The Stats Solution

The problem with publishing? Clearly, not enough statistics.

Baseball has wins and losses, RBIs, home runs, strikeouts, saves and ERAs. But those are so twentieth century!


Today what matters is OBP (on base percentage), SLG (slugging average), TBs (total bases), DICE (defense-independent component ERA) and RF (range factor).

For decades hockey had no statistics except things like goals, assists and shots saved. But they became a major market sport when they enhanced their portfolio of statistics with the likes of PPS/G (power play shots per game), FOWs (faceoffs won) and +/- (plus-minus rating). What’s not to love, even if they have very little to do with who actually wins games?

So, clearly, publishing has too few statistics. Bestseller lists have been around a hundred years. (Boring!) Returns percentage has been with us for decades, and is just plain depressing. What if publishers started evaluating themselves with things like these:

  • WWAP–Warm-Weather Author Percentage. (Clearly a higher percentage of authors from sunnier climates must be good!)
  • TCUs–Total Commas Used. (Over the course of a publishing year, that would certainly be an impressive number, even if not very meaningful.)
  • BTTSBARs–Books Torn To Shreds By Angry Readers. (How many “Likes” you get on Facebook is too obvious. This way you’d have a true measure for how engaged customers are with your product.)
  • AE/B–Average Endorsements per Book. (Too many is overkill. Too few is just as bad. The great debate is, What is the golden mean?)
  • PRRs–Press Releases Released. (But maybe a more interesting stat would be PRSs–Press Releases Supressed!)
  • SMI–Social Media Index. (Take the number of Twitter Feeds, multiply by blog comments, divide by the square root of page views, multiply by the inverse of the number of authors without email addresses, add the number of author websites multiplied by media consultants on retainer [if 0, multiply by 1].)

So, forget publishing vision statements or editorial style guides or first-year net sales. Clearly the path to a healthier publishing industry is a dynamic statistics strategy.

What stats would you suggest we track?

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

3 thoughts on “The Stats Solution”

  1. Entertaining. However, as to the WWAP, it appears that in reality the reverse could be true! I recall recall reading some years ago that historians believe colder winters contributed to the development of literature.

    Apparently, the closer one got to the equator, the year-round good weather kept people out and about. By contrast, people who needed to hunker down in their homes and halls for a season developed more sophisticated story-telling (and recording) skills.

    Of course, I may be prejudiced, being the descendant of Norse immigrants . . . and choosing to live in Washington State next to the Hood Canal fjord!

  2. Rob, I think I recall hearing the same thing about weather. So maybe WWAP is a negative indicator not a positive. We must keep honing these metrics! Andy

  3. FTSF–Frown To Smile Factor. The degrees and rate by which one’s facial expression changes while reading (or missing!) Andy’s blog.

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