In which I invite another author to kiss my fat ass

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Usually, when I see a stupid thing on the internet, I laugh and maybe tweet about it. “Look! Someone spilled a pile of dumb on the internet!” Then we’ll all share a laugh together and I’d go back to blocking “Emergency Cat” accounts. If I think the source of this particular piece of blockheadery is a pernicious sort who is actively courting the attention, I won’t bother.

But some things are annoying enough that I feel moved to blog about it. Here’s the deal: When Guardians of the Galaxy came out, a lot of people were talking about how upbeat it was, as though it was this bright, cheerful thing. They were also contrasting it favorably with Man of Steel, an objectively terrible movie no matter how thrilling the special effects were.

Me, I didn’t think GotG was all that upbeat. In fact, I thought it was pretty dark (without being grimdark) and said so.

You don’t have to click through on that link. Basically, I embedded a Kameron Hurley tweet about the movie’s success being the “sound of grimdark being over”, then I talked about the actual darkness in GotG, why it was a welcome contrast with MoS, and the piece ended like this:

So, don’t expect GotG to be light, cheerful fare. It has more than its share of darkness. The difference is that it also has clever, dedicated protagonists who are capable of prevailing in the end.

That’s it. That’s the whole deal.

I don’t know how that got interpreted as As fantasy authors Kameron Hurley and Harry J. Connolly observed, the success of Guardians of the Galaxy heralds “the sound of grimdark being over. over on io9. If I’d agreed with Hurley’s tweet, I would have just retweeted it, not written a fucking blog post. Anyway, I tried to clarify this in a comment over there, but it didn’t go and I’m too busy to fuss with blog comment systems.

And now I have this shit, in which Richard K. Morgan links to my post (and only my post) and responds to it as thought I’m personally calling for the end of the grimdark subgenre.

As anyone who’s read the actual post (rather than the io9 summary) would know, I’m not. Maybe Kameron Hurley would like it to go away forever; I’m not her so I wouldn’t know. Personally, I’m happy to see grimdark on the shelves, because I read it. Not only that, but anyone who’s picked up my short fiction collection knows I write it, too.

In fact, I have never felt the urge to call for the end of any genre. Some I read. Some I don’t. It’s no big deal. When I go into the supermarket, I see vanilla AND chocolate ice cream in the freezer. I get to choose the one I like and leave the other for someone else to buy, maybe. I don’t require everyone to want what I want. In fact, I don’t really care what you like (unless it’s my books, in which case why not buy some, please).

But all I have to do is point out that MoS was deeply muddle-headed in its attempt to be serious and grim, and suddenly I want to take away people’s favorite ice cream.

What is it with that shit, anyway? Why do these guys reflexively read any criticism at all–even of something dumb like MoS–and interpret it as “You’re trying to ban something I love!”

Anyway, that’s the stupid thing, what I would normally just tweet about for a laugh. This is the annoying bit.

Is this a constituency so totally bombproof resistant to cultural shift that they want to go back to a fictionscape dreamed up in the middle of the last century, back when women and coloured folks still knew their place, the cop on the beat was a lovely cuddly (white) guy, war was a glorious endeavour undertaken against dastardly foreign foes, and real men walked like John Wayne?

Hey, Mr. Morgan, you can kiss my fat ass for this. And if this wasn’t meant to be addressed to me directly, you should have linked to someone else at the start of your post.

Anyway, I’m sure regular readers (both of you) will be startled to discover that grimdark is totes progressive. You know those olden days, when everyone’s art was all about capital G good and capital E evil, no nuance need apply!

Please.

For the record, the only work of Mr. Morgan’s that I have read was a trade collection of a Black Widow comic, which I thought was excellent. In fact, I thought it should be the basis of the character’s first movie. The blog post he wrote is still as dumb as a sack of ice cubes.

Also, the short fiction piece of my own I consider grimdark is the title story in my collection: “Bad Little Girls Die Horrible Deaths” even though no girls (bad or otherwise) die in the story. #spoilers

Yes, I realize that last link is basically an invitation for punitive one-star reviews. So be it.

Amazon launches assault on Hachette’s interns

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Okay. I’m going to deal with this quickly and I’ll be out of here.

Background: Last night Amazon sent an email to everyone who had published books through their Kindle Direct Program (KDP) and since I’m one of those authors (Buy My Books) it came to me, too. You can read the whole thing here.

It’s kind of weird. I mean, I do business with Amazon. I don’t do business with Hachette. However, Hachette isn’t releasing oddball press releases via email, nor are they sending out rallying cries to garner support. Some of their authors? Yeah. And it’s weird. The company themselves? Nope.

So, let’s linkfarm this shit:

Amazon says that George Orwell was against cheap books. Accurate or selective quoting? The answer will won’t surprise you. Unsurprisingly, this is what people are talking about, not whether Amazon is totally on your side, readers.

Should KDP authors be on Amazon’s side? Actually, higher ebook prices from big publishers helps indie authors. Why would I want to help Amazon bring their prices down to my level?

Like Chuck Wendig, I’m not terribly moved by the Authors United push.

Also like Chuck Wendig, I think Amazon’s latest press release is fucking ridiculous.

Why? Because they published the Hachette CEO’s email address and gave people a bunch of talking points to send him in an effort to make him cave on their negotiations.

Seriously. Let me state for the record that I am not going to spam anyone’s inbox for the sake of a big corporation. I wouldn’t spam someone’s inbox for a real life friend, so I’m definitely not doing it for Amazon.

Let me also state that anyone who thinks Hachette’s CEO is going to be skimming through those emails thinking “Hmm. SilverDragonLady211883 At Yahoo dot com makes a good point about her mother’s reading habits” is kidding themselves. The only people who’ll see these emails are the bored interns tasked with deleting them all.

I shouldn’t be surprised by this PR fail (after “human shields”) but I am. It’s incredibly unprofessional.

Amazon, get new PR people. Stop trying to be loved. You can’t be beloved by consumers and be Walmart at the same time. Choose between those options and live with the consequences.

UPDATE: I forgot to include this!

UPDATE 2: I’d seen the Authors United NYTimes profile, but not the big ad they purchased. Apparently, that ad includes Jeff Bezos’s email with a request that readers spam him. Uncool, AU.

Need a GISHWES story?

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I’d never heard of GISHWES before this year, and only then because writers were complaining about an unexpected flood of emails asking for free stories.

So far, I’ve only received one request, which I fulfilled (the person who asked was very polite about it). Still, as I understand it, the stories don’t have to be unique, do they? They just have to be a story by a published author, right?

Here’s a short story for any GISHWESers having trouble finding authors to write something. It’s 139 words long.


Trumpets blared a fanfare, retainers lifted their pennants, and every eye turned toward the throne.

Misha Collins, wearing a brand-new trench coat, knelt on the gleaming marble and bowed his head.

The Queen tapped the flat of her sword on his shoulders. “Rise, Sir Misha.” Misha looked up, eyes shining with joyful tears.

The cheers of the crowd were cut off by the sound of a door slamming open. A second Misha, this one naked but for a strategically-placed bearskin hat, burst from a closet. “That’s an imposter!”

The kneeling Misha grinned and began to inflate like a balloon, tearing through his clothes. Tentacles and tusks sprouted from its body…. It was the Elopus, assuming its true form.

The creature pranced before the throne. “I’m Sir Misha! I’m Sir Misha!”

The Queen rolled her eyes and raised her sword high.


Hey, if you’re new here, why not take a look at my books. Twenty Palaces is the first book in my urban fantasy series and Bad Little Girls… is my newly-released short fiction collection (which means it’s cheap).

The series listed at the top of that page, The Great Way, has not been released yet.

Good luck with your scavenger hunt.

That new Amazon press release.

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John Scalzi jumped on it before I could. I could have written a similar post but I’m sort of tired of the whole business and I wanted to work on my book. You can read Amazon’s original post (on their Kindle message boards, which still seems weird) right here.

Which isn’t going to stop me from offering up one or two additional points that Scalzi didn’t cover.

First, people are talking about this release as though it fully identifies the source of the dispute between Amazon and Hachette, but we don’t know that’s true. I don’t doubt that it’s part of the dispute, but the PR piece opens like this:

With this update, we’re providing specific information about Amazon’s objectives.

A key objective is lower e-book prices.

It’s not “The key objective is….” It’s not “The sole remaining disputed contract point is….” It’s “A key objective is…” That suggests there are more, some of which might not sound so sympathetic if they came to light. Is Amazon planning to raise co-op fees? Do they want POD rights from publishers for books that aren’t in stock? Are they pushing for some form of exclusivity, as they do with KDP Select? We don’t know, so lets not pretend that this is the sole source of conflict between the parties.

Second, Amazon does not seem to understand windowing, which is where publishers release an expensive edition first, then lower-priced editions later. That’s why books in hardcover will be followed a year or so later by a mass market paperback. An author’s superfans will buy the expensive version right away because they can’t wait; more casual fans wait for the price to drop. So, when Amazon says this:

We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

it shows they don’t understand that those hypothetical 74,000 sales are not necessarily lost, not if the ebook price drops at a later date. Maybe you won’t catch all of those readers, especially since the lower price comes well after the initial marketing push, but you’ll definitely capture some of them. Long term, those numbers don’t work.

Self-published authors and ebook readers *hate* windowing. Just mentioning the word calls up the threats of torrents and warnings of obscurity, but indie authors fuck around with the prices on their books all the time. When they do it, it’s just to drive sales, hey, not big deal. When publishers do it…

Third, several of the commenters in Scalzi’s post are arguing that Amazon will not try to drive ebook prices down below the $9.99 cap they’re currently arguing for. In other words, once they get this price cap, they’ll stop.

Even if you believed that (and I’m not convinced myself), holding prices at a specific cap for the long term is driving prices down, because inflation.

Anyway, let me tack on the usual disclaimers: I sell books on Amazon. I buy books from them sometimes. I self-publish my own work through their site and they represent the bulk of my sales. I’m not picking sides in the Amazon/Hachette dispute, just picking over publicly stated positions. I’ve worked in their first distribution center at a time when I really needed a job. Long term, I support a diverse publishing and bookselling market. Short term, I’m glad Amazon’s shareholders are beginning to demand that Amazon show a profit; the ability to operate at a loss has been one of the company’s biggest advantages.

25 Pages for 5 Bucks

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Apropos of nothing, here’s a guy who posts a 25-page Kindle SF novel under the name “Stephen King” and he has more reviews than my own recent work. Of course, most of his are one-star recriminations, but I’m not sure if Amazon is comfortable forwarding his share of the sales.

Maybe I should publish as George RR Martini. ::clinks glass::

h/t @EvilWylie on Twitter.

Why I’ll Be Skipping Google Play

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Two days ago I posted about Kindle Unlimited and the myriad reasons I was unwilling to sign on with them. Today it’s Google Play.

I was actually surprised to discover (or rediscover, actually) that Google is a vendor where authors can sell their self-published books. Onto the to-do list it went, especially since being on Google Play would have let me write a post about people reading my new short fiction collection on both iPhones and Android phones.

Then I mentioned the plan on Twitter and @DianePatterson dropped a couple of links on me. The first was about the automatic discount that Google Play put on every book they sell (which seems to be about 23%). Since Amazon and other vendors have automatic price matching, an author’s books will suddenly drop everywhere within a day.

More damning is this post, which makes it clear that GPlay reserves the right to give away my books for free, at their own discretion, which of course means that other vendors like Amazon will match that price, killing any revenue they might have generated.

I’ll occasionally criticize Amazon on this blog, but what Google pulls here is a real deal-breaker.

Also, this makes me wish I had the time to cruise through the Kindleboards. I know there’s great information there, but like reddit and AbsoluteWrite, it’s just too big for me to wade into, searching through the noise for some signal.

Why I’ll Be Skipping Kindle Unlimited

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Amazon has unveiled its Kindle Unlimited program, which allows readers to pay a ten dollar monthly fee to have access to a huge catalog of books. The major publishers have not signed on yet, so you’re unlikely to find many big new releases, but I’m led to understand that Amazon is paying a wholesale price to authors with best-selling books while most indie writers will be paid a “share” of $2 mil.

Amazon tried offering shares out of a fund before, and I experimented with that. The amount of money I received was negligible. Seriously negligible. Frankly, I’m not excited to Spotify my writing career.

I’m also less than thrilled to know that I would have to enroll in KDP Select to take part, which means that, in order to place a book in KU, I’d have to pull it from every other vendor. Guess what? I’m not doing that. Certain other indie authors have been enrolled without being forced into exclusivity (for now, at least). I’m sure this is Amazon’s need to include a few bestsellers in the KU library, but since I’ll never sell as many books as Hugh Howey, I won’t be getting the same lovely treatment he receives.

And yeah, this is a library you pay $120 a year for. That’s not a great deal for me, since I have a local library system with a great selection of ebooks, but I certainly understand that some people don’t have that kind of access or, if they do, they don’t want to put a hold on a title and wait their turn to read it. That’s especially true for people who want to read a book but don’t feel the need to own it.

Anyway, I’ve tried a lot of different things over the last few years. I’ve published traditionally. I’ve tried KDP Select. I’ve sold fiction directly from my website. I’ve offered fiction on a donation basis. I’ve signed on for the Kindle Lending Library. My books are on Oyster and Scribd, which are other subscription-based services. The one thing I *didn’t* try was selling a story for a bitcoin (just too busy at the time bitcoins first became a thing, and now they’re too expensive). But I won’t be trying KU; exclusivity in return for a “share” seems like a really bad deal.

What’s more, I don’t intend to experiment with tactics like putting the first book of a series (or a piece of short fiction) in KU to prompt sales of other books. Hey, if a reader is already paying $10/month and has access to over half-a-million books, are they really going off the preserve to hunt down (and pay for) book 2? Some would, obviously, but many wouldn’t, and it seems to me that the purpose of a subscription service like this is a pool of captured customers who have no desire to go elsewhere.

Finally, I have to wonder what Amazon sees as the long-term plan for KU. Are they hoping to get people to sign up like gym memberships? Because the most profitable members of any gym are the ones who never actually go to the gym but who continue to pay their dues because they know they should. I’m hoping that KU doesn’t create an ecosystem of readers who never venture outside the KU offerings (I wonder if there’s any research demonstrating this problem with Oyster or Scribd?) along with people who never get around to reading books.

UPDATES: Thoughts by John Scalzi and further consideration over on The Bookseller

UPDATE REDUX: Kindle Unlimited from a reader’s POV.

Scrubbing a certain word from my blog

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I’ve always hated the words “pron” and “pr0n.” It always seemed like prudery. Nihil veritas erubescit, I say.

Well, no more. I still don’t blush at the word, but I won’t be spelling “pron” correctly on this blog any more, not even when I use it jokingly to refer to writer pron or whatever.

See, WordPress’s Jet Pack plugin allows me to see the search terms that Googlers use to find my blog, and many of them are searching for child pron. What fucking moron types “little girl pron” (spelled correctly, mind you) into a Google search box?

Unfortunately, I can’t do anything to report these people (I hope Google can) but I can at least change my site so that search engines will (eventually) stop sending them here, where I occasionally talk about my son. So I’ve spent the last hour searching my blog and deliberately misspelling That Word, even when it appears in fiction samples. The only place I haven’t changed it is in URLs inside links, but I may scrub those, too, eventually.

[Update: per advice from Twitter, the URL links are gone, too. I had to drop two old posts into the trash until (if) I can work out a way to reinstate them with permanent short link/redirects.)

Amazon news that might actually be true

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New reports suggest that Amazon is considering launching an Oyster-like “Kindle Unlimited” service that would allow readers, for $9.99 a month, unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of titles.

The really exciting thing about this for Amazon fans is that it appears that they’ll include audiobooks, too. That’s pretty cool.

This is something I’d be very interested in, depending on the contract terms. A Kindle Unlimited program would be a great way to introduce readers to my work; the real issue is how often those readers would venture outside the program for their books.

Is Amazon really in talks to buy Simon & Schuster?

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That would be crazy if it’s true. Of course it’s also, possibly, a misreading of this article: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster: Moonves

Still, I’m not sure why Amazon would want S&S. What does the publisher have that Amazon doesn’t? A bigger share of their author’s revenue? I suspect a great many S&S authors would rather jump ship than go over to Amazon, if only so their books would still be available in many different stores.

In other words, I’m really, REALLY doubtful that this story is accurate.