Archive for the 'The Industry' Category

11
May
10

supporting your writers!

So this post is way late and not at all what I meant to write about, but it keeps coming up, so I thought I’d put it here!

So my first book, The Spirit Thief, comes out in October. So far away! But considering I’ve been a published author for nigh on 2 years now, that’s relatively quite close! Now that this whole publishing gig is worming its way towards reality, people keep asking me how they can support my blinking, blind, newborn career.

Now, I have lovely friends and family and am honored and flattered beyond all telling that they would want to stick their necks and hard earned dollars out for me. But I don’t want them to waste their time or their money, so when they ask me “Rachel, what can I do to support your novel?”, this is how I answer, condensed in useful list form!

How to Support Your Favorite Novelist Without Spending More Than 15 Minutes or the Price of the Book You Were Hopefully Going to Buy Anyway

  1. Wait until 2 weeks before the book’s launch before doing anything – This is the most vital time for support. Any sooner and people might forget, any later and you miss those vital initial numbers that mean so much to publishers. You can of course talk it up earlier, but save anything big, and the actual purchase, until this crucial time.
  2. Preorder the book – Since you were (hopefully!) going to buy the book anyway, this is the best way to do it. Preorders boost an otherwise unknown book up the Amazon or B&N or whatever seller you prefer’s list. Strong preorder numbers lead to more and bigger book orders from retailers, which make your author look really good!
  3. Leave an honest, informative review – Of course, we all love good reviews, but honesty is the most important. A page full of glowing reviews that ultimately say nothing won’t draw readers, but even a 3 star review highlighting the book’s pros and cons can lead sometimes lead to sales. After all, one person’s gripe can be another person’s love. Hopefully, your author has written a book that earns your giddy fandom, but even if you didn’t like it as much as you’d hoped, write about it.
  4. Mention the book on your social media – Twitter shoutouts, facebook links, blog posts, they all help to raise a book’s profile. Even if the only people who follow you are your family and that guy from high school who kind of creeped you out but you don’t want to unfriend because you don’t want to be rude. You don’t have to spam or be particularly verbose, you even copy/paste the review you wrote for the book’s sales page, just say something and get the title out there. Every little bit helps.

As Cory Doctorow says, an SF writer’s biggest problem is obscurity. Anything you do, even if it’s just one post, can be a big help thanks to the ripple effect of the internet, and your author will love you forever.

(Also, when I was typing the above I misspelled Cory Doctorow’s name and Google’s (I use Chrome) spellcheck corrected me. Folks, that is fame right there, when your name is in Google’s spellcheck. )

Anyway, that’s my list. You tell me, did I leave anything out? Mess anything up? Let me know!

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26
Apr
10

At long last! Covers!

So, with all the pretty covers on the side bar, I’d been feeling a little left out. However!!! Today, Orbit has officially debuted the covers for my first three books, all coming out this fall. I gotta say, they look pretty spiffy. You can see them all over at Orbit Books, but I reposted the first one here. I know I shouldn’t pick favorites, but I can’t say no to Eli.

Be sure to check Orbit books for the other 2!!

For those who wonder how covers get made, here was how it went for me. My editor, Devi, asked me for character inspirations, you know, movie stars they look like, anything an artist could use for reference. Originally, the covers were going to be illustrated. However, that didn’t work out, so Lauren, the EXCELLENT art director at Orbit, and Devi, my awesome editor, got together and, after much deliberation and a few phone calls to run things by me, came up with these close face photo covers.  We agreed early on we wanted character feature covers, because the series is very character driven. I have to say that Orbit was wonderful at keeping me in the loop. I know a lot of authors have very minimal say in their covers, but my opinion was asked on multiple occasions, and the girl on the third cover was even changed when I objected that she didn’t look quite right. It helped that Devi agreed with me, but I felt like the team at Orbit really went out of their way to get the details right, and as an author that’s the best I could want.

Over all, I’m very happy with all 3 covers, but this one really takes the cake. So far as I’m concerned, Lauren went into my imagination and got Eli to sit still long enough to snap a picture. Couldn’t have been done better. I love it!!

03
Feb
10

How much would you pay?

Sorry for the lack of a post earlier this month — I was, at the time, scrambling to finish a draft and send it away before the approaching deadline made my head explode.  (Funny, how internally-set deadlines are worse for me than external ones.)  But now that’s off and away, I can step away from one fictional world (and immediately start tinkering in a new one), and, having sent the manuscript off at the end of last week, I can finally relax . . .

. . . just in time for the whole Macmillan/Amazon debacle.

A lot of people have already written more cogent and informed posts on the subject, and at the moment it appears that the wrangling stage has passed.  But because some of this centered on what the two different companies wanted to charge for eBooks, it’s got me thinking about a side tangent.  (Yes, I do this a lot — grab a marginally-relevant idea and run with it, maybe knitting it back into the original problem later on.)

Specifically: what makes you willing to spend more money on a book?

For a long time I refused to buy hardcovers — not because of the price, but because I was moving a lot, and every large heavy book I bought would be one more large heavy book that I’d have to pack, carry, and unpack.  Not to mention the everpresent problem of shelf space.

Even then, though, I’d shell out money for certain hardcovers when they came out.  Usually it was for one of two reasons: I’d been craving the next in a series and didn’t have the patience to wait at the library (or beg whatever friend had bought the book and then emailed me to gloat), or I’d fallen for an author’s style and trusted this new book to be worth price and weight both.

Now that I’m a little more settled and have more discretionary income, I’m more likely to pay more for a book regardless of whether it’ll fit in another box (or even on the shelves…again).  But there’s a weird sort of mental calculus that comes into play when deciding whether to buy the hardcover/paperback/trade paperback, and I’m not entirely sure what feeds into it.

For example, I’ll buy manga even after I’ve read the entire series online, so the excuse of  “must know what happens next!” that feeds my series-buying doesn’t enter into it.  I could say that it’s a desire to give my business to this author in gratitude for her work, but somehow I doubt that sort of noble impulse is more than a later rationalization.

Some of it has to do with how familiar I am with the author’s work, how likely I am to reread this book (very likely, most of the time) and whether I’ve been wanting more in this series.  For books by an author whose work I love and whose style I know I’ll come back to repeatedly, I’ll shell out full hardcover price — and it’s possible I’d even pay more.  For books that I loan out again and again, I’ll buy more than one copy, just so when I get the urge to read it I won’t have to figure out which of my friends currently has it. (I’ll only do this with paperbacks, though.)

What about you?  What makes you wait for the paperback, purchase the hardcover, go for the deluxe foil-stamped limited edition?  Hell, what makes you more likely to wait at the library or pick it up used?  And if you’ve started at the library or used book store, what will make you buy a new copy?

31
Jan
10

MacMillan vs. Amazon

So I was going to write about the editorial muck I’m neck deep in, then Nora brought this to my attention and everything else got derailed.

So here’s what happened. Publishing giant Macmillan, parent company of SciFi/Fantasy giant Tor, decided it wanted its ebooks to cost around $15. Amazon, primary retailer for ebooks, didn’t like this at all, and, to show their strong displeasure, have pulled all Macmillan books, print and electronic, from Amazon.com. (Though Macmillan imprints like Tor  seem to be fine).

This is certainly only temporary, but it is a pretty powerful statement from Amazon about who really controls the price of ebooks. However, while they battle it out, the real victims (as it always is in wars) are the civilians, in this case, the authors.  These are people whose books have just vanished from Amazon through no fault of their own, and that sucks. Now, of course there are other retailers, but come on. This is Amazon.com, the online book behemoth. This isn’t small change, especially for scifi/fantasy with our tech savvy audience.

This is also a first shot in the coming greater conflict between retailers and publishers as ebooks move from a fringe format to a real money maker. Who really controls the price? What will that price be? It’s a very interesting conflict to watch for signs of what the future holds for ebooks. Meanwhile, however, it really sucks to be a Macmillan author.

What do you think? Would you buy an ebook for $15? Who’s in the wrong here, Amazon or Macmillan?

ETA: Macmillan’s explanation via Publisher’s Lunch (thanks to Nora for the link, she finds everything!)

UPDATE! Amazon has relented! They will be selling Macmillan books again. Their explanation is a bit backhanded, but that’s to be expected from someone who’s been pushed to do something they don’t want.

27
Jan
10

You must answer me these questions three…

Hello! I’m Jeannie, another of the newbies and today I’m going to talk about something every writer (especially first timers) should be willing to do — asking questions.

Why did I choose this topic? Well, mainly because I recently found myself in a situation that required me to direct a lot of questions to my agent. In December, my editor at Bantam jumped to another publishing house. She and I had worked very closely on my book through two major rewrites, and I’d gotten very comfortable with our relationship. Naturally her departure left me wondering just what the heck I was supposed to do about my pending release, not to mention the second book.

I peppered my agent with questions. “What does this mean?” “Is my release date going to be pushed back?” “Is my contract in jeopardy?” “Who’s my new editor?” “Do I even have a new editor?”

My agent was wonderful and answered all my questions. “This means you’ll have a new editor to complete the release of the first book and to work on the second book.” “No, the release date won’t be pushed back.” “No, your contract is fine.” “Here’s the name of your new editor, and yes, you do have one.”

The main point I needed to understand was that a changing of the guard is not unusual in publishing. People come and go. It’s part of the business and we, as writers, have to learn to be flexible and roll with the punches. One of the best ways to do this is by not being afraid to speak up, ask questions, and voice our opinions especially when it involves our careers.

This couldn’t be more vital to a first-time author. No one expects you to know everything going in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other authors, your agent, and especially your editor. They are there to support you and guide you.

Above all, remember it’s your career, and you have a right to know where it’s heading.

19
Dec
09

The unexpected perks of publication

So we all know the obvious perks of getting a contract with a major publisher: a fantastic editor, outside verification of worth, money, your book in print (with a cover and everything!), etc. All of these things are the utmost peak of awesome, but there are other great parts of being with a publisher/having an agent, little perks no one tells you about… For example:

Perk 1: Free Books!

So I happened to mention to my editor at Orbit several months ago that I was excited about reading Soulless. Low and behold, what should appear in my mail box a few days later but a lovely ARC of Soulless! Friends, there is nothing more awesome then getting to read a great book… MONTHS before anyone else.  And that’s just one example. Sometimes books would just appear in my mail, awesome books, FREE awesome books by awesome people like Jeff Somers and Amanda Downum! Seriously bad ass, that’s what free books are.  This is not to be missed!

Perk 2:  Meeting Other Authors!

The first thing that happened when I got my agent (other than me nearly having a heart attack) was getting intr0duced to our own lovely Diana Rowland who, in turn, invited me to come and join her and some other bad ass people on a group blog (which is about to get a large influx of new bad ass people, stay tuned!). This kind of stuff (while not always on the level of awesome as joining the Magic District) seems to happen all the time once your name enters the published pool! My agent has introduced me to authors, so has my editor, my agent’s assistant, my editor’s assistant… it’s like they’re all in on this vast conspiracy to link authors together! Which is great because fantasy authors tend to be pretty awesome and interesting people you want to hang out with. I always thought that meeting other writers was something that happened slowly as you built a name, but it turns out they start you right out of the gate, which is great because your fellow authors are some of your best resources as a rookie. Amazingly awesome.

Perk 3:  Calls from New York!

Maybe I’m a total nerd, but there is nothing that makes my heart go pitter patter like pulling out my phone and seeing a 212 area code, then excusing myself because “I’ve got to take this call from New York.” Maybe it’s pretension, but it’s this stupid awesome feeling of “I’ve made it,” even when the call is just “hey, send us that form” or something equally banal. Bonus points when it’s your editor calling because she had this amazing idea that really is amazing, or because she wants to discuss things like cover art… squeee!

Sure writers don’t get health insurance, paid vacation, flex time, or 401ks, but there are other unique perks to the job that are not to be over looked, including the most important of all: being able to make a living writing stories you love AND having people read them. Can’t beat that with a stick right there.

03
Dec
09

Fantasy 2035

A few days ago I was on a panel at the Center for Fiction here in NYC on “The Evolution of SF/F”. The panel didn’t go wholly as described — among other things, Musharraf Ali Farooq wasn’t able to make it, and was replaced by fellow Orbit author Jeff Somers. Also, we spent rather less time on SF/F’s evolution, which as I see it encompasses present and future, and rather more time on SF/F’s past, partly as a result of one panelist’s (paraphrased) assertion that the SF/F of today lacks vision in comparison with SF/F of the past. Not surprisingly, we spent awhile dissecting that statement — in a friendly way, of course. Made for a good panel.

That said, I was kind of left wanting for discussion about the future of the genre, so I decided to do a little of that here.

Except it’s a big topic to cover, the future of an entire literary genre. Where does one begin? I could talk about the big movements of today — e.g., steampunk, slipstream, interstitialism — and make guesses as to where they’re going. I could talk about the hot up-and-coming authors of today and try and predict their careers. I could talk about the market, and what’s moving it now, and whether those financial factors will continue to have relevance. But frankly, I could do an entire blog post about any one of those topics, and who’s got time for that? I’ve got a book to write. And more importantly, lots of other people are already talking about all these things.

So I decided to focus on something different: the readership. What do I think the readership of fantasy will be like in, say, 25 years? Rounding up a bit since we’re almost at the end of 2009, that would be the year 2035.

Let me preface this by saying that it’s all going to be speculation. I have no access to marketing or sales data, beyond the small amount that gets released to the general public (example). I have the same awareness of subgenre sales trends that most of you do, which is to say mostly anecdotal and probably overgeneralized. I also have no access to demographic data beyond what’s available to laypeople in this field — which ain’t much, let me tell you. A few of the major magazines for the industry do polls or surveys of their subscribership, but these are controversial and focused on the mags’ readership, which means they all have a significant selection bias problem.

Moreover, it’s become increasingly clear to me that no one really has any clue what SF/F’s current readership looks like, let alone its future. In the latter days of the now-infamous RaceFail discussion in the SF/F blogosphere a few months back, a non-scientific roll call of people of color in SFdom put the lie to the common perception that the field’s readership is almost exclusively white, with PoC being as rare and exceptional as unicorns. In the first three or so days of the roll call, nearly a thousand people spoke up to say that they were PoC SF/F fans — note that this is just from within the limited population of LiveJournal — and many of them also mentioned parents, siblings, significant others, and so on, who were too. That’s a lot of unicorns. And in the older “Slushbomb” conversation (about gender bias) that took place a few years back, it gradually became clear that the dismal submission numbers from women writers that many magazines received were basically proportional to how many women were published by same — in other words, magazines that published more women got more submissions from women. Suggesting, of course, that there are plenty of women writers out there (and defying the common assumption that women don’t write SF), but they’re selective about where they send their work; they don’t waste time sending to markets seen as female-unfriendly (or less-friendly).

What all this reveals, IMO, is that we have no frakking clue what the SF/F readership really looks like. Specific to fantasy, I’ve heard lots of assumptions made — frex that fantasy’s readership is mostly white women, mostly members of the “knowledge class” or at least college educated, mostly middle- or upper-class, mostly lapsed Christians or into alternative religions like Wicca, and so on. But in reality? Those assumptions are probably about as spot-on as a Magic Eight Ball.

So here’s my theory. I think that half a century of SF/F film, television, gaming, and other media has created an SF/F consumership (note: not readership) that’s probably a representative subset of the population as a whole. (For the sake of clarity, let’s say the North American population, though these days SF/F media is global and I think its consumership is, too.) Maybe less so in fantasy, because fantasy as a genre has been less well-served by non-book media; beyond the occasional blockbuster like Lord of the Rings or gaming hit like World of Warcraft, we haven’t had as many hits to lure mainstreamers into the book-reading niche of the genre. (And unlike science fiction or horror, the hits in fantasy media haven’t ranged as widely over the breadth of the genre. Most fantasy hits focus on one subset of fantasy, IMO: secondary-world medieval-European sword and sorcery.) Regardless, I think that consumership is large and strong and diverse — probably at parity or close to on gender, and close to representative on race, class, and so on.

Those people aren’t all reading, note. A significant proportion of them don’t read, period, and that number is declining throughout US society as people’s time and attention-spans are consumed by flashier media and interaction. Still, a goodly number of them are reading, and of the ones who are, I think the book-producing end of the fantasy genre is doing a better and better job of capturing them. So here’s what I think we’ll see in the future of the fantasy readership:

  • Lots of young people. The phenomenal growth of the YA genre suggests that lots of young people are readers, and as those readers grow up they will no doubt look for their happy places in adult genres, and at that point fantasy will benefit mightily. Just think about how many kids and teens have now grown up on Harry Potter and the Twilight saga. They’re coming for the adult market soon, and their tastes are going to dominate the field for quite some time. We’d better be ready.
  • Gender parity. I suspect that while the fantasy readership used to be mostly male — especially in the days when quest doorstoppers and sword and sorcery formed the heart of the genre — it’s already reached parity, or swung over to being mostly female, if only by virtue of the fact that women spend the majority of dollars on books in the US. Also, the genre has made several efforts to court women readers, like the rise of the new Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance subgenres, and more female-centered fantasies. That said, I’m seeing whiffs of a corresponding effort to pull boys back into genre reading (and back into reading, period). Nothing citable at this point, just a sense that with the success of stuff like The Dangerous Book for Boys and steampunk and other genre fiction that targets boys and girls equally, we’ll see the pendulum swing back to the center.
  • The end of medieval European milieu dominance, thank God. I think this may already be happening; outside of a few blockbuster authors who are well-established, or who have passed the torch (and franchise dollars) to younger authors, I’m not seeing nearly as many fantasies in thinly-veiled Dark Ages settings as I did growing up in the Seventies and Eighties. And again, let’s look back at what kids are reading. Their fantasy tastes are decidedly non-traditional; among the bestsellers I’m seeing lots of modern settings and lots of cultures — like all those manga set in Japan. I suspect that the typical medieval European fantasy is headed the way of the sword and sorcery genre — not dead, but not dominant either — with only a few trope-breaking or subversive examples of same reaching prominence in the future. At least, that’s my hope. (Can you tell I’m a little sick of mediEuro fantasy?)
  • Correspondingly, I think we’ll see more interest in international fantasy, either from Western authors dipping into non-Western mythologies/cultures or actually written by people outside of the English-language sphere. We’re already seeing burgeoning SF/F literary movements in other countries — China most notably, but also in countries like India and Nigeria. And more of what’s already out there is getting translated for the English-speaking market. This is a good thing, because most of the fastest-growing economies in the world — whose citizenry will be buying and writing more books — are not English-speaking, so we’re going to miss out on a lot if more of it doesn’t get translated.
  • And now a note of doom and gloom, for which I fully expect to get an earful from you guys. =) I suspect Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance are not long for this world in their current incarnation. These kinds of trendy surges never last — mostly because once publishers start cranking out books to take advantage of the trend, the trend ends up expanding beyond its market and being glutted with substandard books, at which point readers get annoyed and go elsewhere. I don’t think the subject matter of UF and PR is going away; women are here to stay in the fantasy genre, and they want strong female characters, action-filled plots, and steamy romance. But the by-now-stock UF cover with its close-up on tattooed or bare female body parts, and the by-now-stock PR plot with a supernatural creature getting hot and heavy with a human woman, and so on — these are formulas, and formulas don’t last. Women like variety, too. That said, I don’t think they’re going away anytime soon. Sales don’t seem to be flagging, and publishers are still buying them left and right. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
  • Correspondingly, I think we’re going to see more interest in formula-breaking fantasy. I don’t mean just genre-bending stuff like interstitial or slipstream; I think we’re going to start seeing subversions of all the popular formulas soon. That’s something else that seems to characterize the readership coming out of YA — they like familiarity with a twist. I’d be stupid to try and predict what’s going to come of this — in my wildest fancies, I never imagined sparkling vampires, frex — but it’s definitely coming. The readership of 2035, the Millennials of today, are easily bored and not just change-friendly, they’re change-demanding. Again, those of us in the production end of the field had better get ready.

So there’s my predictions. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to chime in with your own!

(Oh — and side-note: for those who’d like to read chapter 1 of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, it’s up on my website.)