Flash Fiction: a complete story
in one thousand or fewer words.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Amazon v. Print Publishers

We've covered the story of Amazon's battle with print publishers over e-Book pricing. The Christian Science Monitor has a concise summary of the strange number game behind this battle. In short, it's all about defining the market, for now, rather than profits. Here is a summary of the players'...shall I call it voodoo economics? Nah, that dredges up too many dead topics. Um, here is a summary of what the players want:

Amazon: dear Sirs and Madams: we'd like to buy your e-Books for $13 and sell them for $9.99. Thank you.

Dear Mr. Bezos: thank you for your concern. However, for your benefit, we prefer that you make a nice 30% fee for selling our e-Books. $18.50 sounds like a much nicer retail price.

Motives: Amazon is willing to lose money for now to set the buyers' expectations for low prices for e-Books and own the market. The publishers cringe at the effect that such a low price for e-Books will have on print book sells. Who's in charge here?

In another related article, I saw another motive: Amazon allegedly wants to take the "middle man" (publishers) out of the equation and deal directly with authors.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Flash Fiction For Sale

Out of curiosity, I did a search for "flash fiction" at a certain Humongous Online Bookstore and was surprised to find 116 titles, many with "Flash Fiction," "Very Short Fiction" or some such in the title. Some were alternate editions--older or e-Book editions--but a substantial number were unique. These included fiction collections and non-fiction (how to write flash fiction) books.

Only towards the very end of the list did I suspect that Humongous Online Bookstore was messing with me and would never declare the search at an end until I bought something. (No, War and Peace is not an extremely long flash story.)

Below are some of the titles. This isn't an endorsement. These appeared in the first page of the search. The first on the list is one of Flash Fiction Online editor Jake Freivald's favorites. (Okay, that sounded a little bit like an endorsement.)

  • The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field by Tara L Masih
  • Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories by Robert Shapard and James Thomas
  • Fifty-One Flash Fiction Stories by Louise Michelle
  • Thieves and Scoundrels: Absolute XPress Flash Fiction Challenge #3 by Pete 'Patch' Alberti, Krista D. Ball, James Beamon, and Jodi Cleghorn
  • Nano-Flash Fiction for (Humongous Online Bookstore's famous e-Book reader) by James Dillingham
  • A Brief History of Fables: From Aesop to Flash Fiction (Brief Histories) by Lee Rourke
  • Oh Baby: Flash Fictions and Prose Poetry by Kim Chinquee
  • Six Sentences by Robert McEvily
  • The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories: Flash Fiction from Contemporary China by Shouhua Qi
  • ....

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Trekkie-Zombie Mashup

We interrupt this post for an important announcement: The March 2010 issue of Flash Fiction Online is, well, online. It has three new, excellent stories by Daniel José Older, Caroline M. Yoachim and Andrew Gudgel, plus a classic story, and Bruce Holland Rogers' Short-Short Sighted monthly column.

Now back to our regular posting:

Yikes. Kevin David Anderson has contracted to write a Trekkie/Zombie apocalypse mashup, called Night of the Living Trekkies. Will Mr. Anderson be able to safely attend a Trekkie convention after this? He has published widely in magazines, anthologies and podcasts. My apologies for my earlier misreporting of the actual author of this work. Good luck with this project.

Die hard and prosper, dead Trekkies!

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Flash Fiction in the Market

Duotrope.com is a great place to research fiction publications of interest to you. You may find many publications of which you were unaware. Duotrope's fiction home/search page has a database of about 2825 publications at present. You can search with various filters, such as genre, theme, length, media, pay scale and others.

I decided to search the database for various genres, with the length set to flash. The result is shown in the table below. Adding up the various genres may not be useful since many publications publish multiple genres. This doesn't guarantee that all publications found have ever or ever will publish flash fiction, but at least they are not officially opposed to it.

Flash Fiction Publications by Genre
All genres 1158
Mainstream 382
Experimental 267
Fantasy 176
Science Fiction 169
Horror 162
Magical Realism/Surrealism 123
Cross Genre/Slipstream 119
Mystery 57
Crime/Suspense 40
Action/Adventure 30
Erotica 23
Romance 16

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jay Lake's Novel-Publishing Time Line

By way of PW's Genreville blog is writing machine Jay Lake's novel publishing time line, from his perspective and the publisher's perspective.

I have a problem with this Jay:

Months 1-2 — I draft a book.
Months 3-4 — I redraft the book.

We're talking a full-length novel, right? Not a flash novel? Here's my time line:

Months 1-2: It were a dork and starmy night.
Months 3-4: It was a dark and stormy night.
Months 5-6: Try to come up with an idea....

I also have a problem with this:

Month 11 — Agent issues acceptance check to me, less commission.

What agent? Sigh.

Jay illustrates well why it takes so long for a novel to go from the first peck on the Royal to a bookseller putting the book on the wrong shelf. He also explains why he doesn't self-publish, even though some argue that he could make more money going that path. It's a good read.

Go here to see Jay Lake's Flash Fiction Online story.

Bonus via Kathy: British UFOs! (CNN covered it but The Guardian didn't. Hmmm.)

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tikatok is a print-on-demand web site for kids, now owned by Barnes & Noble. The site has easy templates for creating a book with text and pictures. For those looking for help finding an idea, Tikatok has some "worlds" (StorySparks), to help generate ideas, such as animals and bugs, holidays and vacations, princesses and fairy tales, and school and family. They're also associated with Build-a-Bear, so children can write stories for that setting (although Build-A-Bear owns the copyright to those stories).

Children will need parents to set up the accounts for parent and child, and decide if the site is safe. From other sources, I believe (but am not certain), that parents will be notified by email of their children's actions. Once a book is created, it can be published in hardbound (starts at $18), softbound (starts at $15) and PDF formats ($3).

The web site could be more open with information. "Starts at $18" for hardcover books refers to additional costs, depending on the page count. The additional cost is not explained, except, presumably, once you start the publishing phase. There's little information about the control that the parent has on the process. One would hope that Barnes & Noble has or will vet this service closely.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

SFWA Weighs In On Amazon-Macmillan Battle

FFO covered the Amazon-Macmillan distribution battle. At issue is the price that Amazon wants to charge for eBook versions of new publications. Amazon wanted to charge $9.99. Macmillan thought that was too low. This precipitated a battle in which a new sales model was invoked by Macmillan and "Buy" buttons for Macmillan volumes on Amazon were yanked.

Here are the issues:

  • Macmillan thought the eBook price was predatory and would hurt their print book business.
  • Amazon sees eBooks as a loss leader to drive traffic.
  • Authors want to sell their books and make a living.
  • Buyers want cheap books.

That's not a simple set of issues to solve to everyone's satisfaction. Now, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA.org) has considered the issues (with their members' best interests in mind, presumably) and weighed in on the Amazon-Macmillan battle, supporting Macmillan's case through appeal and through the replacement of Amazon.com links on SFWA's website for their members' books with links to other vendors.

The issues listed above are represented in the many public comments attending SWFA's article.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Muscular Macmillan Wrestles Amazon on eBook Pricing

I've let this story percolate for a while until it took a direction: the publishers' fight with Amazon over eBook pricing. Amazon has been selling eBooks of newly released books for $9.99, which some publishers consider predatory and which undermines their print book sales.

This story has been covered extensively, which is not surprising. SFWA now has a nice article summarizing this issue following Macmillan's muscular move to control its products' pricing on Amazon. Macmillan changed its terms of sale from the wholesale model, in which resellers buy at a discount and sale at any price they wish, to an agency model, in which the reseller takes a commission from the sales. Under the latter arrangement, Amazon would have to sell new Macmillan titles in eBook form at prices starting at just under $13 USD. Amazon responded by yanking the "Buy" button from Macmillan books, but later recanted. It did not go unnoticed that this decision was made in the shadow of Apple's acceptance of the agency model for its new Apple iPad.

Here is SFWA's article on Macmillan vs. Amazon by Victoria Strauss.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Literary Magazines on Life Support

Mother Jones has an impassioned article by the editor of Virginia Quarterly Review, Mr. Ted Genoways, about the herding of America's stable of (usually) university-hosted literary magazines into postmodernism's most distant pasture...or off to the glue factory.

The author gives a 1930s heyday example of then Connecticut governor-elect and editor of Yale Review, Wilbur Cross, who continued editing the magazine while in office, publishing Aldous Huxley, Sherwood Anderson, Maxim Gorky, John Maynard Keynes, and Thomas Mann. All he had to do was "get up early" to handle the 500 submission the magazine received each year.

That bit of trivia is the springboard to the problem. Mr. Genoways' magazine now receives 15,000 submissions per year. The fault belongs to the economy, the evaporation of short fiction from mainstream periodicals, and most interestingly, writers. Most of those time-soaking 15,000 stories were submitted by authors insufficiently skilled to write at the level needed to sustain interest in literary magazines. Says Mr. Genoways:

You may be a precious snowflake, but if you can't express your individuality in sterling prose, I don't want to read about it.

(Snork.) In other words, it's better (and more economical) to receive 100 gems in the mail than 10,000 stones. Authors have become gutless, afraid to write about big issues. Says Mr. Genoways:

Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ's sake, write something we might want to read.

Go here to read, "The Death of Fiction?" Take note also of the many comments following the story, including some responses by Mr. Galoways.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Harper's inkpop Writing Site for Teens

The HarperTeen imprint of HarperCollins has launched a writing site for teens, inkpop. This site allows teen members to post their short fiction, novels, poetry and non-fiction for evaluation by the inkpop community. In theory, the creme that rises to the top is considered by HarperCollins spotters for publishing contracts. I saw a few older users participating, including a twenty-seven year old.

Users must log in to see submissions, so the authors' first publication rights are preserved, as one would expect from a major publisher. The inkpop site's right of passage is in its well-hidden explanation of the service. Look at their About Us link at the bottom of the web page.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Making an eBook--Part 2

We started a series on making an eBook, based on a writer's observance of his publisher's process. In Part 1 of the series, author and eBOOKNEWSER (GalleyCat) blogger Craig Morgan Teicher noted that traditional book publishers like his spend about the same effort on book design for eBooks as print books. They don't want their eBooks to have a lower aesthetic bar than print books. Part 2 and Part 2.5--he split the topic--will be combined here.

In Part 2 of Making an eBook, Mr. Teicher relates his correspondence with Smashwords, who had contacted him after his first post. Smashwords is an eBook publisher--used by many authors and publishers--that has a relatively simple process for producing an eBook in many formats from an MS Word doc file. Smashword's "meatgrinder" application gobbles the meat of your .doc file and grinds out the eBook. You can then publish the eBook on their web site (if you choose), for no cost. They take a royalty on sales. You'll want to read Mr. Teicher's comments about Smashwords. He was favorably impressed but noted that it would not work for him as he needed linked files in his eBook, which are not supported yet by Smashwords. That's a problem with monolithic applications like that; you get what you get. You can diddle your source file, but you can't affect how the application converts your file.

I had the same issue with an otherwise very nice application, Calibre, that's free and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. The website is terse but has a decent style book. It has many input formats and output (eBook) formats. Smashwords is quite attractive considering its publishing option and support.

In Part 2.5 of Making an eBook, Mr. Teicher iterated his thoughts about his publishing company's eBook philosophy. They want a consistent look to all their eBooks and worry that they won't achieve that with applications like Smashwords' Meatgrinder. Unless they find an alternative, they'll hand code their Kindle eBooks. In that case, Mr. Teicher will report on that process as it happens.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Making an eBook

We can all save a file as a PDF and declare it an eBook, but for book publishers, it's a different matter. They still have book design issues, such as fonts, page design, illustrations, cover art...like a printed book. For an eBook that's being poised for sale at a cost in the neighborhood of a print book, the main differences from print publishing are the cost of production and distribution. The other headaches remain.

Here is the first post of a series on the making of an eBook. The subject matter of the book happens to be poetry because the author of the blog post on eBOOKNEWSER (GalleyCat), Craig Morgan Teicher, is also the author of the poetry volume. He'll watch each stage of his publisher's process and report them on his blog. I'll try to keep up with it and post notices when there's a new article in the series.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Bruce Holland Rogers Kudos

Flash Fiction Online likes its monthly columnist, Bruce Holland Rogers. See the Short-Short Sighted column in each issue of FFO.

Realms of Fantasy likes Bruce, too. According to SF Scope, the editor of RoF went off their story-purchasing cycle to purchase Bruce's "Fallen" story to accommodate his upcoming travel plans. Nice.

Bruce, could you ask them to reject my stories by saying "it's not horrible," rather than, "it's not right for us at this time?"

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

eBook Market Analysis

Here is an interesting analysis of the fledgling eBook market and its relationship to the traditional book market. The analysis was done by TBI Research, a new market newsletter that will eventually be a subscription-only publication. I found this by way of agent Kristen Nelson's Pub Rants blog (highly recommended). Adding to the interest of the article are the comments that round out the coverage, including one by Tim O'Reilly, the publisher of the "O'Reilly zoo" software/Internet-related books found profusely in a bookstore near you.

One of the main points of the article is that Amazon is nearly alone, at present, flexing its muscles trying to bring down the cost of eBooks, while losing $2 per sale. It seems logical that eBooks should be cheaper to produce, and they are to a degree, but the degree is not as flexible as one might expect. There are many analogs between the newspaper print/online shakeouts that are happening now and the eBook/online/print book industry. It will be bloody.

One commenter mentioned that eBooks can be sold as iPhone apps. I think the iPhone app market is telling. Presently, many game and utility apps sell for $0.99. The reasoning is that people will pay 99-cents for anything on a lark, even apps that merely make rude noises...and sell 20,000 copies nearly instantly. I'm not suggesting that the book market can sell new books at that price level (and pay the authors a reasonable amount!), but part of the struggle is to find the what-the-heck level for eBooks. There is a point where print copy buyers eyes will arch at a bargain and past non-readers will say, what-the-heck.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nielson Folds Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher

By way of the SFWA: Nielsen Business Media is downsizing to concentrate on its core brands. It has sold eight brands, including Adweek and Billboard, to a new partnership, e5 Global Media Holdings. However, it is shutting down two other important, longstanding brands, Kirkus Reviews and Editor & Publisher. (Both links were active at the time of posting.)

Editor & Publisher is the authoritative journal covering all aspects of the North American newspaper industry, including business, newsroom, advertising, circulation, marketing, technology, online and syndicates.

Based in New York City, the magazine dates back to 1884, when The Journalist, a weekly, was founded. E&P was launched in 1901 and merged with The Journalist in 1907....(more).

Kirkus Reviews, founded in 1933, is published biweekly and reviews, 2 to 3 months before the publication date, approximately 5,000 titles per year: fiction, mysteries, sci-fi, translations, nonfiction, and children's and young-adult books. The reviews are reliable and authoritative, written by specialists selected for their knowledge and expertise in a particular field.

It takes the Kirkus staff, plus more than 100 freelance writers....(more).

One hopes someone will pick up these publications.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

E-Book Backlist Publishing Rights and Challenges

Who owns e-book publishing rights to older backlist books, the author (or author's estate) or the first publisher? Here are two articles about this topic and a third article on challenges to e-book publishing.

In this NYT article, author William Styrom's family is asserting their e-book publishing rights to his books (Sophie's Choice and others). Similar battles are ongoing for Joseph Heller's Catch 22 and for many other authors. Styrom's family believes they retain the rights since the books were published prior to the onset of e-book publishing. In this PW article, Styrom's publisher, Random House, disagrees. Random House chairman Markus Dohle's letter to agents states that Random House

...believes the “vast majority” of its backlist contracts “grant us the right to publish books in electronic formats,” while older agreements “often give us the exclusive right to publish ‘in book form’ or ‘in any and all editions.’

In a related article, Stephen's Lighthouse blog gives ten challenges for e-books, including price, perceived poor quality, a lack of richness and others.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Publishing's Darkest Moments in 2009

Media Bistro's GalleyCat blog gives their choices for publishing's darkest moments in 2009. They will follow up with a similar brightest moments article soon, and now are inviting suggestions.

Because of the brevity of GalleyCat's post, I'll mention only one of their five picks and suggest that you go to their site for links to articles about each event. Perhaps the most interesting (but least important) is the six-figure book deal that Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich received after his corruption scandal.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Harlequin Delisted from RWA and MWA

Background: these two FFO posts [1 2] gave the story of romance publisher Harlequin's dance with a self-publishing imprint, and the near-immediate threats from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America and Horror Writers of America to delist Harlequin from their approved publishers list. The consequence of those actions would be that writers could not then use Harlequin publishing credits for membership into the those writers' professional organizations or participate in their awards programs. (There are speculative fiction subcategories in romance.)

Recently, Mystery Writers of America has delisted romance publisher Harlequin from its qualified publishers list, even though Harlequin removed its direct connection to the self-publishing arm by renaming it from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press. That link includes MWA's statement about their decision and Harlequin's reply. Earlier, Romance Writers of America delisted Harlequin, too, according to various sources. (The RWA requires a membership to read its breaking news section, so a link is not provided here.)

In a side note, here is an SFWA article (by way of Writers Beware) about the blurring of the distinction between self-publishing and vanity publishing.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Admission: Future of Publishing Unknowable

Finally someone admits it: in this article in Resource Shelf, the author states his belief that the future of publishing is unknowable. So while some publishing analysts agonize over specifics, such as:

  • whether the B&N Nook will overtake the Amazon Kindle before Apple enters the field with one of several hypothetical devices,
  • or whether the brick and mortar stores will survive,
  • or whether *some* form of digital bookselling will win out,

the author of the article suggests that there are too many variables to make a reasonable guess. The variables include shrinking profit margins due to digital technology, the structural transformation of the publishers and sellers due to conglomeration, and rapid cultural changes that obviate serious reading.

Read the short article for more details of this issue, or go to this LA Observed article for yet more detail. The latter article is a summary of a speech given by agent/book editor Steve Wasserman, a former Los Angeles Times book editor.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tweeting Stories a Mixed Blessing--Rick Moody

Novelist Rick Moody, known especially for his novel The Ice Storm, experimented by tweeting a short story, "Some Contemporary Characters," in 153 tweets over three days, according to this Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy article: Rick Moody’s Twitter Short Story Draws Long List of Complaints.

The experiment was complicated by at least three factors: two publishers were simultaneously publishing the story, some of the followers followed both publishers, and the publishers mixed the story tweets with ordinary tweets. Some followers therefore received duplicate tweets, and may also have received unrelated tweets interspersed with the story tweets. The immediacy of the tweets was one attractive aspect of the experiment for the author, but one can imagine other issues, too, such as time zone differences (killing the immediacy).

It seems like these are not insurmountable obstacles, the solution being, don't do that: don't simultaneously publish and don't mix tweets (by creating a special tweet address for the occasion). The complaint about the mixing of tweets seems specious; avid Twitterers may get tweets from many unrelated sources.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Harlequin, RMA, SFWA and MWA Have Love Spat

A few days ago, I ran a tongue-in-cheek post about Harlequin's deal with Author Solutions to produce a self-publishing romance imprint called Harlequin Horizons. Publishers Weekly now reports that Romance Writers of America rebuked Harlequin for this move and threatened a sanction affecting Harlequin's ability to enter their publications in RWA's award competitions. What RWA finds agregious, apparently, is that the similarity of the imprint's name to their pro imprints would likely confuse consumers about professionally written and self-published stories.

In Publishers Weekly's follow-up article, Mystery Writers of America and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America also weighed in, with the MWA threatening to bar Harlequin writers from membership and awards and the SFWA warning that the self-publishing authors should be made aware that:

"...books in the program will not be distributed into brick-and-mortar bookstores ensuring 'that the titles will not be breaking into the real fiction market.'”

The SFWA also threatened to bar Harlequin writers from membership.

Harlequin could not ignore these huge threats to their own prestige and to their stable of authors and renamed the imprint, DellArte Press. SFWA argued that a name change was insufficient and that Harlequin should completely disassociate itself from the self-publishing program.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

AgentInbox Writer-Agent Web Service

WEbook has started its AgentInbox web service to connect writers with agents. The basic process is:

  • A writer submits a query letter, synopsis and book chapters, as required by the agent.
  • AgentInbox editors verify that the submission formally meets the agent's requirements.
  • AgentInbox forwards the submission material to the agent (without comment on its quality), or returns it to the writer for formal correction.
  • If the work is forwarded to the agent, the writer and agent communicate directly, as if they'd connected conventionally.

AgentInbox is a beta service and is currently gratis. They have quite a few noted agents signed up and one landed writer/agent contract as of the time of posting. Some of the agencies represented by the thirty or so participating agents include Jill Grinberg Literary Management, Writers House, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency, and others.

Here are two articles that review AgentInbox:

Since I was unfamiliar with WEbook, it took me awhile to realized that WEbook's author community and AgentInbox were completely separate services. WEbook gives authors a place to review each others' manuscripts; completed/polished stories may be voted on and published by WEbook. Most commentators consider WEbook a form of self-publishing.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Virtual Author Assitants and Book Shephards

At the SFWA blog, Victoria Strauss posted an article for Writer Beware about virtual author assistants (VAAs). VAAs have taken a 30-day course to qualify them for a VAA certificate which, according to the course web site, enables them to:

...work behind the scenes to create, organize and coordinate all the different pieces necessary to get a book published.

See Victoria Strauss' analysis of virtual author assistants certification for more information. She also briefly compares VAAs to book shephards and offers this book shephard link to the Selling Books blog for further information.

Writer Beware also happens to have an article on Harlequin's new self-publishing imprint, which was recently reported on the FFO news blog.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Author Solutions Romances Harlequin for Self Publishing

This article may stir Flash Fiction Online readers' hearts mainly because it unclothes the efforts traditional publishers are making to romance their readers. Author Solutions, a slender, young meta-self-publishing company representing iUniverse and other self-publishing companies, has successfully flirted with Harlequin, the robust, muscle-bound Romance publisher. Their union will bear fruit in the Harlequin Horizons imprint.

Harlequin Horizons will try a reconciliation with the authors Harlequin has rejected in the past and seal their reunion with a self-publishing contract under the cover of the Horizons imprint. (Don't gossip, but they'll seek new paramours at the same time.)

Author Solutions has sealed a similar covenant with Christian publisher Nelson, for the WestBow imprint.

Peek through Publishers Weekly's window for a less-annoying rendition of this story.

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Hugo Awards SemiProzine Category Saved

Good news for small publishers: according to Internet Review of Science Fiction (IROSF), the SemiProzine category in the Hugo Awards has been saved from extinction. At issue was the odd situation in which Locus Magazine was the shoo-in winner for the award for so long that the award seemed pointless; attendees at the last WorldCon therefore suggested that the category be ended.

Various interested publishers formed SemiProzine.org and suggested reforms to better define and save the category and were successful in their bid for at least few years.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Significant Objects Project: Stories for Found Objects

Flash Fiction Online's columnist, Bruce Holland Rogers, is participating as a writer in the Significant Objects Project. The premise of the project is:

A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!

Curators for the project purchase thrift store objects, for a few dollars. Writers in the project write a fictional story about their selected object. The object is then placed for auction on eBay, with the story serving as the object's description on the auction page. The winner receives the object, a printed copy of the story, and the author's thanks.

Bruce's auction object is an umbrella trinket. The object and story can now be viewed in an eBay auction. As with all objects that generate stories for the project, the auctioned object goes to the highest bidder and the proceeds go to the author of the story. Here are links to the object (Umbrella Trinket) and its auction.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New SF Magazine: Lightspeed

According to Locus Online and others, John Joseph Adams will leave Fantasy Magazine to edit Lightspeed, a sister publication that will publish science fiction. At the time of posting this article, the Lightspeed web site just has some slick graphics. Writers' guidelines will appear in early December. The first publication date is set for June 2010.

Here is what John Joseph Adams' personal website had to say about the content of Lightspeed Magazine:

Lightspeed will focus exclusively on science fiction. It will feature all types of sf, from near-future, sociological soft sf, to far-future, star-spanning hard sf, and anything and everything in between....New content will be posted twice a week, including one piece of fiction, and one piece of non-fiction. The fiction selections each month will consist of two original stories and two reprints, except for the debut issue, which will feature four original pieces of fiction. All of the non-fiction will be original.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Harlan Ellison Publishing Again

With at least ten Hugos, four Nebulas, five Bram Stokers and an Edgar on his resume, Harlan Ellison will soon publish his first short story in ten years. He was born in 1934. According to SF Scope, Harlen Ellison will publish a story with Realms of Fantasy in February 2010. Wikipedia claims he's published such a large volume of works that it seems impossible (and so won't be repeated here), among them, "short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, essays, and a wide range of criticism covering not only literature, but film, television, and print media." He's a short fiction kind of guy, with only one novel (but inlcluding critical works reaching novel length).

Here is a collection of short biographies of Harlan Ellison, some real and others surreal, and one from an Internet news group (alt.fan.harlan-ellison) by Isaac Asimov. The "real" Brief Bio more than corroborates the publishing count evaded above:

He has written or edited 75 books; more than 1700 stories, essays, articles, and newspaper columns; two dozen teleplays, for which he received the Writers Guild of America most outstanding teleplay award for solo work an unprecedented four times; and a dozen movies.

Side note: the February 2009 issue of Realms of Fantasy will also include a story by fast-rising Aliette de Bodard. Here is an interview of Aliette de Bodard by Internet Review of Science Fiction.

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Friday, November 6, 2009

How to Make a Book

You've always wanted to make and bind a book because it looked like fun? Or you've given up on publishing that 20-year-old trunk novel of yours? Or you want please your relatives with a gift of your mother's or grandmother's mind-numbingly awful poetry, or you own brilliant, misunderstood and under-appreciated poetry? Here is a blog post on how to make a book by semi-anonymous "EB" at The Olive Reader blog of Harper Perennial. I'd put that article more in the inspirational than how-to category, but it has pictures of her/his project and a link to a how-to book. I've seen several similar books in bookstore craft sections. (Careful, or you could find yourself in legal turmoil if you pick up a book on the wrong kind of bookmaking.)

Here is a terse but perhaps adequate explanation on the web on how to make a book. Here is a more elaborate presentation on the process of bookmaking. This article was the basis of an article in Make magazine, an eclectic and excellent source for (often geeky) make-it-yourself projects, and so is likely of high-quality.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Asimov's I, Robot Sequels?

Here is a Keeping the Door article in two parts:

News: long after the death of Isaac Asimov, his estate has authorized I, Robot sequels, to be written by Mickey Zucker Reicher. The first will follow Dr. Susan Calvin, robopsychologist, in Robots and Chaos. The Guardian (UK) provides a bit more about the new series of I, Robot stories.

Commentary: the author of the Keeping the Door article, Australian technology journalist/editor Renai LeMay, provides an impassioned trilogy of rebuke of this move by Asimov's estate: he wonders if the relatively unknown author, Reicher, has the gravitas to stand in Asimov's substantial shoes; he believes the series of I, Robot books already stands on its own and needs no completion; and, he believes the estate is clueless about the genre, but not money-grubbing. (And then he got really mad.)

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iPhone: Book Apps Surpass Game Apps

For the last year or so, game application releases were the top category of iPhone apps, according to Venture Beat. Now, iPhone book app releases are exceeding game apps. Keep in mind that this refers to the release of applications for sale rather than sales of applications, where, in this case, the release of a book in iPhone format is an application. This opens more questions than it answers. What sort of books are being released? Out-of-print? New releases? Best sellers or mid-list? It is a relatively simple matter to release a book for an iPhone compared to developing and releasing a new or existing game for the iPhone platform. There is a huge pent-up supply of books (which is a separate matter from pent-up desire for purchase), so one would expect this trend to continue for some time.

Related: Barnes & Noble releases the Nook eBook reader, their response to the Amazon Kindle. Their play is a second color screen for control and more eBook format support.

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Paths to Publication

Yesterday, we spoke of the transition of a ten-sentence picture book to a ninety-minute movies, Where the Wild Things Are. (Maurice Sendak's long history in publishing and avid fan base might have a little bit to do with it.) Today, Publishers Weekly has an article about an iPhone app, a popular game called Soul Trapper, netting the game author a book trilogy deal. The article seems to suggest that what the publisher is getting is rights to use the world via third-party writers rather than stories from the game author.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Three More Frankensteins from Koontz

If you liked his trilogy of best-selling Frankenstein novels, you'll be happy to know that Publishers Weekly is reporting that Bantam has signed up Dean Koontz for three more Frankenstein novels.

Koontz's Frankenstein website doesn't have any new information, yet, but it probably will, in time.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Realms of Fantasy Open for Submissions

Normally, the opening of submissions for a magazine is not unusual news. In the case of Realms of Fantasy it is due to their drama of the last year: closing of the magazine, rumors of the sale of the magazine, sale of and reopening of the magazine. And for the last seven months or so since resuming publication, they've been consuming the stories that they already had in the pipeline before they closed, which I'm sure the authors appreciated. So...good luck from FFO!

Thanks to SFscope for the lead to this article, which has a link to the assistant editor's blog article on RoL's reopening to submissions.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Behind The Scenes of Short Fiction Anthologies

SF Signal has an excellent three-part series of articles about the process of producing speculative short fiction anthologies. This should be of interest to readers and writers.

  • Part 1 Contributors: Jeff VanderMeer, Ellen Datlow, Mike Resnick, Nick Mamatas, Vera Nazarian, John Joseph Adams, Jonathan Strahan, and Allan Kaster
  • Part 2 Contributors: James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Mike Allen, Jetse de Vries, Julie E. Czerneda
  • Part 3 Contributors: Rich Horton, Nick Kyme, George Mann, Lou Anders, Ann VanderMeer, and Jack Dann

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disney Online E-books Play

Through DisneyDigitalBooks.com, Disney Publishing Worldwide is offering an online e-book service for readers from 3 to 12 years of age. This is a no-device service (ie, no e-book reader such as the Kindle required). Disney has about 500 books online now and intends to continuously expand the offerings. This includes traditional storybooks and chapter books and newer material, such as Hannah Montana material. The service will include features such as storybook creation and a personal space.

Some industry observers [1 2] claim this is an attempt at an industry-defining move, marketing directly to parents, and requiring no special devices. The annual subscription is about $80. There is a monthly subscription of about $8. These subscriptions are for up to three children in the household, according to the DisneyDigitalBooks.com. They have a free trial, presently.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Status of Science Fiction: 1951, Life Magazine

Various SF fandom bloggers, including Mike Glyer at File 770 have raved about an article, published in 1951 by Life Magazine, about the status of science fiction. The bloggers were especially impressed by the author's understanding of SF fandom.

The reason this article surfaced was Google's publishing of 1800 digital copies of Life Magazine, from 1936-1972. The photography is great. The advertisements are fun. (Tip: you wives or hopeful girls filling your hope chests will find the kitchen gadget ads quite helpful. And men: where else can you shop for a Desoto?)

(Cough.) Here is the article on science fiction publishing and fandom in 1951 from the May 21, 1951 issue of Life Magazine. Zoom in and be prepared for lots of article continuations. Added bonus: this is a summer beach fashion issue (whoo hoo), and includes photos of a B-36 crash.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Google Book Search Rattled by DOJ

It is probably best not to comment too often on the Google Book Search controversy as it has many twists and turns. This Google Book Search article by Wired and many other publications suggests that the U.S. Department of Justice's opinion will likely delay a federal court ruling:

The Justice Department, which began looking into the proposed settlement over monopoly concerns, suggested that the settlement seeks such broad changes in copyright law that the court needs to be very careful and should reject the current version.

From the DOJ's web site news article on the Google settlement:

"Given the parties’ express commitment to ongoing discussions to address concerns already raised and the possibility that such discussions could lead to a settlement agreement that could legally be approved by the Court, the public interest would best be served by direction from the Court encouraging the continuation of those discussions between the parties and, if the Court so chooses, by some direction as to those aspects of the Proposed Settlement that need to be improved. Because a properly structured settlement agreement in this case offers the potential for important societal benefits, the United States does not want the opportunity or momentum to be lost."

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Web Trend: Charge for Premium Content

We've had several posts about online media services, particularly newspapers, struggling with finding a viable business model. The Wall Street Journal and others likely will start charging for "premium content." Derivative services like Media Bistro have taken this approach as well. Now, one of the top blogs, Ars Technica, will begin charging for premium content (about $50/year).

In line with this trend, this blog will begin charging $0.05 per century, payable at the end of the century. It's on an honor system.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

James Patterson a Writer or a Book Factory?

That was the question posed in a Forbes (online) article, prompted by James Patterson's $150M, 17-book deal with Hachette Book Group. Mr. Patterson will produce a mix of adult and YA books under this arrangement.

I have a comment: hey Hachette, you could've had me for $50M.

On the other hand, Mr. Patterson has a track record. Speaking of the CEO of Hachette, the Forbes article writer, Lauren Streib, said:

But Young got a bargain. Patterson's not a writer. He's a fiction (and non-fiction) factory. In 2008 he authored or co-authored seven books and in his 33-year career as a published author he's written 57. He sells an average of 20 million books per year.

The article has interesting comments about James Patterson's continuing hand in the design of his books, based on his ad agency background.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

333-Word Flash Fiction

The origin of 333-word short short fiction is unclear, but it may have come into existence because such a story would fit into three iPhone screens. Here is an iPhone app that will download up to 333-word stories from TripleQuick Fiction. The app includes a form for uploading submissions for publication. TripleQuick Fiction is associated with featherproof books, a Chicago-based indie print publisher. (This story by way of Publishers Weekly.)

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The Secret History of Science Fiction

A post of yesterday, Is Science Fiction Dead?, spoke to the difficulty of defining science fiction in a changing market place. SF Scope has a related post today about an anthology edited to explore the edges of science fiction. The anthology is called, The Secret History of Science Fiction, edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel for Tachyon Publications. These stories are:

making the case for the convergence of mainstream fiction and literary sf.

SF Scope's article contains the complete table of contents for this anthology. The list of authors includes Ursula K. Le Guin, Gene Wolf, Don DeLillo, one by each of the editors, and others.

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Is Science Fiction Dead?

Here is a thoughtful article about science fiction by Hugo Awards winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch, entitled, The Marketing Category is Dead! Long Live the Genre! The title tells it all. People are running away from the tainted genre of science fiction and buying or viewing something else entirely: science fiction dressed up in another wrapper. One of her examples was Time Traveler's Wife, a bestseller and now a movie. Rusch pointed out that critics of the book had to see a chiropractor after explaining why TTW was not a science fiction story. She gives other examples of books that defy simple classification in a tradition genre, since they are mashups of some combination of SF, romance, mystery, thriller or horror.

For the rest of the commentary, go The Internet Review of Science Fiction web site.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Google Books Offers Creative Commons Publishing

Maybe it's time to go trunk diving for your unsaleable novels, collections, poetry or non-fiction titles. Google Books will now offer a Creative Commons License publishing option, according to the Inside Google Books blog. You can choose from a variety of Creative Commons licenses. You would sign up with Google as a partner (a free service) to promote your book. If you are a True Believer in this form of publishing, then you'd publish your best novels or other works this way rather than your trunk novels.

Of course, you can publish the book on your own under the same license; you'd use Google's service if you think that would increase readership of the book.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Google's Future of New Digital's Books

FFO has given some coverage [1 2] of this never-ending story after major breaks. This chapter involves Google's view of new books [Media Bistro] rather than the zillions of out-of-print books about which Google locked horns with the Authors Guild.

Google figures new publications will have digital versions and you'll not want to have copies stored on your e-book reader, smart phone, or computer. You'll want to store it on the cloud, where you'll always be able to find it.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do You Write Like a Girl?

Apparently, an editor's opinion can be influenced by a writers' name. Here is a story at StoryTellersUnplugged about a writer who had a book publishing contract moving along nicely. Within six weeks, it took a turn south for a strange reason...no spoilers.

Bonus! Apparently, it's dangerous to text while driving (23-fold more dangerous). Who woulda thunk it?

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Bloggers and News Services

Many bloggers are news aggregators. They find news stories related to the interests of their readers and summarize them. A popular type of news aggregation is the "tech" blog, where the bloggers find geeky news for their geeky readers. They give short summaries of the news and give links to the original sources. This blog is an attempt to find news of interest to speculative fiction readers and writers, although it is not quite as laser-focused as the tech blogs. Readers and writers in general have wide interests, so the spectrum of articles here is wide. This blog attempts to give brief descriptions of cited news articles, add something to it, and link to the original or secondary source.

There is a point. Some of the news services, like the Associated Press, and major newspapers are becoming concerned about news aggregators. (Blogs are not the only type of news aggregation.) Newspapers (and therefore news services) are trying to discern a business model by which they can survive in the new economy. Print ads alone don't seem to work any longer, and subscribers don't seem willing to pay for online services. So, the publishers are feeling a bit robbed by aggregators. They complain that aggregators take their headlines and article summaries without compensating the originators. Bloggers claim fair use rights. Even aggregators complain about other aggregators. (Google News comes to mind; they've gone after heavy-handed aggregators who use Googles' headlines and summaries.) Both sides have arguments; these will not be argued here. This is just to keep the FFO readers and writers informed, since many of them have blogs.

The news incident that prompted this article is AP's new news registry, by which they hope to track copyright violations more closely, as reported by ReadWriteWeb. Bloggers who report their latest writing failures and triumphs, and count and report the burps and hiccups of their children need not worry. (But keep an eye on AP, in case they pick up your article.)

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Children's Books that Influenced Authors

Publishers Weekly has excerpts from a book, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book, that answers the question asked of various public figures: what children's book changed the way you see the world? PW excerpted the comments from public figures associated with the creation of books for young people, including Maurice Sendak and Beverly Cleary.

Maurice Sendak says:

Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon is just immense fun. Harold does exactly as he pleases. There are no adults to demonstrate or remonstrate. The book comes out of a particular theory of children's books: Just let the kid do his own thing; let him have fun....

The children's book publishing figures excerpted include: Peter Sís, Leonard Marcus, Maurice Sendak, Beverly Cleary, Wendell Minor, David Macaulay, Thacher Hurd, Eric Rohmann, Marc Brown, and Eden Ross Lipson.

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Romance at Flash Fiction Online?

Yes...FFO receives romance submissions in the slush pile now and then. It's been a top genre for many years in the book trade, sometimes trouncing speculative fiction sales as a whole. The expansion into romance-related sub-genres has been heavy, including SF and fantasy. Here are a couple of related articles:

The 'king' of bodice-rippers, Harlequin, now has a new imprint for teens, Harlequin Teen, with a speculative edge. Yes, the article mentions Stephanie Meyers; her stories blasted this market open.

SF Scope has reported on the paranormal romances noted in the Romance Writers of America's 2009 RITA and Golden Heart Award.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Why Book Publishing Must Die

Here is an opinion piece by Richard Nash, former publisher at Soft Skull Press, why traditional book publishing will and should die.

"The book business is a tiny industry perched atop a massive hobby. But rather than celebrate and serve the hobbyists, we expect them to shell out ever more money for the books we keep throwing at them...."

Mr. Nash does not offer new, concrete ideas for a new business model for book publishing to connect readers to writers, but gives a concise description of the angst of the industry.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Realms of Fantasy Moving Ahead

SF Scope reports that Realms of Fantasy (which had ceased operation), is now operating. They've purchased stories that the previous owner had accepted but not yet published. They've not opened their submissions gate yet because of these prior commitments to authors. This is a Good Thing.

See SF Scope's article on Realms of Fantasy's first purchases.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Kindle Indie Strikes Publishing Deal

Successful independent publishing is possible. Here is a short Tech Crunch article about a writer who self-published via Amazon's Kindle platform and later struck a publishing deal with Simon and Schuster.

A significant factor in his success (besides the apparent quality of the novel) was heavy self-promotion of his book (i.e., hard work).

Bonus!: Here is a write-up on the anticipated Apple MacPad, a competitor to the Amazon Kindle. Apple is trying to make the MacPad compelling even to current iPhone owners.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Free Book Not Free Enough

FFO reported previously about the controversy of Wired editor Chris Anderson's alleged use of Wikipedia material without attribution for his book, Free, about the need of online material to be free.

Publishers Weekly has a follow-up, now that the book is online via Scribd. It seems that the word free is scary to many. Not having read the book, I can only surmise that Mr. Anderson means free as in free beer, rather than freedom, in the linux/open source software sense. Amusingly, PW reports that free is not free enough. Some online commentors at that Scribd site were complaining they couldn't download the book. Here is the Publishers Weekly article.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Speculative Fiction Publishing Trends

Strange Horizons magazine has an interesting online article on the recent trends of speculative book publishing. It was written by Mr. Valentin D. Ivanov, a Bulgarian professional astronomer, folklorist and speculative fiction writer.

Mr. Ivanov's method was to survey the Notable Books received for review since about 1998 by Locus Online magazine, since they are highly regarded publication and have a broad view of what is speculative fiction. He tabulated and graphed the data for your viewing. He divided the books into 18 categories, including genres of speculative fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

In general, all categories are in a pleasing rise, with the exception of anthologies and collections, which are flat or slightly negative. The article also gives figures for the proportion of sequels published.

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Zombies Are Back, At a Neighborhood Bookstore Near You

Zombies are back. Pocket Books has made a seven-book deal with horror publisher Permuted Press for zombie titles, according to Publishers Weekly.

If you can't get enough zombies, here is a list of about eight-dozen zombie novels, with links at the end for games, movies, non-fiction and other essential zombie lore.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

July '09 Flash Fiction Online Issue Up

The July '09 Flash Fiction Online issue is up and it's a good one. We have a ghost story, a sobering mainstream story, an honest-to-goodness romance with a charming character, and a science fiction Classic Flash.

Bruce Holland Rogers discusses character and gives us character story called “Jerry”.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fiction News: Good, Not So Good, Bad

News from Ralan:

The Good:
--Emerald Tales: new bimonthly PDF publication (all genres and poetry).

The Not So Good:
--Polluto (SF/F/H counter-cultural) is going from quarterly to bi-annual publication.

The Bad:
--Talebones (SF/dark fantasy) is ceasing publication as a periodical (but will complete the presently planned issues) and may continue as an annual anthology in a year.

--Lone Star Stories (SpecFic/Interstitial): shuttered.

All of the above happen to be in the "Paying" category at Ralan.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Magazines on iPhone

You may now view many magazines via an iPhone or iTouch. For example, Zinio is offering 20 mainstream magazines such as Car & Driver, Technology Review, and Woman's Day for free (but I'd read for now into that).

More interestingly, though, are some magazines created specifically for this platform, such as this one reported by SF Crowsnest: a '20s and '30s-inspired pulp fiction magazine called Steampunk Tales. The first issue includes contributions by Jay Lake and others. Here is the SF Crowsnest write-up and the Steampunk Tales website.

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Two Agatha Christie Poirot Stories Found

If you bought the world's thickest book, you're going to be annoyed or happy, depending on the angle of your book collector/reader seesaw. According to the NYT, author John Curran found two new Poirot short stories while researching Agatha Christie's papers.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Benjamin Franklin Award Winners 2009

According to their website, the Benjamin Franklin Awards are:

Named in honor of America's most cherished publisher/printer, the Benjamin Franklin Awards™ recognizes excellence in independent publishing. Publications, grouped by genre are judged on editorial and design merit by top practitioners in each field.

The award includes many non-fiction categories and some fiction categories, and the Bill Fisher Award for First Book. The fiction awards are not genre-specific; the present first book award in fiction is a SF/F story: Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, Mermaid Publishing, LLC

Here are the finalists for 2009. Interestingly, they don't mention the authors' names. The awards are for the independent publishers.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Twitterzine Roundup

There are some new twitterzines. I've listed some below with a short description of what they publish (taken from the twitter bio and/or their web page info). They're shown starting with the most-recent start dates (approximately). The ones showcased are Nanoism (literary & genre), TweetTheMeat (horror), Escarp (poetry and prose), Outshine (optimistic, near future prose) and the granddaddy, Thaumatrope (genre fiction).

In addition, there is The Drabblecast, an audio fiction podcast for short stories "at the far side of the weird" but who also tweets stories that are exactly 100-characters in length once per week. Jake Freivald, FFO's editor-in-chief, has two audio podcasts there [drabblecast 97 and 102].

Bio A new, paying twitterzine for thoughtful nanofiction.

Accepts all genres. However, we are most interested in literary fiction—stories that move us with their writing, stories that stay with us longer than the few seconds it takes to read them. Fret not, we do have a soft spot for science fiction, fantasy, and other genres, but we are looking for stories with staying power: stories that leave an impression disproportionate to their length. We’ll also take a look at prose poetry, so long as it contains elements of character, plot, and—most importantly—motion.

Bio: Twitter Horrorzine. Fear in 140 characters or less.

Horror/weird/speculative market that opened in May, 2009.)

Bio escarp is a selective, twitter-based review of brief poetry and prose. Visit escarp.org for guidelines.

Bio: Twitterzine for optimistic, near future prose poems: flashforwards

Bio Thaumatrope is a twitter fiction magazine for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror fiction under 140 characters

The Drabblecast
Stories of exactly 100-characters, "on the far side of the weird," weekly.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

World's Thickest Book

It's a mystery what the world's thickest book is: a new, limited-edition (500 copies) Agatha Christie collection containing 12 Miss Marple novels and 20 short stories. The book has 252 hand-sewn sections each having 16 pages. A picture at this AgathaChristie.com web site article has a proper lady with book in lap if you wish to see the scale of the book. This is a HarperCollins effort using a period book binding company. (If you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it...but if you can, a HarperCollins sales rep will call you personally.)

I wonder if in their claim that this is the world's largest book that they considered the U.S. Congressional Record.

BONUS! Besides being Memorial Day in the U.S., it is Towel Day. This day celebrates towels because they are considered the most useful object in the universe, according to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Doug Adams. Don't Panic!

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Amazon Entering Traditional Publishing?

Apparently Amazon.com is making a move into traditional publishing with their AmazonEncore unit. The first step, described here by Publishers Weekly, seems tentative with a first acquisition of a teen's self-published novel. The PW article gives some insight into their editorial process, but here is Amazon's explanation:

AmazonEncore is a new program whereby Amazon will use information such as customer reviews on Amazon.com to identify exceptional, overlooked books and authors with more potential than their sales may indicate. Amazon will then partner with the authors to re-introduce their books to readers through marketing support and distribution into multiple channels and formats, such as the Amazon.com Books Store, Amazon Kindle Store, Audible.com, and national and independent bookstores via third-party wholesalers.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Digitital Licensing for the Little Guy or Gal

Cory Doctorow, uber speculative fiction writer and blogger has an interesting piece on digital licensing for the little guy or gal (i.e., commercial agreements sans lawyers). His thoughts are tied to the Creative Commons family of licenses, one of which is "free for non-commercial use," such as my contribution to the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology. With this license, you can remix the anthology and distribute it all you want, non-commercially. If you sell it, you're in violation of the license.

Cory is talking about commercial use, which also is anticipated by the Creative Commons license family. He uses an example of a craft piece he bought, a coke bottle carved in wood by a villager in Africa. Would the Coca Cola company go after that craftsman? Of course not. It makes no commercial sense--or any kind of sense--to do so. If the craftsman felt the obligation to make a deal, the lawyers' fees on both ends would negate the point of it.

Cory states that simple agreements are adequate for the commercial space, particularly on the community scale or lower end of the Internet commercial space, between the African craftsman example and a Sony/Coca Cola merchandising deal...probably closer to the former than the latter. He gives this example of an agreement for "your logos, literature, photos, and artwork":

"You are free to use the visual, textual, and audiovisual elements of this work in commercial projects, provided that you remit 20 percent of the gross income arising from your sales to doctorow@paypal.com. You are required to remit these funds on a quarterly basis, or on an annual basis where the total owing is less than $100."

There is just this agreement, with no lawyers to negotiate the details down to the gnat's behind. Can you be cheated? Of course. Could a small enterprise afford to monitor the practices and finances of their fifteen distributors of their small-volume screen-printed tee shirt business and stay in business? Unlikely. It might as well be simple, so that you can be simply shafted, rather than expensively shafted...or simply rewarded.

Go here to Cory Doctorow's article for the five elements of his thoughts on this subject: how we got here, Creative Commons, questions of commerce, the alternative, the self-serve difference, and a built-in future.

Cory: I only used a little bit of your piece. Please don't come after me.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tolkien and Pratchett Sales

An interesting couple of notes at Locus Online. FFO noted in January that a new J.R.R. Tolkien story, edited by a relative, Christopher Tolkien, would be out in May. It is called The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun and is published by Houghton Mifflin.

Locus is reporting moderate sales on Amazon.com of the book. On the other hand, the next Discworld volume by Terry Pratchett, The Unseen Academicals, is doing briskly on Amazon.com a full five months before publication and is expected to reach best-seller levels soon. It is published by Doubleday UK. FFO also noted that Terry Pratchett now may be addressed as Sir Terence David John Pratchett, OBE.

BONUS! Here is a gadget that will let you write and surf anywhere, Novatel's 2200 "MiFi." It's a credit card-sized (but thicker) gadget that is cellular data card and personal WiFi hotspot. It's similar to the cellular data cards that you can plug into a laptop with a USB or PCMCIA port for Internet access over the cellular network. This one is self-contained. Your access is via its integrated WiFi hotspot, which you can share anywhere (or not; it has encryption). It's battery powered.

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Paradox Magazine Ceasing Publication

According to Ralan.com, "Paradox Magazine," a publisher of historical and speculative fiction is ceasing publication after six years. They were a print magazine with appealing graphics. (See their web site for an example...requires Adobe Flash.)

Paradox linked to SF Reader for the details of their closing. They may do some print anthologies of past content, and conceivably return in an online format. Personal note: I've tried a couple of times to get into that magazine, unsuccessfully. Their closing is unfortunate since there are not a lot of historical fiction venues of quality.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Wiki Watch Me Quote You

By way of slashdot, this story from the IrishTimes.com of a young Irish college student who executed a social experiment. Upon the death of French composer Maurice Jarre, Shane Fitzgerald posted a fake quote in the Wikipedia article on Jarre. Some European, Indian and Australian dailies picked up the quote for their obituaries, including the Guardian (um, a frequent source for articles in this blog). Here is the fake quote:

“One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head, that only I can hear."

Wikipedia is a great source when you want a quick overview of something without a lot of fuss. But as academics frequently warn, it is not a primary or reliable source. Fiction writers beware, too. From Wikipedia's own assessment:

  • However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may not be considered acceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a creditable source.

Some collections of (unconfirmed) Wikipedia hoaxes: 1 2 and a funny fake hoax report (very Star-Trekian).

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

eBooks: Publishers Wonder, Where's the Money?

Many writers frustrated with having no agent or publisher nowadays contemplate the many alternatives available, such as print-on-demand (POD) self-publishing through LuLu and similar services, quasi-self-publishing through more actively involved POD publishers like iUniverse, and vanity publishers.

eBooks provide a new form of publishing that has a low cost of entry and technology that is not challenging. The cost and technology is accessible to individuals, and there are many fledgling eBook publishers to provide a more traditional publishing experience.

The traditional publishers have been trying figure out eBook publishing because they know they can't ignore it. Some of the top British publishers convened a conference on this matter during the London Book Fair, with the top question: where's the money in eBook publishing?

They worried about eBook readers, piracy ("...Scribd.com...“the YouTube of text”), and pricing. The article writer at PW,Lynn Andriani, concluded:

In the end, of course, no one solved the $64,000 question—yet the panel certainly provided plenty of food for thought for international publishers who are just dipping into the e-book market.

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Girls' Fault Boys Talk Bad?

In short, this British study shows that, particularly in primary school, the more girls there are in the classroom, the more poorly boys do in English class...by one-tenth of a grade for a moderately higher percentage of girls. The reasoning is speculated to be that boys are discouraged to see girls doing so well.

I would point out that to say there are more girls is equivalent to saying there are fewer boys. If you're guessing the cause, then one framework is as good as the other. According to the statistics, girls are stone-heartedly unaffected by the number of boys in the classroom. (I added the stone-heartedly for dramatic effect.) But, the article points out, strangely, that girls do better if there are some boys in the class who receive free school meals. (I didn't make that up.)

Is there a literary consequence to this? No. None. Nada.

Oh, wait, maybe the boys are so depressed at seeing girls excel that they aggressively seek ownership and control of publishing companies and thereby suppress women's publishing opportunities.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Internet Archive Opposes Google Settlement

Internet Archive has objected to the Google settlement on orphaned (out-of-copyright) works. They're specifically concerned that Google gets special protection that should be available to other content providers (such as the Internet Archive). In their letter, they are asking the Justice Department of the U.S. to intervene in the court case.

Internet Archive has several logs in the fire. They are best known, perhaps, for the "wayback machine," whereby you can look at the content of websites as they existed in the past. I listen to their newsgroup (a whopping 3 emails/year or so). They're also keenly interested in long-time archival methods of physical and digital content. They worry about digital media standards and physical storage media degradation. (Recently, NASA had to hire some specialists to recover early mission photos from an "ancient" storage tape format, using the only known tape drive of that kind; Internet Archive worries about such things.)

In the present matter, Internet Archive feels they deserve protection equal to that which they believe Google is getting unilaterally. Here is their letter to the Justice Department. They're going the Justice Department intervention route rather than joining a suite because they don't believe their specific interests are served in the present suit.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

Worrisome Geek News

Two stories to watch if you worry about what will happen to geeks who worry about stuff like this.

Google to buy Twitter? OMG.

IBM to buy Sun Microsystems? OMG.

Flash Fiction Online to buy Disney? Not.

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Clash of the Titans: Google vs. Guardian

The Guardian Media Group asked the British government to look into Google's use of online newspapers' content. They claim that Google is using the information for its own news service without paying for it.

I find this interesting because when Google first introduced its excellent news search tool a few years ago, I considered using it for aggregating a specific class of stories for a news service. However, I worried about Google's stern warnings against using their news summaries in other aggregations. (Scraping is is using scripts/software to grab HTML content from the web based on content filters.) In other words, do your own scraping; don't scrape what we scraped. They went after a few web sites, then.

It seems the present issue is the same, but higher up in the news food chain.

This story gives both a summary of the issue and counter-arguments against it, from one of The Guardian's rivals, Telegraph.co.uk. I'm not taking sides. I love both of these publications.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Changing Face of Children's Publishing

In this Publishers Weekly article, Rachel Deahl looks at HarperCollins' The Amanda Project. Lately, multimedia delivery to children has become a norm and perhaps a necessity for survival. The Amanda Project is an ambitious effort to press that idea forward:

And, whether the Amanda Project fails or succeeds, its existence speaks to the fast-changing face of children's publishing. Kids, more so than adults, are ready for books delivered on a multitude of platforms, willing to follow stories that begin in print and wend their way onto computer screens and various handheld devices. This makes for both an exciting and anxious moment in children's publishing, as longtime progenitors of print and ink tales are trying to figure out how to present content, and a reading experience, in a wholly different way.

The article gives some insight to the production model used. It is encouraging that they still believe that a project must begin with a proper story.

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beware Writer Beware, Again

A lawsuit against the operators of the Writer Beware website hosted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA) has been dismissed by the judge in the case. The case was brought by a literary agent ALLEGEDLY noted by Writer Beware.

Writer Beware is a publishing industry watchdog group sponsored by Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) which "shines a light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes and pitfalls."

Web visitors should beware, though. The SFWA site was hacked and infected with a trojan. This has been ALLEGEDLY cleaned, but be especially cautious if you have an old or out-of-date browser. (Yes, even you MAC owners.)

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Publishers' Fears of Book Piracy

The book publishing industry is worried that the chaos of the music industry is upon them. Scribd is a web site that--like all tools--can be used for good and evil. It is quite handy for distributing documents widely that you want distributed. The article mentions that the Obama campaign used it for campaign purposes. However, some are using it to upload current copyrighted literary works:

A search of Scribd by The Times yesterday found copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Ken Follett’s most recent novel World without End among many bestselling titles, raising fears that the piracy affecting the music industry may have spread to books.

Those are probably gone by now. One problem is that the site owners leave it to the publishers to scour the web site to identify their abused works. If informed, the Scribd staff will remove the material. That is quite a burden, it seems, considering that ten more such sites could pop up at any time.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Claim Your Author Page Now at FiledBy

FiledBy has a new web site service for authors. The name suggests a linkedn sort of service but it seems more Facebook-ish. They've preloaded it with published authors through data-mining, mostly. So if you are an American or Canadian published author, you might already have a page that you can claim somehow and correct/improve. (This seems nightmare-ish to me, verifying that someone claiming the web page is the actual author and not some digital vandal.)

Otherwise, unwashed authors can create a new page. There are free and premium services, of course. Their About page seems to be the only source of information and is useless, but this business-venture article from Nashville where the service began has more information. There is a bit about it on Publishers Weekly, too.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Publishers with Street Addresses Consider e-Publishing

Even if you're a Manhattan dead-tree publisher with an actual street address and sell to brick-and-mortar bookstores with street addresses, you're no longer ignoring e-publishers with dot-com addresses, like Amazon.com. Although this PW article is not especially compelling, it does show that the producers of tangible publications with which you can bonk someone on the head are taking the e-plunge.

During this the American Book Producers Association's seminar, HarperCollins hosted a panel of experts on electronic publishing.

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Octavia E. Butler's Kindred in Graphic Novel Form

According to SF Scope, one of Octavia E. Butler's novels, Kindred, will be re-published as a graphic novel. This is the story of a modern black woman who is transported back in time periodically to the antebellum South. Here is a more complete plot synopsis of the novel. Butler is a double Hugo and Nebula award winner.

As SF Scope noted, Publishers Week gave more details of publisher Beacon's general plans for expansion into comics.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Niffenegger: $5M Advance

Wow, that is a decent advance for a second novel. Audrey Niffenegger reportedly will receive $5 million for "Her Fearful Symmetry." That's a great title. I wonder if there are other Wm Blake-ish aspects to the story other than the title.

I loved her first book, "The Time Traveler's Wife." Its light-handed approach to the sci-fi was: okay, I time-travel because of my chromosomes or something; just get over it. The readers did get over it and read the novel in great quantities. I will read the second novel.

Perspective: here is a story about IBM's Chief Executive Officer, making $21M/year. This isn't grousing or hand-wringing. It is just interesting to see how the market values someone who runs a huge corporation successfully in a difficult market, and an individual who produces a hugely popular novel.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Realms of Fantasy--It's Alive!

Flash Fiction Online has been following the saga [Feb Jan] of Realms of Fantasy. Quite a few of the FFO staffers greatly admire this publication, both as readers and writers, and were disheartened to see it die. They were a profitable publication, but in the current climate, the owners wanted to focus on their core interests.

Fortunately, they've closed a deal with one of their potential buyers. Here is SF Scope's article on this new development. Here is their fledgling website. Thanks to Inarticulate Babbler for the tip.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Small Presses Prosper

PW chatted with 11 small presses that are doing better than surviving in rough economic times. Some of the survival tactics mentioned were:

  • Moving to a larger trade market
  • Efficient production and careful budgeting
  • Larger royalties instead of advances
  • Tapping an underserved market
  • Special sales through a marketer

According to the final arbiter in all matters (wikipedia), small presses have sales under $50 million, after returns and discounts and average fewer than 10 titles per year. The figure of$50 million is the example for the U.S. market and would change correspondingly for the targeted market.

Here is a terrific list of literary small presses, provided by an industry association for literary presses and magazines and online publishers, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.


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