Trad Pub Is Dead

AAA video game designer Mark Kern recently took to Twitter seeking publishing advice, and luckily for him Galaxy's Edge co-author Nick Cole answered.

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That was quite an enlightening barrage of truth bombs Nick dropped there. I'm also sure he's earned another satisfied customer.

Sadly, a nasty case of tradpub Stockholm syndrome with an analog mindset chaser reared its ugly head.

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Nick answers thusly:

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And friend of the blog Jeff Duntemann backs Nick up.

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My comment:

Publishers are predatory dinosaurs. Which sounds cool until you realize the asteroid's coming.

Nick's got nothing to prove to anybody. He and Jason Anspach have mastered this era of publishing, and they've got the sales to show for it.

If I may be so bold, however, there is one area where I differ ever so slightly with Don Niccolo.

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In the context of perusing books' acknowledgements to deduce who an author's agent is, Nick and I are in total agreement. If you're looking to sell lots of books, seek advice from best sellers; not R list award winners.

That said, I think Nick's view of awards' value may be obstructed by a blind spot that's common to conservatives. It's the pernicious tendency to value the practical to the exclusion of all else.

As Bernstein said in Citizen Kane, "It's no trick to make a lot of money...if what you want to do is make a lot of money." If commercial success is an author's only goal--and a laudable goal it is--then he can and should measure his success by sales alone.

Still, I'm afraid I must contradict Nick's assertion that awards are meaningless. Their significance may not be statistically provable, but it is readily observable. Look at how hard the SF SJWs fight tooth and nail to guard their little Hugo fiefdom.

You can laugh and point to their sales figures and Dragon Con's attendance numbers, but keep in mind that these people are socially adapted to infiltrate and converge cultural institutions. They are exceptionally good at identifying which targets to hit and taking those targets down. The clown world in which we now live is a grim testament to the SJWs' effectiveness and the free market's ineffectiveness at stopping them.

The market is not going to correct his problem. If it could, it would have by now. The Hugos and the Nebulas are jokes now, but they weren't always. Perhaps the big literary awards never boosted authors' earnings, but they did carry considerable cultural weight.

Nick is absolutely right that trad pub is dead. New pub is ascendant, but its biggest problem remains that, while there are dozens of indie authors quietly making six figures or more, they're doing so quietly.

The other side has Stephen King. And George R. R. Martin. And Patrick Rothfuss. And John Grisham. And almost every name author. If we're going to make an impact on the culture, we need at least one author whose name is a household word.

Aspiring authors need something to aspire to, and most authors aren't motivated solely by money. Rightly or wrongly, social validation is a major part of this profession's appeal. The other guys also have a close-knit professional network that can hand out golden tickets and golden parachutes--at least for now. We desperately need to build our own mutual support structures to help newbies get off the sidelines and on the field.

That's why the Dragon Awards are immeasurably important for reclaiming science fiction from the CHORFs--and I don't say that because I won one. The Dragons are a sizable corner of SF fandom that's been taken back from the enemy. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier


  1. Brian,

    I concour with you about the cultural importance of awards. Today is St Jordi and it's the Catalans publishers and autnours biggest day. I loved being there it's very exciting to peruse the books, buy them and even get some autographed.
    Usually i usually look up the winners of the big literafy prizes: Sant Jordi, Josep Pla, etc. I've never been disappointed in the Sant Jordi/Josep Pla award winning books.They're top notch as both literatur(tm) and entertainment
    In Valencia, its literary awards are during Santa Llucia (Sant Lucy) and there'sthe gala supper called la Nit de Santa Llucia. All the media cover yhat event.
    In Spain every small town and entity awards one for every genre. Maybe that dilutes the awards but no biggie
    As you can imagine today all the Catalan and Spanish are covering Sant Jordi.
    Very exciting


  2. It's going to take a lot of work to change the mass assumption of books being boring and pointless overlong slogs, and a lot of that has to come from framing Trad Pub as being the root cause of reading being uncool. Which they are, so there's no problem there. They're already hanging themselves as it is.

    The future is decentralization. Harder to break out in such a system, sure, but also harder to converge.

    Awards are nice. I wouldn't be opposed to being nominated or even winning one, but the general public needs to see the award as valuable and worth paying attention to for it to have any real lasting impact. There isn't any award like that at this moment, but who knows what the future holds.

    It's definitely an exciting time to be on the outside of such a lumber dinosaur of an industry. I'm just waiting for that meteor to finally hit.

    1. "the general public needs to see the award as valuable and worth paying attention to for it to have any real lasting impact."

      That's why I campaigned to keep any of the usual suspects from winning Dragon Awards last year. The blowout they suffered should keep the Dragons safe from concerted convergence attempts like we saw last time. If the Dragons are free to grow sans CHORF meddling, the Dragon brand will soon be widely seen as a prestigious mark of quality.

    2. wow! You and Quom Monzo aree on the same page. Just yesterday on St Jordi when he gave his acceptence speech gor the Premi de lletres catalanes, he complained the ppublishers had succeeded in ensuring that people only buy books once a year but don't read them.
      So the phenomenon isn't restricted to English language publishing


    3. JD

      Here's the link


      And the money quote
      El món editorial ha aconseguit que la gent que no llegeix un puto llibre en tot l’any com a mínim se’l compri. Es tracta de fer bullir l’olla", deixa anar

    4. That's why I campaigned to keep any of the usual suspects from winning Dragon Awards last year.

      A massive SJW bully won anyway, but like you said, it's hard to compete with a guy with his own TV show.

    5. Corey's politics suck, but he's not a darling of the Worldcon crowd. CHORFs like Scalzi and Jemisin either got their asses kicked or saw it coming and withdrew.

      The CHORFs lobbied hard to converge the awards with their BS withdrawal nontroversy. They'd have gained a permanent foothold if even a single member of the Worldcon clique had won. The voters prevented that.

      Corey won fair and square. Meanwhile, the purse puppy hires that the likes of Tor.com keep telling us are major authors writing significant works fled the field or got shellacked. Being a readers' choice award, the Dragons backed the CHORFs into a corner where they had to win for the Hugos not to be exposed as irrelevant. With some help from us, they failed. In every category.

  3. TradPub needs to be burned down, with a flamethrower, after throwing Gasoline on it.

    1. TradPub has earned Napalm.

      Spare no expense.

    2. Megabuster Shepard,

      But how to do the same for the non English publishing? The French and Germans are entrenched thanks to govt protection and largesse?