Tag Archives: fiction

Ranking vs rating

This is a reoccurring theme with me.

When we have a choice, we don’t want some numeric number to help us choose, we want binary options. All choices, even from an array of options can be reduced to a series of binary choices.

When it comes to reading a book, you have one choice of two options: Read it, or not.

However, the there is the issue of precedence. Given two books you would like to read, which do you read first? What if there are 100? 1000? You need to be able to prioritize your choices so as to optimize your pleasure within your time allotted.

Therefore you must rank your choices. And in order to do this you must have some scale against which you can compare — in binary fashion — each choice. We all have our own spectrum, our own ranking of quality. Here I present my fiction novel ranking.

Alpha  : The Hobbit
Beta   : Harry Potter
Gamma  : Old Man and the Sea
Delta  : The Martian
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web
Theta  : Ringworld
Kapa   : The Road
Lambda : The Shining
Sigma  : Dune
Omega  : The Hunger Games

To use such a list, one first needs to determine “Do I want to read this book or not?” Once again — that was a binary choice: Yes:No.

Now, with that out of the way, one would then find some trusted fellow reader on which this current book under consideration is ranked. Say you wanted to read a story I’ve recommended, The Girl with All the Gifts — M.R. Carey.

Given that list above I, Anonymole, would place The Girl with All the Gifts here:

Delta  : The Martian
>>> The Girl with All the Gifts
Zeta   : Charlotte's Web

So, if you’ve read any of the books below the zeta level, (Charlotte’s web, Ringworld, The Road, etc.) then you can safely tell yourself, self, I’ll read THIS book before I read any of the others at or below zeta.

You’ve found the spot for maximum reading enjoyment in which to place this novel.

It might sound overtly complicated, but it’s really just a simple, “what have I read that compares?” concept. Of course, this is my list, you would have your own list, and I would suspect some of my comparison ranking choices would be on your list too. Which means, I could find out where my own preferences fit on your pleasure spectrum.

I use a set of Greek letters to identify where any one book might fall. Omega is that lowest level at which I’d recommend a “to read” selection. Below that, it’s off the list. All the books I recommend reading will fall within those 10 levels. If I indicate that Year One — Nora Roberts (which I’m reading now) is a lambda level story. Well, there you have it. It’s on the list, but pretty low.

Binary choices + ranking = better than the Five Stars system.

A sister article to “My Five Stars”:
https://anonymole.com/2017/10/02/my-five-stars/


Learning to unwrite, writing to unlearn

As I learn to write narrative fiction, what I find to be the most frustrating aspect and what I continuously ask myself, over and over, is:

WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I LEARN TO WRITE THE RIGHT WAY TO BEGIN WITH?

I can write. I write rather well. But not narrative fiction. I was taught, primarily, to write expository argument. Essays, essentially. The dreaded five paragraph missive designed to vex every fifteen year old attempting to avoid failure of English, period 3, room 218. (I only just.)

Literary fiction is a whole other swim in the swamp. There are gators and flesh-eating bacteria and rednecks in there. And they all want their pound of flesh. And I never learned how to appease them.

So now, I have to unlearn all that factoid driven, introductory sentence followed by supporting facts followed by conclusion shit. Scrape that crap from inside my skull and then, with a bone clean slate, reintroduce proper, evocative, engaging, thriving narrative. Narrative with an impossible number of rules and nuances that must be learned before you can actually write anything that anybody would ever want to read.

Ugh! It’s the unlearning that is killing me.

I would have loved to have someone, thirty years ago say, “Here, Mole, follow this simple step for dialog — never break it up with exposition. Dialog needs to escalate the tension, back and forth quickly, peak and then release to build again. There’s a rhythm to it. Alright? Okay, let’s practice. Good. Now again. Better. Now again. Excellent!”

Phew! One lesson down. 999 to go.

Oh, wait. Before I continue, I have to get the bristle-brush and cleanser out in order to bleach-clean all the droll research paper trash that litters the inside of my head. Damn! Will I ever be rid of this shit?

 

 

 

 

 

 


Writing: a fools errand

Are we fools to think that we can succeed at writing?

With prompting from Tom-Being-Tom, and my own curiosity over the last two years I thought I’d throw together a spreadsheet that tried to rationalize the numbers involved with publishing a novel.

You can find it linked here:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1w2SSi5Mv17El3Q-kx2iAiauE1HQscSoqf3Zjl_A9aas/edit?usp=sharing

Such a pursuit is fraught with errors due to assumptions and biases. But I like to have some idea of what the world looks like regarding numbers.

Bottom line, if you can get traditionally published, you might sell between 70 and 120 copies.

The process:

• From the total US population take the number of adult readers.
• From the est. number of books read: 5 (REF) per adult per year,
• Arrive at the total read events per year.
• Assume 500k (REF) books published (traditional only) in 2017, assume that the prior 19 years are also included in the total reads for the year.
• Reduce the published total for each year going back 20 years.
• Sum this total published for the 20 years.
• From this total take the percentage of each year and apply it to the total yearly reads.
• This will give us our total reads for those books published this year.
• From this number take 75% as actually purchase (not library or loans).
• From that number take 75% as fiction reads.
• From that number remove 50% as books that are best sellers (the lion’s share of reads) We’re going to look at the remainder after we remove this portion. We’re looking for average authors not NYTimes bestsellers.
• This will give us the total number of reads for the year for the average book.
• Divide that number by the total number of books published.

Result: 82 (using the median of 5 books/adult or 197 using the average of 12 books/adult).

These are pretty conservative numbers. But if you want to play with the numbers, you can copy this spreadsheet and fiddle with the inputs.

Foolish to think one can succeed at getting published and selling more than 100 copies? Yes, that’s my take.

Some of the data is presented here:

US Pop. 325,000,000
% Readers 80.00%
Reader Pop. 260,000,000
Median # Reads per year 5
Total Annual Read (events) 1,300,000,000
% of Reads are Purchased 75.00%
% of Reads are Fiction 75.00%
% of Reads are Best Sellers 50.00%
Annual Fiction Sales 731,250,000
Yearly % Pub Count Increase 10.00%
Year Pub Count % Reads # Of Total Reads # Best Sellers # Remaining Med # Sales
2017 500,000 11.23% 82,109,319 41,054,659 41,054,659 82
2016 450,000 10.11% 73,898,387 36,949,193 36,949,193
2015 405,000 9.10% 66,508,548 33,254,274 33,254,274
2014 364,500 8.19% 59,857,693 29,928,847 29,928,847
2013 328,050 7.37% 53,871,924 26,935,962 26,935,962
2012 295,245 6.63% 48,484,732 24,242,366 24,242,366
2011 265,721 5.97% 43,636,258 21,818,129 21,818,129
2010 239,148 5.37% 39,272,633 19,636,316 19,636,316
2009 215,234 4.83% 35,345,369 17,672,685 17,672,685
2008 193,710 4.35% 31,810,832 15,905,416 15,905,416
2007 174,339 3.92% 28,629,749 14,314,875 14,314,875
2006 156,905 3.52% 25,766,774 12,883,387 12,883,387
2005 141,215 3.17% 23,190,097 11,595,048 11,595,048
2004 127,093 2.85% 20,871,087 10,435,544 10,435,544
2003 114,384 2.57% 18,783,978 9,391,989 9,391,989
2002 102,946 2.31% 16,905,581 8,452,790 8,452,790
2001 92,651 2.08% 15,215,023 7,607,511 7,607,511
2000 83,386 1.87% 13,693,520 6,846,760 6,846,760
1999 75,047 1.69% 12,324,168 6,162,084 6,162,084
1998 67,543 1.52% 11,091,751 5,545,876 5,545,876
1997 60,788 1.37% 9,982,576 4,991,288 4,991,288
Sum 4,452,905 731,250,000 365,625,000 365,625,000

Notes:
• Missing from our calculations thus far are, reads from books printed in previous years; what number of books are actually sold; number of fiction books sold.
• Let’s be conservative and say that we’ll only include books from the previous 20 years, in a descending ratio such that for every year in reverse we take 90% of the current number. (Seeing how Harry Potter was first published in 1997 and it remains in the top sellers list year after year, this does not seem out of line.)
• Additionally, let’s assume that 3/4’s of the total reads are actual purchases (not library, or loaned reads), and let’s assume that 3/4’s of those remaining are fiction reads, and finally, 1/2 of the reads are for best sellers.
• No self published novels are included.

Relevant cites:
https://www.npr.org/2015/09/19/441459103/when-it-comes-to-book-sales-what-counts-as-success-might-surprise-you
https://www.bkconnection.com/the-10-awful-truths-about-book-publishing
http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/19/slightly-fewer-americans-are-reading-print-books-new-survey-finds/