April 13th, 2009

The ever popular topic of advances

Writers are always curious - how much did someone get as an advance? They parse the deals listed on Publishers Lunch (very nice vs. good vs. significant) and search out as much info as they can. Which isn’t much.

An article in the New York Times sheds only a little more light. But of course every writer I know will read it. In part, it says, “Advance envy is common. “Writers who can’t recall their Social Security number can say to the penny how much of an advance their nemesis received,” Elissa Schappell, a fiction writer and co-editor of the anthology “Money Changes Everything,” said in an e-mail message. To an outsider, the numbers can seem arbitrary, even absurd. “No one ever says of an advance, ‘That’s exactly what that book deserves,’ ” Schappell said. “Yep, a coming-of-age first novel involving drug addiction and same-sex experimentation is worth $25,000.””

And you can, too, if you click here .

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500 women dead – and the FBI says their killers might be long-haul truckers

The LA Times reports, “The FBI suspects that serial killers working as long-haul truckers are responsible for the slayings of hundreds of prostitutes, hitchhikers and stranded motorists whose bodies have been dumped near highways over the last three decades… A computer database maintained by the FBI has grown to include information on more than 500 female crime victims, most of whom were killed and their bodies discarded at truck stops, motels and other locations along popular trucking routes crisscrossing the U.S.”

In fact, being a trucker might be a great job for a serial killer. You’re mobile. You don’t have day-to-day supervision. And you have easy access to hookers, hitchhikers, and the occasional woman standing next to her broken-down car.
Click here to read more.

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Is an Amazon sales rank a proxy for real-world sales?

I spent waaaaay too much time last week looking at the Amazon ranking for Face of Betrayal. What did it mean that on the morning it released it was around 8,000 and then two days later it was 150. Or 126. Or, memorably, over the weekend, 67. Or right now, 250. (The lower, the better.)

No one but Amazon really knows how many books that means. Some self-pubbed guy tried to figure it out once, based on some years-old data that Amazon used to provide. It looked to me like he thought even a sales rank of 100 meant only about a 100 books had been ordered that day.

But is your Amazon sales rank a proxy for real world sales? I can think of a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t be:
- For YA, middle grade, and children’s books, many purchases are made by libraries – which don’t normally shop at Amazon. So an Amazon number for those books might be artificially bad.
- My co-author, Lis Wiehl, did a lot of TV and radio appearances last week. If you wanted to buy the book right then, then the easiest way was to buy it online. But will people have the same reaction to the book when they run into it in the bookstore? Or will it have ceased being an impulse purchase because they are no longer looking at or hearing Lis?
- Are Amazon’s bestsellers the same as bestsellers in bricks and mortar stores? I think of my local bookstore, Annie Blooms, and other independent bookstores I know. I can’t see them prominently displaying Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto which was the top-selling book on Amazon last time I looked or some of the other “liberals are evil” books that are on the top 10 list. And some of the top bestsellers seem to come from publishing houses I’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s easier to find these books on Amazon.

What do you think? What relationship does Amazon bear to total book sales?

I will say this - it must bear some. Because Face of Betrayal is less than a week old and has already gone back to press.

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