Thursday, July 22, 2010

You Learn Something New Every Day

Shooting Myself in the Foot, Apparently
Greetings from Day One of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference! (I'm nowhere glamorous, unfortunately--the SeaTac Hilton Conference Center--but at least the location will allow me to cut out for tomorrow's Mariners versus Red Sox game and my son's swim meet Saturday at the KCAC.)

My writing adventures continue. Today I sat once by a "fantasy romance" author and once by a YA gal to listen to author Bob Mayer talk about the art and mechanics of novel-writing. He's written bestselling thrillers and military books and even collaborative romances, and now he also runs his own publishing company to put out his backlist and some non-fiction by other writers.

Anyhow, he had great stuff on setting writing goals and knowing your characters' motivations and conflicts, all of which I took studious notes on until I realized there was a handout, but it was the information he left off the handout that most caught my attention. Check the tidbits below, which I've separated into Facts & Factoids and Opinions.

Facts & Factoids
  • 90% of first-time novelists fail because they neglect to market their book.
  • 99% of those novelists were no longer writing, 10 years later.
  • 78% of readers are women(!).
  • Of the fiction market, romance accounts for 55.9%, mysteries/thrillers for 28.1%, sci-fi 7.2%, and other the remaining 8 or so %.
  • Average sell-through for traditional print publishers is 50%. Meaning, for each book they sell, they must print and ship two.
  • Of the 1.2 million books for sale in 2004, 950,000 of them sold < 99 copies. (I have a quibble with this statistic, which I've mentioned.)
  • If you've been considering making a book trailer, you might want to know that only .2 of 1% were bought as a result. (How they tracked such a thing I have no idea.)
  • "Thinking your publisher will market your book is like thinking your OB-GYN will raise your child."
  • JA Konrath is "burning his bridges." His deal with Amazon has a non-disclosure agreement, which is never a good thing.
  • Getting chosen as an Oprah book has tanked many writers' careers because their successive books can't equal the sales of their Oprah pick. "Oprah readers read Oprah books, not a particular author."
  • "Don't self-publish fiction." 
  • Kindle is the Betamax of the future. 
  • Blogs are fairly useless, although you could try writing your book serially on your blog.
  • Book signings are "archaic," but if you can find a unique venue for one, go for it (e.g., selling a knitting novel at a yarn store).
  • Balance self-promotion with supporting others.
  • Negotiate your print rights separately from e-rights.
Mayer made the "never self-publish fiction" comment about three minutes after I told my YA neighbor that I'd self-published two of my books, and his Kindle slam came about ten minutes after I'd told her how I loved selling on Kindle. At least no one there knew about my Monday book signing at University Bookstore, or I might have been required to add a "Biggest Loser" sticker to my name badge. Ay ay ay.

All is not lost, however. We self-published fiction authors perform a kind of community service, at least: Mayer estimates that all the people hitting "Send" and publishing straight to Kindle were reducing the volume of the slush pile on agents' and editors' desks.

You can thank me later.


  1. Wow! Sounds like us self publishers are complete idiots. Though some of the opinions might not be all bad. Balance self-promotion with supporting others. And I wonder if the Oprah comment might make a little sense - for traditionally published authors. They have editors and publishers that expect certain numbers but for the self published... how cool would that be!

  2. Okay so he says most books never sell more than 99 copies.... and I've sold more than that just at Smashwords in just a couple of months. And I would say most of those sold through my "useless" blog.


    The thing is, writer's conferences will always give advice that's a few years old. People who present there enhance their living at it and tend not to be on the cutting edge. Also, they want to give "safe" advice. Which is okay, newbies tend to get fired up at conferences and you don't want to send them reeling into a mistake.

    But the world is changing FAST.

  3. in my humble opinion, a book release without a book signing is like a cinema without popcorn. oh wait, I forgot.
    movie theaters are archaic.
    ;) ;)