Bestsellers

The Truth Behind Bestseller Lists

8 February 2016

From Observer.com:

It’s been just eight years since I worked on my first book launch campaign, but since that time I’ve worked with hundreds of authors in just about every marketing capacity you can imagine. I’ve played the role of publicist, community organizer, web developer, social media expert, and on and on.

In my various roles, I’ve bumped into The New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists many times.

I’ve helped launch two No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, and several top-five bestsellers. At one point, five of my clients had books on the NYT list at the same time. While I haven’t tracked The Wall Street Journal list as closely, I’ve had quite a few hits on that list as well.

. . . .

It’s true, bestseller lists are becoming obsolete. There are plenty of books that, despite never gracing the pages of WSJ or NYT, go on to sell thousands of copies, and have a great fanbase. However, the fact remains that having a New York Times or Wall Street Journal bestseller can greatly enhance your career.

Since the publishing industry still shows great deference to these lists, finding your name on them significantly impacts the advance on your next book contract.

If you’re a nonfiction author, and particularly if you write business books, bestseller lists mean more speaking gigs, higher consulting rates, higher visibility, and an enhanced reputation. They also mean more sales. If your book is a bestseller, it all of a sudden gets more copies on bookstore shelves and other promotions. It’s a self-feeding system.

Bestseller lists also mean more appearances in the media. NYT bestsellers get phone calls and emails from the media. And let’s face it: It matters because it’s pretty damn cool to be a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. But the bottom line, especially if you have anything to do with the traditional publishing industry, is this: WSJ or NYT bestseller = more money for authors, publishers and agents.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A BESTSELLING BOOK?

If you ask a typical person this question—someone who has never descended into the muck of the behind-the-scenes reality of the bestseller lists—they’ll of course answer something like, “It’s a book that has sold tens of thousands of copies,” or, “It’s the book that has sold the most copies.”

How naive.

. . . .

WSJ builds its list based on the sales figures it gets from Nielson’s BookScan. In general, if you sell the most books in a category as reported by BookScan, you will hit No. 1 in that category on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Makes sense, right? Except that BookScan doesn’t track all purchases. It doesn’t include sales made through some big-box stores, such as Walmart and Sam’s Club, which doesn’t affect most of us. However, it also doesn’t include sales from CreateSpace and other self-publishing platforms, which affects thousands of authors.

But overall, BookScan is the most accurate data source, and reports about 75 percent to 85 percent of book sales, depending on who you ask.

. . . .

A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, as the saying goes.

NYT keeps a tight lid on its process for selecting bestsellers. It is known that NYT samples its own list of certain booksellers across the country—though which ones make the cut are a tightly guarded secret—then look at the data with wise NYTbrains, and decide whom they think should be on the list.

It’s said that this is done to keep people from gaming the system, which is partially true. But it’s also done so that The New York Times can have a say about which books get the extra credibility of being named a bestseller.

I’m certainly not the only one who sees potential problems with this system.

Remember: NYT and WSJ list = more money.

So a small group of people look at highly selective data to decide whom they deem important enough to be called a “New York Times bestseller.” At this point, we’ve come pretty far from “the books that sell the most copies.” We’ve laid some groundwork, so now I can share the really weird stuff.

. . . .

A friend of mine has access to the weekly Nielson BookScan numbers—that organization that tracks 75 percent to 85 percent of book sales. Last year, he decided to go back and compare BookScan numbers to the NYT bestseller list to see if he could find anything interesting.

Since NYT does its own secret reporting and choosing, he wanted to see if he could find any signs of bias.

Here are two conclusions he gathered from his own personal research, comparing real BookScan sales figures to the books deemed by NYT staff to be bestsellers:

  1. If you happen to work for The New York Times and have a book out, your book is more likely to stay on the list longer and have a higher ranking than books not written by New York Times employees.
  2. If you happen to have written a conservative-political-leaning book, you’re more likely to be ranked lower and drop off the list faster than those books with a more liberal political slant.

And another point:

Why the separate lists for digital and print copies? 

From an author’s standpoint, this is maddening. I’ve been involved with book launches that have sold more than enough copies to hit the bestseller lists, but because the numbers were split between digital and print, they didn’t make it. How arcane, and antiquated. In what world does it make sense that it matters whether I buy the book in paper or in digital format? I still bought the book. I still thought it was worth the money. But for some reason, the NYT and WSJ lists think paper counts as a sale more than digital.

Arcane and antiquated are the only nice words that can be used here. Readers aren’t concerned about modality, so why are bestseller lists?

. . . .

I think we can all agree that while we want the bestseller lists to reflect the bestselling books, we don’t want people to be able to buy their way onto the lists either, right? So the bestseller lists try to put some checks and balances in place to make sure people can’t do this.

So what happens? Book launderers start popping up. And how does book laundering work?

Let me explain:

Step 1. Find a book laundering firm. There’s a handful of them out there. ResultSource is the most well-known.

Step 2. Write them a check to cover their fee. They don’t work for free, after all.

Step 3. Write them another check—for your books. This check is to buy copies of your book. It depends on the campaign, but it’ll always number in the thousands. We’re trying to hit the bestseller lists here, after all.

Step 4. The firm launders the sales. It hires people all over the country to buy books through various retailers one at a time, using different credit cards, shipping addresses and billing addresses. This allows the sales to go through and show up as individual sales, instead of bulk purchases. These sales then get reported to Nielson BookScan.

Step 5. Pop the champagne corks. You’re now a bestseller.

. . . .

The New York Times samples different stores across the country and weighs book sales based on where they are purchased.

What does this mean?

It means that a hardcover copy of your book purchased on Amazon.com is counted differently than the same hardcover book purchased at indie bookstore X.

Link to the rest at Observer.com and thanks to Barry for the tip.

Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post

This National Best Seller List Ignored 20k Book Sales

7 February 2016

From author Autumn Kalquist:

I’ve tried to research the best seller lists before, and finding numbers and real information was difficult. There were articles about the New York Times famously “snubbing” a few high-profile non-fiction authors and a few articles claiming the New York Times Best Seller list was corrupt. But there was nothing concrete that would apply to an average author like me.

When fiction authors discuss being “snubbed” and share how many sales it takes to actually hit the NYT lists, it is usually done quietly and in private, so that the world never knows. Despite being snubbed again and again, many writers still want to attach “New York Times Bestselling Author” to their name. I completely understand that; It’s an achievement that the traditional publishing industry rewards monetarily, and it’s a title that still garners respect.

There’s a reason no one speaks up. If the New York Times truly snubs authors and devises a fake Best Seller list, then publicly questioning their integrity would likely land you on their blacklist, jeopardizing your future chances to find a spot on their coveted (and curated) list. Which might lead you to wonder why I’m crazy enough to post this in the first place.

. . . .

So I’m sharing in the hope my experience will illuminate the way the Best Seller lists really work and be helpful to other authors and readers in some way. And maybe someday “All the News That’s Fit to Print” will include the truth.

. . . .

 Finally, in February 2014, I borrowed $750.00 from the family checking account in order to pay my editor and cover designer so I could publish my first book, Legacy Code. With a young child at home and my husband starting a new career, the money seemed a dangerous amount to gamble on a fiction book.

Every week we asked whether we could stand eating more beans so we could keep the electricity on, and every month we wondered how we’d ever pay off the accumulating late fees on every bill. When I called the creditors to work out a different payment plan, they turned me down after determining we had no money left over at all. I’d shown them our budget, which I’d already chopped to the bone. My husband and I had a five-year plan that was more like blind faith. In five years, he would be well-settled in his career, I would be making money from my writing, and we would finally be able to pay all our bills on time.

This was the worst possible time to borrow $750.00 from the checking account. But I was deeply passionate about my series and the story I needed to tell. I’d written a longer book in the same series first, but I knew there was no way we could afford to pay to have it professionally edited. So I went back and wrote a prequel story that could be contained in fewer pages.

The story took on a life of its own, words bleeding out of me onto the page. I wrote quickly, waking up at dawn and racing the clock every afternoon until naptime ended.

. . . .

I started down my path, connecting with one reader at a time. I also learned about the industry and studied what the big publishers did to get books in the hands of readers. I earned back the money we’d invested, and I dedicated myself to finishing Paragon, the book’s sequel.

It took months of writing, but I got Paragon written. Every extra dime I’d saved from my sales of Legacy Code went to paying for the cover, editing, and my other overhead costs. In a few months, I had sold enough copies of Paragon and made enough money to qualify for membership in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, so I proudly joined.

. . . .

When I finally released a prequel novella to Legacy Code called Better World in June 2015, things began to really pick up. I’d sold well over ten thousand copies of the first two books by then and had given away more than 50,000 copies during free promotions, but having three books available made things snowball.

Within the next eight months, I had thousands of reviews across the 3 books and 2 short stories in my series and my newsletter had ballooned to over 16,000 subscribers. I finally had the funds to pour my heart and soul into one big promotion—for an omnibus collection of my first three short books. I wanted to do something that could help me reach more readers than ever before.

. . . .

 Last week (January 24th – January 31st), friends, readers, and book deal sites shared my Fractured Era Bundle. I dreamed of selling enough copies to possibly hit the USA TODAY best seller list. I knew I needed at least 500 sales on Nook for my sales to be taken seriously by the national lists, so I was nervous. (Many authors, including me, sell something like 10 e-books on Amazon for every 1 or 2 e-books we sell on the other vendors.)

I barely slept as the bundle rose to the top of the e-book best seller charts. In eight days, I had more than 1,000 US sales through Barnes & Noble and nearly 1,000 US sales through Apple and hit the goal. I sold most of my books through Amazon.com, bringing the total to more than 20,000 US sales. The USA TODAY reporting week runs from Monday through Sunday, and I’d had ~19,400 sales for that week. The New York Times Best Seller list had only ever been a distant possibility for me, but I’d sold nearly 20,000 copies during their reporting week, which runs Sunday through Saturday.

Other New York Times bestselling authors (independent authors like me) thought I had a real chance for both lists with 20,000 sales. But they warned me: the USA TODAY list reported based on straight sales and was a reflection of true national sales for the week. The New York Times “curates” their list, and had snubbed self-published authors in the past. I was told it was possible they’d “curate” me off the list no matter how much I’d sold.

. . . .

The day the USA TODAY Best Seller list refreshed, I couldn’t look at it. At 3:55pm, I left my office and did everything I could to avoid seeing where I’d ranked. After showering, dressing, and running through every possible superstitious-writer behavior I have, (Candle, check. Music, check. Special writing rings, check.) I finally felt brave enough at 4:38pm to go back to my computer. The first page of the USA TODAY list had refreshed, so I kept clicking.

Fractured Era was #16th on the list.

The list was a total ranking of every book, every genre, every format – print and e-book… and my omnibus had been the 16th bestselling book in the country.

. . . .

 The New York Times had two lists I could qualify for – their Combined Print & E-Book List (with 20 slots) and their Fiction E-Book list (with 15 slots). Since only adult fiction could qualify for those lists, I quickly counted down the USA TODAY list – Fractured Era was the 12th most sold adult fiction book in the country. I had a chance. A good one.

. . . .

The New York Times privately releases the forthcoming week’s list the same day as USA TODAY refreshes at 5pm, and someone managed to get me screenshots of both lists I should have qualified for: the Combined Print & E-Book Best Seller List and the E-Book Best Seller List.

Fractured Era was missing.

“Sorry,” my author friends said. “You got snubbed… They don’t want you on there, but take heart, because this has happened to others before you. Maybe it’s because you have a bundle or because you sold it for $0.99.”

In response, I showed my friends screenshots of a recent mystery bundle that had hit NYT on January 24th at #19 and #11 on both lists. It was self-published, had no paperback version or ISBN, and had sold for $0.99. Clearly a three book “bundle” at $0.99 qualified. And Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus, which is a collection of shorter works in one book, had also hit when it was still self-published. As had many other single author and multi-author $0.99 book bundles in the past.

. . . .

 So I did more digging. I made spreadsheets, and I cross-checked my data to be sure what I was seeing was correct. According to USA TODAY, Fractured Era had outsold 10 of the 21 books chosen by the New York Times. And there was proof it had definitively outsold at least 3 of them during the New York Times reporting week. If the New York Times was ranking E-Books accurately, it meant Fractured Era had outsold eight of the fifteen books ranked on their E-book list.

. . . .

I wrote to the New York Times to make sure they’d received my sales numbers and to give them a chance to clear up the confusion. I shared all my research. All of it. I didn’t want to claim they’d “snubbed” me if they simply hadn’t seen my sales. I still couldn’t believe they’d purposely skip a book that sold 20,000 copies. I knew what it took to hit the fiction lists most weeks, and the number could be as few as 6,000 copies below what I had sold.

The Senior Editor of the Best Seller lists replied the next day with vague statements about their methodology, repeating all the things written on the New York Times website, and ignoring every single valid concern I’d raised. She said they rechecked the sales data and were confident they’d made the right choices. I was free to try again next week. (Read the Senior Editor’s reply at the bottom of the page.)

I was forced to face the reality: they had seen my sales, they’d read through my data, yet they’d still decided to exclude my book.

Link to the rest at Autumn Kalquist and thanks to Anthea and others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Autumn Kalquist’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Impact of Goodreads Choice Awards for Authors and Publishers

14 December 2015

From Goodreads:

For authors, winning a Goodreads Choice Award—the only major book awards chosen by readers—represents a tremendous achievement. But the impact can be far greater than most people realize.

Winning a Goodreads Choice Award can boost a book—even a bestselling book—into higher levels of awareness and drive more sales. Case in point: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which won Best Historical Fiction in this year’s Goodreads Choice Awards.

a1

Before its win, about 475 people were adding The Nightingale to their shelves each day. Compared to most other books, this is impressive (especially for a book published nine months earlier) and enough to make the book a bestseller. Additionally, the book has really resonated with readers, boasting an almost-unheard-of 4.53 average rating based on more than 83,000 ratings. (The more people rate a book, the harder it is to maintain a very high average rating as no book is the perfect fit for every single reader.)

But the Goodreads Choice Awards was about to take it even further. On the day it was announced as the winner for Best Historical Fiction, about 9,300 people added it. That’s more than an 1800% increase!

. . . .

For a book like The Nightingale, winning the Goodreads Choice Award is especially important. As Kristin Hannah herself said in a recent post on Facebook, “Most year’s best lists are compiled by critics who don’t even consider commercial fiction (especially novels by, for, and/or about women), so it is so important—and meaningful—to hear what real readers love.”

Link to the rest at Goodreads and thanks to Suzanne for the tip.

Amazon Announces Best-Selling Books of 2015

9 December 2015

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today announced its best-selling books of 2015, along with the list of best-selling Kids & Teens books, the Most Gifted Books and the Most Wished For books—just in time for holiday gift-giving. The best-selling book of the year is Paula Hawkins’ addictive page-turner, The Girl on the Train followed by Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School, by the perennial favorite Jeff Kinney, is the best-selling Kids & Teens book and What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss is number two. Harper Lee’s hotly anticipated second novel, Go Set a Watchman, was the Most Gifted Book of the year. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, was also the Most Wished For followed by Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale. The best-selling book lists take into account first editions published in 2015 and reflect paid print and Kindle editions.

. . . .

The 2015 top 20 best-selling books overall are:

1. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

2. Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James

3. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

4. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

5. Memory Man by David Baldacci

6. Make Me: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

7. Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham

8. The Girl in the Spider’s Web: Millennium Series Book 4 by David Lagercrantz

9. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

10. Silent Scream by Angela Marsons

11. 14th Deadly Sin (Women’s Murder Club) by James Patterson with Maxine Paetro

12. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School by Jeff Kinney

13. Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Coloring Book by Johanna Basford

14. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough

15. Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns by Blue Star Coloring

16. The Liar by Nora Roberts

17. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

18. The Crossing by Michael Connelly

19. The Stranger by Harlan Coben

20. A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

Fun facts about Amazon’s best-selling books of 2015:

  • It’s the first time a coloring book has made the list, let alone two!
  • Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is the top debut
  • The top two authors are British
  • The top four authors are female; There are nine female authors on the list, eleven men
  • The best-selling print book of 2015 was Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee; the best-selling Kindle book was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The top 20 best-selling Kids & Teens books overall are:

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School by Jeff Kinney

2. What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss

3. Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

4. The Heir: Book Four of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass

5. The Isle of the Lost: A Descendants Novel by Melissa de la Cruz

6. Your Baby’s First Word Will be DADA by Jimmy Fallon

7. The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt

8. Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 1 by Herobrine Books

9. Rush Revere and the Star-Spangled Banner by Rush Limbaugh

10. Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

11. Queen of Shadows: A Throne of Glass Novel by Sarah J. Maas

12. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

13. Firefight: The Reckoners Book Two by Brandon Sanderson

14. Winter: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

15. The Crown of Ptolemy by Rick Riordan

16. Dork Diaries 9: Tales From a Not-So-Dorky Drama Queen by Rachel Renée Russell

17. The Fate of Ten: Lorien Legacies Book 6 by Pittacus Lore

18. The Ruby Circle: A Bloodlines Novel by Richelle Mead

19. Theodore Boone: The Fugitive by John Grisham

20. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Fun Facts about Amazon’s best-selling Kids & Teen Books of 2015:

  • Three years in a row Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan and Rush Limbaugh have been in the top 20 best-selling Kids & Teens list
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School is the top selling print book and The Heir is the top selling Kindle book
  • 17 of the 20 books are part of a series
  • Two authors, Rick Riordan and Sarah J. Maas, each have two books on the list

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

And Amazon has not forgotten its Canadian customers:

Amazon.ca today announced its best-selling books of 2015, along with the list of best-selling Kids & Teens books — just in time for holiday gift-giving. The best-selling book of the year is the psychological thriller The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, followed by Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian by E.L. James. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School by the perennial favourite, Jeff Kinney, is the best-selling Kids & Teens book and The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywaltis number two. Released for the first time by Amazon.ca this year, the best-selling book lists take into account first editions published in 2015 and reflect paid print and Kindle editions.

“There is truly something for everyone on this year’s best-selling books list. From page-turning thrillers and relaxing adult colouring books, to laugh out loud picture books and action-packed young adult series, we are making it easy for customers to find the perfect gift for the book lovers on their lists this holiday,” said Alexandre Gagnon, country manager for Amazon.ca.

The top 20 Best-Selling Books of the Year from Amazon.ca are:

  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  • Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as told by Christian by E.L. James
  • Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  • Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book by Johana Basford
  • The Girl in the Spider’s Web: Millennium Series Book 4 by David Lagercrantz
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham
  • Make Me: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
  • Memory Man by David Baldacci
  • Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
  • Creative Haven Creative Cats ColouringBook by Marjorie Sarnat
  • Last Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Book by Johana Basford
  • Silent Scream by Angela Marsons
  • The 20/20 Diet: Turn Your Weight Loss Into Reality by Dr. Phil McGraw
  • *The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Louise Penny
  • *Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis
  • The Crossing by Michael Connelly
  • Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
  • Mightier Than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer
  • Finders Keepers by Stephen King

*Books with asterisks (*) are by Canadian authors.

In taking a closer look at the list, Amazon.ca found:

  • Adult colouring books—a hot new trend this year—entered the list with three placing within the top 20. Enchanted Forest: An Inky Quest and Colouring Book by Johana Basford was in the top five at number 4 and was also the best-selling print book of 2015. Johana was the only author to have two books on the list, with Lost Ocean: An Inky Adventure & Colouring Book at number 12.
  • The top four authors on the list are female, with exactly 10 women and 10 men placing in the top 20.
  • Two Canadians, Louise Penny and former First Novel Award winner Andre Alexis, placed at number 15 and 16 with their books The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel and Fifteen Dogs, which also won this year’s Giller’s Prize.

The top 20 Best-Selling Books of the Year for Kids & Teens from Amazon.ca are:

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book Ten: Old School by Jeff Kinney
  • The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt
  • Your Baby’s First Word Will Be DADA by Jimmy Fallon
  • PAW Patrol Phonics Box Set by Jennifer Liberts
  • Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1: The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
  • What Pet Should I Get? by Dr. Seuss
  • The Heir: Book Four of the Selection Series by Kiera Cass
  • Theodore Boone: The Fugitive by John Grisham
  • Queen of Shadows: A Throne of Glass Novel by Sarah J. Maas
  • Library of Souls: The Third Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
  • Firefight: The Reckoners Book Two by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Fate of Ten: Lorien Legacies Book 6 by Pittacus Lore
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  • Winter: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
  • The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella
  • *When Everything Feels Like the Movies by Raziel Reid
  • I Wish You More by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

*Books with asterisks (*) are by Canadian authors.

Fun facts from the Kids & Teens list include:

  • The top-selling print book was The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Dewalt, while the number 9 book, John Grisham’s Theodore Boone: The Fugitive, was the top e-book.
  • Sarah J. Maas is the only author to have two books in the top 20 with Queen of Shadows: A Throne of Glass Novel and A Court of Thorns and Roses at number 9 and 14.
  • Series were very popular this year among kids and teens, with 13 books in the top 20 list being a part of a series.
  • There was one Canadian author in the top 20 list, Raziel Reid, who just made the cut at number 18 with his award-winning book When Everything Feels Like the Movies.

The collection of best-sellers follows the Best Books of the Year list, which named H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald as the Best Book of 2015.This curated list is determined by the books team and features their favourite books released in Canada in 2015. Amazon.ca also named the 10 Best Canadian Books of the Year and the 10 Best Books of the Year for Children and Teens. Topping the Best Canadian Books of the Year was Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt. The number 1 Best Book of the Year for Children and Teens was Wild Ideas: Let Nature Inspire Your Thinking by Canadian author Elin Kelsey.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Kris Rusch on Author Earnings

9 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A while back, I promised I would look at the new report from Author Earnings. I needed time to assess the data for the purposes of this blog.

. . . .

I also write this blog primarily for career writers, those who are either in the writing business for the long term or hope to be in it for the long term.

That automatically makes me an outlier among bloggers. I have 30+ year professional career in publishing, in all aspects of publishing except agenting (which is something I never, ever, ever wanted to do), so I have a long term approach to all that I look at, including a historical approach. What is old is often what is new.

And what looks obvious sometimes isn’t.

That said, I have three problems with Author Earnings. Hugh and Data Guy do not work magic. They’re trying to find out information here, and they are limited by the way they have set up their company. They’re aware of the problems I am going to list below, and address them in their report, mostly by saying they don’t have access to that particular data.

My problems with the data? First, Author Earnings measures one day on one bookstore. Yes, it’s the largest bookstore in the United States, but not in the world.

Second, Author Earnings only measures ebook sales on that one bookstore. Not print sales, not audio sales, not outside earnings.

Finally, Author Earnings tries to separate their data into “traditionally published writers,” “self-published writers,” “writers published by Amazon” (which is, by the way, a traditional publisher), and “hybrid writers.” Their categories leaves out the most business-minded writers, those who understand how to set up corporations, how to establish their own small traditional publishing companies, and those who publish a multitude of books in a variety of ways.

That makes Author Earnings data small and specific, not really a snapshot of the industry at all, but a snapshot of the ebook sales on one bookstore in the United States, a snapshot that shoves some of that information into categories where it doesn’t belong.

In other words, like any statistical analysis, it has flaws.

Once you recognize the flaws, however, as Hugh and Data Guy do, you can work with the numbers to make some conclusions. Especially given the last report they released at the end of September.

. . . .

They created a study that did the things they wanted. They wanted to know, specifically, what route a new writer of 2015, with manuscript in hand, should take to have success. Success, as Hugh and Data Guy define it in the study, is hitting Amazon bestseller lists and making a “midlist” income of at least $10,000 per year.

Let’s ignore the fact that most one-book midlist authors in traditional publishing do not hit bestseller lists nor do they make $10,000 per year even if that was the advance.

. . . .

Hugh and Data Guy found that long-established writers, who were publishing before the year 2000and still consistently hit bestseller lists out earned every other writer on the list. But, according to Hugh and Data Guy:

13 out of the 20 authors who debuted in the last five years, and 8 of the 10 authors who debuted in the last 3 years, and who are now consistently earning $1,000,000+/year from just their Kindle ebook best sellers are indie authors.

So the thrust of the study is this: If you want to earn the most money as a writer in 2015, publish indie. Which to me is a well-duh, because indie writers earn at least 65% of their retail prices (which the indie writers set themselves), and traditionally published writers—ebook only—earn 25% of net price paid, minus 15% for an agent.

However, ebooks on Amazon make 70% of retail, and Amazon is what Hugh and Data Guy measure.

So for an ebook priced at $10 (because $10 math is easier for Ole Kris here), the indie writer would earn a minimum of $7.00 for each sale.

The traditional writer earning number is dicey from the beginning. What is “net” after all?

“Net” varies from contract to contract, writer to writer. But let’s assume that “net” is 75% of the retail price (assuming, perhaps falsely, that a traditional publisher will get a better deal from Amazon). That means the publisher gets paid $7.50, and the writer gets 25% of that number, which is $1.875. The agent then gets 15% of that $1.875, and the writer is left with roughly $1.59 per book.

The indie writer earns $5.41 more per ebook sold than the traditional writer.

. . . .

Most traditionally published midlist ebooks sell the same number of copies as an indie published ebook by the same writer, if the books are priced the same. The indie writer will make more money. Significantly more money.

. . . .

When I look strictly at ebook sales, I have to wonder why anyone would go with a traditional publisher any more. (When you factor in paper books sold over three years [as opposed to six months of release], the sales numbers are similar, and the indie writer earns more as well. But that’s a blog for another day.)

. . . .

They write:

There are fewer than half as many traditionally published authors as indie authors who debuted in the last 3 years and are now earning consistently at the $25K/year level or $50K/year level from Kindle ebooks.

Numerically, Hugh and Data Guy are correct, but the situation is worse than they allow. They make it seem like they’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison for writers whose work released in the past three years, but the comparison isn’t apples-to-apples.

What’s the difference? Traditional publishing does not (yet) allow for a writer to release more than four books a year under the same name and in the same series. Yeah, there are a handful of exceptions, writers who release more than four books per year traditionally, all in romance. There are also exceptions who are forced to publish only one book per year traditionally, mostly in mystery or literary mainstream. So it balances out. That four books per year is me being generous.

Assume, though, that the debut traditional writer is “fast” and working in a genre other than romance. He’ll publish one book per year, no matter what his genre. So at the end of three years, he has at bestthree books. In many cases, because of the vagaries of a publishing schedule, he’ll publish two at the end of three years, with a third coming “real soon now.”

A debut indie author can publish as many books as he wants in that period of time. If he’s really fast, he can publish a book per month. But let’s give him two books per year. Not really a huge advantage, but still, he’ll have six books out (or five with a sixth coming out) in three years.

Readers like it when an author has a lot of books to choose from. That indie author will double his e-book money simply by doubling the books published.

. . . .

But if you add in what I just mentioned above, that the indie writer who debuted in 2012 will already have a career while the traditional writer is still finding her sea legs, you can extrapolate forward. For writers who debuted in 2010 or 2012 or 2015, indie is the way to go.

Indie writers earn significantly more money. They’ll publish more books. They’ll have a career much faster, and one that is sustainable. A traditional publishing career requires the writer to be flexible and write under many names–if the writer signs the proper contract. Most don’t.

. . . .

But if you want a career as a writer, if you don’t want to have a day job, if you only want to write, then it seems to me the safest path to take is the indie path. You’ll have more opportunity. You can work hard and publish a lot and make money doing so.

Will every indie writer make six-figures per year? Hell, no. Nor will every traditionally published writer. But what this particular Author Earnings report shows is that if you want the chance of making six-figures or more per year with your writing, the best publishing path is indie.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says Kris has, as usual, focused on the key point for most authors – Do you want to make a career as an author? If so, the rational choice is to go indie.

Yes, it is still possible to make a career as an author by being traditionally-published, but it’s much less likely you will succeed. It’s not the safest route. It’s the riskiest route. In the first place, you have to run the find-an-agent then find-a-publisher gamut and most people get shut out there.

Then, you’re in the slow lane for getting your books to readers – one per year. Five books in five years (if everything goes perfectly because you’re not in control of the publishing process).

You have to hope the readers who bought your first book remember you one year later. Most won’t, particularly enthusiastic readers who read lots of books. If I read one book per week, I don’t remember the names of all 52 authors I’ve read in a year. Absent huge, huge sales (which very few traditionally-published first novels or second, third, etc., generate), promoting a traditionally-published author’s second book is almost as much work as promoting their first.

Plus the large majority of the sales revenue generated by tradpub books goes to support the publishing/distribution/retail sales structure. You have to sell many, many more books as a tradpubbed author to make the same money an indie author does.

PG did some math (always a dangerous thing) to compare indie vs. tradpub earnings based upon the concepts Kris discussed.

Basic assumptions for the comparison:

  1. Ebooks Only
  2. Indie Ebook is $2.99, Tradpub Ebook is $8.99
  3. Both books sell 10,000 copies per book in the first year and 2,000 per book per year thereafter as backlist
  4. Both books are in the 70% royalty category on Amazon
  5. Indie author publishes 3 books per year, tradpub author publishes one
  6. The comparison covers a five-year period, beginning with the first year an indie author and a tradpub author publish their first book
Ebooks Sold Price Royalty % Earnings
Indie (per book) 10,000 $2.99 70% $20,930.00
Traditional (per book) 10,000 $8.99 17.5% $15,732.50
Five Year Earnings Total First Year Average Annual Earnings (first year only, no backlist)
Indie (3 books per year) $313,950.00 $62,790.00
Traditional (1 book per year) $78,662.50 $15,732.50

 

Backlist Sales (20% of first year sales)
Indie Backlist Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 3 6 9 12
Backlist Earnings 0 $12,558 $25,116 $37,674 $50,232 $125,580
Traditional Backlist
Total Backlist Books 0 1 2 3 4
Backlist Earnings 0 $3,147 $6,293 $9,440 $12,586 $31,465
Five Year Earnings (First Year+Backlist) Total
Indie $439,530
Traditional $110,128

 

This isn’t perfect because the indie author won’t release three books at the beginning of each year, but as you move forward and the number of books in the backlist for the indie author grows so much more quickly than a tradpub author’s backlist, PG thinks those differences will be smoothed over.

An essential fact that Kris points out is that, so long as each author keeps writing at the assumed pace, the indie author is going to have many, many more titles in print than the traditionally-published author.

Additionally, it’s well-known that publishers ignore the large majority of their backlists and put no promotional effort at all into them while indie authors can and do promote their backlist books in a variety of ways.

This comparison is based on ebook sales only at Amazon royalty rates. It does not include any estimate of bookstore sales. PG will note that, for most fiction titles, bookstores are focused on new releases and a great many (most?) tradpubbed authors won’t find many of their backlist titles in most bookstores. If you’re a tradpub author, check your royalty statements for the number of hardcopy books sold for your titles that are three, four or five years old.

Too many books? What ‘Super Thursday’ tells us about publishing

7 October 2015

From The Telegraph:

In his new book Power of Reading, the sociologist Frank Furedi talks about “the Gutenberg Parenthesis”. This is the idea that the age of the book was, in fact, a 500-year blip; that, thanks to the internet, we’re moving from a written culture back towards an oral one.

It’s the academic version of an argument you often hear. No one buys books. No one reads books – in print, anyway. No one makes books – at least, not the good kind, the kind they used to make before publishing became commercial and commoditised.

But is any of that actually true? I came across the Gutenberg idea because I decided to engage in an experiment: to take the temperature of the book market by looking at every single book published on a particular day. And not just any day, but this coming Thursday, October 8. This is “Super Thursday”, the busiest and most important date in the publishing calendar, when the big firms and big names launch their assault on the Christmas market, accompanied by a three-day promotional blitz under the banner “Books Are My Bag”.

. . . .

And if you look at the data, what do you find? For starters, you find the book market in rather better shape than most people expected. The number of books is up – The Bookseller’s Tom Tivnan estimates that there are 20 per cent more top-tier titles than last year. And so are publishers’ profits: after years of fretting about the impact of the internet, sales of print books have risen this year for the first time since 2007. Partly, says Tivnan, this is because of the resurgence of Waterstones, but it’s also because publishers have become savvier about what works online, and what reads best in print.

. . . .

A-list celebrities, says Tivnan, “bring in revenue, but they’re a gamble – if you pay high six figures or even low seven figures, you have to sell a lot of books to earn that back”. Over the past couple of years, there were as many misses as hits, including such seemingly safe bets as Stephen Fry and John Cleese.

The celebrity market now is smaller and safer: lower advances, less risk.

. . . .

In fact, the picture that emerges from the full list is not one of commercial conformity, but bewildering variety. Of the adult titles published on Super Thursday, roughly 50 are academic, from critical portraits of Kierkegaard to a study of Adolf Hitler’s domestic interiors. Another 50 are educational or vocational. That leaves just over 200 “general” books for adults, of which fewer than a 10th are memoirs of any kind.

Yes, there are 11 books categorised as “humour”, and 10 books about football (Liverpool are top of the table, which isn’t a sentence you often hear, but Tivnan explains that they and Manchester United are the only guaranteed sellers). But taking a random set of titles yields a smorgasbord of topics: “Dogs as pets”, “Human geography”, “Dictionaries; crosswords”, “Poetry anthologies (various poets)”, “Historical maps and atlases”, “Formula One and Grand Prix”.

There is something else that leaps out from the list. These are not, in fact, books for the nation – they are books for its dads and grandads. There’s no chick-lit, for example, and the handful of novels tend to surge with testosterone: Martina Cole on crime, Harris on Rome, Bernard Cornwell on the Vikings, Melvyn Bragg rewriting the Peasants’ Revolt as a saga of blood, sex and pox.

. . . .

There’s a parallel here with television. For years, people fretted that online competition and shorter attention spans would see TV become a cultural wasteland. Instead, the big worry now is that we have reached “Peak TV”, with just too much good stuff competing for our attention. The same is true of publishing.

Yes, in the era of “Peak Book”, some worthy titles that hope to make a splash will struggle to muster a ripple.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Stephenie Meyer Swaps Genders in New ‘Twilight’

7 October 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Twi-hards, settle into your reading chairs and brace yourselves for the news: there’s a new book out.

In honor of “Twilight”’s 10th Anniversary, author Stephenie Meyer appeared on “Good Morning America” today to announce a new addition to the vampire romance canon, which has sold over 150 million copies worldwide. Behold “Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined,” a, well, reimagining of the same story updated with a female vampire and human teenage love interest. Clocking in at 442 pages, the novel challenges the common interpretation of Bella Swan as a “damsel in distress,” Meyer said. “That’s always bothered me a little bit… I thought, what if we switched it around a little bit and see how a boy does?” Answer? “It’s about the same.”

Readers, bid Bella Swan and all her lovelorn neuroticism adieu, and meet Beaufort (“Beau”) Swan, a warm-blooded teen with less of a “chip on his shoulder.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)
.
Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death was #1 in all books when PG put up this post.

Ransom Rigg’s Book Trailer

17 September 2015

Created in 2011 for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Movie to be released in 2016.

 

Nora Robert Interview

16 September 2015

 

 

William Boyd: my advice for budding authors

16 September 2015

From The Guardian

With 17 novels, a James Bond reboot, short stories and multiple screenplays under his writerly belt, is it an odd question to ask why William Boyd writes? He answers quickly and wryly: “It is a good question and a hard one. Basically, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

***

At a Guardian Live event for his latest book Sweet Caress he spoke to critic Alex Clark about his career, peppering his reflections with advice for would-be writers.

***

1. Can you write?

So far, so obvious. “You have to be able to write well,” Boyd said. “Not stylishly. You have to be able to express your thoughts in a manner other people can understand. You could write simply – something like James Joyce’s Dubliners, with a very limpid prose – or you could write a Finnegan’s Wake. But you have to be able to write: if you can’t, stop.”

***

4. Do you have the stamina?

“There are rare examples of authors nailing it on novel one, but a whole creative career is a long haul. It takes so long to write a novel, so if you don’t have the stamina, don’t do it,” Boyd said. “I know a lot of poets who think about becoming novelists, but then say: ‘But I can write a poem in an afternoon.’ You can’t do that with novels.”

***

But I write with confidence – I never wonder what will happen next. Iris Murdoch said there is a period of invention and a period of composition – I have borrowed that for myself.”

Read the rest here.

From Guest Blogger Randall

Next Page »