Category Archives: Publishing

Hugos 2017

The Hugo Awards were announced today. Alas, Rod Walker really does not have the energy to participate in such things any more.

That said, Rod Walker appreciates two things about the Rabid Puppies campaign:

1.) They are hugely, hugely entertaining. The drama goes on and on for weeks. It’s better than reality TV!

2.) They exposed the Hugos for the hollow con job that they are. The Hugo have nothing to do with excellence or even commercial success, but the repayment of favors and political backscratching. Perhaps the decades-long elevation of mediocrity is one of the reasons Amazon is devouring traditional publishing like Tiamat swallowing the moon.

Rod Walker has written a book unrelated to awards.  

awards for Brings The Lightning

Peter Grant’s book Brings The Lightning has won the 2nd Annual Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance Award.

That is pretty cool. Rod Walker freely admits that among his other failings he’s not really a Western kind of guy, but he read Brings The Lightning last year and really liked it quite a bit. He’s looking forward to reading the sequel Rocky Mountain Retribution when time permits.

Rod Walker has also written a book. 

 

don’t be boring

An interesting post from Nathan at Castalia House explains the reasons for the collapse in traditionally published science fiction. Read the whole thing, but this was Rod Walker’s favorite quote:

Reliance on Bookscan and other sales tools sent publishers looking for blockbuster bestsellers instead of growing their midlist writers. And, in the current day, ebooks are proving just as disruptive, with more than 80% of all 2016 science fiction sales coming from ebooks according to Author Earnings. But while writers cannot control the changes in the industry, they can at least avoid the mistake that repeatedly led to soft sales:

Realism.

Or to be more proper, literary realism.

The problem with literary realism is that literary realism is boring.

The first rule for any fiction writer (the Prime Directive, if you will) – don’t be boring under any circumstances. A writer can violate any other genre rule or convention or rule of plotting, so long as he doesn’t violate the first rule: don’t be boring under any circumstances.

Literary realism is boring.

Rod Walker’s book is many things, but boring is not one of them. 

 

critical failure in criticism

From time to time, readers have observed that Rod Walker displays a complete lack of regard for criticisms or the opinion of others. He admits that is true, and is quite likely to completely disregard the opinion of a critic until he is given compelling reasons otherwise.

(It’s like the joke about the business professor – if he’s so smart, why isn’t he rich?)

That said, Rod Walker does sometimes have the amusing experience of encountering a critic who completely reinforces his prejudices against critics. This quote from a Castalia House post describing a particularly hapless critic named Harry Harrison is hilarious. Read the whole thing, but this is the funniest part:

Harrison attempted to write a book about sex in science fiction called Great Balls of Fire (1977). The book was wonderfully illustrated but the text is a hopeless mess. In a chapter entitled “Is Conan Dating Clark Kent?” Harrison makes a colossal blunder in this book by attributing this passage by Jan Strnad to Frederic Wertham, M.D.:

“Conan’s broadsword and double bladed battle-axe are standard phallic symbols; they are of course representative of Conan’s attempts at sublimation of his homosexual tendencies.”

Conan a homosexual? The logic is baffling. The popular stereotype of Conan, in fact, is of a muscular barbarian carrying off a nubile young woman. This is exaggerated over the reality, but in the stories Conan shows a regular and enthusiastic interest in women. Suggesting that he is homosexual is as dumb as suggesting that Marx was a secret capitalist or that Luther really supported the Pope.

Rod Walker’s book is smarter than that. (Admittedly, that’s not high praise, but still.) 

ideological lockstep

Jon Del Arroz did an interesting experiment where he went through the Twitter feeds of the current writers for Marvel comics and found that all of them were progressive and strongly anti-conservative and anti-Christian to one degree or another.

This isn’t at all surprising. People like this march in ideological lockstep, and work in unison to exclude anyone of conservative or Christian leanings from publishing on their platforms. (They all claim they don’t, of course, and perhaps they even believe it themselves, but their actions put the lie to it.)

This is why Rod Walker spends so much time inside publishing (not counting Castalia House). Indie publishing allows an author to establish his own platform without suffering through would-be commissars controlling the traditional publishing industries.

Rod Walker’s book shows what happens when ideological conformity gets out of control. 

if magic, then modernity

Rawle Nyanzi has a good post on how 21st century social attitudes get imported into fantasy fiction with a medieval or ancient setting. Central quote (but read the whole thing):

Finally — and this is most important — the “if magic, then modernity” critique is often given in the form of a command, with the intention of bringing all creative work under its sway. Whether it is comic books, television, video games, or any other creative medium, all must conform to a template approved by the accusers — and any deviation is slammed as “hate.” Despite the accusers’ call for “diversity,” they want to make everything look, act, and feel exactly the same, with all the same assumptions and ideas. Imagination and possibility is to be replaced by fear and control. A hunger to rule over others consumes them and drives them to bully everyone they could into line. Even the realms of the fantastic have to fit the quotas set out in the five-year plan. Nothing less than total dominion will satisfy them.

In fantasy, the only thing one has to do is tell a story from the heart. Whatever form it takes, whatever themes it explores, one does not need permission from hypocritical scolds and mad hecklers to create. Just let the words flow.

The secret to navigating this is twofold. The writer can 1.) do whatever he wants, but only if 2.) it makes sense to the reader. Like, if you want to write a world of warrior women riding dragons into battle while the men stay home and are farmers and raise the children, you can do it. It just has to make sense to the reader. You can’t be preachy about it.

Like, in this example, Rod Walker can think of a few story-sensible logical explanations for this kind of world:

-Controlling a dragon requires a telepathic bond, and men who bond with dragons go murderously insane and have to be killed.

-Women who fail to bond with dragons go murderously insane and have to be killed.

-Women who fail to bond with dragons by the age of twenty-five are ordered to marry and have children instead.

-The dragon riders serve a stern goddess whose edicts demand that only women ride dragons into battle.

-Only women can bond with a dragon, but a male wizard must cast the bonding spell.

-The dragons themselves are actually the rulers of the society, and demand only female riders.

-Or (if you want to go darker with the story) the dragon will only accept a woman as a rider if the woman allows the dragon to consume her firstborn child.

So such a setting presents any number of possibilities for interesting stories. But the writer must always remember that “sermon” and “fiction” are two separate genres of literature.

Rod Walker pretty much did whatever he wanted in his book. 

 

audibooks as a business venture

Brian Niemeier has an interesting post on the considerable difficulty of producing audiobooks. Central quote:

Let’s break this down. ACX pays 40% royalties on audiobooks. If you don’t want to hire a narrator at an one-time fee, ACX will help match you with a narrator. You and the narrator then split that 40% royalty 50/50. Forever.

If that doesn’t make you run screaming from ACX Royalty Share, you’re either innumerate or have no concept of time.

Here’s a concrete example. An audio version of my first book Nethereal would have a total running time of 30 hours. According to ACX’s suggested pricing schedule, I could reasonably charge $25.00 for a Nethereal audiobook.

H/t to my friend JimFear138, a pro audiobook narrator who’s wisely getting in on the audio bubble while the gettin’s good. More power to him!

I earn roughly $5.00 an hour from writing (no 5 day, 40 hour work weeks for me!), which in this market is actually pretty good.

Hiring a narrator at the lowest price I’ve found to record a 30 hour audiobook means paying over $60.00 an hour. Let’s factor in editing, mixing, outtakes, etc. and double the number of man-hours going into the finished audiobook to 60. That’s still more than $30.00 an hour.

Rod Walker has a bit of experience with audiobooks, so he’ll go into it here.

The difficulty of creating an audiobook is actually harder than Mr. Niemeier describes. Audiobooks come in terms of “finished hours” in the final recording – a 90,000 word novel would land at about 8 to 10 finished hours. Additionally, a finished hour has to be finished – the levels of the recording need to be adjusted and the recording has to be mastered.

Making an ebook that doesn’t suck in terms of formatting is relatively easy. Making an audiobook that doesn’t suck is much harder.

A good narrator (one whose voice doesn’t make you reach for the mute button) can come in at $300 per finished hour, and top-tier narrators can easily command $500 and higher for a finished hour. You can find narrators who charge less, but their quality can often be questionable.

There are many reasons for this. To put it bluntly, not everyone has a voice that other people want to listen to for 10+ hours, just as not everyone has the good looks to be an actor. Rod Walker’s own voice sounds like he just got punched in the throat while smoking a cigarette, so he would not attempt to narrate his own books as many authors do. For that matter, learning to narrate and enunciate properly is its own skill – a lot of would-be narrators sound like they either have a mouth full of marbles or they talk faster than the guy reading the disclaimers at the end of radio used-car ads. There is also the matter of editing and leveling the raw sound files, which again is not something everyone can do properly. (Occasionally you come across an ACX sample that, to judge from the echoes, sounds like it was recorded in the narrator’s bathtub.)

In the end, a good narrator can charge a lot because he possesses a skill set that is difficult to acquire. The author makes or breaks the ebook. The narrator makes or breaks the audiobook.

Because of this, producing audiobooks gets expensive. An indie author with the right skill set and the right software can create a high-quality ebook with nothing more than time and some money to buy the rights for a stock image for the cover. It’s much harder to do that with audiobooks.

Consequently, creating an audiobook is a risky financial decision for an indie author. Turning three long novels into ebooks could cost around $100, maybe less. Producing three long novels into audiobooks could easily cost around $10,000. That’s small business loan territory, and Rod Walker is acquainted with several bestselling indies who sunk tens of thousands of dollars into producing audiobooks and don’t expect to recoup the investment for several years, if ever. A lot of successful indies get approached by companies like Tantor and Podium to license their audio rights – some money from licensing the audio rights is better than no money from never doing anything with the rights, and it’s definitely better than sinking tens of thousands of dollars into producing a long series as audiobooks and never seeing the money again.

So producing an audiobook is like running a Kickstarter – if you’re going to do it, you’d better have a good business plan.

Because of the headache involved, Rod Walker is relieved his book doesn’t have an audiobook. 

Robert E Howard does horror

Rod Walker hasn’t read any of Robert E Howard’s horror stories, but this post makes him want to correct this deficiency. Central quote:

Howard’s characters are not your usual pansies that populate modern horror. No, these guys are tough motherfuckers that when presented with tentacled horrors from the stygian depths they go a killing with sword and pistol. In one of my favorite stories, The Horror from the Mound, when our cowboy protagonist accidentally digs up a 17th-century Spanish Vampire buried by Conquistadores who begins murdering the local Mexicans, he doesn’t run away. Hell no, he breaks its spine and sets the moldy motherfucker on fire.

RW always appreciated Conan’s and Solomon Kane’s muscular approach to dealing with supernatural horror.

Rod Walker wrote a book. 

books for men, books for women, books for both

Jon Mollison has some interesting advice for writers. Central quote:

For reasons too byzantine and varied to go into in depth here, Madison Avenue has decided to follow the false narrative that ignoring male markets is the path to financial success.  Long story short: It’s a combination of women having more disposable income than they used to and an irrational belief that making your product more ‘female friendly’ doubles your consumer base.  Smart people assume the latter will double your income, not recognizing the truth of The Anti-Gnostic’s observation that what women enter, men leave.

You may gain some short term success, but changing your product to explicitly appeal to women the strategy of eating your seed corn.  The female focus will drive off the men-folk, and all of the women that flocked to your product specifically because it represented a chance to enter a male space will follow the men to whatever space they find to replace it.

The problem is that “writing for women” often in practice translates to “deciding women need patronizing” and no one, male or female, really likes being condescended to.

Rod Walker’s book isn’t condescending.