New Old

New lumps for old… or ‘they’re really not that into you’

There is some reference to yesterday’s post by Cedar – The Dog’s Breakfast – but this principally about what most readers actually want. This is important to us writers. It should be important to Award Committees and Con Coms too.

The funniest thing about this Star Wars tie in novel brouhaha has to be The Grauniad screaming ‘homophobia’ about the fans giving the book 1 or 2 star reviews. What’s funny is not the screeching ‘homophobia’ which Damian and friends do at 10 second intervals in between shrieks of ‘racist’, yowls of sexist and bellows of misogynist – but the fact that the vastly litewarwee pretentious Guardian is praising a Star Wars novel. That has to be a first. Worth a good laugh. Purely defending Chuck Wendig on literary merit, I’m sure. It’s like the No Award voting in the 2015 Hugos.

One of the mistakes people make –- particularly those in power, which in publishing at the moment is the far left of politics (which, like all things will change, and change again) — is the assumption “everyone is like me, and if they’re not, then they are not just different, (or indifferent) they’re WRONG, stupid, evil and should be re-educated, punished until they behave or stamped out.” It’s actually, if you come down to basic motivation, at the core of the Puppy/Puppy Kicker situation, with the Puppy Kickers saying “your taste is shit, is wrong, is worthless”* (of Jim Butcher? At least we have company in our taste), as opposed to the Puppies saying ‘we don’t like the books and stories you do – we’re happy for you to like them. Just don’t claim — in a reader popularity contest – that because you like it or message in it, it is the ‘best’.’ You see it in the “Nobody _I_ know voted for him!” (I laughed the other day to see in a Tony Abbott bashing about the limited number and type of migrant he said we should accept to Australia, just exactly those words, with just exactly the same implication. And the utter inability to accept that a different viewpoint might actually have more support — let alone the possibility that it might be better — than the writer’s personal one.)

It’s quite understandable – we are the center of our own universe. Unless you’re bright enough to work out otherwise, people tend to assume they’re the norm (or at least, they should be). Especially if your social circle share your point of view, and you share theirs, it’s easy to believe there are very few people who disagree with you (and they’re wrong, stupid, evil and should be re-educated, punished until they behave or stamped out.) It is not made any clearer for the folk deluding themselves, by suppression of dissent. There’s a sort of mythical ostrich-head-in-the-sand belief that if you stop dissent, silence opposition, label what there is as bad etc… it goes away. Actually, it’s more like sewing closed a wound which still has foreign bodies in it. You’re making the problem worse, long term, for a short term appearance of ‘better’.

Where this really, truly comes unstuck is, for example, in our field, writing. Readers will rarely come out and say something which is un-PC, or for which they will be attacked. Seriously, let’s say the black or gay or feminist character in your book gets up the nose of the reader. Very few of the readers will put their name to slating your book for that reason (Wendig may be right, that might be behind some of the 1 star reviews that don’t even mention homosexuality). But they will vote with their purchasing power, because that is safely anonymous. One of the messages being studiously ignored by Traditional Publishing is falling sales numbers. If they’re forced to admit it exists, they claim it is ‘other factors’ like TV or the internet. But, despite those other factors SOME authors continue to grow their audiences.

You could be writing your book to make a statement about your pet cause. You could be writing it for catharsis about your experiences as a homosexual hooker, or as a soldier (RBV is my ‘catharsis’ book. The pictures are links)

– but there is no reason to expect the arbitrary reader to buy it for that reason. Yes, if they believe in your pet cause, or also find the story cathartic, it might work for that reader. If that is a big enough audience, it can be a success, financially. Otherwise it needs to be more than that (Which is why I tried to make RBV funny, fast-moving, and with layers of other things.)

To be a financial popular success, that keeps readers who aren’t enjoying a sermon about their rightness, or have no interest in the issues of being a hooker, or being a soldier, it has to generate that care, be enough beside that to make them enjoy it, to make them come back again, to make the genre flourish. When a book which doesn’t have that appeal is promoted and pushed for the sake of its ‘issue’, it isn’t just a failure to itself, it fails all of us. It hurts all of us. A book that transcends that is wonderful. It’s also very, very rare.

Mostly success – in terms of returning customers, in terms of a growing audience, is achieved by giving your audiences character they can accept, identify with, and believe in. This doesn’t always mean the truth. If you want to give them something that they don’t find palatable or probable you have to do a good job of selling it. When I wrote PYRAMID SCHEME I’d spent a whole 10 days in the US. I was born, bred and raised in South Africa. I knew a few male Americans – The JLB Smith Institute was the Southern Hemisphere’s best-rated Ichthyology center at the time I was there, which meant we got folk from all over the world – four Americans among them — all unequivocally male. There was a Canadian woman, but I gather that’s a different country (yes. It’s a joke. I make them). It was a relatively small research institute and three of those guys were good friends of mine, people I spent a lot of time with. I imagined I knew a bit about how Americans thought and what they knew. What I forgot is that these were expats in my country.

So when I got a generally good review for Pyramid Scheme…

the reviewer slated me for the female South African Zoologist I wrote into it. She was just too American, with American female attitudes and outlook. Not a ‘real’ South African, I was… um… puzzled (yeah, that’s a better, more polite way of putting it than gob-smacked, laughing like a hyena). I actually wrote to the critic explaining this – politely, not a la Chuck Wendig, which was really stupid of me. You can’t explain.

I was at fault. I didn’t know my audience (mostly American) well enough to know their pre-conceptions about how ‘different’ people were in South Africa. Now… well, I’d explain better. People are remarkably similar, even if they come from a different country, but share a similar background. Middle-class South Africa, is very like middle class America in very many ways. There are differences, but obviously not the size of the difference that reader expected.

Now the same applies to a straight guy who doesn’t have a lot to do with gay people, or white reader who barely knows any black guys, outside of TV, or vice versa, of course. They’ve got their ideas, which are possibly wildly wrong. But here’s the thing: unless that character shows traits they care about, identify with and can believe plausible in that character (just as my critic though my South African Zoologist too American to be real)… no matter how important you consider that minority or the point you’re making about them, it’s worthless if your reader doesn’t care that deeply about them, can’t believe in them.

You may be deeply invested in the problems faced by 0.1% or 4% or 13% of the population. But a lot of people aren’t. It’s not necessarily true that they’re homophobic or racist if they don’t like your book. You can call them that, as Wendig has. It may get you some sympathy sales from people who share your views – and alienate a lot more people who don’t like being insulted. The truth, in many cases I suspect, is more mundane, and hurts a lot more. Ask anyone who really fancied so-and-so, put out their best lures, only to have a friend tell you ‘They’re really not that into you.’

That’s the reality of being a writer. Mine as much as Chuck Wendig’s. It’s not a captive audience. They don’t have to buy your books. They can just walk away, and they will. You have to please your target audience or you’re a waste of shelf-space. It’s not about you, or your pet cause, unless that is what your target audience wants.

It’s true at a genre scale, and specifically when you’re writing in someone else’s universe, one which has a loyal following.

They don’t want new. Or you, if you’re new and different.

No matter how often they tell you they want ‘new’, most of your audience don’t want ‘new’. If you’re going to give them ‘new’ you’re going to have to be utterly, absolutely brilliant. Most of us are not.

What the audience want is ‘new old’. You can push the boat a little bit, but the audience has expectations (just as my critic had about South African women). You can change those, but you have to do so gently and skillfully, until that change feels ‘just like old (but new)’. There is a small percentage of readers who want the new (something novel!) but seriously, if you’re following footsteps (and we all are) you will never be ‘as good’ for some readers – and if you go off at a tangent, they’ll mostly hate you.

That of course is a worse thing than them not being into you. There always are worse things – and most of them happen at sea (just speaking from experience here.) There are two (at least) levels of this. On file 770 – on the only time I have bothered to comment there — the charming crowd there were engaged in having fun kicking my terrible prose around and saying what an awful writer I was (It is true that they had a problem with what I was saying, but that was harder to attack, and saying what a useless writer I was, was a nice easy target.) Shrug. Blog posts are not something I get paid for. I am not a particularly brilliant writer, and my efforts go into my novels, which I don’t do in a hurry, which makes me money. I work hard at that, get it edited, take advice on that. I probably still stuff up, but it’s not for lack of effort. It is not so with blog posts or comments. Snowcrash – who sometimes comments here, made a comment back then about never bothering to buy my books because I was such a bad writer. I was supposed to be offended and hurt. I wasn’t.

Instead I thanked Snowcrash very much for that, and I meant it, absolutely. Because, as Chuck Wendig is going to discover, and I hope you will avoid discovering, someone who wanted “new old” or product A, expected “new old”, PAID for “new old”… and then got product B which wasn’t ‘new old’, or similar, but which was something they didn’t want, or expect or like is the worst possible outcome. Firstly, they’re not going to buy another, and secondly will associate, and blame that author for a lot more value than $17, let alone the pittance the author got. As an author you’d rather they hated you unread, than paid money and then hated you, especially if those people are a major part and influence on buyers who will buy your work, now and in future. Those people may be ‘suckaz’ as Wendig put it, but they’re going to piss all over your future – and that’s without you insulting them. Curiously, Chuck Wendig may just have become the Puppies biggest recruiter. All one has to say to the irritated Star Wars fan is: “Oh, him. Yes, he thinks we’re awful and wants to eliminate us from the awards process.”

The key thing is that that one group of people you don’t mess with are your major group of customers, whoever they are. If you’re Kameron Hurley, you don’t peeve radical feminists. If you’re Larry Correia you don’t peeve gun owners (neither of these are very likely. Both identify strongly with their set, and sell to them). If you’re writing in the universe of a popular franchise, you don’t peeve the normal customers of it. They may not be your personal core group, but they’re a huge group, and the franchise’s core.

There is no point in pleasing a group of POSSIBLE customers at the cost of that core group.

It’s like a butcher stopping selling meat to please possible vegan customers. (Which is not unlike the situation many of puppies found themselves with the puppy kickers. People like Snowcrash and friends had never bought my books, wouldn’t like my books if they did – and threatened not to read me? Oh, be still my beating heart!) It’s a very different kettle of fish, when it’s my regulars, my fans, my customers.

For them, I will have the new old that they want. Shifting things slowly, if at all, keeping them happy. If you want to make a success of this, I suggest you do too.

*Irene Gallo – ‘bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.’. We can find hundreds more quotes, all boiling down to ‘your taste is shit, we know what is good for you.’

106 Comments

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106 responses to “New Old

  1. freddie_mac

    “… when it’s my regulars, my fans, my customers. For them, I will have the new old that they want. Shifting things slowly, if at all, keeping them happy.”

    Yes, yes, YES!!! As a reader, I’m certainly in awe of writers who can juggle different tones, but when I pick up a book in series A, it should read like that series, and not like series B.

    Let’s use CJ Cherryh as an example: the Chanur universe is different from the Foreigner ‘verse, both are different from Fortress, they’re all different from the Russian novels (Rusalka, et al.), all are different from Cyteen/Regenesis, etc. Certain elements of her voice are presence in all of her works, but she approaches each series in a different fashion (maybe from a different angle?). I, as a long-time reader, experience “new old” with each book: there are old elements that I’m used to presented in a slightly different, but still engaging fashion.

    A new series by a favorite writer is like visiting an old friend in a new or redecorated house: I can see familiar elements in a new setting, but (usually) have no problem settling in for a long visit.

    • It’s also a LOT easier when you start a new series (or a book outside the existing series) to accept some level of difference. I’m a hack. I write quite different series, and yes there are bound to be some familiar ‘voice’ elements crossing over. But the same series SHOULD be like meeting an old friend again.

      • rat

        I was going to comment that the right place to strike a new tone is in a new series. Butcher wouldn’t put steampunk in Dresdenverse – so he created Cinder Spires. Correia wouldn’t do noir in MHI so he created Hard Magic.

        If Dresdenverse or MHI were owned by Disney and they chose Wendig to write. His short choppy -sentences. With many hyphens. And he made the characters weeble and wobble across Chicago, or Alabama – the core fans would revolt. Then no one would be surprised – or scream homophobes!

        But that is crazy talk, right?

        • That makes the above about Cherryh even more impressive as at least two of the listed different worlds are in the same broad setting: Chanur and Cyteen.

      • You know what I really dislike? “Hack” writers who don’t sell out and cash in by writing more stuff in their series. I mean, really? How long do we have to wait for more “Joy Cometh With the Mourning?” Take my money, already! Hack writer, indeed.

  2. In my experience a great many product failures are actually marketing failures. I used to service postage meters and I worked for a company that employed a very aggressive salesman, one lived by the philosophy that you should tell the customer whatever it takes to make the sale.

    Which worked out great for him, in the short term. However, I ended up being called out to “fix” machines that weren’t broken–they just couldn’t live up to the claims made for them.

    I’m a pretty good judge of engineering quality, and our product line was solidly built. We got a reputation for selling junk, however, because the expectations the salesman gave the customers were unrealistic.

    I see this same tendency in mass media marketing. Everything is so overwhelmingly hyped that the product cannot possibly live up to the expectations.

    I can understand Chuck Wendig’s frustrations–I am sure that he didn’t control the marketing or packaging of his book. If it is being sold as something that it isn’t then the audience is going to be upset. They are going to lash out at the author and the author is going to be tempted to lash back. It’s bad business, but very human.

    I haven’t read the book in question, nor am I the target audience. I have zero interest in the Star Wars franchise. But I have read some of Chuck Wendig’s other works, and enjoyed them. I don’t think he’s a bad writer, but I suspect that his style was not what the Star Wars fans were expecting. That’s not his fault, exactly, that’s the fault of the marketing department.

    • Misha, consequences. Faults and excuses are really not very relevant to that outcome. It’s like Kathodus saying he only clapped because he was relieved, not because he was celebrating Toni Weisskopf getting placed below ‘No Award’, or like your company getting a reputation for selling junk because you had a salesman with short time preferences. There are still consequences to the action. As an author, you need to LOOK at possible consequences. Hell’s teeth, that’s 2/3 of plotting – working out possible outcomes for a set of actions. If you can’t do that, if you can’t put yourself in the shoes of others and work out their responses… you should do something else. It didn’t take much skill to foresee the consequences. I suspect it took a lot of hubris not to! And letting your frustrations boil onto your customers… is really, really not looking at consequences.

      • Granted. I am not looking to excuse Wendig’s actions so much as to dissect them to learn how to avoid making the same mistake. I know that I couldn’t write a Star Wars novel that would be acceptable to the existing fan base. Would I have the integrity to refuse the gig if it were offered to me? I like to think so, but I can’t say for sure. The money would be very tempting right now.

        • Reality Observer

          Misha, I think you would have the integrity to take some of the advance and buy as much of the current product as you could – and then do your best to provide “product as expected.”

          (An aside – I believe that I have met your salesman. Or it was his brother, maybe…).

          • I couldn’t maintain a willing suspension of disbelief, and if I don’t buy it then I’m not going to be able to sell it. There are too many concepts that are vital to the cosmos that I find unbelievable. Starting with light sabers, the Force, the kind of interstellar travel they use, and the demographics of lots of humans with only one kind of every other species.

            • I’d like to quickly add that I do not want to start an argument about the plausibility of elements in the Star Wars cosmos. My reaction is purely visceral and, I will admit, completely unfair. I am sure that there are well reasoned, in depth articles about the science of Star Wars and how all of these things make sense. It doesn’t matter–I am still going to be thinking in the back of my mind, “Look! Dracula is fighting Fozzie the bear with laser swords! In space!”

              It’s my loss, I agree. But I simply could not write about Jedi Knights or Death Stars with a straight face, and it would come through in my work. Given what I’ve read of Wendig’s work, it would not surprise me if that was his problem, too.

        • Misha, I have taken on several books (and a few shorts) I really didn’t want to write, that I felt inadequate to write. I’ve got hard-core fans of those very books, possibly more hard-core and insistent than for the books I couldn’t wait to write. It is possible (at least for me) to invest enough care in pleasing other people to do a reasonably good job. I suspect – not knowing you well – that if you went into it with that attitude, you’d do fine. Like me you probably come to love the craft that goes into pleasing that audience. My feeling with Chuck is his audience is himself first, his sycophants a distant second, and those hoi polloi who just wanted a ‘familiar friend’ had better take what they get and be grateful. I make a lot of jokes about being a hack, but it probably takes more skill to change your style on demand than to merely write what comes naturally to you, even if what comes naturally is brilliant. The curious thing is the skills i learned in writing those other styles have spilled into my ‘natural style’. In my very biased opinion, improved that style being making it more complex and able to do more with what a writer does in his reader’s head.

          • My mother spent her entire career writing under contract, doing family histories, corporate histories, ghost-writing autobiographies, things of that nature. It’s hard work and it takes a specific skill set. I admire anyone who can do it.

            I could probably manage to stay inside the lines of another artist’s world for some settings, although I would probably have to keep fighting the urge to go off on unapproved tangents from sheer perversity.

            I just don’t think I could do it with Star Wars, though.

            • I’m not a star wars girl, so I get it. I could — with effort — do star trek. BUT the thing is if you’re as averse to it as I (or you) you (general) say “no, can’t do that.” At one of the lowest money points in my life, I had an offer to ghostwrite a thriller set in Washington DC all about the president and threats to him and stuff. (The writer who was under contract to do it had gotten very ill and they were looking for a writer to do a “cash on the nose” never talk of it job just to get the book out.) I couldn’t do it. I don’t like that “corridors of power” stuff and couldn’t imitate the author’s style to save my life.
              I’ve done a ton of these, and no, I can’t tell you what they are, from fantasy to historical, sometimes contracted by the writer, because he/she could come to me and go “my life just exploded, or whatever, and I can’t. Will you take half the advance and–” (Now there’s indie I don’t NEED to do them anymore. Once I’m okay, I will be very busy doing my own stuff.) Most of these I could mimic the style so well, no one knows. BUT that one I couldn’t. It’s important to know your limits.

              • Albert

                The problem with Star Trek was that we were let down by the premise.
                “Space: The _final_ frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!”

                Imagine hearing that spoken by Patrick Stewart every Saturday night. Words to stretch the soul of a young boy until it filled the very cosmos – and incidentally ruin him for emo music and culture.

                Except that less than half of the episodes – maybe as little as 10% – actually did any of that. (No, Star Trek TOS, encountering alternate Earths again and a-flippin’-gain do _not_ count. Go back to your corner.)

                Be nice to see a series that actually lived up to that premise, but I’m not holding my breath.

    • I think a good example of not meeting expectations for me was Devil In the White City. It was well written, but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I wanted something like Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, but what I got was two completely unrelated stories (one about the business of architecture and another about a serial killer) set in the same time/place. As a result it felt somewhat disjointed to me and I was left feeling let down.

      • B. Durbin

        Interesting. I read Devil In the White City when I was working in a bookstore (ah, those hour-long lunches!) and did not have that experience at all—possibly because I was on a history kick at the time, and so was used to “disjointed” stories. History rarely has a through narrative, after all. My two favorite books from that reading period are The Age of Gold, by H.W. Brands (about the California Gold Rush and its effect on the national character), and The Island at the Center of the World, by Russell Shorto (about Manhattan, and new information coming out from translated Dutch records about its pre-English history.) Both books have a lot of fascinating information that isn’t necessarily taught in school, like the latter account of what the settlers *really* paid the local tribes for Manhattan Island. It turns out that the accepted “$60 worth of trinkets” is not only badly dated, it’s mis-translated, and the actual deal was closer to rent of a hunting preserve and much more favorable to the original owners, who weren’t complete gullible idiots, after all.

        *cough*

        I like history. It is a continual source of amazement to me that we’ve managed to make the subject *dull*.

        • Well, this was the blurb I read “Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller In the Garden of Beasts—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.” and several friends raved about it as great storytelling.

          The problem I had was that the two stories never really meet. Holmes would have been a serial killer without the worlds fair, and was. The worlds fair was merely a convenient accident for him in getting people to his hotel. It had nothing to do with him, and he had nothing really to do with it. There was absolutely NO nailbiting, NO sense of urgency to what the people were doing. Just because they shared the same time/place doesn’t mean they were actually a factor in each others existence.

        • “I like history. It is a continual source of amazement to me that we’ve managed to make the subject *dull*.”

          That deserves to be framed and handed to each and every history teacher.

          • I was at a community book event last week in Giddings, Texas — it was really community supported, to the extent that they had goodie bags for all the guest authors, the mayor at the evening gala that launched the event, and busloads of schoolkids coming to the community library venue — all of them very keen on books.
            One of the afternoon groups was of HS-age honors and AE kids – and I shared with them my own feeling that there is a concerted effort to squeeze all the human interest, excitement and just plain Odd interest out of textbooks. Go back and read the original documents and accounts, I told them. Search them out — we were in a library for heaven’s sake! Learn what you can, of whatever aspect of history takes your interest! Be a pain in the neck to your teachers – frighten the heck out of them, because you have expert knowledge — more than they do!
            Yeah, my small effort in the Odd revolution. I may never know if it takes — but at least, I made the effort.

            • B. Durbin

              I had a fantastic history professor in college—we went all the way from the 1600s to the Cuban Missile crisis at warp speed, while reading four novels, one of them Anna Karenina. He was credited with making lots of people choose history as a major, and had infamous test questions such as “Why Hitler? Why Stalin? Explain the 20th century.” He’d let you take as long as you needed.

              He died of undiagnosed stomach cancer two weeks after finals, after making sure that his grades were in. First real tragedy of my adult life.

            • This is a time when ANYBODY has access to just about EVERYTHING. All of us have access to the biggest library that has ever existed just for the price if typing what they want in the box and seeing where it takes you.

          • Alan S.

            1632 is an amazing series to me for precisely this reason.

  3. Some authors forget that writing is a business. For them, it’s not really. They write the book, submit it to the publisher, cash their advance and wait for royalty checks.

    But authors are manufacturers. We manufacture a product. For traditionally published authors like Wendig, they provide that product to someone else to sell…but it has to sell.

    If you don’t give the readers something they want, then they’ll stop buying. It’s just that simple. We’re not talking rocket surgery here.

    The thing is, traditionally published authors seem to be protected from this harshness, but not the fact. They just don’t get slapped in the face with it like Indies do. However, the difference is, if we don’t sell, we can figure out what’s wrong and fix it. With a traditionally published author, well…they might find themselves having to embrace indie after all.

    • And he may do perfectly well in indy. He’s endeared himself to a small percentage (of a big number) of people. That’s probably enough to make him a living of sorts. He’s just confined himself to that niche.

      • True, but I was speaking in more general terms.

        Wendig will keep doing what he’s doing, and I suspect he’ll get away with it for longer than a number of writers would.

    • The advantage Wendig is enjoying here is the imprimatur of the Star Wars universe, so he is going to get major sales regardless of the quality of the work, simply because it is Star Wars, and that lends him all the love of the source material. He’s not succeeding OR failing purely on his own merits. And the brand is too big to be brought down by his shoddy craftsmanship.

      • To a point. He’s a bestseller now, but will the next book be one? Bookstores will stock the hell out of it, but I’m not so sure that readers will buy it if it’s written like this one. Not the fans who bought this one and hated it.

      • rat

        It is all about sell through at B&N, Books a Millions etc. If they get over 60% they will order aggressively for the second book and all the one star AMZN reviews will matter not at all.

        • Uncle Lar

          Ah, but that does raise an interesting point. What percentage of dead tree books are still bought at bookstores, and how many get purchased through Amazon? And of those obtained at stores, how many of the buyers did some or most of their research on line.
          I suspect that those Amazon rankings do in fact matter, and if you add on ever increasing e-book sales they will matter more and more as time goes by.

          • TRX

            I’ve probably said this enough times to be annoying, but if your business plan hinges on “selling through brick and mortar bookstores” you have a problem.

            They’ve been slowly pulling out of my local market for years now. Bookstores in my town now: zero. Bookstores in both adjacent towns: zero. Nearest new book store: nearly 30 miles away. And *that* store devotes a majority of its space to music, videos, a coffee shop, miniatures, knick-knacks, and other non-book items.

            It’s not just my area; I still travel a bit, and I’m seeing this everywhere I go. The chains are pulling in to the urban hives and abandoning most of the country, and the independents have, for the most part, vanished long ago.

            • I did a talk on my own books to a book club in Beeville a couple of years ago, and that was precisely the case. The only place to buy any book in Beeville was in – perhaps – a Christian bookstore selling knick-knacks and non-book stuff. The nearest big-box bookstore was about two hours drive away, the nearest indy-non-Christian-bookstore about the same.
              The members of the club just about all had Nooks or Kindles – order online, download the book, or order and have it delivered.
              People, there is a lot of empty country out there – and to those residents of small towns in flyover country, Amazon is a god-send.

            • B. Durbin

              When Borders closed, it left my city of 160,000 without a bookstore. Nearest one is about fifteen miles off, after you go *through* the chokepoint of the capital (and a spot where the freeway goes under several railroad tracks built onto levees and then over a bridge, so it can’t be widened without millions in infrastructure improvement funds.) And that’s just a B&N, since Tower (Books, yes, they had a bookstore too) closed much earlier.

        • freddie_mac

          Ah, but what about the number they need to return? Why bother filling their stockroom with something that just needs to be returned at the end of the sales cycle (however long that is), when they could have used that space for something else that *was* selling?

          (used to work in a comic shop, where the principle is fairly similar, but no returns unless it was a publisher error)

        • Market share of B&N etc is falling by the hour, let alone day. So yes, he may do really well… in brick and mortar stores. Kind of like being a failure in the US but a success in Haiti. Is Haiti big enough for Disney?

  4. Well said.

    And may I note, as a personal aside… well, I’d forgotten YOU wrote RBV. But I still haven’t forgotten a drunken rat-creature singing IRA revolutionary tunes.

    I swear to God, I am terrible with names. -XD

    • 🙂 I hope not all of the Readers are as bad at it or I’m stuffed.

      • Reality Observer

        Sometimes it is a godsend, Dave. I had completely forgotten also that you had written RB&V, but it was a “meh” book for me. (Not one that hit the wall, mind you, but I need to be very bored to reread it.)

        So I had no bias when I picked up the first “Pyramids,” and fell in (platonic) love with you.

        The CW character has a problem, though – his name is now embedded firmly in my brain, right next to “never.”

  5. You know, the New/Old section reminds me of the Nutty Nuggets essay, and the Puppy Kickers couldn’t discern the underlying principle there either. Stripped of metaphor, and equipped with actual examples… I still think they won’t get it.

  6. There is yet another layer to this onion of fail I don’t believe anyone has directly addressed yet. The legacy publishers, the ones who curate and polish and nurture and guide and so on…

    -They hired Chuck Wendig to write this book. Love him or hate him, he is very consistent in his persona and writing. I do not know what the meeting was like where the publisher decided to pick *him* from the chorus of eager debutantes, but I suspect alcohol and/or cocaine may have been a factor.

    -They read (presumably) and edited (presumably) this …work, and were perfectly fine with it. If this doesn’t put paid to the “curated” nonsense, nothing will. Someone in an office in New York said “Yeah, print this sucker.” I don’t blame Wendig nearly as much as that nameless editorial match-wielding Hindenburg gas-leak finder.

    Not that I would presume to dictate to the holders of the blog keys, but wouldn’t it be funny to have a list of all the books that did the $_TrickDuJour well before the current cited SJW favorite? E.g. gay main character, Fun With Gender Pronouns, and so on. Then we could respond “I refer you to List #7, Heinlein did it in 1968, what else ya got?”

    • That’s an important point–this represents a systemic failure. If I launch a book in which the sun sets in the east (I got turned around with my geography) I have no one to blame but myself. But this book was greenlit not just once, but numerous times. Someone gave Wendig the contract. Someone approved the final edits. Someone wrote the copy for the cover. At a guess I’d say that more people had their mitts on it than it takes to put on a road show production of South Pacific. Blaming the author for the book itself is understandable, but was there no one else who was willing to stand up and say, “Hey, are we sure that this is going to make our audience happy?”

      • Joe in PNG

        I’m feeling a great disturbance in the Force… as if dozens of ivory tower trad publishing types were looking to “shake things up a bit”. Sure, (they say) Luceno and Kemp wrote some good books with the new canon, but we need to Make A Difference, and add Social Relevance and Cutting Edge Literary Technique!

        Thus, the New Coke of Star Wars Novels.

    • I agree that someone in NY could and should have taken steps, and that says that ‘curated’ is pure bullshit. But it still comes down to consequences – The author’s name goes on that book, He’s the one who is going to wear it. This is as true for me, as you, as Wendig. It’s not fair or right at times. But it is reality.

      • Sara the Red

        Very true. One of the reasons I finally stopped reading RA Salvatore? The execrable (in my opinion) Star Wars book he wrote. Sure, come to find out later that Chewbacca’s death was probably more from ‘orders on high’ (Or at the very least, he had to have Permission From On High to do it), but ultimately, it didn’t matter. He killed Chewie, as well as other sins (including dull, flat characters), and I never recovered from that…

        If it hadn’t been Star Wars, I likely would have been more forgiving. But it *was* Star Wars, and so I had no pity.

    • Alex Jeffries

      Believing that Random House edits its books is blind faith these days, IMO. The SFF books from them I’ve read have been shockingly shoddy. Typos, grammatical errors, incomprehensible sentences. I think they’re as close to a vanity press as we see from the big houses.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I thought I had speculated that Disney and Random House might’ve been screwing up.

      In fairness on the selection, there are not a lot of good popular traditionally published space opera writers who are writing, have time for commissions, could work well with Disney, and haven’t written Star Wars before. I presume Disney wanted to make sure the folks managing the books wouldn’t joggle their elbows. A lot of lessons learned by LucasBooks may have been jettisoned. In which case, if the staff aren’t readers, who is and who isn’t a good fit may not be so obvious.

      Secondly, it is a media tie in with a tight schedule driven by marketing. Remember Tiger By The Tail?

    • Alan S.

      I’ll point out that Poul Anderson used the pronoun ‘yx’ for “non-it, gender-something-alien” on Lodestar, 1973. And “Sun Invisible” 1966.

  7. Sanders

    In a non comprehensive review of the Amazon comments to Wendig’s Star Wars book, I found two themes. One star reviews criticized the writing. Five star reviews criticized the one star reviews.

    • I found two trends too. One star reviews were inevitably ‘verified purchase’ and from a across a time spectrum. Five star reviews were NOT verified purchase, and all happened after Wendig had a twitter outrage about the homophobes down-starring his book, and asked his supporters to five star it. ;-/

  8. Joe in PNG

    There’s also a sense of “too cool for the material”, that somehow writing in this universe is somehow beneath them, that they are “slumming” somehow.
    Thus, like the person with the PHD in Postmodernest Feminist Basketweaving forced to work at Starbucks, they feel a need to call attention to the fact.
    But as a general rule, if an author/actor/director thinks they are too good for the material, they’re right, and really should pass- unless they can be professional enough to do a good job regardless (ala Sir Alec Guiness).

    • This. Interestingly, one of the most poisonous Baen haters (who spent a lot of time attacking Eric Flint for being a right-wing fascist ;-/) in SFWA (where she was an office bearer) had – having her book rejected by the ‘cool’ publishers she approved of, finally sent the manuscript to Baen who should have been incredibly privileged by her condescending to sully her precious pearl in their sty. They were terribly privileged to be allowed to even look at it… And of course, it got rejected (just like all the others had rejected her.) And if you think hell hath no fury like a lover spurned, hell has really really no fury like a _condescending_ lover spurned. And yep, that comes out of Wendig like a flood tide. He’s doing Star Wars and the readers a vast and enormously condescending favor lowering himself to grace their POS universe, the fans of which should be grovelling in appreciation for education in writing and politically correct attitudes he has so generously provided.

      • Bibliotheca Servare

        I know you can’t even acknowledge this post (probably) for fear of Bad Things, but I had to (it’s a compulsion, yes.) say that that sounds an awful lot like a certain milky-pale, three-name-bearing, sanctimonious prat of a delightful woman whom we have all come to know and love as the person who “totally *didnt!!*” describe Sarah as a racist who used a racist “ethnic” slur. (she didn’t call her racist, sure. -she did- But she sure as hell retweeted plenty of folks who did!) If she actually described Eric Flint as “right wing” my joy will be complete. Oh…I need a moment, the giggles are overpowering…

        • eh, No, not Mary. Sorry. She’s clueless enough at times, but not this time.

          • Bibliotheca Servare

            Well drat. But I’ll have ever so much fun trying to guess which of the usual suspects it *is* that I suppose I’ll be able to endure the disappointment of guessing wrong this time. Though it would have been just…hilarious had I been correct. *wistful sigh* ;-D

    • Oh, yes. Because if it’s simple enough for the great unwashed masses to grasp it must be easy. “Oh, I could write the next bestseller, if I would be willing to lower myself to the call of filthy lucre…”

      Puh-leeese. Everyone thinks that they could write “popular fiction” just like everyone thinks they can write erotica and humor and horror–until they try to actually do it. I can’t recall to whom the quote is attributed, but I can attest that it’s true, “Easy reading is damned hard writing.”

  9. This solidifies my own opinion of my approach to writing. The story is the author’s but it’s an act of communication with the reader. If that communication fails with the intended reader (not all readers just the ones it’s aimed at) then the author has failed, and it’s likely to be difficult to over come.

  10. I have not read Aftermath. I have not read a LOT of the twitter stuff.
    But right now, I am of the opinion that there is something rotten in the way this Amazon review & “gay-bashing/not gay bashing” thing has gone down.
    I DID read the Chuck Wendig September 7 blog post where he discussed release (with frabjous joy) and the reactions, both positive (mostly) and negative. He references the Earl Hall column on Allen West’s website decrying the presence of gay characters, discusses the large number of negative Amazon reviews, and the idea that some people seem to be upset that he isn’t Timothy Zahn. He said, regarding the negatives (and I paraphrase):
    “1. If you don’t like Aftermath because you don’t like my writing style, I understand that. Sorry you were disappointed.
    2. If you don’t like Aftermath because you wanted it to be in the EU/Legends series, I understand that. Sorry you were disappointed.
    3. If you don’t like Aftermath because it has gay characters, “I got nothing for you…You’re not the Rebel Alliance…You are the (expletive) Empire, man.”
    And he’s right.
    I’m gonna blog on this, but I’m hoping to do so AFTER I can read the book, so I can more effectively evaluate what’s going on. I will say that I read the Amazon preview, and I LIKED IT.
    To review the book, I have to read it, and I can’t afford to buy it. I can only read KU and stuff people loan me. So, IF you have already purchased (and are finished reading) Aftermath, loan me your copy on Kindle. I’ll read it post haste (got ONE other in the pipe) and get it back to you in a few days. This is legal. And I don’t THINK it’s unethical for a reviewer to ask for a copy of a book to review. Just don’t spend the cat’s kibble money to buy the book so you can loan it to me.

    • Pat, I think you’re kind of missing my point. It’s not about any of the three issues you raise. “Sorry you _WERE_ disappointed” (past tense) is actually the problem. Imagine you really, really want a steak. You go to a steakhouse where they charge you on entry, before you even smell the food (yes, really there are places like that). You go in, sit down, order your steak. And you get served a plate of lentil curry, because the new chef is a vegan. It might be delicious lentil curry. He might believe earnestly that killing animals for food makes you part of the (expletive) Empire.

      It doesn’t matter. You paid for a STEAK. The quality of his curry nor his opinions matter. You wanted a steak, you paid for a steak. If he opened a Vegan curry house down the road, you might go there and enjoy it. But what he did is, as far as the fans are concerned, cheat them of the steak they wanted and paid for.

      You don’t do that to customers. It’s dishonest and disrespectful. So have his comments been, since.

      • Dave, I understand your point completely. I just don’t know if it matches the ground truth.
        I admit AGAIN that I haven’t followed whatever is going on in twitterverse, other than the stuff that Cedar posted yesterday. And I have my doubts that I’m going to read twitter because I think it’s mostly a load of dingo’s kidneys.
        BUT! Here’s a brief excerpt of what Wendig wrote in his September 7 blog:

        Some of the reviews seem to take issue with my voice, some take issue with it being, erm, “SJW propaganda,” others still because I’m not Timothy Zahn and because I apparently hate the prequels and the EU. (Neither could be farther from the truth, mind you. We literally just watched some of the prequels last week, and the Zahn novels are three of my most beloved books.)

        I could be UTTERLY wrong about this, but I think he wrote the Star Wars book he could write. And I think (but could be wrong) that the same KIND of people who get into flame wars about whether Han Solo fired first or get angry over Jar Jar Binks are the people who posted the 1-star Amazon reviews.
        I really should not write anymore, because I’m stealing the thunder of my pending blog post, which I’m not writing yet because I’m hoping someone will loan me their Kindle of Aftermath so I can review it.
        BUT: I did just read and review two of Chuck Wendig’s books, one fiction and one non-fiction. I wanted to know how he wrote. He writes great. (It’s not a zero-sum game)
        https://www.amazon.com/review/R9UOGEHJNNPDU/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1599637715
        https://www.amazon.com/review/R2GCTNJIB016AN/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00LAE5DKW

        • Pat, no you’re still missing the point. You say ‘think he wrote the Star Wars book he could write’
          Let me illustrate this with another analogy. Once there was a prosthetic leg maker. He was a great prosthetic leg maker, although he insisted they all be purple. People didn’t care because he made good prosthesis. A big wealthy company approached him to make… a dialysis machine. Now he was a little interested in dialysis. And they were offering a lot of money. So he made them a dialysis machine as best he could. And he painted it purple. Unfortunately it did a lousy job of dialysis because he didn’t know how to do it properly, and wasn’t prepared to copy those who did, because he knew he was the best (at legs. But he thought that made him ‘best’ at everything) When people complained, he said “you hate purple!” This didn’t make him a bad prosthetic leg maker. It just said ‘you shouldn’t have taken the dialysis job – and now you will wear the consequences.’

          It’s not about whether he’s a good writer, or supports SJW’s. He was hired to do a _specific_ job. The people down starring him are VERIFIED PURCHASES. Paying customers. They don’t think he did it well. The up-starring ones are largely not paying customers.

          I gather he’s been doing some frantic clean-up (just as David Gerrold and others have been doing) and there are some much earlier less flattering comments about Zahn.

          Consequences, Pat. Consequences. There are many things I wish I hadn’t said or done. Sometimes I had good reason, sometimes I made an innocent or stupid mistake. That doesn’t matter. I still have to wear those consequences, as does Wendig.

          And please don’t put live links again without asking. I know you did it without bad intent, but the rules hold for you as much as Snowcrash or Mike Glyer.

          • Pat Patterson

            Right, sorry. I only ever put links to mad genius club reviews, for which I got permission last year, but it’s so rare I review anything else I didn’t have that logic gate active. No malicious purpose just utter failure to discriminate which task I was doing. That makes today a plus! I had s learning experience!

  11. Kinda on topic, kinda off: The new Author Earnings report is out. Short version: the big TradPub companies are getting closer to pining for the fjords. http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/

  12. Bah. Humbug. When I see a Dave Freer byeline on MGC it goes to the top of the “read now” list: right up there with a new post by Sarah Hoyt, Rees-Brennan, Tom Simon or the late, much-lamented Hadin-Elgin. Like them: You have a distictive voice and you’re very good value. Even though you “sound” nothing alike.

    Some folks are just narrow-minded parochial gits.

    • Yep. Some folk are. And they don’t have much of a sense of humor. I suspect a lot of my snark they take as serious. ;-/ I shall continue to attempt to be the wasp in the EFR story.

  13. Mark

    Dave, if you think the following is a reasonable position for you to take: “People like Snowcrash and friends had never bought my books, wouldn’t like my books if they did – and threatened not to read me? Oh, be still my beating heart!” why isn’t it reasonable for Chuck Wendig to assume his 1-stars wouldn’t be buying anyway, and “still his beating heart” with thoughts of his sales from the rest?

    • Read these words very carefully Mark, and absorb their meaning:
      ‘Verified purchase’
      Those are the words that accompany the vast bulk of those 1 and 2 star reviews.
      They do not accompany the bulk of the 5 star reviews.
      He has a three book contract.
      The low-star reviews come from the core audience. The people who jumped in to support him ‘because homophobia’ didn’t care about the Star Wars Universe enough to buy the book.
      My audience is my own, built on my name (when Eric and i wrote our first book together, before 1632 came out, he was barely selling more than I was, to much the same group) Chuck has his loyal audience too. They’re just not, it seems, congruent with the HUGE Star Wars fan base. He won’t lose his own fans. He may well gain a few of similar mind and world-view. But he’s very like the good vegan chef getting a chance to cook in a huge steakhouse… and refusing to cook steaks, instead of adding a few vegan dishes to menu.

      • Mark

        Dave,

        I make it 50/50 verified on the first 40 1-star reviews on amazon right now, not the “vast majority”, and 45/55 verified on the first 40 5 star reviews. (“Most Helpful” sorting in both cases). I don’t consider that statistically significant, do you?

        There was a significant proportion of this “core audience” who didn’t like the idea of the EU being dropped. Then it turns out they don’t like the first book in which the EU is dropped. Quell surprise, as the French (Vegan) chef says.

        Ignoring people who don’t like your works is your theory, Dave, I’m just applying it to the current situation. You’re also fond of looking at Amazon sales rankings. What do they tell you about how concerned Wendig should be right now?

        • Mark

          How silly of me, it turns out you can filter on verified. Here are the full figures:
          134 verified 1 star out of 292 total (46%)
          72 verified 5 star out of 159 total (45%)
          So, even closer than my quick tally suggested. Conclusion? No appreciable difference in levels of verified reviews for supporters or detractors.

          • Mark, I know sea-lioning and wasting my time is something you consider a great win, but seriously, this is a writing site, for writers. What are you trying to prove? Why are you commenting at all, besides to make me waste my time showing that your reading comprehension is bad and your irrelevant nit-picking gifted? (and I’ll delete any comment that doesn’t include a reply to that). I’m giving precisely the same advice I’d give if Vox Day, or Larry Correia or Eric Flint had written a Star Wars tie-in irritating the core audience, and then blamed their failure on the gay mafia, the anti-gun lobby or the right wingers. The one AND two star reviews are non-returning buyers. The threes are meh, maybe. If it is cheap. Fours are probably, and fives definite. Now look at those figures you’re nit-picking about. 250 (one&2):130 (4&5)
            That’s around 34% return highly probable customers. If you’re lucky and all of those 3 stars do buy it next time (which won’t happen) you’re still under 48% The kindest view is over half the customers hated it. The probable don’t buy the next is close to 2/3. The acceptable series loss is around 10%
            Wendig screwed up. I’m not saying that because he’s a puppy kicker, or I don’t like his politics. I couldn’t care less. I’m saying that, because to me and almost everyone else here who writes, what he did is something to avoid. To be aware of. If your core audience is LGBT activists – give them what they want – don’t give them fundamentalist Islam and get angry when they don’t like you. And vice versa. What in hell do you find difficult about this?

            • Pat Patterson

              But Dave!
              The timing of this reeks to me: as soon as the book is available, there are immediately massive amounts of one star reviews. I think I read there were 100 one stars in the first four hours. I haven’t read ALL the non Amazon reviews, but every one i did read was very positive.
              If these were people who had an organized intent to slam the book because reasons, and they really aren’t a representative sample, then it’s not that he wrote to offend a significant part of the fan base; it’s just that this group has a beef about some other issue (which I can’t make out; haven’t heard a spokesman take credit. And for a book which will sell zillions of copies, you can’t possibly let 100 – 200 sourpusses set your agenda.

              • jaed

                I think I read there were 100 one stars in the first four hours.
                Trust but verify: There are 20 one-star reviews that were posted September 4th (first day), of which 8 are verified purchasers. That’s not “100 one stars in the first four hours” or anything close to it.

                If these were people who had an organized intent to slam the book because reasons
                Yes, but you have to have at least some evidence for the “if” before it becomes useful.

              • (chuckle) Pat why are you appealing to me? I know I am the champion of quixotic causes, but I only take up my lance against the windmills for the underdogs, the oppressed, the battlers taking on giants. In publishing, that’s not Chuck Wendig. He’s not an underdog. He’s an establishment lap-dog, who snaps at the heels of battlers to please them. He got given one of the biggest, juiciest bones in sf as a reward. I’m sure David Gerrold, George Martin and John Scalzi and the rest of the diverse publishing establishment are already riding to his rescue, loudly blaming the evil puppies for this wicked conspiracy. I’m not taking it out of his hide, anyway. I’m just saying that authors need to find out who their core audiences are, and make sure they give them what they’d like. If he’s done that, he’ll be fine. If not, well, he had a chance most battling authors would love.

            • Mark

              Removed. Moderator.

              • Don’t be so frappen oppositional. Unless that’s your point, it gets in the way of the point you are trying to make.

              • Sea-lion Mark. You have added no value. You never intended to. You simply put up strawman arguments which cost time and effort to refute – like your latest attempt to say ‘Oh you used Amazon rankings in the past, now you admit they’re worthless’. I have clearly explained how Amazon rankings work, how they can be used, how price impacts rankings (so more more expensive sells less for the same ranking.) I remember your last effort to claim they weren’t relevant was to say the Amazon rankings of independent e-books meant nothing. As these books are a great deal cheaper, the opposite is true. Your reaction, then as now, is to admit nothing, although you’ve had your ass handed you on a plate, but to slide seamlessly onto the next trivia, which you will get wrong, deliberately misinterpret and require a lot of my time to correct. And then you’ll do the same again.

                Trolls like you add no value to society, let alone to writers.

                You’re banned. Post again and you go onto the spam list.

        • Tweel was kind enough to give you the verified figure in total, Mark. It doesn’t support your contention. You do realize ‘most helpful’ is based on up and down votes – which can be placed by anyone. Wendig got a twitter crowd to rush and support him – they’ll be upvoting the positve reviews, so what you have is selection bias. Ignoring the demands of people who haven’t bought your work in the past, who are unlikely to buy your work in future IN FAVOR of paying attention to those have bought in the past and will (based on my retention figures) in the future, seems common sense to me. Perhaps it is different in your business. I would be fascinated to hear how that worked for you. I do listen to non-readers. (I am replying to you – I’ll bet you’re not one of my readers. I have replied to Snowcrash). I just don’t let their wants and desires overwhelm those of my existing customers.

          A significant proportion didn’t like present tense, or like the EU change, or didn’t like his story-telling skill – or a combination. Some may not have liked the homosexual content. Irene Gallo effectively displayed how effective insulting and attacking a group with labels you can actually only attach to a section of it is. One man in a platoon ran away. Calling all of them cowards will not make you popular with them.

          Amazon rankings – you could expect a long awaited book in a very popular franchise to do well. This was a huge opportunity for Wendig who is a midlister. To assess ‘how well’ you’d have compare it with a similar release, say by Zahn. You do know that these are calculated partially on price (so for an example taken from my own experience 50 hardcover day-sales ranks the same as 200 paperbacks)? I have raised this point in many places where ‘Amazon rankings say I’m the best’ is quoted. If you’re cheap AND on top… you’re doing exceptionally. Otherwise compare price:price to get relative position. The other indicator is how long you hold a position.

          You, by your posting here (and previously) don’t seem to know how Traditional publishing works. Your future within the establishment (and Wendig is a solid establishment man, dependent on it) depends on 1)whether you live up to sales predictions. 2)What your sell-through is like (number of books returned/number of books they expected to sell) 3) what your trend (or retention) is. Normally, series fall off at know and accepted rate. Fall below that and not only do you get that series shut down, you will struggle to sell to any publisher at all. It’s often very unfair, but it is reality. The kiss of death in my profession, from trad publishing, is a huge advance… that sell less well than they expected. I’ve earned out on all but my very first book (and that was paperback at 6% and was within a hairs-breadth) At the midlist 8% I would have made it comfortably. My advances were not large, but I did not sell less than expected. So I can still sell to Trad Pub.

  14. orangemike

    Dave, I have to point out that I enjoy at least one series you write with Eric, and am willing to give other works of yours a try, in spite of the fact that I feel the Puppies are among the silliest and most falsely-premised movements around.* You picked good collaborators (or were picked by them) and seem to have done a fine job. People are complicated, and most of us know that.

    *outside of the “Oh, woe is me, I can’t force the rest of America to conform to my 17th-century religious sensibilities! I am being PERSECUTED! It’s just like the Nazis!”

    • (shrug) I read many authors I do not agree with philosophically.

      As far as the Puppies are concerned I have three questions for you. 1)Shouldn’t a popular-with-readers award nominees and winners have more or less the same demographic make-up as the population of possible readers? That would improve its appeal to a wider range of people. Excluding/under-representing anyone is a mistake, IMO.
      2)Would it not be beneficial to everyone if new people got into the nomination list instead of people who have… 45 prior nominations? Diversity isn’t the same woman 5 times ;-/
      3)Should the nomination voter pool be so small that 30 votes can win nomination? That’s less than the employees at some publishers, who have an interest.

      • I agree with point one in theory, but only in theory. In practice it just will never work. You are never going to get the voting populace of an award to represent ‘wider fandom’ or what is widely popular. An award will always represent the community that actually cares enough to vote on it. And I think it’s a fair assumption to say that most people who read books don’t actually care about awards.

        Then there’s the fact that the nature of the Hugo means it will never be able to represent a taste wider than that of worldcon goers. As it is a hard thing to convince people to continually buy memberships for a convention for the sole purpose of voting for an award.

        So while the Hugos might need to change how the advertise themselves, that does not necessarily make the puppies the solution.

        All the puppies can offer is replacing the established taste of worldcon, with their own tastes. I have yet to see anything to suggest that the puppies taste is representative (or even more) of a wider taste in sff. Skin Games was the only novel on the puppy slate that I think could be claimed as being widely popular. But then again the Hugos have nominated widely popular works like A Dance with Dragons.

        And unless future puppy lists decided to enforce a diversity of authors, I don’t see anything changing with regards to the same authors being nominated multiple times. Also attempting to make the Hugos more representative of wider tastes, would hardly change this as well. Take Butcher for example, if he is massively popular what’s stopping his fans nominating everything he writes. Appealing to a wider audience would do nothing to change this.

        One of the biggest issues I have had with the puppies is a failure to see how they want to do anything other than replacing the established tastes of the Hugos with their own. All the complaints about the Hugos and their insular tastes seems hypocritical to me.

  15. If we go with verified purchases only, the book gets 2.2 stars. This does not bode well for the sequels. The author’s statements to unhappy readers aren’t going to help.

    Authors pay attention to their readers’ feedback, if they want to keep selling. Dave Freer is ignoring people who aren’t his readers, not the ones who give him money.

  16. Bjorn Hasseler

    c4c