Hey, Henry Blodget, Blogger at Silicon Alley Insider, Screw You!

Hey, Henry Blodget, Blogger at Silicon Alley Insider, Screw You!

I’m a little surprised that a respectable news outlet like Business Insider puts up with screeds the likes of which Henry Blodget spewed all over Silicon Alley the other day. It’s shocking to me that not only is the post chock full of whiny, entitled, angry foot stomping, but also wrong information. I know blog posts aren’t fact checked or anything, but hasn’t someone come along from higher up in the editorial chain to even question the bullshit he just dumped all over a supposed business site?

First, the cost to make an eBook — whether you’re just publishing an eBook or one alongside print books — is not “pretty much zero”. It’s just not. Second, if Macmillan, or any other major publisher collapses, someone else is not just going to pick up and publish the books they can’t and someone else isn’t going to just hire all the people that would put out of work. And that someone else is definitely not going to be Amazon. Because, despite the Digital Publishing Platform and Amazon Shorts, Amazon is not a publisher in the way Macmillan is a publisher.

Amazon as publishing entity is about on the same level as iUniverse, Lulu, and anyone with a blog and a decent shopping cart system. I could start selling eBooks tomorrow and those eBooks may even be written by someone who is not me. That doesn’t make me a publisher1.

But then that is part of the problem with Henry’s post — he doesn’t understand, at all, what it is publishers do, what Amazon does, and how all of these issues affect writers and consumers. Yes, an consumers. Henry says “we” don’t want to pay $15 for an eBook. Fine. Then “we” won’t. Consumers will spend what they spend any way they choose to spend it. If Macmillan or anyone else wants to price their books high then find out down the line that it means fewer sales, how does that hurt Henry or the rest of us?

Oh right, because then Henry can’t get what he wants when he wants it at the price he wants it. And for some reason he can’t just not buy an eBook, he wants to insist that eBooks sell at the price he’s willing to pay for it. Fine, I insist that the Kindle cost only $9.99 so that I don’t have to spend so much on it. What’s that you say? Amazon has to cover the cost of manufacturing and designing and maintaining and updating the Kindle? I don’t fucking care, do you understand? I want what I want when I want it at the price I demand.

Also, I want a pony.

Look, the idea that books, even electronic versions of books, are easy and free and don’t cost anything and amount to just a bunch of bits is, #1: stupid and: #2 dangerous. The idea that you can toss aside the fact that someone worked very hard to write that book (in most cases) and some other people took the time to edit, proofread, copyedit, design, market and promote that book is in essence saying that none of those people matter. If you really think that, you probably: #1: don’t read very many books, #2: have never met a writer or anyone involved in book publishing, #3: place a poor value on art and entertainment, #4: should be shoved off the nearest cliff.

Just try reading only self-published books for a year or two and then come tell me how all those people aren’t necessary. You will likely find a well-written, awesome book, maybe even two. Only if you read more than 100, though. Have fun reading 100 really shitty books, I’ll be over here laughing at you.

Finally, Henry, don’t even try to pretend like what Amazon is doing is good for writers. Just don’t. Because you’re wrong. You act like by giving publishers less money Amazon is somehow giving authors more. How exactly do you think this whole money flow works, son? If Amazon sells a book for $5 and they take 50%, that means $2.50 goes to the publisher. The publisher THEN pays the writer out of that $2.50. The publisher is going to get a larger chunk of that money than they give the writer, but in the end everyone but Amazon gets less.

You can’t paint the publisher as an evil entity who should get less money without saying that the writer will get less money, too, because that is what will happen. So stop trying to pretend like you’re on our side.

The side you’re on is the entitled asshole side, and that’s not a side most people would want to publicly associate with. You’re not even on the consumer’s side, because consumers have a wide array of choices, and one of those choices is not to buy things. People who bought Kindles already narrowed their choices to just Amazon, which is fine, but don’t then whine and cry when you can’t get cheap books for your expensive eReader. If you somehow feel it’s not fair that you paid so much money for the thing and yet still have to pay money for the books, I have two words for you: Google Books. And I have two more: Project Gutenberg.

Those aren’t good enough for you? Tough. Can’t get that new Stephen King release for just $10? Neither can those who buy it in hardback. Ever think that maybe your major problem is not that someone wants to sell an eBook for the outrageous price of $15 but rather that you are completely unaware of how minor a thing the price of a luxury item is when compared to the damage entitled people like you do to those who actually worked hard to create that item? Never given that any thought, huh?

Why am I not surprised?

(P. S. Will someone please stop folks who are supposedly “insiders” in Silicon Valley from acting as if the eBook reading landscape is Kindle and iPad only? I mean, really, how ignorant can one be?)

  1. And can I also point out that writers who sell their books to major publishing houses do not hire freelance editors unless they hired said editor before they sold the book in order to make it good enough for the publishing house, which is really not the same thing at all as saying that writers can just go it alone on this whole publishing thing. What moron farm did you wander off of, Henry? []

eBooks, eReaders, and why you need to keep up with the tech

eBooks, eReaders, and why you need to keep up with the tech

I would normally post something like this on my tech blog, but I feel like this is more of a writer issue than a tech issue, though tech is a big part of why I’m writing this post. I’ve been pondering this for a long time — and a few inklings have come out in past posts — but the recent resurgence of AmazonFail and the reactions to it made me think it was a good time to share my thoughts on this.

As many of you know, I work for a technology magazine and part of my job is to keep up on news about gadgets and another part is actually reviewing them. Because I have interest in books and am a fiction writer besides, I ended up as the go-to person for eReaders. Last month I covered eReaders at the Consumer Electronics Show and got to see several devices that will be on the market in the next few weeks and months. I must say, there are a LOT of eReaders out there, folks.

To go along with these eReaders, many companies are also setting up online bookstores, kind of like Sony did back in the day. However, there are some differences in the way things are now. First, almost every device coming to market will have the ability to read EPUB books. EPUB is becoming the standard eBook format (spearheaded by Sony), thus the books you want should be readable on the Nook or the iRiver Story or the Alex eReader regardless of where you buy them. In theory.

The logistics of this are a bit gray right now — for instance, it’s not clear if you can buy a book from Sony then load it on the Nook, or buy a book from Barnes & Noble then load it on the Alex. I chalk this up to the general messiness in the eBook area at the moment. Eventually these issues are going to have to be sorted out. In the meantime, a lot of the smaller eReader vendors/eBook sellers are touting that the titles you buy from them can be read on any device, though they’d be happy to sell you their own.

Contrast this with Amazon, whose eBook format is proprietary and therefore can only be read by Kindles and Kindle apps for smartphones and computers. If a Kindle owner decides they like the Nook better, they can say goodbye to their eBook collection. To be fair to Amazon (I know, I know, but bear with me) this was status quo for a long time in the eBook world. Sony only recently started selling EPUB books — before they had their own format for their own readers. And the EPUB as universal format is a fairly new movement. So naturally newer eReaders are poised to take advantage of it.

Regardless of what Amazon is doing, the rest of the industry, including Apple, is going with EPUB and building their own online eBookstores to sell them. Will all of these individual stores survive? Most likely not, especially if the devices they’re attached to don’t do well. It also depends on what the DRM situation is with books bought from bigger players like B&N. But I’m sure eventually some eBook selling entity will arise from all of this and become the default store multiple devices attach themselves to. iBook might be that store, or something scrappier will come along.

So, why is all of this important to you, the folks reading this who are likely to be writers and/or book industry professionals? It’s important because a big part of the future of eBooks isn’t being shaped by publishers and booksellers wrangling with each other over percentages, it’s going to be driven by the devices consumers choose to consume the books.

While I do not agree that the iPad will CHANGE EVERYTHING ZOMG and that it will destroy all stupid eReaders1, there are plenty of devices and technologies on the horizon that could change the landscape drastically within the next year or two. I’m talking way cooler than the iPad (and much more useful). Here’s a really brief overview:

  1. The reasons for this are many, but it boils down to this: eInk screens were invented for a reason. And no matter how much some people think it won’t be a big deal to read a book on an LCD screen because they spend all day in front of one, I bet they change their tune the first time they attempt reading full screen black text on a white background and nothing else. []

Hey People In SFWA

I’m only going to say this once and then shut up about it until next year: I wrote some stuff between July 2008 and December 2009 and it’s pretty darn good. And a lot of it is available for free and junk.

I have no reciprocal nominations or votes to offer you, though1. Despite the fact that I’ve sold many stories which earned me 5 cents per word, many of them aren’t eligable under the current SFWA rules. Funny that.

  1. kidding. I know people don’t play those games anymore. right? []

Help, Help, I’m Bein’ Oppressed!

Nick Mamatas is always trying to get me to start some shit so he sent over this link to Kathryn Cramer’s blog1. Normally I would ignore this crazy person, but I figure many others are going to comment on this or may already have, so I’ll throw in my 2 cents.

Cramer is apparently bored or something because she’s decided to stir the fires of RaceFail again. This time she’s proposing a panel for WisCon (a convention she no longer attends because of its “encouragement of Fail fandom”) called “More Oppressed than Thou.” Because, don’t you know, there are two kinds of oppressed people: those who have actually been beaten up by cops and those who only have a theoretical understanding of their oppression. You think I am kidding but I am not.

I’m sure that I, a black woman living in America, have never, ever experienced oppression. Oh no. But I read about it in a book and that makes me all self-righteous and stuff.

I know the answer to this, but I can’t help asking why it is that people like Cramer are always the ones to start up the Oppression Olympics. Next she’ll be whining about how her Irish ancestors couldn’t get a job or something.

You would think that attitudes like Cramer’s (and Shetterly’s — yes, he makes an appearance in the comments) wouldn’t even require a response because they’re so ridiculolus. However, going by reports I’ve heard about a certain other convention2 that I know Cramer and those who agree with her view of Racefail attend, I know that we can’t just trust that right-thinking people won’t be taken in by this nonsense.

If someone really, really needs me to explain why her position is a load of horseshit I will. But please tell me that the majority of my FList already knows…

  1. I did not anonymize the link because I don’t care if she knows I’m talking about her. If you’re clicking from your FList and don’t want to even have your screenname show up on her stats, use this link. []
  2. yes Fourth Street, I am talking smack about you []

A Market I Intend To Avoid Right Now

A Market I Intend To Avoid Right Now

Many writers have lists of markets that they either refuse to send to or only send stories to last for a variety of reasons, and I know I’m not alone in putting some markets on my NO NOT SEND list due to the attitudes of the editors or publishers. I now get to add Flash Fiction Online to that list.

Bart Leib of Crossed Genres posted on their blog that Flash Fiction Online rejected an ad because they “don’t accept sexually themed ads.” That is fine, as far as it goes, but if you click over to the post in question, you’ll see the ad, and you may agree with me that the ad image is not sexually themed. The sexually themed part of it is the text, which announces that Crossed Genres is looking for more LGBTQ stories, articles, and art.

When looking for more in-depth clarification on this issue the editor of Flash Fiction Online revealed some really, really problematic views about LGBTQ people and marriage rights. He also revealed some attitudes about sex, society and culture that I don’t agree with. But the reason I intend to keep this market off my submission list is the stance on gay rights.

Perhaps it’s completely silly of me to decide on a market because of the personality and views of the editor. But something about that post and that email truly struck me at the core. My worldview and an essential part of my personhood are so opposed to this person’s attitude that I don’t feel that my stories would connect, and I don’t want to associate myself or my fiction with the magazine. That’s a choice I’m making.

Just to ward off the inevitable railing from the usual suspects, I am not calling for a boycott or for Flash fiction Online to be burned to the virtual ground. I’m making a personal choice here and I’m voicing that choice publicly. What you choose to feel or do with the information I’ve presented is your own business.

Editorial Work Is Hard

Or so says Claire Light:

…how do you — not “become a good editor” but — change the way you do business so that your editing becomes more than an exercise in futility? Here are some steps:

  1. Go out an read diverse stuff. This is not hard. There is google. Go to google and look up “African American fiction anthology,” “Asian American fiction anthology,” “New Women Writers,” “LGBT Fiction” etc. Check these books out of the library. Read them. Then pick the two or three writers whose stories you liked the most AND WHOSE STORIES YOU HATED THE MOST, and read a book each by them. Look them up on wikipedia and find out who their influences and mentors were and read a book each by them. Etc.
  2. Go to Wiscon, Diversicon, Gaylaxicon, whatever, and talk to people who don’t look or talk like you. Ask them what they’re reading and what they think you should be reading (the answer to these two questions will usually be different.) Take notes. Then GO READ some of what they told you to read.
  3. Send your calls for submissions out to all the people of color you know and ask them to forward it. Follow up with them a week later and ask them where they sent/posted it. Sign up for those lists/groups and follow up on those lists/groups a week later with a personal invitation from the editor to EVERYONE ON THE LIST to submit work. Also go here and send calls for subs to these folks and follow up. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP!
  4. If you are a real editor, then you live in a real city with real readings. Go to them. Ask around for the POC/LGBT/Women’s/whatever readings and attend them. They will be mostly boring or painful. That’s how it is. You have to dig for gold. Keep going. Every time you go, talk to two people you don’t know, especially if they look like they’re in charge or if they know a lot of people. Ask them to recommend other readings in the city you should see. Carry cards and call for subs fliers with you. EVERY SINGLE TIME you see writer you think is remotely good, hand them a flier. In fact, hand them to writers you don’t think are that good either, and ask them to pass it around. Do this in every city you go to.
  5. Keep doing this. This is not a remedial course that will eventually finish, after which, you will now be diversified. This now how you do your job. Keep doing your job.

If anyone was looking for a primer on this subject, they would do well to read the whole post.

2009 Hugo Award Night of Win

2009 Hugo Award Night of Win

Though I am not fond of WorldCon, I do wish I could be there tonight to party with the Hugo winners. Many people I know and love to pieces won tonight:

  • BEST NOVELLA: “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress (Asimov’s Oct/Nov 2008)
  • BEST SHORT STORY: “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two, also: audio version)
  • BEST RELATED BOOK: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi (Subterranean Press)
  • BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM: Ellen Datlow
  • BEST SEMIPROZINE: Weird Tales edited by Ann VanderMeer & Stephen H. Segal
  • BEST FAN WRITER: Cheryl Morgan
  • BEST FANZINE: Electric Velocipede edited by John Klima
  • BEST FAN ARTIST: Frank Wu

I seriously don’t think I’ve ever seen a Hugo winner list made of more win. Special congrats to Weird Tales for breaking the million-year Locus winning streak and to my main man, John Klima, for his fanzine win. I am dancing in my living room and singing at the top of my lungs in praise of all y’all.