Further to my last post, it is worth reading Iggy Pop’s speech in its entirety.
It has been a while since I’ve posted here at the Bundoran Press blog. It’s not that I have nothing to say — apparently I have lots to say and have been saying, 450 words at a time, over every day at 10 Minutes of Words. If what I have to say on subjects other than publishing interest you, you might want to check it out. Or you can read my occasional but somewhat longer political musings and occasional thoughts on writing my own work on Hayden’s Hubris.
The publishing world continues to be in upheaval, though these days the rate of change seem more like continental drift than actual earthquakes. The Amazon — Hachette fight continues to play out in the negotiating rooms and the press. I suspect it may eventually move to a higher level — the courts or at least the US Department of Justice. Writers continue to take sides though the wisest among them have come to realize that the only side they should be on is their own.
The book business is certainly in a transition and has long been subject to one shock or another. Most people these days think it has something to do with e-books and self-publishing. I was at a talk by long-time senior editor for TOR books, David Hartwell, who suggested it was the purchasing decision — to go from multiple distribution companies to a single source — made by a supermarket more than ten years that started the major upheaval. That one decision had a domino effect: a number of small distribution companies went out of business leading to other markets following suit, leading to more bankruptcies. Eventually there were only a few distributors left. They were bigger, but combined couldn’t move as many titles. And so publishing companies cut back. Fewer books meant fewer authors and fewer opportunities.
What else could you expect? They turned to self-publishing. E-books had been around for a while but suddenly there was supply side excess; Amazon happened to be perfectly placed to fill the void and the rest is history.
It’s not the standard narrative but it has a certain elegance in terms of how markets actually work.
In any case, this is nothing new it seems. There is a great essay in this week’s edition of The Economist that looks at the past and future of the book starting with Cicero and projecting into the next decade or so. The conclusions are interesting though not surprising to me: e-books will take more of the market share but not nearly all of it. Physical books will continue to make up at least 50% of all books (and likely more) though some genres (such as romance and maybe science fiction) will become largely digital. Total sales in dollars will fall with prices but profits of big publishers will grow. That trend has already been shown to be true.
Sadly, more books will be published but authors, on average, will make less money. The recent advice of Nobel jurist, Horace Engdahl, that writers should go back to waiting on tables and driving cabs to make their literature more real, may prove prophetic if not helpful. Russell Smith disagreed with the entire premise but his suggestion is more funding for the arts. Good luck with that.
Amazon will continue to dominate — similar to Mr. Mundie’s circulating library of the 19th century. He would buy up almost half of the print run of most publishers and any author who Mr. Mundie didn’t like was soon seeking other work.
Meanwhile artists everywhere are feeling the pinch. As a column by Elizabeth Renzetti in the Globe and Mail asked: if Iggy Pop can’t make a living from his music, who can make a living in the arts? The recent winner of the Booker Award, Richard Flanagan was ready to give up writing to become a miner. The $90,000 prize will keep him writing. For now at least.
But options continue to present themselves. There is, for example, Kindle Scout, a new Amazon venture that seems to be modelled a little on Wattpad. Thos guys at Amazon are endless innovators — or at least they know where to borrow ideas from. With Kindle Scout, a writer can post part of his novel on-line for readers to access for free. The readers (not, I’m sure, because the frantic pleading of their writer friends) vote for the excerpts they like best and each month, the lucky winners are asked by Kindle to submit the whole thing. If it passes the vetting process, they get a $1500 advance and a five year contract for e-book and audio rights. No mention of print and no certainty sales will ever lead to more cash. In essence they seem to be outsourcing their slush pile. I wish I could get away with that.
Over here at Bundoran, our slush mostly consists these days of submissions to Second Contacts, an anthology who guidelines can be found here. We’re officially closed to novel submissions and will be for a while yet. Despite that there are a few books being examined — books by our existing authors or people I’ve met at SF conventions. We all (Hayden, Mike and Liz) recently spent several great days at Can-Con here in Ottawa. I may blog about that on my personal space later this week.
As for next years’ books, Children of Arkadia by M. Darusha Wehm is now at layout and should be available for review in a few weeks. Alison Sinclair’s Contagion: Eyre is in the final stages of editing and should also be designed by mid-December. Both will be launched at Ad Astra in Toronto in April 2015. Edward Willett’s Falcon’s Egg, a sequel to Right to Know, has been received and will be launched at When Words Collide in Calgary in August. Stay tuned for further announcements.
Money, money, money — share the wealth. As you may know our Indiegogo campaign to pay professional rates for Second Contacts failed but you can still support Bundoran Press to pay writers and artists by participating in our Patreon campaign. The idea is that you make a small monthly donation — $2, $5, $10 — which we use to keep the business going and growing. In exchange we provide you a variety of perks including e-books, souvenirs, editing advice and acknowledgements. If you’ve shown an interest in Bundoran before, don’t be surprised if you get a personal e-mail, asking you to do so again.
Speaking of Patreon campaigns, if you don’t want to fund ours why not support On Spec, whose Canada Council funding was cut for 2015.
Chadwick Ginther has a list of other worthwhile projects on his blog.
Good news for fans of Madelaine Ashby and Ramez Naam. Angry Robot Books has found a new home and the third books in their trilogy should appear — hopefully sooner rather than later.
“He actually caught himself saying things like “Yippee,” as he pranced ridiculously round the house.”
― Douglas Adams
We should all do this at least once a month. No serious writer should ever take themselves seriously. Laughter — especially at ourselves — is a scalpel to cut away the unimportant and reveal the deeper truth.
It’s been over five weeks since I’ve posted anything new here at Bundoran Press’ blog — so I guess it’s time to return to a more regular schedule. I’m not sure if I can maintain a weekly post here while still doing my daily posts at 10 Minutes of Words and striving to blog monthly over on Hayden’s Hubris but we’ll start today and see where that takes us.
August was a busy month personally but I did manage to complete some publishing work while roaming across Canada and parts of Europe.
I’ve been working on the final edits to M. Darusha Wehm’s novel, Children of Arkadia. They should have been done today but I still have a few more chapters to go. The book is slated for release in the spring — probably launched at Ad Astra in early April — but I hope to have it pretty well ready to go by late October so I can spend a good five months pre-marketing it. There’s not a ton of cash in the advertising budget but sometimes effort over time can be just as effective. No spoilers yet but it’s in the vein of a dystopic utopia with space stations, artificial intelligences and love.
I’ve also completed the first editorial suggestions for our other spring release, the second volume of Alison Sinclair’s Plague Confederacy series. Contagion: Eyre looks to be even more exciting than the first book. It’s already in pretty good shape and, if I put my nose to the grindstone, I’m sure I can have it ready to go by the end of November, giving me four months to push for reviews and pre-release publicity. Everything in the publishing business is about building buzz.
I also managed to sit down with Edward Willett while we were both at When Words Collide (WWC) in Calgary and had a good conversation about where we need to go with the first draft of his new space opera, Falcon’s Egg — a follow-up to Right to Know, which SFRevu called ‘wildly entertaining.’ We have a longer lead time for this book, as it is slated for release in August of 2015. I’m hoping to get it near completion by the end of March.
Also at WWC, the launch of Al Onia’s Javenny was a great success. We sold so many books that I had to get Al to give back his author’s copies when we ran out. (Don’t worry; I mailed him some more on my return to Ottawa).
I had a presence as both author and publisher at LonCon III, where I sat on several panels and met many old and new friends in the field. On Sunday, we had a small book reception where we were able to introduce a couple of dozen people to our product line. We certainly had fun if nothing else comes of it.
In eight more days (September 15), submissions open for our new anthology, Second Contacts, which I will be editing with Michael Rimar. You can see the listing on Ralan.com and Duotrope and read the full guidelines on our web-site. We will be receiving stories until January 15th with a view to releasing the book in October of next year. In the meantime, I’m reading a few solicited submissions for novels for release in 2016. More to follow.
Publishing continues to be challenging for everyone. I had a number of conversations with publishers, editors and writers that brought that home this summer. Being visible, delivering the product to readers, finding the optimal price point to maximize incomes for creators and meet the needs of the bottom line are challenges that all publishers — large, small and self-publishers alike — face. Not everyone succeeds in overcoming them and I’ve heard rumours of some further consolidations in the field. However, I’ve also heard some interesting ideas for innovative solutions to our problems, too, so I remain optimistic. More on that later.
Still, it was no fun to come home to the news that Quebec-based Lebonfon Printing is closing their doors at the end of October. They’ve been a major force in Canadian printing for a number of years and were our printer for most of the books published in the last two years. Marquis, also in Quebec, is acquiring some of their assets. I’ve dealt with Marquis before so I’m not worried about any loss of quality. But with one fewer company in an already narrow field, I suspect prices may rise — not something that makes me happy.
On that note, I’d like to direct your attention to our new fund raising campaign on Patreon. For as little as a dollar a month (or, better yet, the cost of a latte a month), you can help make sure that Bundoran will continue to publish quality science fiction into the future. We’re passing out a few nifty benefits, too. So please take a look and consider contributing. And don’t worry: you’ll hear more about this in the coming months.
Publishing News and Notes
Resolve by Neil Godbout is a finalist for Best YA Novel in the Canadian SF Aurora Awards. Bundoran partner, Mike Rimar, was nominated in the short story category. Voting has now ended and the winners will be announced at VCon in Vancouver the first weekend of October.
Angry Robot books closes two of its imprints.
You think it took a long time for your novel to be published? Margaret Atwood has to wait 100 years.
Here is a short excerpt from the beginning of Right to Know. Read a review of the book at SFRevu.
Rick’s Place was crowded when Art stepped through the door, Treena on his arm. But then, everything was crowded in Habitat Twenty: the apartments stacked from deck to skyplate, the four levels of tubewalks, and even the central park, consisting of little more than a few hundred square metres of scraggly grass and a fountain that hadn’t worked in fifteen years. The only thing the habitat had going for it was the beer in Rick’s Place—best beer on the ship, Art was convinced—and Treena, the busty blonde who’d contacted him earlier that day out of the blue with the provocative news that her name had come up in the Conception Draft, that his name was on the list of approved fathers, and that she much preferred to fulfill her reproductive duties through old-fashioned rather than technological means.
Art was more than willing, and had arranged to meet her. Now they threaded their way through the crowd, nobody paying them any attention. It was another reason he liked Rick’s Place. He’d been going there often enough he was seen as a regular. Nobody cared that every evening his face was plastered on screens all over the ship, reading the shipday’s news. In the mid-Habs and higher there were fancier places where he would have been treated as a celebrity. That could be nice, but sometimes he just wanted to be an ordinary guy interested in ordinary things…like beer. And Treena.
A table had just opened up in the corner; he steered Treena to it. “I’ll get us some drinks,” he said to her, and she smiled. Her nose crinkled adorably and her chest heaved in an interesting fashion, and although her blue eyes were rather vacant, they were certainly pretty. Art smiled back and turned to pick his way to the bar.
“Rick”—Art had never known if that was his real name or not—had just put a pint of red ale and a fizzy pink cocktail on the bar when Art’s arm was suddenly seized in an iron-like grip and twisted behind him. He gasped in pain as he was frog-marched through the crowd, which scattered in front of him. His unseen assailant smashed him up against the faux-wood wall, right between the dartboards, and growled in his ear, “You’ve got your nerve coming here.”
The words were carried on a puff of hot breath smelling of fresh beer and old garlic. “Who—” Art began, but got no farther before he was spun around and squeezed up against the wall by a massive arm across his chest, so tightly he could hardly breathe. He blinked at the face just inches from his own. “Pete?” he wheezed.
His best friend from childhood glowered at him. “This is a place for Shipborn, Stoddard. Shipborn.”
Art managed to get a breath despite the pressure on his lungs. Beyond Peter’s florid face he saw two beefy guys in nondescript clothes, arms folded, grinning: friends of Peter’s, obviously. The other patrons of Rick’s Place watched with interest, but no apparent inclination to rescue him. The owner looked concerned, though. “You damage anything, you’ll pay for it,” he growled.
Art flicked his eyes back to Peter. “What are you talking about?” he wheezed. “I am Shipborn. You know that. You—” He had to stop as the pressure on his chest increased.
“You’re a boot-licking jelly-spined mouthpiece for the bloody Council and Crew, that’s what you are!” Peter bellowed. “And you aren’t welcome here!”
“Look, Peter, why don’t we sit down—I’ll buy you a drink—”
“I don’t drink with Council or Crew!” But Peter let go of him and stepped back. “Come on, Stoddard, we’ve put this off long enough. Let’s settle it!”
Art took a couple of deep breaths and pressed the heel of his hand into his aching chest. “Settle what?” he said, honestly bewildered. He’d come in here, minding his own business, looking for a little relaxation after a hard day spent sweltering in the rain forest in Hab Six trying to get some decent video of dead fish, and now…
Over Pete’s shoulder he saw Treena downing a drink he certainly hadn’t bought for her, and talking to a tall young man in tight blue coveralls. He wore the gold star of an approved reproductive partner, just like Art. Art groaned and turned his attention back to his erstwhile friend. “Pete, what’s this all about?”
“I see you,” Pete said. “Every night. You in your nice suit. You in your fancy studio. Living up in Habitat Three. We played together as kids. I was every bit as good as you at everything. Better at most things. And you’re up there,” he pointed toward the ceiling, “and I’m down here.” He waved his hand vaguely to encompass the bar and presumably the entire habitat. “And you know what they’ve got me doing? Scrubbing hydro tanks. Robot work.” His fists clenched.
Art flushed, and fought to keep his temper. He didn’t want a fight—not with anyone, but especially not with Peter. Peter was—had been—his best friend. As kids they’d once promised they’d be friends all their lives. “Look, Peter, you’re right, it’s not fair. I just got lucky, that’s all. It could just as easily have been the other way around.” If your father were on the Council and could pull the strings necessary to get you a job like mine, he thought, instead of a crazy drunk who managed the impossible task of getting himself killed by a maintenance robot. And speaking of crazy drunks… “Let me buy you a drink and we’ll—”
“I don’t want a drink! You think you can buy anything, don’t you? You think you’ve got it all—fancy clothes, money—lots of money—and girls. Lots of girls. You always got a girl, Art.”
He glanced at Treena. She wasn’t paying any attention to them; she only had eyes for the tall young man, who had now folded himself into the seat Art should have already been occupying, beer in hand.
Art felt a surge of anger at the sight. This has gone on long enough. He didn’t try to keep the contempt out of his voice. “Would you like me to find you a girl, Pete? Is that what you need?”
Peter’s face darkened even more. “I don’t need anything from you, Mister Stoddard,” he said as distinctly as alcohol would let him. “Except the pleasure of smashing your pretty face in. We’ll
see how much good you are to the Council after—”
“So go ahead! Smash my face in. And then what happens to you? It won’t be hydro tanks any more. It will be sewage tanks. Or prison.”
“You can’t scare me!” But Peter’s eyes narrowed, and behind him, his two friends exchanged worried looks.
“I am the Information Dissemination Specialist: Civilian,” Art said coldly. “You are a…what? Manual Laborer, Fourth Class? A ‘make-work jerk’?” It was a term of contempt, and Art made sure his voice dripped with it. “Just which do you think is of more importance to the workings of the ship, old friend?”
“You little shit!” Peter lunged at him, but his friends grabbed his arms and held him back.
“He’s not worth it, Pete,” one said urgently. “You heard him. You touch him and he’ll have the ’keeps on you. He’s practically Crew!”
Art had not moved and he said nothing, but his anger drained away and his stomach churned as he looked at Peter’s rage-twisted face; then Peter shoved his companions away, straightened and turned his back contemptuously on Art. Art glanced around the room. No one would meet his eyes; even Rick turned away and busied himself with mixing drinks. The juke started cranking out the latest syrupy synthotune.
Art went back to the long faux-oak bar, where the drinks he’d bought still waited. Peter’s right, he thought sickly. I shouldn’t come here anymore. He drank deeply of his ale, the hand holding the glass trembling slightly. It was time to find some other place to drink—someplace where he was still wanted. “Here’s looking at you, kid,” he muttered, and drained his glass. Then he tossed back the pink cocktail, made a face at its burning sweetness, and turned to leave.
A cool touch on his hand stopped him. He looked back and down into Treena’s blue eyes. “Not going without me, I hope?” she murmured.
He blinked, surprised. “I thought—” he looked over her shoulder. “That tall guy—”
“Not my type,” Treena said.
“He bought you a drink.”
She shrugged. “I never turn down a free drink. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
Art laughed, suddenly feeling better. “With pleasure.” The cost of the drinks had been automatically deducted from his account the moment he’d ordered them; he left the empty glasses on the bar, took Treena’s arm and started toward the door…only to find it blocked by a tall man wearing a disheveled and suspiciously stained suit, his shock of white hair glowing in the light. He’d stumbled to his feet from a booth as they approached, and now stood between them and their escape.
“Yer a ghoul…good…good lad,” the man wheezed. “Standing up for selsh…self.”
Art took a deep breath, then wished he hadn’t as the reek of whiskey and onions filled his nose. He swallowed to keep from gagging and said, “Councilor Woods. You shouldn’t be here. Where are your bodyguards?”
Woods drew himself up. “Don’t need ’em. People love me. Fav’rite Councilor. Four years running. Puke a pup…I mean, look it up.” He poked a finger into Art’s chest, and then weaved away toward the bar.
Art sighed, shook his head, and led Treena outside. They emerged into a narrow roadway with four-story stacks of apartments on either side, light gleaming in hundreds of windows, rising up to the skyplate, itself dark except for the pinpricks of light intended to simulate the stars as seen from Earth. Never having seen Earth—never having set foot on any planet—Art didn’t have a clue if the effect was accurate or not. His father and the others of the Originals said it was, and he supposed they would know. Unlike them, though, he never thought of those lights as stars. They were nothing but low-energy/high-output LEDs, and unless he missed his guess, about half of the ones that should have been shining up there were burned out.
Something skittered past them down the pale ceramic pavement, a silvery globe with four jointed spider-legs and four manipulator arms: one of the ubiquitous maintenance robots. Art had once been told that on a ship the size of the Mayflower II a part failed every three seconds. A dozen micro-factories utilizing 3D printing technology recycled old parts and churned out new ones, and a thousand robots scurried around the habitats fixing and replacing, and yet…
And yet, the LED constellations overhead had dozens of blank spots, the fish were dying in the tropical rainforest habitat, and every day other stories of breakdowns and failures crossed Art’s desk…
Crossed his desk, and fell into the black hole of silence imposed by the Council and Crew on any news of problems with ship maintenance.
Art sighed. He looked up at the skyplate again and tried to imagine what it must be like to walk the surface of a planet with nothing between him and space but a few insubstantial kilometres of gases. He’d watched hundreds of ancient entertainments, “films” and TV shows and holographic soap operas, and though to him the Mayflower II had always been home and world combined, sometimes he longed for the wonders of those long-gone days, for mountains and oceans and skyscrapers and a vast blue sky of air —
—for room; room enough to escape the constant press of — People like Peter. “Bastard,” he muttered.
“Was he really a friend of yours?” Treena asked. In the cool darkness she seemed much younger than she had in the overheated bar.
Art put his arm around her and she snuggled close. “He was my best friend, once. But we—drifted apart.” He started walking, away from Rick’s Place, from Peter, and from memories.
“Because he’s a ‘make-work jerk’ and you’re—”
“I shouldn’t have said that,” Art muttered.
“But that’s why, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but I still shouldn’t have said it.”
“I pulled rank on him.” He shook his head. “That’s a Council trick. A Crew trick.”
“That’s all right,” Treena said brightly. “You practically are Crew.”
He almost hit her. Instead he stopped, there on the ceramic street, until he could say, gently, “I’m not. I’m Shipborn. Like him. Like you.”
“Don’t talk.” Art roughly pulled her close. “Haven’t we got better things to do than talk?”
She nodded and smiled, back on familiar ground. “Where—”
As if there were any choice. He could no more take her to his home in Habitat Three then he could have fixed the matter/antimatter reactor that powered the ship. “Your place,” he said, and let her lead him away into the artificial night.