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Pullme-pushyou

You know, being a professional writer is somewhat like being a plumber in that it all centers around an essential premise. For plumbers, it is that water flows downhill… and it ain’t all water that flows downhill. But without that water, nothing flows. For writers it is that money flows TO the professional writer… and it ain’t all money. But without that money, nothing flows.

Writing –unlike plumbing – has an exceptionally low entry bar. You want to write? You can. Writing is the easy part, however. Getting read, and more importantly, getting paid for that writing is the hard part. For that, especially at the level where one can make a full-time living at it, you’re going to, outside of luck and powerful influence, going to have to work very hard. For the same amount of work, as a plumber, frankly, you will almost certainly make more money. The tiny percentage who make more than the average tradesman are exceptions. You may be one. But it’s not a good gamble. Look, that didn’t stop me. Why should it stop you? If it stopped everyone, there’d be no great books for me to read, so I have a vested interest in encouraging you – but I want to be as honest as possible. I succeeded, I managed – as a sole-breadwinner while the kids were at school and college – but I lived in a good exchange rate, and I’m an effective hunter-gatherer, a mediocre farmer, and I was able to choose to live in places where I’m not hunting in dumpsters and growing crops on a balcony.

So, look, there are essentially two models for getting readers – the ‘push’ and the ‘pull’. For a long time now, ‘push’ has been effectively the only model. Your publisher had leverage with the distributor (You want bestseller A, you also have to sell them also-ran B. And offer them noobs C & D.) and that’s how the book ended up ‘pushed’ in bookstores, which have a limit on display-space. They would also ‘push’ through a web of patronage and sometimes just outright money, to get reviews and advertising. They’d also pay the bookstore for endcaps, display dumps, window displays etc. All designed to ‘push’ your book at the potential reader.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? The problem is it SOUNDS good, and can be good for individuals, in the short term. BUT…

But the reader popularity of the pushed books are not actually in the equation, except in terms of re-order (which can be pretty important – or not). The bookstore doesn’t have any short term loss in this equation – They can rip off the cover and get a cash refund if they don’t sell the book. They might well still make money (from selling special display space). It does have a medium term loss if the books it sells are generally unappealing, or less appealing and the volume sold drops – but that’s quite hard to see and harder to control – when they’re getting books pushed at them, and making money off the display of what the publisher wants to pay for displaying. This of course is different in a small independent bookstore where the owner sells you the books and makes money for himself, directly – but the huge chain retailers – well, that nice guy who works there because he likes reading and needs a job recommends a book, but other than a little satisfaction, he gets nothing.

Unfortunately, books are not essential foodstuffs. You could have fooled me, as a young soldier I gave up a few meals to buy a book I really wanted – but they are a discretionary buy, and people can and do skip them when they don’t like what they’re offered. No it isn’t: ‘You’ll sit at this table, boy, until you finished your boiled Leckie. And don’t try feeding it to dog. It’ll make her sick.’ There is a degree of ‘obligatory buy of books by people who want to be seen to have them’, but what books have – or don’t have is usually a pretty private affair. I remember a very activist, vocal militant feminist author lamenting that if only she sold one copy for every person who crammed in to hear her speak – WisCon I think. But the people there could be seen to be attending. No-one saw what they spent their money on.

‘Push’ breaks down a little earlier than that – back in the day of several sf houses being family/ individual affairs, their founders businesses lived or died by what they decided to ‘push’… but that has largely gone in the large corporate. I’ve been told that what REALLY counts is not selling a lot. It’s selling just about exactly what you estimated you’d sell in that editorial meeting… so there is powerful incentive (unless the outside pull is very large and loud) to ‘push’ just exactly what you said you’d sell – and to pull the pin on books that are selling a bit too much. Yes. Really. I know several folk whose sales were doing just fine… until suddenly book two of three was out of print, and not being reprinted. Or a book went out of print the day it earned out. Yes, IF the clamor is loud and long from the public, they’ll reprint. But… that’s not that common. For most of us it’s merely a case of the book getting a percentage more sales. If a reader has a friend recommend it as good read, and can’t find it, or just doesn’t see it a brick-and-mortar store, it’s out of sight and out of mind. This has improved with online sales, but it still remains a system where there is little incentive for the publisher/editor to ‘push’ beyond what they planned. If they’re an editor (not a shareholder or owner of a small publisher) there’s no financial benefit. They don’t get an extra penny in their paycheck (as the author does, as long as the accounting is straight) for every sale of a specific ‘push’, but just get paid their wage.

You can see just how this can break down, also given that Traditional publishing is a status-but-not-money employer. It’s also almost entirely –in the US—based in NYC. It – in a modern society, with excellent electronic communication, is where it has no major justifiable need to be. It’s a legacy tradition and a social status symbol – not to customers (who neither know nor care) but to the employees and their peer group. It’s an expensive place to live. Think long and hard about what this means about the kind of people deciding who to ‘push’, and just how in touch they are with people who don’t have the freedom to choose a poor-paying job in a mega-expensive city, for the status among the set who care about such things, and regard publishing as above the salt. They’re out of touch with most of the audience. When you add ideological filters to that, you begin to understand why less people (even before online sales) were visiting book-stores to buy what NYC trad ‘pushed’ into them.

‘Push’ COULD work (and did) – but not long term, and not without direct and immediate feedback of that stuff that’s supposed to flow to the author – money – all the way down the line. That doesn’t alter the fact that it’s STILL the major model that most traditional published authors view as their only hope – possibly with good reason. It’s a tough environment to sell into. It’s why so many authors invest so heavily into pleasing the NYC editors bubble – aside from the fact that you can’t get in to their stable without it, your ‘push’ is determined not so much by how much the readers might like it, but how much the editor/s like it. If the latter was a measure of how much readers would like it, it could work. But, as the evidence shows, it isn’t, outside of their bubble.

When you look at the loud demonstrations of solidarity with the politics and interests of that insular little subset, to say nothing of embracing the fashionable victimhood du jour – whatever it this week, be it being Gender-fluid or people who try introducing gerbils or tarantulas to their various orifices for pleasure* – that’s what it is really about. There are doubtless some ardent believers in whatever the current doctrine is, and there are undoubtably some people doing okay out of faking it. It’s not easy to drag an audience along into a worldview they don’t share (like ¾ of the audience don’t live in anything like this bubble), and that takes more skill rather than less. But less skill and more loud solidarity will still get you the push. If you choose to go that way, it is possible. Personally I think it’s a gradually dying set-up, and besides I think we have passed peak PC (and its champions will be left like English authors who championed the Nazis before 1939 – there were quite a lot – in a few years time) — but it could well linger on for years.

So – let’s talk about ‘pull’. Pre-internet ‘pull’ existed of course, but only really worked in conjunction with ‘push’. No matter how popular Joe or Jill were, how eager people were to buy their book, if a publisher didn’t push it into a bookstore, it couldn’t really cut it. Then along came the internet, e-readers, online shopping – and suddenly people with a following – Larry Correa or Peter Grant could sell by pull, and some – Weir, could even build pull from almost nothing.

It’s not easy, and has got harder, but it is possible.

Some of us are good at pull. Most of us take a hard look at this and quake. Yes, me too. Strip me buck naked and drop me on a ‘desert’ island and I’d be less-freaked out and more capable than dealing with social media or crowds! That’s stuff I am good at, or least not completely clueless.

Which is why, still, so many people turn to ‘push’. Give it a go, it may work for you, or you may build a big enough platform to ‘pull’ from. But – back to the plumber – it is vital to remember that money is our water, and if too much of it is flowing the wrong way… something is badly wrong. Look, I am not saying that you shouldn’t be paying for artwork or editing, or some form of promotion (within reason, and with a real return. For instance I tried a facebook promo and it didn’t work. I didn’t spend a lot, and I won’t do it again. YMMV.).

But as soon as you’re paying – upfront – for a place in an anthology, for example, look long, hard and very, very carefully at the project. There may well be exceptions, you may decide that some exposure is worth the money.

We had a micro-publisher here for example who was trying to collect funds from would-be antho writers – which he would spend on hiring a prominent, award winning editor. Not only would you get your piteous work edited by a great editor, but readers would flock to buy… you were paying for push that you’d get by being an anthology bearing their name. Now, said editor actually had ‘failed upwards’ repeatedly, leaving dead publications in their wake. They were of course very PC, very avant garde, and the amount of money wanted for their prestigious services… was not small. Let’s put it this way, if they had such ‘pull’ as to push your career and name recognition along, they’d buy stories, and take a percentage as their fee. Or the publisher would put up his own money or take a loan pay them, because they expected to make a profit. As that wasn’t the deal, well… you work it out. It’s vanity publishing, really. If that floats your boat, and you have the money for your ego-trip, go for it. But if you’re hoping it’s going to launch your career as professional writer, making a living… buy lotto tickets.

Of course, one of the reasons that new authors look at the behavior of authors in puzzlement is… payment isn’t all money. Or not all money directly, anyway. Some of it is in social status – you look at the backgrounds of quite a number of authors and you discover a well-off background or well-off spouse with a job that pays the all the bills quite happily without their contribution. They’re inevitably rich or upper middle class, and being an author means something to them and their social set. This is a jolly, an ego-boo, a status symbol that means that selling to the public was never important. Being seen by the ‘right’ people to be writing the right sort of books was. It’s vanity publishing too, really.

And those not taking their pay only in social status among their chosen peers… and who need the money to pay the bills – you’ll find a lot of them are being ‘paid’ by using their status as ‘Author’ and any awards (these are the group who NEED awards, and some will will quite cheerfully push other people’s careers off a cliff to get them. You wonder why on earth they care SO, SO deeply about that literary award, which, if anything, will reduce their sales numbers? Look hard at what they’re doing with their lives and careers. A few may hope to leverage better advances out of their publisher (it’s also *status* with value for the publisher to produce many award-winners, even if all it means is they get more award-chasers, cheap) but really most of it comes down to this credentialing them to take college teaching jobs. These pay well, are not too arduous, have social status, and as you get to teach another whole generation of hopefuls. I wonder how many students ask ‘If you’re such a great, award-winning writer… how come you are teaching?’

Look, not all the authors getting MFA’s or Journalism degrees even English Lit PhD’s (on their own work) and wanting an award or two, set out to follow this course at first. I know a fair number taking it up as insurance, because the ‘push’ they got hasn’t made them a long term career, and they’re seeing danger signs or falling incomes. It seems sensible to have a fallback… even if to me it appears rather like scrambling off the leaky harbor ferry onto the Titanic. The whole arts-degree-college, just looks hopelessly unsustainable to me. But I could be wrong on that, you could be right and plumbers could become less needed than Arts degree grads. (Looks around hopefully. What sort of odds are you offering?)

So: all very well being Sun Tzu and knowing the models, but what to do, and what future – especially for the introvert who doesn’t fake being whatever the current fashionable victim-for maximum points it is at the moment. It’s a tough one. I don’t think that I can prescribe to anyone, but here is my advice: Firstly, write the best book you possibly can –which means it needs to be true to you for you to really get it right. Secondly, you always need to remember you’re long term writing for as many readers as possible. If ‘as possible’ is the same bubble as NYC editors, it is. That’s still a good few people to sell to. Thirdly, no harm in trying Trad to give you an initial footprint by their push. It may work, and may be where you stay forever. But: succeed or fail (and it is no ‘failure’) – fourthly, you need to look at hybrid model – where you get as much push from wherever – be it a publisher, a sympathetic site letting you promote, or money you spend on bookbub, but you work on ‘pull’ – on social media as much as you can bear and are able. Be nice, be funny, hell, be controversial if you can handle it, but don’t endless punt your book…. But here is kicker: it’s not your job. Your job is writing, and writing a lot. If social media conflicts with your writing, it is social media has to be curbed.

Now, for the puppy kickers who have no interest in helping writers to make a living, but have struggled through all this skimming for something to be offended by for their little witch-hunt:

I know, it’s been hard for people who struggle to read anything longer than a tweet. Tch. Shame. Let me try, for the last time, to persuade you that I didn’t turn Jim Hines into a newt. He’s exactly as he always was. And I know you took delight in dressing me up in these clothes, but I really don’t have the legs for it, and I’m doing physical work on farms, and even the hat won’t stay on in the wind, and the skirts keep getting caught on the barbed wire. Why not try one of the authors who doesn’t have a farm to run, and likes dressing in women’s clothing and posing? I’m kinda used to my own broken nose, and I don’t even have a wart. Nor do I weigh the same as a duck. And if you have a dead gerbil stuck up your ass, no, I am not responsible for that either, no matter what you say to the Doctor in ER about having no idea how it got up there.

If it was me magically placing it, I’d have made it a tarantula for your ‘pleasure’, except I wouldn’t be that cruel to a tarantula or a gerbil. And I know: that makes me a gerbil-or-tarantul-anus-ophobe because how dare I criticize your love. I’m not. I’m mocking and accepting the first accurate accusation yet. I’ll wear that one. You don’t want to be like me. And you so enjoy hurting things, so long as you’re in a mob or safe and anonymous like Fieldsy or they’re very little, like gerbils- as you’ve proven so well. Tell the rest of your twitter-mob if they haven’t already shown their solidarity with this oppressed minority, that it may be the next winner of NYC publishing victim bingo, and a shoo-in for a Hugo. Don’t all rush to the nearest pet shop now.

*I wish I was joking. Someone apparently really did this with a tarantula, because gerbils are quite vanilla. As one medical friend said, you can’t imagine what people introduce to their orifices for ‘pleasure’.

68 Comments
  1. c4c

    February 5, 2018
  2. Lots of sound advice.

    February 5, 2018
  3. I’ve been told that what REALLY counts is not selling a lot. It’s selling just about exactly what you estimated you’d sell in that editorial meeting… so there is powerful incentive (unless the outside pull is very large and loud) to ‘push’ just exactly what you said you’d sell – and to pull the pin on books that are selling a bit too much.

    OMG, They’re marketing by the point spread.

    February 5, 2018
    • Which idea alone explains a lot of the apparent folly (and real folly) in Big Publisher marketing and sales. “Oh no, this book is too popular, we have to kill it or we’ll make too much money and we’ll be fired!” *facepaw*

      February 5, 2018
      • Thing is, that makes no sense. Why would you be fired for something doing *better* than you expected it would? Because you were wrong? If I were a publisher, I’d be ecstatic that one of my employees got something wrong in that direction, instead of something doing worse.

        February 5, 2018
        • sam57l0 #

          Could it be they’re working “The Producers” scam?

          February 5, 2018
          • Sarah Hoyt said this happened to her so I believe it. However I do not get the explanation at all. At all.

            February 5, 2018
            • Maybe the owners are using publishing house losses as a tax right off?

              February 5, 2018
            • Jane, it’s, partly – I suspect – a spin off of the cost of a print run (this has got much cheaper to non-existent on e-books – but these things linger) For a print run, there are set-up costs, and per copy costs. When you need to do another print run, the set up cost has (or rather had) to be met again. The set up cost is the same for 10 copies as for 1 000 000. For the purpose of explanation lets call it $10K fixed cost, and a dollar per copy (these are made up figures to help explain) So: at the editorial meeting, the question is asked ‘how many do we print?’ Editor needs a figure, and says 10 000 – which will cost $20 000, and the publisher, getting $3.50 per copy, would realize a gross 35 000 if they all sold. They paid the author $5K advance (and to keep it simple he’s getting for purpose of example about 50 cents a book -6% of cover)

              So bear with me. I am simplifying this but it’s broadly correct.
              The publisher spends 20K on printing, and 5 on the advance, and earns $10K after those expenses (because the advance earns out exactly and they have to pay the author no more.) That’s just profitable, pays the editor, the rent shipping etc, and leaves a little over.

              But lets say the book actually sells… 12 000 copies. So to fill that they have to do another print run which costs another $12K. And they have to pay the author another $1000.

              So they now gross 12000 x $3.50 = $42K
              Minus ($20K+12K+5K +1K) =$38K
              Which leaves $4K. – so they sold more books, the author made more money – but the publisher far less.

              Now IF the editor had got it right and said 12 000 copies – the company would have grossed $42K
              Minus ($22K+5K+1K) = $28K
              Which leaves the company with $14K

              Which is why getting it right was more important than selling an extra 2000 copies. Which is why the editor has incentive to make it thus. If the demand had been 20 000, not an extra 2 000, it’s a different equation.

              I’ve left out returns, remainders, and a slew of other costs – but that I think is the origin of that.

              February 5, 2018
              • That is crystal clear.

                It also means that self-publishing will necessarily beat out traditional in the long run because those costs have completely changed with print on demand.

                And I think it explains why there’s an idea that publishing is sometimes just a way to give some chosen person a lot of money for, uh, other services.

                February 5, 2018
                • danielshumphreys #

                  “It also means that self-publishing will necessarily beat out traditional in the long run because those costs have completely changed with print on demand.”

                  Yes, absolutely. There’s an economy of scale, though, at which old-school plate printing is a better deal than print-on-demand. (Spent my entire career in the industry.)

                  But the savings in terms of setup costs and the like are always getting better.

                  One of the more interesting products I’ve ever seen is the Espresso Book Maker. It can produce an on-demand trade paperback, with high-quality cover, glue and trim in around 5 minutes. I once pondered how well one or two might do in a coffee shop, though the main market seems to be college bookstores.

                  February 5, 2018
                  • g2-56799a4506744a20844ec1aba9f974c4 #

                    two things: it probably happened to me. I had three books go out of print suddenly the moment they earned out advance. It happened for sure to a friend whose second book went through 4 reprints. They never bought a fourth.
                    Second,
                    As an indie (well, mixed, but hat means I have indie insight) author: it doesn’t matter how much more expensive it is to print the books as indie. We sell maybe 1 in a thousand in paper. LOTS of people tell us they love paper, are waiting for paper, etc. We put paper up and sell… two copies.

                    February 5, 2018
                  • two things: it probably happened to me. I had three books go out of print suddenly the moment they earned out advance. It happened for sure to a friend whose second book went through 4 reprints. They never bought a fourth.
                    Second,
                    As an indie (well, mixed, but hat means I have indie insight) author: it doesn’t matter how much more expensive it is to print the books as indie. We sell maybe 1 in a thousand in paper. LOTS of people tell us they love paper, are waiting for paper, etc. We put paper up and sell… two copies.

                    February 5, 2018
                    • (Looks at certain, just published, indie book)

                      You mean if I put up paper, I can double my sales?

                      February 6, 2018
      • From someone who has worked in a piranha pool (not publishing, stock brokerage).

        You might be the biggest piranha in that pool. Covered with armor up the yin-yang – except for that one tiny, tiny patch on the underbelly.

        If you are “managing” fifteen books – and fourteen are succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations – but that fifteenth is lagging your prediction – that is the book that comes up in every evaluation of your performance on the water cooler network. Because there are always the other piranha, and they need to eat. You have to protect that one vulnerable spot; you can’t be bothered with anything else.

        February 5, 2018
        • This too. Because predicting right is part of your job. You look good and competent if all your predictions are close. So: no pressure to make it look like you are just spot on…

          February 5, 2018
  4. adventuresfantastic #

    C4c

    February 5, 2018
  5. snelson134 #

    Dave, you need to add a title to the post. The e-mail of the post came in with 22200 as the subject, and the comments are coming in with no subject.

    February 5, 2018
    • OOPS fixed. Thank you.

      February 5, 2018
  6. Christopher M. Chupik #

    I eagerly await the howls of outrage that will inevitably ensue when the Usual Suspects misread this post.

    February 5, 2018
    • Luke #

      Eh.
      Let them screech.
      No one cares.
      They’re irrelevant, they know it, and this makes them crazier than they already were.

      February 5, 2018
    • It’ll be the same old warmed-over shite they always say. There’s no originality to them, just magpie repetition. That’s whey there’s nothing to read at the bookstore.

      A person who comments here sometimes opined on a different blog that if Fandom is ever going to heal and get back together, a lot of people are going to have to forgive and forget. I won’t say who, it isn’t important.

      It’s a noble sentiment to be sure. I would prefer a peaceful atmosphere to write and publish in. Seriously, it’d be nice if the Big Five houses didn’t reject work based on politics. It would be nice if people could write the stories they want to, without worrying that they might have missed a tick-box.

      But we don’t get what we want. We get what we get. What we’ve got is hyper-partisanship, where one faction controls both the means of production and the sales channel. Historically, forgiving and forgetting in that situation does not end well for the out-group. They get chewed up and spit out by the establishment.

      That said, all this balderdash squabbling on blogs, its a waste of time and energy. The purpose of people like Hines and Floppy Cameld1ck is clearly vexatious. They blog to hurt and annoy. There is no possibility of cooperation there, its just abuse.

      Not a problem, there’s lots of effective ways to deal with abusive individuals and groups. Unfortunately forgiveness and appeasement are not among them. Neither is engagement. Talking to sea lions is a waste of time.

      Ignoring the hell out of them works quite well. That’s what I plan to do.

      February 5, 2018
      • Depends upon what you engage them with. Suborbital carp bombardment, rods from God, etc. might be effective.

        February 5, 2018
    • Christopher, reading comprehension isn’t their thing. They basically want something to be offended by and won’t let their brains or logic interfere. When I say I reached the conclusion of who Fieldsy was a long time back, addressed him by that intentionally obscure to others nickname and had him abruptly disappear, and deliberately didn’t reveal the conclusion I had reached until the subject was being publicly discussed – then I must apologize for my mistake? Whut?

      “Clark Kent, I I worked out you were Superman a couple of years back, told you by calling you Soupy, but said nothing until it appeared on the cover of the Daily Planet.”
      “You toxic person! You must apologize for your mistake!”
      “And what, precisely, did I do to you, Soupy?”
      “Uh. You didn’t pretend you didn’t think what you did think. Just like you you said I wouldn’t want people to say Clark was wearing his underpants outside his pants.”
      “But you are. Or that’s what it looks like. I can’t be the first person to look at you and think that.”
      “How dare you SAY that! You’ve got to pretend in case it offends me. You’re encouraging other people to think that! You superhero-phobe. Re-educate yourself. I will never forgive you.”
      “I don’t care one way or the other, Soupy.”
      “Don’t call me that!”
      “Go away and I won’t call you anything, Soupy.” 😉

      Like I said: they want to be offended. I could say it was hot today and they’d be shrieking I was a sun-ophobe.

      February 5, 2018
      • Andrew #

        You could walk on water and they would accuse you of not being able to swim….

        February 5, 2018
      • “So what you’re saying is, the ozone layer is getting thinner and we have worse global warming, because of people, right?”

        That interview was probably the worst train wreck for the vileprogs, because it pretty much illustrated, in plain speech, how they twist everyone’s words and clearly were only listening enough to get buzzwords, soundbites, and for something to get outraged at and yell at the other person for.

        February 5, 2018
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      And checking a certain blog it looks like . . . yup.

      February 5, 2018
  7. It’s a pushmi-pullyu!

    February 5, 2018
    • 🙂 I love the fact that some people here are very well read 🙂 (or at least in books I think important)

      February 5, 2018
    • I recognized the critter but for the life of me couldn’t remember where I’d seen it from.

      February 5, 2018
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        IIRC, Dr. Doolittle.

        February 6, 2018
    • Yay! Someone else got it!

      February 5, 2018
  8. If I found I had a tarantula up my fundamental jujube, it’d very rapidly lead to me doing the tarantella until I’d dislodged it!

    Ye Gods and little fishes . . .

    😮

    February 5, 2018
    • story goes it bit up there, and the resulting necrosis put an end to his end as it were. Ja well. Jy wil mos, ne. Oh well, so long as they don’t insist _I_ do it, or pretend I don’t think it daft, I don’t care.

      February 5, 2018
  9. Thank goodness publishing (or at least self-publishing) requires almost no upfront capital. Lots of sweat equity, but you can publish a book on a shoestring if you know what you’re doing.

    February 5, 2018
    • Absolutely, Joe. And you can turn it into a success story. But lots of sweat equity.

      February 5, 2018
  10. “As one medical friend said, you can’t imagine…”

    Sadly, I can. Part of medical education these days is looking at the x-rays that emergency rooms KEEP (oh yes, they do) and pass around like trading cards. Many of these pictures end up on a website dedicated to such things. I highly recommend that y’all -not- check that out. Fair warning, the tarantula is not the weirdest/worst thing. Sometimes the glass breaks.

    Important safety tip kids: you can’t un-see shit.

    Also of note, big city emergency rooms is where most such pictures come from. So those people around you in the subway etc.? Some of them are friggin’ crazy. Like, wow crazy. The bum that’s yelling at the voices in his head on the street? He’s a picture of mental health in comparison. The really messed-up ones look and dress completely normal.

    And that is why I live more than a day’s march from the nearest city, with big open fields around me. Nice and peaceful. The only things that pee on my front lawn are deer, and the odd coyote. Can’t say the same for city life.

    February 5, 2018
    • Keeping at least 2 kilotons away, huh?

      February 5, 2018
    • Also, I once attended a panel at a con and said panel was dedicated to… X-rays proving judgment can be not merely bad, but unutterably atrocious. I recall looking away or closing my eyes a lot. It almost helped.

      February 5, 2018
    • I’ve often wondered about crowding and its effects on the human psyche. But it could just be the same number per capita – say 1 in a thousand. Out in the backblocks you’re likely to meet one in every 100 square miles. In a place with a million in one square mile – the ER will see a lot more.

      February 5, 2018
      • Well, remember why a lot of innovations start in cities: you get a bunch of people together bouncing ideas off each other, and things start happening.
        Unfortunately, some of those ideas are not about things like making better mousetraps…

        February 5, 2018
      • It’s not crowding. It’s whatever it is that makes people go “the beautiful ones” route that the mice did in the classic mouse utopia experiment.

        What that is, well. Folks differ

        February 6, 2018
      • Weirdos concentrate their numbers. They congregate in cities and encourage each other. In Canada they -all- move to Toronto, so Toronto ERs see a lot of trading-card worthy medical misadventures, shall we say.

        New York draws from an order of magnitude greater population, their ERs get very trading-card worthy. It’s like Rule 36: if you can think of it, Lincoln Hospital has an x-ray of it. A recent one.

        So, on the down side it means big cities get the freakazoids from hundreds of miles in all directions, each one seeking others of its freaky kind to get their freak on with.

        On the bright side, it means they all left my town. ~:D As Orvan said, I’m about 2 kilotons away from Toronto. Too far to walk in the winter.

        February 6, 2018
      • Crowding and adaptations do startling things to populations very, very rapidly. Since I wrote this, the number has been revised downward to speciation in three generations. http://www.cedarwrites.com/2017/12/05/captivity-the-butterfly-and-the-stars/

        February 6, 2018
  11. danielshumphreys #

    The massive advances given out for ghostwritten celebrity/political works that usually end up severely discounted in the second-chance bookstores was a big clue to me that the dinopubs aren’t in it for the profit.

    Me, I like to eat and have money to spend on computers. Solid post, Dave.

    February 5, 2018
    • There’s an explanation for the political works which someone gave me: it’s a way of laundering campaign cash to personal account of the polly. Simplified: Friendly NY publisher pays $1 000 000 advance. Campaign buys enough copies as give-aways from campaign fund so that publisher doesn’t lose money. Polly has $1 000 000 of campaign funds in his personal account.

      February 5, 2018
  12. Today, I am NEVER lacking for something to read. Forty years ago, I was quite often without something to read, and I attribute the change to the ‘pull’ vs the ‘push.’

    In the old, impoverished student days, I had to rely on the library. I’d discover a new-to-me writer, and then I’d chase down everything they wrote in the library. None of them ever wrote as fast as I could read, not even Asimov, who was known as the speed demon of publishing, so feeding my habit required finding a constant stream of new authors WHO HAD BOOKS IN THE LIBRARY.

    The only thing that kept me from going nuts from escapism-deprivation was the fact that I was working a full-time job, and going to school at night, so I DID have something else to do. When I finished my degree, I took up raising a family and drinking. That kept me occupied. It was a necessity, because the publishers’ pushes weren’t getting product to me.

    Now? I’m living the life, baby! And it’s all about the pull of the books. Between Baen, Kindle Unlimited, and my social-media contact with authors, I am ALWAYS, ALWAYS able to find something to read, and it is a Good Thing.

    February 5, 2018
    • I somehow get a mental image of you (which you may carp me for) with your kindle raised in the air as you skip about a generic living room going ‘Books! Books! Books! Books!’ With your bemused beloved in the background smiling indulgently.

      February 5, 2018
      • I just drew that for the yard ape’s lunch box. Wee happy mushrooms.

        February 6, 2018
  13. “…and to pull the pin on books that are selling a bit too much.”

    ***BOOM!***

    February 5, 2018
  14. Welp, Dave, I gotta say. Tarantula beats out the stories my dear maternal grandmama shared of things that should not be in those places. Coke bottles or cans or bars of soap and certain shaped vegetables seem… tame in comparison.

    And… that poor tarantula.

    February 5, 2018
    • Shadow, my feelings too. And I am not fond of tarantulas 🙂

      February 5, 2018
      • I have a soft spot for the things. They look pettable. I also like Huntsmen, and when we encounter redbacks I ask my hubby to move them somewhere they’ll be safe – and not threaten the kids. About the only ones I freak about are the ones that have elongated rears, and funnel-webs, because the latter are rather aggressive.

        Rhys told me that once he was out in the bush, and walked through a big golden orb’s web, not having seen it. He was busy brushing webs from his face and noticed that there was a big golden orb essentially replacing his wristwatch, probably going ‘wtf just happened?’ He gently shook it off onto a bush.

        February 5, 2018
        • My mother (who was… odd I admit) loved spiders and snakes. I’m -seeing as one bit my son, not fond of snakes. I’m not actually afraid of either and generally don’t kill them if they’re no danger to kids or dogs and cats. Spiders I re-home all the time.

          February 5, 2018
          • I’ll be wary of a spider until it’s properly identified. Our instruction to the children about snakes is ‘give them a wide berth’ but they’ll happily pet other folks’ pet pythons once given permission. I used to want a pet garter snake or little ball python (because they’re damned cute and small pythons are surprisingly affectionate (!) )

            This was the Housemate’s response to seeing a bug early one morning.

            I’m the odd thing that got utterly fascinated by this odd transparent blob of goo that had shiny, glittery flecks caught up in it that we found at the seashore.

            HATE roaches. Had too many experiences of getting a flying one land on my face in the darkness back in the Philippines.

            February 5, 2018
        • They are pettable (ish) Those hairs are kitten soft, and the beasties are fairly fragile.

          But I share your loathing of cockroaches. Not even Archie & Mehitabel could save them for me.

          February 6, 2018
          • Joe in PNG #

            Hey, I go through the trouble of buying special food for the roaches in my house- even comes with a special serving area and everything… bwahahaha

            February 6, 2018
            • ****shudders*****

              February 6, 2018
              • MomRed has no problems with birds, bugs, and all the little beasties… except house roaches (the little kind that appear if you don’t keep things clean). The only time I ever saw her come borderline unglued was when I reported seeing a single house roach in the kitchen at RedQuarters.

                February 6, 2018
            • snelson134 #

              February 6, 2018
    • snelson134 #

      Shadow, trust me, there’s way worse than that. Gerbils aren’t the only possibilities where rodents are concerned…..

      February 6, 2018
  15. Which is why I’ll continue to be indie… I control my own costs, don’t make a lot, but I get to see ALL the numbers. Speaking of which, buy lotto tickets??? LOL, I can’t afford them, but I can afford the occasional cup of coffee. I will admit I live primarily off my retirement, and the income from my book sales pay for ‘extras’, just not the nice ones I’l ‘like’ to afford. 🙂

    February 5, 2018
    • I was saying you had more chance of ‘winning’

      February 5, 2018
      • LOL, I know Dave, but I actually ‘enjoy’ the writing. It gives me something productive to do, and pays for ammo!!! Plus, I can claim the trips as research when I go tromping around Texas.

        February 5, 2018
        • eh – i am being unclear, I didn’t mean you had no chance of selling writing. I meant using a vanity publisher (like this guy who offered this fancy-schmanzy editor – if authors wanting their stories in the collection could come up with – I forget now but I think it was 10 grand or more – in advance for him to pay her. That’s not going to help anyone make money or make a career that can make them money. Lets say 20 stories at 500 bucks a piece – you’lll be lucky to see 10 bucks back from your 500. And it’s worthless as a selling tool. ‘I was in such and such anthology’ (editor backs away quietly ‘how very nice…’

          February 6, 2018
        • mrsizer #

          You make enough for ammo? I just found out how much it costs and how fast one goes through it. I’d call that “success”.

          February 6, 2018
  16. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Moving on, it’s been eye-opening — and maddening — to have a glimpse behind the scenes of the publishing industry here at MGC.

    February 5, 2018
  17. Draven #

    i tried to make my cat eat some scalzi but she barfed it up in my chair.

    February 6, 2018

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