Throwing Down the Gauntlet

If you look in the comments to the post below, you’ll note that Maureen Ogle has commented.  Honestly, honestly guys – seriously – I don’t have it in for Ms. Ogle, even if her point of view is somewhat insular.

After what ALL OF US here and Mad Genius Club and at Passive Voice and at Kris Writes and at Dean Wesley Smith’s site have done for the last … three? years, she would like me to write something for the Atlantic, explaining what we do as fiction writers, and how new publishing affects us.

Yes, the suggestion annoyed me, MOSTLY because I have a congenital stiffness of the spine, and telling me that after ten years and twenty one novels (I admit to) I should go hat in hand and be a newby in another field JUST to please someone else gives me heartburn.  Particularly when I’ve explained ALL THAT’S RELEVANT in other venues.

However, let’s stipulate something: when I say that I WILL NOT spend my time trying to break into something with the Atlantic’s circulation, when I can, without effort, put blogs up at similar circulation, it’s not the money or the small readership I object to.  It’s the “breaking in” part.  When I do my blog tours, I do “no blog too small” meaning I blog for twenty people, some days.  BUT here’s the thing – the bloggers take what I give them, I don’t have to sign contracts.  I don’t have to bother with multiple rewrites.  It’s less time.  Besides… things on line have a way of propagating.

So, while I was taking a shower (we will not talk of the frosting incident.  No.  We WON’T.) I thought of a counter challenge.

Because I don’t have it in for Ms. Ogle, and because she probably represents my polar opposite in many ways, and because we can both use the publicity and things on line have a way of propagating…

I suggest we both sacrifice some time, for the chance of some publicity wider than we would otherwise get AND for the rather altruistic (eep) possibility of enlightening others.

I am throwing down the gauntlet for the Hoyt-Ogle dialogues.  (Or Ogle-Hoyt, though that seems like a weird command and I’m not even wearing lace stockings.)

Here are my proposed rules, though I’ll accept tweaking:

1- We start with our history in publishing – how we broke in, what contacts we had, how things went.  One post.

2 – We take questions from our respective, collective and individual readers about what we do, what it pays, and what we see happening around us in publishing AND how it affects us AND where it’s all going. (We will pick questions by the method of “if one of us wants to answer it, the other will.  We will take NO questions that insult one or both of us, of course.”

3- We will keep it civil and each one talk about what she sees and her experience, rather than engage in arguments (though “in my case” is allowed.)  And while I’m just a midlist writer, I shall bring in stunt brains by quoting for instance Kris Rusch and J.A. Konrath where applicable.        

4 – I can get it – probably – linked at very large sites, with a lot of readership (PJMedia Lifestyle comes to mind).  I’ll have to check, but I don’t see why not.  Some of them I have keys to.  You are free to do likewise.  I will however echo each of our “twin” posts in my blog, and you’re free to do so in yours.

If we do this right, we’ll both bring our worlds into collision and perhaps get some publicity.  More importantly, perhaps we’ll each understand each other’s point of view better.


I’ll leave the gauntlet lying there.  I shall go frost (ARGH) a cake.

66 responses to “Throwing Down the Gauntlet

  1. ppaulshoward

    Should be interesting.

  2. And if James May gets involved, the thread will be EPIC!!!

  3. Go for it. She probably will not, however, take part. She doesn’t want to work ‘without a net’ (she has to have somebody hold her hand, check her prose, help her polish — all of her writing is, to a certain extent, collaborative, IMHO); and she can’t write as fast, both because of her aforementioned net, and because she doesn’t seem to think in terms of “write it until it’s done” but, instead, in terms of word count, “Oh, gosh! five hundred words? No wonder I’m exhausted!”

    Yes, that was me being just a trifle sarcastic and caustic.

    Kitteh-Dragon polishes her claws.

  4. I was hoping for jello wrestling when I saw the title.

  5. Is this where the off-stage Wollowitz exclaims: “Girl-fight!”?

    Not really sure this is a good idea. Always endorse reasoned discussion, of course, but doing it in a partisan (hyper-partisan?) venue might undermine the reason. So long as you both present professionally and start from a position that each is a moderately successful, comparably intelligent professional worthy of respect even when their world makes no sense, it might work okay.

    I do suggest commenting be moderated (only posts which you mutually agree to) to reduce the disruptiveness of rooting partisans.

    • It occurs to me to acknowledge the likelihood I would be one of the more disruptive rooting partisans and would be unsurprised to have comments dis-allowed.

    • Oh. Yes, You have a point on the commenting, RES. We would appoint a moderator wit the ban stick. Or we could have THOSE posts closed to comment.

      Lifestyle is actually not particularly partisan. And in this case, tons of people are for OLD publishing. (Conservatives, I guess.)

  6. pohjalainen

    Frosting incident?

    Well, everything else is quite interesting, too. I hope somebody is keeping tabs here, and will write a book about these years some time in the future.

    • pohjalainen

      Er, I mean a book about the changes in publishing, and the rise of the indie, not this particular debate between you and Ms. Ogle.

      • Pohjalainen,
        We GOT that or at least I did. BUT for a confusing moment I thought it was a book on the frosting incident
        (The horror, the horror!)

      • pohjalainen

        And damn, I just forgot to uncheck that cursed prechecked ‘notify me of follow-ups…’ box in my previous comment.

        Hope this post doesn’t get quite as many comments as ‘Odds’ did.

  7. I would read it. 😉

  8. I think the whole article in the Atlantic is an honest and heartfelt sentiment to get your story out in a place Mrs. Ogle is familiar with and trusts. The problem being, we all know there’s a very good reason that this story has not broken in places like the Atlantic, and its not lack of awareness. This gets back into that unfortunate political bugaboo, but in MSM groups, there’s the stories they run but just as important there’s the stories and angles they refused to run or even acknowledge. You’ll never see an article about Human Wave or self publishing in these groups until it can no longer be swept under the rug and ignored. Asking this is a little like telling your new friend Charlie Brown about this wonderful girl called Lucy who you play football with in the park every morning nd wondering why he refuses to go with you to kick the ball.

  9. I’d read it. Though I welcome the new publishing paradigms, I recognize that people who thrived under the old ways have every reason to be terrified, and I’m not unsympathetic – yes, humanity benefited when factories started producing cloth, but a lot of weavers starved. Maybe this could help some of them find their way.

    And it might be something Ms. Ogle could turn into an article for the Atlantic herself. Sounds win-win to me.

    • Exactly. I am offering it without prejudice, and I meant what I said, when I said I didn’t want it to be a mud fight, just an earnest discussion.

      I realize she doesn’t write as fast as I do, but heck, we could do them at one a month…

    • It would be interesting to see Ms. Ogle try it out. She would almost certainly do a great job at the article, but I think it would lead to a Jon Lovitz moment as she tried to figure out why her friends at the Atlantic no longer talked to her.

  10. As delightful as this idea sounds, I need to express a concern. I’m currently sitting in a Lean Startup conference, where they’re talking about how Engineers like me ought not Push Our Solution, but should focus on Customer Development, reaching those who’ll buy our stuff.

    Right now you and Ms. Ogle have to surf a major wave of disruption. It’s not a conveyor belt going into a furnace, it’s a tidal wave. And you can try to build a dike to hold it back, or flee inland to safety, OR you can do what the dude in “Lucifer’s Hammer” did, catch the wave, then surf it. And hopefully catch the gap between the skyscapers and not go splat.

    Thus, I think a focus on READERS will benefit your surfing. Not only the Reader’s Manifesto, but what we want to read as readers, how we read content, what we buy to read. We see this in Sarah’s Human Wave essay. I think my biggest failing as a writer is not clearly identifying my readers, satisficing their desires, and making them aware of my prose.

    • Yes, but a lot of people are also writers/readers and would be interested in how it works.

    • One of the more peculiar ideas I have observed is that, somehow, the arts is and should be separate from commercial concerns.

      There is a lovely scene in Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town which illustrates this. Longfellow Deeds has inherited a great deal of money from an uncle. The folks at the opera fully expect him to continue to underwrite them as his uncle had done. Mr. Deeds wants to know why the opera cannot manage on its own, and assumes that he will pick up the bill no questions asked. He suggested that they might try a different way to reach more people, such as choosing some materials which would attract them and making tickets more affordable, thereby expanding their market. The people from the opera were appalled, they express the view that opera, as a high art, was therefore inaccessible to the masses. Their conclusion: Mr. Deeds is a rube who does not know his place.

      Herein lies a problem. When a part of the arts deliberately chooses to separate itself from the world does it have a right to demand that the world support it? Once upon a time the symphony, the opera and the ballet were very popular arts, attracting more than the elite and the educated. Now they seem to attract two categories of people. There are those who really do love and appreciate it. Then there are those who go to be seen going, who may or may not even like it, but go they do, because they feel it grants them special status. My Momma would point out the people who paid exhortation prices to sit in the first eleven rows at the ballet, and observe, ‘they came to be seen, from there they are too close to see.’

      Consider the prior discussions. We have looked at the efforts that people and industries put in to be seen as cool and the entrenchment of TradPub in the face of the change which has resulted in them focusing more on their product numbers and loosing sight of their market. These trends are intersecting. The cool need someone to be un-cool, to create a contrast, or they loose their status as leaders becoming just become another clique.

      TradPub is choosing to cut off its nose to spite its face. It insists that the indie kids aren’t cool. The impression they convey is that indie is producing nothing but the new penny dreadfuls. They say there is nothing to learn from the indies. They claim to have a corner on what should be read. They show great disdain for the reading public, blaming them for not wanting what is being offered. And then they wonder why the writers and readers they have mishandled and insulted are turning their backs on them.

      Sorry, looking at how TradPub deals with this is particularly funny, in a sad way. Shouldn’t SF/F embrace new technology? We have seen possibilities and we will pursue them. Maybe we’re crazy, maybe we’re stupid. We have decided that making a living, being able to pay ones bills and a bit more, is a very good thing, particularly when it involves producing stories you enjoy. We have concluded that there is a different and better way to reach more readers. That providing entertainment the readers seek is not something of which to be ashamed. Where TradPub sees the end of the world, we see new horizons. This is why Human Wave.

  11. I think having the two of you write articles would be an educational comparison, and I agree that having a strict moderation policy, or closed comments on those articles, would be necessary.

    The reader view is not a bad idea, because I suspect it would reveal some of the assumptions pro-agency authors have about what exactly readers are and how we fit into the model. If we do at all.

    • Kate Paulk

      I’m sure it would be extremely illuminating. I’m also pretty certain it’s not going to happen. See, Ms Ogle is an Establishment Daaaahling. Not her fault, but accepting the view from over here opens up the horrifying possibility that she’s not as wonderful as her agent and editor have told her.

      Also, being a Daaaahling, she has zero idea how impossible it is for we lesser mortals to be heard anywhere mainstream. She can get op-eds in the Washington Post. We can’t. (Not that I’d want to. Aside from anything else, I’d make a total ass of myself).

      • I’m a trained and qualified media professional … (yeah… giggle. Military public affairs, and did a turn in the barrel as the media rep for a fairly large metropolitan Tea Party organizatiion in 2009-2010)
        There’s an art to handling the media; for those you like, turn on the charm, be sparkling, have a quantity of lines that you know will bring a laugh (because you have used them before and they have worked). Make them laugh – once you can do that, they are yours.
        For the hostile ones – smother them with facts, figures, lengthly explainations – the more tedius, the better. Talk to them so long, and with so many facts-n-figures that eventually they will be tired of having even having raised the question at all. That is actually rather fun to do; the auto-de-fa of public affairs. If properly done, they are even sorry for having asked the question in the first place.

      • And what you’d have to spend in sheep dip afterwards…

  12. adventuresfantastic

    Since Ms. Ogle tends to write on food topics, perhaps she could contribute something on frosting. 🙂

  13. Oddly, this makes me think of Auto Racing fandoms — namely, the split between the “wine and cheese” crowd (Formula One; IndyCar; American Le Mans Series — all the high-tech, and high-dollar series) and the “beer and brat” crowd (NASCAR; ARCA — all the lower-tech, and lower-cost series). The W&C bunch look down on the B&B as “ignorant hillbillies”; the B&B look down on the W&C as “stuck-up raised-pinkie sissies”. Wandering into a motorsports forum and expressing a liking for the “wrong” series has a similar effect to wearing the wrong color in an urban neighborhood.

    And the way the argument works, it is fundamentally impossible to reconcile the two sides; it makes the Middle East Peace Process look like a walk in the park.

    Which is why Discussion is pointless — one side or the other must be destroyed, utterly.

  14. Sometimes the world provides good examples. Jonah Goldberg has his latest book reviewed (tendentiously) in the NY Times (Hey, it is progress that they don’t just ignore it, eh?) by Joe Klein (okay, “reviewed” may be a less accurate term than “rebutted”), a review to which Golberg responds at his NRO provided book blog with (among many other things) this comment which aptly sums up recent dialogue here:

    The problem, of course, is that Mr. Klein comes not to praise me, but to bury me and such compliments are intended to generate an air of regret that I’ve squandered what little talent and insight I have on such bilge (He even ends the review with groan-worthy “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”). Indeed, the most grating thing about the review is Klein’s studied pose as my better, who’s been forced to render an opinion of my work at all. Most of us know the type. Someone who assumes that he knows more than you and then proceeds to demonstrate he doesn’t, but from a great height. To that end, the review is peppered with the sort of haughty concessions you might expect from a professor who really doesn’t think you’re worth his time.

    In short, I’m really not all that bothered by what I think are his unjustifiably low opinions of my work, but I really can’t abide his unjustifiably high opinion of himself.