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Monday, May 25, 2015

A lesson in con artistry

I thought John Scalzi's new book deal to lock in his retirement was an interesting indication of his intrinsic insecurity as well as the practicality that distinguishes him from most of his SF colleagues.
John Scalzi, a best-selling author of science fiction, has signed a $3.4 million, 10-year deal with the publisher Tor Books that will cover his next 13 books.

Mr. Scalzi’s works include a series known as the “Old Man’s War” and the more recent “Redshirts,” a Hugo-award-winning sendup of the luckless lives of nonfeatured characters on shows like the original “Star Trek.” Three of his works are being developed for television, including “Redshirts” and “Lock In,” a science-inflected medical thriller that evokes Michael Crichton. Mr. Scalzi’s hyper-caffeinated Internet presence through his blog, Whatever, has made him an online celebrity as well.

Mr. Scalzi approached Tor Books, his longtime publisher, with proposals for 10 adult novels and three young adult novels over 10 years. Some of the books will extend the popular “Old Man’s War” series, building on an existing audience, and one will be a sequel to “Lock In.” Mr. Scalzi said he hoped books like “Lock In” could draw more readers toward science fiction, since many, he said, are still “gun-shy” about the genre.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the executive editor for Tor, said the decision was an easy one.
I imagine it was a very easy one. Scalzi is, nominally, Tor's big dog. He's not a proper big dog, as he isn't one of their ten annual biggest sellers or even a bestselling author, but he's their most important SF figurehead author. Who else do they have? Of their better-selling authors, Frank Herbert is dead, Robert Jordan is dead, Orson Scott Card is hated by their core audience, and they can't control Microsoft or the game companies whose tie-in novels are their biggest sellers. They have Scalzi and Brandon Sanderson, both of whom appear to have more or less peaked in terms of their careers. It's not as if the award-winning Jo Walton or the award-winning Catharine Asaro or any of their other award-winning authors sell enough books to support all the SJW non-SF they keep trying to push on an unwilling public.

So to be gifted the opportunity to lock in one of their top authors for a decade at little more than 250k per book at an initial cost of $1 million up front is an absolute no-brainer. Scalzi is a hack in the positive sense of the term; unless he's dead there is no chance he's not going to be able to churn out the sort of mediocre material he produces. To break even on the initial advance, (the payments are usually divided into signing, delivery, and acceptance these days), Tor only has to sell an average of about 15k books each. Assuming all 13 books are delivered and paid for, they have to sell around 40k copies apiece, which should be doable considering that Redshirts sold nearly that many ebooks alone in the first eight months of its release. It's a great deal for them, especially since they likely have the ability to get out of it down the road without paying two-thirds of it if they wish.

NB: The mainstream publishers now pay book advances in thirds. One-third on signature, one-third on delivery, and one third on either acceptance or publication. So, the contract is most likely $1 million up front, with two payments of $75k for each book upon a) delivery, and b) acceptance or publication.

This isn't a bad deal for Scalzi, it is merely a very conservative deal. What Johnny Con is attempting to do is to secure his retirement and look for any upside to come out of the various media deals he's got going. It's a perfectly reasonable strategy, particularly in these uncertain economic times. The bolder strategy would have been for him to go into self-publishing, where as I've demonstrated, there is considerably more upside to be had. But Scalzi is neither a self-confident man nor an entrepreneur, so it is entirely in character that he'd prefer to give up the equivalent of about five birds in the bush in favor of the one in Tor's hand.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. And since he has a reasonable shot at other upsides, I think it's an entirely sensible deal on his part. Lock in the base, then see what you can leverage elsewhere. It's a conservative move, but not one that I would criticize him for making. Everyone has different appetites for risk. Indeed, as I have often said, McRapey has an unusual talent for self-promotion. The fact that a mediocre and derivative hack without any discernible talent beyond self-promotion and petty snark could turn 300k monthly pageviews and a color-by-numbers Heinlein ripoff into a near-guaranteed $250k per year is borderline astonishing. If he'd somehow managed to do it without repeatedly lying his ample ass off and consistently misrepresenting himself, I'd consider him to be downright brilliant.

What is much more important is what the deal indicates for science fiction publishing, and that is where I see problems on the horizon. If one of the best-known authors in science fiction can only command $260k per book from the biggest science fiction publisher, then conventional publishing does not appear to be long for this world. Which is, in fact, exactly what I believe to be the case.

Of course, I was genuinely amused to see McRapey omit making any traffic claims for the blog that made him "an online celebrity". I wonder why he doesn't brag about those two million monthly pageviews or 50 THOUSAND DAILY VISITS to reporters anymore?

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98 Comments:

Blogger Ron Winkleheimer May 25, 2015 8:18 AM  

$3.4 Million isn't bad, but it isn't exactly a fortune anymore. And I say that as someone who doesn't have $3.4 Mill.

Assuming he lives modestly (no more than $100,000 per year outgo) then at the end of 10 years he has $2.4 Million - actually 3 to 4 million allowing for growth.

So assume 3.5 million, if he can swing a 5% return on that then he has an income of $175,000 a year. Not exactly yacht money, but you can afford a few jet skis.

Anonymous James May 25, 2015 8:21 AM  

Good to see the torlings gloating on twitter about this. Their empire is not long for this world.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 8:24 AM  

It doesn't work that way, Ron. Tor isn't paying $3.4 million. They're probably paying just over $1 million up front, then around 75k per book on delivery and publication.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 25, 2015 8:28 AM  

Uh-oh!

What happened with Red Shirts the TV Show?

That was his big plan for becoming the new George R.R. Martin, wasn't it?

Blogger Nate May 25, 2015 8:32 AM  

"Assuming he lives modestly (no more than $100,000 per year outgo) then at the end of 10 years he has $2.4 Million - actually 3 to 4 million allowing for growth."

That's the kicker. Won't happen. He'll spend it as fast as it comes in.. and even if he does max it out at all 10 books... he'll still have little to show for it.

Blogger Harsh May 25, 2015 8:32 AM  

I am so looking forward to 'Redshirts II: I Owe You A Blowjob'.

Blogger Harsh May 25, 2015 8:33 AM  

He'll spend it as fast as it comes in..

$3.4 million can buy a hell of a lot of lawn.

Anonymous common sense May 25, 2015 8:34 AM  

Bragging about money in public... it ain't smart.

Anonymous Nathan May 25, 2015 8:37 AM  

"What happened with Red Shirts the TV Show? "

You know, I'm not sure what the status is. However, with the Galaxy Quest series in works, I'd imagine there's room for only one Trek parody.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 8:39 AM  

That's the kicker. Won't happen. He'll spend it as fast as it comes in.. and even if he does max it out at all 10 books... he'll still have little to show for it.

You're wrong. Scalzi is not a big spender. He's very conservative, as this deal tends to show. True, it's much easier to blow money than people would believe; my Dad never had much money in the bank whether he was making 10k or 10 million per year.

(Seriously, I just about lost it when he bought a fucking PLANE. My exact words: "what on EARTH do you need a fucking PLANE for? YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW HOW TO FLY IT!")

Also, the deal is for 13 books. Over 10 years. It is not a 10-book deal.

Anonymous common sense May 25, 2015 8:45 AM  

If only Tor was a public company... I would short the shit out of it.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 8:50 AM  

If only Tor was a public company... I would short the shit out of it.

(laughs) No doubt. In fairness, this was a deal they could hardly turn down. And for Scalzi, it helps ensure they keep pushing him as their golden boy. If he hadn't done something like this, they'd almost certainly have put him on the back burner after his next OMW novel.

Blogger Salt May 25, 2015 8:53 AM  

It's a perfectly reasonable strategy, particularly in these uncertain economic times

I totally agree. For anyone to say, "He'll spend it as fast as it comes in" is to presuppose on the part of Scalzi. He may be a midwit, but he's not stupid.

If he'd somehow managed to do it without repeatedly lying his ample ass off and misrepresenting himself, I'd consider him to be downright brilliant.

But he did do it, shamelessly or otherwise. I find Scalzi to be an interesting character, a brilliant hack, as he's so far competently traversed the Pink field even while playing on life's easiest setting. He's a hack playing the game he knows how to play.

Quality aside, all he has to do is deliver and I'd not bet against him. 3.4 million is not a figure I'd scoff at. I'd be laughing all the way to the bank.

Blogger Josh May 25, 2015 8:53 AM  

#occupyscalzi

Blogger Mr.MantraMan May 25, 2015 8:58 AM  

Are they going to want their man whore at the center of the latest SJW political theatre?

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 9:04 AM  

But he did do it, shamelessly or otherwise.

Sure. And $250k per book is peanuts compared to some of the shit I've seen con artists pull in the game industry. If you're willing to lie shamelessly, it's relatively easy to get people to give you money. Epic Games was built on similarly shameless lies, although to their credit, they did manage to deliver once technology eventually caught up to their bullshit.

I knew one guy who pulled down $150k+ salaries while jumping from company to company, and AAA title to AAA title, who never did ANYTHING. I mean, he literally never finished a game. The minute he'd get one job, he'd start angling for the next one at a bigger company or higher profile project. I liked him, we hung out from time to time, but I wouldn't have hired him for anything.

He had one hell of a resume if you didn't look too closely at the dates.

OpenID xsyq May 25, 2015 9:18 AM  

Wait a minute, how has Brandon Sanderson's career peaked? He has 8 more books coming in the Stormlight Archive, 2 more books after Alloy of Law and another trilogy after that, a couple sequels to Elantris and Warbreaker, and a ton more Cosmere-related works lurking in the wings. Is there some recent news that I'm not aware of?

I remember the transition from Jordan to Sanderson in WOT to be more than a little bumpy (I recall Aviendha suddenly deciding to use contractions as a rather striking tone shift that was not for the better) but Sanderson's conclusion left me very satisfied. His recent works haven't disappointed me either. The Way of Kings was the best book I'd read in quite a while until Words of Radiance overtook it.

I was actually somewhat surprised when I realized he was associated with Tor. He doesn't write message fiction with homosexuality on full display (in fact I can't remember a single gay character in any of his books), he simply writes strong female characters the right way with male characters that have values like honor and courage.

Blogger HickoryHammer #0211 May 25, 2015 9:18 AM  

The thing about that deal is that 13 books is a lot of work. I wonder if they are going to have him churn out the next couple Halo novelizations just so they can say that he's a best selling author.

Blogger Cataline Sergius May 25, 2015 9:34 AM  

I wonder if there is any wiggle room for a co-author in this deal?

I know Baen is famous for that but I don't know about TOR.

Blogger JartStar May 25, 2015 9:35 AM  

This kind of money changes people for better or worse so he will either turn the SJW to 11 as he feels secure in saying whatever, whenever he likes, or he's going to dial it way back enjoy his hard earned rewards and quietly write while looking for more ventures.

Regardless, congrats to him as very few writers on the planet have this level of success in longevity or monetarily. He'll be in his late 50's when this deal is up, right about the time almost all authors go into steep decline so this was a pretty savvy move on his part.

Anonymous d12 May 25, 2015 9:38 AM  

I was genuinely amused to see Vox omit making any claims that Tor is propping up Scalzi and losing money on him. I wonder why he doesn't whine about that anymore?

Blogger Salt May 25, 2015 9:41 AM  

If you're willing to lie shamelessly, it's relatively easy to get people to give you money.

Look at Wall Street. A few of the biggest con artists I've known were brokers. $250k per book may be peanuts in con-artery, but it's not insignificant. What's fun about watching Scalzi is that he's doing it openly. What's going to be interesting is watching him over the next ten years as SFF changes course; seeing him navigate the turbulent waters. We'll find out just how good he is.

Anonymous Steve May 25, 2015 9:42 AM  

Salt - He may be a midwit, but he's not stupid.

Indeed he is not.

Charles Dickens was an astute observer of people and he nailed the Scalzi type 165 years ago.

The obsequious, oleaginously insincere way he worms his way into the graces of those he can use.

The false humility and chumminess.

How quickly he lets the mask drop when he feels it's safe to lash out at people he hates, revealing his pent-up resentment and passive-aggressiveness.

He's Uriah Heep.

Anonymous joe doakes May 25, 2015 9:44 AM  

Scalzi and Tor need to regain control of the Hugo so those 13 books can be Hugo winners, for marketing, to sell enough books to fund the deal. Rabid Puppies are a threat to the deal.

Blogger Josh May 25, 2015 9:48 AM  

It's very problematic that Tor is giving money that could have gone to marginalized minorities to another old straight white male.

Anonymous rienzi May 25, 2015 9:49 AM  

The punters and long-snappers, the NFL's most poorly paid players, will make more per year than Scalzi, one of SF/F's most highly paid authors.

It would appear that even if you were a middling-selling SF/F author it would just be a profitable hobby, and you couldn't quit your day-job at Walmart.

But, I guess the up-side is that when people as you what you do you can answer: "I'm an author", not: "I stock shelves at Walmart". There is that for the SJW's.

Blogger James Dixon May 25, 2015 9:56 AM  

> I was genuinely amused to see Vox omit making any claims that Tor is propping up Scalzi and losing money on him.

I believe you'll find that Vox suggested (not claimed) that Tor was losing money on Lock In, not Scalzi as an author.

Blogger lubertdas May 25, 2015 10:07 AM  

How does this contract compare with other writers who sell more books? Didn't Alastair Reynolds recently sign a big million pound contract for multiple books? What about writers like Peter F. Hamilton who's books actually sell?

Blogger Josh May 25, 2015 10:10 AM  

How does this contract compare with other writers who sell more books?

The two largest advances for fiction are Tom Wolfe's 7mm for Back to Blood and JK Rowling's 8mm for Casual Vacancy.

Blogger luagha May 25, 2015 10:11 AM  

Remember, knowing just what I know from reading this site; Tor is not run like most standard companies.

Editors have their fiefdom of authors. That author works with that editor. Generally no crossover. No such thing as 'Joe got busy with a rush job, Fred will help out and get your book out the door.'

A german publishing company owns all of it, but it's just a minor part of said company.

What surprises me is that Scalzi and his editor could trick the higher-ups at the parent company into going that long-term with him. As we know, in the land of the SJW, one wrong word and you can be twitter-bombed and no one buys your books ever again.

As stated above, he doesn't have to perform very well to make it a break-even, though, so that must be it.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 10:20 AM  

I was genuinely amused to see Vox omit making any claims that Tor is propping up Scalzi and losing money on him. I wonder why he doesn't whine about that anymore?

Tor is propping up Scalzi. Without Tor, Scalzi doesn't even exist as an SF writer. I have never claimed Tor is losing money on Scalzi for the obvious reason that they're not.

They might on this deal, but the 13 books makes it unlikely unless he seriously tanks. To put it in perspective, Tor only needs to sell as many copies as Pocket Books sold of THE WAR IN HEAVEN in order to break even on it.

Anonymous Minion #0172 May 25, 2015 10:24 AM  

"Scalzi and Tor need to regain control of the Hugo so those 13 books can be Hugo winners, for marketing, to sell enough books to fund the deal. Rabid Puppies are a threat to the deal."

The Torlings may be able to get Scalzi on the ballot, but the puppies will see that he never wins another Hugo.

It's been noted that the Hugo adds few extra sales. I would assume "Hugo Nominated" adds nothing.

Anonymous BGS May 25, 2015 10:35 AM  

I have always said I would not begrudge a mans livelihood, well the only time I broke it was when someone I know was dating a garbage man

Anonymous fish May 25, 2015 11:07 AM  

That was his big plan for becoming the new George R.R. Martin, wasn't it?

He's going to need to lose the dress and don the Mu Mu if this is his course of action.

Blogger LP 999/Eliza May 25, 2015 11:09 AM  

Whatever defines whatever the man in a dress would say or do and Tor is appalling. Whatever Tor wishes they want to do and fund proves fascinating to follow.

Anonymous Steve May 25, 2015 11:10 AM  

He's going to need to lose the dress and don the Mu Mu if this is his course of action.

Meanwhile, at Not A Blog...

Blogger Skylark Thibedeau May 25, 2015 11:19 AM  

I remember Weiss and Hickman had a deal for a sci-fi trilogy at Random House but when the first two books didn't have 'Dragonlance' numbers they cancelled the third but kept the rights to the series where it can never be finished. Nothing is certain in publishing. Tor especially will screw him over if they think they can save a nickel.

Anonymous fish May 25, 2015 11:19 AM  

Are they going to want their man whore at the center of the latest SJW political theatre?

Given what's occurred surrounding SP/RP and GamerGate anybody think this is why a non-event like a middling writer signing a middling contract got a write up in the online NYT?

Blogger Dexter May 25, 2015 11:32 AM  

He'll spend it as fast as it comes in.. and even if he does max it out at all 10 books... he'll still have little to show for it.

It is possible to go broke in Nowheresville Ohio, but challenging. It is the doctor and lawyer types who usually do the "high income, no savings" thing (thanks to their wives more often than not).

The thing about that deal is that 13 books is a lot of work.

He can crank out mediocre crap in his sleep. And it's his only job!

Scalzi and Tor need to regain control of the Hugo so those 13 books can be Hugo winners, for marketing

They can already put "Hugo Winner" on the cover. Doubt that winning more Hugos would add much to that.

Anonymous Flannel Avenger May 25, 2015 11:43 AM  

What I genuinely don't understand is why somebody would give him money for the TV rights to Redshirts. It seems to me that as far as sci-fi parody goes, it's blatantly a Star Trek ripoff. I don't see how you pull that off for TV without being sued unless you pay CBS and Paramount for the rights to directly parody Star Trek.

Galaxy Quest had the virtue of not being titled after something directly tied to the Star Trek franchise...

In any event, given the way that Star Trek's intellectual rights are fractured these days, I don't see any way forward on Redshirts. Whoever gave him that money should have their head examined.

Blogger Michael Maier May 25, 2015 11:59 AM  

"Now go take out the trash."

Always his wife's bitch... What a fawning wimp.

Anonymous Daniel #0189 May 25, 2015 12:06 PM  

When you have PNH quoted in friendly media that they wanted McRapey for his future backlist, not for his potential as a bestseller, that confirms it. They are also using him as PR to improve their slush pile: really self-confident high quality writers have better opportunities outside of traditional publishing, so they are beating the bushes for entry-level promise that doesn't know any better.

Smart by Tor, smart by McRapey (even if conservative - it appears to be the best he could have done in traditional publishing) and good to throw up a pseudo-Hocking number to troll for new writers with stars in their eyes. Maybe one of them will actually be the jewel they need.

Blogger rcocean May 25, 2015 12:07 PM  

How do the sales numbers of Card and Scalzi stack up?

Blogger rcocean May 25, 2015 12:13 PM  

As stated above, Tor is part of the Macmillan publishing group in NYC and is owned Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. They are a minuscule part of a billion $$ company. As long as some corporate exec likes them and they don't lose too much money, they'll be around and giving $$$ to people like Scalzi.

Anonymous Holmwood May 25, 2015 12:14 PM  

@Vox What are big publisher deals like these days? I assume Mr. Scalzi likely retains most derivative rights -- games, movies, TV, but probably not audiobook or foreign rights?

unless you pay CBS and Paramount for the rights to directly parody Star Trek.
IANAL, but parody is a specific exemption in copyright law, even parody for profit, particularly if you are parodying the thing itself, rather than merely using it to mock society at large.

That last seems fairly easy to do with Star Trek.

As for the deal, yeah, its inherent conservatism somewhat surprised me. Mr. Scalzi is to be congratulated (though I dislike his behavior, he still wrote two good books that entertained me).

I ran the numbers through my head last night and concluded all Mr. Scalzi had to do was keep selling his back catalog at the lowest possible claimed rate by PNH for TOR to break even. (This was a pretty crude analysis but seemed and seems plausible.)

Of course PNH may have been spinning sales, in which case the deal is better for Mr. Scalzi than it seems. (Spinning sales? What is it that SJW's always do?)

-Holmwood
(A fan of Old Man's War and Agent to the Stars, but not particularly a fan of Mr. John Scalzi).

Blogger rcocean May 25, 2015 12:17 PM  

One reason I'm not a libertarian is they don't understand how Big business and Fortune 500 Corporations work. It isn't about "Free Enterprise" or "Stock Holder Value" the CEO's and Corporate execs are often playing their own games.

Anonymous MendoScot May 25, 2015 12:18 PM  

It's very problematic that Tor is giving money that could have gone to marginalized minorities to another old straight white male.

Josh, you win the internet for today.

Blogger Markku May 25, 2015 12:32 PM  

I remember Scalzi saying they purchased the "option". What I'm guessing that means is, they purchased the right to prevent any other company from doing the series, but that doesn't yet mean that they have purchased the rights. I'm also guessing that purchasing an option is much cheaper than rights.

However, since we have made a decision to stay out of the visual media, I haven't looked into these things, and this is mere guesswork. But what I do remember is having paid attention to the word "option" in Scalzi's post.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 25, 2015 12:33 PM  

It's a conservative move, but not one that I would criticize him for making. Everyone has different appetites for risk.

That's an important thing to remember - the majority of folks in the world are far closer to Scalzi's risk-tolerance than to Vox's or mine or most of the ilk. In fact, Scalzi probably has greater risk tolerance than the average just from even trying to make it as an author instead of working for a steady paycheck.

Plus, as Vox said, he's still got potential upside from TV deals if those pan out, and I assume the $3.4 Million is just advances and if one of the books somehow explodes into JK Rowling territory he can get additional royalties.

All in all, seems like a good deal for Scalzi and Tor.

Blogger Josh May 25, 2015 12:35 PM  

All in all, seems like a good deal for Scalzi and Tor.

At least 90% of the folks here would probably take this sort of deal if offered it.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 12:51 PM  

At least 90% of the folks here would probably take this sort of deal if offered it.

Without question. I wouldn't, but then, I am not most people.

Anonymous Huckleberry -- est. 1977 May 25, 2015 12:54 PM  

The biggest winner here is obviously @scalzi's closest Dress Barn outlet.
I'm not sure they can handle all that squee.
It's worth noting that given the tumult in the publishing industry that it's a decent bet that Tor won't exist long enough to see the deal through.

Anonymous Moses Lambert May 25, 2015 12:57 PM  

Y'know, it's really a pity that this whole Puppy War ever had to come about. Oh, I agree that the PC Mafia had (mostly) taken over the awards business - I quit paying any attention to claims that "XXX is great because it won a XYZ award" MANY years ago. I buy books (and I buy a LOT of books, both treeware and digital) based on either (a) reading a sample and liking it or (b) having faith that the author won't disappoint me because he/she never has (Jim Butcher is a good example of this, as is David Weber).
There /are/ a few topics I won't even bother to touch, because I consider them stupid (zombie apocalypses, sparkly vampires, "horror" stories, to name a few).
I like/bought a lot of Scalzi's work (yes, that includes Redshirts, which entertained me immensely, since it brought out a lot of points which occurred to me when I watched Star Trek (I'm old enough to have watched it when it was first broadcast) and Old Man's War series.
I also like/bought quite a bit by Vox Day.
The point I'm trying to make is: I wish you authors would realize that a war over some awards which, speaking frankly, are totally insignificant except to a /very/ small group of in-bred narcissists is doing absolutely nothing productive.
Every hour spent producing rants is an hour that could have been spent producing manuscripts. The rants will be ignored by 99%+ of the book-buying people and will disappear; the manuscripts will live on.

Blogger Daniel May 25, 2015 12:58 PM  

I doubt that, Josh. I have the sense that at least 50% of the sort here wouldn't want to leave that much money on the table. We are somewhat less risk averse than the average contract author. If any of us had the established sales, the self pub numbers would be 3x the money, with way more control.

Just not guaranteed by contract.

But plenty of reasonable people are willing to lose a lot of potential money for the seeming security of a guaranteed contract.

Anonymous Mrs. WIf May 25, 2015 1:00 PM  

I wouldn't take the deal. Control over the total IP is more important to me.

Blogger VD May 25, 2015 1:01 PM  

The point I'm trying to make is: I wish you authors would realize that a war over some awards which, speaking frankly, are totally insignificant except to a /very/ small group of in-bred narcissists is doing absolutely nothing productive.

That's a very ineffective argument to make to a lifelong fan of Umberto Eco, the semioticist. The fact that they are insignificant in a practical sense does not mean they are insignificant in a symbolic sense. And that is why the SJWs are so outraged by the Puppies offensive.

Anonymous Mrs. Wif May 25, 2015 1:20 PM  

Separate from that, the majority of the rants I see around and about are from SJWs. They're the ones spending time ranting instead of manuscripting. An example familiar to all here is the Locke Lamora guy (spacing on the name), who basically stopped writing for pay to SJW crusade. Wonder how that's working out for him.

Anonymous sigmaorgamma? May 25, 2015 1:30 PM  

This is such a passive aggressive post.

Blogger JD Rhoades May 25, 2015 1:36 PM  

Oh, my, this is priceless. So many sour grapes.

Blogger Student in Blue May 25, 2015 1:48 PM  

It only reads as passive aggressive if you're sensitive to those kinds of things.

I.e., a sensitive flower who's probably passive aggressive themself.

Blogger Michael Maier May 25, 2015 1:56 PM  

"It's a conservative move, but not one that I would criticize him for making. "

That's sour grapes?

Anonymous Steve May 25, 2015 1:58 PM  

Josh - At least 90% of the folks here would probably take this sort of deal if offered it.

Hmmm. Dunno. Depends what you mean. I dabble in writing myself as a hobby but haven't put anything out there yet. Hard to find the time with a full time job and small children. If Tor offered me $340k a year to quit my job and write 13 novels? That would be tempting but it's not a huge increase on what I currently earn, in a career where I can reasonably expect to still be gainfully employed and earning more in 10 years. It'd pay the mortgage off early though, so maybe. Depending on the small print.

If I was an established midlist author like Scalzi, possibly worried that I'd already peaked (certainly creatively, and commercially, Lock In doesn't seem to have been a huge success)? Probably. Seems like a good deal for him.

If I was a Hugh Howey or a Jim Butcher or a Larry Correia, who has already carved out significant success for himself and was confident of his future prospects? No. I'd keep on doing my thing.

If I was an up-and-comer starting to get some serious traction, like a Marko Kloos or Andy Weir? Hell, no. I'd be looking at better deals and hoping to make Stephen King or Michael Crichton money, not John Scalzi money. The odds are long in that situation, of course, but you have to think big to earn big. If you're a reasonably young man with confidence in your abilities, why settle for comfortable upper middle class earnings when you have a chance of striking ot rich?

$3.4 million sounds like a lot of money, and of course it is. But over a decade, for 13 novels, with caveats and sales targets and get-out-clauses we don't know about? It'd be tempting to a lot of folks, but I don't know if it's sign-your-life-away money.

Blogger Michael Maier May 25, 2015 1:58 PM  

Were I an unproven author, I'd take this deal.

If I had faith in my future productivity AND a hunch my work would be received by the public, I'd go for unguaranteed loot. (See the bottom of this web page. Good doesn't mean successful. And successful doesn't mean good.)

Blogger Dexter May 25, 2015 2:06 PM  

If I was a Hugh Howey or a Jim Butcher or a Larry Correia, who has already carved out significant success for himself and was confident of his future prospects? No. I'd keep on doing my thing.

Correia recently said he had contracts for something like ten or fifteen novels. Even if he's not getting that Scalzi kind of money, he can write fast enough that the subsequent novels will do even better.

Blogger Josh May 25, 2015 2:23 PM  

Anyone know if this list is accurate?

Blogger Markku May 25, 2015 2:29 PM  

They were clearly eagerly sitting on the Sour Grapes rejoinder, thinking Vox would respond that way. And when he didn't, they didn't have anything else, so they just decided to run with it anyway.

Anonymous Steve May 25, 2015 2:42 PM  

Dexter - I didn't know that.

Even if he's not getting that Scalzi kind of money, he can write fast enough that the subsequent novels will do even better.

Different career trajectories, too.

Old Man's War was a solid four-and-a-half star novel in my view. Very enjoyable and a welcome callback to golden age science fiction.

The Ghost Brigades had some great moments, but wasn't an improvement on the previous book.

The Last Colony was just bloody tedious. Because I'm an incurable optimist, I read The Human Division. I wish I hadn't.

I don't want to repeat myself on the subject of how disappointing Redshirts was.

"Hack" might be too unkind a word to describe Scalzi, but he certainly hasn't lived up to his early promise. I'm a "grow or die" sort of chap, always looking to top whatever I did last year, so I'd be bummed out by that if I were him. Quite probably he's happy with how things have turned out though. Different strokes.

Correia kicked off his Monster Hunter series with a decent but uneven book. I didn't like it as much as Old Man's War, but it was good enough to get me to buy the sequels. I'm glad I did. They just keep getting better. A man who can write characters like Earl Harbinger and Agent Franks, give them awesome backstories AND pathos AND balls-to-the-wall thrill-ride action scenes is the sort of author who gets put on my "shut up and take my money!" list.

Then he dropped the Grimnoir cycle on us. I was a bit leery of the premise at first. By the end of the first chapter of Hard Magic, I was a zealous convert to the fascinating new universe he created.

And they also got better with each new story. Warbound is quite simply the finest thing he's ever written. Any author would be proud to tell a story like that.

TL;DR - Correia is the real thing. A master storyteller in his pomp and prime, with plenty left in the tank. Scalzi is the Nickelback of science fiction. Worthy of whatever commercial success he achieves, but will never be respected.

Blogger JartStar May 25, 2015 2:43 PM  

I'd expect him to make double that amount over the next 10 years. He can get books optioned into shows, he gets paid for going to the cons, and I'd be amazed if he couldn't write smaller independent works and comics, and maybe his next game will be successful.

Given his conservative spending he'll likely have a few millions invested in less than a decade.

Blogger aut0x3ematthew May 25, 2015 3:20 PM  

"Given his conservative spending he'll likely have a few millions invested in less than a decade."

But will it make King Haggard happy?

Anonymous Trimegistus May 25, 2015 3:32 PM  

I suspect one reason Tor is banking on John is precisely because they can be sure he will never, ever say that "wrong word" and get on the bad side of the SJW twitter mobs. He is, apparently, literally incapable of holding beliefs which are not currently fashionable.

And, yes, Tom beat me to it: expect lots of SJWs gloating because a white guy got money.

Blogger rcocean May 25, 2015 3:59 PM  

"Every hour spent producing rants is an hour that could have been spent producing manuscripts. The rants will be ignored by 99%+ of the book-buying people and will disappear; the manuscripts will live on."

Yes, because authors can't eat, drink, travel, watch TV, or do anything - even rant - and write Fiction at the same time. /Sarcasm off/.

But thanks for the concern. Have you expressed your concern to Scalzi? I'm sure he'll be quite thankful for it.

Blogger bob k. mando May 25, 2015 4:01 PM  

Josh May 25, 2015 2:23 PM
Anyone know if this list is accurate?


i'm willing to agree that she's using extremely conservative numbers. for instance, CJ Cherryh isn't on that at all and her stuff was a not insignificant section of the SF shelf for decades.

hell, #162 Dave Duncan ( whom i also like, his one SF novel is seriously under rated, he's been self-pubbing for years now ) is on the list but Cherryh is not? absurd.

the inability to get anything resembling 'accurate' numbers ( many authors are noted not to have any verifiable sales figures since 2008 or earlier ) renders this not much better than an exercise in mental masturbation.


Anonymous Shut up rabbit May 25, 2015 4:37 PM  

So the warren is going all in when everyone has already seen their cards and knows they are bluffing. Glad I'm not invested in Tor, they've just written off ten years of profit to try to prove a point.

Anonymous Shut up rabbit May 25, 2015 4:47 PM  

...and the fact he's become the richest SJW conman of the new century is somehow a victory to these fools? Wake me up when the Seventh Seal is broken and we can start to do something useful.

I almost admire these con men like him and Snarkeesian for the shameless extent to which they are prepared to rip off and abuse their supposed allies - if it wasn't so fundamentally wicked. Thank god its not my money or the money of all the normal people I know that they are after. Come to think of it, its hilarious: the "ideologically pure" being so ripped off by the snakes pretending to be like them while they rage against people like Vox and the Ilk.

Blogger Dexter May 25, 2015 5:13 PM  

He's not even close to the richest SJW conman of the new century. Clinton and Obama are way ahead, among others.

Blogger Harsh May 25, 2015 5:14 PM  

Scalzi is the Nickelback of science fiction.

I wish I had said that.

Anonymous Minion #0172 May 25, 2015 7:24 PM  

In related news, on Monday Krissy Scalzi received a speeding ticket while on her way to look up Ohio's divorce asset division laws at the local law library.

Blogger Daveon May 25, 2015 8:45 PM  

I'll take a stab at the question about why he doesn't much mention page views...

Because it's 2015 and in a modern mixed social media world it doesn't matter all that much?

You're very welcome.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar May 25, 2015 8:47 PM  

I don't know why Vox keeps talking about this Scalzi guy? Has anyone ever heard of him? Still I only pay attention to one Dinosaur in the media, that old favorite Japanese Radioactive Dinosaur GODZILLA!
I find it hard to believe that anyone would pay money to lampoon Star Trek. Has anyone under the age of thirty heard about Star Trek, besides the awful JJ Abrams LOST in Space version? That's like making a line of Romance novellas for illiterate fat black girls called Diabetic Glucose free Lactose Intolerant Hook ups!
Tor books is still in business? I'm on Amazon and I haven't seen anything with that imprint lately. I might be able to find some Tor imprint Heinlein Novels from the 1970s on eBay though.
I see this kerfuffle with some plastic award show at a Sci-Fi Convention is going well. I suppose if they had some hot girls in Cosplay costumes in it I might even care someday. Still to me the Oscar is just a Brass Dildo for gays and lesbians whose partners can't fill their backdoors, so maybe I'm not up on these fake award things.
I hope the publishing business recovers though, because with Race Riots in the forecast for Summer, we need brick and mortar bookstores to go to for safety. Those Public Libraries have just been too diverse since they put in computers to download porn and rap videos you know. Those bookstores are safer than Cheyenne Mountain when it comes to Race Riots. Books are like Garlic and Crucifixes are to Vampires when it comes to diversity.

Anonymous Dr. J May 25, 2015 8:59 PM  

Wouldn't be surprised if Scalzi veers rightward in his politics after he files his 1040 next year. When he starts making that significant income, and he sees what a big bite the federales take out of his $1M advance - well, it can be a real eye-opener, even for someone on the lowest difficulty setting.

I doubt professional writers have all that many deductions, after all.

Anonymous Quartermaster May 25, 2015 9:49 PM  

It is very unlikely he is at all prepared for what the IRS is going to do to him. He might be idiotic enough not feel like he's being sodomized, but I doubt even he is that brain dead.

By the hoary old saw, "A Conservative is just a liberal that's been mugged," will certainly be fulfilled in him. He's not just going to be mugged, however, they're going to bend him over with any sort of lube to soften the blow.

Anonymous Quartermaster May 25, 2015 9:50 PM  

That should be "without" any sort of lube.

Anonymous Jack Amok May 25, 2015 10:26 PM  

I have the sense that at least 50% of the sort here wouldn't want to leave that much money on the table.

I'm not entirely sure he's leaving all that much on the table. I might be inclined to take this contract if I was in his position, depending on a few things.

1) I assume the $3.4M is just the advances and that royalties aren't capped, so if one of the books broke out of the mid-list and really hit, he'd still get additional royalties. Not as good as if he was self-publishing, but see #3

2) Scalzi may be enthusiastic about his Movie/TV possibilities, and probably figures the guys with the really big lawns are in Hollywood. Getting solid six-figures as a base that also gives him 13 shots at a picture deal ain't nothing to sneeze at.

3) As good as he is at self-promotion, you'd think Scalzi would be a natural for self-publishing, but he may figure he has tied himself tightly enough to traditional publishing that if he went indie/self, he would have to burn all his bridges and start from scratch. That would probably cut into his Hollywood promotion efforts.

Blogger Feather Blade May 26, 2015 1:13 AM  

Mr. Scalzi said he hoped books like “Lock In” could draw more readers toward science fiction, since many, he said, are still “gun-shy” about the genre.

Readers are "gun-shy" about science fiction? But... but what does he mean? Science fiction has been the leading genre in the exploration of cutting edge race and gender topics for years now? How could reader possibly be gun-shy about books that embrace goodthink so thoroughly?

/sarc,notsarc

Blogger Bogey May 26, 2015 5:55 AM  

With the popularity of the young adult novels and so many of them being turned into movies I see the angle here. Still, the way Scalzi talks himself up I assumed that he already had that much in the bank and more.

Blogger Joshua Dyal May 26, 2015 8:46 AM  

If I was an established midlist author like Scalzi, possibly worried that I'd already peaked (certainly creatively, and commercially, Lock In doesn't seem to have been a huge success)? Probably. Seems like a good deal for him.

My thought exactly. If he's seen declining sales on each new novel since OMW, which seems reasonable although I can't back that up, and if Lock In in particular had a disappointing performance, which also seems reasonable, although there's only somewhat indirect and fuzzy data to back that up based on Amazon, then this is a great deal. A truly secure author on a rising trajectory; someone like Correia, for instance, would be much better off taking more risks and trusting on his bankability. But for someone who's afraid that the iron isn't as hot as it used to be and its only going to get cooler, this is a great deal. Plus, it frees him up from worrying about paying the bills, and lets him chase his TV dreams, if that's what he wants to do.

Plus; I presume his wife has a professional grade salary and benefits which apply to the family; high five figures if not six figures. And he's only got what; one or two kids? He's doing just fine. Living the American Dream, or at least whatever odd reflection of such that SJWs concoct for themselves.

Blogger Zaklog the Great May 26, 2015 10:29 AM  

Why do you think Sanderson has peaked? I've read quite a few of his books and they are all fantastic. I haven't noticed anything like a decline in quality in his most recent, either.

Blogger Banshee May 26, 2015 10:30 AM  

The major advantage to this deal is whatever money Scalzi gets upfront. Since it is highly likely that many of the Big Five will go bankrupt or be sold to weird investor conglomerates within ten years, he is getting a big payment right now that he can invest, right now.

If Tor ends up disappearing within ten years and taking all his existing book rights with it (as bankrupt publishers often do), or if the contracts to his books get sold to bankruptcy creditors who don't have to honor existing book contracts but still have all the publisher's publishing rights (as often happens), Scalzi still has a big chunk of money and diversified investments. (God willing and the crick don't rise.)

OTOH, he could find himself writing books for bankruptcy creditors who aren't bound to pay him anything, which would be annoying.

OpenID suburbanbanshee May 26, 2015 10:39 AM  

Forgot to mention re: co-authors -- If Scalzi gets tired and wants to use a co-author or a ghost writer, he doesn't have to credit that person at all, if he can persuade the person into signing a work-for-hire contract.

That's how James Patterson puts out all those books these days; he has a stable or factory of young writers working under his name. Very similar to the Stratemeyer Syndicate that put out all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books under a house name.

Blogger Marissa May 26, 2015 10:47 AM  

Scalzi is the Nickelback of science fiction.

And you thought "hack" was too unkind?!

Anonymous Jake May 26, 2015 10:48 AM  

How much of that is Scalzi giving to charity?

My guess? Something south of Joe Biden.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 26, 2015 3:18 PM  

Scalzi is the Nickelback of science fiction.

From the Rifftrax treatment of Fantastic Four:

Mike: It's just not a superhero movie until you hear the first Nickelback song.
Kevin: That's true, Mike, but Nickelback is a different band.
Mike: Wait, Nickelback is an actual band? All these years I thought it was just a derogatory term for "terrible band."

Anonymous Bill May 26, 2015 4:40 PM  

If a good author like Scalzi can make lots more money self-publishing than going through a publishing house, what does that say about the value of using Castalia?

Blogger VD May 26, 2015 7:52 PM  

If a good author like Scalzi can make lots more money self-publishing than going through a publishing house, what does that say about the value of using Castalia?

Nothing. Castalia pays much higher royalty rates than other publishing houses.

Blogger The Overgrown Hobbit May 27, 2015 2:17 AM  

The one aspect VD hasn't considered in this deal is the YA market. Tor has been the best SF house at breaking into the field, and continues to (effectively) court YA librarians, who play an outsize role in it. When it comes to YA Sanderson is just getting started: his Steelheart is a huge success. Guess what most of the US libraries are using for their summer reading theme? Super-heroes. Guess whose book is getting promoted to young teens across the US.

Which author's are making money hand over fist? Which trad publishing markets aren't shrinking: YA.


There's a reason so many adult writers are trying to break into the YA market and it has zip to do with their respect for my clientele or children's / teen lit. Very shortly the SJWs entryists will spoil it for everyone (a screed for another day) but until then Tor is reasonably banking that Scalzi can replicate the sucess of "Zoe's Tale" and even if he can't, their goodwill with the library market will carry them through at least 2-3 books.

Blogger Cail Corishev May 27, 2015 6:27 AM  

Guess what most of the US libraries are using for their summer reading theme? Super-heroes.

Yes, and gag. The teens I know seem to spend all their time thinking about X-Men. I guess there are less wholesome things they could be into, but it just seems so thin. While those stories have some deeper themes, they don't seem aware of those at all. They just go on and on about who could beat whom in a fight -- which always seems to come down to this one girl who can destroy the entire universe (I've only seen the first movie, so I don't get that).

It's like if my generation had spent all its time discussing whether X-Wings were better than TIE-fighters, without ever noticing the themes of honor and so on.

It seems like superheroes are now being presented in a way that's especially mindless, entirely focused on CGI movie action and a flowchart of powers, with very little emphasis on story or character. For instance, I recently saw the modern Spiderman movie (thanks to Rifftrax), and the theme of his new power corrupting him is in there, but blink and you'll miss it, because it's brushed aside quickly to get back to the angsty teen romance and endless action scenes. To me, even as a kid, the Hulk was about his torment over the loss of control and being outcast. To these kids, the Hulk is all about how much he can lift and whether he could beat up Wolverine.

Anonymous Anonymous May 27, 2015 8:27 PM  

Boo fucking hoo Vox, you twat

Blogger God Emperor Lionel Lauer May 30, 2015 12:12 PM  

VD, you seem to be under the impression that the $3.4M is a total payment, rather than just a complicated advance. That figure is the minimum he can get from this deal, not the maximum. Once he makes back the advance, any further sales are gravy.

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