What do you want?

As a reader, what do you want when you pick up a book? Does that change from genre to genre, or even from fiction to non-fiction? In other words, what do you think makes a book “good”? If you could talk to publishers, what would you tell them you want?

As you can tell, my brain has decided not to get out of bed today. I can’t blame it. Yesterday, was one of those days of tedium. I am pretty good about making sure I keep to writing schedules and get my e-books out without much delay. I fall down on promotion, something I am working on. But I absolutely suck at making sure I get print versions out and I know I need to get better. So yesterday was spent doing the preliminary formatting of four books and then locating the formatted files of another five that, for various reasons ranging from new covers to changing the internal format to be consistent with other books in the series, need to be looked at. What I discovered is that some of my final work product is scattered over various different drives and I figured I had better get it all together so I don’t spend hours looking for it at some later date.

I also open an account with ACX, (Audible), with the idea of doing audio books as well. I’m not sold on the latter but figured it was something I needed to at least try. Who knows how it will work out. I’ll keep you posted.

You might ask why I took time to do all this when I would much prefer to be working. Part of it is simple business. A number of readers still look at a book’s product page and think it isn’t a “real” book unless it has the different formats available. That’s not their fault. It is what they have been trained to think by traditional publishing. Look at almost any traditionally published book and you have at least two editions — mmpb or tpb or hardcover and e-book. Some have multiple versions of the print edition as well as the e-book. Those the publishers peg as being worthy get audio books.

So that means we, as indie authors, have to ask ourselves if we shouldn’t follow at least some of that example and the answer is yes. Even though the vast majority of my readers prefer e-books, I have some who want the print versions of my work. So, it is my responsibility to make sure I do everything I can to deliver it. That is why I spent yesterday — and will spend much of the rest of this week — getting the print versions updated, proofed and ready for sale.

Another reason, just as important as the above, why I am taking the time to do the print versions is that I had been on a two week writing binge and hadn’t realized it until I hit the wall. During the back and forth with Amazon over the file mix-up for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3), I was writing. More than that, I was writing like a fiend and wound up with a very, very, very rough draft for the next book in the series. It currently weighs in at approximately 84,000 words. It will expand at least another 20k words before it is done. But I need to step away from it for a bit before sitting down with a critical eye and finishing up the “real” rough draft. That makes it a perfect time to sit down and do the nitty gritty stuff I hate doing.

Probably the most important reason, and the one that leads back in a roundabout sort of way to my original question, for immersing myself in the detailed work of formatting and designing cover flats is the Hugo debacle. Yes, debacle. There is no other way to describe it. Whether you support the idea that the Hugos are a fan award (which I do since you buy a membership to WorldCon in order to vote and anyone with the money can do so) or a “literary” award (which, to mean, would require it to be a juried award in some fashion), I think we all can — or at least should — agree that Hugo should not be exclusionary. If you can afford the money for the membership, you should be able to vote and your vote should have the same weight as the next person’s. Until the rules are changed, that is how it should be.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I was looking through Facebook and came across a post from one of the puppy-kickers — and I am looking straight at you, Mr. Amazing Stories — saying that the committee should go in and look at all the ballots. Any ballot cast by a puppy should be thrown out. (And he even adds to his comment “screw privacy”, which had been one of the concerns last year’s committee had when they were asked to release the voting data.). But that’s not enough for him. He advocates never letting a “puppy” buy a membership to WorldCon again. There’s more but you can go look for yourself — assuming the post is still there. It is dated April 26th and was posted at 7:24 pm.

Needless to say, when I saw this, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Laughter because these sorts of comments show the hypocrisy of those who are “fighting the good fight” against those evil Sad and Rabid Puppies. We are called all sorts of names because, as they claim, we want to exclude message and “marginalized” people from the genre. Yet here one of their most vocal supporters is doing exactly what they claim we are doing. He is saying we should not be allowed into the same room with the Hugos. Note, he is not only saying that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote for their beloved award but tat we should not be allowed to attend WorldCon.

Sounds pretty exclusionary to me. How about you?

And that brings me back to my original question: what do you want when you pick up a book? What is important to you to find in that book?

151 thoughts on “What do you want?

    1. Nope. I didn’t name the guy but gave the clue. Amazing Stories. Look up the owner of what was once the best genre mag around. If you need a more specific hint, let me know.

      1. To be precise: he owns the trademark that was once the trademark of the best genre mag around. As of the last time I checked, he owned none of the assets of the original magazine. At one point he aspired to be the continuation of that tradition, but now it’s basically a group blog/news/editorial site.

        1. Martin, you’re right, iirc, and thanks for the clarification. This is what I get for trying to write the post before coffee kicks in.

          1. My analogy is this: You can name your child Michael Jordan, but that doesn’t make him the NBA star. He still has to do the work and prove he has the skills.

        2. Oh, well — if he’s not writing stories, nor significantly participating with bringing them to market, who cares about his opinion (other than that he may represent the less-honestly voiced opinions of others who do.)

          If he actually published or wrote, I’d have to consider his post a vote against buying his stuff. Just one vote, mind you, possibly overcome if he was really good – but why financially support evil when there’s so much good stuff available?

        1. Interesting that you wouldn’t link the post. Perhaps you didn’t want anyone to notice that Davidson edited to say he’d been posting in anger after some bad family news and in the comments replaced his suggestions with calmer ones.
          Interesting that you say “he doesn’t like dissenting opinions” when you could see he allowed Jason Rennie to post comments and responded in kind.

          1. I didn’t link to the post because it was on FB and I didn’t know what the public setting on it happened to be. As for allowing dissenting opinions, yeah — right. I’ve seen the dissenting opinions not make it through moderation at his site, etc.

            While I feel for what his wife is going through, this attitude is nothing new where Davidson is concerned. He has made it clear his opinion of Sad and Rabid Puppy supporters. If he really felt he acted due to stress from the family news, he would have taken down the original post instead of leaving it up.

            I also note you don’t disagree with what he said. Hmmm…as you said, interesting.

            1. This Amazing Stories clown is not an isolated one, he’s part of a whole f-ing clown circus. Little Damien Walter from The Guardian said exactly the same thing on twitter. And of course Vile666 is fairly pulsing with it.

              Didn’t take ’em long to start screaming “PURGE!!!” did it?

            2. >>> I didn’t link to the post because it was on FB and I didn’t know what the public setting on it happened to be.

              It took me 5 seconds to check. It’s a public post. Why not link it, and why not tell your readers that Davidson had backed off citing anger and family problems?

              >>> I’ve seen the dissenting opinions not make it through moderation at his site, etc.
              This site moderates too – blanking out comments, banning, etc. What makes him different?
              Davidson debated with Rennie without moderating him, so why claim he’d not debate you?

              >>> If he really felt he acted due to stress from the family news, he would have taken down the original post instead of leaving it up.
              As he says right in in the post, “I offer to delete this post if others agree”. He’s asking because deleting would wipe out everyone’s comments. Again, linking would let everyone see what he really said.

              >>> I also note you don’t disagree with what he said. Hmmm…as you said, interesting.
              Well, why would I say I disagree with something he’s already backed off on? But for the record I think his original suggestion was totally impractical, and plenty of people have told him so.

                1. >>> Goalposts moved 10,000m.

                  I’m sorry, but can you explain how? I’ve got two points – firstly about Amanda not saying in the post that Davidson had backed off or linking so people could see that he had, and secondly pointing out that unmoderated debate is clearly happening right there in the FB post – and I’m sticking to those points. I’ve also responded to Amanda’s idea that I agree with what Davidson backed off on.
                  If you can tell me what you think I’ve moved goalposts on, I’ll try and restate it a bit better.

                    1. >>>> Because if standards are good, double standards are extra good!

                      OK, I am trying to engage with you but if you won’t point to something specific that your remarks are aimed at then I can’t do much.

                    2. Simply: quoting without attribution, quoting out of context, and discussing statements from elsewhere are fine when their side does it. but apparently we have to establish provenance for every word.

                    3. Thanks for coming back and being clearer. I totally agree with you if you think those things are bad, but if you want to criticise someone else for double standards shouldn’t you keep those standards yourself? I’m here saying that linking is easy, quoting is just cut-and-paste, and writing an article when the subject turns out to have already changed tack doesn’t help your case.

                      Have you followed Amanda’s hints and found the post?

                    4. no because i really don’t need to read every word of the pertinent conversation, searching for trigger words and microaggressions.

                  1. Oooh, he said in the comments he was backing off but he leaves the original — and offensive — post up. Sorry, not buying that he’s backing off. If he really felt that way, he would have either deleted the post or he would have made a new one saying he had spoken in haste and was wrong.

                    As for not linking to it, my blog, my rules. Why give him more traffic, especially from folks who he has so little regard for? I gave more than enough information that anyone who wanted to see the post for themselves could. You don’t like it, tough. I’m not in the mood to play by any rules but my own this morning. It’s been a long night and morning, part of which spent at the hospital.

                    1. >>>> It’s been a long night and morning, part of which spent at the hospital.

                      I’m sorry to hear that, and I hope whatever the issue is gets resolved.

                      >>>> Oooh, he said in the comments he was backing off but he leaves the original — and offensive — post up. Sorry, not buying that he’s backing off. If he really felt that way, he would have either deleted the post or he would have made a new one saying he had spoken in haste and was wrong.

                      He added to the main post as well so everyone could see it, including speaking about offering to delete it. Maybe that would have been the better way, but he’d also have been deleting a bunch of people’s comments without permission. Plus, deleting contentious posts can come over badly as well, so it’s a bit damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t, and as he’s dealing with a family crisis he might not be making the best decisions. Point is, he changed what he’d said and so you ought to have at least addressed that in some way, even if you still criticise him – but criticise what he’s said now, not what he’s backed off from.

                      >>>> As for not linking to it, my blog, my rules. Why give him more traffic, especially from folks who he has so little regard for?

                      Traffic to FB, not his site. Who cares about traffic to FB? Fair enough, it’s your blog and no-one can change what you do – but I can come and say I’m not persuaded you’re playing this straight if you don’t let your readers see the full story. I can’t make you change, but I can tell you my opinion just like you can tell me yours.

                      >>>> I gave more than enough information that anyone who wanted to see the post for themselves could.

                      It looks to me like a fair few didn’t, and so made up their minds on half the story?

                      >>>> You don’t like it, tough.

                      Well, I can’t say much to that.

                1. >>>>> So, why didn’t you link?
                  I can’t quite tell from the indenting whether this is a reply to me, but I think it is. If so, the reason why I didn’t link is that I’ve lurked around enough to know that posting links in comments has been declared against the rules, and I like to follow the rules. I’ll post the link if Amanda gives me permission. Or she could put it in her original post for you all to follow.

                  1. Dave G:
                    If the Amazing Stories guy took the post down and said he spoke in haste, he should be recognized for rethinking something said in haste. I don’t do Facebook so I have no first hand knowledge. Sounds like his wife is having difficulty which I hope she overcomes.

                    Sorry for the reactions some gave you. Temperate voices should be encouraged. After all, a lot of this is a sincere disagreement over participation in a Fan Award and differing tastes in SF. I like more action-oriented SF as compared to literary SF – but it is not a life-changing issue.

                    1. >>>> If the Amazing Stories guy took the post down and said he spoke in haste, he should be recognized for rethinking something said in haste.

                      Airboy, thanks for the reply. Yes, if someone’s backed off then maybe you can still talk about why they shouldn’t have said it in the first place, but they deserve credit for the change, and it’s even better to go talk about what they’re saying now.

                  2. No, two links going into moderation is a WordPress thing. One link gets through. First post is moderated. These are standard WORDPRESS settings. Not exclusive to this blog. You’re running full tilt towards ‘Justify the Moon Ferrets!’

                    1. >>>>No, two links going into moderation is a WordPress thing. One link gets through. First post is moderated. These are standard WORDPRESS settings. Not exclusive to this blog. You’re running full tilt towards ‘Justify the Moon Ferrets!’

                      As I said, I’ve been lurking around for a while, long enough to have seen posting links be specifically banned. Here’s an example of where I’ve seen it said (I’ve left out most of the post because it’s on a different topic):

                      >> davefreer
                      >> September 14, 2015 at 10:18 pm
                      >> 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.

                      Maybe I’m being too cautious here, but I’m following the rules I’ve seen enforced, because I don’t like coming into a site and messing with how they like things done. Maybe they’ve changed the rules, but then you’d be telling me I’ve missed the change. I’d have posted the link if I was sure it was ok.

                    2. …and, if you WANT to leave a link but think you can’t, you can always make it a text line that isn’t quite a live link, e.g. “facebook [dot] com …” – a little more trouble, sure, but worth it if you’re trying to be carefully specific.

                  3. Where has it been declared against the rules? Point out a post or a comment where we say so. The only time links in the comments cause issues is if you post three or more (iirc). Then it goes into moderation because it shows as potential spam. Perhaps you ought to be sure of your “facts” before you start making allegations.

                    1. Okay, I see what you posted but you also quoted out of context. If you look around, you will see any number of links in the comments. Of course, if you had concerns with it, you could have simply contacted one of the posters here and asked for permission.

                    2. >>>> Okay, I see what you posted but you also quoted out of context.

                      No, saying I was quoting out of context is really off base. There was nothing else in that post to do with the links – every other word was about Chuck Wendig.

                      Anyway, if it’s not an official rule then I’m totally confused about what that poster, and others I’ve seen, was getting ticked off about – can you tell me plainly what links are or aren’t allowed?

                      >>>> Of course, if you had concerns with it, you could have simply contacted one of the posters here and asked for permission.

                      Well, it was one of the posters here who wanted me to link it, I said why I thought I couldn’t, and it went from there. It’s really gone off the topic, and I don’t feel criticising me for being careful and trying to follow what I thought were your rules is really helpful.

                      Anyway, as I’m taking this as permission, here’s the link.

  1. What I want in a book? Somethings always, somethings depend on genre and subgenre.

    I always want good solid characters, and some of them have to be nice enough that I want them to not just survive, but to win.

    I like interesting world building. Where it’s simply bringing to life a part of the world I’ve never seen in person, or complete creation of an entirely imaginary place.

    I like learning new things. So exposure to arts, crafts, sciences or whatever that I’ve no experience with are neat.

    Genres? In mysteries, well a crime of some sort. It needs to be resolved by the end, generally by the actions of the MC. Otherwise it isn’t really a mystery.

    In SF I expect something sciency, something new. I expect a setting that uses the “new possible.” And I personally prefer some sort of adventure.

    In Romance, I want to be titillated.

    In Westerns I require manly men doing manly things in a manly way. What? Honor, and standing up for you and yours is what the genre’s all about. OK, horses and cattle ought to be in there somewhere. Possibly Indians, outlaws and cattle barons.

    Which covers most of the genres I read much of.

    Oh, comedies need to not be tedious.

    1. Gee, Pam, it sounds like you want an entertaining book, one that keeps your attention and passes on some knowledge without beating you over the head with it. VBG. That’s what I look for and what I try to write.

      1. I see no reason to describe what I wish to read when you two have already done it for me, and so well. 😀

        As to the Hugos and their ballots, one wonders what it would look like in a few years should all the Puppies, of every stripe, decide to boycott and abandon Worldcon. Methinks there’d be significant shrinkage, partly from Puppy departure and partly as the kerfluffle fades, so will interest outside of the inner circles. I’d guess more than half of all current memberships resulted from outrage rather than dedication; hardly a lasting investment.

        1. Not just a decrease in the number of ballots cast but in money brought in. Last year — and, presumably, this year — saw the financial benefit of the puppies (and of the push back against them). Not that the financial impact of what he is suggesting matters to him.

    2. “I require manly men doing manly things in a manly way.”

      Why do you hate women so much, Pam? 😉

      1. Weird, isn’t it?

        And I suspect SWJs would just love my witch society–women only–except, darn them, they keep falling in love!

  2. I do believe that “e-book only” has the same kind of unconscious stigma as “direct to video”. I sell very few print books (I give away more than I sell) but I do believe that having multiple formats available looks more professional. I love ACX–I found an excellent reader who was willing to work for royalties. Audio books are a growing market. I do almost all of my pleasure reading on audio books now that I have started getting migraines that make reading with my eyes painful.

    1. Misha, you hit it in one about the stigma. That is why I am trying to be the good author and get other formats out over the next two weeks — at least print formats. I’ve listed two of my books with ACX looking for a producer/narrator who will split royalties and will post one other to get a different genre out there. We’ll see. I do think having the audio version out would help, at least in appearances.

      1. On that, should you launch simultaneously or not? Hopefully can finish my cleanup this month and trying to plan for kicking the kid from his crib

        1. I launch e-book and print edition simultaneously, (or close to it, Amazon Kindle and Create Space both have variable times for reviewing manuscripts, but if I send in the two files at the same time they usually go live within a day or two of each other. It usually takes another day or two for the two versions to be linked on the sales page.)

          The audiobook version depends on the time it take for my reader to record the file. It probably averages a month and a half.

    2. Audiobooks are a *huge* potential market.

      Traditionally audio versions are some multiple of paper price; 4:1 wasn’t unusual. And availability of titles wasn’t so hot, and far too many of them were poorly read by mumblers or barkers, but they still sold.

      I don’t know what it’s like nationwide, but any truck stop around here has a “take one; leave one” audiobook rack. The local library has a large selection, but you’d never know it since they’re mostly checked out.

      Like most people, I’d much rather read text at warp speed instead of waiting for the plod of an audiobook, but I do a lot of boring work where I can’t read, but I can listen. I’m a massive consumer of audio books.

      1. Mumblers and barkers are sorta acceptable, then? Leaves hope for me as a retirement job, once I get there! (Have been reading novels to my wife for years, after we threw out cable tv).

        1. I’ve listened to so many audiobooks I can identify many of the regular readers easily. Snot Man does waaay too many of the kinds of books I like, but he’s losing ground to Sneer Boy. There are a handful of newguys who are getting some decent titles, though. I hope to hear more or them.

  3. What I want from pleasure reading is threefold. I want esthetic pleasure–well formed words and images. I want intellectual pleasure–concepts that make me stop and think, puzzles that are fun to unravel. And I want emotional pleasure–I want to spend time with people that I can relate to and admire. I don’t need all three in equal measure, but if I don’t have at least a little of each I am going to move on to something else.

    1. I once said something similar about rereading Jack Vance: The first time, for the story. The second, for the themes. The third, for the sheer pleasure of the language. — And I’m starting to long for what will be my 8th trip through his works.

      1. It has been a few years, but the time is approaching. Usually I read my Jack Vance books in alphabetical order as they’re shelved; this time I might do it in chronological order.

        I guess Smilin’ Jack would be hard slogging for someone with an 800-word vocabulary. And some people can’t even see the quirky sense of humor that underlies almost everything he wrote, much less understand it. And their imaginations are just too puny to full in the details of the big pictures that he liked to paint.

        “The Moon Moth” is an exemplar of Vance’s work; if the reader doesn’t get it, then they’re not going to like most of his other stuff either.

        (and, to the best of my knowledge, that’s the first time I’ve ever used the word “exemplar” in a sentence… yes, the next Vance binge is approaching)

  4. I agree that releasing books in other formats is a good move. And audio books can provide a good revenue stream and are a growing market.

    The biggest worry for me is initial costs: the cheapest quote I’ve gotten for a 120,000-word book was around $650, and the average price is easily two or three times that. At $3-4 earnings per copy sold, that means you need to sell 200 copies to break even (and more like 300+ for the typical cost). Getting a producer to go for a royalty split (no money up front) is much better, but it’s tough to find someone willing to go for it if you’re an indie, at least in my experience. I managed to get one such deal for my last book, and two months in it’s generating a little money (more than I’m getting from print books, although that’s not saying a lot, since I usually sell a couple dozen trade paperbacks a month). If I’d spent $1200 producing the book, I wouldn’t have broken even yet. So I’d recommend looking for someone willing to do a royalty share.

    1. Cost is my biggest concern, which is why I am going to try to find someone willing to split the royalties. We’ll see if it works out.

        1. I am so glad I had just swallowed that last bit of coffee. Otherwise, it would be all over my laptop right now.

      1. I had a reader volunteer to do my books right away, but he was interested by my description (I have a character with two distinct personalities, and he wanted to try doing those voices.)

        For most books, I would recommend approaching a reader. You can search by a number of criteria, age, sex, accent. Readers will have samples available to listen to. I’d look for someone who has done books in similar genres and who will accept royalty sharing. Send a message and ask for an audition–the worst they can say is no.

    2. My problem with audio or video is that I tend to become more of an observer, while print whether ebook or old style I seem to become immersed and part of the narrative, I want a book that makes me surface and realise DARN I have only 5 or 6 hours to get some sleep before I have to get up for work

    3. $650 may sound like a lot for 12 to 18 hours of work, but it’s *hard* work; maintaining level and diction for half an hour at a time is exhausting. Sure, most people can *talk* for hours at a time, but that’s definitely not the same thing. For a book, you have to read it, and *know* it, and use cadence and inflection to differentiate between characters and scenes. And then someone has to string all the pieces together, normalize the levels, note the parts that need to be re-read due to mumbles, incorrect pronunciation, extraneous noises, etc., then edit the track again. Depending on how clean the tracks are and how much work they put into it, figure a whole day for that, too.

      Why not do it yourself?

      No, seriously. You can do it in pieces as time permits, then send it off to someone for editing.

      I bought Roger Zelazny’s “A Night in the Lonesome October” when it came out. It sucked, and went out with the next trade pile. Many years later I needed something to listen to, and the CD set of October was the best of a very poor selection. So I stuck the first CD into the player and listened to that.

      Zelazny was near the end of his life and ill when he did the reading. He didn’t have the clearest voice, and he had some kind of Yankee accent. But he took a story that, on paper, was utterly flat and without affect, and turned it into something intriguing and amusing.

      The people who say “authors shouldn’t read their own books”? They’re full of it.

      1. Zelazny was an excellent narrator. He did 9 of the 10 Chronicles of Amber before he died. I listen to Night in Lonesome October every other year around Halloween.

        Correia has been blessed with excellent narration in his MHI audio books.

  5. How in earth would he be able to tell the Puppies from the non-Puppies? It’s not like we keep role or anything.

    1. Why, Jasini, they “know” who we are. Even if we haven’t figured out we are an evil puppy. The fact someone might vote along the same lines as known puppies is enough taint in their eyes to cast us out.

      1. Better idea for them. Lifetime ban of everyone in charge of last year’s Hugo’s from ever working in Worldcon again. The damage they did to the brand with their asterisks was huge enough to justify it.

      2. And fear of being cast out in just that fashion is leading people to distance themselves from people who could help their careers. I suggested that a friend of mine send information about his books to Free Range Oyster for the promotional posting at According to Hoyt, but this friend is afraid that doing so could harm his chances of any traditional publication, just because he’s become associated with people who are associated with the Puppies, Sad or Rabid.

        Which has left me hesitating to send any promotional information about a story I have in an anthology which just came out. My own career is mine to risk, but I don’t want to inadvertently expose other authors or the editor to the Two Minute Hate just because the anthology was promoted on the “wrong” blog.

        1. Can’t say you’re wrong, for you – but that IS what the “heckler’s veto” (aka Two Minute Hate) is all about: For a small and otherwise insignificant minority to attain the illusion of the power of the elite by abusing the courtesies of free discourse.

    2. A friend of mine lives fairly near Kansas City. I’ve been trying to persuade him to go to Worldcon.

      Felix is another of those giant balding Portuguese types. I told him if he goes, I’ll have the print shop make a roll of big stickers for him to pass out.

      A few hundred people with “hi, i’m STRAW LARRY” stickers would liven things up, anyway…

  6. What do I want?

    I want to be engaged and entertained. I want to care about the characters. By and large, I could just echo Pam.

    1. Same here, which is why I don’t want to be beaten over the head with message to the detriment of all the rest.

  7. See Amanda, I’ve watched the entirety of B5. I know that’s a trick question.

    *listens for whispering noises*

      1. And it’s almost eerie how much like Londo Mollari Mr. Amazing Stories sounds: “I want it all back the way that it was!”

        1. Sometimes I get irritated enough to sound like G’Kar, though I suspect my answer to “…and then what?” would be just as unsatisfactory and unusable.
          “I don’t know. As long as the stories are pretty good and there’s a lot of them, I don’t see how it matters.” “…I see.”

  8. In fiction, I want a believable world (it can be fantastic, but the rules are knowable and mostly constant – discovery can mean re-writing a rule… hey, our understanding of physics has this going on, so..), reasonably engaging characters, and a story worth caring about. Message? There can be one. But if I get a headache from being hit over the head with it, that book is crud.

    In non-fiction, I want accuracy. It needn’t be perfect, but it should tell me when approximations are being used. Histories are by nature incomplete (We simply don’t have the time to live every life involved in all that!) If a bit technical it should take me from where I am (ignorant, but not stupid, hopefully) to usefully less ignorant. ‘Useful’ might mean ‘able to repair gadget X’ or ‘have a better idea of how gadget X works, even if I will never be up close to such.’

  9. I want a that will show everyone around me what a correct, sensitive, caring, compassionate, politically-approved person I am.

    Or I could just tear the covers off a used John Scalzi novel, wrap them around a Larry Correia book, get the same effect AND enjoy a good read.

  10. Don’t worry, I’m sure some File 770 regular will appear to fansplain to us why excluding the Puppies is totally a great idea in the best traditions of fandom.

    1. Oh, I’m sure. Of course, they will do it over on File 770 where the echo chamber will tell them how wonderful they are and not point out the weaknesses in their argument.

    2. Amanda S. Green wrote: “Laughter because these sorts of comments show the hypocrisy of those who are ‘fighting the good fight’ against those evil Sad and Rabid Puppies. We are called all sorts of names because, as they claim, we want to exclude message and ‘marginalized’ people from the genre.”

      I know why some commenters on File 770 refer to Puppies collectively, but it was news to me that Amanda S. Green now thinks of them collectively.

      1. Mr. Glyer, the list of things that aren’t news to you would be the galaxy’s shortest.

      2. Mr. Glyer, way to misrepresent what I said. Not once in the original post did I refer to File 770. Is this a case of seeing yourself and your site in what I said about someone else or is it that you are admitting that your site and all (or at leas the vast majority) of those you cater to are anti-puppy and you have no problem with it?

        1. Now Amanda, while on the face of it Mr. Glyer would seem to be intentionally misrepresenting your statement, it is also possible that his command of the English language is really that pitifully inept.
          So we are faced with two options, intentionally malicious, or simply a fool.
          Of course he might very well be both.

          1. As has been said, when malice and incompetence are each sufficient to explain an action, choosing incompetence is more often correct.

      3. Mr.Glyer, I realize that this is a shocking concept, but it’s not always about you or File 770.

      4. Seriously, do you just lurk at all our blogs and swoop in to cherry-pick statements that will get a round of applause from your trained seals back at 770?

          1. He really does, and it’s creepy. He doesn’t just do it with blog posts, comments too.

            “Rekekekex, koax koax!” says the chorus.

          2. He picked up something from my Twitter feed once, and included a quote from TNH as a “rebuttal”, which makes me wonder how closely he / other SocJus cultists follow me.

        1. @Christopher M. Chupik

          Seriously, do you just lurk at all our blogs and swoop in to cherry-pick statements that will get a round of applause from your trained seals back at 770?

          I just want to admire this in all it’s beauty.

      5. “I know why some commenters on File 770 refer to Puppies collectively, but it was news to me that Amanda S. Green now thinks of them collectively.”

        We refer to them collectively because they sound like the Frog Chorus from Aristophanes, Mr. Glyer. One need only propose a stimulus to know within .01% what the response is going to be.

        1. That would be the Frog Chorus at File 770, to be more clear. Their predictability is legendary.

          1. So, a reasonable metaphor for the denizens of File 770 would be “Frogs 770”? — except that some might take it as an unjustifiable insult to the French people, generally.

      6. I know why some commenters on File 770 refer to Puppies collectively

        My guess would be reading comprehension skills.

        Since your example shows that Miss Green distinguishes two separate movements with “puppy” in the name.

        I myself dislike the elision of “Campaigners to end Puppy-Related Sadness” into Sad Puppies, but we live in the parlous age of the Twit, so I suppose it was inevitable, even among people who ought to know better.

  11. What do I look for in a book?

    Words usually hopefully put together in an entertaining way.
    Specifically it depends on whether or not it is fiction or non-fiction, and genre or non-genre fiction.
    In non-fiction it depends on if it is history or non-history. If it is history I like to read books by people who were there if possible since I know any biases will come from that person’s actual experience. If I cannot get books by someone who was there I prefer to dig and find books by people who are willing to suspend their bias to give us the information we need in an entertaining way. Non-histories I prefer books by people who might be an acknowledged expert in the field and will put up with any bias to get the information I need.
    Fiction it depends on the genre and sub-genre or if it is non-genre fiction. For non-genre fiction I tend to read books that are either classics (Charles Dickens for example) or hard to classify (James Clavell’s “Shogun”). For genre fiction all I want is a book that is entertaining and if it does by chance have a message that the message doesn’t overpower the story. If here is a message and it overpowers the story to the point the story isn’t entertaining I will put the book down. My current sub-genre of choice to read right now is post apocalyptic fiction which in many ways cannot help but have a message somewhere. If it is a simple message like this is what you might want to know if this happens I can usually put up with it especially if the story itself is entertaining. If is something like a beat you over the head environmental screed that everything is the fault of man that usually goes in my don’t finish don’t re-read pile.

    In short if the book is entertaining I don’t care what the writers politics are I will read and sometimes re-read a book. If it is not or is boring for other reasons poor writing, the idea is interesting but the execution doesn’t work, the blurb is better then the book ( that actually happened with a self-published book I tried to read), the writer forgot the story but pounded you with their message.

    1. “In short if the book is entertaining I don’t care what the writers politics are I will read and sometimes re-read a book.” YES! Well said.

  12. From the beginning, the Puppy Kickers have reminded me of a certain political faction who actively worked to suppress the votes of blacks and poor whites, lest their cronies be kept out of office. That impression is strengthened every time one of them opens their mouth.

  13. Mostly the reaction to the Sads this year has been positive. Are there a few idiots who make no distinction between the Sads & Rabids or who claim they are two faces of the same evil (sure: Scalzi and a small handful of 770s and the individual you wrote about).

    But a large percentage of people who were enraged by the Sads last year are either muted or approving of SP4. I’m also not reading the same level of whining about Jim Butchers book. But to be honest, Aeronaut is a much better novel – my personal favorite from 2015.

    To avoid unnecessary unhappiness, focus on what is positive from the more literary SF types. Sure you can quote the Astounding Idiot or a small minority of the 770s, or Scalzi, but for the most part there has been relatively little negative reaction to SP4. I was really happy about SP4 and I’m also looking forward to the Dragon Awards.

    Some are claiming that since Wright’s book did not make the Novel list despite getting support from some in SP4 that it is some sign of the “demise” of the Sads. I disagree. Butcher’s book is much more action oriented and Wright’s book is much more literary. Since the Sads don’t vote in lockstep according to a hidden master, it did not surprise me that Butcher’s book made the nominees and Wright’s missed. All the best to Mr. Wright, but if I’m in the mood for that sort of thing I’ll pick up CS Lewis or something similar.

    1. Point of order: that should be Amazing Idiot. Astounding is, to my knowledge, staying out of this discussion.

      1. The confusion is understandable. Astounding held claim to the “best genre mag” title longer than did Amazing. (And more recently; although, you have to be a gray-beard to remember when that title mattered much if at all.)

    2. Wright had ten years worth of short works published last year. It’s no more surprising that his fans voted him in across the board. If Cordwainer Smith had had 10 years of stories published – what was it – 75? years ago – he’d have swept the retro-Hugos this year.

      Wright’s novels are great fun. He’s one of the few writers I’ll still purchase review unseen: just his name on the cover will do. But his short fiction is ranges from very good to superb.

    3. @Airboy

      “Mostly the reaction to the Sads this year has been positive.”

      I’m going to have to disagree. Yes, the reaction has been better than last year, and yes, there have been some people who have applauded SP4 without an attached “but . . .” However, the vast majority of the time I’ve seen SP4 discussed in relatively positive terms, there has been a “but . . .

      (1) they were largely irrelevant
      (2) they were really just a smoke screen
      (3) they are still ridiculous liars with made up complaints
      (4) by not marching lockstep they are a non-issue and can be ignored
      (5) they are to be pitied
      (6) and on and on

      My point is, yes, there has been a warmer reaction, but any compliments have generally been backhanded or come with significant caveats.

      1. I agree with you that the tone has been better.

        Since SP4 was a recommendation list and a thinking individual could see it was not lockstep vote, then doing the math SP4 would not have the degree of impact on the final vote totals that the RPs did.

        So I interpret “they were largely irrelevant” and “by not marching lockstep they are a non-issue and can be ignored” as complements. A wider variety of individuals realize that the Sads have different tastes and voting behavior, but not in enough volume to swing every nomination. I agree with you that many say these things, but they are true by the very nature of SP4. GRR Martin and quite a few others maddened by SP3 have largely come out and said SP4 was a recommendation list – like many other recommendation list.

        Some are total jerks. Scalzi, a few of the 770s, but still this is much better than last year. It is easy to focus on the negative instead of looking at an overall improved situation.

        And from my perspective, Aeronaut made it as a finalist. Great book. Excellent action SF. Ignored by the other major awards. Exactly the sort of thing that a rational “fan award” would bring to the fore instead of literary SF every time, all the time.

  14. For fiction, I look for characters that act and talk realistically even if they’re in an unrealistic situation. I look for worlds that are consistent in how they operate. This holds even with fantasy. For instance, one book that shall remain nameless depended on the interaction of sunlight and magic unobtanium to keep a huge vessel aloft. So where do they mount the unobtanium? Why, beneath it, of course. And where do they store it for the night? Not up in the vessel, but lower.

    That’s not well thought out. Worse, it had to get past an editor who never asked why unobtanium that worked only in sunlight would be mounted in a shadow, and why not build permanent protection around them and direct sunlight with mirrors, especially since we’re told the unobtanium is fragile.


    That’s not well thought out, nor were certain aspects of the culture. In a book I’m reading now, there’s some characters who are made of cardboard. If one doesn’t turn out to be pretending to be a buffoon for an ulterior motive . . . well, the way this one is going I won’t be surprised enough to be disappointed. That’s if I make it through to the end of the thing.

    That’s all general, along with an engaging plot and mysteries that are puzzles; thrillers that thrill; horror that terrifies; hard SF that doesn’t violate known science, and fantasy that doesn’t pull out arcane rules as need to get the writer out of the corner he’s painted himself into.

  15. What I want is hard to define, but I know it when I find it.

    I knew it when I read Taylor Anderson’s Destroyermen for the first time. I knew it when I picked up a copy of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International from the library. I knew it when I started reading R M Meluch’s Tour of the Merrimack. Three vastly different stories, but they all have “it” in spades.

  16. From fiction: entertainment, engaging characters, a new-to-me world or a familiar one so well done I feel like I’m there. Any preaching shoudl be germane to teh plot and characters, and preferably so smoothly done that while I may think a little, I don’t read a few words, think, “sermon” and skip pages to get on with the story.

    From non-fiction: factually correct (as much as possible), well written, with biases either stated up front and gotten out of the way, or bias suspended for the duration of the book.

  17. In non-fiction, clarity and accuracy.
    In fiction? Escapism, engaging characters that I can root for, a fantastic setting, adventure etc …
    I prefer to get my preaching at church.

  18. What do I want in a story?

    First, I expect that something will HAPPEN in the story. I’ve ground through far too many where characters just stood around emoting to each other, and others what were full of action scenes that went nowhere. It doesn’t matter how furious your action is; if there’s no purpose to it, it’s just space-filler.

    Second, I demand that the story MAKE SENSE. I understand that I might miss cues that are meaningtul to other readers, but I’ve read a lot of books that felt like they were “written” by clipping chapters from various unrelated novels. Stuff happens. Utterly unrelated stuff happens. Related stuff happens that makes no sense. The end. Whaaaat?!

    Third, I expect the story to END. I don’t require that each and every bit be nearly tied off with a colorful ribbon, but I expect that the major threads have some sort of resolution, even if it’s “to be continued in the next thrilling episode.” Every now and then I get to the last page and the book just STOPs. I examine the binding to see if some pages were left out. WTF? Maybe the printer’s contract only said 400 pages, so they quit there?

    This is the sort of thing that the “curation” that the tradpub agent/editor system is supposed to eliminate… but given the number of homonym errors I keep seeing, I think their effort is limited to running the text through a spell checker and kicking the file off to the print shop.

  19. Similar to others here – entertainment without errors or message that throws me out of the story. I’ll take a few minor hiccups – non-critical physics that probably can’t happen, mis-use of homonyms, a governmental policy that depends on unicorn emissions – but there shouldn’t be so many that I find myself thinking about them instead of the plot for more than a few seconds.

  20. Depends on what I’m reading. I want something where the story and characters are thought out and have rational actions. Not merely English class conceits. A message can be there but if you hit me with it I’ll be less likely to continue.

  21. What do you want when you pick up a book? What is important to you to find in that book?
    For me, it is adventure and excitement. And a world I want to escape to, that I can imagine myself living in.
    I also agree with the many responses here. 🙂

  22. I just had to do this. 👿 👿 👿 👿

    Quoting Vir on the question of “what does he want”

    I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up into your lifeless eyes and wave, like this. (Vir holds up his right hand and waggles his fingers at Morden) Can you and your associates arrange that for me, Mr. Morden?

    End Quote

    Why yes, I’m in a crazy mood. Why do you ask? 😈 😈 😈 😈

    1. And though every one else got what they said they wanted, Vir was the only one who actually like it. 😉

      1. And Vir did exactly what he said he’d do. 😀

        1. I was halfway through Season 4 before I realized the Narn starships were “flesh color.”

    2. “Tell me a story!”
      “T’s’allirght. He did much better with that question than I did.”

  23. After slogging through the tortured “reasoning” and mangled “logic” of the extended excerpt from that Facebook discussion posted at the Evil Dark Lord’s site today, what I want from my next 5 books is More Kratman.

  24. When I pick up a book, I want an engaging ride where I can leave my day to day concerns behind for a time. I want action and adventure, and it wouldn’t hurt to throw in a little classic romance and heart break.

    I have a taste for exploding starships. I like skull splitting, limb removing, exciting swordplay. I like a really good revenge story………

  25. A lot of “what they said”, but one thing not mentioned: I like characters who change. Ideally, they grow, but any sort of change is acceptable. The only books I’ve really liked with static characters are The Belgariad. I suppose Garion changes, but everyone else is a cardboard cutout; somehow it works.

    I recently started watching NCIS. (Yay, 13 seasons to binge watch!) I’m just into season 4 and thinking of giving up. Every character acts exactly the same as when he was first introduced. It gets boring.

    P.S. Amanda, please give me a way to contact you. I have a list of typos that I’d like to send before I write my review (then I won’t have to mention it, because you will fix them).

    1. On the plus side they change the female character every now and then, and are on their third NCIS Director and fourth SecNav.

    2. I’m sure Amanda appreciates you very kind and non judgmental criticism of her latest work.
      Perhaps you could post a photo of your family so we can tell you that they’re ugly and you dress them funny as a thank you for your remarks.

      1. It was not meant as an insult. I’ve purchased and read everything she’s written and enjoyed it. I happened to notice a few typos (totally minor stuff such as “if” instead of “of”) that jerked me out of the story to re-read a sentence. I thought passing them on would be nice, rather than letting them linger for others to trip on – especially if there is a print version in the works.

        Previously, I did ask to get in touch without mentioning why. I thought knowing what my reason was might elicit a response. I was right. Whether it was “Oh, fine, just shut up” or “Gee, thanks” I don’t know, but it did work.

        1. I have some very protective friends, mrsize. I gave an email address in my previous comment. You can contact me there.

        2. Feel free to give me well-intentioned feedback on typos any time. (That assumes you read my work, of course.) As they say in the Open Source community, many eyes mean fewer bugs.

  26. I’m curious how “puppy” votes would be identified, regardless of privacy. A few people identify themselves on sites like this, of course, but most are just… fans. And they’re a little hard to tell apart. But I forget, all “puppies” surely vote in such lockstep that recognizing one would be easy for a discerning (or prejudiced) eye.

    1. Rabids should be easy, but disqualifying votes would be a legal and moral nightmare for WSFS. Vox’s obvious reframe might even destroy more science fiction conventions than WorldCon.

    2. Let them try. The outrage will make Krakatoa look like a fart.

    3. That’s easy. They just look at each ballot and throw out all the ones that voted for Space Raptor Buttheads to get the Rabids, and throw out the Butcher voters to get the Sads. It doesn’t have to be a perfect sort, close enough is good enough.

      Less easy would be refunding all the money, and then the inevitable lawsuits for breach of contract would be a stone bitch. Because nobody thinks that VD wouldn’t sue them to hell and back for doing that.

      Mr. Amazing Stories and Damien Walter are a pair of Class 1 morons. Also bullies, and elitist trash. It is because of people like them that Sad Puppies was created in the first place. That was eloquently revealed last year by the distribution of the Ass-terisks. Waiting to see what genius move they pull off this year.

    4. The people who are counting the votes are the ones who have admitted to manipulating the system before, and are publicly partisan now.

      I don’t think “secrecy” should apply here. Drag the entire process out into the public view and keep it there.

  27. What do I want in a book?
    I want an adventure. One where something important gets done, and comes out well in the end.
    I want characters I can care about.
    I want heroes that are heroic, or at least try to be. Or at least try to get their jobs done, for f- sakes.
    I want villains who need to be defeated.
    I want ideas I’ve never seen before. Magic, technology, it’s all the same. Show me a -new- magic power, dammit. Show me a -new- kind of space gun. A crazy new alien. Show me something cool!

    I also have some things I want to -not- see. I do not want to see torture, perversion, slavery, hideous cruelty and the like. Such things can exist, they can happen, but off screen. Otherwise I skip that part, and if there’s enough of it I never buy from that author again. I do not want to read about horrible people, in a horrible world, doing horrible things to each other for no discernible reason. And I really don’t want to be preached at.

    Case in point, the Ancilary series. I stopped reading when I found out what an “Ancilary” was. Don’t care how “good” the writing is, don’t care it was “critically acclaimed”, don’t care all the usual suspects Just Loved It! I do not want to need brain bleach after reading a novel, thanks ever so much.

    That’s been my complaint about the Hugos for thirty years. “Hugo Award Winner!” on the cover means I’m going to be getting a bunch of what I don’t want and probably damn little of what I do, if any at all. Grimdark, heavy on the message, with a side order of slime. Yeah, they can keep that.

  28. “What did I want?
    I wanted a Roc’s egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword,. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get u feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a like wench for my droit du seigneur–I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles.
    I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, “The game’s afoot!” I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin.
    I wanted Prestor John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seemed always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be–instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is.” – RAH

    1. Sarah,
      I am glad I read all the comments. RAH nailed it and I still want that thrill when I read.
      I do not eat exactly the same food every day, nor do I read exactly the same fiction.
      And yes, just like food, I sometimes want something junkie that I can zoom through at a thousand mile and hour, and at the end simply enjoy.
      Other times I want the comfort of a familiar author, and characters I have known for years. (even if sometimes bad things happen)

      1. Yes, precisely. And each book can be a masterpiece OF ITS KIND. Take what I call my popcorn mysteries. I read so many of these they run together. BUT some stand out. Christie, of course, most of all. People accuse Christie of not being relevant or whatever the word is today. And ‘ss nice, but that’s not what she was writing. And for what she was writing, she was d*mn near perfect, except for her thrillers which were cringingly bad. I read Heyer. I’m not looking for social commentary from Heyer. I’m looking for a Regency Romance. I read Heinlein. I’m looking for adventure AND philosophy.
        I don’t read the same every day nor do I have the same expectations of everything I read. When Christie stopped narrative to preach HER political philosophy, I closed my eyes and thought of the US. (Yes, it is that bad.)

  29. In addition to some of the other comments about a book being engaging, detailed world building, examining new perspectives, etc….

    I’d like to add a narrative that supports the individual against the collective. Which is why I’m a Heinlein fan.

    I’m also in favor of plots that go against the current grain. I didn’t read much vampire based fiction while the world went through the sparkly vampire phase. I’m becoming bored with the stereotypical “strong and super capable female protagonist”. That isn’t because I’m opposed to those character types. It’s because it’s the flavor of the decade and I’d like a little something different.

    And finally, I support the idea that any morality tale component shouldn’t supersede good story telling. Banging the reader over the head with moral philosophy is off-putting.


  30. What do I want when I read? I want hope. I want courage. I want threatening threats that are over come by heroic action. Terrible mistakes will not scare me away, but they must be risen above. Yes, but redemption must be earned, don’t tell me it’s not possible. I want heroes that are heroic, and stories where ‘rough around the edges’ doesn’t push into ‘vile’. I want villians that really do know better and aren’t just misunderstood. I want worlds where evil is evil and can be unmasked and then dealt with. I want despair to come for the characters then be repeatedly kicked in the teeth. I want self-sacrifice not sack cloth and ashes. I want people who rise above themselves and go above and beyond what they think they can do or what is expected of them for what they know is right whether it is for the salvation of the universe or the farm.

  31. There’s not any one thing I want when I pick up a book in any format, codex, ebook, or audiobook.

    It’s like when I go to a restaurant – I want a choice that suites my appetite when I’m there. Sometimes it’s the burger, sometimes it’s the cassoulet.

  32. “As a reader, what do you want when you pick up a book?”

    To be entertained.

    “(And he even adds to his comment “screw privacy”, which had been one of the concerns last year’s committee had when they were asked to release the voting data.)”

    And you’re surprised?

    To a Leftist, what they said previously has no bearing whatsoever upon what they say now. And if you point out to them in their own words what they said before and how it directly contradicts what they’re saying now, then you’re the one in the wrong because you’re curtailing their freedom by hating on them and attacking them. The name of consistency is not “Leftist.”

    Same as it ever was, same as it always has been.

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