News You Can Use – Sept. 13, 2011

How Fiction Changed After 9/11 – The Economist explores the topic.

How Long Does Your Shared Link Stay Viable? – This fascinating study by bit.ly shows that if people don’t see your link within three hours, they never will. Sobering isn’t it?

Seven Deadly Sins of Self-Publishers – Darby Rae presents some sound advice.

Are You Wasting Time Checking the Amazon Rankings? – BookBuzzer describes a tool that alerts you only if your rankings go up…and a daily digest of activity. Wean yourself off your Amazon Rank addiction.

What Can C.S. Lewis Teach you about Writing? – Kevin deYoung writes this post about the writing life.

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What Are Average Book Sales?

by Steve Laube


We recently received the following question:

“What does the average book sell today? An industry veteran at a writers conference recently said 5,000. What??? I know it all depends….but … nowhere near 5K, right?”

My simple answer?

It’s complicated.
It depends.

HAH!

Average is a difficult thing to define. And each house defines success differently. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at one publisher they celebrate and have steak dinners. If a novel sells 5,000 copies at another publisher you find staff members fearing for their jobs and in total despair.

Let me give you some real numbers but not revealing the author name (and there is a wide variety of publishers represented):

Author 1: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 8,300

Author 2: novelist – 12 books – avg. sale = 19,756

Author 3: novelist – 3 books – avg. sale = 7,000

Author 4: novelist – 7 books – avg. sale = 5,300 (Two different publishers)

Author 5: non-fiction devotional – 5 books – avg. sale 10,900

Author 6: non-fiction – 2 books – avg. sale = 5,300

Author 7: novelist – 4 books – avg. sale = 29,400

Author 8: non-fiction – 3 books – avg. sale = 18,900

Author 9: fiction – 7 books – avg. sale = 12,900

Author 10: non-fiction – 5 books – avg. sale = 6,800 (three different publishers)

So you can see it DOES depend. Depends on the author and publisher and topic or genre.

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Fun Fridays – Sept. 9, 2011

This one has been around for awhile but it still makes me laugh every time. It is the perfect parody of the author/editor brainstorming session. At the end the author sounds like one who has just attended a writers conference and received a variety of advice!

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Saving the World, One Romance at a Time

Often I will receive submissions of novels tying in an element of mystery and suspense with romance. Writers targeting the romantic suspense market will find difficulty in placing this type of story. Why? Because romantic suspense readers have certain expectations that won’t be met with a mere element of mystery and intrigue.

In my experience trying to sell and market romantic suspense, I have found that the readers of this genre want all-out adventure and crime solving along with compelling romance. The suspense is foremost, with the romance being tied in so deeply that the story won’t survive without it.

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News You Can Use – Sept. 6, 2011

Trends in Publishing– A clear assessment of where things seem to be headed by Giuseppe Granieri.

Improve the Speed of Your Reading – Try it out! It is amazing how fast you really can read literally one word at a time.

The Secret Language of Pronouns – A Scientific American article about how men and women use pronouns differently. Agree or disagree?

Publish America’s Shady History – Publisher’s Weekly investigates this self-publishing company.

86 Beautiful Book Covers – Do you agree with this blogger’s assessment?

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Nameless Waterfalls

During a recent vacation we visited a place in Alaska called the Tracy Arm Fjord. The picture was one that I took during that visit.

As we past through these amazing waters it was bitter cold (note the icebergs in the water), in the early morning around 6 a.m., and with a chilly wind to accompany us. But rather than be frozen by the weather I was mesmerized by the number of waterfalls along this 30 mile long fjord. There were hundreds of them. Most did not have a name because there were so many. In the above photo, if you click to make it larger, there are at least three, if not more.

And then it struck me. The words we write and the authors who write them are like these waterfalls.

They are plentiful and beautiful.

But many remain nameless.

And yet, without them the fjord is unfilled and the oceans run dry.

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Silly Saturday


Today is International Bacon Day! Celebrate the Bacon!

Apparently this past week, according to the LA Times, a rapidly trending Twitter “game” has been to replace movie titles or book titles with the word Bacon. For example:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Bacon
Pretty in Bacon
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Bacon
Eat, Bacon, Love
The Lord of the Bacon

So I thought, “Why not apply the same to bestselling Christian titles?” And came up with the following list:

The Bacon Driven Life
The Five Bacon Languages
Crazy Bacon
Bacon Wins
Redeeming Bacon
21 Immutable Laws of Bacon
Bacon is for Real
90 Minutes with Bacon
Same Kind of Bacon as Me

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Book of the Month – September 2011

Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in the Twenty-First Century by John B. Thompson (published by Polity) is this month’s “Book of the Month.”

I took this 432 page book with me on vacation and was mesmerized by its detailed analysis of the history of publishing and bookselling. Thompson’s chapter on “The Rise of Literary Agents” was, of course, particularly interesting.

I have been a student of this industry for 30 years and thoroughly enjoy understanding its nuances. (It just dawned on me that this means I’ve read nearly 1,500 issues of “Publisher’s Weekly!”) In my opinion, this is the one book you should read if you want an overview of everything that goes into the publishing business. Did you know that the practice of allowing booksellers to return stock for full credit did not start in the U.S. until the early 30s? It was used during the Great Depression as a way to stimulate sales and to encourage booksellers to carry more inventory without risk. Eighty years later that practice still plagues the industry (see my post “Many Happy Returns“).

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He Said. She Said.

A blog reader recently left an excellent comment on an earlier post:

Tamela, fiction workshop presenters taught me that the best word for “said” is “said”–that others only tend to slow down the reader’s eye. I’d appreciate a discussion on this.

While I don’t know the workshop presenters in question, what I can guess they meant is to avoid substituting creative verbs for “said” as a tag. For example:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare,” the cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards,” the dowager sniffed.

These tags aren’t without merit, because they do help convey the emotions and actions of the characters. In fact, they could even be expanded into effective action tags. At the least, simple punctuation would keep these characters from performing the improbable task of sniffing and chuckling words:

“Cyrus, tell that joke about the tortoise and the hare.” The cowboy chuckled.

“This caviar is not up to my standards.” The dowager sniffed.

So why would fiction workshop presenters tell writers to use the word “said” as a tag? I would say that there is a time and place to use a simple tag. In a fast-paced scene, a simple tag will keep the action flowing. For example:

“Get the gun,” Bruce said.

“What?”

“I said, get the gun.”

“Why?”

“Don’t ask questions,” Bruce said. “Just do as I say. Now.”

In a case such as this, complicated action tags could slow down the rhythm and urgency of the scene, distracting the reader rather than adding to the story. The “said” tag is used infrequently to help the reader keep track of the conversation.

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