Pixel Scroll 5/31/18 The Pixel That Parsed The Hornets Nest

(1) ANOTHER CAT AND SFF STORY TO LOVE. Huge news for Cat Valente:

Deadline has the story: “Universal Options ‘Space Opera’ For Marc Platt & Colin Trevorrow To Produce”.

Universal Pictures has optioned Catherynne M. Valente’s  science fiction novel Space Opera, which Marc Platt will produce for his Universal-based Marc Platt Productions with Adam Siegel, along with Colin Trevorrow producing.

(2) BOOK SALES STATS. Data Guy has posted the slides from the “2018 SFWA Nebula Conference Presentation” at Author Earnings.

(3) KNOW YOUR BEARDS. Camestros Felapton challenges you in the “Puzzle Corner: Help Timothy Spot the Author”.

Poor Timothy is still having problems with human faces. I don’t know what fraction of science-fiction authors have beards but I’d guess 30%? Sometimes feels like more!

Can you match the beard-style (numbered) to the author (lettered) so Tim can tell which is which?

(4) BREAKING IN. Congratulations, Buzz Dixon! He told Facebook readers —

I finally cracked Analog after 50 years of trying!

(Not that Buzz hasn’t enjoyed a highly successful writing career in the meantime.)

The Astounding/Analog Companion has posted “A Q&A with Buzz Dixon”:

Analog Editor: What is the story behind “While You Sleep, Computer Mice Earn Their Keep”?

Buzz Dixon: Often I’ll hear an idiom or phrase and think to myself, “What does that mean literally?” In this case, the phrase was “computer mouse,” and I asked myself how mice could actually interact with a computer. Immediately the old fairy tale of “The Cobbler and the Elves” popped into mind.

AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

BD: If the Computer Mice represent the force of order, then the wild female rat represents the force of chaos. I remember reading Robert Chilson’s “Ecological Niche” in the December 1970 issue of Analog when I was in high school and was struck with his portrayal of wildlife finding a way to be both wild and alive even in the middle of an extremely complex technology. Once I had my opposing points of view, the actual writing went very quickly.

(5) CAT RAMBO. On Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, “My Favorite Bit: Cat Rambo talks about HEARTS OF TABAT”.

One of my favorite pieces of the most recent fantasy novel, Hearts of Tabat, didn’t actually get into the final version, which was a set of chapter headers defining which Trade God each chapter belonged to. The Trade Gods of the city of Tabat embody various economic forces of one size or another, ranging from the large Anbo and Enba (Supply & Demand) to the more particular, like Zampri, who oversees Advertising, or Uhkephelmi, God of Small Mistakes.

(6) FORENSICS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch teases apart a major news story about embezzlement at a literary agency in “Business Musings: An Agent Nightmare Revealed”.

…To the greatest extent possible.

In other words, my friends, Donadio & Olson does not have the financial resources to make up for a theft of $3.4 million, let alone any more potential losses that the forensic accountant might turn up.

The complaint alleges that Webb stole money as far back as 2011. However, according to Law360, he worked for the company since 1999. Did he start this behavior then? Or after Candida Donadio died? (Which seems likely. Agencies go off the rails when their founders leave or die.)

It’s pretty easy to steal from writers’ estates. I worked with a number of them on some projects in 2015 and 2016, and with one exception, the agencies or the organizations in charge of the estates didn’t give a crap about resale, about payment, about anything. Most of them weren’t even familiar with the story I wanted to reprint, and only one of them had an author’s preferred version that they sent to me. (I asked.)

I probably could have reprinted those stories and never paid any of the estates. I probably would not have been caught in most cases. And that’s rather minor theft.

Now, imagine what’s going on with estates like [Mario] Puzo’s, which includes all of the monies still coming in from the movies, from licensing, from the books (which are still in print). These are multimillion dollar ventures, handled every year by Donadio & Olson, with no one overseeing the day to day running of the finances.

Oh, my. The money was simply there for the taking.

The thing is, Donadio & Olson is a “reputable” agency. The New York Post used the word “prestigious” in describing the agency. Donadio & Olson was, until last week, a gold-standard agency, one that most young writers might have aspired to have as representatives….

Then she shares some firsthand experiences.

Sadly, I am not surprised by any of this. As I have blogged about before, literary agencies are not regulated. Prestigious agencies embezzle. I’ve personally had one of the biggest boutique agencies in the world embezzle from me. (And I suspect they still are, although I can’t prove it. But there are licensed properties—tie-ins—that I wrote whose royalty statements I cannot get my hands on because no one at the licensor will cooperate with me. The books have been in print for 25-30 years and I have never seen a dime in royalties. Ever.) I’ve also had one of the biggest fraudsters in the industry steal from me. I speak from hard-earned life lessons here.

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS TAKING ENTRIES. The Aurealis Awards, “Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction,” is taking entries until December 7.

The awards  are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time in 2018.

Full guidelines and a FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website.

We strongly encourage publishers and authors to enter all works published in the first half of the year by August 2018, then subsequent publications as they are released; our judges appreciate having time to consider each entry carefully.

The same group is also running the Sara Douglass Book Series Award for series ending between 2015-2017, this year. Entries for this special award close on August 31, 2018. More information is available at the link.

Finalists of all award categories will be announced early in 2019 and winners announced at a ceremony to take place in Melbourne in the first half of the year. For more information contact the judging coordinator Tehani Croft at [email protected]

(8) ASTRONAUT OBIT. Donald H. Peterson passed away May 27 reports the Washington Post: “Donald Peterson Sr., who spacewalked from the shuttle Challenger, dies at 84”.

Mr. Peterson’s avid consumption of science fiction in his childhood drove his interest in aviation and space.”

In 1983 he told a reporter:

‘Back when I was a kid, there was no space program,’ Peterson said in an interview. ‘In fact, I was old enough to know about airplanes before there were jet airplanes.

‘My earliest interest came from science fiction. I read a lot of things as a kid, but I read some science fiction and got interested. As I got older, I started reading real things

A trading card featuring Peterson:

(9) IN A SOCIAL MEDIA FAR, FAR AWAY. (Found with the help of Nicholas Whyte.)

(10) COMICS TO BE PRESERVED. Michael Cavna, the Washington Post’s “Comic Riffs” columnist, says that the Library of Congress has acquired most of Steven Geppi’s comics collection, including most of the contents of the Baltimore-based Geppi Entertainment Museum, which will close after this weekend: “Library of Congress acquires its largest donation of comic books ever”.

The impressive acquisition, which is set to be announced Wednesday, comes courtesy of Baltimore-based collector and entrepreneur Stephen A. Geppi, who is donating more than 3,000 items from his holdings, many spanning the eight-decade history of the American comic-book industry. His Mickey Mouse storyboards are from the Jazz Age animated short “Plane Crazy,” which was inspired by Charles Lindbergh. Other items include printing blocks from Richard Outcault’s fin-de-siecle comic-strip character the Yellow Kid, Beatles memorabilia and a No. 2 Brownie camera model F from Eastman Kodak, the library says.

The donation — which the library says it is valuing “in the millions” — was born out of months of conversations between Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, a champion of giving the public new ways to view the library’s scope, and Geppi, who opened Geppi’s Entertainment Museum in Baltimore in 2006.

(11) BUTLER AT HOME. From Pasadena Weekly — “Octavia Butler’s Pasadena connections informed her stellar science-fiction writing career”.

The Crown City played a major part in her development, both for its major role in the space race via Caltech, JPL and the Carnegie Observatories, and because of the fact it was racially integrated long before much of the nation. Her archives are collected at the Huntington Library in San Marino, having formed the basis of a popular exhibition in 2017 and remaining one of the hottest collections for researchers there.

“Pasadena was a major inspiration, and part of that has to do with JPL being in her backyard, right over the hill and being so close to the space race and growing up with that had to have piqued her interest,” says Theresa Russell, assistant curator of literary collections at the library. “I think Butler felt it was a very diverse place. She talks about her novels not just being filled with black people, but people of all colors. There were white, black, Asian students at Caltech, and it seemed natural to her that the future would be the world she was seeing, filled with diversity.”

Russell also notes that the Pasadena area or a version of it appears in some of Butler’s works. Her novel “Kindred” offers a particularly strong example, as it focused on a writer living in Altadena amid an early career as a writer, and the novel “Mind of My Mind” features a city called Forsyth that was modeled after Pasadena. Yet Russell notes that the dystopian novel “Parable of the Sower” has the most intriguing connections of all to the City of Roses.

(12) STORIES THAT ADMIT THEY ARE ABOUT POLITICS. The Kickstarter for Cat Rambo’s “IF THIS GOES ON – Political SF Anthology” has raised $3,736 of $10,000 at this writing, with 28 days to go.

Looking at the state of the world today, we are clearly at a nexus of inflection points. Global relations and power structures are changing more rapidly than they have since the cold war. The divide between the haves and have nots is broadening and we are at the start of a new gilded age of robber barons and crippling poverty. Racial, social, and class relations are stretched to a point of breaking. Global climate change threatens to remake our planet.

The choices we make today; the policies of our governments and the values that we, as people, embrace are going to shape our world for decades to come. Or break it.

IF THIS GOES ON asks a very straightforward question – what happens if things continue to be like this and what happens next?

We asked thirty writers to put their minds to it and show us what the future may hold a generation or more from today. To show us the promise of a better world if we embrace our better angels or the cost of our failures if we give in to the demons of divisiveness, if we allow politicians and pundits to redefine truth, and if we continue to ignore the warnings all around us.

Truth matters, stories matter.

The full Table of Contents, organized alphabetically by the author’s last name is:

  • Cyd Athens – Welcome to Gray
  • Steven Barnes – The Dayveil Gambit
  • Rachel Chimits – Dead Wings
  • Paul Crenshaw – Bulletproof Tattoos
  • Beth Dawkins – Tasting Bleach and Decay in the City of Dust
  • Andy Duncan – Mr. Percy’s Shortcut
  • Chris Kluwe – The Machine
  • Kitty-Lydia Dye – Three Data Units
  • Scott Edelman – The Stranded Time Traveler Embraces the Inevitable
  • Judy Helfrich – A Pocketful of Dolphins
  • Langley Hyde – Call and Answer
  • Gregory Jeffers – All the Good Dogs Have Been Eaten
  • Jamie Lackey – Fine
  • Jack Lothian – Good Pupils
  • Nick Mamatas – Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last; The Inexorable March of Progress Will Lead Us All to Happiness
  • Lynette Mejía – A Gardener’s Guide to the Apocalypse
  • Aimee Ogden – Twelve Histories Scrawled in the Sky
  • Sarah Pinsker – That Our Flag Was Still There
  • Conor Powers-Smith – The Sinking Tide
  • Zandra Renwick – Making Happy
  • Kathy Schilbach – Counting the Days
  • Nisi Shawl – King Harvest Will Surely Come
  • Priya Sridhar – Mustard Seeds and the Elephants Foot
  • Marie L Vibbert – Free Wi-Fi
  • Calie Voorhis – The Editor’s Eyes
  • Tiffany E. Wilson – One Shot
  • James Wood – Discobolos
  • Sylvia Spruck Wrigley – Choose Your Own Adventure
  • E. Lily Yu – Green Glass: A Love Story
  • Hal Y. Zhang – But for Grace

Cover art by Bernard Lee. Design by Michael Altmann.

(13) BUY PROP FOR NEVER-MADE TREK MOVIE. Motherboard says this model for the starship Enterprise is going on the auction block with a starting bid of $40,000.

A rare, redesigned version of the starship Enterprise NCC-1701 will go on auction in L.A. (and online) Thursday, with bidding starting at $40,000. The model was designed by Ralph McQuarrie and Ken Adam in 1976 for the ill-fated film Star Trek: Planet of the Titans, which was the first plan for a motion picture after the original series was cancelled. But after months of writing and rewriting the script, it was ultimately shelved, and the redesigned Enterprise was shelved with it. Shortly after, Paramount began working with Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry on what would eventually become Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The model would have changed the iconic look of NCC-1701. The model did appear briefly (though not as the Enterprise) in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s two-part episode “The Best of Both Worlds.” It was in the Starfleet armada which was destroyed by the Borg in the Battle of Wolf 359.

(14) HOT TIP: PLASTICS. NASA now has a combination plastic recycler and 3-D printer to test on the International Space Station. The Tethers Unlimited, Inc. device is about the size of a mini-fridge and was built as part of the Small Business Innovation Research program. It was certification tested at the Tethers Unlimited lab in Bothell WA and at Huntsville AL’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The plan is to deliver it to the ISS on a SpaceX Dragon supply run later this year.

Quoting the GeekWire article: “Tethers Unlimited delivers 3-D printer and recycler combo to NASA for space station”.

The Refabricator uses a process called “Positrusion” for recycling plastic parts into fresh filament for 3-D printing.

“Traditional plastics recycling and 3-D printer filament manufacturing techniques involve grinding and extrusion steps that could pose safety concerns on the ISS and often require a lot of adjustment to keep them running reliably,” [Tethers Unlimited CEO Rob] Hoyt explained.

“To create a recycling system that is safe and doesn’t demand a lot of astronaut time, we developed a new method for recycling plastic parts into 3-D printer filament, and integrated it together with a 3-D printer to create a highly automated recycling-and-manufacturing system,” he said.

(15) WATER WATER EVERYWHERE. BBC reports “Two different forms of water isolated for first time”. Not polywater (a hoax) let alone ice-nine (though both have been topics of sf stories), but physics-level differences leading to different chemical behavior.

Scientists have isolated the two different forms of water molecule for the first time.

Water molecules were known to exist as two distinct “isomers”, or types, based on their slightly different properties at the atomic level.

By separating out the two isomers, researchers were able to show that they behave differently in the way that they undergo chemical reactions.

The work appears in Nature Communications.

(16) EARLY INFLUENCES. At Postscripts to Darkness “PSTD Author Interview: Mike Allen”.

Whether they are historical or contemporary, who are some of the writers whose work has been most influential on, or important to, your own, and what have you taken from their writing?

I think it all boils down to Poe and Tolkien, the first is probably kind of obvious, the second I imagine less so for any readers out there that might know me only through my creative work.

Those two writers set me on the path. A well-meaning third grade teacher read “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven” to our class for Halloween, and while the other kids just giggled it away I was traumatized, with night terrors that lasted for years. Yet instead of staying away from all things horror, I became consumed with morbid curiosity, constantly coming back to this type of story-telling that held so much power over me, leading me to devour stuff by H.P. Lovecraft, Stephen King, Peter Straub and Clive Barker.

With Barker, my favorite writer when I was in my teens, I experienced a paradigm change. I became a gleeful participant in the land of imaginary horrors, rather than a frightened victim. I ended up consuming so much horror that I essentially inoculated myself from the night terrors.

I would bet the idea that I’m best known for horror stories would be a big shock to 10-year-old me. Around 4thgrade or so my dad made me read The Lord of the Rings, because he thought it was the greatest novel ever written and because he was sure I would like it. On that second part, absolutely, he was right. Maybe the first one, too? But anyway, I developed this hunger for all things Tolkien. We lived at the time in Wise, Virginia, a coal town high in the Appalachians. There was no bookstore. There were a couple of other kids who liked fantasy, but didn’t share my obsessive need for it, or at least not my precise interests — as I recall, one buddy was a huge Larry Niven fan.

(17) FELINES AND FANTASY. Can you believe it? Long before the idea was codified by File 770, authors independently recognized the association of cats and SFF. For example, see these Martha Wells LiveJournal posts.

(18) SFWA EMERGENCY FUND. Hey, I didn’t know that.

https://twitter.com/kellyoyo/status/1000867513998200842

(19) SILVERBERG ADAPTED AS OPERA. This is from an interview with composer Emily Howard by Richard Fairman in the May 26 Financial Times (behind a paywall).

Howard, 39, tells how she was working with her librettist, Selena Dmitrijevic, on a story about a person being shunned by society.  A draft scenario, in which that character was arrested and sentenced to being ‘invisible,’ was already well advanced when they discovered it came from a short story that Dmitrijevic had on her shelf at home, Robert Silverberg’s ”To See The Invisible Man.’

There is a strong flavour of Kafka, or perhaps Margaret Atwood.  ‘In our opera you never know exactly what the Invisible’s crime was,’ says Howard.  ‘We assume we are dealing with some authoritarian regime, where society is forced to operate within very narrow parameters of human behaviour.  It is a wonderfully constructed story, because it opens with the Invisible’s crime of coldness, and then(when the Invisible is apprehended for trying to help another Invisible in distress) closes with the crime of warmth.’

Note that Silverberg’s ‘Invisible Man’ has become the gender-neural ‘Invisible.’  It is one of Howard’s most eye-catching ideas that the role of this person is to be sung by two singers:  a soporano and a bass.  When the Invisible is alone, they will sing it together, but out in society, where he/she is unable to be themselves, only one voice will be heard.

To See The Invisible is going to be performed at the Aldeburgh Festival  from June 8-11.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Bill, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Tehani Croft, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]


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108 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 5/31/18 The Pixel That Parsed The Hornets Nest

  1. Dann on June 1, 2018 at 8:10 am said:

    If unblinkered economics were in play, then you’d think that the big five and large trade folks would be chasing MilSF authors like crazy as a matter of profit. Might editorial taste be a factor in the decision not to pursue MilSF?

    I wonder about this as well. There’s an obvious market for it (perhaps more so in the US than elsewhere), so it seems a no brainer to pump some of it out.

    I’m not sure it’s an elitist thing either, as the big five are quite happy to publish mediocre commercial fantasy.

  2. I suspect many people here will find this amusing. Transcription for those who don’t want to click thru:

    Jake Bible, author of The Flipside, posts a screenshot of an Amazon review. The review is titled “Very Politically Correct” and goes on to say, “More of the social justice warrior nonsense corrupting science fiction today. On the plus side, it had fewer spelling errors than some of the free books on Amazon.”

    The author’s commentary: “I’ve arrived! My first racist review! Why is he a racist? Because there are no politics in this novel, but the main characters are all people of color. ‘Murica!”

  3. Good for readers with an increased range of offerings at the price point they can afford.

    Good for authors with increased royalties.

    Good for previously marginalized people as their stories have few obstacles to publication

    It isn’t good for readers when the problem of discoverability becomes close to insurmountable.

    It isn’t good for the really talented authors who get lost in the deluge of mediocre to awful.

    Yes, that’s the fantasy. These poor long suffering authors have been marginalized by the evil NY publishers and if only we knew.

    I agree that there are gems to be found. But they ain’t that easy to find. There are perhaps a handful of indy books I’ve read that wouldn’t have benefted GREATLY from professional publishing. (excepting regularly published authors who do some indy stuff but know enough about what they’re doing to produce a great product AKA Bujold or Martha Wells)

    We also have the ‘indy’ revolution to thank for exposing all the /really/ weird kinks and fetishes that exist out there. Thousands upon thousands of prepper and survivalist books in which the plucky hero triumphs over the evil Federal government. Or (my favorite) The Taken ByThe Billionaire Alpha (fill in the were-creature of your choice) genre.

    Not a lot of this stuff is headed for the Clarke shortlist.

    I buy more of it than I should, but it’s still largely filler.

  4. I won’t call this a Meredith Moment, owing to the generally problematic nature of the material, but as the series is one of my guilty pleasures…

    Robert Bevan’s sixth Caverns & Creatures book was released a couple of months ago, and all six are now on sale for 99 cents each. I see that he’s also released a “cocky” short story in response to the recent legal flap.

    For the uninitiated, C&C starts off as a satire of the RPG-based portal fantasy genre: the main characters are beer-and-pretzels jackass gamers. When they tick off a guest gamemaster, he sends them into the game world as their characters. So far, fairly standard idea… except, instead of the game being an approximation of the fantasy world, the world literally operates by the game’s rules, complete with character sheets and arbitrary limitations. (In one scene, a character disappears, so the group pulls out his character sheet to find out whether he’s been kidnapped or killed. It’s the former, and his stats show him to be generally okay, so they can plan a rescue instead of running off half-cocked.)

    There are two aspects which some will find off-putting, though. First, the characters generally being jerks, expect foul language, political incorrectness, potty humor, and the like. (There’s a transphobic subplot involving a character who gets introduced a couple of books in, and there’s quite a lot of excrement-based awkwardness throughout.) Second, the books being independently published, expect some rough editing. If you can cope with those, though, they’re decent popcorn books.

  5. @rochrist:

    It isn’t good for readers when the problem of discoverability becomes close to insurmountable.

    It isn’t good for the really talented authors who get lost in the deluge of mediocre to awful.

    Yes, that’s the fantasy. These poor long suffering authors have been marginalized by the evil NY publishers and if only we knew.

    I agree that there are gems to be found. But they ain’t that easy to find. There are perhaps a handful of indy books I’ve read that wouldn’t have benefted GREATLY from professional publishing.

    I will thoroughly agree with all of that. There’s a vicious cycle at work in the bulk of these cases. No money for an editor or cover designer can mean decreased sales, which in turn means fewer reviews, meaning lower discoverability… and for those who do buy, the lack of editing and polish lowers expectations and reinforces the stereotype of indie books as being low-quality, meaning lower sales…

    Yes, there are a few exceptions. For each of them, there are thousands that fit the stereotype.

    We also have the ‘indy’ revolution to thank for exposing all the /really/ weird kinks and fetishes that exist out there. Thousands upon thousands of prepper and survivalist books in which the plucky hero triumphs over the evil Federal government. Or (my favorite) The Taken ByThe Billionaire Alpha (fill in the were-creature of your choice) genre.

    Yyyyyyeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh. Except you forgot the mind-controlling biker gang of well-endowed succubus dommes. 😉

  6. @MattY

    Kind of curious how many of the indie authors on that graph are also well known authors publishing a novel independent of their publisher as it seems a lot of more well known authors have sort of spread their work out to include multiple revenue options.

    With the understanding that the plural of anecdote is not data, I’ve heard many authors from the grim dark end of things via The Grim Tidings Podcast discuss those issues. While the dominant trend would be to go from indie to trad-pub, there are quite a few that have gone the reverse route. Or at the least, they have used the indie route when traditional publishing couldn’t/wouldn’t handle a work (or works) due to either volume or subject matter.

    One of the side benefits of the rise of indie is that publishers are having to negotiate more frequently for all of the various varieties of “rights” associated with a work. It is my understanding that publishers were able to acquire other language rights or audio rights pretty inexpensively when negotiating for the original English language rights. Now authors can use the leverage of independent production to get more money for their work either via tradpub or indie.

    I agree that arguments about trad-pub vs. indie miss the fact that readers and authors now have more avenues to reach one another…and that’s a good thing!

    Regards,
    Dann
    – CLOSED FOR TAGLINE DEVELOPMENT —

  7. Yyyyyyeeeeeaaaaahhhhhh. Except you forgot the mind-controlling biker gang of well-endowed succubus dommes.

    There are a thousand of them, many of them startling due to the specificity!

    The other big ones that are pretty normal are the milSF and variants on space opera in general. Most of them really not very good.

    I agree that arguments about trad-pub vs. indie miss the fact that readers and authors now have more avenues to reach one another…and that’s a good thing!

    You say that, but I don’t think it works out as well as you think in practice.

  8. The flood of independently published material – dunno. Most of it is flat out terrible (see Sturgeon’s Law). I’d readily settle for the algorithms at Amazon only giving me a recommendations from traditionally published work for better editing (not just for spelling errors) and save the sales efforts for things I might actually buy. And yes, most of the traditionally published stuff is bad too, but it doesn’t make my eyes bleed. I’d also like to never see a prepper, post-apocalypse, zombie or trad space opera in my recommendations ever again.

    As it stands, the indie stuff has to come from an author I trust (Our Wombat, Bujold, Dennis Taylor) get a pretty good review from a trusted source before I’ll invest the time or money.

  9. I find the reports from Author Earnings interesting, but one should bear in mind that it’s not some unbiased, independent study– it’s analyzing from the point of view that Indy/Self Pub is BETTER and is setting out the prove that with numbers that are… not necessarily cherry-picked to that end, but certainly ignores things that don’t fit their narrative. There’s definitely a bias of reporting from self-reported successes and ignoring the tons and tons of books that never earned their authors more than double digits.

    I often find when talking about this, Self Pub Acolytes will mention how some people are making A LOT of money doing self-pub. And this is true! Some people are. But it’s presented as a standard, like “this is what happens when you self pub”. And it always feels like it’s far more about the Get That Money part rather than Tell A Good Story.

  10. @Kevin Harkness: I mean, maybe, but it felt very similar to his plotting in Mars trilogy to me so I’m inclined to say it’s his own style more than Melville and Whitman.

  11. @Marshall: “And it always feels like it’s far more about the Get That Money part rather than Tell A Good Story.”

    Oh, yeah. I’ve seen a bunch of shady indie-cash-grab tricks, and the most annoying has to be the old “change the title and republish” scam… with “reshuffle and republish” close behind. The first definitely violates Amazon’s guidelines, and perhaps their Terms, as you’re supposed to reupload an edited book (maintaining the ASIN and keeping purchase records intact) rather than delisting the original and republishing the update (creating a new ASIN that nobody’s bought). If I had a dime for every time I’d picked up a supposedly-new book to find that either it or the stories in it were already in my purchase history…

    I feel obliged to point out that a lot of Open Road’s books have been republished on Amazon in recent months, which has changed their daily sales email from a valuable resource into a dangerous minefield. I need to go through my Missing Pieces wishlist and update the links to the books I still need from them. Until then, I either check my Goodreads library first or just say no.

    I’ve actually recently finished acquiring a particular bundle of stories. There’s a lot of duplication, so my next step is to create a meta-index, weed out excess volumes, and see what I can do to minimize story duplication while keeping all of the unique stories. Fun times!

  12. @Lee – Hah! That particular stable genius reviewer has given almost everything he’s reviewed 2 stars, but gave the gator/pup collab “Forbidden Thoughts” anthology a four whole stars! He certainly has opinions about what goes into quality writing!

    In reading news, I finished the Novelette finalists for the Hugos. Excellent set of stories. The top two on my list were particularly high up there. The lowest point, if you can call it that, was a story from a series that I haven’t read and therefore had a difficult time getting into. One category down, all the rest to go!

  13. “Most of it is flat out terrible (see Sturgeon’s Law)”

    Which he was applying to things that had gotten past an editor. After a few years in the fanfic communities, I came up with a modification: every level of filtering removes 90%. So in raw unfiltered fanfic sites, it’s 99% – there may be 1% that’s as good as anything published, but finding it is no easy task.

  14. The Tea Master and the Detective by De Bodard is on sale for 0.99 in Europe/UK. Check out Amazon. Not in the US, alas.

  15. Arifel: I mean, maybe, but it felt very similar to his plotting in Mars trilogy to me so I’m inclined to say it’s his own style more than Melville and Whitman.
    I haven’t read those. Are they recommended? I did read KSR’s 2312 and it wasn’t as distracted as New York: 2140. In my distracted memory, anyway.

  16. @Arifel: I care not for either NYC or finance (esp. finance), but I really liked NY 2140, and even nominated it. It meandered with a purpose, if that makes any sense. I really liked the extremely varied characters as people. And stuff does happen. I did read it in ebook so my wrists were saved. The damn watermarked PDFs that the publisher insists on limiting the packet to aren’t going to do it any favors, just like it didn’t do “2312” and “Blackout” any.

    I stored the packet bits I wanted on my Google Drive, but haven’t tried downloading anything from there to tablet or Kindle yet. The shorter stuff I’m not going to b/c so much of it’s online free.

    I have now read all the YA NotAHugo. Except Akata, and I read the long excerpt, but I didn’t read the first book.

    NOTHING beats Oor Wombat in either quality of writing or sensawunda. I feel YA needs even more sensawunda than grownup books. I was quite looking forward to reading the Pullman but had to force myself through it till maybe 2/3 through. Not enough sensawunda, not as good as the original trilogy. So “Summer in Orcus” is first for me, with “Skinful of Shadows” and “In Other Lands” dueling for second and third. I’d be happy with any of those 3 winning, even though they’re all very different.

    Fancast I am just not going to get to. I’m not an audio person.

    Still can’t decide on rankings for Best Movie! Or Novel!

    I dragged myself through the first Stormlight book and geez. There is not enough time in the world, and certainly not in the reading period.

    Waiting on the Retro packet and noodging the Mr. to read.

    @kathodus: As we said back then, bogus. Booooh-guuuussss. Robocop, yeah, but otherwise nope.

    @Lee: Hee! Yep, that’s racist.

    @Rev. Bob: All’s I ever see (and never buy) are the Millionaire (or sometimes Cowboy) Alpha Were-Critter Doms. I don’t recall seeing fem-dom, succubus or otherwise. And why does it hasta be paranormal critters? Can’t it just be regular people who like a li’l somethin’ somethin’ on the weekend?
    (Aside: a former domme said the rich, powerful guys were always subs, so that Millionaire Alpha stuff isn’t even correct.)

    Finding decent SF is tough in indie, though it can be located through our own Cora’s website. Spelling and grammar and characters and everything!

    It’s just swamped under

    – lots of terrible free/cheap milSF (either bad ST/SW/BSG ripoffs, completely fascist, or both)
    – tons of ammosexual survivalists and/or seekrit spies outdoing the government with what they have in their compound and happily proceeding to their alpha SWM paradise after mowing down PoC, LGBT, Muslims, “feminazis”, and anyone politically to the left of Attila the Hun.
    – aforementioned werebeasties/vampires/hawt demons
    – endless YA paranormal lurve triangles (often with the above)
    – several bazillion post-apoc YA ripoffs

    Cora’s indie SFF and crime lists will steer you right, though.

    Some of them even have spaceships on the front and pew pew and everything! Sure, the ace pilots are sometimes… ace, or girls, or PoC, or gay, or aliens, and the women have agency, so I guess they’re not Nutty Nuggets.

    Always read the 1 and 2 star reviews. Those are honest about quality, and often very funny with the snark.

  17. Regarding downloading the Hugo Voter Packet: the tech side of the team is aware of this https/http issue and JavaScript and is trying to clear it up. Not being part of that portion of the Hugo Administration Committee, I’m hesitant to say any more, but I would expect that we won’t see the Retro-Hugo Packet until a solution to the issue is found.

  18. @ Jamoche: The percentage is also wildly variable by fandom, with the bigger fandoms being worse. There’s quite a bit of Vorkosigan fic on AO3 that’s damn near professional quality, and some of the Goblin Emperor fic is every bit as good. Sherlock and Avengers, OTOH, take much more sifting. One gets to know what filters to apply before even clicking on it, and which authors are worth paying attention to.

  19. And…I’ve downloaded all the files. Unzipping them and beginning to look through the contents will have to wait until after I throw my birthday party (observed) this weekend. (The actual birthday was several weeks ago, but party scheduling is always impossible in May.)

  20. @Lurkertype

    Finding decent SF is tough in indie, though it can be located through our own Cora’s website. Spelling and grammar and characters and everything!

    It’s just swamped under

    – lots of terrible free/cheap milSF (either bad ST/SW/BSG ripoffs, completely fascist, or both)
    – tons of ammosexual survivalists and/or seekrit spies outdoing the government with what they have in their compound and happily proceeding to their alpha SWM paradise after mowing down PoC, LGBT, Muslims, “feminazis”, and anyone politically to the left of Attila the Hun.
    – aforementioned werebeasties/vampires/hawt demons
    – endless YA paranormal lurve triangles (often with the above)
    – several bazillion post-apoc YA ripoffs

    Cora’s indie SFF and crime lists will steer you right, though.

    Some of them even have spaceships on the front and pew pew and everything! Sure, the ace pilots are sometimes… ace, or girls, or PoC, or gay, or aliens, and the women have agency, so I guess they’re not Nutty Nuggets.

    Always read the 1 and 2 star reviews. Those are honest about quality, and often very funny with the snark.

    Thanks. 🙂

    I do feature books about manly space marines in doing manly things in space, ammosexual survivalists, alpha were-critters and their SF-nal brethren alpha aliens and cliched YA dystopia No. 136, complete with love triangle, on occasion, because the list is not just supposed to reflect my own taste, but should offer something for everybody. Though I do try to make sure that the authors at least have a certain level of competence. I also know quite a few of them personally, so I know they can write.

    As for the many samey military SF novels with spaceship in space covers or the many samey “Taken by the alpha were-whatever” paranormal romances with barechested men on the cover, which clog up the Kindle store, many of these books are aimed at extremely voracious readers with a Kindle Unlimited subscription who want to read the same sort of book over and over again. And due to the way Amazon’s algorithms are set up, these books are given a rankings boost that books that are not Amazon exclusive don’t get.

    What is more, approx. 2 years ago, an SF indie author named Chris Fox put out how to book called “Write to market”, in which he explains how to find underserved subgenres and write the sort of books that the market (in this case American Amazon customers and KU subscribers) supposedly wants. His case study was space opera/military science fiction and so a lot of the people who read his book and decided to give his method a try also flooded into space opera and military science fiction, creating the situation we see today.

    There are quality indie books and there also is indie SFF that isn’t just the same thing over and over again, but due to the way Amazon’s algorithms work, it gets buried among all the other stuff.

  21. @Lurkertype:

    All’s I ever see (and never buy) are the Millionaire (or sometimes Cowboy) Alpha Were-Critter Doms. I don’t recall seeing fem-dom, succubus or otherwise. And why does it hasta be paranormal critters? Can’t it just be regular people who like a li’l somethin’ somethin’ on the weekend?

    (Aside: a former domme said the rich, powerful guys were always subs, so that Millionaire Alpha stuff isn’t even correct.)

    I was just trying to (ahem) cram it all in, so to speak… the assortment of subgenres, that is. I’ve seen a good deal of not-my-kink on the ‘Zon, and it appears there’s considerable overlap between the femdom, ménage, cuckoldry, and crossdressing subgenres. The things one learns when checking sales ranks…

    And yes, I’m well aware of the proclivity of powerful people to submit in the bedroom, as relief from the stress of their responsibilities. Yet one more thing to hate about FSoG and the hordes of clones it’s spawned, IMO. As for the regular people on the weekend – what’s considered a “regular person” these days? 😀

    That’s one thing I’ve liked about working with J.B. Rogers. Their Thirds is very close to what you describe: three couples fool around at a business convention, in each case by adding a third person. It’s definitely explicit, yes, and there’s some kink, but its core is the characters and their relationships. I was gratified to discover when J.B. closed the audio deal that the publisher called it the first error-free manuscript he’d ever received. A sequel is in the works, which I am assured will not be called either Fourths or Quarters, despite it being a set of four stories that each take place on a different December holiday. (We’ve talked so I can do some cover prep; advance notice makes it easier for me to find suitable source material. I’m looking forward to seeing the actual manuscript.)

    As for the bad reviews – some of them are funny, but I see a lot of one-liners out there that positively scream “I had to type something to leave a star rating.” Not exactly helpful. I’ve adopted (and promoted) a system of rating the story, then deducting one star for “average indie-bad” or two for “truly awful” editing. I break it down that way in the review, too – “a four-star story, but it needed a good edit pass, which cost it a star.”

  22. (2) BOOK SALES STATS. Interesting stuff. Ouch, one of the slides typos Del Rey as “Del Ray.” BTW I’m amused and confused that they break out Amazon’s publishing imprints separate from traditional and non-traditional/self-pub.

    I’m not sure how under 50% on one slide is called “a huge share” on the next. 40% is big, but huge feels like an exaggeration.

    I love the final slide. 😉

    (9) IN A SOCIAL MEDIA FAR, FAR AWAY. LOL, excellent!

    (17) FELINES AND FANTASY. Heheh! 😀

    @Dann: “I guess everyone can’t be N.K. Jemisin.”

    Ouch/LOL. 😉 I’m trying to figure out if Jemisin should ask her publisher to put it on her next book, or if just everyone else needs to put it on their books. Thanks for the chuckle, either way.

    @Heather Rose Jones: Happy (observed) Birthday! 😉

  23. Jamoche,

    Which he was applying to things that had gotten past an editor. After a few years in the fanfic communities, I came up with a modification: every level of filtering removes 90%. So in raw unfiltered fanfic sites, it’s 99% – there may be 1% that’s as good as anything published, but finding it is no easy task.

    Never thought of it that way, but you’re right.

  24. @Rev. Bob: I can see the femdom and menage crossover, but not getting where they intersect with crossdressing. Oh well, I don’t gotta understand everyone else’s kink. And by “regular people”, I meant non-were/vamp/demon/etc. people. Not magical or paranormal.

    @Cora: Ah, so looking for non-KU books might improve the overall quality. Things people will actually pay for individually. If you can find them.

  25. A Hugo Meredith Moment:

    Black Bolt Vol. 1 is $1.99 for Kindle right now. This is the Best Graphic Story finalist that’s not in the voter packet. Yay for all you Kindle Kids!

    BTW, it’s $10.99 at ComiXology, but the Amazon page says if you get the Kindle version, you can read it via ComiXology. Marvel set the price; I guess they figure ComiXology users don’t check Kindle prices, but F! Y! I!

    (I will sleep on whether to get the Kindle version, since I almost never do Kindle. Never say never again. Too bad they don’t have an iBooks version; Marvel doesn’t do that – only 6 graphic novels come up when I check.)

  26. @Lurkertype: “I can see the femdom and menage crossover, but not getting where they intersect with crossdressing.”

    I was trying to avoid being this explicit, but since you asked…

    Two ways, typically – either “wife discovers husband’s crossdressing secret” or forced feminization. Woman decides her husband’s not “man enough” for her (attitude, endowment, or secret crossdressing), he becomes submissive when she confronts him over it, and she compels him to crossdress and (a) watch as she cuckolds him with a “real man” and/or (b) pleasure a man while she watches (aka “forced gay/forced bi”).

    It’s often used as a humiliation aspect in femdom stories, with or without the cuckold dimension: “you’re not a real man, so I’ll treat you like a lesser version of a woman.”

    What I don’t grok is the “findom” kink: financial domination, in which a man is somehow motivated to shower money and gifts on a pretty woman because she insults him, humiliates him, generally treats him like crap, and never has any form of sex with him. I don’t get what’s in it for him.

  27. @Cora: the all-the-same-type work sounds a bit like wordwooze, which was the only fiction product in Fritz Leiber’s satire The Silver Eggheads. One of its notable characteristics was that it couldn’t be read more than once, so the reader had to buy another of the same.

  28. @Chip Hitchcock: That was also a plot point in one of the Thursday Next books. The Well of Lost Plots, I think it was.

  29. @Lurkertype: Thanks! I was fooled because the paperback link has a Kindle link and clicking doesn’t take me to the actual Kindle for tehe same product. Stupid Amazon! And unobservant Kendall, apparently. Grumble. BTW I’m seeing $8.79 for volume 1 Kindle. Anyway, this settles it – I’m not buying what I thought was a $1.99 collection but is really just one issue. 😉

  30. @Rev. Bob:

    What I don’t grok is the “findom” kink: financial domination, in which a man is somehow motivated to shower money and gifts on a pretty woman because she insults him, humiliates him, generally treats him like crap, and never has any form of sex with him. I don’t get what’s in it for him.

    When they break up, there’s no alimony.

  31. @Cora: Ah, so looking for non-KU books might improve the overall quality. Things people will actually pay for individually. If you can find them.

    Probably overall, but there’s a strange mix of stuff in the KU program. All of the Harry Potter books are there for example. Possibly because she figures she’s already sold more copies than there are people.

  32. “What I don’t grok is the “findom” kink: financial domination, in which a man is somehow motivated to shower money and gifts on a pretty woman because she insults him, humiliates him, generally treats him like crap, and never has any form of sex with him. I don’t get what’s in it for him.”

    First, findom does not have to include insults, humiliation or giving at all. Findom only means financial domination. It can be as simple as having control over someones money so they don’t overspend themselves.

    Second, humiliation and degradation are kinks that exists with or without financial domination. For some it is emotional masochism, a craving for psychic pain. För others it is taboo play, the feelong of excitement that a person can say such things. Or even the true feeling of dominance, power, that a person can say such things.

    Third, letting someone else control you and decide that you should pay for something is the exercising of power. It is someone else that decides over you. And at the same time you might even make them happy with what you buy.

    So what do they get from it? They get dominance, the feelings of being in someonelses power, that someone else decides for them. If they are emotional masochists, they might get the pain that they need.

    Sex is secondary for many people into BDSM. It is not what gives us our greatest kicks.

  33. @Kendall
    Amazon’s imprints are different from both traditional publishing and self-publishing. They usually snap up indie authors who’ve sold well on their own and function otherwise as a regular publisher with editors, etc… However, while Amazon heavily pushes its own imprints, you cannot buy them anywhere outside Amazon or order them in bookstores.

    @Lurkertype
    KU distorts Amazon’s charts, because a borrow is treated like a sale, even though the author is paid less, unless they engage in scamming. And yes, it leans very much towards “whatever is popular in this subgenre right now”. Books not in KU are generally more diverse and offbeat, though there also are a lot of more offbeat books in KU because the authors opted for exclusivity and don’t want to deal with the other vendors. It’s not a mindset I understand, since I have always published everywhere I can, but it’s common.

    As for things like the Harry Potter books, these get special terms that allow them to be in KU and still remain available elsewhere. I bet Rowling also gets paid the same for a borrow and a sale. A regular or even a very well selling indie never gets these terms.

  34. @cora As for things like the Harry Potter books, these get special terms that allow them to be in KU and still remain available elsewhere. I bet Rowling also gets paid the same for a borrow and a sale. A regular or even a very well selling indie never gets these terms.

    True. I had forgotten both the required exclusivity, and that Amazon made special deals for big authors.

  35. @Cora: Indie authors get snapped up (it sounds like to a smaller degree?) by traditional publishers, too. I feel like I see that more today than I did even 5 years ago. Anyway, it just seems to me that when Amazon acts like a traditional publisher (via its own imprints), it should be counted as such.

    It annoys me that Amazon doesn’t sell its own imprints elsewhere. I “never” buy Kindle ebooks (I’ve bought maybe 4, none of them from Amazon imprints); I’d have to buy Amazon’s books in print. Since I’m trying to buy more ebooks and fewer print books, I did some reorganization of my look-into/buy lists so I have a folder called “no ebooks, amazon-only, U.K., or out-of-print.” Yup, I rarely look at it, so Amazon imprints sell me (almost?) nothing because they’re, ahem, exclusive with themselves.

    I’m sure Amazon doesn’t care, and I know they Amazon like to pretend they’re the only game in town, but Amazon – and the “Amazon-only self-pub” crowd – are missing a little slice of their pie. I know there are various reasons Amazon & some of the self-pub crowd do this, but grumble grumble grumble. 😉

  36. @Kendall
    I think when Amazon first got in the publishing business, Barnes & Noble and a few indie bookstores announced that they wouldn’t be carrying any Amazon published books, so Amazon made everything published via their own imprints exclusive. It’s still frustrating, particularly if you live in a country where Barnes & Noble doesn’t even operate, but you still can’t order Amazon imprint books via your local bookstore.

    For example, I recently tried to buy Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine at Thalia and found that they didn’t carry it and couldn’t order it either. So I eventually ordered it from Amazon and realised to my surprise that it was a Thomas & Mercer, i.e. an Amazon book. Amazon also translated the novel into German, so I wanted to buy it as a present for a friend who is a big thriller reader and who doesn’t do e-books. So I had to order the book again from Amazon, this time in German.

    I have two e-readers, but none of them is a Kindle, so for anything that’s Amazon exclusive I have to either use the Kindle app or fire up Calibre or get the paperback. And for pretty much any book that’s print on demand, I have to use Amazon anyway, because the German distributor Libri does not distribute any foreign POD titles, because – quote – “we don’t know if those people are violating copyright or inciting to hatred, cause you just can’t trust those indies”. So I have to rely on Amazon for print on demand, cause they are the only ones that bypass Libri.

  37. @Kendall: “I’m sure Amazon doesn’t care, and I know they Amazon like to pretend they’re the only game in town, but Amazon – and the “Amazon-only self-pub” crowd – are missing a little slice of their pie. I know there are various reasons Amazon & some of the self-pub crowd do this, but grumble grumble grumble.”

    It all comes down to access and judgment. For the average indie author, there’s no way to get access to all of the pies. You have to choose between access to KU and access to non-Amazon vendors, because they’re mutually exclusive. That means trying to guess which set will bring in more money, and much of the time, that’s KU.

    Aside from KU, Amazon exclusivity gets an author access to various marketing tools – Countdown deals and free days are the big ones. If you want access to those, ya gotta go exclusive. Here again, are the increased sales you’re likely to attract through those avenues greater than what you’ll get by having Kobo, Apple, and B&N carry your book?

    Those aren’t just difficult decisions. They’re impossible ones. All you can do is make your best guess. Maybe you choose based on ideology, not wanting to give Amazon more market leverage than it already has… but there’s a very real chance that you’re leaving money on the table by shutting out the KU market to include non-Amazon vendors. Maybe it’s the other way around. Whatever the case, you can’t get both, so you pick one and hope that you chose wisely.

  38. @Rev. Bob
    I’m very much opposed to KU/KDP Select and have never been Amazon exclusive. Part of this is probably what you’d call ideological, because as someone who doesn’t live in the US, but likes to consume US media and other products, I have all too often been the customer who doesn’t count, the customer who cannot buy a product, even if they are willing to pay for it, just because I live in the wrong country. So I’m certainly never going to shut out a potential reader, just because they have the wrong device or live in the wrong country. And Amazon still has a surcharge for many countries and doesn’t sell e-books in some countries, motly Muslim majority countries, but also China, at all.

    Though KU can be a good choice for an indie author, if you write the sort of books that KU readers like and if your readership is largely concentrated in the US. If your readership is more international and/or if your books are not quite like the ones dominating the Kindle bestseller lists in your genre, then you may well be better off wide.

    Coincidentally, Amazon.com only makes up between 20 and 25% of my total sales. Amazon Germany, which is actually my biggest single market, makes up approx. 35%. I have heard similar things from other authors who are wide. My books also never do particularly well at the various subscription services for some reason. Scribd is the only one where I get a decent number of downloads, everything else is in the under 1% range.

    So in short, it’s complicated and what works for one author may not work for another.

  39. My opinion of KU, which is probably snarkier than I should really post, is that KU is for readers who don’t actually care what they read–they only care that it’s cheap. And it’s for writers who are ok with being read only by people who don’t actually care about reading their books specifically. Even if the choice weren’t made for me by my publisher, I want my books to be available to all readers who want very much to read my specific books, and I don’t want platform considerations to be a bar to them. And I don’t actually care about not being read by readers who don’t specifically want to read my books. Am I “leaving money on the table”? Not really a relevant question since the other factors (publisher control and philosophical position) make it moot.

    Edited to add: You see, what I write is enough of a specialized taste that simply making it KU-cheap isn’t going to get more people to read it. I know this because I give away free fiction on my website and blog and there’s no stampede to snap it up. Putting it on KU would simply mean it was lost in a sea of equally cheap but more popular genres.

  40. @Kendall: Rev. Bob could probably tell us about “exclusive with themselves” books. 😉

  41. @Cora (quoting Libri): “we don’t know if those people are violating copyright or inciting to hatred, cause you just can’t trust those indies”

    Good grief!

    @Rev. Bob: Aside from KU, though, there are authors who simply don’t bother selling anywhere except Amazon. I know because I’ve asked a couple of authors, and at least one if not both said they didn’t have an exclusive thing on Amazon, but just hadn’t bothered looking into, e.g., iBooks. (One said he would, but doesn’t seem to have; still, I doubt he uses DRM and I should get around to getting his sequel, since I read the first online for free.) I can see that being a hassle on their part, of course! But as a reader, it’s a bit frustrating, and it seems to be leaving money on the table – again, for authors aren’t doing some Kindle-exclusive thing but don’t bother with other platforms. Maybe not worth their while even without the KU thing or whatever, of course.

    BTW I’m unfamiliar with what the various “Kindle only” options are (is KU the only one?). I rarely find out about Kindle-only ebooks (so mostly, I don’t miss them any more than they miss me), but I hear you re. Amazon’s enticing stuff.

    @Lurkertype: LOL, I maaaaaybe phrased it like that for the double entendre, I admit.

  42. @Heather Rose Jones
    KU is definitely a special audience, which mainly focusses on volume and price. They can be very lucrative, if you write what they like. And as far as I know, Rev. Bob mainly works as an editor in the erotica genre, which is a completely different beast (and endangered due to occasional purges of content deemed immoral). Though I don’t really get the authors Kendall mentions, the ones who only publish on Amazon but do not go after the perks offered by KDP Select/KU.

    @Kendall
    I’m probably biassed regarding Libri, because I intensely dislike them for the extortionate prices I was forced to pay for imported paperbacks (often four times the US cover price) before Amazon came to town and offered US mass market paperbacks for the US price simply converted into the local currency.

    However, blocking all POD books by Createspace and Ingram Spark was really a dick move by them, especially since Libri has its own POD service where they either vet all candidates very carefully or simply don’t worry about plagiarism, copyright infringement and incitement to hatred, unless someone complains. Worse, German indie authors only found out when they tried to persuade local bookshops to order their books, only to find that the books are not available.

    But unfortunately, the German publishing establishment is still very biassed against indies. The German publishers and booksellers association admits Nazi publishers to the Frankfurt and Leipzig book fairs because of free speech, but won’t even sell an indie more than a single ISBN number at extortionate prices. And not having a German ISBN shuts us out of programs such as artists’ social security and VG Wort. It’s infuriating, especially when I see fellow authors published with a small press getting all the benefits, whereas I get none, even though my sales figures are comparable to theirs.

    Soory, just griping here, but there is a reason I use the tagline “Destroying Literature since 2011” on my publisher page,

  43. Barnes and Noble sells paperback editions of books published by Thomas & Mercer, which is one of the Amazon imprints.

  44. @Cora: “Though KU can be a good choice for an indie author, if you write the sort of books that KU readers like and if your readership is largely concentrated in the US.”

    I helped publish a KU story a few months ago, and your repeated comments about KU being “concentrated in the US” got me curious. Sure enough, when I checked Amazon.de, the story was right there, along with the author’s non-KU works… and I didn’t have to translate German to recognize the KU branding there. So why are you correlating KU with Amazon-US specifically rather than Amazon as a whole?

    Coincidentally, Amazon.com only makes up between 20 and 25% of my total sales. Amazon Germany, which is actually my biggest single market, makes up approx. 35%.

    So Amazon makes up over half of your total sales. Yes, you get the royalty checks separately, but they all come from the same company. Sure, it’s good to know what countries your sales come from, but it’s disingenuous to split Amazon sales up by individual countries to make Amazon look like a less significant seller of your books.

    (from a later message): “And as far as I know, Rev. Bob mainly works as an editor in the erotica genre”

    Not exclusively, but I let it be known that I edit QUILTBAG erotica because not every editor will handle such content. I’ve also worked with children’s books and SF. Whatever pays, right?

    @Heather Rose Jones: “Even if the choice weren’t made for me by my publisher, I want my books to be available to all readers who want very much to read my specific books, and I don’t want platform considerations to be a bar to them.”

    I have yet to meet the author who doesn’t want maximum availability. I have also yet to meet the author who doesn’t want to make rent. If I had to choose between the two, I know which way I’d go. Thankfully, it’s not that clear-cut.

    You see, what I write is enough of a specialized taste that simply making it KU-cheap isn’t going to get more people to read it. I know this because I give away free fiction on my website and blog and there’s no stampede to snap it up. Putting it on KU would simply mean it was lost in a sea of equally cheap but more popular genres.

    There’s also the chance that putting out a KU story or two could help you with the fence-sitters. You know the ones: they find your listing, read the blurb, look at the price, and decide they’re not quite intrigued enough to buy it. OTOH, if they have KU access and can find something you’ve written there (with a healthy “also by” page at the end if they like it!), the obstacle goes away and they can take that chance.

    BTW, using KU has nothing to do with cover price. I’ve seen a $78 book in the KU program… and I’m not talking about a used print copy where the price has been jacked up by competing bots. Nope, digital-only, $77.99 list price, enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. So much for “KU-cheap” content…

    Finally, nothing about KU or KDP Select says you have to go all-in on either program, although you do have to go Select on a title to get it into KU. (KU is essentially one of the Select marketing tools.) It’s handled title by title and on a 90-day autorenewal basis. I know at least one mainstream author who releases new books on Amazon first, uses those KDP-S sales tools for those first three months, and then goes to wider distribution on day 91. I don’t know their sales numbers, but they keep doing it, so apparently it’s working for them.

    @Kendall: “Aside from KU, though, there are authors who simply don’t bother selling anywhere except Amazon. I know because I’ve asked a couple of authors, and at least one if not both said they didn’t have an exclusive thing on Amazon, but just hadn’t bothered looking into, e.g., iBooks.”

    In my experience, combining Amazon and Smashwords covers most of the markets. In addition to hosting its own store, Smashwords distributes to B&N, iBooks, Kobo, and several other sites. It doesn’t handle Google Play, but last time I checked, that platform isn’t accepting new indie authors anyway.

    My standard formatting-and-publishing practice is to take the finished Smashwords-targeted DOC, render it as an EPUB, make sure the author’s happy with it, settle on a release date, and set up preorders at Amazon and Smashwords. Then I snag the ISBN from Smashwords, put it into the copyright pages, and clone the EPUB. Change the new file’s copyright page to say “Kindle Edition,” make any other Amazon-specific changes if necessary, and we’re ready to upload. The Kindle EPUB goes to Amazon, the original EPUB goes to Smashwords and its other vendors, and the DOC goes to Smashwords as the source to generate other formats (PDF, text, HTML, et al.). Give it a few days, and the preorders are available at multiple vendors around the world.

    For a KU or KDP Select release, I just chop out the Smashwords steps – because of the exclusivity requirement. If the author drops exclusivity later, we can go back and do the Smashwords stuff at that time; I have drop-in templates for that. It’s not a big deal.

    All of which is to say that, if someone is interested in selling in places other than Amazon, it’s not really that hard. A couple of changes, one more dashboard, and you’re set. You won’t get as much granular control as you would by manually dealing with the individual retailers, but do you want it?

  45. @Bruce A: Thanks. I actually thought I’d seen one of their books at B&N, but I figured maybe I was confused. So it’s specifically the ebooks that aren’t carried elsewhere.

    @Rev. Bob: Interesting, thanks. It could be a matter of just not knowing about Smashwords (not looking beyond the Amazon horizon) or not getting around to it or ??? who knows. 😉

  46. @Rev. Bob
    KU is available in the UK and Germany and maybe elsewhere as well, but it has comparatively few subscribers, because the range of available German language titles is small compared to other subscription services such as Juke and Aldi Live or the library services which are supplied via Overdrive.

    All Amazons taken together make up approx. 60% of my total sales. I’m not willing to give up the other 40%.

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