Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mind the Gap--veinglory

It has taken over a year, but I am finally getting there. Where? The place I had in mind back when I first started this blog. I wanted to help authors share information about scam or incompetent publishers. And I wanted to help authors find out which epublishers produce the best sales.

The funny thing is that in all this time I have had no negative feedback about the blog. I mean that, none whatsoever. The worst responses I have are all public as blog comments and none of them are enough to keep me awake at night.

But in a way the scam or novice press beat was probably the easier of the two. That kind of publisher is either not terribly influential, or improving in a way that will cause me to change my assessment. Posting publisher-specific sales figures might be a different sort of situation. I mean on the whole I believe in saying what I think as fairly as I can, and when I am wrong I am wrong. But sales figures are inexact, the sample is biased and small and usually out of date. So I am struck by an uncharacteristic fit of self-doubt.

Is posting publisher specific sales figures a step too far? How can it be when it was the whole reason I got started in this blogging biz?


Mya said...

There may be some authors who aren't interested in what others are making because the simply write for the love of it... however, I don't know too many that don't squee when they get a good check. Revealing scam publishers is a GREAT service that you provide as for the sales figure database, I think it provides at least some basis for author expectations. Sure you don't have ALL of the information, but maybe not all of the genres but you have created a good starting point, I think and given more time and more author data, I can see it growing.

Will it influence the amount of submissions, a publisher will get? Will it spur publishers to try to achieve higher sales? I don't know but I know it is better than taking a poll. If the authors of publisher A, feel like they are being misrepresented they can always contribute sales figures too.

Just my 2 cents though.

Dusk Peterson said...

As a journalist, I would say, no, it's not a step too far. It's not as though you're raiding the publishers' file cabinets for this information, or meeting with Deep Throat in parking lots. You're basing the information on reports from authors who haven't signed any agreement forbidding them from sharing this sort of information with others (and chances are, some of them are already doing this on their public blogs).

I think the only thing I would do if I were in your shoes - and I think you've already done this - is emphasize that sales are only part of the story, and that some very good publishers have smaller sales than less good publishers.

kirsten saell said...

I think you're fine with sharing accurate information that is freely given to you, and I agree that it needs to be taken as one part of a bigger picture. As a writer at the start of my career, I find there are more important things than money. Editing and presentation are huge concerns for me. I'm prepared to trade some dollars (well, probably a lot of dollars) to have a beautiful, tasteful cover and a book free of typos, continuity issues and grammatical errors.

I'm wondering if there is any way to quantify these aspects of epublishing like you have with sales data, or if they are just too subjective. I think reporting the average number of typos per 1000 words in newly released books from various publishers might be just the bite in the ass some of them need.

bettie said...

I think it's a wonderful service. Making the information public may make things hard for small and/or struggling presses to land new authors, but authors have to look out for their own self interest. EPublishers that do decent business will have nothing to fear. And if the publishers object to your numbers, they're more than welcome to compile and distribute their own statistics.

I second what Kirsten said about balancing editing and quality against possible earnings--every author should know the niche and style of the publishers to which they submit they're work. By making some sales statistics available, you allow the author to weigh/balance their monetary desires against/with the style/editing/amenities various publishers have to offer.

Jules Jones said...

I think the sales figures are an excellent idea. People need to know both what is typical in ebook publishing, and whether a specific publisher is able to sell a reasonable number by epublishing standards. I've seen too many examples of authors getting excited about how well they're doing, over sales numbers that are single figures for a quarter. They need to know that the top tier publishers will get them a much bigger audience and royalty cheque. And I will find it useful to have hard numbers to point at when applying the cluebat over at Absolute Write...

Yes, it's self-reported by authors, but you're not reporting stats on individual publishers unless you have data from enough different people to make for a meaningful average.