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Mud, Glorious Mud…

“Mud, mud, glorious mud,
Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.”
Flanders and Swann – The Hippopotamus’s Song
So come let us wallow… Now a few weeks ago I wrote of the poor fellow who decried the terrible tragic sinking into the swamp, the morass of self-published drekk, where jewels (such, naturally, as his own offerings) would be lost. No one would ever sell more than fifty copies. Alas, alack, alackaday-dee…(and various other suitable cries of woe, and occasional alarums).

Let me draw you a picture of a hill to comfort you. Because, you know, if you don’t want to be down in the swamp… what you need is hill. Well, mostly. As a mountaineer I can tell you near-vertical bogs do exist, and many an adventure hangs… or falls, thereby, but that aside water mostly runs downhill. And where there is not more land than water, it becomes very attractive to amorous Hippopotami. If you’re a hippo, it’s a good place to be. This may not be true for aging hipsters bemoaning Indy sales. You’ll have to forgive the hokey pictures – I got coreldraw for my birthday and today I tried to use it. Take the will for the deed – because it makes my point.
mudcurve 1 001

So look, behold, and otherwise espy: A hill. Otherwise known as a normal Gaussian distribution. Stick with ‘hill’. It’s simpler and rhymes with thrill, which is what the author who does not want to be in the swamp gets, when he finds himself on a dry piece of the hill. Now that doesn’t have to be the top of the hill – just a place where there is no rain (books that can soak in there) and thirsty ground (readers who want books that appeal to them). It can be very big hill, so a dry patch can be quite enough to make an author a living.

Now the hill can ‘describe’ all sorts of things, from an interest in gay romance, or how readers feel about a particular author, to the IQ of a country. The high point of the hill compared to the high point hill that is the demographic of the whole body of possible readers isn’t the same, and, duh, obviously, the biggest hill possible matches the demographic of the possible reading populace precisely. That’s a big hill, if we just talk English first language and an IQ of over 90… say 200 million strong. Some of those will read very little. Some of those will consume a lot of books. Again you can draw a hill for consumption, and the ‘sweet spot’ highest of that hill is not with the few reading 5 books a day (like me, on a reading jag) nor with the one book in ten years, or with the very bright, or the stupid. It’s probably with the medium-bright, and 2-3 books a month people.

Once upon a time, when the world was so very new and all, men wrote books for men.
A little bit of that leaked into the female half of the possible reader population, but really, it made their heads overheat and explode and there was no point in doing something that might appeal to them.
mud2 001

As time moved on and the world was slightly more shop-soiled and worldly-wise, publishing began to realize that women spent money and really, no one knew or cared what sex the money had come from. And the books, and writers (the lady novelist…) began to cater for both genders. And the Bronte’s and Austen’s found a ready audience, and some of it wasn’t female (the area under the curve represents buyers.) And so, gradually, the publishing industry and writers adapted to pleasing and, not surprisingly, representing their audience. Of course there were bits on the edges, or out of socio-political favor who were ignored. But, in general, this was not a huge part of the curve.

mudcurve 1 003

And, let us be real here, most of the readers didn’t care if the 0.1% – or (5 or 10%) the possible reading population – be these the worshipers of the sky-spaghetti-monster, or gay, or ex-Lithuanians didn’t get books that appealed. There was a small but real market for these people, just as there was a small (maybe not as small) market for sf or fantasy. Let someone who is interested in it, who fits there him/herself, write it. For a few writers it can be a good niche.

The problem of course is when you have too many writers in one niche, especially if that’s a small niche. Which cuts to core of what this blog post is about (and mud, of course)

It’s no secret that the bulk of the NY Traditional publishing establishment has steadily moved leftwards, and nowhere more so than in sf-fantasy, which has been more accepting of the left and quite open to the avant garde for their time, for the better part of seventy years – in other words, the claim that sf/fantasy ever was a right-wing, sexist, racist etc etc totally fails to hold water. Taken in a direct comparison to other genres of the same time, sf always was more wide open to the entire spectrum than any other section of literature. That, for a genre that sold to a part of the demographic (those prepared to read sf) was its strength. It’s a strength which has gone to the opposite in the last thirty odd years.
First you had this

mud4 002
Which when the publishing establishment controlled the rainfall (books that could naturally soak in there) … meant that the rest of the hill could go dry or take the run-off, but they weren’t interested (especially in sf/fantasy, in appealing to those sectors. They could like or be educated by it. There were aspects to those authors that might appeal to some readers. And when you controlled access to retail (which is what tradpub did) You could dictate what was available.
So they pushed it to this.
mud5 001

And then of course… it got far more doctrinaire. You had people like Orson Scott Card tossed from the fold because while the rest of his tenets might be ‘progressive’, he didn’t approve of gay marriage. And Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg daring to call a woman a lady… OUT, unclean unclean and so on, narrowing down on PC tenets, producing this.
mud6 001
And then this.
mud7 001
Which is far too much for the tiny part of the reading population in that part of the curve. It exists only because the dry hill is supposed to take it, and as declining sales of sf from tradpub (IIRC they’re down another 6% this year) many people either go dry or go indy. The result is the swamp. And it’s all mud, all the way down. Which if you happen to like mud flavor and color… there’s no shortage. In fact 50 books might be a good sale. Meanwhile the hill is dry.

Of course, that is over-simplifying it. There is no reason a hard-core left-winger can’t write books that appeal to readers elsewhere on the political front. It gets a lot harder when the ‘message’ trumps and invades every bit of story. It gets a lot harder when the villain is always the fellow outside your doctrinaire clique – and you still expect that outsider to buy it and enjoy identifying with the bad guy and being vilified – and knowing that the author obviously is applying a false stereotype. Try and imagine being a black reader, where any black character spend their time either apologizing for sins of all black folk, as if they were his own, or being the vilest of nasty people… I don’t see you buying another book by the author, especially if there is something else on offer, which, um, is the situation now starting to happen.

The big tag of course for indy writers is identifying the empty/under-served niches, and identifying the short medium and long term trends there. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of data available. And yes, it’s common sense – write about subjects and in genres and subgenres that interest you, which you know about, but you’d have to be a very mono-focus fellow to have that making your life easy. I write high fantasy, low fantasy, hard sf, soft sf… Steam punk (well, coal-punk) Alt history, humor, I’ve just finished a cozy whodunit, and realistically that’s just scratching the surface. They’re definitely not PC because the PC swamp couldn’t get any fuller (why do people write this? Is this really how they see the world with token minorities and prescribed attitudes? Or is this because they assume this works because there is so much of it?)

I think the only clues to take is 1) Is there a lot of the particular type of relatively generic stuff? 2) If so does it match the interests of a large demographic segment of the market?
If 1) is true, and 2) is false, don’t go there for ever-so-much, unless you have a new trick.
If 1) is false and 2) is true, you’re golden (I suspect this held true for the early adopters of indy Mil sf. It will probably change if too many suddenly try to write something they have no background in.)
If both are false or true, well, you could do okay.

A curious twist on another popular myth (at least with many trad sf/fantasy writers in their 30’s and 40’s) is that sf was a right wing bastion (false) until they stormed it, but now the future is solidly ‘progressive’, and it’s just old privileged white men (curiously many of these old white men seem to be female) yearning for their lost bastion, gnawing away at the wonderful Hugo awards. Oddly just as many of these new writers are rapidly heading into becoming old privileged white… and quite a lot of them loudly feminist men. But they are convinced that socially and politically their views are what sf/fantasy will be now and forever, once these old people die off, and will we hurry up about it.

Only… um. I had an interesting read of some UK stats that showed 20-30’s… drink less often, and use drugs less often, and are more conservative about money, than either of the previous two generations at that age. They’re also much more likely (in the UK) to vote conservative, than their predecessors. Partly this is rebellion, and partly circumstance, IMO. Socially yes, they are more ‘liberal’ about issues like homosexuality or race. But… well, three little observations here. The first is everything follows the money. The second is that this money reaction is a in itself a sign that things are tougher and more uncertain for young folk than they were when the previous cohorts were making their way through their 20’s. And nothing is more likely to turn those feeling the pinch against any group they feel are getting it easier than them. That has been the product of a PC culture – special perks for special groups. I think it’ll start with being sick of the smallest and most vocal groups and work its way up. Thirdly – people become more conservative as they get older – this is a fair well known and documented fact. So… if this lot are already more conservative… what are their tastes in sf going to be like when they’re fifty? And given that the next generation of the current 30-40’s kids are likely to rebel too… and there is only one way that can go.

And no I am not trying to put you off faithfully cloning whatever ‘new and unique’ thing trad pub is claiming is new and unique – just like its predecessor. But that is the swamp.

Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood.

And now for the obligatory advertising (which pays for the sand in the Arena). Yonder picture is a link to book of mine. Dive in with an ear-splitting splosh

while I work on some more.

68 Comments
  1. jselvy #

    First, happy birthday to you.
    Second, I don’t know about anyone else but if I want to be preached at I’d go to church or turn on MSN. I read for pleasure. Not for a message.
    Third, I can see Sam Schall as an old white man but I just can’t force Sarah A. Hoyt into that pigeon hole. No matter how hard I push.

    September 15, 2014
    • Sarah fits badly into any pigeon-hole. This may be because she is not a pigeon 🙂

      And I’d expect a better, more original sermon in church…
      The birthday was little back, I just haven’t got to playing with the program yet, but thank you anyway. 🙂

      September 15, 2014
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        Yeah. That metaphor is for the birds.

        September 15, 2014
      • Mr. Freer, the sermons are better at church because in most seminaries the preachers of whatever stripe or title are being taught rhetoric, making an argument, and actually giving said speech. (Some of the content I’ve heard is grey goo theological drivel but that’s a rather different issue. It’s usually well presented theological drivel.)

        September 16, 2014
  2. So all I have to do is find a subgenre with lots of potential readers and not enough written yet . . . hmm, I’ll have to check out the Amazon keywords list and see if anything looks likely.

    Then, no doubt, my backbrain will insist on my writing something entirely different . . .

    September 15, 2014
    • Yes. Here’s a couple of possibilities:

      “Human Wave”
      “Counter-Modernism”

      Oh, and read Aristotle’s Poetics, the parts about “mimesis” and “catharsis”.

      September 15, 2014
      • All mimesis were the borogoves and the mome raths . . . Oh, wait, that’s not what you meant.

        September 16, 2014
  3. I am delighted whenever someone quotes Flanders & Swann, and this was a jou of my childhood, the hippopotami filling my dreams. I think by your calculations, I must be a mudder. But I also go against your statement that we get more conservative as we grow older. I was once a liberal, but am now a progressive. (I’m not sure I moved at all, but that the US moved steadily to the right over the last few decades is a fact.)

    I write fantasy and it’s probably PC, but that’s where I live. Writing friends in my local workshop like it, but since we’re all in the socialist city of Burlington, VT, that’s not surprising either. Is there a market? I will be trying to find out sometime toward the end of the year. My book is not dystopian, so that probably hurts it too. So maybe I should change, and write less PC stuff. But this is not about market share to me. I am following the advice of Alice Walker (I think), that if the book i want to read is unavailable, then it’s my job to write it. And that’s what I’m doing.

    September 15, 2014
    • As your customer, I’m a reader not a writer. I don’t think you hear what Dave is saying. Don’t write less PC…DO write more interesting. I’ll buy and read interesting. I won’t buy preachy just for preachy and dull is done.

      One of the most interesting SF books I’ve read in years was Darwin’s Radio. I had to slog past all of Bear’s political hatred for the Republicans to enjoy it. His book would have been more interesting without his railings. But he had a great SF concept and a great story to tell.

      More interesting. That’s the ticket. Then if you want, slip in your message with an interesting character holding the view you want.

      Story first.

      September 15, 2014
      • I’m being told by the men reviewing my work in a workshop, that I’ve got a great story and I need more detail. Funny that I only have men reviewing it, but they like the story and they want more of it. I am happy to oblige!

        September 17, 2014
    • Angus Trim #

      If I may offer an opinion……. I’m a little right of center {read am big on the 2nd amendment, strong on defense, and think having a well defined southern border is important}…….

      But I don’t mind reading an interesting story if it’s a little leftist. Even maybe more than a little left. A fella named Mack Reynolds used to write about a welfare culture, but it was background to his stories. He wrote some very interesting action stories. And I read them for the action, and his voice.

      When writing, I try hard {initially} to bear this in mind. The 2nd amendment bleeds out of me, but I try hard to write an interesting story. The action, a touch of humor, the guy that can’t connect with the gals, etc…….

      Interesting story trumps cultural background {left or right} of the story.

      Another thing is that you’re not please everybody. Some folks read for the characters. Some for the background {stellar empire, social experiment, fantasy world}, and some for action.

      Decide where you fit as a reader and a writer, and do your best that way. Entertainment will sell. If it entertains enough people you should do well.

      September 15, 2014
    • bhalsop – One the few things Misty Lackey taught me that has been of incredible value to me was that you have to trail foreshadowing 3 times to be sure the audience gets it :-). And I did say, three times, that it’s not that no one can or should succeed with a left wing perspective. (I avoid the terms liberal – as in free, or progressive – as in going forward and improving, just as I avoid the word conservative – they carry meanings, spin, neither of which actually reflect the socio-politcs of most of the people on either extreme. At the moment, as an outsider, not fitting neatly in any camp, I’d say the left wing are pretty conservative, and the right more liberal ;-/. It seems to be more about who is in power than anything else.). The point I am trying to make is if you have little fair for the girl scouts, and there are a hundred visitors, and ten stalls. Eight of them sell very sweet cookies, the ninth sells Sushi and the tenth sells bacon, lettuce and tomato rolls . Now, who is going to make money? Answer – most people like BLT’s, and there is no competition – she’s going to make a mint. Sushi is (let’s say) as popular as very sweet. But the very sweet splits their income 8 ways. So: you are girl number 11. What should you choose to sell? If you simply can’t do bacon or bear raw fish, you do need to make that sweet cookie very special looking, and maybe not as sickly sweet as the rest. You’re entirely free to merely sell the precise same cookies as your 8 friends, and avoid the weird stuff those others are doing, but don’t complain that you can’t sell many cookies.

      The age thing isn’t universal, but it is generally true that, with the acquisition of assets, people become much keener on keeping them. Likewise with income, people get less keen on tax (they often think it’s a good thing for others). Generally one finds actual experience of real life is ameliorating of revolutionary zeal ;-/
      Dystopia is so yesterday ;-/

      September 15, 2014
      • I have actually retired and am what is often called the elderly poor. So that might explain why I did not do what you say is the normal path. I was very well off in terms of income, but disabled out, and it hurt the long term badly. Even when I was well-heeled, I was prepared to pay more taxes if it meant more money for the poor, elderly or not.

        But I’m glad dystopia is so yesterday. I had a hard time reading it, and I will usually read even terrible dreck if the story is good.

        September 17, 2014
  4. Christopher M. Chupik #

    It’s all part of the general trend of lefties in the media going out of their way to offend and alienate half their potential audience, then scratching their heads afterwards when they don’t understand why sales/ratings/box office are down.

    September 15, 2014
    • Their ‘logic’ makes no sense, really. What makes them think that if they’re the only authors available that I’d be giving them my money out of ‘desperation’ to read? Do they imagine themselves to be dealers of a drug that has no other source? Or perhaps, think that readers are like abused wives who, if isolated from support and chances of escape, will turn to them ‘because nobody else will be there for you’? and like the abusive spouse who would rather that their metaphorical spouse be dead than ‘let anyone else have you’ rabidly go after anyone who refuses to march to their lockstep?

      No thanks. *shudder*

      And yes, the mindset does remind me very strongly of abusive spouses’ of both genders’ tactics and well, abuse.

      September 15, 2014
      • Christopher M. Chupik #

        I think that is the best description of it I’ve heard so far. 😦

        September 15, 2014
      • Arwen #

        Even I restricted myself to books that were originally published before 1900*, I would never run out of quality books to read, especially since I am a rereader.

        All the world’s books are all available to me. They can’t stop me or pick what I read.

        *Not that I have any intention of doing that.

        September 15, 2014
        • *laughs* When I got bored of what was on offer I went and spent several years – and this was back before fan translations were widely available! – absorbed in manga and anime. The stories were more engrossing and fun to me than the books available firsthand were.

          And there are the wonderful treasure troves that are secondhand bookstores…

          Never mind that there’s plenty of folks out there who are writing and creating stories online and sharing them for free -fanfiction, online RPGs, people who ROLEPLAY and blogging their game session in story format… One of the more humorous examples / fluff of that I’d seen was the leaning on the fourth wall written by… I think it was Ree Soesbee? … example where she has Doji Shizue scold a samurai and a ninja that they’d used up their turns, so sit the @#$)(*@#$ down and listen to her story!

          Really, I have options. What makes them think that if they were the ONLY ‘writers’ available, I’d read their crap?

          September 15, 2014
      • Indeed. Shadowdancer. That’s – I believe – what has led to the situation where the number of potential readers is going up, and the sales down. It’s not competing other media (or not just) it’s a case of there choices. They hate that, and yes, would rather kill the genre than accept other kinds of sf.

        September 15, 2014
        • Christopher M. Chupik #

          They honestly believe people want to pay good money to be insulted.

          September 15, 2014
      • The reason it makes no sense is that your values are different from theirs. Only a dirty capitalist would care about selling lots of books. They write to be recognized as brilliant by their peer group, to be talked about in all the right social circles, and be granted awards (hugos) for banging out yet another iteration of the currently socially approved paradigm.

        Readers don’t matter. Most of the social circle doesn’t even read. They have people who read for them, called Critics, and literary critics are the gatekeepers for the elite social circle (Although they imagine themselves to be the leaders, they are soon smacked down if they forget their lowly station as the poor sap who has to actually read that crap.) Pre-formulated opinions are bandied about at the Right Parties, and adopted by all and sundry on the basis of the social standing of the highest promulgator.

        September 16, 2014
  5. How can a “near-vertical bog” exist? Why doesn’t it just slump downhill?

    September 15, 2014
    • I assume it gets bogged down in the mud on the way down, or gets replenished from a stream.

      September 15, 2014
    • Uncle Lar #

      Waterfall.

      September 15, 2014
    • I’d imagine a very weathered rough rock face that catches dust and water, plants take root, and rockclimbers find all the rotten spots about the time they’re depending on said rock knob to take their weight.

      September 15, 2014
    • Well, it started – long ago, as a little dust in a damp crack in a place that sees a lot of moisture, and then some moss grew on that, and that accumulated more dirt and the moss died, and more moss grew on that – and so on. It’s mostly dead plants, with roots from the top layer of live ones sort of ‘balancing/clinging’ to almost nothing. And the whole lot is very spongy and retains a lot of water. The water is moving through, downwards, but it is taking a long time to do it. (you actually get whole peat bogs on steep slopes in the Drakensberg). In the fullness of time pieces will fall, but roots hold it all together… At least until you add the weight of a rock-climber (or baboon) to it…

      September 15, 2014
      • … takes notes for the “interesting ways for Mother Nature to kill you” folder …

        What? Like all you guys don’t have one too.

        September 15, 2014
        • I believe I am considered one of the greatest living (at least for now) experts at finding out what new and interesting ways mother nature has figured out to kill me. She’s relentlessly and endlessly inventive.

          September 15, 2014
        • It’s rather…dementedly fun to research, isn’t it? XD (Yes, I have one, but mostly filed away in my head. It started being compiled in childhood.)

          September 15, 2014
          • I suspect Dave likes hands on experimentation. And fortunately Mother Nature has been fooled, so far.

            September 16, 2014
      • So, pretty much exactly what people try to produce by planting trees and bushes in land-slide prone areas?

        September 15, 2014
        • I think the only real difference, Foxfier, is that the roots of the trees and bushes may have somewhere to go. I’ve had a whole mat of the sort of peel off little bumps and ledges like a carpet. Mostly trees are OK, as they tend to only grow where they can get their roots into a crack and do the monkey-fist in a calabash thing. But I did see one idiot peel a whole tree off the face (no death, I was at the top end of the rope – found myself holding him and the tree…

          September 15, 2014
          • Some of the nastier slides are where they put trees and plants on about a foot of soil on top of rock, and expected that to fix it. Obviously most common in new developments, but I’ve seen some where the forest service (or some other gov’t agency) tried to turn a rockslide into a “stable hillside.”
            Result: slide with trees in it.

            Thank goodness, never seen that as up close as you!

            September 15, 2014
            • Well, to be fair, it DOES work… over oh, I dunno, several decades to a century of letting the tree roots burrow into the rock.

              Not over a year or five though.

              And yeah. Slide with trees in it. *shudder*

              September 15, 2014
              • Interesting.

                I don’t know much about steep inclines. There aren’t many around where I live. Norway has them, but I haven’t visited there more than a couple of times. 🙂

                September 16, 2014
            • Alan #

              ‘Nother one: From a geologist who really looked at the cause of a really bad recent landslide here in Washington state: Last ice age, retreating over cycles, laid down multiple layers of clay over sand. Forward thru time, river valley cuts through, ground water from highlands seeps down and drains out several of the layers of sand. A smaller slide happens, and the government (not really understanding what’s going on) puts up a wall to keep more slides from contaminating the river (to protect the fish). Said wall blocks a layer or two of sand, which becomes saturated, well lubricated, and lets go with a massive slide that washes away the river, an adjacent paved road, 30-some houses in a development across the river, and about 150 people. Given the geometry of the hill & historical data, any slide was expected to stop at less than 1/4 as far as the 1 mile it went…in about 1 minute!

              September 16, 2014
              • Was considering mentioning that one by name, but the astroturfers got out early claiming it was because of a different cause or seven (including not putting more trees in as an enviro group wanted) — even though a good half-dozen professionals have been officially warning that they were Doing It All Wrong, and even plain old builders that drive by have been saying it was gonna go.

                September 16, 2014
          • I found myself thinking “Bonzai do not make good handgrips.”

            September 15, 2014
  6. I’m imagining a mass of mud and plants, only held in by surface tension, and the moment you break the tension, mudslide. It would make an interesting scene 🙂

    September 15, 2014
    • that’s… pretty close. Only ‘interesting’ has various values 🙂 (including, ‘Oh shit I am going to die’)

      September 15, 2014
  7. I know this is about reader pools and SF n stuff, but if I may open a side discussion.

    The mathematics of this has always bothered me. What ‘zackly is the variable we are measuring in your bell curves? What single variable is it that we can draw a number line, place someone on it politically and talk about left and right from there.?

    How do you get from this one single variable to the concept that it’s ok to kill a fetal human being but it’s not ok to kill a grown serial killer? I’m talking math here. Left vs right on a number line. I have no desire to debate the actual issue. Math.

    What single variable measures left vs right for gay marriage and attitude towards Keynesian stimulus?

    I challenge you to name that variable.

    The whole left vs right has always struck me as a cognitive dissonance issue that produces a lot of smoke and not much light, because I don’t think there is a single variable that can do all these things yet we pretend and argue loudly that there is.

    The bell curve is single variable statistical calculus. What we really need is an N-space with each single issue measuring how much government control you think is good. People whose vector plots close to the origin are small government types. People whose vector is out further from the origin are bigger government types.

    Yeah, I know, good luck with that.

    September 15, 2014
    • Uncle Lar #

      Of course you are correct. Every real world situation will have so many dependent and independent variables that it would be impossible for the human brain to comprehend let alone analyze and reach a conclusion. Trying to do so would result in complete paralysis.
      So what we do is make simplifying assumptions, estimates, group dependent variables together into meta characteristics. Create an approximation we can wrap our heads around.
      Abortion and the death penalty are single point issues, easy to determine which side a person is on, just ask. Left/right, liberal/conservative, not so much. You have to go with an amalgamation of data points to place an individual on some imaginary curve. And being individuals of infinite variation that fit is never perfect.
      All that aside, it is fairly obvious that whatever you call the current philosophy that has taken over traditional publishing and several genre writer’s organizations does not mesh well with the desires of their ultimate customers, the reading public. Were that not the case business would be booming, not descending into the swamp.
      Change is always hard for those invested in the traditional paradigm. It’s also full of opportunity for those willing to adapt to the new order. And it’s incredibly frustrating for those who wish to deny reality and force others into an unsustainable fiction of their own creation.

      September 15, 2014
    • robfornow #

      Uncle Lar does a good job below. However, Sarah has written a whole article addressing your question as to ‘the points’ in today’s post. Because it is not the individual points ; but, as to how they are presented that makes one ‘right wing or left wing.’ Go to According to Hoyt for the article.

      September 15, 2014
    • It’s questions like this that make me glad I’m a Bayesian. Easy: the normal curve there is a hypothetical distribution based on the Central Limit Theorem, which basically says “if you’ve got enough data it always gets close to a normal distribution.” Doesn’t *matter* what you’re measuring; you’re assuming that whatever it is that causes people to buy books, it’s approximately Gaussian. But whatever it is, we assume that a book with whatever characteristic or set of characteristics compose the independent variable has a probability of getting sold according to that distribution.

      The red parts are the a priori distributions that SJWs are assuming.

      A good Bayesian would observe the difference and compute a new posteriori distribution that more closely approximates the hypothetical real distribution.

      A good SJW says “the beatings must continue until people buy what we tell them is good for them.”

      Long and long ago, I wrote true confession stories. At the time I was doing so, people were noting the decline in circulation for the New Yorker and the death of magazines like the Saturday Evening P{ost that publish fiction. “There’s no market for fiction any more!” they would wail.

      At the same time, _any one_ of the TCs had 5-10 times the circulation of the New Yorker and together probably had 100 times the circulation of all the “serious” fiction magazines. Porn had just come out of the closet — add that and the fiction market was _immense_.

      It just wasn’t the _right_ fiction.

      September 15, 2014
      • Uncle Lar #

        Yep, folks are funny that way. They always vote, either with their dollars or with their feet.
        I do suspect that for most of the SJW crowd they have been told what to think their entire lives, and once they achieve any margin of power over others they figure it’s their turn. Sadly mistaken of course, but as you say the beatings will continue for exactly as long as we let them. Making them stop is simple. Just take away any and every remaining bit of leverage they have over the recalcitrant rest of us. Which is what Baen did in a particular niche market, and indie is now doing over all. And there is nothing a petty dictator hates worse than being rendered powerless. That is starting to sink in and the death throes are quite the show aren’t they?

        September 15, 2014
      • Okay, so you seem to be a good person to ask.
        What was the deal with true confession magazines? Was it supposed to be first person fiction, or was it supposed to be nonfiction?

        September 16, 2014
    • I think Dave is playing with his new toy to try to graphically explain that the preferences of readers, AKA the main bell curve, are of all sorts.

      And then superimposing the bell curve of the available reading material, at various times, as published by the traditional publishers, and changing over time. First catering to men. Then the publishers noticing that women were also reading, and expanded their customer base by _also_producing what the female readers wanted.

      But then something odd happened, and the publishers started catering to the women readers _instead of_ the male readers. Why? I don’t know, maybe they didn’t even realize quite what they were doing. But when their customer base shrank and sales drooped, they frantically tried to do more of it. Or maybe it started with political convictions, PC, and then the feminazis, or GHH’s and SJW and . . . now it looks like a whole lot of publishers don’t have a clue about their customers.

      But Indie! Oh yeah, now all sorts of stuff is available to the readers, and we can sell what _we_ like to write.

      Math? Figures? Numbers? I suspect Amazon has them, but they don’t share.

      The interesting point of Dave’s curves, is that the bulk of the readers, a huge chunk of the middle, are underserved by Trad Publishing, and we Indies can jump in and make a living by writing what they want.

      September 15, 2014
      • Angus Trim #

        The fun part of all this though, is convincing the right people to give your writing a try.

        Okay, that might not be the fun part. The writing is the fun part. The connection with the right readers is the challenging part. Particularly as subjective as all of this is.

        September 15, 2014
        • Angus, I am firm in my evidence-supported belief that targeting is just getting better. Write it.

          September 15, 2014
          • Angus Trim #

            Thanks Dave, and I think and hope you’re right. I’m now waiting for the cover on the first one, have the second one in “edit”, and the next three in the queue. I’m hoping for a mid-October release of the first one.

            Have already started another series….

            Thanks for a great article

            September 16, 2014
      • A good summary, Pam. Of particular accuracy seems to be the point that when sales drooped… they tried frantically not recapture the lost, but to move further down the same course. ‘Communism failed because we didn’t try hard enough! We need redouble our efforts…’

        September 15, 2014
        • I’m not sure if this is terrible (because it makes people in power behave in a stupid manner), or God’s way of saving us from the true believers.

          September 15, 2014
    • Well, Geoff, several people have answered it rather better than I would. My point is that the normal say center right/left person would have some positions that failed to fit the party line. For each of those they’d fit somewhere in a normal distribution for that issue. You could take a fair number of those, add weightings, and sum them. It would be possible. However where this breaks down is where one or other side becomes doctrinaire, and dictates that you shall hold that position on that issue or be cast forth. (Orson Scott Card being a good example). The end result is, yes, you get a more uniform — but far far smaller– group.

      September 15, 2014
      • Ok. Fun discussion. Now please go write more books with ‘dog’ in the title?

        September 16, 2014
        • Your wish may be my command, but in the fashion of the genie, it will seldom be what you actually wished for 🙂 (A book called that doggone cat may ensue.)

          September 17, 2014
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Super simple and explains everything.

      Right is Lincolnism-Shermanism. Left is opposition to Lincolnism-Shermanism.

      September 15, 2014
    • Alan #

      Fuzzy logic.

      September 16, 2014
  8. Cozy? I love cozies, was it out yet? Link? Never mind, I’ll go look…

    September 15, 2014
    • Eleanor #

      Hah! I had the same reaction. Couldn’t find it on Amazon though. ETA?

      September 15, 2014
      • That’s a good question as I’ve rather handed the next stage over to the beneficiaries (yes, I have given the rights, for 10 years, to what I consider a good cause. I put what little money I have where my big mouth is.). The book is done, edited first pass, proofed. The cover is first draft. I’ll give a lot more detail, here, when we’re ready to rock-n-roll. I have so far been assured that it’s an excellent read – so readers will get a good read, I hope 🙂

        September 15, 2014
    • Be patient 🙂 Not yet.

      September 15, 2014
  9. jselvy #

    For an author, such a file is a requirement. For me The Reader™ not so much. I prefer my authors to surprise in demise.

    September 15, 2014
  10. Totally off topic, but recalling a discussion we had a while ago about KU/KOLL. I finally got my spreadsheet for August where I had two KU/KOLL buys of Kiwi. I got $1.54 apiece for them. Considering the cover price is $0.99 and the normal royalty is $0.35, I have to say, it’s really good for shorts (especially KU). How long it will run that way, I have no idea, but for now… wow! I think this was my best month ever just from those two “rentals”.

    Which is kinda pathetic, but I not to worry, world conquering will come later.

    September 16, 2014

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