CONduit report & some interesting numbers

CONduit is a conference for speculative fiction writers. This year’s conference was great. I was able to see and talk to a bunch of writer friends (Dave Wolverton, Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Howard & Sandra Tayler, Eric James Stone, Ami Chopine, Darren Egget, Skipper Ritchotte, Mette Harrison), make some new ones (Lee Modesitt, James Dashner, Julie Wright, Aprilynne Pike, Larry Correia), plus chat with a multitude of others who are trying to break in. I also got to record with the Dragon Crawlers Radio guys. Nothing better than spending a weekend with a swarm of friendly and talented folks.

I’m amazed at the success some of these people are having:

  • Aprilynne Pike had an initial print run of 200,000 hardback copies and was #1 on the NY Times Best Seller list.
  • James Dashner is going to be one of the main events from Random House this fall. I’m expecting an equally large print of his Maze Runner.
  • Brandon Sanderson just signed a contract that was announced on Publisher’s Lunch for somewhere around 2.5 million for four books. Folks, this is amazingly large for our genre.

Of course, we already know Dave Wolverton and Lee Modesitt are some of the biggest sellers for Tor. Dan Wells is going to be big as well. And the Taylers have already got tens of thousands who read them regularly. They threw a great release party at this con.

Larry Correia has had some interesting success as well and came at it from a side alley. He self-published Monster Hunters International. He sold a few thousand copies (no mean feat, especially for a self-published book), with many of the readers coming from the armed forces in Afganistan and Iraq. The book was so good the owner of a large independent store in Minnesota, Uncle Hugo’s, called the editor of Baen Books up and told her that she was an idiot if she didn’t buy Larry’s book because he could sell the heck out of it. So she took a look, agreed, and Larry’s now under contract with a real publisher. It’s coming out in July.

In one conversation I learned the following about the Science Fiction & Fantasy genre.

  • 4,000 hardback copies for a title in a year is the rough break even point for Tor. You sell more than that, you’re okay. You sell less and Tor might have to drop you.
  • 10,000 hardback copies would be considered a very good seller.
  • 15,000 – 30,000 hardback copies and you are hitting the top of the midlist
  • Robert Jordan sold around 600,000 of each of his titles in hardback.
  • Depending on the time of year, 4,000 – 5,000 hardbacks sold in a week will put you in the top ten, even the top three, on the NY Times bestseller list.

As for me, I printed up some posters and book marks using Swanland’s art. The cover got a great reaction there. And that’s huge for me because, looking at that Gallup Poll blog I wrote, the cover is going to drive a lot of sales for a new author. I had a wonderful time giving my workshop. And I think I finally figured out which part of my novel I can use for readers. Oh, and if you get a chance to hear Eric James Stone read any of his short stories, take it. I’ve listened to him twice now and both have been well worth the 20 minutes.

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8 Responses to CONduit report & some interesting numbers

  1. David-J-West says:

    Glad things went well. I’m bummed I couldn’t make it. I especially wanted to go to your workshop but at least I have all the resources on your site.

  2. John Brown says:

    I’m sure I’ll do it again 🙂

  3. Hezekiah says:

    The poster of your book was sweet.

    I was quite intrigued about one of your answers during the Q&A panel. You mentioned that when you get writer’s block it’s easy to talk negatively to yourself. Really, I think the self-talk we have makes a huge difference. In fact, I believe that most successful people have learned to talk to themselves in the right way. The have the right attitudes and have learned to encourage themselves instead of discourage themselves. Since I have made a conscious effort to envision future success, and tell myself that I’ll do whatever it takes to be successful, I feel my writing has improved dramatically.

  4. John Brown says:

    What? You were in the audience and didn’t come up and say hi?!!!???

    I think you’re right. I danced with the dark lady of depression for about ten years. I know some folks need cognitive AND chemical help to beat it. I was able to control it with cognitive therapy. FEELING GOOD by David Burns, and a few other things, saved my life. Literally. And everything in cognitive therapy has so much application to writing. I’m going to have to blog about it. But I think distorted thinking kills a lot of people’s writing.

  5. Hezekiah says:

    I just never know what to say, and unless I have something interesting to say or ask, I’d rather not bother you, as I would probably say something I’d later regret. I often suffer from a severe case of stupidity.

    Ah, see, there I go with that negative self-talk.

    For me, making the decision to do whatever it takes to make a story sizzle made a big difference, because even if what I’m writing isn’t hot hot hot, I can sit back and remind myself that I can fix it. I’m willing to take the time and make the sacrifice to make it just right. Telling myself that every word written–even if deleted and re-written ten times–does me good and isn’t a waste, has done me a world of good. No time spent writing is wasted, even if I have to re-write whatever I just wrote.

  6. John Brown says:


    Here’s what you say next time you see me (no slinking away). “Mr. John, I’m Hezekiah.”

    I will look a bit perplexed.

    “I post on your site.”

    “Ah,” I will say.

    “Love your stuff, but I’m dying to know what bunny cakes are.”

    At that point I will explain the fine points of these tasty treats. Then I’ll probably ask you what project you’re working on. Or perhaps we’ll talk more of sundry pastries. See. Easy as pie.


  7. QueAquila says:

    Hello John,

    My husband and I attended your seminar and absolutely loved it. (I was the one with yellow glasses and black leather hat) While my husband is my muse, he has a hard time with writing. After your seminar he wrote the beginning of a story he was wanting to write. Anytime, we get stumped with our stories now we will be using your techniques to help.

    Thanks for the help and I will be checking here often.


  8. John Brown says:


    That room was so hot and it was so late I feared everyone there was going get heat exhaustion. 🙂 I’m so happy to hear it was useful to you. What part did you and your husband find most useful? Was your husband fighting his writersense instead of embracing it?