Will The Organization Formerly Known As SFWA Need Smelling Salts?

I eagerly await the news of the Organization Formerly Known As SFWA’s response to the latest development in publishing: the traditional contract now with added boilerplate disclaiming any guarantee of hard copy format. I suspect those of the Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa will call for the smelling salts as this latest shift in the quicksand they’ve been claiming for years is ever so stable has the potential to leave the poor dears with nothing to distinguish them from – horror of horrors – independents and self-published authors.

Just think of it – for so many years they’ve had the security and prestige of knowing that their books would be in actual bookstores, making it really easy to tell that they’re real authors, not like the self-published and independent riff-raff hanging out at that horrible, horrible Amazon place. They could sneer at us pleb indie rabble because we didn’t have real publishers who got our books to real bookstores (never mind the speed with which the real bookstores are vanishing), and look through their lorgnettes at us because they were Worthy! Their publishers told them so, and it’s hard to get into the field, so it must be true, right?

Those ever-diminishing sales must be because the genius of their Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas is just too erudite for those redneck yokels out in flyover country. They have awards. They have Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas. All they have to do is waft and the glittery makes everything perfect!

Only… Those ever-diminishing sales mean the horrible accountant types (“Dahling, I have a Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa. I don’t need that icky Math stuff.”) are putting choke collars on their editors, and their editors (“Dahling, nobody told me there was Math involved.”) are trying to cut costs without having – for the most part – the faintest idea of effective cost management. This is trickle-down economics where the stuff that’s trickling down… isn’t gold. It all flows downhill, after all, and authors, especially the not-so-bestselling Feminist Glittery Hoo Haa types, are at the very bottom of a rather deep valley.

Now, the savvy author (who isn’t there because he/she (and in extreme circumstances it) has headed off to the mostly unmarked paths of indie-land) would recognize the opportunities afforded by so much fertilizer and make use of them. Possibly even build a raft out of words to float from the valley on the amazing torrent of trickle-down… stuff. The poor Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas merely stand there looking up in supplication treating each drop, each trickle as it were as manna from heaven. Some of them may perhaps wonder why it no longer smells as sweet down there in the valley, but they’ve spent so long training themselves that all good things come from above that it’s unlikely to be more than a passing thought – if they haven’t trained themselves out of thought altogether.

Meanwhile, the questions remain:

What will The Organization Formerly Known As SFWA make of this latest development?

Will we rabble be treated to a command performance fit of the vapors?

Does anyone who actually read books give a damn? (Yes, I bowdlerized a bit. So sue me. Actually, don’t. It’s not worth the effort and the only winners will be the lawyers.)

Tune in some time in the future for the exciting answers to these and other irrelevant questions you couldn’t be bothered asking.


  1. So long as the Twuu Writers still get an advance from the publisher I think they’re safe. That seems to be the real acid test–writers who get paid to publish=good/writers who pay to publish=bad.

    Of course, those who have been in the game long enough to have print editions as part of their contract will still look down on the upstarts who are digital only, but even in Utopia there must be social stratification.

    1. Gasp! That means 90% of academics will be sorted as bad, as not being real writers! The horror. Oh, oh, *swoon* thud.

      OK, so academics don’t exactly pay [Name] University Press to get books published, but neither do they get traditional single-source advances, either. This could be most entertaining to watch. (Full disclosure: I lived on my savings while writing my dissertation, and got a research fellowship to do book # two. Book # three is purely on spec, as likely will be book #4.)

    2. Of course, writers who get paid later rather than up front are a fuzzy category right now. As are writers who are also their own publishers.

      Things will eventually shake out. The dinosaurs on the other hand…

  2. Gee, does this mean college lit professors will have to turn to *ebooks* to foist the horrid, torrid, wet hanky crap they so love onto their students? Descend to the depths of depravity, muck about with the muggles in their muddy real-world thing? *gasp!*

    I’m actually surprised that it took this long for this to crop up. The more I learn about the publishing world, the more it looks like Wiley E. Coyote, two steps the wrong side of the cliff, thinking “If I don’t look down, I won’t fall.”

    As gods of the marketplace tumble, and their smooth tongued wizards withdraw, what new thing will replace it? Like nature, the economy abhors a vacuum. There will continue to be a market for effective marketing (and all the other things authors need/want), even when physical books become niche and ebooks become the norm. Some smart guys and gals out there are probably working on this even now.

    1. I’m sure they are. And I’m sure we’ll see a veritable forest of options that will gradually consolidate into the ones that work best.

      That’s generally how it happens in anything that’s not “important” enough to require government intervention.

  3. I need a lorgnette. Was thinking today as I costumed for Halloween at school as the Mad Librarian (steampunk character) that my glasses aren’t quite… the thing. Anyone know where to find prescription lorgnettes? LOL

    I saw a rumor of this a week or so ago, and wasn’t surprised. It seems to be the inevitable progression in teh road of cost-cutting. Barely edited, poorly covered, and now, no print costs!

    1. I managed to find a reading (not costume) monocle, so it’s possible! (If I’m gonna get old I’m gonna have FUN with it. Stupid beta meatsack notwithstanding.)

        1. I don’t know, using a monocle with your glasses perched on the end of your nose would be an interesting look.

        2. I was very nearsighted too, before LASIK 😉 They warned me I might develop a need for reading glasses after the procedure, and I did — but in only one eye. So I had the perfect excuse for a monocle! (easier to carry around than reading glasses, too)

    2. Not sure what that is.

      Guessing, a lens maker could probably do that part, if given the frame.

      As for the frame, assuming there isn’t a better source, I don’t have firm conclusions about the best choice for fabrication. I dunno if a jeweler or a machine shop would work better, or if there is a third option that I’ve overlooked.

      1. A lorgnette is a pair of glasses on a stick, excellent for looking through, then over, and cutting people dead (think the Dowager in Downton Abbey). Monocles are associated with male European nobles and are either held with the fingers or held in place with eye muscles (as if you were squinting on eye). I’ve seen lorgnettes in estate sale catalogues and a few high-end theater costume catalogues.

        1. Never watched Downton Abbey.

          Pince-nez also came to mind, but I ended up needing to look up that word.

          Obvious ‘cheap’ option is to trim down an appropriate pair of modern frames, and JB weld on a metal rod.

          I’ve gotten to thinking about a type of glasses that use loops of string over the ears. I think those might be appropriate for, say, an IJA costume.

    3. Pretty much! For prescription lorgnettes, I’d suggest trying the civil war reenactment people – what I’ve seen of them, if they don’t have it, they can figure out how to make it.

  4. “Does anyone who actually read books give a damn?”

    The inclusion of “anyone” in a question virtually guarantees that the correct answer is at least technically “yes”. But for the most part, no. People who “actually read books” generally don’t care about publishing. I mean, if compelled to think about it they’d probably express some happiness that publishers as a category exist…but the notion of a conflict between “Amazon” and “bookstores” would strike them as equivalent to a conflict between “cars” and “vehicles”. How could there be a conflict between an entire category of businesses, and the overwhelmingly most important member of that same category?

    Likewise, the typical opinion about publishing contracts would be “it’s a good thing for authors to get paid for their writing…then they’ll write more, so that we can read it, which is what _really_ matters”.

    But the minutiae of the publishing world over which folks inside it get so agitated? Meh. Readers by and large don’t care.

    1. That’s absolutely correct! (“…the minutiae of the publishing world over which folks inside it get so agitated? Meh. Readers by and large don’t care.”) I’m one of those strange folk: a reader who actually doesn’t want to be a writer. (I did that for newspapers for a time.) Anyway, let me state that I’m much more concerned with the _story_ than where/how it was printed/published. Poor covers? So what? I don’t look at covers all that much. Lousy copy editing? Meh. There’ are two “indie” (I think) authors out there whose works could use a good copy editor: Laer Carroll and Chris Nuttall. Know what? They both write rattlin’ good yarns; that’s what keeps me reading (and re-reading) their stuff. That their works don’t have the imprimatur of “Legacy Publishing” is, to me, a mtter of vast indifference.

      1. Pretty much, yeah. Most folk who read don’t really care how it gets to them, so long as they have a good story (for their personal definition of “a good story”).

  5. They have Feminist Glittery Hoo Haas. All they have to do is waft and the glittery makes everything perfect!

    Perhaps choking and gurgling with startled laughter is the goal…but it sure ain’t dignified.

    1. Sorry, Eamon. I suppose I should start adding spray warnings to my rants – but I never know when I’m going to say something that has that effect.

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