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Posts tagged ‘Tor’

Witches Float

I’ve been slowly reading my way through an excellent book on psychology. One of the studies the author discusses in detail is what should be done for survivors of some mass disaster or trauma. Oddly, the answer seems to be: don’t force them to relive it. People are surprisingly resilient, it turns out. And forcing them to talk about what happened in an effort to prevent PTSD turns out to actually make the problem worse. If you leave them alone, people will recover, come to terms, and when they need it, seek help. This isn’t always true… some people are not resilient at all. They shatter under pressure. I can give you examples of both, in the writing world, from the past week.  Read more

Oh the noes

Duty from Ashes new coverOh my, the last few days have been interesting if you are a fan of science fiction or fantasy and if you have been following the controversy surrounding the Hugo nominations. I have thought long and hard about what, if anything (more), I want to say about the situation surrounding the comments Tor artistic editor Irene Gallo made and the subsequent statement by Tor’s elder statesman Tom Doherty. At this point, I think I will stick with saying just two things. Firs, Ms. Gallo’s comments were beyond over the top and her apology did not go nearly far enough for the simple reason that she did not apologize for anything except possibly hurting people’s feelings and painting with an overly broad brush. Second, I appreciate the fact that Mr. Doherty took the time to not only say that Ms. Gallo’s opinions were not the opinions of Tor and he put the lie to at least one of the accusations against SP3, that it was only trying to advance the work of white men.

Does this mean I don’t have other thoughts about what happened? Absolutely not. But, to be honest, I am still on vacation and I honestly do not want to have to wade into the reactions to figure out who said what. I may do that later but, for now, it is more important that I spend time with my son who is home for the first time in over a year. Frankly, I don’t want to ruin our last few days together by being in a lousy mood as I watch more mud being slung at people I care about.

Despite all the muck and mire surrounding the Hugos, this morning started in just about the best way it could for any writer. I had a message waiting for me from someone who has been reading Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2). He asked the one question we all live to hear: when is the next book going to be published? Let me tell you, that is much more satisfying than looking at the mud pit that is the current Hugo controversy. (The picture above is the new cover to Duty from Ashes. I really love it and thank Sarah for her cover design.)

So I guess this has all been a roundabout way of saying my mind is not on much of anything right now except spending time with my son before he reports back for duty later this week. I promise a real post for you guys next week. Until then, I’ll turn the comments over to you. Suggest topics or discuss what has been happening with the Hugos. Just remember the rules. I’ll check in later.


Dear Tor

Guest post by Jonathan LaForce

As anybody who knows me will tell you, I like reading.  It’s been a life-long pleasure of mine. Someday I hope to have my own private library where I can sit and relax and write to my heart’s content. Something with a fireplace and a real leather chair, and an R2D2 mini fridge full of Dr. Pepper.

There will be books on art, history, various cultures, poetry, novels, literature, the romance novels I’ve written.  Want to know what won’t be found there?

Anything by TOR.  Period. Dot.  End of story.  Why?  Simple really.

You see folks, in the last four years, Tor has shown increasingly that it doesn’t care for anything besides narrative.  It doesn’t care for anything besides lying.  Labeling fellow authors and close friends of mine “misogynistic homophobic neo-Nazis” simply because we prefer telling a good story to pushing political beliefs is wrong.  Allowing your editorial staff to intentionally lie about such people, repeatedly misrepresent us, and trying to silence us, all the while calling us bullies?   You must be stupid!

Where does this come from? A woman named Irene Gallo, whom advertises herself as the Creative Editor at Tor.  She posted on facebook, quite publicly that all Puppies are “Extreme right-wing to Neo-Nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies… they are unrepentantly racist, misogynist and homophobic.  A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo Ballot.”

The last time I got called any of those things, I was a senior in high school, circa 2005.  It’s been a long minute since then.  Frankly I find this more than a little amusing.  You might want to ask my wife who gave up college to work 40 plus hours a week so she can finish earning her college degree this summer.  You might want to ask my little boy Johnny how he feels about being the mix breed son of a half Cherokee half white woman and a quarter-Hawaiian quarter Tex-Mex, half central European?  As for gays, I’ve never had a problem with any personally, and I generally haven’t given one iota of a damn what they do so long as they leave me alone.

Perhaps the most amusing part of all this is that when I asked Irene Gallo about her stance, I was greeted not with the intelligent, well thought out dialogue one expects from a supposedly capable editor.  Instead I received the same trite impoliteness which I have come to expect from all of Tor’s editors.  Not once did Gallo ever suggest or intimate that she not speaking for all of Tor when she made these statements.  Which leaves me to wonder, is Tom Doherty still running Tor or did Tor undergo a process not that dissimilar to the government mentioned in Equilibrium?  Has Doherty become a flesh puppet?  One can only wonder if he will do as Eminem suggest so vocally, and please stand up.

Tor, let’s face facts: that you repeatedly allow straw man makers like John Scalzi to have a place in your stable, even as he vainly justifies his arrogant idiocy is absurd.  To allow bigots like NK Jemisin bully pulpits without regard for fact or truth is wrong.  To encourage people to put one-star reviews on Amazon, simply because you don’t like an author’s politics, rather than because you didn’t like the story is not only disgusting, it is a willful manipulation of the Amazon rating system.

Whereas I believe in the principles of the free market, I don’t want to see somebody create new laws over this.  We already have government invading our bedrooms, our computers and our bank accounts daily.  No, ladies and gentlemen, instead I ask you this:

Don’t buy anything made by TOR. Not pamphlets. Not novels, not audiobooks.  Not even if it’s free.  Let Tor know that they do not decide what we want as fans of science fiction and fantasy.  Instead, I ask that those of you whom trust my opinion cease to buy their products ever again.  Show them that in the end, the consumer drives the market. Why? Because nobody can make you buy anything.  Not health care, not books, not movies. NOT A SINGLE DAMN THING.

In older times, a bard who couldn’t sing or orate well, much less properly play an instrument (in short, when the bard could not perform well, the crowd kicked him out. And he went hungry until he got better or he died from starvation. Or he found a new profession that he was actually good at.

Things are no different now.  We can hate One Direction and Iggy Azalea all we want, but so long as the product they turn out is quality to a paying audience, people will buy it.  Love ’em hate ’em, until people no longer buy their products, they’re here to stay.  Elvis Presley has been dead since 16 August 1977.  His music still sells.  Publishers are the exact same way.

So now we turn our attention back to Tor.

When their sales drop like rocks in a planetary gravity well, when their authors do more abysmally than Hillary Clinton’s latest biographical snooze (that might have finally recouped the cost of the advance, maybe), when they understand that we are not peons to be preached at, but fans whom wish to hear quality stories and be entertained, we will have achieved something great.

Will another one bite the dust?

One day, I’d love to be able to sit down and do the research for my next MGC post and realize legacy publishers hadn’t just done something to make me want to bang my head against the wall. For one thing, my head hurts. For another, I have a very hard head and I’m getting tired of having to patch the sheetrock where I keep beating holes in it.

This week’s head-to-wall experience began by reading an article in one of our local papers about the trouble our libraries are having with legacy publishers over e-books. We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating. Of the big six publishers (Macmillan, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Hatchett, Random House and HarperCollins) only Random House and HarperCollins sell e-books to libraries. HarperCollins may express devotion to libraries, yet it lets an e-book be checked out only 26 times before a new “copy” must be purchased. And, oh yeah, libraries pay a hell of a lot more for their e-books than you and I do.

The understatement of the article appears when the reporter comments, “The publishers won’t come out directly and say it, but the reason may be that they believe that people who can read a book for free won’t buy it.”  I have no doubts this is exactly what the publishers think. They are scared of e-books, even as they see e-book revenue increasing. They are scared of them because e-books mean a change in their market shares and a change in their business plans and, let’s face it, no one likes change, bean counters and ivory tower sitters least of all.

But what publishers miss by taking this stance with libraries is that there is no difference between borrowing an e-book and borrowing a hard copy of that book. If people try a new author — or go back and try a new book from an author they used to read and stopped reading for whatever reason — and they like what they read, they will buy other books by that author. Libraries are a revenue driver for publishers. By hamstringing libraries regarding e-books, these same publishers are hurting themselves and this, ultimately, hurts their authors.

This takes on an even greater importance when you look at the latest survey out of this year’s BEA. There was a 100% year-over-year increase in publishers reporting that at least 10% of their annual revenue comes from e-book sales. Add to that the fact that four out of five publishers are now releasing e-books and it is clear e-books are not only here to stay. Yet, legacy publishers continue to shoot themselves in the foot by doing their best to keep a major outlet for e-books tied up and out of the hands of readers.

Okay, I know. Someone’s going to point out that Tor/Forge is going DRM-free and is even opening its own e-bookstore soon. With all the hoopla that surrounded the initial announcement, you’d think no publisher had ever gone DRM-free before. Well, this is where I call bullshit. Sorry for the language, but it’s the truth. Baen has been selling their e-books free of DRM for more than 10 years. Ten years in which all the other publishers, and more than a few authors, condemned them and told them how wrong they were. Those who are active on Baen’s Bar remember the failed experiment with Tor several years ago where Tor books were offered for a very, very, very short period of time in Webscriptions (Baen’s online store) before being pulled because upper management at Tor’s parent company got cold feet. So pardon me if I’m not exactly as thrilled about the announcement as some of the others. Nothing new, nothing groundbreaking.

Look, let’s be real. There is absolutely no reason for a publisher, big or small, not to have its own webstore. Not in today’s computer age. But, being the paranoid skeptic that I am, all I can see from the Tor store is yet more issues with keeping an accurate count of the number of e-books sold. Look, legacy publishers can’t give their authors an accurate count of hard copy books sold even though they should be able to track without any problem the number of books printed, number of books sold to bookstores, number of books returned. But they can’t handle that simple accounting issue, relying instead on a third party they pay big money for and that only estimates at the number of books sold. Of course, the fact that those estimates run in the publisher’s favor instead of the authors’ may be why.

And then there’s the response to the price fixing lawsuit the Department of Justice filed against Apple and five of the big six publishers. BN argues that the proposed settlement will not only cause prices to increase for e-books, but that it will harm just about everyone who ever considered an e-book and will void agency agreements in use in other industries. The problem with this is that the proposed settlement doesn’t void agency agreements as a whole. In fact, it is noted that agency agreements can be entered into, immediately by non-defendants in the suit and ultimately even by the named defendants. No, the problem with agency agreements in this instance is the alleged collusion that took place between the defendants. Once more, those who see Amazon as the great evil that must be destroyed, are doing their best to play smoke and mirrors, hoping beyond hope to confuse the issue.

Folks, I’m tired. I’m tired of the legacy publishers treating readers like criminals. What other reason is there for the continued use of DRM, something that doesn’t work to begin with and that only adds to the cost of an e-book?

I’m tired of legacy publishers treating their authors like dirt, and worse. The inclusion of contractual clauses that can tie an author to a house forever and never let them write for anyone else smacks of the old studio policies in film in the 30’s and 40’s. I have visions of publishers trying to be paid by other publishers to “loan” out an author, whether the author wants it or not. And let’s not forget that the author, the creator of the product, gets paid less than minimum wage for their work and will never get an accurate accounting of his sales without demanding an accounting and being willing to take the legacy publisher to court to get it. Frankly, until a group of authors band together and file a class action law suit to do just that, it’s not going to happen because of the expense of litigation these days and because so many authors still operate under the belief that they will be blacklisted if they dare question their publisher.

Folks, wake up. Authors have other avenues available to them now. Instead of authors being worried about being blacklisted by publishers, it should be the other way around. Publishers should be worrying about what’s going to happen to them when the authors they’ve relied upon for years to make them money suddenly taken control of their own publishing lives and wave goodbye to the legacy publishers. THAT is what should have the publishers shaking in their boots instead of the growing popularity of e-books. Without the mid-listers that have been consistent money-makers for them, and the best sellers who have the name to bring in sales even if the book is only mediocre (at least until word of mouth gets around), publishers can’t survive with newbies and unknowns.

I’m tired of authors acting as sock puppets for their publishers, especially with regard to the DoJ law suit and the proposed settlement. Instead of parroting what their publishers and agents tell them, they need to read the pleadings for themselves. Yes, your eyes will cross. Yes, it’s boring because it’s legal writing. But until and unless you read it, and read the responses to it, all you are doing is parroting what others tell you to say. I don’t care if you are for or against it afterwards. But for Pete’s sake, make an informed decision and quit doing the knee-jerk thing just because you want to please your publisher.

I’m tired of media and blog coverage that crows loud and long when something like the Tor announcement comes along, proclaiming it a major new development in publishing. Nope. It’s not. Not when Baen has been doing it for more than ten years. Not when other publishers, publishers that might be smaller than Tor but publishers nonetheless, have been doing it as well. Tor isn’t breaking any new ground here. All they are doing is following in the steps of others before them. And yet, to read the coverage of it, you’d think no one had ever sold a DRM-free book before, much less had their own webstore.

I’m tired of publishers treating me like a crook because I want to read my e-books across different platforms and in different formats and the only way I can do it is to either buy multiple copies of the same book in different e-formats or break DRM. I won’t tell you what I do beyond saying I have all the apps on all my devices.

Basically, it all comes down to this: there are a handful of publishers that have controlled the business for decades who are now running around like Chicken Little, scared the sky in falling. Instead of embracing the new technology and trusting their customers, they are digging in and doing their best to resist change. They are being enabled in all this by the media, which is facing much the same challenges and is even more scared than are the publishers, and authors who have their own reasons for not embracing the changes. Until these publishers either pull their heads out of the sand, tear up their current business plans and start forward-thinking instead of not thinking, and until they start treating their authors as partners in the venture, things will continue to look dark for them.

And it doesn’t have to.

Publishing will survive this upheaval called e-books. There will always be print books, but their market share will continue to fall over the upcoming years as more and more people turn to digital formats and as the price of print books continues to increase. They will become a niche market like e-books used to be. What may not survive, at least not in their current configurations, are the large publishers. They have some very hard decisions to make. It’s up to them to decide whether to make them now or to wait until it is too late and they go the way of other companies like Borders.

Until then, I’ll stick to small presses and self-publishing.


A Real Change of Heart or Just More Smoke and Mirrors

Earlier this week, it was announced that Tor/Forge was going to go DRM-free by July 2012. Normally, I’d view such news as very good news indeed. However, I’ll admit I’m still playing Scrooge about it. Maybe it’s because of who owns Tor/Forge — Macmillan. You remember them. They are one of the Big 6, those major publishing houses that believed it was better for their companies to adopt the agency pricing model and make LESS money just because it might stick it to Amazon. Macmillan is also one of the five publishers, along with Apple, to be sued by the Department of Justice for price fixing.

Anyway, here’s what Tom Doherty had to say: Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time. They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.

While I have to admit, it’s nice to see that Doherty and company finally realize that DRM is “a constant annoyance”, there is one thing I find glaringly absent from his comment or from the TOR announcement: a decrease in price. Remember, the application of DRM has been a convenient excuse for publishers charging higher prices for their books because DRM is expensive. So, if they are going to do away with DRM, will they be lowering prices? Somehow, I’m not holding my breath.

Another point of irritation comes from reading the Publishers Weekly article about the TOR announcement. It’s no secret that I am an e-book fan. I wouldn’t work for an electronic press if I wasn’t. It should also come as no surprise that I have brand loyalty to Baen. Under Jim Baen’s leadership, Baen pioneered the e-book industry. Toni Weisskopf has continued and expanded the work Jim began. Yet the only publishers PW mentions in the article are those who once had DRM and dropped it, not those — like Baen — that recognized from the outset what a bad idea DRM happens to be.

One more point about all this: don’t get too excited about the announcement. Macmillan has not yet expanded the announcement to other imprints/houses under its umbrella. In other words, St. Martins and Henry Holt, among others, will continue to add DRM to their titles. In other words, this is an experiment. Macmillan is trying to see how much of an impact removing DRM will have on its sales. My fear is that the experiment is already set up to fail. If TOR doesn’t lower its prices, there will be no dramatic increase in sales. If there is no dramatic increase in sales, I doubt (and that’s putting it mildly) Macmillan will decide to remove DRM from its other titles.

Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic. What do you think?

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Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because RES rightfully chastised me for not making it clear in yesterday’s promotional post, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.

Interesting times

I didn’t ask to live in interesting times. All I wanted was to be a published author making lots and lots of sales (and money, of course). How naive was that?

Anyway, interesting is certainly happening. It seems like every time you turn around someone else representing the big 6 or mainstream publishing or something like that is proclaiming doom and the evils of the new age… And then quietly paying someone with actual, you know, power-type stuff to do something to make it all go away.

The latest “make it all go away” is otherwise known as CISPA , a proposed bill being voted on this week. This delightful piece of dreck proclaims itself to be about cyber-security, but contains all sorts of other nasties that would allow almost anything to be considered “dangerous” and censored. The usual suspects are up to their necks in it, but because it’s wrapped in jargon about national security the idiots at the top seem to think it’s fine.

Yet again, we’re seeing people willing to throw everything down the toilet in order to protect themselves from a threat that’s more of a bogeyman than an actual threat. Let’s see… pass legislation that protects people from internet threats by effectively destroying the internet… Baby, meet bathwater. Have a good trip.

What does that have to do with us authors? Gee… Maybe I don’t want to be forced back to the plantation of politically correct pap that a tiny unrepresentative group of wannabe-cool-kid New York City editors want to feed me? Maybe I think that people should be able to read what they want, even if I personally detest it? Maybe I think that since we deal in ideas we’re the ones who need to be most vigilant about political time-servers trying to block ideas in the name of… well, today it’s cyber-security. Tomorrow who knows what they’ll call it.

On the plus side, Tor has announced they’re going DRM-free. Congratulations, folks, you’ve seen the light. Now, how about trying not to smash it by squashing the net and indie publishing.

Cynical? Bitter? Not me.