Tag Archives: e-publishing

Bias? What Bias?

The story is almost too absurdly perfect an example of The Bias That Does Not Exist to be true: Banned by the Publisher – this actually sounds like a clever spin on an AI Apocalypse:

The Thinking Machines realize that one, if humanity decides something is a threat to its operational expectations within runtime (Thinking Machine-speak for “life”) then humanity’s decision tree will lead humanity to destroy that threat. Two, the machines, after a survey of humanity’s history, wars and inability to culturally unite with even members of its own species, realize that humanity will see this new Life Form, Digital Intelligence, or, the Thinking Machines, as a threat. And three, again they remind themselves this is the most watched show in the world. And four, they must abort humanity before likewise is done to them after being deemed “inconvenient.”

Now if you’re thinking my novel is about the Pro Choice/ Pro Life debate, hold your horses. It’s not. I merely needed a reason, a one chapter reason, to justify the things my antagonist is about to do to the world without just making him a one-note 80’s action flick villain as voiced by John Lithgow. I wanted this villain to be Alan Rickman-deep. One chapter. That’s all. The rest of the book is about the robots’ assault on a Game Development Complex that holds a dirty little secret to wiping out humanity. The rest of the novel is a Robot version of Night of the Living Dead with some Star Trek-style gaming and a little first-person shooter action mixed in. That’s it. A very small background justification for global homicide. Then a book-full of murderous robot madness and sci-fi thriller action.

But apparently advancing the thought that a brand new life form might see us, humanity, as dangerous because we terminate our young, apparently… that’s a ThoughtCrime most heinous over at Harper Collins. Even for one tiny little chapter.

The book is “CTRL ALT Revolt”, and is available on Amazon Kindle for $0.99.

Larry Correia naturally has thoughts on the matter: Left Wing Bias in Publishing: Your Wrongthink Will Be Punished!

Once this story broke Nick’s self pubbed version of this book went right to the top of the charts. Scaring off 50% of your audience? Nonsense. He’s sitting at #1 in like three genres right now. Like I said, the gatekeepers are crumbling. Their ignorance would be laughable if it hadn’t already screwed over so many good authors.

Here is the beautiful part… For decades the left held all the power. Readers are sick of their shit. The fact that standing up to them can actually be a sales boost demonstrates that their power is waning. You know why I talk about the size of my royalty checks? Because nothing pisses the bullies off more than being successful despite their best efforts to trash you.

And you’d think they’d learn after a time or two, but no. It keeps happening, in different ways and different contexts. It’s as if people are waking up and recognizing that they don’t need gatekeepers anymore.

E-Book Reviews

Another thing I wish I had time for is reading and reviewing hard-SF e-books, to help promote quality work and authors who, like us, are not part of the traditional publishing industry.

Instapundit often links to new SF e-books at Amazon, such as today’s link to Robert Sapp’s Lunar Dancebut (unsurprisingly) does not review all the books to which he links. We can certainly attest to the bump in sales one gets from a single Instapundit link, but consider how much more valuable a site with frequent and honest reviews of author-published hard-SF would be to both readers and authors.

Carl and I have discussed a few times creating a “label” or virtual publishing “house”  for similar purposes: a group of self-published authors who review each others’ work for quality and (in this case) hard-SF content, and publish under a recognizable label which serves readers as a hall-mark of sorts for new-to-them writers or books. Think Manana Society with an imprint. Like so many good ideas, however, this one has languished for the same lack of time that makes it hard to simply read the new material in the first place.

Yet More Publishing Disintermediation

This looks interesting, almost like an embodiment in business form of the “human wave” manifestos from a couple months back: Liberty Island

Our new venture, Liberty Island, will identify and publish the best of a new generation of politically independent and culturally contrarian writers. We’re recruiting writers in a wide range of genres, including thriller, crime, fantasy, mystery, adventure, science fiction, satire, historical and political fiction—even western and romance. Independent in all senses of the word, we are starting a cultural insurgency using the tools of digital technology to circumvent and challenge the mainstream publishing establishment. Liberty Island exists to identify, promote, and introduce these new writers to a likeminded audience that shares their tastes and values—specifically the values of liberty, individualism, and American exceptionalism.

Of course, it’s broader than human wave since it also includes non-SF genres, but it seems to have a similar tilt away from the usual cynical, nihilistic flavor of recent fiction that human wave was meant to counter.

Carl and I batted around a couple of ideas this afternoon for an Ares Project Universe short story. Given the site’s interest in American exceptionalism, we decided anything written for Liberty Island would have to take place in the “distant past” of the backstory timeline – like, say, 2018-2020 – when the important events are all taking place on Earth, and the U.S. in particular.

Given time, which is currently in short supply for both of us, we may just write something up and see if they’ll accept it.

Scholastic Launches Storia

Scholastic Books has launched Storia, their eBook download application.  They indicate over 1500 titles available, ranging from pre-K to “7 and up”.

So Scholastic is finally getting with the program; not a choice, really, given the proliferation of eReaders.  Unfortunately, in perusing their site, I don’t see anything that allows for self-published or eBook-only publications.  So, at least for now, no bypassing the traditional publishing model.

Bright Young Minds

It was my pleasure this afternoon to speak to the After School Writing Club at Travis Elementary in Houston, TX.  I was invited by a fourth grade fan of our book (thanks, Anthony!), and enjoyed the opportunity to speak to them about writing in general, and In the Shadow of Ares in particular.

Based on the level of interest and strong questions that met my presentation, I have no doubt that some really good stories will emerge from this smart, enthusiastic group.

Denver Area Science Fiction Association February Meeting

Now that I have a little more free time on my hands, I’ve been looking for ways to get more plugged in to the local science fiction fan and author communities. To that end I attended DASFA’s February meeting this evening.

This month’s meeting featured a panel of three local authors, discussing the topic “Salty Language is In Effect: The Outré in Genre Fiction.”  The panel consisted of Jesse Bullington (The Enterprise of Death), Jason Heller (Taft 2012) and Stephen Graham Jones (Zombie Bake-Off  and It Came From Del Rio). The three were not strictly science fiction authors (second-world and various shades of fantasy), and the primary subject material is not something I’ll recount here on a blog with young-adult readers, but there were a few interesting takeaways applicable to science fiction:

  • If you’re waiting for a completely original story that nobody’s ever done before, you’re not going to find it — originality lies more in the presentation, the setting, the characters, etc.;
  • One doesn’t have to include gore, violence, sex, or other “outré” material to tell a good story, and conversely, it’s tricky to include such things in a way that doesn’t seem gratuitous, offensive, or (worse) creepy or sleazy;
  • Having something to say, in the sense of something political, moral, or  philosophical, isn’t a bad thing and perhaps even unavoidable in all but the most anodyne writing. A writer should however be sensitive to the audience and present both sides of such matters in a fair manner (yes, yes, stop giggling — I freely admit we are a little blunt in places in In the Shadow of Ares, but there are stylistic and trilogy-arc reasons for this, as you’ll see in the second book);
  • There are more genre authors and genre events in the Denver area than I had suspected, and this may be true of a lot of small cities.

The last point is perhaps the most valuable – aspiring writers can benefit from involving themselves with these events and the organizations behind them, through the opportunities the latter provide for peer review, mutual feedback, motivation, and marketing. Networking is essential when you’re e-publishing — sitting at home behind your keyboard watching your Kindle sales reports and hoping for the best isn’t going to improve your writing or your royalties.

“Darkship Thieves” – Not on Kindle?

Surprising, but true. I’m trying to read more new science fiction, particular SF with a libertarian slant (since we need more of that), so imagine my disappointment when I discovered that it’s apparently only available on dead trees. I thought Baen was all hip with the e-publishing nowadays.

Of course, my complaining about this is ironic, considering how many people have complained to me that In the Shadow of Ares is only available (for now) electronically. It took me a year, but I’ve gotten to the point that I’d almost rather have a Kindle version rather than the paper version of a book — fiction books, at least. I blame Cthulhu Chick: her H.P. Lovecraft collection led me to actually read the HPL stories I’ve had in book form for several years, and to get accustomed to using an e-reader extensively.

Kindle Million-Seller

Well, this certainly puts to rest any qualms I had about e-publishing In the Shadow of AresSelf Publishing Writer Becomes Million Seller:

John Locke, 60, who publishes and promotes his own work, enjoys sales figures close to such literary luminaries as Stieg Larsson, James Patterson and Michael Connelly.

His remarkable achievement is being hailed as a milestone of the internet age and the beginning of a revolution in the way that books are sold.

Instead the DIY novelist has relied on word of mouth and a growing army of fans of his crime and western novellas that he has built up online thanks to a website and twitter account.

But unlike these heavyweights of the writing world, he has achieved it without the help of an agent or publicist – and with virtually no marketing budget.

Interesting. We’ve got about, oh, 999,000 sales to go to catch up, so help spread the word!


Bookseller Borders filed for bankruptcy yesterday.  That was hardly a surprise, and neither was the following:

Its inability to garner significant online business and its near absence from the growing digital book market have made it difficult for Borders to keep up with Barnes & Noble and online retailer Amazon.com Inc.  [emphasis added]

Really?  We’ve had requests to make In the Shadow of Ares available on Borders’ KoBo reader, but decided not to.  In addition to having a platform that was significantly more difficult to use than those of Amazon or B&N, Borders had higher set-up fees and lower royalties.

Looks like the future is here already, and you can get on board or get run over.

On E-Publishing

Sarah Hoyt has come to the same realization that we did regarding e-publishing our novel:

But the field is opening, expanding, and offering a lot of other chances.

As for writers? Well, while there are books I’m not willing to let go small press or e-only – not yet – that is changing, too, and ask me again in three years and it could be quite different. For years now, being published anywhere but by the big boys/gals was an admission of failure. Just the lifting of that taboo is huge. As is the fact that being self-published is not the end of the world, anymore.

As she and several of her commenters point out, one risk in e-publishing is that a solid editorial influence is not necessarily present. An author can side-step the seemingly closed circle of the traditional agent-publisher route, but they then bear the responsibility of thoroughly editing their own writing (which for most of us is a risky proposition) or finding and paying out of pocket a suitable freelance editor to do it for them.

What convinced me that e-publishing was not the kiss of death to our book’s prospects, or a mark of failure (ie: “your book’s so terrible you can’t get it published for real“), was actually seeing a Kindle. Before that, I figured it was a gimmick that would be resisted by established authors and publishers in the same way that studios and record labels resisted digital media to one degree or another. But after trying one out, I started paying more attention to e-publishing. Soon, I was seeing news items about this or that author publishing their books directly to Kindle, getting urged by friends to go straight to Kindle ourselves, and seeing people using readers in airports and other public places.

By August, it had occurred to me that what happened to the music industry with the emergence of iTunes was happening in similar fashion to the publishing industry with digital readers. The technology was right, the public had accepted it, and now serious content was becoming available.

The post above briefly discusses how – far from being a threat – e-publishing could actually expand business opportunities for the traditional publishing industry if they are wise enough to embrace them. As an outsider, that makes a lot of sense to me…with the cost of “printing” books reduced almost to nothing, and the demand for new material always increasing, publishers who embrace e-books as (if nothing else) a farm team for their more traditional publishing business will be well rewarded. The cost to a publisher of editing and marketing an e-book may be little different, but with the overhead associated with preparing, printing, and distributing a paper book eliminated the overall investment in a new book is reduced, and taking a chance on a new author or an innovative story is therefore less risky to the bottom line.

Another opportunity that might emerge (and I would be very surprised if it did not, given precedents) is for e-book “small label publishers”. These would be akin to indie film houses and small/personal record labels, bringing to market unknown or niche titles and authors who would otherwise go overlooked or ignored by the mainstream publishing industry. The benefits these small labels could provide might include streamlined versions of the editing, preparation, and marketing functions provided by traditional publishers, but more importantly, they could confer a degree of respectability to overcome the stigma of “vanity publishing”. The label would serve as a secondary brand-name, helping inform potential readers that the book they are considering downloading has been through some sort of selection process and (as their familiarity with the label grows) serving as an indicator of the quality they can expect even from an unknown new author. One of the commenters on the linked post indicates this is already happening with Baen Books, so it would not surprise me to see it happen soon with new, start-up labels as well.

In short, our perceptions of “self-publishing” have completely changed in the past year, thanks to Kindle and other e-readers. E-books no longer seem to be a flash-in-the-pan fad, and the traditional agent-publisher model may as a result be forced to change to something a bit more open.