Cranky Writer is, well, cranky

When I went to bed last night, I knew exactly (kind of, sort of) what I was going to write about this morning. It was a toss-up between a post on some comments about the cover of Black Tide Rising, an anthology based on John Ringo’s  series of books, and a response to an article The Passive Voice linked to about how real writers don’t go indie. As you can imagine, I had plenty to say about both topics. That doesn’t even begin to go into my thoughts about the condemnation and disrespect that has been flung Kate’s way because — gasp — she respects the wishes of readers more than the gentile feelings of some authors who are apparently worried that they have been recommended for a Hugo because — gasp again — the wrong sort of fans might have made the recommendation. But all of that seems minor in light of what has happened in Brussels this morning. That does not, however, mean it shouldn’t be said.

So, here goes.

Starting with the attacks on Kate and the desire to be removed from the recommended list Get over yourselves. Kate has run SP4 exactly the way she said she would. It has been in the open. The recommendations have been made on the SP4 blog. Kate herself spent more than a month here on MGC discussing each of the major — and some not so major — categories people could nominate works in. Those posts were not closed to comments. They were not hidden from view. They were, in fact, promoted on Facebook and elsewhere. No one was asked if they were Puppies, sad or otherwise. No one was told that only a certain kind of book could be recommended.

Did some people campaign to be included on the list? Sure. Not that it is anything new. Authors have, for years, reminded people what work they had that was eligible for the award. Funny how no one objected until folks outside of the “in club” started doing it. I guess it is a prime example of that old adage of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

As for those who don’t want to be associated with SP4, I suggest you go back and look at what Kate has done throughout the year. The list is not something she pulled out of thin air. This is a list that is based solely on recommendations made by anyone who wanted to take part. By telling Kate you don’t want to be associated with the list, you are basically telling your readers — your fans and the people who buy your work — that you don’t value their support. You are letting fear of what a few in the industry might think of you override what should be important: keeping your fans happy. Unless, of course, you don’t give a flip what your fans think and you like slapping them in the face for daring to support your work and recommend it for what has been one of the most prestigious prizes in the industry.

Which leads me into the article I saw listed on The Passive Voice. This oh-so-elite author doesn’t care if she starves. She will never, ever sully her writing by going indie. Serious authors shouldn’t even consider joining the unwashed masses, at least as far as she is concerned. She raises some of the same tired excuses we have seen for years. No gatekeepers to keep the dreck out. No editing. No good covers. Indie authors can be obnoxious with their constant promotion. You need to suffer for your art — oh, wait. That’s my take on what she has to say because she is the one who put a dollar figure on everything.

Look, I don’t care what course you take, be it indie or traditional. Both have strengths and weaknesses, although the line is thinning between the two. The reality is, if you go indie and you are serious about it, you will treat it as a business. That means you will get professional looking covers for your work. You will have it edited. You will develop a platform that will help get word out about your work. The hardest thing you will do is get your books into physical bookstores. That, too, is the one thing that traditional publishing makes easier. But, as I said, that is becoming less of an issue.

The second reality is that traditional publishing doesn’t always give you everything the article’s author seems to believe they do. The vast majority of traditionally published authors don’t get the type of promotion they expect. They, too, have to create their platform or “brand” to promote their work. Editing isn’t what it used to be for a number of houses. Yes, it can vary from editor to editor but it isn’t of the quality, on the whole, of what it once was. Ask Sarah about some of the copy edits she had from a non-Baen house where the copy editor apparently didn’t understand what a sword arm was and how it was suggested she “correct” the problem.

Read the article and let me know what you think.

Finally, the cover for Black Tide Rising. I hadn’t paid that much attention to it when the cover was first released. Then I started seeing the cries of outrage, first on Facebook when some of the usual crowd started crying over the fact that their hero, John Scalzi, would deign to allow his name to be associated with such a horribly sexist cover. The complaints continued across social media. Evil Baen! Bad John Ringo and Gary Poole! Evil, mean men using sexist covers. How dare they!

The problem is, the ones screaming and pointing fingers made one big mistake. They condemned the cover based on their own prejudices. They didn’t wait to see if it had anything to do with the anthology. All they saw were cheerleaders with guns and they made that weird, non-logical leap they have gotten so good at. Even when their mistake was pointed out, most of them continued to point fingers and scream “Misogyny!”

So here’s the deal. Black Tide Rising is, with one glaring exception, a great read — and this comes from someone who is not a fan of zombie books. (Ringo’s series is different from the other zombie books I’ve tried to read and a series I have very much enjoyed.) If I remember correctly, there are 12 stories in the anthology. One of them, Not in Vain, was written by Kacey Ezell and is the inspiration for the cover illustration. For those not familiar with Ezell, here is an excerpt from her bio: Kacey Ezell is an active duty USAF helicopter pilot. When not beating the air into submission, she writes military SF, SF, fantasy, and horror fiction.

Her story centers around a group of cheerleaders, their coach and what they have to do when the ZA happens. They are on their way home from a competition — hence the uniforms. They are, as most serious cheerleaders these days, true athletes and anything but the empty headed bimbos cheerleaders have been stereotyped as. Sure, they get scared because of what is happening but they adapt and cope. It is that or die. And yet, to those complaining about the cover, none of that matters. Cheerleaders, you know. Short skirts and bare midriffs and guns. Must be nothing but a bunch of old white men deciding on a cover that “excites” them.

Grow up and quit making yourself look bad by condemning something before you do your homework.

I guess what I’ve done is spend a little over 1,200 words proving that I’m cranky. I’m tired of people condemning things about my profession and about my friends without doing at least a minimum of research first. I’m tired of being called names and condemned because I don’t fall into lockstep with those who are trying to hold onto a professional business model that is outdated and that threatens the industry because the suits are too scared or too tied to their ways to adapt to changing times and demands. I’m tired of authors forgetting that they need to please their readers first and foremost or their books won’t sell. I’m tired of being told I’m doing it all wrong because I haven’t served my “apprenticeship” and bowed down to the gatekeepers.

Guess what, times change. The apprenticeship can be served in different ways now. Yes, it can be served by trying to break through the walls of the gatekeepers. Or it can be served by ignoring the gatekeepers and going straight to the customer. Please the customer and you make money. Don’t please them and you either have to learn your craft better or move on to something else. It is that simple.

So is the adage that the customer is always right — something certain authors have forgotten or have decided they don’t care about.

And, since I am one of the unwashed indie authors the blogger for the Guardian complained about, here is my bit of self-promotion:

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) will go live in less than a month. It is available for pre-order now.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is part of the Honor and Duty (2 Book Series) series. Click either the link or the image to the left for more information on the series.

Thanks and now back to work for this writer who, for the record, does better as an indie than the blogger does as a traditional author. But then, I look at this as my business, as my profession and treat it as such.

76 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION, WRITING

76 responses to “Cranky Writer is, well, cranky

  1. I’m so sick and tired of these precious snowflakes and sparkle ponies having collective pearl-clutching sessions about the SPIV recommendation list! Seriously! They snivel and grouse, about CONTEXT! SAD PUPPIES! BAD! MISOGYNIST! Then they admit that Kate did exactly what Kate said she would do – kept the process and the list not only transparent, but fan driven! But in the same breath they blame the friggin’ readers, because CONTEXT AND HISTORY!

    I’m so done with these idiots! All they’re doing is ensuring I never put a penny in their pockets.

    Yeah, I’m talking to you Valente!

    • I hear you, Nicki. It is like the puppy kickers can’t figure out how to deal with Kate. She has to be evil because she is heading up SP4 but she has done everything she said but still she must be evil. Oh, and Larry is standing behind her telling her what to do. Sorry, that has to be the funniest and most outrageous thing they have suggested. If Larry were involved, he would be out front, mocking each of them. He isn’t the sort to hide behind anyone. But a female, one not from the US, who has done exactly what she said she would is someone they can’t handle so they fall back on the old tactic of attack long and loud and maybe no one will realize they are full of hot air.

      • aacid14

        The annoying issue is that the rec list last year was simply that last year as well. It was just not done in a fashion where there were road signs to the methodology yet. Someone stating that he and those that contacted him that he trusted/had similar tastes with found books X, Y, Z, etc interesting and worthy of praise. IMO that’s less distasteful than the recurrent shilling from authors or the purchase of memberships by publishers who stand to financially gain from the awards but that was never the issue. Or the fact that many of those howling against it are those who have been showered with praise in the current methodology. It’s like all humanity where there is an in group and an out group.

        • I agree, especially with regard to the shilling. Of course, they don’t like it either, unless they are the ones doing the shilling — or the buying of memberships. The reality is, no matter what we do, they will never like it. We are the interlopers, the infidels and the ones who don’t chase the “art”. We remember that the reader is, ultimately, the one we should be pleasing. In other words, we understand the economics of our profession and aren’t ashamed of the fact we are in this to make money.

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        From You-Know-Where:

        “Lois Tilton on March 22, 2016 at 8:00 pm said:

        One can have no sympathy for Kate Paulk. Nobody made her do this. It need never [and should never] have been done. After the 2015 Hugo Awards, the entire Puppy project should have been retired to the Graveyard of Bad Ideas while the rest of the world went on about its ordinary business.

        So I said at the time, but Paulk didn’t listen to me. Of her own free will, she decided to waste a year perpetuating a movement that no one wanted to see again. No good could come of this, and so it didn’t. I can’t imagine how she ever thought it could.

        I can only hope that some other fool doesn’t scoop up this toxic football and decide to make another futile run of it.”

        Did Lois Tilton actually speak with Kate?

        • TRX

          You have to admit, that’s a beautiful piece of rhetoric. You got your foregone conclusions, your guilt by association, your disdainful sneering, your voice of reason, and your tenuous relation to reality-as-we-know-it all in one nice package.

        • Lois is Tilton at windmills, methinks.

        • Wait, has Kate been asking for sympathy? If she has, then I’ve missed it.

        • Oh my, our former Locus reviewer is still full of herself, isn’t she? I guess she sees nothing wrong with the Locus list. As for no good coming from SP4 and no one wanting it to take place, where does she get her supporting data? Oh, wait. Silly question. Like the others of her ilk, she listens to and believes only that which supports her own position. The rest of us don’t matter.

  2. Sigh. Every time I go to Amazon, there’s a little box called ‘Digital Pre-Orders (1 Item)’ to remind me I have to wait to read yer next book.
    I don’t like to wait.
    And today, maybe right now, I will have to review “Black Tide Rising.” I think I’ll do something unexpected.
    And just so we are clear on this, I disagree with everything I just said.

    • I wonder if you will feel the same way about a certain story as I do. VBEG.

      And sorry about the wait. I hope, when you read the book, you think it was worth it.

  3. The Grauniad article was terrible. A classic example of virtue signalling / sucking up to the abuser. It reminded me a lot of Sarah’s post from a while back comparing publishers to abusive spouses. And by reminded me, I mean illustrated perfectly what Sarah was trying to say.

    • Yep. It reminded me of the scene from Animal House. The fraternity initiation scene. “Thank you, sir, may I have another!”

    • Agree that the article by Ros Barber was ridiculous. She wrote: “…and how many times [editors, copy-editors and proof-readers] have saved me from looking like a twonk.” But, honestly, she needed someone to save her from embarrassing herself in writing in The Guardian. These types of angsty rants by trad pub sorts were common in 2011, when the indie world was still relatively new. “Vanity pub!” they cried. But now trad pub sorts, if they are even rudimentarily informed, know that the indie route is a valid one. Their criticisms, if they have them, tend to be considerably more sophisticated than heretofore. Barber’s rant had TPVers checking the date on her piece, because she is so out of touch.

      • What’s sad — or maybe a bit scary — is that I am starting to see more and more of this sort of thing of late. I don’t know if the new crop of literary wannabes are recycling what they have seen before when it comes to condemning indies or what but those arguments have been muddying the waters once again. That said, I look at her much as I do Damien W. They want to whinge and whine because it is the only way they are going to get the sort of attention they wish their writing would get. Oh, wait, Damien hasn’t written anything yet. VBEG

    • Draven

      Well, he’s trying to make sure he had properly signaled his virtue to all the editors, so that they might accept his screed as worthy of bring published assuming he ever finishes it.

      • I thought the author was a she. Though these days what with gender fluidity and the like it’s possible it was both or neither

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Finish it?

        Why should he finish it?

        After all, he’s being paid to “write” it but after he finishes it, he’ll have to some other money source. 👿

        Note, Roger Zelazny had a character who was paid for going to college but every time he came close to finishing a degree, he changed his major.

        Nice guy actually and the course work that he had helped him out when he got into a very interesting situation. 😉

        Mind you, the best part of the book was when the college created a degree “just for him” so he had to find a job.

        Oh, there was a job just waiting for him. 😀

        • Reality Observer

          My best friend in college had that deal going. Kept on getting grants, didn’t have to start paying back his loans until he was out of school – so his plan was to stay in school until he keeled over from old age.

          They changed the rules on him, of course (some loans you have to start paying back right away, and there’s a lifetime cap now) and he had to get a job.

          I must admit that his example of “mooching off of the taxpayer” was one I was somewhat conflicted about – not the “sit on my couch and swill beer all day” kind of “moocher.”

          BTW, with his education, his job was eventually being a criminal defense lawyer for minors that found truly deep doo-doo to get into. Not usually a place that attracts the best and brightest – but I went to his wedding, and many of the guests were some of the top people in the technology industry. I mean the people who were major drivers in the committees that wrote the IPv4 Internet standards… I felt rather intimidated, which is not an easy accomplishment with my ego!

  4. lampwright

    That was an excellent article, Amanda!

    You might want to glance at the beginning of the paragraph that starts: So here’s the deal. The double use of the word “exception” made it so that I had to read it three times before I understood that you were NOT saying that the story from John Ringo’s series was the one bad story in the book…whiich I don’t think is what you meant!

    • Amanda may have been uncaffeinated during the typing of this post …

      • Which is a dangerous state for this writer to be in. Now, must stagger off to find more Death Wish. If only I could mainline it. Sigh.

    • As Kilted Dave said, I was uncaffeinated (and am still very under-caffeinated) when I wrote the post. I’ve edited the paragraph but not sure it makes much more sense. Cranky writer is sleepy writer right now. VBEG

  5. Well, clearly if women are beautiful and confident, they must be victims of the evil patriarchy. They should join the feminists, who would teach them to be ugly and whiney, instead.

    Do you realize that most of the reason why feminists are perceived as ugly is because of their attitude? There are plenty of fat women who are perceived as beautiful, friendly and desirable. They tend not to be third wave feminists.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      Not “Fat”, plus-sized women. 😉

      Seriously, IMO a large part of attractiveness is the attitude of the person.

      Their attitude is a strong part of why other people want to be around them or want to avoid them. 😀

      • Albert

        To a degree. I’ve seen plenty of porkers swaggering around with ‘Big Beautiful Woman’ expectations that I wouldn’t touch with a 900′ pole even if they _weren’t_ pre-disqualified on the basis of voluntary illiteracy and/or linguistic matricide.

      • Reality Observer

        Pulling two almost random names out of thin air, from the entertainment industry… Which would I rather watch? Ella Fitzgerald or Kim Kardashian?

        Ella, hands down, no contest.

        Semi-random, because Kim was mentioned elsewhere a couple days ago, and I pulled up Ella’s rendition of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” this morning after being reminded of the song by the 163x series.

        (Don’t ever say I’m not a nice person – not including any links to the other “entertainer.”)

      • One I heard recently: “You’re ugly in looks AND character. Aren’t you quite the gifted sort!”

        (Translated from Filipino, wording altered slightly to deliver the snark.)

  6. I’m imagining Ringo’s reaction to this…and chuckling.

    • Reality Observer

      Have to say that I was somewhat confused by the cover (for some reason, I thought it was Hope in the scene, although I’d seen the discussion on the Bar about it). That would have been wrong, obviously.

      Sigh. I have to wait until it comes out in MMPB; the finances do not extend to an eArc right now.

  7. McChuck

    Love the cover of the “you might also like” Monster Hunter Grunge.

    Why do you tease us so, with all these books that aren’t released yet? Wicked, heartless promoter of future books!

  8. You know most of these whiney “Get me off the LIst!” writers were nominated by SJW who expected them to _not_ make the list. Then the crys of Blacklisting, and not considering books nominated according to Kate’s own rules would have crisscrossed the internet, full of glee.

    Oh . . . Wait . . .

    • “Hoist by their own petard.”
      How DARE SP’s do ….exactly what they say they will do. Just like.. uh.. the last three years? Drowning in their own toxic narrative, the SJW’s are. It’s mighty hard to have any sympathy for obviously self-inflicted wounds.

  9. Christopher M. Chupik

    Man, that Guardian article is dumb. I guess someone’s gunning for Damien’s position as Village Idiot.

    • Someday the Guardian will (probably by sheer accident) publish an article that isn’t complete rubbish. But nobody sane will believe it.

      • It already happened when their Eco Loony writer came out and said that he was wrong about nuclear power and that we need to build more of them if you want to lower CO2 emissions and being energy independent.

  10. Freddie_mac

    Black Tide Rising’s cover …

    *rubs eyes* yep, they’ve got three attractive girls & guns … and the girls look like the know one end of the gun from the other. Yeah, not really seeing the problem — shouldn’t we be celebrating strong, kick-ass girls who can defend themselves? Maybe the guns are the problem.

    Just discovered Ringo’s zombie books a few months back, and found them to be a rollicking good time. Personally, I thought this cover was inspired by the youngest daughter (bad-ass zombie killer extraordinaire).

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      You know, I’m old enough to remember when they would have been thrilled to see strong women taking up arms. On this front, and so many others (most notably race), the “progressives” seem to be slipping further backwards in time.

    • Reality Observer

      If it had been Hope – then I would have been annoyed. For the story it illustrates, though, it is perfect.

  11. I don’t count it as an insult if an author wants to withdraw their name. What’s important is how they do it and whether they welcome nomination from another venue.

    Nor do I care if Ms. Barber wants to push traditional publishing to the exclusion of indie. Frankly, I hope she stays traditional and encourages other like minded individuals to do likewise. It helps cut down on competition.

    Looked at the cover of Black Tide Rising, and about all I can say is the critics haven’t been paying attention to the magazine covers at the store check-outs. It doesn’t even compare with the cover of the Sport’s Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Unless they also get their knickers in a bunch over those, they’re just looking for something to complain about. That being the case, the best thing is to ignore them. If they want attention, let them find it elsewhere.

    • “Unless they also get their knickers in a bunch over those, they’re just looking for something to complain about.”

      They usually do, generally.

      Personally speaking, I find the cover slightly obnoxious, mostly because I would like to actually be able to read the book in public without having people assume that I’m reading porn.

      That having been said, certain people need to get over themselves.

      • Personally speaking, I find the cover slightly obnoxious, mostly because I would like to actually be able to read the book in public without having people assume that I’m reading porn.

        This is an ancient problem that goes back (at least) to the pulps. The answer is those days was to tear the cover off (shudder). The modern answer is the e-book. (Else I couldn’t read John C. Wright’s Iron Chamber of Memory</i? in public.)

        • TRX

          Considering the average “romance” cover, you’d have to be a lot more graphic than that before anyone thought you were reading porn…

        • Sara the Red

          I thank all the gods of digital technology for the creation of the ereader. I can read anywhere, anytime, and not feel a bit self conscious. ^_^

      • Laura M

        Try being a 12-year-old girl attending a missionary school back in the day. My friend made me put the Barsoom books face down. Even though the women were really pretty.

    • The cover is a classic Baen cover. It’s part of the Baen brand to have a cover that is (more or less) a scene from the book with lots of action and probably some woman wearing less clothes than is permitted in Saudi Arabia.

      You can hate them, cringe whatever but they are instantly identifiable and a big part of the reason why Baen has a brand that no other imprint apart from Mills & Boon/Harlequin romance has (and note the M&B covers also have semi-clothed humans on them most of the time).

      • I like the action scenes; the scantily-clad women, however, cause me to need to resort to various means of subterfuge when I visit my parents. (My father is also a Baen fan, so he understands. My mother, less so.)

        • Anonymous Coward

          I see a market for a new product – something that completely blocks any view of objectionable cover art. What do you folks think of the name “Book Burka” ?

          • Hmmmmm, there are possibilities…
            “Going places where you’ll need to do some fast talking to keep people from making unwonted assumptions? Try our new Book Cover Covers, on sale for 9.95 for a pack of six for paperbacks, and 12.95 for a hardback six-pack!”

            • Reminds me of the wraparound covers they used to sell to cover up your beer cans. The covers looked like soft drink labels and were often sold at the gas stations/mini marts and truck stops, at least down in this neck of the woods.

          • Actually, they exist in Japan. You can get a protective, non-transparent sleeve cover to put on your books. It has far, far less to do with the problems of the cover art, and more to protect the book’s covers, as books there are meant to be carried around, and read on buses and subways. I think there may be some thought towards privacy in there, since they’re not transparent, but the bookshops have turned it into a marketing device, as the sleeves sold by shops supposedly have the logo of the shop as decoration…

            At least, that’s what I pull from my memory. It’s been a while, and I read that in the back of the notes for the manga xxxHolic. (The title is gloriously non-indicative of what the story is about, which is directly tied to Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle.)

          • “Book burka?” Hmmm. Could you do one in black and white and call it a book wimple?

          • For one textbook I made a cover from plain grocery bag and used an ink-stamping kit to give it a title. Well, two. The cover was ‘ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THERMONUCLEAR DEVICES’ the spine, not having as much room, was the more humorous and worrisome, ‘NUKES FOR KOOKS’.

  12. Bill S

    If they’re going after Kurt Miller’s cover for BTR, they must be threatening physical harm to Patricia Briggs for the covers of her Mercy Thompson books.

  13. Talk about gloriously uninformed. I wonder how she’d respond if that author knew that Lawrence Block – “recognized as a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and the recipient of a host of other literary awards” as per Kirkus Review – went indie – and is loving it?

    Yes, I went with the multiple links because I know the lovely Amanda will unlock this, and the links are totally worth it.

    Beautiful quote from the Kirkus Review article:

    The author is recognized as a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master and the recipient of a host of other literary awards.

    “[Self-publishing] has been in the heads of most of the writers that I’ve been around,” Block says. They “would sit drinking the evening away saying, ‘Why can’t we publish our own stuff? Aren’t we tired of watching publishers fuck everything up for us?’ ”

    The advent of e-books allowed Block to start uploading his work electronically. And a couple of years ago, he decided to put out a collection of Scudder short stories on his own in e-book and paperback form. Both continue to sell well.

    Then, the Grand Master thought he might be through penning novels. Self-publishing helped bring him back.

    https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/revered-writer-becomes-merchant/

    Some other related links.

    https://www.bookworks.com/2015/06/why-author-lawrence-block-went-indie/

    The above is really worth a very good read.

    http://annerallen.com/2011/11/lawrence-block-talks-self-publishing.html

    From the man himself.

    http://lawrenceblock.com/a-few-words-for-writers/

  14. Delightful column. Both mainstream precious-lit crowd & antiBaens taken on, good!