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General SF&F Chat > Amazon author ranking

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message 1: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments According to the Amazon website BV Larson outranks Douglas Adams and Terry Goodkind in sales performance. Really?

I tried reading some of Larson's books (twice) and they were, well, not good.

How depressing.

Are there a lot of fans of BV Larson here? Maybe I'm missing something and should try again.


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 09, 2014 07:33AM) (new)

V.W. wrote: "According to the Amazon website B.V. Larson outranks Douglas Adams and Terry Goodkind in sales performance...."

I think I can explain.... (but I never write short:)

Did you mean Amazon Author Ranking (beta) - All Books or limited to the Science Fiction Author Ranking (printed books) ?

Of the "All Books (print & Kindle, all genre)", the names I recognized as being SF/F authors were:

1. Veronica Roth
11. Stephen King
12. George R.R. Martin
13. Suzanne Collins
18. Rick Riordan
31. Orson Scott Card
53. J.K. Rowling
59. Jim Butcher
63. Hugh Howey
72. Neil Gaiman
84. J.R.R. Tolkien

In the list limited to just Science Fiction, I noticed B.V. Larson also beats out David Weber, George Orwell, John Scalzi, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Margaret Atwood, and Stephen King.

I think the thing to remember about the new Amazon Author Rank is that it's "updated hourly", which puts a premium on which authors have had recent releases; and it includes all books, so it favors authors like Larson who have written a lot of books recently. (In contrast, George Orwell has hardly written anything in the last year.)

Finally, Larson's "Swarm" (Star Force #1), which is his bestseller on Amazon's ranking, was on sale yesterday as an audiobook daily deal with a Whispersync attachment for an extra $1, which no doubt temporarily boosted its sales within the Amazon ranking period. (No surprise it's currently listed as Audible's best-selling audiobook!)


message 3: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 08, 2014 06:59AM) (new)

Anyway, to answer your initial BV Larson question... :)

I picked up Larson's Army of One last month because it was free on Audible. I gave it 2 stars (see my review here if interested.) Basically, all action, almost superhero-style super soldier; minimal characterization and possibly because I hadn't read any other Star Force books, pretty much zero world building. (I suspect it was targeted at Star Force fans.)

As I mentioned above, his first novel, Swarm, was the Audible Daily Deal yesterday, so I picked it up just to get some idea what the series was about. (After all, he's written a dozen Star Force books alone, so presumably they sell...) I'll get back to you when I get around to reading (listening to) it.


message 4: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Thanks for the analysis. I'd be interested in your thoughts on "Swarm". Some of the review were really scathing and seemed well thought out and not of the "U suckkkk so much!!!" kind.

I'm rather fussy myself so I didn't get very far with Swarm. His use of language and technical descriptions just didn't appeal, which I admit could be my fault.


message 5: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 01, 2014 07:13AM) (new)

V.W. wrote: "I'm rather fussy myself so I didn't get very far with Swarm. ..."

Yeah, Swarm isn't going to make my favorite list, either. It's a male adventure fantasy with a gloss of sci-fi. (I compare it to ERB's Barsoom or other space fantasy, with the jargon updated.)

I did note that Larson continues to appear quite high on Amazon's sales rankings, though.


message 6: by V.W. (last edited Mar 01, 2014 07:33AM) (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments G33z3r wrote: "V.W. wrote: "I'm rather fussy myself so I didn't get very far with Swarm. ..."

Yeah, Swarm isn't going to make my favorite list, either. It's a male adventure fantasy with a gloss of sci-fi. (I co..."


Yes. Makes me want to run amuck in a book shop with a Nerf gun.

Edit: On the other hand, just had a look and Swarm is rated at 134,408 when I checked, and my latest SF book (not under the name V.W.) was rated at 88,119 yesterday, so I shall spare the book shop the Nerfing for the time being :)


message 7: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments Amazon's ranking formula is confounding without having actual sales data hour by hour. No sales for a week or so drops a book hundreds of thousands..., sell three in a day and jump up hundreds of thousands. So much data, all relevant to one particular point in the space/time continuum. Almost worthless except for (as V.W. points out) the temporary ego lift when you're kicking Douglas Adam's dead ass.

Little snippets. Little victories. Little use. :}


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 02, 2014 12:58AM) (new)

Kudos to you, E.D., if you're kicking Douglas Adams' dead ass. I've never got higher than his ankles.

Apart from the brief ego boost for authors, presumably the purpose of Amazon's ranking system is to tell the prospective customer what's hot and what's not. This is no doubt fine in the ephemeral world of popular music, but it's not very relevant to fantasy and sci-fi, which matures like wine. I don't want to know what's flying off the shelves at airports and in supermarkets, I want to know what's built to last. For that, I turn to Goodreads, because Amazon won't tell me.

I've just started reading my first B.V.Larson (I hadn't heard of him before reading this thread, so that's down to you, V.W.). He's clearly no Susanna Clarke, but so far it does what it says on the tin, though I'm currently thinking that Moorcock did this sort of thing better in the sixties.


message 9: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Chris wrote: "Kudos to you, E.D., if you're kicking Douglas Adams' dead ass. I've never got higher than his ankles.

Apart from the brief ego boost for authors, presumably the purpose of Amazon's ranking system ..."


You have wounded me to the quick! I shall now fall upon my sword to wipe out this unbearable dishonour. (Good thing I pawned the bloody thing last week.)


message 10: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments Well, Chris..., "brief" would be the operative word concerning ego-boost. Don't think it lasted past the second pouring of the celebratory single malt. Fleeting glimpse of greatness followed by a resounding floor-wiping by a corpse. Giddy to morose before the ice melted.

Have to agree with your main point..., crunched numbers aren't a good means to finding a good fit. Adams sits on top (in spite of being worm chow) because humans spread the word. Numbers don't lie, but machines don't laugh. :}


message 11: by Dave (new)

Dave (dcr_writes) | 45 comments I just took a look at my own sales rankings on my author central page, and I actually found the numbers useful. I had a massive spike when I released my new book - which seems to have stabilized for the moment at a steady few copies a day.

What's nice is that because it graphs author rank over time, you can get information that you can actually use. If nothing else it's a great way to see if promotions have an effect.


message 12: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 05, 2014 01:05PM) (new)

Well, I finished the Larson - though I must admit I skipped through the last quarter of it - and this, if anyone is interested, is my review:

review of 'To Dream with the Dragons'


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Chris wrote: "Well, I finished the Larson - though I must admit I skipped through the last quarter of it - and this, if anyone is interested, is my review:...'"

So basically, he writes Fantasy for people who think Tolkien ruined Fantasy and Science Fiction for people who think Asimov ruined Science Fiction.


message 14: by Ciara (new)

Ciara Ballintyne (ciara_ballintyne) | 17 comments I don't think I'll be adding any Larson to my TBR shelf after that review LOL

On the other hand, should anyone require a sword to fall upon, I have one I can loan out. V.W.? No?


message 15: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Ciara wrote: "I don't think I'll be adding any Larson to my TBR shelf after that review LOL

On the other hand, should anyone require a sword to fall upon, I have one I can loan out. V.W.? No?"


I decided to poison myself instead. I am reliably told that hamburgers are quite deadly if taken in large enough quantities, perhaps aided by equally toxic doses of ethyl alcohol.

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in Fantasy taken in odd directions, they should try Alex Bledsoe's "Eddie LaCrosse" mixture of sword and sorcery with hard boiled detective noir.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

V.W. wrote: ... try Alex Bledsoe's "Eddie LaCrosse" mixture of sword and sorcery with hard boiled detective noir.

Sounds interesting. Thanks, V.W. I've marked it TBR.


message 17: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Thyer | 10 comments G33z3r wrote: "His first novel, Swarm, was the Audible Daily Deal yesterday, so I picked it up just to get some idea what the series was about. (After all, he's written a dozen Star Force books alone, so presumably they sell...) I'll get back to you when I get around to reading (listening to) it."

First, let me say I'm not tossing stones. I read BV Larson's SWARM and it just wasn't my thing. It was fantasy in a bright and shiny, military metal future, but the guy has moxie. He works hard at his craft, puts in the time bleeding on the page, and periodically writes about his experiences in writing and publishing.

Larson admits that some of his success is because he has been lucky from time to time. For the right reader, his work must be compelling. But, and I know this is the case with anyone who has a bibliography that deep, the thing that works best for him is all the work he has put into the affair of writing.

In my own case, I’m sure I had a modicum of talent and luck in the mix, but hard work was definitely the primary contributor to my success. Anyone who thinks I got lucky should open their desk drawer. Do you have around a thousand rejection letters stashed in there? Have you written at least ten books without gaining a dime? Have you taken scads of college writing courses, read a dozen books on writing cover to cover repeatedly, and studied every author in your genre of choice, outlining their works? If not, you have yet to meet my standard of “hard work”.

—from BV Larson blog


message 18: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Matthew wrote: "G33z3r wrote: "His first novel, Swarm, was the Audible Daily Deal yesterday, so I picked it up just to get some idea what the series was about. (After all, he's written a dozen Star Force books alo..."

I for one never begrudged him his success, or implied that he didn't work hard. I simply don't like/enjoy his books. Others can come to their own conclusions regarding his work.

On the other hand, sheer hard work isn't always enough, or there would be far more great writers around.


message 19: by E.D. (new)

E.D. Lynnellen (EDLynnellen) | 126 comments I wouldn't begrudge a dung beetle's success. They work hard, too. They know what they like.

Millions of flies and microbes share their preferences.

A great deal of time is spent creating the object of their desire. There seems to be a lot of it laying about. It serves it's purpose.

Really a matter of personal taste rather than how hard it was to make, no?

Wait, I believe that's what V.W. said. :}


message 20: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Thyer | 10 comments V.W. wrote: “On the other hand, sheer hard work isn't always enough, or there would be far more great writers around.”

I believe that it was John Scalzi that once posted a bit about how any book can simultaneously be someone’s perfect story as well as someone else’s perfect anti-story. Were I still an adolescent male, sequestered in my parent’s basement, my dreams affected by visions of THE LAST STAR FIGHTER and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK it is possible that BV Larson’s hard work might rank very high on my list of favorites.

I am not that kid. His books don’t rank highly on my list. But that said, I know they are still valued on someone else’s. His work is appreciated (and purchased). But here is where our opinions diverge. I think that hard work does account for a sizable amount of anyone’s success. Talent and luck are meaningless without the work. The harder and longer you work at something the more likely it becomes that you will have both talent and luck in fact, or so has been my experience.

BV Larson might actually prove a reasonable test case for the hypothesis, does hard work make you a better writer? I’ve read his earliest work, now I wonder if his latest is objectively any better?


message 21: by Dave (new)

Dave (dcr_writes) | 45 comments I'd argue that while hard work isn't the only ingredient necessary for success, it's the one ingredient the writer has the most control over.

You can't force yourself to be luckier, you can't force yourself to have more innate talent (as opposed to learned skill) but you can force yourself to sit down and work harder.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Talent without hard work can produce the occasional masterpiece. Hard work without talent produces dross.


message 23: by V.W. (new)

V.W. Singer | 253 comments Chris wrote: "Talent without hard work can produce the occasional masterpiece. Hard work without talent produces dross."

And of course, talent with hard work will produce even more masterpieces :)


message 24: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 07, 2014 03:18AM) (new)

I'd have to dispute that where Tolkien's posthumous work is concerned. :(


message 25: by Michael (new)

Michael Casey | 44 comments I HATED the Larson books I read. I read Swarm and The Dead Sun. Blech. I'm not a hotshot critic or anything, and I can't tell you why exactly I didn't like it, but the writing feels really plain. I read something by Ursula LeGuin and it's like I'm floating through the story. Larson's stuff feels like I'm reading installation instructions. I thought maybe it was just the plot in Dead Sun that didn't interest me, so I bought the Dead Sun, and got the same feeling. It's just not my style or something.

Mike


message 26: by J.M. (new)

J.M. Preiss (jmpreiss) | 2 comments Hard work and careful attention to detail can make up for a lack of talent, but you also have to be willing to learn from mistakes and learn new things along the way. If you work hard at doing the same thing over and over without any growth, you'll get the same result every time. That's why I try to learn something new each time I finish writing something and while I'm writing it as well. Hopefully everything I put out will be better than the last, ya know?

One thing to keep in mind is that people like different things, and sometimes, it's the simpler things that win out over other complicated works. I absolutely love classic scifi, but then I also love cracking open the latest Star Wars book. :p


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