Saturday, November 03, 2007
My first thinking on posting publisher's sales figures went like this: a little bit of accurate information can lead to highly inaccurate conclusions. It is easy to simply say that is the readers problem, but examples of good statistics going bad occur daily. On Friday there were two clear examples, Giuliani's misunderstanding of the survival stats for prostate cancer and general statistic confusion surrounding the current abortion debate in the UK including breast cancer and premature baby survival statistics. Fortunately our data is clearly no where near that important and my role extraordinarily minor in shaping anyone's opinion.
I also proved myself pretty good at jumping to conclusions last month when I was reading Affaire de Coeur magazine. The first article, am interview with Helen Rosberg, begins with the following disclaimer. "First AcC would like to apologize to you. When AdC last did an interview with you there was some confusion about it, and we would like to set the record straight. I hope it did not cause any problem for you."
To which my first reaction is: WTF, what did I miss? And my first leap of assumption is that somebody said some bad and somebody else either had a tantrum or sicced the lawyers on them. Of course I didn't, and don't have any basis for this--it is presented here just as an example of a little bit of knowledge being a dangerous thing. And after hunting around a bit it seems that Rosberg in addition to publishing her own work has developed a pretty decent rep both as an author and a third party publisher that does rather better than a lot of small presses when it comes to getting mainstream sales, distribution and reviews.
All of which brings me, in a round-about way, to my question. Would any kind of context statement or disclaimer really help people understand the way a small, biased and non-random sample can lead to highly unrepresentative sales estimates? Would a statement of exactly how the data is collected and processed be sufficient? And on a related note: it has been raised that no matter how important sales are there are other issues. Perhaps I should give some time to them. If you consider the top twenty erotic romance epublishers, what factor other than sales do you think is most important in deciding which one to submit to?