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Why is that genre dead?

Occasionally, you’ll hear a new writer to the field (especially one who’s come in fully indie, in the last 10 years), ask “Why is X genre called a dead genre?” If there’s a group of indie authors, all equally focused on writing stories, they may start getting deep in the weeds on themes versus character arcs vs. popular movies vs. whatever to explain it. Those have nothing to do with it.

If you have some trad authors who write in the “dead” genre, especially westerns, they’ll tell you that they were killed because the editors are coastal urban kids who are completely disconnected from the genre, and killed it out of spite and disconnect with their readers. They’ll also bemoan the way that bookstores have national ordering, which puts massive co-op displays of Hillary’s books deep in coal country and cow country, instead of the books popular in each region.

They’re describing the symptoms, not the cause, but they’re a lot closer than the aforementioned indie authors.

The real causes start in the paper rationing of WWII, which killed the pulps, but let’s pick up the thread of history 39 years ago, at the landmark court decision that nearly destroyed several industries, completely upended the Christmas retail season, created just-in-time inventory systems, and started the slow-motion collapse of publishing as collateral damage.

I’m talking, of course, of Thor Power Tools vs. Commissioner.

If you have a blank look after reading that line, then you’re missing one of the major landmark cases of last century. Prior to 1979, companies could and did hold large inventories, but were allowed to write off the inventory’s aging out as a loss on their taxes, so they paid nothing on the oldest, non-selling inventory. Therefore, there was no tax burden for holding large amount of slow-moving goods in inventory, just the cost or warehousing or shelf space. In hardware store terms, this was why you used to be able to walk into an old store and they’d have everything, even if it was back in a dusty corner.

In publishing terms, prior to 1979, the publishers could hold large inventories of backstock, as could bookstores, and keep things in print for years even if they only sold one or two books a year. This let them grow authors slowly, so if a midlist author took 6 or 7 books to really start to have  fanbase, that was fine – they still had all the books in stock and would make a healthy profit (especially because the books had been written off after 5 or 6 years, so they weren’t paying further inventory tax on them) when the midlist author “suddenly” became the big “overnight” bestseller.

After the Thor decision, companies now must pay full inventory tax on all their inventory, at market value, every year. And this is why just-in-time inventory was adopted wide-scale – because the tax hit of having a large buffer of inventory parts became a significant drain to the company. This is also why you see “year end sale!” on so many businesses, especially ones that carry a significant chunk of capital in their inventory like retail. Prior to this, Christmas was certainly a gift-shopping season, but now the draw of Christmas shoppers combines with the need to get rid of as much inventory as possible before year-end, and the inventory tax that must be paid on the remainder.

As for publishing? In the 1980’s, the publishers emptied out those warehouses of backstock, and started taking books out of print rapidly if they were low-selling. The “If you liked this book, order these from us!” pages disappeared out of the back of the mass market paperbacks. They also managed to push the warehousing onto distribution companies, who carried the inventory and took the inventory tax hit for them. The consolidation of distribution, combined with the rise of the chain bookstore and computerized inventory, created further issues we’ll get to in a second.

But first, with the collapse of the long tail, the ability to slow-grow midlist authors into bestsellers collapsed. Because the publishers couldn’t make a large enough profit on slow sales of a large taxable backstock to overcome its carrying cost, midlisters came under pressure at first to produce a bestseller within their first three books, and their old books were taken out of print as soon as they weren’t profitable enough to overcome the carrying cost.

Keep in mind, none of this happened overnight. In fact, a lot of this was happening on companies still using pen and paper for accounting and inventory, as the newfangled mainframe computers worked their way into businesses, followed by the personal computer. (The commodore 64 came out in what, 1982?) So changes took years to happen, and were still slowly rolling in for a couple decades as new technology and new corporate culture adapted.

Back to those distributors. Publishers used to work with many, many distributors, each with their own little patch of turf. Some of you may remember spinner racks of books at truck stops, gas stations, grocery stores, and other random tourist spots – they were stocked by distributors, who were highly motivated to keep their display space full of whatever the public in their area wanted. (Fun fact: the reign of bodice rippers, and Fabio, on romance covers was because those covers sold extremely well at truck stops. Make of that what you will!)

Well, when the publishers went from holding the inventory to shedding it to a few distributors, distribution collapsed, and only a few consolidated companies survived to stock everything. (Economics of scale wins.) The spinner racks disappeared, and left a void that was filled by the new chain bookstores – Borders, Barnes & Noble, and so on.

Borders and Barnes & Noble leveraged three strengths: 1.) Economy of scale. By placing very large orders, they could wrangle better discounts out of the distributors than indie bookshops could. 2.) The new computerized inventory tracking system, which let them see what books were selling and what books weren’t. By ruthlessly exploiting the returns systems publishers had leftover from the great depression, they could send back slow-selling books and not only avoid the inventory tax, but also free up bookstore space for fast-moving books. 3.) Branding power. By establishing a ubiquitous presence in the then-extremely-popular malls across America, with a very similar inventory, people knew they could get what they wanted anywhere they went. With that, and the ubiquitous layout plans, they could rent space to the publishers, and actually charge for placement at the front of the store. endcaps, face-out treatment, etc.

Yes, there were regional differences in many stores, especially early on. However, as they took over such a large percentage of the book trade, the publishers realized that 1.) they could essentially ignore dealing with the indies and just concentrate on selling their catalog to a small handful of buyers, and 2.) through co-op agreements (paid placement) and selling agreements, they could now, to some extent, choose the winners and losers, and bestsellers.

Yes, here you see the real rise of “push” marketing, and the disconnect from the reading audience.

The bookstores, meanwhile, having successfully captured the market, were more than happy to have the publishers paying for placement (co-op), and set to increasing the efficiency of turnover on their shelves… And this was the rise of “ordering to the net.”

Read Holly Lilse’s writeup here: https://hollylisle.com/selling-to-the-net-or/

Man, I remember when Holly Lilse first wrote this post. It was a full two weeks of sturm und drang on the internet, and a whole lot of pushback from authors and publishers saying she was out of her ever-loving mind, she hated booksellers, yadda yadda. Time has proven Holly so right that nobody even questions it anymore… except for indies who never were exposed to ordering to the net, and therefore don’t understand just why trad pub turned into such a vicious cycle.

By the way, she’s a good author, too. If you like fantasy, check out her books!

So yeah, centralized planning and eventually centralized control created an ever-tightening spiral to kill off authors. Times got harder. But, you say, what does this have to do with dead genres? Everything. This is the background that you need to understand the motivations that follow.

Once upon a time, westerns were really popular. They were in the movie theaters, on the television screen, and in all the spinner racks. In fact, the  original Star Trek series that brought science fiction to so many proto-geeks was first marketed as “Wagon Train to the stars.”

The print run numbers were down in the 1970’s, and the were one of the first genres declared “dead” by publishers. While they were still quite popular in some regions of the United States, the collapse of the independent distributors and rise of national ordering devastated any chances of comeback. The chains wanted books they could buy in nationwide numbers, and stock everywhere, not regional favourites like westerns. So the market shrank, the buyers were harder to reach, the carrying cost of inventory of the inventory higher, and it entered a vicious spiral.

In Manhattan, the publishers were becoming increasingly disconnected from anything outside New York City, as the rising push model meant that they could now decide what the public saw, and how much of it – picking winners via buying the tables covered with a giant stack of the single book at the front of the store, endcap displays, or face-out on shelves, and everything else was a loser. Without the feedback from the actual buying and reading public that used to come in via sales and distributor orders, their primary feedback on what was “good” came from their peers, and only distantly, six months later, from the accounting feedback on whether their sales projections had been met.

Now, there have always been breakout books. Sometimes they’re big enough to lift an entire genre out of obscurity and into the limelight. Sometimes they’re just really great sellers in their genre. Editors, being creatures of habit, are usually focused on safe bets – looking for something that could be big in a genre that’s currently hot. If a potentially hot book in a hot market fails to take off, that’s blamed on the author, not the editor. If a potentially great book is in a small genre or relatively hard to market, then its failure may be blamed on the editor instead.

Westerns, being alien to the Manhattan crowd, and a declining market, were too risky to take bets on – better to declare it “dead” and move on to putting acquisition money into newer, hotter markets.

What were those markets? In the 70’s, it was horror. The Exorcist went big as a movie in 1973, and a unknown writer named Stephen King’s novel Carrie was accepted by Doubleday. It came out in 1974, and while the hardcover run was small, the paperback run was over a million copies.

After that, everybody wanted the next huge hit, and it looked like it’d be horror.

Now, Kris Rusch once spoke about the waves of publishing on a fad, and it roughly went like this:

  1. Breakout book breaks out big
  2. Publishers look around their slush piles, and find possibly books in similar vein that writers wrote on spec, which are pretty darned good, and publish them.
  3. Meanwhile, writers notice Hot New Fad is lucrative, and write derivative stuff to jump on the bandwagon.
  4. Publishers run out of slush pile good books, and publish derivative stuff, because the market is buying everything as fast as it hits the shelf.
  5. Public realized that most of the stuff is dreck, tires of fad, moves on. Publishers, operating on a year lag, put out a lot of derivative dreck and it all fails.
  6. Publishers declare that the genre has dies, and stop buying in it.

This is what she calls “writing to market”, and most of y’all can probably remember the Fifty Shades of Everything, and all the Twilight clones before that. But it’s been going on for decades.

Side note: When indies started talking about “Writing to Market” and meant “Check the sub-sub genres you like and see if the stories there are selling better on average than other sub-genres; that may indicate a market that’s underserved and needs more content. If it’s among stories you love to write, work on one there next”, or “Identify what’s currently hot in your genre. Look at what you’re writing, and how your stuff is similar. Emphasize the similarity, especially in your marketing”, this is part of why they got an overwhelmingly negative response from the older trad pub authors. Because indies were talking about the marketing end, not necessarily writing to someone else’s demand – but the same phrase was commonly used for only the writing end in trad pub, and was usually a spectacular failure by the time it got to market. Combined with ordering to the net, it was a recipe for career suicide.

Now, unlike Westerns, Horror has had a couple breakout novels since it was declared a dead genre. In 1976, Anne Rice wrote a book called Interview with the Vampire. It went big at the time, and then as horror was declared a dead genre,  the series continued to do well (1988’s Queen of the Damned hit the NYT Bestseller list) gave rise to the goth phrase “Vampires are the Undead genre – they keep being declared dead, and rising again!) In 1994 Interview came out as a film with Tom Cruise, and did rather well for itself, feeding yet another round of vampire-everything.

Note this is less than a year after Laurell K Hamilton’s first Anita Blake book came out – I think the second one may have been still fairly fresh on the bookshelves when the movie hit, and people went looking for more sexy urban vampires. And thus, they declared “horror” was still dead, but Urban Fantasy lives on. And Horror is dead, but the Zombie craze, and the Post-Apocolyptic everything (including with zombies!) have their heyday separately, after their attendant breakout books or movies.

Anyway, when a genre is declared dead, this does not mean that the editors stop buying everything. It means they stop buying anything but a tiny trickle of fresh blood. Proven bestsellers are still bought, because they’re sure things. So yes, Stephen King can put out all the horror he wants, and John Grisham can put out legal thrillers, and so on, but that doesn’t mean Joe NewAuthor is going to get a chance, much less any push.

And so it goes… until either a movie comes out that spikes the genre’s sales, or someone takes a chance and publishes a breakout blockbuster, reviving a specific area of the genre, or the same genre under a new name. (Such as when amateur mysteries became cozy mysteries became craft mysteries.)

And this it went, burning out each genre in turn, until indie came along. Indie doesn’t care what the publishers want; it puts out what it wants, whether the genre is “dead” or not. Marketing is much harder in a dead genre not only because the general pool of readers is much smaller, but also because you’re competing against the classics and the extremely long running series, instead of against what other things have just come out.

Hard is not the same as impossible. If you’re willing to tilt at windmills, to put in research on reaching people outside of traditional reader channels, or willing to accept the smaller returns of a smaller market, there’s nothing stopping you from putting out a steampunk, or western, or classic slasher, or sword & planet, or…

And when the readers find you, they love you. Because they really do want something that’s new and different, while still being in the same familiar genre vein.

And with Print On Demand and ebooks, and digital distribution of audiobooks, everything is held in the cloud and isn’t physical inventory until a customer wants it. So it took 30 years, but indie has found a way around Thor Power Tools vs. Commissioner.

Expect the marketplace to continue to change.

P.S. – For some notes on the change in editors makeup, see Sarah’s post Saturday on the economics shifting to “prestige” slots, and Jeb Kinnison’s take on the gender ratios.

51 Comments
  1. Seems to me, (an admitted rookie to all this author stuff) that if you tell an exiting story, with characters the readers fall in love with, is doesn’t matter at ALL what genre your story belongs to.

    May 20, 2018
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Mark, it doesn’t matter on the writing end. It doesn’t matter to the reader who loves the story you wrote. It matters very much indeed when it comes to finding that reader, and letting ’em know that your story exists and is just what they want. Which is the basic functioning of marketing, and something that you’ll want to start learning about as you get closer to publishing, so you don’t run face-first into the learning curve right after you finish the book you want to publish.

      Jus keep this firmly in mind: Writing is not publishing. Write from your soul, your heart, your hopes, your dreams. Publish from your bottom line and business charts and number crunching. They’re two very separate skills, and if many indie authors will literally use a second computer, or two hats, to remind themselves that publishing exists to sell the writing, not the other way around.

      May 20, 2018
      • Being a Starry-Eyed Stupid rookie, can’t I at least fantasize that I’ll just do a great cover, publish, give away a few ARCs, and word-of-mouth will take care of all the rest? 🙂

        On a more serious note, I’ve read that adult coloring books sell very well on Amazon. How about releasing these novels with optional A) illustrated versions, and/or B) DIY coloring books under separate cover? Appeals to ME, but I paint, so I’m prolly not a representative sample.

        May 20, 2018
        • BobtheRegisterredFool #

          There are a bunch of Light Novels on Amazon kindle that were translated from Japanese. I don’t know for certain, but they may well have the translations the Japanese paper editions did.

          May 20, 2018
          • Shows you what I (don’t) know. I hadda look it up to discover what a Light Novel was.

            May 21, 2018
            • BobtheRegisterredFool #

              Meant to say illustrations, instead of translations in that last sentence.

              May 21, 2018
              • Seemed kinda cryptic, but I just chalked it up to my ignorance.

                May 21, 2018
  2. Good post, breakdown of history, and what things really mean for indie writers. Thanks.

    May 20, 2018
  3. Draven #

    in some cases genres die because the publisher beats them to death….

    May 20, 2018
  4. Fascinating history, explains a lot about the fads, and the frustrating lack of dead tree books to read that I encountered later on. Thank you.

    May 20, 2018
    • also, c4c

      May 20, 2018
    • Yes, that lack of old DTB is quite frustrating. I think that’s what so many readers love about Amazon. Those old books that you want to read can actually be found, and usually for pennies, and then shipped to your house arriving the next day even.

      May 20, 2018
      • *chuckle* I’ve long been envious of the Americans and Canadians being able to take advantage of Amazon’s availability. Still not something we can do Down Under alas.

        May 20, 2018
    • I keep telling people that romance was once a genre read by men….

      Library self-checkout lines can be fascinating. A lot of guys seem to read those romances with the SEALs and the military, at least as part of their book piles. And hey, if the guy gets the girl….

      May 20, 2018
      • Talk about serendipity. Reading Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s book on “Author Branding” and she actually brings that up about romances. Where the book spinners in truck stops were stocked heavily with romance novels back in the day.

        May 20, 2018
      • I have a married male friend who happily chats with me about the romances he likes, because he knows I’ll ‘get it’ (he really loves personal interactions in books and fun character descriptions) and it’s not something he can talk to with most folks.

        TBH, I’d think that romance novels would give some kind of insight into how (in hyperideal) a woman wants to be treated by a man; the reality is far toned down (difference between fantasy and reality after all.) I don’t see why a romance shouldn’t make a male reader’s heart also go doki doki from the fun escapism of it all, any more than a woman enjoys action and horror novels.

        Also, it was a guy who introduced me to Anne Bishop, reckoning I’d have loads of fun with the story, characters, dialogue and emotive writing – after he had read her stuff.

        May 20, 2018
        • mrsizer #

          I loved the Ruby Lionsdrake (discovered her from here) romances and I think gay male is way out of the target demographic.

          Now that I went to all the bother of finding her on Amazon (to be sure of spelling), I wonder if there’s anything new…

          May 22, 2018
  5. I knew some of this – but thanks for putting it all together.
    I had the dispiriting experience of being told, rather snottily and repeatedly, when I was trying to get an agent and a publisher for my first novel, “No, we don’t do westerns!” Saying that no, it was a historical novel set on the 19th century American frontier did not get me anywhere. So – I went indy, and put most of my subsequent novels in the category of western. And no, that genre is not the least bit dead.

    May 20, 2018
    • When Hastings [moment of sad silence] was still in business, the headquarters store and certain regional stores had full-length shelves of nothing but westerns – L’amour “new” and old, Max Brand, et al. Some of the series were up to book 400+. OTOH, at a Hastings near a military base, they had a lot of military history and Baen sci-fi.

      May 20, 2018
      • I remember when I was in junior high and high school Target and Kmart had large areas for books. With an entire 8′ shelving section of westerns, almost half L’Amour books, and another for mysteries. Now I think their entire book section is just two 8′ shelves for everything. My biggest complaint about that time was they kept renaming Agatha Christie novels. I think I bought my Mom the same book three different times over the years all with different titles. The last time I was in B&N I think their entire western section was one rack of 6′ shelves.

        May 20, 2018
      • adventuresfantastic #

        The B&N and one of the Wal-Marts here in the flatland have sections devoted to westerns.

        May 21, 2018
    • Wal-Mart used to carry a couple shelves of Westerns. Used to be big on Western settings of inspirational romances, too.

      May 20, 2018
    • I watched the Hastings in Laramie, WY go from a bookstore we all loved to visit, to watching their books become increasingly more and more “grab bag” (ie, whatever used was sold to them) with the new books being very, very limited, to being mostly toys/movies/music…to closed.

      It was very sad. I loved Hastings. Even worked there while in college for a few months, until I realized that me working in a book and movie store was akin to an alcoholic working in a liquor store, heh.

      The local grocery store in the town I work still has a better-than-average selection of books and magazines, but even so I’ve never really bought anything from them, because the selection is the same ol’ tradpub drek, mostly. (I do buy knitting magazines, and a couple of gardening/home ones.)

      May 21, 2018
  6. TRX #

    “Dead” is a relative thing. It means “not profitable enough to be worth our attention.”

    There’s still a lot of money out on the long tail.

    May 20, 2018
  7. Christopher M. Chupik #

    Well, in the case of Westerns, the genre died (at least on the big screen) because it became grey goo.

    May 20, 2018
  8. Traditionals and indies also tend to have a different concept of what a genre is.

    Publishers would cater their season’s list to fill the schematic at the big box stores, and that meant X SF titles, Y Mystery titles, Z Romance titles, and so on. If a publisher already had the SF titles it needed to fill that season’s list then new SF novels (or novels pitched as SF) would be returned unopened.

    Their cover art and book design also tended to be “this fits the genre” rather than “this fits the book”, which is why so many paperbacks from the 1980s and 1990s have covers that look so similar and often have no relation to what’s inside. (Seriously, have you seen some of Philip Dick’s covers from that era?)

    From a traditional publishing/chain bookstore mindset genre means one book=one genre=one shelf in a bookstore. Mixing,say, historical romance with fantasy is going to confuse the middle manager who draws up the schematic for the shelving, and a confused middle manager is an unhappy middle manager. He doesn’t read books, at least not those kinds of books, he just wants the right number of tab As to fit into the store’s slot Bs.

    That same kind of thinking colored how publishers saw authors. If you wrote an SF book and it sold well enough to justify publishing another, it had damned well be an SF book, and as close as possible to the first one. Part of a series was ideal, but if not that then at least close enough that they reuse the first cover with a few minor changes. The bookstore has a spot on the shelf already allocated for your next book, whether or not you’ve actually written it.

    E-publishing and POD have completely changed all this. Amazon doesn’t sell books by the one book/one shelf method, they use keywords and complex algorithms that analyze a shopper’s browsing and buying behaviour to recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to everyone no matter what you do.

    Indies don’t look at genre as “a box that you have to fall neatly into in order to even get to a slush pile reader” they see it as “a marketing tool to get your book in front of the right general audience.” Furthermore the old model of genre was that it was something imposed from above by publishers and book chains. The new model of genre is that it is something that authors assign or invent based on reader’s buying habits.

    May 20, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      “Their cover art and book design also tended to be “this fits the genre” rather than “this fits the book”, which is why so many paperbacks from the 1980s and 1990s have covers that look so similar and often have no relation to what’s inside.”

      My “favorite” cover is the one for Anne McCaffery’s “To Ride Pegasus,” a near-future sci-fi book about a bunch of telepaths (just in case anyone here hasn’t read it). The cover of my edition has a guy in Medieval wizard robes with three women, dressed roughly like Greek goddesses, drape themselves over him.

      “[Amazon] use[s] keywords and complex algorithms that analyze a shopper’s browsing and buying behaviour to recommend The Handmaid’s Tale to everyone no matter what you do.”

      So that’s the hot book these days. I’ve heard that back in the day when things first started, they actually had to tweek the algorithm quite a bit before it stopped recommending Harry Potter to everyone no matter what they did.

      May 20, 2018
  9. Thor Power Tools vs. Commissioner. And people wonder why everything is made in China.

    Canada is actually worse for tax on manufacturing, if you can believe that. So bad that it makes you wonder if Japan and China bought some guys in 1979.

    Between this and the situation Sarah pointed out in her piece, I can understand why things are happening the way they are.

    I must say it makes the proggies with their “but QUALITY!!1!” argument against Indie look even dumber.

    May 20, 2018
    • Brett Baker #

      Back in the 90s the state of Ohio gutted it’s inventory tax because it was costing so many manufacturing jobs.

      May 20, 2018
  10. I can’t remember if I cried
    When I read about his widowed book
    Something touched me deep inside
    The day the genre died

    (with apologies to Don McLean)

    May 20, 2018
  11. Uncle Lar #

    Westerns are dead. Tell that to the used book stores that have to put restrictions on Louis L’amour books, buy one trade one, to keep them in stock.
    Robert Parker started a series about two western lawmen that was popular enough that his estate has a ghost writer continuing the series.
    The William Johnstone organization pumps out westerns by the ton, some formulaic schlock, but others quite readable, his Eagles series in particular.
    And there’s this newcomer upstart Peter something or other as well.
    As for horror, be sure to let Laurell K. Hamilton, Jim Butcher, and Charlaine Harris know about that so they can stop wasting their time. Well OK urban fantasy a close cousin of horror.
    Then we have the HBO phenomenon with their penchant for breaking genre barriers. They put Harris’s True Blood story up on the screen for several years, and are now doing the same with Westworld, a sort of SF and Western crossover. And didn’t they do a gritty western themed series a while back. Helps of course that they are not constrained by having to follow network television standards of conduct. Amazing what a difference a bit of tasteful T&A will accomplish.

    May 20, 2018
    • Uncle Lar #

      OK, much as I simply cannot resist pulling lovely Dorothy’s chain, after the fact it occurred to me that a few readers might not be aware that her multi talented cross genre author husband, Peter Grant, has a new series of Westerns out, two in print and promises of at least a third. That on top of now three SF series, and several well crafted stand alone fiction and fact books.
      I have yet to read anything by Peter that was not extremely well written and meticulously researched. I found his first western on a par with anything from Louis L’amour. It dealt with hope and promise while struggling through adversity. The second book’s focus was on revenge and while equally well written I found it less personally satisfying.

      May 20, 2018
      • Dorothy Grant #

        Aw, thanks, Uncle Lar! As soon as we get this space merc trilogy up and published, and my next book published, Peter will start on the next western.

        Okay, there may be this little break first called LibertyCon – and yes, we did set the release schedules so all the books will be out the door before we head to LibertyCon. This way we can relax with a few hundred awesome people before he dives into the third western, and then finishing the Laredo trilogy.

        May 20, 2018
        • Unless the Muse attacks… (I can just imagine it…)

          Fan: “I thought Peter Grant was on this panel?”

          Moderator: “He just started writing a new book and won’t come out of the room.”

          Fan 2: “Oh! For the love of mud, don’t disturb him. Does he want room service? I’ll chip in.”

          May 20, 2018
      • Roger Ritter #

        I’ll second this. I’m not a Western fan, but I bought Peter Grant’s first Western novel based on my liking for his SF titles. It was a good decision – these stories are just as good as his SF, and I eagerly await the next one!

        May 20, 2018
        • I was that close to breaking down and buying one (Because if you don’t even like Luis L’Amour, you really don’t care for Westerns) when Stones of Silence came out.

          Saved! :-p

          May 21, 2018
      • Brett Baker #

        Actually, I think Peter could be the next Elmer Kelton.

        May 20, 2018
  12. Once a reader finds an author that they like, I mean really, really like, they’ll buy just about anything from them. And continue to do so even if the quality isn’t as great as in the last one, ‘hey, the next one will be even better!’. Once that fan loyalty to an author (or in Baen’s case a publisher) grabs ahold, the fan keeps coming back because they want to relive that magic. I’d buy Wednesday’s shopping list from Sarah, Larry or John Ringo. Getting Sarah’s backlist into indie eBooks has been wonderful. Yay Indie!

    May 20, 2018
  13. It’s good to revisit history.

    May 20, 2018
  14. Usual mistake on Thor Power Tool.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thor_Power_Tool_Co._v._Commissioner
    The Thor decision caused publishers and booksellers to be much quicker to destroy stocks of poorly-selling books in order to realize a taxable loss. These books would previously have been kept in stock but written down to reflect the fact that not all of them were expected to sell.[2]
    ==

    http://www.sfwa.org/2005/01/how-thor-power-hammered-publishing/

    And look for Patricia C Wrede’s take too.

    May 20, 2018
  15. The complex thing about genre, and by complex I mean frustrating me totally, is that I didn’t know anything about it when I wrote my first book. Now that I’ve been reading this blog, and the archives I see how important it is for marketing. I see that my book probably wasn’t genre. I feel the constraints or rules of genre subtly changing what I’m writing now and I can’t figure out if that’s good or bad. And that is before I even get to the question of whether I am writing in a dead genre or not!

    May 20, 2018
    • Join the club. A Cat Among Dragons (the first short-story collection) is sort of mil-sci-fi, sort of alien encounters, sort of coming-of-age, mostly just “eh, it’s sci-fi.” The last one? Well it has a wedding and romance in it, but also a battle in space, mechanical dragons, something that’s not-supernatural-really, and a werewolf. Sort of. I’d love to watch a Big Five editor try to sort out which genre-shelf to list it under. But those are the reasons no Big Five editor would ever touch that series, too.

      May 20, 2018
  16. OldNFO #

    Well said. And I ‘jumped’ from current urban (western) fiction to MilSF. Not as successfully, but I’m working on it! Indie and loving it, because I can write what I want!

    May 20, 2018
  17. My goodness, how time flies! It seems like just yesterday I was having internet arguments about how Thor Power Tools was a gummint money grab that was going to wreck our favourite genres. (If you want less of something…)

    No, actually despite the sound and the fury back in the day (late ’90s) I’d forgotten all about it. Thanks for the reminder.

    May 21, 2018
  18. Max #

    I got a good chuckle out of the fact that your immediate go-to for dead genre was ‘western.” Why? Well, because my fifth book comes out June 1st … and it’s a Fantasy Western. I’m really curious to see how it stacks up, sales and reception-wise, to my prior work since Western is definitely NOT a common genre these days … but I’ve seen some growing love for it online and across various fanfiction locales, so it might be swinging back. Maybe “Shadow of an Empire” will ride a new wave or something. Who knows.

    Still, it got a chuckle out of me. June 1st, I get to see how it does!

    May 22, 2018
    • Firefly seemed to do well enough.

      May 22, 2018
    • Western is the first go-to for “why is this a dead genre”, because it’s been declared so since the 1970’s, where horror was declared dead in the 1980’s (I’d have to go research when, because I’m not a fan of the genre and thus wasn’t paying much attention at the time.) Clearly, no matter how many times either genre has been declared “dead” by publishing, there are still folks who like it.

      What Peter and I have found, with him writing Westerns, is that the sales numbers are going to be smaller overall than his other releases. In part, because a number of his fans are genre-specific, and won’t follow to that genre, in part because he hasn’t released enough to be known to the western readers and build a large following there, and in part because the pool of western readers is smaller than the pool of SF/F readers. But we also found that western readers are very happy to get new books, and very eager to share good new books with other fans. Also, western moves more paperbacks than Scifi… it was worth all the effort to get the library of congress number & stuff, to make it easy for librarians to get, as it’s been sighted in several libraries across Texas.

      I hope your release goes awesomely!

      May 22, 2018
      • Max #

        Thanks! I remain optimistic that it’ll do well, but only time will tell. I’m definitely giving it the biggest advertising pre-release boost of any of my works, but … Again, time will tell!

        Personally, I kind of buy the theory that Blazing Saddles played a part in the death of Westerns. It really did skewer them until you couldn’t breath from laughing too hard.

        May 22, 2018
        • Brett Baker #

          And now, Blazing Saddles has been killed. (If you’ve seen the new censored versions on TV. What part of Mel Brooks is attacking racism don’t they get?)

          May 22, 2018
  19. Dorothy, I loved your note about the difference between indie “writing to market” versus the pre-indie version of same. There were things I’d always wondered about that. Now I know!

    Really your entire post was excellent! There was a lot I already knew, but you explained some details I had not known about and stitched the whole saga together in a very enlightening way. Thank you!

    May 22, 2018

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