Bujold Novel Ruled Eligible for 2015 Nebulas

SFWA President Cat Rambo reports the organization made a Nebula eligibility ruling:

Recently a member of SFWA queried about whether Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen was eligible for nomination during the current nomination period, on the basis of its sales in an electronic format on Baen’s web site in 2015. Nebula Awards Commissioner Terra LeMay took the matter to the SFWA Awards Rules Committee for a decision.

Because a digital edition of the book was released for sale online on Baen’s website in October of 2015, the rules committee determined Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen to be eligible for the 2015 Nebula Award.

A SFWA representative did reach out to Ms. Bujold to let her know and to make sure that she was aware that if she disagreed with the decision of the SARC, the rules allow her to appeal to SFWA’s Board of Directors and offering to assist with the appeal process if she decided to pursue that.

Publishing has become more and more complicated with thorny issues with every passing day, it seems, and this is part of finding a path through one part of that unpleasant bramble. I have every faith that the Committee debated at length about the decision and that they made a good one.

The members of the SFWA Awards Rules Committee are Connie Willis, James Patrick Kelly, and Jeffrey Carver.

Full rules for the Nebula Awards may be found here: www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/rules/

37 thoughts on “Bujold Novel Ruled Eligible for 2015 Nebulas

  1. Isn’t the deadline right around the corner? They didn’t do her any favors, that’s for sure!

  2. Yes, that is my thought also. But paper books come out on Dec 15th sometimes too. Luck of the draw I guess.

  3. No, I do think this hurts her chances. I saw that Scalzi had a post about the book as well, today. Me, I’ve just started reading it.

  4. I’ve mailed Bujold’s agent about getting a copy of the book up on the SFWA forums, where people often put novels that they want members to consider for Nebulas and am trying to get that up there asap. (You do not have be a member to have something put up; the Nebula Awards Commissioner has been putting stuff up for people.) I just picked up the book and am looking forward to the read.

  5. I enjoyed the book and plan on rereading soon. It’s quite different from the rest of the Vorkosiganverse. Not much action.

    It has gotten much more complicated to figure out when a book is eligible.

    Thanks for sharing with us @Cat Rambo.

  6. I think this was the correct decision. I expect the book to be eligible. I read it back in November when it first came out, and have been taking it into account for all of my awards and other considerations.

  7. @tasha When I talked to Lois last weekend, she was strongly impressing to everyone in line, including me, that this was different, that it was a character study, and to NOT expect it to turn into an action plot halfway through.

  8. … and to NOT expect it to turn into an action plot halfway through.

    Welllll. Confession time. I read the eArc when it came out, and despite thet I’d heard this described as a “relationship etc” novel, kept waiting for a Cetgandan invasion fleet or an exploding volcano.

    Didn’t get that, but I did get something better. Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan is the best.

  9. I sincerely wish the query would’ve come in earlier in the nomination period, but I hope that folks will keep in mind that the decision would’ve been the same even if the question had not been raised until next year—at which point it would’ve been too late for anyone to nominate the novel. Far worse, if the eligibility question had not come up until next year’s nominations. But then, it wouldn’t be the first time a novel had been deemed no longer eligible for the Nebula due to sales of an electronic edition in an previous year. (Weir’s THE MARTIAN is an example.)

    Also, Cat is correct. Tor released Lawrence M. Schoen’s BARSK on December 29th, and it is also eligible in 2015. That’s off the top of my head, but there are also others.

    With all of that said, I’m available at nac@sfwa.org to answer questions about the rules and about eligibility of works throughout the year. If anyone has questions about the eligibility a title, please feel free to email any time.

  10. Frankly, I hope that this mediocre book doesn’t get nominated for any award just because of the name of the author. I am a huge Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan fan and I waited more than a decade for a new novel with her as the main character, but it was really disappointing.

  11. I enjoyed it tremendously, and thought it a fine addition to the series. Not every book has to be all Miles and frantic action.

  12. A victory for common sense!

    Doesn’t directly affect Hugo balloting since SFWA and WSFS are very separate organizations (despite the confusion and confabulation of our canine friends), but it does give some precedent and guidance.

    My feeling was: average people could buy it and read it in November 2015, that makes it a 2015 novel.

  13. And a case can be made that a recent release like Gentleman Jole or Barsk will be fresh in people’s minds while books released at the start of the year may be hazy or people may even be thinking of them as “surely that was in 2014.” (Somebody had to remind me that Ancillary Mercy was a 2015 book.) So there’s that.

  14. lurkertype: Eh. My feeling was that an eARC is a review copy, even if the publisher sells it rather than giving it away–but that’s mostly an emotional response. I certainly don’t care enough to argue with people who believe that a book SHOULD be nominated for an award due to eARC availability–obviously, lots of people don’t have the same feelings about eARCs that I do.

    On the whole, though, I’m mostly just glad to see an awards administrator dealing with the issue, period. The available of e-copies is changing publishing, and this particular unintended (I assume unintended) consequence is something that should be recognized.

  15. Mary Frances: My feeling was that an eARC is a review copy, even if the publisher sells it rather than giving it away – but that’s mostly an emotional response.

    My take on it is that Baen calling it an “eARC” is a sales gimmick for their regular book buyers. They charge twice as much, put it out a few months ahead of time, and tell their readers they’re getting a “special eARC” — making them feel just as special as all those well-known SFF Reviewers who get free eARCs from all the publishers.

    It’s a manipulative marketing tactic, and it seems to have worked really well for Baen — so kudos to them for coming up with something that gets readers to buy books at a premium price, with almost zero production costs for them. It’s really kind of a genius strategy.

    I suspect they’ll re-think their “releasing an eARC in the calendar year to the main book release” faux pas on this one, though. I can’t imagine they’d want to reduce their authors’ chances of being nominated for awards, which is what has happened with GJ&tRQ.

  16. SFWA has rules? Who knew?
    Do bullies never tire of beating a dead dog?
    How many really think that the author and publisher didn’t know about the publishing date at least 12 months ago and wouldn’t have reached some agreement about the release timing if they thought it mattered?
    Does anyone suspect that perhaps one of the most awarded, celebrated and best authors still writing doesn’t necessarily care if she gets another one? Maybe she thinks someone else deserves a chance although that’s not how I see it.
    I’ve read and read all of her books until they fall apart (except the electronic versions I got off one of the Baen CDs). I’m not a fan of the storyline I’ve seen in her latest book. It might be a few years before I get around to reading it.

  17. Interesting and IMHO very reasonable decision.

    @JJ: Does Baen (read: Weisskopf) care whether their authors win awards? My vague impression from things she’s said in recent years makes me think: not so much. I may be quite wrong! But that’s the impression that’s gelled in my mind over time, wacky as it sounds.

  18. JJ: My take on it is that Baen calling it an “eARC” is a sales gimmick for their regular book buyers.

    Sort of, but eARCs are basically electronic review copies–hence my personal (and completely irrational, I admit) response to them. You probably already know all this since you seem pretty up on the trade, but let me unpack my reasoning anyway. At one time in my life I received and read a lot of review copies from various publishers, and they were mostly the “almost finished” text of the book: it had been copyedited, the galley proofs had been reviewed by the author and editor, the text was bound–all that was left was maybe some quick final-proofing (sometimes) and putting the boards on. Some even came with versions of the cover art on soft covers; others didn’t. It was the last stage before producing a hardcover–I don’t remember ever seeing any review copies of paperbacks, though there might have been a few of high-profile trade paperbacks. What kept review copies from being sold to the general public was mostly that there weren’t enough of them–and they weren’t counted against the regular print run, so they didn’t count against copies-sold for accounting purposes (as review copies of the final book sometimes did/do, or so I believe). Review copies didn’t count as “first editions.” The collectors were people who specialized in collecting review copies, for some reason (I don’t really understand collectors in general, I’m afraid). However, these days, I’d be willing to bet that most books sent to reviewers are sent as e-texts; cheaper all around–and that, of course, is where eARCs come from.

    My point is not that Baen came up with a clever marketed strategy to sell ebooks early–they could do that any time they wanted, I suspect–so much as that they noticed that now that review copies can be electronic, there was no reason not to sell them to anyone who wanted to buy them. I bet no one at Baen was originally thinking of the eARC as an “early publication,” but so it goes. You are right, it’s manipulative, and it does seem to work. I hope you are also right that Baen/other publishers considering the same practice will be more careful of publication dates in the future–or at least aware of possible “unintended consequences” of such sales.

    Whew. Sorry, I didn’t mean to blather on so much. I just find it mildly interesting, in an odd way–a sign of the times (and publishing) changing, in ways I at least didn’t expect.

  19. As someone who reads a lot of eARCs, my feeling is that if I have to pay for it, it’s not an ARC, and if I have to pay twice the regular price to get it now rather than in a few months’ time, it’s a nifty sales gimmick for the publisher and, I hope and trust, the author.

    I’m sure Bujold and Baen aren’t all that concerned about more awards for Bujold at this point, but fans still want to nominate the books they love, and don’t want to see a favorite work lose out not because not enough people agreed with them, but on the technicality of the publisher doing something weird like this with the publication.

  20. Given that books are sold via a reverse auction in the normal case (hardcover -> trade -> mmpb), and that the e-market had trouble adapting a similar model, I must say that the e-ARC is a rather clever way to adopt the same model.

    Is it manipulative? Not any more than any other special early edition, arguably less so. You pay for early access, end of story.

  21. Mary Frances, my point is that what Baen is calling an “eARC”, is not according to the definition, an ARC. It’s a e-book they’re making available to any member of the public who wants to buy it, and it just happens to get released a few months before the print publication.

    ARCs are free copies given to reviewers in exchange for (hopefully) honest reviews, prior to the public release of the book. What Baen is selling are not ARCs.

  22. @JJ:

    ARCs are free copies given to reviewers in exchange for (hopefully) honest reviews, prior to the public release of the book. What Baen is selling are not ARCs.

    No, they’re crowdsourcing the proofreading with them. There’s also a minor change or two between the GJ&RQ eARC and the hardcover based on feedback from fans.

  23. They’re not crowdsourcing proofreading, they’re selling electronic versions of the books.
    There are often minor changes between the hardback and paperback versions of books based on mistakes spotted in the hardback. That doesn’t make the hardback buyers proofreaders for the paperback.

  24. @Ray: Ordinarily, I’d agree with you. But Baen is (in)famous for not bothering to proofread their books. Proofing via eARC has been openly discussed in 163x fandom. And no, I’m not going diving in Baen’s Bar for a link. It’s been a while, and that’s one of the most active boards.

  25. but again, just because they make corrections to subsequent editions when mistakes are pointed out in this edition, doesn’t make this edition any less of a real release.

  26. While Baen’s releasing the eARC and print edition is different calendar years might seem self-sabotaging in terms of awards strategy, I note that the print book does not mention Bujold’s multiple Hugo nominations and wins anywhere on the cover or author bio. Make of that what you will.

  27. @Ray: Where did I say it wasn’t a real release? Just because Baen is using it to get people to pay them to proof their books doesn’t change that.

    Personally, I buy certain eARCs for both early access and to support the authors. But I also get, and mostly use, the official releases because the eARCs often make me twitch. Nothing as egregious as the author whose book came out in hardback filled with references to the Diety, but still.

  28. JJ: my point is that what Baen is calling an “eARC”, is not according to the definition, an ARC. It’s a e-book they’re making available to any member of the public who wants to buy it, and it just happens to get released a few months before the print publication.

    Well, yes–but only because the idea of an “advance review/reading copy” is essentially meaningless in this electronic age . . . we basically agree, I think. We’re just coming at the issue from different directions.

    Rail: No, they’re crowdsourcing the proofreading with them.

    I don’t know enough about the inner workings of Baen to say how heavily they rely on reader proofreading or not–but proofreading of review copies in-house was always pretty minimal, at a lot of publishers (though not all, I imagine). That really wasn’t what ARCs were for.

  29. @rail Baen did experiment with collecting proofreading comments from a few eARCs some years back. The experiment was discontinued because sorting through all the reader feedback took longer and found fewer mistakes than just buying another pass from a professional proof reader. I believe the main issue was that between duplicates, people picking on style items, and flat out wrong reports there was just too much noise in the feedback.

  30. Dan: Baen did experiment with collecting proofreading comments from a few eARCs some years back. The experiment was discontinued because sorting through all the reader feedback took longer and found fewer mistakes than just buying another pass from a professional proof reader. I believe the main issue was that between duplicates, people picking on style items, and flat out wrong reports there was just too much noise in the feedback.

    I recall someone commenting here at some point during the past few months saying that they’d e-mailed Baen with a list of corrections for a book and received back a polite e-mail that essentially said, “Thanks, but we don’t want to know.”

    Baen is selling “eARC”s to sell books (which is, of course, a fine reason for selling them), not to get suggestions for revisions. They may be hoping to get some positive reviews out of them, but that’s not their purpose in selling them.

  31. Baen did experiment with collecting proofreading comments from a few eARCs some years back. The experiment was discontinued because sorting through all the reader feedback took longer and found fewer mistakes than just buying another pass from a professional proof reader. I believe the main issue was that between duplicates, people picking on style items, and flat out wrong reports there was just too much noise in the feedback.

    If I was a Baen author, I’d want that data and sort through it myself, because even if it found fewer mistakes than something they weren’t willing to do, it would improve the book, and they weren’t willing to do the thing that would improve the book more.

    But then, if I were a Baen author, my love, I suppose it’d partly be because I was willing to release books with lots of errors in them, so it’s a good thing I’m not.

  32. Nothing as egregious as the author whose book came out in hardback filled with references to the Diety, but still.

    Ha! That’s amazing. The god of weight-loss gimmicks.

  33. Rail: Nothing as egregious as the author whose book came out in hardback filled with references to the Diety, but still.

    That’s…

    I…

    goes off to self-medicate with copious amounts of wine…

Comments are closed.