Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Another Day of No Answers

No More Answers Today Than We Had Yesterday…

This entire  thing will take time to settle out. I see three paths: Data Guy and Hugh can make changes, they can go on as they plan, or someone large could shut them down. No telling.

But here is what I heard today. Also great stuff in the comments on Passive Guy and on my posts over the last two days. Thanks, everyone, for the comments. Too bad Data Guy didn’t feel up to responding.

What I heard through the day (in letters and on private lists) from lots of writers was that they felt betrayed because they had given Data Guy their information. A number said that Data Guy had promised something different at RWA Nationals to get people to give their information to him. I know nothing about that, I wasn’t there so I only heard second hand what he promised.

I got four letters from writers who have written to Amazon filing a complaint. That is a pretty standard kind of business response when you enter in to a contract between your business and another business (you with Amazon) with an assumption of confidentiality (as stated in their TOS and standard business practices) and that assumption is broken. (Amazon is letting this happen so far.) You file a complaint.

So writers are writing Amazon and if I heard of four, there are others I am sure. Not a clue if any of those complaints are being heard by Amazon. But Amazon is allowing this at this point, more than likely because they flat don’t realize that someone is getting their data and making money from it.

A number of writers are worried that this attempt to expose personal writer information will actually cost the indie world general data we can use when this is all shut down. I fear that as well. But I think no matter what happens, this is now lost to us indie writers. Sadly.

And even if Amazon and other big companies allow this to continue, I would never really trust another Author Earnings Report if this is going on behind the paywall. I would never really believe the data because I would not be able to tell if there was a motive to slant the data for the big buyer’s purposes.

As I have said before, I have no issue with Data Guy trying to make money from his hard work on this. But exposing the sales numbers of all writers as if that is what the writer actually earns is not the way to do it.

I heard from two traditionally published writers who are angry as well. (Traditionally published writers don’t tend to follow my blog or this kind of thing.) This new service will hurt them. They have complained to their agents and publishers. Again no idea if that will have any value.

So my update is that there is no telling where this will end up. But no matter what, unless Data Guy and Hugh pull back all personal sales information and take it back to a general information level, this won’t end well for anyone. Sadly.

Guess we go back to writing our books and just move into the new future, whatever it might now be.


By the way, if you were wondering what this is all about, take a look at:

Here is one of their ad blurbs…

That hot new title, up-and-coming author, or exploding genre that someone just mentioned?

Have a phone in your pocket?

You can check their online sales right now.

That’s right, anyone with a cell phone who can afford to buy this information can check your recent book sales at any time. Fun for you for your own books, no doubt. But you can’t buy it for yourself. Only your competition can get it.


  • USAF

    just my .02, as ad copy, it’s baffling and completely unclear. Not even mentioning the poor grammar.

    Just my opinion, the wording misses and appears a nah nah taunt ‘only your competition can get it.’ Fail idea in advertising to mock certain reader of the ad. Pristine clarity and benefits to whomever target is, are the ONLY chassis that will carry the rolling out of new products.

    Data and Howie havent figured out that trad pubs are likely to only want to buy insider info that OTHER trad pubs cannot get? That a publisher if they are not daft, wants it proprietarily. Doesnt want other pub companies to have same info. no matter the price. Most pubs already subscribe to many stats/rags/and have their own analysts. Conde Nast was the model for in house analyses.

    They havent figured out that because many indie authors have many income streams for their works, that dataguy and howie’s numbers will always be way off re many indie authors.

    “That’s right, anyone with a cell phone who can afford to buy this information can check your recent book sales at any time. Fun for you for your own books, no doubt. But you can’t buy it for yourself. Only your competition can get it.”

    It has been a sad couple days that ambushed a lot of us. Never saw it coming from people who said they were ‘with us.’ I normally hope everyone can fulfill their dreams, but not at the expense of allies and friends. As you know in military the caveat is dont sh__ in your own mess kit.

    Dont know quite how to see this all. So many layers to it. Im with you Dean about continuing onward. We are a little flabbergasted about the potential falsification of our actual sales to persons we have done business with, for the new gig will never have access to records of our many income streams and cannot possibly give an accurate picture other than what is sold on amz, which is only a moderate to okay portion of our sales. amz is dwarfed by our connections across the world for near fifty years now.

    Hang in there, and thanks very much for the update.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, same with us. Amazon is a nice part, but only a small part of our income. Ahh well. Onward into a new day.

    • dwsmith

      Authors gave out their personal numbers to help out someone who they thought was helping them and the rest of the indie world as it grew. And he was. And he did. Sadly, he offered one thing and gave back another. I doubt he understood the amount of mistrust selling behind a ten million dollar paywall would cause to what he was giving out for free. His thinking (I am betting) was that he was still giving out all this fantastic data for free in general, so what is wrong? Trust is what he didn’t expect to lose.

      His original idea to make money on this was that authors could make a small payment or a subscription and get to a dashboard and see only their own numbers across all platforms instantly. He would have been flooded with money if he had stayed with that idea. Oops.

  • David Anthony Brown

    Thanks for the update, and I’m with you 100% on this. Whatever the outcome, even if Hugh and Data Guy fix this imminent explosion, they’ve lost my trust. Which is unfortunate. Guess we go back to being a “shadow industry” with no reliable data?

    I’ve had a publication each week this year, and have enough in queue for five more weeks, never mind the projects I’m currently writing. Onward…

  • Teri Babcock

    I guess the long term trajectory on this is we`ll go back to being in the dark on Amazon sales data. Anything really spicy will be kept behind the paywall.
    And there`s the question of how they`ll be able to accurately correlate sales rank and actual sales without periodically renewing their data set through actual feedback on sales and sales rank from authors. Unless they have some other way. Certainly their target group of big publishers isn`t going to want to divulge data on sales just to keep things current for them.
    I am to see this development, because I think Hugh and Data Guy have done permanent, irreversible damage to people`s willingness to step out of zero-sum-game thinking and share their data in that way, with the understanding that everyone benefits.*
    Fortunately it won`t affect what I`m writing in the slightest.
    * I think they had to put up the 10-million barrier because they knew the first thing that would happen is some indie writers would put up a kickstarter to raise the funds to get behind-the-paywall access. How much value would their secret sauce have if every writer with $25 to spare could have a taste?

    • dwsmith

      I agree, Teri. Unless they move quickly to change their focus, this is a loss to all of us, sadly. But it was fantastic while it lasted and fantastic for the amount of work they did and for that we need to thank them.

      • Gordon Horne

        To date they have provided numbers to support the assertion that making a living as an indie author is a viable option. Perhaps more viable than making a living as a fledgling tradpub author with the Big 5. As long as we know the rough sales levels of the big traditional houses and the rough size of the overall market, we will be able to assess whether that assertion likely continues to hold true.

        Even if this is the last Author Earnings (which, sadly, I think it might be) it gave us one very important piece of information and one interesting one.

        The interesting one: The spike in small tradpub sales seem last year seems to be explained by academic publishers going digital.

        The important one: Indie publishing as a whole seems to be still growing, though slower than before. New names appear at the top of Data Guy’s data. The fact that some prominent voices are making less than they were doesn’t mean indie publishing is finished. It’s an option. Each author has to decide for themselves if the control of their own career is worth the extra work managing all stages of publishing. But the voices crying indie publishing is fringe and not viable are not credible. The spread of knowledge cannot be undone.

        • dwsmith

          Agreed, Gordon. And what is interesting is that Kris and I and our pen names (with the exception of one) have never made these top indie lists, yet we are doing great and WMG has a total of 9 employees and we are growing. So just because a name doesn’t show up on a short list does not mean the person is not making nice money. (grin)