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  1. #16
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    Irrelevant thought for a day: Imagine Katherine the Great's gestating fantasy novel as a phone book, on each page a new character drifts off into a 800 word soliloquoy on how things came to be in such a deplorable state. The villain will be overcome by the sheer of mass of profundity heaped on her tortured soul.

    In a sound byte generation such as the current one or a pompous, snobbish generation like that of my youth, it will be important to segregate stories into identifiable categories. But, the fact will remain constant that all fiction is fantasy, e.g., imagination unrestricted by reality, to one degree or another. Consistency would require Beowulf, The Nun's Priest's Tale, Morte de Arthur, The Inferno, Paradise Lost, The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Gulliver's Travels, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Peter Pan, The Jungle Book, Carousel, Rip Van Winkle, Connecticut Yankee, and all the Leatherstocking tales in the fantasy section of the book store.

    The problem, for me, is that young readers go into the store and find themselves funneled into a category. They won't find of any of the above mentioned tales in the fantasy section so they will never be exposed to them.
    You may contend that our schools are filling this void but I wonder about that. In my youth, William Tenn was never mentioned in a classroom and the man was a teacher. Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke? Nope but Hemingway and Steinbeck, yes. And that was good for me because I read them and enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed RAH and the Good Doctor. I wonder who is being omitted these days, probably Annie Proulx because she wrote an infamous short story.
    That proverbial young reader will pass by the recently released and current best seller tables to get into the good stuff but all that good stuff laying on the tables will be overlooked, to the young reader's detriment.
    I can feel the note about parental supervision festering in people's minds but I would point out from age 10 on, my parents had little if any say over what I read. Mom probably saw the stuff laying around my bedroom but she never said a word and I never asked permission nor did we ever talk about it.
    Am I better off for having read Henry Miller or not? Should I have picked up Laurence Durell? If I had not I would have been deprived the experience of reading the same tale from four different perspectives. As close as I ever found to that in sff was Chalker's Four Lords of the Diamond but that was even close to Durell nor did it try to be. If I had not invested time in John D. MacDonald and Tony Hillermann and Ian Fleming, would I be more or less educated in the possibilities of speculative fiction?
    So, where is the eclectic taste going to come from? And if it doesn't get started, then how we will get truly inspiring sff? If you don't know the possibilities, how will you know where to experiment?
    Segregating the bookstores and the libraries seems to me to be detrimental to our society's health.

    Shire Lady: You know me; supernatural counts as magic.

  2. #17
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Wow, KatG! But I knew I could count on you.

    But who is it who decides where to put McCarthy, for example, when he writes a book like The Road? Is it the publisher who sells it to a particular market or is it the bookstore who wants in in general literature to attract a broader audience? Can a pulisher dictate where it wants its titles to be shelved?

    Holbrook, does your daughter purchase from small presses for Waterstones? I'd love to know who makes that decision. I can't get in the door of Borders or Waterstones, but not because they don't like my books. They just won't look at titles published by presses they haven't already purchased from. Hey, can I have her phone number?

  3. #18
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    But who is it who decides where to put McCarthy, for example, when he writes a book like The Road? Is it the publisher who sells it to a particular market or is it the bookstore who wants in in general literature to attract a broader audience? Can a pulisher dictate where it wants its titles to be shelved?
    I don't think the publishers have control over placement, except perhaps in terms of where co-op dollars are being spent (and we're talking chains here, not indepedents). The big guys like B & N and Borders probably have dollar values assessed for prime real estate on front tables and end caps, and the big pub's can pony up and pay for that placement. But in terms of the regular shelves, I don't think the pub's have much say so - I suspect the stores make corporate decisions on layout based on their own assessment of markets.

    Having said that, I will relate what I know from Bookseller Chick, who works (for the moment, until the store is closed) for a chain (presumably either B & N or Borders, I believe the former). While the head office tells them what to put in many of those prime real estate areas, since no two stores are exactly alike in physical layout they do have flexibility for interpretation, which allows them to cater to local tastes. Also, it sounds as if (in her store at least) there were no corporate auditors descending on the store to ensure compliance with every specified title placement. As a result she and her staff could highlight books or authors that they, as booksellers, deemed worthy of attention for their customers. Granted they were almost having to work 'around the system' in order to do what real booksellers do, but they were able to do it.

  4. #19
    Edited for submission Holbrook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary Wassner View Post
    Holbrook, does your daughter purchase from small presses for Waterstones? I'd love to know who makes that decision. I can't get in the door of Borders or Waterstones, but not because they don't like my books. They just won't look at titles published by presses they haven't already purchased from. Hey, can I have her phone number?
    No, though she would dearly love to work her way up to being a stock buyer/junior management. She does order individual requests and repeat stock I believe along side at present running her sections on the floor. Most of the buying decisions are fairly central (main office)I believe, something she has commented on, feeling that often it does not reflect local taste. I am also not sure how long she will be there either, loves the job, but the money isn't great, having just finished University and setting up home, she most likely move on pretty soon.

  5. #20
    GemQuest Moderator Gary Wassner's Avatar
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    Tell her to open up a really cool genre bookstore. I know a few authors who'd be happy to.....

  6. #21
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Irrelevant thought for a day: Imagine Katherine the Great's gestating fantasy novel as a phone book, on each page a new character drifts off into a 800 word soliloquoy on how things came to be in such a deplorable state. The villain will be overcome by the sheer of mass of profundity heaped on her tortured soul.
    Yes, I can imagine what sort of rep for my fiction I'm building with my lecture posts, but people will ask me questions. In my fiction, though, one of my problems is that I tend to leave out useful explanatory info and make it too mysterious, and then have to go put it back in. Who'd have thunk it?

    HE -- having a sff section in the bookstore does not keep people from wandering the store. It just means that there can be a whole lot more sff than there could be otherwise, because sff is getting additional shelf space. It's been getting category sff out of the back of the store and onto those table displays, where the money is, that's been the tough thing. And now that's become business as usual. Also, we have lots of non-category sff that's getting lots of attention and is indeed being sold not only in general fiction and table displays, but in the sff sections of the bookstore. Rather than category sff selling to a very small group of people, we now have it selling to a very large group of people, who also often read other things. But we can't make young folk read other things than sff if they don't want to. But the sff section of the bookstore is not a funnel -- it's an extra room.

    Me, I'm just happy that anybody walks into a bookstore -- they were suppose to be extinct by now, you know.

    But who is it who decides where to put McCarthy, for example, when he writes a book like The Road? Is it the publisher who sells it to a particular market or is it the bookstore who wants in in general literature to attract a broader audience? Can a pulisher dictate where it wants its titles to be shelved?
    He's not a category sff author with a fanbase in that market. He is a contemporary fiction writer who sometimes does historical stuff. He decided to write a science fiction novel. His regular publisher in the U.S., Knopf, not a category sff publisher, put it out. And most importantly, he is a major bestselling author with massive name recognition. Bestselling authors go in the front of the store, no matter what they write. "The Road" is being marketed and publicized to the category sf audience extensively, through the sff imprints in Random House, but there's no reason for them to then ignore the author's regular fanbase and the potential general fiction audience either -- both of which are larger than the category sf audience.

    It's not as rigid as you keep trying to make it, Gary. They want readers, period. The sff section of the bookstore is a way to try and draw in more readers for sff, not keep all the readers in separate categories. By and large, what area of a store you go in is due to what you write, who publishes you, your level of name recognition, and what seems to be the best strategy to present you to the readers who are most likely to buy your work, and any others they can wrangle after that. The bulk of authors are in general fiction. Category authors can get their category section and general fiction too. If they don't fly in general fiction, they at least have their reliable category fan audience. The bigger that category audience grows, the more interest publishers and booksellers have in marketing general fiction to category audiences too.

    The big chains often won't buy your books, Gary, because they don't trust your publisher not to screw them. Small presses are notoriously unreliable and book chains don't have time to chase after them. Small presses can build up good impressions in the industry and bookstores may then take a chance, and if they get good service and the titles sell okay, then they may order more from that press. Letting book people get to know you may help with that; it's hard to say.

    New thing: The next round in the Hobbit film saga has the head of New Line saying he won't work with Peter Jackson, who is an arrogant greedy man for suing them. Now, accusing actors and directors of being arrogant and greedy in the press sometimes works, but special effects directors like Jackson are busy turning themselves into mini-producing studios with lots of product in the pipeline. This guy at New Line not only pissed off Jackson, but he's cutting his throat with other directors who have lucrative projects.

    So the Hobbit may move forward with a new director, but it seems like Jackson's reported strategy of getting the option clock wound down may be working, in which case the film may be delayed several more years.

  7. #22
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    In the category of "publishing's dirty laundry" come stories like this. We lowly peons down here in the writing trenches are only fly specks in the world of such happenings, but methinks these things ultimately trickle down to impact us in one way or another.

    So, how many of you keep up with such doings? (I already know KatG does...) Or is it all just too depressing?

  8. #23
    Where's Tonto zorobnice's Avatar
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    My two cents worth KatG. In South Africa we are not half as priviledged as other countries, book stores here do lump the two together, which freaks me out because like Gary I don't read any SF. We don't have the choie you have and the SFF sections are quite small compared to all other genres. We would be lucky if there were 5 or 6 hundred books displayed. They also go just for the very well known names. It was one of the big reasons I joined this forum, was to find new authors. I now almost only order online, because the vast majority of the authors discussed here are not available. If one wants to order through a bookstore it takes at least twice as long to arrive, as from Amazon. The other huge problem we have here is with series. It is not uncommon to see a new book displayed, check it out and find that it is number X in the series, and not one of the previous books will be avalable in the bookstore.

    A long two cents, but there you go.

  9. #24
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    I don't check these things out nearly as much as I may seem. I used to get Publishers Weekly, which is the U.S. trade magazine, when I ran my editing business, and that kept me on top of things. But every year, they doubled their subscription price and it was eventually out of my price range. I keep meaning to go over to their web site, where you can get a fair amount of the info of the magazine, but I frequently don't remember. For people trying to write and market in North America, PW is very helpful. Also Locus, for the category field, which I also keep forgetting to subscribe to, but they also have a website.

    I've never heard of the company in the news story, but there are such jobber distributors around and they've had a lot of their market shrink, such as the paperbacks market collapsing slowly, and the warehouse stores carrying fewer books now than when they first started out. This particular company won't have much effect on mid-listers, though the money the publishers have lost with them might. If Ingram's ever gets in trouble, though, then the whole industry will be a mess, because Ingram's supplies the NA bookstores.

    Zorobrice -- you have a small country with an emerging and challenged economy. Having category markets is a luxury most places are not set up to indulge in. Only if there is a fanbase big enough to support it, does a separate market really get going for specialty types of fiction. But it's great that you can get things brought in online, and at least your bookstores are trying. You also have a great tradition of fantasy literature there. I'd love to see more fantasy from different parts of the world. It's happening but slowly. It's much better than it was twenty years ago.

    This is a fun one -- got an announcement from Del Rey in the U.S. Del Rey has set itself as the importer of manga, Japanese graphic novels that are extremely popular with young girls here. Now they are doing their own "original" manga apparently. (We used to just call them comic books, but oh well.) And this is their first publication, which gave me a belly laugh. Seems we're now catching the attention, at least peripherally, of the music scene for tie-ins:


    Del Rey Manga will publish the first volume of MAKE 5 WISHES on April 10, 2007. Avril Lavigne's new album The Best Damn Thing will release shortly after on April 17, 2007 from RCA Records. In volume one of MAKE 5 WISHES, introverted teenager Hana stumbles upon a website that will change her life forever. After a demon grants her a series of wishes that go bad, Hana meets her hero Avril Lavigne, who helps her find the courage to conquer her own personal demons once and for all. The concluding volume of MAKE 5 WISHES will release in July 2007. Both volumes will appear in full-color.

    More than simply lending her talents to the creative process, multiple award-winning singer, songwriter, model, and actress Avril Lavigne also appears as a character in the manga. When asked what inspired her to be a part of this project, Avril Lavigne had this to say, "I know that many of my fans read manga, and I'm really excited to be involved in creating stories that I know they will enjoy."


    Call me when the Rolling Stones do a science fiction novel. I think that would be fun.

  10. #25
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    KISS already did some comics with Marvel.

    The digital world continues to present problems for authors, publishers and readers. Consider the convenience of a web search, say, for something about “Why Do They Rope for Short Pay?” Google will return Night Rider’s Lament sung by Garth Brooks, written by Suzy Boggus. Another quick follow-up search will tell you Chris Ledoux also recorded the song.
    Well, suppose you heard somewhere about Boskone and were curious what that’s all about. Googole will return immediate information on the Boston convention but you need to go to the next page to find a Wikipedia entry that will tell you: “This article is about the fictional organization in E.E. Smith's Lensman series.” I knew that; I read the series in the early 50s. But, my grandchild is just now being introduced to the Kinnison family.
    What’s this got to do with Things I Have Noticed? The current issue of the New Yorker has an article by Jeffrey Toobin dealing with Google’s Book Search project and the legal challenges mounted by some writers and the Authors Guild and, in a second suit, a group of U.S. publishers, publishers who are party to the project at the same time they are suing to stop it.
    The project plans to scan the contents of every book ever published and make the contents searchable on the internet. They plan to return the phrase sought, say “Boskone” and ten to twenty lines before and after the reference with a complete identification of the book, its author, and its publisher. This constitutes a unique sales tool which is why the publishers bought into the project.
    It also constitutes a threat to copyright protection which is why the law suits to stop the project exist. Ignoring the fact there are other agencies, including Microsoft, pursuing goals similar to Google’s, the question is not if the law suits will be successful. The word on the street is they will be settled out of court so the project is not even hiccupping over the situation but proceeding full steam.
    I suspect the reason that they will be settled out of court is that not only is the thought, making all the world’s knowledge available to everyone, a good thought but the ability to recompense authors and publishers is a detail to be ironed out and nothing more.
    But, the story does point out that every opportunity the internet presents carries with it side effects such as headaches, stomach ulcers, and, probably, mutated children.

  11. #26
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    Yeah, it's a tricky situation. Unlike the music industry, books have always had libraries, where you can get books loaned out for free and of course copy them if you are so minded, so a lot of these projects are set up with the notion of building Net libraries, but with all the downloading fears as all the new technologies sort themselves out.

    I'm not so certain that either Google or Microsoft really does want to become the Library of Congress and get every book. With research being one of the Net's big uses, the preferences will be to non-fiction works, and fiction will probably be limited to classics, award-winners and bestsellers. I'm betting they don't bother with the bulk of paperback category sff. Ditto most of small press offerings, self-published and online works, and they'll probably cherry-pick the academic and educational presses, who will mind least of all because they've already been doing this type of thing for years. (They helped invent the Net after all -- it was their domain before it was the public's.)

    I also wouldn't be surprised if the interest in these projects dies off over time, when they realize it's not enough of an inducement on the research front, and not all that profitable in any other way either. Every one of these electronic projects for books has seemed to wither on the vine. When it comes to something like the Net, video and film content are going to be of more interest overall.

    That doesn't shut down the possibility of piracy, especially to markets like Asia where they've had a lot of problems with it. But again, most sff titles, even if they were picked to go into these projects, are not going to get pirated.

  12. #27
    Keeper of the Hikari Radthorne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KatG View Post
    With research being one of the Net's big uses, the preferences will be to non-fiction works, and fiction will probably be limited to classics, award-winners and bestsellers.
    I completely agree. One has to consider where the revenue stream is going to come from here; primarily from online ads. The only way that becomes viable is when you have really big numbers to support it, and that's not going to come from genre readers, really. In fact, I would bet that in the end the non-fiction that gets 'recorded' is going to just be the 'best-seller' stuff too, the current equivalent of "The One Minute Manager" or "Oprah's Lose Weight in 5 Seconds Diet". Real meaty research material might come along for the ride if it's convenient, but that will certainly not be its ultimate focus. Saying that it does, though, on the part of the companies doing it gives the whole thing a greater air of legitmacy.

  13. #28
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    As I mentioned earlier, my source is Jeffrey Toobin's article in this month's The New Yorker, wherein the second paragraph asserts: "Google intends to scan every book ever published, and to make the full texts available, in the same way that Web sites can be searched on the company's engine at google.com"
    So, if you wish to test the beta version; go to books.google.com and search. I googled Kevin Radthorne and it returned "The Road to Kotaishi."
    The article points out that you can enter Ahab and whale and the search returns nearly 800 titles in which the terms appear. When I googled Valentine Michael Smith I got 823 hits, most of which - on the first page - were scholarly discussions of SIASL; I was too lazy to pursue it further.

    So, say when the project is completed, I search Shiko Shudojo and Nusumi and get over 800 hits. By checking each hit, getting 20 lines before and after the hit, I can probably read your books on line. Is that an issue for you?

    I know it is for me "cause I am too damned lazy and not cheap enough to attempt to read a book that way. But, evidently, it has some authors and the Authors Gild worried.
    Last edited by Hereford Eye; February 5th, 2007 at 10:54 AM.

  14. #29
    Fulgurous Moderator KatG's Avatar
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    So wait, do you get the text to Road to Kotaishi, or just some sort of informational entry about the book itself? Do they have the text or don't they?

    It sounds like a word finder card catalog sort of thing, which would give you excerpts, but as you point out HE, it would be hard to read any novel that way. Researchers would want summaries more than text. Hackers can steal digital files of the full book -- which I imagine is the main concern. Also of concern is the electronic reproduction of the work without the author getting any royalties from that medium. I am not clear -- is Google paying publishers for these books -- the fee of which a portion would go to the author as an electronic subsidiary right -- or are they just taking them? Authors, agents and publishers have been arguing over electronic rights for awhile now, so this would be related.

  15. #30
    Just Another Philistine Hereford Eye's Avatar
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    For The Road to Kotaishi, at this point, all they have is reference to the book's vital statistics. For Moby Dick, they have the whole book. It's just a matter of time till Kevin's books are in the pile.
    As I understand it - and we know how my mind operates -, lots of publishers went with Google because of the advertising angle. The Authors Guild is suing because no one consulted the authors.
    As Kevin alluded to, the money for Google is in the advertising so there must be high volume to justify ads. While Kevin is skeptical of research supporting any such sustained effort, Google has a history of making money where no one has gone before. If they think they see a market, I'd bet on them.
    And I'll bet they figure a way to fairly compensate authors which is better than libraries do.

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