Have faith indie authors, your number may be coming up

Most of us roar into a book but after a chapter or two sometimes the enthusiasm sputters. About 25% of the books I start, I don’t finish.


So many good books. So little time. Struggling through a work that doesn’t speak to you or, worse, fails on multiple fronts is time lost.

As an Indie Author, I look for self-published books but all too often a good story’s ruined by poor editing and structure. Scores of spelling/grammatical errors, characters boring and similar as frozen peas, and constantly repeating, repetitive wording, reinforcing and over-explaining (you get the idea) passages bring my reading experience to a gagging end. A traditional publisher fixes that and more.

Okay, so indie books are a roll of the dice when it comes to providing a story that you relish to the end. Apparently, it’s a plague on all books, whether self-published or traditional.

A New York Times article reports on Andrew Rhomberg, founder of Jellybooks and chief proselytizer for something called reader analytics. It’s not just Indie authors whose works get the thumbing down from readers. http://tinyurl.com/hh7r27x

The folks at Amazon and B&N garner gobs of reader data via eBooks such as tracking how far they’ve read. Old-school publishers are clueless about whether readers finished the book and whether they enjoyed the experience. And isn’t customer experience all the rage right now?

So seven anonymous pubishers: 3 from the UK, 3 from Europe and one big U.S. house quietly asked Jellybooks to do some investigating.

The result?

The data miner found the majority of readers finished only half the books. Most quit after a few chapters. Men had half the attention span of women, applying the brakes in as few as 30 pages. The real stunner? Only five per cent of the books could keep 75% of readers interested enough to turn the final page.

The report suggested it was surprising business books had low completion rates. I say, WHAT? As a business book reviewer for many years, I can attest that few have anything fresh to say. I could breeze through the average NYT best-seller in an evening simply by scanning over the stuff that’s been thrice writ.

Most business people are looking for a solution. A quick peek at the table of contents takes biz readers to the answer they want. Business books tend to be used as  reference material. When’s the last time you read a dictionary cover to cover?

For fiction, advanced tools like these may shape the evolution of the publishing industry. After the test, one publisher reduced the marketing budget for a highly touted book (with a big acquisition fee) after 90 per cent of the readers quit after chapter five. Another hit the marketing accelerator for a debut crime novel after the tally showed nearly 70 per cent read to the end.


I have faith number crunching will lead to a sales boost for works that score with readers. Too many great books die on the whim of literary agents and publishers or a decision based on a one-page ‘query’ or a 10 page excerpt.


Similar data mining techniques helped MLB managers build winning teams by finding low-priced, under-appreciated players. Wine growing / weather data creamed expert oenophilic prognostications in predicting top vintages.

Better decisions through algorithms. Wasn’t that something Isaac Asimov predicted an eon ago in his great work, The Foundation Trilogy?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s