paper trail

What authors earn; Literary Hub's book report card

Bob Mehr, photo by Kevin Scanlon.

The company AuthorEarnings, which uses data services to determine how much writers make from book sales, has released its “most comprehensive and definitive” report yet. The survey, based on Amazon sales (which account for 50 percent of sales in the US), notes that approximately 9,900 authors are earning more than $10,000 through Amazon sales, while 4,500 authors make $25,000 or more. As Flavorwire points out, 1,340 authors make more than $100,000 from Amazon, versus “only 115 from Big Publishing, at least among authors who debuted within the last five years.”

A letter that a rape victim read to her attacker in court has been viewed more than ten million times in six days on BuzzFeed. The site’s editor, Ben Smith, tweeted that BuzzFeed “hasn’t had anything shared like this since The Dress,” (referring to the 2015 photo of the garment of indeterminate color), while Adweek breathlessly reported that “BuzzFeed has another viral hit on its hands and it has nothing to do with Disney princesses, exploding watermelons, or the color of a certain dress.” At the Hairpin, Silvia Killingsworth writes that while she is glad the letter has been read widely, the notion of someone's trauma as a “viral hit” is discomfiting: “Saying, ‘Look how many shares this story has’ is interesting, to a point . . . in this particular case, attaching a brand name to those reads or shares or sets of eyeballs reached is crass. But claim credit they will, and you can bet they’ll make money, too.”

Literary Hub has launched Book Marks, a site that collects reviews from magazines, newspapers, and online sources and assigns books a letter grade based on these critical takes. This approach doesn’t appeal to some literary critics, particularly because Lit Hub partners with many book publishers (who are understandably hesitant to publicize negative reviews). Judging by the site’s “New Books” section, we are either living through a golden age of literature or Book Marks is grading on a curve: The lowest grade is a lone C, there’s one C+, and many As and Bs on the literary world’s first report card. Mindful of such criticism, Lit Hub’s editor in chief Jonny Diamond points out that the site links to the reviews, giving readers a chance to decide for themselves: “We understand it is difficult to summarize the nuance and complexity of a review into a letter grade. . . . But we believe that Book Marks will lead more readers to reviews, and amplify critics’ voices in a way that benefits readers and writers alike.”

Wired reports that Farrar, Straus and Giroux “believes the TV model can lend momentum to a book series.” FSG’s new Originals imprint plans to release the three remaining titles in Lian Hearn’s fantasy tetralogy, The Tale of Shikanoko, in quick succession over the summer. Autumn Princess, Dragon Child, the second book in the series, came out yesterday.

If you think that’s a cliffhanger, the New York Times breaks new details of the real-life Prison Break: Last year, convicted killers David Sweat and Richard Matt broke out of New York state’s largest maximum security prison. How’d they do it? A 150-page report just released by state officials describes "systemic deficiencies": "Night after night, Mr. Sweat . . . left a dummy in his bed and slipped out a hole cut in the back of his cell. He . . . spent hours exploring tunnels beneath the prison” and “eventually crawled out through a steam pipe." Joyce Mitchell, a civilian employee of the prison, smuggled chisels, drill bits, and hacksaw blades in frozen hamburger meat to assist the inmates. From the Times: “Officer Blair finally did a round of bed checks and noticed the killers were gone. ‘I grabbed the sheet and I almost threw up, then saw the dummy,’ he told investigators.” Blair also discovered a picture of Tony Soprano with a note that read, “Time to go kid.”

Tonight at the Strand, author Bob Mehr will discuss his new book, Trouble Boys: The True Story of the Replacements, the Last Rock 'n' Roll Band.