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Old 02-13-2014, 05:42 PM   #46
fjtorres
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It took a while, but the establishment figured out how to deal with Howey's data: wave the data away and attack Howey personally.
http://www.idealog.com/blog/comparin...tzkin+Files%29

Prep the popcorn, the war is on.

Edit: Yup. It's war alright.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/02/20...not-available/

Quote:
Mike’s a smart guy but he really, really, really doesn’t understand the world of self-publishing and what’s going on there.

Mike looks at indieworld from the viewpoint of traditional publishing, but traditional publishing is getting it all wrong. Over and over. Publishers believe that because they sign an indie success to a traditional publishing contract, that means traditional publishing has won and it can capture successful self-published authors at will.

The publishing establishment doesn’t understand that a lot of indie authors regard a traditional contract as a marketing play to build their author brand. They also don’t understand that a lot of hybrid authors become convinced pretty quickly that the traditional side of their hybrid career sucks and they’re not going to maintain the traditional side any longer than they have to under their contracts.

Publishing is still focused on sales of paper books because that’s where they’re still a gatekeeper. Publishing prices ebooks wrong and thinks the profit margins are great but its pricing mistakes keep the gross way, way down. And, of course, traditional publishing contracts really underpay the author.

Self-publishing is primarily an ebook play. As Hugh has demonstrated in the post below this one, the 70% of the market that publishers commonly cite for print market share doesn’t do the authors much good. Most of that 70% goes to bookstores and publishers, not authors.

But, of course, Big Publishing doesn’t ever view the world from the author’s perspective. That’s why they have such difficulty understanding why so many authors are so happy with indieworld. And what they don’t understand, they deny.
The Passive Voice site has a reputation that the comments (and snark) are often better than the linked articles. No surprise given how many established writers (Indies and hybrids) are regulars.

Now to wait for the Inevitable Konrath line by line fisking of Shatzkin. It is going to get real ugly real fast.

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Old 02-13-2014, 05:53 PM   #47
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Well, now.
Definitions matter: what you consider success and failure.
Context matters, too.

How about if we add some other numbers to the mix?
Numbers from the traditional establishment?

If a new writer chooses to go traditional he'll need an agent.
Well, agents reject 90% of submissions. They say that themselves. Some because they're bad, others because they're good but they're too different from whatever is currently popular, some because even if it sells it won't generate enough to be worth the agent's time.

Now, lucky writer got an agent and he even got a contract (standard terms) and after 18 months the book is published and he finally gets the last of the advance. And he waits another six months to see if the book earned out over the three month release window or if the gig is up.
By the publishers own words we know that 80+ percent of their books *never* earn out the advance.

So what's the "success" rate for going trad pub? If every agent sells every manuscript they take on, that would be 2% "success". If the agent sells half, maybe 1%.

With success defined as earning out a high 4-digit advance, maybe a low 5-digit advance.
I'm not sure how many writers would consider earning $8500 over 2, maybe 3 years off a book successful, but that's how low a bar you need to set to get a 1-2% success rate in the tradpub game today.

So, now, let's unwind that definition of success and hit that same per book benchmark from the other side.
An indie publisher selling books at $2.99 (the lowest price that qualifies for the 30% distribution fee) will net $2 or so per book so earning $8500 over two years requires selling 5.6 books a day. Or about 160 books a month. That corresponds to an Amazon sales rank in the 30,000 range. Amazon carries around 2-3 million books (including PD titles) so a ranking of 30,000 puts the author in the top 1-2% range, just like the trad pub path.

But...
If the author goes trad and fails to make the cut, they get nothing but rejection slips.
If the author goes indie, they could be a "failure" by traditional measures, part of the 99%, and still be making $3-4000 a year, per book.
And, while traditional publishers will not publish more than one or two titles per author a year, prolific indie authors have no such restrictions.

It has long been a matter of public record that writing is a crappy business to be in. Not much has changed there.

What is now being documented is just how crappy it is.
And that it is slightly less crappy to go indie and even to forgo print entirely than play trad-pub roulette: the odds are never with you, either way, but the indie road offers consolation prizes for most of the "failure".

Not. Simple.
I think you're missing my point, I'm not saying that self-publishing is bad, I'm saying that this study is flawed and that those flaws make it impossible to use it to draw meaningful conclusions. It's cheerleading presented as analysis.

I want self-publishing to do well; I'm a self-published author. I just want much better data than we're getting, and most of all I want data that's not skewed towards either side.

I'm also not hung up on terms like success or failure.

As you point out $3-4,000 a year or 1500-2000 sales, however you want to put it, is much better than nothing. Nobody's arguing that. However, the important question the study is missing is where on the overall spectrum does that lie?

Let me put some commercial numbers back to you... purely as a thought experiment.

Let's say that 10% of all manuscripts find an agent, and those agents sell half of what they get. Further, let's posit that each such book earns a minimum advance of $5,000 of which the author gets $4,250 and that's all the money they see from that book. We'll further assume that the author is producing 1 book a year.

So in this scenario, the top 5% of manuscripts submitted to commercial publishers generate a minimum of $4,250 for the author over a 1 year term.

Now the question that comes to my mind is what proportion of self-published authors earn $4,250 from either a single work, or all their works over the course of a 1 year term? What proportion earn $1,000, or even $100?

If it turns out that 10% of all self-published authors make at least $4,250 per year, then it's clearly a better financial decision, particularly if it's from one book. It's a little harder to compare if the self-published author has multiple works out there, because of the amount of work involved, but even so, this is a win for self-published.

On the other hand, if it turns out that only the top 2% of self-published authors make $4,250 and everyone below the top 5% makes less than $100, then I'd argue that it would be a win for commercial publication.

Unfortunately, there's a problem. Nobody has the numbers. That's the elephant in the room that everyone's dancing around. The numbers just aren't there, and without them it's impossible to draw truly meaningful conclusions.

We can see the benefits of both choices, we can weigh them against our own interests, desires, and situation, but we can't make concrete statements, particularly regarding self-publishing without numbers that just don't exist.
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Old 02-13-2014, 07:00 PM   #48
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It took a while, but the establishment figured out how to deal with Howey's data: wave the data away and attack Howey personally.
Personal attack? Where was that? I read disagreement with Howey's methodology, not his character.

While I basically agree with Shatzkin, his post is has some strange twists. After making largely sound criticisms of Howey's research methodology, Shatzkin conceeds that Hovey is probably right about genre novels. And all that Howey was writing about is genre novels.

P.S. You essentially called Shatzkin "establishment." As personal attacks go, that's pretty mild. It would be hard to write provocative posts if you couldn't group a public figure with our dreaded "establishment." So I'm not criticizing you for a personal attack, but suggesting that Shatzkin be given the same slack we should give you.

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Old 02-13-2014, 09:58 PM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fjtorres View Post
It took a while, but the establishment figured out how to deal with Howey's data: wave the data away and attack Howey personally.
http://www.idealog.com/blog/comparin...tzkin+Files%29

Prep the popcorn, the war is on.

Edit: Yup. It's war alright.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/02/20...not-available/



The Passive Voice site has a reputation that the comments (and snark) are often better than the linked articles. No surprise given how many established writers (Indies and hybrids) are regulars.

Now to wait for the Inevitable Konrath line by line fisking of Shatzkin. It is going to get real ugly real fast.

So Shatzkin is claiming both that the indie numbers are inflated by all the traditionally published authors going indie, and that the trend is for indie authors to go traditional. I guess he couldn't decide which herring to throw in the barrel.
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Old 02-13-2014, 10:41 PM   #50
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I do think hybrid authors are an important part of the mix, and shouldn't be discounted the way they are by any "either-or" studies. In my opinion, the group that can most easily benefit from a hybrid approach are those who've built an audience through commercial publication, and then go for self-publishing.
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Old 02-14-2014, 12:33 AM   #51
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I agreed with most of what Shatzkin said, I just thought it was funny that one of his arguments could be taken that traditionally published authors should go indie. The hybrid approach would be the best option right now except the publishers are trying to lock authors into long term commitments including non compete clauses which kills that as an option. The publishers are forcing an either or decision and this new data is showing that a long term commitment to the traditional route is probably not wise. Something needs to change.

The points that Hugh is making are what I would expect the head of the Author's Guild to be taking.
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Old 02-14-2014, 12:54 AM   #52
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I think you're missing my point, I'm not saying that self-publishing is bad, I'm saying that this study is flawed and that those flaws make it impossible to use it to draw meaningful conclusions. It's cheerleading presented as analysis. [...]
I don't think fjtorres is missing your point, it's just that you're looking for different things. The Report makes it quite clear that it's looking at the most successful books, and in that context its numbers reveal some quite useful information: that independent publishing successes are now well beyond a few outliers; the numbers compare at least competitively (in terms of volume) to traditional publishing; and the compare better in terms of author income. There is nothing in the report to indicate you are more likely to have a successful book by taking one route or another - because that data simply isn't available.

If you were to try and take the complete picture of sales, not just the top, and attempted to make similar comparisons you would no longer be comparing apples with apples. You would be comparing (excuse me mixing my metaphors here) only the cream of traditional publishing (what made it past the agents auto-rejection, and what made it up out of the publisher slush piles), with the entire vat full of milk from independent publishing.

By taking a look at only the top of the pyramid the report lets us see what success looks like in either form. It tells us nothing about how that success was achieved, or how likely it is. It does tell us, in clearer terms than I've seen before, that independent publishing forms a big part of the top of the pyramid. It doesn't mean that it's easier to get there than it was, which ever path you take, but it does show that choosing independent publishing will not exclude you from the top, and offers strong suggestion that it may mean a better result, financially, if you ever do make it that far.

The other thing that I like about the report is that it seems to show that the public slush pile system is working - after a fashion. Which is not to say there aren't still good books buried down in the slush somewhere, but that is as true of the public slush pile as it is of the hidden traditional publisher slush piles. The difference being that ones in the public pile have a chance, however slim, of eventually being recognised.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:00 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by Lemurion View Post
I do think hybrid authors are an important part of the mix, and shouldn't be discounted the way they are by any "either-or" studies. In my opinion, the group that can most easily benefit from a hybrid approach are those who've built an audience through commercial publication, and then go for self-publishing.
Correct.
And that is the dirty secret the traditionalists want to obscure: more and more veterans with print catalogs are supplementing their print income with indie releases and finding they make more money off the indie releases. There are say more tradpub authors going hybrid or, if they can get their rights reverted, full indie, than indie authors going hybrid of full trad.

Another often neglected fact is that since more tradpubs won't release more than one or two titles a year per author, prolific trad authors need pen names or contracts with multiple authors. The modern answer is to indie-pub on the side. Which is why so many trad-pub contracts now have non-compete clauses. Which, of course, drives more authors to go all-indie.
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Old 02-14-2014, 12:32 PM   #54
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As expected, Konrath takes Shatzkin on, point by point:

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/0...-shatzkin.html

Sample:

Quote:
Mike: 5. Current indie successes where the author name or even the book itself was “made” by traditional publishers. Another factor any author self-publishing has to consider is the likelihood of success, which is much greater if the books are backlist (have some fame in the marketplace) or even if just the author has been previously published. Successes like Howey’s, from a total standing start with no prior writing track record, are quite different from others who have reclaimed their backlists and used them as a platform to build a self-publishing career.

Joe: Mike, reread what you just said.

"others who have reclaimed their backlists and used them as a platform to build a self-publishing career. "

First of all, these backlist books obviously weren't selling for the legacy publisher, or else the legacy publisher never would have returned the rights.

Second of all, if the authors who got their backlists returned were able to build a career, WHY THE HELL WOULD ANYONE SUBMIT TO LEGACY PUBLISHERS EVER AGAIN?!?

Pardon my yelling, but what you just said shows your absolute inability to understand what's happening here.

To rephrase what you just said:

Legacy publishers couldn't sell the same books that went on to make self-published authors successful.
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Old 02-15-2014, 09:42 AM   #55
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I don't have a turtle in this race and I'm not a statistician but I do understand the dangers of extrapolating from a days worth of data. It's not a large enough sample and I don't think Hugh should have published the conclusions that he did. I do understand the void of data that indie authors are working from though so there is a lot of excitement over having real data. In the spirt of this I'll extrapolate my own inaccurate conclusions.

What did jump out at me were the pie charts that show that (on that particular day) Amazon was able to take the Amazon published 4% of the titles to 15% of the daily unit sales. I knew that Amazon's targeted marketing was a real advantage but if that's typical it's huge. On the same day the big publishing houses (BPH) were only able to take 28% of the titles to 34% of the unit sales, this despite their traditional advantage of author brand recognition. In comparison the single/small/medium publishers (Amazon Publishing primary competition) had a combined 33% of the titles but were only able to generate 8% of the unit sales. It makes me wonder if Amazon really has that much power to direct sales where they want. If so it's not smart to make an enemy of them when you're trying to sell books.

This got me thinking about the "slowdown in ebook sales". It's been recognized that the data isn't complete because it excludes Amazon's proprietary data and indie sales (assumed to be insignificant). Hugh's data shows (on this particular day) that Amazon was able to take 35% of the titles to 39% of the sales which is hardly insignificant. It's more unit sales then the BPH. I bet that made the BPH sphincters contract.

Over the last 4 years the BPH have taken every possible opportunity to pick a fight with Amazon but at the end of the day it was recognized that the agency pricing was good for Amazon, they were collecting a guaranteed 30% off of higher priced books so it made good business sense to direct customers to those offerings. When agency pricing ended the 30% went away and it's no longer in Amazon's business interest to direct customer's to the lower margin sales. Why not direct sales to indie offerings at a higher margin and decrease your reliance on the self declared enemies. At the same time reports start coming in that BPH ebook sales growth is slowing. Is it possible that ebook growth has been continuing to grow? More data will be interesting. I wonder if Amazon will cut off the data feed that Hugh has been using.
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Old 02-15-2014, 09:52 AM   #56
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On the same day the big publishing houses (BPH)
I just can't read that as anything other than Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy. Which makes it rough going.
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Old 02-15-2014, 11:21 AM   #57
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I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the practice of giving a book 5* reviews merely on its announcement, for no better reason than that the reviewer likes the author. There's at least one of the book sites, and I can't remember which one it is - it may be goodreads or it may be a different one - on which this practice is widespread.
Goodreads allows ratings before release, yes - as said by others, it's very handy for ARCs and eARCs (and usually for anticipated popular releases you can get dozens of actual pre-release reviews, sometimes months in advance), but GR has no problems with people rating books also for whatever reason they choose, and there's nothing wrong with people being excited and enthused about a forthcoming release by a favourite author.

GR star rating hints are guidelines, not rules; GR staff have said repeatedly that readers are allowed to use whatever rating system or reasoning they prefer - indeed, there are users who rate books they loved with one star, because for them, 1 = the best.

That's largely because GR is primarily a cataloguing and social reading / interaction place, not a bookseller - personal cataloguing is one of the primary functions of the site for many users, who catalogue books they have read or want to read and assign star ratings that have some kind of personal meaning for them (and have no desire to write reviews or interact with anyone else).

All this doesn't make GR star ratings pointless, but it does mean that if one is just looking for "well-rated" books to read, they shouldn't just go by the GR average ratings but check out any actual reviews or take a quick look at the top reviews. For pre-release books, it's very easy to immediately tell which ratings with reviews are from people who've actually read the book, and which ratings/comments are from those who are anticipating the book with great excitement (or have it one-starred for personal purposes of "won't ever read this" or similar).

It's a system that fits me just fine, but I don't really ever pay attention to average ratings anywhere anyway - if it's a book that looks potentially interesting, I'll first check if my friends / people whose tastes I'm more familiar with have read/rated/reviewed it and then take a look at a handful of top-voted reviews, good and bad, to get a better idea of whether I might like it or not.
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Old 02-15-2014, 03:09 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by Barcey View Post
I wonder if Amazon will cut off the data feed that Hugh has been using.
The feed that Hugh Howey has been using? I thought it was the feed a friend of his, who wishes to remain anonymous, has been using:

Quote:
I received an email from an author with advanced coding skills who had created a software program that can crawl online bestseller lists and grab mountains of data.
For all I know, Howey really does have such a modest author friend. But the claim that Howey got the data from an a source-who-must-remain-anonymous does raise my antenna.
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Old 02-15-2014, 03:25 PM   #59
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If the validity of the data underlying the study cannot be verified, as a scientist that raises a huge question mark over the validity of the conclusions, because no independent verification can be done. The requirement that a study should be reproducible lies at the very heart of the scientific method.
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Old 02-15-2014, 03:43 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
If the validity of the data underlying the study cannot be verified, as a scientist that raises a huge question mark over the validity of the conclusions, because no independent verification can be done. The requirement that a study should be reproducible lies at the very heart of the scientific method.
The raw data itself was posted for review. If the data does not match up reality, then peer review will discover that and the word will get out.
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