Dozy Dave the drongo

Asleep at the wheel, that’s me. Dozy Dave the drongo here forgot to tell anyone he was having a countdown sale last week on GENIE OUT OF THE VAT. So I set out to make reparations – And I’m a fraction late to put it up today – so from tomorrow, there is a countdown sale on this collection – which includes GENIE, and CRAWLSPACE – Rats Bats and Vats universe stories – the first story the prequel to Rats Bats and Vats, and the next a novella set about 30 years on, with the war against the Khorozhet moved into space. A countdown sale means at 8.00 on Tuesday this $4.99 book will cost 99 cents. The price will increase in one cent increments until the $4.99 price is reached again in 4 days. So: the sooner you buy, the cheaper.

This came out from Amazon this week. I was fascinated to find various authors chiming in about what an evil thing Amazon was. Sigh. I mean the very idea that authors are worth as much as publishers, and that retailers should get less than either of those parties… is anathema to them. They seem to revel in proclaiming their inferiority (and therefore superiority to self-published authors, who lack publishers to be worth less than. Logic also ran but was not placed).

Personally, and being a stroppy bastard, it is anathema to me too, but not in the same way. Authors and readers are the two essential parts of this equation. If you’re doing it right, it means the OTHER PARTS – retail and publishing – or the services they’re supposed to provide, are interchangeable widgets, that need to be cost efficient and working damned hard to provide a reward which exceeds their cost. To explain this clearly: What an author needs from a traditional publisher is better value for that more or less 53% of the gross they now claim – for the additional tasks a self-publisher either has to do or outsource, than he can get himself. That means a range of services many providers can actually sell you, that Traditional publishing claimed to take care of for you (but often do/did next to none of – marketing, or do as ineptly as the average self pub -covers, editing, proofs, or drop the ball through sheer NAAFI (like the distribution, where time and again, I’ve had books not put on Amazon, wrongly release dated, with errors about authorship, and not getting around to reprinting when the next in the series releases, not getting it into major venues – to name just a few ‘need to try harder’ areas.) Now, I just dropped the ball, not putting up the Countdown. But it was my ball, and I suffered for doing so. And let’s not to mention opaque, glacial-slow accounting and other keep-authors-un-informed-and-thus-unable-to-help-themselves-or-us idiocy, which they need to lose yesterday. My blood-pressure won’t take too much thinking about what is either criminal exploitation or arrant stupidity (there are no other choices that I can see).

If traditional publishing wants even as much as 35% of the gross…let alone what they get now, they need to work harder, make my life – and readers lives – better and easier, and make me more that twice the sales I can without them. If they want more – they’re going to have make me more so that number stays at “I can do better with you than I can without you.” Yes. I am a grumpy old bastard. Can you see any faults in that logic? You think retailers or publishers are not potentially interchangeable widgets? Yes, I know they like being thought essential and unique, and they’re used to being told that, especially when they’ve had control of the gate between readers and writers, and had to do the minimum besides own the gate. But times change, publishing’s power is vastly diminished, and even retail will in time, be disintermediated by effective matching of customers with sellers. I’ve had Amazon described as a distribution company which does that efficiently. Yep. But it is evolving towards being a distribution hub, that links buyers with sellers – not only making finding your desired product easy – be it a book or wetsuit booties, or cordless drills – but it also runs analytics on these and shows buyers products that they may well buy.

When I hear of Harper Collins planning to enter the market too, I have to laugh. They’re a command-economy company, where they’ve told readers what they ought to like if they know what’s good for them. I just can’t see them suddenly learning to be a customer demand-driven, let alone linking the fact that I buy dive gear, DIY tools, and books of a particular strain of adventure, to offering me the kind of books I want to buy… Amazon already keeps offering me my own. That’s… pretty good targeting. I might even like one of them.

It seems to have been the ‘lets remember that coconut-flinging idiot week.

I have a story in this collection, NEVERMORE is a little revisit to the Goth Sex Kitten universe – Tom, the wizard’s apprentice who was once a cat.:

There are a couple of good tales in the collection – I particularly liked Claire McKenna’s Yard, and Liefe Shallcross the Blue Djinn’s wish is a pretty good twist. I was a bit disappointed in the usually exceptional Dirk Flinthart (who can, at times write Simak-ish Australian stories). This one had a logic fail – if you don’t know you haven’t got something, you won’t be upset by not having it.

Australia is now my home: ergo second of the ‘oh, he is alive’ interviews :-).

I do urge you, dear readers, to drop in on these interviews, leave a comment, so they know you also know I’m alive. This is called positive feedback, which is not throwing up into your mouth when your girlfriend tell you ‘It’s positive’ while looking at a test-strip.

Finally Eric and I will be doing a Baen Podcast this week, about the re-release of SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS.

I am of course shocked by the bikini wearing woman on the cover. I am aware the purpose of covers is to get people to look at the book… but in the book the character does not do anything as depraved as wear a bikini, or at least not in public (you can do these sort of kinky things in private, even if people treat it with some disgust.) Lani was always respectably naked in public places, wearing body-paint and not pervy skin coverings.

Oh and as usual, the pictures are links.


  1. Oh, I don’t know about the bikini, Dave . . . I guess one has to make allowances for what publishers think their readers will tolerate.

    On the other hand, keep growing your beard. When you publish your autobiography, I expect it to be long enough for you to wear nothing else (the beard having extended to your nether regions and been knitted into a codpiece, you see). Whether or not that would sell more books remains to be seen, but it’s an intriguing thought . . .


    1. Heh. Peter it was an in-joke. About ?18 months ago? There was a feminist group hissy fit, over the cover of an sfwa bulletin with a woman in a scale-mail (If I recall correctly) bikini top chopping the head off a nasty monster. Now, it is well established that the rare ugly-dwarfy-male-pallid-male monster killed was on the endangered list of monsters (due to over-hunting), but they were deeply offended not by this, but the objectification of women heroes with revealing clothing. The point of the naked-with-body-paint woman (who is by her culture’s standard, conservative) is merely to poke fun at the way people ignore the fact that societal norms differ :-). Bare breasted women in rural Zululand is commonplace, after all. But a 10 second flash due to ‘wardrobe malfunction’ is headline news for weeks.

      There is a practical limit to the beard. I did grow it to my belly button, once. But it washes into vision while diving. I cut it off with a blunt pen-knife at the beach once.

  2. I so enjoy reading your posts Dave. One publisher gets nothing from me, because they refuse to value their ebooks less then their published books and in some cases, 2 or 3 times the price of the paperback. I ain’t paying that. So that publisher and all the author’s with them don’t get my dollars. That’s the publisher acting as a barrier to ‘teach me’ not to buy ebooks? He loses, not me, I found other authors.

    The traditional publishers have fought the fight for decades trying to convince us that ‘self published’ is bad and that only a professional, published book is worth my time.

    I’ve read more of your books on Amazon then on any other publisher, because I CAN buy them.

    Change has arrived, no matter what those publishers and self-deluded authors think.

    In the meantime – every book you publish on amazon, I buy, and when you put out an anthology, I buy them too because you always sneak in one I don’t have – good marketing btw 😉

    1. Heh. I blame Eric for that. Or Rick Boatright. They did the collections and e-books. Thanks Tan. I do my best to entertain. The current book is going hard…

  3. I ended up reading the first interview on the anthology page, because was wondering if it was a pseudonym. Anyway, wasn’t it Flintheart and not Flitheart?

    Now that I know that isn’t you in pirate costume, I can figure out how to get my hands onto similar art of a guy in a pirate costume. Probably draw something myself, despite my poor skills, as I have more time than money for the problem.

    1. it means the price of the 4.99 book starts at 99 cents, and increases in 1 cent increments over the next 4 days :-). So at 8.00 AM tomorrow morning – whatever time Amazon uses, it will cost 99 cents. I think I must put that in text.

  4. In general, I’ve noticed the people who are supporting the publishers over Amazon are writers who are making decent money from the publishers. Stross wrote something about the issue, and said something to the effect of switching to self-publishing, he’d lose his income for upwards of a year, and then would have a much less certain income afterwards. Self-publishing, or going through Amazon, requires that the authors do a lot more than just write stories, and that’s hard for a lot of writers.

    I suspect that a lot of authors who are regularly published by the legacy publishers are in a similar situation to Stross. However, I’ve noticed Scalzi, who probably does have the non-writing skills to make a decent go of self-publishing, has been much more neutral about the subject.

    1. Anthony, actually the loudest and most angrily vituperative comments I’ve heard come from two distinct groups – the (a) ‘dahlings’ – who are hugely invested in the industry, and spend a lot of time and effort cultivating their publisher and staff, and the literary establishment. They punch loudly and hard. But for shrill viciousness the bottom fringe (c) is really where Amazon hatred is milk-curdling level. These are the authors whose only validation comes from being traditionally published. Their sales are trivial, their reputation as writers (many are loud, outspoken activists for various SJW causes – look on those sort of panels at LonCon, and you’ll find them by the dozen. No one ever read a book by them, but they are well known for trumpeting whatever their platform is. Maybe they believe passionately in theses things. They know that those issues have sympathy, and get them brownie point in NY publishing. Without that sympathy, I think many of them know they’re failures.) These people are the poor whites in South Africa: they got very little from Apartheid (most of the benefit actually went to the equivalent of the dahlings) but they knew, without it they were lost. They couldn’t win in open job competition, so they feared equality desperately. These writers really get little more than status and crumbs, but they don’t think they’ll get either in an equal open market, without their trad pub credential. Meanwhile, the mid-list (the b class), with enough readers, but precious little help from their trad publisher, tend to be a bit more receptive, if they’re not too frightened. My opinion for what it is worth, is that Stross has enough following to jump his income to 3 times what it is now (and I am not a fan) with pretty much immediate effect, but he would lose enormously in job/pay security, and also among literary establishment (which is just about chock-a-block with c-class SJW writers and bloggers). That esteem and security is important to him. Shrug. Scalzi… hmm. He’s made a few really bad judgement calls – like attacking Toni Weisskoph publicly, which have cost him a lot of readers and influence. He’s possibly trying hard not to step on the next landmine? I get the feeling he’s also more perceptive of public opinion than Stross (who it seems to me worries about what the ‘important’ people – the literary establishment – think, rather than the hoi polloi) and the current is running strongly against high prices for e-books — which all the trad pubs insist on being necessary.

    1. … And where is the sale, anyway? I can’t seem to find it searching Amazon. Anyone have a handy link to share?

  5. The sale on .com starts at 8am Pacific time – it’s set to the servers in Seattle. Is now going! Sales on .co.UK start on GMT instead, which can be quite confusing.

      1. I’m on to Amazon about it – escalated one level past idiot so far. – it appears discounted on search BUTLOSES IT ON CLICKING ON THE LINK.
        Crawlspace and Other Stories by Dave Freer and Eric Flint (Mar 20, 2011) – Kindle eBook

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