Tumbles and Reading

Winters in Colorado can be mild or not so mild.  Snow and ice are normal, usually welcomed as part of this beautiful world.  However, along with this joy of white landscapes comes shoveling.  Until that big one shows up with heavy wet snow measured in feet, I kinda enjoy shoveling the snow.  It’s one of those little accomplishments that helps us feel productive.  But on an occasion there is an oops.  I had an oops.  Slipped on the ice and took a not so acrobatic tumble.  After some brief moments of “what just happen isms”, got up and managed to make it inside.  Falling on the ice comes so swiftly that there is no chance to anticipate or dread; one second you’re just fine; and the next, flat on your back with many areas of pain.  And, the worse part, there is no one to blame except yourself.

Net result, I broke my arm.  Writers do not need broken arms.  Good news is that my arm movements are only restricted– did not need a cast.  With a little office re-engineering and a lower table for my keyboard, I’m typing again; just a little slower. 

Obviously this causes some complications with this blog and my progress on current book projects.  I am able to write, just much slower and with many, many rest breaks.  This will have impact on the blog, newsletter and other writing for about a month (I hope no longer than that).  But none of that will stop completely.

This week’s blog (and probably next) will be reprints from past blogs.  After that, my plan is to get back to my normal pattern.  Thanks for your patience.


Fewer Readers Reading Less

I grew up in a household where reading was honored.  This was mostly based on my father’s love of books.  There wasn’t a lot of family discussion about books, but it was obvious they were important.  My father’s bookcase was held in high regard and given a prime location in the living space.  Both of my parents grew up in households that did not have a lot of possessions.  Books would have been a luxury.  My father in particular was raised in very humble conditions.  As his own new family became more prosperous in post WWII America he purchased books and they became his treasures, a luxury he had never experienced as a child.  Coming from this background reading became a habit and a source of great pleasure for me.  Reading books was something I just did, it was natural.

Taking an unscientific survey during Thanksgiving, it is apparent people are reading less and in many cases not at all.  I have read the stories about the decline in hours spent reading books and knew this was happening; but it is still kind of shocking to talk to relatives and realize the new normal is to not read; at all.  Not one book in years or maybe decades, I can’t imagine not reading.  Of course, I write books so I have lots of reasons to be shocked at this trend.

And it is a trend.  The decline in reading has been going on for a couple of decades.  Lots of factors but the most likely culprit is TV.  You would think the number of hours spent watching TV would have peeked somewhere in the past and leveled off, nope.  It is increasing.  People are watching more and more television.  Some of this, I’m sure, is due to the increased options being offered, streaming services and vast numbers of channels on cable.  With the average hours of daily TV watching increasing substantially in the last ten years; there is no time to read.

Reading, TV watching, smoking are all habits.  Once you stop some activity the habit goes away and usually something else fills that need.  TV apparently has filled the entertainment, information need of books.  Many people will think so what, entertainment and information from TV is just as good as books.  Maybe so; but most experts (whoever they are), say it is not the same.

In an article for The New Yorker, Caleb Crain observes: “In a culture of secondary orality, we may be less likely to spend time with ideas we disagree with,” (He) wrote. “I suspected that people might become less inclined to do fact checking on their own; forced to choose between conflicting stories, they would “fall back on hunches.”  Note– “secondary orality”—(is) a sociological term for a post-literate culture.

A post-literate culture–doesn’t that sound alarming?  To me it does.  Our brains function in certain ways and it matters how we get our information.  Reading seems to reinforce many good qualities about “thinking” that do not seem to transfer to such things as television watching.

I don’t have any answers to this trend of fewer readers reading less; but I do find it disturbing.  And not because of book sales.  I think it makes us less capable of deeper more complex thoughts.  I believe we lose the ability to digest nuances in all sorts of matters, from basic living circumstances, to politics to personal relationships.   I also believe we become more susceptible to misinformation; especially well-crafted propaganda.

Or maybe it is more simple than brain functions declining; it is that the love of books is disappearing.  It makes me sad.

Thanks for being a reader!

Bit of This and That

Last week I spent a little time discussing business valuations for both private and public companies as a lead in to my new SuccessPaths series of business “how to” books; no doubt, super boring.  Sorry, here’s a little follow-up.  Had some input from people asking about companies that are worth billions that have never made a profit—how can that happen?

The quick, easy answer is that it’s all bullshit.  Hype on a huge scale.  The more detailed answer is that it is based on an assumption about the future, best described as wild-ass guesses.  Take Uber for example.  Imagine being involved in the first presentations regarding Uber.  They were going to take on a tired, stale basic service industry that did not offer much service, the taxi industry.  With tech innovation they will improve the service, solve the labor issue and will be able to scale up at a rapid and massive rate.  Going from one city to thousands almost overnight using a vast labor pool; the general public.  By-passing regulation authorities with a combination of technology hype and political clout.  This model could go from zero revenue to billions in revenue in the blink-of-an-eye.

If you were concerned about profitability you were just an old-school, out-of-touch worry-wort of the past.  It will become so big; profits will just fall out by magic.  The magic didn’t happen; or if you believe the company, has not happened yet.

The company has a market value of $70 billion, revenue of $3.1 billion.  The founders and initial investors have made billions for themselves; so where is the problem?  It loses money; lots of money.  Without investment capital Uber would be bankrupt.  Somewhere in the future, those chickens will come home to roost.

This is speculation on steroids.  The value has no meaning other than the off chance that it can figure a way to profit from the massive size of the enterprise.  Much of the speculation about profits now centers on something never mentioned at the beginning; monetizing the vast data base and self-driving cars.  Or, in other words: magic.

Uber is one of many examples of the power of free money.  If you can entice investments on a large enough scale you can achieve a burst of “success” while failing.  With enough money almost anything can look plausible for a certain amount of time.  Much of the hype around innovative, new companies is that their business model has not been proven.  That also means it has not been proven wrong!  So most of the invested capital will be spent to prove the business “idea” works.  But by “works”, we mean can it make a profit?

Let’s go back to Uber.  Until the company can show a path to profits and then demonstrate that path is working there may not be any value there at all.  So a company worth $70 billion might be worth zero?  In the common sense world that would be true; but in the speculative world of crap shooting investments the value could climb to $100 billion on nothing but promise and hope.  So if you invested at $70B and sold at $100B, you’re very happy.

Is that wrong?  Of course not.  As long as investors understand the risk and freely chose to invest based on some future out-come; that is not wrong and is at the heart of most high-return investments and the speculation that drives them. 

Businesses exist primarily to make money, so profits do matter.  But with enough “free money” the business can survive while searching for those profits and everything will be great (someday); unless it isn’t.

***

Back to books and writing.  Interesting reader review for Murder So Wrong.

Realistic read February 5, 2020

As a reader who grew up in Oklahoma City, the setting of the story, the detail is so realistic as to make one wonder if this is a lightly disguised report of true happenings. Either way, it seems real and reads well.

That was one of the best reviews I have read on any of my books.  Murder So Wrong is a story based on true events and to have a reader say it “seems real” is absolutely great.  While the basis of the books in this series is based on true events the stories are fictional; totally made up.  Writing non-fiction books about true events is much harder work; tons of research, fact checking, interviews etc.  My forte is just making stuff up; but still I want it to seem like it could have happened, even if it didn’t.  Thank you very much reader for your kind words.

***

A few weeks ago I had some thoughts about the controversy surrounding the new book American Dirt.  One comment I made was that even with the massive negative reaction, all of the hype would only promote more books sales; and sure enough, American Dirt is number one on Amazons most sold list.

Interesting side note, number one on the most read list (digital subscription services) is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

Controversy and celebrity will still sell a lot of books; but if you just want to read a good book, go back to a well written and entertaining story.

Thanks for being a reader!

Mysteries of the Business World

I write mystery books, usually murder mysteries.  My stories are not based on deep analysis of much of anything, other than human nature and a little common sense.  By design the characters are flawed, but interesting (I hope).  Perfect characters would most likely not be involved in murder and no doubt would not be very interesting; or at least would be hard (for me) to relate to.

In my other life, I’m involved in business.  Some of that activity is focused on financial analysis and forecasting.  I look at businesses’ data and try to determine the value of that on-going business.  This is taking historical numbers and placing a current value for the future prospects of the enterprise. 

Earnings (or profits, or cash flow, or some other measure) are a key to calculating value.  In my case I’m valuing non-public, mid-size businesses and the measure is usually something called EBITDA, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.  Whatever the particular measure, it is based on the assumption of profits—in the future.  Value is always a guess about the future.

This week’s blog might seem entirely off my normal subjects of books and writing; but I will connect the dots at the end of this article. 

The over-hyped and inflated value of the stock market has created an unreal (or unsustainable) expansion of market value.  Because I have a good sense of how non-public companies are valued, the public companies appear to be super over-valued.  The why of this is due to the vested interest by almost everyone in an over-valued market.  Politicians want a hot stock market so they can claim it is because of their wise policies, all of Wall Street wants a thriving market because they make money, investors want a growing market because, duh!  No one wants a down market (there are some marginal players who bet on a down market but are a relatively small group), so all of the hype is promoted by almost everyone.  No one suffers from an over-valued market, or so it seems.

Except, it is not based on any viable measure.  The most common measure on public stocks is price earnings (PE).  This is a common sense measure of the return in profits as a percentage of the price of the stock.  So what would be a good return on the stock; 10%, 20% or what?   The PE does not give you the percentage, but the number of times the stock is of earnings.  So earnings of $1 with a PE of 10 would be a stock price of $10.  A PE of 10 is a 10% return.  A PE of 20 is a 5% return.  A PE of 50 is a 2.5% return.  This is a list of some of the top companies selling at a PE of 50 or more (that is a 2.5% return or less):

  • Amazon.com (AMZN)
  • Liberty Global (LBTYA)
  • Salesforce.com (CRM)
  • Tesla Motors (TSLA)
  • Netflix (NFLX)
  • Vertex Pharmaceuticals (VRTX)
  • Twitter (TWTR)
  • Illuminata (ILMN)
  • General Growth Properties (GGP)
  • Prologis (PLD)

It is very unlikely a private company would sell at anything close to those PE ratios.  Because a large portion of that value is based on speculation.  Speculation is the anticipation that you as an investor can sell the stock you purchased at $1 for $10 in the future.  So that speculation is based on your perception of the rise in value of the stock, which is not necessarily tied to any kind of earnings.  You hope someday in the future an investor (sucker?) will pay 10 times what you paid knowing (mostly likely) that the company’s earnings or assets or any measure of value will mostly likely not grow all that much.  Your investment is a leap of faith based on market hype.  But, you might say, lots of people make a ton of money doing just that!  And, yes, they do; until they don’t.

In my private company mid-sized world, a common measure of value is a multiple of EBITDA.  In most industries the value of a business will be in a range of 4 to 6 times adjusted EBITDA.  There are exceptions of course, but on average that range will cover it.  The EBITDA multiple for public companies is readily available; so these are a few of the above companies EBITDA multiple:

  • Amazon  27
  • Netflix  64
  • Prologis  31
  • Twitter 22

In most cases public companies will always be worth more than private companies (no reason to get into that briar patch—no doubt you’re already wondering when this will end—soon.)  But if a private company’s higher end value is based on 6 times EBITDA; how can a company like Netflix be worth 64 times?  The simple answer is that under any normal economic measure, it isn’t.  What creates that higher value is speculation—the hope a future investor will pay you more for the stock you purchased—regardless of the underlining economic factors. 

At some point this overvalued reality will become evident and the whole mess will collapse.  The bubble will pop.  In case you’re wondering, I have no idea when that might happen; I just know it will.

This is an oddball way of letting you know that I’m in the process of writing some business books.  Some of you may be aware of my background (CPA, CFO and other initials without much meaning), and understand that a murder mystery writer penning business “how to” guides is not completely farfetched.

At one time when I was considering this, I thought about using a pseudo-name for the business stuff; so not to confuse readers of Ted Clifton’s mystery books.  After a little thought, decided that was just stupid.  So I write mystery and non-fiction business books, it may be odd to some but not to me; so I will use my real name and assume the readers can tell the difference.

The first book in the business series, which will be under the series name Success Paths, will not be out until the latter part of 2020.  These books will have little value to you unless you own a business or are starting a business.  Of course, there may be people who just buy business books for their entertainment value, but that’s got to be a fairly small group.  For those people, I would highly recommend my mystery books, easier reading and definitely more entertaining.  As the Success Paths business series progresses I will keep you advised. 

Thanks for being a reader!

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

Lots of public noise about the new book American Dirt.  Mostly seems centered on the author not being an authentic voice for the places and people she wrote about.  This is a common complaint when someone of another background/race/ethnicity/or whatever writes about a certain group of people.  How can you know anything about being _____________, when you’re not?  Well, of course, if you’re writing a fiction book you can just make shit up, so what if I’m not authentic enough for you; I don’t have to be.  If you could only write fiction about what you had a personal experience with, there would be no science fiction books and probably a lot fewer romance novels.

The complaint I saw the most about American Dirt, which also had the most meaning to me, was that the book was full of stereotypes and did not reflect accurately the locations of the story.  Now, that has meaning.  But that sounds like a “bad book”—there’s lots of those; why the hub-bub?

Apparently the author received a huge advance (seven figures) with extensive pre-publishing marketing.  Some of the marketing was in poor taste at the very least and potentially offensive.  On top of that Oprah selected the book for her book club.  What this is about is a relatively unknown author receiving amazing money and hype for some reason—that’s enough to piss off a lot of people in the industry.

I haven’t read the book so don’t know if it is any good or not.  Even if I did read it, all I could say would be whether I liked it or not.  Some of the criticism sounds valid; but a lot sounds like jealousy. 

A very recent reader review of Santa Fe Mojo said, “It’s not a deep thought provoking book, but really entertaining.”  Thank you Mr. Reader.  Plus, it was a five-star review. 

I think there has been a trend for some time that books need to be of substance (and not just entertaining).  Let me readily admit that I write books to be entertaining.  That is my goal; my entire focus.  If you find deep meaning, or hidden insight; that’s wonderful, but that will have more to do with you, the reader, than me, the writer. 

American Dirt might also be entertaining, but it was marketed as something else.  It was a serious book that had more meaning than just story telling.  It was insightful, inspiring, important.  With that foundation, the criticism feels more appropriate.  It is a fictional book with attitude.  You better have your act together on all fronts if you expect no criticism with that sort of approach.

If I write a reasonably entertaining murder mystery for no reason but to provide you with some (cheap) entertainment, the bar of approval is set pretty low.  If I declared this is the most amazing detective story every written with insight into the inner workings of a sex-starved, Sherlock Holmes level genius and delivers the best surprise ending of any book written in the last five-hundred years—the likely criticism will be vicious (or humorous).

Ms. Cummins, the author of American Dirt, had written three other books; all of those appeared to be based on her life in some way.  Then she wrote a book about a Mexican woman making a treacherous journey with her child across Mexico to the United States—she isn’t Latino and evidently has little experience with Mexico.  You wonder why she chose that subject?  Trendy?  Marketability of a struggling immigrant story?

Most of my wild ideas for books get shot down by me.  Although I’m still struggling with Doctor Hightower which involves a very, very old man who appears middle age.  Even with that unusual premise, I placed the story in Denver so I was at least familiar with the story locale. 

I would be the last person who would want to criticize the approach of Ms. Cummins, after all she got a million dollar plus advance.  She’s a genius!  And all of the controversy and ugly words directed at her and her book will no doubt boost sales and once again prove the worth of publicity– whether it’s good or bad. 

*

I would imagine Ms. Cummins doesn’t have to worry about scheduling ads for her book, but I do.  The ad plan is usually about two months out.  While I was working on my ad plans, I had reason to go to each book’s page on Amazon.  The description that appears on each page, which some people say is one of the major elements that can contribute to increased sales (although I’m not completely sure about that), had changed.  The description for several e-book versions had reverted back to an older version.  Now, of course, the new version was by far the best and this obviously was tragic news.  (Okay, maybe more annoying than tragic).

Still not sure why that happened.  The Amazon system that supports both buyers and vendors must be a nightmare to maintain and keep from blowing up; but sometimes it seems like the simplest things go wrong with no explanation.  Now, there’s something else to add to my list of things to check on a regular basis.

I mention this in case you visited one of my Amazon pages and didn’t buy the book because you didn’t like the description, you should go back; the new description is fantastic and no doubt you will want to buy the book, or at least admire the new book description.  Thanks in advance.

Thanks for being a reader!

Ramblings, Reality and Baseball

Without a doubt, I break creative writing rules. The main reason I break those rules is that I don’t know any better. Rule breaking is often associated with rebellion, but it also can be a result of ignorance. Point of View in a fiction book can be first, second or third person. Most of my books get this whole thing kind of muddled. Mixing POV is a no-no and would result in my writing getting a bad grade from my writing professor. Here’s the key to understanding why I do this, I don’t care.

What is a novel?  It’s a story.  My books tell a story about flawed characters involved in a mystery, usually involving a murder.  Is there a specific book of rules for this storytelling?  Yes, and no.  The objective, however, is clear.  It is to tell the story in a way that communicates to the reader what the author wants communicated.  That sounds to me like there are no rules.

Very smart authors, not saying I’m one of those, often break the “traditional” rules as an expression of independence and creativity.  So if you know the rules and break them deliberately that is okay; but if you just don’t follow the rules because you don’t want to—that’s bad.

You may be wondering why this is on my mind?  It has been suggested by someone who knows the rules that I should try writing from a slightly different approach.  I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided I should just stick with what I’m doing.  The reason is not that this advice is bad; it’s just not me.  My stories have a certain feel and flow.  Maybe a simple style or a simple author?  The most frequent comment I get from readers is that my books are easy to read.  There was a time that for some reason I was not sure that was a good thing.  But I have come to the conclusion that is a very good thing.  I want the reading of my books to be easy and enjoyable—not a challenge and laborious.  So, like my flawed characters, I will just keep doin’ what I’m doin’.

Lots of grumbling in the indie book world about changes Amazon made to emphasize paid ad space on book pages. Those changes have apparently resulted in lower sales for some of the big boys of the indie book market. The sellers of indie books are very susceptible to the whims of Amazon, and how they are completely focused on their profitability –not the authors’ revenue. As it should be. Amazon had a big hand in creating the boom in indie authors and e-books, but they are a web site focused on one thing –their success. If that matches with the authors success, so be it; but they are out for themselves. Why that seems to surprise some authors is beyond me. That is exactly what they should be doing.

During my years advising business people on selling their businesses, there was one model that consistently had buyer interest. It was the reoccurring revenue model where no one customer represented any significant portion of the business. Such as residential garbage collection. Two industries I worked in a lot that had those characteristics were propane and billboards.

Amazon has many of those same characteristics only on a scale never seen before.  Does any single customer mean anything to Amazon?  Of course not.  If you could talk to a human (most likely you can’t) at Amazon to complain about something and threaten to take your business somewhere else, they would say adios.  The collection of all customers matter but not any small number; much less just one.  Same with vendors.  Amazon owns the largest market place on the planet.  If you want your product to be in that market place, you will abide by their rules.  If you don’t; once again—adios.

Many indie authors exist only because of Amazon and many will disappear because of Amazon.  Amazon pays good royalties to authors for e-books; but it could be some day in the future they look at the number of books they have available (a billion, ten billion?) and decide why pay royalties for new books when the supply is too large already.  Good-by indie author.  Remember it’s their web site, and they can do what they want.

Audio books are becoming a larger share of the book market.  A long time ago I decided to get into the audio book segment.  It has not gone according to plan.  I still think will have a Santa Fe Mojo audio book sometime soon (yeah, no reason to believe that).  If not soon, will probably regroup and try again—maybe go with Dog Gone Lies next time. 

Not to be too crass, my goal with my writing is to make some money.  While art for art’s sake may be noble it is not very profitable.  The audio books are a total unknown to me as far as sales and profitability.  If I can see a path to some profits, I will have a lot more audio books available.  If no profits, probably not going down that path. 

I’m a baseball fan.   My team’s the Colorado Rockies.  The current sign stealing scandal is very ugly and before it’s over, will involve some bad things happening to players.  MLB can punish managers and owners, but until they do something to the players, this will not end.

Cheating has always gone on in baseball, even by the pitchers who will claim to be the most harmed in this latest case; but this seems as bad as it gets.  This was a whole team, including managers.  For maybe naïve reasons I was surprised someone had not blown the whistle long before now.

Being a fan of a losing team does have advantages.  Kind of hard to believe the Rockies were cheating, considering the results, unless they are also very bad at cheating.  I think many fans of other teams are not going to give a warm welcome to these cheaters during the season. 

Thanks for being a reader!

My Creative Career

Most of my life has been as a businessman, not a writer.  My first love was art.  Even in college my desire was to be an artist.  I was a creative person who desired a career doing just that—being creative.  Like a lot of people, those first impulses didn’t work out.  I needed to make a living and someone said CPAs made a lot of money—so why not.  It’s only my life we’re talking about.  What could be wrong with being stuck at a desk the rest of your life crunching numbers?  The answer, of course, was a lot.

What does it mean to be creative?  When I was painting, it meant creating an image of something that was unique, or interesting, or appealing or something?  If my painting of a tree looked just like the tree, was that creative?  How about just taking a photo of the tree, was that creative.  I think my art career never happened because I struggled with images that were not unique.  I wanted to paint a tree that didn’t look like a tree, but was the essence of the tree.  Even I didn’t understand what that meant. 

Okay, forget the tree, I will become a creative accountant.  Of course the first unique image that popped into my head was a jail cell for being a too creative accountant —not a good image.  I dropped the creative part and spent a good deal of time just becoming a good accountant.  It’s not as bad as it sounds.  I enjoyed numbers and seemed to have a talent for crunching them.  I achieved a level of success that was rewarding, but not fulfilling.

Prior to becoming an accountant, I had been self-employed in several endeavors.  From food service to retail, I had owned my own businesses.  I had some success and also experienced failure, but during this time I realized I enjoyed business.  It was like a puzzle.  Lots of pieces to move around and try to figure out how they all fit together to generate sales and a profit.  Not every day, but on many it actually felt creative.

Next came my period of working for giant corporations which was not so creative.  Mostly what I learned from that experience was lots of nuts and bolts accounting and that most top executives were assholes.  Maybe that MBA stood for something else?  Most of the successful people I met had one thing in common, they were bullies.  There were, of course, exceptions but by far the most practiced management style was intimidation.  The age I’m talking about was total alpha male domination, so that might have been the reason; but being kind, considerate, thoughtful or even deceit were traits honored at home and abandoned at work.  The world is still full of those people; be very cautious.

After the big company nonsense, I found much greater joy and success working for myself and several smaller companies.  The biggest difference, other than the people seemed more human, was the appreciation of creativity.  Innovation is the life-blood of smaller businesses.  I’ve always been an idea-guy and eager to share opinions.  My biggest business successes were with companies that appreciated the innovation and my willingness to try new ideas.  At this point in my life I had the right combination of experience, knowledge and guts to try things others wouldn’t—it failed on occasion and succeeded every once in a while.  In many ways I had solved the business puzzle.

Now, I write fiction books.  Writing is obviously creative—I’m making stuff up; can’t get much more creative than that.  I enjoy the process of thinking about the story, the characters and devising the plot twists with subtle hints.  But what is not fun; is the business of writing.  As an indie author I have complete control over every aspect of what I do.  Or said another way, I have almost no help in doing what I do.  This is not the writing part, have lots of help with editors and designers; this is the business side.  Selling the books, planning marketing, making a profit. 

You would think with my business background this would be a snap.  It’s not.  The main reason is that it is very limited.  There are some variables, but mostly the decisions are; do you go exclusive with Amazon or more broadly with a few others?  Do you sell your books at x or 2x?  Do you have free books?  Do you advertise on Amazon, Bookbub, Facebook or others?

I’ve been doing this for years now; and I’ve tried most everything at least once.  None of it works really well.  Ads are expensive and the return is questionable.  Free books generate interest, but it is hard to make much money from free.  You can go wide and thumb your nose at Amazon, but probably it costs you sales; still tempting.  So-called experts, usually selling something, say develop your brand; establish your presence on social media—no doubt it helps, but only a little.  Most people advising indie authors are making a lot more money than the indie authors.  The real advice might be find a market niche full of desperate people and sell than advice like “try harder.”

It is a new year and time to stop whining and do something different.  Be creative.  Be innovative.  Okay, I’m willing; but not sure what that is?

I’m afraid the indie author phenomena powered by e-books and Amazon has created a creative glut of decent books that nobody knows about.  Maybe even great books that go unread; because there are literally tons of books available and not enough time to read a small fraction of that quantity.   

Maybe it’s time to pull out the paint and brushes and create a tree that looks just like a tree but isn’t and suffer in silence.

Plan B-Billionaire Special

This original art is for sell for $7,500,000.  I’m going with the concept of only needing one really rich dumb ass and life will be great.  It’s a very creative concept!

Thanks for being a reader!

2019 Best Sellers

The highest selling book in 2019 was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.  Since its release in 2018, this book has sold millions.  #1 best seller.  As an indie author I can’t even imagine that kind of success; I work mostly in the thousands territory not millions. 

On Amazon it has 30,000 reader reviews with an average rating of 4.8—this book is loved.  There is no question the majority of reviews are excellent; but there are a lot of reviews (300 or more) by people who hate the book.  These are people who knew the story, knew the rave reviews and paid a substantial sum to purchase the book (no free book days for this baby) and yet, they hated it.

A couple of actual reviews:

1.0 out of 5 stars Too unrealistic to enjoy

I was very disappointed in this book after reading all the hype about it. While the reading is good, the story is so nonsensical- a 6 year old left alone in a shack raises herself, living in the same shack, using the same boat, and no one lifts a hand to help her? In more than 20 years, the boat never breaks down, the house doesn’t need repairs and she’s able to wear the same clothes for many years….she’s got long hair that she says is ratty and tangled but description s of it has it down her back, luxurious…she’s gorgeous but bathing is optional until in her 20s…she has sex with a philanderer but never gets a vd and not once apparently does she get sick. No flu, cold, nothing….she never got shots and apparently has the immune system of a super hero because she stepped on a nail and never got tetanus….I kept reading so I’d finish and the ending is unexpected but it’s generally a boring book where day after day, she’s alone in the marsh….

1.0 out of 5 stars Did I read the same book as others?

Format: Hardcover Verified

About half this book was good. Beautifully written at times, and with an interesting, plausible story. But wait…the gaps …Maybe less time talking about Kya fumbling around with sex with Chase and more time on her development as a renowned author and painter would have been nice. There’s more, but you may be reading the book. I must comment though on the most ridiculous court room antics since Curly’s trial in a Three Stooges short. Oh, I think I just did. (And just after reading a book on Harper Lee – if you know what I mean). This was one of the most disappointing books I have read in quite a long time. Sorry Ms. Witherspoon. Can I get my money back if I return the book?

1,665 people found this helpful

It seems to me that books that sell a ton are often hyped by famous people.  In this book’s case, Reese Witherspoon was a strong force in promoting this book.  Nothing wrong with that—would love to have Witherspoon talking about my books (unless it was bad).  And the other factor is that it is published by one of the major publishing companies.  My point is not that the book, the author and publisher don’t deserve their success—they do; it is that even the most successful, beloved book of the year is hated by hundreds of readers.

Reviews are opinions.  So why is it surprising that some number of readers don’t like a book—it isn’t.  Most of my bad reviews are for language.  Some readers are offended by language and seem to feel a need to warn others of the offensive words.  Crawdads uses some of those same words, but the bad reviews are more focused on the story and not the language.  A relatively small number of reviews as a percentage are bad but many, many people found those reviews helpful.  I know when I’m buying a new leaf blower the reviews I read first are the bad ones—tell me what went wrong!  Guess it’s the same with books –give me the bad stuff and I will avoid this by most accounts great book?

Reader reviews are a sore point with me.  I think I take them too personally; but it is hard not to.  As part of my new year “I will be better program,” I have promised myself I will not read the bad reviews of my books.  Of course I know I will not keep that resolution for more than a few weeks, and I will be back reading the reviews with a strange focus on the bad ones.

In case you were wondering below is the list of the twenty top selling books for 2019 and the number sold. 

  1. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens—907,192
  2. Becoming by Michelle Obama—888,611
  3. Dog Man: Brawl of the Wild by Dav Pilkey—524,849
  4. Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis—505,809
  5. Diary of An Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney—493,154
  6. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis—490,019
  7. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss—483,478
  8. Educated by Tara Westover—454,989
  9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris—365,246
  10. The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith—272,182
  11. Unfreedom of the Press by Mark R. Levin—267,751
  12. Howard Stern Comes Again by Howard Stern—265,295
  13. You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero—250,048
  14. The Mueller Report by the Washington Post—243,007
  15. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss—237,239
  16. Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath—235,821
  17. It’s Not Supposed to To Be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst—232,932
  18. The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney—231,149
  19. The Woman In the Window by A. J. Finn—230,098
  20. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo—229,730
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