June 2012

Cyst news

by Suw on June 26, 2012

As mentioned in passing in an earlier post, about a month ago I was diagnosed with a 10cm ovarian cyst. Symptoms started right at the beginning of the year and since then have progressively worsened. Initially it was diagnosed as a mild urinary infection, confirmed by tests, but when antibiotics didn’t actually clear things up I had an ultrasound and there she was, large as life. Or as large as a small grapefruit, in fact.

I finally saw the registrar today to see what happens next and I am happy to say that surgery is on the cards. It’s a simple cyst, filled with mucous/liquid so unlikely to have any complications but they have to check for tumour markers anyway. And I might need a CT scan to find out which ovary it’s attached to because the ultrasound couldn’t tell.

And then, at some point within the next 6 – 8 weeks, I’ll be having fun with a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). Hopefully the cyst will come away easily, because if it doesn’t they’ll have to engage in a little more rummaging, which would blow my chances of going in and out in a single day. 

I have to say that I really can’t wait. At the moment I barely have a day, or more to the point, a night, without having to take some painkillers. It’s just impossible to sleep without chemical help as there simply is no comfortable position to lie in. And my poor bladder is all squished up into a boomerang shape, which means I’m constantly having to go for a wee. This is time consuming, given the amount of tea I drink. 

But I am counting myself lucky as there are many worse things to happen, and my family has had more than enough medical drama in the last six months. I will be glad to get this all over and done with, though, and get back to being able to bounce a cat up and down on my stomach without yelping. 

Further updates as and when. 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

What makes a book ‘Young Adult’?

by Suw on June 15, 2012

I ask this question, what makes a book ‘Young Adult’?, not because I have an answer and want to ponder it at length for your edification, but because I am not sure I actually know.

Out of the 14,000+ people who have either downloaded or bought Argleton, three have said that they think it’s really a Young Adult book and that I should reclassify it on Amazon as such. One person, John, left a kind comment on my previous post to that effect. Another person left a much less kind 1-star review on Amazon, saying that they were disappointed because the book “must be aimed at young teenagers or at those not reading much”. The third person is a friend who said that in her opinion it was YA.

I’ve read some YA as an adult. Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series remains one of my favourite of all time, but I read that first when I was in my early 20s, not when I was a young adult (which I presume means ‘teen’, or thereabouts? See, I don’t even know that!). As a very young teen, I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but then progressed straight on to my Dad’s science fiction and fantasy collection: Heinlein, EE Doc Smith, van Vogt, McCaffrey, Asimov, and their peers.

So I genuinely feel I have a very limited experience of YA. I’ve never paid any attention to what sort of things make a book YA, rather than just A. I didn’t go into Argleton thinking that I was writing a YA book, so didn’t look into the styles and tropes of that genre, and I still don’t think of Argleton as YA now. But maybe I’m wrong? Maybe it is?

To me, a YA book has these characteristics:

  • The main protagonist(s) are young adult
  • Themes relevant to and appropriate for young adults
  • Violence or sex, if any, is mild
  • Swearing, if any, is limited to appropriate levels

In the past, I would have said that YA books are short, which I am sure is the case for quite a few, but JK Rowling has blown that assumption out of the water and proven that kids and teens will happily read long books. In fact, some of hers are bricks.

For me, the first two points are the most important, and they are why my first reaction is to say that Argleton isn’t YA. Argleton’s protagonists are in their mid-20s, and both of them are doing PhDs. Ancillary characters are middle-aged or older. There are no teenaged character or young adults in the book at all.

The theme of the book is universal – it’s mostly about the ramifications of incautious curiosity, but it also takes on the general theme of Ada Lovelace Day in highlighting the abilities of women to be excellent computer scientists (and, conversely, to point out that men are not necessarily computer experts). Plus there is, of course, the romantic subplot addressing the idea that sometimes the person you love is right under your nose. Whilst these aren’t alienating to a YA reader, they aren’t specifically YA either.

As regards the lack of violence, sex and swearing, and the fact that it’s a novella not a novel, I find the idea that those points alone takes it out of the adult realm and plonks it in YA a depressing thought. If that’s the reason people think it’s YA, that then means they think that adult books, in opposition, must have violence, sex and swearing, and cannot be novellas. That’s a miserable idea.

Despite all that, my lack of experience with YA means that I could be totally wrong. Argleton might be better classified as YA. Authors aren’t necessarily best placed to classify their own books, so I am throwing the floor open to you: What makes a book YA? What makes a book not YA? And what is Argleton?

UPDATE: I tweeted my question, and here’s a collection of some of the responses:

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

A nerdy post about book sale numbers

by Suw on June 7, 2012

If you’ve been reading here a while, you’ll know that I have an unhealthy fascination with numbers, particularly the sales and download numbers for Argleton. Talking about  download/sales numbers on Twitter today, I realised that there are various different ways you can finagle numbers and wondered what the results might tell us. So I had a bit of a noodle to see what would come out. Comments welcome! 

Sales:Free Download Ratio

My overall sales:free download ratio for the last ten months is 1:21, so for every 21 books downloaded for free, one copy is sold. But that includes early months with poor sales. If I look at October last year, when free downloads were high and sales low, it’s 1:449, whereas last month free downloads were down and sales were up, and the ratio was 1:5. The average for this year so far is 1:10, but for three of the first five months it was 1:12. 

Now, in a way, this is a false comparison, because the free downloads are from here and the sales are from Amazon, so those are very different channels and potentially very different audiences. But does this tell us anything? Well, I think that over time it will tell me whether download numbers and sales are related, ie does more downloads mean more or less sales? Right now, numbers are all over the place so it looks as if the two aren’t strongly related.  

Mean Sales Velocity

‘Sales Velocity’ is basically your sales per month (the analogy here is ‘meters per second’ of course). I started off calculating the Mean Sales Velocity by summing the sales totals for each month and dividing it by the number of months elapsed this year so far.

That gave a bit of a messy set of numbers, so instead I did a six month rolling mean which gave me a much more sensible progression, increasing each month. 

Why take the mean of your sales per month? Well, it just evens out the bumps in your monthly figures and gives a slightly better impression for how you’re doing overall. It would be easy to get fixated on a particularly good month, or a particularly bad one, but the Mean Sales Velocity will give you a steady view of how sales are trending. 

Sales Acceleration

If we have a velocity, we can also have an acceleration, which is the rate of change of velocity over time. So Sales Acceleration is the change in Sales Velocity  divided by the change in time. Given that I’m doing everything in months, my month-on-month Sales Acceleration is essentially the same as the simple change in Sales Velocity (sales per month). 

My Sales Acceleration is, as you might expect, up and down like a mad thing, reflecting wide month-on-month variation in sales. At the moment, this isn’t really a helpful metric.

Percentage Sales Acceleration

Is there a way to make Sales Acceleration a bit more meaningful? The absolute figure is interesting, but if we had a percentage increase, that might tell us a more useful story, enabling us to compare months more easily. Again, you don’t want to get distracted by big peaks or troughs, you want to look at the variation with more of an even hand.

Sadly, this year’s figures fluctuate wildly, so my Percentage Sales Acceleration varies from -55 to 50. With a bit more time and data, I’d be looking for a positive number that was increasing in size.  


Well, I do love fiddling round with my spreadsheets, so this has all been a fun diversion, but does it really tell me anything useful? Within limits, I think yes. It gives me a clearer idea of trends, and helps prevent distraction by anomalously high or low months. It also gives me an idea of the magnitude of my trends. I can answer questions like, Are sales growing? Are they growing fast or slowly? Or fluctuating? Are there any particularly steep increase in sales or is it just plodding along? 

Once you answer questions like that, you can start to look for links with, say, promotional activities to see if they are having an impact or not. For example, my promotion of the Queen of the May Kickstarter project had a positive effect on Argleton sales, bumping sales by 46%. And my recent inclusion in the Amazon “Customers also bought” recommendations has caused another bump of 50%. 

It’s very hard to directly relate things like promotional activities to sales because of Amazon’s lack of referrals data, but we can infer effects based on sales data, even if it isn’t as granular as I’d like. It would be interesting to see daily figures, but oh well. 

In conclusion, I’ll likely keep doing the maths, especially now I have my spreadsheet set up to do it automatically. 

{ Comments on this entry are closed }