Tag Archives: writers

Tie a Bow on It

15 Apr

With six days left in the Aurora Story Bundle offer, I realized that I was running out of time to tell you about all the great books included in the bundle – just as you are running out of time to buy them at such a great price. It is time, as they say, to wrap it all up and tie a bow on it.

I first met Helen Marshall a few years ago at the Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention in Toronto when she was working for Chizine Publications as an editor. We only spoke briefly a couple of times – once was in the hub-bub of the infamous Chizine room party – but I was immediately struck by her incisive wit and intelligence. It turns out I wasn’t wrong as evidenced by this tremendous collection of short stories which was an Aurora finalist and, also, the 2015 World Fantasy Award winner for Best Collection. Oh, did I mention she has a Ph.D.? Worked it in around all the great writing, I guess.

Gifts for the One Who Comes After Cover Final

I’ve known Susan MacGregor for enough years that I can’t quite remember when we met – though Facebook tells me we’ve been friends since 2008. Goes to show what Facebook knows. In any case, we met from time to time at conventions in Western Canada, both when I lived in Calgary and later when I made journeys west, where we would have brief but intense conversations. But I knew her best for her association with On Spec Magazine, where she was an editor. It was sometime during that time we discovered a mutual love of flamenco dancing – she as a dancer; me as a spectator. I was thrilled when her first novel – The Tattooed Witch (included in the bundle) – came out and even happier to be partnered with her in this book bundle.

The Tattooed Witch Review

Another convention and on-line friend is Caitlin Sweet, a Toronto writer who I think I first met in Montreal at the World Science Fiction Convention. Caitlin has been writing for years but finally began to get the recognition she deserved with The Pattern Scars which was both an Aurora finalist and winner of the CBC Bookies Award in 2012. Recently her book, The Door in the Mountain, was a finalist for the Sunburst Award. I think we’re going to see a lot more award winning fiction from Caitlin in the future. She’s not someone you want to miss.

The Pattern Scars Review.jpg

Finally, I would be derelict if I didn’t mention my own entry into the book Bundle, the anthology, Blood and Water. While I won the Aurora as editor, an anthology is only as good as the stories it contains. While I can’t mention every story, I’d like to highlight a few writers you may not know but soon will. Gerald Brandt made his first (and only) short story sale for that anthology; Gerald’s first novel, The Courier (book one of a trilogy) was just released by DAW. Brent Nichols and Jennifer Rahn both had stories; this year, I’m editing novels by both of them for release this fall. Derek Kunsken has been published numerous times in Asimov’s and Analog magazines and I’m sure we’ll soon see a novel from him in the bookstores. I could go on but you get the picture.

Blood and Water Review

So that’s it – ten great books at a great price. Now all that’s left to do is for you to head over to StoryBundle.com and pick up the bundle.

 

Story Bundles 2

5 Apr

In my last blog, I mentioned that Douglas Smith and I both appeared in an anthology edited by Robert J. Sawyer and Carolyn Clink – which also connects me to the third author in the Aurora Story Bundle: Candas Jane Dorsey.

Candas was a founding member of The Books Collective, the Edmonton-based publishing company that then published the Tesseracts series of books featuring Canadian writers. Candas was and remains an important figure in the Alberta writing community and I frequently ran into her both at science fiction conventions but also at literary and theatre events. I lived in Calgary while she was in Edmonton so we didn’t see each other more than a couple of times a year but it was always a pleasure. In 1997, her first novel, Black Wine, was published and it was extraordinary, winning numerous awards, including Canada’s Prix Aurora Award. And deservedly so – it was a sensational debut, a powerful story, beautifully written.  I’m happy to share space with such a wonderful book.

Black Wine Review

I didn’t see Candas very often after I left Alberta but a few years ago we ran into her at a convention. She was running for municipal office in Edmonton and we both thought our role reversal was amusing. When she was founding a publishing company in the 1980s I was running for office; now, I was the publisher and she was the candidate which just goes to show you never know where life will take you.

Which brings me to Dave Duncan, author of West of January. Dave was born in Scotland but moved to Canada in the 50s to work as a geologist in the petroleum industry. He didn’t start writing until he was 51. Two years later, in 1986, he made his first sale just two weeks after his career in the oil business came to an abrupt end. Dave took the plunge into full-time writing and more than fifty books later he’s still at it – which means he has now been an author as long as he was a geologist. Dave lived for many years in Calgary and every year would have the local SF writing community over to his place for a barbeque. Dave and his wife, Janet, were great hosts and Dave encouraged literally dozens of young writers – including me. Last year, he was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame.

West of January Review

Every time I speak to Dave – too rarely these days – he always tells me that he is done writing. Then more books appear – including two this year.

You can check out Dave and Candas’ work (along with 8 other great books) at StoryBundle.com.

The Amazing, Exciting and Sometimes Sad History of the Book

18 Oct

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.

Publishing News

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.

The World is My Oyster

26 May

{Thanks to Robert J. Sawyer for suggesting this topic}

One of the most controversial topics in publishing these days is the matter of territorial rights.  And, as usual, the driving force behind the controversy is the world-wide growth of e-books.

Territorial rights, put simply, are the rights to publish a book in a specific location.  These rights are often defined by language and divided based on history and market size.  Traditionally, for example, an author might sell North American English language rights, which gave the publisher the right to publish and distribute books in the USA, Canada and, oddly, the Philippines.  British and Commonwealth rights covered pretty much the rest of the world – though India was sometimes excluded because of variations in local law around copyright.  If you were an author with clout and a good agent, you could sometimes separate out Canadian rights or Australian and New Zealand rights.  Similarly Spanish rights were separated into Spain and Latin America and so on.

This system was supported by both publishers and authors – though more so by the latter than the former.  Often publishers would ask for world-wide rights in English (to prevent duplicate editions in their own territory) along with subsidiary rights to licence the work in other territories or countries.  They would split the licence fee 50/50 with the author.  Not always the best deal for the author (since the publisher could sell the rights for cheap or work a deal with one of its own subsidiaries) but it had the advantage of being simple and effortless.  Authors and their agents preferred more limited rights so they could themselves sell rights in other territories and get 100% of the fees.  Negotiations were often quite vigorous but both sides were essentially committed to the territorial rights model.

There were reasonable arguments for this.  It wasn’t simply because it gave you (publisher or author) the ability to sell the same thing twice (or 6 or 8 or 12 times).  Local publishers and distributors bring local knowledge of markets – often providing editions in different formats with different covers and even variations in spelling.  They were better placed to find the audience for that particular book.  Of course, that doesn’t explain why a UK publisher should control the market in Australia or Kenya… but still, the basic principal was sound.  In addition, it was cheaper to publish locally than export books for sale.

Then came e-publishing and on-line distribution.  Suddenly, customers (you notice that only now does the issue of readers come into this question) could find books on-line BUT THEY COULDN’T BUY THEM.  If the rights hadn’t been sold or licensed in their territory, their money was literally no good.  Amazon.com would not mail them the physical book in the UK; nor would it allow them to download the e-book.  For books, the Internet stopped at the shores of England.  You could window-shop but you couldn’t buy.  Not surprisingly, some people got annoyed – some even to the point where they had friends mail copies from the USA or the obtained pirated digital copies from who knows where. Books sold in England faced the same difficulties with American sales.  E-books don’t require the same publishing infrastructure and are essentially free to ship; the growth of China and India as cheap places to design and print physical books may also be a factor in reducing arguments for territorial rights.

Suddenly publishers and authors were no longer on the same side of the argument.  A wedge had been driven between them.  Not every publishing company reacted in the same way.  Some have stuck with the territorial model; many that did happen to have a global system of subsidiary companies which makes them well placed to continue to ‘sell the same thing twice.’  In some cases, it was moot. Certain countries don’t have a sufficiently developed WIFI system to support Kindle downloads.  But change is coming rapidly.  As recently, as 2008, some national publishers (notably in Australia) were arguing for a further separation of territorial rights.  By 2010, the arguments had grown more heated with some saying globalization was the way of the future and others still defending territorial systems.  A year later, the UK publishing company Bloomsbury, which published the Harry Potter books, announced it planned to abandon territoriality and seek world English (and possibly foreign language rights) in future deals.

So where are we today?  Increasingly publishers are reluctant to sign deals that don’t grant world (at least English) rights and almost always want both print and digital rights. Subsidiary clauses still exist but, in many cases, nationally based publishers may try to actually export physical books or sell digital ones world-wide rather than license them elsewhere.  Distribution companies increasingly offer or require world-wide distribution which puts pressure on small publishers to obtain wide-ranging rights.  All of this generally means less money for authors though not necessarily a lot more money for publishers.  Of course, self-published authors always have world-wide rights to their books – though marketing and distribution remain a huge challenge (though that, too, may be changing).  If, in addition to being a good writer, you’re also a whiz-bang business person and an avid marketer, self-publishing does become increasingly attractive – but the reality is, not every author is or wants to be a salesperson.  To succeed you have to participate in the process but… anyway, that’s a different blog.

Remember Australia? In 2008, one publisher was arguing for a narrowing of territoriality; in 2013, another was describing their growing role as a global publisher.

So where does Bundoran Press stand?  I had to answer that question recently when I made an offer to an expatriate Canadian writer for a novel.  I wanted to buy world English rights for print and digital and made an offer at the high-end of what I can afford; most other rights were retained by the author.  The agent responded with a desire to only sell Canadian rights for the same deal.  I proposed to sweeten my offer slightly (see, negotiation) and explained my position with respect to distribution, etc. But ultimately the author insisted so the deal fell through.  It was a good book and I would have liked to publish it but I simply couldn’t agree to just Canadian rights.

Why not, you might fairly ask?  It’s true that most (though not all) of the books Bundoran sold in the past were sold in Canada but that was before we had an international distribution deal.  It was also before Bundoran published a book by a non-Canadian (our first American writer is currently working on his second draft of a book for this fall). The Canadian market for science fiction is solid but not huge and, if I want to grow the business, I have to sell books in the US.  The American market by itself is more than half the market for English language books in the world; Canada is about 5%.  And, frankly, every book sold beyond North American borders increases the chance that I will still be publishing books three to five years from now.    It didn’t help that the author in question didn’t even live in Canada (or North America for that matter) and so would be of limited help in trying to market the book.  Even if she had lived just down the block, I would not have been interested in Canadian rights.

Like everything else in a publishing contract, territorial rights are negotiable.  Like every negotiation, what is agreed on depends on how much clout each side has. It also depends on what each side is prepared to sacrifice.  An author with a significant track record – and who works hard to make himself or herself a success – will get more, in terms of advances, rights retention and so on, that an author who is just starting out and is desperate to see their book in print.  Having an effective agent – many first time authors don’t have any kind of representation – can also help.  Publishers will also attempt to protect their own interests in these negotiations.  Large publishers may be able – through foreign subsidiaries – to benefit from retaining territoriality through the subsidiary rights system.  As fewer and fewer publishers dominate global markets (the Penguin – Random House merger takes effect in August), they will have greater power to impose the model that makes them (not authors) the most money.  Beginning and even mid-list authors may have little choice but to agree.  Small publishers will have to figure out ways to balance their own revenue needs with the risk of international distribution (and it is a risk!) while still offering concessions to attract the best novels possible.  For example, I offer a better than industry standard royalty on e-books, don’t try to grab a whole passel of subsidiary rights and have crafted a slightly more author-friendly rights reversion clause than is generally offered.

Time will tell if this Canadian based publisher can take on the world and still make money for both itself and its authors.

A Blog to Follow

30 Apr

I was interviewed yesterday for a community cable show, called “Getting Published.”  Mystery writer, Peggy Blair, is the host of the show and she’s talking about her experiences at her blog of the same name.  First up is her chat with Gail Bowen, but she’ll be revealing teasers, including one about me, over the next few weeks.  Check it out here.