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!’