“When in the course of human events….”
The funny thing about revolutions is that they don’t stop, even though there are always Tories who think things would be better done The Old Way. These words, 238 years ago, started a revolution that goes on today — a revolution of people who asserted their right to their own life, liberty and property.
For all the halting and inconsistent progress, this revolution continues — this week, there were demonstrations in Hong Kong demanding greater political freedom. In the Anglophone West, the revolutions are smaller, but happen every day: cell phones making us independent of the old Ma Bell, and independent even of wires; the Internet letting us contact people world wide in real time; the World Wide Web becoming the platform from which we do business with everyone from major corporations to a small-time craftsperson on e-Bay.
One of those revolutions is the e-publishing revolution: now we get our music, our news, and increasingly our books in the form of bits transferred over the Internet. In some ways, perhaps, the most exciting part of this revolution is the e-book publishing revolution: through Amazon (primarily) and the Kindle platform (again primarily) it has become possible for a writer to publish a book and make it available to an international audience without needing a publisher, or the limited and expensive resource of a printing plant and a distribution network.
(See, this is a Book Plug Friday column, even though it’s probably Saturday when you see it because that’s the way Thursday and Friday went; and this is Charlie, by the way. If you listen closely you can probably hear Sarah struggling against her bonds in the background.)
Even better than being able to be published, the e-book revolution has made it possible for writers to make a living by getting published, with everything from 99¢ thrillers to porn to science-fictional series that would be wrist-breaking volumes in physical realization.
This is really new, and as Sarah has been detailing for the last year, it’s causing consternation and dislocations that have been amazing to behold. Fiction had become, really, pretty limited — personally, I blame the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and MFA programs. We have been learning to see “good fiction” as approved fiction, and the approvers increasingly have seen themselves as an Elite, the Guardians of Proper Literature, with the Right Attitudes and the Politically Appropriate Opinions.
It hasn’t been quick, but it’s been amazingly thorough, and while it went on, we saw the death of many markets, especially for short fiction. The funny thing was that when there was a market for short fiction, it was publishing Hornblower, and Heinlein, and Agatha Christie — writers and characters we still read today. But as it became necessary to write serious IWW fiction to get published, it also became harder and harder to pay for a fiction magazine. By the time I was first trying to write fiction, there were probably at most a dozen commercial magazines that still published fiction, and usually one short story a month.
Strangest thing though — if you looked at the magazine stand, down a couple racks and to the left, there were another two dozen or more monthly “true confession” magazines that had pretty immense circulation. But they weren’t “serious” fiction, just as the pulps weren’t “serious” fiction. What they were is emotionally involving, mimetic, and cathartic. Basically, Aristotle would recognize true confessions and pulp as good art. The IWW literati would say those were boring old clichés and not good art at all — and this recent generation would ask if there were enough women, gays, people “of color”, and transgendered people, and whether the author was from an under-represented group.
All that has changed because of the possibility of publishing independently through Amazon, and the Boston-New York Literature Mavens don’t like it. People are writing, and sometimes writing wonderfully well, the fiction that Aristotle would recognize, and they’re selling it too.
The big publishers, and the literature Tories, don’t like it. They’re like everyone to stay in proper line and read what’s good for us.
The ability to publish without their permission that comes from ebook publishing is a Declaration of independence, a revolt against another aristocracy that knows what’s good for us.
I wanted to correct something from my piece last week. Since it was published, I was contacted by a source, an industry insider with some knowledge of the big publisher contracts with Amazon. It appears that the big publishers do indeed manage to get the 70 percent royalty from Amazon, even when their books are outside the Kindle Direct guidelines.
Here’s the kicker, though: they pay the same royalty to the author (assuming they report ebook sales honestly, which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.) So, if a publisher sells a book for $30 in hardcover, they get something like $15 for it, out of which they have to pay for the printing, shipping, warehousing, and so on. Then they pay the author something like $3.
If they sell the ebook for $13, they get $9.10 from Amazon. It costs them effectively nothing on the margin to “print” or “warehouse” the book. They still pay the author $3.
Voyage into an enchanted world in this epic fantasy of adventure and romance as a young king with god-like powers inherits a kingdom and a curse: what he loves most will be his doom. How he decides to fight his fate will endanger his entire kingdom, unite him with his true love in another world, and launch a desperate voyage across a sea of seething monsters and fearsome illusions that will test the will of an intrepid crew of mariners and determine the fate of their world forever. Get ready for an epic fantasy like no other in CRIMSON by Warren Fahy, author of the New York Times bestseller FRAGMENT and PANDEMONIUM.
Breakthrough technology is great, until you live long enough to become obsolete. Wilek and the other ABC Captains have successfully handled this over the past century, but a resurgent Earth jealousy eying the Off Worlds will soon put the hype to the test. Add to the mix an unasked for new crew ‘mate’, salty recruits and a happy bio, Captain Wilek may reach his last good nerve long before Earth.
Janine Larson’s parents don’t like her spending her summer hanging out with her boyfriend and her ditsy friends. To teach her responsibility, they get her a job taking care of the kids of a rich, unpleasant doctor and his wife in their summer island home. Janine wins over the small boy, but not the creepy little girl. Janine tries to see the rotten job through, and wonders if she is paranoid about some things . . . When the doctor and his wife realize she has discovered their unsavory, criminal secrets, her cell phone disappears. That night, they chase her around the island, trying to kill her.
For eight years, Kris was the property of a brutal slaver captain. Now she’s free and a cadet at the League’s military academy. All she brings to this new life is a unique set of skills, a profound ignorance of ‘civilized’ society, and a large chip on her shoulder.
But Kris isn’t quite sure what to make of the Academy, and the Academy isn’t at all sure what to make of her. The medical staff thinks she’s homicidal, her fellow cadets think she’s crazy, and her instructors don’t know what to think.
So when she’s approached about helping capture a terrorist warlord, she’s more than happy to leave the halls of academia behind for awhile. Kris knows she’s not signing up for any pleasure cruise. What she doesn’t know is that the key to the mission’s success is reliving her very worst nightmare .