Monday, 6 March 2017

Sobering Sales Statistics!

First off, note that these graphs show the number of Goodreads ratings a book has.

For books in the neighbourhood of Epic Fantasy and published in the last 5 to 10 years I have observed a close correlation between number of GR ratings and sales.

For books in other genres and for books published pre-2007 this relationship will get sketchy. My impression is that the formula for sales in English (multiply number of GR ratings by 8) will start to underestimate sales more and more as the publication date retreats into the past. Additionally children's books (as opposed to YA) are heavily underestimated by the formula as children are less likely to use Goodreads than adults.

Anyway. Here are the numbers of GR ratings for a selection of fantasy books often discussed in places where my books are discussed.

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The interest in various forums skews in different directions, so in some places you might come away with the impression that any one of these was really killing it in terms of sales and "dominating" the genre.

But when we add in some of the really heavy hitters also discussed in those locales...

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...we get rather a different picture.

The level to which A Game of Thrones outsells the rest of the field is quite staggering, particularly when the publication date means this difference will *increase* significantly when converting figures to a sales estimate.

But when we widen the field of that fantasy lens still further to include urban fantasy, paranormal romance fantasy, YA fantasy, SFF, literary fantasy and fantasy written for children... even the mighty GRRM is dwarfed.

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I'm a minnow swimming in a puddle and even genre stars like Lynch, Hobb, and Sanderson are just big fish in a small pond. Fortunately even if sales may correlate to GR ratings, they don't always correlate to quality and there is excellent reading to be found both among the leviathans at sea and the little fish in the ponds.


I present this merely as an interesting (to me) representation of data.

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12 comments:

  1. I see this and what strikes me most is the books that have widely popular movie/tv shows/cross platform merchandising are the real stand outs. Obviously the books would likely have some level of success to get the movie/tv deals, but I would guess that's what catapults them so far beyond. So GoT may be dwarfed, but I would suspect some of that comes from having a smaller target demographic. But even with that, there is not a single book that beat it that didn't have tv/movie success.

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    1. That's a really good point! I believe that both the Name of the Wind and Night Circus, neither of which I liked very much, have films/shows coming up. It'll be interesting to see how that changes their numbers.

      Also, for the film to up the numbers of a book dramatically, it looks as if the book has to be well known beforehand, and the film has to be a hit--at least that's true for all the big names up there. I don't think a film/show would do the same for a totally unknown book, and I don't think a film that failed would help, either.

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    2. Night Circus had a big film deal before the book even came out IIRC. That meant a lot of money was spent on its launch.

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  2. Yeah. But you have to admit, it's a pretty nifty puddle.

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  3. I'm going to go and cry. Who knows, maybe that will make the pond bigger...

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  4. Interesting details. Once you pull the outliers, I wonder what the spread and stdev is for the top 100 writers in the genre as compared to other genres. My sense is that SF/F is a relatively wide, but shallow pool. Thoughts?

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  5. Very interesting. As an aspiring novelist I sometimes grapple with the old "art vs. money" paradox. I think there can be both. Love your work and many of the others on these graphs!

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    1. This is only my humble opinion, but I wouldn't worry about art at all. Not to say fantasy can't be artful, but the truth is that most readers of genre fiction are wanting to be entertained. The beauty isn't as important as whether they are having fun; a few hours away from the reality of their daily lives. Mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, etc. are the vehicle for this.
      To me, there is great value in entertainment. If I can put a smile on someone's face and make their live seem a little better - even for a short while - I take great satisfaction in this. I'll leave the art to the literary fiction writers who care about being clever.
      And believe it or not, you can make money. I may not be at the level of Mark Lawerence, and may never be, but the 650,000 books, ebooks and audio books I have sold have paid pretty well. It's hard work, but I love doing it.
      Good luck. And may you sell millions of copies one day. :)

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  6. I loathe Game of Thrones. I'm not denying that it's well written and epic. I just absolutely hate it for what it has done to the genre, which to me...it's ripped the soul from it. So I see this and want to weep. I love Rothfuss.

    But this graph tells me that it is young women buying books.

    Where are Tolkien, and Lewis? where is Jordan?

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  7. My books are in a weird situation because each of the Orbit books are actually two-book omnibus editions and people sometimes record their reading of say Theft of Swords as a reading of The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha. People on good reads (especially doing challenges) like getting two books counted rather than one. There are even some people who will rate all three: Theft of Swords, The Crown Conspiracy & Avempartha. So, yeah, it's harder to analyze.

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  8. That is some very fascinating information. I've wondered, why are book sales so secretive/hard to find/and touchy? It is fairly easy to find box office numbers, album sales, even video game sales, but book sales, nope.. Its like some occult science. Mr. Lawrence, by what you've written up there, would you say Prince of Thorns has sold around 400,000 copies? I'm so glad an established author is willing to talk about this. Also don't you and your agent need to know exactly how books have been sold? I mean, I would want to know how much money the publisher owes me. If the publisher replied, "oh you've sold around 3 to 4 million copies world wide, that wouldn't fly with me; that's a rather large discrepancy. Also how much money do you get for a book, my guess has always been around a dollar for paperback, as much as 6 dollars for a hardcover? Never been able to get a real answer on that.

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    1. A dollar would be GREAT!

      http://mark---lawrence.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/225.html

      Brian McClellan has blogged on this stuff too. Google!

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