Would You Pay to Turn the First Page of this Bestseller?

From Writer Unboxed:

Trained by reading hundreds of submissions, editors and agents often make their read/not-read decision on the first page. In a customarily formatted book manuscript with chapters starting about 1/3 of the way down the page (double-spaced, 1-inch margins, 12-point type), there are 16 or 17 lines on the first page.

Here’s the question:
Would you pay good money to read the rest of the chapter? With 50 chapters in a book that costs $15, each chapter would be “worth” 30 cents.

So, before you read the excerpt, take 30 cents from your pocket or purse. When you’re done, decide what to do with those three dimes or the quarter and a nickel. It’s not much, but think of paying 30 cents for the rest of the chapter every time you sample a book’s first page. In a sense, time is money for a literary agent working her way through a raft of submissions, and she is spending that resource whenever she turns a page.

Please judge by storytelling quality, not by genre or content—some reject an opening page immediately because of genre, but that’s not a good enough reason when the point is to analyze for storytelling strength.

This novel was number one on the New York Times hardcover fiction bestseller list for March 21, 2020. How strong are the openings—would either of these narratives, all on its own, hook an agent if it came in from an unpublished writer? There are two polls.

Following are what would be the first 17 manuscript lines of the first chapter.

There was a wolf at the gallery door.

Which meant it must be Thursday, which meant Bryce had to be really gods-damned tired if she relied on Danika’s comings and goings to figure out what day it was.

The heavy metal door to Griffin Antiquities thudded with the impact of the wolf’s fist—a fist that Bryce knew ended in metallic-purple painted nails in dire need of a manicure. A heartbeat later, a female voice barked, half-muffled through the steel, “Open the Hel up, B. It’s hot as shit out here!”

Seated at the desk in the modest gallery showroom, Bryce smirked and pulled up the front door’s video feed. Tucking a strand of her wine-red hair behind a pointed ear, she asked into the intercom, “Why are you covered in dirt? You look like you’ve been rootling through the garbage.”

“What the fuck does rootling mean?” Danika hopped from foot to foot, sweat gleaming on her brow. She wiped at it with a filthy hand, smearing the black liquid splattered there.

“You’d know if you ever picked up a book, Danika.” Glad for the break in what had been a morning of tedious research, Bryce smiled as she rose from the desk. With no exterior windows, the gallery’s extensive surveillance equipment served as her only warning of who stood beyond its thick walls. Even with her sharp half-Fae hearing, she couldn’t make out much (snip)

You can turn the page and read more here.

Was the opening page of House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas compelling?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

My favourite Mantel

From The Guardian:

From Wolf Hall to Beyond Black and Giving Up The Ghost, cultural figures pick their highlights from a remarkable career

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies

Margaret Atwood
The Tudors! Who can resist them? Gossip! Rumour! Scandal! Ruffs! Backstabbing! Madrigals! Farthingales! Witchcraft! Lace-on velvet sleeves! Cut-off body parts! More!

We know the plot, or at least its bare outlines, but we seem compelled to relive it in books, films, plays, operas, and television series: and all the more so when viewed through the shrewd, calculating, vengeful, cautious, Machiavellian eyes of master game-player Thomas Cromwell, fixer and hitman to Henry VIII, as rendered in sumptuous, riveting detail by Hilary Mantel in Wolf Hall. If Cromwell had had a phone Mantel could hack, you’d scarcely be brought closer to the inner wheels and cogs of his bloody-minded and bloody-handed machinations.

Bring Up the Bodies picks up from Wolf Hall. Things are not going well for Anne Boleyn, who has beguiled her way into the queendom over the cast-off though not yet dead body of Katherine of Aragon, but has failed to produce a male heir. Nor is she playing her cards adroitly: she’s too smart, too argumentative, too intent on influencing policy, too secretly Protestant, and too prone to miscarriages. It’s clear that Henry now wants to be rid of her, having spotted a more docile girl in Jane Seymour; and once he’s made this wish explicit, Cromwell goes to work. It’s always a dicey job, being henchman to an absolutist tyrant, especially one who’s becoming increasingly paranoid and petulant. There was that fall from the horse and the concussion, and then the weeping sore on his leg: what exactly was wrong with Henry? Doctors are still pondering; but whatever it was, it did not improve his temper.

We’re the silent sharers of Cromwell’s deliberations as he weaves his way to his goal – the removal of Anne, and, not incidentally, payback for the courtiers who had humiliated his old master, Cardinal Wolsey – through secret dealing, blackmailing, hectoring, torturing, and the stage-managing of a bogus show trial worthy of Stalin. We know the story won’t end well for him – henchmen often capsize – but we watch with horror and admiration as he achieves his gruesome ends.

Mantel’s triumph is to make us understand – and even like, in a grudging sort of way – this historically unattractive figure. Her meticulous research is lightly worn, unlike the carefully considered fabrics and textures of the courtiers, and her depiction of the many flawed human instruments on which Cromwell plays is sadly convincing.

I await the forthcoming third volume, The Mirror & the Light, with great anticipation. There’s an axe in it somewhere, I’m guessing. No spoilers though.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Mary Higgins Clark: Bestselling author dies aged 92

From The Washington Post:

Mary Higgins Clark, who as a widowed mother of five in her 40s began a long reign as one of the most successful crime writers of all time, pouring out novel after novel about resilient women befallen by unnatural deaths, disappearances and wicked criminal deeds, died Jan. 31 in Naples, Fla. She was 92.

Her death was announced on her website and by her publisher, Simon and Schuster. The cause was not immediately available.

Known to her legions of fans as the “queen of suspense,” Ms. Higgins Clark was an almost instant sensation with the publication in 1975 of her first thriller, “Where Are the Children?” The story centered on a mother who, not for the first time, must prove her innocence when her children go missing.

Ms. Higgins Clark, who until then had struggled to support her family on her own, described herself in that moment as a “prospector stumbling on a vein of gold.”

Her output included dozens of novels that sold tens of millions of copies in hardcover, in paperback and in translation. Few, if any, critics placed her writing in the category of high literature. But Ms. Higgins Clark had discovered a crowd-pleasing — and profitable — formula for crime fiction.

After selling her first book for $3,000, she collected $1.5 million, including paperback rights, for her second novel, “A Stranger Is Watching” (1977), about a kidnapping in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal.

In 2000, after increasingly generous advances over the years, Simon and Schuster awarded Ms. Higgins Clark a $64 million contract for five books. The deal made her, per volume, the highest-paid female writer in the world, the New York Times reported.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

The Long Tail of ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’

From The New York Times:

In the summer of 2018, Putnam published an unusual debut novel by a retired wildlife biologist named Delia Owens. The book, which had an odd title and didn’t fit neatly into any genre, hardly seemed destined to be a blockbuster, so Putnam printed about 28,000 copies.

It wasn’t nearly enough.

A year and a half later, the novel, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” an absorbing, atmospheric tale about a lonely girl’s coming-of-age in the marshes of North Carolina, has sold more than four and a half million copies. It’s an astonishing trajectory for any debut novelist, much less for a reclusive, 70-year-old scientist, whose previous published works chronicled the decades she spent in the deserts and valleys of Botswana and Zambia, where she studied hyenas, lions and elephants.

As the end of 2019 approaches, “Crawdads” has sold more print copies than any other adult title this year — fiction or nonfiction — according to NPD BookScan, blowing away the combined print sales of new novels by John Grisham, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King. Putnam has returned to the printers nearly 40 times to feed a seemingly bottomless demand for the book. Foreign rights have sold in 41 countries.

. . . .

Industry analysts have struggled to explain the novel’s staying power, particularly at a moment when fiction sales over all are flagging, and most blockbuster novels drop off the best-seller list after a few weeks.

. . . .

For the past several years, adult fiction sales have steadily fallen — in 2019, adult fiction sales through early December totaled around 116 million units, down from nearly 144 million in 2015, according to NPD BookScan. In a tough retail environment for fiction, publishers and agents frequently complain that it has become harder and harder for even established novelists to break through the noise of the news cycle.

“Crawdads” seems to be the lone exception. After a burst of holiday sales, it landed back at No. 1 on The Times’s latest fiction best-seller list, where it has held a spot for 67 weeks, with 30 weeks at No. 1.

“This book has defied the new laws of gravity,” said Peter Hildick-Smith, the president of the Codex Group, which analyzes the book industry. “It’s managed to hold its position in a much more consistent way than just about anything.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

A Ray of Japanese Sunlight on China’s Bestseller List

From Publishing Perspectives:

Once again, we see a words-to-screen connection behind a major hit in our China bestsellers, but this time it’s words-and-pictures-t0-screen.

Makato Shinkai, the Japanese manga artist and filmmaker behind the 2016 film hit Your Name, has landed on Beijing Openbook’s November bestseller charts at an impressive No. 13, with his new title Weathering With You, published by Baihuazhou Literature & Art Publishing House. Expect to see this one climb up the list next month.

Like Your Name, this work is both a film and a book. And the film in China is doing what our OpenBook associates call “breathtaking box office.”

In the book and the film, a boy named Hodaka runs away to Tokyo during his first high-school summer and meets Hina. Her superpower is the ability to make rain stop and sunshine take over with a single prayer. Of course, “her power comes at a price,” as the blurb will tell you, and we won’t spoil things for you here.

. . . .

Of course, it’s no surprise to Publishing Perspectives readers to learn that a work of Japanese fiction is gaining fast traction in the Chinese market. You’ll find author Higashino Keigo on the OpenBook overall fiction list six times this month and seven times on the foreign-author bestsellers. And Shinkai’s work has the added draw of anime and of carefully timed film releases.

. . . .

The new Weathering With You is said to have been written concurrently with the creation of its anime film. That show was released in July in Japan, and in mainland China on November 1. According to our information, that first weekend gross in China alone was the equivalent of US$22.1 million. Boom. The book is on the November bestseller list, having been published in September so that it would be readily available when the fans walked out of the cinemas.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

 

Tales of Two Markets: USA and UK Amazon Charts’ Year-Enders

From Publishing Perspectives:

The arrival in July of Amazon Charts in the UK is providing an interesting point of year-end comparison. As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the States had had Amazon Charts since mid-May of 2017.

And while it’s good to remember that the 2019 summary for the UK doesn’t cover a full year, the contrasts in popularity and sales patterns are interesting.

The Amazon Charts, updated weekly, list the Top 20 digital titles in fiction and nonfiction by “most read” and “most sold,” which creates some interesting discrepancies in itself.

. . . .

As the Amazon UK country director in books Simon Johnson recently said to The Bookseller’s Kiera O’Brien, the Charts’ “This Year in Books” reports provide the most comprehensive look at what their relevant markets have been “reading and loving in 2019” because the charts “take into account ebooks read on Kindle and audiobooks from Audio.”

It’s of course Amazon’s digital access, of course, that makes it possible for the Amazon Charts to reveal not only what’s being sold (in all formats), but also what’s actually being read, in digital formats.

. . . .

In the States, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Penguin Group / GP Putnam’s Sons, 2018) had the longest streak–16 weeks–of any book at No. 1 on both the most sold and most read fiction lists in 2019.

In the United Kingdom, we see a split, and a striking one.

In the UK, the most sold work of fiction per the Amazon Charts was Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz (Bonnier / Zaffre, 2018).

And in terms of most read work of fiction on the British Amazon Charts, our British friends are still just wild about You Know Who: JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Bloomsbury, 2003) topped the most read fiction chart, though it was originally published 16 years ago.

In fact, four of the Top Five most read works of fiction on the UK’s Amazon Charts are Rowling’s: Phoenix (No. 1), Philosopher’s Stone (No. 3), Goblet of Fire (No. 4), and Deathly Hallows. At No. 2, Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is the one non-Rowling most read fiction entry, but it’s interesting to note that all five of the top titles in this category are in the young readers’ and YA sector.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG is embedding PDF screenshots some of Amazon’s UK Charts. At the bottom, you should see a navigation bar that permits you to go through the entire list.

These are large files. He’ll apologize in advance if you have problems seeing them. You can access the US version of Amazon Charts here, and the UK version here.

Most Sold – UK – 2019 – Fiction

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a1Most Sold Fiction _ Amazon Charts

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Most Read – UK – 2019 – Fiction

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a1 Most Read Fiction _ Amazon Charts

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Most Sold – UK – 2019 – Non-Fiction

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a1 most sold non-fiction

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Most Read – UK – 2019 – Non-Fiction

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a1 Most Read Nonfiction _ Amazon Charts

Amazon Announces the Best Books of 2019

From The Amazon Press Center:

Today, Amazon announced its selections for the Best Books of 2019, naming Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments – the sequel to her dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale – the Best Book of 2019. The annual list features the Top 100 books of the year plus Top 20 lists across various categories ranging from literary fiction, mystery and thriller, biography, children’s and young adult, making it the go-to list for holiday reading and gift giving. All lists are hand-selected by Amazon’s team of editors – first by choosing the best books of every month, and then, finally, the best books of the year.

. . . .

“The Books Editorial team reads thousands of new releases every year, all with the goal of recommending the very best to our customers,” said Sarah Gelman, Editorial Director, Amazon Books. “This year there were so many great books from various genres. Our top 100 Best Books list includes books with clever satire, heartwarming memoirs and psychological thrillers. But as soon as we read it, it was clear that Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments was the book of the year. The sequel to the modern classic The Handmaid’s Tale enraptured our editorial team and readers across the globe with a dramatic continuation of goings-on in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. It’s so exciting to witness literary history being made, and Atwood has done just that with this deeply moving book.”

“I’m Canadian, where modesty is a requirement. So I’m mildly embarrassed, though absolutely delighted, to hear that the Amazon editorial team has chosen The Testaments as their book of the year,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Testaments. “While I’m no prophet, we seem doomed to live in stressful times. A tale of hope and courage narrated by three strong female voices appears to have connected to this crucial 2019 moment.”

. . . .

8 . They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker: George Takei’s vivid graphic memoir reveals the story of his family’s incarceration during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, beginning when Takei was only five years old. Even as the memories depicted range from unsettling to infuriating, They Called Us Enemy inspires readers to insist that our country treats fellow human beings with fairness and dignity.

9. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides: In this psychological thriller, a couple seems to have it all until the wife is convicted of shooting her husband in the face. But she will say nothing about the crime—or anything else, for that matter. After a criminal psychologist obsessed with the case comes on the scene, dark twists and delightful turns follow, secrets (and a diary) are revealed, and you will likely find yourself racing to the end of this year’s must-read thriller.

10. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb: What happens when a celebrated psychotherapist finds herself on the other side of the couch? Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is an entertaining, relatable, moving homage to therapy—and just being human.

The top pick in the children’s category is the middle grade novel:

  1. Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy: Bestselling author Julie Murphy makes her middle-grade debut with a smart, funny novel that tween readers will quickly embrace. Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco is a seventh grader dealing with a wide range of emotions and change, including recently divorced parents and friendships in transition. Dear Sweet Pea is a warmhearted read that is at once reassuring, wise, and utterly relatable.

During 2019, the Amazon Books editorial team read thousands of pages to help customers discover their next great read. Here are some interesting facts about this year’s Best Books of the Year list:

  • Most highlighted quote from Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, our number one pick, is: “You don’t believe the sky is falling until a chunk of it falls on you.”
  • Customers’ Most Wished For titles in our top 100: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, and Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  • Top three best of the year selections that readers have used both Audible and Kindle interchangeably throughout are: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, and Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner.
  • Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient, our ninth pick, is the number one most popular book on Goodreads this year, added to Goodreads shelves by more than 380K members; especially impressive since it’s a debut novel!
  • Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone (#10 on our list) is the number one most popular nonfiction book on Goodreads this year, followed closely by Three Women (#19).

Link to the rest at The Amazon Press Center

And here’s a link to all the best books

Is Publishing Too Top-Heavy?

From Publishers Weekly:

Book publishing has long been a hits-driven business. The bestsellers, the logic went, paid for the flops. And it was the authors of those in the middle—the so-called midlist—that publishers hoped to build into the next crop of bestsellers. But midlist sales have faltered enough in recent years that there is a growing concern among publishers and agents about how the business can create new hits when the field they once turned to is, well, disappearing.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy, during a discussion of the company’s second-quarter results, pointed to generating interest in midlist books as one of the biggest challenges facing all publishers.

Though the hits-driven nature of publishing has not changed in recent years, the nature of those hits has. Due to a number of coalescing factors—including a shrinking physical retail market and an increase in competing entertainment driven by the proliferation of streaming TV platforms—book publishing has watched as a handful of megaselling titles have begun to command an ever-larger share of its sales.

According to NPD BookScan, which tracks an estimated 80% of unit sales of print books, sales of the 100 bestselling adult titles increased 23% in 2018 compared to 2017. All other titles ranked below that top tier either fell or remained flat. On a 52-week rolling basis through Oct. 5, 2019, the sales of the top 100 books rose another 6% over the comparable 52-week period ending in 2018, while, again, all other sales levels either fared worse or stayed flat. Taken together, sales of the 100 bestselling print books rose nearly 30% over a period of about two years, while books that ranked between 101 and 10,000 saw their total print unit sales fall 16%. Books that ranked below 10,000 remained flat in the period.

. . . .

The cycle that creates this system is a frustratingly circular one. “The top books—[which are] most often [earning] the highest advances—require serious capital and resources to push them into the top slots,” McLean explained. And publishers, she added, “are under serious pressure to recoup their investment” on their most expensive acquisitions. The situation, she went on, “is amplified by the need for books to earn their shelf space in mass market retail—big books are a better bet” for those types of outlets.

A publisher at a major house agreed that, to an extent, publishers have contributed to the gap between the top sellers and those below. With social media offering a variety of ways to promote titles that are selling, publishers usually put more resources behind books that are succeeding in order to maintain momentum. As these books get the lion’s share of the houses’ focus, other titles are left to find audiences on their own.

. . . .

As one Big Five editor who specializes in commercial and literary fiction said of his category, “There used to be a lot more books that could sell 40,000–50,000 copies. Now more sell fewer than 10,000 copies.” It seems, he said, that “it’s either feast or famine.”

Those suffering from the famine are, to an extent, a group once known as the midlist. Ironically, if you ask most editors or literary agents to define the term, you’re unlikely to get a specific answer. Few can say, for example, how many books one needs to sell to be considered midlist. The only thing sources agreed on is the fact that the term is negative.

“You want to be debut, literary, or bestselling; you don’t want to be midlist,” one literary agent said. “The midlist is like the middle class; it’s the group that gets squeezed. They don’t get the support from their publishers. They don’t get their due [as writers]. They don’t get the attention they deserve from reviewers. Everybody wants to break out of the midlist.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG notes that an indie author can support a reasonably good standard of living by selling 40-50,000 of his/her books. 10,000 copies also works if the author can indie publish 2-3 books per year.

The other point PG will note is that a midlist book that is released by a publisher is left to sink beneath the waves while many indie authors tend to pursue strategies that will help sell both new and old books.

The Panorama Project

PG has just discovered The Panorama Project.

In recent years, market research has confirmed that public libraries remain an important driver of reading activity, and that borrowers are also buyers, but surveys can only tell half the story. Surprisingly, there’s never been a collaborative analysis of public library circulation data to understand the actual impact they have, positive or negative—until the Panorama Project.

Using data to measure the impact more than 16,000 public libraries in the United States have on developing readers, driving book discovery, and generating book sales in their local communities and beyond is particularly timely as there’s fierce competition for every reader’s attention and discretionary spending. Publishers need to understand the complex dynamics of book discovery and sales, and where public libraries fit in their readers’ lives.

The Panorama Project is a cross-industry, collaborative research initiative committed to aggregating and analyzing data from publishers, distributors, booksellers, public libraries, library service providers, search sites, social sites and other relevant data sources, and identify ways publishers and libraries can continue to support their intrinsically related missions while delivering mutually beneficial outcomes.

. . . .

Public libraries and librarians use many approaches to connect readers at all skill levels and ages with books and authors. For decades public librarians have honed their skills in what is known in the library world as Readers’ Advisory Service—an umbrella term for the many activities that librarians use to aid readers in finding books that they will enjoy reading. Readers’ Advisory Service is basic to public libraries, even though its impact on the publishing industry has generally been ignored.

. . . .

Panorama Picks provides local booksellers with quarterly lists of under-the-radar fiction, nonfiction, and young adult backlist titles library patrons are waiting to borrow—optimized for local interest via regional groupings aligned with the American Booksellers Association’s (ABA) regional associations.

Link to the rest at The Panorama Project

 

Here are the Top Ten Panorama Picks for California in Q3:

The Rosie Result Graeme Simsion
The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
The Other Americans Laila Lalami
The Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon
The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict

 

And the Top Ten Picks for the Midwest during the same time period:

The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
The Secret Orphan Glynis Peters
The Rosie Result Graeme Simsion
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Cliff House RaeAnne Thayne
My Lovely Wife Samantha Downing
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The River Peter Heller

 

And the Top Ten Picks for the Southeast in Q3:

The Things We Cannot Say Kelly Rimmer
American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
A Woman Is No Man Etaf Rum
The Island of Sea Women Lisa See
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
My Lovely Wife Samantha Downing
The Priory of the Orange Tree Samantha Shannon
The Night Tiger Yangsze Choo
My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
My Favorite Half-Night Stand Christina Lauren

 

And, finally, the Top Ten Picks for Hawaii in Q3:

American Spy Lauren Wilkinson
Stone Cold Heart Laura Griffin
Polaris Rising Jessie Mihalik
The River Peter Heller
In Her Sights Katie Ruggle
Any Man of Mine: A 2-in-1 Collection Diana Palmer
The Only Woman in the Room Marie Benedict
The Raven Tower Ann Leckie
Bad Bachelors Bundle Stefanie London
Deep Harbor Fern Michaels

 

‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again

From Publishers Weekly:

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the Times‘ Best Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

. . . .

The return of the mass market and a new graphic books lists will likely be of great relief to Times readers and publishers. The decision to cut the lists two years ago caused consternation among the comics industry in particular. The Times said that reader interest was central to its calculus for bringing back the lists.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Physical books still outsell e-books — and here’s why

From CNBC:

Do you prefer reading an e-book or a physical version? It might be a surprise, but for most people, old school print on paper still wins.

Publishers of books in all formats made almost $26 billion in revenue last year in the U.S., with print making up $22.6 billion and e-books taking $2.04 billion, according to the Association of American Publishers’ annual report 2019. Those figures include trade and educational books, as well as fiction.

While digital media has disrupted other industries such as news publishing and the music business, people still love to own physical books, according to Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers’ Association in the U.K.

“I think the e-book bubble has burst somewhat, sales are flattening off, I think the physical object is very appealing. Publishers are producing incredibly gorgeous books, so the cover designs are often gorgeous, they’re beautiful objects,” she told CNBC.

People love to display what they’ve read, she added. “The book lover loves to have a record of what they’ve read, and it’s about signaling to the rest of the world. It’s about decorating your home, it’s about collecting, I guess, because people are completists aren’t they, they want to have that to indicate about themselves.”

. . . .

It’s more than a decade since Amazon launched the Kindle, and for Halls, there is also a hunger for information and a desire to escape the screen. “It’s partly the political landscape, people are looking for escape, but they are also looking for information. So, they are coming to print for a whole, quite a complex mess of reasons and I think … it’s harder to have an emotional relationship with what you’re reading if it’s on an e-reader.”

. . . .

Sixty-three percent of physical book sales in the U.K. are to people under the age of 44, while 52% of e-book sales are to those over 45, according to Nielsen.

It’s a similar picture in the U.S., where 75% of people aged 18 to 29 claimed to have read a physical book in 2017, higher than the average of 67%, according to Pew Research.

Link to the rest at CNBC

With data from the Association of American Publishers and the Booksellers Association in the UK, PG notes a distinct lack of information in the OP regarding how many ebooks Amazon sells in the US and UK. Unless he is much mistaken, the statistics quoted in the OP don’t include sales of ebooks by Amazon Publishing and indie ebooks via KDP.

When PG last checked, in addition to not collecting ebook sales information, Nielsen (now NPD) Bookscan figures didn’t include printed or POD books that weren’t registered with Ingram.

 

Edward Snowden on How Getting Sued by the Government Resulted in a Best-Selling Book

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Following the release of his tell-all book Permanent Record, Edward Snowden appeared Thursday night via video feed as a guest on The Daily Show, where he talked with host Trevor Noah about the memoir and getting sued by the government.

After the former CIA employee leaked classified documents from the National Security Agency about government surveillance operations in 2013, Snowden sought asylum in Moscow. The preface of his book states, “The reason you’re reading this book is that I did a dangerous thing for a man in my position: I decided to tell the truth,” Snowden writes. “I collected internal documents that gave evidence of the U.S. government’s lawbreaking and turned them over to a journalist, who vetted and published them to a scandalized world. This book is about what led up to that decision, the moral and ethical principles that informed it, and how they came to be — which means that it’s also about my life.”

Snowden is now being sued by the Department of Justice, which filed a complaint this week in Virginia federal court, alleging that he “violated his non-disclosure obligations to the United States” by not having the book reviewed before it was published.

During the show, Snowden explained his reaction to the lawsuit. “The nice thing about [getting sued] is, the book was not getting that much attention, it was like [number] 25 on the charts. And then the government said, ‘We don’t want you to read this book. Sue Snowden as fast as you can, do anything to stop it, stop it, stop it,’ and now we’re number 1, basically everywhere.” Snowden then calls out the Attorney General, to whom he attributes the book’s success.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

Diet Book Pinch of Nom Is Fastest Selling Non-Fiction Title in History

From The Irish Times:

A book of diet recipes written by two British chefs, Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson, has become the fastest selling non-fiction book since records began. Pinch of Nom, based on the authors’ food blog of the same name, has sold 210,506 copies, in sales worth more than £2 million, since it was released on Thursday of last week.

The collection of slimming recipes has notched up the biggest single weekly sale for any non-fiction title in the UK, displacing Peter Kay’s The Sound of Laughter, which was released in 2006. Only books by JK Rowling, EL James and Dan Brown have sold more copies in a single week, according to British industry publication, The Bookseller. Pinch of Nom knocked Mary Berry’s latest, Quick Cooking, from the hardback non-fiction number one spot.

. . . .

Featherstone and Allinson previously owned a restaurant in The Wirral, near Liverpool. They started writing their blog in 2016, when they began to follow a Slimming World weight loss programme and identified what they saw as a need for tried and tested diet recipes. “We started Pinch of Nom to provide some helpful information for fellow dieters, to show just how easy diet food is to make,” the authors say.

Their blog quickly earned a strong following, based on a community of regular users and contributors, 20 of which road-tested each of the 100 recipes in Pinch of Nom. It now has 1.5 million followers, and almost half a million Instagram followers, and has been described by their publisher as “the UK’s most-visited food blog”.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times

On Amazon, a Qanon Conspiracy Book Climbs the Charts — with an Algorithmic Push

From NBC News:

A book that pushes the conspiracy theory Qanon climbed within the top 75 of all books sold on Amazon in recent days, pushed by Amazon’s algorithmically generated recommendations page.

“QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening,” which has no stated author, ranked at No. 56 at press time, was featured in the algorithmically generated “Hot new releases” section on Amazon’s books landing page. The book claims without evidence a variety of outlandish claims including that prominent Democrats murder and eat children and that the U.S. government created both AIDS and the movie Monsters Inc.

The Qanon conspiracy theory moved from fringe parts of the internet in 2018 to achieve national prominence thanks to supporters of President Donald Trump who wore clothes and held signs referencing “Q” at political rallies.

. . . .

Adherents of the Qanon conspiracy theory falsely believe that the world is run by a Satanic cabal helmed by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are secretly working in tandem to eliminate the cabal.

The book, “An Invitation to the Great Awakening,” is currently No. 9 in all books about politics, and No. 1 in all books about “Censorship,” one slot ahead of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” and immediately followed by classics “Lord of the Flies,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and “Of Mice and Men.”

. . . .

Amazon declined to answer questions about the book’s placement in the algorithmic recommendations carousels, including about whether the book might have been recommended to users on other sections of the site.

At several points last weekend, the book was a spot behind Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham” on the Top 100.

. . . .

Conspiracy theory researcher Mike Rothschild told NBC News that “An Invitation to the Great Awakening” is a new way for those pushing the Qanon conspiracy theory to make cash, since recent changes to YouTube’s algorithm have made it harder for conspiracy theorists to find new followers and cash in on true believers.

“They absolutely exploited flaws in Amazon’s algorithms,” Rothschild said. “They also know that Q has a small but devoted fan base that is willing to spend money. So if it gets a huge spike of sales just as it’s released, it’ll shoot up Amazon’s lists and get in front of more people, even if those initial sales make up the bulk of who pays for it.”

Link to the rest at NBC News and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

PG says a mention on NBC will give the book another big boost. It was #14 on Amazon’s Top 100 bestsellers when PG made this post. It hadn’t caught up with The Wonky Donkey, however.



Romance Bestsellers and Hot New Releases

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

Here are Amazon’s Hot New Romance Releases Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly:

Romance

Harry Potter Forever?

When PG checked out Amazon Charts this morning, he discovered that Harry Potter occupied six of the top ten positions on the Most Read Fiction chart.

The Most Read chart ranks books by the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week. Given Amazon’s domination of the ebook world, Charts should be a reasonably-accurate of the behavior of English-language ebook reader behavior.

If PG’s grand-offspring are any indication, few in their generation will have any concern about reading ebooks (although they still like physical books as well). Plus a cast-off operating Kindle ereader works as well for book-length text as a new tablet or ereader does, so the younger generation in a family may benefit from the occasional hand-me-down or obsolescent device.

In a perfect world for those who are curious about human behavior, there would be some sort of means by which Amazon could track which of the hardcopy books it sold were Most Read so the behavior of ebook and printed book fans could be compared.

On the non-fiction side of Amazon Charts, Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming,  is ranked first in both the Bestselling and Most Read charts.

Observers of human behavior have long observed that people will sometimes purchase non-fiction bestsellers that they don’t manage to read. For example, Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is notorious as a book which is started, but not finished. It is the standard against which all other purchased-but-unread books are measured.

From a 2014 Wall Street Journal article by Dr. Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:

It’s beach time, and you’ve probably already scanned a hundred lists of summer reads. Sadly overlooked is that other crucial literary category: the summer non-read, the book that you pick up, all full of ambition, at the beginning of June and put away, the bookmark now and forever halfway through chapter 1, on Labor Day. The classic of this genre is Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” widely called “the most unread book of all time.”

How can we find today’s greatest non-reads? Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book’s Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read. (Disclaimer: This is not remotely scientific and is for entertainment purposes only!) Here’s how some current best sellers and classics weigh in, from highest HI to lowest:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt: 98.5%
This seems like exactly the kind of long, impressive literary novel that people would carry around ostentatiously for a while and never finish. But it’s just the opposite. All five top highlights come from the final 20 pages, where the narrative falls away and Ms. Tartt spells out her themes in a cascade of ringing, straight-out assertions.

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins: 43.4%
Another novel that gets read all the way through. “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them” is the most highlighted sentence in the seven-year history of Kindle, marked by 28,703 readers. Romantic heat in the late going also helps to produce a high score.

. . . .

“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking: 6.6%
The original avatar backs up its reputation pretty well. But it’s outpaced by one more recent entrant—which brings us to our champion, the most unread book of this year (and perhaps any other). Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty: 2.4%
Yes, it came out just three months ago. But the contest isn’t even close. Mr. Piketty’s book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26. Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index.

Link to the rest at the Wall Street Journal 

PG notes that the standards applied to Amazon Charts (average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week) and the Hawking Index (how many people stopped reading a book before finishing it) are different, but he finds both interesting.

Amazon provides another interesting collection of data in its list of The 10 longest sales streaks at No. 1 in Amazon history

Harry Potter has four of the top 10 streaks, but Michelle Obama is also on the list and, given current sales trends, may climb higher.

 

Kindle Romance

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

The Current State of Disruption (Planning for 2019 Part 1)

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

 For years now, I’ve done a year-end review, examining what happened and where the industry stands.

. . . .

I wrote down lists and links and reviewed notes and thought long and hard about things…and still couldn’t figure out how to wrap my arms around what I wanted to talk about.

I initially thought about combining the different parts of the industry under topics, and examine the topic rather than that part of the industry. But the industry is diverging in some important ways, making that way of writing these blogs exceedingly difficult.

This afternoon, it struck me: I write the year-end reviews so that I can focus on what to expect from the year to come.

So rather than look in detail at what happened in 2018, I’ll be looking at what happened with an eye toward the future.

. . . .

A reminder: I write these weekly business blogs for other writers who want to make or already have a long-term career. If you’re just starting out, some of this stuff won’t apply to you. If you’re a hobbyist who never wants to quit your day job, again, some of this stuff won’t apply to you. Don’t ask me to bend the blog toward you. There are a number of sites that cater to the beginner or the writer who doesn’t really care if she makes a living.

. . . .

For the most part, however, dealing with beginner and hobbyist issues doesn’t interest me. I’m a long-term professional writer who has made money as a writer since I was 16, who has made a living at it since I was 25, and who started making a heck of a great living at it by the time I was 35. I started writing these weekly blogs to make some kind of sense out of the disruption in the publishing industry in 2009. I did it for me, because I think better when I am writing things down.

The disruption continues, albeit in a new phase (part of what I’ll discuss below), and so I am focusing on what I need to focus on for my long-term writing career. I hope that some of these insights will help the rest of you.

. . . .

The disruption in the publishing industry will continue for some time now. Years, most likely. I don’t have a good crystal ball for how long it will go on, but we are past the gold rush years in the indie publishing world and have moved into a more consistent business model. It’s at least predictable, now. We know some patterns and how they’re going to work.

. . . .

The disruption in traditional publishing has gone on for nearly two decades now. It began before the Kindle made self-publishing easy by giving writers an easily accessible audience. Traditional publishing became ripe for disruption in the 1990s when the old distribution model collapsed.

Many of you saw it from the outside—the decline of the small bookstore, the loss of bookstores in small towns, the rise of the bestseller only in chain bookstores. All of that came from a collapse in the distribution system, from hundreds of regional distributors down to about five. (I don’t off the top of my head recall the actual number.) That made publishers panic. They couldn’t figure out what kinds of books sold best in the Pacific Northwest as opposed to what sold well in the Southeast, and worse, they didn’t have time to figure it out.

(When I came into the business, a top sales person for a major book company would know that science fiction sold well in California and quest fantasy sold well in Georgia, that the Midwest really enjoyed regional books, while New Yorkers often didn’t.)

Bestsellers sold everywhere, so publishers ramped up the production of already-established authors and sent those books all over the nation. Then, when the crisis leveled out, the publishers did not return to the old ways, scared of what to do. They continued to push for huge sellers rather than grow newer books.

Writer after writer after writer got dumped by their publisher in this period, while some new writers made fortunes because they wrote books that were similar to existing bestsellers.

When the Kindle came around and disrupted publishing, both writers and readers were ready for something new. That combination of forces created the blockbuster indie sellers—which were not blockbuster to traditional publishers. (The writers were making significantly more money, but selling fewer units than trad pub bestsellers.)

Hold that thought for a moment while I remind you that another disruption—a different one—was hitting publishing at the same time. Audiobooks went digital, and exploded. It became easy to download an audiobook and listen to it on your iPod (remember those) or your favorite MP3 player. Some cars made it easy to hook up those players to the sound system of the car.

And thus, commuters wanted everything on audio, and the demand in audio grew exponentially. As so many industry analysts said five or six years ago, if the Kindle hadn’t come around, the big story in publishing would have been the audiobook.

And here’s another publisher problem: most publishers never secured audio rights to the books they published. That money went directly to the authors.

. . . .

For years now, those of us who watch business trends have predicted that book sales would plateau. In reality, “plateau” is the wrong word for overall book sales. Those continue to grow, sometimes in ways that aren’t entirely measurable. New markets are opening all the time, bringing in new readers.

The system for measuring both readers and sales is so inadequate that we can’t count the readers we have, let alone the new readers who are coming into the book industry sideways. However, there is a lot of evidence—scattered, of course—that new readers are coming in. (I’ll deal with this in future weeks.)

Readership is growing, but individual sales are mostly declining. Traditional publishing’s fiction sales are down 16% since 2013. Traditional publishing has a lot of theories about this, delineated out in the Publishers Weekly article I linked to.

Indie writers believe a lot of the trad pub sales migrated to them. Maybe.

But some of what happened here was the inevitable decline from the gold rush of a disruptive technology.

Let’s look at traditional publishing for a moment. Traditional publishing moved to the blockbuster model at the turn of the century, meaning that the books that were published had to have a guaranteed level of sales or the author’s contract wouldn’t be renewed. The sales rose, partly because traditional publishing was the only game in town.

In that period, if you went to bookstores all over the country, and followed that up with a visit to the grocery store, as well as a visit to a story like WalMart or Target, you’d find the same group of books on the shelves. A few more in Target than in the grocery store, and certainly more in the bookstore, but still, the same books. And the airport bookstores were the same way.

If a reader needed reading material, he only had a few hundred titles at any given time in the stores to choose from. So the reader read the best of what he found, not necessarily what he wanted to read.

Then the disruption happened. Kindles and ereaders proliferated. Readers found books they’d been searching for, often for years. The readers also found some genres and subgenres that they hadn’t seen in a decade or more, usually books by indie writers that oculdn’t sell to the big traditional companies.

The boom in ebooks grew and grew and grew. (And if traditional pubishing hadn’t dicked around with pricing, their book sales would have grown even more.) That’s why the S-curves on that graph grow precipitously in between Stages Two and Three. Adoption increases revenue for a very very very short period of time.

That kind of growth is not sustainable for years, though. That’s why I say it was an inevitable plateau. If you’ll look on that graph again, though, you’ll see that both curves end higher on the y-axis—the profit axis—than they were at the beginning.

But hitting that plateau after years of rapid growth and, in the case of traditional publishing, a near-monopoly on the market, is painful. And that’s what we’re experiencing.

Also, sales are spreading out. I’ll talk about this a bit more in the next couple of weeks. But think of it this way. Instead of a lot of readers reluctantly reading the latest blockbuster because they’re trapped in the airport and can’t find anything else to read, those readers are now downloading dozens of books on their phones, and reading a variety of things—some of which we don’t have measurements of. Those readers have left the blockbusters they barely liked behind and found books/authors they like better.

So the money that would have gone to five different authors at three different publishing companies is now going to twenty authors, and only two of those authors are with traditional publishing companies. The books the readers are reading, though, aren’t the latest blockbuster by that author, but an older book that came out a decade ago. The price is lower, and the companies aren’t interested in those sales. They want the newest book to sell the most copies.

The consumer spends the same amount of money, but spreads it out over a wider range. Many of these sales are untrackable. Not all of those twenty authors report their sales to anyone, and not all of those sales were made through traditional channels. A few of the authors sold on their own websites. Some of those books came out of bundles. And some came out of a subscription service like Amazon. The traditional publishing companies lost most of the revenue, because their book sales have legitimately declined.

But that doesn’t mean people are reading less or that fiction reading is declining.

I’m not the only one who sees this. Mark Williams of The New Publishing Standard had the same reaction to the traditional publishing fiction numbers that I did. He wrote on November 18:

The big problem we have is that the fiction market, much more so than the wider book market, is so fragmented now, thanks to digital (by which I mean not just ebooks and audiobooks but online POD and most of all social media democratising the promotion of fiction titles), such that it seems like fewer people are reading fiction, but the reality is likely just the opposite.

The fragmented market is but one thing we’ll talk about in the next few weeks. We’ll look at how writers can use that market to their own advantage.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG always appreciates the analysis Kris and Dean bring to the publishing world, traditional and indie. He was going to add a few of his thoughts to Kris’ excellent post, but, perhaps as a result of holiday hangover (not the alcoholic kind), his little gray cells are not as well-regimented as usual.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Here is the most recent Kris Rusch book selling on Amazon:

Amazon’s Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly

PG says Michelle Obama’s book is continuing to rock the overall bestseller lists.

OTOH, PG has no idea what The Wonky Donkey is about.

Here are Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly:

All Books

 

Fiction Genres

Romance

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Comics and Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

Biographies

Self-Help

Christian

History

Religion and Spirituality

 

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

 

Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined)

Here are Amazon’s Books Bestseller Lists (Print/Kindle Combined), Updated Hourly:

All Books

Fiction Genres

Romance

Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Comics and Graphic Novels

Non-Fiction

Biographies

Self-Help

Christian

History

Religion and Spirituality

 

Booksellers unite in protest as Amazon’s AbeBooks withdraws from several countries

From The Guardian:

The motto of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, “Amor librorum nos unit” or “love of books unites us”, has been adopted as a battle cry this week by an army of hundreds of secondhand booksellers around the world. From Australia to Mexico, they have united in a flash strike against Amazon, after its secondhand books marketplace AbeBooks announced it will withdraw from markets including South Korea and Russia, which booksellers fear will devastate local businesses.

Booksellers in Hungary, the Czech Republic, South Korea and Russia were told by AbeBooks that from 30 November, it would “no longer support sellers located in certain countries”. “We apologise for this inconvenience,” added the marketplace, which was founded in 1995 and acquired by Amazon in 2008.

The move was, said booksellers Jan and Ondrej Schick of Antikvariát Valentinská in Prague, a “complete shock” and means they will “almost certainly have to dismiss at least five employees. It also leaves them no outlet to sell around 20,000 books that aren’t in Czech, which are harder to sell in store.

The Schicks contacted the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), which mobilised its members – including British bookseller Simon Beattie, who proposed a mass demonstration of solidarity with those affected by AbeBooks’s withdrawal, by taking what he described as a “vacation” from using the website. Now, around 2.6m books from more than 460 booksellers in 26 countries are now listed as “temporarily unavailable”.

. . . .

British organisation Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) was in the middle of negotiations with AbeBooks about sponsorship for their annual summer fair, but decided not to renew its sponsorship agreement for 2019 after hearing about the marketplace’s move.

“AbeBooks are entitled to do business where they like, as are all other businesses,” said the ABA in a statement. “It is not the decision itself that has led to this unprecedented uprising of dealers across the world, but the high-handed manner in which they dismissed these few rare booksellers from Poland, Czech, Hungary, Russia and South Korea, destroying their livelihoods in just a couple of impersonal sentences. This is against the spirit and ethos of independent rare booksellers around the world, it is right that it has been noticed and the protest has shown that this is the general feeling of the rare book trade as a whole.”

A spokesperson for AbeBooks said that it had notified “some sellers” that it would be unable to support them after 30 November “because our third-party payment service provider is closing at the end of the year”.

“Buyers will be able to continue to make purchases through AbeBooks regardless of their location, but unfortunately a small number of sellers will be impacted as we migrate to a new payment service provider,” said the spokesperson. “We regret that we cannot continue to serve all sellers. We remain committed to helping those affected by this change and are actively contacting them to help them explore other options. We are deeply appreciative of our community of buyers and sellers, and our goal remains to serve all book lovers, both buyers and sellers, in as many countries as possible.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

 


Kindle Romance Bestsellers 

Kindle Romance Bestsellers

 

Fantasy Bestselling Ebooks – Subdivided by Sub-Genre – Free and Paid

Click on the Category to Open

Fantasy Bestsellers – Amazon Ebooks – Paid and Free

– Action & Adventure

– Alternative History

– Anthologies & Short Stories

– Arthurian

– Christian Fantasy

– Classics

– Coming of Age

– Dark Fantasy

– Dragons & Mythical Creatures

– Epic

– Fairy Tales

– Historical

– Humorous

– LGBT

– Metaphysical & Visionary

– Military

– Myths & Legends

– New Adult & College

– Paranormal & Urban

– Romantic

– Superhero

– Sword & Sorcery

– TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations

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