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Defining genres

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  • Mikey_C
    replied
    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
    My old maxim used to be 'a book isn't published until it's remaindered'
    I picked up "Silverheart" remaindered - that's the reason I'm here now! The Waterstones domination of the book trade is so dull. When they opened in Chichester a few years ago they had a huge selection - but now their competitors have disappeared, that's all gone to be replaced with 25 copies of Jordan's autobiography or whatever on the shelves. The remainder shops are far more interesting (and obviously cheaper!)

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  • Michael Moorcock
    replied
    Fantasy Masterworks went the way I almost always go re. covers -- If you can't get a good modern artist, go for the public domain. :)
    I hate generic fantasy art, I must say. There are some very good breaks from that in the US and UK, but I don't care if I never see another dragon/unicorn/wizard. The PreRaphaelites produced a lot of very good fantasy book-jackets...

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  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Interesting point, concerning the difference betwixt the American and the English Fanatsy markets. Look at the covers, more specifically, the way that American covers (not to say anything derogatory about American taste etc) but always appear to be bigger, brighetr, with buxom young women and men with big swords. English covers are more restrained and understated, with greater emphasis on events and mystery than showing the heroes bedecked in their battle array.
    First Moorcock book: Elric (Fantasy Masterworks, lot of criticism levelled at this but, it was brilliant.) Stormbringer merely confirmed to me that killing your main charcters is the way to go in books. I always had done and, probably, always will do.

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  • DeeCrowSeer
    replied
    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
    My old maxim used to be 'a book isn't published until it's remaindered' -- based on the fact that many of the books which have become my favourites (Peake, for instance) were originally remaindered. I bought them cheap and bought the rest of Peake thereafter.
    I couldn't agree more. If it hadn't been for remaindered stock, I might never have 'discovered' Hunter S. Thompson or Mick Farren (or Calvin & Hobbes). If it hadn't been for second hand shops, I might never have read any Moorcock or Philip K. Dick. That would make me a very sad bunny indeed. Oddly, a lot of my favourite books are ones that I picked up on a whim in a random remainder or second-hand shop.

    D...

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  • Michael Moorcock
    replied
    I'll offer this example, too, re. House of Stratus. A major publisher I know wanted to publish six titles by an established 'classic' writer, an outstanding name in the sf world. But House of Stratus got to him first and said 'give us all your work' and we guarantee to keep it in print. By 'keeping it in print' they meant they would POD it and list it on their home site and through Amazon etc. But, of course, they couldn't do what the regular publisher was going to do, which was to put the book into as many shops as possible and thus offer a showcase of the authors considerable talent. Now that author has virtually no books in the shops and is entirely dependent on people who are willing to check out the POD publisher on the net -- those people largely being people who already know his work. Another friend of mine, a major UK literary novelist, went out of print for a little while after he'd died. HoS came along and offered his heirs to put all his books in print. Again, an interested regular publisher can't buy his books. I would say that some POD publisshers misrepresent themselves to authors (or their heirs) and work against the author's best interests. My old maxim used to be 'a book isn't published until it's remaindered' -- based on the fact that many of the books which have become my favourites (Peake, for instance) were originally remaindered. I bought them cheap and bought the rest of Peake thereafter. I can think of several other fine writers who take a while to find their public. Sometimes remaindering, which offers good quality books at a price almost any reader can afford (and can therefore take a risk on buying), is the best way through to a public. With POD, of course, there aren't such things as remainders. My favourite bookstore chain is still Half-Price Books here in the US. Remainders and second hand books. Naturally, I never leave there empty-handed.

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  • Jeffrey Stadt
    replied
    Originally posted by L_Stearns_Newburg
    Jeff,

    Congratulations on the novel. Your comments about the quality of original POD books raise some questions about the industry that I've been wondering about.
    The best book publishers, historically speaking, have had top-notch editors, too. These editors actually spent a lot of time and effort working with writers to help them make their books better. I'm not talking about any of the horror stories one hears at times about heavyhanded editorial book-butchering that seemed oblivious
    of the author's intentions. Very experienced writers often seem to know what they're doing perfectly, and don't need much more than copy editing. But beginning writers sometimes benefit enormously from give-and-take with a good editor in the prepartion of a book for publishing.

    Since POD publishers are run on a shoestring, and often don't exert much (if any) editorial control, to what extent do young writers benefit from the association, other than by having their books published. My suspicions from the mechanics of the scenario are that the answer is "not much." Your own experience might provide us some insight.

    I speak as an interested reader who wants to see more good books and lesscommodity published.

    LSN
    As I mentioned in my post, stick with the more established names of actual publishers, and not vanity presses. I'm loathe to name names, but try to beware of places that start with a capital "I" or "Al.." If you visit a POD type internet store, you can click on links for "writer's Info" or submission guidelines, and most of the time you can tell an actual publisher from a mere Vanity press. Basically, if they'll publish your book, even make a snazzy cover for it for cost, and encourage you to send it in without regards to "acceptance" or "rejection" then stay away and find a company that cares. Many Ebook/POD places are making it known, right up front, that they have a staff of editors to select what they wish to have under their company name, and what they don't. And they'll edit it, with approval by the writer, before taking it to press.

    Some good places to start for Ebook/POD are DoubleDragon Press and Cyber-Pulp.com, Hard Shell Word Factory and Eraserhead Press (bizarre SF/F/H), or Raw Dog Screaming Press (horror). I've checked them out, and my book is coming out from Eraserhead Press, and I've a short story at Raw Dog Screaming's e-zine site, and I've dealt with all of these places.

    Unfortunately, even major publishers lack editing experience, and the editor's sole job is to find new material.... and that's about it. They normally won't "waste time" if something needs a major revision, leaving that up to the author and agent; instead they cull the POD and Ebook sites for up and coming authors. EREGON was a self-published book before mystery author Carl Hiassen's son discovered one the author had placed in a local store, and Hiassen brought it to his agent/publisher. And the success of the Divinci Code has prompted editors into recalling (probably) previously rejected manuscripts that have a similar flavor to churn out to feed the Trend.

    The more legit Ebook/POD online stores give you a taste with virtual dustjackets, excerpts, and Encourage reviews (author submitting work for reviews), which help make the process a bit more foolproof.

    I've purchased some (mostly non-fiction) POD books, and found the writing terrible, let alone the typos, etc. Some fiction as well. Depends how much of a niche market you'd like to crawl into ;)

    I've been in the small press speculative fiction field for over 10 years, and have found, recently, more hope in the accessibilty the Internet has provided, and what POD can do to help small press zines and books and authors reach a global audience, with about as much money and time it used to take to print it at home. Some times money does extinguish passion, and sometimes passion makes up where money falls off.

    The (non-formulatic) writers of tomorrow ARE out there. Sometimes you just have to hunt to find that gem.

    I hope this helps.

    Jeff

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  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    The comments of Jeff and Mr. Moorcock anent Tolkien/Lewis versus people like Fritz Leiber
    raises an interesting idea. Back in the '60s and even early '70s, there wasn't that much
    fantasy available -- the Tolkien-inspired genrification of the form was just beginning.

    When there aren't many books available, the best books tend to stand out. Leiber was
    widely recognized at the time by a large number of discerning readers as a master within
    the confines of the s-f, fantasy, and modern horror genres. The Fahfrd and Grey Mouser
    books were readily available in garishly-covered Ace editions, and most of his other books
    were easy enough to get from Ballantine and Ace. He didn't make much money from the
    books, but that was the hard economic reality of writing within these confines.

    Nowadays, it's difficult to get a wide selection of books by Leiber or writers of near-comparable
    stature without searching the POD people. These books don't usually show up in the book
    chains, either, so young readers don't even know about them, much less come into
    contact with them.

    I've got a pretty extensive collection of Leiber's work, having been a teen in the '60s
    and early '70s. I've got other writers from the same period in abundance. As my daughter
    has reached the teen years, I've taken to handing her these books; I read some of them
    to her aloud when she was smaller. Her interest and enthusiasm have been gratifying.
    It's funny to hear her tell her friends about a book, then caution them that they'll need
    to check second-hand bookstores to find copies. It's sad but true. The positive thing
    is that she and her friends are actively seeking out excellent writers who've been
    unfairly marginalized by the publishing industry's obsession with moving Tolkien-derived
    commodity.

    My vague, arm-waving point is that if there are those of us who think the work of
    writers like Leiber or Blish or Vance is unjustly neglected, there are things we
    can do about it in a small way. If you have kids, don't forget what opened your
    eyes and made you excited when you were that age.

    (Falls backwards off soapbox. ;))

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    Jeff,

    Congratulations on the novel. Your comments about the quality of original POD books
    raise some questions about the industry that I've been wondering about.

    The best book publishers, historically speaking, have had top-notch editors, too.
    These editors actually spent a lot of time and effort working with writers to
    help them make their books better. I'm not talking about any of the horror stories
    one hears at times about heavyhanded editorial book-butchering that seemed oblivious
    of the author's intentions. Very experienced writers often seem to know what they're
    doing perfectly, and don't need much more than copy editing. But beginning writers
    sometimes benefit enormously from give-and-take with a good editor in the prepartion
    of a book for publishing.

    Since POD publishers are run on a shoestring, and often don't exert much (if any)
    editorial control, to what extent do young writers benefit from the association,
    other than by having their books published. My suspicions from the mechanics of
    the scenario are that the answer is "not much." Your own experience might provide
    us some insight.

    I speak as an interested reader who wants to see more good books and less
    commodity published.

    LSN

    P.S. I loathe large book chains, for many of the reasons you outlined.

    Originally posted by Jeffrey Stadt
    ...
    The largest downside to POD, is that anyone can self-publish a book for a fraction of the cost it used to be. Once again, a blessing and a curse. The Curse aspect is when a casual customer looking for something new or different will then have to browse thousands of titles from new, un-edited writers. I have sampled many POD type books, and have found some really bad writing. The best advice would be to stick with established POD or Ebook publishers, who actually strive to present the best the writer has. This will save one time and money.

    ...

    My "first" novel will be released buy a small press sometime in the future, and the corporate bookstore where I've worked for over 5 years WON'T set up a book signing for me because it's POD. I'll have to go to the local independent store for that. Gratitude, eh?

    In the trenches,

    Jeff

    Leave a comment:


  • Guest's Avatar
    Guest replied
    Maybe someone should package up Lieber's Lankhmar stories with a cover that has a big gold ring on it and some blurb to the effect of "epic fantasy in the tradition of Tolkien's LOTR...". Seems to work for Stephen R Donaldson (okay, he's the best of the Tolkienites out there, but he is still a Tolkienite when you get down to it).

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  • Jeffrey Stadt
    replied
    POD is a curse and a blessing, Mike.

    As you point out, many authors find that if the mainstream (or even some of the indies like Nightshade or Wildside) won't keep their books in print, they can do it themselves for "little cost," and make the profit directly.

    One of the downsides of POD are the chain bookstores, which unfortunately, outsell and dominate the market. I work for one, and they won't carry POD titles, simply because there is no profit to them for the company, and that the books are not returnable. The internet stores, like Amazon.com, will carry them without hassle (of course Amazon also allows used books to be sold through their site). Since most corporate, mid-size companies like B Dalton and Waldenbooks limit their on-hand stocks to the better selling titles, most customers chose to visit the online stores instead of in-house special orders, so the market is there. And a writer/publisher I know is making a living off his POD company and self-authored titles mainly through Amazon (and good publicity).

    As a whole, POD is a godsend to small name writers (myself included), and smaller press companies. In fact, many African American authors getting huge mainstream exposure these days started out of Vanity and POD operations. Ellora's Cave, an erotic/romance POD/E-book publisher is even now breaching the bookstore market after dominating the E-book internet market. So the Internet markets ARE getting more and more attention, due mainly to the "safe" practices of the chain bookstores and the mainstream publishers.

    The largest downside to POD, is that anyone can self-publish a book for a fraction of the cost it used to be. Once again, a blessing and a curse. The Curse aspect is when a casual customer looking for something new or different will then have to browse thousands of titles from new, un-edited writers. I have sampled many POD type books, and have found some really bad writing. The best advice would be to stick with established POD or Ebook publishers, who actually strive to present the best the writer has. This will save one time and money.

    As for classic writers, Bison Frontiers of Imagination has an excellent line of public domain SF/F books available through their website and most online bookstores (and placed in larger corporate stores). Some of the small press editions can get a little pricey (like Nightshade), but SFBC has a great collection of great Classic authors, such as Leiber's Grey Mouser series, Poul Anderson's fantasy, and Nightshade's editions of the Kane books by Wagner, to name a few.

    So, as always, let the buyer beware when it comes to POD. Stick with the classics, or try out the established Ebook places that offer POD editions on their better selling titles for fresh authors.

    My "first" novel will be released buy a small press sometime in the future, and the corporate bookstore where I've worked for over 5 years WON'T set up a book signing for me because it's POD. I'll have to go to the local independent store for that. Gratitude, eh?

    In the trenches,

    Jeff

    Leave a comment:


  • A_Non_Ymous
    replied
    Mr. Moorcock's comments about print-on-demand publishers sounds right on target.

    As the large book publishers have become increasingly focused on the bottom-line,
    small circulation books have become less and less available in the U.S. It used to be
    that an s-f book that sold 50,000 copies was considered very successful here.
    Now, it's an abysmal failure in financial terms, and the large publishers have
    1) tended to let such books lapse into out-of-print status and 2) been disinclined
    to publish books that don't have the possibility of achieving large sales.

    The problem is that quality s-f and fantasy are to some degree an acquired taste
    and a niche market. The projected sales figures for, say, a reissue of a book like
    E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros aren't too high; the case is similar for
    a lot of what we think of "classic" s-f from the '40s - '70s. (This problem isn't
    limited to s-f. Marginal "classic" authors, especially ones that require translation,
    suffer a similar status.) Thirty-five years ago and more, publishers periodically would come
    out with an edition of a quality older book of limited appeal. They'd stockpile the
    unsold print-run in warehouses and bookstores would keep the books on the
    shelves for years until they finally sold out.

    A landmark court ruling in the '70s changed the inventory tax rules so that publishers
    and bookstores had a hard time justifying this behavior; it's a financial burden when
    you need to pay taxes on unsold book inventories. Bookstores and publishers now
    seem less interested in selling books and more in producing and moving "commodity."
    The quality of what's available has gone down, as well as the breadth. This is a case
    where I think the U.S. tax laws could use some adjustment. ;) Unfortunately, I suspect
    we've gone too far down the road to return, even if the laws changed. This has
    contributed to the demise of the mid-list, producing a weird sort of literary amnesia
    here. Alas.

    Technological advances that permit print-on-demand have shown signs of addressing
    this problem to some degree. The catalogue of books that a publisher possesses
    is now just a list of books that these small companies are able to print copies of when
    an order comes in. A lot of good older books have come back into "availability"
    (rather than "print") because of this. There are signs that these small publishers
    are branching out to produce new writers' books. For s-f and fantasy not only
    to stay alive but to thrive, this is absolutely necessary.

    So I'm hopeful about the future of this situation. Time will tell. Let's hope
    the U.S. tax code isn't changed to consider the catalogue of these POD people
    taxable like inventory. I jest -- I hope. ;)

    LSN

    Leave a comment:


  • Michael Moorcock
    replied
    Increasingly POD companies are keeping books in print others don't.
    However, most readers aren't psychologically prepared to 'browse' the net in the same way we like to browse bookstores. That said, with a little effort, it's possible to find a lot of stuff electronically which one can't find easily by any other method. We are still in transition, I suspect, in this particular part of our economy. Maybe what we'll get eventually are POD browsing stores -- where we can see a physical example of the book and order it to be delivered.
    Still doesn't deal with that instant gratification one sometimes wants when we go to a bookstore. But it's better than coming away disappointed.
    One problem is that many of the older books still in copyright have not transferred to POD editions because the owners of the copyright don't altogether know what it's all about, or the estates are wary of the technology or whatever. House of Stratus does all Aldiss's books and all Angus Wilson's, for instance, so fans can get what they lack. The only problem there is that nobody impulse buys and you don't get attracted to an unfamiliar writer the way you can in a library or bookstore. Public libraries, to my knowledge, have yet to combine their service with a POD
    service, which might help them survive as well as helping the reader.
    I suspect the dynamics of the book trade will change remarkably in the next few years.

    Leave a comment:


  • Doc
    replied
    Originally posted by Poetgrrl
    It's my impression that the book store chains are driving what's out there. As you said, the brilliant writers are being overlooked and it's our loss. Makes it hard as a reader to find something really great in a pile of cookie cutters.
    You're absolutely right, which is why I support independent bookstores when I can. They are much more likely to give you more choices than the chains, who are terribly driven by the big publishing houses. For instance, you'll never see a book from Nightshade or MonkeyBrains at Barnes and Noble, so you may never get exposed to some authors who depend on smaller companies to publish their work. The process turns into a viscious cycle, of course. Some writers can't find an audience because they are ignored by big publishers, so they are in turn ignored by big retail chains who could expose them to a wide audience.

    We've had this conversation on the board a few times before, so I apologize for the interruption. I had an opportunity to step on my soapbox...

    Leave a comment:


  • Poetgrrl
    replied
    Originally posted by Michael Moorcock
    the reason for holding the books back at the moment is my agent's decision
    put this person on the phone with me, i'll straighten them out in no time! 8)

    It's my impression that the book store chains are driving what's out there. As you said, the brilliant writers are being overlooked and it's our loss. Makes it hard as a reader to find something really great in a pile of cookie cutters.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michael Moorcock
    replied
    Cabell aside, there's a tendency to see UK fantasy as somehow a bit posher.
    Fantasy Masterworks discovered what you say -- apart from the Howard titles, pretty much all their pre-WW2 titles did badly, including Eddison, Smith and so on. My stuff sells okay, they say, but then I've always tended to have a higher profile in the UK, where they also publish all my non-fantasy/sf and the omnibuses have been in mass market editions. I'm lucky in keeping a 'core' readership, so stuff tends to stay in print, even in the US (the reason for holding the books back at the moment is my agent's decision) but a lot of brilliant writers just don't seem to get the audience they deserve. Probably a common enough problem across the board, where many of my own favourite non-fantasy writers are almost never reprinted any longer, in spite of my own efforts to get them back into print.
    That said, Leiber and Vance should be kept in print no matter what, in my view.

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