Reason #564 To Be Glad …

…That I am my own independent publisher, with the Tiny Publishing Bidness, and only wasted a couple of months and a lot of postage, in 2007 or so, trying to get an agent interested in my first two novels. Because that was the way to break into traditional publishing; get an agent, who would present your work to the traditional publishing houses. Another book blogger at the time advised trying it for a year, and then going independent, as there were sufficient small companies doing publish-on-demand, some of them for rather reasonable fees. I did have an interested agent in New York, who was referred to me by another milblogger back then, and although the agent reluctantly declined to offer me his services, he was jolly complimentary and encouraging, and provided some good insights. One of the unspoken insights that I took away from this exchange, and drew from all the other letters saying “Thanks, but no thanks” from various literary agencies was that it was all a terribly insular world, the world of the established agencies and big publishers, all of whom seemed to be based in about half a square mile of real estate in New York. This impression was reinforced by later interactions with members of the on-line author support group that I was a part of, many of who were drop-outs of one sort or another (mostly editorial, graphic design, public relations, et cetera) from that milieu. They all knew very well that the establishment publishing world was flailing, shedding mid-list authors and editors, farming out the slush piles of unsolicited manuscripts to the agencies. Later on, I started following Sarah Hoyt, originally trad-pubbed and who wrote now and again of the stifling conformity among those in the traditionally-published world. Her experience was mostly in the science fiction genre – but over and over again, one got the very clear message; that only certain opinions and world-views among authors or prospective authors were permitted. There might not have been an organized effort to blacklist those who did not conform, and to sabotage their books, but as far as the overall effect on conservative-leaning or anti-wokerati writers, there just  might as well have been the literary equivalent of “JournoList” in play.

I ran across links on Ace of Spades a couple of days ago; links to a two-part post (here and here) suggesting that there is, seriously, such a malevolently organized effort in the world of comics; a coterie of mostly female insiders doing their best to eliminate mostly men whose jobs they want. (Appalling, if true.) I do not know enough about that genre to even be familiar with the names peppered throughout the linked posts (since I stopped paying attention to comic books or ‘graphic novels’ sometime in middle school) but such is a significant market, and one which seems to be devolving at speed, just like establishment publishing, the broadcast and cable industry, professional sports and movie production, through a combination of malice and incompetence. Tossing this out there for discussion. Insights are appreciated in the comments.

(PS – Update:  Luna City #9 now on Kindle – Link here!) 

Further PS – it seems as of DC Comics, having gone notoriously woke, is now going broke, or at least, firing employees in job lots. From the almost top post on Ace of Spades.

32 thoughts on “Reason #564 To Be Glad …”

  1. Anything the Far Lefties get their hands on turns to dust. Publishing, for sure. Also the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, TV news, BBC, Church of England, Catholic Church, Smithsonian Institution, Boy Scouts — the examples are legion. The Lefties win, but always at the cost of destroying the business model. They lose much of the former audience.

    In principle, in a market-driven economy, Far Lefties thus should represent easy pickings for smart competitors who could pick up that lost audience. President Trump’s end run round the Far Left media through his use of Twitter is one example. There ought to be many other examples, but somehow or other, the under-served potential audience generally remains under-served. This kind of unstable situation will not last forever — but it could outlive all of us.

    The drastically lowered costs of self-publishing (what used to be called ‘Vanity Publishing’) creates a great opportunity. The missing piece is an effective affordable way of letting the world know those books are available — say, an NYT Review of Books for the self-publishing/small publisher world. That in itself is another business opportunity. Where are the entrepreneurs to take advantage of it?

  2. The insularity isn’t just political. My first agent once called to say that she was going to be in Dallas for the day, and would I like to do lunch? I explained politely that Texas is a rather large state.

  3. Sigh. I lament the loss of The Atlantic to the lefty mob. Read it for years, decades, even – since Mom had a subscription, and I took up one for myself. Their last responsible editor got killed in a road accident in the Gulf War.
    There have been any number of attempts at doing a NYT best seller thing… for myself as an indy, the best thing for indy authors is the Ace of Spades HQ Sunday Morning book thread. Lots of obstreperous authors and chat about interesting books. Just about everything that I have bought, over the last couple of years is something that I saw discussed and/or recommended on the AOS book thread.

  4. re NYC, it’s hard to see how it comes out of the present situation….Covid shutdown, high crime, bad leadership, high taxes, AND the increased feasibility and acceptance of remote working.

  5. My wife wanted me to try to get an agent for my second book but it was hopeless. Instead, I published as a Kindle only and people read it and post reviews. The revenue is tiny. I discovered a writer in England who does Kindle books and writes about English history. I don’t know how much he makes from this but he is churning out a book about every 6 months.

    I agree that NYC is probably dead for a generation.

  6. The thing is, Mike K – the NY publishing establishment (as least as far as I can see, from my little local view in the hinterlands) is that they want something huuge, appealing to a broad audience across the USA! A regional or target-specific book … no, not worth the candle.
    And then there’s enormous advances given to notorious Dem partisans and politicians. Which, in some curious way, does pay off for someone.

  7. I think the advances are payoffs and the contracts with agents are part of the dying carcass of book publishing. I used to subscribe to NY Review of Books and would laugh in the personals where “Woman looking for men” would have “No Republicans.”

    It resembles Hollywood where commercial appeal is secondary.

  8. SGT. Mom,

    Coincidentally, I was just reading various web pages about this very topic, how to get noticed by an agent and whether it is better to go the self-publish route. I have finished my first novel, a sort of western/historical in first complete draft but don’t have the foggiest idea what to do next. The thing most on my mind is how to handle editing. If picked up by an agent I understand they and the publisher handle that, but when self publishing, do you work with an editor? How does that work? Are there “how to” sources you’d recommend? Hope it’s not impertinent for me to ask.


  9. Hi, John – re, editing. Most usually, indy authors hire an editor… there are two kinds of editing, though. Substantive, which is an overall critique of plotting, character development, pacing … and line editing, which is checking for spelling, punctuation, etc.
    However – there are a couple of workarounds: I have a couple of trusted Beta readers who like my stuff and are happy to review the substantive elements and suggest fixes. For the line editing; although many people have said dismissive things about MS word and auto-correcting, it catches most of the egregious errors in spelling and pronunciation.(The only thing that it doesn’t catch is the wrong word, spelled correctly! Like ‘here’ for ‘hear’, etc.) There is a editing program called PerfectIt which is quite good for ensuring consistency in word combinations where either a space or a hyphen are used, that quote marks are properly paired. PerfectIt is aimed for people editing legal documents, but I am quite happy with using it as a final sweep for mine, after the Beta readers are done.
    It’s almost axiomatic that a writer can’t edit their own stuff – but some of my writer friends have said that putting it all away for a while and then reviewing, printing it out in a wildly different font and color, or reading it aloud, will catch a good many errors. YMMV, though.

  10. I’ve heard about reading backwards but never had the patience to do it for anything substantial.

    I spell poorly and type with between two and four fingers. Without spell check, I’d be mute. I wish there was a way to easily remove valid words from the dictionary that it uses. Fro is especially problematic. It’s a perfectly valid word, spelled correctly. Unless you write a lot about traditional woodworking, it’s just not a word likely to come up. My fumble fingers manage to substitute it for “for” and I manage to pass over it when proof reading enough to be embarrassing.

    It’s vital to have another pair of eyes and especially another mind to go over anything to catch lapses in logic, incomplete descriptions and just plain confusing language. I find it really easy, after working with something for days or longer, to drop important elements or not explain something. It’s very easy to assume the reader has more knowledge than he has. That phrase that resonates so well in your mind might not actually mean what you think to someone else or even anything at all.

  11. I beta-read and make snarky editorial comments for friends, so I feel qualified, if not exactly invited, to contribute.

    Perhaps the most difficult thing still to automate is consistency. If emphasis of certain words within dialog is underlined in chapter two it’s jarring to see emphasis represented as boldface in chapter four. If French words get an Accent Grave ( e.g. ” père ” ) it’s odd to see a Spanish word without the correct Tilde (” señor “). If author’s narrative self-censors as, ” G*d D****it” , then the profanity should not be spelled out in full later. These are the author’s choices. Not wrong either way. Important, though, to offer in a fashion that doesn’t surprise the reader and interrupt the flow of the story.

    Then the related problem is a favorite expression, a catch phrase, that slips from the authorial or narrative voice into one or more characters’ dialog. This is especially jarring if the phrase is regional. A Texan may easily “be fixin’ to go” but hearing a Boston Brahman announce similar plans using that locution is odd — unless of course the Bostonian is authorially intended to be aware of, and making mock of, Texan idioms. (This sort of thing can be a fun clue in mystery stories, though.)

    ANYhow, I predict no software tools, nor impersonal human line-checker, can replace the partner-editor who works with the author to clarify the intent of the lines, or the font choice, or the catch phrases …

  12. I think the over concentration in NYC publishers was relatively recent (after WWII). There were a lot of niche markets around 1900.

    I’ve got a copy on my curio shelf in my office of “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle”. (That’s Thomas Alva Smith and His Electric Rifle or TASER!). This and the other boy inventor/sailor/etc series are surprisingly readable today. Everyone got into the business including Scientific American “With the Men who do things” and “On the Battlefront of Engineering”. Todays dystopic YA series are gloomy by comparison.

    There were all kinds of self help/education books by DeVry and ICS on how to learn to be a plumber, electrician or mechanic. History books on the Civil war etc.

    The hardcopy sale was the key as it required a sales agent to pitch the series to booksellers as well as to distributors. even the cheapest cardboard cover made it look real and worth reading. While not great art, you can see the hand of an experinced editor in all of these, smoothing over the worst problems.

  13. I have a good friend who is a comic fanatic – by that I mean he knows all the anthology. We could go to a movie – like The Watchman – and he would tell you all of the background in the characters. Told me of an incident years ago when his (his description) Evil Stepmother threw away all of his old comic collection. Don’t know if the first issue of Superman was among them but he had some valuable comics.

    And he is disgusted at what happened to DC comics. And (I agree) said Disney with the SJW have pretty much ruined the Star Wars franchise they paid so dearly for.

    I didn’t realize that politics has permeated the traditional publishing world, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    It has been a long contention of mine that if a young Ernest Hemingway was trying to publish his first book, he would have had a difficult time too.

    One wouldn’t character him as “Woke”.

    But nature, and any business endeavor, abhors a vacuum and self-publishing has filled that void.

    It just seems harder to make any money at it – but then the traditional publishers would spend a lot of money publicizing their new books.

    Am I right about Hemingway?

  14. I will make a suggestion:

    Every Writer’s Dream: The Insider’s Path to an Indie Bestseller
    by Marc Alan Edelheit

    If you know anyone who is interested in self-publishing (and this is almost certainly THE way to go these days unless you’re a non-binary PoC who is more Woke than Robin Williams on Coke and 10 cups of espresso), I would suggest this book. The Kindle edition is only 3 bucks., or free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

    Why is it good? Because the author did it. He even caused Amazon to create a classification to describe his work: “Military Fantasy”.

    Marc is a cool guy, I’ve met him at a number of DragonCons, where he routinely gives away literally hundreds of copies of his books, usually, which tends to bring in more sales because he’s got about a dozen-odd books out and one leads to buying more…

    Note: No, I don’t get anything, I’m not related, nor am I a friend… Just a Con acquaintance.

    If “Military Fantasy” sounds at all interesting (Roman Legions in Middle Earth is a quick, rough description, but simplistic), you can start with either Stiger’s Tigers or Stiger. ST is his first book, dealing with “Captain Stiger” as he is deployed to a new post. Stiger is a precursor, as the newly minted Lieutenant Stiger is deployed to his FIRST post. Both start out a lot more on the military and less on the Fantasy, but he builds it towards Dwarves, Elves, Dragons, Orcs, and Gnomes…. The Stiger series is more military, the Stiger’s Tigers series is more fantasy, but still strongly military

  15. Hemingway would have been fine.
    He was a communist, and one of his most famous stories was in support of abortion.
    “Drank daiquiris with Ché” is a resume enhancer in certain circles. (Not ones that I’d wish to join, but they do exist.)

  16. Just so you know, the trend you have described here that has been unfolding across many genres (fiction, sci-fi, history, etc.) very much describes my experience in theological and religious (Christian) publishing, as well. You can waste years — and I have — trying to crack through the ideological bouncers in acquisitions in denominational church presses (to the left) and the insular bulwarks protecting the big evangelical names and cash cows on the right (“must have agent,” already be a household name, or both). I now publish two indie books a year using my own name plus a variety of sobriquets. Odds are against reaching a large readership this way (i.e., without a marketing team or even much of a strategy), but I am far healthier and it beats making less than a buck a book.

  17. Although I’ve been a published non-fiction writer for decades, I cannot help feeling I’ve been wasting my time submitting my fantasy novel to today’s agents. (Think Nick and Nora becoming private investigators for the Gods… but then, who knows anymore who Nick and Nora are?) Sure, maybe its not written well enough for initial consideration, but ai don’t think so. I feel too male, too white, too anti-woke, and too American. Maybe it IS time to self-publish…

  18. For notable wisdom on the written word, see Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, Walter Benjamin’s thirteen doctrines, H. P. Lovecraft’s advice to aspiring writers, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letter to his daughter, Zadie Smith’s 10 rules of writing, David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.

  19. “And then there’s enormous advances given to notorious Dem partisans and politicians. Which, in some curious way, does pay off for someone.”

    SGT Mom

    It’s money laundering, pure and simple.

  20. ByzantineGeneral Says:
    August 13th, 2020 at 4:59 am
    “Mostly female” just like “mostly peaceful” although there’s a LOT of overlap.

    Sounds like “a little bit pregnant,” no?

  21. ““And then there’s enormous advances given to notorious Dem partisans and politicians. Which, in some curious way, does pay off for someone.”

    SGT Mom

    It’s money laundering, pure and simple.”

    Which drains the funds that would have been used to acquire, prepare, and market books on the midlist. And probably weakens the businesses paying all these bribes.


  22. based in about half a square mile of real estate in New York
    There’s the real problem, right there. Anything based in the “Acela Corridor” is very insular and of a particular religio-cultural-political mindset.

  23. Wouldn’t we all like to live off a dozen or so “Best Sellers” dictating the next one to a trio of nubile stenographers, sex and inclination according to the preference of the author, a-la Earl Stanley Gardner. The only problem is the few hundred thousand new books to be published this year on top of all the ones from last year and so on.

    I try to choose something from time to time by an author I’ve never heard of and actually only a couple of times found something really bad. But that’s not making much of a dent.

    It comes down to work and luck with the emphasis on luck. If it’s what you want then I wish you good luck. I’ve shelved whatever idle literary ambitions I have in favor of collecting losing lottery tickets, a much more realizable pursuit.

  24. Gavin Longmuir Says:

    Anything the Far Lefties get their hands on … Boy Scouts
    There it wasn’t so much the “left” as it was simply people who were corporate in their thinking. They liked the Boy Scouts, but weren’t sufficiently dedicated to its principles and the vision of its purpose to resist the lawfare waged by the “left”. And, like so many other corporate entities, they were more than willing to pay off some people and impose bureaucratic vetting when bad was done within the ranks, than to crack down and work harder at actually instilling the values required of Scouting.

  25. Earl Stanley Gardner had been living the dream for a while when “Stranger In a Strange Land” came out. He was a lawyer, you wouldn’t expect for him to type himself. He was pretty famous for his method of composition back in the day.

  26. Brandt

    Are you thinking of “Hills Like White Elephants”? Sure it gives the man’s arguments for abortion but I never thought of it as pro-abortion. The male protagonist’s belief everything would be perfect and they would be completely happy if she’d just do what he wants surely is not to his credit -as a thinker or a man. (Then again H’s bio doesn’t encourage a view of him as a great partner in life’s decisions.) I always thought he was too intelligent to consider his character positively – though maybe I’m blinkered by my time and gender. Certainly interps may be subjective – as Wikipedia demonstrates.

    I don’t know a lot about Hemingway – but of course I read most of his stuff in the sixties because if nothing else his style was so clean and attractive. Also I loved teaching “Hills” and “A Clean Well-Lighted Place.” He was treated with contempt when I was in grad school because he was so “obviously” a male chauvinist (that was the early seventies, and a different feminism reigned but I suspect he doesn’t fit in many women-dominated cultures; older faculty, did teach him and one in his late seventies passed out xeroxes of “Hills” so he could still teach it). Generally only one work appeared in anthologies, but that was a matter of family & copyright if I remember correctly. (Sometimes those choices cut off the nose to spite the face, since freshmen anthologies can be good advertising.)

    I went to a couple of conferences run by editors from New York; I was not impressed with what they valued in lit or in life. But maybe I’m just judgemental. I love the idea of independent publications (and independent recording studios in living rooms). It leads to sometimes random sorting outs. But that randomness can be more interesting and encourages an innovative energy that the old ways didn’t.

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