Thursday, December 30, 2010

Amazon's ebook lending scheme unsettles the usual suspects

Amazon has a new feature for Kindle books where someone who has bought one may lend it to someone else for a limited period of time. I'll skip all the really boring details that would only interest a publisher--if even. I'm a small publisher, and even I find the numbers and terms and little nuts and bolts of it really fucking boring. But for Kindle users, it seems pretty damn cool. But for some small e-publishers, it's the end of the goddamned world because people will illegally steal all their books, because Amazon is a hegemonic Great Satan, they will opt out and even pull all their titles from Amazon, et cetera (at least today, and really just in the way that everything Amazon ever does is the end of the world for a day or two until everyone either forgets about it entirely or takes a pill).

I'm a lurker member of a forum for digital publishers. I keep up on what they discuss by way of emails from a Google Group. I have only commented to the group twice in about a year and a half because I generally don't know much about what they are talking about since I am not as big an ebook publisher as most of the other members and I don't feel as smart as most of them on most topics that they discuss. The first time I spoke up in the group was to suggest to some members that they call off the hysterical lynch-mob mentality over that douche in Colorado with the stupid pedophile book on Amazon (that no one would ever have heard of were it not for internet echo chambers). The second time I commented was just a little while ago this evening. This is what I said in response to a thread of comments that seemed overwhelmingly of the "AMAZON IS THE DEVILLL" and "PEOPLE ARE STEALING OUR STUFF" bent:

What about the possibility that lending could attract new readers that you don't have now to buy new titles? That's exactly how it works with print books. Nearly every author that I have gotten excited about and bought books from is one that I learned about because someone lent me a copy of a print book that that they liked or I read something cool that I got from the library and then ended up buying my own copy or buying other titles by the same writer. Or bought a used copy of something and then later bought new stuff from the same author. This is especially true of some of the more obscure and unknown stuff.

Things are always changing with e-publishing and none of it's perfect yet, but I think that any publisher who believes that they can expand their business by NOT dealing with Amazon is living in a total fantasy world. Amazon's not going away and they are not going to give up on all their plans because a few minor pubs are worried about file-sharing. And opting for a lower percentage to avoid the lending scheme is going to do nothing but reduce your royalties and probably ultimately limit your readership. We'll see how this plays out over time, but I will be shocked if anyone loses a dime because of this. Because the people "borrowing" your reader's copy weren't ever going to buy it from you anyway--you didn't even have that customer to begin with and probably were never going to get them. But now you might because someone new, some friend of friend, might say, "Wow, this is cool! Where do I get more?" Almost everything on my shelves of print books got there in exactly this way, and it can work like that with ebooks, too.

So, what does anyone think about this? Did I make any sense, or am I totally smoking something? It just seems like common sense to me that if you have an interesting book and author to offer, then the more people who know about it will ipso facto result in better sales. My little press makes no money, but it brought in a lot (relatively speaking) more in Year Two than it did in Year One. Year Two was a year in which I straight up gave away lots and lots of content just to get it in front of some new people. I'd really like to sell a lot more copies of M-Brane SF Quarterly #1 (a print book, not a Kindle book). While it has not been made available as an ebook, I do have a PDF of it that I could release if I wanted to. I bet that if I gave away a hundred copies of that for free and encouraged those hundred recipients to share it with at least one other person, I would sell at least ten copies of the print book to people who had never heard of M-Brane before. And I'd have at least two hundred people who would have thought about us recently and might buy something from us later. And what I would lose? Nothing. In fact, I'd gain about thirty bucks in royalties from selling ten print copies and I'd get new readers that I didn't have before. Who might buy stuff later. Because of how frakkin' cool our stuff is. I'm considering it. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Issue 23...still late!

OK, I probably owe the one or two people who may have given a damn about it an explanation for the ridiculous tardiness of issue #23, the December issue. Knowing that there was no way I was going to make the normal first week of the month, I announced a date of 12/15. Which I have now missed by two weeks. I could offer excuses, even reasonable ones. But what it boils down to is that I just got so busy with too much other late-year stuff that carried deadlines of Greater Consequence and Dire Urgency.

So here's the current status and the new plan: Stories have been selected for M-Brane #23. But their authors have not been informed of this yet. I will get to that by Friday. Writers generally reply with their delighted acceptance of our publication terms immediately. Indeed, we have published as soon as next day after all writers answered affirmative. We're a machine like that. So a Saturday, January 1 release is not impossible. Yes, I said it: the December 2010 issue may actually release in January 2011. This is quite embarrassing, but there it is. What this means, however, is that January will see the release of two issues (because #24 is coming hell or high water on 1/20, our second anniversary). I'd considered a single double issue, but the numbers bother me. I want 24 to be truly the 24th monthly volume of M-Brane SF, therefore there must be a 23 before it. So what's probably going to happen is that writers will be notified of acceptances for 23 and 24 shortly and the two issues will go into production more or less simultaneously with 23 releasing in a few days, followed by 24 on 1/20. The contents of these two issues plus November's issue 22 will also comprise the printed book M-Brane SF Quarterly #2. As with the first Quarterly, this will contain some bonus material not seen in the electronic editions. The second Quarterly will release sometime in February. And then we'll be rolling into our third year back on schedule and in high style.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book plug: New Apex imprint releases queer zombie novella

Apex Publications offers Asylum by Mark Allan Gunnells as part of its new zombie imprint. I haven't read the book and don't know the author, so I can comment on neither directly, but I do know Apex Publications and publisher Jason Sizemore and have a lot of respect for him and his publications. Also, I am delighted any time that I see gay content in the zombie subgenre, which is sometimes rather conservative despite its outré premise (odd also considering that the whole thing derives from a film franchise created by Romero, a lefty). So, sight unseen, I will point people who are into zombie fic toward this novella. That Jason published it is sufficient recommendation as far as I am concerned.

The blurb:

"Curtis, a young college student is dragged to his first gay club by
his best friend Jimmy for a night of dancing, drinking and
least until the dead start to rise and attack the club. Trapped inside
the Asylum are a small band of survivors, including a drag queen, a
male stripper, a Vietnam vet bartender, a pretentious gay couple, and
an unstable DJ.

Will this motley crew survive the hungry undead rattling the sealed-
off doors? Will they survive each other? Will they survive their own
personal demons? Asylum recalls George Romero's classic Night of the
Living Dead--except with more gore and a more current social message.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


[This is much the same post as the announcement on the M-Brane Press site, but I added a personal note and a taunting pic at the end] 

The inaugural issue of our beautiful new fantasy quarterly Fantastique Unfettered is officially released in print today. Edited by Brandon H. Bell (Aether Age co-creator and M-Brane contributor), FU is a "Periodical of Liberated Literature," all of its content released under a Creative Commons license. As such, we think it is probably unique, and we know of nothing else quite like it. As a physical object, FU #1 is a delight to hold in one's hands. It's lovingly designed and full of terrific artwork to compliment the really amazing writing (11 items fiction and three poems). 

We're using a new printer and distribution system for this first edition of FU, and its availability will probably trickle through the system gradually over the next few days, but it is available right now on the Barnes & Noble site with a sweet discount. Our cover price is $9.95, but it can be had on B&N for $7.01. We can't even sell it that cheaply directly, so we are encouraging everyone to get over there and grab it up. We do not have ebook versions available yet, but will have news of that forthcoming reasonably soon.

Please visit the FU site for more information on the magazine, its content and philosophy.
On a personal note, I need to say that I am so proud to be the publisher of this new periodical and so delighted with editor Brandon's fine, fine work in putting it together (not just selecting its content but designing its entire package as well). I am also delighted to be sitting here  holding the first printed copy of it. The jealousy that readers of this post must be feeling now can be alleviated with a quick visit to the B&N site!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Personal writing update: New story out now

Just popping in to plug this book, Zombiality: A Queer Bent on the Undead, from Library of the Living Dead Press. Edited by Bill Tucker, it is an anthology of zombie short fiction focused on LGBT characters, and it contains my new story "The Cairn." I just received my contributor copy of it yesterday and haven't had a chance to read many of the other stories yet, but I have enjoyed what I have read so far and I am delighted to have been included in such a book. Some readers may recall that this book was the subject of some foofaraw on the intertubes earlier this year because it was cancelled by the publisher after some controversy about its subject matter and some people's reaction to such. At the time, I offered some of my own commentary on the matter here and there. Because the book ultimately did get rescheduled and did get published, all that stuff can probably be left in the past, and since I am in the book, I should probably recuse myself from speaking of it anyway. But I will say that there were two very different versions of why the project was originally controversial.

But now that it's done and published, I give major kudos to its editor (who is a very cool guy) for coming up with the premise, and its publisher for taking a chance with such an anthology concept. Long live the Library of the Living Dead!

[Pick up a copy on Amazon and throw in Aether Age and 2020 Visions--free Super Saver Shipping!]

Sunday, December 5, 2010

M-Brane #23 due around the 15th; Some slush-pile thoughts

The new issue will be out around the 15th. I'm still reading for it, and remain rather behind on things. I'm still in the final push toward completion of far too many projects, but the end is near. I've decided it's good enough if I get it out sometime this month and not worry over much about the exact date. As I continue reading for it, I may make a number of short posts on some problems that I am seeing in the slush pile and some thoughts about what I'd like to see more of in this zine. I was reading a few stories out of a collection of stuff published by Amazing Stories back in the late 1920s and 1930s, and I was reminded of a huge problem that blights perhaps as much as a third of all submissions to M-Brane SF. I call it "Professors Talking About Shit." Here, read the following passage:

'It is remarkable.' said Dr. Manners, 'how the scope of our pharmacopoeia has been widened by interplanetary exploration. In the past thirty years, hundreds of hitherto unknown substances, employable as drugs or medical agents, have been found in the other worlds of our own system. It will be interesting to see what the Allan Farquar expedition will bring back from the planets of Alpha Centauri when -- or if — it succeeds in reaching then and returning to earth. I doubt, though, if anything more valuable than selenine will be discovered. Selenine, derived from a fossil lichen found by the first rocket-expedition to the moon in 1975, has, as you know, practically wiped out the old-time curse of cancer. In solution, it forms the base of an infallible serum, equally useful for cure or prevention.'

'I fear I haven't kept up on a lot of the new discoveries,' said Rupert Balcoth the sculptor, Manners' guest, a little apologetically. 'Of course, everyone has heard of selenine. And I've seen frequent mention, recently, of a mineral water from Ganymede whose effects are like those of the mythical Fountain of Youth.'

That is not from the M-Brane slush, but rather the opening paragraphs of a story called "The Plutonian Drug" by none other than Clark Ashton Smith (shown here in the pic at age eighteen or nineteen, rather   attractive if melancholy-looking as a young man) published by Amazing in 1934. In its day, this may have evoked some "sense of wonder" and been really interesting to readers of the earliest sf, but it's well nigh unreadable now and such an opening passage certainly would get a story bounced at M-Brane. Indeed, a lot of stories do open like this and get bounced. And the passage above is actually a lot better than much of what I usually get in the slush, probably because Smith was a talented writer even when he was writing such tedious material as "The Plutonian Drug." But it doesn't let up after those first two paragraphs. It goes on for at least fifteen hundred words in this fashion. Eventually, the story itself starts, which is about Dr. Manners's guest sampling some of the drug from Pluto and having a trippy experience where he sees his own (very short) future. That part's actually pretty decent, but one must first slog through pages of these dudes blathering to each other about stuff that they both know already (selenine, "as you know," practically wiped out cancer). I see story after story after story where various kinds of scientists, doctors, and academics sit for the first few pages and discuss at length whatever the sciencey business of the story is. Instead, I'd rather open with an event happening to the characters that is perhaps based in whatever they are talking about, but bypassing altogether the long discussion of it. Also, characters in very narrow and elite professions, like "nuclear physicist" or "professor emeritus of biology," are especially hard to relate to or care about unless some kind of human action is happening to them right away. They need to be more than their job title.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2020 VISIONS released!

The fabulous anthology of near-future sf, edited by Rick Novy, has finally, after a few little production snags, become available to the reading public. It's available as a trade paperback for $13.95 on here on Amazon. Those of you who pre-ordered copies can expect them to ship to you within a few days. Readers who did not pre-order should grab it on Amazon right away and take advantage of "Free Super-Saver Shipping!" on orders of $25.00 or more by also buying this week's other major release, The Aether Age (if I may make a suggestion).

I'm very proud of 2020 Visions and the fine work that editor Rick and all the great authors did for it. It's a very good anthology, and I think people will be duly impressed. Same goes for the amazing Aether Age, so just go ahead and get them both while you're at Amazon!


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