The past couple of weeks have been surreal when it comes to some of the things I’ve seen coming out of this profession I love so much. I know that the publishing industry is changing. I’ve been following the industry for much longer than I’ve been writing as a profession. I’ve had to accept that, by some people’s standards, I am not a professional because I don’t have a contract with one of the major publishing houses. That doesn’t matter because I know I’m a professional because I write enough and make enough to live off my writing now. (Yes, my expenses are low but that doesn’t matter. I can live from my writing if I have to.)
But some of the head-shaking stupidity that I’ve seen of late really does leave me at a loss. We have John Scalzi telling us that youngsters don’t get into reading science fiction by reading the classics. On its surface, that is such a sweepingly broad statement as to be false. True, a number of readers don’t first discover their love of science fiction by reading Heinlein or Asimov or any of the other Grand Masters of the genre. But, it is just as true that there are any number of them who do because they see their parents reading them or they find the books on the bookshelf at home. He tends to ignore the fact that our children learn their love of reading, in many cases, from the example set for them by their parents. A kid who has run out of books from the library will go to the bookshelves at home to find reading material (or to the family Amazon bookshelf on their electronic devices).
I could have lived with Scalzi’s statement as just being Scalzi but it was what came next that blew my mind. Scalzi wrote in his blog, “All love to Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, et al., but they’re dead now. They don’t need the money from readers; living authors do.” So, if an author is dead, his books should be set back so living authors can sell theirs. What? If that is the criteria, why not apply it to living authors as well? After all, if an authors has been making six and seven figure advances for years — or even more — why do we need to continue buying their books? They have enough money now. Right? Let’s start supporting those other authors who haven’t been so lucky. Why isn’t Scazli supporting that position? Oh, wait! I know the answer. He isn’t because he just got that huge, multi-book, mutli-million dollar contract from Tor. He isn’t about to cut his own throat that way.
Scalzi isn’t, believe it or not, the most unbelievable part of what’s been going on of late. That has to go to the bean counters at Samhain Publishing. Samhain has been around for years. I know authors and readers alike who have sung its praises. However, many of them are now looking at Samhain and wondering what in the world is going on. You see, word has gotten out that Samhain has fired horror editor Don d’Auria. That is bad enough. Authors loved working with d’Auria and his reputation is one of being an exceptional editor.
What makes the news even more unbelievable is the fact that just days before news of his termination reached Samhain authors, they received a request from Samhain’s PR Department asking them to write testimonials about d’Auria. Was this a case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing or was it an attempt by Samhain to make it look like d’Auria was leaving on his own or perhaps even retiring? I don’t know and I’m not sure anyone does.
What I do know is that the ripples of disbelief and anger are running through the horror community. Samhain has completely bungled the matter, making it seem that having someone who knows social media is more important than having an editor who is respected and who has a proven track record of knowing what he is doing. Worse, it appears from what little Samhain has said on the matter that they are going to, at least for the immediate future, have their romance editors take over the editing and acquisitions on the horror side of the business. You can imagine the howls of outrage that is causing and rightly so.
There is something else that is a perfect example of what is happening in our industry right now. When he learned of d’Auria’s firing, horror author Brian Keene called for a boycott of Samhain’s social media outlets. Using the hashtag #SamhainBlackout, he asked others who supported d’Auria to join him as he unsubscribed from Samhain’s twitter feed, etc. Guess what happened? Within minutes, the panic set in from those who hadn’t taken time to read what Keene actually asked for. The cries of foul! and traitor! began. After all, he was calling for a boycott of Samhain itself. That would wind up hurting the authors more than the company. Didn’t he see that? Where’s the cliff we can all jump off of?
Except that isn’t what Keene proposed. He proposed a course of action that did nothing more than get people to quit following Samhain in social media, an ironic plan of attack since the company said it let a ell-respected editor go so it could afford more social media exposure. Keene proposed a reasonable consequence for an unreasonable action. But, as we have seen so often before, one person saw the words boycott and Samhain in close proximity and jumped the shark and all the rest of the sheeples followed suit.
Finally, a word of warning. For those of you who are considering going with a publisher, especially a small press, please do your research. Go to Absolute Write and see what the boards there have to say about the publisher. Check out Preditors & Editors. Do a Google search. And then go to Amazon. Search out that publisher’s name as well as authors who have worked with that publisher. Download samples of e-books put out by the publisher to see things like how well they actually edit a manuscript, the formatting, etc. You can tell a lot about not only and author but an editor/publisher by the first few pages of a work.
Look at covers. If the cover is like one I saw from a small press recently, run away. This particular cover was for a supposedly young adult novel. The cues were Western and female because there was a teenager on a horse. But whether it was a straight Western, a romance, a coming of age, Christian fiction, whatever, I couldn’t tell. Worse, when looking at the cover, even in thumbnail I could tell it was a lousy Photoshop job. How? Because half the girl’s leg was missing. Her boot in the stirrup was there and her thigh upwards was there but everything between was missing. Only the horse was present.
But then there was the final straw, at least in my book. For the e-book version, the publication details on the Amazon page looked “legitimate”. Everything was there, including the ISBN and publisher’s name. In other words, it looked like a traditionally published book, even if it was from a small press. But, when checking out the page for the print version, that disappeared. Yes, there was an ISBN. What was missing was a publisher’s name. Instead, it showed that is was published by Createspace.
Now, as an author who uses Createspace for her print books, and as an editor who did the same, I know that there are ways to avoid having Createspace listed as the publisher. You can either supply your own ISBN that you’ve purchased previously for the book or you can spend a whopping $10 to buy one through Createspace. The latter will mean Createspace is listed as your distributor in things like Books In Print. But your publishing house’s name is listed on the product page — thereby making your work look like it came from a “real” publisher.
If you have signed with a publisher who doesn’t do one or the other, you may have some problems. Either your publisher doesn’t know the tricks of the trade, so to speak, or they are in serious financial straits and can’t afford the $10 or they simply don’t care. All should be red flags. If you are giving up a portion of your earnings to go the traditional route, that publisher had better be doing everything it can to make your book look like it came from a traditional publishing house.
So do your homework. Please.