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Hoping to Contribute
Pleased to be here and looking forward to learning more and exchanging ideas on the field of fantasy fiction.

I am an aspiring fantasy writer and my wife makes her living writing thrillers and her debut novel is just now available for pre-order.

My family and I  have a long association with the publishing industry and though I don't work in it any more, many of my friends do and still love it to death.  I also do research and editing from time to time for some wonderful authors and in the distant past I had the privilege of teaching Medieval History for Writers and doing some pretty fun medieval combat simulations. 

Looking forward to getting to know you all.

July 05, 2016, 10:44:45 PM
Barnes and Noble will now allow self-pub books in their stores
Barnes and Noble is starting a program that will allow successful self published books to be sold in their stores and participate in store events. I was speaking to the chap in charge of this program and they seem quite committed to it. This could be great for successful self-pub authors. Now we just have to hope Barnes and Nobles survives long enough to enjoy it. It will also be interesting to see how Amazon responds.


July 15, 2016, 02:27:22 PM
Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report

Could you unpack that please. How are their figures different and how does that play into their worldview?

Sorry it took so long to respond, but I was in NYC for Thrillerfest last week, and then in Sudbury this week for work.  So now that I have unpacked, I guess I can unpack a little bit for you.

I don't know how closely follow the issue of publishing sales etc data or Author Earnings history so bear with me if I go too light or too in depth.  I could write about it for pages and pages but time is limited.

So Author Earnings got started a few years ago when DBW did a study about authors, their earnings and what traditional publishing could do better for authors.  Hugh Howey didn't like the outcome (I think that study was fine but Hugh is Hugh...) and decided he wanted to get some numbers to prove it wrong.  So he got an anonymous guy they called "Data Guy" (who is still more or less anonymous) and they went out to gather some data to present Hugh's case. 

That is the first problem.  Their approach from day one has been results driven.  Hugh had a worldview and was seeking ways to confirm it.

So the first iteration took some data from a small period of time on Amazon and a limited number of books on Amazon and then did a whole bunch of projections on it.  They needed a Rosetta Stone to Amazon rank vs. sales numbers etc and IIRC they started off with a small group of indy authors (I think less than ten at that point) sharing some royalty numbers with them.  So there earliest work was based on a tiny slice of Amazon only data, from a snap shot of time and titles, interpreted through the window of a small group of authors to make gigantic projections and then (more or less) start making insulting statements about the traditional industry and saying (simplified here) it was a doomed dinosaur. 

Later iterations got a little better.  So they started covering more titles and sites, and I think now get royalty numbers from a couple of dozen writers, but there are still significant gaps in the way they approach the data and what they do with it.  They simply don't have access to much of the data they need to draw the conclusions that they draw, and they ignored that problem in all of the work up to their more recent and still came up with strongly held and controversial conclusions based on very inadequate data and a results driven approach.

Their results and conclusions often were strikingly different from groups that seemed to have access to much more accurate data and were less results driven and followed more conventional data gathering and interpretation approaches.  Without going back and checking the data from DBW studies, Neilson, Gallup, Codex, Authors Guild, Forbes and other groups (there are a number more) was different and their conclusions were different as well especially in the area of how much authors were earning in various formats.

Now Hugh Howey has (more or less) sailed his way out of this project and left it to poor old Data Guy to carry on by himself.  He recently did a presentation at the DBW gathering and his tone (and many of his conclusions) has greatly changed to a much more moderate, less hostile approach to traditional publishing. Although I don't profess to read his mind he now is sounding much more like a guy looking for a job in traditional publishing than someone forecasting it's doom.

He has also fessed up to many of the problems in his work's previous iterations:

In the afternoon session, Data Guy spoke frankly about how Author Earnings is a series now of some 11 or 12 analyses of scraped data, and of how the snapshot approach can, of course, never be as effective as a more consistent, frequent, scanning pattern would be. He also said that in hindsight (and with more royalty-statement sales input from what he described as “dozens” of authors), it’s possible to tell now that the ranking-to-sales curve in the original doing of this data dance was even farther off than the 18 percent he reported in the last quarterly article.

So last week I had dinner with one of the top guys in the field of tracking publishing data who sells his work to major publishers and authors, but is not employed in traditional publishing.  I was talking to him about Author Earnings and he suggested that they do some aggressive calculations and projections based on a tiny sample size and a significant degree of guesswork which has led them to some inaccurate conclusions.  Nobody in the industry takes the time to refute DG, because nobody cares.

But some people outside the industry treat AE as gold and say things like:

In short, if you want to earn money from your writing, it's an increasibly bad idea to go the traditional publishing route. That holds true across the higher income groups too - even the $1,000,000 per year threshhold.

That is just not so.  What the data tells us is that on average hybrid authors have the highest income, strict traditional second, and self published last. DBW's survey also told us that a large plurality of working authors hoped that their next book would be published by a traditional publisher.

There is a lot of really interesting information out there on how to make money as a writer.  IF you really want to have a career in writing you should know it well.  Unfortunately the most controversial positions get more air play then they might deserve.

July 15, 2016, 08:21:54 PM
Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
The Eisler saga is a fascinating one, and I would be happy to tell more details in a bar some time.

However he left ST. Martin's and claimed that he and Joe were going to change the world as self-pubbers and said things like he could not imagine anything taking him back to legacy publishing.  Then he signed with Thomas and Mercer which is...legacy publishing.

The motives for all those things happening, on both Eisler, Amazon's and other's parts are actually interesting and complex, but effectively Eisler is back with a legacy publisher or very close to it.

July 18, 2016, 09:42:57 PM
Re: May 2016 Author Earnings Report
@Russ could you link to some of the studies you mention?

I've had a look and can't find anything with similar transparency and scale to the Author Earnings reports. For example, anything published by Nielsen completely ignores indie titles, which means that the conclusions it's drawing ignore a huge segment of the market. I'd expect the truth to be somewhere between the two positions, but AE seem to be the only ones backing up their arguments to a reasonable degree.  :-\

I would love to link you to the 50+ plus articles I have read on the subject, but I don't have quite that much free time.   ;D

But I don't think it is fair to leave you entirely handing.

The study that pissed off HH and got him to recruit data guy was this one:


The follow up study which they also didn't like is:


And yes the results were analyzed explained by a author with an appropriate Phd from Harvard.  The 2015 study also had some really interesting data.

You can also get data from a number of the other sources I mentioned.  Forbes, Author's Guild, Codex, Neilson, Pub Perspectives and so on.  There are also proprietary studies that you can get your hands on by either buying them or joining the appropriate professional association.

I don't want to go down the rabbit hole of Author Earnings debate, but they really are not that transparent and they have plenty of flaws in the methodology and how they talk about the meaning of their data. They have an agenda and it has driven them, though as noted above DG is starting to soften  One simply cannot say that indie publishing is the best way to make money as an author based on the quality information that is out there.

July 25, 2016, 09:56:41 PM