Cats vs. Dogs

A few follow-up links to last week’s post about rape in fandom:

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The First (Pro) Novel Survey is up to 151 responses.  I’d love to break 200 if possible.  I’ve posted information at the following sites:

  • My blog
  • SFWA (Newsgroup and Discussion Forum)
  • Absolute Write
  • Codex
  • SF Novelists

Any suggestions for places I’ve missed?  (Or feel free to pass the link on directly, if you know someone who might be interested.)

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So I was chatting with Seanan McGuire this weekend about book releases and pancakes and such when she mentioned something fascinating.  Apparently every time she posts a picture of her cat, her Amazon ranking improves.

Forget book trailers and contests.  The key to writing success is cute animals.  But it got me wondering … would a dog picture have the same effect?  Can we prove once and for all whether cats or dogs have the superior selling power? Can we finally put an end to the age-old cats vs. dog dispute?

I believe we can!  I spent Sunday afternoon chasing our poor pets around until I got the following pictures.


This is our new dog Casey.  As you can see, Casey has a lot of toys, but she’s most possessive of that copy of The Stepsister Scheme [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon].


And this is my cat Flit, all curled up and ready to go to sleep on her copy of Goblin Quest [Mysterious Galaxy | B&N | Amazon].  (Just as soon as she gets her belly rubbed, that is.)

So there we have it.  Having posted two animal pictures, my sales should now go through the roof.  I’ll compare this week’s Bookscan numbers to last week’s for both books and figure out the percentage change.  So tune in late next week for indisputable scientific proof of whether cats or dogs are better.

Rape in Fandom

Earlier this week, [link removed at her request] shared a letter to her rapist in order to warn others in fandom about this individual.

A number of people have responded to express their support.  To say “I’ve got your back,” and that those who would commit rape are not welcome in this community.  To which I can add only, “Hell, yes.”  So often we as a society ignore rape.  We make excuses.  We pretend not to notice, and by doing so, we allow it to continue.

I’m bracing myself for the backlash.  For the indignant bloggers to ask why the Internet is dogpiling this poor man without giving him the chance to defend himself.  For the guys to rally behind the flag of False Accusations.  For the victim blamers to ask what she did to enable this, or why she didn’t press charges.  For the men to point out how terrible it is to be accused of rape, and the horrible damage it can do to a man’s reputation.  And for all of the other excuses why publicly confronting rape and rapists is a scary, dangerous, bad idea.  I’ve already seen it in a few comments.

To all of these people, please just shut up.  Instead of immediately working to silence someone who found the courage to speak out, how about you take a turn being silenced for once.  Maybe even try listening.

I’m not saying false accusations don’t happen — they do, albeit rarely.  I’m not saying there’s never a time to talk about criminal prosecution of rape and why people might choose not to endure the ugliness of a rape trial.  I’m saying this is not the time.

People don’t choose to be raped.  People choose to commit rape.  If you make that choice, I don’t want you in my community.

You know what?  The same goes for those who choose to grope their way through conventions.  The ones who believe a costume that shows off a woman’s body is an invitation to sexually harass her.  The ones who think drunk/unconscious is an acceptable substitute for consent.  If those are your choices, I don’t want you around.

Can you imagine what would happen if, every time someone raped, assaulted, or harassed another person, the rest of us actually spoke out?  If we as a community let them know — clearly and loudly — that this would not be tolerated?  If we told those who had been assaulted that we would listen, and we would support them?

Comments are open, and discussion is welcome as always.  However, please consider this fair warning that I’m going to be quicker to freeze and delete comments that I feel cross the line.

Another New Book

Today was my day to blog at SFNovelists.  I’m pleased with today’s entry, a helpful[1. For certain values of ‘helpful’] glossary of publishing terms.  Here’s an example:

Page Proofs – 1. Your chance as an author to review the typeset pages of your book and correct any typos.  2. Your chance as an author to discover all of those larger changes you’ll wish you’d made before, but now it’s too damn late.

Full post is at http://www.sfnovelists.com/2010/02/24/writing-terms-defined/

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So yesterday I went on about Diana Rowland’s book.  Well it turns out Anton Strout also had a book out yesterday.  I knew this, but somehow — completely by accident — forgot to mention it.  I don’t know how this happened.  I love Anton’s work.  Really I do!  I’ve reviewed him twice!

By the way, this blog post has nothing to do with a phone call I received last night that went something like this…

Anton: Hello Mister Hines.  I was calling to let you know how much I enjoyed your review of Miss Rowland’s work.

Jim: Thanks, Anton.  I appreciate–

Anton: I cannot help noticing, however, that you omitted another urban fantasy title from your post.

Jim: Oh, shoot.  Sorry about that.

Anton: You are aware that I am published by, and have certain connections at Penguin, yes?

Jim: Well, sure.

Anton: Penguin, which just happens to to handle much of the sales and distribution for DAW.

Jim: Um … yes, that’s right.

Anton: Don’t you have a book coming out from DAW this July?  It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Nope, that conversation had nothing to do with my decision to blog about the book.  Nor did the rather disturbing experience of waking up this morning to find a stripped copy of Mermaid’s Madness on the pillow beside me.

To make amends, I’m telling you all to go check out the third Simon Canderous book, Dead Matter [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon].  Please?  Tell ’em Jim sent you.

Mark of the Demon, by Diana Rowland

A quick follow-up thought on yesterday’s post on Author Entitlement.  I said the world doesn’t owe us a publishing contract, and that griping about not getting the success I “deserve” is tacky.  On the other hand, confidence is a must.  You have to have enough faith in yourself and your work to keep writing and keep submitting.

It feels like a balancing act, trying to find just the right amount of self-confidence and ego.  Too much and it’s easy to slip into entitlement.  Too little and you can get discouraged and give up.  It’s a little crazy, to be honest.  But then, you already knew writers were nuts 🙂

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I got Diana Rowland‘s debut novel Mark of the Demon [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] from Santa Claus this Christmas.  Thank you, Santa!

Kara Gillian is a young detective in Beaulac, Louisiana.  Also, she summons demons  (Like so many things, summoning isn’ t inherently good or evil; it all depends on what you do with it.)

Her first homocide case is to investigate the apparent return of the Symbol Man, a serial killer who tortures his victims and covers the bodies in occult symbols.  He vanished years ago, but now he’s back and killing at an even faster rate.

Not only does Gillian have to track and stop her killer, she’s also dealing with the fallout after accidentally summoning a Demon Lord named Rhyzkahl, a creature powerful enough to enslave our world if Gillian makes the slightest misstep.

I liked this book a lot.  It fits comfortably into the urban fantasy genre: tough heroine, nasty paranormal threat, a few hot sex scenes, and so on.  Sometimes urban fantasy starts to feel formulaic, but this time it worked well.  Nothing felt gratuitous, and Rowland’s background as a cop gave the book a much-appreciated level of realism.

Plotwise, there were a few times when it felt like Rowland was trying to hard to paint certain characters as suspicions, but overall the story worked really well, maintaining tension and raising the stakes with every chapter.  There were real consequences at the end, and without spoiling that ending, Rowland managed to take one element of the story which could easily have been cliche and write it in a way that made sense and worked.

You can read an excerpt at the Random House site.  And book two, Blood of the Demon [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], comes out today.  I’m looking forward to it.

So, anyone else reading this series?  What do you think?

Responding to a Review

General rule: don’t respond to reviews.  But then, every rule has an exception…

Joshua Palmatier recently posted a review of Mermaid’s Madness that pointed out what he felt was an error.  “…at one point, Snow knocks someone down, but without any sign of recovery, the person is back up a few pages later.”

I haven’t gone back to double-check this in my book, and I don’t intend to.  The book is in print, and it’s not like I can recall and change the copies even if he’s right.

Instead, I’ve written a note for my own future reference:

When Snow knocks you down, you stay the @#$% down!

Author Entitlement

Novel Survey Update: 130+ responses and counting.  My goal is to try to get at least 200.

Steven Saus pointed me toward A Softer World’s comic on fairy tale romance.  Yes!!!

Michael Cannon took the picture of me in my hat and photoshopped it into something awesome.  Yes, that is Smudge the fire-spider all blinged out on my shoulder.

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The first time I noticed the author entitlement thing in myself was with book discussion forums.  I’d come across a post asking for recommendations for good fantasy humor, or maybe someone wanted suggestions for a fun SF/F series with strong women characters.  Naturally, I’d peek to see if anyone had recommended my books.

Occasionally someone would, but usually it was the same old Pratchett and Asprin, Bujold and Bradley.  And I realized I was getting cranky about this.  Some of it seems to spring from envy.  “Why aren’t I getting the same buzz as so-and-so? They should be recommending me!  Strong female leads?  Come on!  Have you seen my covers?  I deserve to be in those lists!”

Only that’s not my call to make.  The fact that I’ve written books about goblins and kick-ass princesses doesn’t mean I get a free pass to the top of everyone’s recommended reading list.  I happen to think I’m a pretty good writer, but I don’t get to say how successful I should be.  That’s up to the readers.  (And for the record, I’m tremendously grateful for the success I’ve had — thank you!)

The sense of entitlement seems worst with some of the authors from a certain subclass of “publisher.”  Check out a few quotes from the testimonials page at Publish America.

“…people always told me it was difficult to get published. WRONG!”

“…no one,except Publish America will give the little guy, the unknown poet,the chance to get recognized.”

“…PA creates a serious threat to the publishing industry. PA helps new authors get started.”

Ignoring the idiotic assertion that commercial publishers won’t publish new writers, the underlying assumption is that we all deserve to be published.  We’re all entitled to that success.

Sorry, but no.  In kindergarten, everyone’s drawing gets hung up on the classroom wall.  But you’re a grown-up now, and writing a book doesn’t entitle you to a publishing contract.  The fact that you think it’s good doesn’t mean you’re right, nor does it mean a publisher must invest tens of thousands of dollars to get your book out there.

For those of us who do break in with a big publisher, that contract does not entitle us to NYT Bestseller status.  It doesn’t obligate the publisher to buy major in-store displays or table placement at the major chains.  Do I want those things?  Heck yes!  But am I entitled to them?  Envious as I might feel when my friends get a bigger marketing push than me, I’m the last one qualified to say what my books do or don’t deserve.

I feel it with the day job sometimes, too.  I’m a published author.  Why should I have to work a desk job?  Unfortunately, just because I want to write full time doesn’t mean I get to do it.  The world doesn’t owe me a full-time writing career, a NYT bestselling series, or a pony.

Setting goals is good.  Working toward those goals is even better.  But the moment I start griping about not getting the success I deserve, the success I’m owed, then it just starts to feel tacky and childish.

Comments, questions, and outright disagreement are all welcome, as always 🙂

New Author Look?

Already 90 100+ responses to the first novel poll — thanks to everyone for participating and passing the link along.

Today, I have a very different but equally vital survey.  Vital to me, I mean.  See, I’ve been doing the author jacket thing for a few years now, and it works pretty well.  But lately I’ve been thinking it needs something more.  Lots of authors have leather jackets.  Sure, theirs don’t have 41 different pockets, but still … I need something to stand out from the authorly crowd.

So I figured I’d add something more, a combination that would be uniquely Jim.

What do you think?  Yes?  No?  Needs more plumage?

First (Professional) Novel Survey

We talk a lot about how to sell that first novel to a major publisher, but it’s hard sometimes to draw any real conclusions on the best way to break in when all we’ve got is a lot of anecdotal data.  Everyone’s path is different.  The experience of someone who broke in twenty years ago might not match the realities of publishing today.  For that matter, the experience of someone who broke in today might not match the realities of someone else who broke in today.

So, taking a page from Tobias Buckell and his first novel advance survey, I’ve put together a survey about selling that first novel.  I would love it if anyone who has sold at least one novel (any genre, including tie-ins — there’s a question where you can enter genre) to a professional publisher (for at least a $2000 advance[1. The minimum $2000 advance is an arbitrary cutoff point, which I took from SFWA’s guidelines for professional publishers.]) could take a few minutes to click the survey link and answer about a dozen questions.  If you don’t have exact numbers, please give your best estimate.

http://jch.checkboxonline.com/FirstNovel.aspx

The survey will remain open through March 15.  Pass it on.  The more data I can pull together, the more useful the results will be.  Please send people to this post instead of directly to the survey, so they get the introductory info.

I’ll post the results next month after the survey closes.  This is rough, Mythbusters-style science — it’s not going to be a truly random sample, and it’s not a controlled experimental design, but it should give us some results.  And it’s far better than “Well, this one guy who wrote a book once told me this is the way to sell your novel…”

If any of the survey questions are unclear, or if the survey itself gives people any trouble, please let me know ASAP so I can get that fixed.

ETA 1: For purposes of this survey, I’m not counting coauthored novels.  I’m looking for the first professional novel sale where you were the sole author.

ETA 2: I do ask for book titles for verification and deduplication, if necessary.  This and any other identifying information will be stripped out before anything is made public.

ETA 3: I’m looking for brand new authors and grizzled veterans alike.  The broader the range of data, the more likely we’ll be able to see if certain trends have changed over time.

Thanks in advance!

Introverting

Random Link: My agent, Joshua Bilmes, talks about why he doesn’t currently take electronic submissions.

Random Thought: Ever since the Amazon/Macmillan thing, my obsessive checking of my Amazon rankings has decreased about 90%.

Random Taunt: Hey, John Scalzi!  Grover sucks.  Animal rules!

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I’ve always considered myself an introvert.  I don’t particularly enjoy crowds and loud parties.  Kids’ birthdays at Chuck E. Cheese are torture.  I’d much rather sit around in an empty house, reading.  But for a long time, I didn’t have a good working definition of what it actually meant to be introverted.  I assumed introvert = shy/quiet, and that was that.

Then a few years back, my wife — a licensed counselor and overall smart person — offered up an alternative definition.  Introversion doesn’t mean hating crowds.  It refers to the effect of being around groups of people.  Toss an extrovert into a busy convention, and he or she comes away feeling energized.  Toss the introvert in, and it’s an emotionally draining experience, even though both of us could be socializing and having a great time.

This was an eye-0pener.  Because I do have a blast at conventions. I love seeing everyone, and even getting up in front to do panels and readings.  (If you’ve seen me read “Creature in Your Neighborhood,” you could probably tell I was having a blast with it.)  I thought it was because I was learning to overcome my introverted tendencies, but being introverted doesn’t mean you’re incapable of being social and having a good time.  It just means there’s a cost.

There are times during the convention when I’ll sneak back to my room, shut the door, and just be alone for a little while.  I need that time to emotionally recharge.  It’s the same thing after the con ends — I hate going to work the following day, not because I’m physically worn out, but because I’m socially and emotionally exhausted.

I was surprised to realize that for me, the same thing holds true online.  In a week where I’m more actively engaged online, whether it’s the war-of-the-week or just pre-book promotion, I start to feel burnt out.  Which is probably normal, but what surprised me was that it’s the same feeling of burnout I get after a convention.  The same desire to burrow and get a little quiet/solitude to recharge.

The psych major in me is fascinated by the idea that virtual/online social interaction has the same effects (albeit perhaps to a lesser extent) as actual social interaction.

I know for me it’s been helpful to know what to expect.  To realize I’m perfectly capable of going to cons, hanging out at the bar with my writing friends, meeting fans and readers and fellow geeks, doing the readings and signings … but to also recognize that there will be a cost, and to be able to plan for that.  Or if I’ve been involved in online kerfuffling, to recognize that it’s okay to take a day or two off from blogging to recharge.

I’d love to know if others have run into this same sort of thing.

ETA: An article on introversion that explores a lot of what I’m saying.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but it’s an interesting read.  Thanks the_gneech for the link!

My Final Word on LLD Press

It’s disconcerting sometimes to realize how many people read this blog.  There’s a strange kind of power online … the power to spread information, to get help for those who need it, to challenge unacceptable behavior, and so on.

When I stir something up online, I feel obligated to follow up.  I raked Library of the Living Dead over the coals at the start of the week based on their editor’s announcement. When their story changed, I felt like I should share that new information with the same people who saw the initial post.

It just seems like the right thing to do.  It’s only fair to get the corrected info out there, and this blog reaches a lot more people than the LLD forums.  Except that things kept changing…

This is my final update, and if things change again, I don’t care.  I’m done with these guys.  So for clarity, here’s everything I know.

1.  LLD canceled their LGBT zombie anthology.  The editor posted an announcement saying, “It is with deep regret that I must inform you that the publisher has pulled the plug on this anthology. It seems that homophobia had reared its ugly head..NOT from the publisher, but with some authors that are contributers to the publisher.”  (This announcement has now been deleted, but is cached here.)

2. I and a few others posted about this.  In my case, I was quite pissed off at the idea of letting bigots kill a cool project, and didn’t hold that back.  Dr. Pus, who owns the publisher, posted his explanation.  “I was the one who gave the go ahead for the Anthology. But with all the things that are going on in my life right now I didn’t think it all the way through. I became afraid I would upset people by publishing the book. That’s the reason in a nutshell.”  Full post here.

3. People were still unhappy.  Dr. Pus returned to offer a third explanation here. “The reason I pulled the LBGT Anthology was NOT from complaints from the straight community, it was from complaints from the LBGT community. They were upset that an Anthology written by straight authors could cast a bad light on the gay community … Some of the complaints from my LBGT authors were ‘gays will be displayed in a bad light’, ‘This is a gimmick’, ‘No good can come from straight people writing about gays.'”

4. This morning, I found another announcement on my LJ from Dr. Pus. “I plan on green lighting the GLBT Anthology. My Editor, who you’ve drag through the mud, will be in charge of it. We will accept both gay and staight authors for the Anthology. I trust my Editor. He will present the best of the submissions. No homophobic or slanerous stories will be in the Anthology.  If you plan on boycotting the Anthology, be my guest. I am doing this for my support of the gay community. It’s a shame that you have an axe to grind againt the ‘Library of Horror Press’. You are only hurting the authors, not me as the publisher.”  Full post here

So it looks like we’ve come full circle.  Lovely.

FWIW, I never called for any boycott.  I still think an LGBT zombie anthology sounds like an awesome idea, if handled well.  If you want to contribute a story or buy the book, great!  If not, I can understand that too.  Me, I’m done.

Jim C. Hines