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Oh noes it’s the end of World (again)….

Ok, Hat tip to Walter Daniels, without whom I’d be boring you with more on distribution. He pointed out this article from the HuffPo  – which is my normal sort of reading-of-choice the way the Guardian or Mein Kamph is. (We’ve had a few drive-by posters who seem really thick. That means I don’t read them. Got it?)

While leaving you to your own conclusions about most of it (I’ve never heard of the guy, to be honest. Maybe he’s just brilliant.) I thought I’d go through his 15 point s– with what they brought to my Simian pate. Seriously, I don’t know him, have nothing personal against him, and this certainly not a personal attack. It’s just my thoughts on these points. His points in italics, my comments betwixt.

  1. The print industry as we have known it, is a dead man walking. Printed books, including retail shelving space, are disappearing at an alarming rate, as are big chain bookstores. On the other hand, boutique stores offering personal service with discriminating taste will emerge in their place. Perhaps some small print publishers will also survive. We all knew this would happen. Some of us saw it years ago.

Just what is ‘the print industry?’ Print on paper? Traditional publishing? Let’s assume he means both. Kicking and squalling – and cheerfully indulging in ‘piracy’ (selling books to which they have no rights) Traditional publishing has moved into e-books. The death of chain bookstores is really the result of a) Not catering to their market – there is competition from online bookstores, which carry more and offer more. b) Online sales mean you can go shopping at the click of mouse. All knew it would happen –hell’s teeth, we know very different trad pub authors, and very very different trad publishers. Baen were the only ones without blinkers on.

  1. Advances are drying up. Fewer and fewer authors will be able to make a living from their books, even those authors published by the large traditional publishers. The book review industry has been Balkanized. Authors use thousands of online text and video reviewers to gain visibility, but with the sheer volume of titles being published, many remain undiscovered, lost in the swamp of new and reissued books.

Advances were a feature required by a glacially slow process. For indies that is a thing of the past. Trad pub still needs to change that, and it could kill them. The issue is royalties (which for the important people never matched advances anyway. So the rest of us got screwed so they could have extra. And your promotion budget was based on that advance. Which means, well, folk like me had to sink or swim on our own, despite eventually beating some heavily promoted authors. Do I miss it? No. But do I like 70% royalties as opposed to 6% I have got for paperbacks? YES YES YES. I like getting a reasonable share of the sale price and I like readers getting a good price. And as a reader I just love that most of what I pay goes straight to the author, with minimal delays, and not to some middlemen who opaque the records, and are incredibly slow, as well as keeping most of it. As for the swamp… it’s deep and boggy in some places. The sort of books trad pub has put out for the last 25 years. Not so much elsewhere.

  1. Amazon, at this point, controls the book market. It might, perhaps, get competition from the alliance with the Galaxy 4 tab nook by Samsung and Barnes and Noble. Others might also make a run at Amazon. If and when Amazon gets serious competition, expect a price war, which will be a further financial disaster for authors. At times, I get the feeling that retail sites that sell both books and other consumer goods, act as an online bookstore to harvest consumers for their other retail products. Readers are good fodder. But then, I am a cynic.

Expect competition for readers to… impact suppliers of retail? Well that can and does happen. But do remember a) the suppliers can trade off sellers against each other – which they can’t with traditional publishing. b) Really a retail co-op of authors (such as book view café) is not impossible, or unlikely. And you can’t have it both ways. Either a lack of competition is bad (the pre-Amazon pre indy era) or more competition is bad. Not both. And the competitive environment is paying better.

  1. The Netflix subscriber model of content for a monthly fee, like Amazon Unlimited, Oyster, and Scribd, will flame out. To read a book, a really good book, takes time, concentration and focus. It’s not like movies or TV. It might work for certain genres like Romance, which readers buy by the bucketful. But even Romance fiction has taken it on the chin. Like in everything, there are too many books in that genre being published. The market is saturated.

Uh. No. The market is saturated in the swamp (AKA a very small section of potential readers). Yes, I know this fellow despises genre. And one man’s good book is another man’s Hugo winner. Firstly, writing a book is hard work for most authors. Even the fastest struggle with a book every couple of months for long – yes, some folk can for a while, but in the fullness of time I’ll bet the average of around a book every 4 months is good going. A few readers only manage a book every 4 months. They’re not the lost buyers, who have given up reading to other escapism. They’re not the hardcore readers – I can read a Louis L’Amour or Ellis Peters in an hour, emerge feeling good about the world. There are faster readers, and a lot of 3 hours to a book folk there… the bottom line is that there are many less writers than readers, and readers can read faster than most writers. Secondly, there is a finite size to the market, but it’s anything but fully served. That’s the literate, potentially. That’s mostly not buying right now. We need to recapture the lost, and catch the youth.

  1. The quality of content is diminishing, or so it seems. I know I sound like a book snob, but it is hard as hell to find what was once called, “a really great book.” I am well aware that such a statement is deeply personal. People who read to be emotionally transported will know what I mean. For those of us who love literature, I find my tastes drifting back to the classics, especially to those writers I worshipped in my youth.

Oh drivel. The quality published by traditional publishing in sf (outside Baen) has dropped like a stone. That’s an editorial selection issue, not a quality issue. But while the sorting in Indy is still in its infancy real quality will come out of that.

  1. Even so called commercial fiction, the kind of books one found on best-seller lists in the middle to the latter part of the last century, is being replaced by genre fiction, which would not have made the cut in those bygone days. Lots of people enjoy genre fiction, and its power to offer escape into a predictable world. Good for them. My own preference for both reading and writing is for the original and the unpredictable.

Parallel universe. Yes, a little sneer at genre again ‘it’s formula’ Drivel. Firstly there is no such animal as ‘general fiction’ – all fiction is a genre of some kind, or borrows from it. His fiction will have a little suspense, a little thriller, a little romance… and suspense novels will have a little romance etc… Yes sf-fantasy from most traditional publishers has become very constrained by PC requirements. The middle aged white conservative American heterosexual man will be the villain. Yawn. You think it is any different in any other traditional published work? Even in ‘original and unpredictable’ general fiction?

  1. There are simply too many books being published, especially in fiction. Among them are probably some really wonderful ones, but they are hard to find. The filters have become clogged. Book bloggers try their best to become taste filters. Some succeed in attracting a following, but one wonders if they affect sales.

Oh nonsense. Writing is hard. We’re in the shakedown period now. Many people are trying it out. Many of those – and many trad authors will drop out in the next 5 years, when the reward/effort gets too low. As for taste filters – ‘also bought’ ‘also viewed’ – I get my own books –and books I read commended to me. The retail filtering is getting better and better.

  1. In an effort to find an audience, many authors are forced to give away their books for free or at heavily discounted prices. Such pricing denigrates the value of their writing, and makes a book seem not worthy of being bought. These books appear like soiled goods, overstocked giveaways.

Which is why ‘cheap and free’ were short term gimmicks. Specials do work. But people seem to rate too cheap as too likely to be rubbish.

  1. Because we are now a global society, books by writers from other countries and cultures have reached flood stage as well. Many authors from emerging countries emphasize struggles and conflict specific to their environment, and deal with topics that are not always relevant to people in more developed societies. Many are translated and celebrated, but do not necessarily cross cultures.

Oh I am terrified of competition. Nonsense. Books that appeal to a culture like say Iran’s are relatively unlikely to ‘steal’ many Western, English first language readers from me.

  1. There is no end to people who want to write novels. There are over a thousand creative writing college courses and many MFA degrees offered in this discipline. There is undoubtedly a lot of astonishing talent around, but the chances of these people making a living at creative writing are diminishing from paltry to nil. Of course, that won’t stop the dedicated. True artists live their life totally committed to their art. Many writers will choose self-publishing, and a very tiny percentage of them will find paying customers who will sustain their career. Someone always wins the lottery, despite the humongous odds.

There are a lot of people who want to write novels, and always have been. But the filtering system was actually really bad. Very few people have the ability to write a good novel. And even less have the ability to stick to it, book, after book, after book. We’re in shakedown. The drop-out rate will be high. Lots of them will be the pampered darlings of tradpub. Lots more will be MFA grads. Writing is something you can hone, but not make.

  1. There is still great personal satisfaction in self-publishing. Most of those books will actually sell fewer than fifty copies. Many will be given away for free, but the accomplishment itself is worthy of personal satisfaction, and offers some element of prestige, regardless of the quality of writing. Such a sense of personal achievement will continue to attract many to self-publishing.

Yes. Once. How many will keep going? And really, maybe he sells 50 copies. Not everyone does.

  1. Many are convinced that their books would make terrific movies, and spend time and money trying to bring their stories to the silver screen. A minuscule fraction make it, but if the adaptation is not a bona fide hit, the movie has little impact, except among the author’s immediate family and circle of friends. Of course, that might be satisfaction enough.

Huh? Anyone who who writes thinking it’ll be a movie, needs their head read.

  1. While books are being digitally published like popcorn, I do not believe that readers are keeping apace. Brevity and speed seem to be the order of the day for our young readers, who will sustain the publishing future.

Yes. We need to appeal to them. Good fast moving stories would be a start. But no kids read the Hunger Games or Harry Potter so we’re stuffed…

  1. A cottage industry has emerged big-time to distribute, market, publicize and merchandise books, by mostly self-published authors or backlist titles of published authors. These companies offer numerous services for a fee, or a piece of the royalty. I have no doubt that they try their damnedest to deliver sales and author visibility or re-discovery. From their point of view, their financial success is based on how many authors they sign up. It’s a numbers game. For example, if every author represents at least ten sales, more or less, and they sign up thousands of authors, they will come out ahead financially. By no means do I suggest they are fraudulent, but their modus operandi is based on how many books and authors they sign up.

And for once I agree. Don’t waste your money.

  1. Expect countless marketing ploys as publishers and authors try new gimmicks to sell their works of fiction online. Creative merchandising will proliferate. Everything from subscription models to crowdsourced publishing will be tried, along with other inventions yet to be conceived. Social networks will be stuffed with promotional efforts, subtle, blatant, hash tagged, analyzed, targeted, whatever. Vast amounts of money will be spent on advertising, PR, consultants, all hawking their magic wares.

New things will be tried. And that’s bad? Some may work too. Good stories and lots of them will still win. Vast amounts of money on PR? Stop thinking like tradpub…

Your turn, folks.

55 Comments
  1. Such pricing denigrates the value of their writing, and makes a book seem not worthy of being bought.

    All the classics are available at Project Gutenberg for free. According to him, that makes them unworthy.

    Uh… no.

    September 8, 2014
    • fontofworlds #

      All the more for the rest of us. I for one welcome the advent of archive.org and gutenberg. It makes access far easier for research purposes. But you still have to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

      September 8, 2014
      • Alan #

        Exactly. I’m thinking that, to the reader there are two principal values to the publishing of a book: the value associated with helping to find & acquire it, and the value of its content.
        I seek many tools & methods to do the first, from Amazon “Also bought” to the Free-Range Oyster to the Baen Free Library. If the shakeout over time reduces the variety & number of such tools to a smaller but highly effective set, I’d pay for that information.
        So far as pricing of content goes – this nonsense of value=price is simply a way of saying that your pride in a status marker is worth more to you than adjusting pricing to find the optimum point on the price/demand curve. That’s a starving-artist attitude.

        September 8, 2014
      • jselvy #

        That seems to be my thinking.
        I am solely a reader. Unlike many on this blog, I don’t write anything other than my name. Anything you, as an author, can do to get your book into my hands is good.
        The question of value vs. price is an odd one. A special or a give away is a good way to get your first book in my hand. Like the pusher, you can rest assured that if it’s good, I’ll be back no matter the price. I’ll keep coming back as long as you’re quality stays up. I am reticent to try new authors as I am not independently wealthy so must conserve my all too few reading dollars. A give away will let me read you without risk and possibly hook me good. Those who conflate price and quality in writing are the same people so into designer jeans a quarter century ago.
        Something for you wise authors to consider.

        September 8, 2014
        • I’m with you, and have been saying it for some time. A _paperback_ costs _about_ 1 1/2 *hours* of min. wage pay. A “hardback” is nearly _5_ hours. Something that too many authors ignore. In the article (I vaguely remember the original post), it came from The Passive Voice blog, newsletter.

          September 8, 2014
    • I think what he was trying to say was that we (well the rest of you. I don’t really make it to ‘human’) use pricing as a value indicator. And on this he is somewhat right. A Mercedes doesn’t actually cost multiples lot more to make than a Korean vehicle of similar quality and quite possibly the same engine (this was the case in South Africa a few years ago – Mercedes innards, different body, don’t know if it happens in the US), but the selling price is a signal. I’m not saying its a great signal, but it can be the only one available.

      September 8, 2014
  2. Virginia DeMarce #

    Good stuff, sir.

    September 8, 2014
  3. The world of ebooks are actually slowly opening up potential markets to outside of the usual venue buyers and readers, especially outside of the US.

    For the record, I prefer Book Depository because Amazon’s shipping rates kill my wallet. Free global shipping? Yes! I can buy MORE BOOKS.

    Some books through I can’t get outside of Amazon. So when there are books that I have to buy through Amazon or Abebooks or such, I probably buy only a few then pay potentially twice the price of the book for shipping, or more. They’re the older books though…

    September 8, 2014
    • Forgot to add: also opens up new potential authors who can access ebook publishing outside of the US, but I reckon that such would be seen as ‘unfair competition.’

      September 8, 2014
      • I’m sure he sees it as unfair competition, (I got the feeling he felt any competition was ‘unfair’) but you’re quite right, it does cut both ways.

        September 8, 2014
        • He’d CRY if he were ever subjected to the Philippine publishing industry. I’m encouraging a friend over there to try take a chance on the one group that does ebook publishing, if self-publish isn’t an option she can realistically or easily take (through the murk of dealing with taxes between the US and the Philippines, and the tax forms related to such, and such info is not readily available.)

          September 8, 2014
        • Actually, a news article says that Flipside Publishing will handle the tax things.

          “Publishers can sell their e-books through Flipreads dot com instead of putting up their own online bookstores. Authors can independently publish their e-books through the site,” De Luna said.

          “Flipreads also hopes to be a venue for publishers and authors to bring previously out-of-print titles back into circulation. Since everything is online, these titles will also be available to an international market.”

          Flipreads also provides services for Filipino authors and publishers seeking to distribute e-books internationally through Amazon and Apple iBookstore.

          “We can set up your account on Apple and Amazon, file for US tax treaty exemptions, and convert your book or content to the needed formats (which can include designing the layout) accepted by these online e-bookstores,” said De Luna.

          That seems really helpful to me.

          September 8, 2014
  4. Oh how I love the “we’re artists. We should be expected to treat this like a business” vibe from a guy who’s also lamenting the fact that writers aren’t able to make a living from their “art”. Guess what? If I crank out enough indie books, even with non-spectacular sales, I can still make a living off of my writing.

    With traditional publishing? If I have a book that has poor sales, and I’ll find that I don’t have a publisher any more.

    But it’s places like Amazon that are making it more difficult for writers to earn a living with their work. Sure. Whatever.

    September 8, 2014
    • I have never understood why ‘starving artist’ image has such a very strong appeal. Especially when most of the Great Masters ™ were going out of their way to AVOID such a fate. Including sneaky tricks like borrowing a key from a buddy in the Scolla you’re bidding for the contract on so you can present them with a finished sample fresco rather than a sketch. (Tintaretto, Scolla San Rocco.)

      September 8, 2014
      • Because they think it’s romantic, like it somehow makes their art more pure to not have to worry about commercial interests.

        Which I’m suspect would have the Renaissance greats rolling in the aisles, along with their mocking jeers as well. You think Michelangelo hadr the de Medici family for patrons because of his artistic vision? Or because it put food on the table?

        September 8, 2014
        • They got him for his artistic vision (fancy way of saying he painted and sculpted pretty things). He got them because food is good.

          The Renaissance greats would be happily snatching up the jobs that these guys couldn’t dream of getting. They’d be going “Wait, you mean I paint it once and then I can make copies of it with very little extra effort to sell to every poor stiff that wants something pretty on his wall? SCORE! I’m already used to hocking my art… and ooo this internet thing makes it sooo much easier than street corners and trying to gain formal audience with touchy nobles.”

          September 8, 2014
          • In the exact same vein as Shakespeare writing for the guys who mucked out the stalls, not Queen Elizabeth. The truth is, Michael Bay is closer to Shakespeare in spirit than whoever the literary darling is today.

            September 8, 2014
            • Christopher M. Chupik #

              Michael Bay’s Hamlet:

              (Camera circles Hamlet and Ophelia, focusing on Ophelia’s behind) “To be —- ” (massive slo-mo explosion) “Or not to be.” (Helicopters at sunset)

              September 8, 2014
    • I “did the math,” and after taxes/charity donations/etc., if I can sell 15K books at $2 average royalty, I can make “enough to live on.” With one Christian children’s/YA, a “rant” about what it’s like to handicapped, and _three_ (at this time) cookbooks for single/handicapped coming out in 2014-15, it looks doable. The “children’s” book is on “publishing hold,” while I’m running a fundraiser using it, until Oct. 4. Due to Amazon “price match rules,” I have to do it that way. (If Sarah allows, I’ll give the URL for the fundraiser.)
      I’m in a Nursing Home, and have $42 a month allowed under MedicAid rules, so the first one has to pay for the “follow up books.” I have about 2- 1/2 to 3 hours/day I can write/work the ‘Net, when I don’t have medical appointments/etc. So, I have two to three more fiction books somewhere in the pipeline, plus another “Children’s” book, for next Christmas. (It’ll take that long to get artwork/editing/etc., done)

      September 8, 2014
  5. I think he’s accurately predicting what may happen to the small circle of Literary Authors he reads. Until they go Indie. Because in this world, there’s lots of people who’ll read what _they_ like. The difference is just that more enjoyable “genre” books are leading the way.

    September 8, 2014
    • Alan #

      Because of artistic pride & membership privileges in the tradpub tribe, not all WILL go indie. The rest of us will think of them as “slow learners”.

      September 8, 2014
      • Native American translation of “Vegetarian.” Lousy Hunter. 🙂

        September 8, 2014
    • My point is that there is a market even for literary authors. It is, for most of them, small. But ‘small’ out of a population of possible readers of English reads (alone) (conservatively assuming that more or less half of them can and would read, given the right bait) 180 million – Let’s assume that 0.01% of those read literary authors he likes by choice. That’s still 18 000 customers. Let’s assume they’re taking the time he assumes they will over a book ?2 months? That’s still over 100 000 customers a year (and a realistic figure with some readers going through books much faster would probably be 500 000.) Half a million customers – or 100 000 or 15 000 is enough to support a working author at roughly $3 in his take. It gets a lot tighter at 64 cents. The problem is that end of the market is as saturated as can be. That isn’t in general true.

      September 8, 2014
  6. What is it with successful writers and the whole “Such pricing denigrates the value of…writing” crap? Every writer who trots out that argument is really saying “Damn, I might have to lower *my* prices in order to compete.” I don’t need some author I’ve never heard of (or some author I have heard of, for that matter) telling me the value of my own work. Strangely enough, I believe I’m qualified to figure that out for myself.

    Yes, my first novel is priced below average for e-books on Amazon. The idea was to make the book cheap enough that people would be willing to take a chance on the book — and that seems to have worked. My novel spent six weeks on Amazon’s space opera best sellers list and has sold a respectable number of copies since it was released four and a half months ago. Now that I’ve got a bit of a reader base, my next book will be priced higher, though I expect it will still be cheaper than what those denigrates-the-value people would prefer.

    So, successful authors, please stop concern-trolling the rest of us over our book pricing. We’re not stupid. We know it’s not us you’re concerned about.

    September 8, 2014
    • questionableprovenance #

      Interesting: just the fact that you commented on what I consider a trusted site encouraged me to check out your book – and immediately purchase the softcover. Another method of networking.

      September 8, 2014
      • Uncle Lar #

        Same here. Went to Henry’s blog, loved the ’50s retro covers he uses for his main series, and immediately bought the Kindle of the first book. Will read with interest and if I like what I read will definitely pick up the rest.
        I’d have to say the buck ninety-nine teaser price was definitely a good idea.
        Side note, I have no conscious memory of a Henry Vogel, may have run across him before, but if so it did not register. My impulse purchase was based on his post here, his covers, and the promise of a good read and new to me series.

        September 8, 2014
        • questionableprovenance #

          One problem with the cover: the chests of the protagonists. The guy’s could have been a little smaller, the woman’s a little/lot larger.

          Take that, SJW

          September 8, 2014
          • I really wish I could have used the retro ’50s style covers, but those were created with the Pulp-O-Mizer (http://thrilling-tales.webomator.com/derange-o-lab/pulp-o-mizer/pulp-o-mizer.html), which specifies the covers can’t be used for commercial publications.

            We’ve got a new artist doing the cover for the next book (the original had his studio washed out in a flood) and had the new artist also do a new cover for the first book to maintain artistic continuity. The paperbacks with the current cover won’t be available much longer, so grab ’em now before they become highly prized collector’s editions!

            September 8, 2014
      • Many thanks for buying the book and I hope you enjoy it.

        September 8, 2014
      • That’s how Cedar Sanderson and Julie C. Frost made sales to me, too. Right here on this blog. In reviving my moribund blog, I even reviewed them, since I enjoyed them both! (scotianrealm dot com)

        And in general…it’s amazing how he squishes the entire publishing industry down into something that only really exists to cater to his tastes. And that’s going away. The…Horror!

        September 8, 2014
    • The first fix is free 🙂

      September 8, 2014
  7. “Because in this world, there’s lots of people who’ll read what _they_ like.”

    Yup – exactly. They’ll read what they like, not what an editor in a high-rise building in New York thinks what they _ought_ to read. When I was trying to get an agent for my first and second books, (which are Historical Novels Set on the Mid-19th Century American Frontier) I lost count of how many snotty replies I got back, to the effect that their agency didn’t _do_ Westerns. (And me saying – but they’re historical fiction set on the frontier – did not butter any parsnips.) But there is a huge audience out there, of readers who loved Zane Grey and Elmer Kelton and want moremoremore. If I could write faster and didn’t have the Tiny Publishing Bidness to consider and tend, I could turn out a Lone Star Sons adventure collection ever six months or so, and I’ll bet I would clean up.

    Speaking of Lone Star Sons, my brother the graphic artist has the cover almost finished – and as soon as he does, I’ll start taking advance orders, on my website, for delivery in the first week of October, slightly in advance of the official release in mid-October.

    September 8, 2014
    • Eamon J. Cole #

      Do please remind when the time comes. I’d like to jump on a pre-order.

      September 8, 2014
      • Sure – this week, I think – just go to http://www.celiahayes.com and look for the Lone Star Sons page.

        September 8, 2014
        • Eamon J. Cole #

          Many thanks!

          September 8, 2014
          • Hey, I’ve gone and done it anyway – put up the page and a paypal button for advance copies. Even though I don’t yet have the final cover. I thought I might as well, since I had the time today.
            http://www.celiahayes.com/lone-star-sons
            I’ll mail advance copies out on October 8th, so readers will have them just about the time that they go up on Amazon, et cetera.

            September 8, 2014
            • Eamon J. Cole #

              Done! Might you contact me at eamon jc 2014 on yahoo for a quick offline note?

              September 8, 2014
  8. questionableprovenance #

    Perfesser Freer:

    You said, and I quote, “And one man’s good book is another man’s Hugo winner.”

    Please clarify your intent: “… is another man’s superb work of art”, or, given the current situation, “… is another man’s piece of PC/SJ excrement.”

    September 8, 2014
    • A Hugo is not much of a measure quality to most people any more, even those who frantically gamed to keep it PC/SJ excrement. To some of us it’s a don’t touch this sign now. A pity. Some very good books won the prize back-in-the-day. Let’s say’ Hugo winner’ would probably make me back off, and Nebula winner would be ‘back off as far as possible.’

      September 8, 2014
      • questionableprovenance #

        So ultimately, the invisible hand wins once again. The way to decide on purchases is a reasonable integration of Amazon sales figures and Amazon reviews.

        September 8, 2014
  9. I don’t think this guy knows anything about the indy market. Not sure he knows all that much about the traditional market either.

    September 8, 2014
  10. robfornow #

    I thought he had a comprehensive list of points- for debate. I agree with Dave on this one and won’t list comments on any since I do. However, I do have an opinion in regard to the future. In 1960 and nineteen years old, I worked gas stations a lot. We had almost constant ‘gas wars’ and stations were dying right and left. There were no independents. Today, we still have the majority of the ‘national gas companies’ plus there are numerous independents and the price of gas counting inflation is about the same as it was in 1960. Yep, interesting times ahead but like the man in the movie ‘The Leopard’ said “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    September 8, 2014
  11. Angus Trim #

    Thanks Dave. Nice article

    A comment or three on the trends. As I’m waiting for the first cover to be done, and am struggling with the other “get the finished book ready to publish times five”, I’ve been studying and reflection on some of the industry stuff.

    “Quick reads” were a thing back in the 60’s. A pocket book meant that a worker could put a book in his back pocket, go to work, and on the way home on the bus or train get some reading in. Could probably finish it in the evening. They averaged 40k to 60k words.

    Modern Trad Publishers today want 100k words minimum from a writer in the SF&F genre. Never mind that only a few authors can write books in this range and keep them entertaining throughout {Larry Correia and the Colonel come to mind}, but these aren’t quick reads.

    Having worked with a libprog writing manager, and having heard his take on “content”, modern trad pub books are filled with filler to reduce the amount of “content”. Classic H. Beam Piper, Roger Zelazny, Poul Anderson, and Robert E. Howard need not apply today. Too much content.

    Today a lot of sf&F has to be filled with social justice issues in order to be published by the trad outfits. Entertainment value falls far below that in value as far as the publishers go, nevermind what the customer base wants.

    Indie authors have the opportunity to win on all three, “Quick Reads”, “content” {action or something interesting like swapping spit}, and an entertaining story.

    My take on it anyway.

    September 8, 2014
    • Angus, most of the Trad pubs would look at you in puzzlement ‘What is this content of which you speak?’

      My own feeling on length is summarized by this: ‘A book is as long as it needs to be’. Different authors and different stories have different natural lengths. Likewise there is a market and readers for 250K books and 40K books (and a few of these will be the same people). Length was dictated in contracts. A stupid idea, but you learned how to work to it – some by padding and some – as I’m a poor hand at padding, by adding characters which add sub-plots. My suspicion is the 50-70K zone is really going to be the largest area, but with some types of books (for specific markets) being longer – like the summer holiday read, and others being shorter (the commute read)

      Indy has some disadvantages, but it can indeed be fast and regularly produced, fast moving and reasonably priced and for a piece of the market that isn’t drowned in supply – that’ll work.

      September 8, 2014
  12. Seems like this fellow didn’t do much research, just kind of spouted off predictions off the cuff. It really feels like one of those college english papers where someone remembered it was due the next day and figured they’d make a lot of big hand waves and no one would look close and see that they were full of shit.

    September 8, 2014
  13. Uncle Lar #

    Always found it interesting how the mundane media waxes poetic over how J.K. Rowling struggled, shopping “Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone” to a dozen publishers before one small house took a chance on her. They showcase such situations to laud the author’s perseverance. I consider it an almost criminal inditement of traditional publishing. In short, their oh so correct filtering mechanism has always been disfunctional, but self sustaining since its victims never saw the light of day.
    Had Rowling given up sooner, or Bloombury’s chairman not had a eight year old daughter to vet the book, Harry Potter would have been lost to us, as well as those countless thousands of new child readers the series brought into the fold.
    Side note, when Scholastic bought the American rights to the first book they insisted on changing the title from Philosopher to Sorcerer feeling that the American reading public wouldn’t understand the original title. As a new, if well received, first time author, Rowling caved to their demands. Yet another example of the regard or lack thereof to which our traditional publishing establishment holds its customers.

    September 8, 2014
  14. Oh, noes! The model I grew up in has changed! Someone moved my cheese!

    If you asked me to name what I like most about the developing new publishing model, it’s twofold:

    1. Anyone can get in. Including those who don’t do query letters very well. Including those whose ideas might clash the with Officially Approved Gatekeepers’ ideas. Including a guy who wants to spend less time begging someone to publish his work and more time writing & interacting directly with the readers.

    2. The royalties are paid honestly.

    September 8, 2014
    • And 2 (plus the fact they’re lot more generous) is the clincher for me.

      September 8, 2014
  15. I agree with point 3. Like JK Rowling, I “write books I would want to read, or have my “children” read. I believe in “value,” defined as I’d pay to buy it. As as I mentioned earlier, I have an effective income of $42/month. minus ~$25/mo for a newspaper subscription. So, my “wish list” is currently at 331 books. To be pared down with Christmas/Birthday present funds.
    I got turned on to Pam Uphoff’s “Wine of the God’s” series with a “free book.” D–n her, now I have one more author competing for those precious dollars, to buy more of the series. I’m afraid to try one of Sarah’s, non Musketeer books, for fear of the same. In a way, I’m glad the Tragic Publishing doesn’t care about my income. It means nearly all their e-books are on the wait list. In 20214, I bought *one* L.E. Modessit e-book at “Publisher” price. I bought a _bunch_ more at more reasonable prices, from indie authors.

    September 8, 2014
    • If I could ask a potentially indelicate question. What do you consider a reasonable price for an average-ish novel? I’m curious about ballpark figure not too specific. I know there are variables and quite a few of them.

      September 8, 2014
  16. There are a lot of authors books I now buy because they were:

    1. Offered to me for free – Dave Freer, Eric Flint are just two of the authors I buy everything they write simply because I got it free from the Baen Free Library.

    2. A free book – which allows me to see the quality of the author. I get a lot of free books from Amazon – I’m a fast reader – so I read most books in an hour if that. So I try out an author for free, and if it’s starting to be crap, I can read the end, and then remove it from my reader. If it’s a good book, I buy what they sell (unless they are from Hatchette publishing because they want me to pay hardback prices for ebooks).

    3. Available – that’s right, just available. Based in Australia, I found Baen originally because getting any books to Australia cost a fortune. When the rest of the world complains about paperback hitting $10, we are paying $20+ for paperbacks and have been for years. I can find an author someone recommends or has a good review, go to Amazon and have it in my hot little hands without minutes for the price of a coffee or lunch. That’s so amazing to me, that I can’t tell you how much it changes my world.

    The article Dave refers to is the woe is me, poor print industry, how will they survive and it’s all about the authors BS post that comes up every year or so. I remember reading Eric in his Palavers about DRM books being decried by the publishing industry as the ‘death of the book industry’, online purchases – the death of the book industry, print companies not getting sales – the death of books – umm, seems there are still a lot of books around.

    It’s not the death of books, it’s the death of how it was done traditionally and frankly from reading about it and talking with author friends, that death was long overdue.

    The print industry has held authors at gun point for decades. They stuck to traditional ways of doing things and didn’t want to come into the 20th century, let alone the 21st.

    They also controlled the authors. Your book is not commercial, you have to change this or that, we won’t publish that because of.., your royalties will come when and where we say, and working them out vs what you think your sales were never seemed to match. It was a hat in hand, please sir may I have more approach that caused many an author to give up. I read slush piles (yes I’m that weird) and some great books never saw the light of day because they ‘weren’t commercial enough’. Now with self publishing, the public decides if it’s commercial, not the print industry (who often got it wrong).

    I love free books, I love independent authors and if it means they will write more books and make them more available to me, then I say Well Done Authors, please keep writing those books.

    September 8, 2014
  17. jon spencer #

    How many Grand Masters have degrees other than MFA?
    I know I would rather read a book where the author has some real world experience.

    September 8, 2014
    • Draven #

      Most of the grand masters didn’t have an MFA.

      September 9, 2014

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