It Never Gets Boring

Wow, this past week has been anything but boring. Brandon Sanderson basically broke the internet with his Kickstarter campaign. SFWA decided to change its name. More on book bans and antisemitism. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

I’m not going to say much about Sanderson’s kickstarter except this: LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL and “Way to go!”. For the most part, I’ve not seen much negative about it. However, there have been a few detractors, but I’ve come to expect them. What does concern me is the number of authors, most of them indies who don’t have a strong following, now thinking they can do the same thing. In the last few days, my social media feeds have been filled with writers talking about their upcoming kickstarters–that they hadn’t considered doing until Sanderson’s success. Oh the plans they have for the money they’ll pull in.

Except. . .

They don’t have Sanderson’s following. The kickstarter campaign was pretty much guaranteed to succeed because of his following, a following he has built over the years. I doubt anyone really expected the final result because–duh!. But there was very little risk to this for Sanderson.

That isn’t the case for these other authors. Not only have they failed to take into account his built-in fanbase that would automatically contribute to the campaign but they have also failed to take into account the time and effort that is going to be needed to promote their own campaign if it is to have any chance at success. But the shiny is oh so shiny.

I guess this is my roundabout way of saying go into a kickstarter or similar campaign with your eyes wide open. Be ready to do the hard work. But most of all, ask yourself a vey important question: are you ready for the ego hit if you don’t meet your kickstarter goals? If you answer “no” to either the ready to do the hard work or the ego hit, then reconsider doing the campaign.

Now for SFWA. Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America has been around since 1965. Going forward (starting in the very near future), it will no longer be the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Instead, the group is dropping “of America” and substituting “Association”. The reasoning is that “more than a quarter” of the membership lives and works in “non-US countries and territories”. It’s all for inclusion.

In other words, it is all for increasing the membership numbers.

Next up is an article from Publishers Weekly about book banning and antisemitism. Normally, I take anything from PW with a grain of salt. This opinion piece, however, hits the nail on th head. In discussing Whoopie Goldberg’s comments on the Holocaust as well as the Nazi book burning in WWII, Angela Engel had this to say:

How does this all tie back to banning books? Reading is education, and access to books and source material allows us to crystallize our histories in our consciousness, and in our children’s, so that we do not repeat the past. In May 1933, Nazis burned books, largely those by Jewish intellectuals, that contained “un-German spirit.” This burning took place at universities—similar to how current U.S. book bannings are taking place at schools. As literature about the Holocaust continues to be challenged, people lose access to the voices of the oppressed, allowing misrepresentations to seep into popular culture.

I suggest this can be expanded to all of our history. If we erase it from our history books, from the buildings on our college campuses, from our very collective consciousness, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes we find so abhorrent today. There is a reason our Founding Fathers valued free speech. By banning books, by removing statues, paintings, etc., from public areas because they might be “hurtful” stifles that free speech because it removes a topic of discussion. Without being to discuss why something is wrong today and might not have been 200 years ago is to court disaster. To put it into terms those advocating such actions might understand, it removes a teaching moment.

But it is so much easier to remove the so-called offending object, be it a book or a statue or a movie or whatever, and stick one’s head in the sand than deal with a difficult issue in ways we learn not to make the same mistakes in the future.

Okay, okay, getting off my sandbox now.

One last bit of business. Night of the Wolf, a prequel short story to the Nocturnal Lives series, is now available on Kindle Unlimited. This is an expanded version of the freebie made available last year to my newsletter subscribers. (It has more than 2k more words to flesh out the story from the freebie). Here’s the blurb:

Mackenzie Santos has seen it all as a police detective–or so she thought. The last thing she wants after closing one of the worst cases of her career is to go out to celebrate her birthday. But she promised and maybe Jenny was right. Maybe having dinner and drinks with her best friend would help put the horror of the case behind her. Soon she will soon learn she should have listened to her gut. Nightmares do come true and monsters really do exist. And, on this night of the full moon, she is the prey.

Featured Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

26 comments

  1. Someone like Larry Correia could pull off a kickstarter campaign like Brandon Sanderson. But being Larry Correia he does not need to.

    1. Exactly. And what they both have is a large–and loyal–fan base. I’d be one of those contributing to Larry’s if he did one because–SWAG!. My concern, however, is as I stated in the post. There are a lot of indie authors who don’t have Larry’s or Brandon’s following (or anywhere close to it) who now think kickstarters are the way to go and most of them are in for rude awakening.

  2. And speaking of Larry, he was on Nick’s Rekieta Law stream last night. I haven’t listened to it yet, but the tagline is “Creation, Escapism, and Fighting a Tide of Karens.” And Larry’s good people, so if y’all missed out on it like I did, might be worth a listen.

  3. Socialist-Fascist Writers Association would be more like it.

    Does anyone know how their claim of 2,100 members compares to their historical numbers? I have a feeling that membership has been declining a lot, but it’s just a feeling.

    1. MCA Hogarth would be in a better position to know, I think. I do recall back in the 2010s that there was some discussion outside of SFWA about indie writers, and about the differences between selling to the magazine market in 1965 (when the group was founded) and today. SFWA did change things to admit indie writers who reach certain sales benchmarks, and I think that helped their numbers, but I’m not a member and my information was third-hand.

      1. I think it helped in the short term, not sure how many stuck with them after a year or two. I’d be interested in some solid numbers.

    2. Wiki, iirc, has membership around 1900. SFWA says 2100. As I hinted in the article, I see this, along with their “inclusion” goal as an attempt to expand membership–ie, dollars brought in–by selling to the non-US/North American writers.

      1. Unfortunately, dilution of their name also reflections of a dilution of their goals. When was the last time we saw SFWA actively educating their members on bad contracts, bad industry practices, and fighting for their members? Where is the deep section on craft, to help their members get better, or the education on promotion and tracking sales? Where is the “this is your history, so you know more than the latest trend or the last 10 years you’ve been writing?”

        At this point, it seems to have no benefit beyond being a social club with a storied history. And given the toxic state of the social club… Not worth it.

        I’ll be spending the money on 20BookTo50K Vegas instead, and looking at ALLi (Alliance of Independent Authors) and NINC instead as possile groups to join.

        1. Completely agree. None of the “legacy” groups like SFWA and RWA offer much if anything for writers anymore. ALLi is on my list of groups to look at as is NINC. I can’t make the next 20Books but want to go to the one after that. Frankly, I get more out of their FB groups and the Wide for the Win groups than I ever have from SFWA and related groups.

  4. Banning, statues etc. Did I? Or did I not, screaming ravening, vicious bloody murder and wish grizzly deaths towards the perpetrators of the Iconoclasm that’s been going on the last several years? SFWA. Doesn’t matter what their name is. the donkey fucking half wits are still irrelevant.
    Kickstarter. that one was fun to watch. Even Sanderson himself was floored by the response. As to others trying the same thing? YEah I agree
    -Wolfie

  5. As I understand it, the other big thing about Bryan Sanderson’s kickstarter is he already had the four books done, he just needed the capital to take them to print and ship hardcopy.

    Kickstarters are *really* easy to screw up and over promise, and there have been a lot of them that, even though they were wildly successful, ended up collapsing by trying to simply do too much.

    On free speech, Mill’s Invincible Trident. He conjectures any idea is one of three things: fully wrong, fully right, or partly right and partly wrong.

    If an idea is fully wrong, free speech and debate is needed to correct it.

    If an idea is partly right and partly wrong, it needs free speech and free debate to refine it to a fully right idea.

    If an idea is fully right, it needs free speech and debate to understand why it is right and so people can fully grasp the idea.

    As far as I know, no one has broke Mill’s conjecture assuming there is absolute truth, and I’m not sure it’s breakable even if there is not absolute truth.

    1. Also I think it is important to lay out just what the kickstarter is *for* ahead of time, too. Do your fans really want physical books? Swag? Would it be easier to do a Teespring or something for shirts and so on? A lot of authors are 100% digital in the beginning at least.

      Even if your books are popular and sell well, if your audience is younger or they prefer digital over hardcopy, going kickstarter for the physical book would likely flop. Like Amanda said, you have to lay the groundwork ahead of time and do your research properly before pulling the trigger. Joe Schmoe with his fifty or so fans doesn’t need a kickstarter, his reach is too small. But Jill Schmedlap with five hundred thousand regular readers might want to look into it. Larry or David Weber could probably swing a book kickstarter, easy. Actually, didn’t Larry already do one?

      Yeah, the MHI game. I remember that one, I backed it at the time. Larry’s fans would definitely go for another one. I think the MHI minis is going to be the next one. And yeah, I’ll probably back that one, too, because I am a humongous geek.

      1. Actually a lot of it depends on your ask. Not all kickstarters go, or want to go, as big as Brandon Sanderson’s. I know of a lady who did a small kickstarter to get a collection of her shorts into paperback. Ask? $200. She exceeded this. After all her expenses and sending out the rewards her total profit was around $600. Three times what she was asking for total, and about 6 times what she anticipated the profit would be. I don’t recall what the $/hour was but it was very reasonable.

        WMG has a free course on Kickstarter that deals with a lot of this, and I’ve found it very informative (I don’t have the reach for even a small one yet, but it’s on my radar to watch.)

        It seems to me a good thing that writers are looking into Kickstarter. Yes, there are going to be people who run at it expecting Brandon Sanderson money, just like there are folk who will chase the marketing trends and fail miserably and wonder why they’re both failing and miserable. There are also those who are going to look at it, approach it sensibly who never would have thought about it without his runaway success.

  6. You brushed past one of my pet peeves.
    The renaming of geographical locations to make history inaccessible.

    Be it Kiev, Kabul, Bombay, or Peking, the pose is of being worldly, the effect is of increasing ignorance.

  7. Brandon Sanderson did a few YouTube videos on his channel where he introduces what he is going to do, and he talks about everything that went into doing it (okay, not everything!) But, one of the things is that this is 2 years of work for the books AND they aren’t even delivering the product until NEXT year. So, this is a 3 year thing. If the other authors you mention aren’t thinking about putting a couple of YEARS into the planning and execution, as well as having the reputation and fan base that you consistently put out good work, then they are going to be sad. The videos are worth watching if you want to take notes for the future.

  8. Kickstarters. The first questions should be “What is the actual goal?” “Is the actual goal clear?” “Is the actual goal achievable, wanting only the infusion of money?” “How much money needs to be infused?”

    SFWA. Different name, same organization. One that I have absolutely no desire to be associated with.

    Book “bans.” The debate is not about what books should be banned – but what books should be selected, and the instruction that follows from them. Teaching about the Holocaust is important for the earlier grades – but is it only to about the Jews? Or should it also be about that the killing included homosexuals, the disabled, Slavs, Romani? The roots of it in “progressive” ideologies (and Sanger’s role in that movement)? Parallels in the Holodomor and The Cultural Revolution? That ethnic genocide still continues in many, many places around the world? Instructional materials coming out the “1619 Project” are intended to replace other materials. But when “Stamped from the Beginning” replaces “1776” in the curriculum, nobody says that the latter has been “banned.”

    1. Teaching about the Holocaust is important for the earlier grades – but is it only to about the Jews? Or should it also be about that the killing included homosexuals, the disabled, Slavs, Romani? The roots of it in “progressive” ideologies (and Sanger’s role in that movement)? Parallels in the Holodomor and The Cultural Revolution? That ethnic genocide still continues in many, many places around the world?

      Stated goal of wiping out the Polish people, too– I seem to remember the stated German goal in Ukraine was “only” enslaving them, but I don’t have the references on hand….

      FWIW, since we homeschool, our kids already know about genocide as a means to take over a location (including the related tactics of harvesting desired members of the current population, and killing off “expensive” members of your own people) or to wipe out populations that contain a philosophical threat.
      This lets the horror of the Holocaust to be human, rather than something that can be safely held as completely other and thus different from anything that oneself may do.

      1. A fair number of the Poles were to be reclassified as Germans. They were literally kidnapping children off the street for having “desirable racial traits.”

        1. :nods:

          Get sorted into the kill now, work to death, and harvest to be turned into Good Little Aryan Germans, with a decent chance that even if your parents weren’t killed, you’d never find them again….

  9. similar to how current U.S. book bannings are taking place at schools

    I know they mean the not-forcing-children-to-read-this-book-is-banning-it stuff in public schools, but the actually-preventing-people-from-being-able-to-read-them is going on at colleges, and YES it IS really freaky.

    1. Actually, I think they mean both on both levels because the preventing them from being able to read them is also happening at the public school level. You would be amazed at how some admins/teachers on one hand want certain books not only removed from the schools but from publishing while, on the other hand, parents/kids want other books removed. The latter is worrisome but the former makes me see red.

      1. I’ve groused about age-inappropriate material for certain grade levels (publisher or publisher’s distributor slipped it in a multi-title book bundle). But that’s a whole different thing. Keep it in the school, but move it to the high school wing.

      2. I have heard of books being removed because of the views of the author– like OSC’s being removed because he’s an observant Mormon, for example– but that’s not anti-Semitism, while anything that supports Israel being allowed to exist or various aspects of Jewish religious practice which run counter of the desired politics is a very common target for the college “cancel” attempts.

        Quite sure that you and I are in agreement on that being bad, just the folks that are trying to call grade schools Nazis but be sneaky about it are only fixating on anti-Semitism. (it’s different when they do it!)

  10. Crowd funding.

    Small campaigns are vastly easier than large campaigns.

    The more you promise, the more you risk failure to deliver.

    Sanderson’s campaign means that consumers will be looking at crowdfunding for fiction books to a greater degree. This does mean that larger less prepared campaigns will have some increased viabiltiy. Definitely not infinite increase in viability. This previously happened in TTRPG materials, and there are blogs covering those campaigns that have massively failed to deliver.

    Moe Lane used to be in political activism, which is fairly marketing adjacent. Moe Lane also has blogged for over a decade about his nerd interests. Since switching to writing fiction, he has run a series of /small/ crowd funding campaigns.

    Sanderson has brought in a lot of funds, but has hopefully prepared well enough that he can actually deliver. Delivery will use more of hsi ‘take home’ then people expect.

    Sanderson already had a personal firm, with staff to support sales to fans. He already had income to cover that.

    My impression is that Sanderson may have massively underspent in terms of conventional thinking on crowdfunding marketing for a single campaign of that resulting scale. Fiction books are weird for crowdfunding, because of backlist. Absent backlist, and absent the very long term marketing that Sanderson has done, I think decades worth, you probably need more conventional spends for a fiction campaign.

    I applaud the very significant amount of work and thought Sanderson has put into his career and occupational skills.

Comments are closed.