making books The outside world: internet publishing TV words
by Harry Connolly
Check this out: Amazon is setting up Kindle Worlds, which is a way for people to write fanfic and sell it with the IP creator’s consent. So far they’re only going public with three of the shows (and all three are TV shows) they’ve licensed–GOSSIP GIRL, PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, VAMPIRE DIARIES (yeah, I know the last was a book first)–but obviously there are going to be more.
Some thoughts: First, they’re going with their onerous 65% sales commission, which is understandable, I guess, since they’re paying the owner of the IP as well as themselves. Don’t forget that’s based on the net revenue. Quote: As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of customer sales price
Still, it’s good to see that they’re going to be paying monthly, which is the first of the five big changes Tobias Buckell hopes to see in publishing as a whole.
Second, the books will not be commissioned by Amazon. It’s all spec submissions. You can check out their rough guidelines for the program as a whole and see that they will not be accepting anything with graphic sex or offensive language.
They also won’t accept crossover works, or works that contain a whole bunch of brand names (presumably because they think the writer is getting paid to do so)
Third, they reserve the right to reject work for things like bad ebook formatting and shitty covers.
Yeah, that’s right. The authors are expected to create their own covers for work being published with the consent of Warner Bros. I can’t help but wonder if they’ll turn a blind eye to using actors’ publicity shots.
Fourth, I can’t believe I didn’t see this coming.
So… okay. The way it works is simple: You write (or more likely “have written”) fanfic within a licensed setting out of love for the show. Amazon opens its doors to Kindle Worlds. You create a cover and format an ebook file, then submit it.
At that point, someone at Amazon actually reads it–when they’re explaining that poor customer experience will get a book rejected, they say: “We reserve the right to determine whether content provides a poor customer experience.” I’m going to assume that means they have a reader on staff vetting projects before they’re published, not that they publish everything and take it down later based on reader complaints. Frankly, it’s what I would expect if I were Warner Bros.
If it’s approved, it goes on sale and you start getting the ka-ching (they set the price).
One thing I’m not clear about is whether they acquire all rights to your work on publication or submission. It’s not as though you can sell your GOSSIP GIRL novella somewhere else, but you could certainly change the names around once it’s been rejected for the sexy, and Amazon could make trouble for you if they have your submission in a database somewhere.
As for how I feel about it, honestly I’m conflicted. Some years ago before I was published, I wrote and submitted a story for an open Star Trek anthology. It was a prison story starring that transporter-accident clone of Riker, after he’d been captured by the Dominion and, while I was proud of it at the time and while my rejection was personalized (and quite nice) the damn thing was much too specific to file the serial numbers off.
I think it’s great to open up settings in this way for the fans, and I hope they take advantage. At the same time, writing tie-in novels used to be a way for writers to make a bit of money (and have a bit of fun) between their own projects. With luck, a successful HALO or Star Wars novel would draw in new fans to their original work.
So, does this signal the end of the pro tie-in novel? Probably not entirely, but there is going to be pressure on the market by people willing to write the books (and make their own covers!) on spec.
And for the people publishing their fanfic, it seems like playing small ball. Yes, there will undoubtedly be people who make good money through this program, but I can’t help but think they’d be better off in the long term by filing the serial numbers off and striking out on their own, as in 50 SHADES…
Personally, I don’t have any fanfiction I could even submit. (There was the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN thing I did in 4th grade) because I’m not part of that community, but it does open up other ideas: will authors be allowed to list their own IP with Kindle Worlds, allowing fanfic in their settings be sold online? Personally, I think that would be cool.
So we’re turning fanfic into media tie-in novels.
It’s an exciting time, isn’t it?
 Big surprise, right? Don’t bother pasting that mpreg into Caliber just yet.
 As my theater improv friends put it, the work will have to be “TV clean.”
 “I am Jack’s attempt to publish fanfic with an anti-consumerist message.”
 No way am I looking at it again.
 At the moment, the only IP I have available are my Twenty Palaces series. The first book is only $2.99.
My wife is on the steering committee for the 2013 Seattle Science Festival, which starts on June 6th. This is only the second year they’ve run one, and last year was pretty cool. I took my son to a physics demonstration at the UW (I thought I’d blogged about it but now I can’t find the link) and he loved it.
This year will be even bigger. On June 8th there’s going to be a huge expo at the Seattle Center, and from the 6th to the 11th there will be events happening all over the Puget Sound area, from presentations on becoming a game creator at the Microsoft store to
Anyway, I’ve copy and pasted a note the festival organizers have asked me to share letting folks know briefly about what’s on the schedule and how you can get involved, if you feel so moved.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you and your organization to the second annual Seattle Science Festival. This year, the region’s largest celebration of science will take place June 6-16, 2013 to celebrate the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to our community’s culture and to its continued growth and prosperity. The Seattle Science Festival will consist of the following components:
- Science EXPO Day, Saturday, June 8, will feature exciting, engaging events all day long throughout the grounds of Seattle Center. Over 15,000 students, parents, scientists, educators and other community members are anticipated to take part in this FREE event. Science EXPO Day will showcase over 150 hands-on activities and demonstrations; it will also feature live science performances on the EXPO Day Stage. FREE BUS PARKING IS AVAILABLE ON SCIENCE EXPO DAY! Contact Jordan Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
- Signature Programs, June 6-16, will provide events developed by our program collaborators specifically for the Seattle Science Festival. Signature Programs include behind-the-scenes tours, science adventures, field trip opportunities for classrooms, workshops, screenings of science-themed films, a Cool Jobs Series at the Seattle Public Library on June 9-Computer Science, June 12-Green & Clean Technology, and June 13-Biomedical Science, plus many other events held at venues all over the Puget Sound region.
- Opening Night at the Paramount Theatre, June 6, 8 – 10 PM Beyond Infinity? The Search for Understanding at the Limits of Space and Time. Featuring Brian Greene, Sean Carroll, Adam Frank and the West Coast premiere of Icarus at the Edge of Time, and music by Philip Glass, conducted by Marcus Tsutakawa and performed by the Garfield High School Orchestra. Avoid service charges by purchasing tickets IN PERSON at the Paramount Theatre Box Office at 911 Pine Street, Seattle, or for 10 or more tickets, contact their Group Sales Manager at (206) 315-8054.
- Closing Night at the Seattle Repertory Theatre, June 15, 7:30 – 9:30 PM Our 11th Hour: Straight Talk on Climate Change from People Who Know. Featuring Kevin E. Trenberth, Richard Alley, Andrew Revkin and a performance of Seattle Opera’s Heron and the Salmon Girl. Buy tickets at www.seattlesciencefestival.org.
These high profile events will present some of the greatest scientific and creative minds of our time and weave together science, music, art and philosophy for two inspiring, thought-provoking and engaging evenings.
How can you get involved?
- Sign up for the Seattle Science Festival E-Newsletter
- Coordinate a group of students to bring to a Seattle Science Festival event
- Become a Seattle Science Festival Ambassador and help spread the word
- Sign up to be a Seattle Science Festival volunteer by May 22
Visit www.seattlesciencefestival.org to learn more about how you can get involved and I hope to see you there!
Guess what turned up on Netflix Streaming recently? (The subject header above is a subtle hint.) Yep, it’s the 1985 non-classic REMO WILLIAMS, starring Fred Ward. Apparently, the film is based on a series of men’s adventure novels that I haven’t read and never will, so whatever. It’s the movie I want to talk about. Remo’s adventure might have begun with that picture, but it didn’t go any farther. (I live in the happy world where the TV pilot doesn’t exist.)
Anyway, I saw this movie a great many times in the bong-fueled haze of post-college daytime cable and I loved it. Watching it again last week with my family reminded me how charming and fun it is.
It also brought back how completely fucked up this movie it. Seriously.
First, have this: How to be a fan of problematic things. It’s a good article written from the perspective of a person fighting for social justice who’s following GAME OF THRONES. Even if you’re not such a person, it’s worth reading.
And it applies to REMO in spades.
Let’s talk briefly about the setup: Fred Ward is a tough NYC street cop who is “killed” in the first few minutes of the movie. He wakes up in a hospital bed with a new face and identity; he’s been recruited by a secret government organization headed by Wilford Brimley. Why?
Brimley’s character sums it up like this: “This is a great country, my boy, but the justice system doesn’t work the way it should.” I know what you’re thinking, right? They’re going to reform the justice system!
Actually, no. They’re an assassination squad operating domestically under the direct control of the president. The only limits to their power is that they must never “embarrass the president.” That’s it. They investigate people and, if they have too much money/power to be prosecuted, they arrange a convincing “accident.”
To effect this plan, Ward is to be trained in the ancient and mysterious martial art of sinanju, which will allow him to dodge bullets, run without touching the ground, and other goofiness.
If that were the end of it, REMO would be little different from other odd 80′s action movies about heroic vigilantes. Unfortunately, the elderly Korean master who teaches Ward is played by… Joel Gray.
Yeah. It’s a white guy in yellowface.
Here’s the thing. The yellowface makeup was nominated for an Oscar. Gray’s performance earned him a Golden Globe nomination. If he’d done a shitty job in the role this would be an utterly forgettable movie. Actually, until Gray appears onscreen, it IS a forgettable movie. Ward is charismatic. Kate Mulgrew is terrific as a major in the army trying to prove that the bad guys are breaking the law. But until Gray appears as Chiun, the movie feels rote. I watched this with my kid and I had to beg him to stick with it. By the end, he was laughing and giving it a thumbs up.
Gray and Ward have fantastic chemistry together; their scenes (which are mostly amusing training sequences of one kind or another) are pretty much the only heart the movie has.
So, you know, it’s complicated. It’s a terrible idea to cast a white dude in yellowface to play the part of a Korean man. It’s certainly possible that an Asian actor could have done just as good as job as the prickly, obnoxious, condescending Chiun. But we don’t live in that world; we live in the world where Joel Gray got the part and did a fantastic job with it.
Anyway, the movie’s on Netflix Streaming. It’s problemmatic, but I’m a fan of it anyway.
I published TWENTY PALACES (now only $2.99!) through Smashwords so it would also go to other stores through Smashwords’s distribution system. However, a week and a half ago I realized that, for whatever reason, Kobo wasn’t selling the book. They have my others, but not the one I published myself.
I emailed Smashwords about it the week before last and received a chirpy response that there was nothing they could do about it, and had forwarded the issue to Kobo. A followup email brought the same response. Cheerful nothing.
I know Kobo will let you set up your own account, so I assume they’re rejecting or delaying books submitted through Smashwords to drive people to them directly.
Because I don’t have enough to do.
When I finish this book and revise KEY/EGG, I may need to take a week off just for business stuff: find a new WP theme I like that’s similar to what I have, set up a functional store on my site, create accounts on all the book vendor sites to sell my stuff directly, and so on. Very annoying.
Added later: Fixed. I should learn to skip customer service and take my problems straight to Twitter through my blog. Timeline: Complain (late) on a Friday. Hear back from Smashwords on Wednesday. Still nothing by the Tuesday after that. Complain on my blog so company name is right in the automatic tweet. Fixed by the end of the day.
Actually, not all that much that was knew. Too much of my online time is rat/lever/food pellet time. Twitter is most interesting and most fun but also most time-consuming. Tumblr is a site I never thought about except that I get to see my in-laws’ art there. Google pluse and Facebook are mostly interesting for the links I find on them.
Also, I get a fair amount of email but very little of it actually requires a response. Most of it I can skim and delete.
Yes, I did make a lot of headway on THE WAY INTO CHAOS but it’s not finished. Much more needs to be done. For right now, though, I’m going to post something stupid to Twitter.
While my internet fast continues…
Massive spoilers behind the cut, but let me summarize things quickly up front in a spoiler-free fashion: Season one is even better than I remember, with a few small missteps. The arc-long mysteries (Who killed Lilly Kane? Who raped Veronica on the night she was drugged?) are complex enough for the TV format but not as in-depth as you’d find in a novel. They’re also handled with more sensitivity than I would have expected from TV. It works. The short, episode-long mysteries are well-handled, varied enough to stay interesting, and humane.
But the real strengths of the show are the performances, especially Bell’s and Colantoni’s, and the way the relationships between the characters are handled. If you haven’t watched the show yet, you really should. The discs are on Netflix and WB is hosting the episodes online (provided you live in the “correct” parts of the world”. The pilot is a little heavy on the flashbacks, but the complex setup is necessary. Stick with it.
Let’s do spoilers: more »
While I’m on my internet fast, I give you this:
Yeah, I’ll be getting that. I’m still playing the hell out of LOTR, trying to be a completist, so I guess I have until next Giftmas to wrap it up.
making books personal: a blessing of monsters moi? progress publishing
by Harry Connolly
So, this is a little embarrassing and I just have to come out and talk about it.
I haven’t released a new book in a long time.
Duh, right? It’s not like you guys don’t know this. My last novel was CIRCLE OF ENEMIES, which came out Labor Day 2011. What’s more, I’ve already mentioned that I finished the first draft of CoE in 2010, before GAME OF CAGES came out.
So what the hell have I been doing?
Well, the first thing I did is write A KEY, AND EGG, AN UNFORTUNATE REMARK, which I had high hopes for but screwed up badly. I could probably whip it into shape in a month or so once I figure out how to manage the voice, but it’s back-burnered.
There’s also the Spirit of the Century novel I wrote for the game company Evil Hat. Kickstarter backers have already received their copies, but everyone else has to wait for this fall.
And there’s some short fiction, which I plan to collect and release as an ebook next month.
So what the hell? Where are the books?
Here’s the thing: When I started THE WAY INTO CHAOS (originally titled A BLESSING OF MONSTERS–you can decide which title you hate more) I’d planned to wrap up the whole story in 120K words. One volume.
That hasn’t happened. I’m at 270K right now and the end is in sight. However, I’ve stopped forward progress and gone back to the beginning for a major revision. It’s taking up a lot of my time and driving me a little nuts.
The whole thing is taking too long. I need to finish this and move on to another project; it hasn’t even sold and I’m sick to death of it. Also, it can take a year or more from the time my agent sells something to the time it’s released. Do I want my next novel to hit the shelves in 2015? 2016?
That’s too long.
So, in order to get more done and focus in on this project, I’m going on an internet fast. It’ll be at least this whole week, possibly longer. I will check my email once a day, but that’s it: no Facebook mentions, no Twitter replies, no LJ comments, nothing.
In the meantime, I will be doubling down on this book. I won’t finish in that time, but I plan to double my progress, at least.
I’ll also have some time to do some much needed chores.
In truth, I really enjoy social media but I feel over-committed at the moment. It’s become a bit of an obligation, so I’m shedding everything for w bit. When I come back I’ll take stock and see what I’ll need to change.
Funnily enough, just as I decided to do this, a guy hit the internet with his big “I just took a year away from the internet, and it didn’t solve all my problems” article. I understood the dude’s urge to change his routine, but is it really any surprise that his problems were internal rather than external?
Anyway, I’m not trying to fix my life here. I’m just freeing up time to work. There will be a couple of blog posts that will go live while I’m away, but you know.
Wish me luck.
Folks who follow me on Twitter might have heard this already, but sales for TWENTY PALACES, the self-published prequel to CHILD OF FIRE, have dropped to the point that they are genuinely disappointing, so I’ve dropped the price to $2.99.
That price is already live at Amazon and B&N, but I’m still waiting on places like iBooks to update. I publish there (and to Kobo along with others) through Smashwords, and it can take a while for the prices to propagate.
The old $5 price point made sense when CHILD OF FIRE was still being offered at the promotional price of 99 cents, but that ended a while ago and I haven’t made the time to change it.
I also have short fiction for sale on those sites, but come June I’m planning to wrap them all up (along with a few new stories) in a single collection. You can buy those short stories and novelettes individually for now or get them all at once later. Your choice.
One other thing: the prequel has “lending” enabled and it makes a cheap three dollar gift. If you read and liked the books, would you mind sharing them, in some fashion, with others who might like them?
In response to the Strange Horizons analysis of male/female review statistics (spoiler: books my men get more reviews than books by women) a number of folks on Twitter have been contributing to a #WomenToRead hashtag. It’s meant to be a way to get female authors’ names in front of readers who have a habit of only buying books written by dudes, but I’m not sure how effective it is.
Reading through, it seems more like an exercise in frustration than genuine recommendations. In the better tweets, someone will say, “If you like [male author x], try:” followed by a number of names, or else writers will be listed by genre.
Unfortunately, while it’s great to point out what sort of books these women have written, they don’t really tell readers why they would fall in love with any particular writer’s work. When I see a laundry list of authors’ names scroll past, my eyes glaze over very quickly, especially when so many of them are Twitter handles.
Still, I understand the frustration: I personally feel invisible within the genre; I continue to get very nice emails from people who love my books but only discovered them well after the series was cancelled. My sales were so shitty that I don’t deserve to call myself “midlist.” To most people, I’m barely a hanger-on.
And yet I still got reviews in a number of places, and nice critical attention, too. Imagine how it must feel to not even get that much. Imagine how it must feel to work like crazy on a book for a year knowing that no magazine anywhere is going to bother reading it, let alone devote column inches to it.
There’s also this (please imagine replacing the word “math” with “writing.”)
People (mostly guys) have this weird idea that fiction written by women are all one sort of thing, as if it can all be lumped in as one type. There’s also the idea that, if a subgenre has a lot of women writers and readers, it has a yellow “Caution” tape around it to warn guys away.
For instance, two years after it was posted I still get traffic from this Tor.com article: Urban Fantasy and the Elusive Male Protagonist (let us turn away from the issues around the blog post itself, which I tried to address in the comments) and the comment section can be instructive/cringe-inducing/hope-for-humanity-destroying. To quote (copy & paste, so sic):
its come to the point where i wont touch a book with a female on the cover unless its been recommended by some friends or an author i respect.
it seems as if its all about alpha werewolves and master vampires in a three way relationship with an independant ass kicking woman, the majority of it could also be classified as soft-core porn.
For a lot of people, men write books in a genre (or in a tradition) while women all write the same book over and over with a few proper nouns switched out. What’s more, That Same Book is usually considered Someone Else’s Thing.
Anyway, I’ve been pretty up-front in the past that I don’t think reviews have much of an effect on sales figures, but it’s not just sales we’re talking about here. We’re also talking about the critical conversation within the genre (such as it is): how it changes, what’s becoming old hat, what’s offensive or wrong-headed. When women are left out of that conversation, their contributions become ignored.
So, to wrap up I want to make two points: First, if you’re recommending female authors, a long list of names, even if you break them down to five or six in a genre, are just going to make people skim. Pick one or two, give a good reason why for each. Make a specific pitch. Yes, that means people you know will be left out, but this isn’t a one-time thing, right?
(To that end, I’ll recommend Sarah Monette’s The Bone Key. I bounced off Monette’s epic fantasy series, but this story collection blew my mind. Kyle Murchison Booth is nothing like Ray Lilly, but the setting and tone of these tales are a fantastic antidote to the tentacle monster stories that dominate so much of the dark fantasy genre. And this shows why I’m crap at giving recommendations, because I’m always reading years–or decades–behind, so I’m never up on the current stuff.)
Second, if you’re one of those readers who glances at their bookshelves, sees nothing but books by dudes, then shrugs it off, it’s time to break a bad habit. There’s a wide world of great books out there to be enjoyed and no reason to hide from it. If you like awards, start checking out books written by women that win or get nominated for them. If most of your reading is off the bestseller list, start trying some of the female writers there.
The truth is, your results will be mixed just as with anything. Some writers you’ll hate, some will be meh, some will be new gotta-read favorites. Of those books by “gotta-read” authors, some will also have “a female on the cover.” Take chances. Grab things from the library or try the sample chapters on your ereader. It may take a while before you start finding new favorites, but if you’re like me, the favorites you have now took a lifetime to collect. Don’t give up quickly. Keep stretching.
Added later: As pointed out on LJ by user martianmooncrab, RT has a review section for SF/F but their numbers are rarely included in these surveys.
Added later: The Revenge: The author who started the hashtag explains her reasons.
It’s a shared-world anthology and I’ve promised to write a short story for them if they’re funded. Check out the premise and the other authors. I think it’s pretty cool.
making books The outside world: comics publishing
by Harry Connolly
C.B. Cebulski explains how a noob can get hired to work at Marvel as a writer or an artist.
In fact, if you’re published traditionally, they make it super-easy. Super-duper easy. If I had the money to keep current on the Marvel U, I’d mail one of my Twenty Palaces books in.
Check it out.