2017/09/08

A Consistent Theme

Having listened to the latest episode of Geek Gab: On the Books, blogger Bradford Walker notes a common theme running through my podcast episodes and blog posts.
If there is one consistent theme to a lot of Brian's posts at his blog, and his episodes of this podcast, is that the old model that the Big 5 and their London counterparts built into massive corporate empires is not only decaying, it's collapsing and there is no future in it for most authors- no matter if they have a contract or not.
Furthermore, the attempt by the SJWs dominating SF/F publishing to control the narrative concerning their control through the Hugos is also collapsing. The Dragons' second year makes it crystal clear that the Hugos are not relevant, do not give voice to the fans, and has no business purporting itself to be a marker of quality. The fans came out big for the Dragons this year, and they will come out even bigger next year. The SJWs can't get more than half of the votes in a single Dragon's category to vote at all; they're done, and the smarter ones know it.
The business is changing, and the fact is now becoming obvious to the unobservant. Time to seize the future for ourselves.
Mr. Walker himself is quite observant. He doesn't need a weatherman to know there's a hurricane bearing down on the New York publishing establishment and their pet SJW authors. And Bradford is right that the smarter ones know it. A sympathetic confidante who subscribes to Tor Books' newsletter has been sending me reports on the contents. No mention of Scalzi in months, but they give plenty of inches to Brandon Sanderson. Not that it will save them.

Speaking of authors actually releasing new books, I'm pleased to report to my reader-employers that work on The Ophian Rising, Soul Cycle Book IV is proceeding well. I've spoken to multiple readers who were under the impression that the series was a trilogy. That's an understandable assumption, given tradpub and Hollywood's obsession with trilogies. Being an indie author, however, I'm unbound by such constraints. Look for the shocking conclusion to the Soul Cycle this fall.

The Soul Cycle has been in the works for over a decade, and it was always planned as a four-book series. You can read a preview of the fourth and final installment in the back matter of 2017 Dragon Award finalist The Secret Kings.

The Secret Kings - Brian Niemeier

Finally, many of you have also expressed your desire to write a book. As Bradford said, this it the time. Conditions have never been more favorable to authors in human history. We need each and every one of you to help rebuild the science fiction genre that the CHORFs destroyed--not just for financial gain, but to continue the slow, necessary work of repairing the culture.

9 comments:

  1. I get all this, but here's the problem: as a finance dude, I looked into publishing revenues. It's a bit murky, especially with the privately-owned empires out of Europe, but the vast bulk seems to come from textbooks, manuals & technical books, and trade journals, with fiction of all sorts being rather insignificant. In such an environment, *all* big publishers of fiction are vanity presses - it's just their vanity they're serving, not primarily the authors.The kind of money they lose publishing crap SF&F is not material to the overall business.

    Conclusion: the Big Five is not going to suffer meaningful pain over losses in their fiction business. They can keep publishing and promoting PC garbage for as long as they want, based on their other revenues. It's just question of how bad they want to do it.

    Also, note that their core businesses - textbooks, technical books and trade journals - don't actually depend on *readers* for success - textbooks are sold to a captive market of students at the command of teachers and school boards. Technical publishing is sold to people who need certain information, but are in no position to materially criticize (i.e., not buy) the writing; and trade journals are sold to trade associations who try to break even by selling advertising and then give away most of the run - I've got a stack from my industry on my desk which I get because of my job title - never paid a dime for any of them (and don't read them, either!).

    I don't own a crystal ball, but I think you need to adjust your expectations. Giving the actual readers a voice and humiliating the SJWs certainly has its appeal, but what will 'kill,' as in 'make them cease publishing books,' the Big 5 is not shrinking book sales. It will be when they think the propaganda value of SF&F with its awards and communities is too low to bother with - which, given the propaganda value of textbooks, might actually happen. But bear in mind: the more successful pulp, superversive and related efforts become, the higher the propaganda value in subverting them. The zombie hordes running Hollywood think nothing of dropping $100M+ on movies aimed at subverting the heroism of comic book stories, even at the risk of killing one of the industry's few golden-egg-laying geese.

    Finally, a piece of fatherly advice I give my kids might apply here as well: always recognize that crazy people are really good at being crazy - they've had a lifetime to perfect their schtick. They will have a response already all worked out to any attempt you make to break through. So, be careful! The people running publishing houses - the real business people (they're in there somewhere!) are all well aware of the situation, and have been planning countermeasures for years now. The unknown is the specific goals and directions the owners prefer. Sometimes, the best move is to simply run a business into the ground. Sometimes, it works best to keep a zombie business shambling about. I sure don't know what's going to come down.

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  2. Thanks for throwing in your two cents from a finance perspective. It's always good to check one's blind spots.

    While not casting aspersions on your expertise, this isn't exactly a new revelation. The Rabid Puppy and #PulpRev crowd have known for years that Tor Books, for example, is a subsidiary of Pan Macmillan. If you want a publisher with a highly diversified revenue stream, it'd be hard to do better. We agree that they need Tor like they need a shotgun blast to the face.

    I'm not a finance guy, but I am a publishing guy and I know other guys who've been deep into the trad publishing industry for decades. Sticking with our Tor Books example, it's an open secret to everyone in the industry that they're losing money. Author contracts are on the chopping block, and word is that some authors whose names you'd recognize have already been let go.

    We also know from leaked internal memos that Macmillan is not happy with their trouble-making, money-losing subsidiary. The same almost certainly goes for Big Five parent companies like Lagardere Group.

    A fatal misconception in your assessment of tradpub's behavior is that you're ascribing halfway rational motives to their propagandizing. That's not how SJW convergence works.

    To paraphrase the Z Man, SJW convergence is what happens to an industry when the smart money's already left the building. SocJus didn't kill comics. The market conditions leading to the collector bubble of the early 90s killed comics as a viable business. The smart guys saw the writing on the wall and got out before the crash, leaving the industry to the SJWs who had no interest in selling comics and an obsession with spreading propaganda.

    The SJW converged comic book companies were able to shamble on for a while, thanks to the giant media companies who bought them for their movie IPs. But now superhero fatigue is setting in. The latest Spider-Man movie under-performed. There are now rumblings that Disney--admittedly quite the propagandists themselves--are getting fed up with the Marvel albatross dangling from their neck.

    Here's the takeaway: Though the Big 5 publishers have parent companies that make most of their money from textbook and tech manual sales, the Big 5 themselves are reliant on commercial paper distribution. That now means Barnes & Noble. A group of B&N shareholders just called a meeting to demand that the company de-list itself and go private. When B&N goes, the Big 5 will be nothing but boat anchors shackled to their parent companies' legs. As long as the folks in charge at Panmacmillan, Lagardere, etc. are interested in making money, which by all accounts they are, they'll shut down and sell their money-losing subsidiaries.

    Don't take my word for it, ask Jeff Duntemann, a frequent commenter on this blog who's also worked as an editor and publisher for years. He's written and published fiction, non-fiction, textbooks, and tech manuals. According to him, the Big 5 have about 8 years left.

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  3. Happy to be corrected and learn something. Yep, totally ignorant of publishing except having once whiled away an afternoon looking a the publically available data for the Big 5 online - which ain't much of a claim to insight, I readily admit.

    The book business is pretty cheap. You could run a Tor for a decade for the price of one customer-insulting, genre-mangling Hollywood blockbuster - and somebody is whizzing that level of money away every week, is seems. At certain levels of finance, $100M really isn't all that much money. For people with billions, that represents a change of maybe a few cents per share in their holdings. Something that flatters their self-image could easily be worth that much to such a one. But what do I know? Not much.

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    1. "Happy to be corrected and learn something."

      Same here. I appreciate your time and your insights. Based on your research, I can see one or more of the Big 5 clinging on as vanity projects of the elite class. Whatever survives the coming series of closures and mergers will be relegated to putting out propaganda billed as "important" fiction and giving Leftist candidates 7-figure campaign contributions disguised as book advances. That's fine. No one outside the Bubble--and few people inside--will read them.

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    2. The assumptions regarding textbooks and technical manuals holding the Big 5 ship afloat are good if the economy stays stable and colleges/universities continue to churn out graduates.

      Men/boys lare eaving the college scene, and women are flocking to it. Fewer STEM degrees are awarded; more social studies and humanities diplomas than science, math, engineering are appearing. More parents are homeschooling, and much of that material is not Big 5 published.

      None of these things will change Big 5 fortunes overnight, but we are past the point of that handful of pebbles signalling the oncoming avalanche.

      I doubt the bloated hulk of Big 5 can lumber to safety in time to save itself.

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    3. Big media and big publishers in general are heading that way. The internet gives you just about everything you need, and buyers trust the big guys less than they ever have before. It's only a matter of time.

      Good discussion.

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    4. Joseph
      Thanks for your detailed and informative comments. I'd like to update you on the textbooks and trade journals.

      They too are under attack, there's a young PhD candidate from Kazhistan who's asking scholars to contribute articles and journals freely.
      The reason is costs. It seems that the subscriptions are so expensive that even Harvard is complaining.

      In any case this scientist is having great success but Elveiser Bill are ferociously fighting back
      Textbooks are obsolete because with a webpage and other content creation an online version is cheaper and can be updated at minimal costs.

      Amazon in particular often sells textbooks up to 90% discount. I've always regarded textbooks a scam between schoolboards and publishers to sell overpriced

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    5. That's wonderful to hear. Modern textbooks were developed as propaganda from the start, a any perusal of the history of education in America demonstrate (the readers and such used in the one-room and other locally controlled schools tended to remain unchanged for decades and were merely compilations of items written for other purposes) So textbook publishing can't die fast enough! And if it speeds the collapse of Big 5 fiction, all the better.

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  4. Hi all The website is called scihub
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sci-Hub
    I suspect there's an infogalatic
    article
    xavier

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