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Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The Gatekeepers know the gates are crumbling

One of the chief beneficiaries of the crumbling system, James Patterson, makes a ludicrous pitch for a bailout of the publishing industry that is quite rightly ripped apart by Kenton Kilgore:
Recently, mega-author James Patterson took out an ad in the New York Times Book Review asking for the government to bail out libraries and the book publishing/selling industry....  In his ad, Patterson asks, “If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature?  Who will discover and mentor new writers?  Who will publish our important books?”

So, the three-headed serpent that is Big Authors + Big Publishing + Big Distributors–the same serpent that made Patterson and his partners rich by cranking out about 10 of his books every year–is eating itself.  Well, we can’t have that!  What would be our society be without the ”important books” that Patterson lists in his ad–as well as his splatterfests named after lines from nursery rhymes (Along Came a Spider, Kiss the Girls, Pop Goes the Weasel)?  And what about Twilight?  And the collected masterpieces of Danielle Steel?
It's more than a little amusing to me that while a brilliant businessman - if shameless literary hack - like Patterson can see what is taking place in the publishing world, the idiot parasites who have taken over the SFWA remain totally clueless about those changes and are more concerned about chainmail bikinis and the fact that Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg referred to a woman they knew forty years ago as a "lady" rather than as an editor in the SFWA Bulletin. 

(Believe it or not, that is the urgent DEFCON 1 situation to which Rapey McRaperson was referring and pledging his name, fame, and fortune to address this weekend.  That's right; the SFWA is going to deal with its "problem" of the old guard by silencing them and ensuring that no new dissenting voices are permitted to arise.  You will RESPECT fat old women writing dreadful books about warrior women and necrobestial love triangles or you will be SILENT!)

It is going to be so much fun to watch these awful people shriek and scream as the cold equations of the publishing business gradually penetrate their thick, empty skulls.  I've been asked, on occasion, why I remain a member of the SFWA considering that only about ten percent of the active membership appears to share my perspective on the ongoing developments and the majority of the membership can't stand me or the intellectual liberty for which I stand.  To which I can only respond: "Give up my front row seat to the auto-bonfire of the witches?  Are you mad?"

Simply reading the litany of sob stories and complaints that make up the greater part of the SFWA Forum makes for a pure and unadulterated pleasure for anyone with a sense of either justice or humor. And it is only going to get more entertaining as the economy implodes and the more publishers go the way of Night Shade Books. It will be a delight to see proud editor/authors forced to resort to the very independent publishing they once scorned as being intrinsically inferior... and then watch them flounder and fail as they belatedly discover that their "popularity" was artificial and mostly the result of superior access to the chief distribution channel.

As one who was briefly permitted entry by the gatekeepers through a side entrance, I perhaps have a more accurate perspective on the situation than most who are either purely insiders or outsiders.  I still have access to a number of executives at several major publishers, although, as it happens, none at the genre publishers.  And I can testify that the mainstream executives understand very well that their conventional business appears to be terminal, as increasing ebook sales at steadily falling prices are not be able to make up for the combination of a) declining print sales, b) vanishing print outlets, c) competition from independents.  It should get very interesting indeed when Barnes & Noble either files for bankruptcy or is acquired by Amazon.

The Gatekeepers are desperate because they are standing on walls that are turning to sand beneath their feet.  But do not miss the confession that is implicit in Patterson's corrupt appeal; without their structural advantages, "serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors" cannot compete on a level playing field with independents writing books of which they do not approve.

Note, in particular, the adjectives "dedicated" and "idealistic".  Dedicated to what ideals?  Patterson's plea is an implicit admission of the very bias that Standout Authors such as Sarah Hoyt and Larry Correia have been describing, and which those who have benefited from it have so staunchly denied.

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89 Comments:

Anonymous werewithal June 04, 2013 6:00 AM  

And the wereseals wept...

Anonymous Roundtine June 04, 2013 6:05 AM  

Declining industries take the profit maximization route, but publishing has few weapons. At least telco's and cable companies can go nuclear and switch to flat data plans, but the publishing business is probably going to become marketing departments if they can even survive.

Anonymous Weak June 04, 2013 6:16 AM  

To quote the Lizard Queen, "at this point what difference does it make?". Why not a bailout for the publishing industry? Why can't they line up for the gravy train? Bailouts for everyone!

Anonymous VryeDenker June 04, 2013 6:24 AM  

The revolution always ends up eating its children.

Anonymous p-dawg June 04, 2013 6:52 AM  

Aren't writers supposed to be smart? Can't they look at what's happening in the music and tv industries and extrapolate?

Anonymous RedJack June 04, 2013 7:02 AM  

I have been following this with some amusement. Don't know why, but the publishing industry has always fascinated me in a sick way.

They are trying like mad to kill ereaders, Amazon, and all non approved authors. It used to be called "rent seeking", but they are trying to protect the guild before it all falls apart.

Anonymous ivvenalis June 04, 2013 7:11 AM  

I don't know. Maybe certain publishing houses will disappear, but it still seems like consumers would pay to reduce their searching costs for writing that's worth their while, so publishing brands will continue to be important. Also, I don't have any doubt that a good editor or editors are value added. On top of that, proper formatting (both technical and aesthetic) will still be necessary. I think the change will basically be lower barriers to entry into the "publishing" market, to include the feasibility of a talented outsider being able to get his work to an audience without the *necessity* of a middleman, but that doesn't mean there will be no place for firms that edit, format, and advertise an author's work.

Blogger IM2L844 June 04, 2013 7:12 AM  

I should apply for a risk mitigating grant through the National Endowment for the Arts before I begin writing "Metaphysical Chili". Who knows, it might turn out to be a monumentally important literary work of art just like Patterson's "Middle School - My Brother is a Big Fat Liar".

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 7:16 AM  

Aren't writers supposed to be smart? Can't they look at what's happening in the music and tv industries and extrapolate?

Not when doing so requires completely revising their opinion of themselves and whatever success they have had. They genuinely believe they are better people who write superior books of greater appeal to the literate. The idea that they are simply the beneficiaries of a long march through the publishing institutions is offensive to them... and we all know how they respond to being offended.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 7:19 AM  

publishing brands will continue to be important

Sure, but they can't charge enough for what they bring to the table to support their existing infrastructure or compete with a) Amazon and b) the multitude of alternative channels that are on the verge of arising. They are in the position of a big, successful used game store attempting to compete with Steam and always-on games.

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 7:53 AM  

Holy underwear! Sheriff Murdered!? Innocent women and children blown to bits!? We must protect our phoney baloney jobs gentlemen we must do something immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Immediately! harumph! Harumph harumph harumph...

I didn't get a harumph outta that guy...

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 7:57 AM  

"They are in the position of a big, successful used game store attempting to compete with Steam and always-on games."

Steam would already own the gaming world if they priced more aggressively.

Anonymous justoutonawalkabout June 04, 2013 8:03 AM  

I'm inclined to agree with ivvenalis.

So, what do you recommend these writers do? 'Cause the majority of 'self published' ebooks are just unedited, poorly compiled, self serving drivel.

As an author happily receiving my pay check 'from the inside', I am content that my editor trims, packages and promotes my work. I still find this to be a happy partnership.

That is not to say, I do not appreciate the massive mistakes and flaws that are dragging the entire industry down. Though I would read a lot less if my only option was to wade through privately produced ebooks to find a decent story.

Anonymous Hong Hu Shi June 04, 2013 8:11 AM  

'Cause the majority of 'self published' ebooks are just unedited, poorly compiled, self serving drivel.

The majority of all books are just drivel. They may be more polished drivel, though.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 8:14 AM  

So, what do you recommend these writers do? 'Cause the majority of 'self published' ebooks are just unedited, poorly compiled, self serving drivel.

They will have to build their own brand and arrange their lives in a manner that is not dependent upon living from advance to advance. The only writers receiving advances in the future will be established, best-selling writers who are foolish enough to take them in lieu of a higher royalty.

The majority of self-published books are "unedited, poorly compiled, self serving drivel". Of course, the majority of professionally published books are poorly edited, unoriginal, politically correct drivel. The difference is that the latter had a channel capable of imposing it on readers who habituated bookstores.

I would read a lot less if my only option was to wade through privately produced ebooks to find a decent story.

No doubt you will. A lot of people, myself included, read a lot less than we did before because the publishers began delivering very different books than we wanted. But there will be a thousand boutique channels, no doubt two or three will serve you.

Think satellite versus broadcast TV. That's what's about to happen here.

Anonymous Salt June 04, 2013 8:17 AM  

'Cause the majority of 'self published' ebooks are just ... self serving drivel.

Yeah, I guess I could read a Dan Brown novel instead.

Anonymous jack June 04, 2013 8:18 AM  

Ah Vox, you ARE the cruelty artist. That front row seat must indeed be sweet. Can the SFWA membership vote to excommunicate you? If they do, and I would love to read the proclamation, does that really remove your view from the arena 3rd. row? I would guess there are several members that would supply you, anonymously, the leavings of the organization minutes and internal happenings.

Anonymous Koanic June 04, 2013 8:19 AM  

Two big toothy smiles from reading that. Ah, the delicious tears.

Anonymous physics geek June 04, 2013 8:20 AM  

"the cold equations of the publishing business "

Looks like it's time to jettison the publishing business out of the airlock.

Anonymous jack June 04, 2013 8:21 AM  

@Vox: Think satellite versus broadcast TV. That's what's about to happen here.

Thats the best analogy of the near future in publishing I have ever seen.

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 8:25 AM  

What a great day. On the same day we have this... and the washington post story about "Babyboomers committing suicide at alarming rate".

Anonymous Skinny Dan June 04, 2013 8:26 AM  

Yeah, I love that false distinction between the poorly edited self-published books and the supposedly superior conventionally published books. What a load of hooey. I suspect it's true that one would find more typos in a random sample of self-published works than in a sample of the conventional crap, but I've found plenty of errors in works by Stephen King and Dennis Lehane, among others. Also, as VD points out, the conventional shelves are filled with hackneyed crud, suitable for folks well on their way to dementia and few others. The collapse couldn't happen to a more bloated bunch of bastards.

(guilty pleasure confession: the Jack Reacher novels are formulaic but well-crafted and highly enjoyable)

Anonymous Lars Walker June 04, 2013 8:26 AM  

When reading many self-published books, I weep for the obvious lack of decent editing and proofreading. Jim Baen himself gave me a short course in novel writing when he was editing my first published novel.

Unfortunately, the products of major publishers nowadays seem to be almost as badly edited and proofread as the self-published stuff. Editors have become negotiators, deal-makers, and deadline enforcers, nothing more.

Anonymous VryeDenker June 04, 2013 8:28 AM  

It's not very nice to have to come to grips with the fact that you've been had. There's a certain comfort in denying what's right in front of your face if it means 5 extra minutes under the warm blankie. They know they've been used by the subversive progressive movement and that they've outlived their usefulness, but acknowledging that will be too humiliating.

Anonymous Sigyn June 04, 2013 8:31 AM  

I would read a lot less if my only option was to wade through privately produced ebooks to find a decent story.

Because reading things written before you were born is out of the question, am I right?

Anonymous DrTorch June 04, 2013 8:35 AM  

So Patterson is Balph Eubank.

Anonymous zen0 June 04, 2013 8:37 AM  

@ VD I've been asked, on occasion, why I remain a member of the SFWA considering that only about ten percent of the active membership appears to share my perspective on the ongoing developments and the majority of the membership can't stand me or the intellectual liberty for which I stand.

Is that a hint at the election results? They did thank you for running, and say Your active involvement is invaluable, and much appreciated. That was nice.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 8:38 AM  

I suspect it's true that one would find more typos in a random sample of self-published works than in a sample of the conventional crap, but I've found plenty of errors in works by Stephen King and Dennis Lehane, among others.

There were about 800 typos and errors in the first ATOB epub that were subseqently cleaned up over six rounds. That was 850 pages moderately edited and not initially proof-read. We put it up on Amazon literally the day after I finished it.

However, this compares with about 200 typos and errors found in each of the three EW manuscripts that had been professionally edited, proofread, and line-edited by editors at Simon and Schuster. And those books were about 300 pages each.

Anonymous Davey Hogan's Revenge June 04, 2013 8:39 AM  

Vox,
This latest SFWA debacle is proof positive that I made the right decision not joining their black panther party. I've never been a "joiner" anyway.
Perhaps had you have won the election, I might have reconsidered membership, as you would have made things a bit more interesting.
My theory:
SFWA will perish like several publishers in the future. This is what happens when progressives join—they kill the host. They always kill the host.
What does SFWA offer authors, really? My career and many others are doing just fine without SFWA.
Enjoy the front row seat of the beautiful train wreck, Vox. You keep things fun for a few of us who lurk in the shadows.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 8:39 AM  

Is that a hint at the election results?

You mean the results that were announced here and elsewhere several weeks ago? Steven Gould won the election, something like 440 to 46. I was surprised I got that many votes.

Anonymous TheExpat June 04, 2013 8:43 AM  

I would read a lot less if my only option was to wade through privately produced ebooks to find a decent story.

I believe mass reviews (i.e., numbers large enough to prevent significant tampering) and recommendations from persons whose opinions have been vetted to your satisfaction may be helpful.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 8:44 AM  

Can the SFWA membership vote to excommunicate you?

Only if I give them an excuse to do so. There are plenty who would love to do so, but the saner elements, such as, believe it or not, Scalzi, realize that would be an epic disaster. I don't actually cause them any real problems as a member other than a modicum of discomfort and embarrassment.

But they're already changing the rules to make sure that no member can run for President again without first getting elected to the Board.

Anonymous rycamor June 04, 2013 8:48 AM  

Nate June 04, 2013 8:25 AM

What a great day. On the same day we have this... and the washington post story about "Babyboomers committing suicide at alarming rate".


It really is related. Only a Baby Boomer would write with this sort of pompous sincerity: "If there are no bookstores, no libraries, no serious publishers with passionate, dedicated, idealistic editors, what will happen to our literature?" Patterson was born when? 1947, height of the Baby Boom. Passionate, dedicated, idealistic... No wonder Gen X hates words like that.

It reminds me of an interview I heard with P.J. O'Rourke, talking about the Clinton administration, where he said everyone talked about Clinton and his team as "passionate" and "dedicated" with "fiery idealism". The only problem was, no one knew quite *what* their revolutionary zeal was about.

Well, it turns out it was just about themselves. That's what really gets the prototypical Boomer fired up. Nothing else.

Anonymous Keeg June 04, 2013 8:51 AM  

Vox,

Thanks for quoting my blog post.

Speaking of typos, I recently finished re-reading the first volume of SFWA's "Science Fiction Hall of Fame" (1st printing, Avon paperback, 1971)and was struck by how many I found (about 20 in a 670+ page book).

It sounds like proofreading now is even worse....

Anonymous Darth Toolpodicus June 04, 2013 8:54 AM  

I'm (a) James Patterson, and I approve this message!

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 8:57 AM  

Also... can I point out how freaking hilarious it is that Patterson put Silent Spring on his list of "critically important works of literature"?

Whatever would we do without psuedo-scientific works that literally killed 150 million people?

What would we DO????

Anonymous zen0 June 04, 2013 8:59 AM  

You mean the results that were announced here and elsewhere several weeks ago?

I've been busy.

Anonymous Will Best June 04, 2013 9:06 AM  

Patterson shouldn't be worried. Established authors will still benefit from better channels of distribution, and it would probably make their editing even better giving them a more polished product.

Its just that there won't be any economic incentive to establish an author. That will be up to the author, independent contractor editors, and the people at goodreads. Which is why Amazon bought them. It realized their reviewer database and army of volunteer reviewers is going to be critical in a few years.

Anonymous p-dawg June 04, 2013 9:13 AM  

@Nate:

Steam is very aggressive with pricing - on older titles and indie titles. Some I would guess they have no control over, most likely the AAA titles. But most of the games I've bought on Steam were purchased for under $10, and it doesn't really get more aggressive than that. Right now there are 2611 games under $10 available on Steam. They also claim 1412 games under $5, but I don't know if those are included in the "games under $10" number as they should be.

If you just can't wait to play the next Battlefield game or whatever, then go ahead and pay the premium. If you can wait 6 months, you can get it for half the original price. Really, I'm not sure what more you expect from them. In my life, Steam DOES rule the gaming market. Who's doing it better, in your opinion? Amazon or EA? Almost every game you buy from Amazon is activated on Steam. And uh, if you don't know Origin from EA sucks...I can't help you.

Anonymous TJIC June 04, 2013 9:26 AM  

> "the cold equations of the publishing business "

Not a single feminist author of books about gothy tattooed bi-sexual werewolf hunters or beta male in a pink rabbit T-shirt would even catch that reference to classic SF.

(...and all the guys who know who Tom Godwin was have been driven away for being white, patriarchal, and "rapey".)

Like the Ween song says, cover it with gas and set it on fire. I'm ready to dance around the flames.

Blogger IM2L844 June 04, 2013 9:30 AM  

I have no doubt the cream will continue finding a way to rise to the top. Conventional authors and publishers are going to lose leverage in the systemic paradigm shift. Their business models will change or they will die. Vigorous organized protestations will be of no effect. It's inevitable and the tsunami is already here.

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 9:36 AM  

p-dawg

Its been at least 2 years since I used Steam so you should take my comment with a grain of salt. Assuming you don't already take all of my comments with a grain of salt... which would probably be a wise policy.

I tried Steam back when I was still on the PC Gaming bandwagon... but after several problems with games not working and a few customer service issues.. I gave it up. I could see dealing with it if I could get the new hotness for 75% of the brick and morter price... but you can't.

And thus... I ended up switching to consoles.

Anonymous Cail Corishev June 04, 2013 9:42 AM  

So Patterson is Balph Eubank.

I know there's some goofy stuff in that book and Rand personally was kind of a nut, but it sure is becoming prophetic these days.

I've read several books on writing, plus Steven R. Donaldson's gradual interview online where he shares a lot of inside info. It's always seemed to me that the publishing industry, like the music industry, is an artificial bureaucracy that serves to get in the way at least as much as it helps to bring great stories to the readers.

Authors don't get to choose their titles; the publishers do. Why? Just because. Ditto on cover images, which is why half the time they don't match the story. How many great books were rejected by numerous publishers, sometimes languishing in the author's desk for years, before finding an outlet? How many more never did? Payment is feast-or-famine, mostly famine, because big companies need blockbuster products to make the payroll.

As someone who can write correct English all day long but has never had an original idea for a story, I've thought at times that I should have been an editor. But that would have meant working for a big publisher, probably in a large city, and I had no interest in that. Nowadays, it seems like it should be possible to offer freelance editing services -- or artwork, etc. -- directly to the author, perhaps on a percentage basis, so that he can maintain control. Companies might form to facilitate that and make sure everyone gets paid, and we might even call them publishing companies, but they wouldn't have the same control over what gets written and what gets read.

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 10:02 AM  

"Babyboomers committing suicide at alarming rate"

Really? It is lower than hoped for? That is alarming.

As far as the gatekeepers go, it is very good for traditional publishing that their gates are collapsing. Those things are ridiculously overstaffed. Many of the traditional publishers themselves are going to do fine - don't forget that ebooks are making them excellent profits, and the vast majority of their content suppliers (authors) have ridiculous contracts in regards to digital.

I have to laugh at the "typo-differential" myth. Considering that the human mind doesn't really distinguish between the correct spellings and incorrect spellings of the following:

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs. I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.

Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!


The fact is that the reason why most proofreaders, professional or otherwise, miss a ton of typos is the same reason why most readers do: we process symbols in context. Is there a level of typographical error that makes a book unreadable or unlikable? I'm sure there is. But even the biggest typo whiner in the world is going to miss 75% of the typos he claims to despise.

You can pay a pro proofreader $300 to edit your book if it is that big of a deal, and your spelling is really that crappy. You don't need to turn over your rights to a megacorporation for a sliver of what they determine to be the profits just to get someone to catch some of the errors. There are some good things about traditional publishing for some authors (I think, for example, some hobbyists or extremely slow pro writers or entertainers for whom books are only a part of their media tie-in can be better served by the traditional system, at least right now), but proofing?

That's not one of them.

I've read ARCs that are far, far better proofed and written than their final "authorized" version. There is such a thing as overcooking a story, and there is always going to be a point where a copy, line or general editor somewhere in the pipeline just doesn't get the book (i.e. mistakes dialect for error, or rewrites for clarity by including plot spoilers, or simply marks up a copy because she (usually she) is terrified of sending a clean one back saying "looks good!" on it. Bad proofing is a false sense of job security for someone somewhere.)

People forget that, while one of the benefits of traditional publishing is that a singular author gets many more hands on his original work...that is a double-edged sword.

Blogger Jack Hanson June 04, 2013 10:10 AM  

Patterson, of course, ignores the fact that the professionalism of the industry has been in steep decline and this is leading to the wreckage we're seeing now. With the industry refusing to let anyone past who doesn't know the secret handshake, well they're reaping what they've sowed.

The only real advantage traditional publishing has now over e-publishing is its distribution channels, and even that's not an insurmountable obstacle for a writer willing to hustle a little bit to get his book out there. If this wasn't the case, you wouldn't see shit like Random House and its atrocious Hydra imprint trying to hook writers into serfdom with that terrible contract.

Vox, as an aside I saw that Dustin Kurtz has a real hard on for you (here: http://www.mhpbooks.com/you-wrote-a-book-now-step-away-from-the-keyboard/). I love how the Left will throw all sorts of adjectives at you, but then recommends not reading because the words are so evil or something and might pop the soap bubble reality liberals have constructed for themselves. These are our intellectual opponents?

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 10:11 AM  

No, Jack. Just our opponents.

Anonymous Invid June 04, 2013 10:19 AM  

OT:
Has there been any confirmation of any money actually being donated on behalf of McRapey's cause?

It wouldn't surprise me if it could be shown that most/all of the pledgers never followed through since chest-beating and emotional breakdowns without actual deeds seems in line with rabbit behavior.

Anonymous p-dawg June 04, 2013 10:19 AM  

@Nate: Ah. Your comment makes a lot more sense now. They've come a long way in the past couple of years. Although I have had some of the issues you describe in the past, I haven't in quite a while (note that I don't buy very many brand-new games, which may help me in this regard). Also, even games you buy in the brick and mortar are likely to be activated on Steam these days - and while you may not save $75% initially over B&Ms, Steam drops the price faster, and they have seriously embraced the indie community recently - encouraging development contests and such. You can buy games for $2.49 that you can't even get in the regular stores. Of course, this ups the noise-to-signal ratio, but cursory forum/internet browsing can sort that out. They also run daily sales and occasional super sales. For example, I rebought Oblivion yesterday so I could get all the DLC and all expansions. I paid $8 for all that stuff. I hate to sound like a corporate apologist, but I have been honestly impressed by the progress Steam has made since I first installed it to play Half-Life. They've even gotten some publishers to remove DRM on the steam versions of their games. (admittedly, not all publishers and not all games, but it's something.) Even with all that, the biggest advantage, I think, is that when you get a new computer, you don't have to find a bunch of CDs and reinstall, or find a bunch of different digital download saves or codes or whatever. You just install Steam, log in, and install from there. It's pretty sweet. I promise I will now shut up about Steam and return you to your regularly scheduled publishing industry grumbling. :)

Anonymous Randy M June 04, 2013 10:26 AM  

I think there is an opportunity for an electronic editor that is part ai, part crowdsourcing. Imagine e-readers with a function that allows readers, within a specified time windown, to highlight portions of text that they think is problematic, select a description, then send it electronically to the Electronic editor for that works author. The author gets a periodic report on the book that lists each section that had problems identified along with the number of people who marked it and why, and possibly suggests changes. The author could then rewrite sections and even replace already down-loaded works with the new version (as I thik you did?). Perhaps the first x number of downloads could be free. The software could even prompt the crowdsourced editors to post to twitter or whatever is around then about it on the same day (when the editing period is over, for instance).

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 10:28 AM  

Vox, as an aside I saw that Dustin Kurtz has a real hard on for you

Ergo demonstrating my point about what sort of people are presently the publishing gatekeepers. "Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House".

Anonymous p-dawg June 04, 2013 10:36 AM  

@Jack Hanson: Wow, that was a pretty hilarious read. Hey, Thomas Beale, (I know, I know, but read the link Jack posted), did you know charities are getting money because you can't restrain yourself? And they're charities you hate, too! However will you cope?

Anonymous JartStar June 04, 2013 10:55 AM  

What a great day. On the same day we have this... and the washington post story about "Babyboomers committing suicide at alarming rate".

The euthanasia issue the Millenials will face may solve itself because if you read the comments after the article there are apparently a lot of Boomers already planning suicide over nursing homes.

What's interesting is that they just assume that their kids will dump them in nursing homes like they dumped their parents it never occurs to them that their own kids might try to take care of them--probably because the Millenials won't. What a sad, pathetic generation.

Anonymous Jill June 04, 2013 11:11 AM  

I should add nothing to this thread, lest I look like a disgruntled loser who couldn't get published to save my life. But James Patterson is really funny. He writes like a 9-yr-old girl. His "idealistic" editors must have had more practical ideals in mind than one might think. Ah, for the idealistic days of Pinckney and Rodman!! They never grow stale.

Anonymous VD June 04, 2013 11:14 AM  

did you know charities are getting money because you can't restrain yourself? And they're charities you hate, too! However will you cope?

I thought about it over a glass of Chianti, as I surveyed the sun sparkling off the waters of the Mediterranean. And a single tear ran slowly down my cheek....

Anonymous . June 04, 2013 11:20 AM  

publishing brands will continue to be important

Huh? Because people say, "oooh this is Random House, I better buy it"?

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 11:20 AM  

He writes like a 9-yr-old girl.

Perhaps you are unaware of Patterson's ingenious author "system." Don't be surprised to discover that he has a sweatshop full of 9-yr-old girls, pounding out prose, based on the old business principle of "a thousand monkeys, typewriters, and years."

Anonymous Jill June 04, 2013 11:31 AM  

That is the most beautiful thing I've heard all day: "a thousand monkeys, typewriters, and years."

Blogger Nate June 04, 2013 11:31 AM  

Nine year old girls write about employing snakes to anal rape female teenagers?

Anonymous Jill June 04, 2013 11:40 AM  

@Nate, sentence structure and complexity, not content. Head smack. I need to go away.

Anonymous Cail Corishev June 04, 2013 11:41 AM  

Considering that the human mind doesn't really distinguish between the correct spellings and incorrect spellings of the following:

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.


There's a difference between "can be understood" and "pleasing to read." There's way more good stuff already in print than I could ever hope to read, and more coming out every day; the last thing I need is to slow down because someone can't be bothered to spell or capitalize correctly.

But I agree with your main point: proofreading is the last reason anyone should sign with a publisher, since they rarely catch every typo anyway. I've noticed that I tend to see more of them late in a book than at the beginning, as if proofreaders get tired or bored and start skimming too fast. It ought to be possible to hire that level of quality without signing away the rest of your control.

Blogger Brad Andrews June 04, 2013 11:45 AM  

How long until eBook prices adjust to reality? I would buy a whole lot more of them if Amazon's $9.99 price was more in place. Too many technical books keep a price too close to that for the physical copy, even though it is almost pure profit for the electronic version. I would buy a bookshelf of things if I could do that.

Though I would also like a way to cheaply keep those updated when a new version is released. I see no reason to pay the brand new price for a new revision since nothing physical needs to be sent out.

Blogger The Aardvark June 04, 2013 11:53 AM  

I remember a decade ago when fat old women of both sexes were self-publishing on CDs and flogging their horrors at regional SF conventions. However dreadful their wares, they adapted to a new medium.

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 11:55 AM  

A decent example of what the gatekeeper mindset looks like when it becomes impotent can be seen in the reaction of authors James Enge and Harry Conolly to the inclusion of Vox at the Black Gate blog back in the day. Enge protested. Conolly allegedly unsubscribed to Black Gate. John O'Neil kept Vox on. The thin-skinned were allowed to nurse their puncture wounds in the privacy of their own ranting rooms.

Now, if this had been Tor books looking to offer Vox a contract instead of a free blog, two protests - hell, one protest - would have been enough to cut him off at the pass.

It isn't that everyone has a right to be published - but, from a business perspective, anyone who can contribute numbers-generating (visitors for a blog, cash for a publisher) content, likely should be, and the complaints of insiders should not be capable of hitting the brakes. It is, simply put, terrible business to allow ideology to trump the reason for one's existence.

Of interest: Black Gate was an outstanding (if money-losing) producer of a fantasy adventure magazine. Their final issue was also their worst.

It must have been sheer coincidence, but...it was a Women Warriors theme.

I believe that BG has a few more stories (that they had accepted before realizing they weren't going to print any more books) they feel obligated to post online, and then they'll be done.

Too bad. When it was good, it was really, really good. Unlike Game of Thrones, however, you can go back and read issues 1-13 without them being tainted by the general derailment of the finale.

Blogger IM2L844 June 04, 2013 12:05 PM  

Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.

There's a difference between "can be understood" and "pleasing to read."


That's a sort of freestyle progressive jazz writing method. It's an acquired taste. Blatant spelling/grammatical juxtapositions with random punctuations thrown in at just the right intervals isn't as easy as it looks, ya know.

Anonymous Jack Amok June 04, 2013 12:05 PM  

'Cause the majority of 'self published' ebooks are just ... self serving drivel.

Possibly you have the "self serving" on the wrong side of the equation?

consumers would pay to reduce their searching costs for writing that's worth their while, so publishing brands will continue to be important.

Okay, quick, associate existing publishing brands with what their loyal readers think of them!

...

Okay, okay. No using Google, who is Patterson's publisher? King's? GRRM? McRapey?

Right. Almost nobody outside the industry pays any attention to the publisher. Author's names have a brand with the reading public. Publishers don't.

A belief in an Editorial Voice for a publisher is probably at the heart of the industry's decline. What is an Editorial Voice? Just another way of saying they have an opinion, but coupled with the conceit that their opinion is so valuable, people should pay them money to have it. And then when that sort of person gets control of the hiring process, they start paying other people not for the other person's opinion, but because the other person validates their own opinion. So you end up with a company full of people with no particular talent for writing, editing, or marketing, they just have opinions. Like everybody else.

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 12:09 PM  

It ought to be possible to hire that level of quality without signing away the rest of your control.

It is - in fact, privately-hired proofreaders are superior to a bullpen of them for several reasons: 1) one person is cheaper than several 2) the contracted proofreader is being paid, only to proofread 3) you don't have wasteful, text-mangling proofreader fights ("importantly!" no! "more important!" no! "importantly!"...ah, screw it. Strike the sentence altogether.) 4) accountability. When an author's agent, editor, copy editor, marketer, and press-checker all can make changes to the copy but don't have the responsibility to make changes to the copy, you can have a bureaucracy of buck-passing. 5) Authorial investment. An author who isn't handing off his professional work to "the professionals" isn't cut off from access to his own words, and at least has the opportunity, if he cares, to improve the copy.

Finally, and here's the big one: independent authors have the ability to make corrections to the print and digital text of their works, after it has published. If a reader writes me to point out a big enough inconsistency in the text, or, say, 5 annoying spelling errors, I can hop on the text, make fixes, upload it, and have new versions percolating back through the system within minutes. Tomorrow's orders will be the corrected ones.

I have done this on a few occasions. The most interesting one was when the descendant of a historic figure about whom I had written a fictional account emailed me to tell me a few more interesting anecdotes about the real figure. Two of those details made it into the revised story, and the new version was "on the shelf" by the next morning.

Good luck getting Faulkner's wooden floor/dirt floor problem in As I Lay Dying changed in that amount of time...or ever. Traditional publishing has leverage, but will never be mistaken for nimble.

The proofreading complaint is the worst one made in defense of traditional publishing. It is very clearly in the advantage of the independent, new-style publisher (as long as he cares about proofreading).

Anonymous Scintan June 04, 2013 12:13 PM  

How long until eBook prices adjust to reality? I would buy a whole lot more of them if Amazon's $9.99 price was more in place.

Content
Price (with value only as a subheading)
Availability
Convenience


Those will always be the key factors, and they are why the SF market has largely lost me. I own thousands of books, and I have no interest in ereaders (one of the worst ideas in history, so naturally people flock to that insanity), but I'm not dropping $10-$15 on a paperback, especially when most new writing is garbage.

Anonymous Jack Amok June 04, 2013 12:17 PM  

most proofreaders, professional or otherwise, miss a ton of typos is the same reason why most readers do: we process symbols in context.

The Prof for my Technical Writing class in college (I found it funny that the required writing class taught by the Engineering Dept. was significantly more rigorous than anything taught by the English Dept.) insisted you had to do at least one proof reading pass backwards - start at the end of the paragraph and work back one word at a time. That was the only way to catch typos, because it eliminated most of the context and forced the brain to focus on each word.

Sadly, it doesn't help with to/too/two or their/there/they're etc. that require context to proof in the first place. And it's painfully time-consuming.

Butt ti hleps.

Anonymous . June 04, 2013 12:30 PM  

How long until eBook prices adjust to reality? I would buy a whole lot more of them if Amazon's $9.99 price was more in place. Too many technical books keep a price too close to that for the physical copy, even though it is almost pure profit for the electronic version.

I have yet to see a price differential between the eBook version and the used "dead tree" version of the types of books I usually buy (history) that is large enough to induce me to buy the eBook. If the eBook price is too close to the dead tree price, I will take the physical book every time.

I have been thinking of buying the eBook version of the "Germany and the Second World War" series, because the dead tree versions are insanely overpriced ($400 or more) and the eBook ones (that exist so far) are $100 or so. But then my qualm becomes... $100 for a bunch of electrons? Seriously?

Anonymous . June 04, 2013 12:31 PM  

I thought about it over a glass of Chianti, as I surveyed the sun sparkling off the waters of the Mediterranean. And a single tear ran slowly down my cheek....

And then I thought, McRapey's liver is a tad underdone, and I don't even really like fava beans...

Anonymous joe doakes June 04, 2013 12:36 PM  

The debate doesn't affect me. I only read Kindle books that I check out of the library for free, or download from Amazon for free. There's an endless supply of new material and it's all free. Sure, most of it is crap, but that's been the lament since Bulwer-Lytton was writing and it hasn't stopped hopeful authors from churning out mindless escapist entertainment to while away the bus ride.

On rare occasions, I might spring 99 cents for a highly recommended book. Vox, your new stuff is out of my price range. I'll wait until the next book is released and you give away your current one free.

I never darken the doors of bookstores. And there are a LOT of cheap bastards just like me.

Blogger James Dixon June 04, 2013 12:42 PM  

> They've come a long way in the past couple of years.

They're actually working hard on Linux now and may come out with a Linux based Steam Console. We'll see. I haven't looked at them myself. I have a couple of hundred old DOS based games that run fine under Dosbox to occupy my time.

Anonymous Daniel June 04, 2013 12:43 PM  

Heck, you can get Kean's complete Chronicles of the Emperors of Rome for less than $10 http://www.smashwords.com/books/category/84/newest/0/5.99/epic/110

ebook pricing is far more dynamic than whatever traditional publishing has colluded for it to be...for now.

Anonymous kh123 June 04, 2013 12:53 PM  

"Believe it or not,"

...Just so that I can take any chance to reference back to aforementioned AWCA masterpiece:

No, I fully believe it.

Blogger Brad Andrews June 04, 2013 1:06 PM  

I'm not dropping $10-$15 on a paperback, especially when most new writing is garbage.

That price is too high. I would buy a bunch of old paperbacks again at $2.99 (or ideally less). Just having it available when I want it is worthwhile.

I don't love reading on the electronic screen yet, but the books take up a LOT less space. I say this as someone with boxes of books still around I don't have room to display.

Anonymous Stickwick June 04, 2013 1:16 PM  

...Just so that I can take any chance to reference back to aforementioned AWCA masterpiece:

Rather entertaining, that.

What's with the tendency for educated leftist males to sound like clucking schoolmarms when disagreeing with someone?

Anonymous Paul Durow June 04, 2013 1:20 PM  

"The idea that they are simply the beneficiaries of a long march through the publishing institutions is offensive to them... and we all know how they respond to being offended."

1889.

Anonymous WaterBoy June 04, 2013 1:35 PM  

VD: "I thought about it over a glass of Chianti, as I surveyed the sun sparkling off the waters of the Mediterranean. And a single tear ran slowly down my cheek...."

The solution to that is sunglasses. They cut down on the glare so your eyes don't water so much....

Anonymous FP June 04, 2013 1:50 PM  

"What's with the tendency for educated leftist males to sound like clucking schoolmarms when disagreeing with someone? "

Its the schoolmarms who raised them and chastised them.

Re bikini chainmail, chicks dig that stuff. In World of Warcraft a majority of female avatars played by actual females I've come across seem to quite enjoy dressing up their characters in skimpy/sexy/matching armor. The slang used among my group has been "whore dress". WoW helped keep their female customers playing by creating the "dressing room" option and the ability to transmute armor into other types of armor. Folks will go run through old content just to get old armor sets for transmute.

Anonymous Stickwick June 04, 2013 2:03 PM  

Speaking of bikini chainmail, check this out: Repair Her Armor. Not that this gal doesn't have a point about the unrealistic "functionality" of women's fantasy armor, but why not take the idea all the way to its logical conclusion and make a point about the unrealistic "functionality" of women warriors in the first place? Never mind, we all know why not.

The other irony here is that it seems to matter a great deal who's saying things like this. If nuns were telling these girls to cover up, for heaven's sake, it would be seen as darkly oppressive prudery, a symptom of the tyranny of the patriarchy repressing women's sexuality, because they find it intimidating. But if a Geek Girl does it, to show how unempowering it is to have warrior women in skimpy armor, it's all in the name of progress.

Anonymous Obvious June 04, 2013 2:27 PM  

I mean if we just look at how the music industry and how the rise of digital music has lead to the downfall of the record companies, we can see a blueprint for the future of the publishing industry...

Anonymous kh123 June 04, 2013 2:28 PM  

"What's with the tendency for educated leftist males to sound like clucking schoolmarms when disagreeing with someone?"

Breastplates restricting their diaphragm.

Anonymous Pinakeli June 04, 2013 4:28 PM  

Brad Andrews June 04, 2013 11:45 AM

How long until eBook prices adjust to reality? I would buy a whole lot more of them if Amazon's $9.99 price was more in place. Too many technical books keep a price too close to that for the physical copy, even though it is almost pure profit for the electronic version. I would buy a bookshelf of things if I could do that.

Though I would also like a way to cheaply keep those updated when a new version is released. I see no reason to pay the brand new price for a new revision since nothing physical needs to be sent out.


I would have you check O'reily tech books. It is a bit hard to locate some times but most of the books I have bought there have an option for perpetual updates. If they have the type books you are looking for the prices for e-books is usually much better than the paper version.

And I noticed that e-book prices went up a bit at Baen. The reason given was a settlement with publishers due to the low price point that the were selling. The world just sucks when lawyers get involved.

Anonymous WaterBoy June 04, 2013 6:07 PM  

Obvious: "I mean if we just look at how the music industry and how the rise of digital music has lead to the downfall of the record companies, we can see a blueprint for the future of the publishing industry..."

An excellent example, as Napster, Grokster, Gnutella, et al, broke the traditional distribution channels of music publishing in the same way that ebook publishing is looking to do with dead tree media.

The problem with those earlier channels is that by distributing non-original recordings, they incurred the wrath of the record companies who sued the shit out of some of them, and scared the other ones away.

But we are now seeing many recording artists taking charge of their music by forming their own record labels and releasing their own disks digitally...which cuts more and more into the bottom lines of those big record companies. Eventually, they too will have to adjust their business models or go the same way toward irrelevancy.

But you're wrong to think of it as predecessor/successor; rather, it's a concurrent phenomenon.

Anonymous The Next to LastSamurai June 04, 2013 7:18 PM  

Editing seems to be generally sloppy these days; in one of the (otherwise excellent) Monstrumologist novels, a key moment hinges on a character forgetting to take the safety off his revolver. That should have been caught on one of the various read-throughs. I see a lot of such half-assedness.

Anonymous Jack Amok June 04, 2013 7:19 PM  

The music industry has some similarities, but there are differences too. I think the music industry was a little better at producing quality content but screwed the artists more. Publishers screwed their artists somewhat less, but tanked the quality more.

And it's all relative - both screwed the artist and allowed the quality to atrophy.

Anonymous Randy M June 04, 2013 7:24 PM  

"On rare occasions, I might spring 99 cents for a highly recommended book. Vox, your new stuff is out of my price range."

If you have an Amazon prime account (which you likely don't) his short stories are free to check out.

Anonymous Inane Rambler June 04, 2013 7:53 PM  

Obvious: "I mean if we just look at how the music industry and how the rise of digital music has lead to the downfall of the record companies, we can see a blueprint for the future of the publishing industry..."

You really don't think through all the implications of what you say, do you?

Services like Napster were largely sharing music already published by the record labels.

Outside of the most popular music, the money is now in touring, not in record sales.

As far as publishing and ebooks go, people are actively bypassing the publishers all together.

Anonymous Anonymous June 10, 2013 10:31 AM  

Test

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