Kindle Forum banner
41 - 60 of 129 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
The graphs in the article are interesting. But I think they have been developed from all the books in the Smashwords catalog. Nothing wrong with that. But there might be something wrong with using those graphs to gauge the prospects of success for any given book.

For example, suppose we looked at the subset of books subjected to proof reading by someone other than the author. What percentage of the total would that represent? How would the same graphs look when applied only to those books?

What if we looked at the subset of books where the author had written more than one book? How would the graphs look when applied to that group?

Stats developed over the entire population are valuable when analyzing the entire population. But they rarely do much good when analyzing the prospects for any single member of that population.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,565 Posts
So here's a joke that comments on the matter:

There was this helicopter with a pilot and passenger on board and they were lost in the fog somewhere around Seattle.  The GPS was out, and so was the radio, and they had no idea where they were.  Then up out of the fog loomed a tall city building.  They flew in close and hovered and they could see people inside.  The pilot told the passenger to write up a sign to ask "WHERE ARE WE?" and hold it up so the people in the building could see it.

The people inside the building squinted at the sign, and then hurried around to make up a sign of their own.  They wrote it out and held it up to the window: "YOU'RE IN A HELICOPTER."

The pilot gave them the thumbs up and flew right off -- straight to Seattle Airport, without any trouble at all.

As they walked away from the copter, the passenger turned to pilot and said, "How on earth did that tell you where we were?"

"Simple," said the pilot.  "The answer was accurate but not helpful... so that must have been the Microsoft Tech Support building in Redmond!"

*****

The idea that any forum, but especially KB, has a "survivor bias" is very much like being told we're in a helicopter.  It's true of every club, every institution, every organization, every forum.  And it is most especially true of the profession of writing.  (Or art, or entrepreneurship, or restauranteur.)

The sorting out of members of any group is so basic to the concept of entrepreneurship, you can hardly call it a bias.  It's actually a correction against a bad data set in the first place:  For instance, the life span of some insects, or maybe even sea turtles.  If they survive infancy, they have a certain measurable lifespan. But if you include all the eggs laid, or even hatched, that drags the actual average down to a low number which doesn't actually reflect the normal life-cycle, in that the vast majority of the species either dies much earlier, or lives much longer.

The idea that successful people speak up more is actually a different bias.  (And it isn't just about success.  People who feel they've been done wrong also tend to speak up more -- so there is a bias toward conspiracy theories too.)

I've been in a lot of groups where the success/complaint bias has been extremely strong, and you can usually demonstrate it with polls and such.  But I've never been able to catch this group in the level of bias you find in others.  That's partly because self-publishing is more complex than some of the other places I've been, but it's also because it seems like HERE, people speak up a little more.

Not a lot, often just a little whine "I've only had four sales this month!" or something like that.  And nobody here treats a person who says that like they're unusual.  People make suggestions if asked, or they commiserate.  As often as not, you get other people saying (without giving numbers) "My sales are down too." (While others say "Hey, MY sales are way up!")

What I like, though, is that there is a large variety of "success" levels among people who actually report things here.  And people talk to each other in private too.  This ISN'T a place where people go around setting specific goal posts, like saying that if you have X number of books you should be making XXXX amount per month.  Everybody here knows and says often; EVERYTHING VARIES.

So saying that this group demonstrates "survivor bias" may be technically accurate, but it is not actually useful.  And it's more a reflection of the writing profession as a whole than it is of this particular place.

Camille
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
356 Posts
Well, I will agree with Buckell on the point that trying to dictate someone else's choices is pointless. Unless a trade author asks for info about self-publishing, I don't see that it's good manners trying to shove self-publishing down said author's throat. Trade publishing can be the better choice, and there is no absolute guarantee that more money will be made via self-publishing, or that a higher return is the only factor in a decision. And, certainly, anyone who thinks self-publishing is a guarantee of a large amount of money is having a particularly Pollyanna moment.

But whenever these articles from trade published authors who happen to have done a little self-publishing come up, I shake my head because they're comparing apples and oranges.

For a large percentage of people, it is not a question of which is more beneficial: self-publishing or trade publishing. It is a question of self-publishing and not being published at all. Or spending years/decades submitting, finally getting one novel published, and not selling enough to be 'worth' publishing again. Or going down the midlist spiral until you've reached the point where your dedicated fans are dying for your next book, but the return isn't worthwhile for a trade publisher.

Certainly, for any successful trade published author who is satisfied with their current return and future prospects, it is possible/probable that they're not realistically going to make much more/any more than they do with a trade publisher. But where is the "survivorship bias" in being able to get published at all?

[Also, in relationship to the follow up interview, I've never understood this implication that self-publishing means you will magically stop growing/improving as a writer.]
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
13,317 Posts
Lots of interesting points here.

I have to admit that when I read the article, I thought: OK, here we have another writer who's had a go at self-publishing, found that it's hard work and that million-dollar successes were had by writers who were not him, and felt the need to blast this all over the interwebs.

Yawn.

He does have some very valid points, but I also think that self-publishing has a lot of non-monetary benefits that are part of success but that are not quantifiable. And not only will it be different for every person, but different for every stage in a writer's career.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,683 Posts
holly w. said:
I dont buy the smoke and mirrors bit that the publishing industry is fickle and no one knows what will happen with X book. *insert ghostly noises here* It's not magic, well parts of it are not magic. For example, a writer will make a better living by capturing 1% of the romance market rather than as capturing 1% of the Young Adult PNR Dystopian market. Can you ask for a smaller piece of the pie? I love that genre btw but writing every single title I put out in that genre isnt too smart if I want to eat and stuff. I kicked myself for writing such a huge series in that area. I spent over a year writing nothing but YA PRND. That's not a bread and butter genre. If you want steady income streams, chose genres that support them.
Respectfully, while it might be demonstrably true that more people read contemporary romance than read paranormal romance, (right now, anyway. PNR has been hugely successful in the past), it does not necessarily mean that switching genres from PNR to contemporary romance will mean that an author will make more money.

In your case, it seems to have worked that way.

But the amount of people who have done similar things to what you have done and who have not seen your level of success far outweighs your experience, to the point of making it all, yes, impossible to predict, smoke and mirrors, like picking lottery tickets, like rolling the dice.

It may be a valid strategy to see what genre is hot and then jump on the bandwagon, but long term it would mean a career of whiplash and trend-chasing, because what is hot now will not be hot later. On the other hand, authors who have well-built followings seem to be able to command readership regardless of how hot their genre is at the moment. I am burnt out on vampires, but I will read another book about Lestat by Anne Rice if she happens to write one. Horror is one of the most unpopular genres right now, but Stephen King books still command massive numbers. Honestly, I think it's far more likely that Holly is successful because she found readers who like her style--her special sauce--than because she wrote in a certain genre. That genre, a bookbub ad, and a bit of luck may have got her first book to the top of the charts once, but she debuts there again and again because she's demonstrated to a lot of readers that she will satisfy what they want, and so they'll come back for more of what she does.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
Betsy the Quilter said:
*bites tongue*
;D

Betsy
A statistically reliable sample is representative of the larger population. Self-selected samples are unreliable as accurate representations because they have not been randomly selected from the larger population. The self-selection greatly reduces the probability of getting a representative sample.

So I agree with the OP's speculation that KB posters don't represent the average.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,973 Posts
Heavycat, you win the Internet. This is the honest truth. Thanks for posting it.

heavycat said:
There is a culture on the Internet formed by the preponderance of analytical personalities. They obsessively try to drain the soul from everything and turn all human experience into math. There is no room in their worldview for inspiration or intuition or emotion in general, for that matter. Some people call it "scientism," where the scientific method graduates from analysis methodology to "way of life." They can't just let anything "be." It must be reduced to numbers, or it is declared non-existent.

Most of their sentences start with "actually," and they passive-aggressively contradict just about everything that comes out of the mouth of someone who is not them. Conversations are usually brief because trying to talk to someone who will spend sixteen solid minutes explaining why you are wrong is not something most people are prepared to tolerate.

I follow the basic law: human behavior cannot be mathematically modeled. Watch this video. Then go write your story.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
787 Posts
Hmm, according to the article's logic, wouldn't anyone who's been traditionally published be a 'survivor', and not someone we should pay much attention to? If you drew a chart of all those who've tried to be traditionally published, and the money they made at it, what would it look like? I know the 'long tail' would be dead flat against the x axis, representing all those who made $0. in traditional publishing.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
63,460 Posts
Terrence OBrien said:
A statistically reliable sample is representative of the larger population. Self-selected samples are unreliable as accurate representations because they have not been randomly selected from the larger population. The self-selection greatly reduces the probability of getting a representative sample.

So I agree with the OP's speculation that KB posters don't represent the average.
Well, my comment had nothing to do with statistics.
;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,413 Posts
ElisaBlaisdell said:
Hmm, according to the article's logic, wouldn't anyone who's been traditionally published be a 'survivor', and not someone we should pay much attention to? If you drew a chart of all those who've tried to be traditionally published, and the money they made at it, what would it look like? I know the 'long tail' would be dead flat against the x axis, representing all those who made $0. in traditional publishing.
This is a point I bring up all the time (but it still hasn't caught on). All the people who submitted to the slush pile and never got out of it ARE PART OF THE TRADITIONAL PATH. You have to count them, factor them in, add them to your analysis. That's a bunch of people who sell zero copies and make zero dollars and give up on writing. Putting our long tail on a chart and pretending these people don't exist is asinine.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
144 Posts
I think there is definitely a WC survivorship bias, and I think it's a good thing!
Newbies learn from authors who share their experiences here and become not-so-clueless. And then they apply those words of wisdom to their own work and have their own experiences to share - and the cycle repeats itself.

Yay for Kindleboards survivorship bias  8)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,688 Posts
Hugh Howey said:
This is a point I bring up all the time (but it still hasn't caught on). All the people who submitted to the slush pile and never got out of it ARE PART OF THE TRADITIONAL PATH. You have to count them, factor them in, add them to your analysis. That's a bunch of people who sell zero copies and make zero dollars and give up on writing. Putting our long tail on a chart and pretending these people don't exist is asinine.
Exactly. Any book queried to an agent or submitted to a publisher is actively in the market. The books are being offered for sale to agents and publishers. They are definitely part of the population of traditional books. They are in the market. The slush pile was the long tail long before eBooks existed. It still is.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
495 Posts
Discussion Starter · #57 ·
Hugh Howey said:
(But seriously, a good thread and question)
Ha! I have validation from Hugh Howey! That's all I really wanted when I started this thread. I'm going to retire now. ;D
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
1,500 Posts
hs said:
Ha! I have validation from Hugh Howey! That's all I really wanted when I started this thread. I'm going to retire now. ;D
Ooooh you must be doing something right HS. You must be on the road to 'success' if you elicited a reply from Hugh.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,163 Posts
heavycat said:
There is a culture on the Internet formed by the preponderance of analytical personalities. They obsessively try to drain the soul from everything and turn all human experience into math. There is no room in their worldview for inspiration or intuition or emotion in general for that matter. Some people call it "scientism" where the scientific method graduates from analysis methodology to "way of life." They can't just let anything "be." It must be reduced to numbers or it is declared non-existent.

Most of their sentences start with "actually" and they passive-aggressively contradict just about everything that comes out of the mouth of someone who is not them. Conversations are usually brief because trying to talk to someone who will spend sixteen solid minutes explaining why you are wrong is not something most people are prepared to tolerate.

I follow the basic law: human behavior cannot be mathematically modeled. Watch this video. Then go write your story.
I'm a huge baseball fan. My particular fandom has led me to a lot of sites that use sabermetrics--very in-depth, geeky stats, often invented by outsiders--to explore and analyze the game. Since they tend to focus on the purely quantifiable, such as a batter's on-base percentage or his swing percentage on balls in the strike zone, these writers are regularly accused of being blind to everything beyond the numbers, of having no true love of or understanding for the game.

I've never understood this. Many statheads thought and wrote about baseball for years without any hope of making money from it. They did it because they live and breathe baseball.

Fandom takes many forms. It's pretty arrogant to think that someone who'd rather explore a subject through math, stats, and analysis doesn't love it just as much as you do.
 
41 - 60 of 129 Posts
Top