Sunday, June 9, 2024

Seth Godin: "Books Don’t Sell!"


571 Unique ISBNs from the Major Publishers for 52 weeks Ending on 8-24-2022
(BookScan\Lincoln Michel 

Seth Godin posted on his blog: “The odds of a particular book selling a lot of copies are close to zero.”

Seth’s assertion is based on the fact that, per Bookscan, there were 450,000 books published in 2022. If you subtract the self-published books and only include the books published by the largest publishers (e.g., Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc) that would result in approximately 45,000 books published that year. 

Of those 45,000 books published, distributed, and advertised by the largest publishers, Seth posted that only 163 books, or 0.4%, sold more than 100,000 copies. Seth wrote: “Those are extraordinarily bad odds.”

Lincoln Michel posted the numbers on the Counter Craft Substack, which are based on 45,571 unique ISBNs from the major publishers for 52 weeks ending on 8-24-2022:

  • 0.4% or 163 books sold 100,000 copies or more
  • 0.7% or 320 books sold between 50,000-99,999 copies
  • 2.2% or 1,015 books sold between 20,000-49,999 copies
  • 3.4% or 1,572 books sold between 10,000-19,999 copies
  • 5.5% or 2,518 books sold between 5,000-9,999 copies
  • 21.6% or 9,863 books sold between 1,000-4,999 copies
  • 51.4% or 23,419 sold between 12-999 copies
  • 14.7% or 6,701 books sold under 12 copies

As you can see, most books (i.e., 51.4% or 23,419) published by the major publishers only sold between 12 and 999 copies.

In the end, Seth wrote:

Write a book [on a topic that you're passionate about] because you can and because it might make a difference. But don’t listen to your publisher’s [TikTokers or YouTubers] suggestions simply to sell more copies. [Because] [y]ou probably won’t.

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Writer: "A Long, Hard, Lonely Life"?

In the film The Tenants (2005), which is based on Bernard Malamud's novel, Willie Spearmint confessed to Harry Lesser, "Man, I tell you, this writing stuff is no joke." "Baby, it's a long, hard, lonely life."

And Carlos Fuentes, the Mexican novelist and essayist, agreed with Willie when he reportedly said:

You must have discipline for writing. It is not an easy task. It is very lonely. You're all alone. You are not in company [...] You are delving into your depths, but you are profoundly lonely. It is one of the loneliest careers in the world [...] In writing, you are alone. That takes a lot of strength and a lot of will to do it.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Three Characteristics of a Work of Fiction


Isaac Bashevis Singer reportedly related that there are [at least] three characteristics that a work of fiction must possess [to be well-written]:

1. It must have a precise and suspenseful plot

2. The author must feel a passionate urge to write it

3. He must have the conviction, or at least the illusion, that he is the only one who can handle this particular theme

We would add, that of the three, number 2 is the most important - especially as it relates to actually getting the writing done, because, like we've mentioned a number of times, it will be very difficult for a writer to write for hours without the energy from a topic of passion.

Monday, January 15, 2024

To Delete or Not to Delete?

Mary Gaitskill observed that it's not uncommon for her to have second thoughts about crossed out longhand text. Consequently, instead of hitting delete, she puts suspicious digital text into brackets, which gives her options. 

Gaitskill shared with The Believer (February 1st, 2009):

I’ve noticed that when I’m writing longhand, sometimes I’ll write something and I’ll go, Oh, that’s awful, and I’ll cross it out and I’ll write something over it. And frequently when I go back, I decide that what I crossed out was actually better. When you’re writing on the computer, you don’t cross it out, you just delete it. But now, if I’m not sure, I don’t delete it. Instead of making the revision, I just put it in a bracket and write my second idea, and I can look back and see which I think was better, because sometimes the first thing is actually better.

If there's some text that I'm not confident about deleting, I copy and paste it to the end of my document, which gives me options; however, sometimes there's text that I am confident about deleting immediately, and, thank God, I've seldom had regrets. 

But the question remains: To delete or not to delete? 

Monday, January 1, 2024

To Outline Or Not


Do you write outlines for your characters or do you let them develop (organically) on the screen?  

Per Advice to Writers, Walter Mosley prefers to discover his characters while writing; however, some of his writer friends prefer to use detailed outlines. Mosley reportedly said:

I have writer friends who spend a great deal of time outlining and detailing the biographies of their major characters. Through this process, I am told, they discover the motivations underlying actions taken by these players as they move across the stage of the novel [...] 

It is, however, not my way of discovery. I meet my characters the way I encounter people in life—at a place and in a situation where I have less knowledge than I’d like and am almost always, at first, paying attention to the least important details. After that, I’m in discovery mode.

In the end, one method may not be better than the other, but a writer may want to try both methods and choose the one that he or she finds the most beneficial. 

Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Three D's of Writing

Nora Roberts, the prolific novelist, opined that "it’s going to be really hard [for a writer] to get anything done" without the "three D’s: drive, discipline and desire." Per Advice to Writers, Roberts advised:

The most important thing is you can’t write what you wouldn’t read for pleasure. It’s a mistake to analyze the market thinking you can write whatever is hot. You can’t say you’re going to write romance when you don’t even like it. You need to write what you would read if you expect anybody else to read it. And you have to be driven. You have to have the three D’s: drive, discipline and desire. If you’re missing any one of those three, you can have all the talent in the world, but it’s going to be really hard to get anything done.

And Roberts is correct in that if a writer isn't writing about a topic that he or she finds engaging, then it may be difficult to maintain enough drivediscipline and desire to complete a piece. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Writing, Rejection and Letting Go

Let It Go!


What should a writer do with his or her manuscript, which has been (repeatedly) rejected by agents and publishers? 

One option is to self-publish. And as hard as it may be to do, the second best option may be to, as Colin Broderick advised, "LET IT GO!" And move on to writing the next book. Broderick advised:

My advice is just write: write, write, write...but just as important: know when to let go. You must let go in order to move forward. Again and again I see young writers I admire getting stuck on one book. They try to get it published and nobody wants it and they go back and tweak it again and again for years without getting into something new. My advice is, "LET IT GO!" Stick it in a drawer, move on. Trust me, you will get better just by virtue of experience, and if you turn out to be Ernest Hemingway twenty years down the line, they'll ask you what you have stored away in that drawer of yours.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Should BIPOC Writers Say, "F*** It" and Self-Publish?

Jessica V Aragon (@JVA_writes\X) "tweeted" that she: "[...] spent the last year recording every english [sic] language fiction deal in Publisher's Marketplace [...]" 

Fig. 1 (Source: @JVA_writes\X)

And after "[...] googling over 4000 authors [...]" she was able to post the "[...] current book deal landscape [...]", which revealed that (approximately) 70% of the books deals that occurred between October 2022 and October 2023 were dealt to white authors. (See Fig. 1)

Fig. 2 (Source: @JVA_writes\X)

In addition, Aragon found that, with the exception of graphic novels and pictures books, white writers dominated every genre. For example, book deals involving the the mystery, horror, and fantasy genres were, over 80% of the time, given to white writers. (See Fig. 2)

(Note: Aragon tweeted she may have "miscategorized" some data (e.g., "PI authors should be 0.2%, not 0.02%.") but that her post is: "[...] representative of the current publishing landscape.")


Connectedly, Gabi Burton (@query_queen339\X) "tweeted" that "[...] every. single. author [...]" on Barnes and Noble's "Best YA Books of 2023" list is white.

Thus, my (rhetorical) question is: Should BIPOC writers self-publish? At a minimum, maybe BIPOC writers should self-publish (immediately) after being repeatedly rejected by traditional publishers. Otherwise, unless the status quo in the traditional publishing industry changes, manuscripts written my most writers of color may never see the light of day. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Need Therapy? Writing May Help

People use a variety of, both positive (e.g. ذِكْر) and negative (e.g., drugs), therapeutic methods to escape the dread that comes with life's inevitable trails and tribulations. As a positive method, Graham Green, the English writer and journalist, suggested writing as a form of therapy. 

Green reportedly said: 

Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write [...] or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic [and] fear, which is inherent in the human condition.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

In the Mood [to Write]?

If you're waiting to get into the mood to write, you may be waiting for some time. It's best to make a writing schedule and stick to it - in the mood or not.

Harry Crews, the American novelist, gave similar advice. He reportedly said:

You can’t wait to write until you’re in the mood. My God, if you waited until you were in the mood, it would take forever. You have to sit down. The name of the game is to put it in the chair.

Of course, because nobody's perfect, some days you're just not going to be in the mood and, consequently, you're not going to write, but those days should be infrequent.