Hugos, but I didn’t want to lay out the money. And considering all the no selection garbage, it’s just as well.

    As to the self-publishing comments, my wife just put her first book on Amazon yesterday!!!!!!!! Titled: Into Thin Ayre (An Emerson Ayre novel).

    And there is no way she could have ever made it happen through the old process. You think it’s bad in the States, the publishing industry in Canada is even worse. Every book is by Margaret Atwood or some Liberal politician.

    By the way, I want to say thanks for your blog. Publishing advice has been invaluable and of course posts have been very entertaining.
    I have a bunch of Sarah’s books, and end up trying random novels based on links and recommendations. I blew through all the Bill the Vampire series in the last couple months, and I just finished Cntrl Alt Revolt (a little too preachy in a Starship Troopers lectures kind of way, but otherwise pretty good).

    • Thank you. I believe the field is stronger and helps all of us for us helping newcomers and each other. My best wishes for success to your wife. Remember 1 book is NOT enough. And social media, and a balance between promotion and interaction is vital.

  13. This has to be said every so often: Tradpub is desperately protecting their hardcovers, which drive what little profits they’re making these days. The Internet has made certain things even more difficult for them:

    * Many people recoup some of the costs of a hardcover by reading it and (assuming it isn’t a keep-foreverer) immediately listing it for sale online. People who do a lot of reading are teaching others that hardcovers are cheaper…if you’re willing to wait a month or so.

    * Remaindered hardcovers are sold online, for a dollar or sometimes free plus (slightly padded) shipping. A remaindered book is not always a bad book. It may be a slightly older book, or a good and reasonably current book on which the publisher bet poorly and printed too many to justify the cost of warehousing them. This again trains Internet-savvy readers that hardcovers can be had cheap if you’re not in a hurry.

    * The ebook industry’s infrastructure (basically, Amazon plus debris) has matured in recent years, to the point where ebooks can be safely archived, converted to other formats (see Calibre) and kept forever. People living in tight quarters no longer have to have piles of physical books everywhere. If they can buy an ebook, they no longer fear losing it to a tech glitch, and don’t have to buy a hardcover edition.

    Add this to all the other things that online has already done (liked trained people to expect ebooks to cost no more than $10) and you’ve got a perfect storm aimed right at tradpub. Their fixed costs are already high due to their inexplicable obsession with being in Manhattan or San Francisco. They are losing certain economies of scale as large chains go away or shrink: It’s way more work to sell to a horde of independent bookstores than it is selling to Borders (RIP), B&N, and Books-A-Million.

    It cooks down to this: There has never been a worse time to be a traditional print publisher. It’s all bad news, all the way down. I rode that pony while the riding was good, but I’m now mighty glad I’m retired and doing the indie fiction I could never sell on terms I was willing to accept.

    • I’m intrigued by the thought of the Big 5 being forced to move their headquarters to Des Moines or Lincoln or Birmingham. It should be a novel, a sort of post-apocalyptic dystopia where frightened Manhattanites and San Franciscans find themselves surrounded by deplorable barbarians disguised as polite, helpful people. They’d barricade themselves inside their compounds, besieged by people who keep introducing themselves and offering them hot dishes or (sweetened) ice tea.

      Maybe some junior editor begins to think that maybe these strange creatures are, you know, human, and don’t really mean any harm – and they beat him and throw him out – and are then terrified to see him through their slit windows walking around, smiling, and socializing with *them* out in the street. Things go nuclear when the cleaning lady, a local who seemed nice and harmless, asks a senior editor late one night if she’s accepted Jesus as her savior.

      This reminds me I’ve spent way too much of my life in or near San Francisco and Berkeley.

    • great comment Jeff. Thank you for that insight.

  14. Uncle Lar

    To be clear in olden days finishing a book meant typing The End on the last page, bundling the many pages of bond paper into a package, then mailing it book rate to a publisher.
    These days, especially with indie, The End is just the beginning.
    The draft will need edits for continuity and flow, then a final copy edit to catch grammar, spelling, and typo mistakes. And precious few authors are able to copy edit their own work, trust me on this.
    Text done, now you have to locate and purchase legal cover art, then use that as the background for a complete, attractive, and most importantly representative cover.
    Now you have a book in hand. Now it must be uploaded and reformatted to the chosen structure of the distributor, mobi or azw in the case of Amazon.
    Congratulations, you are now a published author. And you’re done, or are you?
    Nope, because now comes the really hard part, marketing and promotion. And those items have had entire books written about how to go about them. Not to mention many an article here at MGC.

  15. Joe Doakes

    I’m one of those long-time readers who treated “Hugo Winner” as a proxy for “Guaranteed Good Read” up until around 1995 or so, when it became a proxy for “Load of Crap” and I quit using that award as my guide. This year, I read Windlass, Black Sword and I’m half-way through Changeling: LOVE THEM ALL. Dragon has become the new signal for “Buy This Right Now.”

    And you know what else? I couldn’t tell you who published a single one of the books I loved in my youth, nor who published the books I love today. I buy the STORY, not the PUBLISHER. Same mistake they made with Hugo: I buy the STORY, not the AUTHOR’S RACE.

    • Oddly enough sometime about 1995 I realized that there was one pretty good indicator of whether a book was worth buying – was it published by Baen or not. If it was then you might as well buy it without further thought because the chances of it being a dud were slim. If it wasn’t then a good deal of cautious research was needed – especially if (as you say) it said something like Hugo/Nebula award winner. These days I’m beginning to think that Castalia is getting close to the same level as Baen, but it isn’t on the “I buy everything” level yet.

      The nice thing about the Dragon was that I’d already read a good selection of the nominees (heck I even nominated a few that made it), including just about everything in the Alt Hist category.

    • Yep. I can still remember my delight finding ‘Nebula stories’ (let alone Hugo) heaven help you reading either now.

  16. Mr Feder’s remarks all seem much of a piece with the commenter who pooh-poohed making indie novels eligible for the Clarke on the grounds that if they were any good they’d eventually find a real publisher.

    But since Feder actually works for a ‘real publisher’ I can’t blame him too much for looking after his job.

    • Frances – he’s one worse. He’s a hardcore fan of the very insular I have been attending worldcon forever ilk AND works for a real publisher. He appears unable to separate fan from industry insider, and unable to see that the best way forward is for the field to flourish, regardless of where or what the book comes from.

    • Can’t blame him either. But if he were truly worried about the state of trad pub, and looking at the long view… He might be quietly telling his bosses there needs to be serious, catastrophic changes before the tipping point hits.

  17. I didn’t vote in either award, but I was impressed by how many indie works were present in the Dragon Awards.

  18. I’m in. I was an early adopter to the Dilbert, Liad & Bujold lists.

    Here’s hoping it works as,well for you!

  19. “Let’s face it, they seek to disqualify, because they wish discredit that which they cannot control, that’s all.”

    Not only does Feder’s DISQUALIFY! attempt illustrate how oblivious the Torlings are to the mass exodus of their former readers to Baen, Castalia House, and indie, it hints at how little the Big Five understand their main competition.

    It doesn’t take wild speculation to figure out how Souldancer won its Dragon Award. Even I could have predicted that it would win, and as a matter of fact, I did.

    How did I know? Easy. First, Finishing in last place behind No Award for the Campbell provided all the elements of an underdog comeback narrative (with all of their literary pretensions, you’d think the CHORFs would understand storytelling 101).

    Second, Feder doesn’t understand that indies can turn on a dime compared to the Big Five’s reactions to market changes. If he did, he wouldn’t be asking for theories on how indie authors could’ve snagged Dragon Award nominations.

    Yeah, Souldancer’s an indie book, so I could drop the price to free in the run up to the close of voting and give away 2500 copies. That almost certainly made it the most read finalist in its category among Dragon Award voters.

    There’s your answer, Mr. F.

  20. “Yeah, Souldancer’s an indie book, so I could drop the price to free in the run up to the close of voting and give away 2500 copies. That almost certainly made it the most read finalist in its category among Dragon Award voters.”

    That’s excellent.