SPFBO Round 2: FIGHT!

Okay, not fight, exactly. Compete. That’s better.

Yes, Round 2 of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off has officially begun. Actually, it officially began last month, but since I was gone during that time, this is just the first chance I’ve gotten to talk about it here.

First off, let’s introduce the books that have been passed forward to this round, that all participants will be taking a look at in the coming months.

A Soul for Trouble, by Crista McHugh
City of Burning Shadows, by Barbara J Webb (which I already reviewed here)
What Remains of Heroes, by David Benem
Shattered Sands, by W G Saraband
Under a Colder Sun, by Greg James
Bloodrush, by Ben Galley
The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids, by Michael McClung
The Weight of a Crown, by Tavish Kaeden
Priest, by Matthew Colville
Sins of Sovereignty, by Plague Jack

There are some interesting things that I’ve noticed about both batches of books. So I thought I’d take a moment to go over a few of those statistics.

Batch 1

  • Author gender: 38.4% male, 46.1% female, 15.3% ambiguous/unknown at first glance
  • Page count: 104-745 (average page count: 295; note that this is skewed because 2 books did not have listed page counts on Amazon or Goodreads, and the Kindle app doesn’t show real page numbers for them)
  • For sale on Amazon: 23/26, or 88%
  • Attractive, professional-looking cover art: 13/26, or 50%

Batch 2

  • Author gender: 60% male, 20% female, 20% ambiguous/unknown at first glance
  • Page count: 210-480 (average page count: 354)
  • For sale on Amazon: 10/10, or 100%
  • Attractive, professional-looking cover art: 8/10, or 80%

First, books with page counts between 300-400 seemed most popular, and though there were outliers in each batch, they were far closer to the average range in the second batch than the first. Moreover, most of the books that caught my interest in the first batch were in that range, too, with more of the outliers (especially ones that had page counts of 200 or less) failing to spark interest.

Second, some of the books submitted for the first batch don’t actually seem to have been published anywhere yet, or at least aren’t listed on Amazon. The remaining books may be listed on sites like Smashwords, or perhaps are in the pre-publication stage at this point, but ultimately, there were a few that could not be found on an extremely large and popular site that’s all about selling things. All books in the second batch are listed there.

Third, far more of the books in round 2’s batch look indistinguishable from books you’d find at any bookstore, and break the mold of what most people think of when it comes to self-published novels. In the first batch, however, only half of the books could claim that, with an equal half looking like they were were cobbled together quickly in an image-editing program or were sketched out by somebody who doesn’t do visual art on a pro or semi-pro level.

Why didn’t I address the gender issue first, since it appears first one the list of stats? Because here’s where things got complicated. While it appears that there’s a clear predisposition to passing male authors to the second round, I had to look at the total list of submissions, all the books that were passed around to every participant, to get a proper idea of what was going on. And it seems that my batch was actually a pretty weird one. I was the only person who got a list of books with more women than men, at least where gender was apparent from the name alone. In fact, I received almost 20% of the books whose authors used female names.

I looked into this; books with female author names were not disproportionately given to female (or assumed female) bloggers.  It really does appear that it was just random happenstance than landed me with a whole bunch of books written by women.

However, this isn’t the whole story, because every person received books with author names that were ambiguous. Whether they went by initials, or an obvious pseudonym, it wasn’t always clear who identified as female and who didn’t. It’s long been known that female authors sometimes write under their initials rather than their full names, to avoid having their book instantly be dismissed by some as worthless or uninteresting or full of romance and flowers and other girly stuff. So a number of those books where the author was listed by initials may also have been written by women.

I know for a fact some were written by men. But since this was an “at a glance” look, I didn’t go into great detail tracking down the true identities of the authors.

So if you assume that my batch is typical, it looks like women really got screwed over in the publicity department. Taking my batch as typical, women were more likely to submit than men, and yet for every book in Round 2 that’s written by a woman, there’s 3 written by a man.

In truth, the stats look something like this:

  • 58.2% male, 22.7% female, 18.2% ambiguous

Which looks a lot closer to the stats of the books in round 2. Round 2 is actually pretty representative of the total submissions when it comes to gender. Which isn’t at all what I expected when I was only looking at my own numbers.

This is what I spent an evening doing. Looking at stats. And it actually turned out to be rather fun, and shed some light on a few curious issues around writing and self-publication. The only stat I wanted to look at that I didn’t cover here was sales, but since that info’s not really available to me, I had to leave it out. Still, it would have been nice to see sales stats when correlating to gender, or cover art, or page count. It wouldn’t be definitive, of course, but info like that could go a long way to showing aspiring authors just how much investing in good cover art or editing to certain word count ranges could potentially improve sales.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this look at some project statistics.

One comment on “SPFBO Round 2: FIGHT!

  1. Nice post. I enjoyed reading your stats. I hadn’t paid it much attention until I saw this. It’s odd but if somebody was to ask me just to pick,say, three random authors who I love they would probably be male. Which isn’t to say that I don’t have any female authors that I love but I know for a fact that i would probably start with Lawrence, Lynch and Rothfuss. If I was to continue I’d probably then add Gaiman and Sanderson. All male. It kind of makes me want to go through all my top 10 lists for the past 2 or 3 years and see how they compare.
    Lynn 😄

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