Tag Archives: sales numbers

They keep trying and failing

I’ll admit it. My brain is filled with edits for the latest WIP (which means yet another rewrite of the opening chapters, but more on that later) as well as still mentally dancing with glee over the ease of conversions using Vellum. Because of that, I had a difficult time figuring out what to blog about today. Unable to figure anything out, I went to one of my favorite places to find ideas — The Passive Voice. It didn’t take long to find a post that had me wanting to beat my head against the desk. One of the stories TPV linked to shows just how far traditional publishing and its supporters will go to twist data and manipulate outcomes in an attempt to stay relevant.

Let’s start with the headline for the article, which TPV recreates for his readers:

Children turn their backs on e-books as ‘screen-fatigue’takes hold and sales of books for youngsters soar.

Now, journalistic training notwithstanding, that headline is wrong on so many different levels. It’s too long. If you go to the original article, you’ll see the headline takes several lines and is then followed by three bullet points. I guess the bullet points are to show how important the information in the headline happens to be. Except there is no real support in the article for anything except the drop in sales for children’s e-books (3%) while printed books increased (16%). Oh, wait, there is no support for those numbers. They cite the sales figures without citing the source, only a secondary source (the Observer) to back it up. It is the same with their contention that “screen-fatigue” is the cause for the change.

But let’s go back to the headline, which basically says everything that’s in the article and with the same amount of primary data. It claims children are turning their backs on e-books. Wow, how do they know? Are they going out and asking children which format they prefer and which ones they buy? No, they aren’t. For one thing, kids don’t take surveys and, for another, most kids aren’t buying their own books. Their parents are.

Then there is the point made in the body of the article that one of the main bookstores/chains in Great Britain is having to put aside more and more shelf space for children’s books. Well, duh. Publishers aren’t completely foolish. They see that children’s books are in demand (Especially when school starts). so they will start publishing more titles in the current “hot” genre. This is nothing new. Does anyone remember the number of Da Vinci Code knock-offs or how about all the Twilight or 50 Shades knockoffs. Heck, When 50 Shades of Grey hit it big, a certain major publisher pulled an entire line in order to “rebrand” the covers so all the books looked like 50 Shades. That went over so well — NOT — that some authors saw their sales tank and their options for other books weren’t picked up. Why? Because all the books looked the same and buyers thought they’d already read the books.

The real problem with articles like this is that they use data without giving the reader access to it. We don’t know where the data came from. We don’t know if they went off of sales figures only and, if so, where those figures came from. We don’t know if they included indie and small press titles in the data (and my bet is they did not). We don’t know if they then polled parents of young readers and, if they did, what questions were asked and what the possible answers to the questions were. Nor do we know who interpreted the data and what their qualifications might be — not to mention their biases regarding publishing.

The Daily Mail, in this instance, is acting as nothing more than a cheerleader for traditional publishing, pushing the trad’s agenda and assuming its readers aren’t smart enough to figure that out.

TPV nails the assertion that “screen-fatigue” is responsible for the quotes sales figures right between the eyes.

PG suggests that screen fatigue is the creation of a marketing manager somewhere, not a psychological or sociological phenomenon. PG doesn’t know if “children are reading more” is a fact, but suspects it may also be the creation of a marketing manager somewhere.

One thing PG does know is that marketing managers don’t really care if screen fatigue or reading children are genuine phenomena, so long as adults continue to purchase children’s books.

As for me, I don’t give a flying flip what format a child reads as long as that child is reading. Isn’t that what we should be worried about?

Now, at the beginning of this post, I noted that I’m about to tear apart the opening of the current WIP again. I’m one of those authors who find writing the opening chapter or two of a book the most difficult part of the process. In Light Magic, I know the basic plot. I know the characters. I’ve had to make a few minor adjustments to keep the book from being too close to something else I’ve written. What I haven’t quite gotten down is how to get the story rolling. Part of that is because my main character is a challenge. She wants to be a “wild child” (she objects to being called a “bad girl”) but she isn’t one, not really. So, in a very real way, she is fighting me. Once the story gets going, we are on the same page. But, day-um, she is giving me headaches on the opening chapters. At least i think I’ve finally figured it out. If not, this book may have to take a back burner for awhile until my subconscious figures it out.

In the meantime, I need to get the new cover for the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes tweaked just a little and then it will be ready to be sent out to all the major e-book outlets. The print version, sans the cover flat, is ready to upload as well. By the time I finished the rewrite, I added close to 20k words to the original. I’m really happy with the finished product and the beta readers seem to be as well. fingers crossed everyone else is.

Now, because I figure we could all use a laugh, and with a spew warning because I can’t afford to buy everyone new keyboards, I’ll leave you with this:

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Publishing’s Bellwether

Welcome to the farm, today, where I’m leaning on my oak crook and feeling the gentle breeze in my hair and watching the lambs cavort. I’m also keeping a weather-eye on the sky, and listening to the animals as they move from place to place. Amanda’s dealing with real life, and I’m lost in a memory… 

A bellwether, in shepherding terms, is the leader of the flock. It would either be a sheep or a goat, depending on the sort of herd (and some weight given to the native intelligence of the animal individually) and it wore a bell on a collar. The bellwether was the critter always out in front, and the rest of the herd would slowly drift in his wake, nibbling and straying, but driven by their instincts to stay with the bell, with the herd. The shepherd (or goatherd. Anyone read Heidi, rather than watching the saccharine movie? Did you know there are sequels?) would follow along after the bell, keeping an eye out for strays or lambs that didn’t know enough to follow the bellwether.

In business terms, the bellwether is the indicator of a trend. In publishing, it currently seems to be ebooks. I posted Dorothy Grant’s post about the implications of the recent Author Earnings report on my facebook timeline, and got a comment: “her article is not correct in its specifics. The graphs are about Kindle ebook sales, not books in general.” My immediate answer, which then led to this post, was ‘That’s because there is NO way to get accurate data on books in general, so the bellwether is ebooks, which are trackable.’

See, here’s the thing. Print books are, in theory, externally trackable through the Nielsen BookScan data, which is notoriously unreliable. In theory, publishers ought to know what their sales numbers are, but there are two problems with that data. First, they aren’t going to release proprietary and sensitive information to the public. Secondly, publishers themselves often rely on BookScan, and as Dorie Clark writing for the Harvard Business Review put it “Shockingly” slow and outmoded: “Publishing through a traditional house? Most of us get weekly Nielsen BookScan reports—courtesy of Amazon—and sales figures every six months from our publisher.” Studies compiling data from both BookScan and the Association of American Publishers have ‘holes’ in their data. “The AAP and Nielsen data, while providing useful information that can point to important trends, does have some holes. As mentioned, AAP data doesn’t cover the entire industry, while Nielsen BookScan data doesn’t cover e-books. And lack of reliable e-book data is the most important omission.”

And here is where the most recent Author Earnings Report comes in. “Here at AE, over the last seven quarters we have steadily built up a comprehensive database of quarterly cross-sectional snapshots of the Kindle store, each of which captures between 45% and 60% of Amazon’s daily ebook sales. And while Amazon’s Kindle store alone doesn’t comprise the entire US ebook market, it does account for 67% of all traditionally-published ebook sales…”

While that might not seem enough, as the report points out, it is better than the claims being made on less data by PubTrack.

“The confusion is worsened by Nielsen’s misleading claims about their new PubTrack data products, which sell statistics about the US ebook market. PubTrack collects ebook unit-sales data from “a panel of over thirty US publishers,” according to Nielsen, who then sells that data back to the publishing industry at large. The fact that those Nielsen ebook sales numbers come from only 30 publishers, however, doesn’t stop Nielsen from claiming that their PubTrack numbers represent “85% of the nation’s eBook sales” and drawing broad and unsubstantiated conclusions from them.”

So if we go back to the bellwether metaphor, and the shepherd trying to keep track of his flock, we suddenly see that print data is like a sheep wrapped up in an invisibility cloak, trying to avoid his annual haircut.

Shrek the sheep, who hid to avoid being fleeced...

Shrek the sheep, who hid to avoid being fleeced…

I ran across an article very recently, and as I was assembling the material for this post about sheep, goats, and books, I knew I had to include the concept of scapegoats. In the publishing industry, the scapegoats are the books and authors that pay for other books and authors to be published. Oh, they aren’t given any choice, not any more than the goat which was symbolically bound with the sins of the people, and then sent into the wilderness to die alone.

Instead, the popular, best-selling books, are bound with the production and promotion costs of the prestigious and award winning books. “Washington Post critic Ron Charles reviews the kinds of books that get nominated for literary awards. These are not the blockbusters, the books written by the likes of Stephen King and Nora Roberts that make millions. Charles knows that. Even so, he was dismayed when he saw a story about the sales figures for the novels long-listed for the Man Booker. The list included The Green Road by Irish author Anne Enright, who’s won the award before. “When I saw that Anne Enright — [who] I think of as giant in literary fiction, beloved around the world — could only sell 9,000 copies in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low,” he says.”

The numbers for the potential Man Booker Prize winners? Tyler’s book has sold 20,102 copies in total across all editions through Nielsen BookScan. As well as being the biggest selling book of the Man Booker Dozen, it is also the book which has seen the most copies sold since the longlist was announced in July – selling 7,680 copies since then. Most of this is down to the release of the paperback last week, which sold 7,115 copies.

Anne Enright’s The Green Road (Jonathan Cape) has sold 2,355 extra copies since being longlisted, for a total of 8,938.

Hanya Yanigahara’s A Little Life (Picador), which was published three weeks after the longlist announcement, has sold a strong 7,542 copies since 13th August. Yanigahara’s book is currently the favourite to win the prize at William Hill, with odds of 2/1 at William Hill, while Paddy Power is offering odds of 9/5.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Oneworld Publications) has sold 6,694 copies across all editions in total, more than double (3,471 extra) what it had sold before the announcement.

Andrew O’Hagan’s The Illuminations (Faber & Faber), has sold 457 copies since the longlist was announced, for a total of 3,273 copies.

Lila by Marilynne Robinson (Virago) has also sold strongly with 12,184 copies total for the hardback, but only 625 copies are from after it was included on the longlist.

Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island (Jonathan Cape) has sold an additional 589 copies, going from 922 before the announcement to 1,511.

The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (Picador) had sold 413 copies before the announcement and is now on 1,302, an increase of 889 copies and Anna Smaill’s The Chimes (Sceptre) has risen almost as much – from 411 to 1,008.” 

So the books that pay off for the publisher obviously subsidize the books that are published solely on ‘literary merit’ and the scapegoat trots off blithely into the desert to take his chances with the fickle public. With the rise of Indie Publishing, the scapegoat is no longer a necessary thing. No one can force an independent to bear the burdens of his less fortunate fellow authors, who write for awards rather than to sell books and make money.

The flock is hearing that bell jingle, and they are changing their path to follow him toward the good green pastures. “It’s a world where authors with plenty of Big 5 sales experience choose to say, ‘You know what, I’m not playing this game any more.’ Where authors make a positive choice to walk away from the terms offered by good, regular publishers. This new era of publishing is one where authors have a meaningful choice.”

I spent a couple of years as an apprentice shepherdess when I was a teenager. I grew up with a small flock of goats, and I can assure you that not all sheep are dumb, the flock instinct much-mocked is a vital survival tool for them. Goats, kept with sheep, quickly become the trouble-makers, the leaders of the flock, which is why one is usually the bellwether. The goats, in the publishing world, are the early-adopter Indie authors, getting through the fences any way they can to reach the less-worn down grass. The goats know where the noms are, and the sheep will follow them around the gatekeepers. In publishing, we follow that bell to the market.

And finally, don’t stop listening for the bellwether. Today, it’s ebooks and Amazon. But take your attention off the market indicators, and you might lose track of the flock and get too far from the market, getting lost in the process. Amazon might not always provide the greenest pasture, so pay attention to the industry blogs, keep up with the data, and don’t be afraid to move closer to the leading edge. Maybe you can be the bellwether for a while.

 

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Of numbers and sequels and spoiled chicken

I truly hope the way the morning began isn’t an indication of what the day holds for yours truly. I keep reminding myself that I am lucky that my mother, at 83, is in good health and still has all her faculties. Yes, I can see her slowing down and there are times when she might repeat something we discussed the day before. But, overall, she is still a strong, vibrant woman who is living life to the fullest. Of course, that almost came to an end this morning when I went out to clean the windshield of the car. I opened the car door and was assailed by an aroma that can only be described as “OMG, something crawled in here and died!” That stomach turning, nausea inducing stench that comes only from spoiled meat.

No, none of the local animals had taken up residence in our car. Fortunately. Not that it helps the stench any.

It seems that when Mom went to the store yesterday afternoon, she forgot that she’d put the sack with chicken breasts in it on the floorboard behind the drivers seat. That is never a good thing but it was compounded by the fact that here in the DFW area, we are having some very warm temperatures. So, after the car sat out in the sun for hours and then in the garage overnight, the chicken was well and truly ripe. Even now, almost an hour after finding it and after febreezing the heck out of the car and then washing up, I still smell that horrible odor. Please, don’t let that be a prelude to what is to come today.

Anyway, hopefully that excuses me for being late this morning with today’s post. Believe me, there is never enough coffee to prepare you for dealing with spoiled chicken in your car  😉

Numbers. Numbers are the bane and the lifeblood of authors. They represent how many books we’ve sold and are how we measure our success. That’s why, right now, so many authors are tearing their hair out and wondering what has happened the last few months. I can’t tell you the number of times on social media or in private conversations, I’ve been part of discussions about how numbers have plummeted. There are a number of different possible explanations: the back to school slump, folks not sure if they will have another paycheck so they’ve been cutting back on all spending, Amazon has been changing its algorithm again (not so much on how it reports sales but on how its search engine works) to the Kindle Unlimited Program taking sales away through lends.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my numbers have traditionally been down August – October. So, while I worry about the lower numbers, I’m not going to panic — yet. The one thing I do know is that my lends under the KU Program often outnumber the sales on any given day. Part of me says this is a good thing. I still get paid for the lends and it means folks are looking at my work. But there’s another part of me that isn’t so sure. For one thing, even though I get paid, that payment is less per lend than I made under the KOLL program. For another, you don’t get paid under KU until someone has “read” a certain percentage of the book. So they can download the book today and not open it for months — or more — and you won’t be paid until that set amount is read. I will admit, I’ve been considering removing my books from the KU program to see if there is a “correction” of the trend of borrows vs. buys. I’m not sure yet and, to be honest, I probably won’t make the decision for another month or so. It simply isn’t in the top five — or even ten — things I need to do right now.

The first on my list of things to do is to finish the edits on Duty from Ashes, the next book in the Honor & Duty series. I hate editing at the best of time. I really hate editing books that are part of a series. Not only do you have to make sure the book you have just written doesn’t have any major plot holes — after all, it isn’t good to leave poor Joe hanging off the edge of the cliff at the end of Chapter Three and never get back to him — but you have to make sure your grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., are all done properly. When a book is part of a series, you have to make sure you don’t change canon, without good cause, and that your characters are all called the same name and look the same from book to book. You have to make sure you don’t alter the terrain of your world or change major descriptions of the cities or countries where your story takes place.

I’ve found that it isn’t difficult to keep track of the details in series where your “world” is fairly small and you have a small(ish) cast of characters. But Duty from Ashes doesn’t fit that bill. It builds upon the events of Vengeance from Ashes and uses a number of the same characters — so far, so good — but then it adds characters and locales. Different branches of the military are represented as are different planetary governmental systems. There is some overlap with what we know regarding military structure but, because this is science fiction and it takes place at a different time and most definitely a different planet, there are differences.

Keeping track of all that, including the similarities and the differences re: the military, means editing is a much slower process than usual. I find myself referring not only to my notes, which include character descriptions, but also to the text of Vengeance. So far, I haven’t gone too far astray, but the concern is there. As a result, I find myself questioning things in my writing I wouldn’t under usual circumstances. I also find myself looking for distractions, including doing things I would normally never want to do. (For example, I caught myself yesterday emptying the kitchen cabinets and going through everything to see what we should keep, should give to my son and what should be donated.)

But, as an added distraction, my back brain has decided to come to the forefront. Specifically, that part of my brain that had been figuring out what to do with Nocturnal Challenge, the fourth and next to the last (possibly) book in the Nocturnal Lives series, has started shouting at me. It wants to to quit mucking about with the science fiction and get back to urban fantasy. It is very loud and stamps it foot and pouts when I don’t pay attention. Last week, I finally had to give in and take a day to take notes about the plot. So, as soon as I finish with the edits for Duty, I’ll start on Challenge. From there, well, other books await. I want to do at least one more book in the Hunter’s Moon series. I have a romantic suspense novel about halfway written. Then there is Honor from Ashes, the final book in the Honor & Duty trilogy. (I don’t know if there will be more books featuring Ash and company but I have a feeling there will be more books in that universe.)

In other words, I need to forget about the spoiled chicken and get back to work. Before I do, here’s the mandatory self-promotion bit that I all too often forget to put in.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty)
written under the pen name of Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Nocturnal Origins (Nocturnal Lives Book 1)

nocturnaloriginscoveralternatenewSome things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

 

 

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