Indie Authors Represent

It’s that time of year again: the Author Earnings Report is out. I urge you, if you are an Indie author, or if like me, you fall into the “Uncategorized Single-Author Publisher” category, that you go take a look at this report. It’s the fifth quarterly report of its kind, and well, it’s a huge validation.

Only seven months ago, the idea that indie self-published authors and their ebooks were outearning all authors published by the Big Five publishers combined was jaw-dropping heresy. Today, it’s boring — a widely-acknowledged fact among knowledgeable authors, if not industry pundits. Many authors who publish both ways point out their earnings disparity in favor of their self-published titles, and so this data is no longer surprising.

Jan 2015 author earnings In other words, looking at the numbers, Indies are eating Trad Pub’s sandwich. In the graph above, showing the truth of author earnings, not publishers, we see the reality of what going Indie can do for you. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but the reality is that writing has always been a lot of work, above and beyond the act of creation. So the pie chart above is for a quarter’s data. How about the one year data, now that Author Earnings Report is old enough to (you’ll pardon me) show us the money? one year author earning Anecdotally, the commentators on this blog have expressed that they appreciate the affordability of Indie authors, overall. When a trad-pub book weighs in at $9.99 and you can buy somewhere between two to four times as much reading material from Indie authors, the choice seems obvious. But wait, you say, you can’t treat books like a commodity! They are art, and quality counts for more than quantity, surely? I’m going to digress a little. Once upon a time there was a little girl. Yes, she had pigtails, a puppy, and a pony, but that really isn’t relevant to the story. She was also poor. She didn’t really know this, because she was happy. She had her family that loved her, and plenty of outdoors to run around in, and although there were a few bitter drops, a lot of her happy childhood centered around books. But there was never enough money to buy all the books she wanted to read, so she had to take into consideration how long the book would last, before she brought it home with her. So she never read comic books. Trad pubs are like those comic books. The might be bright, shiny, and attractive, but the true readers, the ones like that little girl, who had to read, they want more than quick and done. They want that quantity, and they are learning that you don’t have to sacrifice quality to get it. More and more, through word of mouth, trusted reviewers, and often enough, the friends I make in the industry, I can get more than I can read without breaking a monthly book budget. Yeah, I have one of those, I have had ever since I found Baen Webscriptions, and carefully managed to buy just that, every other month. Fortunately, my budget is a little bigger now (and it’s now a monthly bundle, but still worth the money most months). Switching hats from reader to publisher, I see this as encouraging. Just last week I snarked about the demise of the ebook. These numbers tell me that despite the cooked-book numbers you see through traditional outlets, ebooks are here to stay, and the readers are only just beginning to consume. It’s like a buffet. You see all the variety, go nuts… but the next night, you have a better idea of what to pick and choose. That’s what we are seeing, the slow sophistication of the reader in choosing authors they enjoy, and can afford. Sure, there are a lot of free books out there. I still pick some up for my kindle app from time to time. But increasingly they tend to be old books I am using for research (Aino Folk Tales, anyone? Greek and Roman Surgical Tools?). My reading for pleasure is split between KU, which I like as I can guilt-free pick up a book by an unknown and delete it if it reeks horribly, and buying authors I know and like. And the cherry on top is that every time I visit Amazon, I get this cool little scroll-bar of recommendations for me, based on my tastes. Oddly enough, they seem to think I’d like this Cedar Sanderson person… I’m just a little chuffed at being listed in the same span with Jody Lynn Nye and Chris Nuttall. Who is himself an upstart Indie sort of fellow. You will note, though, there isn’t a book on that list for more than $5 which makes it right in the sweet spot for affordability. recommendationsBut to return to the Author Earnings Report, I wanted to talk about the ISBN thing. Or rather, the lack thereof. Most Indie ebooks (and keep in mind, we are talking ebooks, not print, all the way through here) are sold without the ISBN that traditionally has been used to track sales. The result of this is what the authors of the AER call a Shadow Industry. For more complete data, they went through all 120,000 titles in the report, looking to see which ones had ISBNs. That is a huge amount of work, and I doff my hat to them. All the hats, from reader to author to publisher (I feel like Bartholomew Cubbins!). The results are hardly surprising. Once again, we Indies are eating that sandwich calmly, no muss, no fuss,  just delicious earnings. Below you will see a figure comparing Indies to Indies, based on the ISBNs. Like the authors of the AER, I suspect that the reason is lower prices on the books where the author had not laid out a ridiculous amount of money on an identifier that they did not need. without ISBN   There is a huge amount of material to digest in the AER. I’m still contemplating it. But I’m also doing a little happy dance (very little, because I can’t dance) about this. For me, it validates the decisions I have made, to stay independent and to seek earning my fortune as an entrepreneur when it comes to writing. Persistence pays off. Now, I just have to persevere through finishing the novel in progress, and start the next one, because one thing I’ve learned about readers, you all are insatiable!

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Friday Promotions

You would think a blog by a bunch of writers would do better at self-promotion than it does but, well, we are like so many others in the field. We would rather be writing than promoting. We don’t necessarily stepping away from the desk and out of the shadows into the spotlight. So, this is me pushing all of us out there for a change. Enjoy!

joyJoy Cometh With the Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery
Dave Freer

Reverend Joy Norton is a timid city girl, and she’s never been the primary priest in any parish. When her bishop sends her out to a remote back-country church, she doubts both her ability and her suitability. Those doubts grow when she hears of the mysterious death of her predecessor. But from the first encounter with her congregation — having her little car rescued from a muddy ditch, she finds herself deeply involved with her parishioners and touched by their qualities and eccentricities. Which makes it worse for her to think that one of the people she’s coming to care for murdered the previous priest…

***

stardogsStardogs
Dave Freer

Revolution rises!

The Interstellar Empire of Man was built on the enslavement of the gentle Stardogs, companions and Theta-space transporters of the vanished Denaari Dominion. But the Stardogs that humans found can’t go home to breed, and are slowly dying out.

As the ruthless Empire collapses from its rotten core outward, an Imperial barge is trapped on top of a dying Stardog when an attempted hijacking and assassination go horribly wrong. Trying to save its human cargo, the Stardog flees to the last place anyone expected – the long-lost Denaari motherworld.

Crawling from the crash are the Leaguesmen who control the Stardogs’ pilots by fear and force, and plan to assassinate Princess Shari, the criminal Yak gang, who want to kill everyone and take control of a rare Stardog for their own, and an entourage riddled with plots, poisons, and treason. But Shari and her assassin-bodyguard have plans of their own…

Stranded on the Denaari Motherworld, the castaway survivors will have to cooperate to survive. Some will have to die.

And some, if they make it to the Stardogs breeding ground, will have to learn what it means to love.

***

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes
Sam Schall (Amanda S. Green)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

***

Duty from Ashes
Sam Schall (Amanda S. Green)

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

***

witchfindercoverfinalWitchfinder
Sarah A. Hoyt

In Avalon, where the world runs on magic, the king of Britannia appoints a witchfinder to rescue unfortunates with magical power from lands where magic is a capital crime. Or he did. But after the royal princess was kidnapped from her cradle twenty years ago, all travel to other universes has been forbidden, and the position of witchfinder abolished. Seraphim Ainsling, Duke of Darkwater, son of the last witchfinder, breaks the edict. He can’t simply let people die for lack of rescue. His stubborn compassion will bring him trouble and disgrace, turmoil and danger — and maybe, just maybe, the greatest reward of all.

***

AFGMA Few Good Men
Sarah A. Hoyt

The Son Also Rises . . .

On a near future Earth, Good Man does not mean good at all. Instead, the term signifies a member of the ruling class, and what it takes to become a Good Man and to hold onto power is downright evil. Now a conspiracy hundreds of years in the making is about to be brought to light when the imprisoned son of the Good Man of Olympic Seacity escapes from his solitary confinement cell and returns to find his father assassinated.

But when Luce Keeva attempts to take hold of the reins of power, he finds that not all is as it seems, that a plot for his own imminent murder is afoot—and that a worldwide conflagration looms. It is a war of revolution, and a shadowy group known as the Sons of Liberty may prove to be Luce’s only ally in a fight to throw off an evil from the past that has enslaved humanity for generations.

Sequel to Sarah A. Hoyt’s award-winning Darkship Thieves, and Darkship Renegades, this is Book One in the Earth’s Revolution saga.

***

ConVentConVent
Kate Paulk

A vampire, a werewolf, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. Whoever picked this team to save the world wasn’t thinking of sending the very best. But then, since this particular threat to the universe and everything good is being staged in science fiction conventions, amid people in costume, misfits and creative geniuses, any convetional hero would have stood out. Now Jim, the vampire, and his unlikely sidekicks have to beat the clock to find out who’s sacrificing con goers before all hell breaks loose — literally.

ConVent is proof that Kate Paulk’s brain works in wonderfully mysterious ways. A sarcastic vampire, his werewolf best buddy, an undercover angel and his succubus squeeze. The “Save the world” department really messed it up this time.

***

impalerImpaler
Kate Paulk

Impaler revisits the tale of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. This is the tale of historical fact mixed with fiction and a touch of fantasy. But this is most definitely not the tired tale of vampires skulking in the night, lying in wait for innocent victims. Impaler tells the tale of a man devoted to family and country, cursed and looking for redemption.

December, 1476. The only man feared by the all-conquering Ottoman Sultan battles to reclaim his throne. If he falls all of Europe lies open to the Ottoman armies. If he succeeds…

His army is outnumbered and outclassed, his country is tiny, and he is haunted by a terrible curse. But Vlad Draculea will risk everything on one almost impossible chance to free his people from the hated Ottoman Empire.

***

51KdtMnD0EL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_One-Eyed Dragon
Cedar Sanderson

One-Eyed Dragon is a story of medieval Japan, a man retired from war, and the quiet village he set up shop in. When a strange woman comes to him for a tattoo, he reluctantly takes her money, and tries to unravel her mystery. Meanwhile, savage men threaten his newfound peace. Can there be friendship in exile, for a man who is so scarred and cast out?

Short Story

***

wolflingThe God’s Wolfling
Cedar Sanderson

When The God’s Wolfling opens Linnea Vulkane has grown up since the summer of Vulcan’s Kittens. Sanctuary, the refuge of immortals on an Hawaiian island, is boring. When the opportunity for an adventure arises, she jumps right into it, only realizing too late the water may be over her head. Literally, as she is embroiled in the affairs of the sea god Manannan Mac’Lir.

Merrick Swift has a secret he’s ashamed of. Then when he meets Linnea and her best friend, he doesn’t like her. She’s bossy, stuck up… and oddly accepting of his wolf heritage. Like her or not, he must do his duty and keep her alive. The children of the myths are being plunged into the whirlpool of immortal politics, intrigue, goblin wars, and they might be the only ones who can save a world.

***

take the star roadTake the Star Road
Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to escape Earth’s gravity. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship. Unfortunately, he never counted on the interstellar trade routes having wars and pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead!

Enjoy the book that started the adventure now! The fourth in the series, Stand Against The Storm, is coming in mid-February, so if you start now, you’ll have time to find out why Steve’s ended up on a prison planet in the middle of an uprising, with trouble at his back and dubious allies in orbit overhead…

***

Stand Against The Storm - ebook cover - blog size - 350x518 pixelsStand Against the Storm (The Maxwell Saga book 4, coming February 2015)
Peter Grant

For ten years, Steve Maxwell has played cat and mouse with the Dragon Tong, pretending to look for a missing jade artifact. They’ve given him favors and prestige, keeping close contact despite his rise in the military. All this time, it’s been in his luggage, and he’s been trying to find a way to give it back without getting killed if the truth got out.

Unfortunately, all good luck ends. Steve is stranded in a half-destroyed supply depot with a crew of Tong prisoners and a handful of local allies. He’s the last obstacle in the path of local rebels and escaped prisoners trying to get off-planet.

Any sane man would cut and run, but Steve never learned to back down. No matter what the odds, he’ll stand against the storm.

***

growingupmagicGrowing Up Magic (Wine of the Gods, book 9)
Pam Uphoff

The cross dimensional world of Comet Fall was settled by genetically engineered exiles from Earth.
Their deliberately designed paranormal abilities gave rise to an odd society, but some things never change.
One of the first challenges a person has to meet is growing up. “Magic” doesn’t make it any easier. It just makes it stranger.
Whether they are the precocious son of a god, a farm boy who is much smarter than he looks, an orphan, or a prince—every child has to learn to make their own decisions.
Even if they aren’t very wise decisions . . .
Four stories about Growing Up Magic.

***

deadbabylonThe Dead of Babylon
Jason Cordova

What is the cost of maintaining a kingdom? King Samsu-ilana, also called Shamshu, chosen heir to the god-like Hammurabi, is forced to ask himself this as an insurrection threatens to tear apart the kingdom his father had built.

Using a powerful weapon gifted to him from his father, Shamshu finds that when you are a king, a king has responsibilities that normal men do not. Terrible decisions must be made, and for the King of Babylon, the price may be too high for even him to pay.

***

murder world kaijuMurder World: Kaiju Dawn
Jason Cordova

Captain Vincente Huerta and the crew of the Fancy have been hired to retrieve a valuable item from a downed research vessel at the edge of the enemy’s space.
It was going to be an easy payday.
But what Captain Huerta and the men, women and alien under his command didn’t know was that they were being sent to the most dangerous planet in the galaxy.
Something large, ancient and most assuredly evil resides on the planet of Gorgon IV. Something so terrifying that man could barely fathom it with his puny mind. Captain Huerta must use every trick in the book, and possibly write an entirely new one, if he wants to escape Murder World.

 

***

baptism by fireBaptism by Fire (Edge of Faith, book 1)
David E. Pascoe

When a madman and a giant flaming thing attack James Lawrie’s Marine outpost, the medic and an explosively talented sergeant aren’t supposed to save the day. Life becomes no simpler when Petty Officer Lawrie returns home on leave to find federal agents investigating the disappearance of a young woman from his past. A young woman whose body turns up marked with eerily familiar symbols.

***

Finally, don’t forget Sad Puppies 3. As I said in Tuesday’s post, “So, if you are like me and you enjoy a good story and not being beaten about the head and shoulders with the cause du jour, I urge you to buy your membership to WorldCon so you can vote for the Hugos. We have sat back too long and let the “in crowd” decide what is the so-called best in the genre. I can remember when reading a Hugo winner meant you would read a well-written and entertaining book. Now, well, not so much. Message has become more important than story and that, in my mind, is a shame. Consider this my endorsement for every reader here to watch Brad Torgesren’s blog for more on Sad Puppies 3. Brad has valiantly taken up the banner to fight for good, entertaining science fiction and fantasy to read and recognized. As for me, I’m off to buy my membership and then figure out who I am going to vote for.”

On that same note, if you haven’t bought your membership yet, run to do so. I think today is the last day. Also, several of the books listed above are eligible and all fall not only into Human Wave but would also set the SJW crowd on their ears. Hehehehehe.

 

 

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Er, What?

So, this week I was looking through the Ravencon draft program for things I’d like to do and ran into some lovely examples of how the “Big Lie” affects people. Seriously, if you get a near-unison chorus that says something for long enough and says it loud enough it bypasses the ability to reason and becomes common knowledge – which unlike common sense is distressingly common, but involves precious little actual knowledge.

Sarah has called it drinking one’s own ink. I’ve also seen/heard it called drinking the koolaid (a phrase I tend not to use quite so often as a friend of mine lost a good friend of his to Jonestown and that phrase is something of a trigger point with him). It’s a bit like sniffing your own gas and thinking it smells nice (and trust me, you do not want me giving you any of the Australian versions of the concept).

The number of otherwise intelligent, more-or-less politically neutral (damn you, Freud, I really did not need to undo typing “neuter” there) people I’ve seen mindlessly spouting Social Justice Whiner talking points (“the left is all about tolerance and inclusiveness and and and and” – yeah, right. Unless you don’t think like them) and completely incapable of moving past them is astonishing.

Worse, despite the preponderance of evidence, said people refuse to even consider that those of us who speak against the propaganda channels might have a point. The polite ones can’t seem to see that what they’re saying is self-contradictory at best, and the others, well… I generally just ignore the not-polite ones. I can spew four-letter profanities with the best of them: I don’t need lessons in how to use the word “fuck” as noun, verb, adjective, adverb, conjunction, and punctuation (as well as miscellaneous other grammatical constructions). They’re boring.

Anyway. The point here is that those of you who haven’t started to question everything especially what comes from those in power should do so. You should look to who stands to gain from what. And then when writing, you can construct marvelously twisted chains of disinformation in what you write. After all, when every official source of information is telling you it’s never been better than this, and you can clearly remember it being much better but nobody will agree with you, maybe your memory isn’t right.

Soon enough, most people will follow the group and remember that yes, it used to be much worse – and they’ll never realize that the history they’re so invested in is completely false.

One day I’ll point out to some of those who’ve been so thoroughly hoodwinked that they’ve fallen to techniques that aren’t even as sophisticated as the ones the Nazis used to keep most of the German population in line. That’s right. By comparison, Communist propaganda is crude stuff, and Social Justice Whining even cruder. The best examples (in terms of skill – and you have to be damn careful watching/reading because they work so well) include all the accusations and questions that the oddlings like me and my fellow Mad Geniuses are posing, and make sure that whoever gives the answers to them is a sympathetic person – who they have even characterized as being troubled by either the accusations/questions or the truths behind them.

Someone has to do this, because if you don’t know how propaganda works, you will fall for the Big Lie. Even if you do know, enough repetition can slip it past your conscious defenses and embed it in your subconscious – which if anyone is ever writing about cult action or deprogramming is a useful little bit of knowledge.

So, go forth and question everything. Even me. I might eventually get back to you on it.

p.s. Apologies for the lack of responses to last week – I’ve had a pile of domestic issues, my mother in hospital, and of course the usual work is eating my soul deal. I’m convinced any non-trivial piece of software is in reality a portal to the Great Old Ones.

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Digging History – Alma Boykin

*This is Sarah.  I’m okay, just really busy as there is surgery upcoming on the sixteenth of March, and I’m trying to get my house ready for sale before that. Meanwhile the lovely Alma Boykin has sent me this wonderful post on Historical research.*

Digging History – Alma Boykin

 

So you want to write a historical fiction book. Or you want to learn more about X historical thing, place, or period. There are so many books out there, “curated” and otherwise, that you are tempted to start grabbing at random. And that can be very rewarding, leading down fascinating paths and trails into new areas of knowledge. Or it can leave you staring at the page thinking, “OK, this is written in English. I understand ¾ of the words. But what in the name of little green apples is the author talking about?” When I’m trying to learn something in a new field, the technique that works best for me is a funnel approach. (This is also useful for writing non-fiction, but that’s a post for my place. Maybe.)

Start broad. How broad? Let’s say that you are interested in the French Revolution and what women did during those years. After all, we all remember Madame Defarge knitting at the foot of the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities. You can approach the from two different directions. One is the Revolution in general, then women. The other is women in France, narrowing your focus to the years between 1750-1820. I’m going to start with the first approach, because it is the easiest if you do not have ready access to an academic library. What you want is a general overview of French history, to get an idea of what was France, who the main characters had been, and what led up to the mess that began in the 1760s.

Next comes a general history of the French Revolution. You have several choices, from the relatively small Oxford History of the French Revolution, to Simon Schama’s Citizens, to other popular histories. Once you have those, read them, making note of people and ideas of special interest. And then you go through the bibliography and endnotes, picking out titles that seem to have promise. This is where it can get a little tricky. At this point I’d start looking at book reviews and catalogue listings, trying to see what the author’s viewpoint and purpose is. You can get mired in theory very easily, or lost in subsections of the field (like woman as a symbol of the Revolution, from Marianne to the Goddess of Reason, and how societal ideas of womanhood clashed with the needs of the radical revolutionaries as viewed in light of M. Foucault’s theories of power. That’s probably not what you’re interested in.)

Again, start with the general and narrow your search. There are some books about women in the French Revolution, in English, that are fairly broad. If you get interested in, oh, non-noble or bourgeois women who opposed the Revolution, you’ll need to branch out again, looking at regional histories and books about events like the massacres in the Vendee. Perhaps you can find a history of a convent that was nationalized, and how the Sisters dealt with it. As always, check the bibliographies for possible titles. Histories of family life discuss women, and there are biographies of Marie Antoinette that range from “evil greedy queen” to “poor victim” to more reasonable. (You might look for Antonia Frazier’s biography of Marie Antoinette.) Madame de Stäel has also been written about, and left her own accounts of events.

Don’t overlook translated primary source documents. Some of the major public documents of the Revolution are available in English, and many at least touch on the role of the woman as citizen. The book “Dangerous Liaisons” was widely read in France at the time of the Revolution, and is available in English (as is the movie version).

At some point, on this topic, you will probably run into language problems. Not everything has been translated into English. I find this especially true the farther east in Eurasia I go, so to speak. Sometimes English-language reviews are available, or articles. Otherwise, well, that’s kinda that, depending on if you want to read the book with a dictionary in hand.

If you are doing research for a book, you may need to venture into more esoteric fields. For example, in order to get an idea of how an early-modern army moved, I found myself renting a book on the logistics of the Ottoman Armies prior to 1750. I got what I needed, but it wasn’t exactly gripping reading. On the other hand, a fat book about the Thirty Years War (not the precise period I needed but close) gave me lots of material for later works, notably the Alt-hist WWI and post WWI books. In order to learn about the climate of Early Modern Europe, before people kept temperature and rainfall records, Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie combed through parish and monastic crop records, using the dates of grape harvest and frosts, and wheat planting and yields, to sketch out the weather of the Little Ice Age (Times of Feast, Times of Famine). Dendrochronology has supported many of his findings, although we have more refined ways to use those same records today. I know someone who is using sailing reports from the United Provinces to give a fuller account of how weather affected the Anglo-Dutch wars (answer – a lot.) If you are writing a historical fiction about that time, these historians’ works can give you details to flesh out your setting and the problems your characters face.

American history in some ways is easier, because everything is in English and is easier to find, Interlibrary loan, or read on the ‘net. Even so, you might want to follow the same funnel process. How and what historians write about history changes, and what everyone knew in 1970 may be totally wrong in 2010. If you write about the Iroquois in the colonial period using what you remember from the plains Indians, because all Indians are the same, readers are going to wall the book rather quickly. If you describe Native Americans as peaceful primitives living in harmony with “Nature,” unless you are writing fantasy or just brush the topic and focus on a trapper and his Spanish love-interest, you may sell a lot to the SJW and neo-hippie crowds, but the rest of us are going to point and giggle, then buy a different book. Ditto medieval romances with sweet smelling castles, peacock served every night, and where no one dies of gangrene or plague.

And if the one book on the topic is a painfully academic tome of intellectual history *coughRudolph II Habsburgcough*, well, I’ve felt your pain. You have my deepest sympathies and I’ll happily loan you my crying towel.

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Oh noes, the sky is falling

On  one of the mailing lists I belong to, someone commented about how Publishers Weekly was basically declaring the imminent death of science fiction. According to PW, sales of SF were down 21% in 2013 and another 7% in 2014. In other words, SF sales were down approximately 4.14 million units and now is smaller than the graphic novel market. Needless to say, yours truly (as well as everyone else on the list including the person who posted it) met those numbers with skepticism. My concern about the accuracy of the report came not only because it was from PW but also because there was no breakdown as to whether this was talking print only, print and e-book sales and how those numbers were gathered.

So, yours truly went searching for more information this morning and surprise, surprise. It turns out we were right to be skeptical. It seems that those numbers come from Bookscan. You know, our friendly neighborhood sales reporter that doesn’t count every sale from every outlet but uses handwavium to figure out what title has sold how many units. Bookscan that doesn’t track every title, as in most indie titles aren’t included. Bookscan that is iffy at best when it comes to reporting e-book sales. But, if we are to take PW seriously, we are to worry about the decline in demand for science fiction.

Sorry, but no. If PW and those looking at the figures and wringing their hands would know if they simply took a little time to think about it, all these figures show is that people are tired of what is coming out of most traditional publishing houses when it comes to SF. I say most because it is my belief that Baen has not been hit like others, say TOR, because Baen is different. Baen worries about putting out a good story. Baen is run by folks — hi, Toni! — who like to read and know that readers want to be entertained and not preached to. Sure, there are messages in many of Baen’s titles but you aren’t being hit over the head with it. Besides, I don’t know about you but I would rather read books where we see the strength of the human spirit, where freedom and exploration and exploding spaceships are more important than pushing some social agenda.

So, PW only looked at Bookscan numbers and that means they limited their sampling to basically only traditionally published books. Sure, some small press and indie books made it but not the vast majority because Bookscan and e-book sales just don’t play well together.

That figured out, I started thinking about my own earnings from the Honor and Duty books as well as the earnings my friends who also write SF have been making with their e-books. Hmm, our figures and earnings don’t seem to match what PW said. So, curious, I went to Amazon and checked the top 10 best sellers. It didn’t surprise me at all to see that, out of the top 10 in SF best selling e-books, only three were from from traditional publishers and one of those is a reprint. If you continue looking at the rest of the titles in the Top 100, you find that the vast majority of them are either small press or indie published books. That should say something. The lesson there is that science fiction is not dead. Far from it in fact.

That isn’t to say that the numbers PW posted are completely wrong or that those reading them see a decline in SF sales. Where they are wrong is in how they interpret the numbers. Like the Emperor with his new clothes, they are refusing to admit that the masses — in this case, the readers who are willing to put their hard earned money down to buy books — see through their illusions of grandeur and realize that they are marching down the street wearing nothing. Their need to push their agenda, political and social, have stripped away good story telling and now the Emperor is naked and, well, he doesn’t look nearly as good as he thinks he does. So the readers have turned to other sources, sources where story telling is still important.

So, if you are like me and you enjoy a good story and not being beaten about the head and shoulders with the cause du jour, I urge you to buy your membership to WorldCon so you can vote for the Hugos. We have sat back too long and let the “in crowd” decide what is the so-called best in the genre. I can remember when reading a Hugo winner meant you would read a well-written and entertaining book. Now, well, not so much. Message has become more important than story and that, in my mind, is a shame. Consider this my endorsement for every reader here to watch Brad Torgesren’s blog for more on Sad Puppies 3. Brad has valiantly taken up the banner to fight for good, entertaining science fiction and fantasy to read and recognized. As for me, I’m off to buy my membership and then figure out who I am going to vote for.

Now, go read a good SF book or, better yet, write one for me to read!

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Perspectives: What if you’ve got the whole damn thing all wrong?

Insanity is repeating the same experiment over and over and hoping for different results
Probably not Albert Einstein

Now, that’s a bit rich, coming from a writer, and me especially. But hey, I’m a bit stunned and even more idiotic than usual: today was Australia Day, our first as Australians, and as a new Australian I might have got a bit confused about that expression ‘Throw another Chimp on the Barbie’ (I’m sure that’s what they said)?

It was not a pleasant experience, especially for Barbie (the Chimp may view this differently, proving that point of view is really, really relevant.) and Barbie has specifically requested that no one does it again, on pain of getting tenderized (which again is a question of perspective. It’s easier for the one doing chewing, but harder for the one who gets tenderized.)

Which loops around to perspectives and points of view, both of which are very relevant to writers. It’s worth thinking about, because how the writer or reader sees things based on their preconceptions, sometimes makes the same issue look vastly different. One of the things I tend to do a lot in my books is to have characters whose worldview is not typical (or even human). The rats (and the bats) in Rats, Bats & Vats, the dragons Bitar and Smitar in Pyramid Scheme, the Alien lead character in Slow Train to Arcturus Kretz (who I originally named ‘Meth’ – for the obvious reason that ‘Meth’ would mean nothing related to crystal meth, to an alien) They’re a cow to write, because you still need readers to invest in them, to care. They’re also very useful as a way of showing rather than telling ‘What if you’ve got the whole damn thing all wrong?’. As a matter of intent, I don’t let them preach but simply let them be. The reader can think about them or not. The story isn’t a gimmick centered on this, they are just features of the story.

It’s been curious to see how these different world views shape both the way people write, and see the world beyond that. We’re into the final stages of needing to register as a Hugo voter for the Sad Puppies 3 campaign. Now you might say ‘this is the third attempt, why are you repeating the same experiment over and over again. It failed last year.’

You might, as this poster –‘Captain Carnage’ on Brad Torgersen’s ‘Why Sad Puppies is going to destroy Science Fiction’ argue:

If you guys want to get specific works that you believe do interest a wide audience on the ballot (which is fine, of course), I think you are making some mistakes here. The biggest of them is pissing off people you have to be in good terms with to win a Hugo. Saying that Hugo voters like stupid books is not going to help you, because you need a sizeable cut of regular Worldcon goers’ votes, even if you get new people to attend. I very much doubt that accusing people of political biases when in fact they only have different tastes than you is getting you anywhere.

Why not do a positive campaign? Why not say that Ancillary Justice was a good and fun SF novel (which I think it was) and, by the way, look at this great book by Eric Flint of Tad Williams or whoever?

The problem ‘Captain Carnage’ – (CC to save me typing) has is that he begins from a totally different world view to most the Sad Puppies. He assumes that the typical Sad Puppy supporter wants a work that he likes to win the Hugo Award, because that would give the author of their choice cachet, legitimacy as writers, and recognition, and that the WorldCon goers would be important for that. CC assumes that because it very important to him, it is to others. He assumes his (or her) worldview is neatly central and held by 99% of all people who could read sf, and that Worldcon attendees are typical and representative, and despite the stats showing the left-wing and far left wing nominees and winners to be close to infinitely improbable, there is no political bias, or at least not an important one. He assumes the system is fair and reasonable (it has given him pretty much what he wants, books he likes therefore it must be), and that it is possible to win by playing nice, unlike last year in which the Sad Puppy slate came last…

The Sad Puppies look at the same situation somewhat differently. Firstly, they didn’t set out to win the Hugo Award, having almost no interest (other than possibly some vague nostalgia for the award when it actually was a good signal to a wide audience of readers about what they would probably enjoy) in the award. It has little value to them. For them the important thing was to show it was politically biased (and, um, to have fun mocking the SJW’s who took it all very seriously). They set out to do the direct opposite of what CC assumed they wanted – to show that the ‘winners’ in the recent past had no cachet, deserved no recognition and had no legitimacy. To force into the public eye the fact that what been the sf/fantasy’s premium award was now simply a worthless left-wing cause de jour rubber-stamp. To show what a biased and minority group the Worlcon Hugo voters and nominees were. The only way for the Sad Puppies to lose, was to win (and even then, they had the happy thought of ‘splody heads to console them, as the award is important to CC and friends, who would then have to admit they were at least as good as their idols), and the only way for the Worlcon/Hugo establishment to ‘win’, to establish it was legitimate contest not biased by political affiliation, was to lose. The Sad Puppies forced the the WorldCon/Hugos old guard into a place where they showed the system is not fair or reasonable to an awful lot of people who had never considered it before. The Sad Puppies slate already knew it was not possible to win by ‘playing nice’ or doing anything else. They’ve all been the targets of the loony left while trying to play nice, for years. (the record is pretty clear. There hasn’t been a ‘nice’ winner who isn’t left to far left for years.) So: As far as the Sad Puppies are concerned they succeeded last year, beyond their wildest expectations even, it was fun watching the SJW ants scurry and squall, and therefore doing it again makes sense. If you want to support them go here.

You see I think the Hugo organizers and regular Worldcon fans have the whole damn thing all wrong. It’s a book which is great and popular with a wider audience that lends cachet, legitimacy to the award, and recognition to Worldcon, not the other way around. Redshirts and Ancillary Justice wins did little for their authors, and damage to the Hugos. Being seen to be fair and reasonable OUTSIDE their circle counts. Inside is irrelevant -they believe it anyway. It’s up to the very small minority of sf readers who go and support the WorldCon and Hugo status quo to play nice if they want credibility, and, um, support for what is a shrinking Con, and one heading for being as marginalized and irrelevant as some the literary left-wing Cons. The population of sf/fantasy readers is still growing, and proportionally, and compared to others, WorldCon isn’t. It was only due to the Sad Puppies that had the last WorldCon in the black, and that was marginal. Yet other Cons are growing and very profitable…

Think of it as an anti-boxing campaigner getting into the ring. The local boxing fans and the boxer hate his guts and would love to see him pounded to a pulp. Even the referee is willing to turn a blind eye. They assume he’s getting into the ring to win, because from their perspective that’s the only reason you would. But, from the campaigner’s point of view, he wants the boxer to pound him to a pulp without the referee stopping it, with the audience screaming ‘kill him’, ‘maim him’… because the whole thing is being filmed and broadcast, and will lead to the sport being damaged in the public eye, more severe controls and possibly the death of the sport.

Knowing the two perspectives, what would be smart thing for the boxer, the promoter, the referee, and the fans to do? What will the WorldCon fans, the Hugo winners past, and those voting and nominating, and being nominated do this year? Are they smart?

It’s like the argument that sf is dying. This means we need ‘moar diversity’, ‘moar women’, ‘moar PoC’, moar ‘non-binary’ writers sf on the logic that 1) There aren’t any. 2) They will come if we build it 3) only those people could buy it as editors, write it as authors (and write nothing else) and people of those categories would read it by no-one else, although the old readers (supposedly all white, heterosexual and male) would continue to buy it, or are irrelevant.

You’ve got the whole damn thing all wrong. Firstly, sf isn’t dying. If anything, it is growing, just not from the big 5 trad publishers. Secondly, sf led the diversity charge. Traditional publishing has more women editors than male, and, in the younger cohorts, more women writers, and any men that happen be there are outspoken third generation feminists. More outspoken than their female counterparts. Looking at the demographics of possible readers, if you assume (incorrectly in my opinion – see point 3) that you can only write for what you are, what they need is less. Point 1) merely displays gross ignorance of the genre, with so many examples of today’s ‘modern’ being 50 years old and about as ‘new and original’ as prostitution. 2) has proved the wrong way around. ‘They’ll leave if they don’t like it’ might be more accurate. And there is no point in possibly attracting 0.2% of the population if to do so you have to lose 20%. The trick is not to lose your old audience in the possibility of gaining a new one, especially if that gain is a small one. In sf writing that IS possible, because we’re not selling one product. That is something traditional publishing has yet to learn. 3) Sf authors have proved, repeatedly, that they don’t need to be men to write men (Miles Vorkosigan), and to write men that heterosexual men can also enjoy (the writers just have to be able to accept that not all of them are villains) or that men can write women characters (Honor Harrington) that women enjoy. Hell, all that needing to be xyz to write xyz proves… is that you’re a very inadequate writer. A competent author NEEDS to be able to get into perspectives that are not his own, and to understand them, even if the writer doesn’t like them. I got into the head of Bianca Casarini and Sophia Tomaselli in This Rough Magic (Heirs of Alexandria), although the women made me want to gag. I wrote the whole of Joy Cometh With The Mourning: A Reverend Joy Mystery from an unmarried, devout female Anglican priest’s point of view. I wrote part of Slow Train to Arcturus from points of view that ranged from Amazonian tribesmen to gay female, to devout fundamentalist Christian, to bi-sexual Alien. I’m merely a competent hack. So far only the bi-sexual Aliens have told me I didn’t come close. For a great author, it should be easy.

You’ve got the whole thing all wrong.

Look at it again from a different point of view.

Making experiment work this time, depends on changing that perspective. And the actual truth probably has a little bit of more than one perspective in it.

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Filed under hugo, Sad Puppies

Sunday thoughts

Good morning, guys — oops, there I go. I’ve already broken the cardinal rule. I’ve used a male pronoun to address everyone. Excuse me. Good morning, gentle (and not so gentle) persons. As you can probably tell already, this is not Sarah. This is the caffeine-deprived, more skeptical member of the Mad Geniuses, Amanda. I’m filling in for Sarah this morning as she deals with a couple of things AND tries to finish Through Fire (Sarah, get back to work. I want to read that book NOW!)

Anyhow. . . .

The past week has been filled with the usual “what the heck were they thinking?” moments when it comes to all things publishing. There have been the usual stories bashing Amazon, including a so-called debate where the not-so-unbiased audience decided Amazon is not a reader’s friend. Huh? I’m sorry, but Amazon lets me buy just about any book I want, lets me have instant access to e-books and even gives me multiple ways of reading books. Yet it isn’t my friend? The logic of the allegation that it isn’t a reader’s friend escapes me.

Then there was yet another article about how the first thing writers should think about when sitting down to start a new project is the diversity of their characters. Yep, you read the right, diversity comes first, even before plot, genre and the rest of it. After all, we must be PC at all costs. Forget about writing a book that people want to read. Forget about your characters actually making sense within the framework of your novel. No, you have to have diversity in it or else EVIL!

And then there was this from the always whining James Patterson, he of the “Amazon is Evil” ilk and who believes the only way books will survive is through the resurgence of bookstores and the return to the old publishing model. Patterson is oh-so-generously (well, his publisher) going to give one lucky fan the chance to read his next book before anyone else does. The catch? It will cost that reader close to $300,000. Yep, you heard that right. For the cost of a house and a car and who knows what else, you can have the privilege of being the first to read Patterson’s next masterpiece. Included in the price will be a trip to an undisclosed location to have dinner with Patterson and then you get to see the book be blown up — complete with having SWAT standing by.

Now, I don’t know about you, but if I’m paying that kind of cash for a book, it had better be a damned sight better written than the last few of Patterson’s books and I’d better get it autographed and be able to keep it. More than that, the dust cover had better be gold leaf and that meal I’m getting best be the most fabulous dinner I’ve ever eaten.

But there is more. To prove how generous he is, 1,000 of Patterson’s fans will be able to download the book for free. Before you get all excited, there is a catch. If you are one of the lucky 1,000, you will have exactly 24 hours from the time of download in which to read the book (no big deal if it is anything like the rest of his work). The clock starts ticking with the download and there is no way to pause it. This “revolutionary idea” is his way of drumming up PR for the book and the publishing industry because, as he put it, publishing doesn’t have the money or other resources to promote its work the way movies do. Funny, if the publishing industry would put half the money it spends on promoting Patterson into promoting some of its other works, sales might go up across the board. But that is probably too logical for them to consider.

Now, the first thought I had when reading about this free download was to wonder why Patterson thinks it is such a revolutionary idea. After all, libraries have been using limited time check-outs for e-books for years. All this promotion is doing is adding additional DRM costs to the overall cost of the book. Sure, those 1,000 readers won’t be paying for it but the readers who come along later and buy the book will. But this is a good thing for readers and publishers according to Patterson.

There are a number of other things I saw over the course of the week that deserve their own posts but one that hit me and had me shaking my head was a comment by yet another wanna-be dahling of the publishing industry who was taking someone else to task because they wrote more than one book every year or two. After all, how can you be writing quality literature if you are writing that quickly? It is obvious that you aren’t agonizing over every word and nuance. As authors we shouldn’t worry about how much money we make. We are in this for the art and, if we are very lucky, the government will realize our importance to society and start giving us stipends to live on so we can continue to create literature that will help shape the right-thinking children of the future.

I guess that makes me a hack because I am in this to make money. I write the sort of stories I enjoy reading and, thankfully, others do as well. I price my books lower than I probably should, at least according to traditional philosophy, but I do it because I know my own buying habits. For a writer I don’t know anything about, I’m not going to pay $5.99 for an e-book (No way am I going to pay traditional prices of $9.99 or more.) But, by offering my novels at a lower price when the first in a series comes out, I can raise my prices for later entries. By doing so, I see my sales increasing. It has been slow but it has been steady and I am not about to complain, at least not too loudly, about what I now make. However, I wouldn’t be making what I am now if I only put out one novel every year or two. Part of becoming even moderately successful as a writer is building an audience and you can’t do that if you produce work at the speed of molasses on a cold morning. Not if you are just starting out. So I choose to be a hack. I’ll put out a book every two or three months, alternating series and stand-alones and I will laugh all the way to the bank. I might not be making James Patterson money — I’m only a few light years away from it — but I am making enough to do what I need right now.

I’m a hack and damned proud of it. How about you?

And, to show just how crass I am, here are some of my books currently available from Amazon:

boxsetcover2Nocturnal Lives Boxed Set
(Contains Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude)

Nocturnal Origins
Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

Nocturnal Serenade
Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

Nocturnal Interlude
Lt. Mackenzie Santos swears she will never take another vacation again as long as she lives. The moment she returns home, two federal agents are there to take her into custody. Then she finds out her partner, Sgt. Patricia Collins, as well as several others are missing. Several of the missing have connections to law enforcement. All are connected to Mac through one important and very secret fact — they are all shapechangers. Has someone finally discovered that the myths and bad Hollywood movies are actually based on fact or is there something else, something more insidious at work?

Mac finds herself in a race against time not only to save her partner and the others but to discover who was behind their disappearances. As she does, she finds herself dealing with Internal Affairs, dirty cops, the Feds and a possible conspiracy within the shapeshifter community that could not only bring their existence to light but cause a civil war between shifters.

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes
(Honor and Duty, Book 1 — written as Sam Schall)

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

Duty from Ashes
(Honor and Duty, Book 2)

Duty calls. Honor demands action.

Major Ashlyn Shaw has survived false accusations and a brutal military prison. Now free, she finds her homeworld once again at war with an enemy that will stop at nothing to destroy everything she holds dear. Duty has Ashlyn once again answering the call to serve. She has seen what the enemy is capable of and will do everything she can to prevent it from happening to the home she loves and the people she took an oath to protect.

But something has changed. It goes beyond the fact that the enemy has changed tactics they never wavered from during the previous war. It even goes beyond the fact that there is still a nagging doubt in the back of Ashlyn’s mind that those who betrayed her once before might do so again. No, there is more to the resumption of hostilities, something that seems to point at a new player in the game. But who and what are they playing at?

Will Ashlyn be able to unmask the real enemy before it is too late?

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