The Evil Emperor, Captains Courageous and such dreams.

The Evil Emperor Mong, who leads otherwise angelic squaddies into vice, sloth, stupidity and inevitable disasters was at my ear a few minutes ago. “What is this applying yourself to the boring machine, while the sun shines after a week of rain? Go. Take up your shotgun and wander forth along the green brake. Or allow yourself to read some of Amelia Peabody’s rivetting misadventures in Egyptology. It’s homework! You said so yourself while reading Duplicate Death only yesterday. It’ll only take you minutes to dash out something innocuous for MGC.”

The Evil Emperor and I are old… I can’t say friends. I know his devious plots all too well. Why only a week or two ago he was kind enough to inform me that the water was calling me, it would make work better to be out in the briny fresh air for an hour or so, it would make a veritible literary production line… And only an hour or maybe two. I said to him: “Last time you told me thus, Oh great Emperor, it was eight hours. The management was not best pleased, because I had not taken the mobile. And I had an ear infection from diving with a cold that lasted a week of barely being able to write ‘snot’, but producing a lot of it.”

“Foolish minion, away, lest I curse thy bottom with boils. This time will be different. Think how the gentle roll of the sea will stir the creative juices. And it’s with Jamie. What could possibly go wrong?”

And thus it was ten hours, the mobile battery was flat, and we spent a lot of time punched through the sand crust and winching and digging ourselves out of the soft stuff before the tide did it for us (which, um, happens a lot with my dive partner Jamie, but this was far worse than usual) That is, when I wasn’t having my sit-upon pounded out of the top of my scalp by the anything but gentle roll. I couldn’t sit properly for four days, and I’d promised the management I’d be back in plenty of time to join her on her archery expedition. I was popular. If I didn’t cook the supper, it would have been inside the dog before I got home.

So this time I answered “Nay.”

And the Evil Emperor smiled and twirled his long moustache, knowing full well his temptation would either lead me astray (and it just started pouring with rain, so he would have been cackling if he’d succeeded, as I would been a very unhappy cleaner of shotguns) or lead me into worse vice – like writing something that irritated everyone.

Like: what is wrong with modern sf? And what do need to do to fix it?

And the answer is just about… everything.
It has got 1/100 of the readership it enjoyed in the golden age
It has managed to lose most of its male readership, and attracted almost no female readership (in fact it has probably lost some of that which it had).
It has lost most of its raison d’art (and some of its currants and candied peel – all that is left is prune-juice).
It’s in denial of what it is.
It is a dead genre staggering zombie like from little spurts of surviving muscle and nerve impulse. Sparks from the sub-genres – cyberpunk (which appeals mostly to… cyberpunks. Who live in cubicles doing IT stuff and spawn out of suburbia and buy cyberpunk.) or Military sf. Occasional dribbles of space opera, not inspired by watching Star-wars… and lots palsied groin thrusting onanism from the literary pretensionists. It’s a game they have to play alone, because the readers are outnumbered by the writers of it. The main, center part of sf, where we explored that great big frontier, the future, and gave it a good kicking is… mostly wasted away.
Of course it is very PC too, just in case it needed any more problems.

Fixing it?

Since the Golden Age people have been ‘fixing’ sf.

Most dumb-as… geniuses, yes, that was the word I was looking for, couldn’t see it wasn’t sf that needed fixing, it was them. As a wondrous classic example explains what was ‘wrong’ with Heinlein… this elderly LA times article explains pretty well what went wrong (but not with Heinlein). Only it seems under the delusion that, you know, catastrophically declining sales meant the fix they applied was just what was needed. (Only they seemed to mean a ‘fix’ as in that white powder you bought on the street corner. I told the feller I had a problem with my dipstick, and he gave me some, said it would help my performance no end. I tried it on my truck’s oil-leak and it did nothing for that (I didn’t mind trying – truck was stuffed, and the funny man said first one was was free and he turned such a interesting color when I put it in the sump.) A wonderful thing a euphemistic common language is, isn’t it?).

If I can stop being such an idiot for a moment (A challenge at the best of times, which is why the Evil Emperor does so well with me) – the writer of the article did encapsulate the problem they tried to fix:

“Those writers, often liberal or radical, aimed to move away from pulp space operas and toward literature, from tales of physics to stories about psychology and sexuality and drugs.

There were more female writers, and the men exhibited a feminist consciousness that diverged sharply from the golden age”.

Screwing things up royally, while entirely missing the point of what made sf work in the first place. Diagnosing a fuel problem when, if anything, the air-filter needed changing, and filling the tank with diesel… with a gasoline engine.

What made SF work was that it was aspirational. It took the reader to a future where people he (or sometimes she) could identify with, used science and technology confidently to build, to explore, to be Captain Courageous. To dream of standing on a future peak in Darien, and know that could be their children, if not them. Not the person dealing with a world where they’re leaves in the wind, and the machinery is so whizz-bang wonderful as to be un-understandable by the reader. Of course the heroes – like Nile Etland, were all male, and white, like Homer Crawford. (if you recognise the examples, you’ll grasp my meaning – it was about _people_ they could identify with, not PC tokens). Not that it was about physics. Much of it wasn’t. Yes, on the hard sf side it tended towards engineering with a dash of chemistry and a bit of physics. But seriously no one could read James H Schmitz’s WITCHES OF KARRES

and say it was about physics. Nor do these twerps have the vaguest grasp of what ‘literature’ is as opposed to ‘pulp’. They thought you measured it by turgidity or word-length or reflecting their values. Duhlings, here’s a clue. Literature survives. Nothing else tells you it is. Jane Austen and Charles Dickens survive. Neither would have even begun to make it as ‘literature’ by the standards of our lit’ry elite, had they been alive then. And Thomas M Disch and 99% of the new wave and indeed cyberpunk there after… have vanished, and Schmitz and his ‘pulp’ are selling strongly -and mostly to a YOUNG audience. Yes, the fact that parents and grandparents bought them eagerly helped. But there just aren’t enough old people still buying books to account for it, not to mention the letters I get from our Schmitz sequels.

I’m going to quote from a letter I got asking about the next Karres book, which I think points to what appealed “the spirit of adventure into unknown frontiers, of hope in technology and the human spirit together was very alive and well” (KC).

And that pinpoints what needs fixing. Yeah. There are exceptions. Lois Bujold. Sarah’s A FEW GOOD MEN
You might even add Eric and my SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS in there. Oddly, we’re still the enemy – and the enemies of Heinlein-type books still do their best to mock, dismiss, and pour scorn on our non-literary writing.

And to the lady writer who got terribly terribly upset because a publisher wouldn’t look at her book – because the publisher told her that men just don’t buy hard sf by women (from which she managed to blame white men, not the publisher, and divine that we needed to leave Golden Age attitudes behind. Not that she’d read much and it was all so mired in sexism…) What sf, hard, soft, psychological, engineering-related need is: to be aspirational. If Jane Doe reads your book and thinks ‘I get this, I can imagine myself succeeding where hero Fred (or Fredrica – it doesn’t matter) has. I want to be like that.’ Then sf will be fixed and roaring to go. Where the heroes are people first, and gay or Muslim or whatever, in realistic roles and proportions that readers can believe (some villians some heroes, mostly just some of both), it’ll be blasting on all rocket tubes. While it is dystopia, turgid writing and those PC standard villian standard PC hierarchy ‘good’ tropes, which 90% ofthe population know is a load of old cobblers… and just don’t buy or buy into, it won’t.

And now for something completely different. Yes, Evil Emperor Mong advised me about this. “You’re supposed to be deadly secretive about this guard your status and dignity. But no-one will notice. No one important anyway.”

I did say I’d give feedback to how Indy kindle sales on A MANKIND WITCH

and THE FORLORN

went. (and in the interest of transparency, all the pictures are live links to Amazon and pay me a princely 6%

The score. AMW 43, 40, 62 (so far) THE FORLORN 22, and… 2.

I dunno. I finally raised THE FORLORN price to match to match AMW, as there had been 1 sale while AMW had 59. I expected less (as it was on the free library) but either AMW is doing well (which I think is the case) or THE FORLORN worse than I expected. Any guesses, either post them here or on the back of an envelope, addressed to me, containing large sums of money.

And now the Emperor has just come up with a brilliant new command for me…. I must rush forth!

61 comments

  1. Interesting article. I recently wrote a piece in which I analyzed the decline of Science Fiction and came to pretty close to the direct opposite conclusion that you have reached here.

    I suspect that you are probably closer to right and I am closer to wrong, which doesn’t give me much hope for my own sales. But that’s life, and I’m not going to be able to write convincingly in a style that is likely to be popular.

    I am an unregenerate New Wave throwback. My heroes are Phillip Dick and George Alec Effinger and Samuel Delany. The cosmology of my work is based on William Burrough’s “Nova Express” novels.

    If you’re interested in my take on the issue (in which I blame Yoda) it’s here:

    http://mishaburnett.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/i-should-have-been-a-lion-tamer-those-guys-get-all-the-girls/

    1. (smile) New wave sold an order of magnitude less that Silver age (let alone Golden – too lazy to dig for the figures now, but Yoda post era didn’t even get a minor look-in compare to magazine sales twenty years before, or even novel sales. We’re down from 300 000 + in the 50’s to 3000 is big now. Same with novel print runs. At the start of New Age the numbers ran to 50K print runs for noobs. Now… 3K? 5K if you’re lucky) It killed magazines and drove writers out of the profession like no other fashion before or since (since, to be fair, was hard, it was so stuffed by New Age, there wasn’t a lot left -and they did not make things better, but blamed everything but themselves.). Not that there is no market at all for it – there is- but it’s actually sub-genre which briefly posed as ‘where it is all at’ – your problem is reaching those people who might enjoy it. I do have longer term hopes of the increasingly sophisticated ‘recommend’ algorythms driving readers to their precise tastes, but I’m biased – I need readers to buy and pay the bills. I can’t write for ‘art’. And our Golden era re-run – sequels to Witches of Karres – the novella was first published in 1949 (Wizard of Karres, Sorceress of Karres) have despite the lack of promo and total disinterest of the sf elite, the magazines, and bookstores… sold far more than any other sf Eric or I have written (it’s not my figures alone so I can’t disclose them, but its enough to put the books on bestseller lists. It’s our second best, after Shadow of the Lion). That’s not 90 year old nostalgics buying it.

      There is some adaptation needed to make the books slightly more accessable to modern audiences, but it seems people do like heroes that repair spaceships and defeat vast foes, by ingenuity and courage.

      1. The thing is, I don’t write for art, either. I write to entertain, I just have an odd view of entertainment. I enjoy art that breaks rules and confounds expectations–it may be some streak of epistemological masochism, but it’s the same thing that makes me love stage magicians. I’m a sucker for fakes and false bottoms and rules that change without warning.

        So that’s what I write, and I realize that it’s a niche market. But I can’t write what I don’t believe in, at least not well enough to engage the reader. I think it’s a mistake to cast New Wave in political terms–yes, many of the writers of experimental fiction do have political agendas, but I believe that the style is not inherently suited to a particular political viewpoint.

        My own work is very much individualist in outlook, against the collective. Which I suppose even further diminishes my potential audience….

        1. Not to pick on you Misha — I don’t want to. You like what you like. I enjoyed Dick’s work, but it needs to be … how do I put this? I like him in a certain frame of mind, not all-the-time — but the problem is if you want to confound expectations you HAVE to write Golden age. At this point new wave is what everyone expects, pretty much. It’s what the establishment in SF has been for the last 40 years.
          OTOH think on it, if you find three thousand loyal readers (and there are probably that many who genuinely like New Wave, plus people like me who will read a couple of those a year in the middle of fifty of the others) and each of them buys a book from you at say 7.99 after Amazon takes its cut. That’s more than you’d make from writing now unless you’re a solid midlister. So… good luck.

          1. I do see what you’re saying, but I see a difference between what might be termed “content genre” and “form genre” and while I see a lot of the content–settings, characters, technologies–of the New Wave in modern SF, I am not finding (and sorely missing) the willingness to adopt a alternative formalism that, to my mind, characterized the work of writers like Effinger and Delany.

            This subject is too deep for me to really dig into in a reply thread, I think I’ll have to write a new post when I get home tonight.

  2. Dave, tell your Evil Emperor Mong to join my own Evil Temptor on vacation very far away from both of us. Please. I know ET ( as opposed to EP from the Diner) is around and trying to distract me when I start thinking about going shopping, something I hate to do.

    Great post. Hopefully we’ll start seeing more GOOD sf and less of the politically correct, boring “literature” they’ve been trying to pawn off on us for much too long (and I won’t even start telling you what I think of most of the dystopian bs or outer space porn that has joined it).

    1. Much as I’d like to hope so, I think Indy is the only hope. And even there, there’s a sea of new wave etc for every entertaining book.

      1. I know, but I still hope. Of course, part of that hope is seeing more coming from my favorites authors like you and Sarah 😉

  3. Well, my guess is A Mankind Witch sales are helped by the fact it is part of a popular series, and you also draw some buyers from fans of your coauthors on that series. Of course the fact that IMO it is your best work probably doesn’t hurt. The Forlorn is actually second on my favorites list of your books, but the fact that not only can it be gotten for free as an ebook on the Library, but has been that way for years, means that a lot of the potential readers of your ebooks already have it, or will pick it up for free rather than paying for it. You will still draw in a few of Eric and Misty’s readers who want to see what else this other author writes, but not nearly so many as pick up AMW, and most that do pick up the Forlorn will do so AFTER picking up AMW, so of course AMW will have the better numbers in comparison.

    As for Golden Age SF, I personally find a large portion of it readable at best, with very few ‘great’ reads, but not nearly so much unreadable dreck. Some of this I attribute to the unreadable dreck being long out of print, of course. The new stuff on the other hand, I find a large portion unreadable dreck, but with a small but steady supply of ‘great’ reads, and an even smaller supply of ‘readable at best’ books. We seem to be tending toward extremes, and while we currently have much more unreadable dreck, we also have more of what I consider ‘great’ reads.

    1. Definitely the feedback loop with Heirs of Alexandria helps. And here is my theory – it’s a mud-ball, the more people buy a book the more other people get ‘people who bought book also bought’ – get enough of that and it really runs away.

      I like your take on the spread. It runs with mine that bell curve of what writers and editors have considered ‘good’ is not synch with what readers do. Ergo the bulk is moved, but the outliers (at least in one direction) now get noticed.

  4. This meshes nicely with Sarah’s post today abotu why writers write.

    It seems to me that the LA Times article about Heinlein is indeed one of those classic things which is wrong from start to finish, quotes people who are wrong and when there is any choice between a bad way and a worse one takes the latter.

    The fact that the traditional publishing world in general (and trad SF in particular) clearly believe it to be correct is the reason why their market is collapsing.

    Every decent story teller from Homer and some chap in Gallilee onwards has grasped that the first thing you need to do is entertain the audience. Only once you’ve got the entertainment bit going strong should you try to stick in a “message” or make your audience think. If you don’t entertain them they’ll go and find something else to do/read/watch. In today’s world where you’ve got video games, movies, TV shows etc etc the chances are they’ll simply not bother reading a book again because they’ve learnt that books are boring.

  5. Wow, this is sophisticated. You start off with a seemingly unrelated story about Emperor Mong. Then talk about authors and editors who tried to fix science fiction, and managed to do it the way a vet fixes(1) a dog. They must be disciples of the Emperor.

    (1) US slang for castration/sterilization

    1. Heh. Trust you to pick up on it Ori. It’s a parable, yes. I was trying to write about an unpalatable subject in a way theat would – without preaching – get my point of view across. And yes, that’s what it is about – editors and authors going with the temptation that what they want is right. That they owe nothing to the reader. Of course, being me I couldn’t just keep it simple, stupid. I had to try and prove that the author could still have fun, and layer in other things, which it didn’t matter if the reader got, but would please the reader and author, if they did. Little plays other books, which if the reader shares the background make the picture bigger. There are other plays on things within those – The Keats reference I found very satisfying – Keats is often twitted for naming Cortez as looking from that peak in Darien. What people miss is even though (as sf usually does) he got it wrong, that line inspired tens of thousands. And more amusingly it was written about a translation of Homer and the epiphany it created within the reader (ie. about something old and largely forgotten and misunderstood). And of course, it is PC to abuse the likes Cortez today, so I take delight in using it.

  6. I grew up on Andre Norton. Free Traders visiting new planets. Time travelers finding space aliens in the Neolithic. Telepathic animals. Fantasies, too. But my favorites were the Solar Queen and Time Travel books. Baen reprinted a bunch of them. I ought to by them for the young relatives. Must raise the next generation right!

    1. I will grant that some of my childhood faves move a bit slowly for modern kids. But yes, we need that done, and more written.

  7. ‘literature’ was what I had to read. Good Stories are what I choose to read.

    1. Which shows that those defining ‘literature’ had no idea what it was. My definition of good literature is ‘I’ve read it several times, and enjoyed it every time.’

      1. Look at the classics that have stood the test of time, and are considered ‘literature’, almost none of them were written with ‘literature’ as the goal. In fact they were practically all written by hacks. Almost everything of Scott’s that has survived were as he termed them, ‘potboilers’ that he wrote under a pen name so his good name wouldn’t be tarnished with such trash. Shakespeare was viewed as a hack appealing to the unwashed masses in his day. H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, yep, hacks. Even the ones I can’t read, like Tolkien were considered plebeian.

  8. I read pretty strictly for entertainment, and as a counter-irritant to the news. I have no desire to read fiction about nasty muddled people doing nasty muddled things to each other in a nasty muddled world. I have a 100 different news sources (or TV or Movies) for THAT stuff. I want to be uplifted and inspired. Why not? There is love and kindness and caring in my life, as well as all the bad stuff. I’d rather have more of the former and less of the latter (D’oh!). That’s where the emphasis should be. Life is good.

    1. I often wonder if misery books and movies are a kind of voyerism for the very well-off, comfortable and protected. A tour of things they could look at and feel superior about or curious-but-not-involved – like a ghetto tour or someone watching a lion kill. I struggle for instance with Dave Drake’s Military sf books. I like Dave, respect him, admire his writing… and a very little is all I can take. It takes me too far into places I do not wish to go back to.

  9. I, like Pam, grew up on Andre Norton, as well as the Heinlein “juveniles” and can remember watching the original “Twilight Zone” series as a prime time show.

    I think part of the problem is with how SF & F are packaged and presented today. I remember all the upset over the Harry Potter books several years back, especially from some of the churches. My in-laws (the whole family) wouldn’t let their kids read the books because they were about ‘wizards’, but thought that my nieces and nephews should read “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” because they were ‘Literature”.

    I know that I, personally would enjoy reading a good story, with or without vampires, werewolves, or elves, if the “Thing that goes bump in the night” is:
    1. Truly scary
    2. Acts in accordance with its own concept of right and wrong
    3. Not a mere projection of whatever (Liberal, Conservative, Masculine/Feminine strong person) the writer is afraid of.

    I feel that much of current SF & F is nothing more than a dollop of message (or sex), concealed in a bowl of cold gruel, without much flavor.

    1. I’ve never understood why so many churches are anti-fantasy. In standard fantasies there is usually a sharp and clear differentiation between good and evil. The protagonists are solidly on the Good side, and defeat Evil.

      I don’t know if they get upset over the embroidery of “magic” or if they formed their opinions by reading the outlying nasty few. Or perhaps lumping “Urban Fantasy” with “Paranormal Romance” (AKA Romance/Erotica, now with added Vampires and Werewolves!) and figured Medieval, Quest, and Epic Fantasy must be the same.

      1. Sort people by their answers to two questions, and the answer pops right out.

        1. Can magic be a real thing?
        2. Would the practice of magic be nothing but harmful?

        If one’s answers to both are a strong yes, then one might want to avoid even reading the stuff. Because if magical thinking can have correct conclusions, then reading about magic in fiction may be connected to it happening in reality.

        As for differing treatment of Harry Potter and LotR, JRR may have had a better reputation with them than Rowling. Like maybe CS Lewis. Secondly, I recall the way magic was used differed between Potter and LotR. A lot of the good magic users in Middle Earth are, IIRC, not human and otherworldly. The ones in Potter are human, implying that what they do is part of the human sphere.

        1. I must live in a different part of the country. Around here, most of the people opposed to reading Harry Potter were equally opposed to reading Tolkien — or even C.S. Lewis!

          1. Maybe, maybe not.

            JRR, Susan Cooper, and Lewis are on the side of the magic in fiction spectrum that is probably less offensive to churches, barring denomination differences, but it is still magic in fiction. Rowling is probably further in the other direction, fashions and worldly things, but still closer to the ‘acceptable’ end than many stories.

            There are even more restrictive schools of thought.

            I tend towards a fairly wide set of criteria myself, but I can go on and on about my own margins.

    2. Agree strongly. I found the entire Harry Potter is evil nonsense a great way of making the church look like a bunch of wallies and losing kids. And sadly the YA is rapidly being overtaken by the same rubbish.

    1. I was kind of proving the point of the standard accusation being untrue. Demon Breed is one of my favorite books, because Nile Etland is one of my favorite characters, who happens to be female. Homer Crawford is another character from the story those nasty all white all male all conservative all racist Golden age Analog readers voted the best of that year, by Mack Reynolds (a socialist – who none-the-less was BOUGHT by Campbell, who was the opposite) Homer Crawford is black.

  10. David,

    I think the problem with “The Forlorn” is, well, the tile. Even in Indie there is a lot lot stuff written of the PC version of the SciFi market or by writers who have been influences by that market. So when I see a book titled “The Forlorn,” I’m automatically thinking something highly literary, with a dismal tone and a depressing ending. If that’s not what the book is you should at least give it an upbeat and active cover image to counteract the expectations set up by the title.

    1. There I’d agree with you. My original title was ‘Morningstar’. Publisher thought otherwise. Unfortunately to change the title of an old book – and get fans to buy it thinking it knew, is not a good way of winning friends and influencing people. I might have to do something with the cover…

      1. Dave, you can still change it. A lot of us are taking back our pen names, by putting on the cover and in description something like “Sarah A. Hoyt writing as Sarah D’Almeida”
        Agatha Christie books in the US often have completely different names than in the UK and publishers on line who know you might read both will say stuff like “And Then There Was None” originally published as “Ten Little Indians.” (These are probably the wrong titles, because I have no brain today, but you see what I mean.) Provided it’s on the cover (new title larger) AND in the description (because people are stupid. Someone told me I didn’t need “short story” the cover because it was on the description. This just means this person has never sold indie books) you’ll be fine. Whether Morningstar is the best book, I don’t know, since it’s a Martial arts thing.

          1. I know I was turned off by the title for some time. I don’t know if Morningstar would have done any better with me. That said, it is a good book, and I think there is a title somewhere that would seem a better fit to me.

          2. I encourage you to do it. As Alia says, there is an implied “…and they all died. In the rain.” vibe Now, what titles can we come up with? I suppose “Tantric Sex Teleporter” is just asking for trouble, and “Hair Conditioner: The Revenge” would get the wrong readers interested.”The Princess, the Prospector, and me?” “Orkin Planet”? (well-known US insect exterminator company…)

            1. Alia Iacta Est
              Hope
              Opals and Exoskeletons
              (Title and Name of Bad Guy)
              (Name of Planet)
              Quest for the Tucker
              Marching to See
              Curse of the Fish Man or Doctor Bimawen’s Spellbinding Adventure
              Bush Rumble
              Bush Hero
              Bush Heroes

        1. The Martial arts thing might actually be good, it will attract readers looking for action, yet as SF Morningstar doesn’t explicitly say, “non-stop Jean Claude action! Start to finish! Don’t worry about a storyline, it’s unnecessary!” like it would in a different genre.

          1. The starship is called ‘morningstar’ and it was once again a play on words (think what the morning star is, besides a weapon.)

            1. I knew that, I was looking from the prospective of a potential customer who sees the title on the spine while browsing through the shelves. (and yes I liked that play on words.)

      2. Also, thank you very much for sharing your numbers. I’ve been puzzling over what the rankings mean, and it helps to have more data points.

        1. I know we’re supposed to lie, but it’s self-decieving, and self-defeating, really, for all of us. Figures right now are 4 for Forlorn, 70 for AMW. If you work out an algorythm, please share 🙂

          1. No algorithms yet. The only thing I’ve noticed is that one sale can move me over 100,000 spots in the rankings. Which is fascinating.
            At first I thought the rankings reflected total sales since the dawn of Kindle, but then saw how high Peter Grant’s recently published Take the Star Road got, so I’m wondering if it’s annual. Or, if he just sold a heck of a lot of books.

            1. Yes I spent a lot of time trying to back-calculate the Amazon book sales ones, and failed. I think they have several factors, and one DEFINITELY is price. (I had a hard-back and a paperback to compare, the bookscan figures showed better sales for the paperback, but the hardback was ranking higher?) Which is in a way a sales rank but not a copies sold rank… But I think they’ve changed it a few times.

                1. I know two people, one with a first book and one with a second, who’ve sold thousands of books first month out this year. SF and pnr.

                  I aim to try one or the other before the year is out…

                  1. Do they have any secrets to share? Getting the word out on a first book seems difficult. To get enough word out for thousands of sale in that short a time frame is phenomenal.

                    1. Ah, hah! That old successful blog trick. You definitely need to put something new out as pure indie, since you have a successful and addictive blog.

                    2. With Ellie, as Sarah said, it has basically been just facebooking it through her page, my own as well as NRP’s fb and Ellie did her own link. The problem is that Ellie absolutely hates doing social media or blogging so it is like pulling teeth to get her to do any of it. Honestly, though, I’d rather have her writing.

                      A lot of it does have to do with what the genre is and how good your blurb hits folks at the time it comes out. Then it simply becomes word of mouth.

    2. I’m no expert here, but it might also help to make clear that there are heroes in Forlorn. The blurb provides the backstory, but I think I read through three reviews until I got to the main characters, a sense of optimism, and a glimmer that this might be a story where good triumphs. (The blurb does list three heroes, but the descriptions of them leave room for ambiguity.) AMW’s blurb makes it very clear there’s a hero, and I found myself wanting to read it, even though I lean more toward SF than fantasy. This is a great line, and promises those of us who like this sort of thing that we’ll get what we want: “If he has to drag the foremost knight of the age, and his deadly bodyguard kicking and screaming though the entire Norse nine worlds to prove it and free her, he’d do it. No Kobold, dwarf, or troll is going to stop him, or his scepticism.”

      It’s not just men who would like to read more stories about cool, good, heroic men.

      (The reviewer who found your English very good for an American was amusing.)

      1. I haven’t looked at the blurb but I was going to say that the title does sound a bit like a downer. It may be no more complicated than that. What to do about it though….

        1. Synova, I wanted to tell you I found your comments on my blurb really helpful during the blurb clinic. I have revised accordingly. Thank you kindly.
          Laura

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