Wolf’s Empire Is On The Way

By David Klaus: I was looking at SDCC videos on YouTube, including the first of three parts of the Babylon 5 cast panel, during which Claudia Christian mentioned that by the time of next year’s SDCC her novel Wolf’s Empire will be published by Tor.

It’s part of a saga/series, the first of four books.

Puppies will partially like it as she described it as, and I quote: “military sci-fi in a Rome which never fell.”  You don’t get more Manly Man than in a Roman Army story — if Rome had had firearms, they’d be beating their brains to peanut butter trying to invent a time machine to go to Puppy Heaven.

However they’re going have the problems that the protagonist is a “female gladiator and discus throwing bad-ass”) and the publisher is Tor, “one of [her] favorite publishers.”

She also said it was “more violent than Homer and more sexy than Game of Thrones.”

What TOR Boycott?

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Thursday. Photo by James Bacon.

By James Bacon: I went to Comic Con for a couple of days and had a fabulous time. The volunteers and staff run a great con, there were 120,000 people there and it surely felt busy, and I really enjoyed it.

Books are very well represented here, to my surprise, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan amongst other publishers are all present in strength, as are dealers selling prose fiction.

TOR books have a really smart stand in a great location, and both times I managed to go by, they had long queues of people, eager, keen and EXCITED!!! Here anyhow, no one has a notion about the boycott at all.

Many people who I spoke to, have heard about the Hugo situation and have distilled it neatly into succinct and straightforward understandings of what has happened. People I spoke to, couldn’t even name those specifically involved, or mention the Puppies at all. There are colourful variations as to what people perceive, but generally the sentiment amongst those who did know, was that a negative act has occurred this year. The Hugos themselves are held in high regard, they have permeated the memories of many, probably from book covers, and indeed, I met a previous graphic story nominee who was very proud to have been one.

I returned to File 770 to see what I had missed, and laughed at the earnestness with which the TOR boycott is spoken of, because I had come from a place where to the hundreds and thousands of science fiction fans who pick up promotional material or queue at the TOR stand, the boycott is not only irrelevant but it is unnoticed and unknown.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Tor Books queue at SDCC Friday. Photo by James Bacon.

Is The Tor Boycott Working?

Jason Sanford says “Pups all bark, no bite as Tor boycott fails” —

My proof? Turns out the boycott has had no noticeable impact on the sales of Tor’s books, as determined by a sampling of Tor sales reported through Nielsen BookScan, a publishing industry sales-tracking system.

Grant first called for the Tor boycott on June 19, followed almost immediately by others affiliated with the Pup campaigns. To see if the boycott was effective, I examined BookScan numbers for a selection of Tor titles by different authors.

Sanford has published a colorful graph based on data sets about the sales of 10 well-known Tor books between May 24 and July 5 and draws the conclusion —

As you can see, there’s no significant drop in sales due to the boycott. Yes, some titles saw a slight drop but this was offset by other titles increasing their sales or titles keeping relatively steady sales. In all, the sales of these Tor titles demonstrated similar patterns to what they sold prior to the boycott starting….

Proof is looking at the actual sales numbers for Tor books. And the numbers I’ve examined show the boycott is failing miserably.

Guess the puppy boycott is truly all bark and no bite.

Earlier, as Sanford notes with a link, boycott leader Peter Grant claimed “The clearest possible proof that the Tor boycott is working . . .”

. . . is that out of nowhere, no less a personage than George R. R. Martin, author of the best-selling fantasy series since sliced bread (since spun off into the TV series ‘Game Of Thrones‘), has denounced the boycott and publicly begged his readers to buy Tor books.  He’s done so while being less than fully forthcoming about the reason for the boycott, those behind it, and the faux apology offered by the prime offender…..

EDITED TO ADD:  I note that Mr. Martin has mentioned Tor and/or the boycott in no less than three separate posts on his LiveJournal today.  To misquote Shakespeare, “Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.”  As I said above, if you think he’s doing this entirely of his own volition, there’s that bridge I mentioned . . .

And when Vox Day inspected Sanford’s numbers he happily drew the opposite conclusion:




That’s not crazy, because Sanford’s sample actually lends itself to the opposite interpretation from the one he argues.

When I aggregated the sales for these 10 books from the week of June 21, the latest unaffected by the boycott (announced on June 19), and the sales from the week of July 5 (the latest reported by Sanford), that gave me 1,740 vs. 1,667 books. Therefore, the July 5 sales of these 10 books were 95.8% of what they were before immediately before the boycott.

This is, of course, an utterly arbitrary comparison and really proves nothing because book sales don’t happen in ratable numbers (unless you’re Brandon Sanderson, apparently). No one can legitimately claim to read in the tea leaves of these small fluctuations the success or failure of the boycott. More time and fuller data is needed for that.

Tom Doherty Statement

Tor Books publisher Tom Doherty issued a statement on Tor.com about Irene Gallo’s Facebook comments, distinguishing them as not representing the company or himself:

The Science Fiction community is populated with engaged authors and fans many of whom have strong and varied opinions on many subjects. Tor supports that diversity of viewpoints by publishing a widely varied group of authors and books through Tor/Forge and by posting a variety of material and reader comment on Tor.com.

Last month, Irene Gallo, a member of Tor’s staff, posted comments about two groups of science fiction writers, Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, and about the quality of some of the 2015 Hugo Award nominees, on her personal Facebook page. Ms. Gallo is identified on her page as working for Tor. She did not make it clear that her comments were hers alone. They do not reflect Tor’s views or mine. She has since clarified that her personal views are just that and apologized to anyone her comments may have hurt or offended.

The Puppies groups were organized to support a slate of authors for the Hugo Awards, given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. Media coverage of the two groups initially suggested that they were organized simply to promote white men, which was not correct. Each Puppies’ slate of authors and editors included some women and writers of color, including Rajnar Vajra, Annie Bellet, Kary English, Toni Weisskopf, Ann Sowards, Megan Gray, Sheila Gilbert, Jennifer Brozek, Cedar Sanderson and Amanda Green. Some of the authors on the Sad Puppy slate have been published by Tor and Tor.com, including  Kevin J. Anderson, John C. Wright, Ed Lerner and Michael F. Flynn. Many, many Hugo Award nominees and winners are our authors too, including Kevin J. Anderson, John C. Wright and Katherine Addison this year and John Chu, John Scalzi, Cherie Priest and Jo Walton in past years, just to mention a few.

In short, we seek out and publish a diverse and wide ranging group of books. We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda

Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views.  Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.

And Irene Gallo added this comment to her May 11 Facebook post:

About my Sad/Rabid Puppies comments: They were solely mine. This is my personal page; I do not speak on behalf of Tor Books or Tor.com. I realize I painted too broad a brush and hurt some individuals, some of whom are published by Tor Books and some of whom are Hugo Award winners. I apologize to anyone hurt by my comments.

13 Is A Lucky Number For Scalzi — So Is $3.4M

John Scalzi has signed a $3.4 million deal with Tor Books that covers his next 13 books the New York Times reports.

Some of the books will extend the popular “Old Man’s War” series, building on an existing audience, and one will be a sequel to “Lock In.” Mr. Scalzi said he hoped books like “Lock In” could draw more readers toward science fiction, since many, he said, are still “gun-shy” about the genre.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the executive editor for Tor, said the decision was an easy one. While Mr. Scalzi has never had a “No. 1 best seller,” he said, “he backlists like crazy.”

“One of the reactions of people reading a John Scalzi novel is that people go out and buy all the other Scalzi novels,” Mr. Hayden said.

Though busy celebrating, Scalzi did not neglect to send this cryptic tweet for no particular reason at all —

Baen No Longer Alone

In light of Tor Books’ announcement that it is getting rid of digital rights management (DRM) in July, the folks at Baen Books have followed-up by announcing their entire line of ebooks will also be DRM-free – just exactly as it has been ever since the late 1990s. 

Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf commented:

We expect this strategy to be a winning formula for Tor as it has been for more than a decade for Baen. We heartily welcome Tor/Forge to the DRM-free fold.

Baen Books founder Jim Baen, who died in 2006, was known to be a passionate advocate of ebooks without DRM, according to Baen editor Tony Daniel: 

We have mugs and hats from years ago still around the office with our on-going ebook slogan written on them: “Alone in the Fight Against Encryption.”

Baen Books currently offers well 1,500 DRM-free titles at Baenebooks.com, and almost every title is available in all current file formats and many legacy formats as well, including Mobi, Kindle, Palm, EPUB, Nook, Stanza, Sony LRF, Rocketbook , RTF, MS Reader, and HTML Online versions.

The full press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Tor’s DRM-atic Announcement

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, will make their entire list of e-books DRM-free by July. The imprints had a combined 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

Digital Rights Management (DRM) technologies are designed to give the seller control over the transferability of content after it has been delivered to the consumer. E-books in the Amazon Kindle format, for example, are readable on that company’s devices, but not those of its rivals. DRM is justified as an anti-piracy measure.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing reacted by breezily predicting –

[More] to follow, I’m sure; I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers…

On the other hand, Laura Hazard Owen at CNN Money questions whether Macmillan itself, the big company that owns Tor, will adopt this policy across the board  —

One should not necessarily infer, from the changes at Tor, that Macmillan is close to dropping DRM across all of its imprints. This decision could be related to competition within the genre (sci-fi/fantasy publishers Baen and Angry Robot are also DRM-free) or to Doherty’s specific role at Macmillan.

Presumably, John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, who made the final decision to drop DRM on ebooks from Tor/Forge (according to Charles Stross) will watch how it plays out.

A move affecting only the sf/fantasy market still benefits fans wanting the freedom to store and manage their ebook collections on any device they choose.

One of Tor’s top authors, John Scalzi, is in favor of the change. He thinks DRM is an unnecessary impediment to sales. 

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that.

Charles Stross has posted arguments he was invited to make to Macmillan brass about the decision to drop DRM. He admits DRM makes no difference to those who buy a few top bestsellers a year, however, he told execs it makes a big difference to some of the most devoted book buyers.

The voracious 20-150 books/year readers are a small but significant market segment. These people buy lots of titles. They frequently have specialized interests which they pursue in depth, and a large number of authors who, although not prominent, they will buy everything by… Previously they bought paperbacks and hardcovers from specialist genre bookstores or, failing that, from large B&N/Borders branches. They will go to whatever retailer they can find online, and they find DRM a royal pain in the ass — indeed, a deterrent to buying ebooks at all.

It’s no secret he’s talking about sf fans, since he mentions us explicitly a few lines later…

SF/Fantasy on Cover at Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly features SF and fantasy in its April 12 issue.

JoSelle Vanderhooft’s cover story begins with the familiar black crepe overhanging the publishing business — “Last year was sluggish for book sales and gloomy for publishing personnel, with layoffs, hiring freezes, and cutbacks at an all-time high” — then surprises with examples of sf/fantasy publishers that seem to be immune. Of course, their books are tie-ins to the Star Trek and World of Warcraft franchises, so the cheering may be a little subdued.

All reports on the state of book publishing need comic relief, supplied here by Naomi Novik in her contribution “Why I Write…”  

My grandmother, among other varied professions undertaken during an eventful life, once sold vowels in the market on Tuesdays in Warsaw. Under the difficult climate of the region, situated as it was between Latin and Cyrillic, they were more difficult to raise than consonants and consequently more rare.

There’s also a sidebar on Tor’s 30th anniversary with insights from publisher Tom Doherty and several of the editors:

“We try not to get too far afield of stuff somebody around here sincerely likes and understands,” adds Patrick Nielsen Hayden, senior editor and manager of science fiction. “But we’re a broad church. One of Tom’s strengths has been his willingness to work with an array of editors who represent very diverse tastes, even within particular genres.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the link]

Tor Books Moving?

Well, not this week. However, the offices of Tor Books are housed in New York’s Flatiron Building, which an Italian investor has announced plans to convert into a luxury hotel. Reports say hotels take so long to construct that it might be a decade before the Flatiron Building comes online in its new capacity. If the project goes forward, sf’s leading publisher may be changing addresses in the foreseeable future.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Brian M. Thomsen Passes Away

Brian M. Thomsen, well-known for co-writing Julius Schwartz’s autobiography Man of Two Worlds: My Life in Science Fiction and Comics, died suddenly on September 21. Author, anthologist, a consulting editor for Tor, Thomsen was a popular figure in the sf field.

Harlan Ellison has a short, grief-stricken notice on his website. (Coincidentally, Ellison and Thomsen co-wrote this obituary about Julie Schwartz following his death in 2004.)

See more information at http://www.sfwa.org/news/2008/bthomsen.htm.