Via Justine Larbalestier‘s blog, a neato essayby author Justine Musk on writing and selling books. Musk offers some insightful musings on the economic realities of mass market PB fiction and the venus fly trap of book sales data. Here’s a little taster…

Because here’s the thing. In this age of such relentless number-crunching, books don’t get the shelf life they used to get. There’s no time for a slow build-up: either the book performs once it’s out of the gate (in fact, my deal for the sequel to the sequel to BLOODANGEL offers a ‘bonus’ if the book ships above a certain number of copies within the first few months of its release date) or it gets dumped from the stores altogether and the author gets tagged with a stigma that’s hard to overcome. The problem is that the best way to sell a book – the only way, for most books that don’t get the loving PR attention of the publishers – is reader word-of-mouth. And word-of-mouth, if it’s going to happen, takes a while to get up to speed. People not only have to buy the book, they have to actually read the damn thing, and recommend it to people, who also have to read it, and then have to… etc. And by the time enough people have read it to maybe make something start to happen, the book is out of stores and maybe even out of print.