We start this service with a reading from The Book of Maass:
“…because some authors are now—voluntarily!—willing to bear the expense and undertake the effort of building an audience by themselves, print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd. Even print-only distribution deals with a handful of successful e-published authors are terrific: easy pickings and effortless profit. Most authors are still knocking at the gate, too, since after all seventy percent of trade book sales are of print editions. In many ways these are good times for print publishers.”
“…the self-publishing movement has produced gold-rush hysteria in the writing community. While not exactly a mass delusion, questionable beliefs have been widely accepted. True believers sneer at doubters. So what is the real truth? High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few who have mastered the demanding business of online marketing. A larger, but still small, number of authors have achieved a modest replacement income from self-publishing. Growth from there will be hard for them, however, because wide print distribution still is needed.”
“…the position of the vast majority of self-publishing authors is no better than it ever was, though probably there are fewer cartons of books in their garages. Consultancy to self-publishers is a new job category, however, and that has to be good for the nation’s employment stats.”
And now, a reading from The Book of Konrath:
“…The royals vs. the peasants. The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The establishment vs. the revolutionaries. The haves vs. the have-nots. The gatekeepers spouting bullshit vs. the new breed of writers calling them on their bullshit.“
“…for those countless midlist authors stuck with unconscionable contracts because they had no choice, and the multitude of authors kept out of the industry by gatekeepers such as yourself, it didn’t work. It actually sucked wheelbarrows full of ass. Your industry f***ed the majority of writers it provided services for. And that same industry was built on the sweat, tears, toil, and blood of those very writers it exploited.”
“…we talk to each other. We read each others’ contracts. We know how much we can earn on our own. And more and more of us believe the publishers you work for are, indeed, evil f**ks.”
The emphasis in the above excerpts was added by me. I recommend reading the full posts if this is a conversation you’re interested in.
Personally, I find it frustrating and tiresome. Look, I’ve been the author who got crapped on by a major publisher, and I’ve been the author who got book deals in the mid five figures. I’ve hung out with New York Times bestselling authors. I’ve hung out with self-published authors who have moved hundreds of thousands of books. I’ve watched friends move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and I’ve seen traditionally published authors move into self-publishing.
This whole Us vs. Them thing? It’s bullshit. Traditional publishing isn’t Evil. (Certain individuals within that system, well, that’s another blog post…) Self-publishing and e-books aren’t asteroids coming to wipe out the Dinosaurs. And there’s no One True Path to success as an author.
I’m doing rather well as a mostly traditionally published author, but I’ve had people come along to tell me how stupid I am for not self-publishing. They lay out math full of ridiculously flawed assumptions and generalizations to “prove” how much more I’d be making if I published my own e-books. It’s possible they might be right — maybe I would do even better — but it’s in no way a sure thing. They assume everything my agent and publisher do for me, either I could do just as well myself, or else it isn’t really necessary.
You see it from the other side too, the idea that self-publishing doesn’t count. I haven’t personally seen as much of this side, but I suspect I’d see it a lot more if I was a primarily self-published author.
You want “the real truth”? Here’s some truth for you.
- There are authors doing ridiculously, amazingly well with traditional publishing.
- There are authors doing incredibly, mind-blowingly well with self-publishing.
- There aren’t a hell of a lot of people in either category.
- Being a writer is hard work, no matter what path you choose.
It’s that last bit I want to stress. There are plenty of paths out there, which is wonderful, but it’s also nerve-wracking. Which way is the right way for me? What if I make the wrong choice? What if those people are right, and I really would be doing better if I’d self-published all of my stuff instead of going through a traditional publisher? What if I self-publish my stuff and nobody ever finds it?
I wonder if that anxiety is part of why so many people are quick to cling to that false Us vs. Them framework. Personally, I think Maass’ view of writers as cattle is insulting and ridiculous, but if I tell myself that he’s representative of all of Them, then clearly I’m on the side of Right by self-publishing. When I see a self-published author repeatedly spamming people online and desperately shoving self-promotional material into people’s hands at conventions, all to promote a book with a cover that looks like it was done in MS Paint, a part of me wants to cling to that as proof that I’m better off with my publisher. I have to remind myself that this isn’t The Awful Truth of self-publishing.
I love reading folks like Tobias Buckell and Chuck Wendig, or watching what the authors over at Book View Cafe have been up to. These are people who avoid the Us vs. Them trap, who admit there’s more than one way to succeed as a writer. They try different things, and they acknowledge different paths.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t read what Maass or Konrath have to say. Just don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s One True Path. We’re all figuring this out, and the path that’s worked for me might not be the right one for you. In fact, it probably isn’t, since mine started almost two decades ago.
Do your research. Learn about the different possibilities. And make your own path.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
If Friday was a superhero, who would it be?
- Cats about to sneeze.
- Lost, well-loved stuffed
bearlion cub has adventures in Newcastle and is eventually reunited with owner. Well done, internet!
- If you’re a fan of Discworld and Terry Pratchett, you should appreciate this gif set. (Link removed – apparently the page got hijacked. I’m so sorry about that!)
- Scientists explain their processes with a little too much honesty. (Link via Catherine Shaffer)
- Star Wars football helmets: American and National Leagues. (Link via SF Signal)
- LEGO Calvin and Hobbes, with snowmen.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Between sick kids, writing-related work, and a few other things, I haven’t gotten the chance to do much original blog content this week. So it’s rerun time! This is something I wrote back in 2009, to the beat of Green Eggs and Ham. It’s dedicated to all of my long-suffering editor friends…
Slush I Read
by Jim C. Hines
(Apologies to Seuss)
I read slush.
Slush I read.
That slush I read.
That slush I read!
I do not like that slush I read.
Do you like fanfic with vamps?
I do not like them Mary Sue.
Why do these vamps all worship you?
Here’s a tale from D & D!
I do not want your D & D.
I do not like your elf PC.
I cannot stand your purple prose.
I want to punch you in the nose!
Would you like a hot sex scene?
I published it in my own ’zine!
I do not like your pervy tale.
Your metaphors make readers pale.
Your paragraphs are pages long.
Your bad sex scene is oh so wrong!
Can people do that with their lips???
I do not like your manuscripts.
This one is in Comic Sans!
My parents are my biggest fans.
That evil font we do not want!
My aching eyes, my weary sighs.
Why can’t you get the format right?
We post our guidelines in plain sight!
I will not read your 8-point type.
I want to bash you with a pipe!
Would you read this in the loo?
Let me slide it right to you!
I would not, could not, while I poo!
You just hate me ’cause I’m new!
I’m too original for you!
Too original you say?
This book is one absurd cliché!
It should not see the light of day.
I do not like your Marty Stus.
I do not like your crackhead muse.
Eve and Adam, Star Trek slash,
Tolkien ripoffs, pointless trash,
Prologues forty pages long,
Spelling every third word wrong.
I do not want to read this slush.
It’s all too much, my brain is mush!
Just one more story for today.
Soon I’ll clear this slush away.
No more vampires, I pray.
This cover letter’s brief.
The format’s clean. What a relief!
This story from the slush.
This story gives me such a rush.
These pages have a brilliant hook.
I want to read it in a book!
The wordcraft makes me start to swoon.
Is that the end? It came too soon!
I read it one time, two times, three!
It is so good, so good you see!
So I will read the slush again.
And wade through drafts by Twilight fen.
And I will read the pointless plots,
And tales of busty blonde sexbots.
And I will read your pissed off mail.
And I will read it without fail.
Yes I will read slush by the bale
So I can find that next great tale.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
The mass market paperback edition of Codex Born [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] comes out on August 5, 2014. I’m going through the page proofs now, which means I have the chance to fix any errors that might have slipped through in the hardcover release.
If you are one of those wonderful people who have already picked up a copy of the book (thank you!), and if you’ve stumbled across a typo or mistake, could you please let me know? As a way to say thank you, everyone who emails me about a typo they’ve found will be entered to win an autographed copy of Heroes in Training, the anthology I edited for DAW a while back.
DAW adjusted the cover a little bit for the paperback. And looking at the page proofs, if you add in the excerpt from Unbound in the back, the book comes to almost 400 pages.
And that reminds me, I need to email my editor about cover art ideas for Unbound. I’m thinking Isaac and Smudge riding a cyborg T. Rex over the Mackinac Bridge to battle an axe-wielding kaiju rising out of Lake Michigan. What do you think?
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
2/2: The response to this post has been great, thank you! Unfortunately, that means I’m having to pick and choose. I’m doing my best to get a wide range of topics and writers. I’m keeping a few spots open to see what else comes in, but I think the roster is mostly full at this point.
This is a call for a handful of guest bloggers to talk about representation in fiction. Because it’s one thing for me to talk about this stuff, but let’s face it, it’s not exactly difficult for me to find characters like me in books, TV, movies, advertising, video games, etc. And there’s a painful irony when conversations about representation end up spotlighting some guy whose part of the most overrepresented group in the country.
I’d be looking for personal stories about what it’s like to not see yourself in stories, how powerful it is the first time you do, things like that. There’s no length requirement, though 400-1000 words is a pretty good range for blog posts. (I’m still amazed anyone read that 6000-word monster from earlier this week.)
As an example of what I’m hoping to help spotlight, here’s an excerpt from an interview with Nichelle Nichols talking about Whoopi Goldberg:
Whoopi Goldberg, she’s just marvelous. I had no way of knowing that she was a Star Trek fan. When I finally met her it was her first year on the Next Generation.
She loved the show so much and she told her agent she wants a role on Star Trek. Well agents go “Big screen, little screen, no, you can’t do that.” Well you can’t tell Whoopi “You can’t do that.”
And so they finally asked, and they had the same reaction at Star Trek office, specifically Gene. And she said, “I want to meet him and I want him to tell me to my face. If he tells me he doesn’t want me and why, I’ll be fine.”
Knowing Gene he had to take that challenge, and so he met with her. She said, “I just wanted you to tell me why you don’t want me in Star Trek.”
Gene said, “Well, I’ll just ask you one question and I’ll make my decision on that. You’re a big screen star, why do you want to be on a little screen, why do you want to be in Star Trek?”
And she looked at him and she said, “Well, it’s all Nichelle Nichols’ fault.”
That threw him, he said, “What do you mean?”
She said, “Well when I was nine years old Star Trek came on,” and she said, “I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’” And she said, “I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.”
And he said, “I’ll write you a role.”
ETA: It gets better.
Please let me know if you’re interested. Give me a sense of what you’d want to write about. I want to showcase a range of different stories. I’ll be happy to include a bio and link to you online if you’d like, and if not, that’s fine too.
I’ve never done an open call like this, and I have no idea what the response will be like, so I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to publish everyone. But I’ll do the best I can.
If you have questions, please post them in the comments or send them to me directly.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Hello, Friday. What took you so long?
- 30 of the Naughtiest Dogs on the Internet.
- Stormtrooper Hip Hop & Twerking.
- Working Star Wars pinball machine, made out of LEGO. There is also video.
- Hubble’s Finest Spirals. Freaking gorgeous space photos. (Link via Diane Duane)
- Academia Explained, Using Muppets.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
The backstory: Author Alex Dally MacFarlane wrote an article called Post-Binary Gender in SF: An Introduction over at Tor.com, calling for "an end to the default of binary gender in science fiction stories."
One week later, author Larry Correia wrote a response to MacFarlane's piece, called Ending Binary Gender in Fiction, or How to Murder Your Writing Career. (Side note: you'll probably want to avoid the comments on that one.)
I tried to ignore it. There's no way I'm going to change Correia's mind about this stuff, any more than his post changed my thinking. But of course, there are a lot of other people lurking and participating in the conversation, and while I know this is going to do bad things to my blood pressure, I think it's a conversation worth having.
By the time I got done blogging my response, between the quotes from the original piece and Correia's response, I ended up with more than 6000 words of stuff, and LiveJournal wouldn't post it. So if you're interested in reading this sucker, just head over to http://www.jimchines.com/2014/01/fiskcep
My 2013 writing income post brought up a number of good questions in the comments. And one odd question about my bedroom habits and whether or not I was a first-rate lover … but that might have been spam. Either way, I’m not going to address that one here. But I did want to talk about the rest.
First off, some relevant links:
- Author Laura Resnick talks about her 2013 income in the comments.
- A Publishing Perspectives survey suggests that the majority of authors earn less than $1000/year.
- Chuck Wendig suggests the Publishing Perspectives survey may be
full of crapnot entirely accurate.
- Jami Gold’s roundup of publishing/income/pricing surveys and information.
- Author Michael Sullivan shares his anger about writers’ income.
- Based on some comment conversations, Martin wrote a blog post about the German SF/F market for foreign authors.
And now, on to the questions.
“I’d be curious to see how the income breaks down over time across income types too: advance, d&a, residual…”
A lot depends on the contracts. Advances are often broken into multiple payments. For books three and four of the Magic ex Libris series, I get part of the advance on signing (once DAW has received and processed the signed contracts), part upon the delivery and acceptance (D&A) of the final, revised manuscript, and part on publication. I’ve gotten the on-signing money for books three and four, but that’s all so far. I’ve turned in the manuscript for Unbound, and once my editor gets back to me, I’ll do another revision. When that’s accepted, I’ll get the second portion of the advance (D&A) for that book.
How everything breaks down depends on the size of the advance, too. Say Author X is getting 90% of their money as royalties and only 10% as advance money. This could mean they have a very small advance. It could mean a big advance but the book sold a lot more copies than expected. It could mean a large backlist of titles that have earned out and are generating royalties. If someone never earns out and gets any royalties, does that mean their books don’t sell, or does it mean they got huge advances?
With that said…
- All of my books have earned out their advances, with the exception of Codex Born. (And since Codex Born came out in August 2013, I haven’t seen a royalties statement yet, so it’s possible that one has also earned out. But I doubt it.)
- I signed contracts for three new books in 2013, which means there’s a higher-than-normal proportion of on-signing advance money.
Here’s how the $55,000 or so of U.S. novel income (before taxes) breaks down for 2013.
“Is any of the variation due to publishers paying irregularly?”
DAW operates on six-month royalty periods, 1/1 – 6/30 and 7/1 – 12/31. Since most of my books have earned out their advances, this means I get royalty checks on a fairly regular and predictable twice/year schedule (usually around April and October). The payment process isn’t quick, by any means, but I haven’t had trouble getting paid by the major publishers. I’ve occasionally had smaller checks get delayed or forgotten, but in general, a nudge from either my agent or myself has been enough to shake those loose.
You listed your self-published income. How many titles have you self-published vs. your traditionally published work?
I’m primarily a traditionally published author. My nine fantasy novels are all in print from DAW Books.
Given that the majority of my work is published by DAW and other major publishers, it should come as no surprise that most of my income is from those same sources. When those books go out of print with DAW, I certainly plan on self-publishing them myself in order to keep my backlist available.
Personally, I think the whole Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing argument is rather silly, but that hasn’t stopped people from using my initial blog post to show why one side or the other is the Right way to publish. All I’ll say is that this way is working pretty well for me right now.
“How much of that upfront payment do you give away to taxes? If you were to make, say, $60K, would you lose 1/3? 1/2?”
The numbers I posted were pre-tax, which means a chunk of it will be going right back out.
Last year, I paid estimated quarterly taxes that totaled around $5000 (based on my 2012 income) against what I expected to make in 2013. I also have a pretty high deduction on my income from the day job, so some of that spills over to pay for taxes on the writing.
I honestly won’t know how much I’m paying in taxes until I get the rest of our W-2s. A bit of hunting around online for self-employment tax calculators suggests that for self-employment income of $60,000, I could expect to pay a total of about $8500 in federal taxes, and an unknown-but-smaller amount in state taxes. But so much depends on other factors, which means I honestly don’t know.
What about your agent’s cut?
The numbers I posted are after my agent takes his commission.
Why are your expenses so low? Are you forgetting to take some tax deductions?
I messed up a bit on this part, and I apologize for that. The expenses I listed were only those that I had dollar amounts for in my annual writing budget spreadsheet: hotel costs, postage, etc. They omitted things I don’t calculate until I start doing my taxes, like mileage or meal allowances. And I was indeed missing a few deductions — thank you to folks who pointed those out. I’ve always been a bit conservative about taking deductions, though I’m moving away from that.
Having started working on taxes, here’s a better accounting of my writing expenses for 2013, which come to a total of $6,861. Yeah, I really messed up the initial estimate there.
- Mileage: 4,290, which comes to a mileage deduction of $2,424.
- Meal Allowance: $2,517, of which I get to deduct half.
- Parking, tolls, taxi, etc: $684
- Website-related costs: $146
- Postage: $241
- Internet/wireless: $766
- Other: $83
What exactly do you mean by foreign sales? Does your UK deal for Magic ex Libris count?
Good question. I was not counting the UK deal, in part because of how my contracts work. My agent negotiated a deal with DAW wherein DAW gets the rights to publish the books in English in the U.S. and Canada. DAW also gets certain other rights that they can sublicense, including things like putting them out in audio, selling them to a book club (in English), or licensing the UK edition to a UK publisher. I get paid when any of these things happen. As I understand it, these payments are usually applied against the advance, but since Libriomancer earned out pretty quickly, money for the book club, audio books, and UK deal just got bundled in to the royalties payment from DAW.
DAW did not get non-English rights, which means when we sold the Magic ex Libris books to Germany, for example, that deal was directly with me and my agent. When I get paid for those, the money comes from the German publisher to my agent and then to me, instead of going through DAW.
“Do you think your writing income would rise meaningfully if it were your sole job?”
Yes. I don’t know how much, but my hope is that I’d be able to consistently produce at least two books a year, as opposed to the one/year schedule I’ve been on for so long. If I could do that — especially if I could branch out a bit with some of those books — I think it would lead to a significant increase in the writing income.
Or maybe I’d just spend more time blogging and posting on Twitter.
Hopefully someday I’ll be able to put that to the test.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I’ve recovered — more or less — from my Guest of Honor gig at MarsCon. This was my first time at MarsCon, and it was a great deal of fun. The fact that Virginia is significantly warmer than Michigan right now was a nice bonus. The hotel is located on an actual Civil War battle field, which was interesting, though I didn’t get the chance to get out and look around. I did go for a little walking tour of Colonial Williamsburg on Friday with the con’s YA Guest of Honor Carrie Ryan. (Who was delightful, by the way.)
Interesting note: Within 24 hours of arriving in Virginia, I had been called “sweetie” more times than in the rest of my life combined.
The convention was very well run, in my opinion. I had program info well in advance. Panels all had designated moderators. They turned the con suite into a castle/fairy forest to put all other con suites to shame. Everything I saw ran pretty smoothly, aside from one or two scheduling delays. Big props to the concom and the volunteers.
Friday morning, I hooked up the laptop and did an interview with the folks at Sword & Laser, which was interesting. Challenge #1: Trying to get a decent signal at the hotel. I may end up looking like an old 8-bit video game character. The second challenge was finding an angle that gave us a relatively neutral background while still letting me keep the laptop plugged into the network jack. I think I looked relatively normal on the screen. What you don’t see is the twisted angle of my lower body as I tried to contort myself into a position that wouldn’t yank cables free. (Fortunately, all of that cover posing has prepared me for JUST SUCH A CRISIS!) It was a lot of fun, despite a certain person trolling me with werejaguar questions, and I can’t wait to share it with you.
For the rest of the weekend, I got to MODERATE ALL THE PANELS! We talked about fairy tales (spoiler: Alethea Kontis IS fairy tales), humor (weasels!), writing female characters, and more. I also read most of my Frosty the snowman fanfic, which seemed to go over well. (If you were at the reading and wanted to know how the story ends, or you just want a copy of your own with which to traumatize small children, go here.)
There was a good-sized contingent of costumers, which was awesome. Stormtroopers and Mandalorians and Jareth & Sarah and lots of Doctors and much more, not to mention a steampunk Dalek and Marso the Martian. Yes, that’s right, MarsCon has its own mascot.
When is Penguicon going to get a life-sized penguin costume in SF uniform for the con?
The convention was also working to raise money for the humane society, which meant there were cats and dogs at the con along with humans and aliens. I approve. The charity auction shattered last year’s record, partly because they auctioned off a Dalek, but I prefer to think that the presence of Carrie and myself brought out everyone’s generosity and inspired ALL THE DONATIONS! She and I both donated books to the auction. Carrie’s set sold for $70. So when it was my turn, I stood up and told the crowd that I had to beat Carrie Ryan’s total!
My goblin trilogy sold for $69. Because MarsCon is full of smart-asses. (But seriously, that was a lot of fun, and I’m happy to see so much money come in for the puppies and kitties.)
And then before I knew it, it was time to come home.
All in all, a most excellent weekend. I got to meet and hang out with lots of cool people, and had a great time. Thank you, MarsCon!
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Hello, Friday. Nice to see you again. What took you so long?
- Michigan preschooler gets a robotic hand from a high school robotics team.
- Video of peacock spiders dancing to “YMCA.” (Obvious warning – contains spiders.)
- Elves at Starbucks. This cosplay makes me happy.
- Kitty pops a water balloon. Behold the slow-motion horror in kitty’s eyes… (Link from Seanan McGuire)
- Musical Notation as Interpreted by Cats. Gifs for musical cat lovers. Or cat-loving musicians. Something.
- Cat in a field of blue butterflies. Yeah, I’m on a bit of a cat kick. And I don’t imagine this ended well for all of the butterflies. Still cool and pretty, though! (Link from Kat Howard)
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I’m writing this in part so that I can try to sort out for myself what happened, or at least as much as is known.
“A senior Westin employee referred to our staff, attendees, and guests as “freaks,” and hotel staff expressed their disapproval of our anti-harassment policy … By mutual decision, we agreed to part ways with the hotel. We wish to make clear that these views were expressed by staff of the Westin Chicago River North and do not reflect the opinions of the Westin brand or Starwood Hotels.”
Dobbs provides what he remembers of the hotel manager’s “freaks” quote in another article, saying, “My recollection is that she actually said that ‘Costumed freaks are not in keeping with the reputation’ [of the hotel].”
The hotel posts a brief statement about the cancellation on their Facebook page, expressing disappointment about the “false claims” being spread by Chi-Fi.
“Our team worked diligently to accommodate this group booking, and we never objected to the organization, its attendees or the anti-harassment policy. After much discussion, Chi-Fi Con asked to be allowed out of their contract when it became clear that mutual needs could not be met, and we agreed.”
January 15: Chicago-area fan Michi Trota writes a reaction post, including links to the anger spreading through certain circles of SF/F social media. The story was also picked up by several media outlets, including My Fox Chicago, which interviewed both Dobbs and Trota.
January 16: Anne Elliot, Chi-Fi convention vice-chair, comments on a Skepchick blog post about hotel concerns over the convention’s harassment policy.
“I was present in the meeting with hotel senior staff who expressed concern over our No Harassment Policy. The hotel staff seemed to believe that the fact that we had a policy was an indication that there was something wrong with our attendees and/or guests … This was only one more piece of evidence that led us to believe that the culture of this hotel was not a good fit for our event.”
January 18: Steve Davidson posts an article at Amazing Stories called Pushing Fannish Buttons: Chi Fi vs The Westin River North Hotel of Chicago that notes a lack of “solid, verifiable information” and describes the fallout as, “what is perhaps the greatest demonstration of Geek Power in the history of fandom.” Davidson has done a lot of work on this article, and there’s much more than I can summarize, so I recommend reading the whole thing. Davidson presents two possible narratives:
“The Chi-Fi narrative lays the blame squarely on the hotel for non-cooperation, disparagement of the fan community and the questioning of their anti-harassment policy.
“The other, less vocal narrative comes as speculation on the part of experienced con-runners and it suggests that the real story is that Chi-Fi’s attendance and hotel booking numbers were well below what was needed to float a successful convention.”
Davidson provides documentation from M. Menozzi, the Account Director for the Westin Hotel, which states in part that:
“…it was not about any claimed disparagement, which didn’t happen, or about their anti-harassment policy, which we never objected to in any way only asked whether there was history of problems that necessitated it. It was about economics and a straightforward contract issue. With a short time until the event, very few guest rooms had been booked and we do not allow any group to use the suites as party rooms.”
In response to the low booking, James Dobbs notes that “We began telling everyone to hold of on booking hotel rooms” in response to various difficulties and miscommunications with the hotel.
January 20: Michi Trota writes a follow-up post, Further Thoughts on Chi-Fi Con, Transparency, and Con Culture. She acknowledges that inexperience and low booking numbers may have been a factor, but questions why this needs to be an “either/or” situation.
“It’s entirely possible Chi-Fi Con bit off more than they could chew and the hotel, seeing the lower than expected numbers, decided it would be beneficial to release the con from their contract in order to open up the venue for another event. None of this means that a negative attitude from the hotel toward the con wasn’t a problem that factored into the decision.”
John Scalzi notes that while he doesn’t “know about the details of the Chi-Fi ruckus,” he does have a general comment about harassment policies.
“A harassment policy should not be used as a shield to deflect attention or legitimate questions with regard to the organization of a convention. Aside from any other problematic issue with such a maneuver, doing so has the potential to make it harder for other conventions who wish to implement harassment policies to do so, or for other conventions to work with hotels at all…”
To summarize, what I’m seeing is…
- James Dobbs claims the hotel staff referred to convention staff and attendees as “freaks.” The hotel denies this.
- Dobbs claims the hotel disapproved of the con’s harassment policy. Anne Elliot also witnessed this, saying the staff seemed to think the policy suggested there was something wrong with the con and attendees. The hotel denies this.
- M. Menozzi claims the contract was ended because of low booking numbers and the hotel’s policy against letting suites be used as party rooms. Dobbs says the numbers may indeed have been low, but that this was due at least in part to miscommunications and other difficulties with the hotel.
What really happened? Which claims are true and which aren’t? I don’t know. I’m not aware of anyone who does, aside from the people who were there. What I am seeing is people trying to push for one interpretation or another.
Davidson concludes that claims about the hotel’s derogatory comments and concerns over the harassment policy seem to have been “designed to obscure … the more likely scenario” that the con was simply unable to meet their obligations, by pushing “two of the hottest buttons in fandom.” I’ve seen similar conclusions from individuals in various conrunning groups.
When I first heard about this story, I took Chi-Fi’s claims at face value and Tweeted a link to their statement. And I admit that in a clash of geeks vs. corporations, my inclination is to stand with my fellow geeks.
After following the story, my conclusion is that I don’t know what happened. Any or all of the claims from both sides could be true or false or — perhaps more likely, given human nature — somewhere in between. But I don’t know, and without further facts, I don’t expect that to change.
Full disclosure: I was asked a while back to be a guest at Chi-Fi 2014, but declined due to scheduling issues.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I brought Rae Carson‘s The Girl of Fire and Thorns [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] along to read on the flight to and from MarsCon. I enjoyed it enough that I ended up finishing the book before I reached Chicago on the flight home. It has engaging characters, plenty of action, interesting magic and worldbuilding, everything a good book needs.
The official description:
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa has always felt powerless, useless. Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess. And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could save his people. And he looks at her in a way no man has ever looked at her before. Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
The book is popular enough that there are a ton of reviews if you want more details there. I want to jump right into an aspect of the book that jumped out at me. Namely, the fact that Princess Elisa is unapologetically fat.
Now when I say that, I don’t mean that the character herself is unapologetic. When we meet Elisa, she knows she’s seen as unappealing, ugly, even grotesque, and she’s internalized those beliefs for most of her life. But Carson doesn’t dance around the fact. She doesn’t try to minimize it, or to soften the descriptions or effects, both physical and societal. At the same time, the narration never struck me as fat-shaming. It’s an impressive and powerful balancing act.
I really appreciate meeting this strong, intelligent, likeable character who happens to also be fat, and I’m very glad Carson chose to write her. I’ve read a lot of epic fantasy, and I believe this is the first time I’ve come across a protagonist like this. (I’m sure there are other examples; my point is that it’s very, very rare.)
As impressed as I am with the writing, there were things I found troubling. Elisa is someone who eats to cope with stress and anxiety and depression. Over the course of the book, as she’s drawn into the middle of a war, she finds herself living a much harsher lifestyle. Less food and more exercise, and within a few chapters, she’s dropped a great deal of weight. She’s never skinny, which I appreciate, but there is a pretty drastic physical change that coincides with her growth into a leader.
This particular narrative thread troubled me as I read it. To her credit, Carson notes in the afterword that she struggled with it as well, and that she even considered not having Elisa lose weight. But she felt that given everything Elisa endures, it would be unrealistic to not show the physical effects. It’s a valid argument, and I’m not sure how she could have done it any differently.
But at the same time, it makes this a story about a character who’s fat because she’s slothful and gluttonous, who loses lots of weight when she has to hike across the desert with very little food, and who suddenly has more confidence, male attention, etc. once she’s lost weight.
It’s not that this narrative is necessarily unrealistic. Sometimes people are fat because they eat too much and never exercise. Sometimes diet and exercise is all it takes. But this is pretty much the only narrative we ever hear. Fat = slothful and lazy and gluttonous, and all those fat people need is a bit of exercise and discipline, and their lives would be so much better.
To be clear, I don’t believe that’s what Carson is trying to say here. In fact, there are places where I believe she’s working against that narrative. For example, one character’s attraction to Elisa begins before the weight loss. But I’m not sure it’s enough.
It’s something that bugs me in the cover art, too. The U.S. paperback shows only Elisa’s face within a blue jewel. Other editions consistently show slender women on the covers. We all know why they do it, but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
While I may have reservations about this part of the story, I still appreciate Carson writing and struggling with it. My guess is that a lot of people, particularly those who are or have been overweight in our society, will relate to much of what Elisa experiences.
And it really is a well-written, engaging book. I love the way Carson incorporates religion, how she interrogates it and shows it as a tool for both good and evil. The culture, a loosely Spanish setting, was interesting and new to me. The magic system works well, and the various revelations were wonderful.
It’s a good book, and I think it’s definitely worth reading. You can read a sample at the Harper Collins website.
I would absolutely love to hear other people’s thoughts on this one.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
At least, I hope it was funny. From my Twitter stream on Thursday:
And that’s as much as I could Tweet before the flight attendant told us to turn off our toys.
Real blog posts coming soon, once I’ve recovered. I had a great time this weekend, but it will take a little while for my brain to reboot.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
- Charlie Stross wrote a blog post called “The Next Big Thing,” sharing his own thoughts about writers chasing the market.
- I reviewed William Alexander’s book Goblin Secrets on Monday. If you’re interested in checking it out, Edward Greaves mentioned that Goblin Secrets is $1.99 for Kindle in the U.S. today.
In addition, I’m Guest of Honor at MarsCon in Virginia this weekend, which is also excellent! My schedule looks like so:
- 6PM — General Early’s — Opening Ceremonies (if available)
- 7PM-10PM – Jefferson Davis 1 & 2 — Meet the Guests of Honor. (Interviews and introductory talks)
- 10AM — General Early’s — Simply Fabulous: the Best in Fairy Tale Literature (M)
- 11AM — General Early’s — We’ve Got a Funny Bone to Pick: the Dos and Don’ts of Writing Humor (M)
- 1PM — General Early’s — Guest of Honor Readings
- 2PM — General Early’s — Author Signing Event
- 11AM — Stuart’s Redoubt — Beyond the “Strong Female Protagonist”: Writing Women Who Are More than “Kickass” (M)
- Noon — General Longstreet’s — Nerdiquette 101
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I was a guest speaker at the Write on the Red Cedar workshop last weekend, talking to other writers about fantasy and publishing and different aspects of the writing career … it was a fairly small group, so I ran it as more of an open Q&A. A lot of the questions were about what was hot in the market. What’s popular right now? What’s the next Big New Thing? What are agents and editors looking for? What do the kids want to read?
These are valid questions. Heck, the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency just posted an article about what sixteen American editors are looking for in 2014. It’s worth reading this sort of thing and learning what editors and agents are seeing too much of, and what they’re particularly interested in acquiring. But I think we place far too much weight on this sort of question, especially when we’re starting out.
What do publishers and agents and readers want? They want good, interesting stories.
That’s a total cop-out answer, I know. What does “good” or “interesting” mean? Was The Hunger Games the most interesting book to come out in its year? Was Twilight the best? Come on, Hines. Tell us the truth. Aren’t YA and Middle Grade hot right now, so shouldn’t we all be writing in those genres?
Okay, fine. You asked for it.
Remember, my opinion is obviously THE RIGHTEST, SMARTEST, COOLEST OPINION ON THE WHOLE INTERNET. However, I’m forced to acknowledge that plenty of authors with WRONG and UNCOOL opinions on how to build a career seem to have somehow succeeded as well, despite not doing everything exactly the way I think they should.
With that said, particularly for new writers, trying to write what’s hot probably isn’t the best way to go. For one thing, publishing is slow. For most people, it takes time to write a good book. If you publish traditionally, you’re looking at an additional few years of submitting your stuff, getting it edited and marketed, and so on, before it finally hits the bookstores. By which time you’ve totally missed the Sexy YA Were-Jaguar boat, which has now been replaced by Goblin/Leprechaun Romance. And sure, you could self-publish the book to try to speed things up a little, but you still need to write the thing. And if you’re trying to do it right, you still need to get it edited, get your cover art created, etc.
Another problem is that for most of us, the stories we write when we’re starting out are pretty derivative. We haven’t found our own voice and style. Which means if I see that Blue-Green Love: When Jig the Goblin got Lucky made the bestseller lists and decide to chase that trend, I’m a lot more likely to try to end up writing a weak imitation of that story instead of coming up with a truly new and original twist on hot goblin/leprechaun love.
My advice, for whatever it is or isn’t worth, is to write what you love. Write the kind of stories you want to read. Write things that excite you. Write what you’re passionate about. Chasing trends and writing stories you don’t care about just because you think they’re hot seems like a quick path to depression and burnout.
Goblin Quest [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] was the fourth book I ever wrote, but it was one of the first times I said screw it, I don’t care about the market, I’m just going to write something fun, something that makes me happy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Goblin Quest is in many ways the book that launched my career.
And as it turned out, monster-themed books were the Hot Trend in Germany when my goblin books came out. If I’d added David Hasselhoff to the story, I could have retired a millionaire. But even without the Hoff, I was able to ride that trend, not because of anything I had planned, but because I happened to have the right books at the right time, with an agent who could make that deal happen. It was awesome, and I’d love to catch another wave like that, but I don’t think that’s something I have a lot of control over.
My advice on writing for the market? Know what’s out there. Read what’s come before, and read what’s selling right now. Then go and write your own stories. Write something new. Tell stories that make you laugh and cry. Write the scenes that make you want to call up your best friend and say, “Holy shit, you won’t believe what I just did in this story!!!”
Those are the stories that will make you and your work stand out.
I’d love to hear other writers’ opinions on this one … even if those opinions are WRONG
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Alexander’s goblins are a bit more civilized than mine, with more fairy-style magic and fewer nose-picking injuries. From the Goblin Secrets website:
Rownie, the youngest in Graba the witchworker’s household of stray children, escapes and goes looking for his missing brother. Along the way he falls in with a troupe of theatrical goblins and learns the secret origins of masks. Now Graba’s birds are hunting him in the Southside of Zombay, the Lord Mayor’s guards are searching for him in Northside, and the River between them is getting angry. The city needs saving — and only the goblins know how.
One of the things I liked about this book was that the author didn’t spend a lot of time on backstory or hand-holding to explain the worldbuilding. You jump right into Rownie’s story, picking up details as you go, from the clockwork guards to the mythology of the River to the layout and struggles of the split town. I’ve seen a few reviews that complained this was confusing, but I didn’t have a problem with it. I really enjoyed the worldbuilding, and the thought Alexander had put into the magic and history. You can skim the book and still appreciate the story, but you’ll get a lot more out of it if you read more closely.
The different types of magic felt original and interesting, from the masks to Graba’s curses to the coal used to power various automatons. I also appreciated the role and personalities of the goblins, all of whom felt distinctive and real and interesting.
At its heart, the plot is pretty straightforward and self-contained. What’s interesting to me is that I think one of the reasons it works so well is everything Alexander doesn’t say, in addition to the things he does. He drops hints and suggestions, and the reader fills in the rest. It’s an impressive balancing act.
There are a few scenes that are genuinely dark and disturbing in that old-school fairy tale way, but they feel right for the book. And the ending is both satisfying and true to the story.
Not bad for a debut novel.
You can listen to an eight-minute audio sample on the Simon and Schuster website or read an excerpt through Google Books.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
As some of you saw on Facebook, I had to put down one of our cats on Friday night.
Pod was the last of the three kittens my mother got for me back in 1997. The advantage to having a mother who works for a vet is that there are plenty of potential pets to rescue. The caveat is that these pets are sometimes … broken.
Pod’s rear leg was a mess. When he sat down, it would swivel out at an odd angle. My friend Emily was the one who pointed out that it looked like Pod was flipping you off. (If you scratched under his chin, he’d shake that leg to flip you off more emphatically.)
You can see him below hanging out with Flop, the slightly cross-eyed one, who is now the last of those three cats still with us.
When he was old enough, the vet amputated his bad leg (which happened to be the only spot on his body with white fur). It didn’t slow him down.
Pod grew up to be the punk of the family. He’s the one who would jump up on the couch for head scratchings, and would gently bat at you with his paw if you dared to stop paying attention to him. He was persistent, too. It didn’t matter how many times you removed him, he’d leap right back up.
If you scratched his chin just right, he would sometimes start to drool. When he was older, he’d steal the dogs’ beds and growl at them if they tried to take them back. He’d also growl if they dared to walk too close to one of his nests. Just to remind them who was boss.
For such a scraggly-looking kitten, he grew up to be a gorgeous cat, with a big old mane. He also developed a shoe fetish. For a while there, we’d always find him stretched out with his front paws in my wife’s sandals or my daughter’s shoes.
When we put in the bookshelves in our living room, he claimed one of the bottom shelves as his own personal cave. He developed chronic congestion troubles in his old age, meaning when he came onto the couch for petting, not only would he bat you with his paw, he was also likely to sneeze on you. That cat could shoot some impressive snot rockets on occasion.
We knew he was having trouble when he stopped growling at the dogs.
I’ll leave you with one last pic, which I think sums up Pod pretty well.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
Friday again? Didn’t we just have one of these like a week ago?
Oh, and I know it’s last minute, but if you’re in the East Lansing area, I’ll be doing a session tomorrow afternoon at Write on the Red Cedar.
Anyway, have some links, and enjoy the weekend!
- Happy animals!
- The Donald Trump caterpillar.
- Santos the Ocelot Kitten makes friends with Blakely the Dog. (Link from Kat Howard)
- Australian scientists apologize for not having created dragons. And then they go ahead and make one. FOR SCIENCE!
- Indiana Jones/Gingerbread Man crossover. In LEGO. There are no words for this one. Just click and appreciate.
- Ice balls on the shore of Lake Michigan.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
This comic was inspired by a number of conversations I’ve had online.
Look, it’s not that men don’t get harassed or threatened. But for guys to go around stating that they’ve had people talk crap about them online too, and using that as the basis to declare that women are too thin-skinned and are overreacting to harassment and threats, is just overflowing with wrongness. Not to mention an utter lack of sympathy, and a profound ignorance of the very real epidemic of violence against women.
Trigger warning: the comic’s final panel includes graphic threats of rape and violence.( Read the rest of this entry »Collapse )
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.
I’ve been blogging about my writing income since 2007. It’s an odd thing, and feels tacky at times, but I also think it’s important. There’s very little data out there about how much money writers make, and a lot of folks — both new writers and muggles — have unrealistic ideas about the authorial lifestyle. I blame Castle.
From a financial perspective, 2013 has been the best year I’ve ever had as a writer. I sold three novels — books three and four in the Magic ex Libris series to DAW, and another project I can’t talk about yet. All total, before taxes and expenses, I earned about $60,800 — enough that I was able to pay off my wife’s student loans and put a little bigger dent in our mortgage.
While the year-to-year income is much more erratic than what I’ve made at my day job, the overall trend makes me happy. I expect I’ll probably make less in 2014 than I did last year, in part because I’ll be busy writing those novels I sold last year, and I highly doubt I’ll sell three more before the end of this one. On the other hand, there will be the D&A (delivery & acceptance) for at least two of those books, along with the on-publication payment … I have no idea what 2014 will look like, but it shouldn’t be too bad.
The writing expenses for the year actually dropped to a little over $1000, thanks to a number of Guest of Honor and Toastmaster invites, which reduced my convention costs. (Thank you!!!) My income tax payments are going to take a much bigger chunk out of things, but that’s to be expected.
The income breakdown is a bit different this year.
- Novels (U.S.): $55,350
- Novels (Foreign Editions): $1,000
- Self-Published: $1,650
- Short fiction and Nonfiction: $1,500
- Miscellaneous: $1,300
This is by far the least I’ve ever made from foreign language sales. (I’m not including the U.K. deals for Magic ex Libris here, because while U.K. English is indeed a foreign and confusing tongue, that deal was done as a sublicensing thing through my U.S. publisher, and I’ve only ever included non-English income in that category in prior years.) I honestly have no idea what happened here. It’s the second year in a row I’ve seen a significant dropoff in foreign income, and it’s something I’ll be following up with my agent about.
The income for my self-published stuff remained pretty constant. I don’t make a lot of money there, but considering I do zero work, I’m not going to complain!
Looking at the last few years, if it was just me, I’d be giving serious thought to quitting my day job, signing up for insurance through the ACA, and writing full time. But with a family of four to support, all of whom have health issues of one form or another, I’m not ready to make that jump quite yet.
For a little more background, I’m a U.S.-based author, and I started trying to write back in 1995, so realistically, it’s taken me 18 years to get to this point. I have nine fantasy novels in print with DAW. The first came out from DAW in 2006. The last two were published in hardcover. Most of my books have made the Locus bestseller lists, though I don’t hit the NYT or USA Today lists. (Yet.) I’m primarily — almost exclusively — a “traditionally” published author.
As always, please keep in mind that I’m a sample size of one. Trying to draw any broad, sweeping conclusions from such a sample would be … illogical.
With that said, I hope this is helpful, and as always, I’m happy to answer any questions folks might have.
Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.