Sorting Hat: good and bad of digital and self-publishing

Okay, I’ve been getting knocked on the head (a bit) concerning my rant on the failure that is self-publishing, ebooks, and digital presses. So I posted on sffworld.com to get some practical advice on the LEGITIMATE publishing industry.

ME: My two MS’s (over 100k words, I admit) were reviewed by editors in the industry that were friends of a college prof of mine (legitimately published in non-fiction) and I was told that I had talent, I work hard, but I’m not marketable. Two years later an Arizonan airhead was paid $750k for a sparkling Mormonpire series. I’m working on a third MS, so should I just wait until the idiotic trends are done, and agents are more willing to give a chance to people who LIKE to research and work?

SHEVDON: Bear in mind, rubym3575, that this is not a competition. There are no winners and losers and just because someone in Arizona gets paid a lot of money does not mean you are on the side-lines.

Think positively about this. If a whole new generation of teenagers, particularly girls, are introduced to speculative fiction, then that means they will be looking for something to read when they have finished the Arizonan’s masterwork. Perhaps your story, your idea, will be what they are searching for?

You cannot change what is already written and already published. You can only change what you write and make that the best that it can be. You can learn, improve and develop so that your writing stands out as being imaginative, rich and deep. Then your writing will get published because it is superb, and not because it is better or worse than someone else’s.

Do you really want to be published as the successor of someone else’s success?

I hear what you’re saying Shevdon, but I was raised to believe that there are winners and losers in life. The winners get thousands of dollars in advances and royalties and are able to buy the house, the car, buy jewelry, expand their personal libraries, get insured, pay bills and debts with not a care in the world because they know they have the money, and the world in the palm of their hand. Also, Writer Beware does (time and again) state that getting published LEGITIMATELY is a HIGHLY competitive industry. So you have a heart, but that’s where liberalism fails and I couldn’t help but pick up the stench of self-published self-deluded dolt.

Well Shevdon turns out to be Mike Shevdon of Bedfordshire, UK and is the author of Sixty-One Nails and its sequel The Road to Bedlam that will soon be out here across the pond in September. His publisher, Angry Robot Books, is an “imprint” of HarperCollins. Now when I went to the site it looked like a glorified blog, and as it turns out it’s set up here on wordpress. Their mission statement goes thusly:

Angry Robot ™ is a new global publishing imprint. Our mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!

Traditional SF and fantasy has been ploughing an entertaining furrow for many decades, but to our way of thinking much of it is missing a trick. To the new generations of readers reared on Dr Who and Battlestar Galactica, graphic novels and Gears of War 2, old school can mean staid, stuck in a rut. “Crossover” is increasingly the way forward and you’ll find plenty of it here, without batting an eyelid. New heroes and new settings, or maybe just reinventing the wheel, we’re not fussed – if there’s an energy in a book that gets us jumping up and down, we’re all over it.

We know many readers are madly passionate about their genres. Angry Robot is too. If anything, we’re too passionate. We are fans, given at any moment to break into a lengthy harangue about why book X is a lost classic or author Y really should give it up already. The sheer joy, though, of being able to jump onto a table (only sometimes metaphorically) and tell the world about how bloody great a chosen writer or novel is, is what drives Angry Robot.

Run from the UK but publishing worldwide, Angry Robot’s books will pick from a menu of the following formats:

Physical paperbacks – in all good bookstores, worldwide

Limited run special editions – where demand is high enough, as hardcovers or trades, everyday or leatherbound; keep your collection in matching editions

PoD backlistwhen we run out of our early printings, we can now keep copies in print for those who want them, using the latest, very high quality print-on-demand technology

eBooks – downloadable versions of all our titles, across all the main formats including ePub, Kindle and Stanza, alongside their first release anywhere in the world

Downloadable audio – our goal is to release every title we acquire in digital audio format, and we’ll shortly be announcing our first audio initiatives

Well ARB, I couldn’t help but notice that POD parasite there, then again Whorelequin does have DellArte Press to make money off the overdrafted credit cards of the desperately rejected. Mikey boy has seemingly escaped its sticky web if he’s available in brick-and-mortar stores, and I sincerely do hope that your advances and royalties aren’t the pocket change that Lorie O’Clare gets from EC (along with the minute markup she makes on her own).

Now my brother Archer9234 and I have spent hours trying to debunk the bunk that the entertainment industry has become. My beef is publishing, and his is comics (he’s pretty much an expert on it, and I’m trying to get him to audiotape a rant so I can put it up here). Well with the success of Iron Man 2 and the WTF that Jonah Hex was, you can definitely say that the industry is going for a broader audience that doesn’t know jack fuck him in the ass about what they’re watching or reading. I mean John Rambo, Die Hard IV, the X-Men films pretty much says it all: we’ll clean up on the merchandise and hope for the best in ticket sales. JHs sountrack was composed by Mastodon (and was kickass) but I’m not buying it, I’m just waiting until someone uploads it. That’s how much I hate the shit (I saw it on bootleg)! JH was a relatively successful DC character, but (like Captain America) H’Wood will do anything for a buck (John Malkovich was pretty great and I say the same for his performance in Eragon, but seriously he must need the money considering he, Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and her husband the prince of Austrian prostitution were caught in the Madoff trap). They dumb down everything and warp plots just to get the Average Joe and Jane interested in the flashy effects, sexy cast, and will (hopefully) buy the T-shirt (or watch, or flamethrower, or vibrator, or cell phone, ad infinitum…).

But it backfires. The Average Joe and Jane don’t even bother because they don’t want to be caught dead with the comic geeks. They also feel intimidated by the lingo and tech. So the only thing that the studios have left are the DVD sales, and with the multiple releases, they’re sure to at least break even (JH budget: $47 million; gross revenue: $10,226,919). Now for publishing I posted in my rant a link to a little discussion as why suck-ass books get published. Well one of the bloggers spelled it out plain as day: BIG BOX STORES. At the end of the 80s the big box store was breeding past their humble Midwest roots (I first heard of Target in 1998 when Katya Gordeyeva was hawking her fragrance) and we had Caldor for a time until it went belly up in ’99. Then Target and Best Buy sprouted like weeds killing off HMV, Virgin Mega (although it dug its own grave opening up so many locations that failed), Circuit City (see Virgin Mega), and Suncoast. Looking for music, books, manga, comics, and movies isn’t fun anymore- especially when you have some toddler moron running into you at full speed and the mother that’s too busy yakking on her phone who doesn’t give a shit. We have BJ’s and Costco’s here in the Big Apple, but Wal-Mart ain’t welcome (that will certainly ring a death knell for local business including the neighborhood mortuary- and ours just closed up shop after 125 years).

Big box stores create big box mentality: I could digest loads of cheap crap! So books were being written for people that don’t read. Keep it stupid and none too moving, or SO moving you drown in molasses (Bridges of Madison County, Endless Love, and Eat Pray Love) that you forget it’s crap. In the 21st century the new form is called self-publishing and digital publishing. One such author of digital crap is Lorie O’Clare. Now I don’t visit her site often, but she puts out a book a month it seems, and I’m not the only one who has critiqued her as shit. She writes mainly for EC but her crap has landed in brick-and-mortar stores for St. Martin’s Press. Now I have her Lunewulf series, Fallen Gods series, Malta Werewolves series, and Sex Slaves series in 4 paperback volumes and the rest ebooks. Now the romantica genre has many problems that I’ve bitched about before. Romantica publishers have screamed they don’t want purple prose, but whether it’s Whorelequin Blaze or some digital ass all I see is purple prose with cursing!

Now this is a sample of O’Clare’s Malta Werewolves 1:

She knew it would never happen. Bruno had no den. His sire and mother had died when he was a

teenager during one of the raids with the humans. He worked in the tobacco factory. She’d known him

since high school, and she and the other females her age often whispered about him when he drove by on

his motorcycle. A powerful alpha, he didn’t run with the other werewolves. At least not that she’d heard.

Any of the runs she’d been allowed to join, he’d never been present. No one knew him that well. But his

incredible good looks, the way he seemed to stalk anyone he approached—every bitch in the pack

wondered what it would be like to be sought out by Bruno Tangaree. But he was the rogue werewolf,

someone all of them knew they could never be seen with. With no den, no history with the pack, her

parents would have put a leash on her if she’d ever even mentioned his name to them. Bruno was a

werewolf to fantasize about. Larger than most, strong with a deadly stare, he frightened and had her

coming in her panties at the same time.

Yet here she was. In his arms. On the ground. His scent smothering her. And that kiss. That kiss almost

dragged her soul right out of her body. His lips were so soft yet his actions so demanding. Her heart

thudded in her throat. Hell, he’d thrown her to the ground and kissed her so aggressively, for a moment

she thought the change would take over.

Remembering his words about her gifts sobered her enough to regain control of her senses. “We

shouldn’t be doing this,” she whispered, barely able to make her voice work.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of this.” He stroked his rough finger down her cheek and then outlined

her collarbone, stretching his fingers around her neck, tightening his grip, and then relaxing it.

No real fuck scene here, but it was puh-lenty purple prosey! Now here’s a scene from the self-published Concubine by Kota Ozembwe:

“Shiao-Shiao,” First Wife whispered, breaking the strained silence. “When you were a little kid, did you ever read stories about demons?”

Shiao-Shiao didn’t know what to make of the question. Warily, she responded, “My mom once read me a story of a prince who fought an evil king. And the evil king was possessed by the demon, which made him stronger than an army, but it also made him evil.”

First Wife turned her head slightly towards Shiao-Shiao. “It’s not exactly what I had in mind, but that works.” First Wife’s voice sounded raw, somehow stripped of its usual polish. “I have always been good at whatever I did. No, that’s not right. I have always been the best at whatever I did. There is something in me that makes me like that- like some supernatural force that doesn’t know how to lose. I make almost as much as Stan, although he is older and male. It’s a killer instinct so to speak, something without mercy. In any competition, I win. Not just win, but WIN, destroy my competition. Do you know that Ver Publishing drove ten other companies out of business last year? And even if there’s no competition I win anyway.”
See the difference? Concubine is a 150-page novella fuck book. It needs editing- quite a bit frankly- but Ozembwe should’ve gotten a contract and should have been in a compilation book. He/She did the research, the structuring and continuity is good overall, all it needs is some grammatical upkeep. O’Clare did NO research on Malta, didn’t tell us why the den was even in Malta, what their problems were, or say anything remotely interesting about Bruno and Renee except that she’s bitchy and gorgeous, and he’s an ass and gorgeous. Oh, and it was 31 pages. So my complaints aren’t sour grapes- they’re real! People need to wake up and get down to their libraries and go cold turkey on the big box books. Prove to them you can think for yourself.

Why Men Don’t Read: How Publishing is Alienating Half the Population

Some startling statistics

Steve Jobs: “People Don’t Read Anymore,” Android Is Going Down

2008 Romance Fiction Industry Stat Report

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