What is the Kindle Doing to the Science Fiction Genre?

Here is the Kindle Best Sellers in Science Fiction showing two lists, Top 100 Paid and Top 100 Free.

The #1 book on the paid list is A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin.  Okay, that’s natural, it tops other bestseller lists too.

#2 is five John Carter novels bundled together for 99 cents.  I can see that, the movie is getting people to read the old ERB books.

#3 is Ender’s Game – another natural, but it’s old.  I guess people with a new reading gadget are rereading their old favorites.  Cool.

#4 is Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey.  WTF?  Who is Hugh Howey?  And he’s got 277 customer reviews!  In fact, Hugh Howey has several Kindle books in the Top 100 paid.  How did this unknown writer get in the Top 100 Kindle SF books?

Going down this Kindle Top 100 list for Science Fiction I realize that unknown authors are grabbing many positions on both the paid and free Top 100 lists.  There’s a smattering of old time favorite SF writers, Heinlein has two titles, Asimov, one, and a few modern SF writers of note like Dan Simmons and Orson Scott Card have a few more, but for the most part the these best sellers are books I haven’t heard of before, by authors unknown to me.

Is the Kindle changing the reading habits of science fiction readers?  And other genres as well?

My favorite science fiction writer is Robert A. Heinlein, but then I’m 60 and my reading tastes are as old as I am.  When I started reading science fiction in the 1960s Heinlein-Clarke-Asimov were the big three of the genre.  Most of the SF authors I’ve discovered in the last 50 years don’t have books on this list.   Why?  Are they out of fashion, or has Kindle reading habits changed things dramatically?

How are low cost and free Kindle books going to affect professional writers?  Also, notice the name of the publishers of these books – they are unknown to me, so I have to wonder if they aren’t self-published.

Supposedly, Kindle books are outselling all other forms of books, so is this what people are really reading in the SF genre today?

Many of Heinlein’s books are available for the Kindle, but only two are in the Top 100, and one of those is there because Amazon put it on sale last month.  There are many Kurt Vonnegut books in the Top 100 Paid listing, but again, they are on sale this month.  Amazon uses the technique of lowering the price of a book for a few days to get attention and then upping the price.  New, unknown writers, are using the same technique with their self-published books, and evidently its working very well.  Better than book reviews, better than word of mouth reviews.  Establish writers are now using that trick too.  That trick only works with Kindle ebooks.  It would be interesting to see if it worked with printed books.

If you look at Locus Bestsellers for March 2012, many of their books aren’t on the Kindle bestseller list.  If you look at Amazon’s Best Sellers in Science Fiction general list that includes printed books and Kindle books, the makeup of this list is different, but the Kindle books are having a huge impact.  Here is the Science Fiction Book Club Top 100 Bestsellers.  Notice how it’s dominated by series, media tie-ins and non-science fiction titles.   The SFBC has little science fiction.  Not so for the Kindle list.  Evidently would-be writers are very anxious to write science fiction and readers are finding it on Amazon to consume in mass quantities on their Kindles.

There’s more new science fiction, and dare I say, more exciting sounding science fiction by the unknown authors at the Kindle store.  Big publishers push blockbusters and name authors, and media related books, so the unknown writer doesn’t have much of a chance, but that’s not true in the wild west gold rush of self-published ebooks.  Something is happening here, and we don’t know what it is.

The press has been full of stories for the last two years about how ebooks are impacting traditional publishing, but I don’t think they imagined the paradigm change that self-publishing is making on bookselling.  Self-published ebooks are becoming the  universal slush pile for all readers to work through to find that gem they want to make a success.  Discovering a new author and promoting her can become a new form of social networking.

Think about that.  In the old days assistant editors would cull the slush pile for worthy books to show editors.  Getting a book published was a long slow process that winnowed out the bad.  Now Amazon has made free ebooks the slush pile anybody can read.  If it gets a lot of downloads they put a price on it, if it sells, they promote it.  If it keeps selling, they publish paper copies.  If it keeps selling, a big name publisher will grab up the author.

But do we really want to be slush pile readers?  I’m old, and have little time, so I usually go with the definitive classic now, but young people with lots of time seem to have no problem trying an unknown writer.  Those people are pushing Hugh Howey forward.

I’ve thought science fiction has lost most of its vitality in recent years.  Writers have become obsessed with series, trying to build their book sales by pushing a popular character.  That’s comfortable for some readers, but I liked when science fiction writers were always trying to top each other with far out ideas.  I don’t know if the self-publishing revolution will bring back those days, but maybe.

Finally, does it mean if you don’t own a Kindle you’ll be out of touch with the popular reading reality?  Yes!

SF Signal is a good site to keep up with free SF.  They feature almost a daily roundup of free science fiction.  Today Chasing Vegas by Tad Vezner caught my attention.  The customer reviews at Amazon are very encouraging and it has a great cover.  The old saying is you can’t judge a book by its cover, but I don’t know if that’s completely true.  It seems to me, the best of the self-published books have nice covers.  I don’t know if that’s a real indicator or not.  But in this new paradigm of reading from the slush pile I’m not willing to try just any book.  I look for customer reviews and a good cover.  I hope self publishing authors will do two things.  Hire an editor and buy a cover.

JWH – 3/24/12

101 Responses

  1. I think Kindle is a game changer and I would and have taken a chance on new and unknown science fiction writers available on Kindle. I’m sure in the past, great writers never came to fruition due to difficulty trying to get published and so they gave up and did something different with their lives. Kindle makes it easier for a writer to get started and then who knows, maybe big publishers will eventually pay attention. I think this is a very good thing!

    • I think you’re right Loton. In the next few years we should see big changes because of this. But what does it mean for the old writers, like writers who live off their back list of titles. Will so many free books hurt their sales? Will new writers create new sub-genres of science fiction and fantasy because publishers have barred their weird ideas as being non-commercial? Right now, all too often we see the new writers cranking out stories based on popular trends, like the zillions of vampire stories. Will we see more innovation with self-publishers?

  2. Yes, but will you be eligible for a Hugo or Nebula if you self-publish?

    • That’s a very good question. If readers nominate a book and Worldcon members vote for it, does it matter?

      Does self publishing qualify a writer to be in SFWA?

      • I look forward to the day that an indie writer wins a Hugo or Nebula. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if someone already has (for a short story or novelette).

      • That will be a major endorsement for Kindle publishing. By the way, is your success totally due to the Kindle and Amazon? And does this kind of self-publishing qualify writers to be members of the SFWA?

      • I’m not sure what membership entails. My gut says that I would not qualify. It is probably based on physical book sales.

        Amazon and the Kindle have been huge for me, but it all comes down to the readers. The word of mouth for this series has been intense. I’m not yet comfortable with the idea that my writing is all that great, but reviewers all say the same handful of things. I don’t want to believe them. I prefer my self-doubt and crippling humility. But just last night I received my fourth or fifth film/TV offer with execs telling me they would like to fly out and sit down with me. When enough of that keeps happening, you wonder if you’ve written something halfway decent.

        I’d be happy to send you a copy of the series for your review. As a connoisseur of the genre, your opinion would mean a lot.

  3. Hi Jim — another great blog entry. Very thoughtful, as usual.

    “How are low cost and free Kindle books going to affect professional writers? Also, notice the name of the publishers of these books – they are unknown to me, so I have to wonder if they aren’t self-published.”

    I feel strongly that the ebook is broadening our readership base, as opposed to cutting up a one-size pie into ever smaller pieces.

    “Free” encourages people to delve into genres that they otherwise might not pay money for; I’ve recently purchased/read two detective novels and a YA post-apocalypse novel as a direct result of having read material from them that was free. All were Indie authors.

    There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence that demonstrates the advantage of giving books away to build up a readership. What I love about the indie-revolution is that writers’ have control of their own destiny–for once.

    Here’s a link to the Smashwords blog that I was reading just yesterday that gives a successful writer’s feedback on this issue. (So it’s not just kindle). http://blog.smashwords.com/2012/03/ruth-ann-nordin-shares-her-secrets-to.html

    As for sub-genres, innovation and an emerging “new weird”, to re-use a term, it’s most definitely happening, and largely because of the use of free books to generate a global readership base. Exciting stuff.

    Cheers, Lyn.

    • Wow, Ruth Ann Nordin is doing pretty damn well self-publishing. I wonder how many people out there that are like her?

      • There’s a lot Jim–If I had the time, I’d gather some anecdotal accounts that I’ve read to quantify that in some way, but I don’t, so you’ll have to take my word for it. :-) I used Ruth Ann as an example because I happened to have that particular post up recently, and her success was through Smashwords, rather than the behemoth of Amazon.

        With respect to the growing indie-movement, I’d say that Twitter is the loose mesh that holds us all together; most of my links I garner through trawling twitterdom. Cheers, Lyn.

  4. It’s interesting,what you say. As an aspiring writer I guess I might be glad of the reader slush pile one day. On the other hand I prefer the old style of pushing ideas rather than building a series – I think actually Michael Crichton does it quite well, though it might make people indignant to say so.

  5. Wonderful and thoughtful observations, James.

    I will say from personal experience that uploading my novel to Kindle changed everything for me.

    I was told by several agents and editors that my novel AMBASADORA wouldn’t find a market, so I put it out there myself…and found a market. I was on the Science Fiction Best Seller list for a while this month (only made it to #34, but I was ecstatic) and have since dropped off, but I believe as I continue to put out quality books and build my readership, I’ll be back on that list again within the year.

    It has made me feel that all those years I put into my craft are finally paying off. As a result, I’m happier and I’m writing more than ever. Seeing money come in regularly each month from my writing is encouraging in a way that few other motivators can be.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

    • Plus AMBASADORA is getting good customer reviews at Amazon. What do you tell your creative writing students about self publishing?

      What kinds of promotions have you used to get readers to try your book? Do you go to conventions? Do you have a web site? And how did you get a blurb from Mike Resnick – that was a good move.

      • James, I could take an entire post to answer your questions! ;)

        But I’ll try to be succinct. The academic world, like all areas of writing, is split down the middle about self-publishing. I approach it with my students by asking them what they want out of their writing–some are looking for a career and some are taking their first writing class. Then I suggest they make an informed decision based on their answers.

        As for promotion, I sent out copies to reviewers, did some Facebook ads, cross-promoted it with the MANY GENRES writing guide I co-edited (which is based on the Seton Hill graduate program), and spent time building a platform on Twitter and Goodreads. But the single most effective marketing tool has been the free promotional days for KDP Select. Last month I released a shorter prequel to AMBASADORA (titled GREENSHIFT) to introduce readers to the world through a less-complex story and had it free for 5 days. It drove the sales of AMBASADORA, as I’d hoped it would. When AMBASADORA went free for 3 days, I hit number 1 in Science Fiction Adventure and Futuristic Romance, giving it a big enough bump to stay on the paid best seller lists for a while.

        As for conferences and conventions, I go to several a year.

        My blog is http://heidirubymiller.blogspot.com.

        As for Mike Resnick, I can never say enough good things about the man. He is truly one of the most good-natured and gracious people I have met in the entire industry. We first met at Millenicon in Cincinnati in 2006–this was the first convention that ever asked me to be a guest! Mike was larger than life to me, but I introduced myself anyway and found this warm, welcoming man who truly loved what he did. We have kept in touch over the years, and I can’t tell you how inspiring he has been for me.

  6. [...] James Wallace Harris asks What is the Kindle Doing to the Science Fiction Genre? [...]

  7. Great post, Jim. Established businesses – and I’ve got to include authors in that – are always going to be threatened by an increase in competition. And when you lower the barriers to entry like this, that will greatly increase the competition.

    In general, that’s good for consumers, though nothing is entirely good. Still, you can always buy your books from mainstream publishers, if you want. You don’t have to take advantage of the “slush pile.”

    In a way, this reminds me of YouTube. That has really lowered the barrier to entry in videos, and although most are of low quality, the old, established media companies are very worried. Well, they should be. It’s a new world. I like it, but it’s still going to cause problems for many people.

    PS. Note that you don’t actually have to own a Kindle to take advantage of Kindle ebooks. There’s a free Kindle-reader you can get from Amazon, so that anyone with a PC can read them. That works well for me.

  8. The problem is not the kindle. Its sci-fi publishing. Sci-fi was all about paperbacks. About 10 years ago the started releasing Sci-fi as hardback first. Even new authors. So the number of books being released dropped significantly. So we hit a point where there was nothing to read. Nothing read for sci-fi reader means less than 4 new books at Barnes and noble each week. Oh yea and most of the books released were Vampire, Zombie crap…

    Thank god for kindle and Baen Free Library for something to read now.

    Also want to give a shout out for Daniel Keys Moran, had to stop writing to feed his family but his Tales of The Continuing time ROCKS.

    He has republished them all on amazon

    http://danielkeysmoran.blogspot.com/
    http://www.immunitysec.com/resources-dkm.shtml

  9. [...] this topic.Powered by WP Greet Box WordPress PluginBlogger James W. Harris has been thinking about the effects the Kindle is having on the science fiction genre. Looking at Amazon’s Top 100 lists for paid and free e-books in the SF genre, he notices many [...]

  10. I read mainly in the mystery and thriller genres, but the quality of some of the free books is amazing. The Kindle has returned us to the day of the cheap Gold Medal paperback. I’m 52, and I haven’t felt that I’ve been wasting my time on some unknown writers. Through these free and low cost (99 cents) books, I have discovered some really great writers like Anthony Neil Smith.

  11. eBooks are a game changer, no question. However, I think self publishing may actually slack off, after a year or two. Some people self publish after years of honing their skills and some slap the first they they write into ebook form without even the help of an amateur editor. Once the volume builds to a level that makes it incredibly difficult to find something you want to read, the pendulum may swing the other way and then even out so that self publishing is viable but not constantly growing. Not everyone who self publishes make a success of it. Last I heard, most self published books sell in the dozens– as in fewer than 100 copies per title. That can be discouraging.

    But I think ereaders like the Kindle also help all writers because people read more when it is more convenient, and that will help self publishing as much as it helps traditional publishing.

    Time will tell. It always does.

  12. The solution is to simply wait for everyone else to read the slush pile and push the good ones to the top so you can pick and choose among those. They are more likely popularized. But the editing process of previous eras wasn’t exactly unbiased either. Just check out a review or two before reading.

    Look at it a bit more like loads of mp3 downloads. Massive numbers of new niches have sprung up musically, with small but loyal followings, rather than a few big names that also mean few options. At one point in time, everybody had read the same books. Now, just like with music, the spectrum, and peoples selection from among that spectrum, are individualizing.

    Kindle isn’t a game changer. It’s bigger than that. Kindle is following the change of a paradigm shift.

  13. [...] James W. Harris has been thinking about the effects the Kindle is having on the science fiction genre. Looking at Amazon’s Top 100 lists for paid and free e-books in the SF genre, he notices many [...]

  14. The change is apparent across many genres and if it pushes the media tie-ins, celebrity ghost-written stuff, etc. out of the way then it has to be welcomed. Publishers may well be forced to swim with the tide and be more adventurous in their choice of what they decide to publish instead of always going with the easy option, cheap buck,lowest common denominator fare they seem to prefer these days. I don’t think it will happen until ebooks are the way most people get their fiction, but then again that day is not too distant!

  15. As a self-published author, I love – for sufficiently loathsome values of the word ‘love’ – hearing the phrase “hire an editor”.
    From SFWA’s own website:
    “Hiring an independent editor can be an expensive proposition. A thorough content edit from an experienced, credentialed editor can cost several thousand dollars, pounds, or euros. A basic copy edit may cost several hundred.”
    (http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/editors/)
    In self-publishing, it’s a crap shoot whether you’ll ever achieve royalties of several hundred, much less several thousand dollars. Some indie authors will – and at the point that their generally large catalog of books are selling well enough that they can be assured they’ll make that level of sales in the first year (any longer and the investment is going to make a disaster area of your cash flow), I’d urge them to hire professionals, because work-shopping your novel through a writers group is a long and oft-times frustrating process. Good, qualified, work-for-free beta readers are in short supply as well.
    There is an unseen cost for cheap/free ebooks – you’re not paying for content and copy editing on the front end, you’re paying for it with your patience and forbearance on the back end. I’m a big fan of sample chapters myself, carefully weighing content versus quality.

    • I would expect as the growth of self-published books expands the demand for freelance editors would increase and the price of editing would come down. Freelance editing could become a growth industry. Ditto for graphic artists working for self-publishers. And I would think authors who have invested years in writing a book would consider spending a thousand dollars on their literary child before it sees the world worth the expense. And that’s also true for buying a cover.

      If the entry cost of getting a book published is $0 then too many people will publish. If authors are going to do away with the traditional publisher they need to be willing to do all the work that traditional publishers put into making a book marketable.

      Also, I think there is room for two kinds of editors. Simple copy editors that mark up a manuscript for common errors should not be that expensive. What authors really want is a Maxwell Perkins, a type of editor that’s supposedly has disappeared from traditional publishing houses. An editor like that would be worth several thousand dollars.

      And I can see a snake-oil industry of editing growing up to feed off the self-publishing boom too. If self-publishing truly represents a paradigm change, then in ten years we should see a whole new landscape of creative freelance jobs.

      • We’re already here. I’m a professional editor who has worked with several indie authors (away from my day job). I love it. It pays for crap, but I’ve read so many indie books that would be FANTASTIC if they had just been copyedited!

        I just started a Web site where I’m looking to hook up indie authors with the stuff they need (e.g., links to available artists/graphic designers for covers, editing tips and common errors). It’s been very exciting.

      • “pays for crap”, then again, so does being an indie-published writer, FOR NOW !
        Hell, I’m even writing a speculative fiction work. Have been for the last 6 months, and I haven’t been paid dime one, and don’t even expect to, unless of course it becomes popular and I sell it for 99 cents/copy.

  16. Great entry. Hugh Howey is a guy here in town who never could get any traction and now he’s #4. You wonder what will happen to “professional writers”? Isn’t Hugh a professional now? Or anyone able to sell their books?

    The overarching theme of the new era is that readers are choosing the winners instead of publishers. I know who I trust the most! Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

    Scott

    • I think we will have to rethink the term professional writer, especially if writers keep taking on more job functions that used to belong to the publishing houses. They have to be more than just writers.

      • Great point. I do my own marketing, pagination, cover art (obviously), and am responsible for securing my own editing. It’s a ton of work. But I’ve also been with a small press, and I prefer being in control.

        I had another offer from a major publisher today. As in, a dollar figure and a real contract. I turned it down. More and more of us, I believe, will choose this path rather than have it foisted upon us.

  17. Also take note that when Amazon first started selling books online they initially took a loss on a lot of the big name stuff contracted to the old school publishers.
    This has resulted in a huge amount of people buying the devices using Amazons model only to discover later that the “real” price is close,more or the same as the paper versions.

    So as an added bonus some of the old school printers and authors are not releasing their novels to Amazon because they were undercharging in their eyes. Unfortunately Sci-Fi is caught in this and having a kindle has become a liability, if you want the big names easily downloaded through the whisper net. You have to either go directly to some authors online, get it in tree killer version or last but possibly easiest find pirate rips.

    I am willing to pay authors direct but the model is not very easy compared to wandering book shelves in a shop. Amazons way of trying to browse is almost as bad as you have found, with the books of dubious quality mixed in with those of real merit. Scifi series in various universes swamping both hard and soft, poorly edited self published mixed in with poorly edited scans of paper books.Short stories masquerading as novels an especial hate of mine. The spaced large print trade back being an extremely annoying version of this.

    My personal method has been lurking in various online scifi book sites then using that information to search amazon>Author site>publisher site>after 6 months warez in that order of relative ease/moral and then desperation.

    • The advantage of getting an ebook from Amazon over directly from an author is Amazon will maintain your copy in the cloud. So if your computer and Kindle burn up in a house fire, you can still get your books again. I don’t like DRM, but this backup feature of Amazon makes me want to buy from them rather than directly from the author.

      Amazon might be the 800 pound gorilla making trouble for the publishing world, but Amazon makes things very easy for me, so I find it very hard not to shop at Amazon. I do hate that ebook prices are rising though. At first I wouldn’t buy an ebook if it was priced close to paper. Now I buy ebooks even when it’s more expensive than paper, and that kills my soul, but my old eyes prefers reading on the Kindle. I love hardback books. I love seeing them on my bookshelves. But I prefer reading them on the Kindle.

      The Kindle has korrupted me!

      Jim

      • I dont believe Amazon are increasing prices, they are just trying to actually profit rather than wear the losses they originally covered to increase market share. ie publishers charged premium price that Amazon didnt initially pass on.

        Yes the cloud is a great idea as long as they dont disappear like some music/game platforms have in the not that distant past.

        The thought my collection can be stripped from my device by a miss key by some coder somewhere or worse the failure of the server if they get sold or bust(some drm requires checks of the server). leaves me cold.

        Kindle korrupted too!

    • http://www.baenebooks.com/c-66-new-arrivals.aspx

      examples of prices publishers believe are right

      • $6.00 for an ebook seems pretty good. It’s not free, but it’s not $9.99, or even $7.99. I don’t expect established writers to give away their books. But it irks me when they charge $9.99 for an ebook of an old title. Old books should be priced like mass market paperbacks. And when mass market paperbacks started selling for $7.99 and more I stopped buying them because I discovered I could get used hardbacks for that price or less. Eventually I think back catalog titles will reach a fair price as ebooks. $6.00 books is moving in the right direction.

      • But, if you mention Baen, you HAVE to mention the Free ( as in Beer ) Library https://tool.vook.com/accounts/login/?next=/ and that they make the entire catalog Free to the handicapped and to the Armed Services
        Just sayin’

      • And you also have to mention that they sell e-ARCs for $15:

        http://www.baenebooks.com/p-1626-no-going-back-earc.aspx

        So early access is worth something.

  18. I took the plunge and bought a Kindle in Dec. 2011. I got a mass of free e-books from baen.com, including a fair number that I had already in paper/hardback. I found some good paid books on Amazon, the best I think is Ric Locke, Temporary Duty, for $3.99. it is his only book so far, I rate it with Heinlein or Niven/Pournelle.
    a friend of mine wrote a murder mystery set at our dog park in Cincinnati. it was her first book, and the editing was done by a couple of her friends for free. Carol started selling it for 99 cents, then upped it to $2.99. she reports that sales went up when she raised the price. with minimal promotion, she has sold about 2,000 copies since October 2011. Carol has made enough to take a 2-month leave of absence from her day job to finish a sequel.
    as the author, she nets $2.06 from the sales price of $2.99, which I think really beats the standard writer’s cur on a printed book.\
    check her book out at Amazon, Carol Newsome, A Shot in the Bark.

    I find that for books up to $3.99, they are almost impulse purchases.

    • Selling 2,000 copies of a first novel is quite good, quite a success I would think. I’ve read that a majority of books in print have never even sold even 99 copies.

    • I find that for books up to $3.99, they are almost impulse purchases.”
      Sometimes that’s the hell of it. Other than the used bookshelves of local stores in larger cities, where can you find the “printed” word cheaper? I used to work near Strand’s in NY CIty and the sidewalks in front were filled with $1 books.

  19. Great write-up. A reader sent me the link when he saw my name and the cover of one of my books.

    What the Kindle store has really changed is the financial structure of writing. I’m an indie writer by choice, not because of necessity. I recently had a six-figure offer from one of the six major publishing houses, and I turned it down. I would lose money to sign up with a traditional publisher. I’m far from the only author in this situation.

    It’s an exciting time to be a writer, but I also commiserate with the frustrations of readers. There’s ever more noise to sort through. The reason my books have taken off has been word of mouth. Major websites like Boing Boing have done features on my stories, which is pretty strange for an indie writer.

    I do take this craft seriously, and I have mad respect for the genre I primarily write in. I grew up on Heinlein and Asimov. I live in their enormous shadows, and I try to honor them by producing the best work possible with the cleanest editing I can manage.

    Again, great job on putting this together. It’s an unbelievable transition the written word is going through right now. We are living in the time of Gutenberg 2.0. And there were plenty who took umbrage at the first version of the revolution.

    • I’m getting lots of hits on this piece, so I assume lots of people are interested in publishing with Amazon for the Kindle. So Hugh, not only are you a success with your writing, but you are inspiration for other writers to succeed like you. I’m looking forward to seeing where this paradigm shift leads us. I can only assume there are other surprises ahead for writers, publishers and readers.

      • I did an IAmA on Reddit a few weeks ago at the behest of one of my readers. I had no idea what I was walking into. The thread absolutely blew up. It was the 2nd or 3rd rated IAmA for the rest of the day. I spent 8 hours trying to answer every single question.

        So yeah, this is a topic that generates a ton of interest. When I speak to college classrooms, I always ask who in there dreams of writing a book one day. 60% of the kids generally raise a hand. It’s a dream for many, and one that’s ever more likely to be realized.

        Also: Your piece is very well written. I suspect that has to do with its popularity.

  20. Yeah – you should read Hugh Howey’s “Wool”. It’s worthy of it’s praise and it’s place in the Amazon Top 5 SF ranking.

    • Howey’s “Wool” is, and so are ton’s of works by other authors I’ve been introduced to. In fact that’s what happened when I got my first Kindle. I saw a book, for free, read it, loved it, recommended it in my SF Bog on Eons.com ( a bunch of old farts like me), and the next month the price had gone to $9.99 ( still cheap, as A. E. N. used to say).

      • I haven’t raised any of my prices. I actually had so many complaints about how *low* my prices are that I had to put a Paypal button on my website! It’s crazy, but I get donations all the time with the subject line saying, “Too cheap.” :D

  21. You know what? There are tons of self-published works out there that are free or cheap for the Kindle. And most of them are dreadfully written, with little-to-no editing or proofreading. I truly think of them as the slush pile, and I have never felt I had the time to wade through all of the wanna-be writers.

    Enter Hugh Howey’s Wool series. Give it a whirl; you’ll find sharply written prose, well-developed characters, naturally compelling pacing, and — I cannot emphasize this last part enough — careful, thoughtful, thorough editing and proofreading. These books never once made me stumble over an awkward turn of phrase or typographical errors. Not once. (My advice to all aspiring authors is that this is more important than you realize; pay attention to the details!)

    These books are every bit the equals of anything being published by the major houses. Read them. You will not be sorry.

    • “And most of them are dreadfully written, with little-to-no editing or proofreading.”
      Sure there are, and because they’re either free or very cheap, you know they’re garbage after the first 10 pages, delete it without a second thought, and never go near that author again.

      • I think that’s something new writers need to learn when considering Kindle publishing. It is so easy to do that I think whole armies of would-be writers are getting out their trunk stories and publishing them. Readers are going to judge you by your work. Don’t be so quick to publish. I’ve been in a lot of writing classes and know it’s very hard to personally know if your story is any good or not. All too often I was in classes where people loved their stories, assumed they were masterpieces, and were deeply offended when no one else liked them. Most stories by would-be writers do suck. Most of those hundreds of thousands of novels by NaNoWriMo writers aren’t worth reading. I think people would be well served to find some kind of proving ground for their stories before they submit them to Amazon. Actually, Amazon will eventually have to find some kind of gateway for quality, or the concept will be crushed.

  22. The paradigm shift is so dramatic and happening so quickly that soon, if not already, “indie author” will no longer suggest “slush”. Many talented writers won’t be indie by necessity (as in, no publisher would take their stuff) but rather by choice (because who wants to deal with the publishers?).

    I happen to have read WOOL, and would say it’s a “traditional print quality” book. I wouldn’t be surprised if, given its success, the author gets (or has already gotten) interest from traditional publishers. But I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s turned them down in favor of the much higher royalties (70% vs. 17.5%!) and increased authorial control that he can get from Amazon. The Big Publishing model is in jeopardy. It will be interesting to watch.

  23. “My favorite science fiction writer is Robert A. Heinlein, but then I’m 60 and my reading tastes are as old as I am. “

    Yeah, well, I’m 65, 5 years older than you, and started out reading the Big Three also. I’ve been a voracious reader since I was first given my adult library card at 8 (over the librarian’s protests, because my father stuck up for me).

    Things, all things, change. I used to be 16, I could buy a Camaro for $3,000, and I used to read nothing but new Asimov, or Heinlein.
    I used to subscribe to Analog , Asimov’s, and F&SF magazines, but then I felt Analog got a bit stodgy, and I dropped it. Asimov’s and F&SF saeem to be holding their own, quality wise, and I still get them. I also have a Kindle, iOs device and an Android Tablet as well as a netbook and laptop and a desktop that runs Ubuntu and they all can read Kindle files. Not only that, but if I start reading on one and go to another, presto, just like magic it knows my place and I don’t have to search to find where I was, just like a cardboard bookmark, without the cardboard, just as though they were all one device.

    In the 2 years that I have the Kindle 3 and all the rest, I’ve amassed almost 2,000 books in my Kindle Library alone. I get newsletters about free offers and specials on books by Amazon ( strangely enough, even though I think the Nook is a better device, as do many others) B&N hardly ever gives away books for free and hardly ever for Amazon’s famous $0.99.

    Because of their policy, I’ve been introduced to authors ( including Howey ) that “I’ve never heard of before”. Some I’ve liked, some immensely so, and some are just crap. But, things change, and Asimov and Heinlein aren’t around any more. I’m reminded of a Simpson’s Cartoon where Lenny asks “where is the new classic rock?”

    I think it’s at Amazon, and it’s either free, or 99 cents today. “There is nothing so certain,as change”

    If you think today’s science fiction has lost its vitality, maybe you need to dig around more in that ‘slush pile’, because new writers are coming on the scene and they aren’t ‘your father’s sci fi’, to paraphrase. Try some of the new work coming from young Chinese sci fi writers. Top drawer stuff.

    • What we need now is a social network mechanism that would help readers find new writers. Book reviews in magazines and newspapers have been dwindling for years, and the few books that do get reviewed tend to be the kind of books and authors magazine and newspaper editors think readers want to read about.

      Amazon is helping those writers that get to the Top 100 for each genre, but maybe it also needs a Top 1000 page with a Twitter/Facebook interface so new writers could hit the radar sooner. Or have Top 100 sub-genres within science fiction (and other genres). I like that old classic SF books are competing with new books, because it says which ideas are still relevant.

      Also, a multifaceted rating system like they have at Audible might help too. Where readers could rate story, cover, editing, characters, etc.

    • Cowboy Tom,

      Can you recommend some of these Chinese authors & books to me? I’m always looking for new reads… especially post-apocalyptic or dystopian tales!

      Cheers!

      • sorry to reply so late, I’ve had a bit of a medical problem. Nothing serious, NOW, but I’ll try and get some to you

  24. duplicate post, don’t mind me, I have to read the last chapter of a book from the “slush pile”.
    Carry on.
    Nothing to see here, move along.

  25. Yes, Hugh Howey is a relatively new author and yes, he is self publishing and yes, this is a new age of digital books. The wonderful thing is that, in my opinion, Hugh Howey definitely deserves the ranking that Amazon is displaying for him.

    The new age of self published authors and digital ebooks has opened up, not a “slush pile” of unworthy books, but a wonderful word of authors that are more connected to their readership than ever before. Readers can communicate directly to these new authors who aren’t afraid of new mediums like blogs, twitter, facebook or sites like goodreads.com.

    Why don’t you try reading one of Hugh’s books (I’d recommend the Wool series) before you decide to relegate him to the slush pile.

    • I’ve bought Wool but haven’t read it yet. I’m looking forward to it because of all the enthusiasm here.

      I was saying Kindle books from self-published writers are the new slush pile open to all readers. Even slush piles at big name publishers produce best sellers. It’s not a negative to come out of a slush pile. But the fact is, most novels in the slush pile are bad. The goal of an editor is to quickly find the needle in they haystack.

      On any given day any reader with a Kindle can fill it with more free books than they can probably read in a lifetime. If you were logical you’d buy books that were established already as being worthy of reading, but there’s a kind of joy in discovering a new writer that you love. Most bookworms love to discover new books they can share with friends, and it’s especially exciting to find a great new book before any of your bookworm friends. Thus the open slush pile will attract readers.

      • I completely agree, James. I said the same thing on a popular writers’ forum and was laughed at and made fun of! I would rather leave the culling of our works up to the readers rather than the interns at the publishing houses.

        Almost every great work was rejected by someone, which means the system isn’t perfect. Why not allow the public to decide?

        The democratic nature of the Kindle store is a game-changer. I was a fan as a reader; I’m an even bigger fan as a writer.

  26. I come from a long line of readers & have been reading for many decades, does this make me a professional reader? Haha! No! It makes me a reader. A reader who loves to read and has gone many times to the ‘free’ pile for lack of funds. I found the trash and I found a few gems. Loved every bit of doing it too.
    So many years of what sits on the book store self telling me what I can read. I do not care that the author’s 8 year old child did the cover art. This is a new age. An age of blogs, Twitters, Facebook and more that has became the given a platform to readers.
    I find such things as a Book Club Survey for Random House Facebook looking to the readers to find out what drives them. This is Random House, a publishing house, who is acknowledging there is a change going on and for once it is being directed by the readers.
    I do not want a editor, publisher or a best sellers list that was organized by a publisher to tell me what to read. I have a group of friends that tell me what they just read from the slush pile and what they thought of it. I trust them, my friends, over a company to sell books.
    It was through a group of reading, book loving, friends that recommended Wool by Hugh Howey to me. After reading Wool, I had to read the next, & the next. The series, Wool, is like the advertising slogan for Pringles Potato Chips is “Once you pop, you can’t stop!”. I now recommend to my friends to read the first two books before deciding weather you like series or not. I can also say that my friends have enjoyed the “high” we have from discovering our own un-known, Mr. Howey.
    Did I and my friends really “discover” Wool by Hugh Howey? No. We are playing a part in his success. We are the reader. We know readers. We tell other readers. Here is an Apple Pie example of the American Dream that Mr. Adams wrote of, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” In this both the author and reader are given the chance to have achievement.
    You asked, ” Who is Hugh Howey and how did this unknown writer get in the Top 100 Kindle SF books?” The answer is simple. He is an author who took a risk and published his own books with his own covers and he is on that list because we readers put him there!

    • Well said, Patricia!

      • No. Patricia, your reply does not explain why Hugh Howey has broken into the Top 100. Yes, his fans *do* have a lot to do with it. But you’re ignoring a few points:

        (1) Howey is incredibly intelligent.
        (2) Howey’s skills are wide ranging (seen any of his photographs?)
        (3) Howey is a very disciplined writer (e.g., he knows the end of the story long before the story is completely written).
        (4) Howey edits the hell out of his own work and then has other editors tear his stuff up.
        (5) Howey actually makes revisions based on his editors’ comments.
        (6) Howey is a genuinely nice guy who loves writing and loves every single bit of feedback his fans give him.
        (7) Put all of the above together. How would this summation NOT present us with a genuinely talented author?

  27. I actually came back to reply to CowboyTom, who said “‘pays for crap’, then again, so does being an indie-published writer, FOR NOW !
    Hell, I’m even writing a speculative fiction work. Have been for the last 6 months, and I haven’t been paid dime one, and don’t even expect to, unless of course it becomes popular and I sell it for 99 cents/copy.”

    As an editor, I make a certain hourly rate at the research unit of the university for which I work. I cut that rate in half when graduate students ask me to edit their dissertations, theses, or journal submissions.

    Bear in mind, I have some accumulated knowledge and some years of experience, and when budgeting, I assume 15 minutes per page. I promise you, there is not one single indie author who would be willing to pay my graduate student rate. I suspect they wouldn’t even be willing to pay me minimum wage, even though writers like CowboyTom make obvious errors like putting the comma outside of the ending quotation mark.

    As an editor, what I would like to see is authors spending serious time educating themselves on the things authors most commonly screw up. There are tons of great style guides out there, and many are available at your local library.

    Seriously….if an author spends serious time learning about common errors and diligently editing his or her work, then the need for (and cost of) an editor is going to be diminished.

    Finally…if I had paid money for some of the indie-authored works I’ve gotten for free, I would’ve demanded that Amazon refund my money. Yeah, I’m an editor, but I pick up my Kindle because I’m primarily a READER.

  28. I do not see how I missed any of those well stated points. I may not have numbered them, yet I did not miss any.
    I would never have commented on this blog if I did not think I was doing so in an effective way for Mr. Hugh Howey. It was he that turned my attention to the blog. I, as a fan of this genuinely talented author know I would NOT be his fan if he was not incredibly intelligent, edits the hell out of his own work and then has other editors tear his stuff up, and has skills that are not only wide ranging but very well executed? No, I would not.
    Hugh Howey is an author who I enjoy to read. He is an author that does his job well that I am proud when a friend I refer to his work, enjoys as much as I if not more. So, do we ask “who came 1st, the chicken or the egg” or in the case of Hugh Howey, who came 1st, the indie author or the indie reader?
    Many people need editors. I need one for this post. Ha! Microsoft Word alone cannot ever replace a good editor. I said that readers put Hugh Howey in the top 100. I never said he was not talented or edited. It is his talent and well done editing that I appreciate. I show my appreciation of this by reviews, rating, and sharing with others. I do not believe for a moment that he would be at such a ranking if he did not have talent. But I like that my reading plays a larger part then it did before e-reading.

    • Agreed, Patricia! I was happily writing other stuff when readers began demanding more Wool in their Amazon reviews. In a lot of ways, I’m a trained monkey you people keep chained to a keyboard! ;)

      I have always insisted that my success is 100% in the hands of the readers. There are plenty of unknowns out there with talent. I hope they get discovered, I truly do. But I chalk my current achievements up to the efforts and word of mouth of my readers, who are wholly responsible for anyone else discovering me.

  29. I tried to read through and see if this question was already addressed, but couldn’t see where it was, so I’ll ask it now:

    Do any of you readers see a book priced as free or under $2.99 as already being of lesser quality?

    This isn’t me judging your response, I’m curious because I priced one of my books at $1.99 (sometimes I drop it to $.99) because it was only 60,000 words as opposed to the $2.99 one which is 105,000 words. Is my logic flawed because I’m looking only at word count and perhaps giving the impression that this other novel is a throw-away?

    • To butt in on this question, as a reader who buys Kindle books, price has less to do with things under $3.99 than how intriguing the story sounds and how many customer reviews it has. I’m much rather pay $2.99 for a fantastic novella than 99 cents for a mediocre epic.

  30. Hey, you got blogchecked by io9!

  31. Ms. Miller,
    Since I have gone ahead and claimed myself as a reader, I would like to share my answer to your question. The price does not tell me if a read will be good or not.
    I read the description first. Reviews help, but understand that for me a negative review can be used as a good review. Sorry, that must make no sense outside of my head. I take what the person wrote, negative or positive, and apply it to what I already know I look for in a read.
    I could really need a good read to escape in with little dollars to my name. (who doesn’t in this economy?) LOVE, love it when, to the rescue, I can count on Kindle to have a section still for me. Who would not like a free read!! Free? Less than $2.99 will get my attention first always!
    . Most of the time finding a good read in the $2.99 and lower area and it will get me onto a great author I never heard of before. Next thing I know that author has just got put on my “need to read” list. Let us not forget I will share this with a friend. I can encourage them not only with is it really good but it is only …… on Amazon. That helps sell it to me when a friend has shared with me.
    Also with Kindle I can lend my books out. With Mr. Hugh Howey a friend lent me the first two books in his Wool series. Since then I have bought more than 2 copies of each book in the series and shared my copies with others who have gone on to buy and share as well. It is never ending.
    In this blog I have met a Ms. Heidi Ruby Miller. My interest was peeked so I bought AMBASADORA. So in this case it is thanks to Mr. Howey I found this blog, a thanks to Mr. Harris who wrote the blog, and a thanks to Ms. Miller for well written replies. Who knows? Honestly, I never was a Science Fiction fan until Amazon turned me on to it.
    Just keep writing, we readers will find a way to keep reading

    • Thank you for the wonderful reader insight, Patricia! (And thanks for picking up a copy of AMBASADORA.)

      I asked because I just released GREENSHIFT as a stand-alone prequel to AMBASADORA in order to ease readers into my world and characters, but it seems AMBASADORA is outselling GREENSHIFT two to one, even though the latter is only $1.99 and the former is $2.99. Maybe it has more to do with AMBASADORA having been out for almost a year and getting more reviews.

      It’s always interesting to see what real readers think rather than the packaged lists that come from the industry.

      • Heidi, many readers who read series like to read them in publication order. Also, AMBASADORA is a very compelling title. I plan on reading it after I read Wool.

  32. James: You might be interested in this review of the Wool series on Wired.com’s GeekDad blog. It shows that it’s possible for an indie author to get picked up by a major media outlet and reviewed like the big boys. He also intimates that this series *adds* to the canon rather than defies or detracts from it.

    http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2012/03/geekdad-book-review-the-wool-omnibus-by-hugh-howey/#more-119397

    • This really does validate your efforts to go it alone Hugh, but aren’t you the least bit tempted to take one of those book offers? Is there nothing the traditional publishers can offer you now that would make you abandon the indie route? We’ve been discussing the pluses of publishing with Amazon, what are the negatives? Do libraries buy copies of your books? Can you get an audio book deal without a big publisher?

      • Great questions.

        There’s plenty that traditional publishers could offer to make me reconsider; I just think we need a few more years before they are comfortable making the rights sorts of offers.

        Right now, they want to seize my revenue stream (e-books) without offering enough in return. I don’t understand these offers, to be honest. Even my agent laughs at them, and one was well over six figures. In every case so far, it would require me making less money to go the traditional route. One publisher wanted to take down everything I have available, and the series wouldn’t go back up until January 2013 (and with a different name). I can’t imagine a scenario that would upset my fanbase more. The lack of logic is stunning.

        What would make sense to me is a company with expertise in print moving what has proven itself as a hot commodity into the one arena they have the most experience in and in which I have zero visibility, and that would be brick and mortar bookstores. If a publisher offered to leave the e-books alone and concentrate on a serious print run, my ears would perk up. But like I said, they want to take what I’ve already established, offer me one fourth (!!!) my current royalty rate on these e-books, and promise little in return. It’s beyond baffling.

        In many ways, I think indie authors know more about e-publishing than the big houses. We are experimenting with the KDP Select program, the art of going “free” for a few days at a time, the serialization that made WOOL a success, all things the big houses would never take a risk on. It reminds me of the flexibility of startups to out-maneuver larger corporations.

        Having said this, there are deals that I’m signing, just not in the U.S. We have foreign translation deals brewing in half a dozen countries right now, some of which are leading to auctions as multiple houses express keen interest in the property. These deals do not threaten my current earnings and promise to expand my readership. That’s great news for everyone, and it make perfect sense to go into these partnerships.

        Libraries can order my books. I know of several that keep them on their shelves. It requires customer demand, which is building. Audiobooks are an option. Audible has a program that allows me to hire my choice of narrator to produce the book. It isn’t that expensive, either. I’m weighing this possibility quite seriously.

        And James, thanks again for this conversation. It’s a strange new publishing world out there. I can really geek out over all the new territory we’re uncovering. Just when I think I understand where we’re heading, I get lost. Just when I think I’m hopelessly lost, I stumble upon a new treasure. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of.

        -Hugh

      • Audio books are important to me. 95% of what I “read” comes through my ears. So even though I’ve bought Wool for my Kindle and it’s queued up to be read, I would have tried it sooner if I had discovered it on audio.

        It’s funny, but the ebook revolution has gotten tremendous press, but the audio book revolution has not, even though most of my bookworm friends have taken up audio books. The iPod and then the smartphone has really made carry around an audio book a no brainer.

        There are lots of people that won’t use an ebook reader or listen to books, and only shop for books at bookstores, so you need a method to read those folks. What about small press publishers?

        Jim

      • That’s good feedback, Jim. It might be just what I need, like a swift kick in the pants, to get the audiobook process going forward. My wife listens to more books than she reads and swears by Audible. They have a deal with iTunes as well, which makes them almost ubiquitous. Once I get my current ms off to editors, I’ll start that process in earnest.

      • Because Amazon displays the other editions along with information about a book, seeing there’s an audio edition always suggest to be that the book is popular. It’s another indication to the potential reader to try the book I think. Be sure and get a good reader, us audio book fanatics are picky that way.

        By the way, Wool is free to Amazon Prime readers. Does that help you much? Either in payment or with addicting new readers.

        What do people say about your covers? When I saw them I expected humor, like a Terry Pratchett book.

      • Books in the borrow program are paid per borrow by Amazon. The rate varies month to month. It’s less than I make from a purchase, but I love participating.

        Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pull out of the program due to demand that I get on the Nook and iBooks stores. I’ll lose a considerable income (I fear), but I get a few emails a week from distraught readers who can’t secure my e-books. It’s a very tricky situation for a lot of authors, a lot to weigh.

        I get mixed reactions on my covers. Some think they’re brilliant (usually the people who read them and see what the cover means in connection to the story). I think browsers find they are absolutely wretched. My agent intimated to me that they were atrocious, read the stories again, and admitted she liked a few of them.

        As much as I feel I do right, I cut corners in places that I shouldn’t. I really should hire out professional cover design, but I’ve grown to love the process of designing a cover with input from readers (or paying enterprising readers for contributing photos or art). It makes them a part of the creative act and gives them a stake in the book. This is more important to me than a flashy, hand-painted cover that has almost nothing to do with the plot (like my favorite book, ENDER’S GAME!)

        Oh, and yikes on Terry Pratchet! I love his books, but that’s probably not a good sign. ;)

      • Does publishing with the Amazon for the Kindle preclude selling to other ebook distributors? I’ve often thought Amazon, B&N and other electronic publishers should cross license their books, or even just sell each others books. I find it offensive they want to be exclusive. They are both publishers and bookstores. As publishers they should want wider distribution. As bookstores they should be universal and offer all books for sale. Does Amazon really expect to corner 100% of the market?

        Covers are important. A good cover has sold me many a book or album. You could experiment. When sales of Wool #1 level off, put on another cover and see if it makes a difference.

      • Ah, I should have explained the borrow program better! I’ve been up since 3:30, so my brain is grinding through the gears.

        In order to enter the Lending Library, you have to sign up for what Amazon calls “KDP Select.” It grants them exclusivity in exchange for some marketing tools (lending library and the ability to set your book as “free” for up to 5 days every 90-day period.

        I was originally in the Nook and iBooks stores, but they offer fewer tools for discoverability. Amazon isn’t perfectly egalitarian (publishers get more subcategories to slot their books into), but they knock the socks off the others. The Nook store tends to push the same titles fronted out in their brick and mortar stores. Amazon has had my books on the cover of their Sci-Fi page. They don’t care. If the reader deems it best, it goes straight to the top.

        This month alone, I will make $7,000 from the Lending Library “borrows.” I have been a “starving artist” for many years. This is a boatload of money to me (and I expect to most people). That’s what I’ll be giving up when I move to the Nook and iBooks stores. That’s terrifying for me, especially since I just gave up my day job where I had health insurance. I seriously doubt Nook and iPad/iPhone users will make up the difference.

        The reason I’m doing it is partly the foreign deals I have looming, but mostly it’s because I share your concerns. As I said earlier, I get emails from readers who can’t access my books (unless they buy a hard copy). That’s a horrible feeling as a writer. I went years where I couldn’t *beg* someone to take and read my books for free! Now I have a demand that I can’t supply? That hurts enough to forgo the advantages and the money of exclusivity.

        (Not sure if all this rambling is painting a clearer picture of my situation, but I do enjoy discussing it. I feel like these changes are only happening over the past several years, which puts me in a unique position to help fellow writers and curious readers by divulging as much as I can about the process).

      • This is very informative. I can understand completely why you wouldn’t want to give up KDP Select. At the book club we often talk about how most of the members don’t have Kindles, but some of them have iPads, or they get Kindle for their PCs and Macs to read the free Kindle books. I don’t think I would give up the KDP Select program. How many Nook readers are there? iPad users can get Kindle books, and who even likes the iBooks store? If you go with Audible, you’ll get into iTunes that way.

        Kindles are catching on. One of our members has always been a Nook fan, but he’s thinking about also getting a Kindle. I know zillions of people with Kindles, but damn few with Nooks.

      • Yeah, that’s my fear. I saw recently that the Kindle has 60% of the e-book market, which is down from 80-something. Still, indies have an uphill slog on those other devices. If it completely tanks, I’ll move back onto Select. I’ll give it at least a month and stomach the losses. At least those eagerly awaiting the series will be able to grab it while it’s available.

    • This is every indie author’s dream, Hugh! Congratulations. :D

      • Thanks, Heidi! It really is the dream. And I fully appreciate it. I totally understand that I’ll wake up soon, return to being even more of a nobody, and have to go get another day job. I just hope there’s enough bookstores around with that happens that I can get the job I love (second) most. :)

  33. Hey Jim, if you have time for a bit of a read and want to see one of the advantages of being an indie who cherishes and nourishes his connections with his readers, check out my blog entry for the day. I really had a reaction to this reader’s email, and I’m seeing quite a few of my readers respond similarly. I’m sure this happens with big-time authors; it has to, but I don’t read about it often.

    http://www.hughhowey.com/?p=1998

    • Hugh, I think you have the knack for being personable. Your blog reminds me of John Scalzi or Jerry Pournelle, two writers who are very good with fans, and who make their writing careers interesting to read about. I sent your blog link to my Classics of Science Fiction book club. Sorry to hear about your dog dying. I had to have one of my cats, Nora, put to sleep recently, so that’s fresh in my mind.

      • I’m sorry to hear that, Jim. :(

      • Thanks. Susan and I are like you and your wife, we never had kids. Nora was 17. Her brother Nick is still with us, but he’s getting old and I have to give him medicine 9 times a day.

      • My mother went through that with two dogs who lived a long and happy life. She liked to say that she spent more on their health at the end that she would want us to on hers. But never with a regret or doubt.

        My father is a man who rarely cries. He had a golden retriever that bonded with him as only our pets can, that complete dependence and a strange sort of healthy, well, worship isn’t the right word, but I don’t know what is. It’s something cleaner and more naive and wholesome than that.

        He tried several times to take that dog to be put down. He knew it was the right thing for her, but he couldn’t do it. One time he got close. Left the dog behind. And driving home, miles down the road, he was blubbering like a baby (as he tells it), called the vet, asked if they had performed the procedure.

        They hadn’t. He drove back and got the dog. And of course, he had to carry his 70-80 pound baby all the way to the truck.

        It’s hard to think of my dad going through that. There’s some weird thread that links us to our pets. Severing it is like cutting some vital nerve. A part of us goes numb and never quite grows back.

        All my best to your little Nick! How lucky to have lived so long, but it’s never long enough.

      • I wrote about Nora here.

        I put off having to put her to sleep until the very end when it was obvious to everyone. You just hate making that decision. However, I’m not going to wait that long for Nick. When we watched Nora being put to sleep I was actually envious of her. It’s a great way to go. When I get old and ready to die, it would be wonderful to die that way. I know Nick is suffering now, but he’s still too healthy to go. We’re still keeping him around for us. But at the next crisis I’ll know it’s time.

      • I hope to attain your wisdom one day.

        The Nora post was amazing. And so sad. The image of Nora allowing the water to run down her face really got me. :(

        And boy were those big cats! How lucky to have the soul and mystique of a cat but the affectionate personality of a dog! Very cool. Can’t believe they played fetch like that. :D

        Great post.

  34. [...] are screaming in terror, some unknown authors are getting a chance to be read for the first time.  This article from Auxiliary Memory looks at the top 100 science fiction ebooks sold on Amazon and how the changing science fiction [...]

  35. [...] of authors who wouldn’t have gotten a shot with traditional publishers, even small presses. Author James W. Harris thinks this could be a really good thing for the genre: There’s more new science fiction, and dare I say, more exciting sounding [...]

  36. [...] James Wharris has a thoughtful post on how the Kindle is changing what science fiction gets read. There’s been a lot of discussion lately — Google it — on the rise of self-published authors, the bundling of public domain works, and how established authors and established publishers are responding to the dynamic publishing landscape. Wharris’ focus on one genre allows him to be a lot less shrill about the whole matter. [...]

  37. I have written five books and have had two self published on Amazon.I am currently paying to have my output converted into ebooks to be read on Kindle etc. People tell me my ‘stuff’ is good so that is why I am trying again to get noticed. All I want is that people get a chance to read my books and enjoy them. This I hope will give my books a chance of being read and not dropped into the dustbin of history. I’m 69 years old so the sands are running out! I’m afraid that I do find the internet bewildering at times! Any advice keep simple!
    It should take a month or so before they become availiable. This is a difficult world to break into!
    Barry E Woodham.
    Science Fiction Author.
    barry.e.woodham@btinternet.com

    The Genesis Project.

    Book 1 – Genesis 2 ——————- ISBN 0-595-33560-8.
    Book 2 – The Genesis Debt.—— ISBN 978-0-595-46411-1
    Book 3 – Weapon.——————— ISBN —-spiral bound.
    Book 4 – The Genesis Search. – ISBN ———spiral bound.
    Book 5 – Genesis 3 ; – A New Beginning.——- Being Written.
    The Elf-war. ——————- Spiral bound.
    Tales of the Ferryman — 1 – 11.
    Ghost stories.

  38. It’s really very complicated in this active life to listen news on TV, thus I only use
    world wide web for that purpose, and take the latest information.

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