I’ve been a fan of Black Library for a long time, going on about 11 years now, roughly. It all started with a copy of William King’s third Space Wolf novel, Grey Hunter, and was soon continued on with the first six novels in Dan Abnett’s Gaunt’s Ghosts series. Since then, I’ve read a lot of the novels, and the short stories, and the anthologies, in all the different formats that have been put out. I took a long break in the middle, around late 2008 however, and didn’t get back into the swing of things until later 2010, by when there had been some big changes to everything, new series, new authors, new formats even (the Hammer and Bolter eZine). It was an exciting time
Right up until late 2012 that is. For someone just getting back into BL fiction, those two years were well-spent, catching up on a lot of the stuff that had been put out in the intervening years, and during that period. I repeated often last year and the year before that, that BL was enjoying very much a golden year since the Horus Heresy series continued to gain more recognition, with each book going on the New York Times Bestsellers List, with lots of new authors coming in, some truly amazing artwork from a whole new generation of artists and so on and so forth. BL had even embraced digital publishing wholeheartedly and were making some great inroads.
But then, they started dropping the ball with their marketing. Curious, inexplicable decisions were being made. And a lot of it was coming together at the same time. And it baffled me. Still does. Which is why I’m writing this post at this time, and not before. Because by now I’ve seen a lot of the fall-out from all the decisions that they’ve made in the last year or so.
So read on, and enjoy. And if not, I welcome any opinion that differs from mine. Also, authors are welcome. Any time. You can find all previous Publishing and Marketing posts here.
A few days ago I came across a review of Mark Lawrence’s second Broken Empire novel, King of Thorns (link), which is up for nomination for the David Gemmell Legend Awards in the Legend category. The Legend Award is given to the Best Novel of the previous year. On Twitter and Facebook, I talked about how that review justified all my reasons and fears for not reading further into this series after my experiences with the first novel, Prince of Thorns (review).
My tweets eventually spawned off a discussion about negative reviews, which led into the review that forms the basis and reason for this entire post. In January last year, reviewer Liz Bourke wrote about Michael J. Sullivan’s first Riyria Revelations novel, Theft of Swords (link). This review was brought to my attention by a friend on Twitter who had taken exception to the way that Liz Bourke took potshots at the author and his editors at Orbit Books.
Going through the review and the comments thread, some things become apparent to me as to the intent of the review, the tone it is written in, and what, ultimately, were the reactions. However, what really ended up happening was that it all sparked off some self-examination about negative reviews. And that’s what this post is all about.
So welcome to another Publishing and Marketing blogpost.
So right now on Twitter and Facebook, there is an intense debate brewing regarding (as of when I started writing this last night), essentially, the right of authors to step into blogger-space to offer commentary on reviews, whether they are stepping in to correct mistakes in a review, or making narratives clearer by offering their intentions with the choices they made, or whatever else. It all started with a highly condescending blogpost on the Strange Horizons website, by blogger Renay. And that in itself is an extension of a review of Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series on the Book Smugglers blog. The comments sections on both posts are very illuminating.
Now, before I get into the meat of my argument about the behaviour displayed by the people concerned, I’ll say this outright: this kind of behaviour pisses me off. This is why I sometimes hate being a reviewer because it is people like Renay and Ana at Book Smugglers who outright give reviewers a bad name, whether they realise it or not.
Hence, why this article is titled Writers Welcome and Reviewing Etiquette. So, here’s another Publishing and Marketing post. As always comments are most welcome, whether you are an author or a reviewer or just a reader.
About a week or so ago, I posted a list of some of my favourite female authors in SFF, past and present (that is, some of the women on the list are now sadly deceased). For the follow-up, I wanted to focus on some of my favorite female characters in SFF, irrespective of genre. Until March last year, I didn’t really have such a list in my mind. Even though I had read a few books by then that had female protagonists or supporting characters, I’d never really considered if any of them were my “favourites”. But that changed around quickly when I read Nathan Long’s Jane Carver of Waar, and all of a sudden, I realised that there were so many female characters I’d read of over the years that I would put on a list of favourites.
It was a really interesting revelation, and it led to me paying much more attention to such characters in the books I was reading, or had read, or would read. One thing that I noticed while compiling this list was that for the most part my favourite female characters fall into the role of the “warrior”, which is another subconscious thing I never really paid attention to.
Really weird how these things work out.
Once again, as caveat for this list, this is by no means comprehensive, just a small selection of a much wider range. And in this list, I’m not limiting myself to just novels and the like, I’m extending it to comics and movies as well, given that I am much more familiar with these media in terms of the content, rather than with the creators. Feel free to check out my reviews (books and comics) of the various novels I’ve read in the last two years for a bigger interest list.
About a month ago, I posted my first Publishing & Marketing column on the blog, titled “Publisher Communication“. In it, I talked at length about the marketing approaches of various SFF publishers in the English-speaking markets. The post got a fair amount of attention in social media and over email, and I’m really pleased with how things turned out.
I initially intended for the second installment of this semi-regular column to get into more of the above topic, but then I decided against it, since something else happened around roughly the same time. It was announced in various places that Night Shade Books was a hair’s breadth away from declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy and that they were considering an asset (author contacts to be specific) sell-off to meet their debts and make sure that their authors, editors, cover artists, etc all got paid their respective dues. This is where Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing were stepping in as the potential buyers. But, things weren’t as promising as they seemed at first. The terms being offered by Skyhorse/Start meant that while everybody would be paid, they would not be paid anywhere near the full amount, especially not the authors.
Smarter and more publishing-savvy people than me have already talked at length about the details, so I’m not going to touch on any of that. There was even enough backlash from a LOT of people involved, the fan community and the SFF community that is, that Skyhorse/Start eventually were willing to offer better terms, although there were still some big concerns. Just do a google search and you’ll get a plethora of links and discussions about it.
The purpose of this column is to talk about my experiences with Night Shade’s publications, and why I think its rather tragic that they are going under and what it means for the SFF community as a whole.