Credibility redux

Kudos to Dave for yesterday’s great post. I’m going to piggyback on it a bit.

I’ll admit I was at a bit of a loss about what to write today. For those of you following my blog, you know that real life has been hitting me hard and heavy of late. That means the brain has been focused on dealing with those issues and not with writing or writing-related topics. I’m not complaining. It is something we all face from time to time, especially when we have aging parents. Fortunately for me, the issues are slowly abating and life is finally starting to get back to normal.

Anyway . . . .

On the one Hugo related note I’m going to mention today, I find it ironic to see one of the most vocal critics of all things puppies saying that if we put as much effort into writing “great fiction” as we do into maintaining our “permanent snit”, we would have already written the next Foundation trilogy. It is ironic because he is the one who daily posts at least one — maybe more. I don’t take time to look at his posts unless they pop up on my wall for some reason — entry critical of the Puppies. It also points out the same fundamental issue between those who want the Hugos to remain as they are and those who support Sad Puppies. It is the issue of what is “great fiction” and who gets to decide. For me, I’ll let the readers decide. In my mind, they vote every time they put their money down to buy a book. I can see their votes every time I cash a royalty check. So far, I like how they are voting.

And that leads me into the first real topic of the day. We have just finished the second month of under the new payment rules for the Kindle Unlimited program. We don’t know for sure what the pay per normalized page viewed will be for August but we can look at the number of those pages that were read for each of our books in the program. Looking at my figures, they stayed pretty constant August compared to July. Certain genres had more “borrows” under the KU program than sales while others had more sales than “borrows”. The credibility will come — or not — over the next few months as we see how consistent Amazon is with payment per page. I know there are a number of shorter fiction authors who have cried foul over the new rules but, as a long fiction writer, I applaud the change. This is, perhaps, the fairest way to pay authors for their borrows. The only change I can foresee them putting into place right now — and it would be reasonable in my opinion — is to top out payment per normalized page to the amount an author would have made if the person borrowing the book had actually bought it.

Another thought on credibility came after reading this piece by Stephen King. There is the credibility — or perhaps reliability — between an author and her audience. The reading public doesn’t want to wait years and years between books in a series and yet they also don’t want something put out that is nothing but dreck, put out only because a deadline had to be met. Some authors only have one book in them. Others stress and strain over each and every word. There are those who will criticize authors who have high daily word counts or who publish more than one book every year or three. But the truth is, there is no formula that is correct for all. Just as there is no one definition on what is “great fiction”. It is subjective and every author needs to write at his own pace. You do what the story needs and requires, nothing more and nothing less — or at least your should. If you do, you will maintain a lot of your credibility with your audience. (And yes, I know. I know. I have three series going right now that I need to get books out on. I’m working on it. I swear I am.)

Finally, here’s an example of where too little, too late does not lend credibility to an association. In this case, the Author’s Guild has a post saying it it time to do away with the non-compete clause in publishing contracts. Of course, if you read the article, it actually goes into how to make such clauses “fair”. I have long argued that such clauses are the enemy of the author. My issue with AG finally speaking about about them is that it has taken them so long to do so. Where were they when authors were stripped of contracts and asked to return royalties because the author — gasp — dared to self-publish something while waiting for their traditionally published work to come out? Where were they when these clauses were used to sit on work by mid-list authors, preventing them from publishing the work elsewhere, even though the contract publisher knew it wasn’t going to buy the book?

Author’s Guild has lost much of its credibility with me over the last few years because of its stance against Amazon and the way it has overlooked indie publishing. This is just another example of how it, like much of traditional publishing, is behind the times.

 

46 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING, WRITING: PUBLISHING

46 responses to “Credibility redux

  1. Aimee Morgan

    Stephen King once wrote a book in a week. How cute. John Ringo’s fans watched him write a series of four novels in just over a month. Novels that required huge amounts of research to make the science realistic.

    Sorry. That was rude.

    There is no correlation between quality and quantity, nor between quality and frequency. I waited almost 10 years for Jean Auel to release her last book, and would have better spent that time waiting for Godot. I wait an average of 5 months between JD Robb books, and while she has written a couple of clunkers, the rest are good, enjoyable books, and I will continue to pre-order them as long as she continues to write them.

    As for the Puppy Kicker who suggests the Puppies need to focus on their craft? I dare him to put up any three of his books – his choice – against the Grimnoir Trilogy. The world building, character building, and overall story arc are the finest examples of the craft that I have seen in a long time.

    • Aimee who is the author of the Grimnoir Trilogy? When I put that phase into Amazons search box, I got 3 different series.

    • julieapascal

      Yay, another Grimnoir fan! And yes on the “craft” thing. It’s nearly invisible but the guy is a master… which is why it’s invisible. 🙂

      • Chris Chittleborough

        The trilogy is not just a cracking adventure story, it has some interesting ideas about how powerful people can and should fit into society.

    • Aimee, I’m with you on the Robb books. I know they aren’t going to be “great literature” but they do what I want — they entertain me. As for the guy telling us we’d be better off focusing on our craft, this same person was whinging in an earlier post about how he didn’t have a long term contract, hadn’t been selling stories, etc. Maybe instead of spending so much time trying to castigate puppies, he should be focusing on his work. Just saying.

  2. Eh … great fiction. I’ll do my best and let the readers decide.
    My first novel and to date my single best-seller was written in a white-hot burst of energy over a period of about two and a half months. The Trilogy was researched and written over a period of two years, and since then I have tried to do a book a year, working on two at a time, and staggering them so that I release one a year. This last year though, I had another one of those white-hot spells of creative energy sufficient to do two entirely different books – a historical novel and a collection of short stories set in the present day. I am planning to bring out both of them by November.
    Your writer and reader mileage may vary, of course.

    • Writing speed has a lot to do with where you fall on the gardener-architect spectrum.

    • I have had books write themselves in just days. Sure, it too longer to clean them up and get the out the door. Honestly, those books seem to be the ones tat sell the best. Why? My guess is because I’m not spending a great deal of time second-guessing myself and trying too hard to make them perfect or make them fit a plan they my subconscious realizes won’t work.

  3. Thanks for writing this. It gives me somewhere to write what I’ve been noticing on Twitter where I’ve been active in the #SadPuppies hashtag.

    One of the things that I’ve noticed is a takeaway from the 2015 Hugos is, people no longer think it has credibility – because of voting, not for the quality of the work, but because of the mass vote against the people who LIKED those works. Not because of slates, not because of campaigning. To a lot of the newcomers to the whole thing that I’m encountering on Twitter, some of whom are from #GamerGate, some not… the award is dead.

    Most of the ASPs I engage try to slam me first as a white man, but when they discover I’m neither, try to discuss. I noted a pattern after a little while.

    First they’ll go rant about the slate ‘driving away other authors / worthy works / less choice’ because of politics. When pointing out none of us care or know what Jim Butcher’s politics are, they switch to ‘it’s a good book, but it’s not award worthy.’

    I ask them then what defines award worthy. They challenge me with John C Wright, because they assume that I haven’t read the works, but I have and I liked them all, but because I liked them all I had to look at them more objectively in order to rank them. I responded as such, and then they they dither that they didn’t like any of those works, and ‘it’s a matter of different tastes.’

    But if Taste, then is differing, why then are the tastes of the Puppies ‘less’? Are they presuming to have superior, better tastes than me, or merely different? What makes the chosen books of the Puppies ‘less worthy’? I then asked them to compare say, Skin Game versus that horrible Dinosaur story, or say, Totaled (which was my favorite and number one pick in that category.) Why are the tastes of ‘your side’ more worthy ‘than mine?’ (and thus, they can’t answer because then it’s politics as a reason.)

    I usually get hemming and hawing or attempts to change the goalposts, or, in a few cases, “I haven’t read any of those works so I can’t give an opinion,” to which I said “Educate yourself.How can you have an honest discussion if you don’t know the main reasons why Sad Puppies is?” Another ASP said Puppies are ‘oddly hung up on that story’ – but most tellingly, I never got a single good response when I told them to objectively compare. Not one of them could give more than ‘it’s a powerful, emotional story’ for Dinosaur; but could not compare it to any other work (I’ve gotten no responses for objective comparison.)

    One of the anti-Puppy detractors said his/her complaint was that writers should focus on writing, and thinks that both sides are fighting over this for their egos. I tried to explain there was more history; but I realistically figured this person wasn’t going to really pay attention. I did the explaining for the other people watching.

    Tellingly, none of the ASPs who tried to engage me in argument are able to give objective reasons or comparisons between works. Most of them run and hide behind the ‘de gustibus’ argument, but forget in their haste, that we’re talking about an award. A contest. For someone to win or be ranked, people have to vote objectively (which is another blow to the credibility of the Hugos – very few people buy that Dinosaur was WORTHY of the Nebula, or a Hugo nomination. The general response I’ve gotten after linking it has been “What the fuck is this” and similar.) I get silence when I observe that John C Wright was beloved as a brilliant author when he was an atheist, but then was pilloried by the left when he became a devout Roman Catholic. The quality of his writing, as far as I can tell, hasn’t changed.

    It’s like saying that everyone in America’s Got Talent should get the first prize, the standing ovation, the contract and records and such.

    But no, that’s not how it works.

    There are several stages where the people who go on stage are already weeded out from the people who are auditioning. The people on stage then compete. They’re judged.

    Exectution. Style. Method. Complexity, Delivery. Performance. and so on.

    Only the best are able to make it to the finals. Not everyone’s favorites get the win.

    That’s how a contest is. Thus, that defeats the argument of ‘shoving ‘more worthy / other worthy’ works off the ballot. The rules were: if you like it, put a vote for it to be nominated. I’ve had a complaint of ‘they didn’t cheat but it still wasn’t fair.’ No logic there.

    Oh and after reading the various settings of the short stories that John C Wright was nominated for? I bow to him as a master. Rare is the author who can change the voice of their writing, to so quickly make plausible in the reader’s mind, that Mobster-era gangsters are not out of place in a setting described with Greco-Roman architecture and time travel; then for the reader to read on to another story that reminds one of a play on stage, then a different tale which a fedora and trenchcoat detective mystery with all the grittiness… but with ghosts – and the expected cadence, dialogue and flow one would expect in the respective base genres (Mobster setting, Victorian play on stage, detective story, respectively.)

    Those who mock John C Wright clearly do so because they do not like his politics and religious beliefs, and his living by them VOCALLY, not quietly and out of the way. They have NO idea how hard it is to change writing style!

    And, having read a few stories as well, I say that Vox Day is a decent writer. Better I think, for political commentary type writing, but that AI convinced of his/its own godhood by experimentation is still one of the most disturbingly eerie stories I’ve read.

    • (PS: I know I kind of wandered all over the place, but I am slightly tipsy still. Well. More than slightly. I had to guzzle down a few vodka mudslides after watching ‘To Catch A Predator srhbutts’ on youtube. I’m sure that my friends here can understand entirely why after watching it themselves.)

      • Jared Anjewierden

        That video… I needed a shower, and I’d already seen a good chunk of the evidence.

        (For once) unfortunately I can’t/won’t drink.

      • Reality Observer

        Ah, now I remember it after Googling. Watched one episode of that, and then decided that I’m bombarded with enough stories about creatures that should just be shot and dumped in the landfill.

        Except for “srhbutts” – I wouldn’t think you had been imbibing at all, though. I can’t get that much out while stone cold sober, dear lady (no, I am not going to experiment to see if there is a difference for me).

    • Robin Goodfellow

      To be honest, the premise of an AI convinced of its own godhood by experimentation sounds kind of stupid. Maybe in the hands of a talented writer, it could be good, but from reading The War In Heaven, A Throne of Bones, and the rest of his Selenoth stories, I can tell he’s not a talented writer.

    • Shadow, I agree totally. I had one of the puppy kickers say they hadn’t voted for any of the SP3 nominees because of the quality of the work — this was after we went through the whole “slate” argument and they had to admit that they hadn’t read the work to begin with. When asked how they could know if the works were of quality or not if they hadn’t read them, I got the usual “I just know”. I’ll admit, that’s when I almost asked if puppy related work was like pornography — sort of the “I will know it when I see it” sort of thing.

    • Yeah, I was having issues with that as well. Especially when I drew a direct comparison between Goblin Emperor (which my arguee *waves to sschwartzoak if he’s watching* thought did style well, rather than seeing the mismatch between modern narration and old style dialogue.) The closest he came was calling them ‘preachy’. Which I wasn’t seeing beyond the end of the Council of Birds And Beasts being a little heavy handed, but that was also the style he was writing in, and he did it well. (I can discuss flaws as well but that’s not the point here.) He also discounted experience with verbal storytelling when the style being invoked was harkening back to a verbal, rather than written, style.

  4. Max

    Where were they when these clauses were used to sit on work by mid-list authors, preventing them from publishing the work elsewhere, even though the contract publisher knew it wasn’t going to buy the book?

    … And stuff like that was exactly why I went indie rather than bothering to publish via the “traditional” method. There are a lot of horror stories like that out there, and worse, you can hear them from authors in the same context as ‘But you’ve got to send your work to them anyway, because if you want to be traditional, they’re your only choice.’

    I guess, keeping this comment in line with the context, I find that my credibility in a lot of major publishers—both what’s being published and the behavior—is very strained. I’ve looked over investor presentation slides, talked with authors from different houses … and quite frankly, some of these places are pretty lousy.

    The book industry right now reminds me a lot of the music industry 10-12 years ago, where MP3s were on the rise and a lot of bands were realizing that they didn’t need to go to a record label anymore, and the record labels were beating their feet in a tantrum to anyone that would listen that musicians “had” to come to them or no one would take them seriously. Now there are places like bandcamp and tons of successful independent bands. The record labels still scream and cry, and they still hold a fair amount of power … but less every year, and far less than what they had a decade ago.

    I think books are going the same way. Especially when I come across indie books that are just plain good, fun reads (Wool, The Martian, the Deacon trilogy, etc) that publishers passed on or wouldn’t have picked up, it’s clear that publishing is a beast that is out of date and due for a trimming over the next decade.

    • Well said. The only traditional publisher I’d go with right now is Baen and that is because I respect and trust Toni. As for the rest of traditional publishing, they serve a purpose but I won’t be joining that bandwagon any time soon.

      • Max

        Same here. They’re the only publisher I have never once heard and author tell horror stories about or accuse of shady dealing. Baen, if you’re reading this and ever want print rights, you’ve got first (and only) pick.

        The rest? No thanks. I’ll do it myself or stay digital.

        • Yeah, That’s pretty much the path I have in mind. I’ll go indy until I get a note from Toni. Not holding my breath, I have to actually finish a book first.

    • I also decided against going the traditional route of hoping to be discovered via short story magazines; a friend linked me a few and suggested that I submit to those. I read through some of the stuff on offer (out of kindness I won’t name the publications) and noted that the majority of the stories tended to at least tick 2 of the usual SJW requirements. Not all the stories were immediately recognizable as SJW tracts, but I got the feeling my writing wouldn’t be welcome, so I didn’t bother. I was already co-authoring indie so…

      • Max

        I’ve never once sent something into a magazine, honestly. I know people say that’s the best way to be discovered but … I’ve yet to ever know a single person, IRL or online, who actually reads those magazines. Publishing online seemed a far better prospect, because I knew dozens of people who read stuff online.

        I guess there are e-zines, but dang are some those shady, too.

        • I’ve been rejected by Asimov’s three times. (“Cleo”, a poem called “Solid State” and “The Strange Case of the Atlas Field”). That has nothing to do with why I let my subscription lapse. It was what they were publishing (Which is why there’s a stack of about two years worth of unread issues on the nightstand as well). It just wasn’t exciting any more.

          Maybe one day I’ll write a blog entry “The three stories that made me give up on Asimov’s.”

  5. I write to the best of my abilities. I write when I have time (or the muse drives me into overtime). *tired glare aimed muse-ward* When I buckle down, I write quickly. So what? I do what I do the way I do it, and if some people like what results, yeah! And if not, well, there’s John C. Wright, and M.R.K., and Diane Duane, and Vernor Vinge, and . . .

    I agree with the KU analysis. I giggled this weekend as someone binge-read a bunch of my stuff (thank you! Hope you had fun!). It seems that KU has reached a decent balance between over-rewarding part-reading and penalizing short-fiction writers. The cap idea makes sense, although hey, I’d love to get paid $$$ for a $ novel. 🙂

    • I look at it pretty much the same way. I know my work won’t appeal to everyone. That’s okay because there are writers out there who I simply cannot read. Heck, there are genres out there I can’t read for various reasons. So, knowing that, I do my best to write an entertaining, well structured story and hope it will find a home with at least some of the readers out there. So far, I’ve been lucky. As for the KU limit suggestion, to be honest, I like getting paid as much as possible but I can see that going into effect somewhere down the line. However, if it does, it will hit the writers of shorter works harder than the rest of us and that is something I’d hate.

    • Capping is a bad idea. Because the relationship is Money users spend subscribing to KU plus money Amazon is funneling into the system to keep authors in it so people will subscribe, and buy Kindles, and keep visiting the site regularly, divided by pages read. If that equals more than the standard royalty for a book, the program is a success. If it equaled less than the standard royalty, authors would withdraw, and the program would collapse. Users would unsub, and Amazon would lose money.

      • I didn’t say cap it at below the regular royalty. I said I can see them possibly capping at the regular royalty for that particular title. Not that I’m advocating it. I like being paid as much as possible.

        However, there is a potential issue with the payouts for KU that we saw happen with the original KOLL. Payments for that program were high to begin with. Then, as more and more authors joined the program — and as more found ways to game the system — the payments went down dramatically. I’ll be honest. I would rather see a cap at the standard royalty rate be set than see payments go from what they are now to half of that — which did happen on occasion under the old system.

        • I think it will work out. If anything it’s more egalitarian and consistent. Some authors put out a 500 page book for $10, and another might put a 500 page book out for $1. But KU will pay them the same for the borrow and read. If they capped at the royalty the book would normally earn, everyone would raise their prices.

    • I’m eagerly awaiting Games That Wizards Play from Duane

  6. Confirmation Bias.

    That’s a concept I haven’t seen brought up much yet but one that I think underpins (and undercuts) the arguments the non-puppies have about the quality of the Puppy nominees.

    Essentially you come into reading a piece of fiction (or watching a movie, or looking at a painting, whatever art floats your boat) with a preconceived idea of what that work will be like and then you consciously and unconsciously look for Confirmation of that Bias. If you think a work sucks before you read it, you are more likely to find reasons to say that it sucks then if you read that same book with no preconceived notions.

    Many of us here are probably in writing groups, and many have probably experienced (or seen) a toxic critique. One which is not meant to help the writer, but to attack the writer, to put the critiquer over the critiquee, and yet when other critiquers read the same piece they don’t see those problems or don’t see them as major/unfixable problems. And oft times that kind of toxic critique comes from a personal problem between the two people, or an extreme difference of opinion over something unrelated to the actual story being discussed.

    I’m sensitive to Confirmation Bias because I know that if someone pushes me to read a book I will absolutely, 100 percent, find reasons to hate the book. Even if it’s my kind of thing, even if it’s about a subject that I enjoy, even if the politics align with my own. Because I hate being pushed. An offhand recommendation that allows me to make up my own mind as to whether or not to read said book is fine, but my reaction to someone’s salesmanship/pressure tactics is extremely negative. In that case I cannot read those books with an open mind and I know that about myself.

    Many of the non puppies read those stories after being told how awful they were (the gap between when the nominations came out and the Hugo reading package was sent) and had that drilled into their heads. Along with the (not at all) subtle insinuation that anyone who would dare to like those works were with the Puppies and the Puppies were EVIL(tm) and thus anything Puppies like had to be EVIL(tm) and do you reaaaallllly want to be EVIL(tm)? No? Well, then all you have to do is find a way to read those stories in such a way that you can honestly say they sucked. After you’ve already been told they sucked (by people who hadn’t yet read the stories), and that you would suck if you didn’t find that they sucked. And that the writers sucked. And that Puppies sucked.

    Shockingly (he said dripping sarcasm into his cereal bowl) they found that the works sucked. Who coulda’ seen that coming?

    Steve

    • Reality Observer

      Strangely, I didn’t put a single work by John Wright at the top of my ballot. That was a matter of taste, I just liked other things in the category better (if only marginally). The quality of his writing is obvious, but really no better than that of, forex, Tom Kratman.

      Did vote for Castalia entries (“Hot Equations” and “Big Boys”). VD, however didn’t have any chance for a personal Hugo when I went in – and I think he knew that; with Toni there, there is no competition in an honest comparison.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        John Wright in some ways is like Ryk Spoor and Tom Kratman did the fusion dance to stop the Red Ribbon Army from slaughtering their way through the countryside.

      • aacid14

        For long form, I voted same. For short form, Red Horse and Transhuman were good imo and I felt was a valid option. Not the only option, but definitely not a tragedy if it had happened.

  7. Miss Amanda, dear. I could find no way to follow your blog.

  8. I’d been writing and trying to get traditionally published for ten years before I decided to publish my work myself. I also took the advice ‘write the next book’ to heart. This means I already had 14 completed novels in various stages of editing when I made the decision. Sure, they’re not all works that will end up published, but even then, I’ve got a lot to pull from to make a ‘4 books a year’ publishing schedule. And while I’m doing that, I’m writing more books – sequels and new stuff. Everyone writes at their own pace. I write fast when I can focus and set my buns in the chair. That doesn’t mean the quality suffers – it means my brain is firing on all cylinders and my hands are flying. (My past life as a secretary trained me for the latter. I don’t know where the former comes from.) It’s early in the game yet, but the readers seem to be enjoying my work – and that’s all that really matters.

  9. Hey guys, Clamps = Robin Goodfellow. He was banned from Sarah’s so he came here to harass me for liking a Vox Day short story.

  10. Amanda, As an author new to publishing, I appreciate your forthright yet non-inflammatory critique of some major difficulties in the industry. Thank you for being incisive and informative without being fire-haired (picture a lit match screaming at you) about it.
    This, in me, breeds credibility where you are concerned.

    • Thanks, Connie. I’ll admit I can — and have on occasion — be one of those yelling about something that has happened. Usually that occurs only after someone’s poked at me one time too many. Tell you what, if there are any questions you have or topics you’d like to see covered, leave a comment here and we’ll try to get to them.

  11. William Underhill

    May I ask if you (plural, to all) can recommend some blogs/online resources for a would-be writer who has, as yet, nothing online, published, etc, would like to achieve that state but is convinced he’s never going to be able to write at a satisfactory level? My thanks for any suggestion on how I can best get myself out of my hole.

    • MGC, of course. 😉 Others I like are kriswrites.com and deanwesleysmith.com. The passivevoice.com is another good one. It is run by an IP attorney and is a great place to go to see an aggregation of posts and columns from all over that relate to publishing.

      • William Underhill

        Thank you, Ma’am. I have MGC on my ‘daily read’ list already, and I’ll check the others, too.