Tag Archives: publishing

Oh, that’s bad news for sci fi publishing

So there are some culture wars going on in the world of sci fi book publishing, and by culture wars, I mean that a neo-fascist with influence has openly declared war on feminists and dragged all kinds of people from all ideological stripes into it. What happened yesterday is all-around bad news for readers and writers of sci fi.

Some context: we’re in the throes of a controversy over Hugo ballot nominations. A group of conservatives who have been complaining about anti-conservative bias in sci fi publishing have been putting together slates of mostly conservative authors. They called it the “Sad Puppy” slate. For the first two years, it included nominations in several categories. This year, though, it included so many nominations in so many categories that it almost entirely pushed out non-Puppy nominations.

There have been many accusations and a lot of outrage, but this wasn’t necessarily the intent of the Sad Puppies. The Puppy nominations swept the ballot in part because Vox Day, owner of the new publisher Castalia House, put out his own Rabid Puppies slate the very next day, which had considerable overlap with the Sad Puppies slate, and then made a call out to Gamergaters to pay the thirty bucks or so to make nominations. (As it turns out, only the Sad Puppies nominations that were also on the Rabid Puppies slate made it onto the final ballot.) If you give Sad Puppies the benefit of the doubt, their movement was co-opted by Day.

As part of the general atmosphere of accusations and outrage, an editor at Tor books made a Facebook comment that was broadly taken to slander all Puppy supporters and authors. Ordinarily, it would have gone unremarked and unnoticed by almost everybody and dropped out of the Facebook feed, as such things do . . .

. . . except that Day saw fit to take a screen capture and release it several weeks later, thereby re-igniting the firestorm.

To make a long story short, Tor — which publishes a wide variety of conservative and other works — is now facing a boycott. It was called by Day, and also by others. (To his credit, Larry Correia, the original Sad Puppies slate-maker, has asked people not to boycott Tor. Thank you for that.)

Day went farther than this. He wrote:

. . . if Ms. Gallo and Mr. Nielsen Hayden are still employed by Tor Books in 2016, I will not nominate any books published by Tor Books for any awards. . . . I am the leader of the Rabid Puppies, I do speak for them, and I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever that they will follow my lead in this regard. I am not concerned about whether the boycott is “successful” or not. The simple fact is that if Macmillan is at all interested in the long-term success of Tor Books, it will jettison both Ms Gallo and Mr. Nielsen Hayden . . .

In chess terms, this is what would be called a “fork.” If Gallo and Hayden are fired, many progressives will be angry and stop buying Tor books. On the other hand, if Gallo and Hayden are not fired, Tor also faces a boycott, plus a threat to take away Hugo nominations — which is a credible one, since Day swept the nominations this year.

Either way, Tor’s hurt, and who loses out? The readers.

Meanwhile, who benefits? Vox Day, who openly spouts hate speech of every flavor, and the publishing house he runs. That’s creepy.

The other bad news? Day is likely to keep on with his war, distracting authors fro the important job of writing and readers from the important job of reading.

Anyhow, I went ahead and ordered a book from Tor, The Goblin Emporer by Katherine Addison. New author, hope I like her!

Further reading

For a firsthand look at Vox Day’s most extreme views, without the noxiousness of going to his blog, try the google search:

“Vox Day” site:http://wehuntedthemammoth.com/

For more on the Tor boycott, including who supports it and who doesn’t, visit “The Hammer of Tor 6/19

For more on the overlap between the Sad and Rabid Puppy slates, visit this post from the ComixMix website.

Why am I self-publishing?

I own a license plate frame that says, “A Woman’s Place Is My Bookstore.” Come to think of it, I ought to put it on my car. It’s not just a lovely sentiment — it’s also advertising for a bookstore that used to exist in the early 1990s, before chains like Barnes and Noble put a lot of independent bookstores out of business. A Woman’s Place. That bookstore supported me as a fledgling writer. I gave a reading there, and I took a workshop with Pam Houston there that led to a wonderful writing group. But now it’s gone, as is the Red and Black Bookstore in Seattle — quite a loss.

At the same time as bookstores were consolidating, publishing houses were also consolidating. It became harder and harder to publish midlist books (books that make money but aren’t bestsellers). And books that were published went quickly to the remainder table, because they were profitable, but not profitable enough.

At the same time, the growth of MFA programs put out more and more and more accomplished writers, all of whom were submitting stories to literary magazines and book publishers.

What did all this mean? As my writing became better and better, the likelihood of publishing a collection of short stories with a traditional publisher moved farther and farther away. The rules had changed. And my strategy for getting published ought also have changed.

Here was the strategy in the early 1990s: you submit stories to literary magazines. Once you have enough, you seek out an agent or an editor and attempt to get your collection published. But by the beginning of this century, when I finally had a publishable-quality collection of short stories, that strategy was ultimately doomed.

So to me, the question is not, “Should I self-publish?” The question is now, “Why did I wait so frickin long?”

I re-evaluated everything when I sent my collection to an agent and she said, “Yes, it’s good enough to publish. But I can’t sell it until you’ve sold a story to either the New Yorker, Harpers, or the Atlantic Quarterly.” And then I sent a story to the New Yorker, and I got a note back saying that despite its evident merit, it wasn’t the kind of thing they published. Earlier in my writing career, I would have been ecstatic, because a handwritten rejection note from the New Yorker meant that you were getting somewhere! But I realized then that I simply wouldn’t get anywhere with the kind of writing I did.

And then the publishing industry changed again. Publishing houses started paying authors less and less, and Amazon made it possible for people to make money self-publishing, and now, many respected authors are self-publishing on Amazon. So I went for it.

Thank you, Ariel Gore and your book How to Be a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead!!!!

I realized a couple important things when I made the decision to self-publish. I changed my book title, my “pitch,” and even the kind of stories that were in the collection. I was no longer trying to please a publisher; I was trying to please a reader. And I know what a reader is like — after all, I am one! All I had to do was make a book that someone like me would be interested in reading.

What if nobody likes it? What if nobody buys it? That’s where my friend Brandon came in. “I want to read it,” he said. “I’ll buy it.”

One reader. Just one reader. It’s worth doing.