20 February 2012

Mythbusting Catch of the Day Link Sausage Platter

Non Sequitur, 20 Feb 2011

  • Congratulations to the nominees for the Nebula, Ray Bradbury, and Andre Norton Awards for speculative fiction published in 2011 (alphabetical by author/writer):
    • Nebula Award for Best Novel (over 40,000 words):
      God’s War, Kameron Hurley
      The Kingdom of Gods, N.K. Jemisin
      Firebird, Jack McDevitt
      Embassytown, China MiƩville
      Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, Genevieve Valentine
      Among Others, Jo Walton
    • Nebula Award for Best Novella (17,500 to 40,000 words):
      “With Unclean Hands,” Adam-Troy Castro
      “The Ice Owl,” Carolyn Ives Gilman
      “The Man Who Bridged the Mist,” Kij Johnson
      “Kiss Me Twice,” Mary Robinette Kowal
      “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary,” Ken Liu
      “Silently and Very Fast,” Catherynne M. Valente
    • Nebula Award for Best Novelette (7,500 to 17,500 words):
      “Six Months, Three Days,” Charlie Jane Anders
      “The Old Equations,” Jake Kerr
      “What We Found,” Geoff Ryman
      “The Migratory Pattern of Dancers,” Katherine Sparrow
      “Sauerkraut Station,” Ferrett Steinmetz
      “Fields of Gold,” Rachel Swirsky
      “Ray of Light,” Brad R. Torgersen
    • Nebula Award for Best Short Story (up to 7,500 words):
      “Her Husband’s Hands,” Adam-Troy Castro
      “Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son,” Tom Crosshill
      “Shipbirth,” Aliette de Bodard
      “Movement,” Nancy Fulda
      “The Axiom of Choice,” David W. Goldman
      “The Paper Menagerie,” Ken Liu
      “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees,” E. Lily Yu
    • Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation:
      Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director)
      Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director)
      Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Curtis (director)
      Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorses (director)
      Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director)
      The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director)
      Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director)
    • Andre Norton Award for Best Work of Young Adult Fiction:
      Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson
      Chime, Franny Billingsley
      The Girl of Fire and Thorns, Rae Carson
      Everybody Sees the Ants, A.S. King
      Akata Witch, Nnedi Okorafor
      The Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman
      Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
      The Boy at the End of the World, Greg van Eekhout

    Fuller availability information is on SFWA's LJ (linked above). As an homage to one of the sausages below, however, I'm omitting it here...

  • As further evidence of the insanity and duplicity of the publishing industry, consider Amanda Knox's $4-million-advance deal for her memoir. This "deal" fairly definitively destroys three of the myths of the publishing industry:

    • "The breakeven point for the publisher is when the book earns out its advance." Let's assume for a moment that this casebound book will have a list price of $29 — that is, the approximate mean for projected casebound bestsellers from HC announced over the last three years — and a 15-months-later mass-market paperback prices at $9. It's difficult to believe that Bob Bennett would not be able to get terms for his client at least equal to the estimated median deal of 10%/10||12.5%/10||15%1 for the casebound edition, and 6%/25||7.5%/25||9% for the mass-market paperback. That means that to earn back the advance solely on the casebound edition, HC would have to sell just short of 800,000 copies with no returns and no extraordinary marketing expenses in order to realize a profit. Given recent sell-through rates for incident-based-celebrity biographies — about 30% in casebound editions — that means a laydown of nearly 3 million copies just to break even! Yes, mass-market paperbacks will allegedly provide further income... but the collapse of Borders and continued grousing from everyone indicates that market is in the process of collapsing/changing so much that one cannot make predictions. And then there are deep discounts...

      Admittedly, we don't know other parameters of the deal; for example, what about audio rights? Given Bob Bennett's reputation and skill, though, I'm willing to bet that almost all of the lucrative rights were retained by Ms Knox. The one exception might be e-books... but that's such a dicey proposition that one simply cannot consider them either way regarding this particular myth. One must, of course, consider e-book rights as a substantial source of potential income... but the myth ignores them, and therefore so will I for the purpose of this illustration.

    • "Bestsellers carry the rest of the list with them and allow the publisher to publish so many unprofitable titles." Yeah, that sort of requires predictability of both which titles are going to be bestsellers and how much in advance, doesn't it? The basic math in the preceding item undermines that a little bit, doesn't it?
    • "A bestseller results in increased prestige for a publisher's list, and therefore increases sales of that publisher's other books." Riiiiight. Quickly, and without checking the Big Brazilian River, anything else on the web or in print, or for any reason your own bookshelves: Who were the publishers of the incident-based-celebrity-bios/autobios of Jaycee Dugard, Scott Peterson, H Norman Schwartzkopf, and Elizabeth Smart? If you can't name them, there's not much additional prestige, is there? (And the less said about the unverifiable sales of those titles and of their publishers for the relevant periods, the better.) This is one of the current tension points in publishing: What are the relevant marks/designations of origin, and who owns them? I'll discuss that in detail another time... in the meantime, consider this.2
  • In the face of all the corresponding myths about piracy and harm to H'wood, how about some actual data? Well, maybe not so much, as the study appears to implode both sides' rhetoric: It's about delays in availability of the authentic goods, not intrinsic value or marketing budgets or increased "free publicity" or anything else. Gee, what a surprise: When the "genuine" good is just plain not available authentically in a form/format desired by a substantial (if numerically fuzzy) marketplace segment, that segment eschews the later-available authentic version for the now-available counterfeit!
  • How many dancers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? The original says "ballet dancers," but this looks a lot more modern to me...
  • History is written by the winners. So are the textbooks: Remember that "who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past" (that's IngSoc, not straight contemporary English; it's usually misquoted as "he who" or "whoever" as we subliminally correct the grammar to that which we expect). Coming soon: Reliance on the novel-writing machines in PornoSec... which will probably end up just writing computer porn, but that's what happens when management doesn't maintain control of the labor force, eh?

  1. For those unfamiliar with the notation, that's 10% on the first 10k copies, 12.5% on the next 10k copies, and 15% thereafter on the casebound edition. This is fairly common (although not "standard" in any meaningful sense of the word) notation in publishing discussions. You'll sometimes see it referred to as the "escalators" — based on the idea that royalty rates "escalate" as sales increase. However, since it's a small number of discrete steps that moves at a nonconstant rate, it's not like any escalator I know of...
  2. Ms Vaughn is quite circumspect about the actual progress of the negotiations, and I respect her circumspectness. Having dealt with precisely that negotiating strategy from that publisher — and even that imprint — more than once, my impulse would not be to respect the privacy of negotiations, because the whole story for each work (let alone for each imprint) reflects monopsony concerns, wishful thinking, deceptive trade practices, and a variety of other legal problems. Then, I spent enough time inside the Beltway to understand the real motto of power: "If you don't have anything nice to say, let's hear it!"