Unringing the Bell — A Blast From the Past Post, October 2011

*Almost four years have passed and the amazing thing is how much of this is still “news” to most of my field, and how much of this is at the basis of everything that’s going on, including the Hugo struggle.  Well, everything that’s going on in Science Fiction.  I don’t think we can hold indie publishing responsible for the situation in the Middle East, Putin’s insanity or the heartbreak of Psoriasis.  However, again, it’s amazing how much of this is current.  Four years ago when I took the “going indie” workshop with Kris and Dean they assured us we were cutting edge pioneers.  I thought “surely that can’t be right”  People have been doing this for years.  And yet for most of my colleagues all this might as well be non-existent, even as the effects roil their lives and livelihood.*

Those of you who haven’t read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Writing Like It’s 1999, do so.

For those of you who read my blog this might seem like I’m harping on a theme, or like I’m getting repetitive.  Well I’d think so too, truly.  Except…  Except…whenever I’m at a con, someone – usually someone much less published than I am – comes back with a variant of “I’m going to keep my eyes shut tight and in the morning, this will all go away.”

Disruptive change is very scary and most people would rather pretend it will all go away, and we’ll be back to the familiar landscape and the familiar certainties.  Even if those are horrible.  Freed lions will often pace as though in the confines of the cage.  Those few of us who are awake and exploring every possibility, looking in every corner, searching for the way things will be are a small minority.

At cons, I still run into authors who look down on self-published authors.   I still run into authors who parrot the line about how much the publisher is investing in them: when it is patently obvious they’re lost in mid-list hell; I still run into authors who say “if you want to make a living at this, you have to publish with the big six.”

I had the dubious privilege of hearing a mid-press published author telling a self-published author whom I happen to know makes more in a month on one book than the mid-press published author has made for any two or three of his books that “most of what’s self published is crap and no one would buy it.  The future is finding a publisher and convincing them to accept you.  In two years, all this e-book stuff will be gone.”

It was breathtakingly bizarre.  Kind of like, in a fantasy novel, standing next to the hidden prince and watching the false king parade down the street looking down on everyone.  Like Saturnalia, with the fools reigning.

And then I catch myself – occasionally – thinking the old thoughts, too: “Well, what does he/she know.  He/she is small press published.”  Or perhaps thinking that some of my fledgelings will of course, eventually, follow the route I have.  And then I stop.  Because there are few things I know, but I do have some certainties.

These are the things I know:

Even if e-books all went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t go back to the way it was
Not the way it was in the early nineties, or even the way it was in the late nineties when I came in.  No way, no how, never.  Because there’s this thing called Amazon.  The publishers no longer control what’s on the shelves and what gets seen.  And even if Amazon died tomorrow, there would be other e-tailers.  Trying to control shelf space is not a winning strategy.  That bell has rung.

E-books aren’t going away
You can’t put the e-book genii back in the bottle.  I’m reading on kindle.  My kids are reading more on kindle than on paper.  So is my husband.  So are most of my friends. Barring some planet killing type of event, this is not going to go away.  No, the economic crisis won’t kill it.  Kindle books published by indies are cheaper.  The tighter life gets, the more likely we’ll buy those instead of the agency-modeled-to-death.

The hierarchies of prestige are gone
Because the big six no longer control access to shelf space (except in Barnes and Noble, and it no longer has the influence it once had) the safe hierarchy of self-published, small press, medium press, big press is gone.  We used to assume someone who self-published hadn’t even been able to get a small press to accept him/her.  We approached their work expecting it to be awful.  It often was.  That certainty is done.  A savvy author with time on his hands can decide he has a better chance going it alone.  Be careful how you talk to other authors.  That person with a single indie book out might have a larger readership than you could dream of.

Most authors have had a taste of freedom
I’m one of them.  Look, I’ve done next to nothing Indie.  A Touch of Night and a few short stories through Naked Reader Press. Interesting results but inconclusive.  However, just knowing I can write whatever and if it doesn’t sell I can put it up on Amazon and it will sell a minimum of x – plus be in print forever – has given me massive freedom.  I no longer feel like I’m blindfolded in the cattle car of a train over whose destination I have no control.  Even if indie proves to be less than half of my income, the ability to put out there what I think should be out there is slowly molding me into a different person: a much less fretful and worried one.  It’s likely to lengthen my life.  It will certainly make me easier to live with.  I don’t know how it’s taking other authors, but I don’t think it’s that bad.

We’re scared, but we’re not stupid
I know, I know, Dean says we’re stupid.  And he’s right in a way, but we’re a very specialized kind of stupid.  Also, he’s not seeing the pressures on my generation – those who came in after 2000 when the publishing houses looked at things ONLY through agents, and the publishing houses’ decisions could make or break your career, regardless of how good your book was.  We had to learn to shut up, no matter how stupid we felt what was happening was.  Not anymore.  And we’re losing the habit of silence – slowly.  The chances of a mass exodus back to publishers on the old terms because we don’t want to do everything ourselves is about … oh, look, do you see that flying pig?  Yeah.  Some of us will go back, of course – most of us who have made our name and can dictate terms, or the really small ones who couldn’t make it on their own.

And I’m not saying publishers are going away
Of course they’re not.  Though a few of the houses will vanish and almost certainly a few of the imprints will vanish.  What I’m saying is that the majority of the writers are NOT going to go back on the old terms.  You want us back, you’re going to have to do things for us that we can’t do for ourselves or hire someone to do for us.  I’m thinking this is the true “demise of the midlist” and not in the fake way you tried to do it before, where you simply announced the midlist was gone and kept changing midlisters’ names and paying them as beginners and not allowing them to build a following.  No.  I think the “midlister” the “shelf filler” the “person we print but don’t do anything else for” is gone.  You’ll have to treat every author as if he/she matters.  You have to make it better for them than they can do by throwing it up on Amazon.  I’m thinking good covers, publicity, limited contracts.

Make it worth my while
Or at least, don’t use aversion therapy on me.  You can’t keep me in the dark and feed me on shit anymore.  If the book is not selling, sure, I need to know, but don’t tell me it’s because it’s not a good book, when I know you did nothing to market it, not even get it on shelves.  And don’t, then, treat me as if it’s all my fault.  Because if you make things unpleasant enough and treat me like a serf, I’m going to think “well, I don’t need to work for you anymore” and I’m going to go Indie.

Give me a public
I’m thinking more publishers should look at Baen books, instead of turning up their noses.  Baen commands loyalty among its writers and gets dedicated readers who look for the brand.  Some of this is (good) marketing gimmicks: buttons saying “I read baened books”, book bags given out at cons, a slide show where upcoming releases are announced, a forum where fans can meet and geek out on their favs.  Part of it, though, the most important thing, is what none of the rest in sf/f or mystery has (I don’t know enough of Romance): a brand.  A unified taste.  For the big houses with multiple editors, this is difficult, of course.  But you can no longer be all things to all people.  Baen chose and does plot.  It does plot really well – whether it’s in sf/f or any of the variations.  “Things happen in Baen Books” would be a great tag line.  Mind you, if it’s one of my books (or Dave Freer’s, too, or a half dozen others) the books also have characters and feelings – but the “things happen” and “adventure” aspect MUST be there for it to be a Baen book.  When I started being published by Baen I immediately “slotted” into a pre-made public.  This, as a newby, gave me something to put my back against, as I grow the rest.  So, what can the big houses do.  I don’t know.  I don’t know under what constraints they operate.  BUT if I owned one, I’d give each editor an “imprint” and then give them the resources to publicize that imprint.  “Okay, Jane likes craft mysteries.  She can specialize in that.  We’ll call it Golden Brush books, and…”  Have them appeal to a segment of public, but appeal to them very powerfully.  It’s better to command 50k loyal readers and grow them slowly than to have most of your books bomb, except for a mega ultra blockbuster a year – which these days might not materialize.  (No power to push, remember?)  And meanwhile tell the editors that the house does… oh, pick one.  Beautiful, doomed adolescents.  Or perhaps more generally “character” or “angst” or “Beautiful language.” and unify that across your “imprints” which will maximize the chance of people reading the brand, not just the imprint.

Will there be a new equilibrium?  Of course there will.  And I think it’s about two years out, too.  But will things be the way they were?

E-books.  E-tailing.  Soon, the book printing machines in every bookstore.  Writers who’ve taken the bit between their teeth.  Will all that vanish?

No way.  You can’t put humpty dumpty together again.  And you can’t unring a bell.  So publishers and writers both will have to stay alert and change to survive.

UPDATE:  Ask not for whom that bell won’t unring…  I think what you’re hearing today, loud and clear, are funeral bells.  Or perhaps the woosh of the meteor falling to Earth.  The dinosaurs will never be the same:  http://www.thepassivevoice.com/09/2011/amazon-launches-79-kindle-and-99-kindle-touch-ereaders/

167 responses to “Unringing the Bell — A Blast From the Past Post, October 2011

  1. Laura Montgomery

    Indie shows just how big the world is. There are tons of people–readers–who don’t know it’s out there. Likewise, there are tons of people reading indie in numbers large enough to give writers their daily bread. And, it’s possible for these groups to be indifferent to each other.

    Indie also shows what an untapped market there was for books that aren’t dreary and miserable, as Sarah discussed at MGC the other day. Human wave is more than a trickle these days.

  2. c4c

  3. One of the most encouraging members of the on-line indy writers group in and about 2007-2009 was a dear sweet little retired missionary in the mid-west who had about 20 books out there, starting about in the late 1980s. I think her first book was assembled at a Kinkos with a comb binding, but she was unstoppable. (Janet Elaine Smith – she wrote historicals and Christian romance, mostly). I went to a local writer’s group in the mid-90s where a local printer came and made a presentation about publishing independently, but it cost more money than I could think about at the time for a print run. Indy publishing has been going on in a quiet way for at least a couple of decades, but what really opened up the field was digital printing technology, and being able to market on-line through blogs, websites and Amazon

    • what really opened up the field was digital printing technology, and being able to market on-line through blogs, websites and Amazon

      Technology certainly has changed to playing field. No longer acting a the gateway to widespread marketing and distribution, the big conglomerate house publishers have less and less to offer. Add the advent of e-readers — although I personally prefer old fashioned printed on paper — which cut out the need to print.

  4. Pingback: Unringing the Bell — A Blast From the Past Post, October 2011 « amiecus curiae

  5. I don’t think we can hold indie publishing responsible for the situation in the Middle East, Putin’s insanity or the heartbreak of Psoriasis.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was A Proximate Cause. Then we could shut it down and *poof* the world would be safe. Realists know it nothing is that simple.

    The Daughter has, in a fit of peak, suggested that one solution to the problems of the planet would be to carpet bombed the whole thing to oblivion. That way we would achieve a very peaceful, albeit glowy, world. I find this suggestion a bit extreme — most of the time.

    • carpet bombed the whole thing to oblivion

      I think this was the US public’s initial preferred plan for Afghanistan after 9/11. It is left as an exercise for the reader to decide if the outcome of what I’ll call this “Sleeping Giant” strategy would have been better or worse than the way things stand today, in the stans and worldwide.

      • As the Daughter has a bit of a jaundiced view of human kind in general, her suggestion was to take out the entire planet.

    • Randy Newman – Political Science:

  6. It’s not the authors who should be scared. It’s the New York literary set who are watching their well-paid, high social cachet lives of scooting down from Westchester or the West Side or gentrified Brooklyn to their fashionable jobs at the big name publishers dry up and blow away, when 90% of what they do can be done for free by the content providers with a used Photoshop and Pagemaker disk.

  7. If you publish with indie books or self-publish, how critical is it that you already be popular or build a huge social media presence? Imagine a person loves writing but is terrible at (and terrified of) salesmanship. I think such a writer could benefit from some sort of reviewer system who could highlight a new book for a wide audience. So, the specialized publishers you are thinking of could instead be specialized reviewers who publicize Amazon-printed books. This could boost the attractiveness of self-publishing even higher. Or is this nearly impossible?

    • Not critical at all. Doug Dandrige and Mackey have almost no web presence. Some but not a lot. And they’re both doing VERY well.

    • I can’t speak to whether it’s possible, but it has some important obstacles. Notice that Amazon will permit anyone, verified purchaser or not, to review a book. That makes the reviews there a melange of family-and-friends praise and detractor contempt. The same is true for Barnes & Noble.

      Smashwords, where I broke in, requires that you be a verified purchaser of a book if you want to post a review of it, but the results appear no more trustworthy than those at Amazon. At least, I’ve purchased a fair number of four and five star books there and have tossed them aside with a Dorothy Parker-like comment…which I haven’t posted as a review.

      What we might be seeing is what I’ve called the “Consumer Reports” Effect. People’s willingness to review is strongest if they have strong feelings about the book — good or bad. The middle — “yeah, it was okay,” or “substandard, but not execrable” — is under-represented.

      If we turn to the “professional” book reviewers…well, we turn away pretty quickly. Most of them are “on the take.” The rest would rather cut their own throats than say a kind word about a book from someone who disagrees with them on any important subject.

      Where, then, do we go for reviewers and reviews that are trustworthy assessments of the quality and entertainment value of a book? Niche reviewers, who specialize in one genre, or perhaps one sub-genre (e.g., Lesbian Vampire Romance for Pre-Teens)? Recognized “above-ground” writers who also review? Maybe God Almighty, if running Creation hasn’t worn Him to a frazzle yet?

      It’s a stiff problem.

      • “(e.g., Lesbian Vampire Romance for Pre-Teens)” For the love of Chtulhu, don’t give ’em ideas 😉

      • There’s a secondary problem… you might like something *now* that you didn’t like ten years ago, and vice versa.

        Many times I’ve picked up a book I’d read ten or fifteen years ago, made it a couple of chapters in, and wondered “How could I have finished this piece of dreck, much less remembered it with fondness?!”

        • The fun part is that some of them get better, some worse, some no diff.

          • Or you see them differently. I read Something Wicked when I was a teenager and related to the kid. I re-read it as an adult and a father and the father became the protagonist. It was a completely different book solely because my perspective had changed.

        • Sometimes they come back later. I loved Narnia to pieces as a child, was bored by it as a 20 something and in my late 30s discovered I loved it again. There probably aren’t a lot of books like that, but it is at least possible.

          • Eddings’s The Belengariad was like that for me. HS, loved it, late 20s, hated it, early 40s loved it again.

            It is why I hated WoT though…the first book and a half felt like an overwritten rip-off and I never went back.

            • Whereas, to me, the first two books of WoT were wonderful, but I thought it had totally bogged down by book 5. Had he kept it down to a trilogy, it would be one of my favorites.

              I’m still waiting for Roland Green to write the last book of the “Wandor” series, despite its faults, and I’d love to see the continuation of Goulart’s “Quest of the Gypsy.”

          • That seems appropriate for Narnia. Remember what Lewis said about it in his dedication:

            “You’re already too old for fairy tales…but someday, you will be old enough for fairy tales again.”

      • The old rule of thumb always applies: know your reviewer! Siskel & Ebert were good not because their reviews were always dead-on, but because they were consistent and because they were clear.

        Once you had learned each’s bents it became easy to translate their reactions into useable information. Regular viewers knew to avoid a flick if Sikel liked it and Ebert didn’t (or vice-versa) and if both liked a film it was probably worth taking in (or avoiding, depending on your experience.) But because each reviewer was consistent in his standards and clear in his expression of why he liked a film or not, viewers could use them as accurate benchmarks.

        This is why friends who have demonstrated similar preferences are the best promotion of a book. It is also why certain reviewers become known as reliable anti-endorsers: if Mike Dribble liked a book it is a pretentious pile of schlock which you should avoid; if he hated it you will find it has a good plot and doesn’t think America/Free Markets the source of all evil in the world.

        Amazon reviews can be very reliable if you learn to translate them properly. distilling the useful info from the fankid ravings (pro and con.) A good reviewer should make clear their own preferences and provide reasons that are reasonably objective or at least clear (e.g., I love Jimmy Stewart films and found this one of his weaker performances but still enjoyable.)

        Verified purchaser requirements are gameable and eliminate useful reviews from people who read the book (watched the movie) decades before Amazon (or whoever) existed.

        • Taste aside (and ignoring shills and political slap fights), there is the problem of “what does a 5 star review mean to *this* reviewer?”

          You have reviewers who only give 5 to world changing classics and 4 to something they thought was merely excellent. Others give 5 to the disposable vacation book they will never re-read but did enjoy. Young reviewers seem to rate *everything* a 1 or a 5, with no middle ground.

          With established reviewers you knew who the “hard judges” were and if they gave something a 5 then it was likely incredible, but even their 4 meant it was worth your time and money.

          • One thing you can do on Amazon is click on the reviewer’s name. That’ll bring you to a page that has all of their reviews in chronological order. It’s not perfect since you’ll see app and product reviews mixed in with all the books in every genre they review, but it should allow you to develop a baseline for that reviewer.

            • And like anywhere else over time you can find reviewers you trust. You’re much more likely to find multiple ones like you at Amazon than elsewhere.

            • Laura Montgomery

              Also, go to a book you’ve read and liked, find a reviewer who felt the same for the same reasons and follow him.

        • For a few years, in high school, I knew of an absolute treasure; a film reviewer who was always wrong. If he liked a film, I knew to avoid it. If he hated a fiom, it was worth checking out. He LOVED THE WARRIORS, but for all the wrong reasons. He HATED THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER and liked the ones after that.

          The only good review he ever gave to a film I liked was for STAR WARS. It was lukewarm and he gave it two weeks late. Word around town was that his editor had stopped a pan, and told him “You need to give this movie a good review. It is the summer blockbuster, people are lined up around the block. This hack job you’ve given me will lose the paper readership. Do it, or pack.”

        • There aren’t any film reviewers I really trust now. Ebert was surprisingly fair and perceptive on war movies, probably because he could interpret the very good, grim ones as anti-war. Pauline Kael actually steered me toward movies with politics she did not approve of. Her review of the great “Uncommon Valor” was like, this action movie is very politically incorrect and rightist, but wow is it good! The elderly John Simon quit movies to concentrate on reviewing theater, so that doesn’t leave any of the great ones.

    • What Sarah said. I launched _A Cat Among Dragons_ without a blog, any social media, or any advertising. I just kept shoving books out the door, and eventually word spread and people started pushing $ back at me. I now have a blog, still no social media, and no heavy advertising (for other-work reasons).

  8. This is as relevant and accurate today as it was in 2011, for a simple reason: the allegiants of the Old Order almost never abandon their faith. They must die off and be replaced for a sea change in opinion, much less in power, to occur.

    Hard scientists have known this for decades. Remember that Albert Einstein was derided for General Relativity. What, after all, was a 26-year-old postal worker doing upsetting the whole of physics, doctorate or none? What right did he have?

    Only after the publication of his Photoelectric Effect papers did Einstein receive the admiration he deserved. It might well be the same for indie fiction and the new order struggling for its foothold today.

    • I don’t recall Einstein ever working at the post office. He was a patent examiner at the Swiss patent office. The four papers on special relativity that came out in the “annus mirabilis” 1905 built heavily on the work of Lorentz (who got a Nobel prize himself, and whose “Lorentz transformation” was the foundation stone of Einstein’s work) and Poincaré. Coincidentally, Einstein obtained his own Ph.D. in that year, but he got an academic position shortly after and tenure a few years later, and was already a well respected academic well before general relativity.

      Special relativity solved a major existing conundrum in classical electrodynamics (basically, Maxwell’s equations are not invariant under Galilean transformation) and therefore had an easier time getting accepted. In contrast, general relativity (where gravity enters the picture) predicted phenomena that it took until 1919 to see any experimental evidence for.

      His explanation of the photo-electric effect was a major step in the budding quantum theory and would have gotten him a Nobel anyway. There is some truth to the statement that relativity was not yet commonly accepted at the time Einstein got the prize, but at least special relativity (the effects arising from light having a finite speed which is the upper speed limit of the Universe) had a significant following in the theoretical physics community already, and Einstein himself enjoyed major stature because of it (and other work).

      Ironically, Einstein himself was very reluctant to accept major principles of quantum mechanics (as distinct from early quantum theory). “G-d does not play with dice” was his response to the Uncertainty Principle. It took Paul Dirac to reconcile quantum mechanics and relativity (which made him a Nobel laureate at age 31!).

      One final point: a popular misconception exists that relativity somehow invalidates classical mechanics. In fact, in the limit of an infinite light speed (or, equivalently from a physicist’s perspective, bodies that move at a negligible fraction of light speed), the Lorentz transformation reduces to the Galilean one, and in turn the equations of motion reduce to the classical ones.

      • Many popularized biographies placed Einstein as a postal clerk. That’s what we were taught in school.

        Of course we were also taught that the Pilgrims discovered America and that John Glenn was the first man in space.

        “When I think back on all the crap / I learned in high school / it’s a wonder I can think at all…” — Paul Simon

      • The account of why they gave him the Nobel Prize touches on photo-electric effect and does not mention relativity at all. What they went gaga over was his work on Brownian motion, which would, indeed, make him a major scientist all on its own, since it’s the first evidence we had that there were actually atoms of finite size.

        (The Atomic Age in more senses than one.)

      • I never read the full Lawrence, just the contracted edition.

  9. I don’t think we can hold indie publishing responsible for the situation in the Middle East, Putin’s insanity or the heartbreak of Psoriasis.

    Then you are not thinking correctly. Because of Indie Pub. writers who once knew their proper place have dared speak up, disrupted long-established orders which had existed for the benefit of all Humanity. This demonstration of lese-majeste has incited unrest in others, most notably in the Middle East where some have reacted by attempting to suppress literacy (especially among women, whom Indie has particularly encouraged disruptiveness) altogether.

    In Eastern Europe certain reactionary forces have acted to take whatever steps necessary to prevent the chaos threatened by Indie Pub, empowering Putin and incenting his efforts. The causal details are too obvious to the attentive eye to merit explanation here.

    All the hand-wringing in seats of power engendered by the disruption of stati quo has certainly exacerbated the heartbreak of Psoriasis even if they are not the proximate causes. Just look at the demolition of the Hugo Awards, a destruction which would never have occurred without the false boldness taking root in authors whose careers would never have existed were it not for Indie Pub!

    Shirk responsibility all you like, deny your culpability all day long, Indie Pub is still responsible for all that is terrible in the world, including not only the three items you’ve cited but also child hunger in Africa, the devaluation of the dollar, the collapse of network news and John Scalzi crying himself to sleep at night. Indie Pub must be stopped before Western Civilization completely collapses from the hazards of unlicensed thought.

    Please notify me of new comments via email.

    • RES, you do realize of course that the average liberal progressive puppy kicker suffers from acute sarcasm blindness, don’t you?
      I fully expect this to be cut and pasted over to file770 where it will receive a massive number of +1 comments.

    • And now I find myself wondering just how the bar at the Indie Pub is stocked. Or if I need to bring a bottle or two of this or that to… someplace… sometime.

      • It’s kinda like the Bar at HunQuarters, but, well, the caffeine cut off point is higher and the barkeeper will only tell you once to stop trying to collect donations so you can finish the Great American Literary Masterpiece of Speculative Fiction. And there are fewer alarm sounds to try and remember. (Easiest way at HunQuarters is: are Jeff, Stephanie, Kate, and Joel running toward the sound? If so, go the other direction.)

  10. Part of it, though, the most important thing, is what none of the rest in sf/f or mystery has (I don’t know enough of Romance): a brand.

    Actually mystery has had a brand since 2004, although it is specialized on detective/crime: Hard Case Crime (http://www.hardcasecrime.com/) and they have:

    1. A unified taste
    2. Distinctive and recognizable trade dress (DAW used to have this and, IMHO, should bring it back).
    3. A strong mix of new and classic to the taste authors and title reprints (lots of long out of print Lawrence Block, which is how I found them).

    Like DAW did (does?) they number their books making life easier for collectors.

    • That DAW numbering thing confused me at first. Even after I realized there was no correlation between the book number and its content, I wound up having to explain it to other people who would slide a book out of the shelf and say, “#84? How many books are in this series anyway?”

  11. Somewhat of a tangent but related as it is about eReaders, a while back I asked about reading in the tub.

    Turns out there is an eReader for that: Kobo Aurora H20 (https://us.kobobooks.com/products/kobo-aura-h2o). When Linux Voice issue 9 when CC this month I downloaded it and found a review.

    The downside is it isn’t transparently able to use Amazon books…you have to do a bit of two step.

  12. The comment about unrest in the Middle East, Putin, etc., etc., etc., made me think of The Merry Minuet.

    I grew up listening to that, (my parents had a rather eclectic record collection, folk, classical, broadway, and a Richard Harris’ A Tramp Shining) and sadly most of it is as true as when it was written 60 years ago.

  13. I got a text last night from youngest son, who was working the night shift, asking me if I had Tom Clancy books. He wanted to know if I had read ‘Executive Orders’, because he had just picked it and realized it meant he needed to read the prequel first. So I loaded up a box of my nine Clancy books, seven disintegrating paperbacks and two hard backs, so he could pick them up after work. But that left him with several bookless hours on his shift. No problem. I emailed him my copy of Janissaries.
    And THAT’S one of the best reasons for ebooks: I can get it right now.

  14. Baen commands loyalty among its writers and gets dedicated readers who look for the brand. Some of this is (good) marketing gimmicks: buttons saying “I read baened books”, book bags given out at cons, a slide show where upcoming releases are announced, a forum where fans can meet and geek out on their favs. Part of it, though, the most important thing, is what none of the rest in sf/f or mystery has

    None of the marketing tchotchkes will sell me a book; at best it will get me to pick up a book I might otherwise have ignored, but not very likely. (Although — Baen has book bags?) And the forum is kinda a risk — given the oft times prickly personalities of SF fans they are as likely to drive others off as encourage interaction … and it certainly can consume authors’ time better spent writing stories. (OTOH, Ringo’s hit Keldar series started as a toss-off in the Tavern which generated such fan reax that Jim green-lighted publication, so it works as a venue for testing and promoting word-of-mouth … over all, mixed but somewhat positive.)

    But the fact that Baen has reliably published works that I enjoy, that I have skimmed a B&N SF section, pulling books for consideration and only afterward noticing that each and everyone had the Baen sigil on its spine — this has meant the Baen brand is successful. By creating a distinct house identity and making it easily accessible Baen has motivated me to routinely pull up their publishing schedule in one tab with Amazon in another and pre-order books months ahead of publication. (Yes – i know Baen has links built in for Amazon or B&N or whoever ordering, but my way lets me kick-back a portion to Sarah.)

    All of the marketing only reinforces brand identity; it is the selection of stories that makes me a Baen loyalist. Without the good reads none of the marketing would matter; TOR could give [oral sex by Scalzi] and i still wouldn’t care about their publishing schedule, because their books bore me. I don’t think they shouldn’t be permitted publication; I am confident that some people honestly enjoy such fare, just as I am sure people enjoy Filipino Fast Food Drive-Thru — just don’t demand I accept such as my preferred fare as a way of demonstrating how cool and enlightened I am.

    • … TOR could give [oral sex by Scalzi] and …

      That’s the most nauseating thing I’ve read this week.
      It is my sincere hope that we shall never speak of this again.

    • I checked during the Recent Unpleasantness, and the only thing with TOR on the spine that I’ve bought in the last decade are the Weber Safehold books, and IIRC the only reason those are not Baen books is Baen didn’t have available publishing slots when he started the series.

      I like those well enough to buy signed copies direct from the Weber web site. Otherwise not a darn thing from TOR has surpassed my buy threshhold in a long long time.

      • I only recently found F. Paul Wilson’s Adversary series and they are published by Tor.

        Also, I’m a Carrie Vaughn fan and she’s at Tor. The part of my reading desires she filled is both ending (her last Kitty book is out) and Cedar Sanderson’s Noir books seems to tickle the same spot so the need to buy Tor is probably out the window

        An aside on that (me, an aside, I know), I bought the last Kitty used after waiting a month just to not buy Tor knew…I wish Carrie had a tip jar as I’d pay her the full retail because I felt bad about not buying new due to TOR!. One reason I’m actually excited about the Kitty hole being filled by Cedar’s books is Cedar is indie. This has nothing to do with hating TOR! but a lot with liking the idea that 70% of what I’m paying is going to the author. Now, sure she has more overhead being indie than if she wasn’t but even after overhead I know she’s making more per book I’m only now getting that at some level that’s part of why I’m much happier pressing the button to buy indie eBooks than print…I know the person entertaining me is getting paid enough to entertain me.

        If we’d had indie BID I suspect we’d have gotten the sequel to The Architect of Dreams from Boyett before publisher BS and weird fans put him off from ever wanting to finish the book.

          • Christopher M. Chupik

            Indeed he does.

          • I was looking over “Horror 100 Best Books” edited by Jones and Newman and I thought I might recommend, even if you don’t like horror, there are two absolutely must read articles: “The Exorcist,” by William Peter Blatty, reviewed by F. Paul Wilson, and “The House on the Borderland,” by William Hope Hodgson, reviewed by Terry Pratchett. If you find this book in your hands, read at least those two reviews.

          • The only thing that’s kept Wison from super-popularity is his bad luck with movies. KIng w. “Carrie,” Koontz with “Demon Seed,” and Blatty w. “The Exorcist” had hit movies made of their first or near first novels. “The Keep” was a really odd failure that had big chunks cut out before its completion after the death of the special effects head. I’m one of the few people to see it in a theater, and it didn’t make much sense until I read the novel. Then he got caught up with the ultra-low budget adaptation of “Midnight Mass” for which he wrote the script. I haven’t seen it, and the universal opinion is, don’t bother (they cut out Rabbi Zev!)

    • “TOR could give [oral sex by Scalzi] and i still wouldn’t care about their publishing schedule, because their books bore me.”

      That would drive me away, personally.

  15. For fiction I only buy eBooks any more. While I would love to have a small (3-4k sq-ft) room to set up as a library, I just don’t have the space right now and since I’m somewhat of a pack rat I tend to not get rid of books once I get them so my old books take up too much space as is.

  16. This seems like as good a place as any to ask some questions I’ve been mulling about Indie publishing:

    1) From a writer’s prospective, how do you go about marketing your indie-published book? If you’ve written it, and you think it’s good, how do you go about convincing others to give it a try?

    2) A related question, from a reader’s prospective, how do you go about finding indie-published stuff that’s good and that you’ll enjoy. I’m not even so much thinking, “How do I sort through the reviews and figure out if this is something that’s well-written and interesting and not a candidate for the ‘Rouge Angles of Satin’ TV Tropes page?” I’m more thinking, “How do I even find out this stuff exists?”

  17. William Underhill, Barbarian 1st Class

    Ms. Gallo annoyed me a metric assload, but I can’t walk from TOR. They publish David Weber’s “Safehold” saga, which I love nearly as much as the Honorverse.

    DAMN THEM! 🙂

  18. Even more off the on topic than usual: I will be (trying) to update the FAQ and BBQ in the next few days. I’ve got Joel’s codes for text effects (italics et al), Sarah’s additional “how to not to escape moderation” and the links to the SP4 website. I was also going to include some of the SP acronyms (SMOF, CHORF). Please look over the FAQ and see what else I need to add. Thanks bunches,
    TXRed aka Alma the Frazzled

    • Shouldn’t there be a prominent advisory to the effect that anyone reading comments while eating or drinking does so at their own risk; management not liable for damage to monitors, keyboards or other items?

  19. As I said above, I just finished something. No one but me has read the damn thing yet, I’m the only SciFi geek in the extended family. I took a look at the requirements Baen has on their web site, from what I can see there it translates roughly to a WC Fields quote: “Go away boy, ya bother me.”

    Possibly I’m easily dissuaded, also possible I’m just cranky. We shall see.

    At any rate, the question arises, where is the best place to post an ebook? And if I do indie publish, will it be a black mark from which all publishers will turn away?

    I’m extremely tempted to post it under a nom de plume, Noah Ward. Selling point or kiss of death?

    • you mean, like Larry self published before Baen bought him? No, not a black mark. Best place? Amazon. Noah Ward. Uh. No. it will get you the WRONG sort of attention.

      • I will be guided by you then. ~:) Now researching Amazon. Yay!

      • And now I think of the old TV game show, To Tell The Truth..

        “I am (the real) Noah Ward.”
        “I am (the real) Noah Ward.”
        “I am (the real) Noah Ward.”

        Ah, but I suppose I am dating myself, which is… inappropriate at best.

        • “Ah, but I suppose I am dating myself, which is… inappropriate at best.” It’s iffy in 10 states and illegal in Utah, but I hear California is fine with it.

          • I know of a comedian who uses the “dating myself” line with “and that’s illegal in this state – but not in Wisconsin. Anything is legal in Wisconsin, as long as it involves a dairy product.” Having spent considerable time in Wisconsin, I can say that that is not true, but some folks are likely working on it.

            • The ‘geniuses’ in Madison come up with it and Milwaukee does its best to get it passed (all those areas where they get more votes than population, dontyaknow)

          • If you attempt it in California, remember: Only yes means yes. Also, if you’ve had anything to drink then you cannot give meaningful yourself consent.

          • In the introduction to his song, Better Off WIthout A Wife, Tom Waits talks about dating himself, where he goes for dinner and why, and ends up with a bit that starts with, “Well, usually about 2am you’ve ended up taking advantage of yourself…”

    • You could set up a free blogspot.com blog and post a sample chapter for people to review. Just a notion.

      • This may be crazy talk, but Sarah could take a week off and just put up sample chapters as guest posts. Or do such a guest post once or twice a week.

        Commenting on those samples is … a risk any author takes and we’re unlikely to savage our own. Or rather, not too viciously. Mostly. Sorta.