Episode 98 – Nielsen, Harry Potter, and Going Wide

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Question of the Week: Do you believe Authors Earnings numbers? Do you think they need additional verification? Why or why not?

Jim and Bryan announced their upcoming Live show in Austin on March 29th and a surprise milestone as they approached the big 100 in the show’s 98th episode. After re-featuring Geoff North and his book Thawed: Cryers ( http://bit.ly/thawcry ), the Laurel and Hardy lookalikes tackled tips on group promotions, honing your blurbs, and defining your target audience. News stories touched on the latest Harry Potter book, going wide, the CreateSpace book ban, the case for Amazon Books, and the Author Earnings firestorm. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you believe Authors Earnings numbers? Do you think they need additional verification? Why or why not?
What You’ll Learn:
  • Bryan’s plans for launching his fifth novel
  • How to effectively use group promotions
  • Three places you can perfect your blurb
  • Essentials to keep in mind when writing your first book
  • Jim and Bryan’s opinions on the 8th Harry Potter release
  • Why Donna Fasano decided not to stay in KDP Select
  • What a literary agent had to say about stores boycotting Createspace
  • Why Hugh Howey thinks Amazon Books should go wide
  • Why Author Earnings’ numbers probably aren’t better/worse than Nielsen’s
Links: 
Question of the Week: Do you believe Authors Earnings numbers? Do you think they need additional verification? Why or why not?

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  • Yes, I believe the Author Earnings numbers. If you remember, this was started when Hugh was criticizing the lack of sales figured released bu Amazon and the Big 5- It was his hypothesis (contention, argument) that there should be an easy war to correlate sales rank and sales to determine if Self-publishing was viable. He also stated that if it wasn’t, the publishers would show the numbers.So it doesn’t matter if there are secret datapoints that Amazon uses for their algorithms, since the purpose of the Author Earnings report isn’t to provide full and accurate data, but to compare sales at certain sales ranks. If Publshers are disputing the numbers Data Guy comes up with, all they have to do to debunk him is release the actual numbers and see how they correlate.

    • Bryan

      Yup, the publishers haven’t shown the numbers. They’ve just complained :).

    • Susan Illene

      +1

      I agree with this assessment. There is going to be some discrepancy because of KU, but I do think the AE report gives us a better idea of where indies stand against traditionally published books. Their attempt to include audio is tricky, though, since there are authors like me who self-publish our ebooks and sell our audio rights to one of the big companies. Not sure if there’s an easy way to crosscheck that.

  • therealcromar

    I believe it by process of elimination. Meaning, the standards are so low already, and the “industry standard” of Neilsen Bookscan is so well known to be fraudulent, that the AER group manages to clear a very, very low bar. I saw this come up on a forum where some dummy involved with a failing independent publisher mocked AER as inaccurate, while simultaneously extolling the virtues of Bookscan.

    I remember seeing an interview with an old man on the slope of Mount St Helens who refused to leave his home, despite the coming eruption. The interview kept asking him why he wanted to stay and enjoy certain death, but he seemed completely oblivious to the danger, insisting that it was his home and he would be just fine. I found him on wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Randall_Truman

    He is the traditional publishing industry’s spirit animal.

    • Bryan

      Hahaha. I read all about him after you shared this. Thanks for that :).

  • Spider McGee

    I can’t guarantee I’ll call in. Even though I am a published ebook author and have a (mostly unlistenable) podcast of my own (Intolerable Shenanigans), I loathe technology and hate the phone in particular. I spend most of my free time with several boxes of crumbling 1930s pulp magazines and a fleet (67+) of ancient manual typewriters. My days are packed, as you can clearly see. It’s refreshing to hear my name come up unprompted, as it makes me feel like a big, important writer man. Or it could just be my ridiculous pen name catching on. Either way, I’m good with it.

  • Spider McGee

    I can’t guarantee I’ll call in. Even though I am a published ebook author and have a (mostly unlistenable) podcast of my own (Intolerable Shenanigans), I loathe technology and hate the phone in particular. I spend most of my free time with several boxes of crumbling 1930s pulp magazines and a fleet (67+) of ancient manual typewriters. My days are packed, as you can clearly see. It’s refreshing to hear my name come up unprompted, as it makes me feel like a big, important writer man. Or it could just be my ridiculous pen name catching on. Either way, I’m good with it.

    • Bryan

      But… Spider! We’re counting on you! 🙂

  • I believe them, but it would be be good to have it verified. They provide the raw data for all to crunch, but until there’s a way to get data elsewhere, what’s to be done?

    Are people saying it’s not true or just that it’s unverified?

    • Bryan

      Who knows after trying to cut through the “media speak,” but I think they’re saying it’s unverified.

  • Edwin Downward

    I have every confidence the core data being collected is as accurate as Data Guy can make it. Between this and full access to the raw data leads me to believe the final reports are likewise accurate enough to be used with confidence.

  • I think the Author Earnings aren’t perfect, but statistically close enough that we can use the data with reasonable confidence. Since Howey and Data Guy are using the full set of Amazon rankings (not, for example, selecting only a random sampling of 1 in 500 books available for sale) I think the figures are more reliable than anything else we can get, unless or until every retailer releases their full sales figures by title (which will never happen).

    However, I have a minor bone to pick with Jim…you keep saying that bookstores are no longer relevant, that no one buys books at a bookstore anymore, but I think you need to qualify that a bit. It’s not that bookstores aren’t relevant, it’s that most (especially the big boys) haven’t targeted their audience or found a niche where they can be profitable.

    Sure, adults between the ages of let’s say 30ish and 50ish with kids aren’t likely to go to a bookstore because they don’t have time. But as Bryan pointed out months ago (and I’ve discovered for myself) there’s a whole demographic of YA readers between the ages of probably 16 and 25 that ONLY read print books, and that like to photograph those books and their bookshelves, or vlog about them on YouTube. Those readers could be well served by a bookstore that caters to them, some place that’s a social hangout as well as a bookstore.

    I think the bookstores that have or will become successful are the indie bookstores that have really focused on their specific target customer, providing an EXPERIENCE rather than just a place to shop. It’s a luxury of time to go browse a store, and if the stores would treat it that way, they might find their foot traffic and sales increasing.

    • Bryan

      Good points, Megan :).

  • Drea Moore

    As an event event coordinator for an indie bookstore–the largest of its kind in my region, I want to comment on a few things. One, I schedule events with predominantly indie authors to fill in-store events every week, on Saturdays and have to ask Createspace Authors to bring in their own books and sell them on consignment. This is because authors published through Createspace are short discounted on Ingram. 47th north and other Amazon Imprints are not short discounted, just Createspace titles. This means that the Createspace titles are too expensive for Indie stores to actually carry on our shelves. Too much risk. We do, however, order these books from Ingram–the book distributor with a monopoly in the nation, and on whose back Amazon’s initial distribution system was built–and, as the POD printers are located on the east coast, this currently takes 5-7 business days to get the book in. That can be a deal breaker for our customers. I always thought it was Amazon’s effort to control the indie scene, cutting us out of that sale. It makes more sense for an indie author to manage their own local area distribution. We have a few local authors who have done this successfully. The author and the bookstore can both obtain more money from the print if well managed.

    Earlier in this podcast (which I have found very fascinating) there was a comparison to E-book sales and print sales. From where I stand, those two are not in competition. E-book success is affecting the reason people buy print, for sure, and I am excited for what this means for print. I predicted to the store owner three years ago that as more people bought and read e-books, more people would buy hardbacks. The reality of this switch began to hit our store visibly last summer. Best sellers from holiday 2014 have yet to hit paper (EX: All the Light We Cannot See & The Girl on the Train), and store numbers indicated that when I started at the store in 2012 prompted the owner to state: “People don’t buy hardbacks,” but this holiday season people bought hardbacks that had been out for more than 6 months (that’s the expected lifespan of a print book by the way, 6 months), in fact hardbacks outsold mass market paper by leaps and bounds. This shift indicates that people buy print predominantly as gifts and bookstores are adapting by stocking toys, puzzles, games, cards, etc.

    However, indie bookstores are the original “neighborhood,” bookstores. Much of our traffic is walk in, or people waiting to get into brunch or a movie at the tourist trap across the street. We have a loyal customer base, both people who come in sometimes daily to calling and ordering books over the phone. We maintain a website, and have a good open rate for our e-newsletter. However, the attraction to indie stores is about the human connection. The knowledgable staff. A smaller book selection (like Amazon is doing for their stores, yay!) and booksellers who know the books stocked.

    While you are right about bookstores being resistant to modern technology, the most successful indie bookstores have been around a very long time. That means that the technology on which they are founded is often quite old and the cost to adapt– an inventory system, for instance, designed for a bookstore, is over $3,000 and for a small business, with a staff of 6 part-time employees and an owner–that’s not easily do-able.

    So we add modern tech where and when we can–like using the square for off-site events, collecting credit card information away from the store. Such a small staff, with only the owner working full time makes some of the modern tech-driven expectations impossible. Like being able to successfully maintain an online bookstore to compliment the in-store one. Or convincing the owner about the importance of social media and blogging–lost that battle. But bookstores are the community centers that have the potential of linking authors and their audience, by providing a free venue. That means bookstores need to take a firmer presence in the meeting spaces (online) than they have.

    But that said, it also seems to me that authors could learn a little more about distribution, operating costs, and the changing role of print media in the reader’s life– which I think should become more expensive and artistic, more collectible.

    • I love my indie bookstore here in Ann Arbor. Knowledgeable staff, regular book discussion groups and author events, and a coffeeshop upstairs. What’s not to like?

  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW – It’s my understanding that they put the raw data up for anyone to verify it. Plus you know someone from Amazon has seen the report. If it was completely off, or counter productive toward Amazons goals someone would have said something by now, wouldn’t they?

    The industry already has a lot of data that they could use. They choose to ignore anything that isn’t associated with an ISBN, and to keep ISBN’s incredibly expensive so that a lot of self publishers have just decided to ignore them. They don’t want accurate data, or they would have been finding a way to get it by now. After all, data guy figured it out.