Tag Archives: publishing

WorldCon Controversy 2015 – Historical Perspective

The current Worldcon kerfuffle may seem to some like a recent phenomenon based on the flaming currents of social media. However, such controversy has existed throughout the history of fandom. In fact, going back to the the very first Worldcon convention, prevalent members of science fiction were excluded based on their political beliefs. Sound familiar?

So with a desire to gain a better historical perspective, I called David Bischoff. I write science fiction with Dave, and he’s really the man to speak with regarding the history of SF&F fandom. Not only does Dave have a 40 year (and counting) history writing genre fiction, but he has extensive experience going to SF cons long past and getting into a heated debate or two…er, hundred.

The following is a transcript of our discussion: Enjoy!

Saul – What’s your thoughts on the Worldcon controversy involving Vox Day and the Sad Puppies?

David Bischoff – Well I just heard about all this hullabaloo when my esteemed colleague Jerry Oltion started posting notices on our local writer’s group page. I’m still puzzled about this whole thing about Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies, I didn’t know it was about Libertarianism. I just thought it was about people looking to push their own sad self published books. I don’t really know how a political philosophy pertains. Frankly as far as that goes, this seems to more the kind of thing that L. Ron Hubbard’s creeps do. But then Ron was an SF fan and writer who lived in a slan shack in the early 40s, so the tradition goes way back.

Saul – Is this really on par with Hubbard?

David – What I know is this. Why are people taking this so seriously? I think it’s a hoot and great publicity for SF and Worldcon. — Vox Day is a genius!

Saul – (Laughter)

David – He’s done what John W. Campbell used to do which is have fun being a Devil’s Advocate and poking sharp sticks of pseudo-reason at the dopey heart bleeding liberals.

Saul – I don’t know, it seems to be more than just having fun. Anyway, where do you place yourself on the scales of reason?

David – Me? I’m a rational and perfect Super-Liberal who has voted Democrat all his life, but actually would prefer to hang with conservatives who are lots more fun. Did you hear about the gorgeous Wonder Twins and their books? Now I’d collaborate with them in a heartbeat. Oops! Maybe I better read one of these gems first.

Saul – Do you think Libertarian SF is making a strong comeback?

David – How the hell am I supposed to know? I don’t see sales figures. I do know that some of the looniest people I ever met were Libertarians. I went to the 1981 Denver Worldcon which was just winding down a Libertarian Conference and lots of the nutters were staying on to the Worldcon. I remember all these weird people talking intensely to each other about their various personal theories. The talk of the early Worldcon was how one Libertarian had gotten so overexcited in a discussion or argument that he’d keeled over with a heart attack and died on the spot.

Saul – Sheesh, that’s horrible.

David – Frankly, I think that science fiction people INVENTED Libertarianism. Prominent amongst these was Robert A. Heinlein, who actually had a strong medical excuse.

Saul – Now that’s interesting. Did you know Heinlein? What was your impression of him?

Well I met him all the time in SF. Personally I was lucky enough to not only meet him in personally not long before he died, but to witness him in remarkable action at an SF con in the mid 70s when he was guest of honor.

Saul – How did that go?

David – His stint at the Worldcon was wild. First, he had this blood drive. Awesome. On the other hand, did the blood bankers really want blood so filled with booze and drugs? Then he demanded that if you wanted a book signed by him, you needed to show proof you’d given at least a pint of blood that weekend.

Saul – Sounds pretty driven for a good cause.

David – And that was just the beginning. His Guest of Honor speech was in a special auditorium to accomadate the masses who wanted to hear him. He walked on stage to a standing ovation. He set an alarm clock and put it on the podium. “I have a half hour to talk, and that’s all I’ll take. When the alarm rings, the talk is over.”

He proceeded to ramble on about wonky political stuff, often incoherently, for the full 39 minutes.

Saul – Then what happened?

David – People started booing.

Saul – Really?

David – I for one was happy the speech was only a half hour. Now mind you, I’m a big fan of everything the man wrote before TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE. I once had an argument about this with Charles N. Brown, the remarkable founder of LOCUS, but I know people who agree with me. Nonetheless, I still read and reread his earlier stuff and it was and still is great. The man was not only a modern visionary, he wrote like a dream and really could draw a reader into a book. Just recently I reread THE DOOR INTO SUMMER . Hey. Any books up for the Hugo this year as good as DOOR INTO SUMMER. Rabid Poopies? Sad Poopies? Hey that’s the title of your next book Vox Day.

THE DOOR INTO DUMBER

Saul – (Laughter.)

David – Anyway, I got to meet him another time because a woman I was dating once and a while at the time knew him and his wife Virginia. I lived in Maryland at the time. Heinlein was a graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland and was attending a reunion there. Heinlein invited my friend to a party and she took me along as a date. My friend and collaborator Charles Sheffield was also there, so I was relieved about that.

Saul – So what happened at the party?

David – It was a wonderful party. Heinlein was so gracious. I think I heard later that he’d had some kind of operation that improved his mental facilities. You know, when you look back you can see there are plenty of SF fans and authors who were low grade autistic. Not Robert Anton Heinlein.

When he came over to chat with my friend and I shook his hand, and I asked him how his reunion was. He said it was wonderful. We talked a little more and he called Charles over and also a Japanese rocket scientist from NASA who both Charles and I knew and who was one of the biggest Heinlein fans in the world. We talked a bit more and then Heinlein excused himself.

“Pardon me, I really should go and talk the the Admiral over there now. But before I go, in case I get too tired and have to go to bed — Dave. Could you do me a favor.”

“Sure!” I said.

I was ready to give blood.

Saul – Ha!

David – He winked at me. “Just a minute.” He went off into the bedroom of the suite. When he returned he had a copy of one of my books.

“Could you honor me by autographing this for me?”

And he even had a pen. I find tears in my eyes now even as I think about that. You know what? Robert A. Heinlein won some Hugos and he cherished them. I don’t think he needed any help in getting on the Hugo ballot, ever.

—- To be continued in my next post. Stay tuned. —-

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Reader’s Guide and Having Fun

One criticism about my book FREEDOM CLUB is about its alternate history flashbacks, and the fact that diverging from the primary plot makes the book more difficult to read. I suppose this is true to some limited extent. However, I also feel that readers have become overly accustomed to the homogenized story-telling techniques employed by big publishers. I’m not saying I don’t like a good thriller now and then. But for some reason it seems wrong to enforce preconditions on how one must write a book. Is this not art?

Now some people will say that intellectual issues within a book are fine if treated the right way. The ‘right’ way? Sadly, I translate this as a prerequisite to couch all text in nail-biting action which keeps readers glued to each line of text. Fine for thrillers; but not every book needs to be a thriller, right?

Right?

In any event, to help readers try to understand my non-standard flashbacks,  I’ve put together a ‘reader’s guide’. You can see it from the blog’s main menu, and I hope it helps extract greater meaning from the flashbacks, so that they don’t feel like they are just roadblocks.

It was always my goal to make a book that would entice people to think. How interesting to see that when you actually do this, you pay a price.

And to those who say all higher learning can be fun: sorry, I must disagree. Intellectual pursuits can be extremely enjoyable, but they’re not fun. Look at any serious artist painting, writing, making music, sculpting…. Are they skipping around and going WEEEEEEE ? I don’t think so. Normally, they’ve got on some hard face and look like they’re zoned out (or want to kill someone). For sure, they are enjoying themselves.

But that’s not the same as having fun.

2.7 Million Indie Books Published in 2010 – Holy Bejeezes!

During a recent twitter chat, someone pointed me towards an interesting fact. According to an article published by the Association of Independent Authors,  over 2.7 million, yes that really is millions, new independent book titles were published in 2010.

What the…that many? Holy bejeezes Batman!

If you’re like me, you may find this number alarmingly high. But after you settle down and realize it’s just the way things are at the moment,contemplation sets in. You then wonder, what on earth is driving all this?

Clearly, there’s a lot to discount. One should assume that a good portion of these millions are spammers (public domain works dumped on Amazon to nab buyers who think, what the heck, it’s only 99 cents) plus a deluge of quite horrible slush pile fire starter.

However, there’s probably a good portion worth reading too. And that number, which I can only speculate, is growing at a huge rate. I like to think there are some good reasons for this phenomenon.

The analogy I’m trying to make is like torrential rain and flood water, and it goes like this. Traditional publishers have been rejecting so much work over the decades, by either system inefficiencies or anticompetitive activity, that a flood of books now inundate the market. The dam is broken, and the waters come down. There are many new and established authors who have simply given up the “rejection marry-go-round”. And established authors have even a greater reason to self/indie publish if they have a large backlog of edited  work ready-to-go.

Important for anyone stepping into these murky water will be to figure out how to survive over time. I believe that even though many barriers-to-entry have been removed, rising above the dark waters of schlock and mud will prove difficult. The solution? Patience, and the unending tenacity to demonstrate quality. This is key.

The other question I have is, how long will this flood last? I don’t believe every new author will keep pumping out books. Many will have pipe dreams, and give up when they realize there is no pot of gold for them. Also, backlogs from established authors will eventually run dry. What then?

Like many people say, we live during very interesting times in the publishing industry. I’m enjoying myself. Getting my feet wet, and splashing around in the water. So far it’s been loads of fun. I just hope I don’t lose my bathing suit, get washed away…or drown!

Selling My Book on Kindle – Becoming an Amazon Drone

I had an interesting experience getting people to buy my book on the Amazon Kindle. What I thought would be a fairly easy task, turned out to be an effort. Most were able to get the book on some device, but the entire process took (on average) 20 minutes. Why you ask? Because Kindle readers are not yet the norm, at least here in Australia. If they were, it would be a 1 minute job.

Without a real Kindle, I needed to step my readers through a more complex process because Amazon won’t sell Kindle books without a registered reader… somewhere.

To give you an idea of what occurred, let me me give you some bullet points of the questions I asked, followed by the response and follow up actions. This kind of stuff took place as I sold “each and every” copy of my book. Keep in mind, it’s a worst case scenario:

  • Will you please buy my book? – Sure.
  • Do you have a Kindle? – No. Let’s download a reader then.
  • Shall we get Kindle reader on your PC? -Sure. Download that small 25 meg file. Wait…wait…wait. Networks slow! It finally downloaded. Yay!
  •  Let’s install the PC Kindle reader. -Whoops, we can’t install the PC reader because: security protocol gets in the way, other technical problem.
  • Sigh! Well do you have an iPhone and or iPad? – Sure. Great, let’s try that.
  •  Use the App Store to get the Kindle app? – Sure. Oh, you don’t remember your password on the iTunes App Store. Fumble, call boyfriend/girlfriend/parent/husband/wife/child to get password. No one is picking up! Darn! Oh wait, they’re calling back now. Get password. Yay!
  • Let’s download that Kindle reader. -Sure. Oh, the connection is very slow. Wait….wait…wait. It downloaded! Thank goodness, that’s done. Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle app. -Whoops, you don’t remember your Amazon login? Request email to get password. Oh no, email is not working for some reason. What do we do now?
  •  Shall we make a new Amazon account? -Sure! Okay, let’s get that done. Click all over, insert name, address, credit card details. What? They don’t like that debit card? Fumble, get another card. Okay this one works: Great! That’s all done. Yay!
  • Let’s go back and download the Kindle reader on your iPhone then? -Sure. Whoops, connection on phone is not working. Wait…wait…wait. Finally, Kindle reader is download.  Yay!
  • Let’s register the Kindle reader. -Sure. What? My name and password are not valid? We just made a new account fer God’s sake! Try again. Try again. Try again. It worked! Yay.
  • Let’s buy my book now. -Sure. Whoops, can’t buy the book directly on the darn iPhone Kindle app. Let’s go back to the Amazon account on the PC and buy that book! Hit ONE touch to buy button. Click! Oh, log in again. Hmmm. Confirm card. Hmmm. Confirm address. Okay, that ONE touch click which turned into one login and 3 clicks is over. Yay!
  • Let’s see it on the Kindle reader. -Sure. Hit synch button. Wait…wait…wait. There it is!
  • Finally, a happy customer.
Okay, maybe this worst case scenario. But I think Amazon is quite lucky. If all indie authors are going around and doing this amount of work just to get their books out there, Amazon has done a great job turning authors into Amazon marketing agents.
I’m not saying I’m really a drone. I’m just saying…

Freedom Club – Launched!

Freedom Club - KindleWell, my first Kindle novel Freedom Club has finally been launched as of early October. Many thanks to the entire staff of Hotspur Publishing. Everyone worked very hard to get this first release ready.

Also, notice the final cover design. Isn’t it great? I am thankful to everyone who voted on the two versions that were posted last month. Clearly, the one named simply, transistor man, was a clear favorite by a margin of 3 to 1.

In any event, I’m looking forward to feedback from all my readers. All comments are welcome. Well…at least the nice ones 🙂

Freedom Club – Promo Video

Not on sale until October, but thought I would share this anyway. My publisher, Hotspur Publishing, made this cool promo video. Enjoy!

Freedom Club – To Be Published by Hotspur

My first novel, Freedom Club, is coming closer to public release, so I suppose its time to inform everyone about its progress. I began writing this novel in 2007, when I was still living in India. However, in the summer of 2009, I began working with David Bischoff, a published author and accomplished editor, who coached me for about two years as we brought the book to fruition. A few months ago, Dave gave the manuscript his final okay , and now it’s in the hands of Chris Lampton for a final round of proofing. Chris is also an writer and editor with decades of experience, and will fine tune the book prior to first publication.

However, it is the publication of the book that has taken on a new life and needs some explaining. You see, way back in 2007 I set out to write a book good enough to be publishable by the large NY publishing houses. With Dave’s help I believe we have achieved that goal.

But the world has changed drastically in the last few years.  Publishers are (IMHO) not open to first time authors. They want to bet on established writers who can provide guaranteed revenue. It’s a move that may prove true in some cases, but not all.  They (the big publishers) don’t know where things are really going. If they could I, suspect they’d stop all the upheavals . They’re simply digging in as the market reforms. Amazon, e-books, and POD have opened new channels for everyone to dive in, and with all the new players around, it’s hard to tell who has the firmest grip on things . Maybe, it’s the authors for once. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So given all the turmoil and change, I lost my appetite to publish Freedom Club  using the traditional model. That is, submit like crazy to finding an agent, who then will convince a publisher to go with a first time author like myself, then pray nothing goes wrong. Well, I believe that old process is broken. And even if it were to work, it can only take place with with high risk, while offering  me the author less returns.

So instead, I have decided to publish with Hotspur Publishing, a new publishing house created by my editor, Dave. Neither one of us planned this, but I think this period of time is special. New publishing houses like Hotspur could not exist just a few years ago. As long as the talent is there, it’s amazing to see how easy it is to bring a book into the marketplace these days. In fact, I don’t think Hotspur’s methods will be any worse than the large publishing houses. 95% of the writing and editing has been done. And everyone uses e-book and POD technology as large print runs become a thing of the past. The only real meaningful difference is that the established publishers have enormous overhead to cover. Elaborate layers of managers, accountants, marketing experts, lawyers, editors, interns, and illustrators. Am I forgetting someone? Oh yes: writers.

The problem seems to be that not enough people add value in the old model. Of course some editors are doing a good job. And yes, some mass marketing may have a positive impact on sales. It just that, well I don’t think the old gang will make Freedom Club any better or successful than Dave and Chris will. We’re a small group of talented people, putting all our efforts into one, and only one thing:

The book.

So, in the next month or so I look forward to setting Freedom Club loose. It may not be a big hit, but who cares. Failure happens all the time. Even for established authors. I just like writing science fiction, and I’ll keep doing that with Hotspur for no reason other than, it’s a lot of fun.

Isn’t that what writing should be about?