Fleece Navidad

It’s late, I’ve just turned in my proofs for the mass market paperback of CHANGELING’S ISLAND. I’m a little disappointed that Baen didn’t bring it out closer to Christmas, as I think it’d make a great stocking filler for parents and grandparents of the neglected part of the market, YA adult boys, particularly those with rural/small town backgrounds, rather than inner city mall-rats.
(picture is a link)
It’s odd to me, how well served that segment is: given that city kids have so much more in the way of possible entertainment that you don’t have to generate yourself. I’ve seen – somewhere — a survey that showed that middle-America actually reads far more per capita than urban America. This makes logical sense, but then so did pursuing the votes of those people in the last US elections. The NYC city elites ignored what they didn’t want to see, and it cost them dearly. I suppose the NYC editors are just a subset of that same group, making the same mistakes.

Still, that’s another topic, and I suspect increasingly an irrelevant one. The market is busy fragmenting and people from the country and small towns can write and find audiences, as indeed the ones from the large cities can, with or without publishers. The traditional publishers can either adapt or not: the only people this really matters to, is them and their employees, and of course authors who can’t or won’t change. Given the HUGE difference in author margin (for e-books 17.5% of net as a general rule as opposed to 70% for indies, Authors who can carry more than ¼ of their audience with them at the same price – unless they’re pampered dahlings for some political, or PC or other reason, getting advances that they’ll never earn – can do as well without their publisher as with them. If they have a larger audience who are loyal to their name, and they can tell those people of their new book’s existence, it can rapidly become more profitable for them to be indies. A while back I predicted that upper midlist almost had to become major players in this. I’m now stretching that to everyone who is not one of the very select few, who get huge advances and could never match that without their publisher’s push, or those who would sell next to nothing without it, or the chronically insecure. I see to my amusement John Birmingham has jumped out of the burning building.

He summed it thus: “I was the author of a failed series. My options were limited. It’s the equivalent of seeing my business collapse. I had to come up with a new business.”

“I’m 52 years old, I have three saleable skills. I write, I drive a car so I guess I could be an Uber driver, and I’ve been doing martial arts for a long time so I know how to hurt people.

“That’s it, that’s my three saleable skills and two of them I’d prefer not to use, so it was down to writing.”

It’s a situation many authors find themselves in with the ability of the former gatekeepers to provide continuation of what was their livelihood. I expect we’ll see a lot of this in the next five years. Some of the former midlist will flourish, and some relatively big names will crash and burn. And to be honest 52 year old bouncers are in poor demand. And there’s a lot of competition for Uber drivers too, and likewise with other skills, no matter how much you might prefer or not to use them. It’s no different for most of us: I’m not going to succeed at getting back into Fisheries Biology at my age either. And I’m too old for the small pro-rock-climbing field, and commercial diving besides being hell on your body requires a slew more qualifications now than it did when I chose not to take that path. I seriously don’t want to go back to chef work either – I worked in small luxury lodges, and 4 AM to 11 PM is hard on the body, and feeding the rich and fussy is something that old farts like me find harder to be patient with than I did once.

Birmo and I are not the only ones thinking we made our choices long ago,  and now have to make them work, no matter what trad publishing does. I wish him all the best success with it. I think we’ll have a lot more company in the next few years. It’s not an arena that is that similar to traditional publishing, and some people who did well enough in trad, will fail there. Possibly me.

Off on another topic: I happened to read another fairly stupid rant about the vast relevance of ‘intersectionality’ in modern sf/fantasy. Unsurprisingly the author was an irrelevancy, isolating herself to a subsection of subsection of subsection of a subsection of the human race, and doubtless a future Hugo contender as a result… but what struck me as a commercial author, trying to make a living, was the essential exclusive nature of the entire concept. She wanted to highlight the importance of writers who were women, not white, and gay, as the core of the future of the genre. The fact that only certain political doctrine zealots and social and educational strata need apply, was a given.

Heh. I don’t give a damn what sex, skin color, or sexual orientation you prefer or if you went to college or not, or support whatever political party – if you want to write, write. I’ve yet to see the approved victim bingo points providing any substantive value, and there are great authors that I am completely unaware of any intersections besides with my bank balance and entertainment. And likewise read what you like. Why not?

I believe in ‘intersectionality’ but in very different sense. I do think the future of our genre lies in the hands of people who cover a LOT of bases, who make it appeal to wide range of audiences – especially the larger ones, with buying power. I’d also like to see more intersectionality… of genres. And not in an excluding sense, but bringing mystery or romance into sf for example, and hopefully some of their readers – but without alienating our own. That’s what happened when sf/fantasy tried to become more literary fiction. It failed and it lost readers for the genre. That we can learn from

And on that note, as I’ll only post again Boxing Day – So from my sheep-ish part of the country, where shearing is in full swing: Seasons Bleatings and a Maaaaa rry Christmas to you all!

As my proof reader said in reply: ‘Fleece navidad!’


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29 responses to “Fleece Navidad

  1. As long as no one says Baaaa Humbug. Merry Christmas, Dave!

  2. Merry Christmas, Dave, and everyone at MGC who posts or lurks..

  3. Merry Christmas and may your New Year be hopeful and full of readers, new and old.

  4. Boxing Day, that’s when trad-pub writers with bad contracts get to take one swing at their agents? No? Well shucks, I’m disappointed. 😉

    On wide markets – I’ve noticed that the Alexi and Ivan the Purrable [No, Ivan, I am not giving you top billing. Ivan: “MraGH!” *texts quickly* 😦 !! =^^= ] short stories and collection sold better than anything thus far. Off-beat urban fantasy seems to have broader appeal than I’d thought, based on what I’d been reading at the time. I seem to have another urban fantasy something trying to ambush me at the moment, so we’ll see where it goes and how it does.

    • Sara the Red

      I strongly suspect that this is partly because an awful lot of the trad-publishers seem to have gotten it fixed in their minds that urban fantasy = paranormal romance/erotica, and there are a lot of UF readers out there who are kind of tired of that. So yeah–if it’s urban fantasy that has actual plot other than romance/sex scenes, it’ll probably find readers.

      I’ve read a couple of your Alexi novellas–I liked them for those very reasons stated above, AND they’re different. Not set in New York or LA (or Chicago, heh), different ‘pool’ of fantasy to the usual vampires/elves/fairies–what’s not to like? 😀

      (Don’t get me wrong–I love the Dresden Files and the Mercy Thompson series–but there are a LOT of clones of those series out there, particularly under the tradpub banner–and so it’s refreshing to see something completely different!)

  5. Sigh – Merry Christmas, all!
    I’ll take a break between the end of the Christmas markets – and January, when I start on two more books … another Luna City episode, and half a dozen more Lone Star Sons adventures. No rest for the hard-working indy writer.

  6. Merry Christmas, and all the other holidays as well. I’m perfectly happy to celebrate them all, the more holidays the better!

    I’m jittering about, nearly ready to release the next one. Before Christmas? After Christmas? It’s all ebook, so probably after . . . yes, no, yes, no . . .

  7. Draven

    Enjoy the win.. errr… summer holidays!

  8. Merry Christmas!
    I have one more book to publish this year, and I’ll be putting it into Amazon here in another hour or two.
    And I will get to have the suspense and fun of finding out if pulling out of KU is a good idea or a bad one this coming year.

    • Are you just pulling out of KU, or doing so to go wide? Please keep us posted…

      (I will get to that bit of work I said I would – eventually. Although it will probably be on the first Portals book, which may not be of much help for current things. Found out that – reasonably – I can’t annotate a KU borrow, so I’ll need to actually buy one and I’ll start of course with the first. After the first of the year, this year’s budget is overdone already.)

      • I’m pulling out of Kindle Unlimited, for the simple reason that I think it’s costing me financially. I lose on an average of 30 percent of my royalties, and that has been hurting me. As I keep my prices low, I don’t think anyone who is in KU can’t afford to actually buy me, and for those few here that I know are financially strapped, well, hit me up in a private email and I think we can work something out.

        Once I’m out of KU (while it takes time for the books to roll off, I’m going to call Amazon next month and ask if they could be so nice as to pull everything out on the same date to make things easier), I’m going to go wide. While I don’t think I’ll pick up that many sales from the other channels (If I get to ten percent, I’ll be shocked) I’m not going to leave those opportunities just sitting there.

        Except for GooglePlay. The Google bookstore is poorly designed and terribly run, and I just don’t like doing business with plagiarists.

        Here’s the new one, which may or may not be ready yet, as I write this it’s still in the publishing phase on Amazon:

        • I tried out KU, early on … and didn’t care for it much. As not-a-big-name-arthur*, I couldn’t afford to kiss off those potential readers with Nooks and other ebook formats by publishing exclusively on Kindle. And while I am grateful to Amazon for seeing that there was a future in making the larger market available to indy writers … I am not all that sanguine about lashing myself to the Amazon mast. They did – or tried to do – some dirty tricks early on, in pressuring various small indy-POD houses into using their own in-house printer for printing. I was a Booklocker client at the time – and Booklocker fought it, tooth and nail and eventually won.

          • Thanks! But I can’t take credit for it, that was Dane over at ebooklaunch who does all covers now. I was at a loss for what to put on this one, so I told him about the book, listed a few of the action scenes and just left it up to him.
            He came through once again!

  9. Merry Christmas or holiday of your choice to all! Hoping to get my MilSF one out by the end of January.

  10. “intersectionality in modern sf/fantasy” – there you go! Sects rears its ugly head yet again!

    And as for “fleece” – that’s shear impudence!


    A happy and blessed Christmas to you and yours, Dave, and to all MGC authors and readers.

  11. Geoffrey Kidd

    Two things publishers DO provide is ready discovery, (I follow the upcoming lists from my favorite publishers, including Baen, like a starving hawk.) and hopefully better proofreading.

    I obtained a copy of Birmingham’s “Girl in Time” and glanced at the ending (I’m a peeker.) I found the phrase “they shopped discretely” right there in one of the final paragraphs. If a casual glance turns up a blooper like that, it leaves me wondering just what ELSE in the story is going to bounce my head right out of said story.

    • TRX

      I see a lot of that in tradpub books, and particularly in magazines. I’m guessing nobody proofreads any more; they just run it through the spall Czecher and let it turn everything into some known dictionary word, even if it’s not the right word.

      Of course, given the age group of the English and J-school low-ranking staff dealing with actual text nowadays, most of them probably grew up with “grading for effort” and txtspk, so they wouldn’t necessarily notice anything wrong even if they did proofread the text…

      • snelson134

        I’ve noticed a similar thing in technical documentation; there, at least part of the issue is that it’s being written by people who are not native English speakers and thus don’t pick up on the nuances.

    • Agree on the initial discovery – but once an author has their own following and channels (as he obviously does reading the article) that can be a lot less effective than the publisher’s effort and still be a win. Proofing varies, even trad publishers seem to neglect it. I advocate contracting that out, if you’re an indy.

  12. Birmingham: “Most publishing contracts (his included) contain a clause preventing authors from releasing any works in competition with the publisher, and before the Hooper farrago Birmingham had figured self-publishing risked burning too many bridges.” Isn’t that one of the clauses we were warned about here at some point? Or is that clause something different?

    • I’ve certainly warned about it. It’s also quite probably a paper tiger, depending on local laws, as non-compete clauses which actively totally prevent the person from pursuing their career are not generally legal, for obvious reasons. Most non-compete clauses are thus written very narrowly. Many in publishing of course thought they were special and that this didn’t apply to their business. We had that with the Apple and publishers collusion, where when the collusion (illegal) was proven, where an editor of my acquaintance was outraged ‘But we always do that. It’s normal in our industry’. Yes. Well just because it was normal, didn’t make it legal. It was just you were the only game in town and no-one dared challenge you.

      • snelson134

        “Well just because it was normal, didn’t make it legal. It was just you were the only game in town and no-one dared challenge you.”

        Frankly, I suspect there’s also the attitude Disney displayed to Tom Smith when he used (fairly) some of their tunes for filks: “Yeah, this might fall under the Court’s ruling on parodies, but we’re going to make sure by dragging you through the court system for a few years. WE can afford it; can you?”

        • Heh. One of the reasons I’ve been a long-time supporter of legal reform, to make sure equality before the law actually meant ‘equality’ and not ‘he who is richest always wins’ (yes, in some senses I really am a hairy revolutionary)

  13. One of the biggest and least-predicted benefits of indie publishing is that writers are free to mix genres without any limitation beyond the willingness of the audience to try new things. Novels like Brian Niemeier’s Nethereal and Jim Strickland’s Brass and Steel: Inferno defy categorization. I found them both very satisfying at least in part because they had reshuffled the deck and dealt a hand I’d never seen before.

    I have to learn how to do this.

  14. I believe the proper response to Fleece Navidad is Baaaaah Humbug?

  15. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    The traditional publishers have proven yet again this year that they have forgotten nothing and learned nothing and will soon be joining the Bourbons. While consuming great amounts of same.