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Using book sales to segregate

good writers from bad


According to Michael Kozlowski, Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader, the leading news website devoted to digital publishing, e-books, and e-reader news I’m a bad writer.

I agree.

How did we come to this conclusion? In his own words, “You are only considered a real author if you can make your living solely from the book sales. If you can’t, you are merely a writer… the industry needs to define the good writers from the bad. The primary way we can do this is by sales figures; if authors make their living from publishing, they are often considered good writers.”

When I decided to write fiction about ten years ago, I had nearly forty years of journalism as a formative base. But even though I’d written hundreds of thousands of words up to that point, fiction was a different style of writing. To learn how to write fiction, I attended writer’s groups, joined online critique sites and read dozens of books, and I continue to do so.

Writing fiction is a craft, and it can be learned and mastered, to some degree, by learning the fundamentals and then practicing – a lot. It’s evident the vast majority of the indie authors I’ve read haven’t even bothered to learn the basics and have spent nowhere near enough time practicing.

As Kozlowski says “Indie titles have no quality and control, often they are merely submitting a Word document to Amazon and clicking publish.”

Kozlowski’s not suggesting all self-published books are crap and all traditionally published books are classics, just that “there is some expectation of quality in reading a traditionally published book.” As someone who actually reads and reviews the work of unknown, randomly selected indie authors that’s definitely not the case with reading a self-published work.

From the beginning of my venture into writing and publishing fiction, it became apparent the only way to measure success was, as Kozlowski suggests, book sales. This is an industry of illusion and delusion, and the majority of those involved are subject to the Dunning-Kruger Effect defined as “Unskilled individuals that suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.” 

I’ve come to accept I’m not a good writer until my book sales prove otherwise.

“Once we can define a good writer from a bad,” Kozlowski writes, we can start to segregate them.”

Which brings us to another of his suggestions, segregating self-published books according to sales and thus saving the e-book industry

“My suggestion is for all major online bookstores that take submitted indie content to create their own sections for self-published writers. These titles should not be listed side by side with the traditional press.  Indie titles should have their own dedicated sections until they reach a certain threshold in sales. Once they can attain an arbitrary sales milestone, they are drafted to the big leagues and listed in the main bookstore.”

Why, you ask, does Kozlowski think this is necessary?

“There are a copious number of online self-publishing companies that promise aspiring authors the opportunity to distribute their e-book all over the world. Millions of authors publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Draft2Digital, Kobo Writing Life, Nook Press and Smashwords. Most “authors” who self-publish an e-book never sell more than a handful, and over seventy-five percent of all authors never earn a living through their writing.”

And the result of this plethora of self-published dreck (my word) is that “We live in a world full of terrible e-book titles that ruin e-book discovery and make it difficult to find a good book. It is no small wonder why e-book sales have plummeted in recent years.”

Under Kozlowski's sales threshold system there's no doubt some excellent books would never get out of the minors, just as there would be authors  who, rather than hone their craft to the point they can write a good book, would find ways of attaining access to the majors fraudulently.

However, this is a solution I’m prepared to consider in hopes the cream might rise to the top.

If Kozlowski is right that by 2020, fifty percent of all digital books will be written by indie authors and that will account for 25,000 new titles a month being submitted to online bookstores than something, indeed, has to be done.

So just how many books would you need to sell to meet the threshold and advance to the majors?

Amazon has author and sales ranking graphs that are updated hourly. On Sept. 5, 2017, someone purchased one (1) e-book edition of my novel Saving Spirit Bear. That single sale boosted the novel’s ranking from 8,787,432 to 201, 692 an increase of 8,585,740 points. My author ranking subsequently increased 582,673 points from 825,278 to 242,605.

What do these numbers mean? I’d say a few sales a month, and an indie author would be among the top 100,000 selling authors on Amazon. Would that get you into the majors?

Who cares, you’d still be making peanuts.







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