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 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.
Now that season one of Veronica Mars is over, the family finally had a chance to play RACE TO ADVENTURE, which I backed as a Kickstarter.
Here’s the layout near the start of the game. Of course I played Prof. Khan.
You can see I’ve collected the passports for the USA and Switzerland, while to the right my son has collected USA and GB. However! I am about to collect Nepal in that very turn, while my son was hoarding clues at the Library of Congress.
Yeah, that’s my kid giving the thumbs up.
My wife… I’m not sure what she was doing. Let’s just say she had a busy day and wasn’t concentrating too well.
Here we are at the end of the game, when I had returned to the Century Club, said (house rule: no shouting) “I have returned!” and won the game.
The others also collected all of their passports (and rescued the prisoner from Atlantis) but, having saved Egypt for last, they were still cursed. They were also way behind. Mwah-ah-ah-ah!
As for the game, it was terrific. I think I’d like to play it once or twice more on the tan side of the tiles before flipping them to the more advanced “shadow” game. We stumbled a little bit with the rules at first, like we do with every game, but by the end the turns were flying by. This might be the first game ever that says it takes 30 minutes to play and really means it.
The nice thing is that there’s no luck involved (no blowing your plans because of a lousy roll of the die) and the strategy elements were light but still effective. It’ll be a good fast game when we just want to play something fun without a ton of calculation.
On a day when the news was filled with blood, horror, and people coming together to help each other in dire need, it was good to sit with my family and play a game.
According to the UPS tracking website, sometime today a person in a brown uniform will pitch a box at my front door and run off without seeing where it lands, and inside that box will be a copy of Race to Adventure.
That’s my Kickstarter reward arriving, but the good news is that you can order one for yourself if you like. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the board game based on the rpg that also spawned my next novel, KING KHAN which means that the protagonist of my book should be a playable character.
making books personal The outside world: internet publishing the boy TV
by Harry Connolly
1) I am not and have never been a Night Shade author, but it’s been widely known for quite a while that the publisher has been in trouble and has been working with SFWA to do right by their authors. Word about the new deal they’re offering authors has finally gone public in a public post (now deleted) on Jeff VanderMeer’s Facebook. For the click-phobic, NS intends to sell their contracts to another, more stable publisher, and not all of the contract terms are 100% wonderful.
What little I know about it is all second-hand, but a number of authors, VanderMeer included, want NS to revert the rights to their books before declaring bankruptcy. Unfortunately, that won’t work. The right to publish books is the only asset a publisher has and bankruptcy courts don’t play along when an entity sheds its assets right before telling their creditors they’re going belly up. In fact, it’s fairly common for publishing contracts to have a clause in them that would revert all rights to the author in the event of a publisher bankruptcy, but those clauses are typically overruled in bankruptcy court.
As far as getting rights back from a publisher swirling the drain, that last link is worth reading through to the end. I am not a lawyer, but it seems like a good place to start before getting actual legal counsel.
If there’s one thing I know about a terrible, messy situation like this, it’s that the proposed deal will be a benefit for some and a misery for others, depending on whether books have been turned in, how much money is owed, etc. Night Shade authors are getting together in a closed forum to discuss the issues and I wish them all the luck in the world. None of this is easy.
2) Writing has been at a near standstill while my kid is sick. He had two straight days of vomiting and was finally able to keep down a fair quantity of fluid last night. Today he’s still sketchy but basically okay. I’m glad the Cartoon Network has added so many of their shows to Netflix. We’ve also been watching the Naked Gun movies and, when his belly hurts too much to laugh, the most recent NIKITA tv series.
Of course, the real crime here is that he has no interest in superhero shows, so I still don’t get to watch Justice League, Batman Beyond, or Brave and the Bold. Man, the sacrifices we make for our kids.
3) Speaking of a sick kid, I spent an hour this morning at the grocery store hunting up bad tummy foods like oyster crackers and ginger ale, but one thing I couldn’t find was syrup of coke. All the stupid crap my grocery carries, but I can’t find the one thing that really settles an upset stomach? I left the supermarket confident that I could find a recipe online, and I did. Too bad I don’t keep lavender, star anise, citric acid, etc, etc around the place.
4) This post about humanities PhDs taking a third grade reading comprehension test is right on. When my kid was in kindergarten, they had those silly letter ratings on books. Most of the kids were reading books from A – D mine was reading books rated S. Sounds pretty advanced, huh? Except not, because he was only five and his reading comprehension wasn’t strong enough. Yes to the words. No to the sentences and paragraphs.
The worst thing was reading the teacher who thought kids ought to stay within the stupid letter rating, never going forward or going back. My own kid loves both Ready Player One and Ursula Vernon’s Dragonbreath books. He reaches for more adult fare when he wants to stretch himself (he just bounced off The Road which I knew would be tough sledding). And the idea that kids shouldn’t reread a book they love is poison.
personal The outside world: internet mac hate the boy
by Harry Connolly
Over the weekend I had a bit of a nasty surprise: I couldn’t download the most recent version of Turbo Tax because it requires OS X 10.6 or later. I still run 10.5.
If you’ll forgive me for saying so, this is bullshit. My computer is only five years old. There’s no reason for it to be considered obsolete and I shouldn’t have to order and install a new operating system just to do my taxes. (Note: please don’t suggest alternate programs I could use.) And yet, that’s exactly what’s happening.
Some time ago, my wife told me that she was incredibly proud that my books were going to be in the Library of Congress, because that meant they would last a long long time. In response, I said something to the effect of they’re on the internet, too, I think, and that should last even longer. Unfortunately, I no longer believe that to be true.
How many old filetypes are impossible to read now? How many types of physical media are worthless because no one has the disk drives to read them? Much of my early writing was done on a Brother WP75 and saved on 3.5 inch diskettes. Here’s a pic:
I dug it out because I came this close to donating it to charity. That machine was the bridge between a typewriter and an actual computer (my first real computer came from Gateway in 1994 and I had it so long that there was literally duck tape over parts of the case).
See the diskettes on there? Once the Brother stops working or I give it away, they become unreadable to me. Maybe I could find someone to take the files off and convert them, but that would be an iffy thing, and probably not cheap. (Luckily, it’s just early work and not important.) In all seriousness, the best kind of archive I could have of these would be in paper.
Note also John Scalzi’s recent post about his newest computer acquisition: no DVD drive. He doesn’t miss it because he doesn’t use DVDs, but I still do. I use them all the time, to watch movies, to play games, and to share large files
Speaking of large files, I copied hours and hours of home movies from a box full of mini-DV tapes onto a hard drive, and now that hard drive is being backed up to an online service. There’s so much data to save that I started the backup on January 3rd and, as of today, it’s only about 55% done. This shit is going to be going on until summer time, I kid you not.
And yet, when I’m an old man, will I be able to watch these videos? Will I be able to find a program that recognizes and mp4 or .dv? Worse, will I be able to buy a special adapter that will allow the external hard drive (with its ancient USB connector) to connect to whatever system is in vogue at the moment?
Will my son? I don’t doubt that he’ll have the storage space to keep them–in all likelihood, he’ll have a ring on his finger that he can download all 600+GB of data with room to spare. But will he be able to actually look at them, or show them to his own kids so they can see what we were like? Will he be able to read my old manuscripts?
It pisses me off. There’s such a rush to always have the New! and the Shiny! that things become obsolete even while they continue to function. Yes, I know it’s a way to sell things. Yes, I know companies are hunting for every bit of loose change rattling around in tech-happy early adopters’ back account. But they aren’t the only customers out there.
I’m a customer, too. I don’t want new and shiny. I want practical and long-lasting. I want this shit to make sense. Don’t phase out old media just because there’s a new supposedly-but-maybe-not-better way to do it (don’t even talk to me about “the cloud”). Don’t change operating systems so often that perfectly good computers can’t even run basic software (or watch embedded YouTube videos, or play silly games, or whatever).
Backwards compatibility, people. I want it, and I’m not the only one.
Ten years ago tomorrow was the start of the Invasion of Iraq. To my shame (not chagrin, not embarrassment. Shame.) I was an early supporter of the war.
I had long believed that war never be taken on as an adventure overseas, but I let myself be turned by the propaganda leading up to the attack. Did I believe the evidence supporting the presence of WMDs? No, actually, but I thought Hussein needed to allow inspections to continue. Did I believe Iraqi oil reserves were part of the reason we went to war? Yes, of course I did, but I thought there was good to be done anyway.
Which is completely ridiculous. Of course it is. How often are the tools of empire and destruction put of a positive use?
What’s more, I was a grown man who knew better. So what happened? I let myself get caught up in all the talk of chemical weapons used against Iraqi citizens and “rape rooms.” I let myself be convinced that the Iraqi people would be grateful.
At the time, there were anti-war marches in the streets. I remember looking out my window at them as they passed the office building where I worked: they were the usual far left hippie types with their giant puppets, long hair, and birkenstocks. They agreed with me that the war was about oil (a stance that was sneered at in the media at the time) but they were sure it was a huge mistake.
Of course they were right. Of course they were. At the time I thought their protests were ridiculous and self-marginalizing. They seemed more interested in confirming their cultural cred as outsiders than in winning people to their side. The civil rights marchers in the sixties wore coats and ties; these people were in tie dye and sandals that showed their dirty feet. These people don’t represent me.
And that’s utterly ridiculous. They weren’t trying to represent me. They were warning us that the nation was about to make a huge mistake, and they were 100% correct.
Shortly before the invasion, when talk of war was ever-present, I remember Hans Blix coming to the media to say that Hussein had knuckled under and agreed to allow inspections again. I spent half a day foolishly thinking that the invasion planning had done it’s job… until Bush administration officials declared that it was too little too late and the invasion was going to happen anyway. That’s when I realized what an immature asshole I’d been, although I still held out thin hope things would turn out all right.
What I realize now is that I should have been out in the streets with those protesters. I should have held on to my beliefs and my mistrust and marched against the war. It’s not the responsibility of political protesters to make themselves palatable to me; it’s my job to recognize right from wrong and speak out about it.
So! As I mentioned earlier today, I backed the Kickstarter for the Veronica Mars movie, although I probably shouldn’t have. Not because I think there’s something wrong with a WB property being crowdfunded, but because money is tight and KS is a luxury item. I may cancel sometime in the next month.
Which should not be taken as condemnation of the project itself, of which there has been plenty.
This article by Richard Lawson in the Atlantic Wire seems like a good representative sample of the bullshit people are saying about who ought to crowdfund and when it should be seen as unseemly. Have a quote.
But here in the bourgie, comfy confines of wealthy Western society, we’re talking about people like the indie musician Amanda Palmer, who raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter to make and distribute a folk album. That’s all. Amanda Palmer, who is married to successful author Neil Gaiman and has been a prominent musician for a decade or so. Handed $1.2 million because she asked for it. People are free to spend their money however they want, but there’s something so unseemly about the asking, isn’t there? Maybe that reaction is owed to some overly reserved New England quality in me that I should fight against, but I can’t help but feel that Kickstarter campaigns for stuff like this, that is stuff people are having no trouble selling elsewhere, are a bit gauche. Plus it’s too easy.
Of course he has to take a nasty sexist dig at Amanda Palmer. Of course he has to mention that she has married comfortably (The article is obstensively about Rob Thomas’s project, so where’s a mention of his wife? The article fails to mention if he even has one.) Supposedly, Palmer is so successful that she has 100K laying around to fund her studio time and if she doesn’t, well, isn’t she a big enough name to get that money from record companies?
That money comes with strings attached, you say? Awful, debilitating strings? Apparently, that’s a bonus; we wouldn’t want things to be “too easy.”
Let’s consider the Veronica Mars movie: Maybe it will suck or be vaguely disappointing. That first season was so great while the second and third were a bit of a let down.
But the article writer above barely touches on that. His point is that this movie is a Warner property. They own the rights and will distribute the movie once it’s made. Since that’s the case, isn’t it kinda gross to be asking fans to front the money?
I’m going to step up here and say “Not at all.” Here’s why:
Warner does have control of the Veronica Mars IP, and they have no plans to a) do anything with it or b) surrender it to the original creator, Rob Thomas. It’s just gathering dust. After there was no interest in the season four promo video, the show was dead.
That’s why this Kickstarter makes sense: Fan support can make this happen. What’s more, fans want to be a part of it.
Would I be happy to see gross points in the reward levels? Shit yeah. Is having Rob Thomas and Kristin Bell follow me on Twitter for a year for $400 kinda tacky. Sure, I guess. Do I think they’re doing something really cool with this project? Absolutely.
Lawson doesn’t like the idea of seeing money talked about publicly. He wants artists to raise their money from “proper backers and investors” behind the scenes so he doesn’t have to see art mixed with commerce in such a public way. There’s a laundry list of why this is stupid, beginning with the fact that “proper” investors have already shown their disinterest, continuing through the idea that fans are “improper” backers, and finally ending with art and commerce have always been mixed who the fuck are you kidding?
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that making things is difficult, especially when they require a large capital outlay. I’m pleased to see a movie like this crowdfunded successfully (or it will be at this pace) and I hope to see more.
making books personal: King Khan progress publishing the boy
by Harry Connolly
This past weekend was pretty rough. The one bright spot was lunch on Saturday to catch up with an old friend, but the rest was a litany of minor difficulties: tiny black ants came through the wall that divides my bathroom from a neighboring unit, the section of book I’m writing “feels” wrong while I push through anyway, I’m getting phantom food reactions, and my son had one of his irregular bouts of insomnia which meant he was up in the ass-hours of the morning and punchy through most of the day.
It gets to the point where a guy can’t even steal time to post on his blog.
I have a post brewing about peoples’ tendency to see fantasy as a conservative genre and another about the interesting Amanda Palmer TEDTalk that’s been going around, but both have fallen victim to the demands of making wordcount for THE WAY INTO MAGIC.
But I do want to announce the release of this:
Yes, the Spirit of the Century tie-in novel I wrote for Evil Hat has been released as an ebook, but only to the people who backed the Kickstarter. If you’re one of those people, you can download the book from here. If you didn’t back the project when it first went live, you’ll have to wait a bit for it to hit the stores.
Now, I know there are lots of folks out there who could find a way to torrent a copy or whatever so they have a chance to read it right away. If you do, please consider buying it anyway when it hits the stores, maybe as a gift or something.
Remember last week when I mentioned that I had taken my family to an EMP event to see a specific panel and the room was so packed we missed it? No? Well, you better click on that link then.
I never did get an email back, but I did get a phone call. The dude was quite apologetic and very nice. Unfortunately, there was no recording of the event; apparently the companies many of the presenters work for had a bug up their butt about what could be recorded and what art they were going to show. Understandable, really, except that the panel we wanted was two local educators, so I suspect they would have been cool with a camcorder or two, but never mind. It’s done.
On the plus side, EMP intends to refund the cost of the tickets.
That’s very nice of them. While they might have made an error in planning their event, their customer service was pretty great.
On Twitter, @JoshDaws asked me to explain my reasons for not buying my son an Xbox and I figured it was too involved to do it in a few 140-character messages, so I’m putting it here.
Everyone is a consumer. Everyone consumes culture of some kind, whether it’s radio, TV, games, books, movies, theater, whatever. For some people, it’s Honey Boo Boo. For others, it’s sitting on an overturned bucket in a warehouse while they watch a play about women in Afghanistan. For others, it’s that one Merle Haggard album they just can’t get enough of. And for still others, it’s a whole weekend shooting zombies on the Xbox.
Now, I don’t have a problem with any of this, right? God forbid, considering some of the movies I’ve wasted portions of my life on. Consume what you want. Enjoy it. With my son, he’s latched onto things that I thought were dumb enough to kill brain cells (like Garfield books) and other things that were mostly a waste of time. But he enjoys them and I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.
However! When he came to me to say he wanted to buy an Xbox–with his own money–I told him he couldn’t. (FYI: he’s 11.) He was pretty upset (and is still trying to wear us down) but I was adamant. It’s not that I dislike video games. He has some right now and has played them ever since he was small; Minecraft is his current obsession. Yes, it can be difficult for him to stop when we ask him to, but that’s true of any kid doing any activity that they love. We also have a Wii (which was supposed to be used for the Wii Fit, but nevermind) although he doesn’t much like the games we have.
It’s not that the games are violent. There are plenty of sweet, non-violent puzzle/platform/whatever games. Besides, we’ve watched every episode of Burn Notice and he’s played Call of Duty (and #2) on the iMac.
The question is: how much of his life is spent consuming, and how much is spent creating?
See, when he was small, he would spend hours making things. As a toddler he would make endless lines of tiny blocks all through the apartment. As he got older, he made comic books, then baked goods, then finally short animated Lego movies.
And they were all terrible. The comics, actually, had some effective layout and design, but the food he made was a random mix of whatever he could grab and it tasted like poison. “For you, Mom!” (and she would always taste it.)
The Lego shorts were always busy but there was never a plot that made sense, half the snaps would be out of focus.
They were good for his age–actually, they were excellent for his age. Look at the “novel” of his I published last year on the blog; I couldn’t write with that much verve at his age.
But he lost all that when he went to school. The biggest lesson he took from public school is that “fun”, “projects”, and “learning” are all separate categories. He still likes to make things, but only in Minecraft and it’s been a long time since he set aside several hours to create something. At best, he’s been putting in an hour or two a couple times a week with Garageband to make electronic music.
I don’t much care what he wants to do with his time, as long as he spends a good portion of it making things. Any asshole can spend every weekend of his life shooting baddies in a video game (and I’ve been that asshole, sometimes). I want him to have more than that. It’s not enough just to consume products made by some corporation, even if they’re cool products. He has to turn that around, too.
To that end, we’ve suspended regular homeschooling so he can work with me on a “book trailer” for THE WAY INTO CHAOS. We’re shooting it in our living room with Lego figures. It’s completely inappropriate for the tone of the novel, if you know what I mean, and would be terrible marketing if I were remotely impressed by the marketability of trailers anyway.
Still, it’s a project. He’s throwing himself into it with his old enthusiasm, and I love him for it. I just wish we could return to the days when this was a habit.
Anyway, that’s why I won’t let him buy an Xbox. He has games already, and Netflix, and DVDs from the library, and books, too. That’s a lot of opportunities to consume. I don’t think he needs enough to fill his whole life.
Last night I took my wife and son to the Experience Music Project for the opening night of their “Game Nite” exhibit, which is their new video game project, I guess. Let’s start by saying it didn’t go well.
My wife has zero interest in video games at all, and I really enjoy them but try to keep my distance. I can be a little obsessive about things, and video games sometimes take over my whole life. However, my son loves them and has been making noises about creating some. Unsurprisingly, we want to support that.
The main feature of opening night was a series of talks given by game professionals and educators who teach game-making. That page is gone from EMP’s website but you can see the Google cache while it lasts. We were especially interested in this one:
So You Want to Make a Video Game?
Raymond Yan, Senior Executive at DigiPen Institute of Technology
Jason Pace, Executive Director at University of Washington Center for Serious Play
Now, I know there are resources online for creating games. I’ve looked. We were especially interested here because it was two guys who were local to us and because they would have a chance to bounce ideas off each other. I wanted to see a contrast between them. I also wanted to ask questions.
To that end, we skipped the tour of the actual games and got in line early for the keynote speech. We even got ourselves some good seats. The keynote was fine if not life-changing.
Unfortunately, because there was a line of people waiting to get in to the theater, they make the audience exit the room and get back at the end of the line. Because we had good seats we were one of the last out. The line went around two corners and up a flight of stairs.
We did not get into the one panel we most wanted to see.
Much of our time was spent standing beside game stations waiting to play one of the DigiPen games on offer. All the games were made as student projects and they are all hand-coded–no engines at all. You can play any of the games in their gallery for free. Most of the kids were playing a driving game I didn’t learn the name of, but “Solace” and “Nous” were other good ones.
My son did get to play some and so did I. My wife was interested in eavesdropping on some of the sound designs but nothing more beyond that. However, the largest portion of our time was spent playing a board game in the lounge. Pandemic. Damn, that’s a great game.
Anyway, I sent an email to EMP pointing out how frustrating it is to drop $35 on an event and then be barred from the think you most wanted to do. With luck they’ll post video of the event and someone will have asked the questions I wanted to ask.
making books personal The outside world: i look bad internet publishing words
by Harry Connolly
First, as per James Nicoll and Making Light, Games Workshop, the game company that makes Warhammer 40K, is asserting a trademark claim to the term “Space Marines.” They have the trademark on the term in the gaming world, supposedly, but now that they’ve started publishing ebook tie-ins they’re claiming a common law trademark over the term and filing DMCA notices to make Amazon pull books from the shelves.
Of course, the writer they’re doing this to doesn’t have the money to fight back because deep pockets uber alles. If you’re a fan and customer of the company’s games, maybe you should stop buying from them until they clean up their act, and let them know about it.
Second, yet another article about the slow-motion collapse of Barnes & Noble written for The Atlantic this time. Is there any surprise, really, that our slow-motion recovery from a nasty economic collapse is still taking a toll on out-sized companies? Or that the agency-price collusion lawsuit filed in Amazon’s favor would be another cinderblock in B&N’s rowboat?
I’m not what you’d call a fan of B&N, although I will say that I’m less-likely to be given the side-eye when I shop for SF/F in a big chain than in an indie store. Also, I love seeing huge sections of a store devoted to genres, something you rarely see in indie corner shops.
What would be lost if the last of the big chains go under? We would lose a physical space designed to sell according to readers’ tastes rather than the tastes of the bookstore owner.
Third, Chuck Wendig wants to make today International Don’t Pirate My Book Day. His thoughts about treating art as a thing of value are worthwhile, but here’s where he and I differ: when you read my work without paying for it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.
It’s pernicious, yes. It’s harmful in the long term. If I am giving something away for free, read for free. Enjoy. If not, I would prefer you pay. However, it doesn’t hurt my feelings because my feelings don’t enter into it.
I’ve talked about this before: In the digital world, price is not constrained by supply and demand. Supply is/can be effectively infinite, so there’s no reason for people to pay extra to procure scarce goods. However, the constraint on price is actually “theft;” the balancing act has to be “How much will users pay for this?” vs “At what price point will people just steal it instead?”
Really this is an inevitable consequence of our advertising/consumer culture, in which you the consumer deserve whatever you want when you want and it ought to be cheap as possible. That’s the culture that vendors of every size, from mom and pop stores to massive corporations, have been pushing for generations. It’s thoroughly internalized in our outlook on the world, and now that machines in our homes allow us to cut the actual producers out of the equation, people do so with gusto.
It’s pernicious, yes. Also, I know people will respond with “Customers are willing to pay if you make it easy for them to do so and keep the price low enough.” Yes, that’s true. It’s also a calculation that occurs solely within the head of the consumer. What’s a fair price? How long should I have to wait for it?
There will always be people who think the smart thing to do is to take what they want and give nothing back, if you get my reference. The real issue becomes the size of that group of consumers and how the culture at large talks about them. In my opinion, the battle against book piracy will not be won in courts or legislative chambers, but in the culture at large; what behavior is normalized? That’s the question.
Fourth and last, I’m going to a reading tonight and my body is in full allergic freak-out mode. I don’t have anything life-threatening going on, but the patchy red marks on my face and (fading now, thankfully) hives on my arms turn me from ugly guy to full AVERT! AVERT! status. Oh well.
Todd Lockwood, who illustrated the book, will also be there. If you follow science fiction and fantasy art, you’ve almost certainly seen his work, and if you bought the Tales of the Emerald Serpent anthology, which contained my story “The One Think You Can Never Trust,” then you definitely have, along with one of his short stories.
Anyway, I’m not exactly a raconteur, but if anyone wants to come out and say hello I’d be happy to shake your hand.
evergreen posts making books personal: moi? publishing the twisted path words
by Harry Connolly
Along with the release of the sales numbers of my self-published novel has come a flood of requests that I turn to Kickstarter to fund The Twisted Path (that’s the working title of the next Twenty Palaces book). Currently, I have no plans to do that, and I’m writing this post because I want to explain my reasoning to you guys and I want to have a post I can link to when people broach the subject. Because they do broach the subject. A lot.
I want to be a best-selling author.
What’s more, I want to do it on my own terms; I want to write the books I think are cool, and I want a hundred thousand readers to snap them off the shelves the first week they come out. I want to write thrillers with good characters and magic, along with A Few Things I Want To Say. I mean, not to jump up and proclaim that I want to be Stephen King, but I want to be Stephen King. It’s not about making a whole bunch of money, it’s about having my books in the hands of lots of readers from all over the world.
That doesn’t mean I’m going to copy Stephen King, or Nora Roberts or George R.R. Martin or Gillian Flynn. I wouldn’t even try. I intend to write books my own way because honestly believe the things I think are cool will be cool to bunches and bunches of readers.
Or maybe not. We’ll see. That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway.
How does this tie in to Twenty Palaces, a series that you, the person reading this post, quite possibly read and enjoyed? Well, 20P has dedicated fans, but not very many. As mentioned in the Twenty Palaces sales post, I sold over 3700 copies of my book, self-published. Couldn’t I sell at least that many if I self-published The Twisted Path? Or maybe even more if I turned to…
Well, sure. Maybe. Maybe I could write two 20P books a year (or three in two years), and quite possibly the readers I have right now would be willing to pony up the cash I’d need for an editor, cover artist, copy editor, and the disreputable author himself (not to mention covering Uncle Sam’s and Kickstarter’s cuts). A Thousand True Fans, right?
Here’s the truth: I could do that. I could live on that money. I’d probably have to depend on 2.5K mostly-true-occasionally-false fans, but I’m still living on the advance money Random House started paying me in 2008, okay? I live cheap. I have no car, no cell phone, no new clothes, no new glasses…
Oh, wait, that part sucks. Anyway, I’m cheap as hell, I don’t need much money, and I could make that work, right?
Yes. Yes, I could. But you know what? That would be another year of not making my goal. That would be another year of working on a series that didn’t get me where I want to be. Every Twenty Palaces book I’ve written has sold fewer than the one before; do I want to keep going after fewer and fewer readers every year?
Several people have suggested that I could get new readers with a Kickstarter campaign, but I don’t consider that realistic. Take a look at these guys: their campaign has been fantastically successful. At the time I write this, they’re over 11,000% of their goal. However, they have fewer than 8,500 backers.
That’s huge for a Kickstarter but Circle of Enemies sold more copies than that and it’s considered a failure. When I look at fiction projects run by novelists, especially ones who are more successful than I am, the number of backers is usually in the low-three figures.
So no, a Kickstarter campaign won’t bring in new readers. It would sure please the readers I already have, though, and you know what? I want that. Wanting to be read by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world includes the people who already know and like my work. I’m grateful for everyone willing to buy a copy of my books or to recommend Ray Lilly to their friends.
But to stay with Twenty Palaces when I know the reading public at large–not just the ones who enjoy my work, but the wide audience–has rejected it would be to never move beyond my starting point. It would mean standing in this small safe place. I would be giving up the chance to grow and try something new.
If I were a different writer–someone who could put out 20,000 finished words a week–I’d write Ray Lilly books alongside whatever new things I came up with. I can’t do that. I’m not prolific. It has to be one thing at a time with me.
I just can’t get past the opportunity cost. Twenty Palaces novels are challenging: each one took me a year or more to write, and you know what? I’m not young. Look up at that third paragraph; did I say I wanted to be the next EL James or JK Rowling? Nope, it was “Stephen King.”
Because I’m old. Life is short, and I need to spend my years wisely.
So here’s my plan: I have already written a book in The Auntie Mame Files which needs to be revised. I’ve also written about 200K of The Great Way, which is the series name for my epic fantasy. Everything I’ve written so far has been aimed at publication through New York. Yeah, I know it’s possible (maybe not likely, but possible) to make more money by publishing books myself, but more money isn’t enough. I want more readers, too.
If I Kickstart or self-publish a new novel, it will be one of those books, and it will be because mainstream publishers didn’t pick them up.
I won’t be returning to the Twenty Palaces setting until I’m honest-to-god successful. It’s only when I have, say, 100,000 eager readers buying my books that I’ll reintroduce 20P to see if the series can find new life.
So that’s it: the final word. I could self-publish or Kickstart The Twisted Path, but it’s not going to happen until after I succeed with something else. If you liked the Twenty Palaces books, I hope you’ll like the next thing I write. If not, that’s cool, too.
But please don’t argue with me about continuing the series, or try to explain to me what Kickstarter is, or insist that yes, in fact, truly, it would be the right move for me to write The Twisted Path next. The series is dead. It was starved of sales and died. I won’t be trying to revive it anytime soon.
Sorry if you’re disappointed by that–believe me when I say it hurts me even more–but that’s how it’s gotta be.
Added: As if he used his powers as SFWA president to read this unfinished blog post, John Scalzi put up a terrific post about writing for a living. It’s not just an art, it’s a job, too, and we all have to make realistic choices.
Plus, I’m convinced the dude has installed spyware on my computer or used a time machine to read this post in the future and then come back and pre-empt it. Hmf.
I recommend reading his thoughts on the matter, plus the comments from other pros in the comments. As an addendum: keep in mind that, looking at the numbers in this post, where he’s talking about the sales figures of Redshirts, John Scalzi, as successful as he is, has not yet reached the threshold I set myself for returning to 20P. Just sayin’