A Sales Shot…selling ebooks today

Jonathan Moeller, Pulp Writer

The intrepid Jonathan Moeller, who has had bestselling books on more than one platform, talks about the numbers on his blog.

He says:

Some writers hate, hate, hate the business side of self-publishing. I don’t! Because if you understand the business side, it can give you the freedom and control to write what you like, which is why I’m finishing up the nineteenth Caina book for release next month.

Nineteen! How many other book series go that long? Some do, but not that many.

Anyway, I write and publish a lot, but in April 2017 I didn’t publish anything because I spent the entirety of my writing time for the month finishing up FROSTBORN: THE SHADOW PRISON. So I was really curious to see how the ebook sales would break down without anything new in the mix, because (usually) a new book sells better than anything else.

So, here is how my ebook sales broke down by platform in April 2017:

Amazon US: 39.3%
Amazon UK: 29.8%
Google Play: 17.7%
Kobo: 8%
Amazon AU: 4%
Barnes & Noble: 3%
iTunes: 2.4%
Amazon All Other Countries: 1.7%

Read the rest…

MILO Witch Hunt Unmasks Legacy Publishers, Media

MILO

 

Media witch hunt

The recent witch hunt against Milo Yiannopoulos offered a valuable insight into how the legacy media, the political establishment, and New York publishers operate and what their real motives are.

The elites who run our government, press, and entertainment industries see themselves as better educated, better morally, and simply better than the people they seek to control.That’s why they’re unpersoning a gay Catholic of Jewish ancestry–because he poses a threat to their cultural dominance.

Look at the timing of their attacks. Three weeks ago, Leftist terrorists started riots over Milo’s planned speech at UC Berkeley. As a result, his upcoming book Dangerous climbed to the top of Amazon (which I can personally attest to, since a book on which Milo and I are credited as co-authors received a similar bump). Last week, he appeared with Bill Maher on HBO. Then came his (now cancelled) CPAC keynote speech announcement.

As independent author and journalist Mike Cernovich notes, Milo’s meteoric rise was on course to land him his own show on Fox News. The media and political elite that Milo has made a career of lambasting couldn’t allow that. In their panic to keep Milo from going mainstream, they got desperate.

Concern trolls are playing into the enemy’s hands.

Before we talk about what the media establishment’s dog-piling on Milo means for free expression, particularly on the part of non-Leftists who want to remain employed and enfranchised, let’s dispense with the blatantly ridiculous narrative that’s been deployed against him.

Here’s the video that was cherry-picked to falsely portray Milo as a pedophilia apologist. The conversation that the press mined for quotes occurs from 1:01:38 to 1:06:07 [Warning: NSFW language].

Law professor Glenn Reynolds examines a transcript of the video and delivers his informed opinion exonerating Milo (emphasis mine):

“It’s complicated” is usually the correct answer about questions concerning sex. But Milo’s actual position on pedophilia — he’s outed three pederasts in his reporting — doesn’t seem complicated at all.

Here is Milo’s own statement on the matter. The definitive quote:

I do not advocate for illegal behavior. I explicitly say on the tapes, in a section that was cut from the footage you have seen, that I think the current age of consent is “about right.” I do not believe any change in the the legal age of consent is justifiable or desirable.

Read the rest for some indispensable and devastating context. The short version: Milo himself was abused as a minor–in some instances by a priest. He continues to work through his childhood trauma using humor. His comments in the video weren’t intended to advocate for pedophilia–which he specifically denounced–or to belittle other victims.

Milo reiterates and expands on these points in his press conference from earlier this afternoon.

By spinning a pedophilia advocacy narrative against a victim of child sex abuse, the media establishment showed just how frightened they are.

The footage they’re using to crucify Milo has been publicly available for over a year. This isn’t a case of skeletons hidden in someone’s closet suddenly coming to light. It’s a brazen, coordinated attempt to de-platform a rival who’s proved spectacularly effective at competing for the public’s attention–specifically the vital college-age demographic.

In their attempt to destroy Milo, the legacy media resorted to pure Alinsky tactics. They targeted Milo personally and tried to polarize the Right into pro and anti-Milo camps by playing Conservatives’ own principles against them. Though support for Milo remains strong, more than a few people who are otherwise opposed to the social, political, and spiritual destruction wreaked by the mainstream media have been duped into helping them by letting themselves be led into the weeds of pointless semantic arguments and Pharisaism.

And if you think they won’t do it to you, it just means you’re not big enough yet.

The best argument for indie

Descending into the journalistic gutter to pull down Milo tipped the establishment’s hand. When they claim to champion the rights of gays, minorities, and immigrants; yet converge to destroy a homosexual Jew visiting the US from Europe, its obvious that all they care about is power.

They’re also projecting, as Milo’s former publisher Simon & Schuster demonstrate by continuing to publish admitted incestuous pedophile Lena Dunham. Aware of the glaring double standard, Salon tried to scrub all of the pro-pedophilia articles from their site. Unfortunately for them, the internet is forever.

What does all of this mean for non-Left wing writers, journalists, and public figures?

  1. Most of the government, media, and entertainment industry is corrupt. The elites who run the bureaucracies in Washington, Hollywood, and New York care only about maintaining their monopolies on power.
  2. Since their primary concern is maintaining their narrative, and because that narrative contradicts reality, the mainstream press cannot be trusted.
  3. Given that the legacy media is wholly invested in keeping its monopoly and will shamelessly lie to protect said monopoly, they will not think twice about turning their heavy artillery against anyone who dissents. This means YOU.
  4. Before indulging the urge to join the latest MSM witch hunt under the aegis of “keeping your side honest”, remember that the other side are proven liars who will distort or fabricate facts as convenient to push their narrative. Divide and conquer is their strategy. Don’t be a useful idiot.
  5. Legacy publishers are no longer a viable option for authors who are anywhere to the right of Mao. That goes double for the Big Five New York publishers. This is a blessing in disguise, since indie is almost always a smarter alternative to trad book publishing, anyway. The only exceptions I know of are Castalia House–who will be publishing my next book–and Baen.
  6. It doesn’t matter how lucrative or high-profile your brand is. The corrupt entertainment industry will gladly sacrifice anyone who deviates from the approved narrative. S&S forfeited at least $80 thousand of Milo’s advance, many times that in pre-order refunds, guaranteed spots on every major bestseller list, and millions in future sales. They knew this and still cancelled his book deal because power is more important to them than money.
  7. We need to wake up and realize that the industries and institutions that used to serve us have become not merely self-serving, but actively hostile to most people. You can’t depend on them. Stop helping them. Don’t give them one red cent of your dwindling, hard-earned wages. If you’re an author, use nontraditional publishing channels. If you have the means, build alternative platforms free of the thought police.
I don’t expect people over a certain age to understand the gravity of the situation. But for anyone who’s watched childhood promises of prosperity, an even playing field where success depends on merit, or even basic survival evaporate, trust your eyes. We are at war because war is being made on us. No one’s shooting yet, but our liberties and livelihoods are under attack by history’s most powerful cabal of lawless tyrants.
Worst of all, our forebears let the establishment have this unprecedented power over us. Our parents, professors, pastors, and politicians gave up the Western culture that was our inheritance without a fight. Mostly because they didn’t want to look “hypocritical” or “intolerant”.
Dislike Milo if you want. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m not here to police anyone’s thoughts.
But if you act on misinformed opinions by joining the establishment’s witch hunt against Milo–or any other outspoken critic of the mainstream media’s campaign to quash everyone’s right to free thought–you make yourself a willing pawn of billion dollar corporations who want to see you enslaved or dead.
You say you’re protecting our side from hypocrisy and moral turpitude? I say you’re just virtue-signaling. It doesn’t make sense to fret about the sniper who might be hiding in the hills when you’re surrounded by conspirators who are currently stabbing you to death.

Let’s get our priorities straight.

@BrianNiemeier

Author Earnings: Amazon a Majority of the Print Market; Indie Publishing Vindicated

author earnings - Amazon eBooks

My stance on indie publishing has changed significantly in just a few short years (not coincidentally, over almost the same period covered by the graph above).

I’m one of those rare folks whose minds can be changed by data. When I first set out to become a professional writer, I did my homework. Reading books, blog posts, articles, and reports on the publishing industry led me to the following conclusions:

  1. The Aspiring Author Who Works Hard to Land an Agent and Finally a Book Deal that Makes Him an Overnight Superstar is a pure fairy tale. Movies and TV shows perpetuate this false view of reality because audiences like a good Cinderella story. Also, it boosts the screenwriters’ egos.
  2. Even if you’re among the 1 percent of aspiring authors who do land agents and book deals, chances are all you’ll get is a $3000 advance for giving up all rights to a book that will languish spine-out on Barnes & Noble’s shelves for a few weeks before getting pitched to make way for next month’s contestant. The circle of life goes on.
  3. Despite 1 & 2, traditional publishing is still the only viable game in town.
But I kept up on my research, and after a couple of years, my thinking shifted to the following position:
  • The publishing industry as a whole still sucks.
  • Amazon has now made indie publishing a viable option for certain people, e.g. traditionally published authors who’ve recovered the rights to their big midlist catalogs.
  • Either way, expecting to make money is the wrong reason to get into this business.
Rather recently, after reading all of Joe Konrath’s eye-opening Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, I further modified my opinion.
  • Traditional publishing is broken.
  • Some authors are actually starting to earn a living by self-publishing.
  • Indie publishing is the right choice for me, but that’s a call each author needs to make based on his own circumstances.
I’ve been self-publishing for a year now, and the amazing results have more than vindicated my decision.
Sales of my first two books placed me among the top half of Amazon writers, even before Larry Correia’s BOOK BOMB!
Enough people read and liked my writing to nominate me for science fiction’s most prestigious award for new authors.
As for what I might’ve given up by rejecting the tradpub route, I’ve already out-earned the standard advance for a first-time author. Except I don’t have to pay that money back before earning ongoing royalties.
Royalties which are 5.6 times higher than those earned by most traditionally published authors.
Yeah, going indie has worked out pretty well for me. But I still wasn’t ready to recommend indie publishing to everybody until I read the latest Author Earnings report.
The Definitive Study of Author Earnings
The May 2016 Author Earnings Report expanded its scope to include 82% of Amazon’s daily eBook sales. This study shed light on many dark corners of the market that had been hidden from the public–until now.
Here’s what AE found, specifically in regard to indie vs. tradpub earnings.
Author Earnings May 2016 midlist
This graph shows the number of authors in the midlist (here defined as making at least $25,000 a year), divided into four categories based on date of first publication.
Not only do indie midlisters dominate every category, they do so even when pitted against traditionally published authors who’ve been working for decades and have substantial catalogs under their belts. We’re talking everybody who’s debuted since 1916, including Hemingway, Tolkien, Heinlein, Card, King, Martin, Patterson, and Rowling.
Then figure in the fact that Amazon has only been around since 1994 and the Kindle has only existed since 2007.
Yet indie authors have remained on top of the midlist regardless of when they started out, while the number of tradpub authors lucky enough to make even 25 grand per year keeps getting cut in half.
But 25k is chump change, I can hear the tradpub diehards say. Surely, if you want to make it big, a big deal from a big publisher is the only way to go!
Author Earnings May 2016 7 figures
Not so much.
The power of big New York publishers to hand out golden tickets capable of turning struggling authors into millionaires is an artifact of the 20th century. Now? As Moe Greene would say, they don’t even have that kind of muscle anymore.
If you were an aspiring author trying to break in prior to the 1980s, New York publishers were your best shot at the big time. Since 2006, indie has stolen tradpub’s thunder to the extent that you’re now four times more likely to make seven figures by going indie than by signing with a traditional publisher.
The other side of the Coin: Dark Matter
Indie publishing might be going like gangbusters at the midlist and seven figure levels, but what about the low end? Are self-published authors also over represented in the shadow market of books that never make the category best seller lists?
In short, yes. But that’s not the whole story.
Author Earnings May 2016 Dark Matter authors
Only 14% of authors on Amazon have eBooks on category best seller lists.
Author Earnings 2016 Dark Matter earnings
But authors with eBooks on Amazon’s best seller lists earn 58%  of the Kindle pie.
Author Earnings May 2016 Dark Matter sales
And just as they account for a majority of best sellers, eBooks by indie authors make up 52% of Dark Matter sales.
It would appear at first glance that going indie gives authors a nearly equal likelihood of being totally invisible or becoming best sellers. But appearances can be deceiving. According to AE:

Once again, indies make up the bulk of these invisible sales and authors — an even higher proportion than in the other shades of Amazon sales matter. We even found a few dozen invisible authors here — mostly indies — who are earning six figures from titles that live entirely in this “pure” dark matter. But the majority of these 2,600,000 titles comes from the lowest-selling 750,000 authors on Amazon, and 900,000 of them belong to the lowest-selling 160,000 indies.

Even though a few indie authors are quietly making six figures in the Kindle Store’s black hole, 160,000 indies are among the 750,000 worst sellers on Amazon.
But as tragic as that sounds, tradpub authors have it even worse.

It might be discouraging to consider the 300,000 lowest-selling Big Five titles that we find here in the “pure dark matter”, belonging to 86,000 invisible Big Five authors…Each of these authors successfully fought their way through the traditional-publishing slush pile, and secured themselves an agent and a publishing deal — even a Big Five deal. Those achievements appear to have granted them little career advantage, in either sales or visibility. Today, these several hundred thousand traditionally published authors find themselves earning even less than the very lowest-selling indies are.

[Emphasis mine]

In the past, when traditional publishing was the only real choice authors had, their manuscripts would have instead languished in traditional publishing’s slush pile, unpublished and unread. Instead, they are now collectively selling 150,000 copies a day, earning each of their authors, on average, $250/year — or roughly $100/title. And getting read, too, if not yet by many, and hopefully finding a few fans along the way.

The takeaway: the Big Five have lost their power to make winners and losers. A traditional book deal doesn’t guarantee more sales or visibility than going indie. Even if your self-published book ends up among the lowest sellers on Amazon, you’ll still average $250 a year instead of zero.
Several factors the AE study didn’t take into account:
  • Of the highest/lowest earners, which authors commissioned effective covers?
  • Which of them had their books professionally edited?
  • How many made sure their books were formatted properly for Kindle?
  • Which authors published just one book, and how many have series?
  • How many authors treat publishing like a job?
  • Which of them do any marketing, e.g. blog regularly/release podcasts/engage fans on social media?
Publishing is still a gamble, but there are steps all authors can take to improve their chances. The AE report proves that self-publishing shifts the odds in your favor more than any other step.
Get off the manuscript submission carousel. Stop waiting for agents and editors to give you validation like a fat kid hoping to be picked for kickball. Seek validation from readers. Write good books, get professional editing, formatting, and covers. Then publish them yourself on Amazon.
And check out my category best selling books.
[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”center” asin=”B00ZBDOHKU” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”yes” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cMB5LRfiL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”superversivesf-20″ width=”105″]

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”center” asin=”B01BM1SX3Q” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”yes” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51PV0PSqgVL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”superversivesf-20″ width=”105″]

Sad Puppies: Lords Temporal and Spiritual

Last time, we talked about the drastic changes currently underway in sci-fi fandom, and the media that are driving those changes.

People with their fingers on the pulse of fandom have observed that SF is becoming more tribalistic. They’re right.

Due to the dominance of movies, TV shows, video games, and even eBooks, today’s geeks are having a much more homogeneous SF experience than fans did back when print was king.

As a result, sci-fi has swept the world in a bloodless revolution. Today fans can gather by the hundreds of thousands at mega-conventions like Gen Con, Dragon Con, and the San Diego Comic Con with not a scintilla of conflict. We are one friggin’ huge happy tribe.

If sci-fi has broken into the mainstream and allowed millions of nerds to party together in relative peace and harmony, then where’s the much-hyped friction coming from?
Enter the Inhibitors

Hugo-nominated author Mike Flynn has written about how people will fall into one of three broad categories when faced with change.

Resistance to Change

Innovators will champion a new idea just for the sake of novelty. They drive change, but their motives aren’t always selfless. They could be narcissists, or on the make for a fast buck.

Conservatives will consent to change, but not until they have reasonable proof of success. Some are true skeptics. Some are hardliners. Some just have cold feet.

Inhibitors will not agree to make changes under any circumstances. However convincing the innovators’ logic, and however sound the conservatives’ data, the inhibitor’s mantra is “No!”

It’s worth considering the three demographics that Flynn says make up the inhibitors’ ranks:

  • Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.
  • Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.
  • Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways.

 

Caveat: it’s vital to note the context of this post, which is technological advancements in entertainment media. It’s also worth pointing out that different people can be different types at varying times and in response to various kinds of change.
For example, when it comes to morality I’m definitely a traditionalist inhibitor. That’s because if history has proven anything, it’s that change has killed, and will kill, everyone.
Yet as our good friend Dr. McLuhan informs us, technology is morally neutral in and of itself. Applications of technology can be morally good or bad, but a light bulb has no content.
I took a conservative approach to eBook technology and self-publishing in general. I was traditionally published first and only went indie when hard evidence indicated that it was the smarter move.
Nonetheless, there are still those who are beholden to the big NYC publishers and their obsolete business model. Interestingly, these folks’ behavior perfectly fits the classic inhibitor profiles.
Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Monopolists who resent any challenge to their perceived rights and status.
John Scalzi
Die-hards who have said the opposite for so long that they can no longer back down without losing face.
David Gerrold
Traditionalists who like the old ways just because they are the old ways.

All of the controversy, tantrums, and libel over Sad Puppies can be chalked up to big fish in the shrinking legacy publishing pond who are standing athwart inevitable industry changes, desperately flailing their arms, and yelling “STOP!”
What can Puppies do against such reckless hate?

The lies told about the leaders and allies of Sad Puppies have been so numerous and so absurd that picking the most ridiculous lie in the bunch is like spotting the fattest maggot wriggling on a dead horse.

But a close second to Arthur Chu’s risible attempt to disqualify Brad Torgersen as a racist is the accusation, repeated in the mainstream media with Goebbels-like bombast and frequency, that SP’s goal was the politicization of the Hugo Awards.

As the story thus far shows, not only are claims of Puppies injecting politics into the awards the diametric opposite of the truth, politics is just a red herring in this whole controversy–a fig leaf used to conceal the CHORFs’ fear of change and to justify their attacks on the agents of change.

What must Sad Puppies do to overcome their unprincipled opposition and make fandom safe for what the CHORFs denounce as “Wrongfans” having “Wrongfun”?

The answer is: nothing.

Given that the CHORF phenomenon is an atavistic reaction to inevitable changes in fandom driven by inexorable advances in technology, we needn’t take any specific action to defeat them. Just as new theories ultimately triumph when the prior generation of scientists die off, SF will continue to thrive and grow long after the last CHORF’s demise.

There is, however, a far more pressing reason to keep engaging with the SF mainstream; to keep telling our stories.
SF authors work for the fans.

Tolkien rightly said that the only reason to tell a story is to tell a story, i.e. the purpose of storytelling is entertainment. This is the true credo of Sad Puppies.

Storytelling to make a political point to the detriment of fun is what the Puppies have always been steadfastly against. An author’s publisher is not his boss. His readers are.

Luckily, the growing sense of community spreading throughout fandom is bringing together a number of sub-tribes who are vocally dedicated to the principle of Fun First.

“Author” and “authority” come from the same Latin root for the admiration and obedience due to great personages by virtue of their mighty deeds. The European nobility descended from those who helped to hold society together in the chaos after Rome’s fall.

Prominent figures have arisen to lead their tribes through the upheavals currently transforming fandom. Some of them have been lauded with titles befitting their work on the fans’ behalf.
The Evil Legion of Evil

In sum, the three ideas of the so-called reactionary Evil League of Evil are that that Science Fiction stories should be workmanlike, honest, and fun. Stories should serve the reader rather than lecture, sucker-punch, subvert, or hector him. Stories should give the reader what he paid for.

–John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor of the Evil Legion of Evil

 

Supreme Dark Lord

Vox Day, Supreme Dark Lord

A modern-day Renaissance man as accomplished as he is controversial. Vox’s publications include works of science fiction and fantasy, as well as economics, political philosophy, Christian apologetics, and more. His incendiary online persona–purportedly adopted in response to unprovoked attacks by Tor SF Manager Patrick Nielsen Hayden–facilitates Vox’s preferred rhetorical style of “counter-punching”.

Vox has also edited numerous Hugo-nominated works and has been nominated for Hugo awards as both an author and an editor. The SDL has found success in several fields besides publishing, including the music and video game industries.



Though the title of Supreme Dark Lord was bestowed by John C. Wright as a rather playful gesture, the degree of loyalty that Vox inspires in his readers gives one pause to consider its implications. Hundreds of Vile Faceless Minions currently serve at his command. Their efforts proved effective enough to ensure an SP/RP sweep of last year’s Hugo nominations and secure a Best Novel win for The Three Body Problem. Much speculation surrounds what Vox will do next.

 

Larry Correia International Lord of Hate

Larry Correia, International Lord of Hate

Outstanding accomplishment in multiple fields seems to be a condition of ELoE membership.

Not only is Larry Correia a best selling author, Hugo nominee, and Audie Award winner, he has pursued successful careers in accounting and machine gun sales. In addition to the ELoE, he is also a member of G.I. Joe.

Larry started Sad Puppies to prove the bias exercised by an influential Hugo voting clique against out-group authors. He took up the mantle of the International Lord of Hate in mockery of detractors who hurled baseless accusations of bigotry against him.

Having been vindicated for three consecutive years, the ILoH has retired from Sad Puppies to focus on writing kick-ass urban and epic fantasy for Baen Books.

 

Sarah Hoyt

Sarah Hoyt, Beautiful but Evil Space Princess

The purpose of this is to create a new ‘idea’ in science fiction, a new way to look at the genre.  Properly observed (and I’ve observed it) I think the genre should be a way to play with possible futures, with possible outcomes, with possible ideas.  The wonder of science fiction lays in the open possibility.

–Sarah Hoyt

An American author originally from Portugal, Sarah Hoyt writes both traditionally and independently published science fiction. Among her many accomplishments, she is a card-carrying Mensa member and a Prometheus Award winner. She is a co-organizer of Sad Puppies 4.

Sarah has founded a literary movement known as Human Wave which aims to maximize authorial freedom and cultivate SF’s sense of wonder.

 

John C. Wright, Grand Inquisitor

By all accounts, one of the best living authors of science fiction. Mr. Wright was formerly published by Tor Books, but his works now appear, by his choice, predominantly through Castalia House. He is a Nebula Award nominee and has a record six Hugo nominations.

Like his fellow ELoE members, SF writing isn’t Mr. Wright’s first career. Unlike them, he failed at his first two careers. It’s chilling to imagine what the world would have lost had he succeeded.

A lifelong philosopher and relatively recent convert to Christianity, Mr. Wright’s thoughts on science fiction are too copious to list here, but his Hugo-nominated collection of essays is a good place to start.
The Superversive SF Movement

What, then, can we do, those of us who are not Progressives? We cannot fight subversion by its own methods; that only makes the hole deeper. But if subversion means ‘turning from below’, there can be such a thing as turning from above. We have nothing to gain by digging a bigger hole, but we can build right over it. It seems natural enough to me to invent a new word for this by changing part of the old one; so I call it superversion.

–Tom Simon

Tom Simon

Though the Evil Legion of Evil boasts one of the greatest working science fiction authors among its members, the Superversives have perhaps the greatest essayist currently writing in the English language: Tom Simon.

Mr. Simon, a Canadian independent author, coined the term “superversive” and defined it in a landmark essay. Superversive SF turns the tables on subversive celebrations of lies, evil, and ugliness by overturning it from above with truth, goodness, and beauty.

“…[C]ourage is the essential quality of a superversive story: not the dumb, dull fortitude that passively endures in the face of suffering, but the courage that allows the character to take action – to risk becoming a hero.”

Superversive science fiction has much in common with, and is a natural ally to, Human Wave SF.
Jason Rennie

A Hugo-nominated podcaster and the editor of Sci Phi Journal, Jason has risen to leadership in the Superversive movement. He carries out his editing duties and moderates the Superversive Livestreams from his home in Australia.

 

L. Jagi Lamplighter-Wright

A superb author of SFF short stories and novels (and the editor of my book), Jagi is a leading public voice and a tireless behind-the-scenes organizer of the Superversive SF movement.

In the venerable tradition of chivalric diplomacy, Mrs. Wright’s marriage to Mr. Wright cements the Superversive-ELoE alliance.
These are just a few of the authors who are working hard to ensure that SF remains open to truth, beauty, endless possibility, and most of all, fun.

The future of the fictional future is looking bright.

Fandom Is Dead. Long Live Fandom!

the medium is the message

If you change the medium, you change the message.

Philosopher of communication Marshall McLuhan argued persuasively that advances in media, regardless of content, can incite dramatic, culture-wide effects.

A best selling print book can reach millions of people, but turn that book into a hit movie, and you increase its sphere of influence by orders of magnitude. Consider The Wizard of Oz, The Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter.

Or, for a meta-example, In the Mouth of Madness.

Now throw in digital technologies–the power to instantly connect with anyone or everyone, everywhere. The effect is compounded exponentially.
A media paradigm shift is playing out in SF fandom.


Dragon Con

Getting back to McLuhan, saying that he was ahead of his time would be an understatement. In fact, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to call his work prophetic. Let’s put it this way: the dude predicted the internet in 1962.

McLuhan noted that print technology caused a massive societal shift away from the more tribal, logic-focused outlook of the Middle Ages to a more individualistic, rhetorical worldview. He expected the web to swing the pendulum back toward tribalism.

Let’s take a look at SF fandom through the lens of McLuhan’s “medium as message” theory.

In the early days, science fiction enthusiasts:

A. Got their fix almost exclusively through the printed word in the form of novels and short stories circulated in magazines.

B. Were a pretty nonconformist, iconoclastic bunch. As Andy Duncan recently said on the passing of the great David Hartwell:

Even in the mid-20th century, David continued, science fiction was a haven for gay and bi and trans people, for people in open marriages or triads or even more complex domestic scenarios, for people with physical and mental disabilities, for shameless exhibitionists and unapologetic recluses, for anarchists and socialists and Birchers and libertarians and Weathermen and CIA operatives, for cosplayers and gamers and creative anachronists and people who crafted wholly spurious biographies for themselves that were accepted and therefore became sort of true, for channelers and Scientologists and orthodox Jews and pre-Vatican II Catholics and Mormons and New Agers and heretics and atheists and freethinkers, for Ph.D.’s and autodidacts, for writers of COBOL and speakers of Esperanto, for Forteans and CSICOPs, for astronomers and astrologers, for psychics and physicists, for basically anyone who was smart and passionate and willing to pitch in somewhere— though talent certainly helped, and curiosity, and a zeal for argument, and a sense of humor.

C. Subsisted as a relatively small subculture within larger Western society.

It’s often been remarked how sci-fi fandom burst out of the basements, niche bookstores, and cramped con suites of its birth to win new legions of adherents with the 1977 release of Star Wars.

For some fans, the gaming world is where it’s at. They are gamers to the core, not precisely readers per se, nor perhaps even watchers of television and movies. But even among gamers, there are traditionalists (tabletop, pencil-and-paper players, writers, and developers) and there are video gamers. Their two circles can and often do overlap. But among younger players especially, the circle for video games is going to be very large, in comparison to the circle for tabletop.

–Brad R. Torgersen

Most commenters usually emphasize this event’s unprecedented effect on C, take A largely for granted, and so gloss over–or misattribute–the causal relationship between the change in the primary medium of SF consumption and B.

Brad is an outlier in his astute recognition that newer media (movies, TV, video games, etc.) contributed to the disruption of old fandom. But he focuses more on what kinds of SF contemporary fans prefer than how they prefer to experience it.

The point I want to make (with the diagram) is that, in 21st century fandom, there aren’t any touchstone movies, books, or other properties which every fan, writer, or editor can rely on being known to every other fan, writer, or editor. There is no longer a central nexus for fandom.

My explanation for the conflicts that have shaken fandom of late differs slightly from Brad’s. I agree that relative innovations like movies and TV, and recent developments like video games (which are all reasons why there is no universal canon of SF touchstones), lie at the root of the turmoil.

But I don’t think that fandom is tearing itself apart. Instead, what we’re seeing is various sub-tribes of SF fans vying against each other to establish the identity of an emerging, consolidated fandom.

Brad gives a good description of this phenomenon: “It’s at the super-cons that one can again get a vague sense of wholeness: all fans of all things merging together for a weekend of intersectionality across innumerable interests.”

That, my friends, is the shape of the future. But what will be the content of its character? What sort of men will these post-fans be? Or will the Amazon servers and mega-convention halls of tomorrow be populated entirely by omnisexual, non-binary otherkin?
Fandom will become more communal, but what sort of community will it be?

Star Trek: The Apple

Watching a movie requires less personal effort than reading print. Even eBooks engage readers’ senses and though processes differently than print books do.

Audiences watching the same movie share a much more uniform experience than readers of the same book. Everyone who’s seen Star Wars knows what Luke Skywalker looks like, but no two Neuromancer readers have exactly the same mental image of Case.

The film industry dwarfs print publishing. As more people come to SF through movies, their shared experience will restore fandom’s sense of community. What the values and customs of this community will be remains undetermined.

The outcome is being decided right now, by self-appointed makers and high priests of culture. If we would have a say in the destiny of fandom, we must wield the new technological tools at our disposal. And we must establish a presence in film.

Currently, I am at best a lowly squire in the battle royale for fandom’s soul. Who are the warring tribes, and who are the chieftains that champion their visions?

We’ll meet them next time.

[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”center” asin=”B00ZBDOHKU” cloaking=”default” height=”160″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wVdL25KDL._SL160_.jpg” tag=”superversivesf-20″ width=”116″]

Tor Books: The Wind Does Not Respect a Fool

Kahless
Kahless the Unforgettable will allow Tor’s obstinacy–and recount it as a warning to others,

It’s been six months since public slanders against Tor Books’ readers and authors by company employees Irene Gallo, Moshe Feder, and Patrick Nielsen Hayden incited a boycott against the publisher.

How is business at Tor these days?

Depends on your opinion of Tor–and legacy publishers in general. I’ll provide a few relevant data points.

Tor’s Lost Halo

Publishing tie-in novels to the immensely popular Halo series of video games has been one of Tor Books’ major revenue streams. At the time of this writing, Halo: The Fall of Reach stands among Tor’s top ten best sellers alongside books by Orson Scott Card and Robert Jordan.

But now, Tor can kiss all of the no doubt massive sales of future Halo books goodbye.

“On February 4, 2014, it was announced that 343 Industries had contracted Gallery Books as their new publishing partner, marking the end of the deal with Tor.”

 We’ve had the luxury of working with amazing novelists and publishing partners in the past – and we’re excited to continue that tradition and growth with the announcement of our new novel publishing partner, Gallery Books – and we can’t wait to share the worlds and wonders we’ll build together.

-Frank O’Connor, 343 Industries

I couldn’t dig up the specific reason why 343 chose not to renew their Halo contract with Tor. Blaming the boycott would be ridiculous, since the contract expired in 2014–a year before the Gallo affair even happened.

Still, Tor promotes itself as the world’s leading publisher of science fiction. If that’s true, it’s odd indeed that they’d lose the novel rights to the biggest SF franchise in gaming.

It’s worth noting that Gallery Books is an imprint of Simon and Schuster, who also publish Star Trek novels. I’ve heard anecdotal accounts that they do a good job of it, too–making them the only competent Star Trek license holders.

We are thrilled to be working with 343 Industries and Microsoft on these upcoming Halo books, it’s a phenomenal brand that continues to grow and we look forward to continuing the ascent with them.

-Louise Burke, President of Gallery Books

Yep, Halo is a growing brand, and other than the books they’ve already published, Tor won’t be seeing a dime of that growth.
Scaalziii!!!

scalzi
The Invisible Man likeness is apt, since Scalzi will be disappearing from Tor through 2016.

Earlier this year, SF author John Scalzi made waves in the trad publishing establishment when he announced the $3.4 million contract he’d signed with Tor. According to the deal, Tor will publish thirteen new Scalzi books over the next ten years.

Everything is coming up Milhouse for Tor’s newly minted superstar–with the notable exception of this Very Important News.

So, here’s the Very Important News about my 2016 novel release:

Currently, there isn’t one. Not a new one, anyway.

Which isn’t to say I’m not writing a novel in 2016. In fact, I’m writing two(!). Merely that Tor has decided to wait until 2017 to release the next new one.

Now, I’ve been studying the publishing business for several years (and recently got into it myself), but a publisher delaying the release of a book–and one by a major league author, no less–by a whole year contradicts every industry rule I’ve seen.

Almost every publisher expects their authors to publish a book per year. And honestly, I think that’s too slow. Regardless, there are many good reasons why releasing at least one book each year by a particular author is enshrined in the publishing status quo (and more is better).

  • A given piece of pop entertainment can only hold the public’s attention for about six months.
  • The highest earning authors actually publish 3-5 books per year.
  • Most trad-published authors must release more titles than indie authors to earn the same amount of money.
  • A publisher’s most valuable commodity isn’t an author’s books; it’s his brand. A brand that’s out of the public eye is a brand that’s not growing.

How to explain Tor putting Scalzi’s brand on hold? According to the author:

Why the wait? Among other things, because Tor just dropped a ton of money on me so we want to make sure we debut this next novel, the first in the new contract, just right. I’m on board with this plan — note the “we” in that last sentence — since (again, among other things) I actually want to try to earn out the silly large chunks of money Tor has dropped on me. I also don’t mind the extra time it gives me to write/tweak the novels I’m currently working on.

This explanation makes no sense. In particular, citing the need to earn out an advance is a total non-sequitur. A book advance is essentially a loan to be repaid with future royalties from that specific book. The only way to earn out the advance is to sell copies of the book; therefore the sooner you release a book, the sooner you start earning back the advance.
It’s been speculated that Tor has demanded major rewrites on the first manuscript that Scalzi has submitted under his new contract. I think that scenario unlikely considering the time frame involved. Authors are routinely ordered to make massive revisions in six to eight weeks. Had Tor delayed the release by as much as six months, the rewrite theory may have been plausible.
One way I can see a Big Five publisher pushing back one of its biggest author’s titles by a whole year is if they found the submitted work wholly unsatisfactory, requiring that an entirely new book be written.

This development could have something to do with the boycott. Scalzi was first signed, and later anointed Tor’s next big thing, by Patrick Nielsen Hayden. There’s not enough publicly available information to determine if the science fiction manager’s disgraceful behavior and the resulting customer backlash has imperiled his position in the company, but it’s certainly possible.

Of course, had an officer of a sane and customer-centered company behaved in a similar way, his position would be more than imperiled.
The flipping of the book industry script

According to Author Earnings, legacy publishing just had one of the worst eighteen month sales periods in recent history.

Between February, 2014 and September, 2015, the 1200 members of the AAP (including Tor) saw their share of the eBook market reduced:

  • from 45% of all Kindle books sold down to 32%
  • from 64% of Kindle publisher gross $ revenue down to 50%
  • from 48% of all Kindle author net $ earnings down to 32%

 

author earnings
In fact, the Amazon eBook market has turned upside down.

Today, traditionally-published authors are barely earning 40% of all Kindle ebook royalties paid, while self-published indie authors and those published by Amazon’s imprints are taking home almost 60%.

Meanwhile, reports that all eBook sales are in decline are, well…lies. Amazon themselves say that eBook sales are still growing.

That means readers are fleeing legacy publishers for indie authors and small publishers who give them the entertainment they want and don’t call their customers neo-Nazis.

Again, ascribing Tor’s plummeting eBook sales to the boycott would be presumptive. The proximate cause of trad publishers’ sagging sales is their recent increase in eBook prices following Hachette’s Pyrrhic victory over Amazon.

The Big Five sought to protect the paper book market they dominate by making eBooks unreasonably expensive. Once again mistaking their own declining eBook sales for a universal downturn, they’ve ceded dominance in the healthy Kindle market.

Though the Tor boycott didn’t cause trad publishing’s dismal state of affairs, it certainly hasn’t helped them. As I’ve said before, boycotts like this shouldn’t pursue the quixotic goal of running a billion dollar company out of business.

The point of boycotting Tor, as I see it, is twofold: first, to test the company’s responsiveness to its customers; and second, to disentangle oneself form cooperation with the offending company if it obstinately refuses to mend its evil ways.

Tor partisans have gleefully asserted that the boycott has been ineffective. On the contrary, it’s greasing the garbage chute that the former biggest sci-fi publisher in the world is already sliding down.

How to Know if You’re Ready to Self Publish

published books

Today, new technology has blessed authors with unprecedented advantages. But these blessings pose serious questions, and as always, wrong answers may invite curses.

Foremost among the career-defining questions that aspiring authors must answer is this: should you self-publish?

Industry professionals far wiser than I am have given sound reasons why, except for a small minority of authors, the future of publishing is indie.

I agree with their assessments. However, I’m going to add a caveat which I’m sure Joe and Jeff agree with, but which doesn’t seem to be emphasized enough these days.

Not everyone should self-publish.

The barriers to entry are gone. The wide gulf between “can” and “should” remains.

Dr. Ian Malcolm

The early gold rush when you could upload a raw MS Word doc to KDP and sell a thousand copies per month is over–if it ever happened. Besides unburdening themselves of that illusion, the main lesson that hopeful indie authors must learn is that being a self-published author means taking on all the responsibilities of both an artist and a publisher.



I don’t mean to scare anyone off. Indie publishing offers better working conditions and royalty splits than professional writers enjoyed at any other time in history. But I can tell you from hard-won experience that reports of the coveted Free Lunch are greatly exaggerated.

Answer these questions before you decide to self-publish.

Do you have formal business training? An MBA, an accounting degree, or even a couple of marketing courses will help you with pricing, organization, and promotion. Accountant turned self-publishing black swan turned Baen golden goose Larry Correia credits his business background with a large portion of his success.

While starting with business expertise will give an indie author a major head start, lacking it isn’t the kiss of death. My formal education didn’t provide me with much business knowledge. As a result, I’m taking extra time to learn as I go. Having an MFA doesn’t disqualify you from indie success, but as Michael Corleone told Gardner Shaw, take a few business administration courses just to be on the safe side!

Do you understand salesmanship, and if so do you have any qualms about using effective sales techniques?

Unlike business theory, which fascinates me even though I initially sucked at it, I hate sales despite having a natural aptitude for it. It’s probably because I have really high marketing resistance. I can spot most attempts to sell me something immediately, and I have a deep-seated aversion to using techniques designed to make people buy things they don’t really want. (NB: do not buy extended warranties from retailers. Avoid retailers’ gift/credit cards.)

On the other hand, I love sharing my interests with people. If I’m passionate about something, it’s easy for me to make my excitement contagious. When I held sales jobs, I used this self-knowledge to my advantage by recommending products that I genuinely liked. If you’re an author, it should be easy to harness your natural enthusiasm for your book. If not, there’s a problem. Why should I buy your book if even you don’t believe in it?

Luckily, hard sell “push marketing” doesn’t sell books. Earning the trust of communities where your core readership hangs out is the key. Speaking of which:

Do you like engaging with your audience?

Authors are justly notorious for being introverts. Know your social strengths and weaknesses, and capitalize on your strengths.

Does your razor wit electrify large audiences? See if you can get on some podcasts and convention panels. Does the chatter of crowds wrack your skull like a dentist’s drill? Then you’d probably do well to avoid signings.

Reader engagement is one area where technology has been a huge boon to authors. People in this business tend to focus on how the gates between authors and publication have been thrown down, but it’s just as revolutionary how the walls between authors and readers have fallen.

Last week I serialized a short story on this blog. My readers gave me instant feedback, some of which I used to issue a new edition of the story on the same day it was published. A process that once took a great deal of time and money can now be done basically for free in an afternoon.

The upshot is. even if you’re a sociopathic misanthrope, social media offers you a way to engage fans without all of that messy physical interaction.

Have you researched the pros and cons of traditional vs. indie publishing?

As I said before, indie is not a free lunch. Some authors may still be better served by trad publishing, especially those who have no business or sales acumen, hate social interaction of any kind, and belong to certain minority groups/ espouse particular political ideologies.

Before self-publishing, learn all you can about how both indie and traditional publishing work. Learn how trad publishers handle marketing, book design, royalties, and contracts. Learn about mailing lists, Amazon’s ranking system, and their various promotional tools. Find out what you can expect to earn via either route. Make sure your decision is as well informed as possible.

Those are a few useful questions to ask yourself before self-publishing. Next I’ll lay out some nonnegotiables for indie authors.