Here I am still busy with Xeno’s last chapter (which has become at least one more chapter) in trying to finish TOM – the ‘quick’ light fantasy/satire novel about a semi-feral young cat who finds himself transformed into being a curmudgeonly magician’s apprentice – that I was doing as light relief from more complex books.
Laugh, you bastards (my time will come at the end of NaNoWriMo…).
Eventually the tortoise gets skewered on the arrow, and very convenient for rotisserie roasting they are like that. Humor is hard, especially on writers and tortoises. Besides, one man’s joke is another’s elected representative.
My stories evolve toward complexity and I’m a picky fellow who likes to tie off the ends, and of course the ends just don’t co-operate, as these characters have minds of their own (and they know I am pretty weak-minded and so they over-rule me and do their own thing). I have warned my characters in no uncertain terms: any more of this and I shall parcel them up and send them to Kate. Then they will learn the meaning of an iron will, blunt speech and a sharp stake… or is that Jeremy Irons, sharp speech and a blunt stake?
They still pay absolutely no attention to me…
Which, of course, is as it should be.
A story is as long as itself. Without resorting to padding, adding more characters and more dialogue and more show-not-tell can increase markedly increase the word-count, and as traditional publishing had a habit of contracting specific counts (within a range) this was quite important for an author.
Now the only ‘dictat’ is how willing readers are to pay that price for that length. Most of Traditional Publishing still seems of the opinion that that figure is ‘a lot even for e-books’. Which is, quite honestly, wishful thinking. Of course, we humans are pretty good at wishful thinking and fooling ourselves that something is a good idea. Look at half of the fine messes I get myself into… The other half just happen. Really. Like the two-possums-in-my-house-in-one-night evening I enjoyed on Saturday night – which involved me running around the house about beating one with a cake-cooling rack (reality can be much more bizarre than fiction. Fiction needs to be plausible.).
Talking of sales, it has been mildly amusing lately how the Puppy Kickers have been twisting themselves into pretzels. First we had the Puppy Kicker saying how crass we were for always being interested in money. Obviously ahrt and educating the masses in right-think was more important. Well, he or she is welcome to it, just so long as they don’t want the readers to pay for it whether they want to or not.
Silly me. It is the reader’s fault if they don’t want it, isn’t it? Bad readers. They must be shamed, isolated and intimidated out of this.
Next breath we have John Scalzi saying that those bad readers are wrong to spend their money on classics and that they should give their money to modern authors who need it if they are to keep writing.
Of course, and by that logic… Those bad readers – by the same rules — shouldn’t give it to rich authors like John Scalzi… They should give it to the poor authors.
And that, according to other Puppy Kickers, is the Sad Puppies in general, and Larry Correia in specific. We’re not complaining if John and his fans want to go ahead and do this. They can even do it anonymously… like, you know, readers buying books do. No one need know they took notice of us. We’re all – more Puppy Kicker statements — apparently so useless that we crave any notice at all, because we’re all failed authors. So… in Puppy Kicker pretzel logic we would, naturally, as failed authors, be keen on using money as a measure of success – as I gather we crass Sad Puppies do. Oh and according to twitter twit who calls himself Drave the moonrascal – Larry Correia is a failure because he doesn’t get 500 people at all his book signings… (which will make you laugh a lot if you’re an author. It’s possibly the stupidest thing a Puppy Kicker has come up with, and the competition is stiff.)
To be fair, in sales terms, I think, yes, their attacks on us have certainly done me a lot of good. I found, much to my surprise a couple of weeks ago, that I’d entered that second happy stage of a writer’s career. (I forget now who said it – but one the greats said something like this: ‘there are 3 stages to a writer’s career – 1)where he can’t sell what he can write (assuming ‘sell’ means for enough to live on, and not just ‘at all’) and must write what he can sell 2) where he can sell anything he can write 3)where he can sell far more than he will ever write. I’m still not making a fortune, but yes, living simply and cheaply, we’re seeing a little more come in than go out, and more than last year, or the year before. But it seems I can now choose what I write, and my publisher will consider it – and if not I go to Kindle and it will sell enough copies to keep us going. It’s a long way from fame and fortune, but it lets me do what I love.
A large part of this is, no doubt, due to better folk than me, and the Puppy Kickers loud attempts to denigrate and suppress us and our work. It doesn’t take a genius (not even a mad one) to look at the well documented declining traditional book sales, particularly in sf/fantasy, and the demographics of the market place, to realize that all those readers were going elsewhere for their entertainment. Enough of them came my way to make a lot of difference to my bottom line, had obviously left buying sf/fantasy because they didn’t like what was on offer, publicized to the wazoo, and in every brick-and-mortar bookstore. It seems we’re catching a lot of those – I have had a lot of ‘I’d given up on sf until…’
The Puppy Kickers of course have the problem that not only has most of traditional publishing been obedient to their dictates and narrowed their offering down to ‘extremely PC, Correct Message before story, and let’s denigrate anyone who doesn’t fit our chosen ‘progressive’ philosophy.’ There is certainly a space for this – but it is probably 5% of the market who love it, and 20% who will put up with it, at best. The same would be true of the opposite extreme… but there really isn’t a major Trad publisher pushing that line. Where the Puppy Kickers went wrong of course was that the readers – no matter if they were in the 5%, 25% or 75% — had had the very existence of anything else – or of people who liked anything else, quite effectively drummed out. There were a nucleus of Baen readers and that was it, and a lot possible customers didn’t know about Baen let alone many Indies.
So in attacking us to protect the writers of the 5%… – and the reaction to those attacks, they told many of the other 95% of readers that there are alternatives. Of course awful… I forget now Irene Gallo’s exact foolish words ‘poor to terrible’ or something. But for many readers that was the first time they knew anything else was being published.
That 5% is not just saturated with that 5%, it’s supersaturated, and yes, a lot of the smaller trad darlings are crystalizing out and falling to the bottom. I gather things are fairly dire. On the other hand the other 95% are under-saturated, and all we needed was for people to know we existed. There are many less of us in Trad publishing than the 5%.
SF/Fantasy was always ahead of the curve with giving space to the ‘odd’ people of the demographic (and yeah, I’m odd.). But the reality is that a book designed to appeal – at the expense of a large section of your populace — to say 0.25% of your population is not going to do very well, very often. I hope trad published sf opens up again, as it seems to be with Indy – not so much for my sake but because there are some great writers not made for Indy. I just hope we can let reality and reader choice sort out how much of what is being bought. I’m quite happy seeing Vox Day _AND_ Nora Jemisin offered to the public. They will appeal to different parts of that public, and some people might even enjoy both (or neither). In the end it might be about people reading more, and reading more sf/fantasy. If you’re a good writer, and entertaining you might even win some people over to the dark side (This depends on your point of view, but I am assured they have cookies).
I have to wonder what people who wish to exclude ‘badthink’ from being available think of readers. Do they assume all readers are stupid and terribly easily led?
(Looks at politicians they support…) Don’t answer that question!
Anyway, back to Tortoise Kebabs for me. Thank you for the extra sales, Puppy Kickers. If you feel in need of giving yourselves apoplexy this novella is bound to do it for you.