Tag Archives: e-publishing

Ebook pricing, again; or “Fifteen quid for an ebook?”

So here’s the situation…

I’m partway through Eric Brown’s crime novel Murder by the Book, and loving it. I’ve been encouraging Eric to write crime for years and now he has and it’s a great read, full of fantastic characters and lovely 1950s London period detail.

And then, yesterday, when I was about to return to it… where in hell was that book? We turned the house upside down, but couldn’t find it. It literally is a mystery. I have every confidence that it will turn up again at some point: accidentally picked up with someone else’s books, knocked under the sofa, whatever.

But I want to know what happens next!

Simple, I thought: I popped over to Amazon to get a copy for my Kindle, happy to spend a few quid just so I could keep reading without break.

Two problems with that, though:

  1. Although the hardback came out in March, the ebook won’t be out until July. What reason is there for this? There can’t be a logistical explanation: the ebook hardly needs physically shipping to distributors, and it’s not exactly labour-intensive to produce; I’m sure the file is just sitting there, gathering virtual dust while it awaits publication. I can’t see any way they would gain sales by the delay; if anything they’d lose them, as people like me go looking for the book, find it’s unavailable, and then move on to other things.
  2. It’s priced at £14.90. Come again? Fifteen quid for an ebook? This is where I’m completely baffled by the publishers’ policy. Who do they think is going to buy an ebook at that price? Is there some kind of logic that says “While it looks good to have an ebook version available, we don’t want people to actually buy this format”…?

I get the reasoning for pricing the hardback at £19.99. Presumably the vast majority of sales at this price are to the library market, and the higher price makes sense given that each copy of the book will get multiple readers. But £15 for an ebook at Amazon? I’d love to know which part of the market publishers Severn House are targeting with this strategy.

The only possible explanation I can think of is that they think potential buyers will be horrified at the price and opt to buy the slightly more expensive hardback instead. But that makes no sense: the profit margin on the hardback is so much lower, because of production and distribution costs. They could price the ebook for a fiver and make just about as much as they make from the hardback, and they’d actually, erm, sell copies.

An Eric Brown crime ebook at £5 would sell. If anyone could explain to me how even a novel as good as this is will sell ebooks at £15 I’d love to be enlightened.


Snapshots: Jessica Rydill interviewed

Malarat by Jessica RydillTell us about Malarat.
Malarat is the name of a person and a place. It’s the title of the Duc de Malarat, a powerful nobleman who plans to put a puppet king on the throne of Lefranu. The Duke wants to rule the whole country so he sets out to attack the independent southern states. He’s backed by the Domini Canes, an order of monks who are a cross between the Inquisition and the Crusaders. The name means ‘Hounds of God’ and was a nickname for the Dominicans historically, when they staffed the Inquisition. They are commanded by a young man called Valdes de Siccaria, who is stunningly beautiful but malevolent.

Their main problem in attacking the south is the shamans, a group of humans with magical powers sufficient to drive them off. Siccaria develops a secret weapon called the Spider, made from iron. Shamans, being magical, react badly to iron, so he discovers a way to neutralise them and sets out to do so. He believes that they offend against the natural order of things, so he is determined to eradicate them.

The shamans learn about this through intelligence information but have no idea how bad it is until they experience it first hand. And then they’re in trouble. Only a handful of them are powerful enough to fight – most shamans just do healing, otherwise you can imagine – kerpow! So it’s an immediate problem for them as a group, and for the people they’re trying to protect.

In addition to that there’s a demon on the loose – no-one knows how it got out (or in). It tends to go round possessing people and hiding out, occasionally emerging to cause trouble.

How does it relate to your earlier work?
It takes place in the same world and the same country. I have ret-conned a few things, such as the name of the country (Lefranu). A lot of people thought it was set in Eastern Europe, but in fact it’s an alternate version of France. I wanted to emphasise that detail. The confusion arises because of the large number of characters with Russian names. In fact, they are all exiles or émigrés of various kinds. Climate change plays an important part in the background of the novel! A mini Ice Age has just ended, and some places have been left technologically and culturally stranded. It’s like the Victorian era with bits that are stuck in the past.

Though the story follows on from the events in The Glass Mountain, my second book, it can definitely be read on its own. It’s not a children’s book. There are some graphic scenes and the themes are dark. It continues to explore my interest (or obsession) with the underworld, and two of the narrative threads take place in the afterlife or spirit world, from the shamanic point of view. I use elements from Russian and Jewish folklore, together with some origin myths about the English. There’s an Anglit (or Englishman) with a mad and spectacular plan to colonise Heaven. He believes that his countrymen are the true Israelites (Ya-udi), as opposed to the Wanderers, and sets out to alter history accordingly.

Are there more Malarat stories to come?
There could be sequels. I’m working on something at the moment, but I’ve zoomed the perspective out a bit and brought in two more parallel worlds, one of which is supposed to be this one – up to a point. I hope the next one will be lighter.

What is the significance of Goddesses in your work?
Many years ago, I was hugely influenced by Robert Graves’s book The White Goddess with its ‘eternal theme’ of two men fighting for the love of one woman. And then after a life-long interest in the mystery of Rennes-le-Chateau, made famous by Holy Blood and Holy Grail and The Da Vinci Code, I came across the legend that Mary Magdalene had sailed to France with a group of companions that included two women also called Mary (a tradition still celebrated in the South of France today).

This triggered the idea of a hidden and heretical goddess-based religion in France, starting with the two Marys who settled in Arles with their Egyptian servant Sara. Not unlike the syncretisation of African gods and goddesses in Vodou, Candomble and Santeria!

That lay behind the creation of several goddess-based sects. Doxa, the state religion, is similar to Christianity with the Virgin Mary as part of the Trinity. Though it’s a matriarchal religion, men hold positions of power. The other religion is worship of the Lady, who appeared in Children of the Shaman as two separate divinities – the Bright Lady and the Cold One. They are aspects of her, dark and light, and in Malarat the Goddess has been reunited with herself. But she’s an ambiguous character– is she good or evil? What is she up to? She has her own way of being, her myth, and some of the characters get caught up in it. So though she seems benign, she’s ambivalent.

Describe your typical writing day.
I don’t have a typical writing day, but I find it easiest to write late at night when there are fewer distractions.

Some reviewers have suggested that your writing is filmic, or even designed to be filmed. What films have influenced you?
One of my all-time favourite films is Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman. It is a historical film with elements of magic and is really scary in places. It becomes a fight to the death between a young boy and his really horrible step-father, the Bishop, who is one of the scariest characters in film. I also like cartoons and anime and would love to be filmed by Studio Ghibli (in my dreams!). I wanted to convey that atmosphere of a fairly realistic world where nonetheless some strange things happen. And I enjoyed Cronos by Guillermo del Toro – I’d love to have seen what he made of The Hobbit!

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
I’m planning to reissue my first book, Children of the Shaman, as an ebook – and its sequel, The Glass Mountain. They are both out of print now and I’d like to bring them back. And also to harmonise the language with that of Malarat. Some people criticised me for using untranslated French and I think that’s absolutely fair, so I want to remove some of the French and otherwise provide translations, as I have done in Malarat.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
There are so many good people out there. I love the work of Kari Sperring, who writes intelligent and thoughtful fantasy novels that deserve to be published in this country – her latest title is The Grass King’s Concubine. I’d like to mention Adele Abbot, whose novel Postponing Armageddon, an alternate history, is due to be published as an ebook in June. And I enjoy the writing of Meyari McFarland, whose Matriarchies of Muirin tales have been issued as a series of ebooks on Amazon.

Publishing is going through a period of rapid change. How has this affected you as an author, and what are your plans?
My plans are to carry on writing, and to see whether Malarat finds an audience. It is hard to predict how things will turn out in future. I would love to be published in a traditional manner, but the digital format gives me an opportunity that would otherwise be missing. The real problem is bringing readers to the novel – there is so much out there and readers are spoilt for choice. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice you are initially given about using social media is flawed since, as someone observed, the result can be writers trying to sell their books to other writers. (cf. ‘WRITING ON THE ETHER: Writers in the Inferno’ by Porter Anderson, guest-posting on Jane Friedman’s blog.)

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Not to self-censor on the first draft but once that is done to edit and re-edit. And then edit some more.

More…
Malarat by Jessica Rydill

Jessica Rydill was born in Bath in 1959. She read English at King’s College Cambridge before training as a solicitor. In 1998 she gave up work to write. Her first two novels, Children of the Shaman and The Glass Mountain, were published by Orbit in 2001 and 2002. She lives just outside Bath with her husband and her collection of Asian Ball-jointed Dolls, some of which resemble characters from her invented world.

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E-publishing: Think Three Times – a guest post by Tony Daniel

I’ve been on the road a bit this spring to SF conventions and such, and I’ve noticed a minor frenzy about self-published ebooks among writers, both published and unpublished. There are many blogs and newsletters out there that claim to be following a revolution, and I read several of them regularly. I’m also daily involved in the acquisition and publication of ebooks myself.

On one hand, I’m happy to see turmoil, as it frightens the hidebound publishing industry into attempting new things, which helps authors and readers. On the other hand, it seems to me that there’s a cultural bubble that has formed. There is certainly a big change, driven by the Kindle and the computer tablets, that is going on. But it is going on within established publishing for the most part. In a way, this is as it has always been.  Printing technology has been relatively cheap for thirty years, and self-publishing is well within the means of anybody with a decent job and some savings. But distribution of books is not.

This is not some industry conspiracy or technological limitation, but the fact that nobody, no individual reader, wants to read through a giant mountain of crap to find a couple of gems.  They surely don’t want to pay ninety-nine cents, or two or three dollars, per book for the opportunity to do so.  These essentials have not changed. Now a couple of friends of mine, such as Bob Kruger of Electricstory.com, are working on automated vetting systems (with a human component) and other ideas of various sorts that are totally legitimate and have a lot of promise.  Maybe technology can come to the aid of a reader trying to make a good selection on what book to read next.

But, and I say this with utmost conviction: most of the various ebook services—perhaps particularly the well-funded ones that look great and talk revolution, and may even be connected to mainstream publishing in some manner—are nonsense enterprises.  I don’t think they are crooked; not at all.  Just deluded.

At the moment, in a general sense, self-publishing your ebook will make you next to nothing and nobody will read it.  Even if you are the world’s best self-promoter, I would ask: are the people you gin up into buying the thing going to tell others to read it?  This is the real power behind publishing, for all its idiotic cronyism and decrepit practices.  It generally doesn’t put out absolute dreck.  Oh, it puts out a lot of dreck.  No argument there.  But it is generally trustworthy enough for a reader to take a chance on its products.  That reader then recommends the book to an acquaintance who crosschecks the friends judgment by determining if the book has a familiar publisher. And, since I’m convinced word-of-mouth sells ninety-five percent of all books, that moment of real, actual, not made-up legitimacy, is a huge advantage.

So I would say think three times about self-publishing.  Then think again.  And then, just as you’re about to press that “send” button, don’t do it.  Unless, that is, you want to start the small business of being a publisher yourself.  That is a different story, and it involves a commitment of years of effort that is not writing effort.  Most writers think they can do anything, of course, and are convinced in romantic fashion that they will have infinite energy to do so.  Some do.  I know a few successful small press entrepreneurs, such as, for instance, Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press.  They are a rare breed. I know many others who have thrown away money best spent elsewhere.  I don’t know the path ahead, but I understand the current moment well enough. There’s a bubble that is about to deflate because there is just not enough money—which, despite desperate social analysis to the contrary, generally signifies interest from readers—to sustain it.

Tony Daniel is an editor at Baen Books, which is distributed by Simon and Schuster, and has an ebook retail site at Baenebooks.com. He is the author of seven science fiction novels, and several award-winning short stories.


The return of the serial story

Serial fiction is not exactly a new form. Charles Dickens, Alexander Dumas, Henry James, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle… they were all at it a long, long time ago. In the last few decades the serial story has been very much out of favour. Indeed, in most genres short fiction itself has dwindled to almost non-existence.

The Ragged People: a story of the post-plague years - post-apocalypse fiction from Nick GiffordShort science fiction has persisted, and while short stories often return to previously-used characters and settings, true serial fiction has been a rarity.

Is the rise of the ebook changing this?

Perhaps.

Serial fiction, and short fiction, have generally been viewed by commercial publishers as dead areas, but one significant change with the advent of e-publishing has been the rise of the long tail: previously unviable niches are now sustainable, with production costs minimised and global reach maximised.

For the writer, serial fiction is an intriguing proposition.

For starters, the form is different. Serial fiction isn’t just a novel cut into shorter blocks and published at intervals. With a novel, the reader has generally invested up front and is more likely to give a book a chance. With serial fiction, readers have only invested one episode at a time: if that chunk doesn’t deliver, and if it doesn’t hook the reader, then why should the reader bother with subsequent episodes? Think of serial TV drama: most aim for that Eastenders ending, the set-up for a big revelation or dramatic conflict that the viewer can’t afford to miss and then, duh, duh, d-d-duh the theme music kicks in.

Some writers will wing it with their serial fiction: write an episode, wait until it has been published and then write the next one – real seat-of-the-pants writing. Others take a more planned approach. But however you do it, the considerations are different, and for me that makes it fun.

It also lets you try new things. You’ll often find that writers really push the limits with their short fiction, while their novel-length work plays it a bit safer. This is partly a result of commercial pressures, of course, but is also because a one-off short story gives you the opportunity to push boundaries; failure with a short story does not usually end careers.

Serial fiction lies somewhere in between: in my Ragged People serial (written for teenagers with my Nick Gifford pen-name), I’ve started with a fairly self-contained story. I have some ideas for what will happen next, I have characters I want to write about, and I’d love to carry on, but then there are lots of writing projects I’d like to work on. By publishing the first story I can gauge response before committing to writing more. (Or, of course, I can ignore response and just plough on regardless…) My hope is that I’ll keep getting nudged for more episodes until I find that I’ve written a novel, almost by accident.

The new Aethernet Magazine showcases serial fiction from some fabulous writers (Eric Brown, Chris Becket and Tony Ballantyne for starters) taking a variety of approaches, from the carefully plotted to the winging it approach, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops. What’s more the Aethernet blog is publishing interviews with the authors about their approaches to serial fiction, which promises to be particularly interesting for writers interested in the form – most recently Chris Beckett, talking about his serialised sequel to Dark Eden (shortlisted for this year’s Arthur C Clarke Award).

As a writer, it’s great to see serial fiction getting a new opportunity. Let’s just hope that readers find it just as exciting!


Snapshots: Linda Nagata interviewed

What’s recently or soon out?
The Red: First Light by Linda NagataIn any other month, the big news would be the publication of my short story, “Through Your Eyes,” in the March/April double issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction. It’s a near-future story with a theme focused on technology and civil rights, and it’s the first story I’ve ever had in Asimov’s, so I’m pretty pleased about that. But the news that supersedes this is that I have a new novel also out this month, called The Red: First Light—and in a nice bit of synchronicity, “Through Your Eyes” was the direct inspiration for the novel.

Sometimes characters just walk on stage and demand attention. That was the case with James Shelley, the protagonist of “Through Your Eyes.” Though I was done with the short story, I was not done with the character, and within a week of sending the story off to Sheila Williams at Asimov’s, I was writing the novel. Like the story that precedes it, The Red: First Light is concerned with the impact of evolving technologies, but the novel takes a different approach. It’s a boots-on-the-ground military thriller that engages with warfare, politics, and other, stranger things.

Near-future fiction has its own special challenges. Given the ongoing, rapid rate of technological change in the world it’s easy to imagine a near-future novel becoming obsolete almost overnight—or perhaps reclassified as an alternate history. Despite the risk, I like the immediacy of the subgenre. I’ve written in the near-future before, in particular with my novel Tech-Heaven, but also with the more recent Limit of Vision. I’ve also written about armed conflict on occasion, but The Red: First Light is my first true foray into military science fiction. That was pretty intimidating for me, but I really wanted to write this book—for the adventure, for the tech, for the politics.

What are you working on now?
Mostly I’ve been working on promotion for the new book. The Red: First Light is an indie book, published under my own imprint, so the responsibility for getting the word out is all mine—and of course I’m finding that publicity is even more challenging than writing a novel. But I’m also well begun on the follow up to First Light. No publication date yet for The Red: Trials, but the goal is to have it out within a year, and sooner if possible.

I also have several short story ideas brewing. In my early career I was never very interested in short stories, but over the past year and a half all that has changed and I’ve really come to enjoy reading and writing them.

Tell us about your experiences with publishing – both traditional and the new e-publishing environment that’s emerging.
Looking back, my experience with traditional publishing seems like a psychological experiment designed to test my sanity, with each incident of sublime luck countered by disaster. On the plus side, my first four books sold to Bantam Spectra, where I had terrific editors. The books had great covers by Bruce Jensen, most were picked up by the Science Fiction Book Club, one won an award. On the downside, I had three different editors for the first two books. All were published as mass-market originals, and despite good reviews, they were out of print in short order. At Tor I was better paid and I had hardcover editions, but a failure of communication made it a tough ride.

As far back as the nineties, though, I was interested in being a publisher. At some point I decided to learn the page layout program InDesign, thinking I would do a new print version of my novel, Vast. At the time, I couldn’t figure out how to make that work economically, but circa 2010, the technology arrived. I’d spent nine years working in web development, and ebooks are just HTML (web) pages wrapped up in zip files. So it wasn’t a big leap for me to start putting out my backlist in electronic format. I remember being shocked when some of my books sold in the first week they were available. I put out everything in ebook editions as quickly as I could, and by early 2011 I released my first print book, using the print-on-demand services at Lightning Source. Bruce Jensen, the original cover artist for the Nanotech Succession books, very generously let me re-use the cover paintings, even putting together new front covers for me. Now almost all my books have print editions.

Sales are modest, but I’m happy with this new approach. With traditional publishing, my work was in someone else’s hands. I had no real input on the production of the books, and simply had to accept the result, whether it turned out good or ill. Now I’m in control and I like it a lot. If I mess something up I’m in a position to fix it, which is also grand. Book covers that don’t work out can be changed, book descriptions can be revised. It’s wonderful. I would like to find a solution to the distribution issue—right now you will not, to my knowledge, find any of my print books in bookstores—but new options may be emerging. We’ll see. For now, I intend to stick with indie publishing.

Describe your typical writing day.
Up very early, regardless of when I went to sleep. Consume coffee and squander time on the Internet. Note in shock that a large portion of the morning has slipped away with nothing accomplished. Force myself away from the big, beautiful Mac desktop and plant myself in front of the aging Toshiba laptop that I use for writing. Try to get into the zone. On good days this happens very quickly. I become completely involved in what I’m doing and it’s hard to pry myself away to fulfill other obligations. On bad days every word is a struggle. When I’m working regularly on a draft I do try to produce some minimal word count. A thousand words is the goal, but sometimes I have to be happy with five hundred. Much of the time I don’t know what will happen in the next scene. It takes time to work that out.

At any rate, if it’s a good day I’ll generally keep writing well past my goal, taking advantage of the zone while I can. If it’s a bad day, I’ll struggle along until I get my thousand words. If it’s a really bad day, I’ll quit early and go mow the lawn.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
For those new to my work, the first back-list book I point to is The Bohr Maker, which won the Locus Award for Best First Novel, and is the first book of The Nanotech Succession story world. As an alternative, and especially for those new to science fiction, I recommend Memory, a far-future, coming-of-age tale. Or for something completely different, the Puzzle Lands books, starting with The Dread Hammer—my experiment with fast-paced, scoundrel-lit fantasy.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Chaz Brenchley recently re-released his novel Dispossession through the writer’s cooperative Book View Café, of which I’m a member. Mildly curious, I started reading it, was immediately hooked, and enjoyed it immensely.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Flee! Run away while you still can! …but if it’s too late for that and writing is already in your blood, then don’t stop. I more-or-less stopped writing for roughly ten years. It’s true I was intermittently working on a fantasy novel during this time (The Wild, now being serialized on my blog), but I wasn’t publishing anything, I wasn’t diversifying, I wasn’t learning anything new about writing, I wasn’t even following the genre, and I fell way behind. What readers I had must have assumed I’d given up and gone away. So don’t stop. Keep pushing yourself to try new things.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
Ha! Well, in my best scenario, droves of readers will be preordering the next Linda Nagata novel (FYI, preordering isn’t currently possible for indie print-on-demand books or ebooks). But I suspect the future of publishing will be a diversity of options, with more and more writers working both sides of the fence—indie and traditional—along with the ongoing development of some cool new trends like enhanced ebooks that include more art and maybe even music. As always the big question will be how to earn a living from our creative endeavors. That’s a question I’ve never managed to answer, but during my occasional bouts of optimism, I keep imagining it will work out.

More…
The Red: First Light by Linda Nagata

Linda Nagata is a Nebula-award-winning author of both science fiction and fantasy, with multiple novels and short stories. She grew up in Hawaii, in a rented beach house on the north shore of Oahu, and has been a writer, a mom, a programmer of database-driven websites, and lately a publisher and book designer. She lives with her husband in their long-time home on the island of Maui.

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New: Aethernet – the magazine of serial fiction

Aethernet Magazine

Serialised fiction from Tony Ballantyne, Chris Beckett, Eric Brown, Juliet E McKenna, Philip Palmer, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Ian Whates and more. Aethernet, the magazine of serial fiction, launches over the Easter weekend. And yes, I’ll be contributing a four-parter later this year.

Here’s what it says on the Aethernet website:

Aethernet MagazineNowadays, fiction is instantly available. There are many short fiction magazines available for download, you can download a story collection in ebook form and be reading it in under a minute.

Aethernet Magazine aims to satisfy a different need. Aethernet Magazine is aiming to reintroduce the pleasures of delayed gratification. Aethernet Magazine stands for the slow burn, the building excitement of waiting to see how a story plays out. We want to reintroduce the pleasure of the cliffhanger ending; the gradual reveal on lives building up to a bigger picture; the leisurely float down the river leading to some mysterious destination.

Our stories are presented over time. Aethernet Magazine is here to help you rediscover the pleasure of anticipation…

Aethernet Magazine will run for 12 issues. The first issue will go on sale on 30th March 2013, subsequent issues will be on sale on the first of the month from May 2013 onwards. Aethernet Magazine will be published as an ebook in mobi, epub and pdf formats.

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Snapshots: David D Levine interviewed

Space Magic by David D LevineWhat are you working on now?
I’m currently writing a YA Regency Interplanetary Airship Adventure. (Yes, another one of those. Sorry.) It takes place during the English Regency in a world in which the solar system is full of air and it’s possible to travel to Mars and Venus by airship. Naturally both of those planets are inhabited. My main character, Arabella Ashby, is a young woman who was born and raised on Mars but was recently hauled back to Earth by her mother, who didn’t want her youngest daughters growing up surrounded by aliens and turning out as wild as Arabella. Arabella, child of the frontier, is a Patrick O’Brian girl in a Jane Austen world; she’s stifled by England’s gravity, climate, and culture and dearly misses her father and brother, who remain on Mars. When her father dies and she learns her evil cousin plans to travel to Mars to kill her brother and inherit the family fortune, she disguises herself as a boy and joins the crew of a fast merchant ship in hopes of beating him there. But pirates, mutiny, and rebellion intervene. Will she reach her brother in time?

This novel takes place in the same universe as my story “The Wreck of the Mars Adventure” in Old Mars, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, which will be published in October.

What have you recently finished?
My most recently completed short story, titled “Goat Eyes,” is based on a question that has been kicking around the back of my head for years. Suppose you — the actual you, in the real world — discovered that vampires actually exist. How would this affect your life going forward? How would it change your behavior and worldview? This story is currently under consideration at an anthology.

What’s recently or soon out?
My short story collection Space Magic will be out on January 15 from Book View Café. This collection of 15 science fiction and fantasy stories won the Endeavour Award, for the best SF or Fantasy book by a Pacific Northwest writer, when it came out in paperback a few years ago, and now it’s available as an ebook from all the major ebook stores as well as directly from bookviewcafe.com. This is my first venture into e-publishing, and if it is successful there will be more.

In addition to the collection itself, $5.99 for all 15 stories, I’m also making the stories available for 99¢ each, following the iTunes singles-and-album model. It turns out that creating and uploading a single-story ebook is almost exactly as much work as a full novel ebook, so the work involved in doing it this way was much greater than I’d anticipated. I hope it pays off. If nothing else, I think, having 16 titles in the bookstores will make it more likely that people will find me than if there were just one.

Describe your typical writing day.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot more time on what my friend Jay Lake calls “writing-related program activities” such as e-publishing, promotion, and submission than I have on the actual writing. This kind of stuff can take up a surprising amount of time. For example, when a short story is rejected (and yes, I get rejections all the time) I often find that it takes an hour or more to decide where to send it next. Even though I have a spreadsheet with a list of markets to submit each story to, a lot of the time when I go to submit I discover that a market is temporarily or permanently closed or I already have a story in submission there. So then I need to research markets, see if there are any new ones, and determine which of the currently-available markets is the best fit for this story. So just at the moment my typical “writing” day doesn’t involve any writing at all! I hope to change this in the new year.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?
Although “Tk’Tk’Tk” won the Hugo Award and has been translated into seven languages, the story I am proudest of is “The Tale of the Golden Eagle.” That’s the only story I’ve ever written that made me cry. Both of them are now available as ebooks, as part of Space Magic and as individual stories.

Which other authors or books do you think deserve a plug?
Tobias Buckell is a fine writer who is doing excellent work straddling the divide between self-publishing and traditional publishing; Mary Robinette Kowal is an inspiration to me with her broad range of long and short fiction and her selfless work with SFWA; and Jay Lake is a good friend and extremely talented writer who doesn’t let his serious health issues get in his way.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?
Write. Finish what you write. Submit it to a paying market. Keep submitting until it sells.

In this modern world, “submit” may mean to self-publish and “until it sells” may mean “until it sells enough copies to make you happy,” but, at this point in the evolution of the industry, whether to self-publish or seek traditional publication is a personal decision. But the basic idea of continuing to write, finishing what you start, and putting it out there for people to buy has not changed.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?
I anticipate that the current free-for-all will not last. We are in a period of chaos right now, with the former “Big Six” New York publishers losing control of the industry they used to dominate, and individual writers can make a big splash. But large corporations always win out in the end (look at the fate of small independent bookstores, video stores, coffee shops, and gas stations in the past decades). In five or ten years there will be a new Big Six of publishing, and I expect that four of them will be Amazon, Google, Apple, and Wal-Mart.

What will readers be reading? Same as today: most people will read bestsellers, based on recommendations from their friends and trusted media sources, but a significant minority will seek out quirky independent works that match their idiosyncratic tastes. The latter readers are the ones I’m writing for.

What are you most excited about?
I have been working on a video based on my story “Letter to the Editor” in the forthcoming anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams. It will be going live on January 21 and I think people will like it a lot. I am also extremely excited by my new web page, www.daviddlevine.com, which looks fantastic.

More…
Space Magic by David D Levine

David D. Levine is the author of over fifty published science fiction and fantasy stories. His work has appeared in markets including Asimov’s, Analog,F&SF, and Realms of Fantasy and has won or been nominated for awards including the Hugo, Nebula, Sturgeon, and Campbell. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Kate Yule, with whom he co-edits the fanzine Bento. His web page is at www.daviddlevine.com.

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Hell’s a Good Joke: Jason Erik Lundberg on the inspiration behind The Alchemy of Happiness

The Alchemy of Happiness, by Jason Erik LundbergIt all started with a sculpture.

In 1999, when I was still an unpublished newbie, I attended the World Horror Convention in Atlanta, where some of the notable writer guests included Neil Gaiman, John Shirley, Michael Bishop, Caitlín R. Kiernan, and Ramsey Campbell. At that point, I thought that I might still be a horror writer, even though my innate squeamishness for violence and terror was beginning to win the battle for my chosen subject matter, and I attended very much because of the writers there. However, on the second day of the convention, at the urging of several new friends, I made my way into the art show, and beheld the gloriously dark and whimsical sculpture work of Lisa Snellings, who was the Artist Guest-of-Honor. Her smaller pieces made me smile and her larger kinetic works (including the moving Ferris wheel that inspired the anthology Strange Attraction, edited by Edward E. Kramer) filled me with wonder, but it was her largest piece on display that literally stole the breath from my lungs.

Named “If Love’s a Fine Game, Hell’s a Good Joke,” the sculpture consisted of two life-sized harlequins, one balancing on the knees of the other; the expressions that Lisa had so painstakingly crafted on their faces were so devilish and sly that, right there on that spot, I conceived of the siblings Blue and Dane: immortals, manipulators, elementals.

When I got home from the convention, I immediately cast these two characters in a novelette called “Wicked Game” (which can be found in my ebook collection The Curragh of Kildaire). The story examined the shifting balance of control that comes with power both earned and taken; it also established the borstal plane, a dimension of existence that both acts as a prison and as the source of all the magic in the world, a locale I would visit again in my prose. I later returned to the siblings in a middle-grade story called “Watersnake, Firesnake,” but this time put them in a distinctly Asian setting, as the antagonists of a young boy who has found a phoenix egg.

Several years passed, and I grew as a writer, and Blue and Dane refused to go away, insisting that I hadn’t yet finished telling their story. It took time, but three substantial works of fiction came into existence that further explored the power dynamics of their relationship, and the consequences of their long-term meddling in human affairs.

The Alchemy of Happiness is the result, an interwoven tripartite narrative collecting “Reality, Interrupted,” “In Jurong,” and “Always a Risk” for the very first time.

Red Dot Irreal, by Jason Erik LundbergThe collection’s title riffs on that of the ancient Islamic text Kimiya-yi Sa’adat by the Sufi philosopher Abu ?amid Mu?ammad ibn Mu?ammad al-Ghazali, as well as the science of alchemy that sought to harness the four classical elements (two of which my characters physically embody). However, whereas al-Ghazali’s text was designed as a moral guide toward a more fulfilling spiritual life, mine is open-ended, a question rather than an answer. Through their constant searching, will Blue and Dane ever find that existential bliss toward which all of us are striving? Or will their millennia of manipulation and destruction leave them forever in a state of metaphysical suffering?

The Alchemy of Happiness is available now from infinity plus book. Also included in this ebook volume is a hybrid-essay called “Embracing the Strange,” which looks at my own personal journey for happiness and fulfillment through the lens of speculative fiction, as well as a wide-ranging interview by Singaporean author and editor Wei Fen Lee.

And as a special bonus, anyone who buys the ebook gets a link to download the expanded second edition of my collection Red Dot Irreal completely for free.


Phew…

So, just to summarise, then:

The latest books from infinity plus include two collections from Eric Brown in their first e-editions, the first e- and paperback editions of Keith Brooke’s Genetopia, and e- and paperback editions of Garry Kilworth’s memoirs.

Details at: http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/books/new.htm

The full line-up is:

infinity plus: quintet
by Garry Kilworth, Lisa Tuttle, Neil Williamson, Stephen Palmer and Eric Brown (edited by Keith Brooke) (ebook) [Dec 2012]
Five stories from top writers of speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy and the downright strange, stories from the heart, stories to make you think and wonder.

Genetopia
by Keith Brooke (ebook & print) [Nov 2012]
Searching for his missing sister, Flint encounters a world where illness is to be feared, where genes mutate and migrate between species through plague and fever. This is the story of the struggles between those who want to defend their heritage and those who choose to embrace the new. “A minor masterpiece that should usher Brooke at last into the recognized front ranks of SF writers” (Locus)

Blue Shifting
by Eric Brown (ebook) [Dec 2012]
A novella and seven stories from the two-times winner of the British Science Fiction Award for Short Fiction. Take a journey into an extraordinary universe… where life and love face the demands of mortality …where mankind has become Augmented or Altered, where zebra-men talk with unicorn-women …and where you can break the chains of physics in the cobalt glory of the Nada-continuum.

The Time-Lapsed Man and other stories
by Eric Brown (ebook) [Dec 2012]
In Eric Brown’s landmark first collection of stories, fear, desire, love and redemption are forged with an innovative and stunning science-fiction imagination, creating eight exotic tales of tomorrow.

The Emoticon Generation
by Guy Hasson (ebook) [Dec 2012]
In this collection you’ll find a man who, after losing his fiancée to a terrible accident, seeks to learn if true love really exists; a girl, hardly a teen, who searches for her father only to learn a terrible truth about herself; a man who wants to immortalize his genius but ends up tricking himself out of it; an old hero whose entire life unravels when the truth about his heroic act is revealed; a harmless birthday gift that triggers a profound search into the depths of a young couple’s relationship; and more.

On my way to Samarkand – memoirs of a travelling writer
by Garry Kilworth (ebook & print) [Dec 2012]
Garry Kilworth is a varied and prolific writer who has travelled widely since childhood, living in a number of countries, especially in the Far East. His books include SF and fantasy, historical novels, literary novels, story collections, children’s books and film novelisations. This autobiography covers family history, travels and his experiences in publishing. ‘a master of his trade’ (Punch)

The Alchemy of Happiness
by Jason Erik Lundberg (ebook) [Dec 2012]
A triptych of stories rooted in Asian myth and legend, literary fantasy at its very best from the author of Red Dot Irreal. This volume also features a hybrid essay on the transformative power of speculative fiction, and a wide-ranging interview with the author. And as a special bonus, anyone who purchases a copy of this book gets a link to a free copy of Red Dot Irreal.

Red Dot Irreal – Equatorial Fantastika
by Jason Erik Lundberg (ebook) [Dec 2012]
Travel to Southeast Asia to meet pirates and shamans, wise fish and mystical storytellers, living monuments and paper animals, time travellers, stone taxi drivers, floating dental patients, and a sentient bird park. Once you enter the surreal worlds of Lundberg’s equatorial fantastika, a part of you will never leave. “A fine meal for the mind awaits you in Lundberg’s collection” (Jonathan Carroll)

In Springdale Town
by Robert Freeman Wexler (ebook) [Nov 2012]
Springdale appears to be a quiet village, unblemished by shopping mall or mega-store. But some say Springdale exists only on the contoured highways of our collective imagination. Others point to references dating back to Colonial Boston, to multiple versions of a ballad telling a story of remorse and disgrace. For two people, Springdale is where their lives will intersect with devastating force.

The Love Machine & other contraptions
by Nir Yaniv (ebook & print) [Nov 2012]
What happens when every wish you make is immediately granted by God? If you could use the power of music to travel through time? If your body was the battleground for a strange, alien invasion? In turns humorous, lyrical, profound – but always entertaining – these are the haunting tales of an author at the height of his power.


Snapshots: Nir Yaniv interviewed

The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie TidharYour first English-language story collection, The Love Machine & other contraptions, is just out. Tell us more about its contents and history.

The beginning, as stated in Frank Herbert’s Dune, is a very delicate time. Therefore I can’t say I remember much about the beginning of this book, for I was probably in a questionable state of mind then, an assumption I make mainly because I’m in a questionable state of mind most of the time, now included.

In any case, this book collects short stories written over a period of ten years or so. Most of them were published in Hebrew, and some were published in various publications in English and other languages. The recurring machines theme comes for my great love of everything mechanical, both in the real world and outside it, and from the fact that we are machines too. That’s also why I decided to augment the collection with some contraptions.

Contraptions?

Contraptions, to me, are just like fish: I’ve never eaten one. I mean – Gefilte-Fish doesn’t count, right? (If you don’t know what Gefilte-Fish is – count yourself lucky!)

In any case – after I finished selecting the stories to be included in the book, I sat and wrote twelve short-short ones, each dedicated to another impossible yet somehow very real machine. You’ll find there, among others, a Real Machine, an Id Machine, and even a Non Machine. They were not only great fun to write (and hopefully to read!) – I feel that they also bind the other stories of the collection together. Just like appetisers in a really good meal. You do notice the recurring theme of food in this interview, yes?

I’m ignoring it as best I can. So – you’re creative across a number of media: writing, editing, music and film. What are the connections between these? Do you ever stretch projects across several media? Are there even any boundaries?

One of the stories included in the collection is called My Uncle Gave Me a Time Machine. It is based on a song by the same name which was a part of my science-fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita. That album, in turn, was a part of a radio-play I tried to produce a while back, in which an Israeli rock band is kidnapped by intergalactic mafia and has to pay by performing all over the universe. So projects in one medium influence projects in another. But it also works in other ways: when writing, I listen to the words. They have to have a tune and a tempo. In other words, they have to be a sort of music. In short: my mind is a mess.

Also, I am tempted to say that there are no boundaries, but of course there are: to me, boundaries, or rather – limits – are vital for creating any form of art. When everything is possible and everything is allowed, the result is boring. That’s why I’m a great fan of concept albums and themed projects, and my own works always have strict guidelines.

You’ve collaborated successfully with World Fantasy Award-winner Lavie Tidhar. How does a collaboration work for something as individual as writing fiction?

Lavie is a good friend and a great writer. I would compare collaborating with him to being in a rock band – I’ve been a bass player and a lead singer in several of those – only the work is serial instead of parallel: in a band everyone plays together at the same time, while a writing collaboration, in our case, goes chapter-by-chapter, one by him, one by me. But the rest is just the same: the alcohol, the drugs, the sexy young fans, the fights, the ruined hotel suites, the lot.

What’s special about Israeli SF? Who else should we look out for? Is it a good thing or bad to be labelled an Israeli SF author, rather than simply an SF author?

The very term “Israeli SF” is somewhat problematic, as even most Israeli fans fail to agree what it means. Is it SF written by Israeli authors? Or SF with Israeli protagonists? Or maybe SF written in Hebrew?

The other problem is that, even if we accept all of the above as genuine Israeli SF, that leaves us with only a few active writers, who don’t share much common ground besides that factor. An excellent Israeli writer I’d recommend is Shimon Adaf, whose work never ceases to amaze me.

As for the word “Israeli” being added or omitted to “SF author”, I’d say that this is mainly a question for the marketing department. I was born and raised in Israel, and Hebrew is my mother tongue, so yeah, I’m an Israeli guy, and my writing is influenced by that. On the other hand, most Israelis are sons or grandsons of immigrants: my grandparents are east-Europeans – mostly Polish – which explains the weird humor, and also the silly food. How “Israeli” is that? In some respects, my writing has more in common with Polish and Russian literature. Other Israeli writers have roots in such places as Spain, Egypt or Yemen, and draw their cultural background from there. And of course we all share the love, even if it’s in the form of nostalgia, for good old American and British SF.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I’m working on my second short film, about a young doctoral student who builds a time machine out of the microwave oven in his home, which gets stuck and sends him 6 hours into the future once every 20 seconds, that being only his second-worst problem, the first one being his extremely pissed-off roommate.

I’m also working on a very complex novel dealing with King Solomon, a character which always fascinated me. There are a couple of ancient Jewish legends telling about Solomon making a bad deal with Samedy, the king of the devils. Samedy takes Solomon’s signet ring, throws him to a distant land, takes his form and rules in his place. My idea: Samedy doesn’t take Solomon’s ring, but rather they exchange rings. And Solomon is not thrown in space, but rather – with the help of the ring he got – in time. Now starts the fun.

Describe your typical writing day.

I have a full-time job as a computer programmer, which, if you’re smart enough, is a good way of getting money for nothing-in-particular, meanwhile using an overly powerful computer for making your own stuff. I write in bits and pieces over the day, and in between I take pictures, edit video projects, soundtracks and texts, eat and sleep. I also do a bit of programming, yeah, but don’t tell my bosses at work – I don’t want them to get used to it.

What would you draw attention to from your back-list?

The Tel Aviv Dossier, which I co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar. I shamelessly declare that it’s not only the craziest book I wrote, but also the craziest book I’ve read.

If you were to offer one snippet of writing advice what would it be?

No excuses. If you find yourself in the need of any excuse whatsoever regarding any part of a story or a book – it isn’t good. Make it so good that you don’t need excuses. Or throw it away.

Also, regular meals are important.

So… the easy one: what’s the future of publishing? How will writers be making a living and publishing in five or ten years? What will readers be reading?

I am tempted to say that life will get better and that writers will get more money for their work due to the advances of e-books. However, I don’t think it’ll happen. The main factor for succeeding in any form of art was, is and will remain the marketing department. In other words, the concept of big publishers will stay with us, even while the technology changes.

I like paper books quite a lot, and the first thing people notice, when they get into my house, is the terrific amount of books in it. Well, maybe that’s the second thing, right after the terrific amount of bass guitars. Still, I do most of my reading on a Kindle these days, and I think it’s a game changer for the readers. Especially ones who used to carry one kilogram of books per flight, and can now reduce that to whatever it is the Kindle weighs.

Any last words to your audience, then?

No, sir. You haven’t heard the last of me!

More…
The Love Machine & other contraptions by Nir Yaniv with a foreword by Lavie Tidhar

Nir Yaniv is a writer, musician, editor and filmmaker based in Tel Aviv. His short stories were published in Israel and outside it, including such publications as Weird TalesApex Magazine and Chizine. And they have been translated into German, Portuguese and Polish. His first story collection, One Hell of a Writer, came out in 2006. Two novels he co-wrote with Lavie Tidhar were published in 2009: The Tel Aviv Dossier and Fictional Murder. His second story collection, The Love Machine & Other Contraptions, came out in 2012.

Nir founded Israel’s first online SF&F magazine, sf-f.org.il, in which he served as chief editor for seven years; went on to edit Dreams in Aspamia, a printed speculative fiction magazine, and created the first Hebrew science fiction rock album, The Universe in a Pita.

Nir’s first short film, Conspiracy, was screened in film festivals in Israel and in the UK. He served in various film projects as cameraman, soundman, sound-editor, and even actor.

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