Trad Pub Is Dead

AAA video game designer Mark Kern recently took to Twitter seeking publishing advice, and luckily for him Galaxy’s Edge co-author Nick Cole answered.

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That was quite an enlightening barrage of truth bombs Nick dropped there. I’m also sure he’s earned another satisfied customer.

Sadly, a nasty case of tradpub Stockholm syndrome with an analog mindset chaser reared its ugly head.

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Nick answers thusly:

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And friend of the blog Jeff Duntemann backs Nick up.
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My comment:

Publishers are predatory dinosaurs. Which sounds cool until you realize the asteroid’s coming.

Nick’s got nothing to prove to anybody. He and Jason Anspach have mastered this era of publishing, and they’ve got the sales to show for it.

If I may be so bold, however, there is one area where I differ ever so slightly with Don Niccolo.

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In the context of perusing books’ acknowledgements to deduce who an author’s agent is, Nick and I are in total agreement. If you’re looking to sell lots of books, seek advice from best sellers; not R list award winners.

That said, I think Nick’s view of awards’ value may be obstructed by a blind spot that’s common to conservatives. It’s the pernicious tendency to value the practical to the exclusion of all else.

As Bernstein said in Citizen Kane, “It’s no trick to make a lot of money…if what you want to do is make a lot of money.” If commercial success is an author’s only goal–and a laudable goal it is–then he can and should measure his success by sales alone.

Still, I’m afraid I must contradict Nick’s assertion that awards are meaningless. Their significance may not be statistically provable, but it is readily observable. Look at how hard the SF SJWs fight tooth and nail to guard their little Hugo fiefdom.

You can laugh and point to their sales figures and Dragon Con’s attendance numbers, but keep in mind that these people are socially adapted to infiltrate and converge cultural institutions. They are exceptionally good at identifying which targets to hit and taking those targets down. The clown world in which we now live is a grim testament to the SJWs’ effectiveness and the free market’s ineffectiveness at stopping them.

The market is not going to correct his problem. If it could, it would have by now. The Hugos and the Nebulas are jokes now, but they weren’t always. Perhaps the big literary awards never boosted authors’ earnings, but they did carry considerable cultural weight.

Nick is absolutely right that trad pub is dead. New pub is ascendant, but its biggest problem remains that, while there are dozens of indie authors quietly making six figures or more, they’re doing so quietly.

The other side has Stephen King. And George R. R. Martin. And Patrick Rothfuss. And John Grisham. And almost every name author. If we’re going to make an impact on the culture, we need at least one author whose name is a household word.

Aspiring authors need something to aspire to, and most authors aren’t motivated solely by money. Rightly or wrongly, social validation is a major part of this profession’s appeal. The other guys also have a close-knit professional network that can hand out golden tickets and golden parachutes–at least for now. We desperately need to build our own mutual support structures to help newbies get off the sidelines and on the field.

That’s why the Dragon Awards are immeasurably important for reclaiming science fiction from the CHORFs–and I don’t say that because I won one. The Dragons are a sizable corner of SF fandom that’s been taken back from the enemy. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

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