Speaking of wit knitting-Updated

Dear Ms. Snark:

If the statistics or rather the sadistics are correct, that out of 1.2 million books printed only 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies; that another 200,000 copies sold less than 1,000; 25,000 sold only 5,000 copies and fewer than 500 copies sold more than a million copies. The average sale of a book is 500 copies! What is a writer to do?

I sold more Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid ...

My question is why bother to acquire an agent at all? All this a.. kissing and so on and so forth just to give them a cut? Why? because they hold the key to the wizard's dressing room? What in the hell would make them so savvy as to know what will sell and what won't?

I am surprised that the entire book empire isn't going to crumble with what is finally set out on the shelves for the average reader to pay BIG money for. The field is slowly melting like the wicked witch of the North.

Then I hear that if an agent gets a publisher, the publisher only will push your book for 90 days unless of course it's REALLY good, then that is a statistic equivalent to winning the lottery. In other words, it just ain't gonna happen.

Publish on Demand has to be the only way out. No large wasted trees, no agents screwing with your minds and publishers recreating your work because "they know what sells." PLEASEEEE! Someone get this doo doo off my shoe with a stick!

I'm getting off this roller coaster. My first book has sold over 1020 copies in 8 months and it's a POD. I am doing a signing on a major cruise line next month, I have been on the radio in small towns and I am in some Midwest book stores. I promote my books myself. I am getting known in Europe as well as in Asia. I average three book signings a month.

I designed my own cover, I hired my own editor. No one altered a word in my book. To me THAT'S real publishing. From soup to nuts.

Find one major error in logic, and one in fact. Without counting the entertaining punctuation, and forgetting the "Ms Snark", correctly identify these two major errors, and you win the link to the book cover.

Update: everyone got the "wrong witch"
two people were close on the other: POD (print on demand) is a technology-it's NOT electronic publishing. POD uses paper just like regular publishing does. You can print your books using POD for whatever reason you want but 'saving trees' isn't accurate. In fact, a pretty logical case can be made for the fact that POD, by reducing the unit cost of a book, and making it easier for writers who would not have books through traditional means actually account for MORE trees being cut down.

I swear I thought this was a prank.
Now I only pray it is.

And don't write comments to me that I'm "mean" to post this link.

Herewith the text of the conversation:

1. Email you see above

2. MS to NW: You know of course that all email to me is posted on the blog.
with links

3. NW to MS: Yes, I do and I am glad to see that, your majesty.

PPS Now imagine being on a cruise with this one. Makes you pray Willem Dafoe is on the manifest doesn't it?


Anonymous said...

I would kill to know if the agent responded. Also, I cannot imagine why an agent would ever say they were closed to submissions if that were not true. Seems to me a simple "not right for my list" would be an efficient way to tell a writer to look elsewhere and that there simply was no interest in their present manuscript.

Anonymous said...

It's the Wicked Witch of the West

Glenda the Good Witch was from the North

Michelle said...

They lost me on this one: "I hired my own editor" and "No one altered a word in my book."

Um, isn't that what an editor is for??

NitWitness said...

Even Super Brownie couldn't sell that many GS cookies......Plus, the averages add up to a lot more than 1.2 million.

Lorra said...

Is this one of those confusing SAT questions?

First of all I don't believe the total number of books slotted into sales categories adds up to 1.2 million.

Secondly, he says only 950,000 sold less than 99 copies - he meant to say 950,000 sold less than 99.

He leaves out books that sold between 1,000 and 4,999 and books that sold between 5,001 and <1 million.

Sooooo. Do I win a new car or dinner with Clooney or a chance to meet KY? Huh? Do I?

Lexie Ward said...

The Wicked Witch of the WEST melted.
The Wicked Witch of the EAST got squashed by Dorothy's house.
The witches of the north and the south were both good.

kaytie said...

Error in Fact: The wicked witch of the North did not melt. Glinda, melting? As if!

Error in Logic: Trying to get doo doo off with a stick seems illogical. So does designing one's own cover.

But these are trifling errors, so I withdraw my entry. Mostly I just wanted to "lol" on the screen. Also, I'm not convinced the prize would be worth it.

Michelle said...

Logic is harder to come by, but I believe the error in fact is this:

If the wicked witch being referenced here is from the Wizard of Oz, the writer needs a new gps system. I believe the witches in W.o.O. were East and West. One had a house dropped on her, the other melted. Neither was from the North.

Michael Patrick Leahy said...

This guy obviously failed both statistics and logic.

1. Error in Fact -- only 10 books, not 500, sold more than a million.

2. Error in Logic -- There is no such thing as an average book.

3. Bonus Error in Logic -- Of the 25,000 writers that sold over 5,000, probably 24,000 had agents !

4. Bonus Error in Fact -- He has forgotten that Walmart book sales and library book sales aren't included in the Bookscan numbers he references.

ORION said...

Well, after reading the letter, the thing that scared me was the line: "no one altered a line in my book."

Lauren said...

I think I've got the errors, but I'm not going to post them. I don't want to see this idiot's cover which, I suspect, would be like seeing his underwear. Eeeeeeewwwwww.

Anon said...

Fact: it's not that the average sale of a book is 500 copies, but that the average sale of an ISBN is 500 copies; some books have multiple ISBNs, and that also includes things like calendars. Seen somewhere on my feeds, but I can't for the life of me remember where. Any help?

Logic: the field isn't melting like the Wicked Witch of the North (it's a title, yo) or any other wicked witch. More readers is always a good thing, but the field is doing fine.

Brady Westwater said...

First, it should be of 1,250,00 books PUBLISHED, not printed since a more books were printed than that, though possbily I am nit-picking there as to nuance. Second, only about 180,000 book titles a year are published in this country, not 1,250,000. Third, it should be sold LESS than 99 copies and not more than 99 copies. Fourth, saying only 200,000 books sold less than 1,000 copies while also saying that 950,000 sold less than 9 copies is impossible. Fifth, I am guessing she meant to say that only 25,000 books sold MORE than 5,000 copies and not that 25,000 sold exactly 5,000 copies.

Just Me said...

Logic error: The writer is financing all this out of her own pocket, rather than pocketing an advance. If most books "don't earn out" then the publisher's advance indeed has a value for the writer.

Factual error(s): The numbers quoted don't add up. There are 24,500 data points missing. Ouch. And the "Only 950,000 sold fewer..." EEEyew. Ditch the "only", kiddo. You do indeed need an editor.

-Just Me

Gerri said...

Reiterating for the nit-wit...

One thing I noticed is that this list doesn't distinguish between fiction and non-fiction. Many specialty non-fiction book authors would be delighted with 99 sales to non-library sources. The next thing I noticed was that there is no distinction between types of non-fiction or fiction.

Third thing that I noticed is that there's no distinction between the size of presses. Small vs. large press is vital to know. Fourth, there's no discussion of print run sizes for various sized presses.

Second: OK. Nit-wit of the day (NWotD) You're a self-promotion machine. What you don't say is a. the topic of your book, b. is it fiction or non-fiction, c. what your target audience is, d. if you tried agents before going the POD route, or e. why you're harassing Miss Snark.

Third: For a melting field, the book publishing business seems awfully sturdy. There's something magical about touching books and reading the cover that absolutely no POD or E-book can duplicate. While places like amazon.com and bn.com do a great amount of business, they're still selling hard copy books that they've got ready to go.

Fourth: while some publishers don't take unsolicited submissions, many still do. Do your homework. So much for your agent as keymaster. (Insert favorite Ghostbuster joke here.)

Fifth: Publishers guess at what will sell. Agents guess at what will sell. Sometimes they guess wrong; ask all the presses that turned down Harry Potter.

Sixth: Some books are appropriate for POD. Yours probably was one of them. Big deal. *yawn* But it sounds like you'd rather be promoting than writing. That's why people get agents. They don't have to worry about designing covers, hiring editors, legalese, or other stuff. They can get back to the creation end of things, which is where their speciality lies. Yes, they'll have to do the websites and the signings. Still doesn't matter. If the book is good, it'll sell.

Clue x 4 of the day: Writers and readers and agents and publishers talk to each other, and they listen to each other. If someone says it's good, others will look at it.

NWotD, shoo. Go talk to the Publish America people. They'll swallow your garbage.

Anna said...

Wasn't it the Wicked Witch of the West who melted?
I would love to see the book cover. I think the entire letter was devoid of logic.

Anonymous said...

I recall the day people "knew" computers would end the proverbial waste of paper. Funny how the Amazon depletes and our computers spew.

If you're using Oz as metaphor, than pull back the real curtain: You're tight with your money and a control freak. And if you designed your own cover, well, that says a lot of nothing for a POD book (what is it, MY BOOK in block type?).

It's fine, brownie girl, to take another path. Bon voyage. Have a grand time. Leaves more room for the rest of us who think beyond sales and book signings. By the way, did you catch the TV viewing of "The Wizard of Oz" last night? I watched it w/my loinfruit. Her vocabulary is similar to yours but her logic's better; she's six but unlike you, is growing out of tantrums.

--Mrs. Rockwell

mkcbunny said...

Skipping past the improper word choices in paragraph one ...

First, average book sales. If there are 1.2 milion titles, then the "average book sale" should be the combined number of copies sold divided by the number of titles. Not the 500 titles that sold over a million copies. So I'd say that's a "fact error."

I don't know about the 90 days, but that seems suspect, as well.

I sense several logical errors, but they're jamming my brain. First, how is POD "the only way out"? Seems like a lot of time and money goes into making, promoting, and selling a book, why should I think I can do that better or more profitably than an agent/publisher combo?

I'll leave further ID to more intrepid Snarklings.

Jana Oliver said...

Non sequitur - "I hired my own editor. No one altered a word in my book."

What did the editor do for his/her money?

Quaint Irene said...

1. As regards the first paragraph -- HUH? I'm sorry I can't be more specific. The whole thing gave me a headache.

2. Wicked Witch of the WEST!

Kellie said...

I hired my own editor. No one altered a word in my book.

If that's true, then she sure wasted her money on that editor.

Fact: The average book is only pushed heavily by the publisher for about 90 days after the release. However, there's a period of a few months to over a year before the release when the book is being pushed heavily to bookstores, reviewers, and trade publications.

Logic: The error in logic is the writer assuming that Miss Snark will actually care about this nitwittery.

Miss Snark said...

so far, no one has the error I noticed right away.

I'm getting out the school marm outfit, and KY has the dunce cap at the ready.


WV: imumpr (I think Bella Stander's ears are burning)

Linda Adams said...

Obviously, this person didn't read the earlier blog covering exactly what those numbers mean and how deceptive they actually are (and what they don't count ...).

The poster also makes it sound like the agent is just someone out to steal money. They're a form of business manager, just like an actor's agent helps him find roles and gets the contract taken care of. Didn't the poster even bother to research the industry first? It sounds like the poster has based it all on what they've heard from other POD people who don't know anything either.

kaolin fire said...

All this a.. kissing and so on and so forth just to give them a cut?

For starters, this is a leap. No ass kissing should need to happen in either direction. Respect is good.

And we'll just ignore the atrocious attempt at the use of the English language in the "copies" paragraph.

What the hell did the editor she hired do, if not alter the words in her book? And I really hope she paid the editor well enough for the medication they surely needed after going through her prose, if it's anything like what got posted to the blog above.

"From soup to nuts" was new to me, anyway. http://www.soup2nuts.biz/whatissoup2nuts.html :)

Oh, and yes--the wicked witches were East and West.

Kim said...

Argh!! I got the fact, but apparently I really suck at the logic...


I so want to see the cover of a book that had not one word changed... not one? My first book went through nine drafts before it was ready. My last, eight drafts. My current WIP is on the 7th... I cringe to think what any of them would look like had not a word been changed...

teg said...

Unfact (a.k.a. fiction): average sale of a book is 500 copies

Illogic (a.k.a. ego-boosting, impatient quick-fix):Publish on demand has to be the only way out

Shouga Tea said...

Umm, perhaps the quantum leap from sales of PUBLISHERS to the AGENT who clearly has already gotten the book off their desk?
And does everyone here know the WWotW melted because she'd grown so old she was dirt? That Baum, such a riot...

I agree I live in dread of the prize. Then again, maybe I'll feel better about my first novel's illustrated frontispiece. (^.^)

WV:rhiduiic--what this thread's progenitor was, pronounced round and fully. ULUS, I say. Boggart, begone!

Tattieheid said...

I like this one. What an idiot.

Error in fact - It's the retailers/booksellers that only push a book for 90 days, particularly the supermarkets. They need to clear their shelves for the next batch of "Bestsellers", but even they will keep your book on the shelves if it is selling. Your Publisher wants to move as many copies as they can and will push your novel for as long as they can get sales. Publishers (and authors)frequently make more money from back catalogue sales than from someone's latest novel. These back catalogues can span decades so 90 day publishers are a myth.

Error in logic - the financial returns of publish on demand look pretty crap if you have only sold 1020 copies. By the time you take into account the cost of hiring an editor (why you bothered if you didn't change anything in the book begs a question), the cost of printing, all the publicity/promotion costs, travel costs etc you must be well out of pocket and that's without taking into account your time.

You have spent 8 months doing this when you could have been writing your next couple of books.

If your book was any good and published by a mainstream publisher you would have secured an advance, the printing, promotional and editorial costs would have been borne by the publisher. Financially you would be better off.

If you use an agent they might well secure you a better advance, a 2 or 3 book deal, additional publicity/promotional activity. They would handle all the contractual issues for you, may be able to get you additional money by selling foreign and film rights and guide you through the minefield.

I can't be bothered doing an example of how the actual maths adds up, it has been demonstrated in various places already.

I would rather have 85% of something than 100% of nothing.

From soup to nuts.
Offhand I would say this guy is nuts and unless he has won the lottery he's still in the soup.

Anonymous said...

My first book has sold over 1020 copies in 8 months and it's a POD.

My first book sold over 1020 copies in 8 weeks. Perhaps because it wasn't a POD.

Anonymous said...

Out of 1.2 million books printed... only 950,000 sold...

Are we counting seperate titles or actual seperate books? Call me a witknit but are 1.2 million different titles really put out in a given (year, month, unspecified length of time?)

Karen said...

Methinks she has the wrong P in her POD. I've heard of Print on Demand, but Publish on Demand?

lindazbraden said...

Okay. I'm swinging a dead cat in the air here:

1. Logic: Paying BIG money for a book -- you're not taking out a jumbo mortgage, for christ's sake. The ratio of $6 for a paperback and $25 for hardback is not BIG money -- trust me. Have you never been in debt?

2. Illogic: THAT's real publishing. No editor, no representation, what you wrote is the ultimate -- you rock! No THAT's not real publishing. If you think it is, then you are delusional -- from soup to nuts (and you are clearly nuts, perhaps with some noodles mixed in).


Michael Patrick Leahy said...

Trying again.

The statement that there were only 1.2 million books printed in 2004 is factually incorrect.

There were 1.2 million unique ISBN codes measured in 2004, spread over between 300,000 and 400,000 titles, since many titles had 3 or 4 unique ISBN codes.

The number of books printed was an order of magnitude greater than 1.2 million.

Miss Snark said...

still no winner.
Maybe we all need a refresher course in terminology.

Maya said...

Where do I begin? The first paragraph was a freaking mess.

I had to read the first sentence three times before I realized "only" didn't belong in front of 950,000. He kept confusing "book" with "copy" as in "200,000 copies sold less than 1,000."

He had two errors of fact (still in the first paragraph): one small and one very large. 25,000 books sold MORE THAN 5,000 copies, not "only 5,000 copies." The larger problem was that he said "500 copies sold more than a million copies." He meant to say 500 books sold more than 100,000 copies, not a million (pesky little things, those decimal points). Finally (thank Dog we're leaving that paragraph), he said "the average sale of a book is 500 copies." He meant the average book sells 500 copies.

I'm going to disregard the visuals associated with "an agent gets a publisher."

"The publisher only will push your book for 90 days unless of course it's REALLY good." What happens then? They publish it for 91 days?

He is using Publish-on-Demand as though it were synonymous with self-publishing (despite his comment about the trees). POD is a printing technology, NOT a business model.

He's unable to string eight coherent paragraphs together. Dog love the editor he hired.

And, BTW, Locasta was the Good Witch of the North. He meant the Wicked Witch of the WEST.

Paprika said...

*unleashes internal editor and prepares to hunt errors*

Paragraph 1: As the ever-knowing Miss Snark already explained in her 11/10 POpost, these statistics are very misleading, for several reasons which I won't repeat here.

P 2: Cookies are not books. Girl Scouts is not publishing. Need I say more?

P 3: You really think all an agent does is take your money? Have you even been reading this blog?! Minor services like contract negotiations and subsidiary rights sales aside, any agent worth their comission salt WILL know the market and WILL know what sells and what doesn't. It's their JOB to know that, and they learn it by watching the market, talking to other people in the industry, and keeping a track of what they themselves have been able to sell (or not) in the past.

P 4: Sure there are lots of lousy books being published, but if you think there are ONLY lousy books, you seriously need to read more. And you don't even have to "pay BIG money" to do it. Ever heard of a library...?

P 5: Your source on that 90 day thing is...? (True or not, you shouldn't make decisions based on rumors.) And how does statistics have anything to do with whether your book is really good or not? That depends on your writing.

P 6: Print on demand is a wonderful invention, yes. But again, agents and publishers DO know what sells because their JOB is to sell books. If they couldn't figure out what would sell and what wouldn't, they wouldn't stay in business very long.

P 7: "Getting known in Europe as well as in Asia"? Not very well known, if you've only sold a thousand books. And it's really not that hard to get on small town radio stations or to get a few local bookstores to stock your book. Your self-promotion is quite impressive, of course, but it's not that much compared to what a major publisher's marketing department could do for you. Besides, not all writers have enough time or money to do much self-promotion. Some can't because of health problems. And many of us are scared to death by the very idea. Plus, the less time we have to spend on marketing, the more time we can spend on writing the next book.

P 8: First, many (if not most) writers are incapable of designing decent covers. Second, if no one has altered a word in your book, then your editor is obviously not doing his/her job. I suggest you find a new and less merciful one.

Final Note: Self-publishing IS a very good option for some people. But only some. Most writers need to just grit their teeth and learn to play the publishing game.

The Unpretentious Writer said...

As an aside...

Booksellers don't usually carry POD titles (although sometimes the author manages to scam a copy or two on the shelf).

They're what's called 'non-returnable', which means that we can't send them back to the publisher if they don't sell. We're stuck with them, we 'eat' the cost of the book until it sells.

Say Random House looks at its catalog and sees a title tanking and another that has a new edition coming out in a few months. They contact the booksellers and register those titles as a 'return'. We pull the titles and send them back to Random House, merry as can be. We don't lose money.

This has been a PSA from your local bookseller, now back to your regularly scheduled Internet.

Quaint Irene said...

The witknitter seems to have dropped a stitch and is equating "publish" with "print," perhaps?

Anonymous said...

If the statistics or rather the sadistics are correct, that out of 1.2 million books printed only 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies

more than

Neva said...

I think the errors have been pretty well covered. But here's what I think:

If you're making money, enough to live on, by self-publishing, doing all the work yourself, etc, then good for you. Maybe it works, for you. There's the commonly-told story in music about how Ani Difranco has the highest per-album profit in the industry. She sells fewer of them, but she makes more on them and she can do it how she wants instead of how someone else wants her to do it.

But she got there by having music that people really wanted to hear, and by working her ass off--she toured constantly for years. As a writer, I want to sit in my living room with my laptop and a box of Cheerios and write. Once I actually have a finished project that I'm not ashamed to have some agent (who is potentially Miss Snark) read, I want an agent to sell it for me. I have no problem giving them a cut for that service, because it lets me be more 'writer' and less 'marketer'.

But if you're an awesome sales(wo)man and you want more personal control over how your book sells, terrific for you, have fun with it. You must be doing well if you're managing to live on that income. Just please correct the assumption that we all feel the same way.

If you're *not* living on that income, I'd question not your dedication to the purity of your work but your sensibility in putting that much time into anything that doesn't put meals on the table. Unless you're making about $15 profit on each book, with 1020 books in 8 months, I suspect you fall into this category. Personally, if I'm going to spend that much time doing something I don't consider to be fun, it had better be after getting a huge advance. Otherwise, I'll live with what sales I get, and be happy writing.

Kim said...

Wait... doesn't POD mean Print on Demand?

Jeez... I'm really grasping here...

Trace said...

Fact: The witch of the North did not melt. 500 copies at, say, 20 dollars each, that's 10 grand! Hell, I'll take it if this guy won't. Anyway, I'm off topic, the error(there were many) in logic, would be, as well, designing his own cover! What'd he do it on, paint?? Sheesh.
God, I need a laugh, please link me!

Writerious said...

I liked this one:

What in the hell would make them so savvy as to know what will sell and what won't?

Um... because that's their job? Because that's how they pay their own bills? Just a guess.

I liked this one, too:

I hired my own editor. No one altered a word in my book.

Can I "edit" this gal's next book? Please? Easy money -- I wouldn't have to alter a thing.

And this one:

I am getting known in Europe as well as in Asia.

Getting known as what?

News flash: Getting a book signing is not that hard. You call up the book store. You talk to the manager. In most cases -- done.

I guess I'm going to need that refresher course in terminology. I know Former Girl Scout Cookie Pusher slings around some loose terms like "acquiring" an agent and the agent "getting" a publisher. And the whole mix-up between books printed, titles printed, ISBN numbers, etc. has already been pointed out. And of course the sheer arrogance of dismissing the total output of the publishing industry as hardly worth paying BIG money for, while her book is, of course, undoubtedly brilliant because it's sold slightly over 1000 copies.

But nothing else jumps out at me. Enlighten us, Your Snarkness.

(word verification: fcbkm. Almost describes my current state of mind.)

Linda Adams said...

Trying again:

Factual Error: that out of 1.2 million books >>printed<< only

There is a difference between printed and published!

Logic Error: Believing the statistics are correct.

Anonymous said...

Vanity presses were created for writers like him. People who believe everything they write is brilliant and anyone who doesn't recognize their brilliance is an idiot.

I bet he's a a lot of fun to talk to at holiday parties.

NitWitness said...

Uh....Why hire an editor if you don't expect them to 'edit' your book?

threepenny said...

My question is why bother to acquire an agent at all?

Wellll... technically you don't "acquire" an agent. What you bother to do is find somebody who likes your writing, and agree to work together. (And profit together, inshallah.) You're not putting together a baseball team, you're building a career for yourself as a writer.

All this a.. kissing and so on and so forth just to give them a cut? Why?

I bet Miss Snark isn't soliciting MSS from whiny sycophants. (Scattering the ground she walks upon with rose petals out of genuine adoration... now, that's a different story.)

...the publisher only will push your book for 90 days unless of course it's REALLY good, then that is a statistic equivalent to winning the lottery.

Having a "REALLY good" book is not, in fact, akin to winning the lottery. A really good book comes out of being a good writer and working hard, not getting lucky. Then you work hard some more, and connect with people who are excited about your work.

Geminipen said...

Umm... of course, I'm no mathematician, but isn't her average wrong? I came up with over 700.

And aren't the chances of having your book promoted by an editor for more than 90 days (according to the letter's numbers, anyway) BETTER than winning the lottery?

Anonymous said...

Perchance is the problem with the statement "if an agent gets a publisher." Isn't it actually the book that gets a publisher?

Bill Peschel said...

Given Miss Snark's hint about "termonology," I'd suggest Maya's "POD is a printing technology, NOT a business model." hits the fact bell.

My nominee for the logic prize is this: "I am surprised that the entire book empire isn't going to crumble with what is finally set out on the shelves for the average reader to pay BIG money for."

The nice thing about capitalism is that failures are easily seen. If the publishing model currently in place doesn't work, the courts would be clogged with bankruptcy cases.

Granted, the model is not the most efficient one out there, but it does work. Publishing houses make profits, agents live off their percentages and writers keep trying, and enough make some kind of living at it.

It's a creaky model, but it works.

Sonya said...

First thing that bothered me was the fact that the first "sentence" is actually a run-on fragment.

I think everything else that jumped out at me has already been stated.

Akuseru said...

Personally, this seems like a fairly standard line of "You elitists rejected me, so now I'm rejecting you!"

Since when does being courteous and professional towards an agent equal ass-kissing? Golly gee, Miss Snark, it must be nice to just sit around all day while those books sell themselves, and then receive a commission on top of that! This certainly explains why you have so much time to lovingly personalize each and every rejection slip you send out...

And since when does Miss Snark give a damn about the key to the wizard's dressing room? Unless Mr. Clooney is the one behind that closed door, it just doesn't make sense.

Anonymous said...

The poster quotes statistics stating that "out of 1.2 million books printed only 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies". If I was a publisher, I would have to "Print" one book for each copy sold. If those 950,000 sold even an average of two copies each, that would mean at least 1.9 million books would need to be printed.

The poster doesn't understand the difference between "printed" and "published".

Rebecca said...

So many errors, where to start? Well in the first sentence "that out of 1.2 million books printed only 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies; that another 200,000 copies sold less than 1,000" The "only" and "another" do not make sense.

"The field is slowly melting like the wicked witch of the North." It was the wicked witch of the East and West. North and South were good.

"then that is a statistic equivalent to winning the lottery" Actually, it is still much much harder to win the lottery. Also, this must be the error in logic because this writer is at first talking number of days but then switches to talking about statistics. Makes no sense.

"No agents screwing with your minds" Um, just how many minds does this writer have?

Also, maybe it's just me, but what the hell does "From soup to nuts" mean?

Now may I please have the link

Simon Haynes said...

Factual error: "The average sale of a book is 500 copies!"

No, the average sale is one copy. The average of total sales might be 500.

Logic error: Writers don't acquire agents. Agents acquire writers.

desert snarkling said...

I'm getting off this roller coaster.

Logic error: that he was ever on this roller coaster in the first place, and could have sold a book to a traditional publisher if he wanted to.

Anonymous said...

"why bother to acquire an agent at all?"

The word should read "inquire".

--Mrs. Rockwell

Anonymous said...

Talk about an army of one! S/he doesn't want to give agents a cut yet he hired his own editor, paid to publish, and is spending her/his own money to promote her/his book! So is this writer independently wealthy or what?

Lexie Ward said...

"What in the hell would make them so savvy as to know what will sell and what won't?"

Perhaps this is the logic mistake? Thinking that agents wouldn't have a clue about the world in which they make their bread and butter?

Anonymous said...

The logical flaw is assuming that the # of copies sold is not correlated to Self Published vs Published by Others. She thinks the probabliity of selling under 99 copies or over 200,000 copies etc is the same for self published books as it is for those with agents, editors, professional designers and publicists, etc. Which it aint.

It sounds like her book was done in the way that would provide her the greatest emotional gratification, not for the $$, and that's a valid choice to make.

Ellen Wernecke said...

It's the Wicked Witch of the WEST that melts, the North has the good witch, Glenda.

And it's not 90 days, isn't it more like six weeks?

Snitchcat said...

If the statistics or rather the sadistics are correct

I believe the correct term is 'sadists'.

Dave said...

I hate to be so mean but "I sold more Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid" doesn't require any talent on the writer's part. Writing a book does.

Second: "why bother to acquire an agent at all?" Because you are signing a contract, stupid. And you don't understand contract law.

Third: "What in the hell would make them so savvy as to know what will sell and what won't?" It's their business to know what is selling. Like dude, would you by a car form a shoe salesman? how about a jock strap from a coffee shop?

Fourth: I came into contact with graphic designers for a few years in my job. Aside from being strange and more strange people, they did artwork that makes my feebler attempts look like fingerpaints compared to Picasso. I suck at art. It ain't my job.

Fifth: the National Safety Council estimates your chances of being hit by lightning this year as 1 in 6.1 million.

Corn Dog said...

Error in logic:
Our wit knitter refers to “the key to the wizard’s dressing room.”
AH HA. Wizards don’t have keys to their dressing rooms. They’re wizards. They don’t need keys. DOH.

Error in fact:
Our wit knitter states “Someone get this doo doo off my shoe with a stick!”
Speaking as a former farm girl, you can’t get doo doo off your shoe with a stick. Use a hose. Turn the water on high.

Error in judgment:
Our wit knitter says, “I designed my own cover, I hired my own editor. No one altered a word in my book.”

carlynarr said...

"fewer than 500 copies sold more than a million copies. The average sale of a book is 500 copies!"

I don't think I'm sharp enough to win the link, but I'm not sure anyone has yet pointed out the redundancies and inaccuracies of this above statement. Apparently "copies" is akin to "books" in this writer's vocabulary.

Factual inaccuracy? Like s/he sold >500 Girl Scout cookies as a kid. Whatevs.

Lisa McMann said...

Wow, if he/she can sell 1020 books on her own, just think how many he/she can sell with an agent and publisher.

Oooh, I've got the error. It's totally the bit about the cruise.

Who would go to a booksigning on a cruise line -- like, the whole entire cruise line? Is that even possible? Maybe it's like Debbie Does Dallas or something -- seven ships in seven days...maybe it's a snorkeling book, or a book about Der Unterseebootcaptain, or how to buy tanzanite.

The Unpretentious Writer said...

Argh! Abuse of my store's good name! I followed the Barnes & Noble link for this bit of tomfoolery...

The book's rating is 5, based on 1 review, which was obviously written by the author herself. Notice also that there's no 'B&N Sales Rank', which means that this book has not sold through B&N. Even low-selling titles have a B&N sales rank. (Hint: after 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince' was given in ISBN, it jumped to number 1, and that was months before the release date)

Lincoln Crisler said...

Hmm... people like this are why POD is a dirty word. The book cover sucks, I could teach my eleven-year old how to have a non-scrolling background in five minutes (looks uber better) and the excerpt from the book...? I would have shat myself after 'getting well paid'... who knows what errors 'from soup to nuts' an agent (or at least a good, honest friend) could have prevented from happening?

The agent would probably prevent the book itself from happening, so the above is my Flaw in Logic.

There are some decent POD authors out there. Don't hold this assclown against all of them. That would be a Flaw in Fact.

; D

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

That... website... that... cover... I think I might puke.

And she thinks she's done well for herself?

Simon Haynes said...

And how many girl scout cookies in a box, anyway? Isn't 500 like, 20 boxes?

Simon Haynes said...

And now watch the author plaster "As featured on MISS SNARK" all over her website. (And good luck to her. Publicity is publicity, after all.)

Anonymous said...

1020 books is not a figure you'd be bragging about if you had a serious publisher. An informal poll of editors I know suggests 7-8K copies sold is average or expected for a novel bought for an average price by a major publisher in hardback. And i realize there is no real "average" but the question was phrased as what would be reasonable for a midlist novelist with okay sales or a first-time novelist, assuming a print run of say 15,000 and an advance commensurate with that. If you have a small press publisher it might be less, and the statistics cited by the writer include those publishers as well as university press books, technical books, trade books, etc. Those numbers are not indicative of the numbers publishers expect (and get) for the sort of books and the sort of book deals most of the people reading this blog are interested in.

So while the writer's 1020 copies are impressive for a POD, they'd be abysmal for Random House. 1020 copies would mean never getting published again. The 25,000 that sold "only 5,000" copies? That's most of the list at every major publishing house. How many new books does the writer think Hyperion or Little, Brown publish in a given year? Millions? Not to mention that the writer, unless naturally versed in PR and placement, would get almost no coverage for his or title and no national in-store placement.

mkcbunny said...

I cannot believe I missed anything to do with Oz. Skimmed right over it. Sheesh.

John Anthony Sperling said...

I would never disparage someone else's fiction. It doesn't seem to do any good; they keep writing anyway.

I do, however, feel perfectly entitled to say this about the book cover: Oh. My. God.

Someone just discovered Photoshop, and the result has left me frightened and disoriented.

Love, Respect, Happiness, Sorrow...Design Talent?

Hopeful, Regretful Tree Killer said...

I think the bricks and mortar bookstores / publishers / return system does indeed waste trees - all those unsold books that get pulped. Print on Demand and selling directly to the reader via the internet without the wasteful returns system IS better for the planet. Books only get printed when somebody is going to read them.

Personally, I'm still hoping my agent sells my book, and bugger the trees. But the current system of getting books to readers does waste trees, I don't see any way to deny that.

Anonymous said...

After having had a look at the website and reading the information provided there I am forced to conclude that the woman is seriously deluded. She claims that she has a degree in design yet the book cover is a mess, to put it mildly, and the website design is no better. I have also read the excerpt from her novel and it is really bad. Judging from her rant against agents and publishing I am sure I am not the only one who thinks her writing sucks and has said so.

Mary Jane Cole claims to have two degrees in behavioral sciences, but whatever she learned during her studies quite obviously does not apply to her own behaviour.

Becca Jones said...

The author may have been thinking attacking "her majesty" Miss Snark would give her some publicity. But I think she either overestimated the quality of her book or underestimated Miss Snark's loyal snarklings. I clicked on the link, too--lots of traffic on that site today--but I suspect the stunt won't turn up many buyers. Maybe a different publicity stunt would work better... like being one of three of four books available for sale on a cruise.

Anonymous said...

This person spammed AW a while ago, too, then tried to claim she'd actually been lurking there for years. Guess she didn't learn anything if she did.

The thread is here. She deleted her responses later but they'd all been quoted extensively.

This is an attempt to get publicity for her book, nothing more.

Ray Goldensundrop said...

I'll just say that the first mess of words has glaring comma faults and grammar assaults.

After glancing over the rest of this crap, I'm heading off to more interesting activities. This is not for me.

Tattieheid said...

Didn't win (must do more homework)but followed the link anyway. Wish I hadn't.

Oh dear.

Still at least she has her own personal psychiatrist.

Anonymous said...

Her husband is a psychiatrist.

Lord, do they never talk?!

Lisa McMann said...

More power to you, Mary Jane Cole. Have you ever thought of going into marketing or publicity? You seem to know how to get your book seen by a lot of people. Gotta give you props for that.

Mars said...

The opening page of this novel posted on Amazon will delight Miss Snark.

"The Perfect Dress is a fictional novel.

All characters are purely factitious[sic]."

We love factitious people here! They make great cluegun material!

Jana Oliver said...

POD, as a technology, is a great thing. The problem arises when someone pays a 'print services provider' (Author House) to publish their book without extensive editing. Yes, this is 'vanity' publishing (and I so dislike that term). Not every book so created is crap. In fact, I've read some excellent ones that should have gone to NY. The majority, alas, do not rise above the bar. The key issue in this case is hubris...

Nick said...

Looks like this person has spent way too much time over on the PublishAmerica website...


December Quinn said...

I guess having her book bound in order to make it more attractive to agents didn't work for her, and that's why the diatribe?

Anonymous said...

Damn you mars!
I was chewing an apple while reading your post. Now I have to pick little bits of... stuff from the screen because of you. And I also had to fake a convincing choke/cough as my boss just happened to pass by.

As for the error in logic I would take issue with the sentence " Publish on Demand has to be the only way out."
I take it to mean "... way out of the publishing business". To me the relationship between an aspiring writer and the publishing industry can be very easily explained even in 3-year-old talk: IN - good, OUT - not good.

If this is it then could Miss Snark think of a second prize as I don't really want the first.
If this is not it then I have question: Would a period (lifetime?) of study of the Tao of Snark help supply the answer?
Please give us a clue, if only to keep the clue gun sliding smoothly (they seize if not fired regularly like most things).

Almost Writer.

Anonymous said...

And here is the difference between a writer and an author.

She'll likely never be published by any legitimate publisher. Period.

This is exactly the type of person I find in the slush pile after their PoD title has run its course. Rather than conform to submission guidelines, they include a copy of their atrociously typset, poorly designed, unedited piece of crap, and quote unverifiable sales figures in their query letter. Then they try to explain why a real publisher should fork out money to publish it. And after they receive my form rejection, they send an angry letter telling me I don't know the first thing about publishing.

I hate to sound hippy-ish, but publishing is a community. This woman obviously wants to belong, but only on her own terms.

I say, she can take her ball and go home. Make up her own rules for the game, embittered loser that she is.

A cruise ship is a giant floating room with no escape. People aren't coming to her because her book is good; they're just trying to escape the non-stop buffet on the Lido deck.

It pisses me off when anyone thinks that just because they can put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) that they can write. Why don't we have any baby boomer concert pianists or brain surgeons?

smf said...

From the first paragraph of the novel... Aunt Hazel and Uncle Joe? Why am I suddenly envisioning Shirley Booth and "Curly Joe" DeRita from the Three Stooges?

thraesja said...

Hmmm, I read the reviews on B&N and Amazon. Anyone familiar with the term "sock puppet"?

Does anyone else find it bizarre when main characters have almost the same name as the author? Mary Jane Cole, meet Mary Leigh Worth.

Nut said...

You gotta hand it to Authorhouse. They are the first 'publishers' to release a book cover, drawn by an author's foot. I just wonder, if the book was typed by feet too...

Anonymous said...

"No large wasted trees."

OK, is it just me or did anyone else get a bizarre visual of Tolkein's Ents smoking joints and getting totally stoned in Middle Earth?


cudd said...

"Designed my own cover" my ass. She references a http://www.snowysavers.com for designing her web page... click the link and woe and behold, the same designer also did her book cover.

julie said...

I can't get the image of "large wasted trees" out of my head.

michaelgav said...

I don't know that I've ever seen this many comments before.

Combination of a Miss Snark mini-contest, a writer pontificating and boasting in the same post (always an endearing mix), then pulling the curtain back on the book itself (yowza), and finally an "I am glad to see that, your majesty" request for serial abuse. (As opposed to cereal abuse, which involves putting Rice Krispies where Rice Krispies were never meant to be...)

I don't think Miss Snark was mean to put this up (how could Miss Snark have resisted material like this?). I don't even think it was mean for us to snap, crackle and pop all over her (alhough now that I am ninety-something in the queue, I fear the poor woman has slipped into a coma).

The real value in this post, for me, is I can print it and hand it to my wife* as another reason not to take next year's vacation on a cruise ship.

Thank you, Miss Snark, and thank you too, Mary Jane.

* The wife in this post is purely factitious.

writtenwyrdd said...

That is the UGLIEST romance cover I have ever seen. Not only would it put me off the book, my appetite and any romantic expectations I might have had based on the backmatter, it would seriously make me wonder if the number of typos would exceed the number of pages.

I've bought these kinds of books via Amazon, thinking to give them a shot if the blurb sounded good. I make it a rule to not do so. I have yet to find a self-published book that didn't suffer from lack of an edit. Badly.

Shani said...

You can read the beginning of the book on Amazon. I got as far as

The Perfect Dress is a fictional novel.

All characters are purely factitous. Any resemblances to real people living or deceased are purely coincidental. Any resemblances to known people are completely fictional as well as the settings.

I... just... I can't read any more. I'm sorry! I would bring more snark, but it would be at the cost of sweeping up my brain from the floor.

Also, I would like to say: Milton Keynes hahahahahah! and trust that anyone who lives in the south of the UK will understand me.

Anonymous said...

I have heard this literary version of a sour grapes rant for a couple decades now. Of course it was old the first time.

I don't mind. Instead of spending effort that could be used writing and improving what little talent he/she has, this person is busy selling a single POD title. During that period I've finished 2-3 novels and sent them off to a print house. For money. For real money.

"The odds are against me, boo-hoo. I'll show you and do it myself! Nyah!" Yup, heard that one a lot. It's a great excuse for failure. I love it. I'm sure that over the years it's opened many a slot on the publishing schedule for my books. The editors are not using up their time on that person's work.

Keep it up, little nitwit. Rant night and day, sell your POD from your car trunk at every Wal-Mart parking lot from Rabbitania to Arcata, CA. I love you more than you'll ever know! Muah!

Brady Westwater said...

I disagree that large waste tress was a major error; horrible writing, yes, but not an error.. With POD, only as mnay books that are needed are printed. Ergo - no returns and no pulped books and no wasted trees.

Not All There said...

For me, POD will serve one purpose and one purpose only: to bind my work so I can foist it upon friends and family after decades of failure to publish the usual way.

Yes, I love to write. Yes, I want to (and strive to) hone my craft. Yes, I want to be published the traditional way.

BUT: If I try and try and try some more and fail, dog forbid, because a) I stink still or b) there is no market for my work, then yes, I'll print a bunch of copies for my own personal pleasure of having my work in print.

But not as a first resort, or even after a few rejections (got those already).

If I don't land an agent, I don't blame the agents. Must be something about my work that doesn't resonate, or I need serious help.

Pass the tequila, please.

J. F. Constantine said...

Too many errors in that nonsense to get my head around - it's too much brain damage.

Clearly this individual doesn't understand:

1. Writing as an art (if you care for your art, you don't turn it over to "Kinko's");
2. Your agent is more than a sales person (s/he is your "partner", your editor, and this list goes on and on for all a good agent does for their client) The good ones earn every penny, and then some!! Mine is a freakin' saint to whom I bow and scrape. I love her!
3. Your editor is there to make the work "better", and to help you grow as an artist.
4. Publishers don't buy work unless they believe they can sell it, and for all the grousing that is heard, as a general rule, they do try hard to help make that happen. OH, and they PAY YOU for that privilege, before they get any of their money back - HELLO!

As to the cover art, as an artist myself I can only say ACCKKKKKKK!!!!!

Christie M. said...

I read this excerpt to the very end, and it was so bad I couldn't even laugh. This, more than anything Miss Snark could have said illustrates how hard an agent's job truly is, OMG.

I'm really not trying to be a bitch here, but that may have been the worst writing I have ever seen. It was like hearing nails scrape over a chalkboard, but on my eyes and in my brain. I'm not kidding.

Forget about the POD debate; it shouldn't even apply here. That a single tree branch was harmed in the making of this book is a tragedy.

Xopher said...

I'm amazed how many people said on here that Glinda was the Witch of the North. She was in the (relatively stupid though still wonderful) movie.

But they conflated two characters in the movie. In the book (and we're about books here, yes?) the Good Witch of the North appears only in Munchkinland; she kisses Dorothy on the forehead, and her kiss protects Dorothy from a lot of critters that would otherwise harm her, including the WWW (Wicked Witch of the West, though presumably it would protect her against the WorldWide Web as well).

This is why the WWW has to threaten Dorothy's friends to get the Silver Shoes. She can't attack Dorothy directly because of the GWN's kiss.

Glinda is the Good Witch of the South and appears only at the end. She tells Dorothy how to use Silver Shoes, which the GWN didn't because she didn't know (none of the smarmy "you had to learn it for yourself" bullshit that appears in the movie).

It's not a dream in the book, either. It's all completely real, and in fact in a later book Aunt Em and Uncle Henry escape the Dust Bowl by moving to Oz permanently with Dorothy.

One more thing: Dorothy has her own "Han shoots first" moment. The first bit of water on the WWW just makes her scream; Dorothy notices this and promptly drenches her with a full bucket, which finishes her off. Dorothy, IIRC, displays not one scrap of remorse for this practical and virtuous act.

Verification word: zryoe, which sounds a lot like a character in a Baum novel.

Akuseru said...

brady westwater, you're forgetting about all those PublishAmerica authors who order quantities of their books in advance rather than trying to promote it and get interested people to order it directly. Books stacked in a closet=wasted trees.

whitemouse said...

To be fair, the book sample is more pointless and boring than horribly written.

It reads like a chatty self-absorbed person who won't shut up. There's no plot, no sense of place, nothing about the narrator's voice that is interesting.

The writing is poor, but we all struggle to be good writers, so please: let's stop bashing the woman's writing.

Let's get back to bashing her arrogance and blithe lack-of-clue. That's what's galling.

Anonymous said...

This book underscores why POD houses like IUniverse, AuthorHouse, etc. have given a technology that should be the savior of literature -- by keeping books always in print -- a bad reputation.

The writing is not good. If the writer had read the book aloud to themselves, they would hear immediately how clunky the sentences are, how they repeatedly bunch together in this mind-numbing rhythm of dah dah, dah dah, dah dah. Over and over, until you want to, well until you stop reading. The writer shows no facility with language, certainly no love of language. Why does she write? I wonder.

Catja (green_knight) said...

a case of mismanaged love annihilates the beautiful <snip of mercy>

A case of wine has greater destructive powers.

I rest my, err, case.

Ben W in PDX said...

I just love how proud she is to be a baby-boomer ; )

"I'm a Genexer from PDX. Look at me, I'm cool."


Anonymous said...

I almost peed myself when I read what "Nut" said. Drawn by a foot! The thing is... it's true. And I like how on the synopsis her character gets "annihilated" in the second sentence (I know it's hard to find. It's the one after the outrageous run-on). Hard to find love when you've been annihilated.

Anonymous said...

Publish on Demand has to be the only way out.

For people who can't write...

Nitwit's page said Read on, I think you will enjoy the roller coaster ride.

Thank you no. I have a headache from forcing myself through that long run on paragraph the hired editor clearly did not edit.

And why is there a ninja with the wedding couple as her background?

Gryphonwood said...

Where's she selling her book if she's sold 1,020 but has an amazon ranking of over 1 million?

I'll refrain from picking on the people who assumed the witnitter was a "he" despite the mention of selling Girl Scout cookies.

Writerious said...

Xopher! Another Oz fan who knows the shoes are supposed to be silver, not ruby! (Ruby just looks better in Technicolor.) For bonus points, do you know the Tin Woodsman's real name?

thraesja: Hmmm, I read the reviews on B&N and Amazon. Anyone familiar with the term "sock puppet"?

Uh, oh, looks like it's picked up one honest review on Amazon. I wonder if the author will have a come-back to that, or send her sock-puppets to vote it down as "not helpful"? Or am I just giving this book more attention than it deserves by watching the fun?

Geminipen said...

LOL! Where was the beverage alert? Dog help me if I ever humiliate myself like that.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I'm not going to read any of her book...It took all I had to get through 111 comments.

Oy Vey!

Anna said...

As an artist, all I can really say about that website and book cover is "Errrggh! HAHAHAHAHA!"
I am dumbfounded. Is it cluelessness or sheer audacity that makes her proud of THAT?
The writing was even more unfortunate. I didn't think that was possible after viewing that atrocity of a cover, but oh, it was.
I know that's mean, but you know what? I don't care. She deserves the ridicule. She set herself up for it.
Thanks for the link, I needed a good laugh today!

thraesja said...

Thank you Writerious for pointing out the new (and improved) review. I read the first couple of pages of the book through the Amazon website, and it was, uh, in need of some serious editing. Though I suppose the rambling exerpt on the website should have been my first clue.

Ms. Cole. I know you love your work, and what author doesn't? But you need to understand that most authors or artists really need to:
1) Realize that you want intelligent readers to like it. This means you have to let them do some of the work. If they want to be beaten over the head with the point of the character or story, they will watch an after-school special.
2) Read the book out loud to yourself to get a feel for improper timing, too much repetition, melodrama, tedium etc. I can't tell you how many sentences this has helped me to improve. I once discovered the word "shortly" repeated four times in three consequetive sentences in my own work. (shudder)
3) Put the book away for a few weeks after the first draft so that you become somewhat more distant from it, and thus more objective.
4) Have another person who can give an unbiased opinion go through it. Preferably more than one. Your husband and your mother don't count. They can't risk hurting your feelings to the extent usually required.
5) Listen to what your reviewers say. You may not agree with them, you may choose not to take all of their advie, but you need to acknowledge that their opinion is valid and may be shared by a multitude of readers.

This is a painful process. I recently ran my main character through one of the online Mary-Sue tests and was given some excrutiating food for thought. Once I've recovered and stopped ranting about how my work is naturally an exception, I'll be going back to see how I can tweak her into something more believable.

You have skipped too much of the process. Instead of taking advice, or even seeking it, you ran to POD. Find a critique group and get an honest opinion of your work by a relatively unbiased set of readers. And if they hate it, try not to rant, but instead ask them why.

whitemouse said...

Awesome post, Thraesja; that's all very good advice for any new writer. :-)

Anonymous said...

In the first graf, I think there should be a distinction between what is published and what is "printed". Don't you, Miss Snark?

barbara said...

This same person drive-by spammed the ABEBooks discussion forum in April, asking for reviews. We'd had a run of self-published sockpuppets recently, so she was quickly identified and dismissed.

Anonymous said...

Aaaaand...how many of those books are trade or academic books with limited markets?

I think POD and self-publishing perhaps do have a useful niche...for those obscure trade and academic books with limited markets. Not bad books, books that will be useful to some people, but books that will never have wider appeal. One of my favorite books (a collection of letters written by an obscure late Victorian scientist) is self-published. There's nothing wrong with it, and it's a valuable historical source that the editor wanted to preserve, but it doesn't have wide appeal.

But POD is not currently economically feasible for bookstores. I think s/he is arguing that POD "saves trees" because "extra" copies aren't printed, but s/he seems very mathematically confused.