Self-Publishing in Ireland

So there I was, looking at lovely book production data, and…

Merciful Hour!

What happened in 2010? Did everyone in the country finally publish their book? All at the same time?

2011 ROI Published Titles
According to Nielsen, the number of titles published in Ireland went from just over 2,000 in 2009 to almost 6,500 in 2010.

That’s a 225% increase, folks. Maybe every author in the country who ever got rejected, ever, suddenly decided to self-publish a book in 2010. But Nielsen also say that the spike was down to a single print-on-demand publisher, and in 2011 the number of titles was back down to 2,000 again,  so who knows?

I don’t have any answers today, only one big question. But it would make you think.

(What, I don’t know. It just makes me think.  Isn’t that enough for this hour on a Friday?)

When is a book a Bestseller?

Gather round, kids. I have good news, and I have bad news.

What constitutes a best seller? How does a book qualify for the moniker, and more to the point, for the modern author, what does it really mean to have written a bestseller?

Yay! Another Made-Up Graph! I missed you...

Yay! Another Made-Up Graph! I missed you…

What is a bestseller?

No points for stating the obvious, but a bestseller is a book which sells a lot, and quickly.

So how much you have to sell in order to get into the bestseller list depends on what country you’re in. Small country = fewer sales required. Which for authors in Ireland, is GREAT, until you realise that you could be topping the Bestseller List for 6 months… having sold around 12,000 copies in total. Which is not going to buy you that beach house in the Maldives. Irish sales figures are published every week and in some slow weeks, a book can make it onto the list with as few sales as 300 units. If I wasn’t already a country girl, I’d feel even more provincial.

The beauty is in the speaking of the English. Irish writers can sell in any English-speaking country, particularly with e-books. Hallelujah. Let’s look at some of the main English-speaking markets. And Ireland, of course, which isn’t main by any means, but it does happen to be where I live.

When Irish Folks Are Reading1. Ireland (Population: 4.78 million people, some bankers, and politicians)

WOO HOO HOOO!!!! YOU’RE ON THE LIST!! Straight in at No. 7! Ohmigod this is officially the bestest every thing that has ever happened to you EVER.

You’re a BESTSELLING AUTHOR!!!!!

Hang on a second. You made the list by selling only 514 copies? A week? For 13 weeks? And that royalty cheque is for… €128.30???

Woo.

2. United Kingdom (Population: 63.4 million)

Ok, better news! Your book starts to sell in the UK too and there are loads more people buying your life’s work! It’s actually great living next door to a much bigger house.

The Sunday Times bestsellers will have to offload thousands of copies to make the list. On a random week in September (well, not entirely random: last week, to be precise), the top spot in the Paperback Fiction category was won with sales of 20,755 copies. The number 10 book sold 8,545 copies. Hardback Non-Fiction sales ranged from 11,140 for number 1 and 1,650 for number 10.

That’s a hell of a lot of sales, by anybody’s book. Especially when you think that seasonal sales can double those numbers.

Star Spangled Bestseller3. Those States Which Are United 

(Population: A Lot. And E.L. James got most of that 316.7m reading bad prose.)

In the US, the New York Times don’t release sales figures every week. Why?

I can’t think of one decent reason why. A bestseller list compiled upon principles which seem to be inspired by the electoral college system is about as much use as a third armpit. They have their reasons, but it doesn’t help me with this post.

Amazon sales rankings are available, but it’s very hard to work out what’s selling in any given week. And Publisher’s Weekly don’t think it’s as many as you’d imagine, a lot of the time. They calculated – based on a random example in one random time period, it has to be said – that only just over 1,000 copies needed to sell per day to make it into Amazon’s Top 5.  If you take that to be 10,000 copies a week, or even 20,000, it’s not a whole lot when you think about the sheer size of the States.

Suffice to say though, if 20,000 copies of something sell in a week in the UK, you can be sure a hell of a lot more of the blockbuster titles are selling in the US.

And this great piece is extremely enlightening when it comes to what sales really mean; where they get you on the list; and how much money you actually make. Who would have thought that a print run of over 85,000 and a top 20 spot – after 65,000 sales in total – would result in earnings of less than $30,000 – and this is a good result, due mainly to the contracted advance?

4. Australia (Population 22.3 million. And a lot of space to sit and read in)

Except Australia isn’t telling us how much they’re selling either. Their figures are locked up even tighter than the US. I may yet be able to sign up to get their sales figures, but right now I’m too lazy.  At least I told you how many people live there. So by UK averages (combined with the usual guesswork), a top ten spot could be achieved in Australia, in a slow week, with sales of around 500 books. Much like Ireland. Maybe we read more here; I don’t know.

And The Wonderfully Sorry Conclusion Is…

Random picture of sun halo, to illustrate randomness of bestselling success... sort of

Random picture of sun halo, to illustrate randomness of bestselling success… sort of

Well, in the glass half full scenario, it’s a hell of a lot easier to write a best seller than you think, because best sellers don’t actually sell that many copies a lot of the time.

And if it’s half empty… well. I for one will not be giving up the day job. Mainly because writing makes my day job both meaningful and bearable. I will continue doing sums during the day and adding words together by night, because I couldn’t do one without the other.

5 Reasons Why An Author Should Self-Publish

1. Your Book Crosses Genres
Score!! An agent has expressed an interest in your book! But oh dear. She says they can’t take it, because they haven’t a clue how or where to pitch it. They just don’t know whether to shelve it in the Science Fiction section, or in Gardening.

Look. A lot of people working in publishing are jaded, working under pressure and only one dole cheque away from making a costly bad bet. The whole point of your book is that it’s supposed to be non-derivative. In fact, you’re absolutely certain it’s the first ever book about a celebrity gardener, fond of talking about engine repair, who discovers a portal to a plantless dystopian gas-cloud in a clump of azaleas. Take the burden off them. Publish your goddamn self.

Yay! It's Finished!2. You Already Sent It Out – Waaaaay Too Early
You wrote your book. You thought it was brilliant! You then got rejected by every agent in the stratosphere, and sank into a depression for 5 months before joining a writing group and finding out that some parts of your book were actually nonsensical and at times, pretty damn awful. Now you’ve rewritten the whole damn thing and forty people have told you it’s much better, but you can’t send it out to the same agents again cos that’s against the law. Self-publishing is your saviour.

3. You Know You Have The Hit Of The Century And You Can’t Pay Your Mortgage
There are 2 scenarios here. One: you’ve just finished a 5-book deal to write thrillers for a publisher who, if you were to follow your heart, you would sue for fiscal rape, defamation AND pain and suffering. You wouldn’t touch them again with a barge pole. But you have a lovely fan-bank built up now, and they are panting for your next offering. What are you waiting for? Go it alone.

For the as yet Great Unpublished, however – what if your book is so stupifyingly brilliant (or just populist… it doesn’t need to be well written to sell millions. Yes I’m talking about you, E.L. James) it’s likely to make a publisher so much money it would make you cross-eyed? Traditional publishing gives you a cut. Self-publishing can make you rich. And most of us like money, let’s be honest about it.

4. You’ve Changed Genres
You have a 2-book deal to write crime thrillers. Yay! Except you’ve just written a 300-page steamer of erotica set in the torrid world of waste collection that you think might actually make you some serious dosh. Your crime thriller publisher would be horrified. Presuming your current contract won’t kill you for it, self-publish.

Harvesting Dosh5. Rejection Sucks
Look. We’ve all thought it. If everyone’s rejected your script, it might be time to give up, right? John Banville said as much during the 2013 Dublin Writer’s Festival, but enough about him.  Life’s too short, and so is he.

There are simply hundreds of stories about writers who were rejected 40 times before going on to be credited with the bestseller of the year. Sometimes you just have to have confidence in yourself. Sometimes you have to trust in your own work, and self-publish. (But for God’s sake, get it edited first or I’ll be sending the boys round.)

How to Buy a Book

a nicely drawn pile of booooksI can hear them now.

“That Tara Sparling one. She’s some tulip.”

“Come again?”

“She tried to tell me how to buy a book. Feckin’ cheek of her. What’s next? How to get up in the morning? How to breathe??”

Look – I know it seems simple. But this is more of an inquisitive How Do? than a How-To. People used to walk into bookshops and judge books by their covers. But that’s all changed now, with digital options in the mix.  So how do you select a book? What do you look for, when you don’t know what you’re looking for? And while we’re on the subject, for those of us who might want to sell a book in the future – what are our readers looking for?

Based on a completely flawed, statistically devoid survey I made up yesterday, one or more of the following would be the first to attract book buyers:

1. The Blurb on The Back

“Janey, Joanie and Jeannie have been friends FOREVER, since 5 years ago. They are growing up in the big bad world, discovering just how hard it is to pay those bills and discovering that NOT ALL SHOES COST THE SAME!!! Will Janey forgive Joanie for buying the Manolos first? Will Jeannie get her dream job in the shoe shop? Will Joanie ever get over her cheating cobbler boyfriend??”

Etc.

2. The Picture on The Front

Wow. I love the way her head is entirely composed of sky and zeppelins. I’m totally buying that.

3. The Title

Sheesh. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be buying a book called The Roly-Poly Pudding Boy and The Round Red Organic Tomato of The Heart but now that I’ve seen it I can’t leave it behind.

4. The Author

Oh, Anthony Bestseller’s latest one? I had it pre-ordered on Amazon for like, 6 years. Are you only reading it now?

5. Page 1

Most people believe that if the first page doesn’t grab you, nothing will. I admire this kind of decisiveness – great people to be around in a crisis, for instance – but because first pages are the hardest to write, I tend to give a bit of leeway here.

6. Page 59

The rationale here is that the first page could have been worked on by a team of editors for 4 weeks. It’s page 59 which will tell you what the book is truly made of.

Big bookcase or small man either or7. Chapter 1

On eReaders, this is standard. You download a sample, which generally includes Chapter 1, and then make your decision to pay for the rest. But reading the entire first chapter in a bookshop? Whoa, man, this is dedicated. I wouldn’t have the patience. Plus, if I do that and the book still turns out to be a total turkey, I definitely only have myself to blame.

8. Specific Subject Matter

Say, if you’ll buy anything involving rainbows, fiscal ruin, cauliflowers, schizophrenia, or vampires.

9. Thematic Flavour of the Month

This includes books which come from film or TV, or books which only became famous because of film or TV. Yeah. You know who you are.

10. Word Of Mouth/Friend Recommends

This can get ugly, so approach with caution. Sometimes, there is nothing more terrifying than someone saying to you, “Hey, I have to spend the next month in hospital! You’ll recommend a good book for sure, to get my mind off the intolerable pain and suffering!”

11. Professional Critic Reviews

We all have our trusted publications and trusted opinion formers. Most of the time we disagree, but that’s not the point.

12. Open Public Reviews

Ah, the denizens of Amazon and Goodreads. Approach with a battalion of caution. This can get uglier than a blobfish.

13. Advertising

This is a tricky one. Does anyone really buy a book because of advertising, or does it only reinforce a decision which has already been made? Perhaps the radio ad merely alerts you to a new book by your favourite author, perhaps a book trailer looked good enough to finally force your hand to click that button. But it’s not always employed as standard, so hard to know how effective it is.

Tell us! What makes you select your books? And how has it changed?

What Price is Your Bestseller?

sewing money cropI’ve been having statistics withdrawal symptoms  (itchy percentage points, twitchy tables, etc) – and I’m going to satisfy that right here, right now.

Today I’m going to have a look at 2011 (because lovely as they were, I’m tired of those 2012 statistics ) in terms of their recommended retail price (RRP) and actual selling price (ASP).

With Amazon, the price of books began to vary widely. There used to be only 2 stages of book pricing: New, when all fiction cost roughly the same, and Bargain Bin, when titles were dramatically reduced before going out of stock entirely in those quaint old institutions remembered by those of us of a certain age (bookshops).

The life cycle of a book today is vastly different. With online sales facilitated by companies with massive warehousing capability, e-books which sell for any price between free and full whack and never being out of print, self-published authors setting their own price targets and sales promotions starting approximately 5 minutes after publication, it’s difficult to know where to price a book these days.

What price was the 2011 Bestseller? 

So let’s have a look at 2011, when all of these forces were already in play: at what books were supposed to cost, and what they actually ended up selling for. Firstly, let’s remind ourselves of what we were reading in 2011, with a look at the top 30:

2011 Top 30 Bestsellers

Of the top 100 Bestsellers in 2011 (UK figures), the recommended retail price of each title, and the subsequent average actual selling price shows that titles almost always sold for less than their RRP, sometimes by a hefty chunk. 

2011 Bestseller RRP vs ASP

Only the already deeply discounted title – that sole book for £1.00 – sold for full price (for anyone just dying to know what that was, I’ll throw you a bone and tell you. It was Spy Dog’s Got Talent: The Great Pet Shop Panic, by Andrew Cope and Kate Davies, which hit #99 on the top 100 and made a total sales volume of £124,234).

Discounts on the others varied from a minimum of 30% to a whopping 61% on the single title priced £30 (Jamie’s Great Britain, Jamie Oliver, # 12, total sales £3.01 million) which does raise the question – why price a book at £30 if you’re going to sell it for less than the discounted price of books priced £25? I know they’re pitching it as a premium product, but this is Jamie Oliver, not the Queen’s personal chef. It’s not my idea of fun, but if this guy wrote a recipe for scrambled egg on the back of a bus ticket the British public would buy it.

Most Popular: 7.99 and 6.99

The most popular RRP was £7.99, which applied to the vast majority of fiction paperback titles, but the average actual selling price for these 60 books was £5. The next most popular price was £6.99 and these sold for £4.86. Interestingly, no adult fiction bestsellers at all were pitched below £6.99.

Unfortunately, we have no data (yet) on e-book sales. The powers that be didn’t think that these counted in the official charts in 2011 or 2012. Change is afoot in 2013, but it appears that they are still excluding titles selling below a certain price. This is madness – a perfect example of the Old Guard failing to keep up with or even notice the market of today – but at least we have some slightly meatier statistics to chew on for 2013, albeit a bit grey and stringy, with very little marbling and not half enough taste.

So – authors – what price is your book going to be?

5 Extremely Annoying Book Reviews

mans sitting on top bookcase photo

Those of us shopping for self-published e-books have very little to go on. Short synopses and sample chapters lie all too often. There isn’t even a proper book jacket to tempt you. So how do you make the decision to buy?

We’ve come to rely on reviews. And reviews make bestsellers. 2 websites seem to have cornered the market – Amazon and GoodReads. But which reviews matter? What calls out to you from the murky depths of the online world, full of blind love and extreme hate? And more to the point, what should be disregarded?

Here are 5 book reviews I ignore with impunity:

1. The Fake Review

There are 2 kinds of fake review: the gushing, sycophantic piece of uselessness brought about by the bullied friend or relative of an author, or the sneaky, underhand rant of a rival author (or his mates) racked with jealousy (or possibly stomach ulcers). Either way, they are the second scourge of the internet, and deserve an entire post of their own. Which will be forthcoming. You have been warned.because loads of women sit down over tea nowadays and read to each other

2. Moany Whingey Whiney Reviews

Ok, so I don’t trust gushing reviews, but scathing ones are slippery little suckers. I generally seek out those which find at least one fault, because they’re more meaty, but the singularly most important aspect of any online review for any product whatsoever is what I like to call The Tone of the Moan.

When the reviewer is saying something negative, do they sound like someone I might like to have a coffee and a natter with? Or do they come across as someone I’d like to put in a box and snail-mail to Vladivostok? It’s all down to connecting with them. If something which annoys them sounds like it’d annoy me too, I can be pretty sure that something they thought was wonderful might just make me happy I bought the book.

3. One-sentence reviews dashed off without any thought whatsoever

Here are 2 examples of such reviews that I found after just 0.8 seconds on Amazon:

“brilliant my daughter gave me her copy to read said it was a good book, she was right i loved it from start to finish”

“I only read this book as a stop gap (was waiting on another book coming into store) i wasn’t disappointed amazing read”

In both cases these reviews would almost certainly ensure I would not buy this book. If you can’t be bothered to give any useful information, I can’t be bothered to listen to you, much less agree with you.

always surprised me how bookworms read with no hands or arms4. Very loooooooong reviews

I know you have a degree in English Lit. I know you read 3 books a week and have been a top reviewer online – with a badge and everything – for 6 years. But for pity’s sake, I have at least 10 more reviews to read before I decide whether or not to spend 99 cents on this e-book. Just pick something you liked and something you didn’t like, and try not to make half your review nothing more than a spoiler-ridden synopsis. Please!

The sole exception to this is when reviewers are being genuinely original. Or funny. One of the best reviews I ever read, despite being also one of the longest reviews I ever read, pointed out numerous examples where plot, characterisation and quite often dialogue in a certain novel were uncomfortably similar to a bestselling predecessor. There is always room for intuition… not to mention public service.

5. Reviews which are not reviews, written by people who should never have learned to type

4 of the 5 minutes I spent painstakingly researching this post were taken up with looking up books online. And lo and behold, what did I find for J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy on GoodReads? 4 out of the first 5 reviews I came across said the same thing. WATCH OUT!, they said (often in caps lock). THIS BOOK IS NOT LIKE HARRY POTTER! DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ONLY LIKE HARRY POTTER!

I can’t even comment further on this. Even typing the above killed off a good 7% of my brain cells. Morons.

So what about you? Authors and readers? What sort of reviews do you trust? Or what do you ignore?

Bestseller Trends Part 3: Woman, Know Thy Place

angry book woman possibly also madIn a previous post I mentioned how, in 2011 and 2012, female authors topped the bestseller lists by writing the books everyone wanted to read. In comparison to ten years earlier, they were not only far more prominent on the list, but outselling male authors for the first time. It was all very promising.

However, no look at bestselling book trends from the past 2 years would be complete without looking at bestseller heroines, and I don’t mean the authors here. It’s who they’re writing. Who is the modern day narrative heroine? And more to the point, what the hell is wrong with her?

The bestseller genre of 2012 – Romance – featured dominant, domineering male heroes with an abundance of both types of power available, i.e. physical and fiscal. Heroines were inexperienced and bland. The standalone powerhouse, Katniss Everdeen from the The Hunger Games, was a product of a brutal dystopian wasteland; hardly grounds for commonality of experience, no matter how much negative equity you think you’re in.

So, if the literary Everywoman is insipid and unremarkable, is that how the female reader sees herself?

Would the real Everywoman please stand up?

Couldn’t a female character be special because she’s an amazing driver and can take off any accent west of the Volga, and not merely because she has specific body measurements, she’s up for it at any time of the day or night and some man really fancies her? And why are women – of all people – writing these insipid drips with the depth of a saucer?

A worrying majority of what I’ve read in the fantasy, romance or crime genres (particularly in the self-published universe, sadly) containing any semblance of a feisty heroine has involved the same back-story of hardship and loss with a mix – sometimes even all – of the following:

  • Mother dead/missing
  • Persistent and total lack of awareness of own beauty or sexual power despite constant attention and compliments from absolutely everyone around them
  • Badly treated by at least one man (relative or ex-partner)
  • Lack of sexual experience: either since forever, or in recent years following somehow unacceptable behaviour at a younger age
  • Trust issues
  • Suppresses her emotions, or is seemingly unaware of them, with regular upsetting meltdowns involving panic attacks/nightmares/superficial “depression” which can only be soothed by the masterful male hero
  • Total helplessness in physical proximity to the hero

It seems that our heroines must be damaged in order to create narrative conflict. You’d think there was enough conflict in our experience without throwing a pile of baggage into the mix.

Will the 50 Shades film make things better or worse? We’ll see. A number of undervalued actresses can manage to make disturbingly stupid or neurotic characters quite charming (take a bow, Isla Fisher, Amy Adams and Renee Zellweger). On film at least, Bridget Jones became endearing, and Bella Swann became tolerable.

Is female fantasy really about what women want…?

But we should be curious about our responses to the stereotype involving the powerful male hero and the submissive, bland woman. I want equality of the sexes in life, and yet a very strong part of me does not want my heroes emasculated in what I’m reading.

3 women reading books as envisaged by chick lit marketeer

Because this is how women read

But what is emasculation? Does it just mean that the hero doesn’t have all of the power?

Deep down I know that’s ridiculous. But when lost in the universe of the story, I don’t seem to care. I can acknowledge this whilst admitting how much it disturbs in the cold light of day when that glorious and fantastical fog, which accompanies the sort of atmospheric book which takes me out of my life entirely for a spell, leaves me to get on with things.

Print Vs E-Books…. FIGHT!!!! Part 2

In Part 1 we covered the smell of fiction; book exchanges in Asia; finding that important passage you didn’t notice was important at the time, and reading whilst asleep. But that only covers the obvious stuff. The fiction fracas continues.

Sun Reading in the Sun5. Sun Factor

Paper doesn’t care if that really annoying kid dive-bombing the swimming pool soaks everyone in the vicinity. And traditional books don’t cause any crucial-point-in-the-story induced panic on the plane, when the mean and horrible cabin crew scream at you for the 10th time to turn off all electronic devices for takeoff and landing. However, it only takes 10 minutes, lying on your back, for your arms to go numb holding a traditional book whilst blocking the sun at the same time. Most eReaders can be lightly held at a multitude of angles. Just keep them away from the sun-tan lotion.

Verdict: E-BOOK. Because there is only one winner when suitcases and budget airlines are involved.

6. The Hipster Factor

If your friends were describing you, would they say “oh, Jeremiah? Man, he reads so much! I don’t even know how many books that guy has read. That list on Facebook – you know, of the top 100 books? He got, like, 93%. Can you believe it? He’s so smart and well-read, my pal Jeremiah.”

If you’re a big reader, sure, you can have thousands of followers on Twitter waiting for your next book review. You can tell everyone at parties how you read Blockbuster de Jour That Was My Favourite Until You Heard About It before it hit the bestseller list. You could even have an ironic scout’s badge for Reading A Lot. But your shelves are bare, dude, and books make unparalleled furniture. Nobody comes into your artfully-distressed loft and gasps at the sheer volume of volumes on your bookshelves. And the 3,000 free books you downloaded to your Kindle Fire last Tuesday won’t impress anyone – what’s the point of having loads of books you will never read, if not to impress people?

Verdict: PRINT. Because books aren’t just for reading, they’re also for poncing about with.

a model who doesn't look like she's reading, reading a book

Look at me, reading. I said LOOK AT ME

7. Street Credibility

This can work both ways – but usually to hide your book, not flaunt it. Nobody is going to carry a copy of Ulysses around from the train to the office to the artisan greengrocer just so people can see it, no matter how pretentious they are. On the other hand, there is nothing like an innocuous eReader to hide the stains on our literary souls. Erotica? Hidden! Young Adult Paranormal Romance? Concealed! Biography of an Arsenal player, even though you’re supposed to support Liverpool? Sad!

Verdict: E-BOOK. Because we always hide more than we think.

8. Sense and Sensuality

I like holding books. I like turning pages with the index finger of my right hand, using my right thumb to hold down the page as I finish one before moving to the next. Every now and then, mid-book, I like to look at the cover art again and feel the texture of the book jacket, especially if it’s embossed, or that kind of matt velvety touch that’s in vogue lately. And I like being able to flip the book in my hands to re-read the blurb/synopsis at a moment’s notice. I don’t want to have to bookmark my place and go searching for this kind of rudimentary stuff. Game over.

VERDICT: PRINT. Because you can’t feel ones and zeros.

OVERALL VERDICT: A lame and cowardly dead heat! How’s that for trying to please everyone?

So… agree or disagree? What’s your preference?

Print Vs E-Books… FIGHT!!

It’s the Smackdown we’ve all been waiting for! But who will win the battle of the fiction ferriers? Part 1 today. Part 2 later. Part 3 if the comments get nasty.

Big bookcase or small man either or1. Smell

Everyone always goes on about the smell of bookshops, or of new books. I’m not so sure it applies – to fiction, at least. The only bookshop I know in Dublin which has a discernible smell is Eason’s, and that scent wafting out the door onto O’Connell Street comes from magazines rather than books. However, I’ll never forget the smell of a new school textbook. That shiny, smooth paper. The coloured ink. To this day when I pick up something with a colour graphic in it my first instinct is to snort the inside spine. It’s a bit of an occupational hazard.

Verdict: PRINT. Because modern fiction mightn’t smell of much, and old books may smell of mould, but tablets and eReaders don’t smell of anything. Useless.

2. General Portability

He said YES! The boss, that is. You’re on sabbatical and you’re off for 6 whole months of rucksack-toting around Asia! You’re so excited! Hostels and hotels will surely operate book-exchange systems. You know, the “take a book, leave a book, we are love, etc”, all that hippy crap. So you’ll be fine with bringing one copy of Not-So-Lonely Planet and that classic you’ve been swearing to read all your life, even though despite 4 attempts to date you’ve never made it past chapter 2.

Verdict: E-BOOK. Of course. But you knew this. Unless you like the sort of German chick-lit which hotels and hostels breed without a licence.

3. Referencability

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking: oh, e-Books, for sure! Word searches faster than a speeding speedy thing! No contest. But in fiction? Think about it.

Say it’s the 2nd last chapter. Tarquin is on his knees, about to do away with himself, begging Ermintrude to remember what he said to her in the library. But you can’t remember yourself. You want to go back and find whatever words of divine beauty and universal truth he’s referring to. You can practically see it in your head: the layout of the text; a page full of dialogue. You start looking for it. There’s no point on doing a digital search for the words “Tarquin”, “Ermintrude”, or even “library” because they’re on every second page. Besides, you also have no idea what chapter you’re looking for.

Verdict: PRINT. Because you can bookmark Tarquin’s dying breath with one thumb and with the other, flick through 20 pages per second looking to trigger your memory. How do you do this on an eReader?

 Aaaah Bed and a Book4. Reading in Bed

This is complicated. eReaders are generally more hold-able. But some tablets are too heavy, backlighting could drive your partner nuts, and it’s not advisable to fall asleep on an electronic device, drooling all over the screen. Reading on your phone? Didn’t your mother tell you not to strain your eyes? On the other hand, you’ll get repetitive strain injury reading massive paperback tomes in bed. And don’t even talk to me about hardbacks.

Verdict: E-BOOK… probably. Unless you’re reading the Abridged Concise Pocket Book of  Teeny Tiny Things.

Part 2 later this week. When the overall verdict will be as clear as Liffey riverwater. 😉

2012 Bestselling Book Data. Visualised

Or, as we in the business like to call it, “A Load of Charts”.

It’s great seeing all the data like this. I could extract meaning from it all day and still not get bored. Bet you wish you were me.

We are now, as promised, going to look at sales volumes, to see what they tell us. And we’ll count both fiction and non-fiction, because it’s more interesting that way. (Says who? Says the Datamaster, That’s Who.)

But first – a  caveat. These are printed book sales. You might argue that without e-book data, this exercise is a waste of time. And look, I hear you. But what can I do? I don’t make the numbers. I just work with what I’ve got. And if you’re given three lumps of coal and a copy of Everything the Data Agnostic Ever Wanted To Know for Christmas, at least you’ve got the ingredients for a small fire. If you’re feeling cold, like.

First of all, let’s look at how many titles sold per author.

Here’s chart 1. All I can say is….. Mmmmmm.

A lot of people on this list broke all the rules... Lest We Forget

50 Shades of the Top 100

EL James is obviously the clear winner, selling over 10.5 million units alone, with her nearest competitor, Suzanne Collins, coming in at just 2.1 million.

However, having said this – and I won’t keep on repeating it for fear of ad-nauseating the whole lot of you – we need to bear in mind that according to Bertelsmann, the owner of Random House, E.L. James’ publisher, over 70 MILLION units of the 50 Shades trilogy were sold between March and December 2012 through paper, audio and e-book format in English, German and Spanish. When you see that, 10.5 million imprints seems like a stodgy and belatedly unwanted starter. In addition, if Suzanne Collins was named the bestselling Kindle author of all time in 2012, looking at paper book sales is hardly going to tell us accurately where readers’ money went last year.

Next? Title. We know who wrote them. But what were they?

Look at the top ten. Size Does Matter

Look at the top ten. Size Does Matter

OK, so, that’s grand, thanks. But tell me, of the books making the bestseller list in 2012, how many of them were published before 2012? Does much success come to those who wait?

But this only made number 683 back when it was published in... sorry? How Much? I'll shut up now

But this only made number 683 back when it was published in… sorry? That cheque is for how much? I’ll shut up now

I don’t know about you, but I expected a bit more from prior years than that, but there you have it. Now, could you tell me, do hardbacks sell at all nowadays?

Hardback fiction still sells? Really?? Oh hi, J.K.!

Hardback fiction still sells? Really?? Oh, hi J.K.!

And finally, Datamaster. What genres are we talking here?

Realists? Us? Seems nothing can trump fiction and fantasy, when all comes to all

Realists? Us? Seems nothing can trump fiction and fantasy, when all comes to all

And that, Ladies and Gentle Sirs, was the Year of 2012. Personally, I can’t wait for 2013, when some bright spark decides to act upon the fact that e-book sales should actually count for something.

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