Letter To A Higher Critic

All I care about is whether I enjoy a writer’s work. Don’t be shocked when I say this: How much money a writer makes has nothing to do with how much I like his or her stories.

But one writer thinks I should care. This year’s Hugo Awards were fraught with drama because Larry Correia filled his customers with resentment by arguing that his inability to win the award proved they’d been treated unjustly. Because bestseller. And no Hugo.

I’m all in favor of sf writers being financially successful. It makes me happy to see people who work hard rewarded. Larry Correia is no exception.

How would anyone know what a writer makes anyway? We have very few tools — mainly bestseller lists.

While we never see actual sales figures, we assume the books that appear on the New York Times bestseller list are doing much better than those that don’t.

However, even that relative information may be unreliable. Last year I ran a post about Jeffrey Trachtenberg’s Wall Street Journal article on ResultSource, a firm that orchestrates bestseller status for clients.

Then yesterday, Vox Day’s latest in a relentless series of negative posts about John Scalzi suggested that even ordinary publishers manipulate bestsellers as a marketing strategy:

That’s great and all, but recall what I pointed out before Lock In reached the NYT bestseller list: “[Scalzi] is getting annoyed that people keep pointing out that Larry Correia sells more than he does, even though his publisher keeps buying him a one-week spot on the NYT bestseller list each time he writes a book.”  And also “Just keep an eye on the NYT list. If LOCK IN is only on it for one week, it’s a paid marketing stunt. If it stays on it for several weeks, it’s probably legitimate.”

I’m a science fiction fan, yet I’m constantly being surprised to discover how that shapes my thinking. Although I know bestseller lists are artificial constructs, I also know they are constructs dominated by mainstream fiction and literary biases. Consequently, when a science fiction writer appears on the New York Times bestseller list I don’t ask how, I just shout “Hooray!” But now a Higher Critic has explained why I should be dissatisfied and suspicious about how they got there.

And now I am.

Vox Day unfavorably compared John Scalzi to Larry Correia based on alleged manipulation of the bestseller list. But isn’t Correia’s status as a bestselling author the same reason people believe Correia is the gold standard?

Twice Correia has blogged about his bestselling books. He wrote, “You may now officially refer to me as New York Times Bestselling Author Larry Friggin’ Correia” in October 2010 after learning that Monster Hunter Vendetta ranked number 27 on the New York Times Bestseller list:

This is awesome. This is actually a really big deal in the publishing business.

The guy sounded happy. I was happy for him.

A year later he was ecstatic when Monster Hunter Alpha appeared on the list at #23.  

I am the champion. My friends! Dum duh duh duh! And I’ll keep on fighting ’till the end! Dum duh duh duh! I am the CHAMPION! I AM THE CHAMPION!! NO TIME FOR LOSERS BECAUSE I AM THE CHAMPION!!!!!! and #23 on the New York Times Bestseller list coming out August 14th OF THE WORLD!!!!

Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did.

But both times the books disappeared from the list the following week. One and done.

So what do we learn from this? Can it be that Larry Correia is not the Garth Brooks of science fiction after all?

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48 thoughts on “Letter To A Higher Critic

  1. Judging books by their sales would indicate that Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code was one of the best novels ever written in the English language … case closed.

  2. I happen to feel that the two of Correia’s Titles menioned sound totally Bleh!, and I didn’t read them. I have read most of Scalzi’s works. I found them entertaining, and his blog even moreso. Great Science Fiction?… no, not at all, just competent and enjoyable. I happen to like Scalzi, and to not like Correia or Vox Dei. I hope… well, no, I actually don’t give a damn whether anyone approves of this or not.

  3. Scalzi had a recent post up about how there are several different kinds of best seller list, with more and less restrictive definitions of “bestseller.” It is here:
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2014/09/08/how-lock-in-is-the-1-and-20-and-107-book-in-the-us/ I thought it was an interesting read.

    I have no idea who sells more than whom, nor do I particularly care, as that is not how I choose my books. I will say that if I did care, I wouldn’t be inclined to take Vox Day’s word for it–I’m afraid I have so much difficulty following his train of thought that I wouldn’t feel sure I had understood what he was trying to say.

  4. Note that a number of writers, I believe including Scalzi, now make a point of asking, via social media, for their fans to buy a new book during its first official week of publication. And this is in order to create a pulse of sales that’ll hopefully get the book on a bestseller list.

  5. Well, according to Bookscan Larry’s sales are in freefall. His first mm pb book sold some 51,000 copies, but that was back in 2009, which was an entire different publishing world, then. His latest book in mass market? 3500 copies, at best. He seems to be trading on past success,but honestly most of his books (and his compatriots) are selling poorly. Hoyt’s latest? 200 copies. Freer’s? 600 copies. If anything a lot of this is just knee-jerking on their part, and suggestive that perhaps they should figure out why their sales are plummeting, instead of picking on others for their misfortunes.

  6. Just out of curiosity, what is this latest kerfuffle about? I saw something similar on Scalzi’s blog, but Correia’s blog has been silent. He talked a little about his sales during the Hugo campaign but I always got more of a “don’t discount me as small-time” vibe from that than a “I’m better than Scalzi because I sell more books” vibe from it. Did I miss a post or was the ‘one writer’ not Correia?

    @John Walker – One thing that is probably throwing off the Bookscan numbers is that Baen has tendency to start its authors off in mm pb and then promote them to trade pb or hc. For Correia, that happened in November 2011, so his mm pb likely took a dive at that time, because his fans were probably buying the hc rather than wait 10 months for the mm pb.

  7. John Walker:

    For those of us not used to BookScan statistics, could you provide more detail on what time periods those figures cover? Are those all from release up ’til now, or comparable times after release?

  8. Let me see if I can get this just right…nose in the air, pinky finger extended for the glass of tea, reading jacket on, mother upstairs on the first floor…Okay, here we go “I would NEVAH lower myself to read something soooo pedestrian as a …Lawrence Correia…’book’. I cringe to think that someone should be allowed to publish anything more than a “how to” for removing urine from bottles. Oh Dear”.

    Yeah, that’s how a few here came across in their comments.

    Then there’s the OP and his damning with faint praise charge of the light brigade attack. I don’t recall Larry ever going on about how HE was the gold standard. I DO recall how he, as a certified accountant, gave us all pointers on what it meant to be a published and PAID writer, which, lets face it, everyone here with their noses in the air would suck donkey dong to get.

    Yeah, I get it. As a boy, I listened to the bs when the other guys were talking. Some would go on about the quality of the girl they wanted, other guys would go on about the quantity. Both were kinda full of it, but the ones that really went on about quality, you knew, and they knew, and hoped you’d never say, that they were still virgins desperate to cover it up. And I cannot help but read the comments above and get that same feeling. “It’s not the quantity man, it’s the quality!” And the best they were getting at that time was pooring beer in their hands to get their dates drunk. Larry may not have Garth money, but then, very few ever do. I’m willing to bet, however, that if you compared his personal money from his writing to those of the others you mentioned, he’d win easily.

    Just sayin’! ‘scuse me now, gotta go pay money for another Larry Correia book that I will actually enjoy reading, you know, being so low brow and all. Where do you think it will fit best, beside Dante’s Inferno or something by Irma Bombeck?

  9. LOL. Great commentary Rick, though “glass of tea”? Maybe a “nice cuppa tea.” Tea from a glass is a Russian thing. Not often I get a genuine Russian comment here though I delete plenty of spam comments from “.ru”

  10. “Even here, all Larry Correia ever did was point out two times when his books made the New York Times best seller list. Which they did.”

    So the guy celebrates on his own blog when he breaks the NYT List annnnd… that’s in bad taste? Or something? That’s all you got?

    “This year’s Hugo Awards were fraught with drama because Larry Correia filled his customers with resentment by arguing that his inability to win the award proved they’d been treated unjustly.”

    Actually, if I remember aright Correia bragged that he could make all your little Liberal heads explode just by -entering- the Hugo awards. Appears to me he was 1000% correct. Hugos are long over, he -lost- and y’all are still going off about it.

    I find that avoiding Hugo and Nebula award winning authors from the last twenty years or so does not neccessarily guarantee a good read, but it does help weed out the truly objectionable dross.

  11. Thanks for helping me out here. I’m perfectly happy that Larry Correia is an NYT bestselling author. (Which I said in the post.) But since Correia and Scalzi both have experienced the same one-and-done pattern, then why would anybody doubt that Scalzi’s listings are also the result of real sales, Vox Day notwithstanding?

  12. @ Iridium: Larry’s blog has been silent because someone else threw out his name for something and he didn’t know about it. Now he knows and considers it a nonissue, from what I can tell.

  13. Or, like Larry said, perhaps his own publisher did the same for him. Who’s to say that Baen didn’t do it to make him a NYT best seller. He doens’t discount that at all. However, given his listings of other sources as to his sales, not mention his own explaination of HOW HE GETS PAID, I’d believe him quicker. 🙂

  14. @The Mechanic – Thank you for your response. I was a bit confused seeing rebuttals to an argument that I couldn’t find. Your response and Correia’s latest blog response clears things up for me, the ‘Higher Critic’ referred to in this post wasn’t Correia, it was Day.

  15. “But since Correia and Scalzi both have experienced the same one-and-done pattern, then why would anybody doubt that Scalzi’s listings are also the result of real sales, Vox Day notwithstanding?”

    Two reasons. 1. Correia’s Amazon rankings at the time correlated correctly with his NYT bestseller listing. Scalzi’s Amazon rankings aren’t egregiously off, but they’re not high enough to be credible. 2. Baen Books is not known for attempting to game various awards and bestseller lists. Tor Books is.

    Do you really and truly believe that whereas OLD MAN’S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES did not sell well enough to make the NYT Bestseller list, FUZZY NATION did?

    All you had to do was look at the Amazon rankings to see that LOCK IN was not selling well enough to have made the bestseller list without a bulk-sale marketing campaign. And as you noted, I had an inkling LOCK IN would be on the NYT bestseller list for one week before disappearing.

    These faux bestsellers aren’t any great secret. It’s just one of the ways the Big Five publishers promote their favored authors. Talk to a top editor or a publishing executive if you don’t believe me; I’m not making this stuff up. Tor is simply trying to massage public perceptions to bump a high mid-list writer into reliable bestseller status.

    It works much the same way in the record industry; you may, for example, note my band’s four Billboard Top 40 club hits courtesy of TVT Records. Although there, the record labels simply pay the surveyed DJs directly.

    Now, if you really want to dig up some dirt, try calling some of the Amazon reviewers of certain books and ask if they’ve ever even heard of the book they supposedly reviewed….

  16. Vox Day (AKA Theodore Beale) is the singularly most obnoxious person on the internet. In his last few posts he has supported domestic violence (Ray Rice only punched his wife once; how bad can that be?) displayed anti-semitism (Jews in Europe, why don’t they go home, and how dare they defend themselves against riots) and is an anti-vaxxer (so what if Wakefield lost his medical license, if you want to let your kids catch measles or whooping cough, so be it).
    He seems to have a jihad on for Mr. Scalzi because of the whole SFWA dust up. But I don’t see why you have to drag Mr. Corriea into this. Has he said on his blog he neither knows nor cares if he makes more money than Mr. Scalzi. Mr Corriea is a successful enough writer to support himself and his family just by writing, and so does Mr. Scalzi.

  17. A few things Ive realized over the past few months/years of the Beale/Scalzi slap fight (with asides of Correia and others)

    1- Beale is inflammatory and an ass.

    2- Scalzi is thin skinned and prone to exaggeration.

    3- Beale can get under Scalzi’s skin anytime he wants to be.

    4- Correia just wants to have fun..

    5- Good chunks of “fandom” are boring stick in the muds who arent happy unless they are complaining.

  18. “I find that avoiding Hugo and Nebula award winning authors from the last twenty years or so does not neccessarily guarantee a good read, but it does help weed out the truly objectionable dross.”

    Like Lois McMaster Bujold? Hugo winner in 1995, 2004, and outside of that 20 year window 1991,1992, and 1992.

  19. “Vox Day is the singularly most obnoxious person on the internet.”

    I usually prefer: “the most controversial figure in science fiction”. Tomato, tomahto. Anyhow, back to the NYT bestseller list. The Washington Examiner had a timely article on the subject.

    “According to publishing sources, Limbaugh’s probe into the accuracy of the Bible sold 9,660 in its first week out, according to Nielsen BookScan. That should have made it No. 4 on the NYT print hardcover sales list.

    “Instead, Henry Kissinger’s World Order, praised by Hillary Clinton in the Washington Post, is No. 4 despite weekly sales of 6,607.

    “The September 28 list of the top 20 print hardcover best sellers includes one book that sold just 1,570 copies.

    “Limbaugh, published by Regnery, has been a New York Times best seller, so the newspaper should have been looking out for his high sales numbers. And as a hint, they could have looked at Amazon, where Limbaugh’s Jesus hit No. 1 recently. On Thursday, it ranked No. 6 in books sold on Amazon.”

    John Scalzi’s “bestseller” didn’t make the Sep 28 list and presently ranks #3,566 on Amazon.

  20. One more thing, Mr. Glynn. Tor Books is obviously an important SF/F publisher. But do you seriously believe it has legitimately been the best publisher in science fiction for 27 YEARS IN A ROW?

    Awards and bestseller lists is how Tor markets its books.

    And like me or loathe me, I’m just pointing out what anyone can see if they simply trouble to look.

  21. VD: I’m not surprised to see you arrive here in a dump truck and try to bury your problem under an assorted cargo of inferences, insinuations and ground-changing arguments. But would the Dread Ilk let anybody get away with that? Let us not forget that what’s at issue is your recent post advising readers to be suspicious about actual sales when somebody appears on the NYT Bestseller list FOR JUST ONE WEEK.

    And you specifically aimed suspicion at John Scalzi, someone you write negative posts about several times a month.

    However, another part of your agenda is to associate yourself with the success of Larry Correia, and the farthest thing from your mind would be to cast suspicion on his sales. (That would be crazy, wouldn’t it? The guy got you nominated for a Hugo.)

    But when you made one-and-done bestsellers some kind of litmus test, that became one of those things, as you say, that anyone can see if they simply trouble to look. Correia and Scalzi have the same pattern.

    Not only haven’t I ruled out that they both sell a lot of books, I think that’s the explanation requiring the fewest assumptions (the colloquial version of Occam’s Razor). You, on the other hand, want people to reject that explanation about Scalzi and interpret a one-week bestseller list appearance as evidence that something underhanded and deceitful occurred. A true litmus test is self-explanatory. Since you are now having to rationalize applying it only to Scalzi and failing in the attempt (“Scalzi’s Amazon rankings aren’t egregiously off…”) that proves your original argument was not credible.

    Your citation of the article about Limbaugh’s ranking, which I agree is interesting, isn’t decisive for this discussion. People already know (as I said in my post) that the NYT bestseller list is an artificial construct, emphasizing sales at key stores, and who knows what else. The quoted portion of the article invites skepticism about the NYT list by contending that Limbaugh’s book should have been ranked higher. However, all sources agree he sold a lot of books. That’s not your case. You’re trying to convince people there might be no relation between actual sales and appearing on the list.

  22. Sounds like a valid arguement to me, Glyer, if they are stuffing the ballot box. But, no business would ever do anything underhanded..would they?

    Bwaaahahahahahahahah. Sure they wouldn’t.

  23. We’re going to get snooty? Drink our tea out of bone china cups, as we wear our smoking jackets, sitting in a velvet covered chair in front of the simulated fire in our TARDIS, and forward past the downstairs scenes on Downton Abbey, in order to only watch the important scenes about the family upstairs?

    Lawrence Correia? Really?

    Then, whilst we play our game of whist, the name of Lawrence van Cott Niven trumps Lawrence Correia.

    Oh, these nouveau riche’, I must say!


    Hey, Mac! Oima’s name is spelled E-r-m-a Bombeck — I oughtta know, I used ta be her limo driver!

    Cheesh. Now I gotta go downtown again, ta pick up dat guy who useta be a soipa hero — y’know, that Ozzyosbournemadias guy who sells all the toys ’bout hisself, and the poifume, y’know? Hangs out wit’ ta blue fella who runs around in his boitday suit, an’ nevva gets arrested for it. Wotta racket!

  24. P. S.: Doesn’t anybody remember vhen za Zcientologists vere all ordert to buy extra copies uf Battlefield Earth to stuff zere pillows vit, unt run up zales numbers?

  25. Rick: I realize you’re making a joke (because I laughed) but I also have a serious response. I’m convinced no sf publisher is stuffing the ballot box for the Hugos. I’ve heard of three attempts to do it over the years (none by publishers) — and that’s my point. Fans gossip. Whatever your opinion may be of business ethics, that’s not happening with the award.

  26. Anyone who would call the underage daughters of one’s opponents Orcs and half-Orcs as supposedly Christian Vox Day has done, both to Scalzi and others such as Paul Mikelson, is not worthy of respect.

    I’m not a fan of everything about Scalzi and his politics aren’t particularly to my liking, but the fact is he did not go after Vox Day’s daughters the way VD did to his. He has also told readers of his blog to lay off VD’s wife, even though she puts herself out there by commenting on the VD blog.

  27. @Iridium: I suppose so, though the decline is rather steep, even taking into account the hardcover sales with the mass market. You go from 51,000 (first Monster book) to 36,000 (second Monster book) to 20,000 (third Monster book, in hardcover / mm pb), to 5,000 (just in hardcover), with the mass market coming out next year. I’d project that it may sell just 10,000 copies, altogether. You then see the law of diminishing returns at play, and this is not what you want to see. You compare this against the careers of, say, Laurell K. Hamilton or Carrie Vaughn, whose numbers actually go up with every volume released. This is what every publisher wants to see happen, but it rarely happens.

    @ Petréa: Those figures are sales to date. I can pull up last week’s sales, or year to date, or sales to date, since release date. These do not include library orders, or independents who order through the latter channels, though, but since most of the genre presses sell through the trade, it’s a reasonable resource to use as a comparison.

    @ VD: With regards to your accusation: “Do you really and truly believe that whereas OLD MAN’S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES did not sell well enough to make the NYT Bestseller list, FUZZY NATION did?”

    Publishing is funny like that. It all depends on when books hit the sales channels, how buzz works out, the formats, and other books also released at the same time. For example, the first week of sales is usually Amazon. Sometimes even the second week. By the second or third week B&N starts to impact. It’s really a crapshoot to get on the bestseller list, and extremely hard to game, actually. It’s easy enough to pull up all three books and see what happened, initially, and there are no surprises. The first two were a slow burn, which then took off down the road, especially when award nominations hit. FUZZY NATION sold some 2300 copies in its first week, which suggests a mix of pent-up demand and pre-order demand. The other two? Nowhere close. So there is no conspiracy here, and some books may just get on the bestseller list because it was a slow week, or maybe they don’t get on the list because the latest Wheel of Time release crushed the rest of the competition that week. It’s too variable to do anything with, and the return on investment too iffy to even chance gaming the system.

  28. To the remark about Tor Books winning so many awards, one should note that Tor Books also publishes the most books in the field, bar none. So that is a factor. But more importantly, if you pull up the Bookscan Top 50 titles for last week in the science fiction / mm pb category, you quickly realize this:

    Ace: 7 slots
    Baen: 3 slots
    Orbit: 6 slots
    Tor: 13 slots

    No one else has as many as Tor, so that seems to bolster Tor’s popularity, at least with those reports.

  29. So…
    -Scalsi on book list.
    -Correia not on book list.
    -Therefore Tor is Evil Mega-Corporation who is bribing book lists all over the nation.
    -Book list is just a tool of vast liberal conspiracy to keep noted biblical scholar Rush Limbaugh down anyway.
    -The evil pact between Hillary Clinton and Henry Kissinger prove this.
    -Where did point go?

    Is that a fair summary of VD’s argument or am I being too mean here?

  30. Mr Glyer, Im not sure how informative that link to James Nicoll’s live journal is.

    I especially love Nick Mamatas going after Sarah Hoyt over sales of a book that is an omnibus reissue of a couple of her old urban/romance titles, that if I am remembering correctly were in Ms Hoyts own words “a vanity favor” from Toni Weisskopf.

    I also wonder how much Baen having a dedicated in house ecology (with purchasable E-arcs, webscriptions, and a ebook/deadtree webstore), and a fan base that takes satisfaction at supporting Baen directly affects its bookscan numbers…

  31. Ann Leckie sharing observations about her sales is information. Nick Mamatas sharing joy where ere he goes, is… oh, let’s call it opinion. Some comments are gold, some are dross. But then, how many blog comment chains have any gold at all?

    Good question about Baen and its own branded revenue streams. Especially because the writers I’d expect to benefit the most from the existence of a customer community would be the lesser-known ones.

  32. I just love being discussed! Anyway, the comment in question is here:

    “Going after”, eh? More like just responding to someone else’s question about the ~200-unit sales books, and using evidence and whatnot to confirm that Bookscan is pretty much on track and not wildly confused. If Baen wants to do vanity favors, good on ’em.

    Generally speaking, omnibuses are called for when a series is selling well. Unfortunately, Bookscan has Hoyt’s prior book, NOAH’S BOY, at 452 copies since May, and in mass market paperback. Last year’s trade paper edition of the same book did 210 copies. Current Kindle rank: 249,848. Nothing to write home about. (Not utterly terrible either.) If, in three formats, the best sales are e-books and the sale rank is in the six-digits on amazon, something isn’t going well.

    A FEW GOOD MEN, from January, did 1059 in mass so far; the tp from last March did 681. Current Kindle rank: #358,344. (That is pretty bad, given that Darkship Thieves is doing pretty well still.) AFGM could be sparking DT’s sales—when a new series volume comes out, it helps sell the first of a the series, but these numbers are poor, full stop.

    Sounds like Hoyt is well-ensconced in Baen and happy there as well, which is good for her because these numbers would make it difficult to jump ship to another publisher of similar size and market penetration.

    Call that going after if you wish, but facts is facts.

  33. Note: if Baen has an enthusiastic direct ebook sales market, they should probably stop printing mass market paperbacks except for the hits.

  34. I’d hate to think that in the blogosphere one gets better results with vinegar than honey. You’ve been mentioned on this blog lots of times and this is your first comment!

  35. Interesting. Someone whose newer books weren’t selling as well as their old ones might be feeling concerned about that. Especially someone who keeps a sharp eye on the bottom line and is always bragging about how much money they make, and comparing themself in that regard to authors who win awards. Whipping up conservative resentment and self pity over that large subset of science fiction fans who are bored with Golden Age-style science fiction might look like a workable strategy to get attention. And someone who is desperate to boost sales might *really* want attention.

  36. For the record, the “Limbaugh” who has come out with a book about Jesus is NOT Rush Limbaugh. It’s Rush Limbaugh’s BROTHER, David Limbaugh, whose book JESUS ON TRIAL had a pub date of September 8,

  37. I’m not a big fan of Scalzi, since I didn’t like RED SHIRTS or his Nesfa collection of movie reviews, but don’t feel like fixating on it. There are better things around.

    I dunno why some one would choose a pen name that initializes to VD. Maybe it is kind of internet STD.

  38. Just for the sake of balance I will point out something you already know from my review — I enjoyed Redshirts quite a bit.

    As for VD, you can’t expect someone who wants to refer to himself by a homonym for “the voice of God” to be deterred from doing so by the little jokes people might make about his initials.

    Setting aside for a moment VD the polemicist, VD the fiction writer often does a good job. “Opera Vita Aeterna” was done no favor being forced to support an award nomination, like a caryatid under a stone, but there was a lot in it I liked. The main weakness was a classic decision to tell rather than show the resolution of the elf character’s story. The final scene is good, it tells us what the elf character chose to do, but I needed to see more about him working out his choices to make a satisfying whole.

  39. Seeing the low sales of all those “the market is the true decider of value” internet warriors is more than ironic, it shows that the “fans” filling up their comment boxes are little more than moochers, unwilling to actually buy the books that according to them should be on the award lists…

  40. It’s a wait and see view for me, as I buy few books these days, and reread or actually read something I bought years ago.

    I bought RED SHIRTS, as I thought idea was good. The read of it showed that it was possibly funny, but the books is so visual in the mind theater, that the humor will show up better on a screen, with music and facial nuance to propel it. I also thought it needed some existential paranoia.

  41. I probably buy three books for every publication I download and, to be honest, it looks to me as if editing is a lost art. The problem, of course, starts with the author. After something is written, it needs to be gone through as if searching for an infection. Every sentence needs to be looked at objectively from the standpoint of grammar, economy of prose and value to the story … in its essence, a book should be edited so tightly that the Reader’s Digest Condensed version would be longer.

    What I find are story lines abandoned, sentences that simply aren’t useful to the reader, loose ends that are NOT the foundation of a sequel.

    If I pay even 99 cents for a downloaded book, I expect it to be a complete book, lacking only paper to be shelf ready. Seldom is that the reality.

    I expect the writing to be good — damned good. So good that I start nosing around for something else the author may have written. Not just “good enough” to keep me form bothering to obtain a refund. Yeah, you get to keep my 99 cents; but you won’t sell me another title. Ever. OTOH, I own most of Malcolm Gladwells’ hardcover books. Except that his themes are getting tiresome, I’d own all of them.

    They are well-written. I leave every page knowing more than when I arrived at it. I am constantly introduced to new ways of perceiving things. The nouns, verbs and adjectives agree.

    You guys can argue about awards and such all you want to. Most of your books won’t stand up to the “three-minutes at the shelf” reading test and that is why 99 cents is the most you will ever get from me.

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