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Thursday, March 07, 2013

How not to be SFWA president

Three-time and outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi appears to want to bring his period of amateurish misrule to an end on a fittingly diplomatic note:
THIS IS A HORRIBLE AWFUL TERRIBLE APPALLING DISGUSTING CONTRACT WHICH IS BAD AND NO WRITER SHOULD SIGN IT EVER. Yes, I’m aware I’ve already said this. It bears repeating. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from Alibi, Hydra or anyone. Run away from it, as fast as you can, arms flailing like a Muppet’s. It’s the only rational response.

I will note that at the moment I have in my email queue a letter from Random House, written in a “more in sorrow than anger” style, which expresses disappointment that I (for one) didn’t talk to them before writing my piece on their terrible regrettable insulting Hydra deal terms, and waxing rhapsodic about their bold new business model. It’s profit sharing, you see, not like apparently any of those other book contracts out there, which comes as a surprise to me, considering how much of Tor’s and Subterranean’s profits I’ve shared in over the years.

I am speaking for myself and only for myself when I say that I looked at the letter that the folks at Random House sent me and wondered just how incredibly stupid they must think I am to believe that just because they sent a letter that read as all reasonable and nice sounding, that would somehow change the fact that the business model of their new eBook imprints is predicated on preying on writers — and preying on the writers most at risk for being preyed upon, the new and the desperate.
This must be more of that smart diplomacy of which we heard so much in the recent presidential elections.  It's hardly a joking matter, but it is a little amusing in light of expressed concerns regarding my ability to get along with the major publishers.  But while I may have been personally attacked by a pair of Tor editors and been guilty of asking questions concerning the number of Nebula nominations won by Tor Books, it can honestly say it never occurred to me to publicly assail a major publishing house's basic business practices or make assumptions concerning its views of its authors.

I am not saying the business model of Random House's ebook imprints is ideal or even fair.  But these are issues best raised privately, not shrieked from the mountaintops.  Despite Scalzi's hysterical whining - no, Johnny, they're not "fucking kidding you" - there is absolutely nothing wrong with the no-advance model; I prefer it myself because it reduces the amount of risk to the publisher and costs the writer nothing while simultaneously providing him with a considerably higher share of the upside.  The shared risk model is a good one; why should the publisher have to gamble and assure the writer of revenue that may never be realized?

And the publisher's risk is real.  I've been paid "advances" on three books from two different publishers that I didn't even have to write due to various reorganizations and turf wars inside the publishing houses.

Instead of jumping up and down and screaming "it's not fair", the SFWA president should be speaking quietly with Random House, and explaining what aspects of the contracts are reasonable and which are not.  That's not only the best way to address situations like these, it is the only way, because SFWA is not about to win a pissing match with a major publisher facing a declining market and a genuine need to revise its traditional business model.

As an SFWA member, I'm embarrassed by the juvenile behavior of the president and appalled that the introduction of new contracts for the new medium appear to have taken the organization by surprise.  I've stated that the status quo leadership of the recent past has been amateurish in the extreme; this incident is only the most recent evidence of that.  And, needless to say, if I am elected president, these matters will be handled in a considerably more professional manner.

UPDATE: Publisher's Weekly is on it, complete with a copy of the letter to Scalzi and the SFWA:
After the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) came out swinging on Wednesday, with its president saying that it would not allow authors publishing with Random House's e-only science fiction imprint Hydra to use that achievement as a credential for membership, the publisher has responded.

PW's Genreville blog ran a post about the SFWA's decision, but Random House said the organization never gave it the opportunity to address the issue at hand, namely royalty rates and overall contract terms. (The SFWA said the main reason for its decision is that Hydra "fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable."

In a letter to the SFWA, Random House's digital publishing director Allison Dobson said that while it respects the organization's stance "we strongly disagree with it, and wish you had contacted us before you published your posts." The letter went on to say that Hydra "offers a different--but potentially lucrative--publishing model for authors: a profit share," and that "as with every business partnership, there are specific costs associated with bringing a book successfully to market, and we state them very straightforwardly and transparently in our author agreements."

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166 Comments:

Blogger Markku March 07, 2013 1:04 PM  

He seems to have forgotten the first half in the admonition to keep calm and rape on.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 1:09 PM  

I know you claim that Scalzi spends much more time perusing Voxday.blogspot.com than you spend perusing Whatever.com, but the evidence simple doesn't support that, the opposite in fact.

Anonymous Anonymous March 07, 2013 1:13 PM  

@ Tico

Hi John

Blogger Markku March 07, 2013 1:14 PM  

Tico: You DO realize that there is another forum where such matters would immediately come to his attention, right?

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 1:18 PM  

Look beneath the surface and you might find crumbs. Is Random not fully on board with the racial political correctness/diversity drum being beaten by Scalzi?

Does a boycott, which Scalzi acknowledges in the comments section he would not oppose, benefit Tor?

Handling matters privately wouldn't address those issues if they existed. Doing so publicly would.

I guess when you have articles like "LGBTQ Characters: If They’re In My Life They Should Be in the Fiction I Read" on the home page of Tor right now, one wonders.

This is how pure considerations of art and talent can be subverted and even destroyed and a genre overturned into a dark dungeon of race and "social justice." Just look at the fine arts in America. It's little different in its true imperatives from the Justice League of America.

Don't believe me? Look up artist's statements - their web sites are full of the phrase "social justice" and mandalas with Indian chants. Meanwhile, where's the art? I mean art judged by its artistry?

Scalzi may be strictly advocating for writers, but since liberals are endemic liars, I don't trust them any further than I can throw them. Right and wrong to a liberal rarely strays far from some racial or gender "wrong." If I'm mistaken in my suspicions, they have only their lack of credibility to blame for centering and parsing the entire world through a lens of race and gender.

Anonymous jack March 07, 2013 1:21 PM  

All of this infighting with and without the SFWA is fascinating. I tend to agree with the Vox position on the Random house deal details. He, Vox, is right that a business model has to be flexible, particularly in the economic climate of these times.

After all, it's not like a given writer is locked up in a gulag somewhere and has only Random house as an outlet. Last resort [or, maybe even first resort?] could be something like Amazon publishing, a la Kindle. Now, I'm not sure but aren't you able to publish through them with a relative small outlay of monies? I could use some instruction here if that is not the case.

Forgive my lazy ways today in not going to Amazon and finding out.

Anonymous Anonymous March 07, 2013 1:24 PM  

But the principal issue is not that it's 'no advance.' A lot of publishers do that these days for the reasons you outline. This imprint wants at least some of the production costs from the author up front - rendering it indistinguishable from the vanity press - and those can run into hundreds, if not thousands. So why wouldn't you just do it yourself, given that everyone now knows what sort of beastie Hydra is and there will be little cachet in signing on with them?

Blogger JartStar March 07, 2013 1:27 PM  

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, of which I am the sitting president, sent an e-mail to its members today informing them that Hydra is not a qualifying market for SFWA membership, due to lack of advances and questionable contract terms.

I wonder if the real complaint is that the model would allow too many writers into the SFWA.

Blogger Markku March 07, 2013 1:29 PM  

Easier to be a gatekeeper when you make sure that an outsider couldn't get his book out by trusting in his superior skills and assuming the risk.

Anonymous Leonidas March 07, 2013 1:30 PM  

I wonder if the real complaint is that the model would allow too many writers into the SFWA.

Ding ding ding ding!

I think we have a winner.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 1:34 PM  

Tico, I think you're evidence holds no water. Scalzi's arguments are ridiculously easy to take down. All people who take up positions that are racist and bigoted are as easy to take down as eating apple pie and washing it down with a nice glass of milk.

In other words, the more Scalzi addresses the issue rhetorically and intellectually rather than with t-shirts and flanking maneuvers such as pledge drives, the more he exposes himself. The fact Scalzi would never write an article called "Jews: the Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is," shows how depraved his act was and how easy it is to subvert and expose. Scalzi pretended to attack or defend a principle - in fact he was attacking a race. Whites are soft targets, Jews a hard target. End of story. There is no principle involved, just skin.

Nuanced arguments about race and gender don't play well in the liberal press and they have no interest in presenting them - especially since they're pre-determined anyway. However writing that a writer persecuted by a troll giving money to RAINN does.

The more Scalzi writes articles about white privilege, the more people see a de facto racist is the president of the SFWA. Not a pretty picture. Better to make t-shirts and shut up. Any more pretend rape comments will only get shoved down his throat.

That type of "ha-ha, I meant the complete opposite" are as lost on many people as when Issac Asimov said “You know, Chip, we only voted you those awards because you’re Negro . . . !” to Samuel Delany about one minute after he won one of two Nebulas at an awards presentation. Needless to say, Delaney was not amused, though he understood what Asimov was trying to say.

Anonymous Beau March 07, 2013 1:35 PM  

Understanding and implementing negotiations on behalf of a represented group is a different skill set than writing derivative works of fiction. Success at one does not suggest skill at the other.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 1:39 PM  

James; slowly now, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Count to ten...

Anonymous Nah March 07, 2013 1:47 PM  

The shared risk model is a good one; why should the publisher have to gamble and assure the writer of revenue that may never be realized?

The risk should not be shared equally because the partners in the enterprise are not equal. They are a multi-million dollar corporation, you are an individual. If you both risk $10,000 on the outcome of a book and it isn't published, that is a HUGE penalty for you but NOTHING (chump change) to them.

Plus, as he said, paying you an advance motivates them to do the things they damn well SHOULD be doing, like marketing your book.

Anonymous Alexander March 07, 2013 1:53 PM  

But as you say, if that 10 grand is chump change, then how does it in and of itself serve as a motivation? They can't simultaneously have 10k motivate them into selling books while the same 10k is viewed as irrelevant.

And 'should' is pretty much irrelevant. If it's a voluntary contract, you can't force someone to take on more risk than they are willing to bear, no matter how 'fair' it is.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 1:53 PM  

Why, Tico. You can't keep up?

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 1:58 PM  

Thought that might be your response Tico. And if you think about it, it's pretty much what I said. Don't defend, deflect. Because you can't defend.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 1:59 PM  

Markku; I’m aware, but you might notice that of the 21 post on Vox’s front page almost 20% required some sort of visit to Whatever to complete (and 24% mention Scalzi).  Of the same number of posts on Whatever (excluding the Big Idea guest posts), 0% either mention Vox or evidence a visit to this site, yes, even including the Gamma Rabbit TeeShirt post.

Anonymous Nah March 07, 2013 2:01 PM  

if that 10 grand is chump change, then how does it in and of itself serve as a motivation?

Well duh, that is better than ZERO motivation.

A company that takes a string of $10K losses will eventually notice and change its behavior.

A company that takes a string of $0 losses will NEVER notice and NEVER change.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 2:02 PM  

James; I am not going to defend what I didn't say. Hence my suggestion for you to slow down. Perhaps go back and reread my original comment and focus on what was actually said.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 2:03 PM  

Look up artist's statements

I've always thought the only artist statement that matters a damn is the, well, y'know, the artwork itself. Especially for a writer.

I mean, if you can't make your statement in a 300 page book, what good are another couple of paragraphs going to do?

Anonymous dh March 07, 2013 2:10 PM  

This sure seems like a dick move by a successful author. All of the things he complains about are things that will lower the bar to a new author getting published.

Disintermediation is happening, with our without Scalzi.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 2:16 PM  

Here are some artist's statements. Keep in mind they are all visual artists.

"Sacred feminine iconography and spirituality is the subject matter of much of my work."

"Much of my work references the history of female artistic and domestic practices by using repetitive, methodical processes and materials categorized as feminine."

"Recognizing and disavowing whiteness concurrently may appear contradictory. Both are strategies necessary for the creation of white identities capable of acknowledging the gross historical injustices carried out in their names and accepting ongoing culpability in the maintenance of historical inequalities..."

"The creation of peace and healing on both global and personal dimensions have been central concerns in my work..."

"I use my hands and the tools and materials of domesticity - threads, fabrics, beads, needles - to assert the validity of "women's work" and the feminine view. The ritual of a repetitive handwork process is meditative and honors my connections to female ancestors and to the divine feminine."

These people are as funny as Laurel and Hardy, except L&H were only pretending. Tell me honestly, who's dumber than liberals?

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 2:16 PM  

This imprint wants at least some of the production costs from the author up front - rendering it indistinguishable from the vanity press - and those can run into hundreds, if not thousands. So why wouldn't you just do it yourself...

Well, because just maybe (for a potential publisher anyway) they would actually do a better job of the production work than you or the people you might hire on your own.

Now, clearly not many publishers fit that description today, but if I were running a publishing house right now, that is the direction I would take the outfit. We would become service specialists in modern editing, production (especially ebooks) and marketing, and offer to do those absolutely necessary things for the authors so that the authors could focus on writing.

And I should clarify what I mean by "editing." I don't mean suggesting a few more LGBT characters, or making the protagonist a "strong, independent woman" with lots of moxie. I mean "Hey, this sentence is a little clunky, you have a typo over there, and you killed off Myrtle in Chapter 5 but Doug is talking about her like she's still alive in Chapter 12..."

Publishers need to be service providers, not gatekeepers.


Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 2:19 PM  

I know what you said Tico. Present an argument. I presented mine. What evidence? Anyone can say "I'm right."

In the future you can consider my comments authoritative and definitive in such matters. That'll prevent me from arguing and you from being wrong.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 2:23 PM  

James; What evidence?

See comment to Markku. Again, try to focus on what is actually said. Or just have a drink.

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 2:25 PM  

I know you claim that Scalzi spends much more time perusing Voxday.blogspot.com than you spend perusing Whatever.com, but the evidence simple doesn't support that, the opposite in fact.

When did I ever claim that? Anyhow, I don't peruse Whatever. Occasionally his more ludicrous posts are brought to my attention by others, although in this case it came up on the SFWA site.

Blogger JartStar March 07, 2013 2:32 PM  

Tor is simply marketing to their clientele. Since support for homo-marriage just reached 51% companies are tripping over themselves to be LGBTQ friendly to sell stuff and be trendy. Also, women read the most books particularly in fantasy so I would be surprised if the books were not steeped in feminine imagery and cliched archetypes.

Blogger IM2L844 March 07, 2013 2:32 PM  

Right on queue, Tico! Just another stellar example of the universally immutable Law of RGR (Rabbit's Gonna Rabbit).

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 2:35 PM  

Vox, How old is he? I have a theory.

Anonymous Tico March 07, 2013 2:37 PM  

When did I ever claim that?
 
Yesterday.  Although to be fair, looking back you didn’t name John specifically.  You claimed that a many people visited blog x more than you visited blog y, which of course is a pretty worthless claim. 
 

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 2:37 PM  

Which supports what I said Tico. Confrontation is not in Scalzi's DNA unless he controls every tiny aspect of it. Comments there disappear for the slightest infraction of non-conformity. All that's left are wimps he's trained and who love the lash.

Anonymous DrTorch March 07, 2013 2:37 PM  

Did he threaten them with a cartoon caricature of himself? (Or was that implied w/ the muppets reference?)

Anonymous Anonymous March 07, 2013 2:40 PM  

Outlaw:

Per Wikipedia, Scalzi was born on 10 May, 1969. In contrast, Vox was born some time in 1968 (the exact date isn't immediately seen online, sorry).

So, given that these two gentlemen are contemporaries, what's your theory?

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 2:41 PM  

Yesterday. Although to be fair, looking back you didn’t name John specifically.

In other words, I didn't claim it at all, did I?

Anonymous Gen. Kong March 07, 2013 2:42 PM  

I've not been following this very closely so let me see if I understand:

McRapey has the vapors because a publisher does not wish to pay advances and instead wishes to offer prospective authors a higher percentile of the net receipts? This is what he's having a meltdown over?

From the language he used, one would think that Random House wanted to retroactively declare all of an author's writings as "works made for hire" and make a one-time payment of $1000 to all of their authors. A "work made for hire" is a special legal category under the copyright law whereby the actual copyright itself becomes the property of the "employer for hire" (the publisher), even though it is the work of a natural person (the author). A "work made for hire" is supposed to be a very limited type of situation where an employee of a company who creates something (like a catalog or instruction manual) as part of his regular employment will not be able to claim it is a work of his personal authorship. Back in the olden days this designation was widely abused by publishers - most notoriously by music publishers - to essentially appropriate the works of authors and literally retain it as their own copyright for the entire term of protection. The director of the US Marine Band, John Philip Sousa, famously sold his march entitled The Washington Post to the Philadelphia publisher Harry Coleman in 1889 for $35 and never received a penny more - despite its copyright lasting until the end of World War II.

Anonymous Anonymous March 07, 2013 2:45 PM  

Also, Vox - I'm curious. You think that a contract that essentially provides no money to the author until *all* costs are recouped by the publisher is fair?

Granted, I have not gotten my hands on a copy of either the Hydra/Alibi contracts, but from what I have been able to discern from various comments online, it appears that the author gets no advance and all normal production fees (cover art, printing, formatting, advertising, distribution, etc) that would normally be covered by the publisher get taken away from any payments made to them.

The author gets net, not gross - and we've all seen how well that works in the movie and music industries...

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 2:49 PM  

Plus, as he said, paying you an advance motivates them to do the things they damn well SHOULD be doing, like marketing your book.

Serious misunderstanding of the advance. The advance is not payment for services to be rendered. It is a strings-attached bank loan that frequently does not have to be paid back under certain circumstances. There is no reason why a publisher or author necessarily must enter into an advance agreement.

None. Now, such a unique financial model is obviously appealing to some folks in the business, but there is absolutely no business reason why an advance should be associated with the fundamentals of book-writing. In fact, it is folly to assume as much. Many professional writers have never worked for an advance. If you don't know what you are doing, an advance can be venomous.

Re: Marketing - publisher's do not market individual books. They market their monthly batch of 40-50 (or more) books, with very few getting anything resembling a 6-week marketing "push." And advance does not motivate marketing.

Publishers are three things to an author: a lender, a printer, and a distributor. The author and publisher should always be free to structure whatever business deals they see fit. A writer's guild president should not be crapping on his publisher's competition in the name of member safety.

If I was a Random House author in the SFWA, esp. if I was in contract talks, I'd be calling for McRapey's head.

Blogger Nate March 07, 2013 2:49 PM  

"This sure seems like a dick move by a successful author. All of the things he complains about are things that will lower the bar to a new author getting published."

agreed.

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 2:50 PM  

McRapey has the vapors because a publisher does not wish to pay advances and instead wishes to offer prospective authors a higher percentile of the net receipts? This is what he's having a meltdown over?

In part. The larger problem is the copyright, the term, and the languages. But he's probably accustomed to halfway-decent advances, so this sort of thing is likely outside his experience and is frightening to him.

Also, Vox - I'm curious. You think that a contract that essentially provides no money to the author until *all* costs are recouped by the publisher is fair?

First, Anonymous, pick a name, any name. Second, it depends upon the costs. It's fair if the costs are clearly defined and are limited to a specified amount of overhead. All four of the books I've done under this type of contract rapidly "earned out" their fixed costs and the royalties are about 4x better than the traditional model.

Of course, unlike with the traditional model, I actually had to write the books each time.

Anonymous Josh March 07, 2013 2:55 PM  

Of course, unlike with the traditional model, I actually had to write the books each time.

You need to write a book about how to get paid to not write a book.

Blogger JartStar March 07, 2013 2:57 PM  

Vox, do you see this model eventually becoming the norm? I could see how this could frighten the writers who get advances.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 3:00 PM  

The author gets net, not gross - and we've all seen how well that works in the movie and music industries...

An advance does nothing to prevent this. You are mixing up two different business practice abuses.

Anonymous dh March 07, 2013 3:03 PM  

VD, can you expand your comments at some point into a post? This is an area which alot of readers are probably interested and could learn a lot about the state of the world.

Anonymous dh March 07, 2013 3:08 PM  

First, Anonymous, pick a name, any name. Second, it depends upon the costs. It's fair if the costs are clearly defined and are limited to a specified amount of overhead. All four of the books I've done under this type of contract rapidly "earned out" their fixed costs and the royalties are about 4x better than the traditional model.

Also, other than production of the physical book, what did your publisher do for you?

Anonymous Godfrey March 07, 2013 3:08 PM  

Here's an idea for a new T.V. show...

"When Rabbits Attack!"

Anonymous dh March 07, 2013 3:09 PM  

agreed.

SAVED FOR POSTERITY.

Anonymous Josh March 07, 2013 3:10 PM  

Didn't random house just give a million dollar advance to that uglychick in girls to basically publish her diary?

I think a lot of the reason advances are given is for status seeking amongst publishers to whoever is the current brave representation of an aggrieved victim group.

Anonymous Josh March 07, 2013 3:11 PM  

agreed.

SAVED FOR POSTERITY.


Hey you two, get a room.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 3:13 PM  

Looked it up, Scalzi was born in 1969. Blows my theory half way to Hell. But then again he is a smurf child...

Anonymous Anonymous March 07, 2013 3:17 PM  

"Confrontation is not in Scalzi's DNA unless he controls every tiny aspect of it. Comments there disappear for the slightest infraction of non-conformity. All that's left are wimps he's trained and who love the lash."

Typical of a guy who grew up powerless and friendless, this pudding of a man loves playing the Big Dick in his silly internet circle jerk.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 3:18 PM  

Just to be clear - the Random House plan doesn't look like a favorable plan to me, personally, but McRapey could have raised questions about it without providing hysterical legal advice. I also can imagine some folks who would prefer to go this route, for reasons related and not related to business. Finally, his advocacy for an agent, who has no legal training, to handle his business affairs is laughable.

The utility of a book agent, if there ever was one, has long since past into a realm of dark horror. If McRapey wants to protect authors, he ought to be screaming about the blind and pervasive trust in agents.

Blogger roystgnr March 07, 2013 3:20 PM  

"maybe (for a potential publisher anyway) they would actually do a better job of the production work than you or the people you might hire on your own"

Google "Hollywood accounting". Contracts in which some creators get unpaid until ill-defined "costs" are accounted for aren't a new business model. The way this turns out in practice is that the publishers may do a better job of the production work, but they will do a *much* better job of restructuring profits towards their subsidiaries who bill for that work, to such an extent that no matter how many hundreds of millions of dollars your work earns it can be made to be considered a "loss" on the parent company's books whenever it's time to write you a check.

If you see a guy in an unmarked windowless van, telling little kids he has free candy inside for them, perhaps he's a good-hearted soul with a sweet tooth who's merely astonishingly ignorant of what his actions resemble, but it's more likely that he's malicious, and it's not hysteria to scream a warning to the children.

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 3:28 PM  

Contracts in which some creators get unpaid until ill-defined "costs" are accounted for aren't a new business model.

No, but the correct thing is not to point and shriek. It would be much more rational and effective to simply explain the importance of placing a hard limit on those costs than claim the whole thing is tantamount to child molestation.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 3:31 PM  

Scalzi I know you are reading this, get one of these.

Click here

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 3:32 PM  

Speaking of realms of dark horror, Daniel, contract's are a maze for the unwary and there are a mountain of things to consider that will vary for each person.

But at the heart of this problem is the onset of the digital revolution, which increases the gene pool and throws more power into the hands of publisher to choose only the biggest money maker and the stupidest who can be grifted.

In both the field of SF&F literature and stock photography for example, everybody and their sister, thanks to digital, can now compete in an arena formerly the sole province of professionals.

Stock and publishing houses are taking advantage of this. In books, the trendy can easily overcome the competent. People in a genre once noted for knowing good artistry from bad start to spend money, not on art, but on whether there are LGBT and zombies. Few care if they are well written. There is not a single doubt in my mind that 2 of the Nebula nominated novels, those by Jemisin and Ahmed, would not be up for consideration if they were Caucasian.

Each is indifferently written and shows no sign of conspicuous artistry. What is conspicuous, and what you will find in the majority of the reviews of each, is the identity of the author, and the "refreshing" change from boring white male power system racist gay-hating, women hating authors such as that famous benighted neanderthal and lucky hobo, Lord Dunsany.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 3:34 PM  

If you see a guy in an unmarked windowless van, telling little kids he has free candy inside for them, perhaps he's a good-hearted soul with a sweet tooth who's merely astonishingly ignorant of what his actions resemble, but it's more likely that he's malicious, and it's not hysteria to scream a warning to the children.

But, what, if he offers you an advance, hop on in, because he's certainly golden?

Hollywood accounting as you describe it is an abuse of the principle. A publisher can lie about costs and book sales. An agent can lie about them too (because most authors with agents let their agents get the check, and then send the author his 80%!).

Under either contract. An contract with an advance actually has a greater incentive for abuse, if you want to look at it that way. They have to give up $5000 in bait money to get their hands on the copyright of something they are going to lie about, after all.

You are mixing up two things: contract details with the verification process. Like I said, I can see all sorts of risks in the Random House model that you would want to consider very carefully before signing. But until McRapey turns over his contracts with Tor, we have no idea how that language exposes him to business risk. But if you think authors don't get screwed over left and right under more "traditional" contracts, you are nuts.

Frankly, he probably doesn't either. We'd have to ask his sales guy/agent/payroll manager.

Also, other than production of the physical book, what did your publisher do for you?

Production of the book is what all publishers do. That's their inventory. They do nothing other than produce and distribute books. What are they supposed to do? Market an individual book? Publishers are decent batch marketers (i.e. they know to throw a little money behind tentpole books) but they aren't going to do any effective marketing of an individual.

McRapey, of course, does not know this, because he's a celebrity Tor tentpole. But if you think about it, if Tor actually engaged in serious individual marketing, why does he, of all people, spend so much time promoting himself?

Publisher's don't market individual books as a general rule.

Blogger ajw308 March 07, 2013 3:37 PM  

"it's not fair!" is what a 5 year old, or someone with the maturity of a 5 year old says when he's not getting everything he wants.

Same as when someone in a MMORPG says "I'm bored" I know within a year or two, how old they are.

Blogger tz March 07, 2013 3:39 PM  

From a different portion of the first quoted article:

You will recall that I thumped on Hydra

I didn't think about it before but Thumper with proper makeup might be Gamma.

GR is hopping mad.

One thing I didn't think about - one might have direct knowledge by watching instead of participating. Look at GR. Now imagine some brute raping a woman with GR in the room - take the above image, add a cartoon bubble saying "Sorry, but I'm just not able to help you right now". Add perfunctory excuse about dead cell battery or some such. Some threat is forcing GR to watch a the rapist do the deeds simultaneously stopping him from turning evidence. From the police report "There was this purple rabbit in the room and he witnessed the whole thing!". Devious. Or a split personality, GR is the ventriloquist dummy. (Complete the thought yourself).

More central to the topic, it depends. If it is Hollywood accounting as the original article Scalzi links to mentions - where a movie grosses several billion but is still net negative profitable (with the beneficiary's cut being on the profits) he has a point, but that is why you need to read all the details and probably a need a lawyer.

Anonymous bw March 07, 2013 3:40 PM  

for status seeking amongst publishers to whoever is the current brave representation of an aggrieved victim group. Josh

Exactly.

See? It IS always about religious beliefs and an agenda, not always so much the money, though that will follow if you are able, for a time, to convince enough people that lies are truth.
Creative Destruction must Progress.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 3:41 PM  

Speaking of realms of dark horror, Daniel, contract's are a maze for the unwary and there are a mountain of things to consider that will vary for each person.

But at the heart of this problem is the onset of the digital revolution, which increases the gene pool and throws more power into the hands of publisher to choose only the biggest money maker and the stupidest who can be grifted.


Yeah, but don't forget that the digital revolution also made it possible for books like SE and ATOB to get through the static. Good authors can make decent money (relative to book writing - it is not a lucrative business under most circumstances) without ever contacting a big publisher, relying on an agent, or hoping for PC awards, or even shelf-time.

Look at the Spinward Fringe books. Those things make the author very good money, and he's never appeared anywhere in mainstream publishing. Not possible to (so easily) bypass the gatekeepers without digital.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 3:49 PM  

Finally, McRapey's copy of the contract is presumably unsigned and has not yet been modified through normal contract negotiations. Aside from extremely simple contracts for work, I have never signed someone's proposed contract without negotiated modification. Not sporting at all.

Now, I've seen a few atrocious contracts that idiots signed. But that's the bit about name signing that people like McRapey tend to forget. If you sign it - you agree to it! The regret that comes after? That's your stupids coming home to roost. So either he's calling his friend who got the contract a retard, or he's treating an unsigned proposal like it is a signed contract.

All McRapey needed to do was talk about negotiation points. It was a contract offer for pity's sake, not a contract on his buddy's life.

Anonymous Bzzzzt wrong March 07, 2013 4:02 PM  

Marketing - publisher's do not market individual books.

http://publishing.about.com/od/BookPublishingGeneralInfo/a/Major-Departments-In-A-Publishing-House.htm

Marketing, Promotion and Advertising
The marketing department is responsible for marketing strategy for the individual books, as well as coordinating the efforts of the promotion art department, which is generally responsible for the design and production of marketing materials. The marketing department also works closing with advertising (either in-house or with an ad agency) to create ads, as dictated by budget and strategy, for individual or lists of titles.

Publicity
The publicity department is responsible for reaching out to the media (print, radio, television, etc.) to gain exposure for individual titles.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 4:03 PM  

It's true Daniel; the digital revolution giveth and taketh away. However since I am not an advocate for authors I don't know and truth, justice and the American way, I don't care. I haven't read ATOB or Fringe so I can't speak to them. I can tell you that I am immune to plot and ideas and prefer a well written story of the purchase of a sandwich to a space opera with prose written by software. However, I'll check them out.

The truth is that I can't think of a single fantasy or SF novel I've read in the last few years where I went, "Whew, thank goodness - I'd never have heard of that guy otherwise."

The truth is that cream rises to the top, but unfortunately not prose stylist creme, but they're super rare anyway. It's a fantasy that an author like Peter Hamilton or Jack McDevitt wouldn't come to the top in a meritocracy. Add to that wading through all the junk to find something readable and the dumbing down of the genre and it adds up to zilch overall.

Frankly, I've read a ton of fantasy books highly recommended on the web and have been stunned at how boring they are from a point of view of artistry. I give you The Seer King trilogy for example. People have literally lost the ability to discriminate.

Even during dead tree, an author like Jack Vance never got his due. Today, you'd never have heard of him. He's simply fits into no trend in fantasy and SF today that has been dictated by this digital revolution. I believe the same would hold true of Lovecraft and C.A. Smith. Their work is for refined tastes and not as conspicuously overpowering as Hamilton.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 4:26 PM  

Disagree, James. Wool is damn good, and Vance is more available today than he was 15 years ago (I remember hunting back then - it was bad). Both are available because of digital rev. Yes, it is a wasteland, but now its a wasteland where the ground is no longer salted. Good work can crop up outside of traditional publishing and most people have no idea whether the book they are reading today is traditionally published through the old way or if it is just a guy doing his thing, or somewhere in between.

Hinterlands hardcover edition of ATOB, for example is only noticeable as digital print because its cover is better than the norm, and is in a nifty matte print that makes it stand out (not slick - very tactile - easy to hang onto). But I would guess that out of all the readers, only a small handful, if that, would know or care that it is printed on demand and not warehoused.

[And PS - I doubt Spinward Fringe is up your alley - I offered it as an example of a guy who would not be published traditionally who makes a living via digital, not necessarily a recommendation of the book itself]

I totally agree with you: SF is a shadow. Most Fantasy will continue to be full of trouncy and plucky gals playing wedding with their brother's chess sets. But the gates are no longer the dominant feature of publishing - so the availability of books that would be considered strange and impossible by the old guard are now possible.

Blogger Res Ipsa March 07, 2013 4:27 PM  

Vox,

Explain to me if it’s possible; how an author whose never been published, has no public following or any other way to estimate what the sales of his book may be, is hurt by a contract that says “we’ll pay you X amount of the sales, but nothing up front”.

If I wanted to publish a book and had written one that some folks in the industry seemed to think was good, and they wanted to publish it for me how I am I losing out if they pay me a percentage of sales?

How does any of this effect McRapey or his little whiners club?

Anonymous MrGreenMan March 07, 2013 4:29 PM  

Scalzi's rear guard are always funny; when given the choice to hear from somebody who's obviously dealt with a major publisher, and have him say they didn't do marketing of any specifics, I'd go to about.com, but I'd start by picking a pissant name like "Bzzzzt wrong". Then, I'd go hang out with my friends who would give me the high-fives all 'round for my snarky spunkitude.

It's particularly funny because the defenders of Scalzi are defending him against the interests of aspiring and new writers -- formerly known as "the little guys" who just wanted a break.

Anonymous Salt March 07, 2013 4:30 PM  

McRaperson must feel weally weally safe, being ensconced in the wabbit warren.

Anonymous MrGreenMan March 07, 2013 4:32 PM  

@Res Ipsa
How does any of this effect McRapey or his little whiners club?

Clearly they're trying to make the club ever more exclusive, because the end goal of most lefties is to be Queen of the Ruins. Further, the Random House contract must be a threat to Tor's business model.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 4:38 PM  

Google "Hollywood accounting". Contracts in which some creators get unpaid until ill-defined "costs" are accounted for aren't a new business model.

I'm a game developer. I'm really, really familiar with the sort of crap some publishers like to pull. Most likely far more familiar than you, with your google-fu knowledge of "Hollywood Accounting."

That some publishers are con men does not mean all must be. In fact, I believe one of the drivers of the sorry state of fiction these days is the poor performance of the big publishers who were more focused on agendas and vigs than on providing useful value for the money they pocketed.

Certainly negotiating a good contract is an important skill for any author. Guess what? It's usually easier to negotiate better terms if you don't take an advance. Not always, but usually. Taking an advance makes it a bigger risk for the publisher, so they tend to be more aggressive about the other clauses. And frankly, the worst clauses are not the pure money ones, they're the control ones. If you've taken an advance, they feel like they've already paid you for the product, but they still want to say what's acceptable or not. That's a recipe for headaches and legal bills.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 4:40 PM  

Bzzzzt wrong, I'm sure you've actually worked in the marketing department of a major book publisher, then.

Tor has about 30 new releases - mass and hardcover combined, at any given time, and they are tiny. They write a paragraph about the book and show its cover. They release it to the distributors. Rinse. Repeat. These things are the author's baby, not the publisher. For the publisher, they are produce. They spoil.

You are simply mistaken. Most people who aren't familiar with the book business are on this issue.

The vast majority of books are not seriously marketed by the publisher, nor should they be. It would be bad business - a waste, for the most part. They are not good at individual book marketing any more than a grocery store is good at individual vegetable marketing.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 4:44 PM  

I heard about Wool. I should give it a shot. But exception doesn't equal rule. I never had trouble finding Vance but mileage may vary. The larger point I was making is that you rarely see Vance discussed in threads. You'll see O.S. Card or LeGuin discussed 10 times more, neither of which are the artist Vance is in my opinion.

As for the old guard, they did a pretty good job. What author is there who is at the same time was very good but was buried, or perhaps the argument is that we'll never know; but I don't believe that. Everyone had their shot and there's an unbelievable amount of good stuff that was published between 1910 and 1970.

I think what is lost now is that, between 1910 and 1920, and from 1939 and 1960, roughly mind you, there was a perfect storm of balance between writer, editor and fandom - that balance is terrible askew.

Endless zombies and vampires and hideously overwritten books that had nuggets of brilliance like the Wheel of Time series and Hyperion show that. Right now, authors and fans rule the roost and there is no calming and authoritative voice like Bob Davis of Munsey or Campbell.

Blogger JartStar March 07, 2013 4:49 PM  

Also, other than production of the physical book, what did your publisher do for you?

Having done the map for ATOB I was surprised to see how much the publisher did actually do for Vox. I can only speak for Marcher Lord Press but from what I saw they kinda watched his back and did a good job trying to make sure the completed novel was of high quality. I always just assumed publishers in general were just parasites feasting on the blood of writers, but I can now see that a good publisher can really help a book and help the writer focus on writing and not the publishing details.

Blogger Doom March 07, 2013 4:52 PM  

How in the world did this... we will call him man for, general purposes... man ever get that office? Not that it is truly an important spot in the big picture, but to authors it should be important to have someone who can and will front for them. Never mind. After Zero's double election victory, little can be questioned... in more ways than one.

Anonymous Alexander March 07, 2013 4:55 PM  

My brother is a cook. He recently discovered that another cook at his workplace makes more money than him despite having less job experience, less education, and less flexible work hours.

My brother's response: I should have done a better job negotiating my salary.


If you sign a contract, then if you don't like the terms it's your own damn fault. Everything else about what the other guy should do or what's fair or what some other person got in *their* deal is just noise and bullshit.

Scalzi could have made a reasonable point here if he had either talked to the publisher or else just written an article discussing the new format and his opinions on it - a sort of 'heads up', if you will. But bitching and moaning and preemptively playing the victim card is just a really fancy way of labeling yourself a chump.

Anonymous Call Me Ishamel March 07, 2013 4:56 PM  

Suddenly, all I can think of is Charles Stross's old "Common Misconceptions About Publishing" posts from 2010ish... (located at http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/04/common-misconceptions-about-pu-1.html)

It's interesting to see his breakdown of who does what in relation to what we're seeing on Hydra's contracts.

Anonymous Josh March 07, 2013 4:57 PM  

How in the world did this... we will call him man for, general purposes... man ever get that office?

The future belongs to those who show up for it. He ran unopposed, iirc.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 5:02 PM  

Of course the very first misconception in that Stross post is:

Misconception #1: The publishing industry makes sense.

So it's quite funny to see people freaking out about a new-ish type of contract from a publisher on the basis of "that's not how it's usually done."

It's especially funny to see people freaking out that "OMG - teh publishrrz are gonna rape da writers if da contract isn't 'standard'!"


Typical rabbiting - the status quo might suck, but any change must be worse! Run away!!!!

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 5:03 PM  

I'll talk Vance any day of the week, James May, but you are right. The squishies attract a lot of chatter. Then again, CNN and Fox are the most relevant sources of news to the vast majority of people in my country. I tend to view them as silly persons.

Yes, stupid people and the stupid stuff they like are the most dangerous force on the planet, but the exceptions, where you find them, are intrinsically worth hunting down.

How in the world did this... we will call him man for, general purposes... man ever get that office?

It is a group of a couple thousand science fiction and fantasy writers. That demographic takes an indirect route to the point. Think space Lutherans without their rigid adherance to organ music.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 5:05 PM  

It's especially funny to see people freaking out that "OMG - teh publishrrz are gonna rape da writers if da contract isn't 'standard'!"

Nailed it Jack, right to the wall.

Anonymous Joe Blow March 07, 2013 5:09 PM  

I recently converted from hard copy to Kindle, and as a result, reading has gotten to be much less of a hassle and instead of a book every week or so (and a shipment every 6-8 weeks from Amazon, and constant clutter of several thousand books in the house), I've turned the TV off and am reading tons more. A good deal of it is self-published, apparently no advance given, from authors using Amazon, and the free Amazon lending library with an Amazon Prime subscription... delightful.

There's some damn good writing in the self-published/no advance section (Scalzi is taking advantage of that with an entertaining-so-far serialization, BTW) and other stuff I've read is good but raw, in need of a little editing, but still plenty good enough to read at $2-3 per book, straight to the writer.

I think this means that paper publishing is a walking dead man, and trying to keep that business model alive - with advances, guaranteed sales of X number of copies to bookstore chains, etc - is a fool's errand. It seems to me that the enduring value in publishing houses is not as the financial agent and gatekeeper it used to be, but in the editing side, making a $2 book worth (or at least sellable) for $10. Meanwhile, I suspect the printing shop portion of the business (and brick & mortar bookstores, etc) will keep steadily diminishing as tablets become ubiquitous. Sure, people may buy a book in the airport or WalMart or RiteAid, and there will be late (or never) adopters who don't pick up a tablet for reading. But the old industry model is a casualty with a sucking chest wound. It doesn't know it's dead yet, or maybe wwishes to keep extracting profit for a while as it dies a lingering death. What the publishers want, and what old-model writers want, is irrelevant. The market is going to evolve and give them what it wants, not what they are demanding.

A guy in a leadership position like Scalzi should be thinking about how to help writers adapt to and exploit this burgeoning new media format and economic possiiblities it presents, rather than trying to preserve what worked great in the '70's. Why is my mind's eye suddenly troubled with pictures of derelict grand old houses in Detroit?

For a guy who makes some pretty good conjectural sci fi, Scalzi seems slow on the uptake here. There's gold in them thar hills. It's not going to go to the men who stay back east, harrumphing about the bad social skills and lack of bathing among the 49'ers. I wonder what Charles Stross makes of this kerfuffle? If I had to bet, I'd bet that Stross is a little more forward thinking here and focused on taking advantage of this sort of arrangement and the potential for greater author profit that it represents.

Blogger Nate March 07, 2013 5:20 PM  

"Endless zombies and vampires and hideously overwritten books that had nuggets of brilliance like the Wheel of Time series and Hyperion show that"

did you just call Wheel of Time... brilliant?

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 5:24 PM  

did you just call Wheel of Time... brilliant?

I think technically he said it had nuggets of brilliance. I'd even agree with that statement, at least for the first book. One of the worst things about Jordan is that he despoiled a few good concepts by including them in an otherwise dreadful book (and them compounded it by making it a series).

Anonymous cheddarman March 07, 2013 5:28 PM  

Nate,

I think you ought to take up writing books. I suggest you start with a sci-fi book about scotts-irish confederate moonshiners in a rebellion against the federal government in the not too distant future on another planet,connected to our reality by a navigable worm hole... i expect blood, great battles, good whiskey, gold currency, hot hillbilly/redneck girls with big hooters on the cover, more plot twists and turns than a well worn game trail through a Kentucky holler, at least one cameo appearance by Ragnar Benson, and did i mention a high body count...bloody hell, the thing almost writes itself!

Sincerely

cheddarman

Anonymous kh123 March 07, 2013 5:31 PM  

"Here are some artist's statements. Keep in mind they are all visual artists."

On behalf of visual artists who are actually paid to do things other than propaganda poster art, I... Well, no, I don't apologize. I'll merely point towards examples cited as a serious indication that modern art is deader and more commercially/metaphysically ridiculous than Klimt could've ever imagined.

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 5:32 PM  

Vox, do you see this model eventually becoming the norm? I could see how this could frighten the writers who get advances.

Almost certainly. Especially for new writers. The only people getting advances will be those who can deliver proven sellers.

I believe one of the drivers of the sorry state of fiction these days is the poor performance of the big publishers who were more focused on agendas and vigs than on providing useful value for the money they pocketed.

Without question. They've actively driven away a statistically significant percentage of their market by pushing agenda rather than quality books.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 5:32 PM  

I don't think of them as stupid Daniel. I first found SF on my own, Burroughs, by haunting a used book store and opening the frontispiece to The Land That Time Forgot.

But things like best of anthologies and most importantly things like the SF Hall of Fame volumes and the Hugo Winners told me what I should like and I so listened and I agreed. Advocacy and context in historic terms is important. There is what we like and what is important and we should have a voice to inform us of the difference, in case we feel it's important.

Without that, there's simply too much repetition with too little warning. Of course I'm probably burnt out to a certain extent but even my ears pricked up when I read GRRM's a Song of Ice and Fire and the Night's Dawn Trilogy, both of which I found, predictably, by accident, when desperate for SF in Bali and in Greece on months long trips.

I don't mind having the equivalent of Capt. Future and the Space Emperor but tell me up front instead of blowing smoke and giving it a Nebula cuz the author is gay and with only one arm. I can enjoy Capt. Future if no one lies to me about what it is. Honest is good. Right now the SFWA is promoting identity SF and I hate that. It wasn't so many years ago that Samuel Delaney was asking why the hell they kept pairing him with Octavia Butler when their SF was so different. Now the put N.K. Jemisin on panels to talk about Butler, like she should, she dotes on it. She dotes on it cuz she's a racial advocate.

If someone asked me to talk about an author cuz we were both white I'd tell 'em to shove it.

Anonymous Josh March 07, 2013 5:34 PM  

I think he said it had a nugget of brilliance

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 5:36 PM  

Sorry about that last part. I meant Jeminsin should rail against being asked to talk about Butler, and instead does the opposite of Delaney, and dotes on the idea.

Blogger Nate March 07, 2013 5:40 PM  

nuggets of brilliance...

OK... I can accept that. Though I maintain those nuggets of brilliance were just the most devious part of an elaborate torture machine... they were the rare diamonds that made you keep sticking your hand back into the boiling oil... because every once in a while you pulled one out.

Blogger Nate March 07, 2013 5:41 PM  

"I think you ought to take up writing books."

Thanks mate.

But if I were to take up writing books... the first book would be on monetary theory.

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 5:49 PM  

They've actively driven away a statistically significant percentage of their market by pushing agenda rather than quality books.

Yep. Yet they believe that SF novels are dying because no one is interested in science fiction any more.

While their proverbial kids, who wouldn't pick up The Wind-Up Girl if it had a dollar bill for a book mark, happily blow through $200 million on Mass Effect 3. Or Deus Ex or KOTOR or X-Com or whathaveyou, over the last 20 years.

Blogger Doom March 07, 2013 5:56 PM  

Off topic, but... goes with your boomer and rabbit theses? Boomers have shot themselves in the foot by screwing the next generation in just one more way. Junior takes control and will... scavenge from the corpses of their oppressors, even before they hit the dirt, to be sure. Then again, junior may well help get the seniors into the dirt and you can't blame them. No generation will get a more fond send off, if for very dark reasons.

Bon voyagee! Don't let the shovel to the back of the head make you think we don't love going through your crap when you are gone... or some such.

Anonymous bob k. mando March 07, 2013 6:10 PM  

Josh March 07, 2013 2:55 PM
You need to write a book about how to get paid to not write a book.



he'll get paid not to write that one.

Anonymous whatever March 07, 2013 6:15 PM  

So the rich boy lectures the working man on how to talk with his betters?

Your attitude is hardly surprising, but you are totally and completely wrong. There is no "shared risk". There is no "shared profits". All profits are the publishers if they so chose to make them the publishers, and the contract pretty much says this. It is a "Hollywood" contract. Notice that all big stars now demand huge money up front. They know very well what a Hollywood Contract means.

The "rights to all foreign language publishing" is, well, horrifying. It is more pure Hollywood. They bury your book if they want to, at no cost to themselves, or force you to accept a tiny portion of the profits in order for your book to be published BY ANOTHER PUBLISHING HOUSE in French or Spanish or whatever.

Why would any sane writer give another entity universal control of his negotiations with other publishing houses for sale of a book in a country in which the current publishing house HAS NO STORES NO PRESENCE NO AGENTS. They just wanna get some of that money on the book they didn't write where it is not being printed by them, not distributed by them, and not sold by them. Cause that wants it.

It's simple theft.

Anonymous WaterBoy March 07, 2013 6:15 PM  

Josh: "You need to write a book about how to get paid to not write a book."

Ah, but who would publish it?

I could see publishers not wanting this information to get out paying him to not write it.

And again, infinite recursion. At least, until he runs out of publishing houses.

(My head hurts.)

Anonymous Daniel March 07, 2013 6:30 PM  

Hi whatever, next time wear pants. By your own argument, sane writers will not sign this contract. So the problem is...?

Blogger Doom March 07, 2013 6:33 PM  

Josh March 07, 2013 2:55 PM
You need to write a book about how to get paid to not write a book.


he'll get paid not to write that one.


Hahahahahahaha!

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 6:35 PM  

Notice that all big stars now demand huge money up front. They know very well what a Hollywood Contract means.

But that's not true.

They may demand big money up front when dealing with studios that have a track record of "Hollywood Contracts", but big stars quite often do deals with very little or even zero money up front with other studios that have better reputations, or something else the star is interested in.

Sometimes it will be for an ownership stake in the production company, sometimes for more artistic control, and sometimes just because it's a subject they want to work on or a director they want to work with and the company could never afford their normal up-front fee.

You're talking out your ass. You know nothing about how "Hollywood" works except what you read in People Magazine.




Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 6:35 PM  

I did not say Wheel of Time was brilliant. It made me angry as much as happy, the anger got worse as I went along. How I got to nine is a testament to myself, and not Jordan.

The 89 zillion word section where they hang out in a circus for no apparent reason I could see is the single stupidest writing decision in the history of fantasy literature. "The Hunt for Pacing" is a recommended title. And the people from the east should've been called "The Bitchy Clone People," because they were actually the same, lone bitchy person.

However the series does contain nuggets of brilliance. But though Jordan was married to an editor, she was either completely retarded, or Jordan got paid by the word space, or he enjoyed torture. The Wheel of Time is a series of novellas trapped and screaming inside massive tomes.

I also grew to progressively hate the women, who, were I Rand, I probably would've destroyed with my powers just to stop the bitching, sniffing and braid-pulling, and I may have even sided with the bad guys and torched the Earth and moved to my extra-dimensional harem.

The odd thing about the novels is that the brightest parts are the five page segments with the bad guys. Jordan would show you really intriguing things and then yank them away into the far future or into pedantic magic that needed a playbook. It's like I was being teased and then told to eff off for 900 pages. I'm not sure if Jordan did the good stuff accidentally. I guess if you write enough words a broken clock is right twice a day.

But there is some good stuff in there. Unlike the first in Goodkind's series, where I was angry at the end cuz I realized in a moment of drama I'd actually been duped into finishing it.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 6:54 PM  

The vast majority of books are not seriously marketed by the publisher, nor should they be. It would be bad business - a waste, for the most part. They are not good at individual book marketing any more than a grocery store is good at individual vegetable marketing.

The error Daniel is making here is assuming how the majority of publishers are is how all publishers must be. Publishers are dying, at least the traditional ones are. They way they have been doing things isn't working. Best try to do something different.

I can most assuredly say that marketing is a critical part of success. As an engineer, I'm not particularly pleased at that, but might as well bitch about gravity. Nobody can buy your stuff if they never know it's for sale.

Big publishers have utterly failed by not helping their mid-list writers market their books. So what's happening are those writers are abandoning big publishing houses for indie work and finding ways to market themselves (...looks around the blog...). One common solution is going to be hiring marketing consultants who specialize in marketing books. Those consultants could have a package of other services they bring to the table, including maybe editing and production services. At that point, they are a complete replacement for the publisher...

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 6:57 PM  

So the rich boy lectures the working man on how to talk with his betters?

Yes. Because the rich boy is one of them. So he knows the right way to communicate with his peers.

Anonymous Unending Improvement March 07, 2013 7:01 PM  

whatever must be John's other comment name. It's the only thing that makes sense.

Blogger Nate March 07, 2013 7:13 PM  

"Yes. Because the rich boy is one of them. So he knows the right way to communicate with his peers."

And now the rabbit people hate you... even more.

Anonymous Gen. Kong March 07, 2013 7:24 PM  

Looking over the basics, I can see that tying up an author's work for the entire copyright term (which is lifetime plus 70 years in many places) is a serious problem. Putting some sort of time limit - like 5 or 10 years - is far more reasonable. As for the other aspects (publishing costs), VD has addressed the real gist of it: the need to strictly define what the costs are. As for the whole advance issue - VD is again correct. Only an author with a known track record of selling lots of books (regardless of whether they're in printed or electronic form) should be expecting an advance - at least in the real world.

I do seem to remember something about a fat advance was that was paid by a major publishing concern to this person just out of Haaavaaahd Law School around two decades ago who never even wrote a law journal article, much less an actual book. It was less than a million but still in the mid-to-high six figures as I recall. The Alinskyite community organizer even missed the deadline a couple of times (some even say he never actually wrote the vile story) but the company paid out anyway. Perhaps McRapey thinks he should be offered similar terms from the oligarchs. While it's true that he would never be the first to stop applauding our cephalopod overlords, he lacks the complexion or the required ancestry.

Anonymous James May March 07, 2013 7:25 PM  

Do we have the technology yet to have a t-shirt that's an animated GIF of a rock python squeezing the life out of a rabbit? At least we should have a greeting card with a pop up python and squeeling noises.

"Gamma-riffic!!!"

(Do not open in front of children or wimmens.)

Anonymous JartStar March 07, 2013 7:28 PM  

So the rich boy lectures the working man on how to talk with his betters?

What's interesting about this comment is the assumption that the wealthy do not work as hard which studies have proven to be false. They actually work harder than the average Joe because once they have accumulated wealth they do not want to lose it.

Anonymous Dv March 07, 2013 7:31 PM  

For the sake of precision, he didn't call Random House 'incredibly stupid':

"I... wondered just how incredibly stupid they must think I am"

Anonymous VD March 07, 2013 7:51 PM  

For the sake of precision, he didn't call Random House 'incredibly stupid'

Just to be pedantic, I didn't say he did. But since the implication was there, I revised that sentence anyhow.

Anonymous John Strong March 07, 2013 8:20 PM  

Boy, he really Scalzied that one.

Anonymous whatever March 07, 2013 9:16 PM  


Yes. Because the rich boy is one of them. So he knows the right way to communicate with his peers.


John is not trying to get a "special exception" for himself. He is trying to stop his profession from being ruthlessly looted. As for being "polite" the rich people he is dealing with aren't being "polite". The contract is naked robbery. Telling someone to be "polite" to robbers, even if they are the "Hallowed Wealthy" is idiotic.


As for the other aspects (publishing costs), VD has addressed the real gist of it: the need to strictly define what the costs are.


You have a firm grasp on how your fantasy world works.

Anonymous zen0 March 07, 2013 9:19 PM  

VD says:

Yes. Because the rich boy is one of them. So he knows the right way to communicate with his peers.

Oh, the benighted arrogance of the rabble. I for one blame the educational system.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 9:25 PM  

John is not trying to get a "special exception" for himself. He is trying to stop his profession from being ruthlessly looted. As for being "polite" the rich people he is dealing with aren't being "polite". The contract is naked robbery. Telling someone to be "polite" to robbers, even if they are the "Hallowed Wealthy" is idiotic.

You know people like you really piss me off. I couldn't write my way out of a paper sack. I don't read fiction and could care less about your damn contracts. Go be a football player, that is where the real money is, just ask Falco. And stop with the class warfare bullshit, let an author live and die on his books not his suposed reputation.

Anonymous Alexander March 07, 2013 9:32 PM  

Again, whatever - provided that the terms in the contract are what they are - there's no 'robbing' of any kind.

Personally, yes, I think that giving up the rights to a work in all countries, in all languages, forever, is a bit much. But the obvious solution here is to NOT sign the bloody contract.

If Random House's method is so unpalatable that nobody goes along with it then they will be forced to change, especially when the change is brought on by the fact that the internet has massively decreased the cost of self-publishing and smaller houses and so they are forced to modify their business plan.

Like I said, Scalzi could have made a rational post detailing the new contract model and what he didn't like about it, and used his position to open some sort of dialogue with Random House raising his concerns. Instead, he decided to throw a bitchfit on the netz.

Right or wrong on the merits of the issues, that would traditionally be considered behavior not becoming of an officer. Which, given VD's apparent nonchalance to how one publishing house may or may not do business with any particular author, is kinda the main point.

Anonymous whatever March 07, 2013 10:04 PM  


Again, whatever - provided that the terms in the contract are what they are - there's no 'robbing' of any kind.


The "author will pay our inventory costs" is only useful if one intends to lie and commit accounting fraud. And that kinda is robbery. Many other things are only considered "okay" by people who think word games and clever tricks excuse stealing money from people.

I'm not one of those people. You clearly are.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 10:23 PM  

The "author will pay our inventory costs" is only useful if one intends to lie and commit accounting fraud.

I got it you are talking about bankers, not publishers. Time to grow up, there is no law and quit crying for John because you are fucked as well. Contracts mean nothing and you are nothing but an old used up horse. Get used to it.

Anonymous whatever March 07, 2013 10:33 PM  


I got it you are talking about bankers, not publishers. Time to grow up, there is no law and quit crying for John because you are fucked as well. Contracts mean nothing and you are nothing but an old used up horse. Get used to it.


An appeal to how bad I should feel about myself? Not going to work, skippy.

Anonymous DT March 07, 2013 10:34 PM  

Run away from it, as fast as you can, arms flailing like a Muppet’s.

Or like a rape bunny's.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 10:48 PM  

An appeal to how bad I should feel about myself? Not going to work, skippy


You will have to pay me

Anonymous JT March 07, 2013 10:52 PM  

I think a benefit to the advance model is it incentivizes publishers to sell the books...but not every model translates well from physical to electronic form

Anonymous Jack Amok March 07, 2013 11:33 PM  

The "rights to all foreign language publishing" is, well, horrifying

God you are pathetic.

Horrifying?

Oh noes, teh evilz publisherz are stealizing the rights to sell it in foreign languages!!!!! Whatever will the poor artiste do?

Did it occur to that peanut sized brain of your Whatever that in the modern, Interwebz-linked, e-commerce world that a publisher might just have a legitmate reason to want the right to sell it in other languages?

Seriously, what is the average plain-jane authoress going to do with those rights? Is she really going to negotiate book deals in a dozen different countries for her first book?

Nah, she's just following the scare-monger tactics of pissants who tell her everybody is ripping her off.

There's nothing "horrible" about a publisher wanting to buy all the rights as once - which is exactly what they are doing. Too many headaches in the last twenty years from artits/authors selling piecemeal rights.

Anonymous Outlaw X March 07, 2013 11:52 PM  

Vox, it just isn't right for all the rabbits to get free arguments, You need to put up a paypal argument button wherein the rabbits can get three arguments for 5 dollars. I think that is generous.

Anonymous The other skeptic March 08, 2013 12:04 AM  

Anti-gun moron doesn't realize that people who want to commit suicide will find a way to do so anyway

Anonymous Outlaw X March 08, 2013 12:28 AM  

Anti-gun moron doesn't realize that people who want to commit suicide will find a way to do so anyway

OT but

You Reckon? Therefore the logical solution is to put Anti-gun morons on no buy lists and at least they can't commit suicide. Wait, lets give them a gun.

I'm done Vox, thanks for your paitence. I am in a piss mood tonight. Sorry. Delete away.

Anonymous MeMyselfI March 08, 2013 1:46 AM  

Typical Wabbitty "one size fits all" thinking.

If an author wants to sign a contract, who's to stop them?

Anonymous Gen. Kong March 08, 2013 1:59 AM  

A question for whatever:

Why bother with these looters and robbers, assuming that's what they really are? One no longer has to own a printing press to make and distribute books (one never really did actually). There are cover and book designers whose services you can hire, marketing and promotional firms who can set up tours for your book, etc. No, they don't work for free - and the best of them will be too busy getting paid to do their thing for those looters and robbers whose deep pockets full of loot and booty - the biggest connected looters can even drive through Uncle Ben's magical trash-for-cash five-finger-discount window for some newly manufactured money.

Setting up a corporate entity to publish your own works is simpler than ever before in history. You could do an LLC for 50 dollars or less in plenty of states. CreateSpace gives you direct access to Amazon and its Kindle platform. You can set up with LightningSource almost as easily, and their distrubtion (Ingram) doesn't totally suck (in contrast to CreateSpace for anything outside of Aamzon). Really, if you're already a reasonably well-known name in the field - you would stand to make considerably more over the long haul than from being yoked together with some cephalopod-owned enterprise in Babylon the Great. Even better, you own your own copyrights - every jot and tittle - for your whole lifetime plus 70 years thereafter. What is it that these publishers actually do apart from giving you the use of their brand name? If, as you claim, they're nothing more than looters and robbers (which is really sort of funny as they no doubt voted for the very same genocidal criminal sociopath that you did), why bother with them?

Anonymous Mavwreck March 08, 2013 2:02 AM  

A few of the Ilk are preaching caveat emptor - they're saying that if the potential authors don't like the contract, they shouldn't sign it. My problem with that it assumes the authors know there are alternatives available. Aspiring authors may not know there are other options out there.

I think Scalzi et al went down this route for two reasons:
1. It warns other authors about the terms of this sort of contract...it's essentially fighting information asymmetry with a PSA.
2. It's an attempt to get change via a public shaming campaign. I bet Scalzi is assuming that a reasoned request to change wouldn't have any effect.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 2:25 AM  

if the potential authors don't like the contract, they shouldn't sign it. My problem with that it assumes the authors know there are alternatives available. Aspiring authors may not know there are other options out there.

Yes, because people capable of writing a compelling work of fiction are usually dipwits who have no clue about (scarequotes) money things (/scarequotes). Without the experienced guidance of a published author (pause to hear angelic choir), they would be but helpless lambs led to the slaughter.





Anonymous Gen. Kong March 08, 2013 3:46 AM  

zen0:
Oh, the benighted arrogance of the rabble. I for one blame the educational system.

That was glorious. You should audition for Downton Abbey. They could use you as an understudy for Maggie Smith.

Anonymous Rantor March 08, 2013 6:04 AM  

Hopefully I am not repeating someone else here... It all comes down to the President of SFWA unable to see that the future is going to be different from the past. Especially when so many millions of books are being published each year that new models are being developed to keep the major houses profitable.

Deciding to restrict the growth of SFWA by denying the legitimacy of authors who publish ebooks or under egregiously unfavorable contracts seems pretty stupid too. Does he want to ensure future SFWA meetings are held in geriatric suites? Must be a way to verify ebook sales at Amazon or Barnes and Noble?

SFWA needs President Vox to make way for the organization's future. Whoda thunk?

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 6:27 AM  

>We would become service specialists in modern editing, production (especially ebooks) and marketing, and offer to do those absolutely necessary things for the authors so that the authors could focus on >writing.

That's actually what a publisher is supposed to do, without the author having to pay for it.

>And I should clarify what I mean by "editing." I don't mean suggesting a few more LGBT characters, or making the protagonist a "strong, independent woman" with lots of moxie. I mean "Hey, this sentence is a little clunky, you have a typo over there, and you killed off Myrtle in Chapter 5 but Doug is talking about her like >she's still alive in Chapter 12..."

This is what editing is. I've been in the industry a long time, including as an editor, and for the record, I've never heard anyone suggest that more LGBT characters should be included. I think there's a distinct lack of understanding on this thread about the actual nature of publishing. Editors do what you outline above.

Hydra will certainly attract desperate new writers: everyone secretly thinks that their novel will be the next big thing and 99.9% of those people are wrong.

What is beyond doubt, however, is that the industry is changing radically and more and more people are going down the indie route. Whether or not there is a need for gatekeepers is debatable - some of the self published stuff I've seen this year is truly dire - but I suspect the market will adjust accordingly.

Anonymous VD March 08, 2013 6:36 AM  

Whether or not there is a need for gatekeepers is debatable - some of the self published stuff I've seen this year is truly dire - but I suspect the market will adjust accordingly.

So is a considerable amount of the stuff published by the major publishers. That's the thing you have to keep in mind when considering the poor quality of self-publishing.

I've been in the industry a long time, including as an editor, and for the record, I've never heard anyone suggest that more LGBT characters should be included.

No, because the mere signing of an LGBT author guarantees that the book will be full of them. That's the problem with identity publishing. It is usually - not always, but usually - very limited in its perspective and scope. For the most part, minorities tend to be much less interested in writing about the general human condition than whining about the travails of their minority status.

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 6:47 AM  

We're pleased to see Mr. Beale engaged as a candidate. He's starting to look very "Presidential." Please encourage your fellow SFWA Memebers to vote in this election.

Ironically, the attacks being waged against Beale are approaching the same intensity of those found in the allegations in the Bauer vs. Glatzer case. (Note: Glatzer, who co-authored a book on “bullying” has yet to weigh in on the Beale vs. Gould race.) What could possibly explain the increase in fervor for the attacks against Beale? Bottom line: Beale poses a real threat to the SFWA and its status quo. In spite of Beale’s recent public display of modesty wherein he downplayed his viability as candidate . . . the reality is that he may be a very serious candidate for this position. Why? There may be enough dissention within the SFWA membership, which desires change, to actually elect him.

Another reason that the SFWA has to take Beale seriously is that, historically speaking, voter turnout within the SFWA has been low in prior elections. Outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi was in fact elected on marginal votes. Let’s revisit some of the voting results which led to putting Scalzi in the position of President of the SFWA. The SFWA claims to have a membership of 1800. During the 2010 elections, only 305 ballots were received (16%). 44 ballots were discarded due to SFWA procedural requirements; leaving 261 qualified ballots (14%). President, John Scalzi received merely 208 votes. Therefore, approximately 11% of the entire membership voted Scalzi into office. Treasurer Amy Casil Sterling was elected with 151 votes (8% of the entire membership). Comparatively, national voter turnout in federal elections has been as high as 56.8% in recent years. What was the cause of this dismal voting behavior? Was it due to disenchantment or indifference?

“I’ve been a SFWA member long enough to know that it’s a fairly thankless position, with lots of herding cats and dealing with aggravating minutiae, and I have a career to look after at the moment.”

- John Scalzi

In our opinion, Scalzi was no Moses in terms of his leadership and commitment to the SFWA. The past election results appear to indicate that his popularity was questionable. In addition, upon first review of the current platforms, it appears that a vote for Steven Gould is a vote for John Scalzi.

Time for change within the SFWA. Vote!

The Write Agenda
thewriteagenda.wordpress.com

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 7:00 AM  

>I heard about Wool. I should give it a shot. But exception doesn't equal rule. I never had trouble finding Vance but mileage may vary. The larger point I was making is that you rarely see Vance discussed in threads. You'll see O.S. Card or LeGuin discussed 10 times more, >neither of which are the artist Vance is in my opinion.

It's great to see someone mention Vance. In conversation at cons everyone will laud him to the skies but you're right, he rarely gets mentioned online that I've seen. One of the greatest genre writers IMO.

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 7:03 AM  

>So is a considerable amount of the stuff published by the major publishers. That's the thing you have to keep in mind when considering >the poor quality of self-publishing.

Very true. I do find it depressing to see really good work by people I know consistently ignored while the industry churns out book after book featuring feisty vampire chicks.

Blogger IM2L844 March 08, 2013 7:50 AM  

Aspiring authors may not know there are other options out there.

Yes, but isn't the onus on the aspiring author to self-educate then simply say "Thanks, but no thanks" if they don't believe signing a particular contract offered by a particular publisher is in their best interest? I find it hard to believe, in this day and age with so much information readily available to everyone, that someone would invest the time to write a book and not take the time to look into all the options available to them for having their work published.

I find it interesting that some people object so vehemently to a business model they are under no obligation whatsoever to suffer unless they specifically choose to do so. The sky isn't falling! After all, Random House is not the Gosizdat. There are other options. Elect them.

Anonymous ericcs March 08, 2013 8:15 AM  

Whatever happened to (i.e., I used to love reading):

Keith Laumer (an incredibly creative and caustic wit).

James P. Blaylock (please do NOT label him "steampunk", that categorization is a gross mischaracterization and put-down of a stealth-Christian fantasist whose writing was unbelievably imaginative and powerful).

There is not one writer in today's politicized world who can even start to begin to approach these two unsung giants.

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 8:46 AM  

Laumer was great.

Vance is now 96. I saw him some years ago in Seattle. He was completely blind but did a two hour book signing with someone guiding his hand.

Anonymous realmatt March 08, 2013 8:59 AM  

Big stars demand grosse, not profit. Only noobs sign hollywood contracts stupidly seeking riches barely deserved.

Anonymous Josh March 08, 2013 9:20 AM  

Blaylock is still writing.

If you like him, have you read any Tim powers?

Anonymous Mr.A is Mr.A March 08, 2013 10:04 AM  

This thread is valuable for nothing else than to get some reading recommendations that cull the wheat from the seemingly endless chaff. Thank you, both VD and Great Ilk.

Anonymous Daniel March 08, 2013 10:15 AM  

I can most assuredly say that marketing is a critical part of success.

I can most assuredly say that Jack Amok doesn't understand book marketing.

Think of it this way: you are a girl scout (only because I think it would be something to be visited by a girl scout named Jack Amok) and you've got a wagon full of different cookies.

Now, do you go door to door and individually market each type of cookie? Do you create a separate flyer for Thin Mints and whatever those freaky coconut monstrosities are? Do you have a catalog, with a page devoted to each kind?

No. You tell the person what your one or two most popular ones are, and let them know the others are available.

The publishing industry is even more this way, because their cookies change every month. Any active marketing that is done on behalf of a book is done by the guy who only makes money when that particular book sells.

Smart authors market their own books best by doing a few small things when the book hits the stands, and then writing new books. You may be able to increase your sales by 10% by heavily marketing your book, which is significant. But you can double your sales by writing another book.

So marketing for an individual book matters to a degree, but the way to market it is not to individually isolate the book for semi-useless sales events like expensive "book tours" or splash ads in newspapers that nobody reads. The margin per book is too small, especially when the best marketing for a book is it being available, worldwide, without any copyright disputes.

Think about it this way: once you have written a book, you have rights to make money off of that book every month for the rest of your life plus 70 years after you are dead. Are you better off consuming the next pre and posthumous hundred+ years marketing the one book, or writing the next? [Again, this is not a pure either or. There is a time for an author to market, but they should be low cost targets of opportunity, not expensive pay to play that destroys your margin]

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 10:20 AM  

Just read a good one by a Brit - guy called Nick Harkaway who is John Le Carre's son. It's called Angelmaker: Great Game politics and a villain who is a bit like Fu Manchu. It's funny and a rattling good story.

Anonymous James May March 08, 2013 10:48 AM  

Well, if anyone wants unsung recommendations, not because of the author, but because of a particular book that author did really well, I recommend the following:

"The War For Eternity" and "The Black Ship," actually one big novel, by Christopher Rowley

The Forbidden Borders Trilogy by W. Michael Gear

"Palace" by Katherine Kerr & Mark Krieghbaum

"The Dragon Never Sleeps" by Glen Cook

"In Conquest Born" by C.S. Friedman

I know these people have done indifferent work, but trust me, they have their best game on for these, each of which is far better than any Nebula nominated novel this year. This is authoritative writing.

Anonymous Mavwreck March 08, 2013 11:34 AM  

Yes, but isn't the onus on the aspiring author to self-educate then simply say "Thanks, but no thanks" if they don't believe signing a particular contract offered by a particular publisher is in their best interest?

The aspiring authors do have the responsibility to learn about the process. However, that doesn't make it OK for someone else to abuse their ignorance, naivete, or lack of business skills.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 11:40 AM  

I can most assuredly say that Jack Amok doesn't understand book marketing.

Oh but I do understand it. I understand the ineffective, go-through-the-motions process you described, and I understand at least some of what's required for effective book marketing in the future.

Look, traditional publishers had one great advantage - they controlled shelf space at brick-n-mortar stores. They could get a wall-o-books (same title, several copies face-out on the shelves) and featured placement on a table to greet shoppers walking into Barnes n Noble. But that only works for a handful of titles, you can't "market" a couple hundred books that way. So yes, by your definition, publishers don't market individual titles (beyond their A listers and prestige names), but not because they can't. The don't because they use an old model that - even though it no longer works - they don't want to change.

As to your point that the author is the one who benefits if his flavor of cookie sells while the publishers just cares that something from his wagon sells (BTW, for the record, my wife is in charge of the helping our daughters sell cookies - I handle the popcorn-and-Christmas Wreath beat with my son and Boy Scouts), again while that's true for the status quo, the status quo is sucking wind.

"Marketing" is not "Sales" though, and the height of the Marketing profession isn't bamboozling people into buying crap they don't want. I once worked with a MarComm dirtbag who boasted that he could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. I looked at our CEO and said "you should fire him and hire someone smart enough to sell them heaters." The best marketing folks help people find what they want, not push whatever crap they have in the wagon. Even the Girl Scouts will tell you what flavors of cookie they have, not just wave their hand and the display and say, well, "Whatever..."

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 11:53 AM  

That's actually what a publisher is supposed to do, without the author having to pay for it.

Well, someone has to pay for it, and the claim seems to be that when the publishers pays for it out of their general fund, they use that as an opportunity to screw the author out of royalties with the dreaded "Hollywood Accounting" gambit.

What I'm proposing is a Publisher-as-a-Service model, which is different than the Publisher-as-a-Conglomerator model so rapidly dying today. Actually, they probably won't be called "publishers" since that term has been pretty badly poisoned. I think they'd be more like Agents-plus (though I suspect a lot of authors and authoresses hate agents almost as bitterly as they hate publishers, though not quite as bitterly as they hate their reading audience...).


Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 12:14 PM  

> I think they'd be more like Agents-plus (though I suspect a lot of authors and authoresses hate agents almost as bitterly as they hate publishers, though not quite as bitterly as they hate their reading >audience...).

Some agents but not all - most are considered to be on your side (at least, that's the theory!). It may well go down this route - on the plus side, it's probably going to be good for freelance editors. I do some of this myself and it's a steady trade, although obviously I have to make it clear that I can't guarantee publication. I guess that's where the model you're suggesting would score if people are keen enough to see their work in print. I notice from Scalzi's site that there are a few folk who would in fact consider Hydra.

Anonymous Daniel March 08, 2013 12:35 PM  

The best marketing folks help people find what they want, not push whatever crap they have in the wagon. Even the Girl Scouts will tell you what flavors of cookie they have, not just wave their hand and the display and say, well, "Whatever..."

I couldn't agree with you more, but you are missing the very important aspect: the author is the only one with a vested interest (in the traditional model or new models of publication) in individually marketing his book.

Take a look at ATOB, because it is such a unique example. For various reasons, the publisher (MLP) founded an imprint just to sell that book. MLP arranged a few blog posts. ATOB, in a way, became the flagship for their latest batch of books.

MLP is small. They maybe put out a dozen books a year (don't quote me - might be more or less than that, but not by much). Theoretically, they could devote one month per year, devoting marketing resources (advertisements, buzz events, ranking charts, "word of mouth", you name it) to each of their new annual titles.

They don't. They shouldn't. Their business is doing well. They are new model publisher, not old.

Yes, they will occasionally devote marketing attention to an award candidate - a flagship.

But mostly, they market their flotilla, and hope that most of their books generate revenue for years to come, that some do better than average, and that not one of them somehow ends up losing them a lot of money.

Put it another way:

If a book makes a publisher $150,000 in its first year (net) without marketing, should that publisher spend $50,000 marketing that book to increase sales 20%?

Why? When they've got new titles coming down the pike that will remain profitable.

The death of publishing is very overrated. Go back and look at the earning statements and sales of many traditional publishers in 2012. Many are doing quite well. Writers will tell you the publishing world makes no sense. This is not true. It makes money. Now a good deal of that money comes from contracts that no sound businessman would ever sign, but there are so many unsound businessmen who take up a career in authoring that it isn't even funny.

Just like .mp3s were supposed to be a revolution against the industrial forces of the music industry, the publishing industry has adapted. Traditional publishers will always be around, and they will never do the job that the author alone has the financial interest in doing: making himself more money.

This is why it is important that an author have clear contractual terms and a way to verify sales in some acceptable way: so he can market his book when it makes sense to do that. I still believe that the author who best markets his book is not the one who flogs it into the ground: he's the one who talks about it publicly in an engaging way and then delivers the next book fairly soon thereafter.

Blogger IM2L844 March 08, 2013 12:39 PM  

However, that doesn't make it OK for someone else to abuse their ignorance, naivete, or lack of business skills.

I don't see how willful ignorance, naiveté and/or a lack of business skills could possibly be used as a justification or a rationalization for classifying a publisher's business model as abusive. It quacks like a strawman.

Anonymous Daniel March 08, 2013 12:46 PM  

I'll put it another way that might clear things up.

When you buy an anthology of different authors, do they list all the authors? Or does "Stories by Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Stephen King, edited by George R.R. Martin" appear on the front? Let say it had someone awesome like Jonathan L. Howard in it? Is it a crime that they don't give the lesser known great author front billing?

Of course not! That would be bad marketing! The same is true for individual books. Putting marketing resources into an individual book can benefit the book, but hurt the overall return for the company. Gaiman's going to get the marketing dollars. Howard will be lucky to get a front table push or whatever. This is a business decision, and not a bad one.

Books aren't like movies. They don't cost that much to produce, and they each need to clear a small baseline to return a profit.

The good news is that they don't cost that much to market. The best place to put marketing dollars, in fact, is in the next book. (Just to be clear - I'm talking fiction. Non-fiction that is tied in with other actionable material or seminars can benefit a ton from marketing, but even in that scenario, the book will be marketed with the other stuff, not individually marketed very often.)

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 1:07 PM  

obviously I have to make it clear that I can't guarantee publication. I guess that's where the model you're suggesting would score if people are keen enough to see their work in print.

Of course you can. Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace, wham-bam, done. You have to get past the boogeyman of "vanity press" and embrace the concept of Self Publishing as a good thing. Old-style publishers fostered the idea of gatekeepers, that without them to keep dreck off the shelves there would be no quality.

Well, they didn't keep all the dreck off the shelves and they didn't get all the gold onto them. Publishers (especially in the SFF field) utterly failed as gatekeepers. Turns out that that vaunted function was just a way to protect their rent-seeking, phony-baloney jobs.

So the new challenge isn't getting published, it's getting found. Good editing to make sure the final product is clean and readable is a good step, but that marketing bit... well that's gonna be important.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 1:20 PM  

Daniel, the publisher absolutely does have a vested interest in sell that book. They get a cut of the profits too, y'know.

Sure, they may not care if they get their percent from Author A or Author B, all the same to them. But they should care about maximizing each author's sales. Promoting Author A to people who would prefer Author B while not telling them about Author B cuts total sales.

"No thanks, not interested in angst-ridden Vampire Space Bunnies. Gee, sure wish there was some engineers-in-space fiction to buy..."

But certainly, whatever division of responsibilities you want to arrive at is fine. But a "publisher" who doesn't try to effectively market all the products it sells is behaving in a foolish manner. Even doing a slackadaisical job of publishing a book takes time and effort on the pubs part - if they aren't going to try to sell that product, they shouldn't bother producing it.

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 1:30 PM  

Unfortunately, the SFWA and the TOR editors have proved themselves to be a defaming, cyberbullying bunch for years. They spend more time on the blogs than they do trying to write a good story. So what else can Random House do but charge them to produce their poor, time-wasting work? Otherwise, RH may just as well close its doors as a publisher. Has anyone been to a library lately? Most of the books published by the top ten commercial houses in the last five years are riddled with poor editing and errors that any professional writer would have caught when proofreading their galleys. Oh, I forgot, now there's spellchecker, so we get "peaked" our interest, instead of "piqued."

Anonymous whatever March 08, 2013 1:51 PM  

Jack rambled:

Yes, because people capable of writing a compelling work of fiction are usually dipwits who have no clue about (scarequotes) money things (/scarequotes). Without the experienced guidance of a published author (pause to hear angelic choir), they would be but helpless lambs led to the slaughter.


Well, the contract doesn't look that bad. Unless you assume the rich people that own Random House intend to commit premeditated accounting fraud. That, when dealing with rich people, you should always expect them to lie and openly break the law if they can get away with it.

Sadly, some authors today don't know that. Oh, the benighted ignorance of the rabble. I for one blame the educational system.

Anonymous Mr.A is Mr.A March 08, 2013 1:59 PM  

Whatever: since rich people lie at every opportunity, it appears that you should post your last five years of tax returns so that we can judge whether should we can trust you, or we should be concerned that you are about to financially rape us somehow.

BTW, what's the dollar figure cut-off line for "evil"?

Anonymous Daniel March 08, 2013 2:59 PM  

Whatever, then why crap your pants over the contract? Why didn't McRapey just come out and say "Random House is cheating authors behind the scene, and they have this deceptively innocuous contract to cover their tracks!"

To put it into concepts you can understand, it is as if he wrote an entire post the horrors of pencils because a sexy misunderstood vampire might be able to use one to poke out his eye.

Anonymous James May March 08, 2013 3:19 PM  

It'd be amusing if RH called the SFWA's bluff and said they'd no longer be doing business with any author who belonged to the SFWA.

On the digital front, the reality is that one can get just about any SF&F book one wants for free on the net and in any format. GRRM's "A Dance With Dragons," selling for $50 on iTunes the day it came out, was simultaneously available for free as a high-quality PDF - no registraton, no nothing.

Some musicians have dealt with this issue by letting the issue go, running with it and making special editions of their CDs with bell and whistles and cute cases and photos and the whole nine yards. Then they have live performance. For most of them, that's pretty much it. That's why Neil Gaiman's wife, Amanda Palmer, went to Kickstarter and raised the highest amount ever - 1.2 million dollars, to produce an album.

For an SF writer, limited edition books with I don't know what for bells and whistles and what else, lectures? Maybe a job with the state. Even Samuel Delany had to teach, which he didn't want to do.

Digital is doing exactly what it did to stock photography: lowering the worth of the average photographer and photos to zilch by glutting the market and having people who enter it, despite what people say about them being worthy, actually lowering the standards so that good work is not only worthless, people don't even know it when they see it. Now that's democracy.

Anonymous LostSailor March 08, 2013 5:08 PM  

Haven't commented here in a long time (though still a regular reader). Having worked in the SF/F industry, I made the mistake of trying to engage McRapey with some fact (slow Friday). The man is an idiot who has no real understanding of the publishing industry (not surprising, back in the day I found that most people in the SFWA had only a shakey grasp of the economics of publishing). To wit, his persistence in applying production costs such as printing presses and warehouses to a program specifically for ebook publishing. (Because they might possibly, maybe produce a print version...someday...perhaps...)

If this is what passes for intelligence in the SF/F community these days, I'm quite glad I got out when I did.

Anonymous Jack Amok March 08, 2013 5:27 PM  

Digital is doing exactly what it did to stock photography: lowering the worth of the average photographer and photos to zilch by glutting the market and having people who enter it, despite what people say about them being worthy, actually lowering the standards so that good work is not only worthless, people don't even know it when they see it. Now that's democracy.

Except that's not what's happening at all. All that's really happening is that average authors are having a hard time moving $25 door stops. People still buy, but you have to lower the price. I'm reluctant to buy a $9.99 Kindle book, but I'll pay $4.99 and not worry about trying to find a pirated copy. Just make the
buying process easy.

Anonymous VD March 08, 2013 5:29 PM  

The man is an idiot who has no real understanding of the publishing industry

Shocked, shocked, am I....

Anonymous Anonymous March 08, 2013 6:57 PM  

>obviously I have to make it clear that I can't guarantee publication. I guess that's where the model you're suggesting would score if people are keen enough to see their work in print.

>Of course you can. Amazon Kindle and CreateSpace, wham-bam, done.

A fair point. About 2/3 of my current clients are up for self publishing, but I was thinking of the trad model.

Anonymous James May March 08, 2013 7:36 PM  

Well Jack, if you have to lower the price then that would pretty much be in keeping with what I said. Throw in what you didn't address, not having to buy them at any price, and what I said goes. In dead tree, you didn't have access to 10,000 free SF&F novels. Now I can have PDFs, Mobi, Lit, RAR, epub, Rtf and more, AND I can change those into any file I want.

You name it: all of Niven, all of Vance, all of Peter Hamilton, all of GRRM, all of anything and everything. What business model does free fit? The honor system? Can you even begin to calculate lost sales? I know one site that has 200,000 books of all types alone. No registration, nothing. You click - done. Throw in confusion because of 10,000 morons thinking they're artists and you'd better have blog and a wizard and four leaf clover too.

Blogger Phoenician March 09, 2013 9:11 PM  

As an SFWA member, I'm embarrassed by the juvenile behavior of the president

Who cares?

You may be "a SFWA member", but you have as much chance of ever being in a position to make policy for the SFWA as I do - and you know it. You're a joke of an author.

And as a person, you're widely regarded as a repellant little fuck. Who on earth do you think will take you seriously when you go bleating about what is or is not socially appropriate, Dipshit?

Anonymous kh123 March 10, 2013 6:29 AM  

Ah, we get three, count them, three paragraphs to enjoy from Phoenician this week. You see, two hands on the keyboard can work wonders.

Anonymous VD March 10, 2013 8:30 AM  

You may be "a SFWA member", but you have as much chance of ever being in a position to make policy for the SFWA as I do - and you know it. You're a joke of an author.

Obviously someone doesn't have access to the SFWA forums or he'd know that I've been asked to pursue certain things on behalf of the organization whether I win or not.

And as a person, you're widely regarded as a repellant little fuck. Who on earth do you think will take you seriously when you go bleating about what is or is not socially appropriate, Dipshit?

The only thing that could possibly concern me about the opinion of someone like you is if you thought well of me.

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