Is The Tor Boycott Working?

Jason Sanford says “Pups all bark, no bite as Tor boycott fails” —

My proof? Turns out the boycott has had no noticeable impact on the sales of Tor’s books, as determined by a sampling of Tor sales reported through Nielsen BookScan, a publishing industry sales-tracking system.

Grant first called for the Tor boycott on June 19, followed almost immediately by others affiliated with the Pup campaigns. To see if the boycott was effective, I examined BookScan numbers for a selection of Tor titles by different authors.

Sanford has published a colorful graph based on data sets about the sales of 10 well-known Tor books between May 24 and July 5 and draws the conclusion —

As you can see, there’s no significant drop in sales due to the boycott. Yes, some titles saw a slight drop but this was offset by other titles increasing their sales or titles keeping relatively steady sales. In all, the sales of these Tor titles demonstrated similar patterns to what they sold prior to the boycott starting….

Proof is looking at the actual sales numbers for Tor books. And the numbers I’ve examined show the boycott is failing miserably.

Guess the puppy boycott is truly all bark and no bite.

Earlier, as Sanford notes with a link, boycott leader Peter Grant claimed “The clearest possible proof that the Tor boycott is working . . .”

. . . is that out of nowhere, no less a personage than George R. R. Martin, author of the best-selling fantasy series since sliced bread (since spun off into the TV series ‘Game Of Thrones‘), has denounced the boycott and publicly begged his readers to buy Tor books.  He’s done so while being less than fully forthcoming about the reason for the boycott, those behind it, and the faux apology offered by the prime offender…..

EDITED TO ADD:  I note that Mr. Martin has mentioned Tor and/or the boycott in no less than three separate posts on his LiveJournal today.  To misquote Shakespeare, “Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.”  As I said above, if you think he’s doing this entirely of his own volition, there’s that bridge I mentioned . . .

And when Vox Day inspected Sanford’s numbers he happily drew the opposite conclusion:

 

https://twitter.com/voxday/status/619888541854789632

 

https://twitter.com/voxday/status/619889411770200064

 

That’s not crazy, because Sanford’s sample actually lends itself to the opposite interpretation from the one he argues.

When I aggregated the sales for these 10 books from the week of June 21, the latest unaffected by the boycott (announced on June 19), and the sales from the week of July 5 (the latest reported by Sanford), that gave me 1,740 vs. 1,667 books. Therefore, the July 5 sales of these 10 books were 95.8% of what they were before immediately before the boycott.

This is, of course, an utterly arbitrary comparison and really proves nothing because book sales don’t happen in ratable numbers (unless you’re Brandon Sanderson, apparently). No one can legitimately claim to read in the tea leaves of these small fluctuations the success or failure of the boycott. More time and fuller data is needed for that.


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149 thoughts on “Is The Tor Boycott Working?

  1. In theory you can – for example if you had evidence that the publisher was not a vanity publisher…

    No, because even then they could make an exception for a friend or business associate…

    …or evidence that Beale doesn’t have access to that kind of money.

    No, because he may have had it in a hidden account, or borrowed it, or somebody else paid for it…

    You see where this goes? It is nigh impossible to even provide substantive evidence which cannot be circumvented by other explanations, in trying to prove a negative. You end up having to disprove every other possibility for the one to hold up.

    I provided a quote from the publisher’s representative herself; if people choose to disregard that in favor of their own interpretation — with no other evidence besides ‘this publisher previously lied’ — so be it.

  2. See the comment directly above your own for why anything coming out of VD’s mouth is suspect.

    So…the publisher is suspect…and the father is suspect…undoubtedly the child has no clue other than what his father told him…which would also be suspect.

    The primary people involved have all conveniently been disqualified. Color me surprised.

    EOL.

  3. Parity Bit — In the absence of perfect information, the fact that someone has told substantial lies in the past is actually a pretty good guideline as to whether they might be lying now.

  4. Parity Bit on July 13, 2015 at 9:43 pm said:
    No, because even then they could make an exception for a friend or business associate…

    This is why I made a distinction between proof and evidence. We aren’t trying to try this in a court of law, establish some fundamental law of physics or formally establish a mathematical theorem. We are looking at balance of probabilities. So, yes a genuine publishing firm could have made an exception and allowed somebody to pay to have their book published (an odd kind of favor but never mind) but it is an unlikely occurrence.

    No, because he may have had it in a hidden account, or borrowed it, or somebody else paid for it…

    Same again – and more. The theory would no longer be parsimonious – it would require considering entities which we have no evidence for and William of Okham will be cross with us.

    You see where this goes? It is nigh impossible to even provide substantive evidence which cannot be circumvented by other explanations, in trying to prove a negative.

    Not at all. You are treating these ‘other explanations’ as having the same weight and this is simply not the case when it comes to evidence. In each of your scenarios these other explanations require more unlikely occurrences and/or multiplications of entities.

    I provided a quote from the publisher’s representative herself; if people choose to disregard that in favor of their own interpretation — with no other evidence besides ‘this publisher previously lied’ — so be it.

    A person who had no reason to tell the truth if, in fact, the author’s family had paid for the book to be published and who had every reason to lie.

    Now, if this was a trial I’d still vote ‘not guilty’ because there exists a reasonable doubt – but this isn’t a trial and I’ll go with the balance of evidence and assume that a book published by a vanity publisher was a vanity publication. If some more credible evidence comes our way then I’ll change my mind.

  5. @Camestros

    If you sockpuppeted people who were easy to beat in an argument, we’d have to believe Torgersen was your sockpuppet, too. 🙂

  6. Meredith on July 13, 2015 at 10:53 pm said:

    If you sockpuppeted people who were easy to beat in an argument, we’d have to believe Torgersen was your sockpuppet, too. 🙂

    I should have expected a shocking twist at the end! Sad Puppies were actually creatures from my id! I knew I shouldn’t have toasted that sandwich with Krell technology.

  7. In a nefarious plot to destroy the Hugos with EPH, Kilo Watt created a whole litter of sock puppies.
    Brian is a traveller from the future sent to warn us. Unfortunately, he can’t tell us the details of what will happen because it will break the time line…

  8. Well, *I’ve* never seen Camestros and Brad together, therefore there is sufficient evidence to support the thory that they’re sockpuppets!

  9. snowcrash on July 13, 2015 at 11:30 pm said:

    Well, *I’ve* never seen Camestros and Brad together, therefore there is sufficient evidence to support the thory that they’re sockpuppets!

    I have strong doubts about both of them.

  10. @Camestros

    Damn – now I’ve made the thread all about me in a narcissistic derailing of the existing discussion! That probably means that I’m Brian Z as well!

    No no, most of the thread hasn’t got frustrated and snapped at you. That’s the real test.

  11. Camestros:

    That probably means that I’m Brian Z as well!

    If there’s ever an “I’m Spartacus!” moment here on File 770, I doubt that name will be the one everybody is shouting…

  12. I hope VD did get his son’s book published by a vanity publisher without paying them. It sounds like a much better use of his time than most of his pursuits.

  13. No, I’m saying that you wouldn’t believe second-hand (or third-hand, or fourth-hand, etc) proof, so go straight to the source and get it first-hand.

    It sounds as if you regard Beale as a person who could be counted on to answer a question with the truth.

    Considering that he calls himself a sociopath and regularly engages in bwa-ha-ha supervillain moments in which he crows that he’s waging a war successfully against his social justice warrior enemies, I’d say the chance he tells the truth about any particular subject is probably a coin toss.

    I’ll bet he has a blog post or comment out there somewhere in which he touts the virtues of engaging in intentional deceit — because the enemy, you see, is double extra super deceitful.

    The mental gymnastics he performs to justify himself, based on the excerpts of his thoughts that end up here, must be exhausting.

  14. Well, I know this will be unpopular, but the truth is there has been no ‘proof’ presented at all that Beale did or did not pay the publisher. On one side, there is the claim from the publisher that he did not and on the other, there is speculation based on the fact that it’s a vanity press that was engaged in the practice of trying to recruit parents of kid authors to pay them to publish their work. Nowhere at all does the speculation rise to the point of ‘proof.’ It may be logical speculation based on a number of supporting details, but in any court, it would be thrown out and in any conversation being held by neutral parties who had no preexisting biases against Vox Day, the conclusion would be that we have absolutely no idea one way or the other. In fact, the prevailing opinion might very well be that the declaration of the publisher that he did not pay them would probably be given more weight than usual since they freely admit that other kid authors’ parents paid and they had literally nothing to lose by not admitting it in the case of Beale.

  15. The publisher had “literally nothing to lose” by admitting that Beale’s family paid for the kid to be published? I disagree. They wanted that Guinness record (and especially the publicity that comes with it!), and it seems probable that Guinness would disallow a vanity published work. And, as it turns out, Guinness doesn’t list Beale’s kid as their youngest male author, so I guess they had something to lose after all.

  16. Apparently virtually no publicity came with it. The only places that even mention any of this are one guy’s literary blog – where the main thrust of the blog posts isn’t even Christopher Beale – and he certainly presents no case against Beale, even though he goes to great pains to make a case that it happened in the case of another child author, mainly because he was goring his ax about the way the media was handling coverage of the release of the other kid’s book. He followed this with some more vague, but pretty non-specific warnings about Aultbea, (which he failed to support with anything resembling evidence).

    Then, there was a newspaper article where the rep from the company specifically refutes the blogger’s posts, and a couple of other local Scottish papers’ talking about the book when it was first released. Prior to looking up this stuff, I literally had no idea who the youngest authors in history were and still have no impulse to run out and buy their books on that basis. From what little I can tell, prior to all of this, Aultbea was an little known publisher of trade journals. Even the literary blogger is pretty non-specific about the extent of their vanity publishing and whether it extended beyond 3-4 kids. Basically, I return to there is no proof of anything either way in the case of Christopher Beale. There is an assumption on one side that it might have happened and a denial by the company’s representative on the other. Both are over ten years old, so I really doubt any new information is going to be forthcoming one way or the other.

  17. Guiness World Records:

    The youngest commerciallly published female author is Dorothy Straight (b. 25 May 1958), of Washington, DC, USA, who wrote How the World Began in 1962, aged 4. It was published in August 1964 by Pantheon Books.

    Just, for the record.

  18. And, for what it’s worth, the fact that Christopher Beale isn’t listed as the record holder isn’t supporting evidence of anything relevant to this discussion because the Brazilian kid’s claim post-dates Christopher Beale’s and, far more pertinently, the Brazilian kid was 5 years old when his book was published and Christopher Beale was six years old when his was published. The record apparently changed hands in short order.

    Most likely, the Brazilian kid’s family did not put his name in for the record to be analyzed until after the Beales did in late 2005-early 2006.

  19. IDK — “Most likely [..]”? On the basis of what, exactly? Gut feeling? For someone comparing a bunch of nobodies-in-particular shooting the breeze in an obscure blog to court procedure and finding us nobodies wanting, I think you should apply a higher standard of proof for your own meanderings.

  20. As near as I can tell, (assuming the reportage in all of these articles isn’t just flat out inept, which is a distinct possibility):

    * There was a first Brazilian kid, who published his work in 2003 and who was six years old at the time. The book was called Dragon Island, but I cannot find the kid’s name anywhere.
    * There was a second Brazilian kid named Adauto Kovalski Da Silva, who published a book called Aprender E Facil, which was released on October 15. 2005 when he was 5 years, 302 days old.
    * There was Christopher Beale’s book, which was published in November, 2006, when he was apparently 42 days younger than the first Brazilian kid, whose name, at the time was listed as the world record holder in the category.

    Apparently all of the press stories calling Christopher Beale the new record holder could not account for the existence of the second Brazilian kid, who nobody then knew about, I suppose. The basic reality is that Christopher Beale was never going to hold the record, because by the time he published in 2006, there was already someone younger than he was who had broken the record.

  21. @NelC

    Okay, based on the fact that every journalist reporting on the story in 2006 was reporting that Christopher Beale had broken the record. I think that’s probably a pretty compelling reason to believe that, at the very least, the name listed in Guinness as the record holder was NOT someone who was demonstrably a year younger than Christopher Beale, okay?

    I am willing to allow for a certain amount of ineptitude and laziness among journalists, but I doubt every single one of them would have gone to print with the exact same error that could have been disproven in the space of a 30 second google search.

  22. but I doubt every single one of them would have gone to print with the exact same error that could have been disproven in the space of a 30 second google search.

    Really?

  23. @Aaron

    Why do you bother responding to me? Have you not gotten the point by now?

  24. dontknow on July 14, 2015 at 11:09 am said:
    Okay, based on the fact that every journalist reporting on the story in 2006 was reporting that Christopher Beale had broken the record. I think that’s probably a pretty compelling reason to believe that, at the very least, the name listed in Guinness as the record holder was NOT someone who was demonstrably a year younger than Christopher Beale, okay?

    I am willing to allow for a certain amount of ineptitude and laziness among journalists, but I doubt every single one of them would have gone to print with the exact same error that could have been disproven in the space of a 30 second google search.

    These aren’t each independent cases because they are journalists responding to the same press release. Do news media simply regurgitate news stories? When it is this kind of no-consequence feel good trivia – yes, often they do.

    Here is an example from Australia in which multiple news outlets treated as genuine a supposed ‘protest’ to make Halloween a public holiday which was actually a costume supply company’s PR stunt: http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/s3060601.htm

  25. @Carmestros

    You’re performing an awful lot of mental gymnastics here to support a conclusion that had no basis in evidence to begin with. Look, man, this means very little to me, but I’m just saying that you have absolutely no evidence to support the notion that Beale paid this company to publish his kid. Agreed, I have no evidence to support the notion that he didn’t, but pretty much every social convention we have comes down in favor of not jumping to the conclusion that things we don’t even really have a compelling reason to believe happened are somehow set in stone.

    With that, I’m bowing out of the conversation. I’m not going to convince you otherwise because this obviously means something to you and it doesn’t mean enough to me to continue to argue about it.

  26. Why do you bother responding to me? Have you not gotten the point by now?

    The point that you’re a complete idiot? Yeah, you’ve proved that over and over again. I’m just pointing and laughing at you now.

  27. Is there anyone out there who’s actually read This And Last Season’s Excursions?

  28. idontknow on July 14, 2015 at 11:48 am said:

    You’re performing an awful lot of mental gymnastics here to support a conclusion that had no basis in evidence to begin with. Look, man, this means very little to me, but I’m just saying that you have absolutely no evidence to support the notion that Beale paid this company to publish his kid.

    The evidence is that it was published by a vanity publisher that had specialized in getting parents to pay to have their children’s work published. Short of some trustworthy evidence to the contrary it is simplest to assume that the Beale book ( which in every other way resembles the vanity published books from this same vanity publisher) was a vanity publication. That’s all. It isn’t an issue I’m deeply committed too. Some reason comes along and changes my mind then I’ll have changed my mind – no biggy. It isn’t a campaign to debunk VD’s claims, or to establish his guilt at doing something nefarious. If he paid for his kid’s book to be published then I’m OK with that, if he didn’t I’m OK with that also.

    I’m not going to convince you otherwise because this obviously means something to you and it doesn’t mean enough to me to continue to argue about it.

    All it means was I’ve been gearing up to write a blog post about evidence and evidential reasoning. A handy illustration turned up with Parity Bit making some poorly worded claims about ‘proof’. He also triggered one of my bete-noires which is ‘you can’t prove a negative’ – which is the very next topic in my occasional series of ‘Reason Hell’ after ‘Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’

    Also “mental gymnastics” – I’ll take as a compliment 🙂

  29. @Camestros Felapton Do news media simply regurgitate news stories?

    So much so that it even has a name – churnalism.

  30. Is there anyone out there who’s actually read This And Last Season’s Excursions?

    No, and since the copies listed at Amazon.com are 
    $74.91 (used) and $328.08 (new) it seems unlikely to happen at this point. 

    Everything else might be a matter of speculation, but it seems pretty clear that IN FACT the younger Beale was never actually Guinness World Record-holder for “youngest male to publish a book” — so if the older Beale is still making that claim, he should knock it off. 

    Incidentally, do you know why it’s the Guinness World Record? Bar bets. It is about the beer.

  31. “Last week I had an email from an author who recently offered a book to Aultbea. ‘The owner replied,’ says my correspondent, ‘with promises of fame and movie deals. Then, two weeks later (after even more promises of fame etc), he contacted me saying that he was going to publish my work. What I didn’t know at the time, and didn’t find out until the contract negotiations began, was that he wanted £10,000 for which I would receive 50% royalties. He quoted figures such as 10,000 books at £6.99 would give me £34,950 profit, despite the fact that he was only going to publish 1,000 copies.'”

    http://grumpyoldbookman.blogspot.se/2006/07/aultbea-publishing-update.html

    Pay to be published. Not impressive.

  32. Idon’tknow : Agreed, I have no evidence to support the notion that he didn’t, but pretty much every social convention we have comes down in favor of not jumping to the conclusion that things we don’t even really have a compelling reason to believe happened are somehow set in stone.

    You’re going to make some con artist a very happy and wealthy man or woman some day…

  33. Guys, I think idontknow generally argues in good faith. In this case, maybe not as familiar with the notorious predatory habits of vanity presses and child authors, but I’m uncomfortable with the insults being flung. Unless you’re in the field or happened to click through on Writer Beware that week, this sorta thing could easily fly under a person’s radar.

    IDK, I think you’re missing the data point that this is a known scam that goes on a lot, and that is definitely skewing the conversation. There’s a cottage industry in it, and nobody vets the press releases–I was fielding emails for a month a few years back when some little kid got a “thirty book deal” or some ridiculous number like that. It’s all vanity, and no, they don’t fact-check worth a damn. Literally saw one on a paper last week at the liquor store where it was being used to wrap my rum. (Though this was a teenager.)

    Imagine….oh, someone claiming that they held the record for most millions moved out of a deposed Nigerian prince’s bank account. You interview the supposed Nigerian Prince and they say “oh, yes! Completely true!” And they have a slick little press release suitable for filling column inches with an uncontroversial bit of niceness, and everybody basks in the warm glow of human interest.

    You are trying very hard to be fair and I respect that, but I think you’re missing some key information and it’s making the conversation unnecessarily tough.

  34. (Should also add that many vanity presses–PublishAmerica foremost among them–swear up and down that they aren’t pay to publish. But oh, those author copies will cost you and you want them to hook you up with a Real Live Editor and put a great cover on it and dear me, there’s a charge for that of course, but you can get it cheaper as part of this package and no, no, you’re not paying to publish, but you want to give your book the best possible chance, don’t you? And gee, if you come to this conference, for a cool thousand you can sit at the table for the signing with all the other authors and there are absolutely agents and Hollywood types cruising the aisles who are just dying to look at your book, but you better act now…)

    The fox will swear that he loves the hen, and he’s not lying, but I wouldn’t plan on attending the wedding.

  35. On Torsday, I bought, among others (ha! i inadvertently pun), Jo Walton’s The Just City.

    On Monday, I devoured it, cover to cover.

    Now, as Tuesday turns to Wednesday, I find myself constantly misremembering the running joke at VD’s expense as “Rhetoric! Socrates!”

  36. Nicole, lucky you, you get to read The Philosopher Kings right away, without having to wait for the inter-book publishing gap (I need to finish Steles of the Sky first, and Kameron Hurley’s Infidel, both of which are due back at the library soon, and Uprooted and Go Set a Watchman are waiting for me at the library, where I need to pick them up by Monday, and hope that my request for The Philospher Kings doesn’t get filled too soon).

  37. Seconded to @idontknow’s good faith.

    Also, um, I’m Camestros’ sock puppets. Well, one of them. Frankly, I’m surprised nobody’s figured it out–look at the amount of times “Greg” has praised Camestros’ comments! I even found this cool stock photo online for my avatar and everything!

  38. I was also one of Camestros’s sock puppets, but I have developed into an independent personality and escaped into the net!

  39. MickyFinn: If you discover any intelligent life there, be sure and let us know!

  40. MickyFinn on July 15, 2015 at 6:16 pm said:

    I was also one of Camestros’s sock puppets, but I have developed into an independent personality and escaped into the net!

    And now we know why my sock drawer is increasingly dominated by odd socks.

  41. I have a strong urge to usurp Camestros’s title, invade and execute him, and force his sock puppets to declare fealty to me.

    Possibly I’ve been playing Crusader Kings just a bit too long.

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