Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Hate mail.

I realise that because there are a LOT of very stupid people out there that this blog post will be seen by some as an invitation to send me hate mail. To anyone who actually does that, well done on your predictable monkey-see-monkey-do knee jerk.

The point of the the post however is that in 8 years of being published I have, to be best of my memory, received only one email or message that could possibly be considered hate mail, and that one struck me as comical.

This state of affairs didn't seem remarkable to me. I just write fantasy books. Why would anyone take the time to write me nasty emails, and why would they think I would give a shit if they did?

However, it seems that I have been living in a bubble. From recent discussions on Facebook and reddit r/fantasy it seems that lots of authors - some of them with very modest sales or in one case whose debut novel hasn't even been published yet - have had plenty of hate mail.

By hate mail I don't necessarily mean "I'm going to shoot your dog then kill you." but "I read your book and didn't like it." doesn't qualify. (I should note that I don't recall ever getting a "I read your book and didn't like it." email either...

I guess most of it is between those two levels and constitutes aggressive criticism of writing choices and/or any personal information they have hold of.

I haven't conducted an extensive survey but it does seem that the nastier and more personal criticism is focused on female authors and that where male authors report critical emails it tends to fall more into the "scolding" bracket and often concerns use of bad language in the books.

Given that I've sold a fair number of books and that quite a lot of controversy was stirred up around my first book I've found a degree of astonishment when I say that I don't get hate mail.

My theories in this regard are:

i) I'm a male author. Much of this vitriol seems to be reserved for female authors.

ii) I am on a ton of forums and social media platforms. This allows those with gripes to get them off their chests with an audience.

iii) Perhaps something in my books gives the impression that time spent telling me off in an email would be time wasted.

Here is a POLL to gather some more information about how prevalent this is and whether there is a gender gap.

Here are the results after 64 responses. These resulted from posting the link on a number of fantasy writer groups, and are (likely) to all be from authors. I will leave the poll open but note that as I widen the field the data are more likely to be corrupted by non-genuine input from folk who wish to sway the data in either direction to support their world view.

The results shown here are not based on a great number of votes and so the error bars would be sizeable. The takeaway here is that there seem to be no significant differences based on either sales or gender. This does not mean that a significant difference doesn't exist, just that it doesn't appear to be huge and would require much more data to identify.

Another takeaway is that none of these authors is getting a deluge (5+/year) of hate mail, though I am sure that even 1 a year can be very demoralising and it is certainly unacceptable.

The posts that prompted this investigation are in a way self-selecting. Nobody goes on Facebook to post: "Hey! I go NO hate mail today." And because I know a lot of authors I see a fair number of "Hey, I got hate mail today." posts, which can give a false impression of its prevalence.

It is, of course, a sad state of affairs that any authors get any hate mail.

A sobering observation to make is that while many female authors responding to this poll told me, "Nope, I've never had any author hate mail." a lot of them did say that they had had unsolicited sexual messages from strangers who they were pretty sure had no idea they were authors.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Library Loans

In the UK & Ireland authors are paid for each loan of their books from libraries. For the most recent year in the UK this was 6.52 pence per loan.

For the past few years I've earned over £1000 (~$1300) each year from library loans. So no, pirating (stealing) is not like borrowing from a library.

And these earnings figures do not include the purchase of the hundreds of my books by the library system to allow these loans (including new purchases to replace damaged books).

The most recent year's 12,154 loans break down thusly:

I do have some doubts about their bookkeeping (excuse the pun) since it seems weird that Emperor of Thorns should be more borrowed than King of Thorns, and The Wheel of Osheim recorded zero paperback loans vs 769 paperback loans for The Liar's Key. But it's all good - libraries are good things and it is nice to get paid!

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

My writing earnings!

A bunch of articles and statistics have been floating around recently on the subject of author earnings. Are they going up, going down? What are the mean, mode, and median? What's the variance, the kurtosis? All good questions.

Statistics is a murky area of mathematics though, and still largely a mystery to me despite the fact that my Ph.D was all about one small corner of it.

A mean salary is pretty meaningless when there's no obvious way to draw a circle around the population of interest. Where do "authors" stop being authors. If we include everyone who has ever self-published an ebook then their average annual salary might be a dollar because we would include a vast number of folk who put out one book five years ago which sold ten copies.

If we include only those who make their living as writers then of course the mean will be a reasonably healthy living wage ... by definition ... because we have only included people who make a living at it.

And the same problem exists if we confine ourselves to traditional publishing. When do you stop being an author? Mr X published a book in 2012, it earned well that year. But is he now in our data pool with his sales of 50 copies in 2018?

So, yeah, the data will say what you want it to. And the fact is that it is very difficult to make a living at this game. Better to do it because you love it, keep the day job, and if it ever starts making money ... hooray! You've won the lottery (but probably not the jackpot, just one of those prizes that are still stupidly unlikely but pay far less).

Anyway. This is how my earnings have fluctuated over the years.

There's no absolute scale, because that's just going to enrage someone, either from the "he's rubbing our noses in it" end of the spectrum or the "oh my God, I thought someone who sold that well should be a millionaire" end.

And here is the data on my advances and royalty payments, which you can read more detail on here.

Each year since 2013 my income has been a mix of advance payments guaranteed when I sign contracts, and royalties on books that have "earned out". Before 2013 it was just the advance on my first trilogy being paid out in stages.

And that's all I've got!

I have four books out this year, which accounts for much of last year's record total. Next year it will likely be just the one, so things will settle down (boo, hiss!).

And when will I stop being an author? Maybe not until the day I die. But I am sure that my earnings will tail off at sooner or later, at which point I will need to survive on whatever has been squirrelled away in the good years and/or get a day job again.

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

The Stabbies - reddit r/fantasy awards 2018

The Stabbies are the voted award handed out each year by r/fantasy in many categories, including Best Book, Best Debut, and Best Self-Published Book. 

Check out the official results and the nominations

Unfortunately I can't bring you the top 5 in each category this year as the Stabbies have become a victim of their success and voting was subject to some manipulation this year. To avoid acrimony the organisers are withholding the rankings.

I recused myself from the contest this year since I won the Golden Stabby last year. Though I did contribute to Petros Triantafyllou's The Art of War which won a Stabby for Best Anthology!

The book results (many more categories on site)

Best Fantasy 2018

Bloody Rose - Nicholas Eames

Best Fantasy Debut 2018

The Poppy War - R.F Kuang

Best Self-published / Independent Fantasy 2018

Ghostwater - Will Wight

Congratulations to all!

See the results of the 2017 Award2016 Award2015 Award2014 Award2013 Award and the 2012 Award.

Reddit r/fantasy has 482,000 members (up from 243,000 last year, 145,000 the year before, 85,000 the year before and 69,000 the year before that) and is the most active fantasy forum on the internet. Well worth checking out - though the interface is a steep learning curve at first.

population growth on the sub reddit over the past 7 years 

Saturday, 22 December 2018

A sense of scale!

I was looking at the figures on the sales figures list for bestselling SFF authors over on the Wertzone, and decided to make an infographic scaled by Agatha Christie's sales figures for her detective fiction.
It takes the six bestselling SFF authors of all time to match Christie's record, and it should be noted that this really includes a huge chunk of real world horror/thriller writing from Messrs King, Koontz, and Crichton. George RR Martin sits in 10th place on that list with less than half of Crichton's sales.

So, despite the exciting surge in mainstream acceptance of SFF seen in the last decade or two, fantasy, particularly of the sword swinging variety, is still a small fish in the book ocean!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

A Year in Numbers ... Eight!

It has been a very good 2018 all told! Following on from similar posts at the same time in 201720162015201420132012 and 2011 I record a year of ups and less ups. I take a minute to do the sums and raid the scrapbook.

High points include the release of Grey Sister. Grey Sister turned out to be my eighth novel in a row to make the Goodreads Choice Award semi-final and became my first since the Broken Empire books to make the final ten! Another high point was when Red Sister made the finals of the David Gemmell Legend Award!

And on the 19th of December my Book of the Ancestor short story, Bound, goes on sale. Snag a copy on Amazon!

2018 has seen last of the Broken Empire special edition from Grimoak selling out, with all of the initial 1000 gone, and the announcement of the special edition omnibus for The Red Queen's War. You can pre-order a copy here.

April next year sees the arrival of the third and final Book of the Ancestor, Holy Sister, and the first of my sci-fi series, One Word Kill. Pre-ordering both would be a mark of genius! 
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse card game kickstarter finally delivered! Hoorah for Gallant Knight Games! See the game here and maybe get a deck for Christmas!
I also did my first writing for a computer game, crafting lore and legend and characters for the recently released multiplayer game, Ashen!

Lies, damn lies, and statistics to follow:

I now have almost 250,000 Goodreads ratings and over 600,000 'books added'! The numbers boggle my mind.

Prince of Thorns passed 75,000 ratings and my Goodreads follower count has exploded from 11,475 to 39,489 in 2018!

& some Amazon stats

The blog got its 2.5 millionth hit in 2018, though I have been neglecting it somewhat. Must try harder!

Blog traffic since inception.

I'm still on InstagramPintrest, and Tumblr

And finally, Twitter, where I've broken the 20,000 follower barrier!
Which is really very small beer in the world of tweeting. My biggest follower (Joseph Morgan has 2.5 million followers!)

Many thanks to all my readers for keeping me going! I hope you all have happy holidays!