If I’m not awake, please wake me up!

I promised a cogent post today but I’m not sure that’s possible. Not because my brain isn’t working. I’ve finally had the requisite coffee needed to jump start it. Not even because I’m throwing this together without thought. No, I’m afraid it will give the appearance of being anything but cogent because I’m going to talk about things actually happening in the publishing world that have left me scratching my head and wondering if I’ve fallen down a weird rabbit hole to the Crack’d version of Wonderland.

Let’s start with the first example. I call this the “how to influence people — into never buying another book put out by your bosses ever again.” I thought I had seen just about everything during Sad Puppies 3. But I was wrong. Yesterday on Facebook I saw a post by one of the editors at DAW that frankly had me wondering what in the world she was thinking. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt because she has been in an extremely stressed personal space the last few weeks. Still, there comes a point in time when you have to step back, read what you just typed into the text box and then seriously consider the wisdom of hitting “enter”.

In this case, the editor in question said, “I think Americans are stupider than a bag of hair.” Yes, it was in regard to a hot button political issue. However, it was made in a public post. That means anyone on Facebook could see it if they wanted. While I have no problem with people saying what they think, when you have a name that is instantly associated with a company, you have to realize that what you say will reflect back on that company, whether you are speaking in your official capacity or not. That is especially true when, as in this case, your name is Wollheim.

If you want to make controversial statements, especially about a subject that is such a hot topic and as divisive as universal health care, do it in a post that isn’t public. In this case, she managed to insult all Americans, folks who are the people DAW wants to sell books to. Not exactly the most tactful or well-thought out thing she could have done.

Next up is a post about Apple and how narrow-minded, shall we say, it is when it comes to e-books. Teleread gives us the tale of someone who discovered the downside of using iBooks. In this case, an Apple customer discovered that a simple mistake — accidentally registering one of his Apple devices to the wrong Apple ID — prevented him from downloading e-books he had already bought and paid for on that particular device. It seems Apple has a provision in its Terms of Service that your registration is for 90 day periods. (I’m paraphrasing.) Because the customer had registered his device to one Apple ID, he would have to wait for the expiration of the 90 days before he could register it to another ID and download his already paid for books.

For the customer involved, that was the final straw. Not only was he going to have to wait, at that point 37 days, before he could re-register he device and access his books, he faced another hurdle as well. As Teleread noted, “iBooks can only be read on Apple devices, while most other e-book stores have apps for every platform and some have their own e-ink hardware readers besides.” So, while you can read e-books you buy from Amazon on just about any device out there due to Amazon’s philosophy of making apps easily available to its customers, Apple wants to lock you into not only their books (with a higher level of DRM) but also into their devices.

As I noted in a Facebook group I belong to, this is the sort of information I want to know both as a reader but as a writer as well. As a reader, I want to know that I can access my e-books whenever and wherever I want. I don’t want to have to worry that I’m registering a device — A DEVICE — to the wrong account or ID and then not being able to correct the mistake for three months. I want to be able to correct it as soon as I discover the mistake. I want to be able to read on my Windows laptop or my iPad or my Android phone. In other words, I want my books — and, as a writer my work — available cross-platform. I want it easy for my readers to read my books and to recommend them to their friends.

Finally, there is the latest “fad”, for lack of a better word I’m seeing in publishing. (I’ll admit, I have other words for it. Laziness. Sleeziness. Bait and Switch. There are more and you will see why.)

I’ve never been shy about saying I am not a fan of the Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey series. I can’t even say I was surprised when I discovered that the latest book in the 50 Shades series was simply called Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian (Fifty Shades of Grey Series). From what I can tell, it is basically the same story told in the original series but from the point of view of Christian Grey. It was supposed to be groundbreaking because it would give the reader an insight into the title character. Instead, it was nothing more than a rehash of an already told story. Worse, from what I can tell reading the preview, it isn’t written any better than the original was.

If you look at the reviews — and if you do what I do and toss out the 5 star and 1 star reviews, going first to the 3 star reviews — you see things like “50 Shades of Yawn” and “Hoodwinked” and “Big Disappointment”. The general consensus of these reviews and others like them was that the readers expected something new, not just a rehash of something they had already bought and read. They wanted new insight and got none. Yet this was a book that not only made it through the traditional gatekeepers but received publisher push. Why? Because the series did well following major push, so they wanted to ride the coattails and — and this is what bothers me the most — the author was more than willing to go along with them.

Then we have what I guess is the natural follow-up to Grey. Stephanie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death Dual Edition. This has been hailed as a gender-swapped version of Twilight, with Bella now being a guy named Beau and Edward now Edythe. The reviews for this have been more scathing than those for Gray. It currently has 207 reviews on Amazon for a total average of 2.7 stars. Not good, especially not when you consider the impact Twilight had on the YA market.

The 3-star reviews are mediocre. Some look at it as an awkward attempt on Meyer’s part. Others seem to feel nothing but greed motivated Meyer and her publishers. One reviewer even commented that the first hundred pages felt like she was reading a poor attempt at plagiarism. And these are the 3-star reviews.

Something else to note when looking at this particular book’s reviews is the fact there are substantially more 1-star reviews than 5-star reviews. 45% of those leaving reviews felt it only deserved a single star as opposed to 30% rating it a 5-star. One review in particular points out the problem many have with the book — and points out a problem with traditional publishing. According to the link above, Meyer said she wrote this “re-imagining” to show that Bella really wasn’t weak, as has been said in criticism of Twilight. According to Meyer, Bella appeared that way because of her humaness. It wasn’t sexism or anything of the like (weak woman needing a strong man to save her). But, according to one Amazon reviewer, “Within the first few pages, the sexism flares and drips from the pages.” Reading the examples the reviewer gives, I have to say they are right.

As I said, I feel like I’ve fallen through an odd version of the rabbit hole. But the result is clear. Traditional publishing is following the path taken by Hollywood. Instead of pushing its “successful” authors to bring out new material, they want the successful work rehashed. Give it a new “treatment”. Like Hollywood, more often than not, instead of getting The Godfather, Part 2, they get 2011’s version of Arthur or 2005’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

We are in a creative industry. So let’s be creative. That means more than changing the names of your characters and doing a find and replace throughout your manuscript.

29 thoughts on “If I’m not awake, please wake me up!

  1. Hey —
    Quick note on the topic — account-locking your devices. Amazon does something similar with their Kindle apps; if you change accounts on a Kindle app (and, I’d guess, a device… but I don’t _know_ that), you’re stuck on that account for at least six months. Can’t switch back. Of course, Amazon _doesn’t_ have the additional whammy of not allowing you to read your content on non-Amazon devices.

    I’m looking into the legality issues of jailbreaking my Kindle DRM at this point, just from sheer irritation.

    –Phil Sevetson

    1. So you can’t change accounts more than once every 6 months? That seems kind of reasonable. Or am I missing something here?

      Amazon also has some kind of family plan where you can share books between acocunts. I haven’t looked into it in detail but it seems pretty fair in outline

      1. Can you have more than one person logged into an account at a time? Since I’m the only ebook reader in my family all of our devices default to my account. Currently it is on 3 PCs, 3 Phones, and a Nexus.

  2. American liberals consider it de rigueur to bash America. And we’re not talking constructive criticism. We’re talking bashing for its own sake — because everything in the U.S. always sucks, and everything somewhere else (cough, Europe, cough) is always better. This is pretty much an iron-clad conventional wisdom among America’s progressives: if it’s U.S. in origin, it sucks. If it’s something somewhere else (cough, Europe, cough) it’s automatically amazing and perfect. Usually punctuated with an exasperated comment like, “Why can’t we be like them?!

    I consider it a feature — not a bug — that the U.S. has always been “that guy” who doesn’t conform to whatever it is the rest of the world is doing. When the rest of the world was ruled by royalty, the U.S. was different. When the rest of the world was ruled by dictators, the U.S. was different. When the rest of the world was going communist, the U.S. said, “Nope.” As the rest of the world plays with socialism, the U.S. may finally be giving up the ghost — the millennials have been promised too much free shit — but the boat’s not in yet. We might regain our senses in time.

    Or we can go socialist, and be broke before 2100, and of course, the people who demanded we go socialist will blame everyone and everything else, but themselves.

    Because socialism is never the problem.

    Even though it’s invariably always the problem.

    1. Honestly, in the political realm I’d agree with the ‘dumb’ statement at the moment. We have one political party on a forced march to elect a crook and the other whose preferences could best be described as “oohh shiny!”

        1. Then let’s just amend the statement to be most people are dumber than a box of rocks when it comes to politics (or anything, really, that is just a proxy for tribalism).

  3. Re: “50 shades of Goo” and “Sunset of the Romance Genre,” when people who run a business do these types of insane things, one first has to ask, “Cui bono?” It seems to me like a Journolist memo went out to publishers to push transgenderism. Also see million dollar hero King Kardashian. It may seem preposterous, but anyone who knows the history of the Hollywood Reds knows how you got whiplash watching the screenplays change sides over the Hitler/Stalin pact and its demise.

    1. I’m just suspicious enough — and enough of a fan of history (especially the lead-up to WWII) to suspect the existence of some kind of Journolist memo among Big Establishment Publishing, specifying exactly that.

      1. IIRC some publishers do that with YA, so you get a spate of, oh, teens with terminal diseases, or a certain kind of dystopia, or [sexual thing here] even without a lead best-seller.

    1. This only helps confirm my sense that DAW has gone downhill. They may not be Tor yet but the glory days of the Yellow Spine aren’t just gone but unwanted.

      At least they are getting some classic Lee from that period back in print.

  4. Making it difficult or impossible for customers to read (or view, or listen to, or install and run) content they have already paid for is the best way possible to teach them to become pirates. Most people have heard vague reports on “those pirate sites” where stuff can be had for free, if you know where and how to look. If they perceive that a publisher has screwed them over, they will start asking around, and eventually they’ll find those pirate sites (or Usenet, or torrents) and learn how to use them to find the item they paid for but can no longer access. And once they do, wow! Thousands of things free for the taking! Some people have sufficient integrity to resist that siren call. Many do not.

    The kicker is that the publisher isn’t the one who gets hurt the most, but rather the authors. This is one of several reasons I simply will not use Apple products: their “walled garden” mindset. (Also the fact that Apple lifted so many ideas from my former employer, Xerox, and then defended them against others as though the ideas were their own.)

    The war on content piracy could be won by following these principles:

    1. Make the content cheap.
    2. Make it effortless to buy.
    3. Make player apps available on as many hardware platforms as possible.
    4. Never but NEVER get between the customers and content that they’ve paid for.

    We’re mostly there on 1 and 2. 3 is coming along–except for Apple, of course. 4 is where the ego comes in, and where we still have a long way to go.

    1. I’m convinced that the Disney “vault” is turning parents into pirates. If you want the movie that was your childhood favorite to show to your five-year-old, and you missed its publication, you won’t want to wait years to get hold of it.

        1. A bunch of my friends were passing around a link a few months ago that purported to have the whole Disney animation catalog for about $300. I had to patiently explain to each of them that the whole thing was a Chinese pirate set, and that reading reviews said that the quality varied. I mean, you could tell from the site itself that it was pirated—bad grammar, inconsistent spelling, all the thousand-and-one red flags of “this isn’t professional”—but the demand was so high that my normally skeptical friends wanted to believe, so they didn’t even notice.

          1. There was a pirate Georgette Heyer audiobook and radio show mp3 set like that – just ripped from the torrents, but they were charging a pretty large amount of money for it. A lot of pirate video of unobtainium shows, too – basically preying on those who don’t know better.

            Of course, it’s a shame that so many older recordings can’t or won’t be sold to those who want them. It seems foolish for companies not to pick up money that’s right there on the table.

    2. > 4. Never but NEVER get between the customers and content that they’ve paid for.

      Unfortunately many retailers consider that to be the prime spot to insert themselves to hawk “value added” extras, or just slam more generic advertising at their hapless customer.

      “We have them in the middle of a transaction, they can’t click away, their eyeballs are OURS ha-ha-haaaa!”

      TRX: clicks away from incomplete transaction, with single-finger gesture toward cable modem…

  5. Sooo, the author of 50 shades actually went through with what Smeyers was going to do before the first couple chapters were leaked by an alpha reader and thoroughly made fun of on the internet for their creepifyingness?

    1. It’s also an interesting contrast to Baen who seems to want a new book or a new series rather than the old one. Unfortunately, since it’s Baen these folk are going to circle themselves more rather than learn from success.

  6. People forget that despite the desperate attempt at a Leftist, Socialist, Bohemian Artistic facade, Entertainment is perhaps the most Conservative industry ever.
    And I’m using Conservative in the original, nineteenth century context.
    Thus, despite the artist pretension, they tend to go with the safe and proven.
    Despite the crowing about social justice & equality, they tend to be pretty happy to affect the airs of the aristocrat.
    And let’s not mention how money hungry people can be that say money is pretty evil.

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