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A little of this and a little of that.

I have a problem. There are simply too many things to blog about this morning. Between the return of Author Earnings to the creation of Bookstat, from Createspace closing down its editing, marketing and design division to more idiocy at SFWA (and elsewhere), how could I choose just one topic? So away we go. As they say at the amusement park, buckle up and keep your hands inside the car. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Let’s start with the welcome news that Author Earnings has returned. It’s been a long time, almost a year, since their last report. It seems they’ve been busy behind the scenes, trying to improve their system and, from my quick scan of the report, it’s been time well-spent. There’s a great deal of information involved in the report, too much to try to digest it all this morning. But the bottom line is, despite the push-back indies have received from traditional publishers and the gloom and doom predictions for indie publishing, the bottom hasn’t dropped out. 
A quick look at the stats shows that traditional publishing still makes more money than indie authors. But, as AE points out, that doesn’t mean traditionally published authors are making more than the best selling indie authors:

While it would be uncouth of us to reveal actual sales numbers and we’ve blurred them out here, we will say that today’s top sellers are handily making as much or more than the top selling indies from prior years were. But even without sharing actual units and dollars, a quick glance at the ranked list reveals something that, in retrospect, shouldn’t really be surprising to anyone.

A lot of these top-selling indie names are relatively new.

And a lot of yesteryear’s pioneering indie superstars no longer even make the Top 50.

A couple of things strike me about the list of best selling indie authors AE lists (not to mention the above quote). The first is that most of the authors on the list have 20 or more titles out. A number have more than 100 titles out. The exceptions on the list of the top 50 are those with single digit titles currently available. The second thing that struck is their comment about the old guard. It’s true, a number of the names we used to hear about and from all the time are missing from the list. One reason is that there are so many others in the field now and there guard is changing. Another is that a number of those early pioneers accepted contracts by traditional publishers and have disappeared into obscurity.

Go take some time to check out the report. It is well worth the time.

There is a new service available for tracking sales and trends. This service, Bookstat, (Note this is a .com and not the bookstats-dot-org site put together by AAP) From a quick look at their site, it appears to be aimed more to publishers than authors. The service is new enough, there isn’t a great deal out there about it. All I know for sure is that The Passive Voice said DataGuy is involved. That, at least, lends it some legitimacy, in my opinion.

Moving on to the latest surrounding Createspace. I’ve been watching for news about the POD service ever since Amazon began its beta program allowing authors to set up their print books through KDP. This new program means you don’t have to move out of your KDP dashboard to Createspace to set up your print book. The terms and services were different as well. What that meant for Createspace hasn’t really been addressed by Amazon, at least not directly. However, we are starting to see the writing on the wall.

Last week, Amazon announced it would be laying off 58 workers at its North Charleston office. These workers comprise the editing, promotion and design division for Createspace. These were the for-pay services offered to authors and, to be honest, I’m not sure how many authors actually utilized the services. Thea article says Createspace will continue to print POD books. However, I have to wonder if this isn’t just another step in the process to roll Createspace and the KDP print beta program into one. I guess only time will tell.

What else? Well, if you want a laugh, watch certain authors twisting themselves into human pretzels as they try to point out that science fiction and fantasy have always been political. It amazes me how they continue to do all they can to misconstrue the objections so many of us who supported Sad Puppies had to the current trend in the genre. We don’t mind having politics or “a message” in our fiction. What we don’t want is for it to be in the forefront OVER story. It should be carefully and craftily woven throughout the plot. Don’t hit us over the head with us. If we want a sermon, we’ll go to church. Wander over to a certain publisher’s site for an example or just go to Facebook. One of the usual suspects last week was trying to be “cute” in her request for someone, anyone to point her to a classic work in the genre that didn’t have politics or a message in it.

Finally, next month I’m going to do a series of posts on how, as authors, we need to do our homework. No, I’m not talking about researching technology or dress or history for a current work in progress. I’m talking about doing our homework on markets and on current trends in genre. So, if you have any particular questions that you want answered, post them in the comments.

Now it’s time for me to get back to work.

One last thing, remember the best way you can thank and author for writing a book you’ve enjoyed is to leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long or even particularly detailed. So take a few minutes today and leave a review. Thanks!

You can find my Amazon Author page and a list of my titles here.

52 Comments
  1. Amanda said: “We don’t mind having politics or “a message” in our fiction.”

    You know what? I kinda do mind. I don’t like their message. I’d enjoy the opportunity to see a different message once in a while.

    That’s why I love to watch anime these days. The opportunity to see a DIFFERENT message. One that I don’t agree with, but at least not the same SJW/Hollywood bullshit that pervades everything produced in N. America.

    January 23, 2018
    • But the thing is, you don’t mind it in general terms. You don’t like a specific message(s). I feel the same. That said, I don’t require no message because, to be honest, it’s damned hard not to have a message of some sort in your writing.

      January 23, 2018
      • In general terms, a story -is- a message. That’s something you’ve said, I think, which I agree with strongly.

        So if I’m reading, I’m participating in the author’s worldview. My problem, as you say, is that TradPub has a policy of making authors write to a specific world view.

        I got their message already. For thirty years they’ve been beating my brows with it. I disagree with it, but more than that, I’m bored to death with it.

        Show me something else to disagree with, at least. 😡

        Essentially I’m agreeing with you, but crankily. SJWs are irritating me lately. I should get off the Interwebz and get some fracking work done. Argh!

        January 23, 2018
        • Oh, they are making a lot of us cranky of late. No worries. 😉

          January 23, 2018
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          /I/ get bored with my /own/ pet obsessions, so I try not use the same one over and over again. Or maybe I simply don’t, because I get bored using the same elements, and switch to generating ideas using others.

          January 23, 2018
  2. Your (and DataGuy’s) point about quantity of books and putting story first is really important. There is so much information and so many “tales of selling” available to writers that it’s easy to get bogged down in trying to decide what is the best marketing tool, and which analytical program is best to track things.

    Readers want stories. Our job is to writer good stories and make them available to readers. No book, no readers. More books, more readers (most of the time. There are infamous exceptions, I’m sure.)

    January 23, 2018
    • Yep. Several years ago, Sarah talked about how Kris and Dean said the threshold to really starting to see your sales increase was to have 10 or 11 novels out (I don’t remember exactly which). I saw that happen with my own sales. Now I’m working toward the 20 mark — still have a ways to go.

      January 23, 2018
  3. c4c *cough, cough, cough*

    January 23, 2018
    • Watch it! Don’t you dare cough and give my computer a virus. VBEG

      January 23, 2018
  4. To mix things some…

    Story is signal.
    Message is noise.
    A Story can have some Message, as signal with zero noise often feels “off” (flat, sterile).

    But if the noise exceeds the signal? That says, “Change stations.” (publisher, author…)

    If you have a Big Message, you need a Really Big Story to contain it.

    A Big Message with a little story is not Great Art; It’s Crappy Design.

    January 23, 2018
    • YES! Ox speak truth.

      January 23, 2018
    • Roger Ritter #

      Ox may be slow. Ox not stupid.

      January 23, 2018
  5. Luke #

    Isn’t that concern secondary to your magnetic personality?
    [Looks innocent]

    January 23, 2018
    • Luke #

      It looks like there’s a hang-up with using the reply function with a mobile device.

      January 23, 2018
      • Luke #

        Or only occasionally?

        I’m now confused.

        January 23, 2018
  6. In my own reviews, I’m thinking of distinguishing message dumps from message, much as I distinguish info dumps from info. Dumps are bad because they pop the reader out of the story. You can forgive one or two, but much beyond that, you’ve got a two-star story. I do this even if I agree with the message. In fact, I cringe more at a message dump I agree with simply because I think it discredits the message.

    That said, I don’t see them all that much in the short fiction (under 50,000 words) that I review for Rocket Stack Rank. They exist, but they’re well under 10% of the stories I review. (I read every story in 11 magazines, all the Tor novellas, and about 8 to 10 anthologies per year, so between 750 and 850 stories or about 5.5 million words each year.) Nor do I see a trend there.

    What is true is that some authors firmly believe that their message is so important that it doesn’t matter that their stories aren’t any fun to read. These people hate me passionately. But they are far from a majority, and they generally can’t get published in the better magazines. Nor do they generally win awards, although one or two stories like that usually manage to get nominated. There’s something about “not any fun to read” that tends to turn people off in the final round of voting. 🙂

    But a lot depends on what you think is a message dump. If your disbelief in global warming is so total that you can’t suspend disbelief for a story set in a flooded New York City, and every mention of “water” pops you out of the story, then you’re far more sensitive to message than I am. A message dump, for me, is when that story pauses for a few paragraphs for the author to talk about what a terrible mistake people in the 21st Century made and what they should have done instead. It’s just as bad if a character gives a speech about it–and this is a case where I would probably agree with every word.

    January 23, 2018
    • Some non-fiction has gotten to that point. An otherwise excellent history I read (the period AD850-1000 CE) had three Message dumps, two about global warming and one about homosexuality. I got the feeling that the editor ordered the author to put the material in.

      January 23, 2018
      • Maybe when we do book reviews, formalize the warning: “Message Dump Here” and rate it on a scale of 1-5 or 1-9, rather like hurricanes, or earthquakes. A rating of one, means noticeable but passable, but the high end of the scale means “Stay Away! Stay Away!”

        January 23, 2018
        • I’ll forgive one in a short story, just like I’ll forgive an info dump. A story can be great fun and still be flawed. If I insisted on perfection, I’d never recommend anything.

          So I think the issue isn’t force so much as quantity. But the underlying problem is flow. A good story should flow. I start reading and I disappear into the story until I reach the end. Anything that breaks suspension of disbelief, breaks the flow. Too many breaks in the flow ruin the story. I don’t really distinguish between a big break (e.g. protagonist lands his ship on a black hole and it gets stuck until he applies WD-40) and a small one (protagonist on the moon watches the Earth rise).

          January 23, 2018
      • I’m not sure my definition really works for non-fiction. A history is, almost by definition, one giant info dump.

        I remember when I read Will and Ariel Durant’s “Story of Civilization” (all ~11,000 pages of it), I felt there were points where Durant dropped his objectivity and inserted a message, but this was usually a single sentence at the end of a section–never more than a paragraph, so it didn’t amount to much. I could forgive him for it, but I thought it detracted from the work. (And yet those seem to be the most commonly quoted bits of it!)

        I think anyone writing a history is tempted to insert things that relate it to the modern world just to try to make it less dry. It’s even possible that editors make such authors put things in for that purpose and that the message is just a side-effect. Hard to know if you didn’t try to write one. 🙂

        January 23, 2018
        • The thing is there’s a huge difference between message and information. Information (using an example from my day-job industry) is “In Oklahoma and Texas there seems to be a correlation between waste water injection and earthquakes, while in Saskatchewan and Ohio where similar things are being done to similar lithologies, no such correlation is observed. There are obviously some mechanisms involved that we have not yet discovered.” Message is “Because there is a correlation in Oklahoma and Texas, it is obviously the fault of oil companies who are therefore inherently evil (with flavors of implicit ‘and should be destroyed for their sins’.)” Typically message ignores evidence to the contrary.

          So YES, Message can ruin non-fiction. I’d say it can ruin non-fiction faster than fiction.

          On your example: I’m a geologist. I can’t watch disaster movies because most of them are so absurdly counterfactual and are trying to pretend to be factual. (The virtue of fantasy is they properly label ‘here there be things that just ain’t so’. And are careful to hit the ‘yarn’ or ‘fable’ or ‘tall tale’ buttons in the psyche that Disaster movies weren’t bothering to.)

          January 23, 2018
          • I have a much lower standard for movies than I do for printed stories. Otherwise I’d never watch any SF movies at all. (Maybe “The Martian.”) Hollywood just doesn’t care, and audiences don’t make them care.

            January 23, 2018
          • Heh. The Flat State U. geology department had “disaster movie night” where we’d throw popcorn and rate the most obvious errors. Sci-Fi channel is good for that too, although Sci-Fi always bumps off at least one grad student. Apparently grad students are to disaster flicks what Security people are to away-teams.

            January 23, 2018
            • Matthew #

              Yeah, we figured how many nukes would be required in The Core (more than they could carry) and the temp required to quickly freeze the helicopter in midair in The Day After Tomorrow (something down close to absolute zero)

              January 23, 2018
          • AesopFan #

            These examples of “message dump” look like what I would call “spin” – the information being imparted is secondary to the ideology being pushed.

            January 30, 2018
        • In this case, the author is discussing monastic libraries, and then you get three pages about homosexuality in the early medieval period, and then back to monastic record keeping – out of the blue, no warning, just “they were more sex-positive back then!!!” and on with the story.

          That’s message dump.

          January 23, 2018
          • What??? They gave penances just for being found chatting after dark in a totally innocent way, because monasteries were about “spiritual athletic training” (East) or “spiritual soldiering” (West), and either way you were supposed to be sleeping in your own cot after lights out.

            The only sex-positive thing, in a normal monastery, was that the monks were positive they weren’t supposed to be having sex.

            January 23, 2018
      • I am reminded of a history of the American revolution, more on the events leading up to it, that I read recently. Pasted in at the rear was a chapter on the roles of women and Blacks in the Revolution…the author was obviously straining to have much to say. The pasted-in, as opposed to worked in to the text, was rather glaring.

        January 23, 2018
        • In that case, though, people who’re interested can read it, and those who aren’t can skip it. People do like to read about people like themselves, and in a work that, by its nature, must have 99% been about white men, I could see an author wanting to put in a section to please other readers. A happy reader is a reader who recommends your book, after all.

          January 23, 2018
    • Message dump, I like that 🙂 The keyword is “dump”. If as a reader I feel like it got dumped on my head to make sure I understand its superior virtues, it shouldn’t be there. I don’t mind message, or even info, if it’s properly slipstreamed and fits the story (I’ve seen a pure infodump presented such that it was a fascinating SF short). I mind when it get hammered in sideways and I trip over it, and fall out of the story.

      January 23, 2018
    • I don’t even pretend to be fair. If the story is set in a flooded future and the guy even says the words “global warming” I’m already out. The story -is- the message, and the message is “those irresponsible Americans!”

      That is one of maybe five or six stock messages I’m utterly done with. Maybe I can list the others.
      1) Those Irresponsible Americans.
      2) White Oppression!!!11!
      3) Christianity is Bad!
      4) consumerism = evile
      5) People are stupid and must be controlled by Socialism or the world will end.
      6) Everything is horrible, everyone is horrible, and you are horrible too.

      Is there no other message available? Seriously, that’s all we get now?

      January 23, 2018
      • Confutus #

        Yah. With a few shining exceptions, it’s getting to where, if I want to read a good story about good people doing good things, I’ll have to write it myself. Working on that…

        January 23, 2018
        • Seriously, this is where I am right now. I have to do it myself, despite this huge industry of people supposedly vying for my entertainment dollar.

          Since I was young, I’ve always wanted to write a book. I never thought I’d HAVE to write a book just to get something worthwhile to read. Lord t’underin’.

          January 23, 2018
      • Draven #

        Amend 1 to “Americans/humans/males/etc” for accuracy please.

        January 23, 2018
      • Yup. If it were just global warming, I’d roll my eyes at the quaintly outdated science, just like swamp Venus.

        January 23, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      I like to say you can make a point with your story, just don’t stab the reader with it.

      January 23, 2018
    • AesopFan #

      .. and if you include a message dump IN the info dump, is it worse (an exponential rather than linear ugh-factor), or better (readers only have to skip one section instead of two)?

      January 30, 2018
  7. Supercalifragalistespialadocious.

    January 23, 2018
    • Even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious

      January 23, 2018
      • Matthew #

        If you say it loud enough
        You’ll always sound precocious

        January 23, 2018
    • Confutus #

      Of course, you could always say it backwards. which is docious-ali-expli-istic-fragi-cali-rupus.

      January 23, 2018
      • Matthew #

        ((blinks))

        That actually sounds kind of dirty

        January 23, 2018
  8. c4c

    January 23, 2018
    • Somebody send this dancer chocolate!

      January 23, 2018
  9. Has anyone switched over to Amazon’s POD service? Anybody?

    I tried it once a while ago and it was a pain in the butt, plus you can’t order any copies for yourself. So I’ve avoided it since then.

    Honestly I’m debating going to Ingram and not using Amazon’s POD when they shut down Createspace, if they don’t make it nice and easy to use, like Createspace is.

    January 23, 2018
    • I’ve used it and had no issues. To be honest, it was easier to set up for me than Createspace. I had feedback from them quicker on my files, etc. Yeah, I hate the fact there aren’t author discounts but the fact I didn’t have to price the books as high using the beta POD as I did on Createspace was a plus in that column. I ran the numbers and by ordering at the lower price, using my Prime membership for free delivery, etc., I think I wound up paying only pennies more for the the Amazon POD than I did for the Createspace POD.

      January 23, 2018
      • They had promised to let authors order at the same low price that Createspace does. I sell my books at 9 or 10 dollars a copy, but I can buy them for less than four, with shipping costing maybe 50 cents per. So I’m getting them at about half price of what they sell for.

        Now, when you consider how much it costs to actually sell physical books, if I can’t get them at a significantly lower price from Amazon, then there is no point to doing business with Amazon. I can do business with Ingram and then at least other places can buy my books if they so desire, and I can buy them at a much cheaper price.

        So yeah, if they don’t put in the ability for me to order my own books without them making money off of me for it, I’ll not be doing POD through them.

        January 23, 2018
    • Does that service allow you to upload a PDF, or is it purely based on the Kindle version?

      January 24, 2018
      • You can upload a PDF, which is what I did.

        January 24, 2018
        • And that’s annoying. Createspace hasn’t required a PDF in years for the text. I don’t mind doing it for the cover, but for the inside, I don’t really see the need. I get the feeling that rather than just taking Createspace’s software (which they own, because they own Createspace) that they’re just re-inventing the wheel and doing everything themselves.

          January 24, 2018
      • … or I could look the information up myself and see that they expect PDFs.

        January 24, 2018

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