viernes, 11 de septiembre de 2015


I was checking my library for books bought this year, looking for books originally published also this year, and I realized something.

Most books I bought since January are one or two years old. Part of it is that I buy frequently from StoryBundle, and those books are usually not the most recent in the writer's catalogue. Not "ancient", mind you, but not "current".

Then, some of it is that I'm still discovering new writers. This is indie's world "fault". New writers, old writers gone indie, new distribution channels. I'm not sure if I'm before my time or not in my habits as a reader. Pioneer? Early adopter? As an English language reader or as a Spanish citizen? Mainstream or Science Fiction?

Kris has written on discoverability before. And about the produce model. I don't think, at this stage, that it's in question that the big ones are having trouble changing gears.

But so are we.

More so than them, considering how easily they've changed, as far as I know, their contracts to reflect this. But... Were do we look for new writers. Not books from a writer we enjoy, but a new one. We used to have certain channels for that, more or less controlled by publishers.

Now, we don't. Not really. Yes, amazon. And Goodreads. Sure. And podcasts. But, see, everyone knows the book is not going out of print. There's no hurry. No penalty if you discover a book several months later. Amazon, Kobo, CreateSpace will be happy to send you a copy.

And the qualification requirements for prizes will have lapsed. So, the same old imprints will be there.

Thoughts? Take care.

jueves, 3 de septiembre de 2015

I don't want a Hugo

This is sort of a personal recap on the Hugo kerfuffle. From someone who's only been to the States visiting friends. So, not the same starting point of either camp.

Personal background in SF

Two basic points: I grew up with the Nebula as the professional award and the Hugo as the reader's choice. And I'm Mediterranean. Spaniard. Oh, three: I consider myself a conservative, but card carrying reds (think younger Eric Flints) disagree strongly (I am the token conservative, mostly, in most of my groups). From the barricades and even when they have to carry one of their own to the ER because a trailer truck decided to run him over (I do hope the jerk gets to be a ward of the state). Anyhow, US and European left/right axis are not equivalent (#).

Then, some more personal background. I used to read books published by most of the SF imprints. DAW, Tor, Baen... I switched from those translated to Spanish to original English (mostly, paperbacks) in the mid 90s, simply because it was much cheaper, even at the costs of the dollar and S&H back then. While I did have some extra trouble finding things I liked (the main Spanish editor was good and I had to retrain my choices), I didn't think much of it for a while.

Then I discovered Webscriptions, currently Baen Ebooks. 4 bucks a book, I believe, back then, and... no S&H costs! Plus, I was already using Linux. Open formats were a must if I wanted to read it. For quite a while I bought Baen or hardcopy. Several hundred books of Baen. If I wasn't the only one (and I wasn't) it does explain things [+]. I recall I had to get a Gold credit card because, back then, standard issue didn't cover e-commerce.

Now, another personal note: I'm mostly "blind" to character descriptions. I didn't realize the love interest in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was black haired (she was, right?) until sometime in the 4th book; I don't think I'd have realized Simon was redhaired if he wasn't on the cover. Didn't realize Tabitha Jute was black until I read an interview on book covers well after I'd read the book. I got that a tad earlier with Parable of the Sower, I think about the time she pairs up with Morgan Freeman (yes, that's my image and I'm sticking to it). This means a lot of the diversity ruckus goes way over my head: my image of the characters stems from what they DO, not their physical description. Yes, that's influenced by the local equivalent of a WASP background and a much lower immigration that the States. Much, much lower. Also, surnames don't mean much to me. I don't get that "he's called Rodriguez, so he must be Latino." Different backgrounds, and really bad name memory. Plus, single-surname standards can't be trusted. I can't tell you the name of the main character of a book I finished not 12 hours before. She was Russian, but I can't say much more (tall, short; willowy... I think, sort of... I think her hair color was reddish; and pale, but she's a vamp). I recall Murphy (Dresden series) is short; no idea of any other of the characters (although I picture Charity Carpenter as Molly Weasley). I think I've seen her painted in dark, long hair; I don't know if it's accurate... My basic template for a SF/F character is "white, American standard, one each"; last night I kept putting a black cop in that story above with the face of Sean Connery in The Untouchables; black cops are plainclothes, and usually inspectors (21st Jump Street). And the whole US (do recall I am not from the States) fascination with race is... weird. A fourth of this and an eighth of that? Really weird. Who cares?

You get the idea. This has a side effect: if you put an Eastern character, I won't peg him as such unless there's a lot more to it (Mongol tribes, or sharp daisho, or miles and miles of desert, or...). Said otherwise: "token diversity" is meaningless, to me; I don't even see it.

Another thing. Check this. Any Spaniard who went through high school until the mid 90s (and I'd have to check the current syllabus; might still be there) was exposed to that. Quevedo vs. Góngora. Culteranismo and Conceptismo. Quevedo, by the way, is the guy in Flint's 1632 series, in Rome.

Góngora should have been strangled at birth. Historians might disagree, but high school students won't. Insufferably florid vapor.

SF and me these last years

Now, rewind a couple of years. I was weaning myself off Tor and Scalzi, both of which I'd followed a lot. You can find why in some earlier posts. Also, Penguin, but that's not related to SF, in my case. Regarding Tor and Scalzi, I got fed up with "my way or the highway and, BTW, the way is now MUCH narrower that last week" and insults to readers who didn't agree with the topic du jour.

I think I actually landed on Correia's blog thanks to Scalzi. Unsure. And I think I got wind of the puppies just before he started with the second one. Again, not sure.

The thing is, what he was saying about SF being more and more limited rang a bell. I didn't much care about the "left wing" "conspiracy", although it matched with my Spanish experience [*]. More on that later.

But there was something I believed in.

Look, I have right in front of me a recent book. Palmatier's Shattering the Ley. Big megacorp style dictatorship government ruins the ecology overusing natural energy resources and a bunch of small fry try to rig a solution while everything collapses.

I enjoyed it. Why? The ecological message? Nope. The revolution? Neither. The female character? No. The fact it implied, here and there, that the locale was somewhere near home? Not at all (too little, too late, and I don't really care). Two reasons: worldbuilding and adventure.

Could tell you similar things about some books I got from Baen's shop, including some by Kameron Hurley (not exactly a Puppy defender; my only gripe with her trilogy is that there's not enough... call it hope).

The Hugo Awards

What I believe in, what got me to follow Correia's thread, is that fiction should be entertaining. I believe that this was in Correia's posts last year. That the publishing establishment was throttling entertaining voices because they didn't reflect their perceptions (not enough anguish, or too many whites, or... Yes, linked to "leftist staff", as if it were any better when it's done by right wingers; see my footnotes).

This seems to be troubling when Correia says it, but Eric Flint's been saying the same, with different words. Yes, he assures us it's not a conspiracy, it's only the intelligentsia publishing what it cares about and praising its own while shutting the rest out. I fail to see how that makes any difference to the reader (or to the writer who doesn't get published). Also... well, publishers have been under trial for conspiracy (yes, Apple), so I would be wary of them. Also... that would mean big publishers are missing at least about half their potential readers. Which is, of course, one of the reasons for indies (and Baen).

Mind you, it's an antiquated... establishment. We're talking publishing. Unless the Hugos start going to small presses and indies, they'll become the SF Publisher's Association Awards. Which shall make them meaningless. Sort of a crippled Nebula. Flint insists that's the normal result of literary awards. Even though the Hugo is a fan award? Maybe. The normal result of life is death, but that doesn't mean we should sterilize ourselves, much less our kids.

I also believe that the "you could have won if it wasn't for your supporters" meme is astoundingly daft. If those "no award" votes were really there to punish someone who were not those writers themselves, then the whole thing has put the fandom in the thug business. "Don't rock us or something will happen to your friends". Also, the way Voxdemort acts, he might as well start proposing, say, Wil Wheaton for the Hugos. Or Joss Whedon.

My overall point? That there's a strong tendency by those in the publishing industry to steer the prize. A prize that's supposed to be the reader's. Of course, we've seen here and there how quite a lot of writers consider readers (Preston et al, basically, and the diatribes from some publisher's blogs; also, Kloos, for different reasons). A reader's prize under control is meaningless.

And, yes, BOTH sides are guilty of this. Your point? And do please stop that "our side won... the other side is responsible for what happens next". Yes. BOTH EFFING SIDES. If you win, you have shown power. With power comes responsibility. Own. Up. If you won, work for it.

Personally, I'm upset, in the British sense, that the WorldCon fandom can throw some people under the bus because someone else nominated them. "Without asking for their permission", that of the nominees. Sorry. What!? Do you have to ask awardees for such things? Really!? The uncritical thinking of that utterance is unbelievable.

And that it pretends to be True Fandom... Please. I know professional producers who LOVE F/SF but have never stepped into a WorldCon... Nor do I think they will, as things stand now. One of them is one of those card-carrying picketers above. So much for "right wing".

But, no. I'm going to erase anything that I can link to the puppies from the following list (no Baen works, just in case; certainly no Castaglia). I'm also going to skip "Fan-this" Still "No Award" is "better" than...

  • Jim Butcher
  • Kevin J. Anderson
  • Analog. Four times
  • Card's IGMS
  • Galaxy's Edge
  • Lou Antonelli
  • Carter Reid
  • Mike Resnick
  • Jennifer Brozek
  • Bryan Thomas Schmid
  • Sheila Gilbert
  • Anne Sowards
  • Jim Minz
  • Kirk DouPonce
  • Alan Pollack
  • Nick Greenwood
  • Carter Reid
  • Abyss & Apex
  • Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine
There are a lot of those names I've never read. Some others I don't like. Even some I have an aversion to. Doesn't matter.

"No award" is preferable to Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Jim Butcher, Analog (no matter how hard it tries)...

With an attitude like that, Asimov would have been writing romance. Le Guin would have been told "you need to get other people to nominate you".

Take care.

(#) Which leads, for example, to the "Nazism is leftie" meme... and B/W pics of the British royals practicing the salute, 'coz they're known commie sympathizers. My ass.

(+) Basically, I've been told (by people very far from the puppies) that "if you want to sell, go Baen".

(*) Which is usually "right wing". But then, neither is what it pretends. It's more "publishing establishment, runny maroon" than red or blue. Fandom properly was maybe more in a similar L-R divide, if you squint enough. My memory is mixing things, so I'll stop here. Plus... The Spanish fandom might have been about a hundred people. Really not important.

lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015

Publishing women

There's a new batch of "women can't publish" articles. As far as I can see, this one started with a writer's experiment submitting under a pseudonym and escalated from here. Kris Rusch' project on SFalso added some "oomph" to it, in certain circles.

Now, are women promoted less? I can see that, although I have problem seeing how midlisters can be promoted any less than they are. There are few women best-sellers, anyhow.

But let's keep a modicum of rigor, please. Dropping "J K Rowling masculinized her name" needs an explanation (specially since that bit was written in a non-English language op/ed without a tradition for initialising names). Saying "women have trouble publishing"... only true if you think they're technologically illiterate. KDP, from manuscript to worldwide publication in 10 minutes, if that, and a 2-day delay for wordwide distro. So what if Penguin or the rest of BPH don't publish? Youcan. And if you let corporations rob you of your agency you can't come claiming you're a feminist. Not with a shred of credibility.

Take care

sábado, 11 de julio de 2015

Virtue isn't contagious

I refuse to link to the original article, but... behold.

You need a very special kind of jerk to come to someone and say "fuck your birthday!". Yes, I know. Amazon is not a person. Tell that to the guy at Salon. The whiner at Salon.

He makes 5 points: the decline of bookstores, working conditions at amazon, killing the writing professions, the conditions of publishers, and its dominance.

A bunch of those are lies and misrepresentations. I'm not any sort of a special reader, and yet I know, from Spain, a good share of those 2000 indie writers he claims are left, from a max of 4000.

Oh... indie bookshops. Sorry. You mean the ones that are resurfacing now that B&N is no longer pushing them into the gutter? Up 25% in five years? Those indies?[*] Gotcha, thanks.

The way it treats workers... Can we please check on those jobs at printers that the Big V so placidly offshore to China? Pretty please? I don't pretend Amazon's warehouses are a gift from Heaven, but do please let's apply the same standards. If you want to reference "temperatures approaching 115 degree" then let's start with foundries. At it does require a very specific kind of blindnes to complain that your work has ambulances on attendance. Do try that at the next concert tour, would you?

The way it attacks writers? My ass! My choice of writers has sky rocketed in these last few years alone. About Hachette... Well, I've written about those before.

Has amazon affected small publishers? Yes. Some for the worse? Yes. Specially those who had low margins. The reference to Europe is weird, since a godly share of it has fixed price for books. And monopsony...? Well, it isn't illegal. Compare that with cartels and price fixing. And Apple.

ONE of those five points, a SINGLE one, reflects on amazon and writers. The rest is a school of red herring. And even the way he starts with indies (bookshops) and then redirects to Hachette (pubisher) is quirky. The rest are mentioned in a sort of virtue by association. "Writers are Godly, anything that touches their industry is virtuous by association... As long as it's not Amazon or the Rebel Alliance of writers. Or annoying readers".

No, it doesn't work that way. The Big V are the ones who helped B&N kill the indies. Amazon's dominance stems in a huge part from the hurdles that Big V and friends STILL put to comfortable e-reading. Big V employees (Hachette writers, Tor designers...) have been insulting readers for a while in their pursuit of some sort of ideological dominance. Publishers are using low-maintenance interns to check on writers output (not at 115 degrees, I'd hope, but can I check the ergonomics of their workplace? The health of their A/C? Their wage and living expenses?)

And the parting shots on profit? It's called reinvesting, you moron! If we had more of that, maybe those last 8 years would have been a different fish. What's, say, Hachette budget for R&D? I can give you Penguin's. But no, let's chastise Amazon. Including how good it is for consumers. The horror, really. With press like that, is it any wonder that you need independents? In publishing, in news, in...

Take care.

[*] Google "independent bookshops america increase" and choose.

jueves, 21 de mayo de 2015

Kris against The Guardian

First, before anything else, I'm using her as an example. An example as untainted by previous SF fights against/for the Guardian as I could get. Kris has not prior knowledge of this.

Now, The Guardian tends to tire me sorely. British press has gone really downhill the last 20+ years. Possibly like any other national press, but with them I have the advantage of distance and familiarity. That decline is the only way you can seriously write about "The tyranny of the mega-novel", latch it onto GRR Martin (known, in the small circles where he was known before, for short fiction) and then "refute" said article with "Fantasy cannot build its imaginary worlds in short fiction" [*].

If the first article is bad, the second sets an illustrated standard.

"High fantasy of the George RR Martin kind hinges on world-building."

Not so long ago, this very sentence, and the ideas of the first article too, would have been used almost exactly, simply naming JRR Tolkien. That's the power of the double-R.

But, to put an example, I've only read the short novellas in the world of A song of Ice and Fire (aka. Game of Thrones), and the world came brilliantly. One of the examples in the article is Harry Potter. Who creates the whole world by chapter 7. The rest is commentary. Great commentary, but, nonetheless.

Also, those examples show several glitches. One is that the world does not need as many pages as it hosts. Lord of the Rings is 6 books, yes, but it does not need them all to worldbuild. If I wrote 20 more books in that world, it wouldn't suddenly need 26 of them to set the background.

It's called background for a reason. By the same token, you could say a novel takes so-and-so many pages because it can't describe its characters in less.

So... Kris.

I have the hardcopy version of "Broken Windchimes" right in front of me. 87 pages of fiction, in booklet form. It doesn't build its world any less than a multi-saga. It explores that world less, but it's built.

Or I could get into the Retrieval artist world. It's built in the first novella. Sure, it keeps adding. A child's "built" in nine months; the rest is called growing.

But there's a specific blindness in those articles, still.

Readers. And off-Broadway productions. Sorry, off-Manhattan and wherever publishers are set in the UK.

These days "The tyranny of..." doesn't apply. Writers are myriad; publishers, Legion. Readers... we are like locusts. If YOU can't find anything besides mega-sagas, the only tyranny is inside your head. The rest of us are reading (writing) lots of other things. If your pet publishers don't put those things forward it's not the fault of short stories, novels, the genre or anything else that you can't see them.

Take care. [*] Search them yourself. They're crap. So not linking to that.

jueves, 23 de abril de 2015

The customer is the market

[UPDATE AT BOTTOM]I like going to market. Not "the grocer" or "the mall". Think something similar to Borough Market (London, UK). I was raised going to market, I'm raising my kid... It develops a certain sensibility of the relationship between seller and customer.

My father went from travelling salesman to co-CEO of a mid-sized business during some of the worst crises in Spanish history, current one included. I learned certain ideas of capitalism on his knees.

I've said before that bookselling seems to piss on both, customer relationships and capitalism. It's not the only one.

You see, my market experience and my awareness of small and mid-sized businesses makes me try to buy local, makes me glad every time I find a local business for something I used to call from far away. And yet, I keep doing it less and less.


Last year, about this time, several hatchet men were joining voices to raise the prices I paid for my books. Some months earlier, several bloggers at a SF imprint’s site were both insulting anything out of their experience and saying "my way or the highway"; my answer to that kind of rhetoric has been predictable since... forever.

This autumn I kept trying to tell several writers that keeping exclusivity on Amazon was not sensible. I was discarded, unimportant, a nuisance of an anecdote. My reaction was about that, yes. So was, probably, the one that scores of readers had after searching those books to no avail.

Some days ago I tried to reach a fountain pen store through email; it's maybe a third of a mile from home. I explained them I'd been a fountain pen user and I wanted to get back on the horse. Their first answer directed me to the website (which I had already told him I'd visited), their reply to my further questioning is yet to arrive...

This Christmas I was searching for some whisky rocks, at an "off-license" shop [*] maybe 200 yards from my own door. It was Christmas, so some delay was understandable. Yet, I insisted after that... and I'm still waiting. Well, no; waiting no more. Haven't bought him a beer since.

A friend had the same happen with knives. He had to buy some Spanish knives, a specific kind of knife and a grinding wheel (Spanish brand) at foreign suppliers. Two burst of shopping, about 400 bucks, for something he spent several days searching around, finding problems everywhere.

But markets dwindle. I was talking with a butcher last week, and when the refurbished market opens, there will be about a fourth of the butchers that were there when he started, about half the number that were five years ago.

Fountain pen users are not getting any younger, but, sure, please do alienate returning customers, much less new ones.

And, guys, don't think for a second this does not apply to writers. The recent Hugo ruckus made drop several writers I'd enjoyed, made me recover one (kudos to Mrs. Kowal). And yet, some writers insist on pampering their publishers, on being gross to some abstract group of readers, not realizing that readers are everywhere, that they don't often match their perception, and that... we can go somewhere else.

And people still wonder if the SF market is diminishing. That of the Big Names? Sure. But small publishers are everywhere, Kris Rusch is publishing a long novel a month... in a specific series, above and beyond her normal, and smaller similar stories are everywhere. Published from a garage, sold through amazon, while the Big Names in publishing and bookshops falter.

Don't put hurdles in your customers' path.

Don't insult your customer.

Is it eally that difficult?

Take care.

[*] It works different, here, but the idea is about that.

UPDATE: Got the pens through amazon-ES and Fontoplumo, a Netherlander site. A place that sells fountain pens a sneeze short of 7000 €, but also in the teen-range, plus inks and notebooks. A place whose caretaker sent me a personal email warning me that Monday is a national holiday for them and the post is going to be delayed. And a slight discount for future orders. I can assure you I didn't buy anything in the high price range. And, yet, I got customer service. Compare.

miércoles, 22 de abril de 2015


Yes. Yet another.

I'm going to try my best to give my thoughts about those. From the POV of someone who hasn't (yet) read most of the work, or who doesn't much care for American politics. Not my country, not my starting assumptions. I can love Spinrad's A World Between and certain Michael Z. Williamson's Freehold. Or Drowning Towers, by George Turner and works by John Ringo (we shall not mention the last Paladin of Shadows, though).

Now, in general, there's a lack of information around the Hugos that's biting SF in the ass. With poison and serrated teeth. Specially as it receives increased eyeballs. For example, if the Campbell Award for new writers is for writers who've first published professionally in the last two years, and there's a prize in the Hugos for essay, how come Eric S. Raymond is in the slot? The Cathedral and the Bazaar, 1997. And others after that. Or, why are markets that qualify for pro status in the SFWA labelled as "semipro"? How some writers could indie-pub things in the past and have them in the ballot following the year these were published "professionally" and yet have the same denied to Wright's novelette. I can think of legit reasons for all these, but they should be explained. Publicly, in the same web page as the Hugos. If they're not explained, it harms the image of the Hugos. Again.

So, I'm not much into this years nominations. Likely in part because both puppies went either too wide (I might have proposed Butcher... and it would have been difficult: I don't touch Hachette) or too narrow (I don't touch Vox). Mind you, we better get used to that. The comfort (heh!) of previous issues is gone. Either forget about awards anything similar to what they are (close them or let them be controlled by rabid dogs) or open them far and wide (as I understand it, the original purpose of the Sad Ones); but if you open them far and wide, if you really do, be prepared for surprises. Because people you don't know will be entering in droves. [*]

Don't close up, guys. Hachette did. Traditional publishing has. And it's a shadow of what it used to be. Myself, these days, hardly read any "big" house books. Certainly, beware of insulting your own readers, you dolts! Saying some things because that's what the publishers' side is saying is silly. You can ditch your publisher (go indie, if everything else fails), but you can't ditch your readers!

Now, more specific:


I haven't read any of those. I haven't bought Hachette or Tor for quite a while, as explained above. I can't see any reason for the "No award!" cry, though. First, because both houses have pretty solid SF histories. Second... well, Leckie has a pretty hefty award density. Kevin J. Anderson... I mean, Kevin J. Anderson, guys! That's like doubting Resnick, Brackett, Rusch... [+] Butcher... I rather prefer his earlier books, but I'll likely enjoy this one. The other two? A mixed race up for king having troubles? A Chinese work? Call the Genrish Inquisition! These are... What? WASP?

Also, I think Kloos is seriously mistaken. The award is not decided by a certain MENSA-proud loudmouth (Voldemort; it's shorter than He-Whom-I-Won't-Name). It's decided by the fans. It's rich that someone who writes about Valor awards can't realize that. A bit like a soldier dismissing an award because he doesn't like the officer who signs the recommendation. Don't. Ditch. Readers.


Kratman: I usually (not always) enjoy him. Yes, he's uncomfortable. Your point? Or you find Spinrad or Turner a balm? I don't know a thing about Arlan Andrews or his work. Analog's a solid name, though.

John C Wright: Okay... I think I've read something by him, in some shared anthology. Can't tell what, right now. I don't like several blog posts of his, though. And... Okay. A nomination per category, I could understand. Three in a single one? Bad taste, man. 3? Really? TV series have the excuse of having different staff in different episodes. What's his? Besides bad tactics, I mean. I think Trek renounced an option in the 90s to increase the exposure of the other candidate. I personally think these situations should be merged.


Analog in triplicate. Should be good. The name has heft. About the same regarding IGMS, even if I consider Card a liability (those declarations just before the premiere? Really? Couldn't he wait?) Lightspeed, about same. Plus, the magazine has a certain cred for minorities. I don't share that view, but it should protect it from certain kinds of fallout.

Now, Wright, the same one I mentioned above, was discarded on a technicality. I wouldn't have had a problem with this nomination. It's a different category. I am having problems about the way it was discarded, since it's not coherent with previous experiences. It should be clarified publicly.

Short story

By and large, the same as with Analog above.

However... How exactly a group decrying the "WASP-ness" and general ISM-ness of certain proposals finds the gall to push a lesbian off the list escapes me.

Related work

Hey! This time I've actually sort of read a couple. The one in Baen's site and, likely, some of MZW's writings. The rest, see the previous two.


Sorry, "graphic novel". Yes, sure. You just saw why there are more people at ComicCon. Pretentious will get you so far, not an inch further.

Rat Queens, kickass women by an artist with a lesbian BDSM comic, a paranormal romance, an epic fantasy... I don't see why there should be a problem with this one, unless some people don't want to be reminded about Croatia and the mess the West did there. But you certainly can't accuse him of cisthis or WASPthat. I don't know about the rest, but they look solid.


Long this and that. On a glance, the most widely represented roster. A hard SF story (Interstellar), a not-so-hard adventure (Edge of Tomorrow) with time travel. Lego... raises an eyebrow, but I haven't seen it. Will have to, I suppose. Captain America is about as SF as James Bond, I'd say.

Guardians of the Galaxy? Monte Cook's Planescape. Enough said.

I strongly dislike Cruise and anything related to Hubbard's bastard child. This doesn't mean I'm going to (try to) boycott the film.

TV episode

As before, but short.

Doctor Who. If you have troubles with that, you're reading the wrong guy. Flash... I didn't really enjoy it that much, but origin stories are usually pretty SFish, even if sometimes a tad soft. Thrones... Haven't seen it. Personal issue about unfinished sagas (Wheel of Time, anyone?). Grimm and Orphan look interesting.

Editor, shorts

In general, I don't know squat about them. Also... No WMG? Fiction River, guys! [#]


See above. I'll recognize some work, because some names ring a bell, but my brain and names are out of phase.

Semipro zine

I see no reason against them, but that they are classified as "semi" pro is an insult all the way around. See the introduction to this post.


I really don't have the foggiest idea.


See above. I don't really like the medium.

Fan writer

Okay... Why? Why is a certain quantity of sales in self-publishing enough for entry into the SFWA and yet those same sales put you in the "Fan writer" slot? Since this ruckus about the Hugos is possibly going to imply a revision, I'd suggest looking into things like that. Or "semipro" magazines, or time limits, or PR, or... Guys, it's so broken it ain't funny, and yet you keep pointing at the upset uncle and the rude in-law.

Fan artist

Will have to look deeper. At least one looks a tad too professional for my taste and my understanding of the category.


Eric. S. Raymond.


Cordova? New?

We'll see if I actually like them. I really don't know. However, what I can't see are reasons to dispute this is SF/F. Or even to argue that most of the candidates are some sort of Adolf Khan. I can argue some classifications, some ideas. But the rage against those works is, at the very best, misdirected. Also, childish.

Take care.

[*] An aside, but related. I recall when the Spanish SF fandom had trouble WRT that. On one hand "we're always the same ones, we're not enough...", but on the other, any suggestion to open up to manga or TCGs was a heresy. Even trekkies were barely "in". Fivers were a weird... subset of Trek, almost. Considering one of those against heresy was the original distributor of Magic, the Gathering in Spain... (Nicknamed, adequately enough, The Pope). While numbers are inflated, the local ComicCon has about three figures over the SF Con.

[+] Sigh... Been done, has it not? Sorry. Not US. I didn't recall that. It does illustrate my point in more ways than I could wish, though.

[#] Next year I'm going to push for the Anniversary Day series, I warn you.

sábado, 11 de abril de 2015

Luxury and the price of the commercial artisan

I was with some friends for Palm Sunday. We had some fun times, and we checked, among other things and mostly for the fun of it, Montblanc fountain pens and knives (we did have to buy some kitchen knives, but we explored some extra).

I kept some of that exploring at home, from the computer, and something has been bothering me.

We've lost the core idea of craftmanship. You see, when I was a late teen, the core Montblanc pen was about 100€. These days, it's about six times that. That's not inflation. It's the price handmade fountain pens are sold at.

There are similar differences in knives, but this will do.

We've reached a point where a demi-luxury brand (because there are way more luxurious things than the basic Montblanc), machine made, thinks it's worth the same than the artisan (maybe machine helped but still artisan) producer.

When an ebook is priced in the high teens and pundits defend the agency price and the uniqueness of Books written by Snooki while artisans, indies, price their books reasonably and, from obscure sites, sell about as much.

Being out of touch can hurt.

Take care.

martes, 24 de marzo de 2015


I read a post this weekend, on SF book covers. I keep reading paranormal romance is a women-friendly genre... and scratching my head. But I'm trusting the industry to have solid data on this, at least. For once.

Still, following on that post, I found a book... To say it can't seem to follow a single recommendation on the linked post is... being kind.

You may know, or not, I like MA. It makes you aware of certain things. And a lot of fantasy (urban paranormal or not) follows fighting characters. However, most covers depict women a single move away from grave injury. Often by their own weapons, like that one.

Now, some of that is a personal glitch. But. Even forgetting what I know about swordwork, that cover has a woman with sort of flirty eyes pole-dancing a cheap home-shopping sword. You may not know MA, but that's going to somehow prod you, and strain your suspension of disbelief. Before you even grab the book.

And this is the "age of youtube". There are scores of videos from reputable sources on fencing; Japanese, Chinese, Filipino... you name it. While not everyone has to know that, I'd say that if your business is making pics of swordfighters, it might be a good idea.

But no, that would imply some respect towards the reader and the writer. God forbid!

Take care.

domingo, 22 de febrero de 2015


I was checking some things of late and one of my pet peeves resurfaced.

You see, I love the works of David Weber, of Elisabeth Moon, of John Ringo. Of many others, but I'm going to use them as an example. Also, bear in mind that I'm a Spaniard. Religion is way different, here, even when mainstream. Ib est, Roman Catholic. No other "mainstream". That alone explains a lot (so do the Reconquista, the Crusades, or the fact that the Spanish Inquisition was the best someone accused of witchcraft could hope for, back then, or...).

My point is that I haven't read a single believable conversion... ever? Can't recall, for sure. Again, some of it is that religion is much more private, usually, here. Even in family. We've seen what certain arguments lead to, and... we keep to ourselves. Mostly. Banners and ads on buses are... weird, for us, and so are religious TV stations... OTOH, the Catholic church has several privileges that, sometimes, the other congregations manage to reach (slots on TV, tax incentives...).

Anyhow... I was saying that I can't find believable conversions. Paksenarrion's, or Bahzell's, or... even John Ringo's Queen of Wands, while sort of ecumenical (with a very wide definition of that term) resorts to use the same kind of "magic wand" conversion... with a whole nation, instead of an individual. The only atheist I've seen of late that has more than a token presence is Brad Torgersen's (AFAIK, devout Christian himself), and he manages it by shunting him aside from the religious experience. Then... there's a conversion in one of those stories, and it IS painful.

Paks and Bahzell? They trade their faith. Or, rather, their god buys their service.

Now, I understand that conversion is difficult to write, specially if you've never been through it. It changes your entire worldview, your sense of self... How can you explain what was before, what was during, from after the fact? Okay, they're difficult. But then, don't write them, wave a wand, and pretend that I have to believe that people in fantasy settings with day-to-day evidence of gods go from "no, really not my thing" to fucking paladins in a handful of pages.

Then you have D&D-religion and teams. Some people blame Tolkien for the modern Fantasy novel. While he was the spark, I think the blame is Dungeons. Because there's a hefty difference between the epic sagas of Tolkien, G. R. R. Martin, Jordan... and the icosahedron of deities and alignments that spans hundreds of stories and books. There's seldom a fantasy world with monotheistic religions, and yet, those systems manage to hold many opposing polytheistic beliefs. For millennia.

In fantasy? Opposing light/dark pantheons (sometimes with a middle-ground, sometimes not) of more or less joint gods. Bronze-age wars dressed in middle ages fervour and technology.

Who manages to do something about religious wars without resorting to that? Why is it that Eric Flint's name, socialist, comes first to my mind? Mother of Demons, mainly, but, of course, his Ring of Fire series, too (although he's "cheating", there, the way he uses, well, real wars of religion... and late XXth century US-American ideas of religious freedom).

And don't get me started into adventuring... sorry... into travel parties. Mage, warrior, thief and healer; the later sometimes meshed with the earlier ones.


Take care.

sábado, 21 de febrero de 2015

The monkey in writing

Note that I very specifically didn't say "the monkey writer".

There's a meme in self-protection circles about "the monkey driving the bus", originally stated by a certain Marc MacYoung, then jointly explored further with Rory Miller, among others.

Picture, since this is about stories, the monkey tribe from The Jungle Book. Disney's depiction is better, this once. All those angry monkeys upset because they're right, dammit! People work a lot like that. They set up a group, they they get angry when someone questions that group. Fans when "their" writer touches "their" characters, for example.

TradPub advocates when "their" models is put in question.

Independent writers when they defend things that were a mortal sin when TradPub did it. Or still does.

The danger I see is that the corollary for this is that you need to "other" the opposite side. In this case, readers. Who just happen to be your customers. When you "other" someone, you can dismiss (even alter) his logic, the relevance of his experience...

That's goddamn dangerous when those people are the ones who're paying you and there are a myriad of suppliers (which is kind of the whole point of the Indie Revolution [TM] ).

Take care. Nothing else to add.

viernes, 20 de febrero de 2015

Visibilty. Indies as special ones

It's been a weird week, book wise. After last weekend's round-up, I realized there were several writers I was trying to reach that had put some weird difficulties along the way. Some of them were kind of expected, some of them reinforced something I've been seeing for a while.

Writers with the same reflexes of the Big 5 but with the extra "glamour" of the New Indie.

Because when the Big V follow certain practices, they're antiquated, old dinosaurs hiding their heads under the sand while extinction approaches. When an article calls on certain practices... it's about Big 5. Never mind that I can show examples of indies at every single step of that article. No, no... they have Reasons. My data is a bunch of anecdotes (it is), but their experience and their friends responses are Data.

If a Big 5 publisher doesn't provide links to its products on other retailers, he's being stupid.

If an indie is not providing links to its products on other retailer than, usually, Amazon (not only, not by far), he's being... thoughtful.

The sad part is that with the old system, writers might be commodities, but they were few. Right now, there are a LOT of writers. And increasing. Limit yourself, limit your readers, and another writer will come. Your fans may follow you, or not, the rest... will be gone.

Because these days we can choose.

And it matters not that I propose certain logic steps, than other writers chime in, that this has been said for a "long" (internet) time in certain blogs. No; writers will sell were they sell. But they leave no sensors behind, they know not how much they might sell where they don't. Which is something I could understand when you have half a dozen stories. When you have 40 book titles? Give other channels a chance.

Because I'm getting tired of looking for people who won't let themselves be found.

Take care.

domingo, 15 de febrero de 2015

AE lite

Just for comparison, a couple of things. Following a writer's article on her tax returns, I just did some math. That last chart? Let me assume that it's 25-75 distributed. I don't have the data, but it's certainly more drastic than 30-70 (which would be bad enough).

With the article's data on hand, 9 tradpubs vs. 6 indies, and assuming equal distribution in each category, that writer is making about 3% (a tad less) of her income with each tradpub book... and 12.5% from each indie. 4 times as much.

This about matches some calculations I did on my purchases these past two weeks. I spent some 30+ EUR on ebooks. Had it been traditional, that would have given me two books (one and a half, with some publishers). Two writ... authors would have won a foothold in my house, a spearpoint into other people's buying habits, in addition to mine. And 5.67 EUR in royalties if they had a truly good contract.

With indies and small publishers, I got several bundles (some at around 2€/book; some at half that for the whole bundle), several writers I plan to follow (and I'm already doing that)... and even in those 0.99 cases, a total of 17.65€ for their writers.

But, of course, we've always known that indie paid better. But traditional had the publicity, the marketing, the push...

I don't want to draw false correlation, but you'll notice that the numbers are in similar neighbourhoods. About 3x-4x the income for indie.

Take care.

sábado, 14 de febrero de 2015

Discovery, proceeds and greed-reflex

I got a... mite upset, this morning, when I found some books. I had followed some writer's site out of Passive's comments, found several books she recommended, and I was seeing if I could buy them.

Turns out I can't-won't. I could technically manage to, but I'm not going to fight Amazon's disaster of a download interface (or format; why can't they use epub perplexes me), nor am I going to be charged some 25% extra for books I was curious about. And that doesn't even account for those prices too high even originally.

I don't need those books; I didn't even know they existed when I woke up this morning. But the writers managed, by tying themselves to certain marketing ideas, to turn a curious reader into a pissed one. To turn whatever they might (or not) lose from exchange rates and taxes into a total loss of a sale they won't ever make (plus lost mouth-to-ear advertising), now. Those who had other venues... well, the only one with a decent price had DRM. Let's just say I'll break your book's spine before I let it install DRM in any computer of mine.

Half a dozen writ... authors lost a sale, a penetration point into several circles of readers, because they ticked boxes and followed along. They didn't think.

By comparison, this month I've so far spent some 30+ EUR in indie / small pub ebooks. Will likely reach 40 before the weekend's over. Several of those were through bundles. Either cheap-o-matic 0.99 bundles or things through Story Bundle. In the worst case, those 0.99 books had writers pocket their stamped-sized share of the price of books I'm interested in, part of a series, and something I'll likely follow. Not much, but something and a foothold in my mindspace.

Kobo just suggested a book (crappy algorithms they have). A 20+ EUR Penguin ebook. Their chances? Nil. But if I had bought that book and a 12 EUR book somewhere else a writer might have pocketed around 5.67 EUR. Those writers I've bought these days got 17.65 EUR (minus banking expenses).

That's the power of indie. check the last chart here and realize that she's got 50% more books in traditional than in indie. That's about what transpires from AR reports. Indie really works better for writers.

But don't be a jerk and alienate readers you didn't have. And now won't.

Take care.

viernes, 6 de febrero de 2015

Profit and ebooks

I asked a program panel recently with 2 literary agents, 2 publishers, and an editor whether we’ll see any more print-only deals in the traditional market, or whether new companies will arise that fill that niche by offering print-only deals.

They all said: NEITHER. They said print isn’t profitable enough anymore for a company to be interested in print-only rights, and it won’t happen.

Whether that’s accurate or not, it certainly seems to represent present thinking to a fairly wide degree among publishers and “industry professionals.”

Laura Resnick

Publishers don't seem to quite make their decision WRT ebooks. On one hand, they're the next best thing since bookbinding. On the other, they're second-best. If that.

They can't seem to decide what mindset guides their decisions. If it is the cultural one, the one that publishes only the very best, that sells properly edited, typeset and bound books that reach their reader in a pristine state; or the commercial one, the one that publishes things like Snooky, The Idiots' Guide to Getting Laid and... ebooks.

A "traditional" writer, on the ways New York can't publish to the market.

Too long publishing to themselves. Too long absorbing publishers and catalogues and not making the mindset change. When you buy another corporation you don't only get a product line and employee redundancy, you get a culture. When you grow, you get a culture. They've grown, but they've discarded their smaller cultures. They grown... old. In the way some people grow old and retreat into the good ol' times when everyone did things like they liked. Instead of growing up, they grow flat. Stodgy, unmovable.

And the thing is that times have gone critical. And when a critical event comes, you have to make up your mind, fast. In the right mindset for the situation. A cop facing a crisis on the street and a social worker facing that same person have different tools, different troubles to address. A social worker who used to be a cop? He better decide what he is, right now, and fast.

Ebook or print?

Take care.

sábado, 31 de enero de 2015

640Kb should be enough for anyone...

Apparently, some 40 years after Bill Gates said that, some people still believe it.

Someone wrote the following comment at Author Earning's Feb'14 report (one of them, this is):
First, that even if Indies represent a big percentage of Amazon’s revenues, revenues is not the same as earnings. There are thousands of indie authors that haven’t sold a single book, (actually, I am one of them…) and they represent a huge cost for Amazon, like server space, bandwidth or help desk support.

Fascinating. One of my ebook collections has some 500 books. Taking crude data from there, it needs some 350 Mb. A tad more if you go into operating systems and filesystems and technicalities, sure. But the fact is that I could put a hundred times my library in my oldish iPad and it would fit. Or in a 32 Gb photographer's card. At about 50€ (end-user price) a terabyte, that's 50¢ the gigabyte. For less than 15 cents I can store the whole collection in a hard drive.

Bandwidth? About par, and mostly only if someone actually buys it. For the rest... about the same bandwidth it costs Amazon that anyone browses a product. Help desk support might be an item, though. Still...

People... Computing, really. It's been there for most our lives, at this stage. Get a grip.

Take care.

viernes, 30 de enero de 2015


And maybe non-fiction in general.

Start here and maybe follow the discussion at Passive's place. I sort of pointed in that direction last August (fourth bullet point).

I also know of a high school in a high-immigration zone where teachers, fed up with the access policies of "e-books" (sold as temporary software licenses: when September comes, you loose notes and access; you better not fail the subject) and their out of date content (not outdated knowledge, but outdated syllabus) has pushed them to mostly forego books and make their own content through CMS systems (Moodle, mostly; some wiki).

So, it's starting there, too. And one wonders. On one hand, certain non-fiction is costly, and I can understand the temptation of going for the advance if, say, you have to travel to Mexico to check pre-Columbine ruins. I do not share the solution, but I see the temptation. On the other... if the trip is already done, if what remains is combing through notes and bibliography (like, say, a travel guide to somewhere you've already been, or an algebra book, or an archaeologist back from Mexico...), the temptation is false. You have a mirage; which might be tempting or not, but that's another thing.

On the other, I'm interested in Mr. Bright's sentence, but it's not explored further, nor can I find the interview itself. I do suspect some of the data from Lulu (*). Still, his points on content and non-fiction are worth considering, and probably something of a trend.

Take care.

UPDATE: It keeps giving.

(*) 90% of print!? Ah, after print costs... And exactly who prints it? What are the choices of supplier?

jueves, 22 de enero de 2015


Are brick and mortar retailers starting to make — or planning to make — real-time point-of-sale numbers available to publishers?

Data Guy, at Kris Rusch' blog

I don't personally understand much of the surprise around TradPub lack of data. I'd think it's been a staple of the discussion these last... 4 years? That's likely to be a good part of the push behind Data Guy's own analysis site. Also, like I commented in my PS some days ago, big corporations tend to be somehow adverse to data. Not always, no; certainly not the best ones. Still, the push is there.

Anyhow, what irks me of "Mr. Guy's" comment is... Why should retailers make their data available to publishers? I don't know about their business end, but readers haven't seen much of a save in costs in the retail price of books, have they. Not while returns got cut in half. Not while logistics improved. By being outsourced, by the way. To, er, Amazon, among others (*).

So, big publishers have outsourced their slush pile and their logistics. They never had market research or contact with pestiferous readers. Nor do they value them that much. They certainly don't want to reduce costs (ask the DoJ; keyword "collusion"). They keep claiming that the book business has very thin margins. That they can't adjust prices any lower (I'm sure those big international corporations only buy them for their prestige, sure). That proper production practices are a threat to their way of life. American, of course. Even when it's French.

So... the rules for a healthy cultural breeding ground:
  • No free books in libraries
  • No cheaper ebooks
  • No slush pile. That's what agents and contests are for
  • No logistics. That's why we have amazon
  • No sales control. That would mean actually tracking things. And maybe even... No! Gasp!
  • No paying writers. Pay bestsellers way and beyond, and use the excuse. No audits. Internal!? What!!??
  • No market studies. It could lead to the previous two.
So, no, I would not be surprised if B&M bookshops didn't make data available. Publishers have become too used, way too used, to have the rest of the industry, from writers to readers, at their whim. without giving anything back. And the rest of the industry, specially writers and readers, is a tad fed up.

Take care.

(*) Which is, again, why Amazon's refusal to do the logistics for Hachette without the bare minimum legal cover turned into such a nightmare for them. They no longer could distribute. Ooops. Or, maybe, they distributed as the always had, but the world is no longer understanding of 3-week delays.

viernes, 16 de enero de 2015

Traditional publishing 2014

I read Kris article as it was published, but I wanted to read it with some more time, comment on it. Christmas has been busy.

I'm going to use her own numbered list as a guide.
  1. 1. Accidentally simultaneous So... NY was apparently confused that Scott Turow didn't have as loyal a following as Grisham.

    Excuse me... Scott who? I first heard of him thanks to the disaster that has become the Author's Guild. Now, granted, my best-seller reading was guided by my father, who bought translated and died four years ago. And it probably helps that his translated books are a chaotic mess (bad covers, many publishers...). Still, four movies against four-teen movies, two TV series and an extra pilot? Who was smoking what to fail to realize that they should have checked?

    But they couldn't collude! Indeed. But they could delay the books a couple of weeks once they realized what was happening. That would mean, however, reaction speed, and will. And getting the head out of the "business as usual around lobster" mindset.
  2. 2. What rise? I still have the feeling that publishers fail to realize how redundant they're becoming. Not useless, mind you, but they no longer have to compete among themselves, but with many thousands of small publishers and writers and services. They haven't seen that. Those that "have" (Kris mentions S&S in her latest post so far) are tightening their hold in their current stock... instead of trying to compete with better terms. In Kris older article, check Exploitable Content later on.
  3. 3. Oldspapers I've mostly stopped following newspapers. We're subscribed to a local paper, at home, which I read seldom and online. I used to be of those guys who tried to follow 3-4 newspapers when he had the time (not all that often) and read a beefy one daily.

    Then some jerks murdered several thousand people in New York... and news couldn't cope. I already had some other outlets, back then, but the even proved (at a moment that I was in uniform and needed a better information flow) that mainstream news were off. There were some other events, here at home, that proved to me that national news were to be avoided [*]. And they keep digging their grave, preaching to the choir. A choir that's getting smaller.

    So, basically, papers are done and gone as sources of news. They could be sources of analysis, of culture, of... many other things. But not in trimmed down supplements on type 9.
  4. 4. Magazines. See above

  5. 5. Blogs. I think blogs will review mainstream, once they realize that the old sources for reviews are done and over. For the rest, I think part of the "problem" is that, for a blogger, WMG Publishing is no different than S&S. It's not a paying customer, but a source of entertainment with an associated cost. Does it deliver? For a SF reader, what's the difference between Baen, McMillan, and WMG? Man, do the Big Five just positively, utterly hate to be on equal terms! And they don't know how to act with people who don't want to be part of the "elite".
  6. 6. Shelf space. And the huge increase of digital shelf space. Not so long ago, if I was at the airport I had several clone bookshops, with basically identical books. For all purposes, the combined catalogue was that of the biggest store. Imagine a magazine publisher whose ads (and articles) were the same in all that group's magazines, only some were shorter and had to leave some adds out. Those chain stores had more placement... of the exact same ad, time and again.

    These days before I board a plane I can check several bookshops, each of them with a basically infinite bookshelf and an algorism for suggestions that is, sadly, better than many bookstore employees. And I can buy it in place. And, if you're doing international, you don't end with spare change in something you don't need (and having to carry several pounds, if you're in for a long flight). It's not that we shop differently, is that we shop ("around") instead of being sold.

  7. 7. Algorisms. See above. Although I'm a weird critter. Those selling tactics usually annoy me. Stacks of Grisham? Who the fuck put that there! I almost tripped!! (And I consider bad form to kick books, even by accident). Also... if so many people buy it, I'll get it from someone... if it turns it's any good.
There are some very specific dates, in Spain, that are big bookpushers. Sure, they sell a lot of books to people who might not even read that book in the whole year. Basing your entire strategy on that kind of event seems a tad shortsighted. I might be wrong, of course, and they know their business like no one else, and it's a special snowflake of a business and they're doing as great as you can expect in this illiterate world.

That must be it, sure.

The thing goes on. How, at this stage, publishers haven't found a way to straddle the point between "the old book is selling like candy by a school!" and "it takes 90 days to get 1 million books into the stores" is something that amazes me. Do something smaller to bridge the gap, guys! Small, almost PoD runs. Then you can have the big run. Every time someone doesn't find a book you're risking a sale.

Take care.

[*] Again, I'd remind you that Spanish newspapers, by and large, are owned by the media and oligarchy establishment. One that was basically grown by dictatorship bootlickers.

lunes, 12 de enero de 2015

It's business

"A publishing company is not a charity. If they smell money they will publish your book. Business is tough."

John Cooper, at The Passive Voice.

The comment above was made by a writer at The Passive Voice, in a post regarding rejections.

I learned a certain kind of business behaviour on my father's knees. He'd been in the same enterprise as his father, and his grandfather. Started as travelling salesman during the late postwar recovery, ended up as manager (and managed the early 70s and early 90s crises). We spent a good deal of the 90s and the 00s discussing current corporations. He simply couldn't accept certain behaviours actually happened (managed to accept them as the economy nosedived; then, he died). He insisted that certain employee retention practices (or their lack) didn't work. That certain consumer relations were not healthy. That...

I did say that he managed to believe what I was saying as the economy nosedived, yes?

There's been a lot of ink on the way that current corporations manage their assets for good quarterly reports but can't manage much mid or long term. To the point where, when someone does invest mid or long term, it's seen as an aberration (Amazon, anyone?).

And it's dawning on me that the mechanism is basically the same. Focus on the short term (quarterly in stock corporations, preorders in publishing), no R+D, no understanding of customer & provider relationships (no matter if they are actually providers or customers of writers; they certainly are providers of bookshops), no understanding of the end customer (it's called a reader; weird critters), no understanding of distribution (Hachette delays some months ago; shipping PoD books overseas...), no understanding of their own portfolio (books as special snowflakes... unless they happen to be written by a media darling), no grasp of their inventory (*)...

Will they adapt? Sure. The corporation will. The current crop of editors, CEOs and such? I doubt it. But the corporation? Well, if Lagardere sold Hachette to a partnership of Konrath, Eisler, Howey and Rusch, the corporation would adapt. Would it still be the same? Well, technically. I think the adaptation process can fall short of that... but not really by much.

Take care.

(*) I know of a big-ish corporation whose Spanish section didn't know how many units of a given item (any item) it sold. They carrier over the prior year's predictions, then slashed the actual sales so that they could actually meet that prediction plus its growth. Unless you had access to the original data (meaning, you were in a specific off-way office) and you had kept that data privately, you couldn't know. Including department bosses, by their own orders. By the same token, publishers accept "returns" two-three-n years after shipping. And they often don't even know how much they have shipped on a given day.

domingo, 11 de enero de 2015

47 º N

Besides Barry's, I got my first Amazon-pub books these last Christmas, both by 47North (SF and such).

I am unimpressed. Not bad books, mind you, but if that's the "revolution" of Big Publishing...

"[...]The cumulative effect will be to render you immune to 99.7 percent of all known forms of sickness and reduce the aging process by one half.”

“What?” Chakrika asked.

“You can actually do that?” Lucius asked. “There were rumors in the empire, but nobody thought anything of it, considered it Commonwealth propaganda.”

Rex smiled, asking, “How old do you think I am?”

“Twenty-seven,” Chakrika replied confidently. “I can always tell.”

“That’s what I would say as well,” Lucius spoke. “But I sense that you’re about to surprise us.”

“Fifty-four standard years,” Rex replied.

Chakrika stared, her mouth gaping. Lucius laughed, shaking his head.

So, the main support characters can't do grade school math.[*] One of those characters is a serial lover. As in "get in love -> manage to get girlfriend murdered -> change planet -> repeat". And it's not an in-joke (or doesn't look like one), but someone we're supposed to take seriously, tormented and all.

Or, in the other book, a main character who gets a Bronze Star + "V" on his first serious deployment. Him and his whole squad. The whole military side on that one is... rote, scripted. Like taken from someone else's tales without running it by a vet. Which can be a choice, but it's a dangerous one. And he doesn't pull it. Maybe is that "born and raised in [Europe]" + "been a soldier" in his bio. Some parts of the tale smell of peacetime draft. And the MoH character is off.

So, not really wrong stories. But not quite right. Could have used some extra input.

I'll probably stick to indie for a while. I wouldn't mind amazon epub that much, but... they only serve mobi.

Take care.

[*] Wait! He can't! About a baby: "Just disease killers and cell repair. You don’t get the age treatment until you’re fully grown." But, of course: "It’s not an exact process." Tell & awe, verbose++, and it doesn't even gel.

sábado, 10 de enero de 2015

Nuking Nook

I don't know when I first started using amazon. Sometime in late 90s (97?), but I was using a different email, and I didn't manage to recycle that user when I changed it... twice.

Still, the reason I used it back then (it's lost a lot of that particular appeal, now, as they tweaked their system to favour their local branches... which aren't quite as good), back before amazon-UK, much less the rest of them, was that it was both easier and cheaper for me to get books through amazon than anywhere else. While I live in a city, mine is not an English-speaking country. So, in a way, my access to (English) books was about the same as someone out in some mountain ranch in Montana.

Amazon made it possible, with some S&H caveats (not really all that many), to get books. Many more titles, much cheaper books, faster books (yes, it's faster to get them from a shop... unless you account for how long it took them to get that title).

Compare to Kobo. Searching things there is a pain in the ass. Either too many results (and you get to wonder how some of those got there, since they don't match your search at all) or too few. And when you try to buy them, you get a 404. Guys, you're a corporation; at the very least, provide a link to the proper off-US site. After dealing with their pain of a search, finding the book... then you get to know they're not going to sell it to you, and they're not even going to provide an alternative. If you want it, you have to go to the European site and deal with the search engine again. And then, get charged extra, both as basic cover price and taxes [*].

So, instead of a worldwide, convenient, shop, Kobo (and others, mind you), we have a shop that insists that you're going to buy from them their way, or else...

Or else? Shove it. It and your business division, of course. It's business, guys. And a business that forgets customers...

Take care.

[*] As an aside, the VAT on ebooks as software is there because the publishing industry hasn't moved a finger against it. If the groups behind Le Monde, the Economist, El País, Süddeutsche Zeitung... pushed for cultural VAT on ebooks, the EU Parliament would work on it so fast they'd be borrowing spare seconds from 3001.

[UPDATE March 2015]: They seem to be working much better, now. Maybe being bought by the Japanese? Their search engine still sucks, but I'm being able to actually find books and buy them without jumping through the obstacle course.

miércoles, 7 de enero de 2015

New year and taxes

Apparently, Spanish newspapers, after getting a law to make Google pay for news (what amounts to a tax payable to private corporations [*]), are paying for ads... now that they no longer show on searches.

On the same venue, ebooks in Europe are now an average 15+% more expensive. Above and beyond any other taxes their publishing corporation pays.

I double dare you to find an EU-sold book in my e-library. If you track my 4-figure e-library, you won't find a single book for which I had to pay more than 20% over the cover price. This is part of the reason. So, the EU tax system no only lost 20% of a 4-5 figure expense, but also any further taxes payable on that (as benefits, employees social security...).


[*] Remember: in Spain, the equivalent to the Big 5 publishing houses are houses with both news and book arms (usually, not bookshops), usually tied to big, stale, money, and tied to bipartisan parties.