I am ill, so this mock Twitter battle cheered me up. It’s between publicists at small Brooklyn press Melville House and giant Penguin Random House. Pretty sure these two people probably know each other — book publishing is a small industry. Click and enjoy:
Category Archives: book publishing
Here are links to articles on writing and publishing that I found interesting. (Writing neepery, in other words. Much more pleasant than Hugo neepery, really.)
The Internet is full of words, you see. We raised the young people on them.
Chuck Wendig offers helpful suggestions about dealing with reviews to writers.
However, Foz Meadows, who just got a two book deal, does take Chuck to task on there being no rules for writing fiction. (This one’s for you, Andrew! She writes better than I do, but given it’s her blog it was on, she has more curse words.) This is a regular problem — Chuck is a terrific fiction writer, just did the new tie-in novel for Star Wars — but writers, when asked for advice or proferring it, often fall into the form of ordering it to give it a more authoritative bounce. It does more harm than they realize, so I appreciate Foz addressing this.
Chris Brecheen wrote to a woman writer who wanted, get this, J.K. Rowling to retire because she believed it would give other writers a better chance. Brecheen explained how fiction publishing actually works, and that it’s not a competition, which is actually helpful for a wider pool of authors than you might think.
Daniel Jose´ Older offers advice that is also very helpful to a lot of writers dealing with the endless time crunch of life.
Food for thought! Hope all your evenings are warm and safe and welcoming, folks.
During most of the Great Hugo Campaign That Wasn’t that spun out of the “hope we get the conservative media pundits interested” mess that were the Puppies, I was really busy, some good and some bad. I would talk about the situation in various spots when I had the chance, and it certainly made for a particular type of entertainment, but I wasn’t about to try to fully hop in. And now that the Hugos have been handed out for 2015 and the Puppies are trying to figure out how to keep things going while whining about the new Star Wars tie-in novel from Chuck Wendig having a gay protagonist, I’m not inclined to hash things out further. Not specifically about them any-hoo. The more general topic of discrimination, I have some things to say, when I can get to it.
But I do have some links I collected of other people writing about the whole Hugo thing that I thought were informative and cogent over the seven months of deep, deep puppy whining and spitting. So in case you missed them, you can peruse at your leisure:
Then, there is Amal El-Mohtar‘s take on the Puppies.
And Philip Sandifer‘s angry cultural takedown of the Puppies, which got him his own nickname from them.
Sandy Ryalls on a blog at BlackGate.com commented on the heart of the conflict.
Author K. Tempest Bradford pointed out unintended consequences from the Puppies’ assault on the Hugos.
Author Jim C. Hines took a close look at what the Puppies were actually saying.
M.D. Laclan at FantasyFaction.com looks at the cultural timeline and how both past and future SF does not fit the Puppies’ narrative.
Author and screenwriter David Mack offers a detailed analysis of why Puppy nominee and participant Amanda Green’s essay on his Star Trek novel that she put in her Hugo Fan Writer nominee packet is full of hot air. (This fits with what Green is now trying to do with Chuck Wendig and what the Puppies tried to claim about Star Trek in general.)
Author Tobias Bucknell explains why the image of SFF fandom as a safe place free of attacks like the Puppies’ was always a myth.
Kevin Standlee explains how the Puppies’ mercantile demands show they don’t understand the nature of the Hugo Awards at all.
Miles Schneiderman covered the whole debacle for YesMagazine.org.
Cartoonist and writer Barry Deutsch looks at the up-coming Sad Puppies IV for next year and explains why it’s still a voting slate attempt.
And writer and game designer Alexandra Erin wrote several very intelligent pieces about the Puppies and also provided some brilliant satire during the whole ordeal:
If you do wade through all that, do not despair in the end. The Hugo Awards are fine. And fandom isn’t any more split than it was before. It’s just now those divisions are a bit more out in the open, with the aid of Internet screaming. That’s not, necessarily, a bad thing, although it makes it a little tricky for the publishers. But they could use some shaking up, frankly. They are the ones who have produced a SFF field that is 90% white people, mostly writing about white people.
Yes, I’m alive, shut up.
Recently, folks on SFFWorld.com brought to my attention a new column in The Guardian newspaper by Damien Walter on the current tyranny of the mega sized, multi-volume series in fantasy fiction. I.E. Game of Thrones is ruining everything! And sidelining anything that isn’t a mega-sized, multi-volume fantasy series in book publishing. Because fiction publishing is run by underwear gnomes apparently.
I like Walter, I do, but this article (and to a lesser degree, an official counter “response” composed by new author Natasha Pulley, which was equally tone deaf about the actual fantasy field,) is an excellent example of why more people don’t find and read good books — because writers like Walter tell them that the field is overrun with whatever has been designated the current trendy “problem” that is killing everything off, so why bother. If the media would stop sounding death dirges as the only thing that ever interests them about fictional works, we’d have twice as many fiction readers, rather than a population that is continually taught that they’ll hate most fiction out there.
Nothing ever kills anything off in fiction publishing. (Or for that matter, in most forms of art.) Popularity is not a death sentence for everything else and one thing being popular doesn’t mean that other, different things are not equally or more popular. Also, authors are not herded by publishers like camels. Anyone who has worked with authors know that they are worse than cats.
Anyway, I thought I would reprint my response below here. But despite my ire, do check out Walter’s short fiction work where you can find it and Pulley’s debut historical fantasy novel, The Watchmaker of Filligree, due out in July from Bloomsbury in the U.K. (See, now was that so hard, Guardian columnists?)
It’s not a very accurate reading of the fantasy market. Which given that it’s coming from Damien Walter, who should know better, is annoying.
Mega-sized, multi-volume series are almost entirely the domain of alternate world “epic” fantasy. Because they are epics, which is supposed to be a sweeping, big story by definition. Other alternate world novels are shorter, serial series or stand alones like Katherine Addison’s award-nominated Goblin Emperor, which barely qualifies as mega-long, if that.
Contemporary fantasy uses long running series that are on average not mega in size, like mystery series, as well as various stand alones. Only once in a while does it do mega sized series books. Historical fantasy also does stand alones, shorter serial series and occasionally mega-sized multi-volumes. Comic fantasy does either shorter serial series or stand alones. Dark fantasy and horror are usually stand alones, although if it’s a dark fantasy involving a multiverse or alternate world, it might be a mega series. Some horror novels that are standalones are very thick, but that’s just one book. Multiverse usually involves a series, but often not very large ones. Futuristic fantasy can be large, either as a series or standalones, but is not routinely so, being mostly serial series and trilogies.
YA fantasy contains all the various sub-settings of fantasy. They have few stand alones in fantasy — they tend to all be series. They range from fairly short, and usually contemporary set serial series to larger epic alternate world series. But because the contemporary fantasy setting is more popular in YA than the alternate world settings, YA tends to average on the shorter side. Some of its most popular series, Eragon, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, are thick epic series, but many others are not.
Fantasy published in general fiction tends to be stand alones and may be long or short, depending on what it is. For instance, Touch by Claire North, put out by Redhook, a general fiction arm of Hatchette, is a medium sized standalone dark fantasy thriller.
So basically “fantasy” authors don’t have to move away from mega multi-volume series because not all of them are doing mega multi-volume series. In fact, it’s rare that an author manages to do one past three books. The ones who publish in alternate world fantasy have routinely experimented with different forms — one long series like Song of Ice and Fire, multiple shorter trilogy series in the same universe or a mix of stand alones and trilogies in the same universe like Joe Abercrombie does, shorter serial mystery-like series like Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, multiple trilogy series with different publishers, large duologies, stand alones, etc. David Gemmell, who wrote a lot of historical fantasy, as well as alternate world fantasy, did everything from stand alones to his 9 volume Drenai series.
But that’s inconvenient for the hook. The hook is that because Game of Thrones, five years in, is still a very popular t.v. show, and based on a nearly twenty-year-old series written by an author who was already a bestseller when he started it, (and from whom his publisher originally wanted only four books,) that clearly this is only now warping the entire field of fantasy fiction because some other lower rung bestseller guy got a book deal for a new trilogy. Because the fiction market is symbiotic and so publishers slap that it’s like George Martin on anything epic fantasy, they must be hounding authors for only that as the only thing in fantasy that is selling or getting made into a t.v. show. (Pay no attention to Vampire Diaries, or Bitten, The Leftovers, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Outlander, etc.) Because only one thing in any field can be popular at a time and it wipes out everything else, really it does. So anything else is “sidelined” right now because also a nearly thirty-year-old epic fantasy series that was supposed to be seven books in the nineties ended up being fifteen books that took more time and lost its author. And because a twenty-five-year-old epic fantasy series briefly had a t.v. series that flopped several years ago.
Because trilogies! That they’ve been doing since the seventies. And which consist of three books, technically multi-volume but please.
The reality is that the contemporary fantasy bestsellers, like Kelley Armstrong’s shared universe series, some of which were adapted for t.v. show Bitten, routinely outsell most alternate world fantasy fiction, as does for that matter bestselling fantasy romance, most of which is contemporary set. And that setting also means they have better odds for being turned into a t.v. series or a movie, especially if it’s YA. Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series is coming to British t.v. and Daniel Jose Older’s new series Bone Street Rumba just got optioned. That’s hardly sidelined. Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant isn’t sidelined. Neil Gaiman’s latest bestselling short story collection is not sidelined. Jim Butcher and Patricia Briggs aren’t sidelined (and Butcher had a short-lived t.v. series that did establish a cult following before being axed.) Lauren Beukes’ bestselling stand alone The Shining Girls did just fine. And the late Sir Terry Pratchett is still kicking most authors’ asses in sales.
What Games of Thrones is actually doing is bringing in a flood of new readers, who are reading the books in Martin’s series and then many of them, especially with the series unfinished, going browsing and picking up not only alternate world fantasy but lots of other fantasy stories too. And science fiction, horror, suspense, romance, YA. None of which publishers expect to perform like Song of Ice and Fire. It would be nice, they want breakout hits, but they aren’t idiots. And the break out hits in fantasy aren’t necessarily coming from alternate world fantasy. (Though Kingkiller Chronicles is also coming to t.v.)
If he really wanted to help authors he thinks are getting sidelined by Game of Thrones, talk about some of those authors then. Media coverage of fiction books is so rare, any little bit helps. But nobody has actually been sidelined by Game of Thrones. Instead, Martin is helping to fund half the category field; certainly everybody else on the list in Penguin Random House (which is half the publishing industry at this point.)
*The response by author Natasha Pulley that asserts writing short fantasy fiction is hard is equally silly, given that fantasy authors have been doing it for over a hundred years. And that her up-coming debut historical fantasy novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree, is only 336 pages long. But we won’t hold it against her or Walter on the fiction side. If we had to reject authors for all the silly things they say about the market, we would have little to read.
Terry took Death’s arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.
The world of Terry Pratchett was wondrous and wide. It ranged from radio to television to stage to articles to books. It encompassed his beloved novel with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, his YA fiction, his amazing standalones like Nation, and of course, Discworld, the flat world on the backs of several giant elephants standing on the back of the giant turtle swimming through space that Pratchett visited in numerous books, films, etc. Through Discworld, Pratchett lovingly satirized everything, with such deft, warm strokes that he could get you to laugh and cry at the same time and then go hug your dog. He was a national treasure of Britain, which knighted him, and one of the top twenty bestselling fiction authors in the world.
When Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease in 2007, it was a deep blow to all in SFFH fandom. In the years that followed, Pratchett stumped bravely for more investment in research of the disease, led conversations about it and end of life issues, and wrote more novels as much as he could in the ways that he could. It lulled us into thinking that there would be more time. But there wasn’t. We have to let him go.
But Discworld, we never have to let that go. It lives on in hearts and minds; its many wonderful characters are ours, his gift to us. It’s like the color of magic, always with us — we can just sort of see it if we don’t look directly at it, sort of greenish-purple. So thank you for that, Sir Terry. Thank you for the words.
*And yes, Leonard Nimoy left us as well after a long bout of ill health. I don’t even know how to do that one, so I thought this combination was appropriate and beautiful.
**Some people feel that letting go is too soon. There is a petition to Death to give Terry Pratchett back. It has over 10,000 signatures so far, so you can check it out if you like.
It’s time again for articles concerning diversity and discrimination that I found interesting last year.
Vikram Chandra wrote an interesting article for Wired about sexism factors in Silicon Valley, U.S. versus sexism factors in India’s tech industry. It shows how notions of gender are cultural and can create different forms of discrimination and inequality.
Amanda Marcotte at Raw Story looks at the ludicrous freakout by some over California’s policy change to a standard of sexual consent at its state universities and colleges. It again looks at how hard it is for people to wrap their heads around the idea that human beings own their own bodies and therefore get to give permission for who touches them sexually and how, especially when it comes to women. When there is progress made on this and other basic civil rights in law and society, the immediate claim is that the people whose rights are being supported will be vindictive, threatening destructors who will rend the very nature of society, democracy, free speech, take your pick. So put that discrimination back right this minute! As always, the fact that some people might have to alter their behavior a little bit to give others equal rights is considered way more important a problem than the actual equal rights.
McSweeney’s offers up a satiric bit called “The Open Letter to the Tiny White Man the Republican Party Has Sent to Live in My Pants.” Which also touches on the topic of women actually owning their own bodies, and getting to decide what is done to it sexually and medically and how they will live their lives.
Attorney Mary Adkins at Slate.com looks at the sexual harassment and assault of naked photos of women and girls being posted on Twitter (and elsewhere on the Net,) without their consent, and the problem with Twitter’s inability to properly enact policy on its large and contentious network.
And speaking of Twitter, Miri Mogilevsky at The Daily Dot did a nice piece talking about how This Week in Blackness‘ Elon James White created a very funny Twitter hashtag called #DudesGreetingDudes. The hashtag campaign is to point out the hypocrisy of those whining over complaints about catcalling and sexual harassment on the street. It proposes that if guys just want to say hi to others and be friendly, that they greet guys on the street the same way they are greeting women on the street. There’s also a nice videotape made re the hashtag, showing this in action:
Chris Sims at Comics Alliance looked at the problem with giant San Diego Comic Con’s attempt to hide on the issue of con harassment, in the belief that this will keep people from thinking that harassment ever happens there, versus cons that deal with the issue realistically. SDCC is so big now that it is in many ways insulated from worrying about audience desertion, as long as Hollywood still loves it. But one serious mishap and lawsuits is an ever present threat at that sort of pretense. With other big cons like New York Comic Con stepping up to have a workable, prominent and advocated harassment policy to its betterment, San Diego is going to have to change its stance soon. But this article shows h0w hard it is to root out institutionalized discrimination at these events so that practical policies can be enacted and enforced.
Also regarding conventions, author K. Tempest Bradford talked about some of the not-fun discriminations that came up at Readercon last year and at other cons for non-white, straight, etc. authors. It shows how this stuff crops up all the time in many different ways that create discrimination.
And further on that theme, Hannah Giorgis at The Soapbox talks about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks hashtag campaign and why diversity issues are so critical in children’s publishing.
And last for now, a podcast at Latino USA in which authors N.K. Jemisin, Daniel José Older, and Nalo Hopkinson discuss diversity in geekdom and diversity issues in fiction publishing.
Some stuff left over from last year, but interesting and likely to be related to interesting developments in publishing coming up:
In 2014, during the height of negotiations with Amazon and other e-vendors, HarperCollins set up selling e-books of their titles directly to readers. Now, this isn’t exactly a new thing. “Direct mail,” as it used to be called, has always been available from publishers, where readers could order books directly from publishers, usually at a discount because of shipping costs. In the 1960’s-1980’s, it was a sizable, though not central, market for paperbacks, with book order forms printed in the back pages of paperbacks, and some publishers setting up subscription services that operated sort of like book clubs, not to mention actual book clubs run by publishers or working with publishers. (The romance publishers had it down to an art form.)
In the 90’s, when the wholesale and paperback markets collapsed, direct mail became considerably less important but still existed. With the Internet developing, publishers set up buy options on their websites, however, that increased overall direct sales. For the last several years, publishers have been setting up selling e-books directly. This is, though, HarperCollins’ formalized, larger effort. Whether that’s going to help with the lack of breadth in the e-vendors market is anybody’s guess, but publishers have definitely amped up more of their book-selling efforts as the market has changed.
To that end, Mills & Boon publishers in the U.K. has also set up not only e-book selling, but doing so to mobile phones easily through an app. This is again a re-adjustment of the romance publishers’ practice of making subscription easy for buyers who will read lots of titles each month.
Related to these developments of publishers are the continual battles going on in the music industry. YouTube is getting serious about trying to compete with various streaming services, and so threatened to ban indie labels that didn’t sign up for its new music service. Likewise, Amazon and other big e-vendors have been pressing smaller houses on terms and marketing fees and signing up for various service programs. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of battles in most of the arts.
Other links: an interesting author interview on io9.com with Kelly Thompson, author of illustrated superpower novel, The Girl Who Would Be King, which just got a movie deal. Thompson ended up self-publishing the novel after not being able to sell it, and funded it with a Kickstarter campaign. This is becoming more and more common the last few years — the funding that authors could get from partner publishing by selling a license to a publisher and getting an advance against their royalties, they are now obtaining in a donations model, allowing them to act more effectively as writers and go bigger in production and marketing. It doesn’t work out for all authors, but in the begging electronic economy, it’s a solid model for raising capital support.
Chris Sims of the Comics Alliance wrote an interesting piece on Business Insider about DC and its relationship to Marvel, regarding moves both companies have made regarding their comics, films and other projects.
And lastly, fantasy author N.K. Jemisin offers authors some advice about dealing with reviews of their published work, “Author Strength Training”.