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Pie

I like pie…

Now my answer to who gets what share of the pie in publishing (actually in most things) is hey, let’s make a bigger pie.

That’s always seemed a sensible answer to me. I’ve spent years talking about ways to make reading more popular with as many people as possible. I can summarize many thousands of words into this: Give as many readers as possible what they enjoy. Help them find it, keep them coming back for more.

A rising tide floats ALL boats.

The key is not so much what an individual is reading (from Das Kapital to Atlas Shrugged), but that as many of them are reading as possible. That all feeds back into the industry, which means an industry big enough to support Feminist Lesbian Vegetarian Urban Goat Breeding Fiction as well as Macramé Flower Baskets Aryan Neo-Nazi fiction, because car-chases, shooting and blowing things up, kiss-an’-cuddle Fiction carries a lot of the costs.

Alas… not a lot of the Traditional publishing establishment and their hangers on agree with me – which should surprise no-one, least of all me. It still does, every time, because getting my head around ‘how can you be that stupid?’ is always hard.

But it doesn’t actually end there because there is a new level of stupid below that: It’s called the ‘you’re putting off your readers if you don’t support our extreme left wing narrative’ stupid. We had our favorite Chinese Bot man trying this one on recently. I thought it had died with the puppy-kicking a few years back – but it seems not. The person attacked tried some kind of reasonable response, but probably because it was just so bizarre didn’t really grasp the nettle. In case you encounter this, let me talk you through it.

cherry pie

Here is the finite pie. Now, it used to be a much bigger pie, but Trad Publishing has, under its brilliant stewardship, managed to make it a lot smaller.

pie -political shares

Here is the pie of the demographics of the self-assessed political attitudes of the principle market for English language SF/Fantasy the US – the smallest section is ‘left’ or as Americans call it ‘liberal’. Now, the fractions may differ slightly when it comes to ‘selling books especially in English.’ Some may not read. However it is important – contrary to some assertions – to state that really no section in this pie is potentially not a market. Much effort has gone into trying to prove lower IQ etc. by those who want to claim they have the moral authority to lead despite being smaller numbers. It has failed or you’d hear about on the MSM every 10 minutes.

One of the rallying calls much heard in modern publishing and their hangers on is ‘own-voices’. Now the argument goes that people who are not one-legged midgets from Equatorial Africa, cannot possibly write one one-legged midgets from Equatorial Africa well, and that that their use and culture should be reserved for said OLMFEA and will be embraced by the OLMFEA community and eagerly read as one of their own, and by all those who want to embrace the cultural diversity of OLMFEA people. (In other words a market of 200 on a good day). But there is a tiny element of truth in it all: the author’s background, interests, politics, social status and experience do get reflected in the writing. Research helps, of course. And if most of the audience isn’t from that community, that demographic, it doesn’t matter that much from the sales point of view.

Where of course it DOES matter is when a substantial part of the audience are from those sections of the demographic. Let’s say the author’s book had a Military Veteran as a major character – and they got it all wrong, because the author hasn’t served – and drew all their information from Jane Fonda (very popular in the author’s social circles). You can guarantee it will not sell well to a large part of the demographic, although it will possibly be loved by a small part, just as ignorant as the author.

Now here’s the thing: if you took trad publishers and did their political demographic, it looks like this:

pie political donations

You’d think common sense and wishing to make a profit would see to it that this didn’t matter. They’d still buy the best authors to appeal to as much of the demographic as possible. Two things however come into this: 1) see the Jane Fonda example above – they just don’t know audiences outside their bubble. 2)There is no direct feedback loop rewarding acquiring editors for good choices that make their company money, certainly not all in the new, minimum advance entrant level (it is somewhat different if you come with a pre-existing shoo-in market). So, it becomes about what they enjoy and what they feel would be ‘good’ if it was published. Which, um, amounts to the publisher’s ‘own voices’.

Which means, again, that the choice made by most publishers is… in sf/fantasy anyway — at the most generous. (on the left) compared to the market (on the right).

pie -purchase vs actual demographic

When it comes down to Awards, recognition, critical acclaim – it is the same or worse. Most of the ‘love’ goes to the extreme end – the 7% far left. None goes to the opposite extreme.

While the similar situation exists in publishing as in fishing – where 10% of the skippers catch 90% of the fish – and those 10% of the skippers or authors are doing well, regardless, among the 90% that are struggling – well, they’re all fighting for a piece of that ‘readership pie’. But let’s for the purpose of keeping it simple, assume that all shares are pretty well equal.

The authors on American left, openly supported by their publishers, are open and vocal about their politics, reflected in public pronouncements and work. Moreover – particularly in the wake of Sad and Rabid Puppies, but well before too – eager to take this to punishing, excluding, badmouthing those that don’t belong to their political section of the demographic. In fact, they attack even authors who fail to show sufficient enthusiasm in doing this. It was career suicide–anywhere but Baen, to admit even in private that actually you were conservative, or even centrist or independent.

But this didn’t only extend to the authors, who they’d de-platform and dis-employ, but even to the public in general. They’d sound off at the audience. They still do. That pleased their acquiring editor. It may well be that those publishers and authors had somehow deluded themselves into believing that those who didn’t agree were a tiny non-customer minority – but the fact is they definitely actually have 26% of the market agreeing with them. Depending on how much they’ve succeeded at alienating the independent/centrist part of the demographic with the ‘if you’re 100% with me or you’re agin’ me’ attitude… that may be all they have left. Personally I suspect it may possibly get to 40-45% -and shrinking – but let’s assume the market is split 50:50.

Which means if out of every ten authors, the nine left wing authors push out the one ‘not left’… and his/her share goes on buying, they’re up from 10% each to 11%. Well… that not bad they all say. I mean that’s an extra 10% onto their income. Onwards! De-platform and banish.

Of course, that rests on the assumption that their customers will simply replace them with one of the nine.

Which I think we all know isn’t happening. “Oh, I can’t buy Kratman. I’ll just try this Hurley.” I’m SURE…

What has of course begun to happen is that some of those they’ve attacked and marginalized… have gone on the counter-attack. Done exactly what the left has done. Become open about their politics, and attacked the left. Think about it.

The nine left wing authors HAD 10% each. They thought they’d get rid of the one out of ten who was not left wing – which might have given them 11%.

The one they ostracized is not going to get ANY of the 26% of left wing part of the demographic. Oh woe is him. He should have been silent! Which is what ChinaMike (TM) was lecturing him about: his folly.

And even ten years ago, that would have been folly. Like or loathe John Norman, he was a massive success: until the Traditional Publishing industry decided that he had to go. They killed his career. He was far from the only one. If your politics or even other views disagreed with your publisher and his coterie of hangers on… you shut up. Not for fear of losing your share of audience, but for fear of losing access, losing your career, losing everything.

Well, we all know that changed with Indy, or at least partially. The same group still effectively control access to brick-and-mortar display space and most of the influential sf review sites and most awards. They can’t stop you being available to be read. At most they can limit your visibility. And a lack visibility is of course the single largest obstacle to an author’s success – even before this practice came along.

So would shutting up have helped there?

Um. No. Not unless you were prepared to go a lot further than ‘shutting up’ – You’d need to kiss up so hard you could bite off their tonsils from the inside… because there are nine out of ten other trad authors fighting for that same spot. Playing as many victim-group cards (why someone in an apparently heterosexual ‘housewife’ situation raising a child is loudly ‘gender-queer’ – think about how that plays out with any child’s schooling and growing up) as possible, seeing who can condemn their publisher’s foes and political dislikes fastest and loudest… If you’re up for that, despite not actually sharing these positions, you could be the darling of the month to their shrinking share of the pie. Of course, you’d be pretty well anathema to anyone outside their 26% – and lose that too if the mask slipped.

Take our one out of ten ‘non-left’ author. He had a 10% share… if he was lucky… in practice, he probably wasn’t. But as an Indy there’s the 36% of the demographic that are right wing readers and 37% Independents. They just need to know he exists – and the established channels aren’t going to support or promote him.

So what is the author in this circumstance to do? Logically… vocally hew into the Left. After the relentless kicking they’ve had for years, Many of the right LIKE hearing him hew into the Left, and a fair amount of the Center… don’t mind. After all, these are people that attacked them. And, quite frankly, if the Left responds with their normal vitriolic invective and attempts to smother and destroy… That’s the best advertising and endorsement he’ll ever get – because these people have been obnoxious jack-asses (cue the entire puppykicker brigade) there are a lot of people who will support anyone these people attack. A lot MORE than the 10% share he might have had.

Meanwhile, the other nine out of ten authors get very angry and vocal attacking not just him but everyone who doesn’t identify with their politics.

And, as a result, the other nine out every ten… stand to lose access to at least 50% of the market.

If they’re lucky their share goes like this.

pie 50

5.5% of the market each. If they really push hard… and alienate everyone but their sector of the political demographic… they’re down to 2.8%.

pie -74

And the other one in ten is left with no competition for 36-74% of the market. So potentially up nearly 30 times the income of any one of the remaining ‘left’ authors. I can see good reason for any non-left author to encourage the most rabid and abusive behavior possible from the establishment, and they’re obliging him eagerly.

I imagine he’ll rapidly find many joining him, but it’s a much better share of that pie than he had. On the other hand for a loud left wing author – IF you are reliant on this income (not, as many of them are supported by a trust fund, or second job or a partner earning a viable income, or begging on Patreon (as so many of the noisy and aggressive ones are)) – you stand to lose between half and three quarters of your income, by dividing the market and alienating readers of different politics. Because the traditional publishing market skews so hard left that most of the entrants fit there, the share of the pie in a politically divisive arena will destroy many of their careers.

More than that, it will seriously damage a lot of publishers’ income, and their ability to publish books which are politically close to their hearts.

So: in fact the sensible advice goes in the inverse of that being given. Being silent will not give you access to the 26%’s market share, that’s already being squabbled over by a huge group, trying to prove themselves more woke than thou.

Yes, if you reveal yourself to be in the slightest out of line of the established US left wing doctrine, in fact don’t cheer-lead loudly enough, Traditional Publishing and their friends and camp-followers will attack and belittle you, and do their level best to deny you an audience. The good news is that is fairly limited to their remaining – and shrinking — audience. Some of those, of course, are still people who haven’t worked out what is going on, and would enjoy your book. The other good news is their hatred-spew is more likely to actually find you some audience – potentially a very large one, bigger than theirs.

On the other hand if you’re a left-leaning author trying to make a living at this (and there are still some good ones, despite the effect of playing the game on the easiest setting for a few decades not weeding the field well) and you’re doing Indy books… Now is the time to button your lip. Yes, that will effectively exclude you from about a quarter of the market who share your views. Yes, it’s not something you have ever had to do. But you have a simple choice: Either ¼ of the demographic pie, competing with almost all of the traditional authors, or ¾ competing with a handful. There are probably a fair number of individuals and sites you would be wise to distance yourself from. Your decision, and yes, it would be nice if we’d go back to judging writers’ work on its merit, not the person or their politics.

But I don’t see that happening.  The genie is not going back in the bottle much as the US Left longs for things to go back to their ‘good old days’.  Funny isn’t it? They’re very ‘conservative’ and really loathe this ‘progress’.

 

162 Comments
  1. Mmmm. Pie. (c4c because I’m too braindead and tired for anything else, really)

    August 6, 2018
  2. And just to make things messier, since the pie is growing thanks to e-books, PoD, and e-audio-books, people can buy more things more easily. And *sneaky grin* as I like to joke, on an E-reader, everyone’s reading Dostoevsky.*

    *I.e. no one can see what you’re reading. Could be the Communist Manifesto, could be steamy romance, or… Kratman.

    August 6, 2018
    • Evenstar #

      Heck sometimes I have fanfiction on my kindle.

      August 6, 2018
    • Kord #

      Like those muted grey early Harry Potter’s for adults.

      August 6, 2018
    • Randomly, a friend of mine posted a picture of roasted beet ice cream (!) that he’d made with caraway seeds (!) and said (approvingly, let it be noted), “Tastes like Dostoyevsky.”

      August 6, 2018
      • Well, cold borscht with sour cream is a summer thing, and it is a kind of pretty princess pink. And it is kinda sweet naturally, so I could see it as an ice cream. But yeah, that is a weird idea.

        August 7, 2018
  3. > That’s the best advertising and endorsement he’ll ever get – because these people have been obnoxious jack-asses (cue the entire puppykicker brigade) there are a lot of people who will support anyone these people attack.

    Indeed. I bought the eARC of the latest Ringo/Correia book solely because of the ConCarolinas flap. I almost never buy eARCs.

    Now, I would have bought that one eventually anyway, but I’ve definitely taken to checking out (and sometimes purchasing) books by anyone who sets off the REEEE! brigade. I’ve got a Jon Del Arroz book in my to-be-read Kindle queue right now.

    It’s been amusing to watch the Tor Participation Trophy cut its own throat. I looked over the attendee list yesterday — there are a lot of names missing that would have been there in previous years, and the ones who are still there appear to be on few (if any) panels (e.g., Larry Niven, as Mr. Del Arroz has pointed out).

    Somehow, though, that Booger Tic Tac* dude (the one whose simulated outrage justified the Torling coup of Worldcon programming) wound up with five slots, despite his having only contributed a few short pieces to “literary” anthologies with sales ranks in the 500,000 range. Likewise with Foz Meadows — sales rank 674,000, eight program slots.

    Now, I’m sure there are people who are willing and able to shell out a few thousand dollars to listen to Foz Meadows screech about “toxic masculinity”, but the appeal of that is rather…selective, in the Spinal Tap sense of the word.

    ‘Gratz on breaking that vitally important “Sales Rank: 1 million” barrier, Foz. Only 665,910 places to go and you’ll overtake Ringworld, a 50 year old book by Old Cis-Gendered Heterosexual White Man Larry Niven.

    * Least-popular Tic Tac flavor ever.

    August 6, 2018
  4. Zsuzsa #

    26% strikes me as pretty generous for the “Leftist” share of the market. I think that’s about the percent that identifies as left-of-center when surveyed, but my guess is that with that 26%, a much lower percentage are interested in spending their entertainment dollars on sermons to confirm their world view. These people aren’t going to condemn those authors who are running around leading the lynch mobs…but they’re not going to buy “Amputee Lesbian Hindus DESTROY Science-Fiction” either. They’re going to buy the latest Tom Clancy or Danielle Steel or Stephen King or some other author that can give them a page turner to keep them entertained through an airplane ride.

    August 6, 2018
    • Draven #

      Especially the ‘far left’ that they are actually kissing up to…

      August 6, 2018
    • If it wasn’t for the fact that this is not their source of livelihood – a large number of the current darlings would not be published. This is vanity publishing, social status among their peers. There’s still enough cream for their publisher to make money, but they’re getting very little.

      August 6, 2018
      • TonyT #

        That fits with what Glenn Reynolds (of Instapundit fame) says about most big company CEOs:
        They only care what their peers think about them, not what their customers think.

        August 7, 2018
  5. Well done, Dave. You’ve shown exactly how I’ve found a couple of new authors, like Jon Del Arroz and Nick Cole. Though those two seem to have different strategies for promoting themselves and their books, I became aware of them simply because of the loud prattling from their attackers.

    August 6, 2018
    • BrionyB #

      I discovered those two authors the same way, and have bought and enjoyed several of their books.

      Also discovered Dave himself when the Guardian did a hatchet job on his Hugo (?) nominated novel. I read the snippet they’d quoted to mock, thought ‘actually, that sounds interesting’, and went straight to Amazon to buy it. It didn’t hurt that they were denigrating him in the same breath as Larry C and Sarah H, who I KNEW to be great authors.

      August 6, 2018
      • Dragon finalist – for best Novel and best YA. :-). Yes, but they say that was totally fair and right – to lie (he never read any of those books) in the attempt to damage the reputations, careers and cost writers their livelihood (and screw the fact that they might have families or dependents) because he doesn’t think (he doesn’t actually know, not having actually read anything by any of the people he was slandering) agree with his politics. Lot of crap talked about ‘nazi, homophobe etc etc. but no evidence… all Damian had was the fact I was associated – by being nominated for the Dragon Award, with people he didn’t like. Now, hell, I’m happy to be associated with Larry. Flattered. I was also alongside Sir Terry Pratchett in those nominations, but he didn’t, oddly, mention that.

        August 6, 2018
        • BrionyB #

          Yes, of course, I meant Dragon awards! I do remember what a dishonest, mean-spirited article it was, a combination of the usual literary sneering at anyone so unsophisticated as to want to tell/read an entertaining story, along with the (now familiar) progressive mob out to destroy suspected wrong-thinkers.

          I loved the book, by the way 🙂

          I don’t read the Guardian anymore, though last I saw they were begging for money to stay afloat. It’s a shame they were so mean about Larry. If they’d been nice, maybe he’d have sent them a donation when he was done building his mountain lair or whatever he’s doing with his well-earned royalties..

          August 7, 2018
  6. Christopher M. Chupik #

    The problem is that the Left doesn’t want a piece of the pie: they think the whole pie is theirs by right.

    August 6, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      And they frankly don’t care if they have to shrink that pie to the size of a pop-tart as long as they can have the whole thing.

      August 6, 2018
      • A lot of this is ideology and power, rather than making a living. Many of the authors concerned don’t need a writing income. It’s gravy. The real ‘prize’ is social status among their peers – who are all hard left.

        August 6, 2018
        • Mary #

          And sometimes they get grants

          August 6, 2018
          • In People’s Republik of Kanada, nobody gets published without grant. [pronounced with heavy Russian accent, like Natasha. Or Sarah Hoyt. ~:D]

            No, really. Publishers will not touch you unless you show them proof you already got your grant. Because Canadian Content (CanCon) is the kiss of fricking death. We’re talking dozens of sales, and that’s with a Big Push(TM) from the Chapters bookstore.

            Who gets a grant? Somebody that gets buzz in academic circles. #MeToo? Yes, you too.

            August 7, 2018
        • Kord #

          Since a lot of their social peers are in social science academia, which is going down the intersectional drain, the point is to PUBLISH., not getting read. The smarter ones must know it is a niche market but either dont care or expect the readership to uplift to their level.

          August 7, 2018
    • The Left believes the pie is rightfully the People’s Pie, and that as the Vanguard of the Proletariat, it is their right to redistribute the pie to the People. . . after they’ve taken a few pieces as their just reward for their Virtue. 😛

      August 6, 2018
      • yeah – funny thing is history shows they’d be first up against the wall after a revolution. They delude themselves they’d be in power.

        August 6, 2018
  7. Uncle Lar #

    Jim Baen was a rebel, held the highly controversial idea that the way to sell books was to give the readers what they wanted, and to make that process as painless as possible.
    Sadly, we lost Jim, and Toni, bless her heart, is not Jim, try though she might. And from all appearances from an outsider perspective there is an element in her back office that really seriously wishes that Baen could do ever so much better if they would move to more mainstream Traditional Publishing practices. Which of course is precisely what the publishing world needs, a TOR clone.

    August 6, 2018
    • Perhaps someone is just jealous because of all the Hugo nominees that come from Tor and Tor.com. (None of which look particularly interesting, IMHO)

      August 6, 2018
      • I hope that’s not the case. Baen is the last publisher that caters to a wide audience. Hugos don’t pay the rent, and Baen needs its current authors more than they need Baen. Think that Larry Correia’s couldn’t survive without a publisher? Hell, he started out without a publisher and he could keep buying mountains if he went indie.

        August 6, 2018
        • Kord #

          Correia will probably be featured as a case study in future books on marketing. He can turn any subject into promo and his books are fun, with likeable heroes (and Franks)

          August 6, 2018
          • Hell, I like FRANKS. But I’m Odd.

            August 6, 2018
            • Franks is awesome. Go Franks! There should be shoulder patches.

              August 7, 2018
              • MarkM #

                Why do I have the feeling Franks would be the first one to punch out someone wearing such a patch?

                August 7, 2018
                • Kord #

                  QED.

                  August 7, 2018
                • He would hate having fans SO much. ~:D

                  That’s what’s great about him, he hates everything and everyone. Then he sucks it up and goes out to do the job anyway.

                  And since this is a writer’s site, lets all ask the musical question: why THE F*** aren’t there more books and characters out there that I want to buy MERCH for? Huh? MHI has merch, for frig sakes!

                  Manga and anime has huge fricking merch. How much stuff is there for SAO alone, right? And all you nerds know what SAO is, even though its originally Japanese language.

                  If I get more than “dozens of sales” I’m having merch. There’s going to be Interstellar Toaster Rescue shoulder patches and t-shirts with Brunhilde on them. Hell yes.

                  August 7, 2018
                  • Kord #

                    A friend runs a game store for a big chain. Her store is number one in the country cause she understands that older gamers have money.

                    Plastic or wooden models of HMH Nike would probably sell well.

                    What is ITC?

                    August 7, 2018
                  • International Rescue is the Thunderbirds from ancient television, Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. My all-time favorite show when I was a kid, and dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

                    Interstellar Toaster Rescue is what happens when you take a Canadian gearhead, give him nanotechnology with virtually unlimited power, and turn him loose to do whatever the hell he wants.

                    So he builds a starship made mostly of ice, that looks like a roll of toilet paper over a mile long and a mile in diameter, mounts a Tiger Moth replica on the surface, and calls it Thunderbird Six. The controlling intelligence, naturally, is called Penelope.

                    What do you do with something like that? You hunt demons, obviously.

                    That’s going to be a hell of a shoulder patch. ~:D The toasters have angel wings.

                    August 7, 2018
                    • Kord #

                      Now, that is a BIG idea.

                      August 7, 2018
    • Harry Russell #

      I can’t say I’m seeing what Uncle Lar is referring to with Baen, I thought the reason I was reading less new Baen was because the authors I really want to read just haven’t written quickly enough (Tom Kratman has a new Legio del Cid in line for publication, Wen Spencer is behind on deadlines, Ringo & Weber had their miscommunication problem, etcetera).

      I will admit I’m not seeing a lot from the newer Baen authors that grabs my attention, but I thought that was because of *my* tastes, rather than them not being aimed at the core Baen audience (ok, maybe Buettner & the guy writing the series with rebel child soldier fighting an alien invasion, but I think the latter is a legit attempt to get more into the YA market & secure readers for the future).

      August 6, 2018
      • Harry Russell #

        oops, forgot to ask: Any chance of examples of the issue described, please? (not so I can dispute, but so that I have a better chance to understand)

        August 6, 2018
        • Synova #

          I certainly have no notion but I don’t think it’s beyond hear-say anyhow.

          And authors can never write fast enough. Amiright? 😉

          August 6, 2018
        • Uncle Lar #

          I beta read and copy edit for several authors. Quoting chapter and verse regarding the shift I’m seeing at Baen would in my estimation be outside the bounds of confidentiality. But for those who have remarked that they now read less Baen product than in the past, I can only say, it’s not you, it’s the back office making a significant change of direction while Toni tries to keep the company running.
          I will say that regarding horrible treatment inflicted on at least two well known Baen authors this old saying is appropriate: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, but thrice must be considered enemy action.

          August 6, 2018
          • Harry Russell #

            Ah, ok. I’ll take your word for it.

            August 7, 2018
      • There is that. New Weber, Kratman, Ringo, Flint, Spencer, etc. are slow to come. That is both due to writing speed and to publishing speed.

        The one thing that I have seen as a Baen “problem” is that not as many great new authors are being acquired for the stable, either to keep up the publishing production rate or to grow it. (Well, except for the 163x line, which is doing well with such people as DeMarce – but that is truly a “niche” area that some people love, like me, and others cannot get enthused about at all.)

        Why is this? Well, maybe something going on in the back office. Maybe not. For a new author, any trad-pub, including Baen, is a long-term endeavor to become successful. Resources at the publisher are in limited supply even for a smart business like Baen – the lion’s share has to go to writers and books that are pretty certain to make money; rent and utilities are cheaper than NYC, but they aren’t free. What is left over goes to new writers that might catch on – and, while quality is a prerequisite, it is not a guarantee.

        This time-to-success issue means that many new writers like myself would love to be published by Baen. But many of those don’t even consider submitting; it is faster (for anyone who is destined to become a success) to go indie. I have a couple of basic story lines myself that I might submit to Baen in the long run, but they are on the shelf while I try to get the most likely to make it in the indie market up and running. (Which is a good thing for Toni, actually. If she thinks that her current stable of writers drives her mad, she hasn’t dealt with my procrastination yet. Which is why those novels will all be draft finished before I ever send them off.)

        August 6, 2018
        • I’d love to be published through Baen, but like you say, the waiting time gives me pause. My next book is fantasy and I think would have been a great fit for Baen, but I finished it about 40 days ago and if I’d submitted to them I wouldn’t get a response for 8-12 months (and no guarantees it would be a positive response) whereas I’m going to be releasing it next week on my own.

          It won’t sell on bookstores (going from past experience, it will sell maybe a hundred dead-tree copies in its first year) but 95% of my sales are in ebooks (the other 4% audiobooks; print has been a complete failure for me). In 12 months, assuming this book gets half the sales I get from a mil-sf novel, I’ll easily beat any reasonable advance a publisher would offer. Furthermore, if the book does well, I’ll have at least one sequel out in that time frame, further increasing the earning disparity. And that’s during the wait for a *response.* No idea how long it’d take from signing a contract to publication, but I’m sure it’s at least several months. Going indie, book #3 would be out by then. Granted, the book could be a dud (I’ve had a couple of those), but that’d be true no matter which route I took.

          I think a lot of new writers are making similar calculations, which results in a dearth of new talent showing up.

          August 6, 2018
          • Signing to publication can run to year. ;-/. 6 months commonly. Stick to what you’re doing, buddy. When you’re huge (and I see that coming), they’ll probably approach you.

            August 6, 2018
            • Thank you! I’m still astonished I’ve been relying on writing for most of my income for going on three years now. Would still love to see my name in a bookstore shelf, but right now I can’t complain.

              August 7, 2018
          • I think some of Baen’s problems are simply that a lot of authors have gone Indie and aren’t submitting any more.

            I keep telling myself that I ought to submit to Baen, but it’s so quick and easy . . . Maybe that Space Opera that’s starting to demand keyboard time . . .

            August 6, 2018
            • Harry Russell #

              I suspect another aspect of Baen not picking up new authors is that they’re still tied to S&S for distribution, meaning they only have so many slots (used to be 6 IIRC & AIUI) per month for new titles/treeware, & they do have a significant stable of authors they already have markets for.

              August 6, 2018
    • Yeah. I’ve read maybe 4 books so far this year and part of that is due to Baen’s change. I hope it’s working for them but I can say definitively it’s not working for me. Nothing specific but I used to know if I bought a Ben book (and I’ve bought a lot), that the characters would feel like people, the story, plot, and action would make sense and they wouldn’t be publishing books that could have found a home in aNY other publisher. That’s not the case anymore.

      Not throwing shade. Just saddened to know I can no longer do what I used to do and buy a book based on looking for the logo and now have to do what I do for other publishers: judge the cover, read the back cover copy, read the first few pages critically, ask myself if the will be lectures and if I want to risk that, then take the chance and make the purchase. Even still there’s a risk because with Baen previously I’d read past any kind of oddness and trust it would be fine. Now I read trepidatiously and that’s not a good recipe for enjoyment.

      Steve

      August 6, 2018
      • Draven #

        what Baen Change are you talking about?

        August 6, 2018
        • Uncle Lar #

          Do a quick survey of the monthly releases over the last five years. That’s all available on the Baen website. It should be obvious that selections are trending in a different direction, one that Jim would never have countenanced. Nothing blatant or abrupt, just a long term trend, one that as best I can tell is doing significant damage to the brand.

          August 6, 2018
          • Nothing against Baen, but I don’t buy and I stopped checking their website for new releases. Not because anybody did or said anything bad, I just sort of drifted off…

            So it may be as you say, the brand may have strayed from the founder’s vision. Or not, and its just me. ~:D I’m a bit difficult these days.

            Although, I am having fun reading Neal Asher’s “The Soldier” this week. First book I’ve bought in ages, in fact the first since about four months or so. I don’t think I’ve changed all that much, people over 55 usually are fairly set in their ways, and I used to buy 2-5 books every couple of weeks. I used to follow dozens of authors, now there are maybe three I buy. Asher, Correia, Ringo. (But Ringo only if he leaves out the S&M shite.) Weber if he controls his urge to infodump. I don’t want to know the design details of the guidance system on a Mark IV Manticoran torpedo, and how it differs from the Mark III. Some do, I will grant, but I have my limits.

            Note to authors, I bought Asher’s latest purely on name recognition, off the shelf at Chapters, because I liked everything else in the series. He, unlike everybody else it seems, has not changed what he’s doing at all. If there is a political message in that series or those characters, I would submit that Neal Asher doesn’t know about it.

            For my part I avoid Mr. Asher’s web presence assiduously. I love the books, I do not want to find out anything about the author in case that spoils the buzz. He could be black, blue, male, female, fluid, I have no idea. Tell me NOTHING, I don’t care. Just keep writing those stories and take my money.

            August 7, 2018
            • Kord #

              That’s probably a wise approach considering that he might be a Prador.

              August 7, 2018
              • Prador, bad guys you’re allowed to hate. Wow, what a concept!

                August 7, 2018
          • I’m not seeing what you mean about the change in emphasis for the titles.

            Not trying to bait you, just not got your perspective and can’t quite get into the headspace.

            August 7, 2018
  8. c4c

    August 6, 2018
  9. It’s funny how the current cri di coeur in mainstream SFF publishing is that the audience is shrinking and it’s getting harder to make a living from writing. Meanwhile, I see dozens of indie authors earning a middle or upper middle class income by the simple expedient of writing stories people want to read. The audience is there. The extreme leftists in charge just don’t want that audience; they are courting a phantom audience.

    Of that 26% you mention, many if not most of them wouldn’t sully themselves reading science fiction, no matter how woke. And the rest either don’t have the disposable income to purchase many books a year or are spending it in something else. In the end, it feels as if the current crop of “new voices in SFF” are mostly buying each other books while the rest of the world passes them by, uninterested or unaware.

    Meanwhile, categories like mil-sf, space opera and epic fantasy are not being serviced by the big houses outside of a handful of legacy authors who aren’t getting any younger. They reject anybody trying to follow in their footsteps and concentrate on “subverting expectations” and deconstructing tropes. Indies, including myself, wish them the best of luck with that while we continue taking market share away from them.

    The pie is getting bigger but their slice is getting smaller – and they are the ones making that happen.

    August 6, 2018
    • Draven #

      Yup.

      Thanks again for the Warp Marines. The free first book was definitely a gateway drug.

      August 6, 2018
      • Thank you!

        August 6, 2018
        • Draven #

          seriously a case of ‘first book was free, bought the rest of the series in two weeks including the new book that just came out’

          August 6, 2018
          • That is very cool. Weird thing is, I just checked and I’ve done $0.99 sales for the first WMC book but no free days. Maybe Amazon did a giveaway? I signed up for a couple of pilot programs back in 2016-17, so maybe that’s how you got it.

            I might do a free promotion when the follow-series comes out to see what happens.

            August 6, 2018
            • Draven #

              Ok, it was the 99 cent sale then.

              August 6, 2018
            • Draven #

              wait, there’s a follow-on series?

              August 6, 2018
              • It’s coming out this fall. The Bicentennial War, set about 30 years after the end of the first series. 🙂

                August 7, 2018
      • lazuhrus #

        Thank you from me as well, have a dead tree copy of Decisively Engaged sitting on my desk at the moment, bought the rest of them as e-books.

        August 8, 2018
    • Yeah. Self inflicted injury. And they’re the only ones who could fix it. But the editors don’t want to, and the directors aren’t readers, and believe what they want to believe. Seriously, you’d have to fire the CEOs and 2/3 of the senior staff (which would make no difference to the practical side at all) to turn companies like McMillan or S&S around. Not going to happen. They living off the family silver for now… but a crash of at least one major publisher is inevitable. So is a shrinking of their market share. You’d think the shareholders would look at how they had 99% and are now less than 50% and say to current pack… byeeee!

      August 6, 2018
      • It’s a shame. No leadership (failure to see how ebooks were affecting the market, failure to control the political agenda in the editors, failure to even accept they are losing market share). Lots of people believe ebook sales have stagnated because the big publishers’ sales have stagnated and they are turning a blind eye to the fact their policy to overprice ebooks has only served to lose market share.

        As you say, self-inflicted.

        August 7, 2018
        • Harry Russell #

          You’re being charitable.
          Those “failures” you identify weren’t just failures, they were refusals.
          The “leaders” in question have decided how things are going to be, & everything they have done has been in-line with the belief that by saying “make it so” they will force it to be how they want.

          August 7, 2018
    • The Progressive Left did much the same thing to The Art World (which Tom Wolfe documented in THE PAINTED WORD and a couple of the essays in HOOKING UP). And the Art World went on its merry cultural way, devolving into little care packages of hipness to be exhibited around the country. And while that was going on there has been an enormous explosion in Graphic Art, a lot of it very, VERY good.

      I think (and I just thought of putting it that way just now) that we are seeing the calving (in the iceberg sense) of the Institutions. The people who want to create, or do real scholarship, or do actual reporting, are making their own spaces, and the Institutions that the proverbial Long March took over…are dying.

      August 6, 2018
      • The comic book industry is another case study. The progressives have utterly destroyed it by hiring demographic checkboxes instead of people who actually know or care about comics.

        August 7, 2018
        • Santa #

          The only comics I buy anymore are reprint books from the 50’s & 60’s & early 70’s.

          August 7, 2018
          • But there are plenty of Indy webcomics and paper comics.

            August 7, 2018
        • The Comic Book industry is Marvel and DC, pretty much. Both companies essentially committed suicide sometime around 1992/93. Since that catastrophe, they’ve been living off an ever-shrinking market that is held by extremely stubborn retailers in comic stores all over the USA and Canada.

          Example: https://animationroadshow.blogspot.com/

          This is a GREAT store, across the street from Sheridan College in Oakville Ont. Sheridan is the premiere animation art school in Canada, a lot of their grads end up at Disney and in gaming companies. Everybody in Ontario should go to this store and buy something, they have a ton of fun stuff.

          This store, as with most comic stores these days, is selling mostly anime figurines, art books, manga, and Pop figures. The comics are a couple of shelves in the back. They get the new releases of the most popular books, you can order the really obscure crap like Black Panther vs. Squirrel Girl if you really, really want to.

          Comics and back-issues used to to be the whole store. New Releases used to be given pride of place right up at the front, so you could see them all as soon as you came in.

          Kids are picking Japanese manga over Superman and Spider Man. That’s where they are right now.

          August 7, 2018
    • “…they are courting a phantom audience.”

      I assure you sir, they are not courting me. ~:D

      August 7, 2018
  10. Mike Houst #

    The problem with growing the pie is that pies are already optimumly-sized for proper baking. If you make them bigger, then the heat transference during baking will cause the outside to be burned by the time the inside is fully cooked. Perhaps then growing the pie could be considered to be a half-baked idea. On the other hand, rather than growing the pie, if you create a second (or more) standard-sized pie, then the baking problem largely disappears.

    Traditional publishing is probably an optimum-sized pie. But they keep serving the same old ordinary apple or cherry pies. Indie publishing on the other hand, supports the lower volume, long-tail varieties akin to peach, strawberry-rhubarb, blueberry, pumpkin, mincemeat, or even a multi-berry pie. To the consumer, the reader, the expansion of available selections means a greater chance to consume from those selections, rather than using those discretionary funds for something else. Of course the other advantage to the consumer is the stories from indie publishing are often hot from the author’s keyboard, rather than delayed via a traditional publishing route. And who doesn’t like a piping hot pie fresh from the oven?

    August 6, 2018
    • Draven #

      No, it isn’t. Tradpub used to sell loads more books, even in sci-fi.

      August 6, 2018
    • “Traditional publishing is probably an optimum-sized pie.”

      They have one (1) retail outlet of any size left in the brick-and-mortar universe. Barnes & Noble. All the places they used to move books are gone. The cigar store spinner rack, the Mom and Pop small town bookstore, all gone.

      The only other place they move books is Amazon, where they have to compete with -me-.

      When I (finally!!!) publish, my sunk costs are my time. Since that was my free time, which I would otherwise have spent pursuing interests that all cost money, I’m already at a positive balance. Sitting at a PC typing is a low-cost endeavor. Add maybe a hundred bucks for a cover, its roughly a wash. My costs of publishing are under $100.00.

      Somebody was bandying about a sunk cost of $10K per book around here for TradPub, if I recall correctly. Three orders of magnitude greater than mine.

      They can’t compete with me on a level playing field. They’ll have to cheat, find a way to guide people to their books and away from mine.

      One possibility is being tried on Alex Jones today, he’s been banned from Facebook, YouTube and Apple, all on the same day. He’s also banned on Spotify, Twitter and a couple more places.

      That’s one way they can do it. Just ban their competition because Hate Speech! Wouldn’t be the first time.

      August 6, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      “But they keep serving the same old ordinary apple or cherry pies.”

      I don’t think so. If you’ll let me borrow your metaphor a bit, I think they’ve decided that they’re tired of apple and cherry, apple and cherry are too boring and probably not good for you, so they’re serving up a kale pie. It’s healthy, it teaches you about new things, and that’s what’s on the menu, so eat it and like it.

      To the extent that the publishers are still serving apple and cherry, they’re still selling, but the ones who make those pies are retiring, and the new writers are all into kale and turnip.

      August 6, 2018
      • Zsusa – good analogy.

        August 7, 2018
      • BrionyB #

        “I think they’ve decided that they’re tired of apple and cherry, apple and cherry are too boring and probably not good for you, so they’re serving up a kale pie. It’s healthy, it teaches you about new things, and that’s what’s on the menu, so eat it and like it.”

        I’ve noticed it seems fashionable these days to sneer at “European fantasy”. When I was looking into agents/publishers a little while ago, I noticed they almost ALL made a point of saying they never want to see this again; they’re bored of it, it’s too “white”, it’s mediocre; fantasy needs to be shaken up and diversified.

        But I wonder whether anyone actually asked readers (i.e., did this trend come from falling sales of the genre, or did the publishers just decide it was wrongfun)? Personally I love fantasy with northern European/Celtic settings – absolutely can’t get enough of it – and the success of ASOIF/GoT and the endless audience for all things Tolkien would suggest I’m not alone.

        August 7, 2018
        • “But I wonder whether anyone actually asked readers?”

          Publisher says: “Certainly not. Readers are knuckle-dragging trogs, their opinions are unenlightened and disgusting. They must be lead, nay they must be DRAGGED into the 21st Century out of the muck of their lives.”

          Clearly this is how they think. It is certainly what they say, given a platform, and it is what those books all say.

          People are stupid. They have to be controlled.

          August 7, 2018
        • I suspect a combination of the Pauline Kael effect (everyone *I* know is tired of European fantasy, so that means everyone is tired of it) and looking for some kind of way to differentiate themselves from everyone else, combined with virtue-signaling nonsense.
          And the thing is, I wouldn’t mind getting some good non-European fantasy. If Disney did The Epic of Sundiata, I would go see it in theaters. Larry Correia’s Son of the Black Sword is based on Indian mythology, and it’s awesome. But the reason it’s awesome is because Correia’s a good storyteller, not because it’s based in Indian rather than European myth, and people seem to be confused about that.

          August 7, 2018
          • Doing non-European fantasy, at least for me, is difficult because of the research involved. That and the different mind-set. I’ve written one (still waiting for revision) and sort of started a second one, but ermpf. To do it right takes work, at least for me.

            August 7, 2018
            • It takes a lot to understand the deeper meaning of, for example, ancient Chinese Buddhist myths like Monkey King. You have to read a ton of religious stuff. Luckily in my youth I did that whole Eastern Journey thing, so I’ve read all the things. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means, but at least I know who Quan Yin is and what her deal is supposed to be

              Lately I’ve been culturally appropriating all kinds of Chinese mythology for my own purposes, not least because it’ll make all the right people scream. I’m kinda mean that way. >:D

              August 7, 2018
          • BrionyB #

            I should say it’s not that I object to non-European fantasy in itself; I just don’t want to have it forced on me as part of a re-education program, or be told I’m subliminally racist or something because I prefer settings that remind me of the land I know and love.

            I will check out Son of the Black Sword. A good story is a good story (I loved Larry’s Monster Hunter books despite generally despising the werewolf/vampire/etc. genre).

            August 7, 2018
        • Evenstar #

          I still love northern European/Celtic fantasy stories as well.

          August 7, 2018
  11. Synova #

    I was on Usenet (rec.arts.sf.composition) for years (decades?) and my recollection was that Common Wisdom was keeping your mouth shut. Why alienate half your audience? So keep your mouth shut about politics. Keep it shut about religion. Have a professional public persona. At the least use a pseudonym for internet based crabby behavior!

    I tried to look up conversations mentioning this in the group archives but my search skills are notably bad and it’s also quite possible that there was never an actual conversation about the subject. Just mentions, here and there, of what everyone knew to be Best Practices.

    And it did all fall apart eventually… other venues got more popular and options for getting to Usenet got more messed up and inconvenient… and other people will certainly remember events differently but I place the death-throws at RaceFail. Suddenly alternate points of view weren’t acceptable and several people moved on rather than fight about it, and certainly rather than just letting it go.

    What is curious to me is how often a supreme PuppyKicker will show up and I recognize the name as someone who was informed and interesting and tolerant and agreeable to the Common Wisdom, or so it had seemed. And now their professional public persona currently is to be an hysterical publicly abusive and political twit.

    I will say that it’s possible that *convention* behavior and *meet with the publishers* behavior was always “liberal, identify!” and “conservative, shut up!” Maybe. If someone is completely convinced that “those people aren’t very creative” or “those people don’t read” is a reasonable interpretation of either 1) the actual fact that the venue is extremely one-sided (if that’s true), or 2) that conservatives are there but silenced… well, maybe various authors and “insiders” really felt that they were in a venue where they didn’t have to worry about alienating half their audience.

    Because it makes sense to me. Why alienate half your potential audience? Why not have a professional public persona and don’t insult your fans?

    But I agree also that it’s impossible. Authors who don’t loudly identify as *something* are assumed to be Bad Thinkers and probably hate kittens as well. Anyone “neutral” is actually against all that is Right and Good. Not taking sides is taking sides!

    Well screw them.

    But anyone expecting “those people” to play by the old rules and Common Wisdom, are truly idiots.

    August 6, 2018
    • Synova #

      The other Common Wisdom was that you couldn’t deliver your “message” if you alienated the people you thought should hear it and that slipping the message in sub rosa was the way to go.

      August 6, 2018
    • “… my recollection was that Common Wisdom was keeping your mouth shut. Why alienate half your audience? So keep your mouth shut about politics. Keep it shut about religion. Have a professional public persona. At the least use a pseudonym for internet based crabby behavior!”

      Exactly – why go out of your way to kick half your potential audience in the teeth?

      August 6, 2018
      • Synova #

        I know, right?

        Now it’s all… “People tell me not to talk about politics, it’s all political, don’t read my books!”

        Uh… okay then.

        But the opposite is also true and the dynamic described above seems to be very true… being *opposed* by those obnoxious twits who don’t want you to read their books, and don’t want your audience to read their books, is a good way to pick up that audience.

        It might not be what I’d prefer, but I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t work and what I *prefer* just ain’t going to happen anyway.

        August 6, 2018
    • “Well screw them.”

      Y’all can screw them. I’m picky about where I put that.

      August 6, 2018
    • I don’t expect them to. But its still in my nature to ‘that is the wise course. That’s why it is. What you do is up to you.’ ;-/

      August 6, 2018
  12. Synova #

    Oh… and the other day someone on a facebook group linked an article from some lefty magazine (I don’t remember which one) praising some author I hadn’t read for “libertarian science fiction done right”. (Which I’m assuming is… it’s not actually recognizably libertarian science fiction.)

    There were two reactions… the first was several “grown *ss men” exclaiming about how they didn’t realize that the author was libertarian and proclaiming their horror and making choking noises (Koch, Koch) and jumping about like a spider just ran up their pant leg “Get it off! Get it off! … and everyone else ignoring them.

    That group has it’s share of Very Proud puppy kickers… and loud too. Really loud. But it’s the same three or four guys. Most people, even those who might agree, don’t want to bother or waste the time on it when they could read a series that they enjoy.

    August 6, 2018
  13. Reblogged this on According To Hoyt and commented:

    I have no idea why Dave Freer kept repeating to me as “he” in the example of getting outed as not sufficiently vocal and leaving and going fully out of the closet.
    Eh.
    Cue “For the times they are achanging.”

    August 6, 2018
    • Oh noes! Sarah has been mis-pronouned. Quick, let’s have a WorldCon panel 🙂 Anyway i have it on the authority of those ‘experts’ telling the right to shut up that you’re a White Mormon man.

      August 6, 2018
    • Holly #

      He is the non-sex-specific singular pronoun used for referring to humans in English. If you want more gendered pronouns than he, she, and it, try Finnish. If you want fewer, try French.

      Oh, wait, adults, never mind, carry on.

      I seriously give this lecture to the teens hanging around with mine. It seems to be necessary. None of them have taken me up on the suggestion to learn another language yet, but I have had a few take quite a bit of intrest in my explanation that gender of pronoun does not necessarily indicate sex of noun under discussion. After all, tables don’t have sex, but they do have gender.

      August 7, 2018
      • I know that. I was joking. 😉

        August 7, 2018
        • Holly #

          I figured that. Hoped you’d get a chuckle out of my ongoing education of Other People’s Teens. Especially since I suspect you did quite a lot of educating OPT a few years ago when you had teens.

          If funny writing can be learned, I mean to learn it. And most likely drive everyone nuts along the way, but that can’t possibly hurt anyone, can it?

          August 7, 2018
  14. OldNFO #

    Indie has allowed some of us to actually sell enough to buy the occasional Big Mac meal… 🙂 The Dragon awards are, IMHO, a realistic counter that IS actually fan based to the failing Hugos. The sad part to me, is those authors who have ‘sold their souls’ to the left, and as soon as the left tires of them, they will be cast aside…

    August 6, 2018
    • Azure&Green #

      Yeah, but any author that doesn’t realize selling ones soul as disastrous choice clearly hasn’t read enough classics… ;^)

      August 6, 2018
  15. Azure&Green #

    As a nascent writer who stumbled on this blog completely by chance, would the authors here be willing to give a list of these conservative authors? Preferably the one’s whose style is worthy of study?

    I’m so tired of buying what I believe to be good science fiction and fantasy by the reviews, only to find it a stage for political or social sermonizing. I’m conservative, but I enjoy many older books with a liberal leaning–that’s fine. It’s good to think about assumptions. But the term “liberal” has been hijacked by a weird form of half-baked neo-Marxism. A liberal used to be someone that challenged established culture and social patterns, but not so today. They’re like an elementary playground clique, and demonstrate that level of social maturity to those around them who hold differing views. I fail to see the “liberal” in that at all.

    One other thing, if you market yourself as a conservative, how dangerous is that in the States? And by that I don’t mean your income–I mean crazy people. Do you need to write under a pen name? I’m an American, but I’ve been living in Australia for the last six years. Actually, I’m Australian now too, but work may be moving me back home. The States seem very polarized–scarily so, or is that just the press throwing tantrums about people who don’t think the way they want?

    August 6, 2018
    • Synova #

      It’s weirdly polarized but YES the press makes it much worse than it is. Science fiction is pretty bad, at the moment. But “social media” amplifies the worst of everything. I think that regular people are sort of flummoxed by it all.

      I’m not a published author but I’ve read with the express purpose of studying “how it’s done” and style and what all. I think that the trick to it is to read and re-read a novel several times in a row. I did this with Lois Bujold and Cherryh. The first time through the story is too distracting. So about the third time through it’s possible to start seeing the mechanical elements. I’d say to read something you like in a genre you like.

      As for authors, Sarah Hoyt is an excellent author writing in a variety of genres and changing prose styles between them. Dave Freer (besides being an adopted Aussie now as well) is known for his use of language. I’d add some of my other favorites… someone upthread mentioned Wen Spencer, her openings are incredible. And I’ve noticed that Larry Corriea is amazing with “voice”. At least in the Grimnoir books (starting with Hard Magic) the prose changes, word choice and everything, between POV characters, not *just* the dialog, but all the bits between.

      August 6, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        I love Lois Bujold’s writing, and you’re right I need to re-read. I haven’t been doing that systematically.

        I recently read the first book in Larry Corriea’s monster hunters series, but couldn’t quite get into it. I’ll try starting his Grimnoir series.

        Thank you for the suggestions. Will pick up something by Dave Freer and Sarah Hoyt as well… Um, is that the same Dave that wrote this post?

        If you’re one of these authors, please chime in. I’d value very much your opinion of which of your books would be best to read for the purpose of both enjoyment, and growth as a writer. Come on now, I know you have an opinion on that…

        August 6, 2018
        • An author that has a terrific ‘voice’ is Peter Bowen. His gets a little preachy sometimes, but the voice is worth putting up with it for. He has two lines; the Gabriel du Pre mysteries, and the Yellowstone Kelly books. I don’t always agree with the politics of the books but they are well told stories, and the voice in each is incredible. And very different between the two series.

          August 6, 2018
          • Azure&Green #

            Thank you! I started off this day with nothing in my reading queue, and that’s a bleak day. Thank you all helping to change that.

            August 6, 2018
        • IF you like Heinlein try Darkship Thieves (I’m Sarah Hoyt.) My kids think it’s fanfic.
          I’d try the Prince Roger series by Ringo and Weber, if you haven’t. And Honor Harrington by David Weber, ditto.

          August 6, 2018
          • Azure&Green #

            Darkship Thieves it is. David Weber is new to me as well. Thank you!

            August 7, 2018
            • Kord #

              Weber is a must read since he’s both very successful and quite frustrating.

              Tip: Start with early Honor Harrington. They are 25 years old by now, and it shows in a god way. Weber has sevral strenghts worth picking up, but two of those strenghts, world building and love of secondary charachters gets out of hand as his universes expand. Buy or borrow the first five or six Honor Harrington books, starting with On Basilisk station. Good heroine, but look at the interplay between Harkness and Tremaine. Weber made you look forward to see the bit-player’s stories as well. However, in later books there are so many people involved that some of the most beloved people don’t even rate a cameo. Realistic in a huge world, but also making the books less fun. If you like the style, by all means read more.

              Do not start with Safehold books from Tor. They are not exactly bad, but since there are even more people in those book from the beginning of the series, and Weber experiments with laguage drift. Everybody’s name is spelled with lots of extral letters. Zhasphar Clynthan instead of Jasper Clinton. With literally hundreds of people spread over several continents, very few stand out and I honestly can’t remember more than a dozen people, and although I can recall what they did I’m not sure about their names, and I could name at leas five sons of Feänor twenty years after reading teh Silmarillion. They would have been great books with half the people and everyone having a normal name OR a fantasy name.

              August 7, 2018
        • Yes, I’m THAT Dave Freer. And I write all over the place, genre and style wise, so it’s more a question of what your taste runs to.
          RATS BATS and VATS is military with rather a lot of my dodgy sense of humor
          The Heirs of Alexandria (SHADOW OF THE LION – first book) are Fantasy/alt history principally 15th century Italy. Great big goat-gagger they are too.
          SLOWTRAIN TO ARCTURUS is hard science fiction meets satire (it’s a slowship alien-first-contact story with a lot of twists.
          CHANGELING’S ISLAND -is officially YA, but seems to have a lot of adult fans.

          Enough self promo. Try Sam Schall or Peter Grant, or Dorothy Grant or CJ Carella.

          August 6, 2018
          • Azure&Green #

            Thank you, Dave! Will pick up a couple of those. By the way, where in Oz are you? I’m in Northern Queensland. I’ve wallabies in my backyard, among other things, every afternoon, but they’re larger than the mum and joey you’ve got as an icon. Yet yours don’t look like the rock wallabies I’ve seen in NSW. I know there are many kinds. Do you know what kind they are?

            August 7, 2018
            • Australian? Then you REALLY ought start with CHANGELING’S ISLAND (it has been described, kind of fairly as my love-song to Australia and its people, and especially to my home – which is Flinders Island, Tasmania – it is in the Bass Strait. Bennetts wallaby :-). They come into my backyard too.

              August 7, 2018
              • Azure&Green #

                Tassie! That explains my confusion–I haven’t been there yet. Aside from a year on the Central Coast, I’ve been in FNQ, and now live outside Townsville. So, the other climatic extreme of sort. Will definitely read CHANGELING’S ISLAND first. Thanks, Mate!

                August 7, 2018
          • Kord #

            Since Dave sucks at self promotion I might add that his books are very good, with a high re-read value. They often seem rather straight forward, but there is a lot of good stuff hidden in there waiting to pop out.

            August 7, 2018
            • Thank you 🙂 Writing layered books (anyone can read and enjoy them – layer 1) with other stuff inside is what I try to do, anyway.

              August 7, 2018
    • The political polarization is going to cary according to location, of course. I mean, if you flaunt conservative views in someplace like Berkeley, that’s going to be more of a problem than if you do so in Lodi (which is less than 50 miles away. And has an apartment cost less than 1/4 of what San Francisco costs.) But yes, much of it is social media and the press throwing tantrums.

      August 6, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Dave Freer is Dave Freer.

      I can tell you that so far, the left isn’t hunting down extreme conservatives that live in fairly conservative jurisdictions, and whose income does not rely on an institution they’ve fully corrupted. I know this because they haven’t firebombed my house, yet. 🙂 I can’t promise my local leftists aren’t going to go completely insane as we head up to midterms, but the mass political violence still seems to be happening mainly in jurisdictions where the public officials are in on it.

      I won’t speak to their politics, and my classification of such might not agree with yours anyway. You might consider John Ringo, Tom Kratman, C. R. Chancy, Alma Boykin, George Phillies, Michael Williamson, Sarah Hoyt, Dave Freer, Larry Correia, John Wright, Ryk Spoor, and Chuck Gannon. And maybe also Pete Grant, Dorothy Grant, J. L. Curtis, Amanda Green, Kate Paulk, Jagi Lamplighter, John del Aroz, C.J. Carella, Misha Burnett, Celia Hayes, Pam Uphoff, Cedar Sanderson, Margaret Ball, Stephanie Osbourn and Jeff Duntemann.

      August 6, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        Thank you for the extensive list! I don’t wind at all if they disagree with me, just so long as they don’t beat me over the head with their views.

        August 7, 2018
        • I haven’t yet been accused of that one. 😀 and I’m more than 20 books into a writing career

          August 7, 2018
        • Hi, Azure … I’m Celia … and I write books. Not science fiction or fantasy, so I’m a bit of an outlier here. I do historical fiction, mostly set on the 19th century American frontier, and my daughter and I also have a series about a small, charming town in South Texas, Luna City, which is serio-comic, and intended as a diversion.

          August 7, 2018
          • Azure&Green #

            Thanks, Celia. My wife majored in American history, and I try to keep up. Will get them for her and give Luna City a go as well. If it’s half as eccentric as Austin used to be, I’m in for a treat!

            August 7, 2018
            • Oh, eccentric and carry over to the tens column … we started the Luna City series because we started to pick up so many stories when we talked to local citizens when doing book events in the Hill Country…
              And … we have a really awesome bread pudding recipe from one of those events…

              August 7, 2018
              • Azure&Green #

                Hum… oh for a good bread pudding… Now that’s what I call effective marketing!

                August 7, 2018
        • MarkM #

          Kratman and Ringo can be guilty of that from time to time. Especially in Last Centurion, Ringo breaks all the rules, has his primary character deliver pointed story/rants … and yet the book just works. Weber is a very good writer … but he has this nasty tendency to do straight info dumps instead of showing us… and that tendency got worse in latter Harrington universe books.

          August 7, 2018
    • Hi Azure&Green. I write as Alma T. C. Boykin because I write academic non-fiction under my legal name. The pen name is to help keep “fiction searches out of my monographs and monographs searches out of my fiction” (if you recall the early Reeses™ Peanut Butter Cup commercials.)

      August 6, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        Thanks, TXRed. I sure do remember that commercial, though my admission probably give away my age!

        August 7, 2018
    • Mary #

      I write as Mary Catelli. I’ve heard nice things about my style. . . .

      But I add that probably the best way to study someone’s style is to try to write a pastiche. (And DON’T try to get it published. It’s a writing exercise.)

      Also, have you tried Lord Dunsany? As Ursula K. Leguin puts it, he’s the “First Terrible Fate that Awaiteth Unwary Beginners in Fantasy”, but his style is amazing. I believe he was conservative, though since he died in 1957, that may be hard to map to modern times.

      August 6, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        I haven’t, but considering that quote from Ursula K. Leguin, how could I not do so now. I’m looking forward to it! Thank you. Will check out your books as well.

        August 7, 2018
      • Synova #

        Oh! For reasons I can’t identify even to myself this reminds me.

        Georgette Heyer. Always. Even if you think you don’t like the genre or you’re a guy and think you’re not supposed to like the genre.

        August 7, 2018
        • Azure&Green #

          Regency romance? Hum, okay while I have no objection, we are seriously outside of my reading experience.

          That said, I have two characters, each a PoV, in my fledgling novel that clearly want to get together. Their biggest problem is an author that hasn’t the first clue how to do that, and still keep it a subplot. The story has a lot going on in it already. I looked and Heyer has a ton of books. Can you narrow your recommendation down to one or two favs that might help my current writing challenge?

          August 7, 2018
          • Heyer: You know she was one of Bujold’s models? A Civil Campaign is Bujold’s attempt at a regency in space. Her repartee is excellent. Male readers tend to like her more adventurous ones – Unknown Ajax, Sylvester and The Grand Sophy and Fredrica are some of my favorites.

            August 9, 2018
            • Azure&Green #

              Thanks, Dave. I hadn’t thought of A Civil Campaign as a regency romance until you mentioned it, but you’re right.

              I discovered her books a year or so ago, and read all of the Vorkosigan series in order. So, for me it fit naturally for Miles to fall for Ekaterin. It didn’t seem like a different kind of novel, just another chapter in Miles’s life. One of the things I love about that series is how richly the characters develop over time, including new limitations. Aside from one dud of book where she completely forgets who her main characters are beyond their names, I’ve enjoyed them all. But I do fit your male reader assertion, I think the action oriented Miles books are the best!

              August 9, 2018
    • TonyT #

      Also look across genres. I’d say the best stylist I’ve ever read is P.G. Wodehouse; other examples include Robert Louis Stevenson and Evelyn Waugh.

      August 7, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        Thanks. Evelyn Waugh is new to me.

        Yesterday I was frustrated at not being able to find anything I wanted to read–a crisis for considering my intentions. Now I have not a list of books, but of authors I want to read. This is a fantastic blog.

        August 7, 2018
        • TonyT #

          Given the times we live in, I think of Waugh’s novels either Scoop or Black Mischief would be a great start.

          August 8, 2018
    • Uncle Lar #

      If you’re looking for a taste of solid mainly conservative authors you can hardly do better than the Baen Free Library. There’s a tab on the Baen.com main page that takes you to several pages of free e-books. Lately they’ve been designating them by year, but if you go to the far end the older ones are just there. First in several series by Weber, Ringo, and so on.
      Fair warning, the whole idea of the free library is to get you hooked with the expectation that once you get a taste you’ll want the entire series. That’s the downside, the upside is that all the books in each series are available for purchase either direct from Baen or through Amazon.

      August 7, 2018
      • Azure&Green #

        I didn’t know about the Baen Free Library. Will check it out. Thanks!

        August 7, 2018
        • Baen Free library is awesome. I spent many an hour on it myself, when I was a young and broke college student. Which no doubt shows in my own writing, now… There are many awesome authors there. And keep in mind, too, that these free books are often the first one they wrote – it usually gets even better from there!

          August 8, 2018
  16. 23 skidoo

    August 6, 2018
    • Azure&Green #

      Hi Markaomally. I’ve seen you post this a couple of times. It’s a somewhat obscure idiomatic expression, that seems to originate in NYC, but that origin is contested. What isn’t is that it can be used in two contexts. The first one as a command for others to move on, which is attributed to New York cops who used the expression when shooing away street bums with billy clubs in the 1900’s. And second, it can be used reflexively to say, “I’m outta here!” Is there a third that I’m missing?

      August 7, 2018
      • Uncle Lar #

        My assumption is that it’s his snarky response to the more conventional C4C that people will post which is used when you want to click the notify box in the reply app, but don’t have anything pertinent to say. Comment for comments as it were.

        August 8, 2018
      • Nope. It signifies nothing for me. (Full of sound and fury, though 🙂 I was simply trying to avoid merely posting “c4c,” and it popped into my head instantly. I ‘spose my subconscious picked up on the “I’m outta here,” meaning. Why that was in my most remote mind, I have no idea. Very likely something I read long ago. Or perhaps Three Stooges or Groucho Marx?

        August 8, 2018
        • Uncle Lar #

          Mickey Spillaine or Rex Stout perhaps?

          August 8, 2018
          • I’ve not read any Stout and little Spillane, so maybe, but prolly not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Who knows?

            August 8, 2018
      • BobtheRegisterredFool #

        I’m not sure about meaning, but he uses it as an idiom for C4C.

        C4C and derivatives: “I am making a comment on this post, so that I can have WordPress inform me of all comments on this post, but I do not want to think up anything more complicated than C4C”.

        Related “WordPress delenda est”: A mixture of Latin and English that may not be grammatically correct. ‘delenda est’ is part of a passive periphrastic construction, and means ‘must be erased’, but it takes an object that must be feminine and singular. If “WordPress” is understood as having been borrowed into Latin as nominative, feminine and singular, it is a very irregular construction. Routine complaint whenever it seems wordpress has screwed up.

        August 8, 2018
        • Azure&Green #

          Ah ha! Thank you! That’s why one would make a “comment for comment.” It always came across as being desperate for some shallow irony. But this makes complete sense now. You can see how little time I spend on blogs… As a software developer by profession, this screams feature request! WordPress needs to include a “follow post” button or the like. I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

          Still, following the rabbit hole of what 23 skidoo meant was a neat distraction.

          August 8, 2018
          • Synova #

            My understanding is that there is a “follow post” button, but it’s in the comments somewhere (I never use it). Oh! There is it. Yeah, I don’t want emails so I never use it. But I always laugh when people post a comment and then realize they forgot and then post another c4c.

            Though I’m not a software developer, it does sort of make sense to attach the function to a comment because that’s where your identification and email are accessed.

            August 8, 2018
        • Uncle Lar #

          The historical reference hies back to Roman days when Cato the Elder would end each of his speeches with Carthago Delenda Est, or Carthage must be destroyed.
          As I recall, that history class was a while ago, Rome eventually razed the city of Carthage to the ground and sowed its fields with salt. Seems a fitting way to deal with WordPress when it’s being cranky.

          August 8, 2018
          • Yeah, C4C gets boring, and this crowd rarely sticks to boring for the sake of boring. Thus, C4C devolves to 2d6 (roll for damage!) and next thing you know, there can be a mock D&D campaign battle in the comments. Or a pun war, centered on chemical formulae.

            WordPress Delenda Est! Usually shows up right after WordPress sends a perfectly respectable comment to the spam trap, or erases it instead of posting it, or any other bug that prevents the fine exchange of ideas. Granted, it’s not quite as much of a thorn in the side as Carthage was to Rome, but it certainly doesn’t inspire love and loyalty, either.

            August 8, 2018
  17. adventuresfantastic #

    see four see

    August 6, 2018
  18. John R. Ellis #

    I vividly recall back in the early to mid 90s, when Weis and Hickman were releasing their latest gloriously overblown, exciting, and (to someone still in high school, important) accessible epic fantasy series, that the reviewers at Publisher’s Weekly went out of their way to bash the series, constantly bringing it up as a symbol of The Evil That Is Mainstream Fantasy fiction, while having verbal convulsions of joy over a series coming out at the same time about a lesbian Viking who went around having lots of sex while snarking about how there are no true heroes and everything sucks and the only pleasure in life is seeing how debauched one can get before death. But sometimes, she was kind of, sort of, slightly maybe sort of possibly wistful…therefore a deep and nuanced character!

    ….the local libraries still have copies of the later printings of the Weis and Hickman series. I don’t think anyone even remembers the Everything Sucks ‘Cept Orgies Viking series. (I can’t even recall the title.)

    Yes, every once in a while, someone figures out how to do a left leaning depressing deconstructive bit of gloom in a way that strikes a cord. (See: Alan Moore’s WATCHMEN, the first three ASoIaF books, etc)

    But then we have a good two to three decades of the clueless publishers trying to force everything into that mold. I’m not the same person I was in 1996! These days if I’m in the mood for epic fantasy, something like Correia’s Saga of the Forgotten Warrior or Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive are much more to my liking. Most of the books offered by the big publishers aren’t anything like those two series, though. So yeah, I’m leaning more towards indie and or binging on stuff written before the last two decades.

    It saddens me, in a way. Growing up, getting in on the ground floor of the hot new series was a pleasure. Now I don’t even bother unless someone I love and trust swears by it.

    August 7, 2018
    • Synova #

      Heh.

      “Hey, look at that Hack writing low-brow escapist fiction for stupid people who like ‘splody things!”

      …later…

      “I don’t understand why so few people pick up a book after high school. It’s very concerning.”

      August 7, 2018
      • John R. Ellis #

        “Obviously, the fact that sales are dropping among any non-niche market for us means that the plebes just don’t like to read anymore.” “…or that our books su-” “I -said-, obviously it means they JUST DON’T READ ANYMORE. Hmmph!” …..I’m convinced the explosion of adults reading Childrens and YA genre fic in the late 90s and early 2000s had a -lot- to do with the lack of mainstream heroic adventure in the adult categories. (Sadly, the powers that be seem hellbent on transforming childrens and YA fic into a mirror image of the adult sludge.)

        August 8, 2018
    • BobtheRegisterredFool #

      Watchmen strikes a chord because Alan Moore screwed up, and had a vastly different reader experience than he intended.

      In a world where Anti-Communist dislike for Communism and Socialism was without merit or foundation, in a world were American aggression and malice caused the Cold War, Moore’s Watchmen would be yet another piece of nihilistic crap. But that is not the world we live in. The antagonist, who persuades every major protagonist but one, is doing a pointless and obviously stupid thing.

      Rorschach is an unambiguous hero.

      The Comedian is not a great human being. Alan Moore is more evil by far.

      The sane thing is not to let oneself be forced to endorse the obvious falsehood. To not let another’s conception of society bind one to a falsehood. To refuse to be coerced by fear and by pain.

      Alan Moore screwed up and made Rorschach the sanest of the cast, an example to us all.

      August 7, 2018
      • Mary #

        Always the danger when you think your opponents such fools that merely depicting them will reveal this to others.

        August 7, 2018
      • John R. Ellis #

        Are you certain Moore -agreed- with Ozymandias? Doc Manhattan’s final words before departing (as well as a ton of foreshadowing, such as having him depicted LITERALLY sitting on his parent’s graves casually as someone else would eat a peanut butter sandwich) makes me highly doubt Moore’s moral was “Ozymandias was RIGHT”.

        August 8, 2018
        • John R. Ellis #

          I mean, not to beat a dead horse, but the coda even directly invokes that “Outer Limits” episode where scientists fake an alien invasion in the belief this will cause World Peace only for everything to go horribly sideways. Does WATCHMEN depict Ozymandias winning a climactic battle? Yes, it does. Does it depict him as successful? Hmmmm. He’s succeeded in a horrible lie, but there’s plenty of evidence given that it won’t be a particularly long-lived one…

          August 8, 2018
          • BobtheRegisterredFool #

            The plan of Ozymandias is only even remotely plausible from a hard left perspective. If Moore wasn’t deliberately writing Ozymandias to be on the intellectual level of a five year old, he was by far closer to Ozymandias than he was to a John Bircher. (Of the major schools of thought to leave traces in the historical record, the John Birch Society was least wrong.) Most likely Moore was ignoring anything he might have heard from refugees from the civil wars won by socialists or communists.

            If Moore had written Watchmen with a realistic perspective, the obvious solution is peeling the rotten apple of the Soviet Union, and showing it to the world, the way Reagan did later.

            That Ozymandias, for all his efforts, did not detect the true qualities of the Soviet Union means that Watchmen works, in so far as it does, as a metaphor for the pernicious lies that embody leftism. Ozymandias and the others are blinded by their failure to disbelieve those lies. Only someone who searches out those lies, recognizes them, and identifies the real truth has the possibility of not having evil results. Even if it means rejecting civilization, rejecting and being rejected by society.

            Of course, realistically, there would have been massive conventional war in Europe had nukes been taken off the table.

            August 8, 2018
    • Watchmen works because its left-leaning politics aren’t the main point of the story–the main point of the story is that doing the “necessary” thing that isn’t right may be neither necessary nor sufficient to avert catastrophe.

      August 7, 2018

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