Lightspeed launches!

Paul Raven @ 01-06-2010

Wow, that rolled around fast – remember me plugging Prime Books’ experiment in web-based short story genre fiction publishing, Lightspeed Magazine?

Well, it’s here – the Lightspeed site is live (and has a very contemporary and readable look, if you ask me), there’s fiction and non-fiction to read already, and there’s plenty more scheduled to come. So why not pop over there and see what’s on offer?

Of course, it goes without saying that we’d appreciate it if you’d pop back later today for this month’s new piece of Futurismic fiction… you won’t want to miss it, I assure you. 🙂


BOOK REVIEW: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)

Paul Raven @ 22-04-2010

Shine: an Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science-Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)

Solaris Books, April 2010; 416pp; £7.99 RRP – ISBN13: 978-1906735661

I’ve been talking about Jetse de Vries’ Shine project for a long time now, for a number of reasons: not only is Jetse a good friend and former colleague, but I’m a sucker for manifestos and movements that attempt to turn against the grain within their chosen field. I supported the call for optimistic science fiction for the same reason I supported the Mundane SF movement, in other words, and in the same manner – not in hope of seeing one hegemony replace another, but in hope of seeing the landscape change a little.

Only time will tell whether Shine will cause more than a momentary blip on the stylistic timeline of science fiction, of course. But a number of the stories contained within it seem to prove Jetse’s thesis, namely that you don’t have to write a dystopian or post-apocalyptic future to create an engaging science fiction story. Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic Science Fiction by Jetse de Vries (ed.)”


More on the Orbit digital short fiction offer

Paul Raven @ 16-04-2010

In the wake of yesterday’s announcement that Orbit US will be publishing short genre fiction in a digital format, The Scalzi weighs in with some pertinent questions from the authorial side of the fence:

As I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, I’ll refrain from saying anything about this particular proposed program until I do. However, in a very general sense I can say that proposing writers offer up work uncompensated save for rosy promises of back-end glory is something one shouldn’t tolerate in poorly-funded start-ups done in apartment living rooms. If such a thing were proposed from, say, an arm of the second-largest publisher on the planet, itself an arm of a huge multinational corporation with roughly ten billion dollars in revenue and $180 million in profit in 2009, it should be tolerated even less.

And gets answers, straight from the horse’s mouth. Or rather, from the keyboard of Tim Holman, Orbit Publisher:

The program is likely to be royalty-only. This might not be attractive to some, but I believe it may well be beneficial to authors. Again, perhaps not all authors, but that’s what can happen in a marketplace. I like the principle of creating a direct relationship between the popularity of a story and the revenues received by author and publisher. I also like the idea of giving readers the opportunity to pay for short fiction if they are prepared to do so, and think that doing so adds an interesting dimension to the short fiction market.

Orbit will be handling editorial and marketing for the stories. We like to work with our authors on some aspects of marketing, but there will be no onus on any author to provide any service related to this publishing program.

DRM-free is unlikely.

[…]

It wasn’t asked, but I can also say that we’re expecting individual stories to be priced at $1.99.

Not as pretty a picture as many might like, but Holman’s being refreshingly open about it all; if Orbit are wise, they’ll keep the conversation public and listen to feedback, even if they’re determined to go with their existing plan.

At any rate, I think we’re looking at the new genre lit blogosphere topic de la semaine here.


Orbit to take short fiction to the digital market

Paul Raven @ 15-04-2010

From the press release:

Orbit (US) has offered to publish digital editions of all original short fiction written by its authors. The digital editions will be distributed widely through major retail channels, for reading on a variety of devices. Authors will be paid a royalty for each story sold, rather than the flat fee more common in the short story market.

Tim Holman, Orbit VP & Publisher, said: “We know that writing short fiction is important for many of our authors. By offering to publish their short fiction – and to publish it quickly – we will be providing a new way for them to connect with readers. The initial response from our authors has been great, and we are looking forward to launching the first stories later this year.”

Maja Thomas, SVP Hachette Digital, said: “Publishing timely and well-priced short fiction has long been one of HBG’s goals. The digital reading revolution and the proliferation of new devices and mobile platforms now make this possible.”

Interesting. Here’s Nick Mamatas’ initial assessment:

Why, you ask? My theory:

To train the audience to associate digital purchasing with publisher rather than author or the (online) bookstore, thus allowing HBG to more easily sell ebooks direct to the consumer without having to cut in Amazon, Apple, etc. (This can also lead to cheaper ebooks, once one can keep much of what otherwise would be the discount to the trade.) That part of the idea isn’t even a bad one.

And Charlie Stross’ response to such:

If approached, I shall politely tell them what I get paid for my short fiction sales elsewhere, and offer them the opportunity to compete.

[…]

Orbit is part of Hachette. Hachette’s current policy — dictated from a boardroom high in the stratosphere and divorced from earthly considerations — is that DRM on ebooks is mandatory. This won’t be waived for these stories without a major internal argument; so I’m assuming it’s business as usual for now.

Royalties on ebooks are around 20%; viewing this as a new sales channel, they might go higher (25-30%).

Pricing on short story ebooks … they’d look like complete tools if they priced short stories at the same level as novels, so I’m betting on a price point in the range $1-5, probably $2.50-5 (the $1-2 price spread would be better for sales but is difficult, because the cost of processing the credit card/paypal transactions puts a floor of around $0.5 under each sale).

Asking $5.00 for a 12,000 word novelette with DRM on top is not going to boost sales relative to, say, $8 for a 120,000 word novel, also with DRM. So I expect sales to be no better than their current ebook sales, which is to say, dismal. Let’s be optimistic and say they can shift a thousand copies of each story — 1000 sales via Kindle is enough to put you in the monthly Top Ten Bestsellers on that platform. That’s revenue of $5000 for a story, of which somewhere in the range $1000-1500 goes to the author. More realistically they’re going to sell 100-250 copies, meaning the author might get $100-250, eventually, after a couple of royalty periods (6-12 months). Compared to the $600 they’d get from Asimov’s SF, for example — with their rights back after 12 months.

For a tenth of the words that go into a novel that would earn them $10,000.

Does Not Compute, does it?

[…]

If they want to make it work they will have to start paying the authors an advance against future earnings, or run it like tor.com (at a stonking loss for the first couple of years as they build their audience).

That last bit is quite telling, really. I used to hear a timespan of five years bandied around as the duration a print mag needed to survive before it would start making a profit; it’ll be interesting to see how Tor.com makes out over the next few years. But then they were lucky to have had that initial investment behind ’em… I could do amazing thigs with Futurismic if someone would just lend me ten grand… 🙂

It’s also nice to see a major genre publisher realising that not only is there a market for short fiction, but that their writers want to produce it. Common sense would dictate that the lesser-known writers will see the most advantage in pumping out the short stuff, which should maintain the idea that short stories are the genre’s proving grounds.

What do you reckon – can Orbit make digital short fiction work on the royalties model at a price point that keeps both writers and readers happy?


Interview with Futurismic’s fiction editor Chris East

Paul Raven @ 18-03-2010

Hard-workin’ Futurismic fiction editor Christopher East doesn’t post here very often; not only does he spend hours combing through the slush pile for this very organ, a lot of his time is taken up by, y’know, having a life, and a job and a family. That sort of stuff. Not that I’m jealous or anything. Ahem.

So, if you want to know a bit more about him (and you should, because he’s not only one of the sharpest unpaid fiction eds in the business, but also a jolly decent chap, as we Brits might say), Chris has been interviewed recently by Andrew Porter of writer/reader blog The Science Of Fiction. Here he is talking about how he knows when a story is the right one, and on how he writes rejections:

Chris East: Of course, now that I’ve been at it for a while, I understand why most editors don’t [write personal rejections].  It’s not always possible (crush of time, number of submissions), it’s not always warranted (sometimes there’s not much to say – the story just doesn’t do it for me), and really, the effort rarely pays off (I mean, except for personal satisfaction, there isn’t much incentive).  It’s also not really an edtior’s job to teach writers — it’s the editor’s job to find stories.  But as a writer I always appreciate it when the editor says something helpful, so I do still try to provide some feedback.  I’m also proud that I’ve never resorted to using a form rejection.  I can see how people might think I do, of course – you do tend to repeat yourself once you’ve written a few thousand responses!  But take my word for it, I write every rejection from scratch.

Andrew Porter: As a zine that only publishes one story a month I would imagine that you are often sitting with several stories that you would like to publish but can’t. How do you make final determinations between near equals (i.e. topical relevance, good title, etc.)

Chris East: This has never been a real problem for us, actually.  In fact, our inventory tends to run on the thin side most of the time.  I suspect this is a combination of high standards and a fairly specific focus on near-term future SF – I guess there aren’t that many available stories that fall perfectly into our wheelhouse. So I honestly don’t recall having the kind of one-or-the-other decisions you describe.  The exception might be when we’ve  received a story very similar to something that we’ve already published.  If we’ve recently featured a story about brain implants, for example, we might hesitate to publish another brain implant story close on the first one’s heels.  (Which, since we publish so infrequently, equates to “the past several months.”)  But mostly, it’s kind of a know-it-when-I-see-it situation.  In other words, “Yep, this is a Futurismic story!”  Or, “Nope, it isn’t!”

Lots more after that… some of it quite surreal, in fact. Enjoy!


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