When The Walls Fell

I grew up in a dark age, when books were scant and hard to obtain. Also expensive.

Okay, on the serious side, for those of us reading this who don’t know, since we have a lot of new readers recently: I am Portuguese born and bred. My family is still in Portugal. I only learned to speak English at 14, and it was my third language.

However, half of each set of kids in my family tended to emigrate. My parents thought they were safe having only two and that if one left it would be the boy. But when I was 8 I decided when I grew up I was going to live in Denver and be a writer. Best decision I ever made, but that’s not important right now.

What’s important is that the Portuguese book market invented push-marketing before the Americans even dreamed of it. Books to be printed — in general — are chosen by prestige instead of marketability. For instance, from the US they tend to choose award winners (though frankly it also doesn’t help that they don’t/can’t understand our bestseller lists often lie) or books acclaimed in reviews. Then they run a very tiny print run, and when it sells it’s done. Unless you find it used or in a forgotten bookstore, you can’t find it.

For the purposes of this blog post, the important thing is that it limited my reading.It wasn’t THAT horrible. I mean, there was ONE science fiction imprint when I was little and most of it was actually pretty decent. In a most Un-Portuguese move, these people actually published SF novels from the pulp era, as well as Heinlein, Asimov, Anderson, Simak, Bradbury, etc. etc.

It was through them that I ran away with the — Science Fiction — circus and fell in love with that rogue, Space Opera. (Yes, I know, he is disreputable, isn’t he? But that’s part of his charm.)

But the problem was those came out once a month, and when they were gone, they were gone.  Which means that if the release was a popular author like Heinlein, Simak, Bradbury and a handful of others, you had to get up and wait in line in the drizzly darkness (everything you read about the continuous drizzle and cold of the North of Portugal in your regency novels? It’s true) of a Porto morning, waiting for the bookstore to open. (Which was the closest I came to organized fandom to my thirties. Only this being Portugal it was, of course, disorganized fandom.)

Now being me — it’s annoying, but I’m stuck with it — and having a wicked reading habit, once-a-month, one book was not enough.

Sure, there was re-reading. I was also the lucky inheritor of generations of readers in my family. Before I found SF/F, I was very fond of Sir Walter Scott, Dumas (even the lesser known works) and similar authors, some I think Portuguese imitators flying under noms de plume.

I liked stories of battles and pirates, and I liked honor and adventure (Yeah, I was destined to fall in love with space opera.)

But truth be told, I read EVERYTHING including dad’s poetry collection, cousin’s romances (if they hadn’t been Portuguese Romances — don’t ask. Okay, so HEA, traditionally? He dies and she mourns him forever. Joining a convent is optional — I probably would have run away with romances too,) brother’s historical novels, philosophy collection and history books, friends’ fathers “great libraries bound in leather” where I was the first to cut the pages open.

I crawled into the potato cellar to find great-grandmother’s collection.  I climbed unsteady ladders in the out buildings to find books in forgotten suitcases. I once dated a guy a whole summer (be fair, I was like 12. That meant holding hands) because his parents had subscribed him to the equivalent of “the boy’s own book club.” He hated reading, but I gave him synopsis of the books. When I got older and could read English, I haunted the hotel lobbies where Americans stayed. You see, they often ditched “vacation paperbacks” and the nice people put it ON TOP of the trashcan, instead of inside.

I “borrowed” and read my brother’s and cousin’s school books, often before they read them. (Which is how at eight — brother being 10 and cousin 14 years older than I — I got sent to bed without dinner for saying the word “sperm” in company. I have no idea what mom was thinking. I was talking about the reproductive cycle of starfish, I think. Which is absolutely not salacious. But hey.)

In a pinch I read instructions for instant coffee (we didn’t have boxed cereal. I think they do now), recipes for stuff I was never going to cook, the want adds, instructions for machines I never owned, and the medical matter on every box of medicine that crossed the threshold.  My policy was simple: if you bring it into the house, I will read it.

Yeah, I still read as much. And yes, there is a point to this ramble, besides confessing to my addiction.

When I first came to the States and discovered used book stores and — stars in eyes — library sales, and the discount rack at various stores and, when broke, the free shelves outside bookstores (I spent a lot of the nineties reading gothic romances nobody wanted. I didn’t either, but they were free and were printed words) I thought I was in reader-hog-heaven.

And then I figured out in the 90s or so, all the new books were… blah.

Look, part of it was that for reasons known only to their psychiatrists, publishers all tried to publish the same thing, apparently thinking if someone likes chocolate that’s ALL they want to eat forever. Part of it is between their ability to “push” to the dominant mega stores, and their inability — still — to really know what actually sells (most reports are based on bookscan which have admitted they only capture half the sales, and in some cases — such as Baen whose laydown is mostly PX and comic bookstores — less than 1/3.)

Part of it is that they decided they were “sort of gods” and that whatever they put out there we would read, because where were we going to go for our fix?

And then they forgot they’re a BUSINESS, selling books like other people sell, oh, meat, or drink, and instead of publishing things people might want to read, they’d publish stuff that was good for the reader.

This is the equivalent of a meat producer going vegan, because it’s better for you. And then telling you to shut up and eat. Because where are you going to go?

Where I went — dark times my friends — was to re-reading and, for a time to reading exclusively history and non-fiction. (I once spent 8k in the history book club. In one month. No, we weren’t rich. But you know addicts.)

It worked, sort of, until indie came in.  And people started finding other stuff to read.

Traditional publishers still don’t get it. They’re divided between “Oh, they’ll get tired of doing their own covers and editing” (No, really, no.) “and come begging” (I’d rather crawl naked through broken glass smeared with lemon juice than publish another novel — even one — with a traditional publisher again; and “everything is fine. People are turning away from ebooks.”

Right now they still have money, because, you know, they only pay us what bookscan reports. BUT –nota bene — that’s not what THEY get paid. Maybe those who are going through other vendors, but I doubt it. I doubt it mostly because if they weren’t being paid for 2/3 of their output, no matter how daft (and I’m starting to realize how daft these people are) they would have stopped sending books to the stores that don’t report. Shouldn’t they? I mean, seriously.  (That slush fund must be amazing. If I ever win the lottery, we’re going to fit so many forensic accountants and lawyers on our budget! That is if the houses are still around, which I doubt.)

Which is why I see a lot of panicked nonsense from traditional-wedded prestige (that is the “darlings” who were promoted and paid out of proportion with their actual sales. IOW what Portugal now publishes, and why they’ve almost killed sf/f there.) writers, and identity-obsessed writers, and publishers, and writers associations.

“So and so is racist.” “Don’t read so and so, he used the word “ladies”.” And “This year read only women of color.” And …. the list is endless and vomitous.

Vomitous because none of it has to do with reading and enjoying what you read.

This is why if you poke your head up and say “I don’t read skin colors. I read mystery/space opera/romance/adventure/war stories.” (Or in my case, yes.) they tell you you’re “trying to gatekeep.” Or “trying to keep women, gays and people of color” from writing.  This is ridiculous if you’re just writers (how ARE you going to keep people from writing whatever they want? And publishing whatever they want? Are you holding their cat hostage?) and double ridiculous if all the writers involved are in one of those categories, except one, who is married to a woman of color.

All of which boils down to “Never mind, they have their narrative and don’t want to be bothered with facts.”  Some of our brethren in Romance are experiencing that fun-happy moment right now.

And some of them are about as amused as we are.

But the good news is that while publishers might continue trying to sell us prestige and write-think, we are free.

Write like the wind, my brothers and sisters, and publish too. Write what gives you joy. Write what your readers show they want.

We don’t need writer associations. We don’t need publishers. We are free.

The walls have fallen. What the Trad Pub gatekeepers are guarding, as they thrash and roll in their final agonies, is not worth the having.

And if they want to save themselves — if it’s not too late — perhaps they should remember they’re in the business of selling, not in the business of educating.

Right now, they’re like the salted cod merchant who delivers every slice with a lecture about how you should eat less wild-caught cod because the poor things are depleted. And this particular cod was named bob and really liked his patch of the Atlantic, before he was cruelly caught, filleted and salted for your greedy consumption.

Shut up, Manuel, and ship the cod.


116 thoughts on “When The Walls Fell

    1. And like in that idiotic NG episode, their lectures are just stock phrases that they expect people to respond to. 😦

        1. Idiotic = Doesn’t make sense.

          Of course, I follow the YMMV rule.

          IE If I like/dislike something doesn’t mean that “you” have to like/dislike it. 😉

          1. We’re the kind of folks who recognize how many figures of speech are in our own language– even before we do stuff like learn the literal meaning of the Japanese “good morning” is “it is early.” (Yes, it tickles me. Also an early example of my husband flirting with me, using cool information.)

            Star Trek isn’t aimed just at us, though….

            1. As a joke (responding to people who knew him), Dad would answer “How Are You” with a listing of imaginary aches & pains. 😆

                1. “Fair to partly cloudy.” That usually gets a chuckle. I used to use “fair to middlin,” but no one I know is that involved with cotton grading, so no one gets the reference anymore.

                  1. My standard, now overused reply is “Been better, been worse.” Most inquisitors look horrified. I then say, “This ain’t the best day of my life. But it ain’t the worst day, either.” They especially love it at the VA. 🙂

                1. I had a coworker who would always say, “I’m on the right side of the grass” when asked how he was that day.

                  Past tense because we don’t work together anymore. Far as I know, he’s still on the right side of the grass.

              1. I’ve started saying “I’m not dead and I haven’t killed anybody yet. I’m calling that a win.” Sometimes I say drop the win line and say “But the day isn’t over.”

      1. I saw dribs and drabs of TNG, but was going through the “get an MSEE while working full time” gantlet from hell. Could you name the episode, please? I’ll get the details from, Memory Alpha.


  1. And then they forgot they’re a BUSINESS, selling books like other people sell, oh, meat, or drink, and instead of publishing things people might want to read, they’d publish stuff that was good for the reader.

    I’ve often wondered what the fixed costs are when you’re occupying thousands of square feet, maybe tens of thousands of square feet, in Manhattan. I mean, this is a nut you have to swallow before you can even start parsing production costs, marketing, and, oh, yeah, kick a few pennies to the authors. Apparently it doesn’t matter to the people in publishing, given that MacMillan moved from an expensive part of Manhattan to an even more expensive part of Manhattan a few years ago. All I can think is that this ain’t cheap.

    There’s probably a counterargument to be made in terms of intangible things like networking opportunities and so on, but in terms of works of fiction, does anyone really care, at the end of the day? The gap between self-published authors and the Big 5 is closing or has closed. If one the Big 5 decamped to Tallahassee or Topeka or Terre Haute, would the quality of the works published decrease by all that much? Would authors refuse to publish with them? Not that we’ll ever find out, I guess, but it makes for an interesting thought exercise.

    1. But but…

      How would people know that you’re a Big Business if you aren’t headquartered in Manhattan! [Very Big Sarcastic Grin]

    2. It does indeed make for an interesting thought-exercise; Big Establishment Publishing moving out of New York …
      In the meantime, in between time, I’m happily scribbling away on my regional humor, and readers who adore Westerns (or even just historical fiction set on the mid-19th century American frontier!) are happily reading my output and others.

      The same thing happened with movies, at about the same time. The Daughter Unit and I came home from a long twelve years overseas, and absolutely reveled in going to the movies! No more waiting six months for a new release to turn up at the BX theater! Or longer, to rent it from the base movie rental concession! We could see a movie in the multiplex on opening weekend! (I also had subscriptions to Premiere, and Entertainment Weekly, among others…) And then … sometime in the late 1990s, there didn’t seem to be anything we wanted to see any more. Oh, we watched some releases on streaming video, but go to the theater? Only once in two years, for “Dunkirk”. I wanted to see Peter Jackson’s WWI documentary, but it only showed here for one showing and we had an important client meeting on that very day.

      Making your appeal increasingly more selective is not a good long-term strategy for making a living in the entertainment business.

    3. A certain type of cynical mindset would wonder if “being a business” in the sense of supplying a market at a profit is actually why they exist.

      Any more, when I see a business that seems to be thoroughly broken yet seems to persist anyway, my first thought is ‘money laundering.’

      I’d be amused by a horde of forensic accountants marching through their doors with warrants…

      1. Pay no attention to the multi-million dollar advances paid to certain political people because shut up.

        I’ve read (at MGC?) that a lot of the TradPub places are more in the real estate market than book publishing. Selling that expensive real estate can pay a few 7+ figure salaries, especially if you replace it with real estate that’s appreciating quickly.

    4. Well, there’s always the ease of talking to agents!

      (Agents do not HAVE to be in NYC, but I have read checklists where it was one thing to consider in whether an agent is a scammer.)

    5. Somebody’s got to provide six figured sinecures to the various spouses, spawn, and other hangers-oners of the political class- and publishing is a bit more glamorous than pretend charity.

    6. The Manhattan imprints appear to be walking on air. How do they manage to keep their operations profitable with such high fixed costs? I worked in publishing for a long time, and I’ve learned a few things that aren’t common knowledge, though not deadly secrets: Publishing conglomerates subsidize fiction imprints for the sake of fiction’s glamor with funds earned in duller but steadier fields like technical publishing and textbooks. A good deal of technical publishing is now in New Jersey and Indianapolis, where commercial space is a fraction of the price it is in Manhattan. This situation could last for awhile. The money will be there until we have another recession. At that point, with indie authors dominating the genres, I’m not entirely sure that traditional publishing will be able to recapture more than a fraction of its former audience.

      Also, I’ve begun to see a fair bit of indie publishing of technical books, mostly POD but some ebooks. That took longer than I thought. It’s happening, though, and it will eventually reduce the profitability of nonfiction and thus constrict the subsidies that fiction imprints receive.

      May You Publish In Interesting Times. Heh. I am.

      1. So we could screw traditional fiction publishing over by successfully disrupting the non-fiction market?

        Would be difficult.

        As a technical book publisher, taking market share by developing a reputation for quality would be slow.

        One possible disruption is technical information on topics too politically fraught for others to provide.

        Another might be in looking at the existing sources, what information they provide, and the use of that information. Books are for skills, and you may read many of them getting a skill down. Magazines can give a feel for an industry or a field. Science journals in theory are new discoveries. Wiki for stuff you don’t want to serious research on. Bitchute/youtube have a lot of stuff, but the format doesn’t really work for me.

        Rest probably ought to be discussed with textbooks, because those are tied to schools. Open textbooks are a little interesting, but flat out are not going to kill the text book publishers right away. Why try, given that the education status quo is doomed sooner or later anyway? I’d rather not leave replacing it to the educators, or to those big tech worthies.

        Person to person, you can learn a lot of skills, so long as they are not trying to teach you only one. Schools are bureaucracies, hence are more than simply a collection of people with skills one potentially does not have yet. The learning comes with paperwork, hence can be limited to what can be claimed on the paperwork, but that makes it easy to credentialize. Learning is more than what can be written in a book, or certified on a credential. Behavior can be learning, and communities are, among other things, a mechanism that enforces behavior. Communities can also serve as collections to find individuals for person to person learning, and by containing people of varied experiences and interests provide exposure to a broader cross section of possible skills. Sadly, I do not see new ways to monetize or innovate those.

        I think the twitch/gaming thing could be applied to technical ends, but I do not see anything broadly cool enough to make it work.

  2. > We don’t need writer associations.

    An old-timer told me the primary reason for the creation of the SFWA was when two writers who happened to know each other in meatspace got *very* different sales figures (and royalty checks!) for… two halves of the same Ace Double. There had been widespread suspicion of cheating on sales figures before, but that was the precipitating event.

    Funny, now the SFWA is effectively a subsidiary of a certain publisher…

    1. Funny, now the SFWA is effectively a subsidiary of a certain publisher…

      I was downvoted to oblivion on the /r/printsf subreddit for suggesting this very thing vis a vis the Nebulas, with the added thought that this probably explains why literally nobody pays attention to the Nebulas any longer. They didn’t ban me, but I was put in that weird place where I was limited to one response every fifteen minutes, leaving me sadly unable give timely salutations and greetings to all the new friends I was suddenly making.

      Someday I’ll recover from the damage to my delicate psyche. 😉

    2. And meatspace was pretty much the only way to know each other. A correspondence (news letter, etc.) based club seems like a very useful thing.

      1. If you think a correspondence club would help, there has been one since 1941, the N3F (National Fantasy Fan Federation). Founders included distinguished fen, and pros like E E Smith, Don Wollheim, and Cyril Kornbluth.

  3. It was through them that I ran away with the — Science Fiction — circus and fell in love with that rogue, Space Opera. (Yes, I know, he is disreputable, isn’t he? But that’s part of his charm.)

    *sudden mental image of the next generation of anime where book types are set up as anime characters, and Space Opera looks like Han Solo*

    Hey, there’s Oda Cinnamon Nobunaga, which is Japanese warlords reincarnated as dogs, and then there’s the older one that has countries as individual characters, this could be a thing.

    1. I’m only shocked that doesn’t already exist.

      Are you sure it doesn’t? Something akin to Read or Die?

      1. My husband is currently hooking the kids on ‘reincarnation of a bookworm’ or something like that, where one of us is isakied into a world where there’s like no books, so I totally wouldn’t swear to that.

        1. “Ascendance of a Bookworm” is the agreed upon translation of the Japanese title. I enjoy it a lot. Pretty much the protagonist’s only advantage for the first hundred plus chapters of the light novels is her memories from Japan.

    2. As someone who is pretty over Star Wars, and hasn’t lost my love of Lensman and Skylark (despite tracking down one of Smith’s weaker stories), I think Space Opera would look more like Richard or Kimball.

      1. Yup Kimball Kinnison would wipe the floor with Han Solo (or likely Obi Wan Kenobi if Kit has achieved L2). And I promise you Richard Seaton would shoot first and with a #2 Xplosive shell. No need for cleanup in booth 2.

  4. *facepalm*

    And now, thanks to the continuous drizzle thing, I am now going to mentally image Porto as a cross between Portland and Seattle Proper; the buildings of the former and the weather of the latter.

  5. “And if they want to save themselves — if it’s not too late — perhaps they should remember they’re in the business of selling, not in the business of educating.”

    Because we don’t have sales figures, I’m going to go by a related business, comic books. Since the 1990s the two BIG comic companies, Marvel and DC, have gone Fully Woke. Everything they do is Woke. Their year over year sales graph, based on the numbers from distributors etc, look like a ski run. All the way down the mountain to the flat part at the bottom, right before they fall in the creek.

    This during the time when Marvel superheroes had the most fame any characters have ever had on God’s green Earth. An historically unique wave of interest, but Marvel still couldn’t sell comics.

    In 2017 it got so bad that the owners of all the comic book stores got together and raised almighty hell with the management of Marvel and DC, to the point where retailers were booing the VP of sales at a meeting ahead of NY Comic Con. Not over distribution or business related issues, but over the Woke content of the comics.


    This was NYC, the home ground of SJWs, and the retailers were the ones screaming. Here we are, 2020, I haven’t seen much movement from the DC and Marvel management. They’re continuing to double down on the Woke-osity, and they’re continuing to bleed money.

    There’s every indication that with Stan Lee’s passing, Disney is going to pull the same moves on the Marvel universe that they did on Star Wars. All Woke, All The Time.

    Leaving me with the certainty that they have no interest in money whatsoever. Going Woke and scolding America IS their business now. The only thing that might stop them is bankruptcy. I say “might” because even bankruptcy failed to stop General Motors, they shamble along as a semi-government institution now. Disney might do the same.

    1. This morning I woke up to the true explanation. Jinping Xi is Palpatine’s latest apprentice, has bought influence in Disney on Palpatine’s behalf, and I totally need to write that as a Kingdom Hearts based script for Episodes Ten, Eleven, and Twelve.

      So much more exciting than the idea that entertainment companies are simply used as loss leaders for more productive businesses, and have no compelling business reason to entertain.

      I need to completely stop reading twitter, especially before bedtime.

    2. There’s every indication that with Stan Lee’s passing, Disney is going to pull the same moves on the Marvel universe that they did on Star Wars. All Woke, All The Time.

      Based on what?


      Because looking at the Mandalorian, and NOT buying into the ‘net hype, it looks more to me like they’re trying desperately to find a useful direction that doesn’t offend prior fans. That just includes the gag-worthy 4-6 eps.

      I had to put down my foot that we NOT name our first born Mara Jade, and my husband is still less “oh gads teh sky is falling” than 90% of anything I see online.

      No, not perfect, but for heaven’s sake…..

    3. Here’s the thing-Marvel should be making bank on their comic book sales. All they need to do is publish the characters as they are on the movie screen and books will fly off the shelves. The problem is that Marvel has been taken over by the Woke Brigades and they want MUH REPRESENTATION! and they want to give it to you good and hard…

      (Friend of mine just got out of the comic book store business. You want to talk about abusive business practices? Marvel takes the cake, along with Diamond. If you want to get enough of the variant covers to sell to the collectors doing their pull lists, you have to order about 12-15 comic books for each cover. AND order enough copies of various diversity titles, or Marvel won’t let you order anything…and when a comic book store orders comic books, they’ve bought them. They can’t ship them back, they can’t return them to Marvel. If they books don’t sell, the store loses money. And, it gets worse from there…)

      1. Abusive, yes. My friends with the comic book store got out in 1992. They told me stories of ordering requirements back then, it has gotten much worse since.

        Eventually the comics will be back on the spinner rack at the corner store the way they’re going.

        1. Which is going to suck. Friend told me that most of his sales these days before he left was merchandise, Magic:The Gathering cards, and adult (i.e. collectable, not the other kind) toys.

          It should be a renaissance of comic books, and it is. It’s just not in the stores, not really.

          1. Yes, I’m so old I recall buying 12 cent comics off the spinner rack. It was rubbish. I could never follow the Marvel story lines because I couldn’t get the next issue. My favorite was Robot Fighter. Best comic ever. Squeeee!

            Here’s a sign of the times for retail: Bose the speaker company is shutting its retail stores.


            “… Bose plans to close its remaining 119 retail stores across North America, Europe, Japan and Australia over the next several months. In other parts of the world, Bose stores will remain open, including approximately 130 stores located in Greater China and the United Arab Emirates; and additional stores in India, Southeast Asia, and South Korea.”

            How far a jump is it from speakers to comic books? Probably not very far. Two entertainment industries.

            Book stores all vanished, how long will it take for comic stores to go too?

            There are a few in Hamilton, but the one I like the best is The Labyrinth in Oakville, just off Trafalgar. They mostly sell art books, Pop figures and other anime figurine stuff. Comic books are maybe four little shelves in the back. Not so long ago they were more than half the store, but those days are gone.

            1. I have been purging my comic book collection in bits and pieces, as even reliable authors like Warren Ellis and Brian Clevinger have made some very…questionable writing decisions, either forced upon them or on their own. I love the visuals, I love the whole concept…but, the only place where I can get good stories these days is manga. And, sometimes…not even that.

              And, I can buy it online. I don’t have to deal with the comic book store crowd (who have grown increasingly…interesting over the years). I hate that idea, only because we should have those places where you can go and make those discoveries.

              1. “…the only place where I can get good stories these days is manga.”

                Yes. And the only good TV is anime. This is not to say that all anime is good, because that’s hilariously not true. But the good shows are far better than the CRAP being produced by American companies. Its not even close.

                Example, this season’s SAO Alicization vs. this season’s Teen Titans live action show. Yes, SAO is sappy and Kirito is Anime Jesus, but its still 1000% better.

                Re: the comic store crowd, I used to be one of the dudebros loading up at the comic store every Wednesday when the new issues came out, hanging out and having my social interaction fix for the week with the other nerds and weirdos. It was a very nice club to belong to, you know? Talking nerd lore with the other guys, very comfortable.

                I don’t know where you can find that these days. Its disappearing everywhere. Myself, I have to drive all the way to freakin’ Oakville to find it. Takes over an hour one way.

                1. I wish I could find it, but somebody did a video or a blog post or something on why people HATE (in the whole AM2 sort of way) Teen Titans Go! The big reason-it was in this perfect sweet spot of time where you could actually have good Western Animation and the show might have had weak episodes, it didn’t have any BAD episodes.

                  And, nerds…nerds are very hard to herd if you let them organize themselves. Which is why everything that nerds like is being taken away-so they’ll have to organize around the People In Charge.

                  1. Can’t disagree. Teen Titans was a good cartoon. Not -epic- maybe, but certainly fun and watchable. Teen Titans Go! is just stupid. Even the kids don’t like it. And that movie? omg.

                    But if you want to witness some trash, Netflix has the live action “Titans.”

                    With CGI coming down in cost so much that even low budget TV shows can use it, there’s the potential for some good superhero and SFF shows.

                    What am I watching? Japanese anime. Korean soaps.

                    1. …and, I can’t even disagree with you.

                      If you’re going to deconstruct things, build something new in it’s place. Even Evangelion built a huge franchise and paid for man-centuries of therapy in the fandom.

                      (I’ve never done the Korean soap thing, but that’s tempting.)

                      I saw the “Titans” promo and I went, “why is Starfire dressed like a $3 hooker just outside the gate of the Navy base when the fleet comes back after six months at sea? Why did they make Batman a murderer (and get caught at it)? Why are they even making this show?!?”

                      (Mind you, Doom Patrol was stupid silly fun. Which is probably why it was canceled…)

                      Is there some form of pre-frontal lobotomy that is being used on people that work in the Western movie and TV industries? This is starting to look less like random stupidity and more like “planning.”

                    2. Korean soaps are funny. The best ones are really enjoyable. There’s one from a few years ago called “My Girlfriend is a Gumiho” which is super fun. There was one last year whose name I can’t remember that featured the King of Hell, the Monkey King, the pig demon, a zombie, and the love interest who was the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva from Journey to the West.

                      They take all the Buddhist lore and the Christian lore, mix it in a pot and make a romantic comedy soap opera out of it. Its genius.

                      Doom Patrol was cancelled? Of course it was, because it was a good show. Weird and a bit wrong in spots, but watchable. Therefore it had to be destroyed.

                      “Is there some form of pre-frontal lobotomy that is being used on people that work in the Western movie and TV industries?”

                      If they were only stupid it wouldn’t be so bad. Have you seen the trailer for the latest Charlie’s Angels movie? Its super Woke in a way that makes it plain they’re out to trash and repudiate everything the Charlie’s Angels story has been about all these years.

                      I just saw a little article by a wine critic that its been 100 years since Prohibition passed. People forget that Prohibition was a full-dress Amendment to the constitution, the highest bar there is to pass.

                      What we’re living through right now is a similar era. Its not stupidity, its Socialist Puritanism. The Commie inspired follow-on to the Social Hygiene Movement.

                      Basically a bunch of people who think they’re smart enough to tell us all how to live. Same shit, different day.

          2. consider that these days, the high selling books sell what used to be the low-selling-about-to-be-cancelled books do.

            1. If I remember, 100,000 copies per issue used to be cancellation territory. Now they’re still shipping crap that sells under 20,000 per issue. Cancellation is around 8,000 for the Woke titles. Nothing consistently sells over 100K-150K but Spiderman, last I looked. Could be better now, they did fire a bunch of idiots in 2018.

  6. I remember cutting the pages apart in the 70s and 80s. Now many times did you get a paper cut?

    1. French. English was Third, German Fourth, Italian fifth, Swedish Sixth. And I could always translate FROM Spanish. Understand it, too. i just couldn’t speak the thing.
      Nowadays everything but English is shaky, Portuguese has reverted to the village dialect with some interesting mistakes, French I understand perfectly but am afraid to speak.
      And the others I only understand on a very good day, with a following wind.
      Weirdly, sometimes I dream in them.

      1. I had a stroke almost three years ago, and experienced a common symptom: aphasia. But it only existed in English. I’d be talking up a storm, and get to a perfectly ordinary word, say “fish.” I could see it in my head, say explanations of what the word was, rattle off examples. “Marlin, bass, bluegill, salmon, sturgeon,” but I could not say the word,”fish.” Now the weird part. I could speak Spanish easily, even the word, “pescado.” I was told later that such language specific anomalies are well known in the literature.

        1. The hypothyroidism played with my verbal competency. The German vanished completely. (It’s now somewhat back.) Even the English was affected. I was looking at a blast from the past from the worst period and realized I would need to rewrite the whole thing. I’m at a loss how you guys understood what I was saying.

          1. We have had to read tradpub – how can even a sleep-deprived, hypothyroidism-impaired column be worse?


  7. If I had any ability to do this, I’d find a whole bunch of indie writers, find somewhere with good, cheap office space and a large number of decent English degree graduates in close proximity to each other, and do all the things that a “real” publisher is supposed to do-editing, advertising, legal support, etc, etc, etc, and do it cheaper than tradpub.

    Offer a monthly package of four authors you like, and one that is new but you might like. Every month, five books that read well, are coherent…

      1. No, but it makes it easier and more entertaining to flip desks and engage in running gun and sword battles with the agents of TradPub busting in through every window and door..

            1. On the other hand, if all you want is an Manhattan address, you could get a PO Box there for $46.00 for 6 months…

              (Apparently something is driving up prices there, because that’s about double what the same box would cost around here.)

            2. You were told correctly. Manhattan Kansas housing and living expenses are pricy. Even living in a outlying community like Wamego (like I am) only brings prices down to mildly unreasonable, but the neighbors are far better and our fireworks are second to none.

              1. I can neither confirm nor deny that I used to frequent the home-style buffet place that used to be in the back of the old grocery store in Wamego.

    1. If I were 20 years (or even 15 years) younger, I would do something very like that. Phoenix is getting expensive due to well-off Canadians and retiring Boomers bidding up housing prices, but from what I can tell Omaha is still reasonable, and a little research would probably turn up half a dozen decent size cities with cheap commercial space and reasonable housing. I still think a small office is a good idea, even if one or more staffers work mostly from home. When I had a publishing company in a shabby and thinly-remodeled bathroom fixtures showroom in the 90s, we had a lot of fun and bonded as a group to a degree my other groups at other jobs never did. Sure, it was a lot of work, but we kicked ass in the technical nonfiction business for a number of years.

      Publishing is changing shape, but the demand for reading material will always be there–and people with Sarah’s hunger are still with us. The person who figures out the new shape of publishing will win big.

  8. What happened to the comment nesting? Now the deeper-nested comments are off my screen to the right, even tho my screen is 1900 pixels wide. Sidescrolling to read stuff is the most annoying feature EVER.

      1. Or as my Italian Grandmother in law would say Bacalat (t is silent) For some reason it was part of the unending Christmas Eve Dinner and also eaten on New Years Eve. Superior to my Swedish Grandma’s creamed salt cod though still not my favorite.

  9. Thanks Sarah. I have some behind the scenes knowledge of something you (and every content creator, of any kind) should be a part of. http://www.cubestream.com. Phase 1 is rolling out soon (sign up your email for notice) and the next phases are going to change the way you control and monetize your content.

    1. Ted,
      The thing to consider is do you guys have the tax thing figured out.
      Look, I looked into this type of thing with a programmer friend, but there’s a tax decision (guys, help me out!) that makes online sellers who make more than 4k (I should hope so, or why bother?) to withhold and KNOW all the tax laws and changes int he state clients live in.
      As a start up we wouldn’t have money for a lawyer/accountant. And if you guys aren’t dealing with it, I can’t afford to be in with you. Why? Because I don’t have time to become a tax expert.
      Yes, like everything else, this gives the advantage to the big, established businesses. It might be cast under “making Amazon pay their fair share, and giving the little guys a chance” but what it does is give Amazon A MONOPOLY.

      1. Hello Sarah. Our law firm in Chicago advises on tax matters and I will have a reply for you soon.

  10. In response to “How are you?” I use my late father’s reply more often than not – “Compared to what?”
    Usually puts a hitch in their giddy-up. The quick ones then say “Yesterday?” to which the canned answer is “Older and uglier but I’m used to it…..”.

  11. However, free as you are I’d like to see you, and other indies, a bit freer .

    I’ like to find your books in epub, rather than kindle format for sale on your web page or at a site like smashwords rather than have to go to Amazon.

    1. That’s the government. Sorry. I can’t withhold taxes for every state in the union, if I’m to have it on my site. THAT is what keeps Amazon a monopoly.
      As for not having it in epub or smashwords or whatever.
      First: if you go through smashwords, stop it. They are more and more buggy and their accounting is notional. If I want to be robbed, I’ll go trad.
      Second: I used to be with barnes and noble, kobo, etc.
      Why am I not now?
      Well, because I made maybe $5 a month from them. There’s a reason for that. Their algorithms are so screwy I often couldn’t find MY OWN BOOKS in their search, with all the tags I’d put in and all.
      Yes, KLL is an exclusive thing, the reason I’m not elsewhere.
      BUT the only reason that bait worked was that the other sites DIDN’T.
      I get 1/2 per lent book as I get for a sale. If even ONE of the other sites made me that? Or if they made me that in aggregate?
      I’d be wide in distro in a heartbeat.
      But you cannot demand I give up 1/3 of my income to go wide. That’s not freedom. That’s economic suicide.
      The people you should be poking are those who can start a site that’s as easy to upload to as Amazon (none of the others were, though Amazon is getting difficult too. More like Kobo used to be) AND as easy to shop for ebooks in as Amazon.
      Being able to beam books to your kindle would be a plus (I don’t know if it’s possible, but it should be.)
      Until then, sorry. Baby no longer needs shoes, but they need other things.

  12. So I have two questions that may have already been beaten to death in another column, but here it is anyway. Just finished my first book – historical fiction or fantasy, haven’t quite figured out the difference, and I started looking for an agent. Reason: 1. Seems like an agent should be able to find a publisher easier and do my marketing for me as well as perhaps make some improvement suggestions (I have a regular job and am not into this for the money, only the vast fame and glory bwhahahaha). The book is complete, and I believe it to be well knit, but a little outside input wouldn’t be unwelcome. Actually this route is to save time for all the other stuff I do like work on my next nonfiction book. 2. I can go Plan B and do it a different way as in self publishing, which seems to work for many people, but am not sure the best route for that; and would have to do my own marketing.
    So… I have spoken to some published authors who suggest I do queries to agents. Seems like the average number of queries is around 100 before one gets a bite, which I have started on but it seems like it may be futile if all the agents are woke beings of supreme wonderfullness (sorry, I live in Connecticut and don’t get me started).
    Question 1 – Is there a way to narrow my focus on more receptive agents other than the ones listed in an agency as being interested in historical fiction, as it is sometimes hard to figure out which (many, most these days?) are looking for woke submissions. That is not me.
    Question 2 – Would I be better off going self publishing, and are there any articles/suggestions on the best/most efficient path to take and not be lost in an ocean of other publications unless one does their own time consuming marketing (I’ll let my potential audience of Ahabs know that I’m Moby Dick, the big guy they want to be intimate with as in repeatedly stabbing)? Thanks for your insights.

    1. I have been in publishing for 30+ years, mostly as the head of an independent and very successful military, general history, and sports history press. http://www.savasbeatie.com. I sold my first company to a large east coast publisher and started Savas Beatie in 2004.


      I have also worked as an agent (part time), and as a former trial lawyer, in the area of intellectual property.

      If you expect to publish historical fiction, you have little choice BUT to find an agent. However, 99 of 100 are of little or no good at all, and finding that last one is essentially a loser’s game.

      Self-publishing is easier today than ever, BUT, if you go that route you have to be prepared to do everything–marketing, accounting, shipping, storage, taxes, customer service, etc. It works for some, but for the vast majority, who simply want to be authors and little else, but have few real outlets and haven’t a clue how to market, it is a disastrous, expensive, and in the end, frustrating experience.

      There are ways to improve your odds, but it’s something of a Sysiphusian experience.

      1. Thank you for your feedback. I have a small technical consulting business and can do marketing pretty well after 20+ years in the business. An MBA has helped significantly in navigating the business world despite what some might say, so I can differentiate and draw interest. Some things would be new, such as shipping, storage, etc. Where would I learn the basics of that area, and might it be better to just do kindle or an all digital platform. I do confess that I would be moved if I saw a hard copy on a shelf. I am old school and am still drawn to a book in hand, especially on a day like today where it is snowing outside. But the fire is so delightful and since I’ve no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

    2. The other thing to keep in mind, how badly is the ‘get a company to do it’ model of employment breaking down in other fields?

      If big business is converging on a cookie cutter model of employment, there are a fair number of people who will be unable to get into industry unless they learn the marketing and other business skills in addition to their main occupational skill set.

      For such an individual, choosing between marketing some other skillset and marketing creative writing, the need for doing your own marketing might not be the downside. The downside might be in comparing the businesses.

      The theory seemingly endorsed by many of the commentators here is that high earnings require a) frequent regular production b) either solid marketing or maybe long tail. If you can’t produce at that rate, it is a side business, and perhaps even if you can.

    3. Re: queries to agents. If you can get one to send you a rejection letter that will be a major victory.

      As I’ve said elsewhere, a Canadian mystery author I know tried for several years to get an agent and a publishing deal. The author was also submitting their book to all kinds of mystery contests and winning them. This person worked at it a lot harder than I’d be willing to, submitting hundreds of proposals and doing re-write after re-write to increase interest.

      The most feedback the author got anywhere was from an agent who said it was lovely but they weren’t taking on “that sort of book.”

      The author finally put the book on Kindle with a paperback print-on-demand option, and did 80,000 downloads in very short order.

      That’s where things are in Canada.

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