In discussing Locke and How I Sold (as well as Hocking and Eisler et al.), I think one huge caveat that must be enumerated, and can’t be mentioned often enough, is that: there is no magic bullet. What’s worked for one writer might not–and probably will not–work for others.
I’m sure someone could make the argument that people don’t discuss that bit because it’s understood, but I don’t buy that.
A year ago today, I began to serialize Meets Girl, then published it in paperback and on Kindle over the Thanksgiving holiday, three weeks into its serialization. I refrained from writing about it for a couple of reasons, the most major being that I didn’t want to spoil anything for anyone. However, given that a year–give or take–has passed, I feel the statute of limitations on spoilers has expired.
The Globe Theater was exactly as Leonard Kensington had expected: an open-air amphitheatre with three levels of gallery seats looming up and over him. Crushed hazelnut shells on the ground didn’t quite mask the body odor of 2,000 people who lived in a society that hadn’t yet discovered underarm deodorant.
Onstage, Richard Burbage, as Macbeth, began the fifth act to conclude the play. “Hang out our banners on the outward walls,” he pointed out over the audience as if he were seeing Inverness, and so the Globe pretended it was a centuries-old castle in Scotland, the river Thames pretended it was Ness. “The cry is still, ‘They come.’ Our castle’s strength will laugh a siege to scorn. Here let them lie till famine and the ague eat them up. Were they not forced with those that should be ours, we might have met them dareful, beard to beard, and beat them backward home.”
The quantum implant in Leonard’s temporal lobe began to buzz. He squeezed his earlobe, quietly cleared his throat, which meant: wait. He looked around at the people standing beside him, all of whom were enthralled by that big man on the stage and his words.
Backstage, and so in the bowels of Castle Inverness, several women screamed. Macbeth turned toward the sound. “What is that noise?”
“It is the cry of women, my good lord,” Will Shakespeare, playing Macbeth’s attendant, Seyton, answered. Shakespeare was a small, pale man with fine features and quick, lively eyes. He hurried offstage to investigate.
After several years in a will-they/wont-they purgatory, the digital revolution in publishing has finally become more a matter of when than if, where “when” seems to be 2010. Apple’s launch of the iPad–which featured five of the big six corporate publishers as partners and only ignored the sixth because someone within the company had outed the device the day before official launch–got the ball rolling and demonstrated that ebooks were not just a novel trend but rather new media for novels and all sorts of other forms of storytelling. In late August, Amazon’s third-generation Kindle, with its improved screen and form factor and its lower price, effectively killed the counterargument. The only thing left to really argue about is price.
But really, that’s fodder enough.
Since Apple got all those publishers on board and got its iBookstore rolling (or did it? Has anyone heard anything about the iBookstore? All I hear about are the devices–Kindles, nooks, iPads. Not so much about the stores), there’s been a debate about what’s a “good” price for ebooks. One common idea discussed when the iPad launched was the so-called “agency model,” which basically meant that publishers got to set their own price. Tech Eye mentions that this is in opposition to allowing, say, the vendor to decide the price. In other words, it’s the difference between, say, Harper setting the price of its books and Amazon doing so.
Publishers, of course, want high prices. This was why $10 ebooks were so common during the beginning of last year. Right after the iPad? Seems like publishers–corporate and otherwise–got a little high off the power of the partnership and suddenly decided that the right price for ebooks was between ten and fifteen bucks. The New York Times discussed the phenomenon.
To really get into the discussion, though, we have to consider factors regarding price. There are myriad.
Comin’ on Christmas, people decorating their trees. I printed out my newly finished manuscript I had dedicated to Veronica and jammed it into the backpack I wore across midtown Manhattan as I made my way to Port Authority to catch a Greyhound home. One of those slate-grey, nondescript buses down the Jersey Turnpike blur the spindly trees along the side of the highway, all the way back to my hometown by way of connections and cars, at which point I called Veronica to ask if we could meet up, because I had a serious surprise for her. I guess she could hear in my voice how eager I was to see her, and perhaps even that I had specific reasons for being so eager. She told me she didn’t have much free time, but I could attend Christmas Eve mass with her family.
Perhaps that’s the most you need to know about Veronica: not that she is beautiful, though she is; nor what she studied; nor what she’s accomplished since college; nor any other thing, because perhaps nothing will tell you so much as that Veronica Sawyer is the kind of girl for whom you attend Christmas Eve Mass at midnight. It’s the crowded mass, full of not just the fervent but also all the people who go to church solely on Christmas and Easter. I can’t tell you I was among the faithful; by then, I’d swung closer to agnostic, which was a major step in my own spiritual evolution—finally accepting that I didn’t know all the answers was slightly out of character for me. I had grown up attending Catholic schools but had transferred out on the first day of my junior year, after which I’d swung hard enough the other way that other people might call it over-compensating, filling my days and studies with classes about cold, hard, rational science and the kind of philosophical discussions that excluded God in favor of morals and “quality.”
But Veronica told me I could meet her at the mass and then return, with her, to her family’s house, where she and Tom would be up until the wee hours, wrapping presents over hot chocolate and Christmas tree cookies. I wrapped the manuscript folder I’d bought in my mother’s leftover wrapping paper and set it on the front seat of my car as I drove to the church and then, afterward, her house.
Last week, I had a few hours’ break at work. I’m now working at the Equinox gym on 12th and Greenwich, which may well be the premier and largest, most active gym in America; I think we get thousands of members coming through every day. It’s a really nice gym, too; I worked at Easton Gym Hollywood while I lived in LA, and it was a small, private, boutique gym–Equinox has that same private, boutique feel but is probably four times as large.
Working on 12th and Greenwich puts me in the heart of the Village, and so, with a few hours off, I made my way just a bit north and east, to Barnes & Noble Union Square, which is even larger than the B&N at the Grove in Hollywood.
Going there made me think a lot about books. Not just because I was surrounded by them.
Used to be, if I went to a B&N, I couldn’t leave without an armful of books. Last week, I had no inclination to buy any at all, and not just due to lack of fundage. Lots of books getting some buzz: I know I need to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo relatively soon, but otherwise? I heard a lot about The Imperfectionists, but I browsed it and didn’t make it past the first half-dozen pages, after which I gave up out of boredom.
This troubles me.
I used to read a copious amount of books, read books the way some people chainsmoke, beginning a new one even before I’d finished the previous one, letting the last few pages of one blur into the first few of the next.
What a difficult list to compile. Especially since, glancing down at my iTunes running, there are 33,773 songs in my library. According to iTunes, it will take me more than 100 days of continuous listening (with no sleep, now I realize) to listen to them all. It’s rather extensive, and it’s the sort of collection that makes my taste in music suspect at best, beginning as it does with A-Ha (because any collection without “Take On Me” is incomplete) and ending (before it reaches songs without proper ID3 tags and lumps them all) with “Skin Up Pin Up” by 808 State/Mansun from Spawn: The Album (iTunes is the first organization system I’ve seen that puts numbers after letters, rather than before; if it did, the first songs would be by 1 Giant Leap or 12 Rounds). In between those few, there’s everything from Rick Astley, Belinda Carlisle, and Bon Jovi to all of Clapton, the Beatles, and Sinatra.
So it’s pretty expansive.
But expansive as it is, I tend to stick to some favorites. Lately it’s been a lot of Wolfmother (and Jet; what is it about Australia that inspires such great rock music from its bands?), Vanessa Mae, and, as always, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. Also, Adam Lambert and Matt Wertz.
So there’s a lot. But I winnowed. I winnowed after I kept reading other lists that fawned over, like, Radiohead and such. I mean, has Radiohead ever managed to be as good as Pablo, Honey? They’re like Pearl Jam and Matchbox Twenty, with fantastic debut CDs but output that has gotten subsequently less terrific with each title. For me, anyway. Your listening may vary. Also, dear Rolling Stone: The Strokes and Wilco in number 2 and number 3 spots, respectively. No offense, but seriously? No wonder people debate the continued relevance of the magazine. I mean, how safe.
Why not stretch a bit? Why not reach for some choices few people would expect? Then again, this from a guy who doesn’t really enjoy any of those three bands. I know lots of reviewers fell over themselves to heap a lot of praise on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but there wasn’t a single song on it that made me want to listen to the CD again. I get the impression it’s all just, like, hey, everyone else likes it, so we should, too, but to cite one of the artists who earned a spot on my list by way of a great CD, “You don’t know what love is, you just do as you’re told.”
So, suspect taste noted, shall we? My top ten albums of the last ten years, in order:
Back when I was younger, I always used to like to think of movies I wanted to see and then cast them in my head. This was in the nineties, and one of the major objects of my hobby was always an X-Men movie. While that has come and gone, I remember that pretty much the only character from my dreamcast who made it to the movie was Patrick Stewart as Professor X. Bearing in mind this was the mid-90s, I’d always thought Kurt Russell and Gates McFadden would have made a terrific Cyclops and Jean Grey, respectively, while Jean Claude Van Damme was at that time popular enough, short enough, and Canadian enough to seem like a good choice for Wolverine.
I can’t say I’ve stopped. I still would love for Gore Verbinski to buy my adaptation of Macbeth and direct it with Christian Bale as the titular character and with a supporting cast including Cate Blanchett, Sean Bean, Dougray Scott, Angelina Jolie, and Anthony Hopkins. That’d be so, so rad. Imagine the swordfights of Pirates of the Caribbean but in medieval Scotland (which, admittedly casts the setting a solid several hundred years post Scottish play, but whatevs).
And now that President-elect Barack Obama (God, there’s a lovely ring to that) is considering his cabinet members, I have, too. I think it’s really important, too, because these are people chosen, rather than elected, and you can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. The cabinet consists of 15 members (You can find the current list here): they are the Secretaries of Agriculture, the Interior, Commerce, Justice, Defense, Labor, Education, State, Energy, Transportation, Health and Human Services, Treasury, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development.
Now, there are a couple I wouldn’t even venture a guess toward, like Agriculture or Interior or Commerce. But a couple of the others? I’ll start with the ones I’d certainly offer:
Secretary of Labor: John Edwards. Don’t care that he had an extramarital affair. I’d at least ask him.
Secretary of Defense: General Wesley Clark. Dude’s awesome, and seems to know what he’s doing.
Secretary of Homeland Security: Richard Clarke. Because Against All Enemies is, by all accounts, genius. He was counter-terrorism czar for a while, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State until he “retired.” Thing is, dude is only a couple years older than my father. Again, I’d at least ask him.
Now here’s the thing: I considered John McCain in one of those. I think I’d want John McCain in my cabinet. Thing is, you can’t very well offer either post to the man who joked about Bomb-bomb-bombing Iran. So I think that what I’d do is ask McCain to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs, but also increase the synergy between the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veteran’s Affairs. They seem related, after all.
Secretary of State: Bill Clinton.
Secretary of Education: Hillary Clinton.
Now, I wrestled over this one. But Hillary wrote It Takes a Village, and education has always been near to her heart.
Secretary of Energy: Al Gore. Because we need new energy if we want to end global warming, which is his cause and all, and hey, the man invented the Internet, so I’m sure he could come up with something (that’s a joke. I know he didn’t actually build these here tubes). And shit, dude won a Nobel, no? And for Peace? I would so totally want a Nobel Prize winner in my cabinet.
Secretary of Treasury: Paul Krugman. Hell, why not two Nobel Prize winners? Dude is the latest winner for economics. He’s got to know something. I’ve heard Warren Buffett’s name mention a couple of times, though, and I’m sure he’d be good.
I wish I could figure out who my attorney general would be. We’ve been in desperate need of a good one for several years. But I don’t know enough about law to know whose name should be mentioned here. But I can tell you what I’d want: an expert in constitutional law, and someone unafraid to follow it closely. Someone unafraid to denounce torture as an interrogation technique. Also, would it be this guy’s job to introduce legislation to abolish the electoral college and revise the way voting works? Because I think we need that guy, too.
So those are my big choices, I think. Looking over it, it seems to lean slightly left, but I left several slots unfilled, and I’d definitely try to balance the cabinet in filling those.
Sad the news that the 11th Doctor is now on his way
To usurping the Tardis with companions new and d’verse.
Just a few specials before Tennant goes on his merry way
To other projects, other lands, and other roles.
I would call his portrayal of the Time Lord my favorite
But have I in fact on real frame of reference;
I’ve seen no other perform the role, the acts
of heroism and humanity for which I’ve come to know
the Doctor as played by Tennant. Not Eccleston nor
Atkinson, nor Bakers double, Pertwee, or Hartnell.
Indeed, Doctor Who was my favorite with twice
The Tennants in the house of Tardis, as always
Bigger without than within. Much like the show.
With apologies for the bastardization/bardolization. But seriously, there are few things in the world better than either Doctor Who or Shakespeare, and the combination of the two?
I’m sad to hear Tennant is leaving (after a critically acclaimed turn as Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, mind), if only because he’s the only doctor I’ve ever known. That’s a deliberate choice, too, because he’s the sort of character I want to be. I love the tenth doctor for his childlike glee, for his unflappability, for his grin and his humour. He is one of my all time favorite characters in any medium. Up there with House and the brothers Winchester, not to mention Tristran Thorn, Richard Mayhew, and Fat Charlie.
Houghton-Mifflin, purveyors of the textbook of said statistics. Who decided that even though I spent nearly $150 purchasing their textbook, I could only download it once, and then only to one computer, and only then using Adobe Digital Editions. Who the hell uses Adobe Digital Editions? And seriously, I get the new Coldplay, I rip it to my computer, I can listen on any device I want, but I spend nearly ten times as much and you lock me in? It’s a statistics textbook for a business course, and that business model makes me question just how damned authoritative you actually are. Business is about relationships and transactions with your customers. I am your customer, and you totally and completely failed me.
PUMA supporters. Which, apparently, stands for “Party Unity My Ass.” Have you heard of this? All the sad supporters of Hillary who are upset she lost and decided that Obama is the antichrist, and that McCain/Palin is a good choice because Palin is, like, a chick? God, I’m so tired of everyone backhanding Obama and treating McCain/Palin like they wouldn’t be 8 more years of the same. Dear female PUMA supporters; take your heads out of your collective twats long enough to acknowledge that feminism is about more than simply voting for anyone in a skirt.
Apparently, the selfsame self-righteous people who worked themselves all atwitter that Bill Clinton got a blowjob once (and investigated said act for, what, two years, and then impeached him for it) and basically ran poor John Edwards out of town are summoning every ounce of their moral outrage and righteous indignation now, because how dare anyone talk about Sarah Palin’s family. Most seem to miss the point that the speculation about who Trig Palin’s mother is was never about Bristol Palin but rather about Sarah; it was never so much speculation that the kid belonged to Bristol as it was that he might not belong to Sarah.
Oh, cesspool, they say! Outrageous rumormongering!
These, of course, are the same people that frothed at the mouth that Bill Clinton might have done pot, but never batted an eye that Bush had DUIs out the wazoo.
We should be looking at policy, they say.
Let’s. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Palin on healthcare: “Take personal responsibility for personal health and all areas.”
Palin on the environment: opposed protection for salmon, wants to sue US government to stop listing the polar bear as endangered, encourages timber, mining, and drilling.
Palin on energy: global warming not manmade. Supports off-shore drilling.
Palin on civil rights: supports preservation of definition of “marriage” as between man and women. Okay to deny benefits to homosexual couples. Oh, and let’s not forget: anti-women’s rights. “Pro-life,” except, of course, when it comes to the death penalty.
Palin on Budget: entered Wasilla with balanced budget, left the town with more than $20 million in longterm debt.
Palin on Foreign Policy and Immigration: oh, wait. No real policies recorded for that yet. Her son’s in Iraq, though, and everyone knows McCain wants bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb Iran.
Forget the kids: does Sarah Palin really sound to you like the type of candidate America needs? I swear it’s like McCain chose a female mini-Me who couldn’t possibly be any more ignorant concerning any other issue around. There is not a single policy for which either Palin or McCain stand that could possibly justify anyone calling either a “maverick.”
And you know, just once, I’d like Barack Obama to show up to a speech in a kilt, because it seems all the damned PUMA people want is a candidate in a skirt.
His basic premise is the fear that if you start giving stuff away, no one will pay for it. Not just in the case of a specific author but rather in the case of publishing overall; if magazines start allowing readers to read online and for free the stories they print, no one will want to buy stories anymore. Which strikes me as quite a slippery slope of an argument, and I worry he’ll lose control of his toboggan.
I tend to understand his fears, though, I think, because really, it makes a lot of sense. I’ll note that since I started offering Entrekin as a free download, the downloads have shot way up though the sales have remained pretty steady. But it also makes sense in other ways.
I’ve been neglecting my other two blogs lately (writing and prepping for teaching tend to make me laser-focus), but had I been keeping up, I would have pointed to Tor.com, the new website of science fiction/fantasy publisher TOR books. So far, I’m quite stunned by its execution; in range and scope, I think it’s rather amazing, and exactly the sort of things publishers need to be doing more often. Free stories. Free novels, even. Forums for readers. Reading is not just about words on a page; it’s about community and culture, and in one fell swoop, Tor has realized the combination of the two. It’s damned near perfect, and I can only imagine it will get better.
When Tor.com posted Scalzi’s short story, “After the Coup”, the story managed nearly 50,000 hits in two weeks, a number that is, approximately, equal to the number of subscribers to three of the biggest science fiction/fantasy magazines combined. When Van Gelder pointed out that all those subscribers pay, whereas TOR.com readers are getting a freebie, Scalzi apparently responded he was “comparing eyeballs to eyeballs.”
Which puts it pretty well, I think. Because in neither case is either number a certain count of readers. One might hope, I guess, that a subscriber would read an entire magazine, but I don’t think I ever have; every magazine I’ve ever subscribed to, there’s usually one article each issue that’s a stinker.
In fact, Tor.com’s implementation seems like the perfect execution in an online world: a publisher gets behind an author, and gets first-look rights at what that author creates, which it can post on its website for an industry-standard fee. Readers can view it free, authors get paid, and publishers get free marketing (New! Exclusive Junot Diaz story! Only at Riverhead.com!).
Used to be that publication made sense, if solely for purposes of distribution; there was no way to get a lot of books to a lot of people without having the kind of operation only a major publisher could implement. Nowadays, though, sites like this seem to indicate that nearly 1.5 billion people in the world have Internet access, whereas something like 90% of books sell fewer than 1000 copies. Which seems to me to indicate that there’s a giant disconnect between content creation and content distribution, if only because so many Internet users read. Blogs, e-mail, news . . . it’s really just a giant database full of information and content.
I’ve read Seth Godin claim that books are really just souvenirs, and I’m not entirely sure about that one way or the other, but I do think that magazines and newspapers well could be. They are holders of information, but certainly no longer the best method of delivery of that information. I’d say I’m reasonably informed about global news, but I literally cannot remember the last time I actually even saw a newspaper, much less picked one up or read one.
Van Gelder notes:
So I started to wonder: has short fiction been devalued by the fact that so many places offer it for free online nowadays?
But when was the value of any fiction ever determined by the price people are willing to pay? All of Shakespeare’s work is public domain and available free, online, and what’s more, no one has to pay to produce or perform any of it.
What I think Van Gelder really means, though, is that we may be coming to a point where writers no longer need a short fiction marketplace (and I realize this is another slope of the slippery type, but still). In Japan last year, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels were distributed neither online nor by book but rather to readers’ cell phones. No mistake, the industry as a whole is changing markedly, and I think most professionals within it will learn to adapt to new ways of doing the business of getting good content to interested consumers, which is really basically all publishing actually is, anyway.
Personally, I’m still mainly surprised that The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction still only accepts queries by traditional mail. No electronic submissions.
I mean, seriously, what’s up with that?
(though they do accept payment for sample issues through PayPal. Interesting that)
I’ve mentioned before I’m currently in the submission process with my novel, The Prodigal Hour. So far it’s okay; not spectacular, but not terrible, either. Of course, “spectacular” would probably be defined as “offered representation,” and I’ll be sure to let you know when that happens. I considered talking more about the submission process itself, but I think I’m going to do so more after I’ve been offered representation, and not before.
I’m going through the process as you’d expect; search the Internet and Writers’ Market and etc. for agents who are either actively seeking new clients or sound like they may be vaguely interested. And then I send a query, which looks pretty much as you’d expect a query to look: intro, synopsis, bio, and out. The intro gives me some trouble, though, because that’s where I mention the title, word count, and genre of my novel, and boyhow is that last characteristic ever a trouble spot. Many might think it’s easy: time travel automatically = science fiction.
But not so fast, I say.
Because I don’t feel like I wrote a science fiction novel. I don’t generally read science fiction novels. Science fiction is all wars among and treks across the stars, and it has a long and illustrious history I don’t feel a part of. Growing up, my choices for reading material were all Dean Koontz and Stephen King pretty much straight across the board, with digressions into Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff. Given that among my first experiences with Stephen King was a short story called “Strawberry Spring,” after which I read Different Seasons, I always had trouble thinking of him as a ‘horror’ writer. I never read It and never got to his straight-up horror until after I’d already read “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” and “The Body.”
Try showing someone with no previous knowledge of their origins the movie adaptations of The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me and then explaining to them they were both based on books by a horror writer.
Because they certainly aren’t horror stories.
Admittedly, King is a bit of an exception; he himself is pretty much as much a genre as “horror”. People buy his books for his name, not for the genre.
Few people are going to buy The Prodigal Hour for my name, and you’re probably already reading this, anyway.
So far, I’ve been calling it a techno-thriller, but even that is a bit of a misnomer. It is thrilling (well. That’s the hope, at least), but character and plot work in pretty much equal measure, and it’s certainly not just about the thrills.
I sort of understand the requirement; it determines, basically, where your book is placed on bookstores’ shelves, which is key. I rarely venture to the scifi/fantasy shelves except to grab Neil Gaiman’s newest book, and again, I’m buying the name, not the genre.
One of the things that’s gotten me thinking about this, too, are the writers who write stories that seem pretty categorically genre but whose books are not placed there. Lethem started out writing mostly weird science fiction tales. Crichton’s got Jurassic Park and Timeline, at least, not to mention Sphere and The Andromeda Strain. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones was narrated by a dead girl, while Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Traveler’s Wife seems like science fantasy.
And then there’s Michael Chabon. He just won a Hugo for The Yiddish Policeman’s Union. The Hugo is a major award so known for science fiction that, when a handful of fantasy novels won (including JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Gaiman’s American Gods), some controversy got stirred up.
It’s like people expect good entertainment from all media until they hit books, and then some weirdo mechanism steps in and says that it must be “literature” to be any good while preventing the memory that the whole reason Shakespeare is awesome is because he wrote swordfights and fairies and witches so damned well into really exciting stories.
I read somewhere, I believe, that something like three of the top five bestselling novels in Japan last year were published via cell phones. Interesting, in its way; the idea seems popular, and I’m all for getting new readers and new books to those new readers any way possible. But I wonder a bit about the content. I try not to judge such things, because it makes me feel like a pompous douchebag, but I worry that the kind of novels that lend themselves to being read serially via cellphone are the kind of novels, say, Tila Tequila might write (if you don’t know who she is, count yourself lucky).
Amusingly, though, I caught a feature in the latest issue of Esquire–great works of literature as text messages.
Click the image below to visit the slideshow:
I had some ideas for others:
Macbeth: “I can haz crown? Out damn spot!”
American Gods: Meet new godz. Same as old onez.
Old Man’s War: “I fite everything! My DAN makes me teh wassum!!11″