Almost Famous

I never wanted to be famous. As far as I can tell, this is weird for people in my field who want fame and fortune.  I just wanted money to live. I’m not at all sure how I imagined this would work, honestly, but I envisioned myself as making a good living from writing, without anyone ever knowing me from Adam. It took me years into this business before I figured out that the two were inextricably linked. Probably.

Part of this – again – was because I had NO interest in the fame part of it. Ideally I would live in either the equivalent of my native village, where maybe not a single soul read the stuff I wrote, or in a large enough city that I could smile and say “it’s the other Sarah Hoyt.” And they won’t know any better.

I could still get lucky and make a living with no fame attached. I mean, Indie allows a lot more scope for making money without becoming “a name.” Hugh Howie went to a local con, and no one had an idea who he was, which indicates that there is less than a perfect overlap between con goers and buyers of sf/f. In fact, to a great extent, they might be completely different audiences. But it also indicates it’s possible, outside our incestuous little circles, to be a total unknown, while being a millionaire.

Or it might be too late. You see, I find myself in the curious position of being “almost famous” and like MacBeth think it would take more effort to go back (and it might cost me my career) rather than forward.

Look, I’ll be honest – I still cringe about going into bookstores and seeing my books on the shelves. I mean, I’m glad they’re there; given current stocking practices, I have to be selling at least a book a week, and that’s good. OTOH it’s me, there on the shelves.

It’s probably easier to understand – maybe – if you know that after sixteen years of trying to publish, my first nationally distributed short story came out (Absolute Magnitude, I THINK 97?) and my friend Charles called me from the magazine stand downtown to say “It’s on the shelves.” And my stomach dropped, and I said, “buy them all. Some stranger might read them!”

The reaction surprised even me. Since then I’ve become more accustomed to the idea that a lot of people read the contents of my daydreams. I’ve become more accustomed to the idea that some people at least will like it. Since then I’ve had at least three stalkers, two potentially dangerous. (At least? Well, I’ve learned to turn it off earlier.)

I’ve learned to walk the fine line between being open to beginners and those needing my help and putting down a pretty stern boot on pretensions, when needed. It’s not that I think I’m high and mighty, it’s that at least twice my not turning things off early enough might have endangered my family.

I don’t view what I do as anything special. I probably would do better at promoting if I could.

It’s a craft, and I’ve worked at it long enough I HOPE I have some competence. But I’m not G-d’s gift to writing, nor do I expect everyone to swoon at my words.

Look, guys, not everyone is going to love a book. Heck, my husband and I are not only close in the husband-wife sense, but we’ve been best friends for thirty years.

But some of the books he raves about I can’t get past page three. And some of the ones I love get me the raised eyebrows look, in puzzlement, when I tell him about them. When you hear of something that’s universally loved (any of the mega bestsellers) chances are they were so “pushed” that people are afraid to say they don’t like it. Most of them don’t even read the books or finish them, they just buy them because “everyone is….”

Alma Alexander, with whom I have severe philosophical and political disagreements, but who is in many ways a very astute person, once told me (well, technically told someone else, but I was sitting right next to her. And yeah, she’s one of the people “on the other side” I talk to, at least for some things. BUT in this case I just happened to be a bystander) that every book you write is going to be someone’s favorite and someone’s most hated book. She was right. I’m lucky that I’m usually surprised at how well people like SOMETHING rather than by how much they hate it. Take Plain Jane, for instance, written under the house name Laurien Gardner. I have no idea why but people rave about it. (I wrote it shortly after getting concussion, so I’m not even sure what’s in it.)

I haven’t had the misfortune of throwing a beloved book out there and getting it pummeled. Now that doesn’t mean my books are universally loved. I wish! Mostly though, they are liked, and then I have two or three reviews that would sting like h*ll if I read them. (I’m not that stupid. I have someone else filter them.)

Anyway – I suspect if I could get out of the door tomorrow and find multitudes bowing to me and comparing me to Shakespeare, other than assuming older son had slipped something funny onto my morning coffee, I’d be well and truly horrified. Because it would take some serious slippage to the fabric of the world to have me be that popular.

In my dream world, 100k people read my books, on average. To put this in perspective, those are dream-numbers, but it doesn’t make you rock-star famous. More than once, while out with Kevin J. Anderson, I’ve been amazed at the fact that normal people – you know, outside sf/f – have no clue who he is. For a while my husband was sure they were joking and tried to get them to come off it. Those numbers are not high enough for readership-wide penetration.  Just for “SF/F wide” penetration.

But see, I want those numbers for the money, for the ability to have a cleaner and a secretary, so I have time to write and time to take a day or so off every couple of weeks. Probably won’t ever happen, but with indie, it might.  The fame I could do without.

Unfortunately, reality right now is a bit more… confusing. I’m not famous, precisely. And my numbers from all I see are closer to a tenth of that wished for number. And SLOW (meaning my books don’t sell right off the door, they just don’t stop selling, so the trickle continues.) Part of the reason for this is that I write in so many genres. Yeah, okay, I have core fans who love Elise Hyatt and Sarah D’Almeida as much as Sarah Hoyt’s fantasy, as much as my SF. But usually my fans specialize. They’ll love the fantasy and the mysteries, and hate the SF for instance, or vice versa. Perhaps the sharpest divide is between the historical and non historical portions of my work. And then there is this blog and the posts on PJM which are very much their own fandom.

The problem is that between all these venues, I’ve achieved the opposite, just about, of what I want. I am “famous” (or at least almost famous) but not rich. I’ve achieved the sad state of having cashiers and neighbors go all weird when they ask if I wrote x and I say yes. And yet the bank account… well, it’s no longer panicking me, but I’m still trying to figure out how to get all the damage from the hail repaired so we can move and sell. (And it might take till next March, because the kids and I will have to do some of the work to keep it within budget. Dan will help too, but he works all day. At least the COSMETIC stuff, like painting.)

As for cleaners? Someday my ship will come. And as for assistant, right now I’ve enslaved the older son, even as he audibly rolls his eyes at my historical stuff.

I tell you, it’s enough to make me wish to write dinosaur porn under an uncrackable pen name. Except I’m busy enough with my writing I don’t have time.

So, what is this other than a long whine? Oh – the problem is this: where I’m stuck, nice people are afraid to talk to me or take up my time. Several of my fans who have approached me about a book but were interesting have become friends. I like that. However, this has become more difficult in the last three years, because people will treat me with “old woman on the mountain deference.” This – besides of course my not being that old – is plain weird. Just yesterday I was a rank newbie. I still feel like one inside.

On the other hand, the crazy people all feel they have a right to accost me and behave as though they owned me.

I have had people I don’t know order me to go to bed via private message. (!) I’ve also had OTHER WRITERS’ FANS approach me and tell me to “order” a mentee or protégée of mine to do something or other.

So, to level set. I am fifty one years old. Yes, I often need a minder, but I have one. He’s my husband.

I’m not going to say I don’t appreciate ya’ll worrying about me or praying for me, or even sending me suggestions on what might be hailing me. I do. Through the HORRIBLE year last year, at least knowing ya’ll were worried kept me trying to get better. (I was afraid you’d come over and shake me, if I didn’t.)

OTOH before you ping me, consider – is what you’re about to tell me something you’d tell a two year old? I probably don’t need that. I have been dressing myself and cleaning after myself for at least 48 years.

Or does what you’re going to tell me grossly exaggerate my influence over the universe? At least THIS TIME I wasn’t asked to rein in either one of my Baen colleagues or my publisher. One should be grateful for a show of SOME clue. (I once had a letter asking me to rein in Jim Baen. I wish I were joking.)

But for the record, see, part of that not wanting to be famous, just rich, is that I don’t particularly want to have power over other people. So I don’t. I mentor people at various levels, from acquaintances I just encourage, to people Dan has read and liked (Hi Mackey!) but who don’t need my MENTORSHIP as such, just some cover help, to people I try to read even if I’m half dead, and whose deficiencies in writing I try to point out and help with.

Most of the people on that higher level of involvement (Amanda, Kate, Cedar, our Dave, older son and half a dozen others who are going to be mortally offended I can’t remember them right now, because half dead) are also friends at varying levels of closeness.

What this means is that they’re independent their-own-people. Sometimes I don’t even agree with everything they say/do/write. They’re neither my servants, nor my children, nor do I enjoy psychic domain over them.

They have been known on occasion to slap me on the back of the head. Sometimes I even NEED it. I have to ask other minions to check their reviews of me. And some of my books don’t work for any given one of them. I like it that way – look, the individualist doesn’t want to own anyone, okay? – because it means I can teach them stuff, but we’re still FRIENDS. Friends is a relationship of equals. Those – mostly. Sometimes I have to beat them – and my other close friends know they should be able to ask me anything, at any time – but they often don’t.

Which brings me to the other half of the recommendations while I’m stuck in this half-famous status. Look, half the time your fawning email hits me between doing the litter boxes and folding a load of laundry.

I’m not living on Mount Olympus, or even Olympus seacity. If I sound distracted, it’s not that I’m upset at you. If I space sending you a story I promised, it’s just that I SPACED. I didn’t suddenly decide that I’m too good for your anthology. I don’t have an assistant right now, not even a voluntary one. Which means things slip. (Look, I bought my son a birthday gift a month ago, and if my husband hadn’t reminded me today, I’d never have remembered. Even though it was something special and one of those in-a-life-time finds.)

I’m a total dits not because I’m stupid, but because I’m living at least three lives. If I said I’d ship something/write something/read something, and I space, poke me in the midriff. (You’re more likely to get a result if you poke me on Friday, because that’s when I catch up with stuff.)

I’m a fairly direct person. If I don’t like you, I’ll tell you so. If I don’t have time to do something, I’ll tell you so (And it doesn’t mean I don’t like you!) If I haven’t told you either or have told you the contrary, assume things slipped. So – in summary – I’m not complaining about being almost famous. I’d rather have more money and less fame. But if I need fame to make a living, I’ll endure it.

One way or the other this in-between state will (probably) eventually end. I’ll either become more famous and richer or sink into obscurity and become very poor. I was about to say either is okay, but I’d rather have money to live – if that’s okay with everyone else, thank you. Still… there’s always other work. If I have to, I’ll even go into politics. (Winks. No, seriously. Think about it. Consider I hate fame.)

OTOH even supposing I get there, please remember that I’m neither an ogre nor a goddess. Don’t imagine I’m spending all my time either in Olympus or in my evil mountain lair plotting the take over of the world. My life is bounded by cleaning the kitchen while I cook breakfast, and writing this blog before going to bed.

In between, I write, drink way too much coffee, go for walks with my sons, and do the litter boxes. If I’m lucky, I get to see my husband in the evening, if he’s not too busy writing, and I haven’t collapsed yet. Sometimes if I have a day off, I refinish a piece of furniture or read a book.

The exciting stuff, for good and evil, happens in my fiction. As it should be.

361 thoughts on “Almost Famous

  1. You already smacked (metaphorically, at least I hope) Amanda and told her to finish her SF sequel; so I don’t currently have any orders for you. And I hear evil mountain lairs require way to much cleaning, so I recommend Olympus for your new residence, when you sell your current one.

    1. I’m also kicking Kate’s rear to finish the next con book, as I”m sick and TIRED of all of ya’ll’s kvetching. But that’s a mentor’s job, so…

      1. The problem, Sarah, is you keep kicking us and that makes it hard to sit down and type. So, any delay in finishing our work is your fault. (runs)

            1. I like standing desks. I think better at them.

              Or, at least, I get morethings done with fewer distractions. Maybe. But it’s a nice change when I can get it.

              1. just thinking of using a standing desk makes my legs hurt. to each their own, i guess…

                1. I’ve given up smoking weed. I’ve taken to smoking pork. The weed keeps getting dry and fibrous, instead of juicy and delicious.

                1. Nope. It’s a steampunk Kilted Dave. A buddy is a cartoonist, and at cons he does commissioned caricatures, and Mrs. Dave and I got free ones as advertising. Pretty much my favorite picture of me. Barring one.

                2. It’s actually pretty close to what I wear as my professional branding garb. If I’m at a steampunk con, I’ll wear an ascot or cravat with a stand collar and my bowler, if I’m at a less differentiated con, I’ll wear normal dress shirts with an untied bow tie (I can tie it, but most of my shirts are old and only fit one dimension, usually not my neck) and a fedora.

              1. Next time you’re in Texas, get Amanda to take you boot shopping. Look for the pointy ones. Don’t tell her why, she might balk.

                1. Now, see, that’s like saying the Soviets gave the Nazi targeting information by driving their T-34s toward them. Yeah, hit me on the thickest piece of armor I’ve got.

                  1. No, no. Not a target, targeting information. That info can be used to plot a different target.

                    Unless… Do you walk backwards?

        1. Note to Sarah: aim lower, with bad knees they won’t want to stand up, and since they are sitting down anyways…

    2. And I hear evil mountain lairs require way to much cleaning…

      Ah, but not if you have minions. This, not the Stargate program, is the real reason the Air Force “mothballed” Cheyenne Mountain – Sarah needed to expand her mountain redoubt, and she had more cleaning minions than the Air Force. This also explains why they can’t help with her house – they are all busy cleaning the inside of a mountain.

      See? Simple.

  2. Money without fame would be nice, but sometimes fame comes without it. And if you are clever it can be turned into money then. Okay, this a bit depressing example but all these sex tape cases and other famous because famous individuals – whatever else one thinks of them otherwise it has to be admitted that they have been pretty damn clever – or had clever help – when with no noticeable achievements of any kind, besides maybe looking good, they figured how to turn their fifteen minutes to longer lasting benefits anyway. So, yep, with a little bit of luck maybe you are on your way there since you do have lots of very readable books out already, and if enough people hear about you because of other reasons and then get curious enough to take a look, then it is that much more likely the required levels to start the snowball rolling will be reached.

    We are keeping our fingers crossed.

    And Olympus sounds pretty good. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the honest appraisal of life… It’s NOT always rose colored glasses and rose petals in the bath… As one just starting out, I truly appreciate the help/recommendations/comments I see here. Being grounded in reality beats the hell out of the alternative, but that doesn’t mean one can’t dream (and maybe one day achieve that dream).

    1. Mostly, I just want the sane people to realize that I’m not someone to be afraid of and the insane people to realize I DON’T have superpowers….

      1. But, but… Evil but Beautiful Space Princess! Of course you have superpowers. The cats agree with me, even. You make food appear, and litter boxes clean again.

        1. How many books do you have to sell for the clean litter box superpower? Talk about a writing incentive. ..

        2. But are the litter boxes cleaned with magic or by robots? I’m not sure which class of superhuman we’re dealing with here. And the food? She probably just likes to cook. Even Evil but Beautiful Space Princesses have hobbies.

              1. I was thinking about Clarkenian Magic. As in “a sufficiently advanced technology…”. [Smile]

            1. Damn. That throws the “gods of magicworld make, in effect, a gas giant colony ship (fusion candle/gas giant- steer *veeery* carefully) to flee their exploding sun god” story idea right out, doesn’t it? ;P

      2. But, but, you’ve got a blue cape and everything! Pictures don’t lie!

        1. Beautiful but Evil Space Princesses also get capes. Indeed, Beautiful and Innocent Space Princesses, and Spaces Princes and Knights, can have ’em too. Superpowers not required.

      3. You know that trying to tell insane people things, especially things involving their insanity/delusions is, well, crazy, right?

          1. I was wondering how practical capes were in zero G? I mean, it just seems like it’d wind up over your head. And since you take so many trips to and from your Martian Palace, I figured you’d probably know.

            1. Have you ever calculated the turnaround time on all those trips she takes? She HAS to be under boost the whole way, to make such time, so no zero G for Princess Sarah.

                1. Sarah’s flying inside a “warp bubble”. The warp bubble moves but inside the “warp bubble” it’s as if Sarah (and her cape) aren’t moving. [Wink]

      4. If they believe you have superpowers, they must be insane to bother you. [Very Big Evil Grin]

  4. Oh yea – I am almost famous in Vasculitis circles because I wrote a book about it and because I have survived eleven years. But, a minion who has Vasculitis really doesn’t have time to do anything between meds, doctor appointments, eating, and sleeping. As for becoming almost famous in storywriting– not yet. I did want to be famous when I was singing. It didn’t quite happen because the pesky needs of having a place to stay, eating, and clothing got in the way. It doesn’t help that I am mortally introverted when I meet new people. So famous is out. I just hope that I can make a living from my writings too. And the minions can fend for themselves.

  5. I don’t consider myself a “fan” (fanatic follower) of any author. I just know what authors I enjoy reading (and you’re one of them). [Smile]

    As for enjoying “every book” an author writes, I can say that I’ve read books by an author that I have enjoyed reading that I disliked. Which is not a slam at those authors because I don’t expect to like all of an author’s books. [Smile]

    Oh not mentioning names or books because there may be fans of those books here. [Grin]

    1. I once worked with a noted Jazz musician (James Snyder). One day he walked in and asked “Have you ever heard Shot Down In Ecuador Jr.?”(a local band in the New Orleans region at that time)
      I had heard of them, but hadn’t heard them play, another coworker, Brandon, was familiar with the name as well.
      Jim said “They are really good as a band” then Brandon asked “Oh, you like that kind of music?” Jim answered “No. They play really well, but the music sucks.”
      Brandon had trouble wrapping his head around the fact Jimbo could say anyone was good when he hated the music they played.

      I have read stories I loved, that were written horribly.
      There is also well written tripe out there.
      Then there are stories I just can’t get into no matter how much I like the author, or how well it was written. Dave Freer and I discussed this once, as it is one of his series (with Flint and Lackey) I have never gotten through for what ever reason. Well written stuff….just could not work through the books (even tried starting the rest to see if it would kick start me or something … hooray for Baen sample chapters).
      It was odd telling him that for me. He did get me to read Mankind Witch as I had skipped that book for that reason. But I did like Manfred and Erik in the first book, so he said try it as a stand alone, it would work fine.
      I did and it is now read 4 times and is one of those “reread” books I go back to from time to time. Still didn’t help me to finish the second book in the series. I gave up about the same place as the first time I read it iirc. and later attempts to go further just never worked for me.

      1. Now I liked that series all right, but I’ll agree that A Mankind Witch was by far the best of the series (and is pretty much a stand alone) and has been reread a couple of times, while the other books have not.

        1. On the other hand, though I like both Flint and Freer as a rule, Rats, Bats, and Vats hit the wall… hard.

          1. I’ve tried the RBV short stories. I don’t think I could read a novel-length work. I’m not sure if it was the language or quite what that threw me out of the story.

          2. Rats, Bats and Vats is awesome. It was Flint’s Strangler series that hit the wall.

            1. Yep, the Strangler series wasn’t for me either. Mind you, Eric has said that series “isn’t for everybody”. I believe he also said that he wrote that series for relaxation. [Smile]

              1. Strangler’s is supposed to be humorous but I never got it. I don’t particularly like assasins to start with. The Shakespearean slapstick (rats) and milsf gallows humor (vats) clicked.

                1. Somebody once said (about plays) “Tragedy is easy, Comedy is hard”. [Smile]

                  There’s plenty in that series that I don’t find “funny” and to be fair to Eric, I don’t think he expected *everybody* to find it funny.

  6. Oh, on the “The exciting stuff, for good and evil, happens in my fiction. As it should be.”, I heard that some readers of Tolkien were disappointed when meeting him. Apparently, they were surprised that Tolkien came across as just a college professor (which he was). [Smile]

    1. I wonder how many people think certain professors (and authors) are supposed to be Gilderoy Lockhart? (OK, aside from the ones like Cl-ve C-ssler who set the bar waaaaayyyy too high.)

      1. Asides:

        The casting of Kenneth Branagh as Gilderoy Lockhart for the movies was delightful. I have to guess Branagh has a sense of humor about himself.

        The Spouse says that if he ever wrote fan fic, he would consider writing a story where, while in Saint Mungo’s, Lockhart reads his books, and not being able to remember the truth behind them believes them. Then, as he ‘recovers’ he actually becomes the heroic self he wrote about.

  7. This was a very nice post to read. Interesting too, since my hubby and I were talking last night (while waiting for the darned bed to get warmer so we could be comfy and get to sleep brrrr it’s so cold lately)… and it was something along this vein.

    I told a friend once that I don’t aspire to be Homer, or any of the great classical writers. I want my stories to be the kind of book that people buy, enjoy, recommend as fun reads, then when they find it on the shelf again three years, five years, ten years later, or maybe even thirty years on, they can go “Oh hey, hello old friend… haven’t read you in a while!” and cozy up to a familiar, enjoyed story – enjoyed as much if not more the umpteenth read around. I don’t expect everyone to love them (I know some folk will utterly hate anything I put out anyway, because reasons) but that’s okay. If someone enjoys something I created, thinks that the money they spent on it was worth it, then I’ve succeeded in two things: telling an entertaining yarn, and brightening someone’s day, for a little while.

    A different friend pointed out that they didn’t think that Mark Twain, Poe, or Shakespeare aimed to be immortalized either, but they became so.

    *grins* I recall someone once mentioned that in Star Trek IV some popular authors of ‘the age’ were called by Spock (in a throwaway, possible dig at pop literary culture) as ‘the greats.’ (I dug out my copy of the novelization and snuggled down for a read of an old friend) and … well, who knows where we might end up? I don’t know if it’s remotely true, but someone once said that Shakespeare may have been the equivalent of the B-grade movie at the time, and Mozart had compositions ‘considered base and crass’ for the time.

    I don’t aspire to immortality; just for a little while as a pleasant memory in someone else’s mind… but if it happens, then I hope my little stories entertain through the ages. I certainly won’t be around to see it!

    1. I started to make a comment to the effect of, “But… It’s’ summer, how could it be cold?”, but I figured someone would not understand that I get that you’re in Australia, and that it was sarcasm, and give me crap about it. 🙂

        1. That’s like 65 F or thereabouts, isn’t it? Maybe a little warm for working weather, but not bad.

    2. Oh – here’s that Star Trek IV exchange you mentioned:

      Spock: Admiral, may I ask you a question?
      James T. Kirk: Spock, don’t call me Admiral. You used to call me Jim. Don’t you remember “Jim”? What’s your question?
      Spock: Your use of language has altered since our arrival. It is currently laced with, shall I say, more colorful metaphors– “Double dumb-ass on you” and so forth.
      Kirk: You mean the profanity?
      Spock: Yes.
      Kirk: That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.
      Spock: For example?
      Kirk: [thinks] Oh, the complete works of Jacqueline Susann, the novels of Harold Robbins….
      Spock: Ah… The giants.

      1. Yep, that one!

        I have to say, when I think of today’s entertaining writing being discussed in serious tones later on; I find myself wondering what the reactions of Twain and Shakespeare would have been, if someone got them and plunked them down here. Bafflement? Disappointment? Laughing themselves silly?

    3. “(while waiting for the darned bed to get warmer so we could be comfy and get to sleep brrrr it’s so cold lately)… ”

      Trade you, it hit a 100 here today.

            1. In the 80s, today, but I’m still going to be watering my plants to ensure they can take it — last night’s rainstorms not having done much here — and after I half closed the windows so it wouldn’t rain in and suffered through the house not cooling down well.

              1. Hrm. 97. Forecast for 98 today. Expected to hit 100 Sunday. And Monday. And Tuesday.

      1. 91.

        And HUMID.

        It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity — 70s and muggy is worse than 90s and dry — but 90s and muggy is the worst.

        1. When I lived in Louisiana I worked in a warehouse that got to 120, and being the N.O. metro (right next the N.O. International airport I later worked at) the humidity was often around 90%.

  8. Chalk me up as another one who would prefer fortune to fame, as in having a fair amount of the first to a small portion of the latter. Although – lately I have acquired sufficient fame by way of local fans … especially the ones who exclaim with a dawning look of interest on their faces, “Oh, I read your book (insert title here) and I loved it! And I’m going to but a copy and send to my MIL, SIL, Dad – they LOVE that kind of book.”
    So yes, a mild degree of fame is a nice ego boost, and I do hope that I never get so harried and hassled by mobs of fans. I know there are authors who have been, and are so inconvenienced by the experience that they take a hard line in public. No conversation, no questions, no autographs. (My daughter is there to ensure that I never get to that point, mostly by reminding me that I am only human, and what are we going to have for supper, and whose turn is it to buy milk and clean up cat vomit in the middle of the den floor…)
    Anyway, I had a brief experience with the wider fame … when I was still active duty; my AFSC was as a military broadcaster, and I frequently had a radio show. Which I was pretty level-headed about, since it was my job. But on a small base, or even across a country-wide network, an AFRTS DJ is a celebrity. People listen to your voice all the time, and pretty much equate you with the other DJs on the air. This can get to be heady stuff for the new broadcasters, let me tell you; you can have a million best friends … but also half a dozen poisonously sick enemies. And you have never met any of them face to face.
    The poisonously sick enemies aspect of that kind of fame scared the ever-loving cr*p out of me. I had enough brushes with sick, irrational enemies, and I had broadcaster friends who had really scary encounters. (One to the point where she was escorted by security between the station and the barracks where she lived, every time she went on and off duty.) Mental irrationality scares me, I do not want to deal with it at all. So, when I started blogging and writing, I already had experience of setting up means of keeping the “on-air” public persona me separate from the “real” and private-life me. I established very careful boundaries between the “real” me, and the “on-line” and “author” me. Most of it is mental, and a hold-over from broadcasting … but just in case the fame and fortune ever really takes off, I believe that this set of habits will keep me out of trouble. Or of ever being rude to fans.

    1. Oh yeah. I was flabbergasted to learn that Jodi Thomas, who writes sweet romances, western romances, and what I’d call “Aga sagas” (small-town cozy stories a bit like Jan Karon), has to have someone as a buffer and guard at signings. 😯 I could kinda see if you write steamy stuff and/or BDSM erotica, but . . . I mean, I’ve crossed paths with a few obsessive weirdos*, but nothing like that.

      * Which does not include any of the Huns or the folks who comment on my blog, thus far.

      1. The huns are too individualist for a cult of personality.
        Okay, OT I know that’s a flower in your icon, but can we have a plane or a kitteh or something? I keep thinking that’s an evil alien with many eyes.

        1. Sorry. The maroon bluebonnet is a Texas in-joke. (there’s no allele for orange in the flower, and Aggies have been known to plant the maroon ones in flowerbeds at UT-Austin.) I’ll see what else I can dig up.

            1. What about purple one-eyed aliens? You don’t want to be accused of cyclopsophobia.

                1. I dunno. There’s a distinct “You don’t want nunna me” look in those eyes. Might have to modify the ‘mostly’ or the ‘harmless.’

                1. I do wish icons worked for me here anymore. In fact, any wordpress site seems to have a hit or miss thing with icons. I’m sure it has something to do with my script blockers, but even when I turn them off, they don’t work – so maybe it’s just Firefox and one of my other plugins arguing.

                  1. At the school where I work, icons with a commercial image get blocked, mine sometimes gets blocked, but the WordPress critters show up. *shrug* Their blocking software really doesn’t like Wayne’s avatars for some reason.

                    1. Mine? Probably because I use my Facebook login. If I use the WordPress one, and try to comment here and at MGC in the same day, then something gets screwed up and the page won’t load until I delete all the WordPress cookies.

                      WordPress cookies – making browsers constipated for a long time. 🙂

                  2. What WordPress is doing is plugging the email address you give it into Gravatar and retrieving the image. I’d suggest logging in to and add all the email addresses you’re using.

                    If you’re logging in to ATH via Facebook, add your address, which is probably the one being reported.

          1. Interesting. You an Aggie? I knew a guy who was associated with A&M’s, I think botany or something.

            1. Nope. I actually did all my college out of state, in part because back in the day I wanted to get as far-the-heck-away from my high school cohort as physically possible within the Lower 48.

  9. “(I once had a letter asking me to rein in Jim Baen. I wish I were joking.)”

    Sarah A Hoyt, Necromancer!

      1. Ohhhh, a scene on the beach with Sarah A. Cnut!

        “Watch, oh fawning fanlings as I order the great Baen to silence! See the limits of my power!”

        1. First time a read that my eyes inverted the u and the n. I did a double take and had to reread.

          1. It is often spelled with a K for that reason.
            Orthography, as it were, to prevent metathesis.

      2. As well try to influence a bandersnatch, as C. S. Lewis once said when asked if he influenced Tolkien.

      3. I suspect Toni had her ways, but then again we are talking about two elemental forces there.

  10. I would live in either the equivalent of my native village, where maybe not a single soul read the stuff I wrote, or in a large enough city that I could smile and say “it’s the other Sarah Hoyt.” And they won’t know any better.

    An exchange from A Hard Day’s Night:

    Millie: Oh, wait a minute, don’t tell me who you are.
    John: No, I’m not.

    Millie: Oh, you are.

    John: I’m not.

    Millie: Oh, you are, I know you are.

    John: I’m not, no.

    Millie: You look just like him.

    John: Do I? You’re the first one that’s said that ever.

    Millie: [motions to the mirror] Yes, you do. Look.

    John: No, my eyes are lighter. The nose.

    Millie: Oh, your nose is very.

    John: Is it?

    Millie: I would have said so.

    John: Oh, you know him better, though.

    Millie: I do not! He’s only a casual acquaintance.

    John: That’s what you say.

    Millie: What have you heard?

    John: [leans in, lowers his voice] It’s all over the place.

    Millie: Is it? Is it really?

    John: Mmm, but I wouldn’t have it. I stuck up for you.

    Millie: I knew I could rely on you.

    John: Thanks.

    Millie: [puts on her glasses] You don’t look like him at all.

    [John walks away, pouting]

    John: [to himself] She looks more like him than I do.

  11. which indicates that there is less than a perfect overlap between con goers and buyers of sf/f. In fact, to a great extent, they might be completely different audiences.

    I’ve been to precisely two sci-fi cons and those 25 years ago. People at them did watch movies and do a bit of cosplay but mostly they had panels about books.

    When I moved to Atlanta in late 2010 I considered going to DragonCon. After all, I could walk to it from my apartment at the time. So when spring came and I could look at the schedule I did.

    There wasn’t a single track about writing or books. A few had a couple of book events but they were mostly about specific fandoms, and those all based on visual media (and TV/movies mostly at that…only one or two had origins in comics), or geeky activities that I didn’t really recognize from my youth such as cosplay or video gaming (there wasn’t even a tabletop gaming track).

    So, no, I think at this point fandom is specifically not about people whose primary connection to sci-fi and fantasy is the written word but like so much of our culture about those attached to the boob-tube. I think this is why cosplay and similar activities have gotten so big. Like TV they were much more about letting others imagine for you even if you are a bit more active than watching TV.

    Hell, I don’t even hear much about filking at DragonCon. They have big concerts instead.

    Now, excuse me while I chase some kids off my lawn.

  12. You need to understand that we do love our esteemed hostess and do want her to take care of herself. Yet, it is not entirely based on a benevolent concern for her well being (and that of Dan, the sons and the cats) that we remind her to do so. It is in no small part because we are selfish addicts who want more fixes of her particular kind of crazy dreams turned words. 😉

    Hip hip horay for Human Wave.

    I am USAian.

  13. So what you’re saying is you’re a human? 🙂

    This points out something I’ve never understood. I refer to it as “People who start believing their own press clippings.” There are people (usually musical groups) who become famous and start thinking “I’m really great! It say so RIGHT HERE! Now I can do ANYTHING!” and then they proceed to (IMAO) screw everything up. I don’t think U2 did anything good after Joshua Tree or REM after Document. Staying grounded must become more and more difficult as one gets more and more famous.

    On a different note, someone once asked me if I could have lunch with anyone, who would it be. I said “Bill Joy”. That caused a blank look.

    1. I don’t think U2 did anything good after Joshua Tree or REM after Document.

      Some would say that Joshua Tree wasn’t all that good, and Michael Stipe should have never spit the gum out and tried to sing.

    2. This is a good place for my Second favorite Con story.. I was at DuckCon one summer, and talked to a fan (from Alt. Fan. Dragons). He talked abiut wanting to meet Buck Coulson. (I’d known Buck and Jaunita for _years_.) So, I said., “Come with me.” We went over to Buck’s tables, where he was selling something or other. I started talking to Buck about something, and then said. “By The Way, This is Buck Coulson.” I don’t remember if I ever told the story to Buck, but he would have enjoyed it.
      If any of you see me at a Con, feel free to pull this on me.

      1. Nothing quite beats the experience of sitting casually at a con with some person one has just been introduced to (first name only!), raving about how much one has been enjoying the recent works of a given author, only to discover that the author in question is in fact the very dude you’re sitting next to. 🙂

        (Yes, this happened at Liberty this year. But it’s actually happened to me four times before, too.)

        I’m fortunate…of the people I’d most like to have lunch with (confining it to those whose lives overlapped mine at all…if we start listing folks like Jesus and Thomas More and James Madison, we’ll be here all day), I’ve actually _had_ lunch with a plurality of those who are still alive. (It does help, of course, that one of them happens to be my wife’s ex-boyfriend, and another is one of his oldest friends.)

  14. I may have told you to “go to bed” once or twice, but I’m pretty sure it was either here or in the Diner (so, publicly, for a certain definition of “public”), after you were on talking about being tired/sick. 😉

      1. Future note: If *I* ever do that, you can know ahead of time that it is either sarcasm, irony, or done with tongue firmly in cheek. Especially since I’m two (I think) time zones ahead of you.

        Now go to bed (runs).

  15. There seems to be a direct correlation between staying away from core SFF fandom and success. Look at Orson Scott Card: Reviled by the core community, but at his own publisher Tor, occupying almost half the top 20 spots. And he occupies many more spots before you get to the type of person who has actively worked to marginalize him – Mary Robinette Kowal at… 260! In effect Kowal has actively worked to marginalize her own career, since the straight white men she professionally reviles may be brutes but they can read just fine when she Tweets Yay no white men won a Nebula.

    It should also be noted that intersectionalists like her pretend Card Tweets Yay no gay people won an award… but he doesn’t. He doesn’t do things like that – the intersectionalists do.

    So, from that point of view, you’re well-positioned. The other reason you’re well-positioned is you have few people inside your head telling you your work is award-winning when it’s not even got to average. You only have to look at the years of Tiptree Award winners at WisCon to see quickly forgotten names. Editors and colleagues pushing Ann Leckie are doing that woman no favors by withholding tough love. They are allowing her to be confused between trend of the week and good story-telling. And would you like to write blog posts as completely moronic and racist as Fox Meadows and get nominated for a Hugo? Would you like to be that unaware.. like a monkey wondering what the lights are in the night sky? Would you like to be given an anti-racist medal for being a woman and correcthate?

    Bottom line is without that sense of entitlement you remain dedicated to improving yourself as a writer and also have the advantage of not hating at least half of your readership and letting them know it.

    That all means your next novel could be that gamechanger – the one where all the years come together and you redefine your own genre in a way folks won’t deny. There’s something to be said for working in the trenches and keeping a distance from the core group of writing fandom that hates themselves, you, their own genre, men, whites, heterosexuals and a zillion other things.

    Were I you I’d be pleased as punch you’re not dumb enough to be writing Yay no Jews won while thinking you’re an artist. Aside from race having nothing to do with SFF, if you were that dumb, you’d be finished – through – before you ever really got started.

    You have a great advantage in writing work that’s about the work and not junk that’s hopelessly politicized or with prose that’s a reflection of watching hours of stupid TV or movies. Lord save us all from “Payback’s a bitch… with a salad on the side… and, um, cold…. yeah, and….”

    And then someone’s blown back through a wall with a poisoned laser crossbow.

    George R.R. Martin stuck to his guns and it paid off by way of an eventually very canny writer showing people how it’s done.

      1. The ‘Squirrels of D-Day story’ was sent to your hotmail account, along with another little piece of fluff that I’ve finished polishing.

        Wait – can you really polish fluff? Hmmm….

        1. Have you ever thought of writing a story about all the animal life that gets blown up in artillery barrages from the point of view of the animals? I mean, they’re just hanging out and suddenly some section of forest has all the earthworms, squirrels, birds and ants blown to bits. Wouldn’t they all be goin’ WTF? and like, what’d we do?

          What if all animal life just suddenly attacked anyone in uniform, or even any human being? That’d be better than all that zombie shit. Christopher Rowley had this SF novel where giant peanut-headed monsters unzipped themselves from inside of trees and attacked Earth colonists clearing land. Very hard to kill.

          1. I think I’ll pass on that idea. I’m trying to avoid writing downers, and don’t see how I can twist that into anything pleasant…

            Besides, I’m bummed enough from trying to do a cover. Grrr….

              1. Something that looks like it could fit on a pulp SF mag of the ’50s. Maybe a F&SF cover.

                As a graphics designer, I’m a pretty decent computer tech and excellent dishwasher unloader.


                1. Give me a blurb for your book so I know what it’s about.

                  Then a title and author and your email. If I have time I might make a mock-up to show you how having few assets (money) can at least result in no harm, no foul. You can’t always get what you want, but…

                  If you don’t have Photoshop there are free versions on the web that do quite nicely. You can make a galaxy, a star field, spaceships, planets, etc. Human or other organic figures can also be had, but that requires at least the ability to draw (in pencil for example). You draw a human, scan it into your computer, and then color it in. You airbrush it to give it dimension.

                  Tell me what you’ll probably be forced to settle for (stock images, etc.?).

                  I’m sure everyone would like to have elegant typography and a cool spaceship approaching a hidden spaceport in an asteroid with a mysterious giant eyeball overlaying the star field, which is about as fun an SF cover as you find today. Might cost 3 grand total though.

                  1. Thank you for the offer! It’s greatly appreciated, and I may well take you up on it before I hit ‘wrist-slitting’ stage.

                    I’m currently wrestling with GIMP and Pixlr. I think I’ve finally gotten a good Idea on how I’m wanting it to look – three silhouetted guys looking out into the distance on a frozen planet – with what looks something like a Christmas tree in the distance.

                    Remarkable what you can do to shots of South Dakota badlands with the appropriate filters and color alterations!

                    1. You don’t want photographs for SF. It signals the wrong genre.
                      For backgrounds, go to renderosity, free stuff, 2-D Gene Fleeman is a good one to look at.

                  2. And as far as neat typography goes – I can do what I’m looking at in Word, kinda. (Neuropol font, italic, with effects.)

                    One gets by with the tools one has. When I win the lottery, I’ll have Kelly Freas do my covers.

                    Whoops. Maybe not – he passed away in 2005. I understand necromancers charge an arm and a leg…

                    1. I’d stay away from the neat typography: no drop shadows, bevels, chrome, italics, glints, outlines – nothing.

                      For SF authors who do space stuff, there are many tutorials to make convincing galaxies, nebula, planets and starfields in Photoshop. Some SF illustrators make a living doing nothing but planets, structures and spaceships, like John Harris.

                      Spaceships can be easy if you have no artist’s skills. For example a very flattened oval (pen-shaped) put atop a triangle is suddenly a delta-wing Concord-like craft. Fill it in with a single color (or more), use a brush to make one side of the central pen structure brighter, the other darker, and you’d be surprised how cool it looks. You can use perspective tools to turn the whole thing on it’s side. You can put markings on it like numbers, letters, etc.

                      When the star quarterback’s out of the game (no money) you play a defensive game. Instead of trying to score, you minimize mistakes. And it’s free. Once you learn the tutorials (which are quite easy) you can make an entire cover from scratch in under 8 hours.

                      Or you can pay an artist 3 grand for rights-only and wait 3 to 6 months.

                      Or you can go for the touchdown and have a full painting for 75 bucks that looks like my ma did it on LSD.

                    2. Hi Jerry! I’d love to talk about covers with you at length, I might have you get in touch with me privately elsewhere (a consultation, I’m not going to charge you!), but I figured I’d start here.

                      First rule of cover design: Don’t listen to Fail Burton. Fail, you have many good points, I’m sure. But you don’t know what you’re talking about with covers. Most of the time, we aren’t even sure WHAT you are talking about with covers.

                      Second rule of covers: figure out (more or less, some are hard to pinpoint) what your genre is. Then hie you over to Amazon and check out the top 100 paid in that genre. See what the covers look like. Make a few notes on what really attracts you. Now, keep in mind that the reader will see your cover like this first, in a thumbnail size. Elaborate cover art is fun for print, for an ebook, as you will see, it looks muddled and busy. Which brings me to…

                      Third Rule of covers: Make your name bigger. Seriously, it has to be readable at a thumbnail size (as does your title) and if you take a minute to look at ‘bestsellers’ covers, you’ll see that their names are the biggest thing on the cover. Don’t go little, that signals literary, and in sales, that’s a bad word.

                      I have some great links and tutorials, because yes, I do sell my services, but I also know not everyone can afford to have their covers made up for them, and it’s really not expensive or difficult to do your own if you are comfortable on the computer. I’ll start you out with a link to the brilliant work of Dorothy Grant, who has been working with Oleg Volk to turn out some good solid SF covers recently.

                    3. Uh, Fail. I mean literally Epic Fail. Nearly everything you’re suggesting is directly contradicted by A. nearly every SF cover on the market today from the major houses, and: B. all the relevant experts in self publishing…

                    4. I’ll disagree strongly on the “neat typography” advice. If you don’t make your typography look like an integrated part of the cover design, it looks amateur instead of having a professional patina.

                      While I agree that it worked well on covers several decades ago, one has to sell to the current market with its current conventions. Take a look at the top 40 best sellers to get a feel for what is moving on the market right now.

                    5. Fail Burton – listen to Patrick. He is correct. You can be a brilliant artist and still have no idea what constitutes a good cover.

                      Frankly, good covers can be totally shitty art. They can look like someone crapped on your computer after ODing on rainbow glitter, as long as they fit with the norm for covers of that genre.

                      What is considered a good SF cover now is not what was considered a good one as little as five years ago. The field has shifted that fast. (Note that Baen covers are their own category here: Baen has a distinct look that they keep in defiance of trends. I suspect that them being the only major publisher with a recognizable brand has a little to do with this.)

                      If I was looking to decide what kind of cover I needed for an SF book, I would start by checking what covers looked like in as many books as close to mine in genre, tag, and category as I could find, particularly recent releases. I’d read up on what the experts in self-publishing and indie publishing (That would be Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith) have to say about covers *in my genre*.

                      What you’re advising is going to mark a book as “retro” at best, “traditional retro” *and* amateurish at worst.

                    6. Yeah, cuz I was really talking about major houses who can pay 3 grand for a painting alone, wasn’t I? Jesus H. frickin Christo, Richardson – do any of you folks ever actually read what I write or do you just see my name and start banging away?

                      But yer all right. Make your name very, very big and in chrome italics with highlights. Then take a photo of Devil’s Tower you took on vacation and solarize it and make it really grainy. Then hang a hubcap by some string and take a picture of it – instant spaceship.

                      Then take a close of up of your cat yawning, cut it out with a scissors and superimpose its fangs on Devil’s Tower.

                      And don’t forget to make your name very, very big. Maybe even bigger than that. And don’t forget to make everything italics. And don’t forget inner and outer drop shadows and outlining the letters cuz who doesn’t like that and plus just because you can?

                      Bingo bango, ya got yer art, cuz cover design and typography is like a wishing well – you just throw yer brains in and wish.

                      And if your doing an audio version, don’t forget to add Dueling frickin’ Banjos and maybe the theme from the Beverly Hillbillies.

                    7. Fail Burton,

                      Perhaps, as I said earlier, we’d take you seriously if you 1) proved your bona fides and 2) had a clue what you are talking about. You’ve had several folks all respond to you, telling you that the advice you’re giving doesn’t fit today’s market. Yet you fail to pay one bit of attention to what they say. That’s fine. You know best, at least in your own mind. However, you are offering to “help” others and that is where the rest of us get concerned. Yeah, you’ve dissed my covers, as well as Cedar’s and others. Too bad, so sad, like them or not, the books are selling well. That means the covers are doing what they were meant to do. That also means you don’t know what you are talking about.

                      Now, prove me wrong. Prove your qualifications to “teach” us how to do our covers. It’s that simple. Otherwise, go away and read some of the posts by Kris Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith on the topic. Better yet, take their workshop on it.

                    8. I recommend you go look at Cedar Sanderson’s blog,, for some more on the topic. She’s done several posts on covers, as has Sarah here and at MGC. Cedar also links to Dorothy’s series of posts on covers.

                    9. The part about not being able to drink milk caught my eye, because all of a sudden I couldn’t either, which makes me sad, because I like milk. I can have yogurt and cheese just fine, but I miss milk. I like soymilk because it reminds me of taho in flavor, but… milk. ;_;

                    10. I miss it too, ice cream was what broke my heart, though! I have found that I can eat a little of that with care. Taking the lactaid tablets helps, but I still haven’t dared try milk again.

                    11. “Frankly, good covers can be totally shitty art. They can look like someone crapped on your computer after ODing on rainbow glitter, as long as they fit with the norm for covers of that genre.”

                      Anyone who could write that is past help. And no I’m not going to listen to Richardson cuz Richardson likes to respond to stuff I didn’t write and pretend I wrote it. In fact, you folks so rarely respond to what I actually write, if I didn’t know better I’d think I was being pranked with double talk, although the resulting covers don’t lie.

                      Listen, you folks do what you want. I’ve seen the results. And since I’m such a nice guy, I sincerely hope you keep up the good work and get even more such top drawer results forever and a day. I support that 100%.

                    12. It looks like this is a conversation continued from elsewhere (I missed it, where ever it was) but I’m going to second Amanda with no sarcasm, condescension, bile or anger:

                      Fail, what background or qualifications do you have in cover design to support your suggestions?

                      I know where most of the other respondents are coming from professionally, I don’t know where you’re coming from.

                    13. Fail, It’s been sometime since I’ve taken a crack at you, but let’s start with me not responding to something you wrote. You wrote: I’d stay away from the neat typography: no drop shadows, bevels, chrome, italics, glints, outlines – nothing.”

                      I suggested to you that nearly all of those elements can be found in current covers of best sellers. And that your advice directly contradicts that found ON the covers of current bestsellers and the advice of subject matter experts in the field.

                      Moreover, as Cedar, I will put MY bona fides out as well. I am a journalist and up until the last two years when we moved to a design studio for pagination, have been a design professional as well. So like several others here I know whereof I speak.

                      I have extensive training in Photoshop, InDesign, QuarkXPress, GIMP, InkScape, Illustrator, Scribus and several other softwares as well.

                      You sir?

                    14. Yeah. I just went and looked at the top 40 in Space Opera. Most of them look like crap. One of them looks SO pathetic, I’m wondering what I did with the money for making it, because I can’t remember making a book cover for anybody.

                    15. Um, Fail?

                      If everything being published in your genre and subgenre right now has covers that are your name very, very big and in chrome italics with highlights. Then take a photo of Devil’s Tower you took on vacation and solarize it and make it really grainy. Then hang a hubcap by some string and take a picture of it – instant spaceship. then that’s exactly what you need to use for your cover.

                      Covers aren’t about excellent artwork. They’re about selling books.

                      Sometimes I regret this but mostly, that’s just how it is. There are other places where I can enjoy the really good art, and sometimes you just have to cross your fingers behind your back and wait for the trends to move back to good artwork on covers (bearing in mind that no two artists will define “good artwork” quite the same way).

                    16. Listen lady, an argument stands or falls on its own merits, not my frickin’ “bonifides.” I don’t need to show a pedigree for mathematics to say 2+2=4. I’ve had several people respond who don’t know squat about art and openly admit they don’t know what I’m even saying. So “several” equals zero. By your reasoning a classroom outguns a teacher by sheer numbers. And no I’m not taking workshops on visual design from writers or learning basket weaving from auto mechanics. And if I offered to help someone, why would you get concerned or even consider it any of your business? If I did consider such things my business, which I don’t, I’d be worried at the idea of someone who has some lady in jeans with no top and her back to the camera with some goofy art deco type telling anyone on earth about design. Those covers would be used in typography class as what NOT to do – EVER!

                      Knock off acting like white blood cells and thinking I’m Raquel Welch. What are you guys, like frickin’ antibodies? Imagine some visual artist running up to you and saying they’re going to put a novel behind their painting by taking a workshop from a painter.

                    17. Fail’s last thing dropped below the reply line. Fail, it’s not well known in this community, but I AM a professional artist. I’ve also taken training and classes specifically in cover design. I’ve done graphic design for more than a decade now. There: I’ve showed mine, how about you show yours if we’re going to play this game?

                    18. As am I. Haven’t done covers, but have done interior illustrations. Some of which i’d prefer not to own up to, and others am still proud to show off.

                    19. I feel that way about my covers, some days. Since I’ve been learning on the job, as it were, the older ones are exemplars of how far I’ve come. I’m sure yours are like that, too.

                    20. Fail, Fail, Fail, you really don’t know when to just shut the hell up, do you? So, let’s see if I can “respond” to your comments.

                      [A]n argument stands or falls on its own merits, not my frickin’ “bonifides.”

                      Not when you are offering advice on how to do something. You haven’t been saying “this is my opinion”. Oh no, you’ve been telling folks how bad our covers are and what we need to be doing to make them better. You use as examples covers that are decades old and using a style that is no longer in fashion. You have given advice on what sort of fonts to use and not use. When you put yourself out there as someone with knowledge, it shouldn’t be a surprise when others ask to know what your qualifications are. What is telling is how you refuse to answer the question. That, sir, ought to tell anyone who was considering following your advice that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

                      I don’t need to show a pedigree for mathematics to say 2+2=4.

                      No, you don’t. But memorizing something most pre-schoolers know doesn’t qualify you to say what pro artists and cover designers, and there are some here, should be doing.

                      And no I’m not taking workshops on visual design from writers or learning basket weaving from auto mechanics.

                      Oh, Fail, you failed again. You didn’t bother to look up the workshops, did you? So you don’t know who gives the workshops or what their qualifications are. Not that it surprises me. For your information, the workshops on cover design are taught by Dean Wesley Smith who has enough publishing history, as and author, editor and publisher, behind him so he knows what he’s talking about and by a pro cover designer/graphic artist. So, fwiw, they do know what they are doing and they know what is helping move books.

                      If I did consider such things my business, which I don’t, I’d be worried at the idea of someone who has some lady in jeans with no top and her back to the camera with some goofy art deco type telling anyone on earth about design.

                      Fail, you really are a moron. I concerns me when you make offers to folks to do cover mock ups for them because you have already shown that you don’t understand what is selling, especially in digital formats, and that person might not realize it. As for the cover, another fail, Fail. That cover is perfectly in line with what the genre is. Again, something you seem to fail to understand.

                      So, once again, I’ll ask, what makes you so qualified to school the pro artists and cover designers on this blog about what makes a good book cover? Who are you to tell those of us making very good money on our books that our covers suck?

                    21. Uh, Fail, I nicked Amanda on that cover also; not because I thought it was a bad cover, but because I thought it signaled romance rather than urban fantasy. Of course I also admit up front that not only do I not have any qualifications, but I frankly pay little attention to covers, never paid attention to covers until they got to be such a hot subject in self-publishing circles, and pay attention to them strictly to see if I can spot what sells*, and me personally, I would be just as happy with covers like the old hardbacks, one solid color with the title and author printed on it.
                      The purpose of a cover is to sell books, cover ‘art’ is NOT art, it is advertising. It may be art, as the paintings on the sixties Edgar Rice Burroughs books were, or it may look like something half digested that my dog puked back up. Thing is that if all the best sellers in your genre are using half-digested dog puke for cover art, readers are going to pass over your book with a beautiful cover, because it doesn’t look like anything that they enjoy reading.

                      *Oh, and Amanda proved me wrong, that book sells well and apparently does not signal romance to most readers. Apparently most readers are more observant than myself and notice that her hair is underneath the neck of her shirt, showing she is putting it on rather than taking it off.

                    22. Cedar, I did see Plant Life. No designer would’ve done that. The type fades into the background and it’s a terrible design. So much for bonifides really meaning anything. Bad is still bad and 2+2 still equals four, no matter how far up the mathematical scale you are from me.

                      As for being a moron, Amanda, I may well be one, but what then is a person who does your covers? If you want an example of good cover design, just look to your right. Darkship Renegades is very nice. It’s a classic of very nice and intriguing artwork and simple type. But then you have to continue to willfully ignore I was talking about people with no money, wasn’t I? You get what you pay for, and I’m guessing you pay almost nothing.

                      I’ve seen Smith’s covers and website design. The first are okay but nothing to be taking workshops from. The second is definitely not a good design. Plus he’s a WRITER. Anyway, at this point I hope you keep making covers exactly like you are. So we are not any longer in disagreement. I agree your covers suit your personality to a tee and wish many more on you.

                      I’m not sure what arrogance it takes to tell me about shutting up on another person’s site but I am just as certain that suits you to a tee as well.

                      I’m laughing at the idea you think Krenkel and Frazetta and that typography I mentioned are out of style. That’s exactly what they told Frazetta at the time – that he was washed up. And they revived a washed up Burroughs. And that decade revived a dead Lovecraft, a dead Howard, a dead Merritt, etc. Frazetta’s art single-handedly sold worthless books, so you’ve got you sales thing backwards. As long as you live you’ll never be able to afford even a lesser Frazetta piece, cuz they’re a quarter million.

                      Art does matter – good art. A cover is a cover. What difference does it make if it’s a digital format? It conveys the interior. If you’re selling work it’s despite those awful covers, not because of them. My advice to anyone reading this is to do precisely the opposite of anything you say unless you want an art deco intervention by worried family members.

                    23. Sigh – Plant Life was done years ago, and I haven’t had time or inclination to re-do it, which I told you once before. Yes, it’s a bad cover. Not as bad as some, but not great. My current work, on the other hand, is getting good attention. Oh, and what I didn’t mention before? I collect pulp covers. I am very aware of the art. It would not work on a modern cover unless you were trying to write pulp. Which you might be, for all I know. You certainly aren’t in a hurry to do anything other than blast other people who are actually working in the field.

                      But I don’t have time to take this any further, I have actual, you know, work to do.

                    24. So writer’s can’t be artists? guess i need to give up one or the other, then.

                    25. Fail, I think it’s the giant, glowing, neon dick that’s distracting me from what you’re trying to say.

                      Did you mention something about how many books you’d helped sell in there somewhere? I couldn’t get past the throbbing blue light.

                    26. Since I can’t reply more directly, thanks to both Ms. Sanderson and Ms. Paulk. I have been looking for some solid information on covers for some time. The webinars look especially interesting.

                    27. As an aside on retro covers: War to the Knife is actually, sneakily, incorporating retro elements; it’s more of a retro three-column layout than a Z-layout or a triangle, though it’s just enough in the gray area to still pass as a modern cover.

                      We can get away with this in mil sci fi, specifically because the design harks back to the older scifi when the good guys were good, the bad guys were bad, and the story was awesome with little to no navel-gazing grey goo. It’s designed to catch the attention of people who haven’t read outside Baen in years, because they’re disappointed with what the market’s become.

                    28. Ma’am, lemme sneak in here with a big thank you! I followed Cedar’s link to your series and bookmarked ’em all.

                    29. OMG, I had no Idea this would engender so many comments. I’m sorry, everyone. Didn’t realize what a hot topic this was. 😦

                      Fail – I really appreciate your advice. Seriously, I do. But constructing a cover is for me (right now) a ghod-awful chore that I’m trying to accomplish while trying not to hurt myself with GIMP. I’m kind of getting there, but I’ve a ways to go yet – and I’ve got to go with what I think looks the best for the case. If you’re at Libertycon next year, may I buy you a beer?

                      Cedar – Thank you for your kind offer of advice. I wish I could see your site here at work (internet filters, gotta love ’em cause you sure can’t figure out their blocking criteria. ATH is fine, but MGC and yours isn’t? SMH. Frustrating at times.)

                      Once I get out from under this self-imposed deadline, I may well take you up on it, and I look forward to hopefully seeing you at the next LibertyCon?

                      Amanda, Kate, Doroth, Patrick, Sarah, Shadowdancer, Draven, Wayne and all – thank you for the comments and suggestions.

                      Again, I didn’t mean to render up such a tempest in a teapot!

                    30. Since it does matter what it looks like in thumbnail size, I recommend looking at it.

                      I’ve found that Windows Large and Extra-Large icons cover thumbnail and the size on the window where it sells.

                      My own rules for those have been devised by eyeballing covers on goodreads.

                    31. I hate what I think of as the “Twilight” style covers– stylized and/or simple picture, big title, big author– on real books, but they’re a blessing when I read stuff on my phone.


                    32. Eamon – thanks for the compliment; I hope you find something useful there!

                      Jerry – don’t feel responsible for the explosion of posts; it takes response and response to response to make such a thing happen. Could have been anything, usually not related to the post topic. We don’t have thread drift here so much as threads as all over as a road after a surveyor was chasing a snake and throwing sticks at it.

                    33. We don’t have thread drift here so much as threads as all over as a road after a surveyor was chasing a snake and throwing sticks at it.

                      Here even our bunny trails have bunny trails!

                    34. If I recall the two brother’s were trying to raise their mother through human transmutation. It was the younger brother that became the price for the attempt. The older paid an arm and a leg to keep the soul of the brother which he then sealed into a suit of armor. They never did get their mother back. But that was in FMA — Anime, manga and light novels.

                    1. It’s funny, there are a lot of areas where I am ignorant. Covers is one of those areas. If i like a cover it is guaranteed to be really bad. I do however have an advantage with this though. I know enough to listen to successful professionals. When someone who is making a living in a field and garnering the respect of their peers and the upper echelons in their field I figure I can accept their take on things, much as I would expect them to listen to me on technical matters in my field. To do otherwise is to show myself an idiot.

                    2. oops, that was suppose d to say ‘underbid’ – does that make more sense now?

                  3. Fail, you condescending little turd, do you realize you’re about 30 seconds away from getting banned? Does it seep through that granite you use for a skull that you are lecturing people who have vastly more experience in this field than you do on how things should be done?

                    But of course you don’t.

                    I know you of old sir. I smacked you around for the ignorant troll you are at PJM, here, other places as well.

                    I have forborne commenting here many times over the last few months as you’ve reared your pustulent head again. You’re a pimple on an abscess on the arse of the Internet. You ride in, talk down to everyone who disagrees with you, no matter how polite they may be, and then play the victim when called on your boorish behavior.

                    You then have the gall to wonder why such as myself take exception to your existence. Go away little troll, before you get smashed.

                    1. You missed the part where he goes on and on and on about quiltbags this and quiltbags that. Over and over, in any marginally related thread. Surprised he hasn’t blamed ‘quiltbags’ for bad cover design yet.

                    2. Pat, I think the best we can do now is to simply warn people away from taking anything Flailing Fail says to heart. They certainly shouldn’t give credence to anything he says when he continues to refuse to say why we should pay more attention to him than we do to folks who have proven they know what they’re talking about.

                      Let’s face it, he’s looking for attention. He’s like the little kid who throws himself down in the middle of the aisle at the store and pitches a fit until everyone is looking at him. Except he’s worse. He’s also a bully. He insults people without cause and then tries to hide behind anonymity. He is, as you said, a troll. Worse, we’ve fallen into his trap of responding to him and letting him hijack the thread.

                      Note too how he says we never respond to what he says and yet, when we prove that we have responded directly to his comments, he fails to show us the same courtesy. As I said above, we need to just ignore him, posting simply general warnings for the unsuspecting when he does show up. If we do, he’ll get bored and move on. After all, what fun is there for him here if he isn’t stirring the pot?

                    3. You’re going to ban me Richardson? On what site? And who’s using names like “turd” and “arse.” Am I not allowed to give as good as I get? And yet I don’t use names like that. And I truly don’t care what you’ve foreborne or not, nor do I care what you take exception to.

                      Listen, the proof is in the pudding. Show me some good designs and I’ll say they’re good designs. Show me some stinkeroos and I’ll say they stink. Show me average and I’ll say that. What’s with all the hysteria? Aren’t you some of the folks who complain about sites that are backscratching echo chambers? So I don’t like some covers – so what? Your world tomorrow will probably look much like it did yesterday. I understand you’re not used to being disagreed with and I know how nice that must be but either get me banned by whining or get used to other people in the world with other thoughts.

                      As for that crack about QUILTBAGs, if you’re not up on what intersectionalism is and how it directly tries to take you to the cleaners and ruin careers, then who cares really? I guess it’s just a coincidence the last president of the SFWA just told us to “bone up” on intersectionalism and that the current president advocates it and that his wife just posted one of the most remarkable things you’ll ever read that pretty much craps on every white man living and dead. It’s one of the damnedest things I’ve ever read. Right here:


                      I doubt I’ll be commenting much here anymore. Sarah’s been fair but some of you others are flat out showing hysterical reactions to pretty much nothing. You act as if none of you has ever said a move stunk or a book was pitiful. So if you have an Algonquin Roundtable and everything’s great, what quality of art will emerge from that type of atmosphere. Hmmm… let me guess – art deco typography that’s two thumb’s up and the razzamatazz while people are laughing behind their hands? Does that mean art only progresses when people don’t know each other? Like when Poul Anderson, Jack Vance and Frank Herbert all hung out together? I bet they challenged each other like crazy.

                    4. Ahhh the old “I’m better than you because I haven’t called names” fallacy.

                      Fail, you forget, I know you of old. You are Troll, General Issue, Mark I, Defective.

                      Most of the commenters here don’t remember your epic rants at PJM telling anyone who liked Ender’s Game was a moron and there hadn’t been a decent SF writer since Jack Vance. I seem to recall you disparaging our erstwhile host at the time.

                      Sir, you have repeatedly been called out for your dickish behavior here only to play the victim “wah wah they’re being mean to me.”

                      Go away little troll, before you force the blog owner to swing the ban hammer at you.

  16. The Baddog, after years of searching, deciphering obscure riddles and sniffing out hidden clues, finally finds a map to the fabled hideout of The Old Woman Of The Mountain.
    He creeps over the usual perilous paths, fights past the usual horrible monsters (1), braves the usual traps (2), climbs the usual lonely mountain, hauls himself out onto the usual ledge in front of the usual cave, and is met by the usual ancient sage…
    who throws off her old women disguise in disgust and says:
    “YOU AGAIN!”

    (1) Cats!
    (2) Kitty litter!

  17. Sarah, your not “enslaving” your child. Think of it as working his passage down your birth canal.

  18. I think that part of this is a societal/cultural issue. In some respects we have become conditioned to believe that we own part of the celebrity du jour or that they owe us something. And when we see someone go from nothing to “rich and famous” having done nothing to deserve it, we fawn over them, hoping that some of that “luck” will rub off on us or that we’ll get discovered too. We’re just as deserving as them – we haven’t done anything either! It is a combination of childishness and escapism, reaching for the fairy tale without noticing that Cinderella still cleaned the floor before she could go to the ball.

    I buy (and enjoy) your books because I think you are a good storyteller. I will continue to buy your work because I believe that will not change, at least not for the worse.

  19. Fame — or notoriety — is a currency all its own. In a particular realm of endeavor, being a known entity can afford you a certain level of influence. Sometimes unsatisfying, but sometimes — when you can use your influence to effect something good which you value — it can be gratifying in some small way. Still, it would be nice if being well-known would put some meat on the plate.

  20. There was a point in my life when a community of roughly 125,000 people hung on my every word…and yet, I was never recognized in public, and couldn’t even get would-be employers to return my phone calls. (I won’t say it never made me a cent…indeed, it’s the only reason my business ever made any money at all, since I suck as a salesman. But that was years later, and my role even in that niche community had already become much more peripheral than it had been at its peak.) Fame for its own sake is far more hassle than it’s worth.

    Not sure I’d be anxious to avoid the kind that has money attached…but then, I’m also not sure I wouldn’t.

    On the other hand, your very lack of desire to rule the world is precisely the reason you’d be the perfect candidate for the job! 🙂

    1. I’d nominate Mike Rowe, personally. There’s a man who isn’t shy about saying he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and seeks out proven experts in the field…

      Hmm. Rowe/Hoyt 2016!

      1. I could get behind that ticket, but I’d make the Hoyt in that the younger of the spawn (for kicks and giggles) and leave Sarah as the eminence grease.

        1. Bonus, it’ll make the folks currently claiming the Supreme Court is a Catholic conspiracy go have kittens!

          Invite Bobby Jindal to be in charge of fixing federal disaster relief and preparedness, maybe Santorum to trim regulations, and they’ll self-immolate! (Can’t think of any more openly observant Catholics at the moment….)

              1. She even claims her views are entirely withing Catholic doctrine. Papal decree, Cardinals and Bishops saying otherwise are not to be believed…who you gonna trust? The Church, or some political lying bimbo? (sorry to all the bimbos out there for the comparison)

                    1. not a kid. the other tennant’s ex-something or other. 40ish. Actually she wanted a ride to the station for gas, but it is a bit over a mile to the nearest. I gave her some of mine and tried to go back to sleep. Be interesting how much of this nonsense happens once the land owner immigrates and moves in.

                    2. One hopes living a few hundred yards from the highway, and nearly that to the closest neighbour would stop such silly things, but the other tenant is a real winner when it comes to friends/ex-friends.
                      So far, I’ve not had to shoot anyone.

        2. Only problem is, I spellcheck when I do printing (which I haven’t done in years, but if I ever get enough interest expressed, I’ll happily take up again), and I can’t spellcheck Latin myself.

          Not that I expect something that short to be misspelled, but it causes my OCD to make me twitch. 🙂

            1. I’m sure I could, if I could get the tags themselves. Do you know where they come from? I didn’t get any, so I only saw the ones other people had.

              It would depend a lot on how the blanks were packaged. If they can be done several at a time, that would cut the cost per quite a bit. If someone can point me to a probable source for them, I can make some estimates.

              1. Ok, can’t find blanks, but it looks like they are made of ordinary ribbon, with ordinary two-side tape stuck on. I figure I could do a minimum order of $50, which would produce 100 ribbons, and then $0.25 each after that.

                1. I’d actually love to fire up that sideline again. It’s one of the few manual labor jobs I enjoyed, probably because it requires some modicum of skill. I can do stickers cheaper than someplace like Cafe Press, too, since they do theirs as print-on-demand, and I would do 20 or more on one setup.

      1. Only if you want him commenting “Nice A**” on your rear view.

        *Much* better to keep him where you can see him. (Then again, I tend to agree with the moral of Twain’s _The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg)

      2. A number of years back, I went to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show (free outdoor before the Elizabethan Theatre performance, in this case of Marlowe’s Faust.) The show was called “Kabaret Everyman,” and was the Everyman play done with cabaret music and (non-cabaret) dancers. I loved it so much I bought the CD, which unfortunately they haven’t made available since.

        I cannot look at the phrase “vade retro, Satanas” without hearing it sung by a woman with a powerful, mature voice (the songwriter, in fact) with an evil little laugh at the end (as she was portraying Satan for that part of the song). This was also a song that featured the line “Hell is Christmas season… at the mall.”

  21. I wonder if it’s “fame” that’s bothering you, or the sense of lopsided social obligations?

    Seems to me no matter how quiet you are, if you’re an author, and someone reads your work, a one-sided relationship develops. The blog/book reader feels they know you, which could give them an unearned sense of social rights. And you, of course, just see an undifferentiated blob of reader, who’s acting way too familiar.

    1. This is a very astute observation. It happens elsewhere as well. Long ago, when I started having to talk a lot in meetings, people would chat with me later who acted as if we knew each other well. I finally figured out that they thought they knew me well ’cause I yammered so/too much even as they remained mostly quiet in the group. This could definitely translate to authors.

      1. Such as here? I’ve been reading long enough that I feel like I know most of the regular commentors, who don’t know me from Adam, of course.

        1. Likewise. I thought of everyone here as my imaginary friends until I met a few at Ravencon.

            1. That’s an awesome reference. This place is probably responsible for a goodly portion of the population of it, anyway.

              Younger son and I still make references to, “it’s hot in Topeka” every once in a while.

  22. Am I in this for the fame? Right. I don’t want fame. It’s a shoddy substitute for the love and respect of those around you.

    Am I in this for the money? Lol… I just spent more than I’ve received in royalties for some cheap art to make covers with. (Nope! I’m wrong, I’ve got $5 left over! Woo-hoo!)

    So what am I in this for?

    The money’d be nice, I’ll admit. I look that the Big Name Authors – and realize I’m not going to get to that level. (Then again, look at Andy Wier’s “The Martian” – THAT started as a 99 cent Kindle read, and it’s been optioned for a movie, bought by Random House, and is currently going for $9.99 for the Kindle version.)

    But I’m much more likely going to need to get my satisfaction elsewhere.

  23. You had me going up until you said you “drink way too much coffee.” There ain’t no such animal.

      1. It may be a girl thing. I find that I have a narrow path to walk to get enough coffee to be functional, but not so much that I’m laying awake for hours…. and it varies. 😦

        1. You just need more practice, with enough practice you can be a pro, and like me be sitting here drinking a cup when you are going to go to bed in a few minutes.

        2. I used to be able to drink coffee all the time, including right before bed.

          Then I stopped drinking coffee for a while, because I couldn’t find a brand that I liked (yeah, I’m an instant coffee drinker) and they don’t have Seattle’s Best down here in DaLandDownunder.

          (Seriously, I miss the old country for the restaurants and the food, and cheap movie ticket costs.)

  24. But some of the books he raves about I can’t get past page three. And some of the ones I love get me the raised eyebrows look, in puzzlement, when I tell him about them

    My best friend is so like me that people constantly confuse us which, by the way, is odd because we look nothing alike. It’s like we share a brain (or what passes for it) and a personality most of the time. But when it comes to books? Feh. The overlap there is at best 50%.

  25. Fame is easy; wealth is hard. One of the major reasons I quit blogging was that the near-fame was getting to me. If I went to a shooting event, people would treat me like some kind of ur-god, when I was just an opinionated guy who loved guns and had a popular blog. (Twenty seven million visits in seven years, well over a thousand emails a day… damn.)

    But for all that popularity, I never sold more than a few thousand books over all that time. It killed me.

    It’s the “ownership” part which really got to me, though. I never understood how someone could claim to own a piece of me simply because they were regular visitors to my website or dropped a few bucks into my PayPal account. And there were literally hundreds of people who felt that way — people would show up at my house, uninvited, just to meet the the Great Kim du Toit in person. Hell, sometimes it was easier to deal with the liberals who hated me than the fans who worshipped me.

    So all that was fame, of a sort. But for all that, I couldn’t earn a living at it, which is reason #2 I quit. I don’t regret my decision to quit blogging, not a single day.

    1. Exactly – and that was one reason that I posted back then at Sgt, Stryker under a “nom du blog” – I already knew how weird and demanding fans could get, and I didn’t want any part of it for myself, or my family (all in the phone book, and my daughter was still active duty) to inherit any part of it. And if I had strange fans and enemies back then on a small military base, I knew it would be compounded by being contributor to a notable mil-blog.

        1. The guy who launched an early military blog after 9-11 – that was his nom du blog, as he was then an active-duty Air Force mechanic at Andrews AFB. He started the blog, was an early link on Instapundit’s blog-roll, got bored late in 2002 and recruited other military and veterans to contribute and eventually faded out of blogging altogether. He was one of these scathingly bright guys, but also easily and soon bored.
          Anyway, I got my start there ,,, and that’s where I got the notion that I was a good writer, and readers might actually pay me for reading my stuff.

    2. If I went to a shooting event, people would treat me like some kind of ur-god, when I was just an opinionated guy who loved guns and had a popular blog.

      Hm, there’s the seed of an idea…. maybe part of it is that if y’all decided to get angry and talk about it, it would be all over the place? And raises the chance of someone else being an ass on your behalf?

      That’s part of why I pseudonym– not because of the folks I’m socializing with, as because of the vigilante blankers or goblins-of-opportunity. (See also why I lock my doors….)

    3. But for all that popularity, I never sold more than a few thousand books over all that time. It killed me.

      I did an audio book last year. It sold about 25 copies. Larry Correia sells that many in 5 minutes. And I swear, I got far more than 25 inquiries about my plans to do an audiobook for A THRONE OF BONES, which would run over 30 hours and be fairly expensive to produce. Well, no, I really don’t have any plans for that any time soon.

      The only explanation that makes much sense is that people seek different things in when looking for daily blog entertainment than when looking for a book to buy. I don’t find it discouraging so much as mystifying, but I can see where one could easily be discouraged by it. It could be interpreted as an unusual form of rejection by one’s own fans.

  26. I once met a young Sergeant who complained about his workload. I told him, “Never forget, your reward in the Army for doing good work is… you get more work.”

    On the other hand, I really irritated a mid-level NCO in Afghanistan when I told him, “Sergeant, I don’t need awards, and I don’t want to be ‘rewarded’ by being ‘blessed’ with a chance to go on missions with the Infantry. I’ve been shot at. I’m not real fond of it. If there’s an operational reason for me to go on missions in the future, I’ll go. Beyond that, I just want to be left alone to do my job.”

    Mostly these days I look forward to getting a nine-to-five in a few more years when I retire from the Army so that I can just get something that will fund my car repair hobby. I feel your pain, Sarah.

    May you find this evening in your sock drawer a bank account number that will fund your hobbies for life, paperclipped to a newspaper headline declaring that a Constitutional Amendment disbanding the IRS forthwith has just been passed.

    “A dragon? They’re like the IRS. With wings.”
    -Studio C

    1. “A dragon? They’re like the IRS. With wings.”

      That’s an insult to Dragons! When we take your gold, we’re honest about the fact that we’re stealing it! [Very Big Dragon Grin]

  27. You’ve certainly become more famous — or perhaps infamous — among the SJW crowd during the craziness of the past year. But you haven’t managed to become a Great Satan like Larry yet. More of a Medium Satan.

  28. “asking me to rein in Jim Baen”

    That must have made you feel a little like Teddy Roosevelt on being asked to “control” his daughter Alice.

    For the record, his answer was “Gentlemen, I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. No man can do both.”

    Personally, I think he was exaggerating his capabilities

    1. Well, TR might have wanted to say “Alice does what she wants to do and she hasn’t done anything I see the need to say anything against”. IE he considered the people wanting him to control Alice as busybodies. [Wink]

      1. “Crazy” doesn’t BEGIN to cover asking you to perform a task simultaneously both utterly impossible and profoundly immoral. 🙂

  29. This is an odd one. Because, from all I’ve read about so many writers, they tend to be introverts to one degree or another. Or perhaps just odd enough they don’t connect to the mainstream. But, more and more these days it seems a strong career may depend on a presence and ‘personality’ in the professional sense. A brand.

    In our current age of the internet so much of the interaction is still achieved through the written word (videography is catching up, but not quite there, I’d say), and writers do the written word with some facility.

    From these two situations, it seems natural that much of a writer’s professional personality and brand will be conveyed via the written word. Glimpses of the day to day will become fairly common, and readers will connect with their favorite authors as people beyond the stories.

    I wonder if this complicates or alleviates the perceived relationship difficulty? I’m not necessarily talking about the true stalkers, as that’s a distinct subset of mental illness, but more about the socially awkward who may assume the wrong things.

    There’s a whole industry dedicated to making people feel closer to celebrities, catching them in the day to day and publishing info on their day to day lives. And while I don’t think there are any (or perhaps a tiny minority) authors who need to sweat the paparazzi, I wonder if that cultural dynamic bleeds over as more authors have a personal presence on blogs and social media.

    For my part, I assume the people I meet are online personalities, that I’m dealing with the virtual persona. Online communities are wonderful and a great deal of fun, but if I met someone I knew from online in RL, I’d assume it was closer to first meeting than long-lost friends.

    People have spheres: public, private, professional, virtual, casual, intimate. It makes sense to assume that contact in one has little or nothing to do with contact in another without specific invitation. But the casual nature of the virtual world may complicate the lines for some people, make it harder to tell what sphere they’re operating in.

    Or I could be rambling.

    1. Introvert? Oh, hell yeah. That’s me in a nutshell. I could semi-happily go a weekend without seeing anyone – and when the lovely bride and Smart&Crunchy son went off for a while, I only shared a few words during the day with the guy in the next cube.

      I know I’m reclusive, and not so happy about that. Makes me worry about what’ll happen when/if I retire.

      Oddly, it’s a lot easier to communicate on-line. Perhaps because I can edit and rewrite stuff before I hit ‘post’…

      1. For me, there’s an element of “emotional distance” with on-line talk. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from getting very very annoyed when somebody “hits” one of my “hot issue” buttons. [Smile]

        1. Heh. Back in the early nineties, when BBS and 48k was the high tech of the day (or was it the 80s? I was rather young), a mostly forgotton mentor of the day put it to me this way:

          “I’m bad with people. The internet is my ten-foot pole.”


      1. Made a vacation trip on my motorcycle to Mannington and yeah, the pesky song kept sticking in my head … but occasionally I’d get the reggae version for a touch of variety.

  30. Possibly part of why you get stalkers and even just pushy folks: you’re generous.

    When I get time I really need to sew up the felt fishies I started. (Original idea: I’ll make carp! Downsized idea: They will be recognizable as fish-shaped by the generously inclined.)

    1. “She hit me with a carp!”
      “A carp?”
      “Well, more of a gray felt tube with the word “carp” written on it in Sharpie, but that still counts!”

  31. I have often thought that some writers would make interesting friends. In this case, not only do I have works of fiction to look at, but a blog. The problem is that “Hey, I like your blog” or “Hey, I like your books” is that they’re not really good openers for an acquaintanceship, and friendship is right out.

    So, I strive to have cogent comments to make, just in order to have the justification for taking up a few moments of a pro guest’s time, but even that’s not going to work if you’re at the front of a very long autograph line. That’s really why I’ve given up on trying to meet famous writers, or even semi-famous writers. There are too many folks trying to get their moment to bask in the pro’s presence so there is no time.

  32. Of course, me being me, even though I’m almost dead certain I’m not in the group you’re complaining about and rather possibly in the group you’re making sad faces about feeling too shy to say hi for fear of disturbing you, I’m wringing my hands right now. xD “Oh dear, I do have the habit of fussing at her to take care of herself that anyone over the age of five probably is aware they ought to do.”

    But you’re talking to someone who tells a nurse to drink lots of water and get rest when she’s sick. She says “yes, mum :B” and I still can’t help doing it. (In my experiences, people who take care of people are the worst about taking care of themselves. Moms and nurses, man.)

    More specifically on-topic, when I was young and… I suppose more of a typical Leo than I currently am, I got into a brief habit of signing pieces of paper and giving them to friends and telling them to keep it because I’d be famous one day. I think even then what I wanted was “name famous” which would lead to wealth. I had no real interest in being an actual celebrity. Especially once I got a little bit older and started collecting internet stalkers and/or pedos who found my home address and started making noises about visiting. Celebrity in and of itself palled extremely quickly.

      1. My dad always told me, “Money won’t buy love… but it can rent it for a while.” 😉

    1. Oddly, about 30 years back so was I. My writing sucked, however.

      One day, I’m going to burn those 5.25 SSDD CP/M formatted floppies, just to preclude ANY chance of those stories getting out.

      1. “Money may not buy me happiness, but I’m sure it will pay for an incredible simulation.” – me

  33. I do believe we are conflating money with wealth.

    It’s easy to become a millionaire, billionaire… even a trillionaire. All you have to do is trade in some of your US dollars for some Zimbabwean dollars.

    Easy Peasy.

    Money is a tool of exchange. We wouldn’t give credit to a garden hoe for growing a great garden… would we?

          1. Yes, I shot the email to the Friday book plug as soon as I hit “send” to FreeRangeOyster. Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

  34. I figured I’d make my comment on book cover design down here, mostly because I find it a bit difficult to follow it based on its current point in comment nesting.

    Yes, a lot of people are going to insert themselves into conversations about cover design, but there’s a reason. For better or worse – and I tend to think it’s for better – this is a community. People tend to look out for one another in the grand scheme of things. Book covers aren’t just something you throw on to keep the pages from falling all over the place. They’re marketing for any book. They’re vital. And a bad cover can keep people who might love your blurb from ever reading it. They’re not going to click on the image otherwise.

    Yes, the image can be bad, so long as it fits within the correct parameters for covers of that genre. Why? If the art is bad, some folks will be curious about why it has bad art when everything else is put together so professionally.

    And the advice about looking at the top selling books in your genre is actually pretty good. I personally think is saved me from a lot of work for nothing, because I was going to use a photo for my current novel (in the editing stage now, then to beta readers, and so on). How? Turns out that the vast majority use artwork, rather than photographs. The few that had photos had very particular photos that conveyed the genre well (post apocalyptic).

    Also, I’m going to add, whether you’re talking to someone in particular or not, advice on the internet impacts a lot of people. Folks will read stuff here and take it as gospel. That is, unless that is challenged if people believe its wrong. You have to back up why your right. I’m sorry, but this is art, not math. Just because someone says its a fact, doesn’t make it so. Back it up or present your background so we at least know where you’re coming from.

    Me? I’ve been an internet professional since 2009 and been in all manner of brouhahas during that time.

    1. Sounds like it might be worth putting up a blog post about my covers and why one of the most attractive doesn’t fit the book, and may actually have hurt sales. (The designer and I didn’t realize what the problem was until several months later.)

  35. The reason I am not giving bonfides or design examples of my own is simple: I am not trying to educate anyone in design. I am doing precisely the opposite. I am telling people (indies) who are not typographers and designers that the rule where they’re concerned is to do the least amount of harm to yourself – don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

    That means rule no. 1 is to default to nothing as far as typefaces are concerned. Use only the simplest flat type from maybe half a dozen – verdana, trajan, georgia, etc. No harm no foul.

    Rule no. 2: don’t use italics on a cover – EVER! Why? Because you’re not a typographer. A typographer knows when to use italics, which is rare anyways. The more you extend yourself the more harm you’ll do.

    Rule no. 3: don’t use type with interior and exterior drop shadows, metallic surfaces, bevels, highlights or outlines. If you use a colored type, make it the opposite of the background color on the color wheel, and in tone as well. Look at your cover in black and white to check the latter. Red on yellow may look like a good idea but if it’s the same tone it doesn’t work.

    Rule no. 4: When in doubt (and you are) center everything. Default to classic in all ways. Less potential for harm.

    Rule no. 5: ignore these workshops they’re talking about. Contrary to what they think, I have read them. Their advice is brutal. It has nothing to do with design concepts, which is no surprise considering they’re writers. They’re coming at this from a marketing angle. Why? Cuz they’re not visual artists. They don’t know what they don’t know. If they did they’d retreat to no harm no foul, or hire a pro. The in-between is a disaster waiting to happen. Color theory and composition is its own world. Just accept you’re not in it. This link is just a tiny introduction to a massively subtle world:

    Rule no. 6: If you ever think a design is a good idea cuz it looks neat or cool, forget about it.

    Rule no. 7: if it’s anything more complicated than a knife lying on a table, don’t use photography – EVER! Why? Because you don’t know how to. Just accept that. Even a stock photo is a problem. Why? If you’re not a photographer how do you know it’s any good? Cuz it looks cool? Nothing in design simply looks cools. It looks right. Design is largely what you can’t see – and you can’t see it – accept that.

    Not a rule but a response: the idea cover design can be bad as long as it’s represents the genre is preposterously stupid. People hire professionals for a reason. You’re better off with only type and a circle in the middle with “this is a science fiction novel” than some hillbilly art. Bad design and art is a turnoff. More crappy paperbacks and magazines have been sold on the strength of marvelous art than you’d ever believe. Just take my word for it.

    Lastly, no painter would ever give tips on writing novels or send you to a workshop for writing novels. It is complex artistry, not a recipe. And forget credentials. They are worthless. There are good teachers and bad. How are you going to know the difference?

    Conclusion: without the dough to hire a pro or lucky innate artistic instinct some people actually do have, you’re pretty much screwed. The more you understand that the less harm you’ll do. Think of your cover like walking in a minefield – don’t stray!

    Probably the best you can reasonably hope for is to cop some nice art at DeviantArt for one-time rights usage for cheap and have your name at the top and the title at the bottom in stark large type. That’s it. No self-inflicted wounds.

    1. According to your rules-specifically, rule 3- Baen isn’t making good covers. Or Tor. I am pretty sure both of them know more about what kinds of covers sell than you.

      1. Are you completely unable to understand english? Didn’t I just write a whole long thing that this is for non-pros only? It’s not advice for Tor or Baen. They hire pros. Rule 3 isn’t for pros. Pros know what they’re doing and don’t need my advice. Do I have to annotate every sentence I write? Pros will use those things to good effect… cuz they’re pros.

        1. Perhaps if you’d take the time to annotate every sentence you write you’d scrape off some of the abusive dick?

          I dunno, give it a try.

          1. What you just wrote is more abusive than anything I have. You must be an intersectionalist. Y’know – my side is the right side – no matter what you actually do?

            1. What I wrote was a direct confrontation of your behavior, but I wouldn’t say it was more abusive. If you don’t understand the character and behavior you’re presenting, then you need to reflect more.

              And I’m not defending any sides, I’m calling you out for being a dick.

              1. I’ll go a step farther, Fail isn’t just a prick, he is both a stupid prick and a lying prick. Reference his rule 5.

      2. This is where it keeps falling apart (this argument and others), he defaults to a very specific set of criteria and hypes them as the only, totally right, absolute best, nothing else matters package. For all situations.

        Except — 7 billion people on the planet, subsequently billions of variations on what moves and works.

        If we want to talk about covers and art? I hate most of what I see nowadays. I’ve no interest in studying it, or soaking it in. Huge chunks of it bore me.

        And none of that matters in the least, because those covers still cue me to content and lead me to buy books. Which is the point he consistently ignores.

        Nobody here is offering a class in great visual arts, they’re offering suggestions for how to sell books, based on their experience of selling books and frequently derived from the professional experience of other people selling books. And that is all.

        1. There’s more to it than that. If you go back and read everything he’s said in this thread, you will see that he’s been doing the exact opposite of what he claims — he has been trying to tell folks what to do. He also is using only his own criteria to determine what “least amount of harm” is. In other words, he wants us to design covers that he likes, notwithstanding the fact the covers we are doing are, for the most part, what is genre specific and appropriate (whether he likes it or not).

          Oh, and as for his “reading” the clinics and workshops we’ve referenced, if he is talking about the one by Dean Wesley Smith, you don’t “read” it. It is a video clinic so, yet again, he shows that he has failed to do his homework.

          I’ll tell you what I told Pat upthread — Fail is here to stir up trouble and get attention. Perhaps it’s time we quit responding to him and maybe he’ll get bored and go bother someone else.

    2. There are two points at which we diverge in opinion, sir.

      The first is that of “least harm.” How do you define least harm when it comes to covers? If you mean the least aesthetically objectionable cover to your design sensibilities, that’s one thing. If you mean least likely to negatively impact sales, then that’s another.

      Your suggestions will turn out one specific style of cover. It may not look half-bad. However, if the cover art is a painting with a flat Trajan typeface, centered, and the story is a contemporary romance… That is quite possibly the most harm that can be done short of crayon scribbles, because even if it is well-made, it will signal entirely the wrong genre. The readers who would have picked it up will skip it assuming it’s not what they want, and the ones who are looking for the genre the cover signals won’t buy because it’s not what they’re looking for.

      To wit: advertising with a photo of a burger and a milkshake is excellent for a diner, and terrible for a Chinese buffet.

      The second is that your fallback advice boils down to advising people that they are not professionals, and that they are incapable of learning to be such (do professionals spring fully formed from the head of Zeus?), so they must blindly follow your maxims.

      This is the wrong crowd to preach blind adherence to self-proclaimed professionals and betters. That’d work better on Kos, or Slate: this is a much more independently-minded crowd. It may be uncomfortable, after having happily joined in the jeering about the emperor’s new clothes, to have your own sartorial choices questioned… but that is the risk you run here.

      1. First of all, I mentioned Trajan as one. So why did you write what you did? No reason.

        Secondly, it is not the most harm: even more harmful would be using art deco or a Bragodoccio font. So why did you write what you did? No reason.

        Did I anywhere indicate using a cheeseburger for an SF novel? No. So why did you write that? No reason.

        And aren’t we talking about people who acknowledge they don’t know art and design rather than your strawman about me telling pros they’re not pros? No. So why did you write what you did? No reason.

        I never said people can’t learn. But it takes years and serious immersion, just like writing. If you have an indie you need a cover for now, that will hardly help, will it?

        I have no idea what self-proclaimed pros refers to since no one here has proclaimed themselves an illustrator, and the main cover illustration is the biggest hang-up we’re talking about here, isn’t it? And what does blind adherence refer to? Are you claiming you can do a jazz solo on a sax merely by thinking about it a lot? Or paint by sheer willpower? If not, saying people who don’t paint don’t paint is hardly propaganda.

        I’m not sure what risk I’m running of any sort. But I can tell you I can make my own covers from scratch by painting or drawing them on board, canvas, paper or digitally, photographing them, photoshopping them, geometric Adobe Illustrator constructions, InDesign, XHTML, whatever – the whole nine yards – from start to finish, and with the flexibility to us any file I want: PDF, ai, (type converted to outlines, rastafied or vector) EPS, jpg, png, gif, PSD. Can you?

        1. “But I can tell you I can make my own covers from scratch by painting or drawing them on board, canvas, paper or digitally, photographing them, photoshopping them, geometric Adobe Illustrator constructions, InDesign, XHTML, whatever – the whole nine yards – from start to finish, and with the flexibility to us any file I want: PDF, ai, (type converted to outlines, rastafied or vector) EPS, jpg, png, gif, PSD. Can you?”

          Um, Fail?

          Not sure what she uses, but Dorothy makes covers, and in fact just a couple days ago you complimented her on her covers for her husband’s books. Sometimes when making personal attacks it pays to pay attention to who the person is you are attacking.

        2. And now you’ve lost me.

          I’m sorry Fail, but every thing she said was as an example. You seriously need to drop that “no reason” crap. That attitude is the reason folks here are saying you’re acting like a dick.

          Dorothy is a pro. I’ve seen her covers, and they’re freaking awesome! The only thing I’ve seen that I believe is from you is that mock-up you posted a link to that, well, looks bad. More importantly though, she simply disagreed with you. She didn’t call you a name, attack you, or anything else. Instead, you cop an attitude. No, maybe you didn’t call anyone a name, but there are a lot of ways to be a jerk to someone, and calling someone names is only one of them.

          I disagreed with a lot of what you were saying, but hey, I don’t need everyone to agree with me. I figured out how to use drop shadows in Gimp fairly easily thanks to a tutorial, so I know it doesn’t take years to learn that aspect as well. That’s directly contrary to your advice to just skip it because I can’t get it right.

          Yes, I know your advice was for the person who can’t afford a pro. I’m in that boat right now. However, if I put a cover like that on my next release, I can kick back and wait for zero sales. Like it or not, it screams self published, and there is still a stigma there to some extent.

          Admittedly, at least part of it is that I’m not a fan of rendered graphics, but another part is the basic layout of it. It looks amateurish, which screams self-published. Even a so-co cover that meets the current conventions will have a potential reader wonder a bit. Once they read the blurb, the cover isn’t quite as important, but you’ve got to get them to read the blurb. That cover? Not so much.

          There are covers I like, and covers I don’t. Sometimes, I buy the books with the covers I dislike. Why? Because there was enough there to generate interest at least, and I liked what I was seeing otherwise.

          Oh, and for the record? The reason you’re getting hit over the whole Quiltbag thing? It’s because QUILTBAG represents a certain type of leftist, and you tend to use it for almost everyone. It’s annoying and, frankly, makes everyone here look like we don’t comprehend what’s going on outside of our side of the debate. I’ve been quiet about it, but it is annoying. Not every lefty screaming about Larry Correia or whatever is some variation of gay, yet that’s what QUILTBAG kind of is. Let it go, man. You’re not doing yourself any favors on that.

          Now, when you did the emergency calls from WisCon at Larry’s? Now that did you lots of favors. That stuff was FUNNY! 🙂

          1. T.L.

            I’d disagree on the pro – but then, I still get up and commute for 12-hour days at the Day Job. Cover art, design, and marketing are sworn in there with “for better or for worse, til death do us part.”

            Rather, I’d say that I’d learned enough to find good art and direct a darned good designer into creating the covers I want, with the right signals for genre and subgenre. For my personal art, outside of charcoal sketches, my expertise is at quickly sketching on scraps of paper what will later be a full rendering in AutoCAD, or in reality on the production floor. Not the same thing!

            Let me freely and happily share my sources! I like to pull art from innovari on dreamstime, but he hasn’t uploaded anything new in 3 years or answered his mail in a year and a half, so the stock of what hasn’t been used, or can be altered to look new, is getting pretty thin. The latest cover is by PhilCold on dreamstime. (Marko Kloos’ original cover for Terms of Engagement, before 42 North picked him up, was by him, too. Clearly, he has selling power.)

            Phil is still uploading, still improving, answers his emails, and offers custom cover art for $130 while he’s trying to build a reputation. What more can you ask for from an artist? Contact info here.

            My designer is Oleg Volk, who is an excellent photographer and ad designer. (He is a pro.) He makes his living with advertisements in the firearms industry, and his hobby is designing posters for second amendment rights promotion. (That’s a little misleading; his posters turn up all over the world, in many different languages, in countries where the USA constitution and bill of rights has no relevance at all.) If you want to use him, be aware that you’re going to have to do your homework on the signals for genre and subgenre first, so you can direct what you want and need. Just as an excellent spanish guitar player might be terrible at jazz, so an excellent designer may not know the conventions of your particular genre, and will need you to provide direction and feedback.

            1. Oleg is the man. I’ve been a fan of his stuff for years. Of course, I became familiar with him through his Second Amendment work. I didn’t know he did book covers though.

              Good to know!

          2. The covers you refer to are adequate. They are far from “awesome.” And I’m assuming someone who is not the authors did the paintings, which is 95% of the awesome, so what exactly are you saying? Who can afford those paintings? Someone put type top and bottom and had the good sense not to use some kind of medieval gothic – that’s awesome? In fact those covers illustrate my point: don’t muck about. Keep it simple.

            You’re willfully misrepresenting the QUILTBAG thing. I’m not talking about the gay community, but about intersectionalism, – the QUILTBAG community in SFF – which is probably a tiny percentage of the gay community.

            You may find it annoying but I’m sure Orson Scott Card finds it more so. They have tried to end his career. They boycott his books, his film and cost him a comics job, all over a stance intersectionalists ignore when it comes to Muslims’s same stance on gay marriage. It’s not a question of letting it go but whether it exists, and it clearly does. It is not liberals who want to end the careers of S. Hoyt and L. Correia – there are many liberals commenting on Correia’s site. It is intersectionalist QUILTBAGs, which, by the way, is how they describe themselves. It is not a term I made up.

            If you think this thing in the SFF community is lefty vs. righty you clearly don’t understand what’s going on with your side of the debate. Janis Ian is gay, a member of the SFWA and bitterly opposes these people. Just go back and read the rhetoric about “Yaaay no white men won” surrounding the Nebulas and do your homework or leave it to us who do. I have had SF academics and historians from the other side of the world contact me and thank me for my work that puts the pieces of the puzzle all in one place. Your reaction to my FACTS about intersectionalism in SFF don’t affect me one whit.

            Whatever you think of the mock up I did, the point is a person can do it without knowing anything about painting, drawing, typography or design – from scratch. Obviously they could then make a design to suit their own sensibilities. The point is they CAN do it and don’t have to seek outside help of any kind and it’s 100% free.

            So your argument is you’re NOT going to learn those simple skills because I’m irritating and you didn’t like what I threw together in a few minutes to illustrate a point? You don’t have to put a cover like THAT on your new release. You can tweak rendered graphics to produce a more painterly effect and put a cover like YOURS up that you designed.

            Please stop acting like you’ve never said a movie is crap or that’s rude or that the movie suddenly becomes “awesome” because your cousin did it. Design obviously operates independently of hurt feelings and strong opinions, as you’ll learn if you ever suffer a merciless classroom critique.

            You’re also willfully misunderstanding drop shadows. Using drop shadows is as simple as a push of a button. It’s HOW to use them I’m talking about, which is to say don’t do it if you’re not a designer. Just stay away from them. Just because you CAN do a thing doesn’t mean you should.

            1. First, I disagree. The covers are great. But that’s the great thing about something subjective like this. I don’t really care if you agree with me. However, I do care how you’re insulting people who dare to disagree with you.

              For example, saying someone is “willfully misrepresenting” something is a good way to get labeled a dick. Why? Because “willfully misrepresenting” is no different than saying I’m lying about what you said. I didn’t “willfully misrepresent” anything. That is my honest impression when you label everyone who bashes white males “QUILTBAG”. Feminists are anti-white racists are not part of the whole QUILTBAG thing, but you group them as such. I think you know you do too, because you said:

              I’m not talking about the gay community, but about intersectionalism, – the QUILTBAG community in SFF – which is probably a tiny percentage of the gay community.

              Yet, have you ever looked at what QUILTBAG means? All those letters stand for something, and all center around sexual identity that doesn’t include straight. A straight female feminist isn’t “QUILTBAG”, but can still be an intersectionalist. So, who’s misrepresenting things? Hmmm?

              As for my “argument” about what I’m going to learn or not learn, again you appear to be the one “willfully misrepresenting” what I said. I pointed out the problems with your mock up. That’s all. Frankly, it sucks. I said nothing about not learning anything. You spend an awful lot of time complaining about people responding to things you didn’t say, and then you turn right around and do it to someone else. Nice.

              The truth is, those skills are skills I have either learned, or plan to learn (with the exception of rendering…as I said earlier, not a fan of that). Why? They’re entry level, as you’ve indicated. The problem is, you’re telling people to not bother with going beyond it because they can’t possibly know how.

              Which ties into the drop shadows and such. Your answer is “don’t do it because you don’t know what you’re doing”. Wow. Terribly constructive. Not a “be careful, because you can screw up your cover if you do them wrong.” Nope. Just a straight “You don’t know what you’re doing, so don’t.”

              So yeah, a lot of us are tuning you out now. Why? It’s not because of what you say, but because you seem determined to go out of your way to be an insulting as possible when you say it. I have little doubt that this comment will either be ignored, or be met with similar tone from you. Whatever. This isn’t my domain, so I won’t tell you what’s going to happen to you. I can say that it’s obvious to a lot of us that you’re just as bad as some of the people you decry.

  36. When it comes to things like playing a piano, picking a banjo or playing a saxophone, no one who can’t do those things would say they could. The obvious reason is because they can’t.

    When it comes to things like typography, photography, and design, suddenly everyone’s an expert, because the perception is those things live in a land of the unseen, and one man’s opinion is as good as another’s.

    In fact that is false. It is as false as the idea a non-writer can write Dune Messiah. The distance between a beginner and someone accomplished is as real in the presumed unseen visual arts as it is in the physical.

    So if you’re an indie author and you have to play a piano, banjo or sax and you don’t know how to? What do you do? You play the simplest – possible – chords. End of story.

    1. …you, sir, clearly do not live near Nashville, if you can type that first line with a straight face.

      I congratulate your eardrums on their good sense and range.

      On the other hand, every now and then I find a real gem of a picker, when all I wanted was a burrito after the traffic jam after a long day. Just like an author hawking their books at a con, I can immediately go on the smartphone and download the song I liked (and they’re more than happy to stop inbetween songs and help show me which album it came from, and what the song title is.)

      The oversupply as related to demand is so high here, you can’t go to Arby’s on Friday afternoon without running into a hopeful young musician, case out and rapidly learning what a very jaded audience does and does not like.

      1. Speck has its own yu-nique musical tradition, too. Nashville may get the more current attempts at country, while we get endless attempts to make said twang-banging muscial and “bluegrass.” My compliments on your aural fortitude in suffering the twings and bassos of outrageous pretention. *grin*

      2. I can type that first line with a straight face because you willfully misread it. If a person has never touched a banjo, they can’t get up on a stage where a banjo player is performing and start playing. What I wrote had nothing to do with the idea they have the confidence to believe they might someday do it or that unexpectedly good things are where you might least expect them, so it’s a waste of effort to push around goal posts and then pretend I wrote something I didn’t.

    1. Those are some pretty space moths and pastel planets you’ve got there. Suitable, perhaps, for the fairy-tale-in-space genre (think: A Wrinkle in Time). Not at all appropriate for

      Something that looks like it could fit on a pulp SF mag of the ’50s. Maybe a F&SF cover.

      which is what you were responding to.

      The layout is terrible: Black border around a picture of that palette? Nope. And white-on-black text looks heavier than the font is; get a font with an intermediate weight for this.

      And the font—Trajan Pro Bold [or a knock-off version]? Really? Because, of course,

      (And artificially compressed on the first line; ick.)

      Try this instead:

      (It’s also not evocative of ’50s pulp, but it’s a plausible use of your image.)

      1. Aren’t you missing the point? So maybe you’d do this:

        The point is I’m offering you a world of possibilities to do your own design for those with no experience and you’re pinning this one design down as some be-all, end-all. You can do anything you want. Don’t you get that? Anything. No stock photo/painting houses, no paying for original art.

        As for the overall effect. It’s a heck of a lot better than those in question. Miles better.

        Do me a favor: critique the space moths and pastel planets when you can make them and show me better. Thank you.

        1. That one change makes the cover much better. Now it’s a decent sketch of a cover—but still (as was pointed out ad nauseam) for a different sub-genre of SF/F than was under discussion.

          And for the fairy-tale-in-space genre like A Wrinkle in Time, the “space moths and pastel planets” would be appropriate: and the discussion could move to the typography. (I hedged this with “perhaps” above. I was wrong there; the typography was distracting from the utility of the picture.) And it is a pretty picture; and if ever I write a story in a compatible genre I will refer to your hints above.

    2. Which isn’t quite what I’m looking for – but as I said up-stream here, I really appreciate your advice and willingness to help. I’m slowly getting a good idea of what I want the cover to look like – and it remains to be seen if I can figure out how to do it.

      (Layers. I think I got layers down! Wait – where’d that blasted layer go!? AARGH!)

      It’s just going to take me time.

      1. The most basic thing people use layers for is to, for example, write the letters of your name, each on its own layer, so you can change one, a planet in reality maybe, without changing all. I advise saving the file as you go and even working on a duplicate file just in case.

        I never imagined the design was what you were looking for. It’s an example of what one can do JUST with the elipitical marquee and custom shape tool. Throw in a starfield and you at least have a start where you can do an awful lot, and completely on your own. And it’s simple. This is about hiding your weaknesses, not reaching for the stars.

        1. Oh, hell yeah. Learned that in the ’80s – save early, save often, save just because, save when you get up to get rid of excess fluids, save when you get up for more fluids of the caffeinated (or decaf) variety, save when the cat comes into the room, and every third save increment (filename-number) by 1.

          I rarely loose files any more. Thank god for date-stamps, though…


    3. What a piece of crap. You should be ashamed for even THINKING to rough that up. One of my cats could hork up a hairball with more creativity to it than that. It’s a good thing you don’t work in my industry, or I’d have to hunt you down just to have you drummed out. You pathetic poseur.


      1. Well, I know little about Art but I know what I like. That picture failed to impress me either as art or as “hey look inside”.

        Fail failed. [Evil Grin]

  37. I read the post at Mad Genius and all I can say it that it confirms the point that the unseen remains unseen unless I sit someone down at a piano they’ve never sat at before. Then suddenly the unseen would become seen. Basically the group opposing me are at once unteachable and also terrible artists, about what I’d expect if I had my ma design a cover or write an SF novel for me. The difference is my ma knows that and won’t throw a tantrum if I say she can’t do it.

    Without realizing it, you folks coming down on me are your own explanations. I don’t wish you ill, but if I did, I’d wish you to continue believing in yourselves as artists because trust me, you are damaging your own product in ways you simply are incapable of seeing.

    When I read Dune Messiah I trust that man is far, far above my skill set – after all, I am a reader. As a reader, I cannot understand the (to me) invisible forces Herbert is putting into play. I simply trust they are there, and that if I wanted to cross that gulf I’d have to do just a little more than make novels from sheer arrogance and a few writing workshops. Even when I came to that time I understood, I’d have to surpass the nuts and bolts and pass into artistry. That is an invisible land few have access to. Just trust that instead of your awesome ability to get to that place that’s not even your area of expertise. You are writers. You are not illustrators, designers or typographers. It is your own conceit you think you can walk in and appropriate those skills.

    Were this all about painters appropriating novel writing after a few brush ups, you’d be the first to defend me.

    1. You dare speak of conceit? Really?

      That’s amusing, to say the least. You continue to speak like an expert yourself, yet still haven’t provided any reason why we should listen to you. Your one example was frankly awful, and your defense of it was even worse. You are a reader, but that is all you’ve described yourself as. You have yet to present your credentials as an illustrator, designer, or a typographer. Show us why we should listen to you. Seriously. Instead of showing me your version of all someone like me should dare attempt, show me your best. Give me a reason to actually be willing to listen to anything you have to say, especially since you’re being about as diplomatic as ultracourse sandpaper.

      1. FINE. Show me a cover you made from scratch in a matter of hours – completely original and free. I’ll wait… for about a year. A comparison would be the best way to illustrate your point.

        1. No.

          Because I simply asked you to establish your credentials as to why we should listen to you. You have yet to provide them, while at the same time blasting everyone else for not being illustrators, typographers, etc. You’re not willing to back anything up, because you can’t. That’s fine.

          But, you see, I’m just calling you out on your attitude. Something you’re incapable of comprehending is the root of all this friction.

      2. If I’d been trying to illustrate my best, there could’ve been a very nice drawing of a woman in a black space suit floating in the foreground. I didn’t do that because one would have to draw and paint and I’m trying to show non-illustrators what they can do. Beyond insults, start showing me some work. YOUR work.

        1. No, I’m not.

          You see, I’m a consumer and I freely admit that I’m learning. I’m also not telling people what they shouldn’t do, unlike some people in this conversation. (For the record, I’m talking about you.)

          And, also for the record, you’re the last person who should try to lecture anyone on insults. Or, is it impossible for you to communicate without the attitude? After all, any insults have only come after repeated and continual rudeness and attitude from you.

    2. Fail, you want to talk about the MGC post, go there and do it. This is not the place. You’ve already hijacked too much bandwidth here.

        1. My opinion. Of course, I also think it’s cowardly for someone to comment about the contents of a blog entry without putting those comments on the blog in question. You’ll note that the MGC post was linked back to here in the comments. You will also note that, at no time, were you actually named in the post (iirc). So, before you get your knickers in a twist, you are the one who outed yourself as the person Kate may have been discussing. Don’t like what she said? Take it to her blog post. It doesn’t belong here. That’s common sense.

    1. Dare I say this? Ok, I will.

      I think a certain person would fail to pass your workshop. [Evil Grin]

  38. Well, I live in the Springs and I DO know what you look like. But should I bump into you on the street one day, I promise to neither approach you with “old woman on the mountain deference” (I’m old enough to not think you’re old anyway 😉 ) nor tackle you to the ground in a fit of rabid fandom.

    Rather, I will magically produce my copy of Darkship Thieves from my pocket – where it will surely be residing on that particular day – politely ask if you’d like to sign it, and if neither you nor I are in a hurry, perhaps talk shop for a few minutes :).

    P.S.: I totally agree – anonymity while making enough money to live comfortably is in fact the ideal. I wish us both luck.

      1. I’m pretty sure I came close to winding up on “People of WalMart” one night, as I danced in the street, trying to keep the soda cans that had just rolled out of the carton that popped open under the cart from rolling out into traffic with my feet. THAT would have probably scared you. 😉

  39. Well, I live in the Springs AND I know what you look like. Nevertheless, should we bump into one another on the street one day, I will neither approach you with “old woman on the mountain deference” (I’m old enough to not think you’re old anyway 😉 ) nor tackle you in a fit of rabid fandom.

    Rather, I will magically produce my copy of Darkship Thieves from my pocket – where it will surely reside that day – and ask if you’d like to sign it. Then, if neither you nor I are in a hurry, perhaps we will talk shop for a few minutes :).

    P.S.: I totally agree – anonymity while earning enough to live comfortably is in fact the ideal. I wish us both luck.

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