Thursday, August 14, 2008

Some sobering statistics

Here's something I came across in the Bulletin of the Science Fiction Writers of America (subscription info here):

In 2004, Bookscan tracked 1.2 million book titles. Of these, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies. 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. The average book tracked sold fewer than 5,000 copies.


TGirsch said...

Now, to depress you even more, they should track how many of those people who bought the book never actually read it. :)

David said...


That would apply to the books that sell lots of copies, not the small sellers, presumably. Adolf Hitler was a very rich man because of the sales of Mein Kamp, but I've read that few Germans actually read the book. They just thought it wise to keep a copy prominently displayed.

Sometimes I run into someone who's read one of my books. I always want to sink to my knees and weep on their shoes and say, "Thank you! Thank you!" But I wouldn't want to damage the public image of authors, so I don't.

TGirsch said...

You've written books?

I kid, I kid! :)

TGirsch said...

Since I notice that you've written a few Star Trek novels, and since there's no real appropriate place to put this, I got sucked into the Enterprise re-runs on the Sci-Fi channel when they were running them earlier in the year. Much to my surprise, I found the show to be remarkably entertaining most of the time, and I'd argue the best knockoff since the original ("real") series.

Now that I've given you inspiration, feel free to do a front page post in which you explain to the masses why I'm either (A) a philistine who blasphemes the very name of Star Trek by associating that short-lived tripe with the likes of Kirk; or (B) one of the rare few who genuinely appreciates what was otherwise an underappreciated gem, killed off too early by a floundering UPN.

My money is on the former. :)

David said...

Philistine! (I bet it was a lot more fun being a Philistine than one of those dour, dirty desert dwellers. The DDDDs were my ancestors, supposedly, but I would have deserted to the other side if I'd lived back then.)

Actually, I can't compare the various ST shows objectively. During the first season of the original show, I moved to Houston and went to work for NASA as an aerospace engineer working on the Apollo project. The original ST show was the future I thought I was working to build. Leonore and I were utterly hooked on the show. The movie 2001 came out during my time there, too, and I can't judge that objectively either.

I tried each of the other ST shows as they came out but didn't stay with any of them. They didn't grab me the way TOS did, but that may well be because I was longer part of the aerospace biz and the connection wasn't there. And also because all the other shows felt prefabricated and calculated, compared to the original one, with its tiny budget and the mythology being created on the fly.

TGirsch said...

So is there any relatively recent television Sci-Fi that has grabbed (and held) your attention?

David said...

Oh, sure. I was addicted to Babylon 5 and everything by Joss Whedon. Currently, I'm hooked on Galactica, Sarah Connor, Heroes, Dr. Who, Eureka, and Smallville. (They laughed at me because of that last one, but I'll show them, I'll show everyone! I'll watch it! It's aliiiive! Hahahahaha!)

TGirsch said...

I keep hearing that a lot of people were hugely into Bablyon 5, but I was just never able to get into it. Not sure why, it just never grabbed me.

Galactica is good stuff, though. It's one of those few, really good sci-fi shows where the sci-fi part is largely window dressing, and the story lines would be almost entirely relevant, even without the sci-fi.

David said...

Unfortunately, not enough people seem to have been hugely into B5. It was like Buffy in that regard: great reviews, madly dedicated fans, low ratings much of the time, and a network that kept talking about killing it.

It's true that Galactica is more metaphor and parable than true sf. I'm hooked on it, but I was more hooked on B5, where the aliens really seemed like real aliens and not just stand-ins for groups in contemporary politics.

TGirsch said...

I frankly thought Buffy was awful. No accounting for taste, I guess. :)

What grabbed me about Enterprise was that it retained the original Trek's basic optimism about humanity and human nature, while also acknowledging and dealing with the darker side thereof.

It did annoy me, however, with an over-reliance on time travel related story lines, which I find to be highly cliche in SF. (Probably not a smart thing to say to a guy who's been working on a time travel novel for a decade...)

David said...

Did I mention that you're a Philistine?

Time travel has become a cliche, but I still enjoy it when it's done well (and in my long-gestating novel, it's done brilliantly, which I probably didn't need to say). Eureka did a good time-travel story last season, and the darker effects of that plot, which was itself very dark, seem to be resonating in this season's episodes. Dr. Who does really clever things with time travel. Usually, the written tt stuff is far better than the video tt stories, though.

TGirsch said...

Here's my problem with Buffy: I really, really enjoy dark fiction when it's done well. But Buffy always struck me as trying too hard to be dark. That is, it was dark just for the sake of being dark, rather than being dark in the service of some larger purpose.

That, and while I can believe that there's a small town being overrun by vampires in which the chosen slayer of vampires is a self-centered teenage cheerleader, being mentored by a bookish man from a long line of mentors. What I can't buy is that I'm supposed to think Sarah Michelle Gellar is hot. (But maybe that's just my pro-Kristy Swanson bias showing through.)

I bet I'd love Eureka if I watched it, but the last thing I need is for my fat ass to camp in front of a TV for another hour every week.

Surprisingly, one of my favorite time travel things was a goofy teenage comedy: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. It's a movie that behind all the "dude" and "awesome" was actually quite intelligent.

David said...

Agree entirely about Gellar. Charisma Carpenter was hot. So was Eliza Dushku. And various other actresses on the show, but not Gellar. In general, I thought the supporting cast were the real stars. I also thought the writing was usually very clever.

It's a small town where the adults don't believe vampires exist, but bodies keep turning up, drained of blood, with bite marks on their necks. A certain willing suspension of disbelief was required.

I saw Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure on cable and liked it quite a bit. I don't know if I'd have felt the same way if I'd paid to see it in a theater.

TGirsch said...

Agreed about Carpenter. Dushku, not so much. Better than Gellar, certainly.

As for the show, I can honestly say I've only ever watched a handful of episodes, so I may have appreciated it more if I'd stayed with it. In general, though, I've found that I'm not a Joss Whedon fan.

As for time travel, my big pet peeve is anything that involves time travel but doesn't give even the slightest acknowledgment to tt paradox. That should be a central theme to any time travel story.

TGirsch said...

Forgot to mention: Bill and Ted warrants a second viewing. I caught a lot of jokes the second time around that I missed the first time around. I'm often slow that way, though... :)

David said...

I hope my tt novel will be available for reading some day. I'll welcome your comments on it, including negative ones.