The seven story collections on the NYT list had a median of 23, BookScan sales… only 2k less than the median novel. Well, no. Those are mostly collections by buzzed about debut authors or established older writers. No story collection is going to sell millions of copies like the biggest novels. All of the authors whose collections I counted in the last section sold better as novelists if they had novels out.
Since big publishers survive on the few break-out books, it makes more business sense to bet on novels or push authors to write novels instead of stories. Still, it was heartening for me, as a lover of short stories, to see that collections from authors like Junot Diaz, Alice Munro, and George Saunders can BookScan over k, and a collection by someone like Stephen King can reach a million.
YA fiction is also having a much-discussed boom these days. Non-fiction is an insanely huge category that encompasses everything from craft books and joke books to travel guides and memoirs. While there is some variation in average sales between different types of novels, non-fiction sales are entirely dependent on which of the 1, types of non-fiction books you are talking about.
If you publish your book through an established press, you can most likely guarantee a certain level of professionalism, distribution, and hopefully coverage for your book. Self-publishing, on the other hand, contains both professional full-time authors who spend time and money marketing their books as well as people who just think it would be fun to put an ebook up on Amazon and never spend any time marketing. Another surprising to me at least fact from the data I looked at is that books quite often sell the same amount in hardcover and paperback editions.
If a book truly takes off, the paperback sales will eclipse the hardcover many times over. But for most books that are published in hardcover first, the paperback sales will be close to the same. To add even more confusion, ebook prices fluctuate a lot more than paperback or hardcover. It is simply hard to pin down. I often hear that fiction is basically just an irrelevant niche and no one reads books at all.
If the average well-distributed novel is BookScanning only 10, copies, that seems pretty niche. Then again, there are plenty of industries where sales of 10k per product would be respectable. And we have to remember that the actual number of sales might be 20,, and then maybe 30, people have read the book since plenty of people use libraries, pirate, or borrow books from friends. Every year, dozens of new books sell k copies on BookScan, and a couple sell a million.
A recent Author Earnings report suggested maybe 4, writers earn 50k a year off of book sales alone. Not so shabby, maybe, until you realize that about that many MFA students graduate each year. And honestly, even getting a thousand strangers to read something you poured your heart and soul is pretty okay. Lincoln Michel is the former editor-in-chief of Electric Literature and a founding editor of Gigantic.
He teaches fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work. Enjoy strange, diverting work from The Commuter on Mondays, absorbing fiction from Recommended Reading on Wednesdays, and a roundup of our best work of the week on Fridays. Personalize your subscription preferences here. Skip to content. Don't miss out Subscribe Sign up for our newsletter to get submission announcements and stay on top of our best work. Read Next. Switch On Symbol. The writing community needs to start talking openly about financial insecurity Mar 12 - Sandra Newman.
Reading Lists. Thank You! I need to re-read it each year. It's that important. I was not expecting to love this so much! I'm not a fan of his, but MAN his ambitious mindset, especially in his early days when he first moved to America, is so inspiring. Both on the movie-star side and real-estate side. If you need a role model or inspiration for thinking big, this is it. Skip the final section on his governor days.
I was telling friends stories and thoughts about this book for weeks afterwards. Powerful and profound life lessons from a psychiatrist who's been listening to people's problems for decades.
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Brilliant, bold, and clear thoughts about how to make a big Silicon Valley size company. Mind-blowing anthropology. Great argument that the reasons that religions worship cows or hate pigs, that tribes wage wars, or Europe's years of witch hunts, are all very practical economic reasons usually unknown to the participants or washed out of history. But they're revealed here in zoomed-out hindsight. My notes here can't describe it. You have to read the whole book.
Deep look at romantic relationships. But interlaced in his story are powerful lessons about relationships. My heart rate is racing as I tear through this riveting book. Darren captures and spreads the entrepreneurial spirit better than anyone I know. I've been a successful entrepreneur for 25 years but The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster just got me more excited and enlightened than I've been in a long time. You must read and USE this immediately! Powerful thoughts on not running, distracting, or escaping, but sticking with something all the way through.
Profound philosophy on facing the negative emotions head-on and getting to know them well, instead of trying to avoid them or escape. Forget Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, and the rest. I really believe this is the best way to learn another language, by far. Using the most up-to-date techniques and insights, and a unique emphasis on getting the sounds correct first.
It's not easy, but it's much more effective than any other program or guide. Highly recommended if you're serious, and ready to do it. Classic self-help book, in the best sense. Inspired the hell out of me.
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Mostly fundamentals I had heard before, but put in a very energetic go-do-it way. If all we needed was more information, everyone with an Internet connection would live in a mansion, have abs of steel, and be blissfully happy. Masterpiece of cultural observations. I wish there were more books like this.
My Wood Egg books were created with the same goal.
Insights into different countries' cultures. Some amazing, like the reason for American's lack of manners, or Japanese procedures. My detailed notes don't do it justice because I practically underlined the entire book, I loved it so much. Surprisingly deep and philosophical. The first book I've read in years that makes me want to read it twice. The title and cover make it seem like light pop, but it's a wonderfully-cynical British journalist diving into Stoicism, meditation, death, etc.
Short inspiring book about sharing your work online. Really healthy perspective. Makes me want to do it much more. This punched me in the gut from page one. Takes a tiny effort to read the English of the s, but what a reward. A masterpiece essay manifesto? Very inspiring, and sparks a lot of further discussion. Amazing book about willpower from Stanford psychology professor who teaches just this. Killer first point: The best way to improve your self-control is to see how and why you lose control. This is a better book than the other book on Willpower here on my list, because it's more actionable, better written, better presented.
Really amazing IF you act on it! It's all about the resistance, avoiding distractions, getting serious. Here he dives more into the mindset shift of thinking of your art as a hobby versus a real career. This stuff shakes me to the core, every time. Any introvert should like this book. Wonderful info and insights about introversion. It'll help you defend your preference for low-stimulus environments. Fascinating historical and philosophical perspective on technology, where it's come from, where it's going. A true manifesto. A call to action. A kick in the butt for any creative person.
Great thoughts on overcoming the resistance to creating. Aimed at already-successful people. The personality traits that brought you to success personal discipline, saying yes to everything, over-confidence are the same traits that hold you back from going further! Where you need to listen to lead, and don't let over-confidence make you over-commit. Stinging counter-intuitive insights that hit very close to home for me. Great specific suggestions for how to improve.
A masterpiece. An amazing overview of everything you need to know. Covers all the basics, minus buzz-words and fluff. Look at my notes for an example, but read the whole book. One of the most inspiring things I've read in years. Want proof? It's that good. Essential for all managers. Deep surprising study of motivation at work. Extrinsic vs intrinsic. Work vs play. When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest for the activity. Great great great great GREAT psychology book about real ways to make change last - both personal and organizational.
Steven Brill's "Tailspin": How My Generation Broke America | Time
So many powerful insights, based on fact not theory. Inspiring counterintuitive stories of huge organizational change against all odds. Highly recommended for everyone. Psychology professor's digestible but deep insight into how our minds work, around the topic of happiness. Great metaphor of a rider on the back of an elephant. Rider is reasoning, elephant is emotions. Rider has limited control of what the elephant does.
Surprising insights into ethics and morality. See my notes for great quotes, but read the whole well-written book. Classic book on the psychology of persuasion. I read it 15 years ago, thought about it ever since, and re-read it now. How to sell more by doubling your prices. How to make people feel they made a choice, when really you made it for them. My favorite type of book: pointing out and understanding all of the counter-intuitive things people do.
- Giving presentations: with focus on international audiences.
- Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask).
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This is perfect for musicians with other responsibilities day jobs that need more free time to actually make music! An itty-bitty quick-read no-fluff book with the wisest succinct advice to investors: You can't predict the future, and neither can anyone else. Determine your asset allocation, stick with cheap broad indexes, and rebalance occasionally. Mind-blowing examples of how groups of diverse people acting independently are smarter than any one person in the group. Has huge implications for management, markets, decision-making, and more.
Faced with many options or decisions in your life? This will change the way you look at them. We feel worse when we have too many options. Actually analyzing what makes certain ideas or stories more memorable than others! How can the lessons of philosophers change your life? Thoughtful, unique, and funny book cute illustrations with some insightful ideas around that. A hundred various thoughts to digest. Very interesting alternative perspective on life from a historian. Anti-religion, anti-humanism, pro-animal.
Seems detached, but is quite opinionated. Much to think about, regardless. My notes here give a taste. A lot to think about. Why are so many people so mathematically illiterate? I wish I was an expert at this. I love it when someone is able to blow apart a claim in a minute, or know a good versus bad deal, just by running the numbers. So dense with wisdom that I wanted to highlight almost every paragraph. Instead, I skipped Part 1, about his background, because in the intro he recommends you skip it. Tiny quick read with a punchy point: Anything worth doing has a painfully-hard middle period, which is where most people quit.
But knowing this in advance, ask yourself seriously if you really have the dedication to stick it through that hard time. Quit in advance! Read the whole book if this applies to you. Why did the people of certain continents succeeded in invading other continents and conquering or displacing their people? Fascinating world history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
See the notes. Short, inspiring insights into creativity and the creative life: the day job, the mindset, etc. Thought I was getting a book about math, but ended up being a surprisingly good book about learning in general. Main points are about diffused thinking vs focused thinking. Inspiring study of how successful people took smart shortcuts and bypassed the long-slogging dues-paying process. Great insights on momentum. Great little manifesto about habits. Very well thought-through practical applications, tips, and philosophies on creating and sustaining the habits you want.
A succinct adrenaline-generating call to clear thinking and rational action. Many historical examples. Incredibly inspiring. Interesting and insightful dive into the subject of how to make big decisions. Specific useful advice. Interesting common thread of making your life a system for increasing your odds at success. But I liked the random tips, too. Short and brilliant book with tips on being a better thinker. Being persistent, thorough, rooted in fundamentals, creative, and a more active learner. Surprisingly inspiring. VERY interesting. Seth is moving from talking about business to talking about being an artist in the broad sense of anyone who creates and ships!
I loved the distiction between the industrialist and the artist, as it helped me give a term for something I'd experienced: not being able to relate at all to those who just want to grow business for business' sake, whereas I always saw my business like a creative art project. Lessons dissected from their successes, and categorized. The biographies were interesting, but lessons were mostly conventional wisdom. Shockingly smart thoughts about your career.
Everything You Wanted to Know about Book Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask)
A must-read for anyone who is not loving their work, wanting to quit their job, and follow their passion, or not sure what to do next. I'm recommending this many times a week to people who email me with these kinds of questions. Best book I've ever read on the subject. A description of the path to mastery in any field: to enjoy regular practice for its own sake, to push your capabilities but to accept the plateau, to surrender to the path and exercises your teacher gives you. Stay focused, not distracted like the dabbler, impatient like the obsessive, or complacent like the hacker.
First he wrote The Talent Code, which I also highly recommend, then he distilled all that research about deliberate practice into 52 actionable tips. Amazing and inspiring, you can read the whole thing in 90 minutes, then get to work! He's found great examples of people and companies doing really innovative things, but most of all it's a mindset. You have a finite amount of willpower that becomes depleted as you use it. Most major problems, personal and social, center on failure of self-control. When people were asked about their failings, a lack of self-control was at the top of the list.
So let's talk about self-control The authors worked with the best athletes and executives for years, and found that the best ones knew how to push themselves, then recuperate, push, recuperate. Take this same approach to your emotional, mental, physical, and even spiritual life, and it's a powerful metaphor. Think of sprints, not marathons. Be fully in whatever you're in, then give time to recuperate. But push futher each time, past your comfort zone, like a good exercise plan. For those fascinated with memory. Riveting page-turner about a journalist with no particularly good memory who went to cover a memory championship event.
Intrigued and befriending some competitors, he starts practicing, and a year later wins the U. Inspiring dive into the subject of memorization. Great simple philosophy: Life itself is one long practice session. Everything in life worth achieving requires practice. Practice is not just for artistic or athletic skill, but practicing patience, practicing communication, practicing anything you do in life.
A great overview of the lessons of Charlie Munger partner of Warren Buffett - and his approach to checklists of multi-disciplinary models to guide clear thinking. Main point: if you can just avoid mistakes, you're doing better than most. So it's a catalog of the most common or important mistakes. Focused on investing, but can be applied to life. The fixed mindset is very harmful in every area of life work, art, relationships, business, etc. We get our initial mindset from our environment. Great how-to guide about being a micropreneur: an entrepreneur running many small but profitable businesses.
Great thoughts about writing mostly books from one of the most successful writers ever. Oddly doubles as an autobiography, telling many stories about his life from childhood. So beautifully written with astounding insights into culture and happiness. Been thinking about it for weeks afterwards. Absolutely my favorite author and advisor on the subject of investing. Anyone with any money to invest or already invested please read this book. Such clear thinking, using only facts, and using numbers not guesses.
Modern portfolio theory: use passive indexes of the entire market, no speculation, no stock picking, and avoid the entire fee-sucking financial industry. Brilliant book with one clear message: our emotional brain is faster and usually smarter than our logical brain. Our emotions are trained by years of logic and experience, retaining it all for real wisdom. Many decisions are better made by going with the gut feeling. A great book showing that deep practice - struggling in certain targeted ways - operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes - experiences where you're forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them - is what really makes you improve at anything.
Brilliant succinct wisdom on creativity from an artist. Seth Godin says, "Hugh harangues and encourages and pushes and won't sit still until you, like him, are unwilling to settle. Even those that prefer not to read much. Wonderful considerate book about conversational people skills. Gives specific instructions that are really useful for people who are not naturals.
Just do what this book says, and people will warm up to you. New scientific insights into why our brains work this way, and how to use what we now know to learn or work better. One of my favorite authors, and a massive inspiration for my e-book. Required reading for business-owners and investors.
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A collection of his short insightful posts from his blog, all thought-provoking and inspiring for anybody marketing anything, even music. Classic book with near-cult following. How to manage every last itty bitty tiny thing in your life. Keep your inbox empty. Warning: some think this book is pure evil. But power exists, so it can only help to understand it better, even if you choose not to wield it.
Au Contraire, about the French, is the other. I re-read it now 11 years later, and loved her insights and writing. Active anthropology. A quick, entertaining, and informative book focusing on the effects of timing on your life. A unique thinker with strong opinions presented as indisputable fact. Extremely thoughtful, but occasionally abruptly concludes with an unsupported point. Legendary book about making relationships work, recommended by many.
Main point is that we're looking for our partner to heal childhood wounds. A must-read if you're near the start of a serious relationship. Great thoughts on creating a timeless masterpiece whether music, book, or any art - and then promoting it. Very inspiring for any creator. Very serious and scholarly. Advises to read books that are above your current ability. A very specific methodology is given.
Read books twice, ask questions while reading, answer those questions, then summarize and criticize afterwards. The point is to grow up to the level of the author. Profound truths and bold opinions on discipline, life, and love, written by a psychiatrist in It's been a best-seller all these years for a good reason.
Grit is her word for persistence, focus, endurance, and constant improvement. Great thoughts on this point. If interested in it, also read the books here about deliberate practice. What are today's technologies inevitably going to lead to? Great predictions.
Half of it was super-inspiring, painting a vision of the future that made me want to jump on it. So I didn't get much new out of it, but if you haven't already read those, maybe start here at the horse's mouth. Crucial subject, dear to me: shutting out distractions for deep productive concentrated work. No huge surprises but great supporting thoughts. I liked the point of considering the downside of the internet, instead of only the positives.
Author goes to each to find out, and dives into the subject of creativity in general. He's such a great writer, so insightful, and finds so many great points of view from the people he interviews. Equally brilliant. Short, punchy, incredibly insightful and useful book about learning another language, especially for a first-timer. I've read a few books on the subject now, but this is the only one that spoke directly to my issues.
Especially loved his points on the importance of sounds over words. Hint: a language that is written but not spoken is called a dead language. Powerful, deep, etc. First half describes life inside Auschwitz. Second half has powerful succinctly-said insights into the universal struggle. There's a reason this book has sold a billion copies. Anyone who likes my writing will probably LOVE his writing. We've got a very similar style and approach. I was smiling most of the way through, reading things I could have and wish I would have written myself. His vulnerability is so endearing.
Repeated message: Your time is precious. Know its value and don't work for less. Defend it against time-vampires. Be hard to reach. Make every minute count. Do only the valuable tasks. Being employed at Kodak was like having a job for life. Often generations of families worked there. The company had a long-deserved reputation of taking care of its employees and, in turn, employees felt extremely loyal to Kodak. Times changed. All three companies eventually struggled as competition and new technologies disrupted their businesses.
They often were slow to adjust. While earning my MBA, one of my management professors was Don Zrebiec, at the time a vice president for human resources at Xerox.