Self-Publishers: The Problems with Statistics
by Stella Atrium
had a screaming fight one time with my brother about which brought in
the most money – Chicago sports franchises or Chicago museums. My
stubborn stance was that museums had long hours and no off-season. He
insisted that one need only look at the stadiums and know sports fans
Chicago is home to great sport franchises
– Chicago Cubs (go Cubs!), White Sox, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bears,
Chicago Blackhawk and more. Then we have the college teams including
DePaul Blue Demons (yeah, Demons!).
Chicago is also home to world-class museums
– The Art Institute (of which I am a graduate), The Field Museum, The
Shedd Aquarium, The Planetarium, The Museum of Science and Industry –
and those are just the ones along Lake Shore Drive.
So… which brings in the most money? Care to vote?
course, I wouldn’t blog about a fight that I lost – dead giveaway. The
museums bring in half again as much money as sports in Chicago.
can be surprising. Before computers were ubiquitous enough to compile
cross-platform statistics, information was gathered in a more casual
manner. An urban legend holds that for music lists, compilers called
their favorite stores along the East Coast and asked the store owner
what was selling. Of course, the music store owner named his favorite
artists as best-selling – in rock, funk, classical, rap, or easy
listening genres. When the real statistics were published for the
first time in the late 1980s – Garth Brooks outsold them all.
Here’s a caution for self-publishers.
that include all ebooks for a quick look at what’s selling are impacted
by the fact the romance novels outsell all other genres. The most
successful indie ebook writers/marketers are women, because the biggest
fan base is women who read romance.
For non-fiction writers,
maybe with a story about the struggles of raising a child with cancer,
do you really want to follow the methods used to sell romance? Racy
cover, short paragraphs, paced story with few surprises, long backlist
For fantasy writers, do you really want to
follow the methods used for selling Hunger Games? If you have read the
hype, but not the story, it’s about teenagers killing each other for
My publisher tried to sell me a module where my new release HeartStone
sits on THEIR website in a colorful page with bells and whistles about
searching for favorite characters and tweeting friends for which page
you’re currently on. The sales person – selling me – said more than
once: “This is how Hunger Games did it.”
Yes, and Nicole Kidman and I have the same color hair. So why aren’t I married to a country-western star?
an alternative method of developing a fan base. Look at what books are
successful in your genre. Non-fiction is especially treacherous for
follow-the-leader because books for marketing that reach out to confused
self-publishers sell almost as well as romance.
writers should look at the successful marketing strategies of Robin
Hobb (Farseer Trilogy and more) and Lois MacMaster Bujold (Curse of
Chalion and more), for example. Brandon Sanderson used this method, in
part. He’s from Australia but joins the conversations on Reddit where
Hobb and Bujold are certain to appear. He piggy-backs on their fan
base to promote his similar works.
I like Mistborn by
Sanderson. I like Theft of Swords by Sullivan. I watch them for
marketing techniques and to puzzle out what might work for me.
I’m not making my hair black, though, to fit into that group. It’s me and Nicole Kidman all the way on that score…