Friday, December 10th, 2010

Amazon Ruined Every Writer's Month With Metrics

So um Amazon decided to show authors their Bookscan #s because they felt the Internet didn't provide enough opportunities for self-harming?Fri Dec 10 15:24:45 via web

Yesterday, Amazon made Nielsen Bookscan information from just the last four weeks of sales available to authors. (Bookscan tracks most booksellers, but not WalMart/Sam's Club, museum stores, etc.—the general disclaimer is they get about 75% of sales.) And, for the most part, it's killing people! If you had a book that just came out, the tool is maybe useful: you can see where it's selling, and then I guess you… could call that bookstore in Denver? And say "Hey thanks for hand-selling those five copies of my book"? For the vast majority of authors, whose books have been out for six months or three years, the live recent data is just upsetting. (Because people don't buy a lot of books!) And it's freaking out publishers, too—who we hear have scheduled emergency meetings to Discuss This Event and Then Do What Exactly, I Mean, It's Book Publishing, Let's Continue This Discussion Over Lunch and Then Maybe Some Drinks, Hmm, I Guess Maybe Authors Might Have Questions About Their Royalty Statements Down the Road, Oh Boy.

27 Comments / Post A Comment

deepomega (#1,720)

I'm constantly delighted/astounded/horrified by how little feedback about sales/profits there are in publishing. I'm not sure if I think disconnecting that feedback loop is the best idea or the most terrible idea, but I guess at least it provides a lot of exciting phone calls?

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

All authors are treated like Laura Wingfield. Don’t mess with the glass doo-dads and bric-a-brac!

Wait. Before this, publishers and authors didn't know how many books they were selling? Or did the authors only have access to this information through the publisher? That would make more sense. ("Oh noes, we can't lie to the authors any more!")

Well you could always get your own total Bookscan numbers, and also your publisher did (probably in more detail). Most authors relied on royalty reports, which are about, hmm, six to nine months (or a year!) delayed, which wasn't useful. The marketing departments of publishers presumably utilized the Bookscan data but it was rarely shared. (And lots of editors and agents were like, "do not look at your numbers! It's not worth it!" Which is good advice actually.)

I learned something new today! Thanks. I can go back to bed now.

BadUncle (#153)

not until after Hawliday cocktails, presumably.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

So this sounds like actually very useful information. The kind of information that everyone engaged in practically every other walk of life would like to have about their business.

deepomega (#1,720)

@pete: Yes, exactly? Like, so basic and useful that I'm trying to wrap my head around it being considered optional?

The only upside of this is that maybe authors will stop being disappointed when they learn that they still haven't earned royalties yet as they can stare at that fact every single day?

Smitros (#5,315)

I got the email from Amazon this morning and stupidly followed the links.

I thought my sales had been okay within my limited expectations, but then it turned out that I was in fact the Khan of Suckistan.

But you're not! EVERYONE is. You should not be alarmed by these numbers. EVERYONE is in competition for that title.

Smitros (#5,315)

I think there's some comfort in that, though a twisted part of me is thinking I can't even get that distinction. I hope that those at the next meet-up will raise a toast to Suckistan and maybe come up with a national anthem.

mkrotov (#1,740)

But Bookscan is extremely unreliable! It fails to account for as much as a third of sales, and even when the gap is smaller, it is always too low. And no e-books! And if you are an author whose book was published before 2000, then it is entirely useless, because it only accounts for sales after 2000. For what it's worth, etc.

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

I don't understand. Sales? Books?

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Estate Sales. They're talking about the Estate Sales.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

(my advice is to go on the 2nd or 3rd day- they'll practically give you the books for free.)

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

Is this a more depressing or less depressing version of the "track your citations" game?

Emily (#20)

I'm going back to basing all my self-worth on blog traffic and Tumblr likes

Think of my purchase as 224 page views.

Smitros (#5,315)

I would base my self-worth on blog traffic, but the crisis hotlines already have enough to deal with.

hockeymom (#143)

That bookstore in Denver? Probably The Tattered Cover. Go to the LoDo location, have lunch and spend the day. It's a treat.
(But stay away from the large guy, with the long striped scarf. He stinks a lot and breathes really loudly.)

KenWheaton (#401)

"36 copies were sold between November 8, 2010 and December 5, 2010"

I'm rich!!!

I, for one, am digging this. It's not constantly updated (unlike Amazon rank) and has actual meaning (unlike Amazon rank). So you don't really need to go back every five second. Also loving the geographical breakdown.

Interestingly, the one thing it doesn't give you — unless I'm missing something — is total books sold.

libmas (#231)

Seven copies in New York City! I'm conquering the Big Apple from the West Coast!

Smitros (#5,315)

First, we drink Manhattans. Then we drink straight gin.

libmas (#231)

That was lovely. But HOW DID YOU KNOW THIS?

Claire Zulkey (#6,639)

I got that email and deleted that shit. Not-knowing is half the battle.

hahahaha, I sold one book. In Phoenix AZ?

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