Heads in the Common Ground
More than half of what they say is flawed or completely backwards. I find it fascinating that all the vibrant and accurate discussions about the world of publishing are happening everywhere other than with pundits paid to know what’s going on. The discussion on KBoards, once again, gets far more right than anything in this list. And people like Konrath have been predicting the future with startling accuracy, and they are ignored or lampooned. Lest my tone not be accurately captured by text, picture me smiling and shaking my head sadly over here. There’s only pity to be had. What jumps out at me from their list:
2) Data is incomplete. Why aren’t publishers listed here? They barely let authors know in a clear manner how their own books are selling. And why aren’t bestseller lists mentioned here? And asking for a “Bookscan” for e-books makes it sound like Bookscan is reliable. Nielsen isn’t reliable either. We have a problem of lack of data and a problem of really bad data. An awful lot of the latter has been coming from DBW with no apology for it and no retraction once massive holes are pointed out by the writing community. I’m not disagreeing the point; I’m dying for more data from everyone; but there are shades of “It’s all Amazon’s fault” here.
3) The bias here and the complete lack of basic logic is startling from a website that industry experts look to for clarity and understanding. I dropped out of college, and I can see three things wrong in this single bullet. First, the slant of this article is revealed when the massive sales of genre books are called a “glut of titles.” We don’t know if most of the titles published are science fiction or gardening or parenting. Our data shows what’s selling, not what’s being published. So blaming this on a “glut” of supply is erroneous. This is an outpouring of love from readers showing up in the data.
Secondly, saying that genre writers produce more than one book a year sounds like they are cranking out garbage, and that’s why they are profiting. But our study showed that self-published authors are earning more money on fewer books than their traditionally published counterparts. The lie that a good novel takes five years to write needs to die. There’s no correlation between how much an author procrastinates and how wonderfully literary their creation turns out to be.
Thirdly: The reason subscription based services will never work is precisely because of voracious readers in these genres. Musicians are being hammered with trifling streaming royalties. There’s no way to pay authors what they’ll accept per read and still profit. These streaming companies are pyramids built on VC cash, and not a one of them has a business model that makes sense.
4) The notion that only the authors at the very top are having success is complete bunk. Once again, DBW is missing the #1 story in all of publishing right now, which is that everyday authors are paying bills and quitting their day jobs. There are people on KBoards criticizing our report by pointing out that their books don’t even show up in our data, and they are earning money and even writing full-time. DBW also wrote a piece showing that most authors aren’t earning minimum wage while missing the fact that this money is being earned on work already performed. Or taking into account multiple titles selling at once. Or the fact that this is only Amazon sales. Multiply these earnings times the five or more outlets, plus audio, plus print-on-demand, plus direct sales, before you know how a writer is doing. An author who appears to be making $5,000 in our data set (which is only a single-day snapshot) might be making $30,000, which is far more than 99% of traditionally published authors. To repeat, a website devoted to spotting trends in 21st century publishing can’t see what is clear at every writing conference I go to, what I see at KB, on Facebook, in my inbox: Writers are doing better than at any other time in human history, even those filling a tank of gas every week, and nobody wants to talk about it!*
*Which isn’t to say that everyone who writes makes money, or that you can toss a few books out there and reap the rewards, but that thousands of authors are changing their lives and doing it on their own terms with direct relationships with their readers.
6) Saying that none of this would be happening without Amazon shows us that we aren’t dealing with a very bright thinker here. I would recommend Kevin Kelley’s WHAT TECHNOLOGY WANTS to this analyst. If it wasn’t Amazon, it would be someone. We give entirely too much credit to inventors and not enough credit to the flow of events and technology that lead to invention. The internet created this boom. This would be happening on some level even without e-reader devices. We saw the first hints of e-book adoption when PDAs took off. There would be some semblance of this revolution from smartphones alone (entire bestsellers have been written on smartphones in Japan). But don’t worry: E-ink readers would exist today with or without Amazon. The self-publishing revolution would have happened with or without Amazon. Maybe it would be at 80% of its current capacity right now, but it would be heading the same direction with the same inevitable outcomes.
It’s fascinating to have watched, for the past three or four years, history being made. And the absolute dearth of anyone willing to write about it or cover it. Maybe because they don’t see it. As someone who mostly reads history books, I’m reminded of generals in tents pushing tin around while those in the trenches can plainly see which way the fighting is going.