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publishing news


On the closing of AllRomanceEbooks

I saw news breaking this week, first on The Digital Reader, and then by both Smart Bitches Trashy Books and Dear Author. Both of these sites have mentioned how Romance Writers of America is deeply unamused by the entire affair.

In short: All Romance Ebooks is closing, and there has been a firestorm of bad reaction about this, because of their attempt to offer impacted authors ten cents on the dollar for outstanding royalties owed. Since I’m not a romance author, and since what romance titles I’ve purchased for my own reading have been through either Kobo or B&N, I don’t have an immediate horse in this race. But I wanted to relay the news in case anyone who reads me hasn’t seen it already–and in case any of you are actually customers of the site. If you are a customer of the site you should see about backing up your library from them RIGHT NOW.

And for any authors who read me and who have had titles there, and who will have your income impacted by this: my profoundest sympathies. It all sounds generally horrible and deeply disappointing.

If you want more data, check out the links at the top of the post.

Editing to add: Writer Beware now has a post up about the matter, including discussion of how there were no particular classic warning signs about this implosion and how nobody knew anything was apparently wrong before this week.


The latest excuse for why ebook sales have gone down: digital fatigue

ETA 6/23/2016 9:37am: Hi, incoming visitors from The Digital Reader! Welcome!

According to a post I spotted on The Digital Reader this morning, the publishing industry’s new spin on why people aren’t buying as many ebooks anymore is “digital fatigue”. The Digital Reader’s post in turn points off to Publishers Weekly’s report, which describes a survey taken of nearly 5,000 readers as to why they aren’t buying as many ebooks anymore.

I’m dubious of the whole concept here, though. I see phrasing like “quality long-form reading experience”, and have to wonder exactly what that’s supposed to mean–if this is just code for “we keep thinking that the digital reading experience is supposed to be exactly like print”, or what. I’m also wondering exactly how they got their pool of respondents for the survey–because their results sound comprehensive, sure, but there’s no data in that article as to how they acquired their survey pool.

And while I note that the article does reference self-published titles (gasp! A publishing industry survey actually acknowledged that self-pubbed titles exist?!), I also note that nowhere in this article does it mention how the uptick in pricing lately has made ebook buying prohibitive for a lot of readers.

It’s certainly been a factor in my own ebook purchasing decisions the last several months. When I see a lot of new novels in SF/F coming out at digital price points of $12.99, $13.99, and $14.99, or novellas coming out at price points like $9.99, then yes, I’m going to buy fewer new ebooks. The publishing industry may not like that Amazon created a consumer expectation of $9.99 for novels, but the fact remains that they did–and I think it’s kind of silly to expect consumers to keep buying books at the same rate when the prices go up considerably. I’m still seeing a fundamental disconnect here between what the industry thinks it ought to charge for ebooks, and what readers are actually willing to pay for them.

I will at least acknowledge that I find fatigue with the devices plausible. I also find it plausible that people don’t really want to read ebooks on their smartphones–because while it’s convenient, it’s also a bit annoying to be only able to read a paragraph or two at a time on a small screen. This is why I generally do also carry a tablet around with me, for doing my reading. And I’ve gone to tablet reading (specifically, the newest Nook tablet I picked up) instead of a dedicated e-reader on the grounds that I want the tablet for other things during the day (occasional day job testing, game play), and it’s unnecessary weight in my backpack to also carry an ereader when I’ve got the tablet.

But a) I’m a techie, b) I live in a tech-heavy town, and c) I have a well-paying day job, so I’m probably an outlier in this. And my social media channels do slant towards fellow techies as well as people who continue to be power readers in the digital realm, like romance readers. (And I’m really, really curious as to whether that survey that PW is talking about included romance readers.)

In general, though: meh. It sure would be nice if the publishing industry eventually figured out that digital readers don’t want to pay high prices for ebooks, but I’m not betting on that happening any time soon.


That sure was… a Hugo ballot, I guess

So yeah, if you pay any attention to SF/Fdom at all, you probably already know that the Hugo finalists for this year were announced yesterday. And, surprising no one, the Rabid Puppies have managed to hijack a lot of the ballot again this year.

Dara has a post up over here calling out the percentages of Rabid infections on the various categories. File770 had put up a post with the actual Rabid slate, but their site went down and as of when we last checked, they’re in the process of moving to a new server. Meanwhile, John Scalzi has commentary, and so does Jim Hines.

Me, I’m not even outraged. Disgusted, yes. Outraged, not so much. I like Scalzi’s comparing it to having to clean up after a toddler after a temper tantrum. You still do actually have to clean up after the toddler, but it does neither of you any good if you get angry.

Mostly, I’m just tired of the fighting and the drama, and of SF/F turning into a microcosm of the culture wars rampaging across the rest of the country. I’m tired of people who are theoretically adults throwing these tantrums. I’m tired of the attitude of “it’s not REAL SF/F if it’s not about people who are exactly like me”. I’m tired of people who are theoretically fans of a genre that can contain dragons, elves, aliens, spaceships, robots, and a thousand other fantastical things being unable to see room in it for women, queer people, people of color, and people who don’t speak English. I’m tired of the sneering about how if it’s written by a woman, it clearly can’t be SF/F, it must be a romance novel, whether or not there’s an actual romance in it. (And I’m also 8,000 percent done with the sneering at romance novels in general, but that’s a whole separate rant.)

I don’t think I’ll be going to this year’s Worldcon, though Dara might, for the express purpose of showing up for the business meeting and doing her part to help the passage of E Pluribus Hugo. I am not up for flying all the way to Kansas City, mostly because I seriously loathe air travel these days and I’m not going to inflict a flight on myself unless there’s something stupendously awesome on the other end–like another visit to Newfoundland or Quebec. And I’ve been trying to focus my convention energy on cons I can a) get to by car, and b) actually sell books at. This year’s Worldcon does not fall into either of these categories.

But if you’re going? I urge you to show up for that business meeting, and do your part to make sure next year’s Hugos are saner.

If you’re not going, I urge you to vote wisely on the ballot. Go look at Dara’s post for her recommended strategy.

And in general, I encourage everybody to celebrate the awesome things the genre is capable of. There is goodness on this year’s ballot. Binti is a beautiful novella, and I was pleased to see it show up as a finalist. Mad Max: Fury Road and The Martian are both very worthy contenders for Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. And I was very pleased to see the Doctor Who episode show up on Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, just because that’s some of the best damn storytelling I’ve seen out of Doctor Who in a while.

We can do great things, SF/Fdom. Let’s do them all together.


Barnes and Noble is not filling me with confidence

Over on Dear Author this morning, on their morning news roundup post, I spotted this New York Times article about the new CEO of Barnes and Noble and what his goals are for the chain. There are two general points of interest for me in this article, both of which make me look askance at B&N’s entire modus operandi these days.

First one:

To that end, Mr. Boire is leading a push to rebrand Barnes & Noble as more than just a bookstore by expanding its offerings of toys, games, gadgets and other gifts and reshaping the nation’s largest bookstore chain into a “lifestyle brand.”

As one of Dear Author’s commenters pointed out, exactly whose lifestyle is B&N aiming to represent here? Do they have anything more specific in mind there than “people who are actually willing to set foot in our stores and give us money”? Because I certainly haven’t seen much in the way of actual focus here.

And the other bit I want to call out:

Still, the company’s struggles are probably far from over. Barnes & Noble has been battered by Amazon, its powerful online rival, and has incurred big financial losses from its largely failed attempt to carve out territory in the e-book space with the Nook. While the company posted lower losses in its Nook division in the most recent quarter, sales were still disappointing, as the Nook segment tumbled 31.9 percent to $43.5 million, primarily because of lower digital content sales.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: look, B&N, your ebook sales might not have tanked if you hadn’t unilaterally screwed up the entire experience of buying ebooks on your site when you overhauled it this past summer. I haven’t bought a single ebook from B&N since that site update. It is directly responsible for me shifting the majority of my ebook purchases over to Kobo, with a side helping of Smashwords and Amazon for indie authors.

In other words, if you make it teeth-grindingly impossible for customers to buy digital content on your site, you know what’s going to happen? They’re not going to buy digital content from you.

The Digital Reader had some recent B&N news too. And what made me raise my eyebrows there was that apparently, B&N is now selling pasta. Pasta. Seriously?

Because, as one of the Digital Reader’s commenters pointed out, when I want to buy pasta, I think B&N!

If you need me, I’ll be over here facepalming.

And, for that matter, buying all my future print book purchases at Third Place Books.

Events, Publishing

Right then, how about those Hugo awards?

As y’all know already, Worldcon this year saw the conclusion–for now–of this year’s Puppy slate voting. Dara’s documented her reaction to the results over here, so I’m not going to recap what she said. Go read her directly!

I will, meanwhile, note that Natalie Luhrs put up this recap of what the Hugos would have been like if the slate voting hadn’t occurred. In particular, like Dara, I weep for how Avatar: The Legend of Korra came so close to getting onto the ballot.

But I must also call attention to what the Best Novel voting might have looked like. I was intrigued by City of Stairs when I first saw it getting promoted on, and I very definitely enjoyed Lock In, as I reported earlier this year. I feel that if Mr. Scalzi had made the ballot, I would have had a much harder time deciding between his book, Ancillary Justice, and The Three-Body Problem. As it stands, I will be upping the priority on checking out City of Stairs.

Speaking of Mr. Scalzi, he had commentary (short and pithy as well as longer and yet still pretty pithy) on the matter. It will surprise none of you that I pretty much agree with what he has to say. I would also like to call attention to Mary Robinette Kowal’s excellent commentary, while I’m at it.

Because here’s the thing: as the Mary Sue reported, while the Puppies were not as blatant a presence at Worldcon as I feared, they were nonetheless there. And some asshat thought it was funny to leave an anonymous flyer purporting to be from SFWA on the freebie table–a flyer which was brimming with racism and transphobia.

Needless to say–or at least, it ought to be needless to say–I do not find this funny. I do not find it worthy of the SF/F genre, or of civilized persons in general.

And next year, although I am not yet convinced I actually want to set foot in Kansas Missouri even for a Worldcon, I will be getting a supporting membership to MidAmeriCon at minimum. Because this year has demonstrated to me in no uncertain terms that my continued participation in the Hugo voting process is important. I’m just one small voice and one small vote.

But those votes add up. And the wisdom of Ambassador Kosh notwithstanding, this one small pebble will do her part to redirect the avalanche.

ETA: Editing because Kansas City is in Missouri, not Kansas. Derp. That said, my commentary still stands as I am not particularly convinced I want to set foot in Missouri, either!


Meanwhile, over in the Puppy pound

Dara’s been keeping a sharp eye on the Hugos brouhaha the past few days. This past Saturday, she put up this report on how certain individuals apparently took it personally that they were being criticized for the behavior of certain other persons in their little coterie. Dara rightly calls this bullshit, because it is–because the Puppies recruited Day into their ranks. And they recruited the GamerGate crowd. And now they’re complaining and claiming that they have no control over the behavior of the “wild wolf” Day.

Sorry, but no. You don’t get to recruit the likes of Day into your ranks and then complain when people call you out on it. It is not only disingenuous, it’s also cowardly.

But of course that wasn’t all, either. Dara’s got another report up this morning, following up on the previous–in which it is declared that people who would vote NO AWARD rather than the Sad Puppies slate are not only assholes, they are also Leninist Communists. (Or Nazis, according to another commenter! So the people the Puppies don’t like are Nazis AND Communists!) Phrases like “cuddly pink fluffy cudgel of political correctness” and “flaming rage nozzles of tolerance” get thrown around. (Because apparently “tolerance” is a dirty word.)

Mr. Torgersen apparently also feels that people who support Chick-Fil-A are “heroes”, and that supporting a corporation known for blatant homophobia is the act of “free people”.

I’ve seen other posts in which larger names in the genre are calling for civility. George R.R. Martin and Mary Robinette Kowal are trying to do their part to fight the fires. Noble efforts on both their parts, and I particularly applaud Kowal for not only being willing to provide people supporting memberships to Worldcon, but specifically also recusing herself from any Hugo nominations next year. Likewise, I applaud those who are matching Kowal’s efforts and trying to broaden the pool of supporting memberships being offered to fans on tight budgets.

I’m all for civility. I’m for the ideal of SFdom being welcoming to all within its ranks. We are supposed to be the literature of ideas, after all, and ideas cannot thrive in an atmosphere of stagnation. We need to have our ideas challenged, and in order to do that, we need diversity in the ranks.

But here’s the thing–when some of those ranks are on record as not wanting women, people of color, or people of alternative sexualities in the clubhouse, when they specifically go out of their way to fight against such persons being included, and when they shriek that all who would stand in their way are Nazis and Communists and “Social Justice Warriors” and “CHORFs” and whatever other derogatory terms they dream up… my civility is spent. So are my tolerance and sympathy.

Politically disagreeing with me is one thing. Going out of your way to fight against my existence is another thing entirely.

Tolerance goes only so far. It presumes that all parties are at least willing to accept each other’s presence in the clubhouse. But this? This is spiteful little boys throwing tantrums that the girls and the black kids and the queer kids are in the clubhouse now too, and they want some of the punch and pie.

And hey. Pie is tasty. But we don’t have to fight over the pie. There is enough for all, people.

But if you want a slice of the pie, stop throwing tantrums. And stop trying to push the other kids back out of the clubhouse. It’s unworthy of children above the age of six, never mind grown men. It’s unworthy of the literature of ideas.

And it needs to stop.

In closing, here, instead of a Sad Puppy, I offer this Happy Kitten instead.

So Happy!

So Happy!


More on PuppyGate

I was wandering around the Intarwebz this morning, looking for further updates on PuppyGate, when I happened to visit Charles Stross’ blog and saw this earlier post of his, where he put up a reaction to the whole tiff over Clean Reader. What really made me giggle, though, was this remark:

It’s enough to drive anyone to drink, and indeed, “novelist” is right up there with “farmer” and “quality assurance engineer” in the alcohol consumption career stakes.

Me, I am both a novelist and a Quality Assurance Engineer! (I kid you not, this is my actual day job title.) It’s probably a good thing that I am not also a farmer, otherwise I would have to drink all the vodka.

And I gotta say, the whole PuppyGate thing–involving nomenclature which, from where I sit, is an insult to good puppies everywhere–has me wistfully eying the distinct lack of vodka in the house. In no small part because, as reported by James Nicoll and followed up upon by Dara’s post today, the Puppy Brigade is making no bones about being prepared to take down the Hugos if the current movement to vote No Award on everything wins out this year.

Lots of people with way more stature than me in the genre are speaking up on this–names like Scalzi, Martin, Wendig, Stross, Kowal, Hurley, and others. It’s also come up in discussions amongst the members of NIWA, since I realized, well, shit, we’re going to be trying to sell books at this coming Worldcon. Wherein tempers are likely to be running high. I warned NIWA last night that we might want to be on the lookout for this when we’re running our table in the dealers’ room, just in case any challenges arise to our ability to cordially and civilly sell our titles.

That I have to think about this at all makes me both angry and sad.

I don’t want the toxic politics of the broader U.S. culture to be infecting the genre I grew up on. I see a lot of cane-shakery from the Puppies about a loss of a sense of wonder in recent Hugo lineups–but y’know what stomps all over my sense of wonder? Knowing that there are people out there who are going to not only sneer at anything I write just because I’m female (and prone to writing heroines of color, women in positions of power, and queer people), but who will actively work to shout down anything I and authors like me try to do.

It’s enough to make me disenchanted with the publishing industry at large, and the US SF/F branch of it in particular. I’m a super-tiny fish that’s barely entered the pond–but I’m seeing pollution in the waters up ahead, and I seriously have to ask myself, do I want to swim there?

‘Cause right now, I’m thinking not.

I’m really hoping this particular oil spill can be cleaned up. I’m hoping that Wendig’s take on the matter is right and that SF/F (as well as society in general) will continue to move in a progressive direction. But right now the dinosaurs are still thrashing, and it’s very easy for tiny critters like me to get squashed.

And since that’s all bleak and everything, here. I think I need to close on a reminder of the joy of actual puppies, so here, have a pic of a happy corgi!



(Spotted on: PixGood)