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Monday, September 15, 2014

Spinning the "bestseller" narrative

Once more, Johnny is counting on the fact that people don't know the relevant facts in order to attempt to mislead them and spin the narrative in his favor. Notice, in particular, his blatant lie about my ignorance, when the fact is that just as when I caught him repeatedly lying about his traffic, I am the precise opposite of ignorant on the subject:
Vaguely related, not too long ago I noted with some amusement a perennial detractor of mine blathering ignorantly, as he nearly always does on any subject relating to me, about how it didn’t seem to him that Lock In was doing particularly well; this was almost immediately before the book hit the NYT Hardcover list and was Bookscan’s #1 top-selling front list science fiction novel. I considered sending him one of these cookies, so he could eat his words. But then I thought that giving a cookie to an asshole was a backwards way of doing things, at least from the point of view of the cookie. So, no cookies for him. He’ll just have to bask in the infinite pleasure of being wrong, so very wrong, yet again. He’s used to that, in any event.
Now, who was wrong about those "two million page views monthly" again? It's so typical of SF/F's Bernie Madoff that he claims I am "so very wrong" when events have gone EXACTLY as I predicted they would. It's not that Lock In has been a massive failure; most, though not all, books by a reasonably known author that have been pushed as hard as Tor has pushed Lock In will be similarly successful in its first month. Initial "success" in the publishing industry is, to a great extent, predetermined by the publisher's decisions concerning print runs and marketing budgets.

For example, Dan Brown's Angels and Demons was such an initial failure for Pocket Books that they turned down its sequel. That's why The Da Vinci Code has a different publisher than its predecessor. Pocket has since sold millions of copies, and they could have sold tens of millions of copies of Brown's other books as well if they had simply given Angels and Demons a bigger print run and a marketing campaign. An executive at Random House once told me that Pocket's mishandling of Dan Brown was the single biggest mistake he has personally observed in the industry.

So, it's no surprise that Lock In is superficially successful, as Tor has invested a lot of money (relatively speaking) in the marketing of the book in both obvious ways, such as the author's nationwide book tour and the reviews in various media outlets, and less obvious ways, such as buying the book onto the New York Times Bestseller list.  On Hugh Howey's site, Tim Grahl explains how these lists work and why they are merely marketing vehicles as opposed to reliable indicators of how a book is selling vis-a-vis other books.

This is the specific "also selling" addendum to the Hardcover Fiction list of September 14th, to which McRapey is referring:
    17. THE HEIST, by Daniel Silva (Harper)
    18. THE SILKWORM, by Robert Galbraith (Mulholland/Little, Brown)
    19. THE MINIATURIST, by Jessie Burton (Ecco)
    20. LOCK IN, by John Scalzi (Tor)
    21. TOM CLANCY: SUPPORT AND DEFEND, by Mark Greaney (Putnam)
    22. LOVE LETTERS, by Debbie Macomber (Ballantine)
    23. CLOSE TO HOME, by Lisa Jackson (Kensington)
    24. INVISIBLE, by James Patterson and David Ellis (Little, Brown)
    25. HER LAST WHISPER, by Karen Robards (Ballantine)

A version of this list appears in the September 14, 2014 issue of The New York Times Book Review. Rankings reflect sales for the week ending August 30, 2014.
That's great and all, but recall what I pointed out before Lock In reached the NYT bestseller list: "McRapey is getting annoyed that people keep pointing out that Larry Correia sells more than he does, even though his publisher keeps buying him a one-week spot on the NYT bestseller list each time he writes a book."  And also "Just keep an eye on the NYT list. If LOCK IN is only on it for one week, it's a paid marketing stunt. If it stays on it for several weeks, it's probably legitimate."

And now the verdict is in, which is probably why McRapey is already out there frantically trying to spin the narrative again.  Here is the most recent New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list, including the "also selling" section, for the week of September 21st. Care to guess what book isn't on it?
  1. PERSONAL, by Lee Child
  2. SOMEWHERE SAFE WITH SOMEBODY GOOD, by Jane Karon
  3. THE BONE CLOCKS, by David Mitchell
  4. THE SECRET PLACE, by Tana French
  5. THE EYE OF HEAVEN, by Clive Kussler
  6. COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI, by Haruku Murakami
  7. THE LONG WAY HOME, by Louise Penny
  8. THE GOLDFINCH, by Donna Tartt
  9. BIG LITTLE LIES, by Liane Moriarty
  10. MEAN STREAK, by Sandra Brown
  11. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, by Anthony Doerr
  12. DARK BLOOD, by Christine Feehan
  13. SON OF NO ONE, by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  14. WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, by Matthew Thomas
  15. ADULTERY, by Paulo Coelho
  16. SHIFTING SHADOWS, by Patricia Briggs 
  17. MURDER 101, by Faye Kellerman
  18. ANGELS WALKING, by Karen Kingsbury 
  19. THE HUSBAND'S SECRET, by Liane Moriarty
  20. THE 6TH EXTINCTION, by James Rollins
What a complete surprise! With its one-week showing of #20, Lock In didn't even do as well as his previous "New York Times bestseller" Redshirts (#15) although it did do better than that famously popular bestseller Fuzzy Nation (#23).  Recall what I wrote back in February 2013: "the fact is that most of Tor's "New York Times bestsellers" observably fit what we are informed is the profile of the fake bestseller. They appear on the list for a single week, only to vanish the following week, never to make another appearance there again."

(Scalzi also claims The Lost Colony was a New York Times bestseller, although I was unable to find it on any of the 2007 lists. I suspect this is because the historical lists do not include the "also selling" section. Redshirts is his only book to appear on the actual list per se.)

Notice that the closest comparable, Paolo Coelho's Adultery, which is presently at #15 in its third week on the list, has an Amazon rank of 292 overall and a Science Fiction and Fantasy rank of 71. That's what a legitimate bestseller looks like. Lock In, by comparison, has an overall rank of 2,807 and isn't even in the Science Fiction and Fantasy top 100. It falls an order of magnitude short. Haruki Murakami's latest is on the top 100 list for some reason, which I find very strange since there is literally nothing science fictional or fantastic about it, although I suppose that won't prevent it from winning a Hugo next year either.

Lock In does not appear on The Wall Street Journal's bestseller list and is #107 on the USA Today list. Perhaps it will go up from there, but note that Redshirts never went higher than 55 on that list and Fuzzy Nation never appeared at all. In other words, the initial indications are that despite the massive marketing effort Tor Books put behind it, Lock In is not even doing as well as Scalzi's award-winning Star Trek ripoff.

This is potentially significant due to what it may mean for Tor Books. I've heard, and seen, evidence that they are not doing very well over the last two or three years. I suspected that the otherwise inexplicable decision to push Lock In so hard was an indication of their urgent need for a quick revenue boost, and so I conclude that Lock In's failure to become a legitimate bestseller presages an eventual shake-up of some kind at the publisher. As always, the value of a predictive model is its ability to predict future events. It will be interesting to see if PNH is still at Tor Books proper one year from now. If he is not, I suggest that will tend to support my observations here.

In any event, Scalzi is spinning his "success" in the same way that an NFL running back's agent spins it when he's angling for a new contract. Sure, he gained a thousand yards and the team made the playoffs, but the problem is that it took him 305 attempts to gain those yards, he's averaging 3.3 YPC , the team was a wild card that lost in the first round, and his salary is $8 million per year. The team can get similar results at considerably less cost from someone else. That's the inevitable downside of the big splashy marketing campaign for every Big Five author. With great marketing expenditures come great expectations. Merely good results of the sort that observably could have been achieved without them is a failure.

UPDATE: McRapey is so busy with his book tour and NOT paying attention to anything that I say that he tweeted this response almost immediately:
Latest stupid from my detractors: "You were ONLY on the NYT list for a week! You're not a real bestseller!" Shine on, you crazy diamonds!
Well, this is awkward. Ah, Johnny, look, it's not a real bestseller. It's a fake one that Tor Books bulk-bought for you, just like they did with The Last Colony and Fuzzy Nation and Redshirts. Some would call it fraud. Tor Books calls it "marketing".

Chin up, Johnny! Oh, wait, you don't have one. Um, well, stay strong, tiger!

Labels: ,

117 Comments:

Anonymous Nathan September 15, 2014 5:08 AM  

Considering Weber and Sanderson debuted at 5 and 1 on the list this year for Tor, the 20 slot isn't really something to crow about. It also makes me wonder if there's desperation to have a hit by the right sort of people. After all, that "homophobe" Mormon Card is still doing well, Weber writes for Baen, and Sanderson's a Mormon just like Card, so none of them are the Right People for the SJW crowd. (Yes, I know that rank does not equal sales, but we are dealing with a prestige crowd as opposed to a money making one. And they're losing on prestige as well.)

I'm not sure Scalzi's book merited the Audible stunt (two versions, different sexes narrating) either. That seemed a direct pandering to the Twitterati/Tumblrette crowd, yet the female version is getting outsold by the male one. My guess is that Scalzi gets the Hugo nod next year though, instead of Sanderson's #1 Best Seller. Ten years from now, though, I'd wager Sanderson's book will still be read,while Lock-In will be just as forgotten as Your Hate Mail will be Graded.

Blogger Rantor September 15, 2014 5:10 AM  

The truth is a pointed, razor-edged weapon that must be wielded carefully. Johnny seems unfamiliar with the truth, keeps coming out bloodied by his own statements

Anonymous Strange Aeons September 15, 2014 5:26 AM  

Unless I am recalling incorrectly, Rabbitman is still willfully associated with the group that tolerates child molesters but not sci-fi ideology that doesn't fit the pc narrative. Even if he were in the #1 bestseller slot by an honest metric, he's still an enabler of pedophilia. Every Leftoid spin of dishonesty should be countered with a twist of the Truth-Shiv.

Blogger Myles September 15, 2014 5:27 AM  

After reading you two bicker for five minutes, we can all tell you're both clearly in love. Why can't you two see it?

Anonymous rho September 15, 2014 5:31 AM  

After reading you two bicker for five minutes, we can all tell you're both clearly in love. Why can't you two see it?

The argument is inversely proportional to the stakes.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 5:52 AM  

After reading you two bicker for five minutes, we can all tell you're both clearly in love. Why can't you two see it?

You've been watching too many rom-coms. Sometimes people just genuinely dislike each other. I have genuine contempt for Scalzi and find it truly remarkable that there are still a lot of people who believe anything the guy writes. Then I remind myself: MPAI.

I think he, better than any other individual, epitomizes everything that is wrong in SF/F and video games today.

I'm just finishing up SPACE VIKING. It's not a masterpiece, although it is fun to see all the references to the worlds that Marc Miller appropriated for Traveller. But it is a painful reminder of how badly the genre has declined in terms of intelligence, relevance, and sheer entertainment.

Blogger Bogey September 15, 2014 5:56 AM  

Looking at the NYT graphic novel bestsellers makes me almost certain the NYT is lying.

Anonymous Titus Didius Tacitus September 15, 2014 6:24 AM  

Scalzi is prickly pear, Vox Day is cactoblastis. It's what they do.

Anonymous Slor September 15, 2014 6:25 AM  

I have Locked In at 854 overall and 62 in Science Fiction on Amazon.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 6:33 AM  

I have Locked In at 854 overall and 62 in Science Fiction on Amazon.

That's Kindle, not Books. It should be fairly obvious that ebook sales are irrelevant where New York Times Hardcover Fiction lists are concerned.

Anonymous Slor September 15, 2014 6:42 AM  

So Lock In is doing fairly well across multiple media. How'd ATOB do in print?

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 6:52 AM  

So Lock In is doing fairly well across multiple media. How'd ATOB do in print?

You're intentionally missing the point. LOCK IN is doing well, as one would expect a Scalzi book to do. The problem is that it is not doing as well as it needs to do considering the amount of resources that Tor Books has put behind it. It appears that it is not even doing as well as Redshirts, which doesn't surprise me since it lacks any appeal to a known market such as the Star Trek fans.

In answer to your question, ATOB sold very, very little in print. That doesn't have anything to do with what I'm pointing out here. I told you LOCK IN would be a one-week "bestseller", and, lo and behold, it was.

And if you want to compare Scalzi's numbers with mine, come talk to me when anything he does sells more than six million copies. That's my present high point.

Anonymous Strange Aeons September 15, 2014 7:11 AM  

Slor -
How "fairly well across multiple media" should a book be doing in order to look the other way regarding the pedophilia and censorship condoned by the author of said book?

/shiv

Anonymous Shut up rabbit September 15, 2014 7:21 AM  

Scalzi, Where have I heard that name before?

Wasn't he the leader of that pedophile-apologist group that uses the writing subculture for grooming and as cover for their members' abuse?

Anonymous Shut up rabbit September 15, 2014 7:32 AM  

...no, I guess that was someone else.

Blogger Cataline Sergius September 15, 2014 7:32 AM  

I'm reminded of Sarah Hoyt's surprise that Hillary Clinton's book visibly failed.

Not the failure itself but the fact that her publisher couldn't "cook the books" and make it look like a bestseller.

The left leaning death spiral left leaning death spiral continues.

Anonymous Anonymous September 15, 2014 7:41 AM  

Looking at the NYT graphic novel bestsellers makes me almost certain the NYT is lying.

Why would that part of the rag be an exception?

Anonymous JealousMuch? September 15, 2014 7:45 AM  

This post reeks of jealousy.

Blogger Tommy Hass September 15, 2014 7:51 AM  

That is a fine skewering. Bravo.

Anonymous Lars Grobian September 15, 2014 7:55 AM  

That post on Howey's blog isn't Howey's; it's a guest post by Tim Grahl.

As for Scalzi... He will never be first rate. He isn't even second rate. He's a dwarf squatting on the toes of midgets, which puts him above average in a market saturated with Lilliputians.

He's just a sad little symptom of decline and he argues like a middle school girl.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 7:58 AM  

This post reeks of jealousy.

So what? How would that change a single thing that I have pointed out here? That's one of the most feeble attempts at an ad hominem attack that you could muster.

Blogger Tommy Hass September 15, 2014 8:02 AM  

"This post reeks of jealousy."

Reminds me of the gaming media (and the "real media") actually sticking to their retarded narrative in the face of overwhelming evidence.

He completely impaled Scalzi you silly little rabbit. He has embarrassed him in that little competition for pageviews, he has caught him lying about it and now, he has shown Scalzi to be full of shit again, as he pretends to prove Vox wrong in his usual faggoty way, but completely misses that Vox was right rain.

Furthermore, showing the average person information about these two guys, do you honestly think there would be a majority preferring to be in Scalzi's shoes? Have you seen a picture of him? Or his WIFE?

Unless you specifically speak about the Hugo Award, what exactly is it that Vox should feel jealousy about, concerning Scalzi?

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 8:05 AM  

That post on Howey's blog isn't Howey's; it's a guest post by Tim Grahl.

Thanks, corrected.

He will never be first rate. He isn't even second rate.

He's a second-rate bullshit artist. Give him that. He's without question the most successful con artist in the SF/F community. As an SF writer, I'd say he's fourth-rate. John Wright and China Mieville are about the only two current SF writers I consider to be definitely first-rate. Possibly Neal Stephenson and William Gibson as well.

Unfortunately, second-rate is about the best we have these days. And some of them, like George Martin, don't even seem to be able to maintain that level.

Anonymous TheExpat September 15, 2014 8:11 AM  

They may say they hate you for your RSHD views, but pulling away the curtain to expose the fraud and meaningless of their coveted awards and status has to absolutely infuriate them. And what is worse, it is an impotent rage (hence only attempted disqualification and pretended dismissal attacks), and they know it.

S(JW)WFA, the gift that just keeps on giving. And we are entertained.

Anonymous Slor September 15, 2014 8:14 AM  

That's my present high point.

Aww, there it is.

Good on you, no really. But how many people specifically intended to buy your product?

Anonymous Salt September 15, 2014 8:14 AM  

Is PNH the one who makes the call as to spending such an inordinate amount of money getting Scalzi onto the NYT bestseller list?

Blogger YIH September 15, 2014 8:17 AM  

It isn't unheard of bestseller lists being 'gamed' (such as craptastic sc-fi).
I'm not suggesting JOHN SCALZI would pull such a stunt, but considering his habit of *ahem* overstating his blog traffic...

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 8:20 AM  

But how many people specifically intended to buy your product?

Judging by the subsequent GT sales, probably about 100k. But we got paid for every single one of them. Look, if you want to mock me for my failures, you can do a HELL of a lot better than pointing out that one mediocre SF writer sells more books than I do.

Rub Media Vision in my face. Rub Jensen Huang. Rub Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. Now THOSE were SERIOUS FUCKING FAILURES.

Not selling as many books as Scalzi bothers me less than not selling as many CDs as Britney Spears. Not dropping out of college to sell my sound board, THAT still bothers me. A lot.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 8:22 AM  

I'm not suggesting JOHN SCALZI would pull such a stunt

Speaking of stunts, just watch this space. I have evidence of something else that I'm not ready to expose yet. I still need to lock it down before I say anything.

Blogger pdwalker September 15, 2014 8:37 AM  

You make it look so easy, like pulling the wings and legs off of a disgusting disgusting little bug.

Blogger Joshua Dyal September 15, 2014 8:42 AM  

Unless you specifically speak about the Hugo Award, what exactly is it that Vox should feel jealousy about, concerning Scalzi?

I suspect that the jealousy post was sarcastic.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 8:46 AM  

Don't try to put words in my mouth or dishonestly characterize what I have written, Slor. You know better than to try nonsense like that.

Anonymous Slor September 15, 2014 8:56 AM  

?

I simply pointed out you dedicate more original content per post to Scalzi than other subjects.

I made no characterizations about the nature of the content.

But that fact does speak for itself.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 9:00 AM  

If you want to have a bit hoot, go over and make a post about Scalzi being "mid-list". Him and his SJW defenders will ultimately go nuclear on you, because they insist on referring to JS as "bestselling". I wish I could find the link, but one of his defenders basically agreed that there are blockbuster, bestselling, mid-list, and then several lower classes of authors, and that JS was in the bestseller category, on the basis of Redshirts.

They absolutely hate JS being called mid-list, which I actually thought was a very accurate if not a smidgen overfair, description of his status.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 9:07 AM  

?

Don't play disingenuous. You removed part of a sentence to make it appear that I was saying the opposite of what I was clearly saying.

I simply pointed out you dedicate more original content per post to Scalzi than other subjects.

And I will continue to do so as long as he continues to try publicly spinning false narratives.

Anonymous Trimegistus September 15, 2014 9:10 AM  

Off-topic: Remember when I speculated about whether pedophilia or polygamy would be the next Fundamental Human Right the lefties will discover they always supported? Well, Daily Beast seems to be putting up a trial balloon for polygamy: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/12/is-polygamy-the-next-gay-marriage.html

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 9:10 AM  

They absolutely hate JS being called mid-list, which I actually thought was a very accurate if not a smidgen overfair, description of his status.

Which is amusing, because a mid-list author is exactly what he is. And there is nothing wrong with that. The only problem is that he attempts to pretend otherwise and Tor Books is devoting a considerable amount of its marketing budget towards supporting that pretension.

Anonymous jack September 15, 2014 9:23 AM  

Space Viking.
One of my favorite all time books. No, is not Eco in depth, but, darn, its fun to read. Just like so much of H. Beam Piper's stuff. His Murder in the Gun Room was one of the better murder mysteries I ever read [its not SF, by the way]. And, his historical sketch of John Mosby's work in the Shenandoah was most interesting. All around excellent author; would that we had more of his ilk these days.

As for Scalzi. I suppose I should read something he wrote, some day, just to put all the fun on this blog, re him, into context. Its just that those dollars are almost always earmarked for something of worth.

Anonymous Just On GP September 15, 2014 9:23 AM  

Shut up Tad.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 9:27 AM  

I'm not the topic, Slor. Enough. If you want to express your opinion of me, that's fine. Start your own blog and express it there.

Anonymous trev006 September 15, 2014 9:42 AM  

When it comes to Vox's more ominous musings on race, we'll need at least five more years to determine their truth. It's possible, if unlikely, that his economic predictions will never come to pass when the economy and the federal budget shifts, much as it did for the massive productivity increase that the Internet represents.

But watching his predictions about the marketability of pink SF is riveting stuff, and the show is live. From a business perspective it brings many lessons, from the fallibility of bestseller lists to knowing who to trust, and I am taking notes.

Anonymous Statists are so dull September 15, 2014 9:42 AM  

Jealous? The guy is knowingly gaming an openly corrupt system to try and boost his sales numbers (and not doing it very well at it). WTF is there to be jealous of? The human traffickers and drug dealer round here make a killing at what they do. Are you suggesting that we should we be jealous of them too?

Some people have principles and prefer self-respect to fudged numbers and deluded sycophant fans.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 9:44 AM  

VD, exactly, the man and his supporters want to hang his hat on a #15 and #20 NYT. Then use sleight of hand to say things like "#1 new release", which has no actual merit as an accomplishment, other than to him and his friends.

Who else does Tor have?

The problem with Tor is that they have these award winning books - books like Ancillary Justice - which sweeps the industry awards, that are commercial mid lings. And then they have mid-list authors like Scalzi, who they essentially handed a career.

Tor is a small part of a big parent publisher. They are the exact type of publisher that gets spun off, absorbed, shutdown, reduced, or scaled back without generating any buzz in the wider publishing world.

It's also indicative of some real problems in the industry, namely:

1. One of (if not the) premier author is at best a commercial middling. The genre does not have blockbuster authors.

2. Many of the best authors by the premier publisher need expensive tours, local media, straw purchases, and the like, and can't even really grab and hold a spot on the best sellers list.

3. Old classic Sci-Fi still dramatically outsells new Pink SF. This whole "newly released" list stuff shows the problems.

Anonymous DrTorch September 15, 2014 9:44 AM  

Notice, in particular, his blatant lie about my ignorance

No, that post can't be about you. McRapey is so over you he never reads anything you write.

Anonymous Eduardo September 15, 2014 9:45 AM  

The amusing/annoying thing about the Scalzi post is that Tor apparently has a budget set aside for custom-made cookies, while we suckers are paying $7.99-$8.99 for a lousy mass-market paperback.

Anonymous Feh September 15, 2014 9:50 AM  

Remind me - what it he ripping off with Lock In? Not that I am going to read it.

Which is amusing, because a mid-list author is exactly what he is. And there is nothing wrong with that.

Aside from the injury to his self-esteem from acknowledging it, he knows that what's wrong with it is that publishing houses eventually drop mid-list authors. If you can't produce a blockbuster, you are useless to them.

Anonymous Zippy September 15, 2014 10:52 AM  

Here is the weird thing: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a solid midlist writer. Lots of good sf writers were midlist writers. Scalzi could follow in an honorable tradition. He had a fairly decent blog and some pretty good books . . . real accomplishments. Why try to puff himself up into being a bigger fish than he was?

I know some folks consider it a Heinlein pastiche, but I actually rather liked Old Man's War. Sure, it has a Heinlein feel to it, and lots of things Heinlein would probably have liked. Turning green and having sex all the time, for example. But it wasn't an obvious rip off in terms of plot or something, and it had some interesting invention in it.

Scalzi does have some talent. But then he (it seems) intentionally alienated the Instapundit libertarian/conservative leaning sf audience and claimed to be a Great Success and Really Big Deal.

He should have followed a Sarah Hoyt strategy: midlist author who cultivates a solid loyal core audience. The SJWs may screech loudly, but they aren't a big or loyal audience.

Anonymous bw September 15, 2014 11:08 AM  

Lying is THE lifestyle of the self deluded by necessity.
Why do Progressives hate Nature so much?? (rhet)

Anonymous schtick September 15, 2014 11:17 AM  

But that fact does speak for itself.

What Liars have you exposed today, honey? Or do believe there to be no liars save only those outside your own support group?

the NYT is lying

That's what Sulzbergers do.

Anonymous Sam R. September 15, 2014 11:18 AM  

This is probably the only post you've ever written about Scalzi that I may somewhat agree with. I do think Tor probably bought his NYT slot - although of course Scalzi himself doesn't make those sorts of decisions.

Anonymous Scintan September 15, 2014 11:27 AM  

Here is the weird thing: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a solid midlist writer. Lots of good sf writers were midlist writers. Scalzi could follow in an honorable tradition. He had a fairly decent blog and some pretty good books . . . real accomplishments. Why try to puff himself up into being a bigger fish than he was?

The scorpion and the frog

Blogger Sky September 15, 2014 11:39 AM  

I just finished Space Viking. It had a certain quality that is hard to define, something hazy, elusive, something I don't associate anymore with sci-fi. Oh yeah, it was entertaining. Much more so than the stack of Analogs I can't seem to get through. The book's ruminations on civilizational rise and fall were good. A little creepy to read, seeing how things are going now. I ride city buses; no one needs to explain neobarbs to me. (I should note the book is deeper than my cheap joke may indicate.)The way technology shaped warfare was good. The fact that there were characters that did stuff, big plus for me. We should reboot it and make it a nugo hebula winner; Write it in first person, present tense. Take away all the action. And more feels, please. Instead of a man bent on revenge we could have an English major trying to decide...you know what trying to make this joke has depressed me and I don't want to continue. Finish the barb as you see fit.

I blasted through Cosmic Computer too. I have A Mind Programmed yet to read and then I guess its back to re-reading another classic.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 11:44 AM  

This is probably the only post you've ever written about Scalzi that I may somewhat agree with.

You seriously believe that he had "two million page views monthly" back in 2010 as he told Lightspeed Magazine?

although of course Scalzi himself doesn't make those sorts of decisions.

Of course not. I very much doubt that Scalzi himself knows what Tor is doing or understands that all of his "bestsellers" are more or less fake. Back when I pointed out this out in the SFWA Forum, Steven Gould practically screamed like a little girl at the idea that his bestseller status might have been fraudulently obtained by Tor.

This isn't really about Scalzi, but Tor and the NYT. Of course, Scalzi makes it about himself by idiotically proclaiming that I don't know what I'm talking about, which is stupid regardless of whom one finds more sympathetic.

This is why I never took Psykosonik's four "chart hits" seriously either. I paid so little attention to it that I thought we only had two for years. It's the same sort of payola bullshit. But then, none of us in the band ever had any identity investment in ourselves as hit-writing recording artists.

Anonymous Josh September 15, 2014 11:59 AM  

But then, none of us in the band ever had any identity investment in ourselves as hit-writing recording artists.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Anonymous clk September 15, 2014 12:14 PM  

So ... do publishers have the ability to buy a spot on then NYT best seller list ? what is the critieria for getting on the NYT best seller ?

"...only two current SF writers I consider to be definitely first-rate" ... well its an exclusive list no doubt but I am sure there is more than 2 Scifi authors out there thay might be considered first rate.

Anonymous clk September 15, 2014 12:18 PM  

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/02/22/heres-how-you-buy-your-way-onto-the-new-york-times-bestsellers-list/

So I guess you can buy your way onto the best seller list after all ...

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 12:28 PM  

So ... do publishers have the ability to buy a spot on then NYT best seller list ? what is the critieria for getting on the NYT best seller ?

Yes. They have to bulk-buy around 9,000 of their own book from the right bookstores in a single week. It's a much more palatable deal for them, because it only costs them the difference between the distribution price in and the discounted retail sales price out.

Anonymous Steve September 15, 2014 12:32 PM  

On topic: I enjoy Vox's excoriations of Scalzi. It's fun stuff.

Off topic: Larry Correia got me hooked on urban fantasy but I've read all his books now. I started reading the Dresden Files recently, they're a lot of fun.

Anonymous Statists are so dull September 15, 2014 12:34 PM  

I recently heard from several publishers at a conference that the WHSmiths travel shops (a major newsagents/bookseller with a quasi-monoploy in UK airports and train stations) literally sell the spots on their best seller chart. The more you pay the higher you go...

Apparently many an author has been disappointed to find out the truth after seeing their latest work well-placed in this fictitious chart by their publisher. Clearly it works and those with enough to invest in the top spot will probably sell enough to keep paying for it for a few weeks.

Anonymous Rolf September 15, 2014 12:40 PM  

Top 20? Heck, The Stars Came Back made the top 20 for a week in its genres, peaking in the single digits for both Space Opera an Mil sci-fi on Amazon, and it is (was) a self-published first book from a nobody author. Now, that's not the NYT list, but I'm not exactly an A-list author with a following and a large paid marking campaign. If what I can find out about sales and the NYT list is correct, my total sales, if put on one week, would likely have gotten me on that list...
Only being able to hit #20 for a single week as an "A-lister"? Weak. Very weak.

Anonymous Rolf September 15, 2014 12:50 PM  

Are you sure it's 9,000 copies?
How many for a NYT bestseller? says only about 4,000, and about 5k gets you into the top 15.
I honestly don't know, having zip by way of inside data.

Anonymous Eric Ashley September 15, 2014 12:55 PM  

I shall sit by this river, and if in a year, PNH floats by, I shall take note, raise a glass of cola, and speak a toast to vanity, and Potemkin towers of the gatehousemen.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 1:00 PM  

The Stars Came Back made the top 20 for a week in its genres, peaking in the single digits for both Space Opera an Mil sci-fi on Amazon, and it is (was) a self-published first book from a nobody author.

Heck, EVERY BOOK I have published in Portuguese has been a #1 BESTSELLER in that entire LANGUAGE. What can I say? The Portuguese love me.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 1:01 PM  

Are you sure it's 9,000 copies?

No, not even a little. It probably used to be around that, but the number has declined over time.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 1:02 PM  

Apparently many an author has been disappointed to find out the truth after seeing their latest work well-placed in this fictitious chart by their publisher.

Sounds like Billboard. I've heard of songs charting before they were even released due to schedule screw-ups.

Anonymous Anonymous September 15, 2014 1:10 PM  

What'd you sell 6 million copies of? Genuinely curious. I'm sure you've covered it before but I can't remember.

Anonymous Josh September 15, 2014 1:23 PM  

What can I say? The Portuguese love me.

Obviously that was just an expression of pan-savage solidarity

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 1:23 PM  

What'd you sell 6 million copies of?

Rebel Moon Rising. Intel signed 14 companies to create games to bundle with their new MMX chip. We and Ubisoft were the only two to ship on time and Intel waits for no one. So, we got paid a lot more than we expected.

When the lady at Intel who called me told me there was a first-quarter check, I didn't believe her at first since our advance had been 400k. But she confirmed they'd already taken that into account. We were happy, and they were happy since they had something to run on the damn thing.

The problem was that MMX sucked. Not due to the chip, which was legitimately a big deal. But we were the ones who figured out that the bus was reducing its graphic output to one-quarter what it should have been. If not for that, RMR would have looked mind-blowing at the time since we'd created it to run at 1600 resolution back when most stuff was running at MCGA.

They were VERY unhappy when we called them and explained what the problem was. I must have talked to every executive there about it, up to and including Andy Grove. I also got Mr. Grove to change their marketing slogan from "On The Net, Off The Net".

Anonymous Sam R. September 15, 2014 2:13 PM  

You seriously believe that he had "two million page views monthly" back in 2010 as he told Lightspeed Magazine?

I think he's exaggerated his traffic numbers on occasion, but I don't think that makes him Bernie Madoff. It makes him a guy who is probably somewhat more insecure and status-anxious then he lets on, but these are not uncommon failings. And it's undeniable that within a certain subculture, he is quite prominent.

Anonymous Krul September 15, 2014 2:16 PM  

RMR sounds cool, and the screenshots look good. I really like the box art with the astronauts raising a flag on the moon in the same pose as the famous Iwo-Jima photograph. I wish I could have played it.

Anonymous Rolf September 15, 2014 2:28 PM  

RE: Portuguese language books. I'm sure it's all a conspiracy among your legion of Sarah Hoyt fans amidst the ilk.
Or maybe the fact that all five new Portuguese language books make the top ten each month :-)

Anonymous Blume September 15, 2014 2:30 PM  

Bogey September 15, 2014 5:56 AM

Looking at the NYT graphic novel bestsellers makes me almost certain the NYT is lying.


Boogey I have to agree. A graphic novel best seller list full of biographies is just lies. Only two of those sound even remotely legitimate as comics. Fables probably should be #1.

Anonymous Daniel September 15, 2014 2:43 PM  

I think he's exaggerated his traffic numbers on occasion, but I don't think that makes him Bernie Madoff. It makes him a guy who is probably somewhat more insecure and status-anxious then he lets on, but these are not uncommon failings. And it's undeniable that within a certain subculture, he is quite prominent.

He consistently used his false traffic numbers for years by way of self-promotion and marketing. I remember very well being interested in his book precisely because of his remarkable readership. Just because lying is not an uncommon failing does not mean it is therefore insignificant. In which subculture is he quite prominent? White male liberals hiding out in Republican enclaves? Talk about a not uncommon failing.

Anonymous VD September 15, 2014 2:49 PM  

Or maybe the fact that all five new Portuguese language books make the top ten each month :-)

I was shocked by how few copies it took. The Portuguese do not appear to be massive readers.

Anonymous Jake September 15, 2014 2:50 PM  

The problem for Scalzi is that no matter how his publishers and fans push him, he's always going to be a bad writer. Once you get away from the inner circle of blog readers and political friends, you have nothing to support a readership. Random people who pick up his book quickly realize he's garbage on the page. He can't handle dialogue. He has no skill at story structure. His humor is nothing but grade-school snark. His characters are all flat and pale imitations of himself. That he's been as successful as he's been is shocking and could only happen in a time when internet self-promotion overrides quality, and where a dumbed-down readership cares more about hearing the same tired political nostrums than reading good prose and a killer tale.

Anonymous Heh September 15, 2014 2:57 PM  

"Chin up, Johnny! Oh, wait, you don't have one. Um, well, stay strong, tiger!"

Oh wait, your daughter is stronger than you.

Anonymous Hound's Tooth Check September 15, 2014 3:28 PM  

Has anyone actually read this new wonder-work? From the blurbs I've seen, it sounds like Scalzi has actually attempted some original work. Bad idea. All of his successful books have been ripoffs of better writers than he.

Anonymous Zippy September 15, 2014 3:31 PM  

Jake, I don't think that's right. I think he's a decent writer, and that he had it in him to be a good writer. Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades were good books.

Now, Redshirts would have made a nice humorous novella or shorty story; it's funny in spots but the joke gets old.

I think the problem with Scalzi is that he's a solid midlist writer, but not a great writer, and he's not willing to put in the effort to become good. In fact, his accolades and his SJW cheering section have made him worse.

Blogger FALPhil September 15, 2014 3:56 PM  

I was shocked by how few copies it took. The Portuguese do not appear to be massive readers.

Portugal is a nation of about 10 million which is rapidly decreasing. They are not massive readers because they are not a massive country.

Then there is the other Portuguese-speaking country, Brazil. According to Buchmesse, "general works" readership has been enjoying a general trend of decline. However, this should turn around as Brazil fosters a growing middle class - providing some Chavez-style socialist doesn't come along and screw up the Brazilian economy.

Anonymous Daniel September 15, 2014 4:12 PM  

Zippy, I disagree that McRapey is a solid midlist. Without the support of Tor, his stuff would limp quickly off the midlist. OMW and the iffy GB were building a bit of a following.

That following left (by McRapey's own admission) with the publication of Zoe's Tale and the obvious career trajectory McRapey was plotting for himself ("homage" old Sci Fi until the well runs dry, then "cross over" to mainstream literary/teen girl thrillers and romances.) If I were Tor, I'd be very annoyed that McRapey didn't stick to the program and at least keep cranking out reliable and readable war books. His problem is that he doesn't have that in him: it was always a drain for him to dopplegang - but that was his approach to publication. He never really liked science fiction in the first place: he simply viewed it as a target of opportunity.

Anonymous T September 15, 2014 4:42 PM  

Old Man's War was trash. Rampant sex in new bodies, hardly an original concept. A major recurring early joke is that everyone names their brain-pal a variation of 'Asshole'. Brilliant stuff.

I got as far as the ludicrous stereotypical drill sergeant who was explaining that old people are a huge pain in the ass to retrain, wondered why they were using old people then, and just stopped reading at that point.

It was garbage. The ONLY part of the book that had any merit was his reaction to seeing his former body.

Blogger Jon Bromfield September 15, 2014 4:45 PM  

The Chinless Wonder is bragging about how well is book tour is going yet the only photo he's posted, I think, is an event where the audience is full of, he admits, friends and school chums he no doubt urged/begged to attend.

If any of the Ilk can attend his forthcoming appearances, Concord, New Hampshire is next, would be interesting to get a true account of numbers, enthusiasm, how effective is his presentation, etc.

Anonymous Steve September 15, 2014 4:49 PM  

Zippy is correct. Old Man's War was a good book. The sequels weren't as good, but had their moments. One of them (The Ghost Brigades, IIRC) had an especially well written opening few paragraphs about an asteroid being steered towards a planet. There was a bit about "smartblood" that was clever and memorable - when one of the protagonists uses his own nano-augmented blood as an incendiary.

Redshirts would have worked as a novella or a first time novelist's self-published fanfic. As an award-winning novel by an established author it was rather poor though. Fun in places, but the premise wears thin long before we reach the end, and it's basically a novelisation of Galaxy Quest anyway. It's never as funny as it thinks it is.

I think Mr Scalzi's problems are twofold:

1) he's alienated a large swathe of potential customers through his SJW internet tantrums. When you're a midlist author, I'm not sure you can afford to do that. A few thousand lost early sales to core sci fi fans could, I believe, seriously damage a book's momentum and rankings, ultimately costing the author more sales in the long run, because if your book doesn't stay on the bestsellers list it will likely soon be drowned out by newer books.

2) he's a medium talent. I've read dozens of books in the last few months that are comparable in terms of writing quality and entertainment value to his work. Scanning my recent Kindle purchases, I see:

Larry Correia, Charles Gannon, John Brown, Luke Smitherd, Chuck Dixon, D.J. Molles, Andy Weir, Michael Z. Williamson, Jim Butcher, Frank Tayell, Mark Wilson, Christopher Nuttall, James Cook, and Hugh Howey...

all sold me books. In most cases, multiple books, because I enjoyed the first one and then bought the rest. All these authors write books that are at least as entertaining if not more so than John Scalzi at his *best* in the Old Man's War series. And none of them wrote something that left me disappointed the way Redshirts did.

So it's a very busy marketplace, full of talented tellers of science fiction, fantasy, and horror tales. Unless you have the mass appeal of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, or unless you are consistently producing very high quality work that people will pay to read regardless of what they think of you as a person, you probably don't want to go full SJW retard all over the internet, insulting a large percentage of the folks who actually buy sci-fi books.

Anonymous Heh September 15, 2014 4:50 PM  

would be interesting to get a true account of numbers, enthusiasm, how effective is his presentation, etc.

Also, challenge him to a push up / bench press contest.

Anonymous Feh September 15, 2014 4:53 PM  

he's alienated a large swathe of potential customers through his SJW internet tantrums. When you're a midlist author, I'm not sure you can afford to do that.

I pointed this out to him in 2007, when I still read Whatever, and he said, in effect, "fuck you, Republicans, don't buy my books if you don't like my politics."

I said OK then, I won't.

Don't feel like I've really missed anything.

Anonymous Feh September 15, 2014 4:54 PM  

Though I have to admit anyone with a shred of self-respect would have said that, and it's what I expected him to say.

Anonymous Ain September 15, 2014 4:54 PM  

Rolf: "Are you sure it's 9,000 copies?
How many for a NYT bestseller? says only about 4,000, and about 5k gets you into the top 15. I honestly don't know, having zip by way of inside data."

The books in the article were of the business genre, which has far lesser sales across the board.

Anonymous kfg September 15, 2014 4:59 PM  

"Oh wait, your daughter is stronger than you."

And your daughter isn't as strong as a strong pre-teen girl.

Anonymous Steve September 15, 2014 5:15 PM  

Feh - "Though I have to admit anyone with a shred of self-respect would have said that"

Agreed. It needn't have come up in the first place though. I think he badly misjudged the market by so publicly climbing aboard the proggie bandwagon. It has won him awards for books that didn't deserve to win awards (Redshirts), but Hugo awards no longer seem to drive sales in the age of Kindle and Amazon reviews.

Writing articles sneering that "white male is the lowest difficulty setting" is just asking for trouble when most of the people who buy sci-fi novels are white males. Most of whom still have working testicles, so don't take kindly to some doughy male feminist who thinks he's better than them.

It's like a hip hop artist talking down to black people. Or the boss of Pizza Hut mocking fatties.

Blogger Jon Bromfield September 15, 2014 5:32 PM  

" he said, in effect, 'fuck you, Republicans, don't buy my books if you don't like my politics.'"

A stupid think for a writer of popular fiction to say. I certainly wouldn't say "Fuck you, Democrats, don't buy my books if you don't like my politics." Why alienate potential buyers?

I think Scalzi says things like that because he doesn't understand the ideological composition of the SF market. Living in his SJW bubble he thinks he can shit on conservatives, libertarians, "Rebublicans" and it won't appreciably affect his sales. Wrong-o!

Question: I know if a writer's first published book fails it's usually the death of his career. How many "disappointing" books does a mid-list author get before he's dropped?

Blogger Steve Moss September 15, 2014 7:47 PM  

I've noticed that also; writers and editors tend to be more liberal (with some notable exceptions) while their readership are far more likely to represent the true demographics of the country.

I've gotten tired of being preached too, so I began to tune out various authors overtime. The one exception if Steven Brust. He's an unabashed socialist, doesn't hide it, but can still write great stories about assassins and aristocrats. When engaged on his personal blog he doesn't shy away from politics (He should wear an "I love Trotsky!" t-shirt) but he almost always treats conservatives with respect.

What I think separates the Brusts from the Scalzis is that Brust is comfortable in his own skin and has nothing to prove. He's okay with disagreement and sees no reason to insult others.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 8:59 PM  

Steve--

Good call on Redshirts. Redshirts is a good example of something you can publish online. Something fun. Something short and easy and without really any specialness to the turn of the resolution.

Taking it to a full length book was basically just a way for him to cash in on a mediocre concept, about a mediocre TV show, with a huge fan base. It's a knock-off book he tried to make "ok" because the book is in on the knockoff. Meh. Different strokes, I suppose.

The biggest problem is how well received it was by the community. It is literally unoriginal, and it was well received. The stupidity knows very few bounds.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 9:02 PM  

VD, I am pretty sure you can tell whats obvious - you've really started to penetrate his persona. The reason he is responding to everything you write is because he has to. He's starting to spin his hampster wheel of rationalization, having to run harder and faster to keep the lies in his rear view mirror. When he posts like that, it's because he's getting hammered with people who he actually feels beholden too, to respond. He went with "let's ignore" for a long-time. But he can't do that as much or as well as he wants.

TLDR: He's losing a grip on his online world. Twitter works both ways. He can't control the narrative as well as he'd hoped. On his blog, he can ruthlessly edit his way to winning. On Twitter, it's far, far, far more difficult.

Anonymous FP September 15, 2014 9:24 PM  

Semi OT: Vox have you seen the latest from Authors United on the Amazon/Hatchet fight?

http://www.authorsunited.net/amazonboardletterprivate/

They sent letters to the board of directors at Amazon.

Blogger Eusebius Clay September 15, 2014 9:49 PM  

Thank you, sir, for the information you make publicly available. While I can not officially endorse everything you write (it is obviously not politically correct, but neither is The Truth); as I would rather avoid criticism; not because I am ill equipped to deal with it, but rather, because it is a burden, an unnecessary hassle. In addition, I do not agree with everything that you write. I do find myself agreeing more than disagreeing. Inertia has compelled me not to argue with you: I do not believe it is worth the effort.

I was researching arguments for and against atheism (as any rational person would do before forming an opinion), when I encountered your book, TIA. To use corporate jargon, it was a "game changer." At that time, I was unaware of the existence of the organisation we call Mensa. It was because of your internet presence that I found it. I recently joined.

Initially, I was a college drop out. I eventually went back, but rapidly discovered that, if I wanted to learn anything, I had to teach myself.

Questions:

1. What is your opinion on Catholicism, the Tridentine mass, and the religion of JRR Tolkien?

2. Do you find the arguments espoused by Dr. Steven Pinker Phd against religion, valid? If they are invalid, would you please explain why?

Thanks :). Reading your blog again. Plz excuse errors, sent from iPhone.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 9:49 PM  

FP:

Full of lies:

" Books cannot be written more cheaply" - lie. This is a stupid lie. There is tremendous cost to be squeezed from the sponge of publishing. You ever visited a factory that makes rubber bands? That's a business where there is nothing left to cut. It's all capital cost over time, materials, labor and a tiny slice of margin.

" But books are not consumer goods." - lie. People buy alternatives when the right price, genre, content or delivery is not available. This is also a stupid lie, since one of the core complaints is that Amazon is "using pop-up windows to cover authors' pages and redirect buyers to non-Hachette book". If books are not consumer goods, this obviously cannot be a valid complaint.

"Amazon is undermining the ability of authors to support their families, pay their mortgages, and provide for their kids' college educations. "

That would Hatchette, not Amazon. That's like saying that I am undermining their ability to support their lifestyle, since I have not founded a book selling website and sold their books. Newsflash fancy pants authors: no one owes you anything. As an Amazon shareholder, I owe you nothing. Amazon and the authors don't even have a relationship.

There are more contradictions:

"and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual"

Uhh, how do you square that with:

" itself may not realize is that traditional publishing houses perform a vital role in our society"

How can they play a vital role when authorship is the act of a single individual?

"What will Amazon replace this process with? How, in the Amazon model, will a young author get funding to pursue a promising idea? And what about the role of editors and copy editors, who ensure that what ultimately ends up on the shelf is both worthy and accurate?"

They'll invest in the business, like every other new business seeks out investors. Or they'll have a day job. And they'll pay editors and copy editors just like I pay the guy who cuts my lawn.

This is perhaps the least persuasive piece of writing I have ever read. It's inherently contradictory, and makes no fine point. It's just a waste of money and time.

The authors can't believe that Bezos hasn't been swayed by anything, they are now trying to go over his head to the Board. Note how none of the board are publishing people. It's a complete joke.

Anonymous FP September 15, 2014 10:34 PM  

DH, I thought the best part was the line:

"Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on that book finding readers. This is the process Amazon is obstructing. "

You hear that toaster makers, you ain't got nuthin on authors! Especially struggling authors!

Anonymous Dipper September 15, 2014 10:38 PM  

Dh"The reason he is responding to everything you write is because he has to"

No he doesn't. It's possible he responds occasionally because its funny.

Anonymous Dipper September 15, 2014 10:43 PM  

"I think Scalzi says things like that because he doesn't understand the ideological composition of the SF market"

He never said that, it's just what Rolf heard.

Anonymous dh September 15, 2014 10:58 PM  

No he doesn't. It's possible he responds occasionally because its funny.

I suppose that is possible, however, he has a compulsive need to respond in my view. He responds almost to everything that VD writes about him. Contrast that to just a year ago, when Scalzi was claiming he barely ever knew who VD was, and that he was just ignoring him and wouldn't speak his name.

It's a far cry from his first strategy, which was to whine like a little bitch. It's also a far cry from his second strategy, which was to pretend to ignore him. It's also a far cry from his third strategy, which was that he was amused by VD. We are not onto a fourth strategy, which is, I suppose, one-way reparte.

I'll be fairly surprised if the fifth strategy is not the little voodoo doll and a big hair pin, borrowed straight out of Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Anonymous kh123 September 15, 2014 11:06 PM  

No no, it'll require a move to Nevada. Gamma rabbit, remember; showing them by embracing the insult and taking the abasement even further.

Blogger rcocean September 15, 2014 11:15 PM  

"I think Scalzi says things like that because he doesn't understand the ideological composition of the SF market."

Absurd. He's either making the move to Hollywood, where his strident leftism is a plus not a minus. Or, he's figured potential fans don't care about politics or are leftists who will buy more books because he's one of them. Plus, a lot of stupid conservatives pride themselves on "Being open minded" and not judging a book on 'its own merits".

Blogger rcocean September 15, 2014 11:19 PM  

Look at the difference between liberal magazines and conservative ones. The Liberals will hammer any book/movie made by an outspoken conservative, or one that pushes conservative values. The Conservatives. OTOH, try to be objective and ignore politics unless the liberal author or producer jams it in their face. Take Roman Polanski. I've read "conservative' movie critics who review his work and don't even mention his politics/private life. No liberal movie critic would do that for Mel Gibson.

Anonymous Statists are so dull September 16, 2014 2:17 AM  

The biggest problem is how well received it was by the community. It is literally unoriginal, and it was well received.

I'm not surprised at all. Don't forget that the geek community have huge disposable incomes (since they're aren't out socializing and rarely have families and kids) and a lack of imagination. They spend a fortune on toys and any and all paraphernalia related to their favorite shows - a lot of JS' positioning in SF was probably based on the size of the demographic and their laughably low standards for "stuff".

The Big Bang Theory, their New Testament, is mostly about immature men avoiding adult relationships and buying media tie-in toys instead.

I find it funny the geeks have mistaken their commercial exploitation with empowerment because they can now buy 150 different batman variants per month.

Anonymous Statists are so dull September 16, 2014 2:31 AM  

"What will Amazon replace this process with? ..."

Typical statist thinking - the father figure must provide all. Sorry but there is a growing, healthy, affordable market of independent editors, cover designers, etc available to the aspiring self-publisher.

But, but, but, the big daddy publisher used to take care of all of that for the poor ickle writer (and all for just 90% of his profit). It's just mean to make the special little snowflakes do it for themselves (for a fraction of the cost).

The traditional publishers response is still close my eyes and make it go away. I was at a conference on publishing recently where I never heard the word ebook mentioned once all weekend either from the panels or in social conversation.

Anonymous Moranderin September 16, 2014 8:08 AM  

"I think Scalzi says things like that because he doesn't understand the ideological composition of the SF market."

I think the mistake is thinking an appreciable number of SF readers have any idea what Scalzi's politics are. Most book buyers don't track down blog sites for the authors they read, something I expect is true for Scalzi, as well. My first indication of Scalzi's politics came when I stumbled across Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded in a bookstore. My initial interest vanished shortly after I opened the book and discovered that Scalzi's politics were far from my own and he was a flaming asshole to those who disagreed with him. But most readers won't have any interest in a collection of blog posts or even in reading the blog, itself.

Do I think it's stupid to casually alienate the conservatives who do -- or did -- read his books? Absolutely. But the number Scalzi actually ends up running off due to politics is probably not very high. I'm sure he runs off more people with his mediocre novels. That certainly did the trick for me.

Blogger Chris Gerrib September 16, 2014 9:51 AM  

So now Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. Tell me again how his sales aren't very good. (Personally, I'd take ONE book in for a TV deal.)

Anonymous Bah September 16, 2014 10:06 AM  

Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. Tell me again how his sales aren't very good.

"In development" =/= an actual show... and it probably never will be a show.

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv-movies/prospective-tv-shows-languish-development-hell-article-1.1504055

" They call it development hell for a reason. On TV, the drama begins long before a show gets on the air.

Each year executives at channels across the dial sit through dozens, if not hundreds, of presentations from hopeful producers pitching ideas for new shows.

A handful are amazing, and may even go on to become huge hits. But the vast majority never make it."

Anonymous Bah September 16, 2014 10:08 AM  

I think the mistake is thinking an appreciable number of SF readers have any idea what Scalzi's politics are. Most book buyers don't track down blog sites for the authors they read, something I expect is true for Scalzi, as well.

Don't agree. Scalzi, in particular, only comes to the attention of a lot of readers because of his internet presence.

Anonymous Mike B September 16, 2014 10:41 AM  

You love John Scalzi and want to kiss him. You two should just get a room already! The sexual energy you direct at him is astounding.

Anonymous Jake September 16, 2014 12:16 PM  

"Jake, I don't think that's right. I think he's a decent writer, and that he had it in him to be a good writer. Old Man's War and Ghost Brigades were good books."

Zippy, if you think he's a decent writer, then I question your reading judgment. He simply isn't. Even a bad writer, say, Anne Mccaffrey or Michael Chricton, are able to handle the basic units of prose and are capable of structuring a story properly. I don't have time to go into all the examples of why Scalzi may be one of the worst writers to ever hit the bestsellers list, but I'll give one. No competent writer would open a book, let alone spend an entire first chapter, with a character standing in front of his wife's grave thinking doing nothing but feeling sorry for himself. This is an action book! He's just standing there, thinking. And we're supposed to be moved because the man lost his wife, but any competent writer would know that readers don't know this character yet, and we never met his wife, and so we feel little. There are many ways to fix this problem. One, have the audience see the wife's death. Two, start with a more active chapter and have him circle back to his wife's grave before he leaves the planet. Etc. But Scalzi chooses none of them. Why? Because he can't write, man. He's bad. Mistakes like this (and believe me it's hardly the only one) are mistakes a capable writer like Silverberg, to name just one writer whose politics I despise, would never make. Scalzi is downright awful and it starts on sentence one of the first book and never stops.

Anonymous VD September 16, 2014 12:49 PM  

So now Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. Tell me again how his sales aren't very good.

His sales aren't very good. One of our new Castalia Associates sells more books despite not having a new book out and not even having a mainstream publisher at all.

The fact that Scalzi gotten a few books optioned is simply him leveraging his usual bullshit through some of his Wil Wheaton connections. It has nothing whatsoever to do with book sales.

As for "in development", well, don't hold your breath about that Old Man's War movie from Paramount, Chris? Or anything but Redshirts, since that is simply a way to do a cheap Star Trek ripoff.

Anonymous Bruce September 16, 2014 1:34 PM  

>'It will be interesting to see if PNH is still at Tor Books one year from now'

I think TNH actually managed to lose money on the CONAN franchise- she's still got a job.

Blogger borderwalker September 16, 2014 3:14 PM  

"So now Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. Tell me again how his sales aren't very good. (Personally, I'd take ONE book in for a TV deal.)"

Considering that TV rights can be had for as little as $500 per year per work, don't quit your day job.

Anonymous GreyS September 16, 2014 4:07 PM  

So now Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. Tell me again how his sales aren't very good.

An option doesn't necessarily mean great book sales-- it means someone thought your book would make a good show or movie. It may ALSO mean great book sales-- the producers may see a built-in audience in a book, a trilogy etc etc.

Anyone can option almost anything-- real best sellers, fake NYT "best sellers", little novels no one has heard of, short stories, even compelling newspaper, periodical and web articles.

An option is the temporary exclusive right to produce something based on that original source. The buyer then gets to work on seeing how feasible, how do-able the project is. Sometimes things get developed further, most times they don't. Sometimes companies just want to have a sort of library of possible projects to choose from. Other times they go all-in from the get-go and put loads of money and talent onto it.

In film, they try to get the money to produce the project and work it up the ladder. In tv they try to put together a pilot they can shop and show-- hoping it gets picked up for order as a season.

The option price varies tremendously. A real best seller with a workable concept can fetch a ton for film. A fairly sell-able idea from a mid-list guy can do pretty good, but tv-intended stuff is cheaper to option-- everyone involved knows the bigger money comes later with success.

A lot of factors go into the purchase price. The financial health of the buyer company, the projected cost of production, the financial health of the seller-- etc etc. Legendary is a pretty strong player who is trying to move more into tv. But Lock In the book is not a hit, despite the protestations to the contrary. It's no surprise the purchase came this week-- immediately after a presumably purchased one week run in the NYTBSL. (VD has got him dead to rights on this). I don't know what he got for it, but I'd guess somewhere in the $25-50,000 range. I know one thing though-- the price would have been a lot more if it was a real best seller and a lot less three weeks from now.

(Scalzi is undoubtedly wishing OMW was picked up by Legendary instead of SyFy. The people there are real pros and would probably get it done for sure.)

It's fun to see the good old tv/film humblebrag by Scalzi, though. He knows darn well at this point that an option doesn't mean "in development"-- let alone on the day it was optioned-- but he just can't resist playing it up to his readers and for his detractors. People are usually awed by any mention of film or tv and its pretty standard to use the cache of it on critical relatives, to impress girls, or to quiet detractors.

The "three in development" thing was greatly influenced by trying to get back at VD in my opinion. He knowingly fudged it to play it up-- "humbly" of course.

Knowing Scalzi is more of a semi-SF writer who borrows liberally while trying to produce widely sellable concepts, I have no doubt more success in television is coming his way. I don't see huge bestsellers getting snapped up for big bucks. I see continued mid to lower-mid books occasionally getting optioned by this or that ProCo for four and five figures.

No joke-- if I were in his position, I'd stop everything RIGHT NOW and start ripping off people like Nicholas Sparks-- go with the light drama/romance/schmaltz stuff. He'd make hundreds of times more money than he is now because he's gotten a little established in tv which can easily be moved into film. He should gradually phase out or change that blog-- it's only hurting him at this point-- and try to hit the big home runs with schmaltzy dramance stuff and get on the big book/film merry-go-round.

To do this, he'd have to drop all the public bitchiness though, and that will be tough for him to do.



Anonymous I Am Irony, Man September 16, 2014 7:56 PM  

Chris Gerrib: "So now Scalzi announces he has a third book in development for TV. "

Boy, it's a damn good thing Scalzi is playing life on the least difficult setting.

I mean, it's not like anyone is optioning Samuel R. Delany, Jr's masterworks, are they?

Because privilege.

Blogger Trần Văn Quảng October 27, 2014 12:50 AM  

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