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Saturday, August 06, 2016

Rod Walker, Castalia author

I have been inexcusably remiss in failing to put Rod Walker's site on the list of Castalia Author's on the right sidebar. He not only has a blog, but it's an interesting one, complete with links to reviews of his first book with Castalia as well as his reviews of other books, such as Peter Grant's Western, Brings the Lightning.
Rod Walker says he enjoyed working with Castalia House to bring out MUTINY IN SPACE, and found it an excellent experience in all respects. In previous careers, RW dealt with several traditional publishers and a few small presses, and never found it an enjoyable experience, a marked contrast to his adventure with Castalia House. For all his low opinion of traditional publishers, RW thinks it is better to classify Castalia House as a “nontraditional” publisher. The Internet has made traditional publishing obsolete as a mode of organization, just as the rise of mass industry made the craft guild system obsolete as a method of economic production....

So the way forward for publishers, in RW’s opinion, is to abandon the gatekeeper function and instead become “nontraditional” publishers – that is, curators who seek out specific kinds of excellence. RW thinks that John C. Wright’s books SOMEWHITHER and IRON CHAMBER OF MEMORY are superb fantasy novels, and in all probability these books would never have been published without Castalia, just as Jerry Pournelle’s THERE WILL BE WAR series would never have been revived.
I'm delighted to hear that Rod enjoyed working with us, as we're very pleased to be working with him. He is one of the most professional authors in the industry, delivering what must be some of the cleanest manuscripts delivered anywhere. He's not only professional, he's prolific, as we'll be publishing two more of his novels before the end of the year, Alien Game, which is a second Heinlein-style SF juvenile, and an as-yet-untitled fantasy novel set in Minaria, the world of Divine Right.

If you haven't read his first SF juvenile, Mutiny in Space, you really should do so, as it is a fast-paced, old-school, true-Blue SF novel.

One of the things Castalia is building is a community of readers and writers, just as DevGame is the foundation for a community of gamers and game developers. As both the first DevGame game, Elveteka, and Rod's third book with us shows, there is room for a considerable amount of overlap and cross-pollination; a DevGame team is already actively developing the computer wargame version of Divine Right and Castalia will be publishing the print edition of a Divine Right RPG book that is in the very early stages of development. This community-building is important, for as Dave Freer notes at the Mad Genius Club, the publishing world is rapidly changing.
The problem is our whole genre, all of publishing (both indy and traditional) and the business of writing are moving targets. Even the audience is moving and changing. And they’re not moving predictably, but like a cheetah full of amphetamine, LSD and blindfolded too.

Which is all rough on the painstaking ‘stalker’ – the author trying to set themselves up for the ‘kill’. It’s certainly resulted in some very wild shooting – some innocent bystanders hit, lots of prey (AKA sales) disappeared into the scrub never to be seen again. I mean, once upon a time you simply had to kiss up to the right editors, loudly espouse the correct SJW cause de jour and you were in every B&N from here to Timbuktu, and on NYT bestseller list… and life was sweet. Now you can do all that, impeccably, win a Nebula and a Hugo, and be in the surviving book-stores… and still be a sales failure. Readers are being considerably more difficult and relying on Amazon, are more price aware, and more inclined to sample on KU.... I think looking toward writer’s co-ops would be smart.
KU is the real game-changer now, because the traditional publishers can't play there. But we can, and last month, one of our better-selling books sold more via KU than through all the other means and editions combined. It doesn't make sense for us to sell all our books that way, as we've experimented and some books do great while others don't, but KU editions are now every bit as important in their own right as paperback, hardcover, or audiobook editions.

As for coops and communities, we're not the only ones who have noticed that building communities is vital for authors these days:
Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities. Everyone in the potential audiences for a book already knows of hundreds of interesting and useful books to read but has little time to read any. Therefore people are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities.
This is why it is important for VP and Castalia to continue to grow - blog traffic looks likely to pass 2.6 million this month - and why it is equally important that Castalia does not grow at the price of sacrificing its level of quality. We only got one book out last month, but this month we expect to publish books by THREE new members of our writer's community - Fenris Wulf, Ivan Throne, and Nick Cole - in addition to a first novel in a new series by one of our leading members, which is to say Mr. John C. Wright. Not all of these books will be for everyone, but all of them will be recognizably Castalia House books in their own way. We've also signed three new authors about whom we are very excited, but who shall remain anonymous for the present.

It is because this community is growing that it is increasingly under assault from trolls, self-seekers, and ideological missionaries. And it is because this community is important, and because you, the reader, are important, that the moderators and I are so ruthless in purging those who are attempting to disrupt and destroy it.

How important is it? We can quantify that. On an annual basis, the average Castalia book sells more than 10 times the number of copies of the average book. I expect that within five years, that ratio will be 100 to 1.

UPDATE: I didn't look at the comments the first time around. Dave also had some nice things to say about Castalia there.
I seriously believe Castalia is merely one of the first of the new generation publishers. Say what you like about Vox Day – he pays 50%, does the legwork AND does the marketing. And he really does market. 50% of $20K (and no hassles and costs) is worth a lot more than 70% of $3K and hassles, costs. But at 17.5% of most of the Trad houses (apples to apples comparison) where they do the legwork, but scanty marketing but bump the price right up (so you might get $5K sales) well – it’s a no-brainer, really. Which is why I worry so much that so many people still choose that option.
We admittedly could do a lot better on the marketing. (And yes, marketing volunteers, I'm going to try to contact you this weekend. I've genuinely been so busy that I haven't had time to even respond to the volunteers who are actively trying to help out.) But the quadpartite community of VP, AG, DG, and CH, in combination with our author's networks, does have a marketing multiplier effect. And once a few of the bigger names start working with us - and they will - that's when things are going to seriously take off.

UPDATE: One more note for established writers at other publishers who might be interested in talking to us about working together in the future. We not only pay much higher royalties much earlier than the traditional publishers do, this year, we are already paying all of our authors out for Q1 and Q2 2016, even though we haven't been paid for June yet. I'm finishing the various reports this weekend. When we say our authors come first, we really mean it.

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43 Comments:

Blogger Erynne August 06, 2016 8:07 AM  

That point about author's and publisher's communities is accurate to my description. A brief anecdote: I read anywhere from 60-100 books a year, and a good portion of them are what I've seen show up at VD (most are books I already own, or classics, that I don't want sitting on my shelf forever unread), and now I'm getting into CH authors. Because of VD's talk with Stefan, I read Ctrl-Alt-Revolt, which cracked me up more than any other book I've read, probably just as much or more than The Missionaries. Now I mention Ctrl-Alt-Revolt because when I bought The Missionaries I also saw a link to Ctrl-Alt-Revolt, and because I had seen its cover here on VD, and the book was only a dollar, I bought it as well and shelved it. It probably would have remained shelved for months, and then years had I not heard VD blurb it on Stefan's show, and I'm glad he did because it was highly enjoyable.

Blogger Mr.MantraMan August 06, 2016 8:47 AM  

Really enjoyed MIS, escapist, take me back in time reading. Took me back to about 12 years old reading Jim Corbett's adventurous life in some ways.

Blogger David The Good August 06, 2016 8:58 AM  

"Most books today are selling only to the authors’ and publishers’ communities. Everyone in the potential audiences for a book already knows of hundreds of interesting and useful books to read but has little time to read any. Therefore people are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books, and chasing after such a mirage is usually far less effective than connecting with one’s communities."

Very true. It took me three years of building community before I had a large enough network where I felt I could release a book and expect a moderate level of success.

Books generally don't sell themselves. As an author, you need to talk with everyone, show up places, support other writers and push push push or you're going to be sitting down in the 1,000,000 ranks on Amazon.

Blogger Brian Niemeier August 06, 2016 8:59 AM  

Aspiring and established authors take note. Vox, Rod, and Dave are dispensing wisdom.

The Big Five and their media friends lure authors with promises of express tickets to the A List.

But they don't have that kind of pull anymore. B&N lost $300m last year. When the Big 5's paper distribution monopoly goes, the last of their usefulness goes with it.

VD, Rod, and Dave are right. The name of the game is now tribe-building or "microcelebrity" as Jeff Duntemann calls it.

We've seen tradpub's last Stephen King/J.K. Rowling style mega-bestseller. But if you can gather a tribe of 1000 hardcore fans who will show up to buy everything you publish, releasing $50 worth of material per year will get you onto the new version of the midlist.

Anonymous Steve August 06, 2016 9:18 AM  

I initially Spocked an eyebrow at the "new Heinlein" buzz, but MUTINY IN SPACE really is a cracking read in the tradition of The Dean's finest juvies.

It's a fun, engrossing tale for anybody who likes Golden Age sci-fi, and I can't wait for his next book.

Blogger Dave August 06, 2016 9:38 AM  

Fascinating post. Couple of questions:
1) Can we expect more from Owen Stanley?

2) What is Elveteka and how can I get it?


(not that Dave, btw)

Blogger VD August 06, 2016 9:47 AM  

Can we expect more from Owen Stanley?

Hard to say. I am encouraging him to write another novel, but we'll have to wait and see. Not any time soon, at any rate. However, we have an absolutely outrageous literary satire coming out later this month, Loki's Child from Fenris Wulf, and one that may prove even more controversial from another author.

What is Elveteka and how can I get it?

Elveteka is a modern update of Karateka. It will be out in 4-6 weeks on Addicting Games. It's a very good little game.

Anonymous Steve August 06, 2016 9:49 AM  

VD, Rod, and Dave are right. The name of the game is now tribe-building or "microcelebrity" as Jeff Duntemann calls it.

I haven't bought a physical book since my wife got me a Kindle a couple of years ago. Now I read more than ever.

KU is an all-you-can-eat buffet, and as with any buffet there's a lot of cheap filler, but if you know what you're looking for there's plenty of choice meats too.

As a reader, I don't care about publishers. I follow authors I like, and most of those guys are either self-published or with smaller outfits such as CH and Baen. The days of the publishing house and retail gatekeepers are over.

The big publishers look like the record companies 10-15 years ago, still trying to gouge you for overpriced CD's even though the internet and new devices have made their business model obsolete.

Except it's worse than that. The record companies had stars like Metallica and David Bowie to sell. BigPub is pushing turds like gender neutral skiffy, rolling it in Hugo glitter, and wondering why ever fewer customers want to buy.

Your note about tribe building is spot on. If Vox Day or Larry Correia recommend a book, I'll probably buy it because those chaps have never steered me wrong before. People buy from people, as they say in the sales profession. Some faceless big publishing house paying for publicity has nowhere near the same impact on my buying habits as a trusted advisor, and I suspect most readers now feel the same.

Blogger Bard August 06, 2016 10:03 AM  

So true. Online communities allow you to meet your 3 best friends from high school from every high school across the west. It will grow and thrive. I am very proud of all you have accomplished Vox.

Blogger John Williams August 06, 2016 10:10 AM  

Fenris for the win (butt who is Chuck Tingle!)!

I've had friends tell me Divine Right was the best game they ever played. Can't wait for the book & game.

Anonymous Be Not Afraid August 06, 2016 10:13 AM  

Mutiny in Space was a really fun read. I haven't yet bought a CH book that's disappointed. I should probably just start working through the catalog.

Blogger Dave August 06, 2016 10:17 AM  

Loki's Child from Fenris Wulf is outstanding; that was one of CH's earlier bonus offers. I had assumed it was something a member of the Ilk had thrown together, but upon further inspection found the link to Wulf's music studio in CA.

Anonymous SixtusVIth August 06, 2016 10:22 AM  

VD wrote:However, we have an absolutely outrageous literary satire coming out later this month, Loki's Child from Fenris Wulf,

AT
LAST

I half suspected he was with CH when he didn't answer my inquiry email in June. Now I know.

I promise to buy, read, and review. Will it be available at Amazon as well as the CH website?

Blogger VD August 06, 2016 10:24 AM  

Mutiny in Space was a really fun read. I haven't yet bought a CH book that's disappointed. I should probably just start working through the catalog.

That is the level of trust we very much want to establish and maintain with our readers.

Loki's Child from Fenris Wulf is outstanding

More people are going to think that I wrote that, and quite reasonably too, than think I am Chuck Tingle. It is outstanding, and insane, and awesome, and offensive. It strongly reminds me of Robert Anton Wilson's fiction.

Blogger JohnW August 06, 2016 11:03 AM  

I want to know when I'll see a Castalia ARC show up in one of Scalzi's "New Books and ARCs" posts.

Blogger Brian Niemeier August 06, 2016 11:24 AM  

@ Steve:

"The big publishers look like the record companies 10-15 years ago"

Joe Konrath has pointed out how insane it is that Warner Music or Sony didn't invent the iPod/iTunes. Their complacency and lack of foresight made a computer company the world's #1 music retailer.

Same thing with the Big Five publishers. MacMillan or Simon & Schuster should have invented the eReader and pioneered digital book sales.

Now, thanks to Amazon, nontraditional publishers are eating the Big Five's lunch.

Anonymous Wyrd August 06, 2016 12:08 PM  

Just got around to reading Brings The Lightning earlier this week. Absolutely loved it, particularly since I've never read westerns before. Now reading Gone To Texas Whupped 'em again, Josey!

Anonymous Rawle Nyanzi August 06, 2016 12:08 PM  

The Big Five and their media friends lure authors with promises of express tickets to the A List.

And this is tradpub's bait -- the idea of glamour, of social proof, of your name in lights.

VD, Rod, and Dave are right. The name of the game is now tribe-building or "microcelebrity" as Jeff Duntemann calls it.

Mike Cernovich said the same thing; he called it niches.

We've seen tradpub's last Stephen King/J.K. Rowling style mega-bestseller. But if you can gather a tribe of 1000 hardcore fans who will show up to buy everything you publish, releasing $50 worth of material per year will get you onto the new version of the midlist.

In the new publishing landscape, it seems that only the prolific will last.

Blogger Matthew August 06, 2016 12:55 PM  

Tour guides are replacing gatekeepers.

Blogger lowercaseb August 06, 2016 1:18 PM  

>When we say our authors come first, we really mean it.

I have to say, I have yet to be unsatisfied by a book published by Castalia that I have read, so it really makes me happy to see that you are talking the talk AND walking the walk by taking care of your authors.

If any of them have Patreons like M. Wright, I will be glad to contribute to them also.

Anonymous Lazarus North August 06, 2016 1:49 PM  

I was never overly interested in buying an E-Reader until I discovered Vox Day and Castalia House. I wanted Cuckservative and Van Creveld's Equality, and there were no print editions.

Plus, the price point on CH books is easy to swallow. Mainstream published e-books are a ripoff.

I've gone on to buy more Castalia House books, even though I'm not a big fiction reader. TWBW, Victoria, etc. are fascinating reads.

Anonymous Rawle Nyanzi August 06, 2016 2:06 PM  

I was never overly interested in buying an E-Reader until I discovered Vox Day and Castalia House.

And with modern smartphones, you don't even need that -- just a Kindle app. Then you're good to go!

Blogger Snidely Whiplash August 06, 2016 3:30 PM  

Brian Niemeier wrote:Joe Konrath has pointed out how insane it is that Warner Music or Sony didn't invent the iPod/iTunes. Their complacency and lack of foresight made a computer company the world's #1 music retailer.
Moving to digital distribution would have absolutely wrecked their physical goods model. The lower profit margins and decreased publisher input would have meant huge layoffs and years of financial losses. It's pretty daunting to look at going from a company of 5000 employees and $250M in net profit to 150 employees and $50M in profit.
So you try to use your position to control the market, just like you've been doing anyway for 50 years.
It's just that the levers have gotten disconnected and the market is no longer under your control.

Anonymous SciVo August 06, 2016 3:34 PM  

Wyrd wrote:Just got around to reading Brings The Lightning earlier this week. Absolutely loved it, particularly since I've never read westerns before. Now reading Gone To Texas Whupped 'em again, Josey!

Whoa. Never? You should take a gander at your local public library's Louie L'Amour section sometime. When I was young, I was very lucky that a family friend had a big collection, and I heartily recommend reading at least the highest-rated few.

Louie L'Amour was very prolific and his quality was not uniform, so completism is unnecessary; but between the volume of his output and the awesomeness of his best, he really set the standard. So this goes beyond "if you like this, you would probably also like that"; I can only assume that it would enhance your enjoyment of new westerns to see them in genre context.

Anonymous Steve August 06, 2016 4:27 PM  

Brian - Joe Konrath has pointed out how insane it is that Warner Music or Sony didn't invent the iPod/iTunes. Their complacency and lack of foresight made a computer company the world's #1 music retailer.

Deffo. Though as Snidely points out, its almost impossible for a big successful business to successfully disrupt its own business model, because human nature.

So the suits at Xerox in the 70's were no doubt smart successful businessmen. They just didn't get what those Californian hippie programmers at Xerox PARC were talking about, and if they did it must've horrified them. A paperless office? But we're a copier company!

The IBM boys weren't stupid, they just were trapped by their own success as a hardware business. So why not let Microsoft retain the rights to its OS for those cheap little desktop PC's? They'll never replace big expensive mainframes with juicy service contracts, right?

Microsoft could've owned the internet, but give away browsers, operating systems, and apps for free when we're raking in billions from software licences? You'd have been tossed out the window of the board room at Redmond if you suggested that to them in 1994.

Nokia was the king of mobile phones - the emphasis being on phones - they just didn't understand how disruptive the iPhone was until far too late.

So traditional publishing is following a proud tradition of formerly dominant businesses allowing upstarts to eat their lunch. SJW convergence means the likes of Tor are doubly screwed, because their products suck - when your Big Bet is John Scalzi and most of your other authors only appeal to trannies and blue-haired legbeards, it's time to put on the TITANIC DVD to check out what the future holds.

BTW - NETHEREAL was weird and wonderful.

Blogger Dire Badger August 06, 2016 5:24 PM  

So, Vox, how about you put up a decent link to a marketing page for some of the better fiction, like Say Mutiny in space, set it up to display the cover art in a facebook link, and let those of us who still occasionally tolerate social media link it for you?

That way those of us who are not particularly astute marketers could nonetheless add a little to your advertising network, without having to get your hands dirty playing in Zuckerberg's toilet?

Blogger VD August 06, 2016 5:27 PM  

So, Vox, how about you put up a decent link to a marketing page for some of the better fiction, like Say Mutiny in space, set it up to display the cover art in a facebook link, and let those of us who still occasionally tolerate social media link it for you?

I think we have a Facebook page with nothing on it yet. Once I get the marketing folks going, that would probably be a good idea.

Anonymous Wyrd August 06, 2016 6:08 PM  

@Rawle Nyanzi

Git back to reading Appendix N, ye varmint! Eager to read yer next review!

Anonymous Wyrd August 06, 2016 6:23 PM  

@SciVo

Friend of mine at work yesterday recommended Louie L'Amour after I gave an unexpected lecture on The Outlaw Josey Wales and Gone To Texas. He said his mother had shelves full of his novels. Which ones would you recommend I should start with?

Blogger VD August 06, 2016 6:31 PM  

Which ones would you recommend I should start with?

Fair Blows the Wind.

Blogger Groot August 06, 2016 7:14 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Anonymous LastRedoubt August 06, 2016 7:19 PM  

@Steve

Your note about tribe building is spot on. If Vox Day or Larry Correia recommend a book, I'll probably buy it because those chaps have never steered me wrong before. People buy from people, as they say in the sales profession. Some faceless big publishing house paying for publicity has nowhere near the same impact on my buying habits as a trusted advisor, and I suspect most readers now feel the same.

Amen. I'll give anything Larry or Vox recommends a try, and even if it's not to my taste I can see the quality.

As much as I lov Schlock Mercenary, I've long since ignored his recommendations, and his gushing over Jim Hines, once I tried the goblin books, was the last straw. He can spin a good yarn, and spot technical chops, but taking anything he, McCreepy, or his podcast cohost the Puppinette says seriously?

Blogger Groot August 06, 2016 7:22 PM  

@25. Steve:

For the definitive book on the difficulty of disrupting your own markets, Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma is a very readable book that landed with a big splash.

Anonymous LastRedoubt August 06, 2016 7:30 PM  

@wyrd

I'll second ScVo. My favorites were Comstock Lode and pretty much every Sackett related stories

It's worth noting that some of his stories had a few Fortean touches. Remains of Spanish explorers in unexpected places, a few more dealing with gates to parallel realities (most notably Haunted Mesa, arguably SF told in a western mode), and (fairly often in later written Sackett stories) family members touched with a degree of second sight.

Anonymous LastRedoubt August 06, 2016 7:35 PM  

Vox

Can't comment on MIS - it's in to-read. That said, Missionaries?

Holy crap. Not as laugh-out-loud funny as some found it (though there were some), but far sharper and deadly satire than Milos (and he's a master) but far more subtle and less flamboyant. A knife quietly slid into the guts as he distracts you with more obvious mockery lik a bullfighter waving a cape.

Thank you for helping that see an audience.

Loved it. An utterly fascinating slow motion train wreck.

Anonymous Wyrd August 06, 2016 7:54 PM  

I appreciate the recommendations, y'all. Currently in the midst of Gone To Texas' sequel The Vengeance Trail of Josey Wales. Was enjoying it until I hit the "Northern American and Central American Injuns' Nature-worshipping good! White man and his Jesus-loving bad!" Apache aside. Damn, sounds just like SJW-speak. Didn't expect this since the Gone To Texas has part of Ten-Bears' backstory his leading the Comanche to exterminate a cannibal Injun tribe.

Blogger Were-Puppy August 06, 2016 8:28 PM  

@12 Dave
Loki's Child from Fenris Wulf is outstanding
---

I love that book -

Blogger John Wright August 07, 2016 12:57 AM  

Offtopic: Vox's THE IRRATIONAL ATHEIST is quoted as a footnote in 'The Atheist Who Didn't Exist' by Bannister. Word spreads.

Anonymous PaulR August 07, 2016 1:06 AM  

I like Konrath's take on the big 5. He's got good advice for would be self publishers too.

Anonymous PaulR August 07, 2016 1:19 AM  

Vox, I so appreciate CH. Never had a bad read from there. I can't contribute much to this whole cultural revolution thing, but I can sure send my money to the people who are making things happen. And I'm happy to do it.

Anonymous SciVo August 07, 2016 4:22 AM  

Groot wrote:@25. Steve:

For the definitive book on the difficulty of disrupting your own markets, Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma is a very readable book that landed with a big splash.


Seconded. Here's an excellent 14-page excerpt (PDF) to whet your whistle, with the great analogy of hard drive manufacturers as the fruit flies of the business world.

Blogger Lucas August 07, 2016 6:35 AM  

Fantastic. Its good to see that alternatives to the SJW-infested publishing houses are available. The thing that I wait eagerly, and VD has spoken about it, are the alternatives to Twiiter and FB.

Keep up the good work, Castalia.

Blogger Yvonne Lorenzo August 12, 2016 6:39 PM  

Vox, you should be proud of your contribution to creating an alternative to a previously SJW/Cultural Marxist dominated area of publishing. This is the best way to fight their pernicious influence. As you've written, SJW convergence will come back to haunt them, in addition to the emptiness and plain stupidity of their "core values" or false idols.

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