∞ “Selling Themselves Down The River” by Andrew Hickey.
“There is a group of people, mostly former mid-list thriller authors who’ve been published by the major publishing companies and built up a small fanbase, who have set themselves up as self-publishing gurus. They write short ebooks about how to make a million dollars a month on Amazon, constantly blog about the evils of the big publishers, and generally act as propagandists.
Several of the usual suspects recently released a “petition”, which I won’t link to but which has had media attention and received thousands of signatures, about the ongoing dispute between Hachette and Amazon.
Now, I don’t have any time for either party in that dispute, though I end up giving both a substantial fraction of my income. Hachette’s problem is largely of their own making — by enforcing DRM on their books, they’ve helped cement Amazon’s near-monopoly position — and when multi-billion-dollar multinationals fight I tend to want both to lose.”
∞ “Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People” by John Scalzi.
“Publishing is a business. As a writer, you are enaging in business with others, sometimes including large corporations. It’s not a team sport. It’s not an arena where there are “sides.” There’s no “either/or” choice one has to make, either with the businesses one works with or how one publishes one’s work. Anyone who simplifies it down to that sort of construct either doesn’t understand the business or is actively disingenuous, and isn’t doing you any favors regardless. The “side” you should be on is your own (and, if you choose, that of other authors).
These businesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing). If you’re treating these businesses as friends, you’re likely to get screwed.
(And for God’s sake, don’t confuse being friends with people at those businesses with being friends with the business. I have very good friends at Tor. It didn’t stop me from having a substantial business disagreement with the company. Businesses aren’t your friends, even when they employ friends.)”
∞ “Cover girls (How lipstick, bathing suits, and naked backs discredit women’s fiction)” by Eugenia Williamson.
“In recent years, many of the people on book covers have been women without faces. So prevalent is this visual cliché that the publishing industry has cycled through at least two well-documented iterations. The first, the Headless Woman, features some poor thing cut off above the neck, like the swimsuit-clad beachgoer on Alice Munro’s story collection “The View from Castle Rock.” The website Goodreads’s Headless Women page has 416 entries. Last year, the Headless Woman was supplanted by the Sexy Back, in which a woman is shown from behind, often gazing out over a vista.”
∞ “A book too far” on Karen Dawisha‘s work.
“Karen Dawisha is a distinguished Russia expert, who for the past few years has been working on a book about the origins of modern Russian corruption, focussing particularly on the links between the ex-KGB, business and organised crime in St Petersburg in the early 1990s. I’ve read the manuscript (provisionally sub-titled: “How, why and when did Putin decide to build a Kleptocratic and Authoritarian Regime in Russia and what is its Future?” Without giving away the specific sizzling scoops it contains, I can say I found it admirable: lucid, incisive and devastating. In the light of the news from Ukraine, and the resulting sanctions recently imposed on some of what America now officially calls Vladimir Putin’s “cronies” (details here), it could hardly be more timely and important.
But Mrs Dawisha’s publisher has got cold feet. She has just received this letter (posted in full below) from Cambridge University Press, saying that the legal risk of publishing the book is too great…
She stresses that she is not angry with CUP, but with the climate in Britain which allows what she calls “pre-emptive bookburning”.”
∞ “Two Damn Books: How I Got Here And Where I Want To Go” by Roxane Gay.
“I had no idea what to expect when working with bigger publishers though I heard the horror stories so I suppose I expected very little — no money for publicity, editors who don’t edit, good books languishing without the publisher support they so very much need and deserve. I’m also a writer of color and I was told my prospects as one were especially grim because publishers don’t know how to market us and readers don’t want to read our stories.
I did not know publishing moves glacially. When I eventually looked over each contract, I offered up thanks and praise for my agent. I know how to read but I didn’t understand much of what I saw in those papers. There were lots of arcane words and numbers and basically, I understood I would receive a rather modest sum of money in exchange for the publication of my books. The first and only dream dashed was the one where I could quit my job to write full time.”
∞ “How to Publish Writers of Color: Some Basic Steps for White Folks In the Industry” by Sarah McCarry.
“Someday I’m going to write the Essay to End Them All on why I don’t work in traditional publishing anymore and what I think of the industry’s institutionalized racism, but today is not that day (oh, honestly, just buy me a couple of whiskeys and I’ll yell it at you). But there has been a lot of hand-wringing on the internet of late about Diversity and Why We Don’t Have It, prompting today’s Twitter rampage, and look, folks, the answer is not because people of color can’t write. I run a small press, Guillotine, out of my apartment; my list is currently nearly 50% writers of color, and will likely be more like 80% writers of color next year. Nearly all my chapbooks sell out and the press is 100% self-sustaining. Commercial publishing, if I can do it, so can you.
I wrote 99% of this on the train just now in a state of total rage, so please excuse anything important I may have left out. This is an ongoing conversation. And again, again, a hundred times again: I am not saying anything here that has not been said better for decades by writers of color.”
∞ “Esoteric Publishers, Crowley, and the ‘New Right’” by Jason Pitzl-Waters.
“Amazingly, the “we’ll let you live in peace apart from us come the revolution” defense seems to often work. Allowing views that would get them painted as neo-fascists to get lost in a constructed apolitical fog. However, any direct contact with self-proclaimed National Anarchists makes plain what they are, and apologists end up having to twist themselves into pretzels in order to insulate figures like Southgate from the odious effects of their pseudo-intellectual rhetoric.
I don’t think there should be a “blacklist” for those duped into thinking Black Front Press was truly apolitical in orientation, but once enlightened, it will become increasingly hard to erect a firewall between Southgate’s publishing arm and the views he and his followers espouse. Just because this book on Crowley avoided becoming a pamphlet for neo-fascist views doesn’t mean the publishing house that produced it should be given a free pass. Ultimately, there’s an expectation that intelligent people will consider who is funding and distributing a project. If your work is helping to bolster the image of a company that endorses the philosophy of the National Anarchists, if your work helps these groups further insinuate themselves within Pagan and esoteric communities, then the fig leaf of apoliticism must be challenged.”
∞ “Neil Gaiman: “I’m obviously pissed at Amazon””, an interview with Neil Gaiman by Daniel D’Addario.
“”It’s sort of weird because the “Chu” No. 1 began with me being in China. I was talking to my Chinese publisher, and I said, “Guys, explain something to me that I do not understand. All of my adult books are available in China in translation. I’m a very popular author in China. I’ve won all these awards for you guys, I’ve got foreign author of the year twice” — really cool stuff. “And yet my children’s picture books … are only available in Taiwan and Hong Kong, they’re not available on the Chinese mainland. Explain that to me.”
And he said, “Oh, that’s very simple. Your children’s books are not published in mainland China because they show children as being smarter than their parents. They show a lack of reverence toward parents as the wisest and most important people in their family units. They show a lack of reverence for authority. And in your books, Neil, children do terrible things and get away with them. So we can’t publish them in China.”””
∞ “A footnote about the publishing industry” by Charles Stross.
“But it’s still a more or less global zero sum game (competing for readers eyeball-hours). And because the rate of individual production is relatively low and the product is still produced artisanally by cottage industries, product lead time is measured in years, time to achieve net positive revenue is also measured in years, and it’s important to keep the back list on tap because it can take decades to grow an author’s career. Stephen King was an overnight success with “Carrie” after a decade of learning to write, but Terry Pratchett took about 15 years to finally break big. J. K. Rowling took 3 books to really get rolling, and she grew eye-wateringly rapidly by industry standards. And some authors are slow-burn successes: my big breakthrough book was my tenth novel in print (“Halting State”). J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was in print for a decade or more before it really took off in the 1960s. If you practice ruthless commercial Darwinism, weeding out any hopeful mutants that aren’t immediately successful, you will miss out on a lot of huge opportunities.
So reforming the publishing industry is a very non-trivial undertaking.”
∞ “Kickstarter Before Kickstarter” by Justin Kazmark.
“In 1713, Alexander Pope set out to translate 15,693 lines of ancient Greek poetry into English. It took five long years to get the six volumes right, but the result was worth the wait: a translation of Homer’s Iliad that endures to this day. How did Pope go about getting this project off the ground? Turns out he kind of Kickstarted it.
A year later, Pope crafted his pitch:
“This Work shall be printed in six Volumes in Quarto, on the finest Paper, and on a letter new Cast on purpose; with Ornaments and initial Letters engraven on Copper,” he wrote.
In exchange for a shout-out in the acknowledgements, an early edition of the book, and the delight of helping to bring a new creative work into the world, 750 subscribers pledged two gold guineas to support Pope’s effort before he put pen to paper. They were listed in an early edition of the book…”
∞ “THE CONSOLATION PRIZE: EMILY GOULD”, an interview with Emily Gould by Mark Doten.
“The two opposed trends are “longform,” which I sometimes think of as “wrongform” because there’s such obvious fetishization of length for length’s sake, and so few publishers have the editorial resources or time to edit 5,000 words into the kind of shape they should be in to in order to deserve to run at 5,000 words. And then there is Twitter which I love, which I think is such a creative, exciting medium, and which valorizes epigrammatic writing and brevity.
The second, related, infinitely more important thing is that no one has yet come up with a sustainable, ethical way to monetize content that doesn’t pander to the absolute lowest common denominator. If you’re leveraging ads against eyeballs or harvesting data in order to sustain your editorial vision, that’s shaping your editorial vision somewhat, in a different way than it historically did for print magazines.”
∞ “The Death of the Boozy Lunch?” by TheWorkshyFop.
“Jess Richards has been in a similar situation since she began writing full time: ‘At this point in time, I don’t know how to live, where to live, how to support myself financially… so I have to figure out all of those things. Because I don’t have any financial security, I’m trying to live as cheaply as possible for now. Though there’s still adjustments needed – I spend more on bags of coffee and pouches of tobacco than food. Which isn’t quite right, is it? At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a ‘housesitting’ assignment, which in reality is ‘caretaking’ five rural holiday cottages through the winter, in lieu of paying rent. I’ve been trying (in my mind) to be ‘a caretaker who doesn’t care’, so I can prioritise writing and not get too knackered. But I can’t fix doorsteps and cracks in walls and then not love them a little bit. And there’s always something here that breaks; it’s winter, wild weather and old cottages in an exposed landscape. Everything could possibly go wrong. And sometimes does. At times I’ve hated it here. But more often than that, I’ve loved it.
The down side is that it’s hard to type when my fingers are numb with cold. And electrical wires breaking during gales, cluster fly and mouse invasions and making sure the rare visitors have clean and ironed bed linen all have to take priority over writing. I’m learning new things, which must only be good, as I’ll probably write about them later. I now know all about silicone guns. (It was flooding. A lot.) Writing’s about building a whole world sometimes. Mending broken things is a different thing entirely. Each is important. But it doesn’t start raining INDOORS if I don’t write something, whereas if the latest gale’s brought slates down… I’m not sure what’s next yet in terms of where to live. Perhaps I’ll go exploring and find a clearing in the middle of a wood that doesn’t technically belong to anyone. Make a secret room out of old tyres and pallets. The only thing that’s stopping me doing that at the moment is the fact that a laptop needs electricity…’”
∞ “MIKE R. UNDERWOOD: 25 SECRETS OF PUBLISHING, REVEALED! (OR: INSIDE THE BOOKISH SHATTERDOME)” by Mike R. Underwood is hosted by Chuck Wendig.
“Being a creative operating in public, putting your work out for sale and discussion, is a super-stressful thing at times. You spend weeks, months, or often years bleeding all over the page, crafting sentences, fabricating fictional real people out of your brain-meat and then torturing them for hours on end, and then you send the whole fragile ontological baby out to learn how to drift with a publisher so it can go fight for great justice, entertainment, and enrichment.
Querying agents is rough. Being on submission is rough. Running yourself ragged with a blog tour is exhausting. Sitting at a signing table for hours with the hope that someone, anyone will come up to see you and not to ask when Big Name Author will be back at their table.
It’s normal, I think, for an otherwise emotionally stable person to be a giant fucking wreck when dealing with their creative career. And the thing about that is, others have been where you are. Many of us have walked the same or similar paths, and can relate. That’s why it’s so important to make friends in your field, not just to help you better your work, connect with markets, or to have someone to sit next to at a mass signing. It’s also to have a support network for group therapy when shit goes down and your Publisher Jaeger gets hit by an EMP when a major retailer pulls your buy buttons or refuses to stock your book.”
∞ “Jason Arnopp interviews JMR Higgs” (Jason Arnopp & John Higgs).
“‘JMR Higgs’ is the indie novelist side of me, whereas ‘John Higgs’ is the traditionally published non-fiction author. The KLF and 20th Century will both come out properly on Orion as ‘John Higgs’, like the Timothy Leary biography. Those books are the result of an awful lot of thought, research and work and a great deal of concern for the reader and the bookseller and the publisher has gone into them. They should make sense to the wide world, basically. JMR Higgs books, on the other end, are the product of a dialogue between me and my subconscious and they are under no pressure to please anyone other than me, myself and I. So when they do find themselves chiming with others, that’s a real delight.
I can’t recommend having a foot in both camps enough, its keeps your non-fiction original and your fiction believable. It’s a bit like a band going between tour and studio, tour and studio. Also the subjects of the non-fiction act as a flag to attract people who might be on your wavelength and persuade them that maybe it’s worth risking the fiction.”