Competing With “Dead Guys”

Earlier this month, SFF author Fonda Lee took to twitter to point out what she and many other contemporary SFF authors were “up against” at brick and mortars like Barnes & Noble.

This is what modern fantasy writers are up against. In my local B&N, most authors are lucky to find a copy of their book, super lucky if it’s face out. There are 3.5 shelves for Tolkien. 1.5 for Jordan. Here’s who we compete against for shelf space: not each other, but dead guys.

Before you @ me about the importance of classics, I love LOTR too, okay? But 3.5 shelves?? So much great modern SFF work out there. I found one copy of my WFA-winning book. One of most of the other Nebula and Hugo nominees. One copy of The Fifth Season. 18 copies of LOTR.

If you think a bookstore should be a place of discovery, who goes into B&N and “discovers” Tolkien? Do they figure people want another 5 copies of LOTR and aren’t interested in all the other work out there? I dunno guys. Sometimes, it’s hard for me to go into bookstores, tbh.

(And reminder that this is another reason why I love my local indie bookstores and why we must, must, MUST for the love of God keep supporting them.)

This got picked up by Bounding Into Comics, so needless to say, it kind of blew up and people, myself included, decided to share their takes on the matter.

My own take ignores the specter of “SJWs in science fiction” and “Look at them wanting to erase dead white guys”, because even if those are the case, there’s a lot more going on here that maybe I’m more aware of than some of my twitter mutuals because I’m in publishing.

The fact of the matter is, old works have a much wider audience than the current SFF niche. Even award winning and award nominated works sell far fewer copies than a handful of big-named older works. But remember: these chain book stores are where people go to pick up quick gifts for birthdays and holidays. Nearly everyone will buy new copy of LotR for whatever kids they have whenever that birthday rolls around that they think the kid is old enough to read it themself.  Anyone looking for B&N shelfspace is competing against a market that’s principally driven by easy access to nice editions of classic works to be given as gifts, not one that’s able to sustain itself on new content. 30+ years on, they might get that spot.

A bunch of the “New Authors just need to git gud” takes I saw kind of missed the real point that new authors can’t actually look at B&N the way that many of them, Fonda Lee, too apparently, are looking at it.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of books, the quality of writing, or the quality of the authors. It has EVERYTHING to do with who or what is moving whale numbers, and the rest is being propped up by those sales.

Around 15k sales per year (two copies per month per location–B&N has 633 stores) is pretty good by most publishing standards today, and really only justifies one or two copies of a book kept on the shelf.

Even for successful new SFF titles, it’s still apples to oranges. Fifth Season may be great–it’s sure popular and a big seller for a new SFF book, and Jemisen has a lot to be proud of. But it’s not a book that every parent buys a copy for their children going on 4 generations

B&N’s bread & butter are gift editions of extremely popular and timeless works and novelties.

Being on the shelves of these stores should not be the end goal. Growing your audience is more important than sitting unsold on a shelf next to Tolkien.

Bookstores are no longer “places of discover” and have not really been so for a long time. This is unfortunate, but the realities of the market have changed. It’s why B&N is turning into a toy-store for millennials and carrying less media.

There are some authors out there that genuinely believe that people use B&N as something besides a place to pick up a nice edition of a classic or currently boom-popular work to give as a gift for Xmas or Birthday, and the more authors dissuaded from this the better.

I’d also note that if Barnes & Noble decided to carry Cirsova titles in their stores, we’d probably be bankrupt (I’d be bankrupt–Cirsova’s non-incorporated) within a year when they ship backed the returnable copies. Now, that said, you CAN purchase Cirsova products through Barnes & Noble’s online store! In fact, you should do that now. (Plus Duel Visions, which shows up separate from the search term “Cirsova”.)

Note: this post was originally comprised as a disparate series of tweets across a couple threads. It’s been edited [cobbled together] for cogency and saved for posterity.]

Note 2: Cirsova Magazine of Heroic Fantasy & Science Fiction was a Hugo-Nominated publication with literally 88 nominating votes.

Relaunch of Cirsova Opens to Huge Numbers!

The early numbers are coming in for the new Cirsova #1!

Over 400 copies have been sold thus far!

Thanks to everyone for making this our best launch ever!

If you haven’t bought a copy, you can

Or, if you HAVE bought a copy, you can leave a review, or buy some merch!

We’re trying to get a back-up Amazon print set-up so that we get a more favorable cut (the price difference per unit between Amazon and Ingram Spark is huge)–they’ll be the exact same book (and probably printed on the exact same presses), but we’ll make a lot more per copy. Unfortunately, changes to Amazon’s platform means that you can set something up, it can pass automated validation, allow for the publisher to print a physical proof copy, but when the publisher attempts to approve the title for publication, it can still be held up by some piddly thing. So, it’s good that we went through Ingram Spark, I guess, because a KDP-only Cirsova would be 4 days late at the earliest.

The elimination of Createspace has caused some huge head-aches for us, and we’re still navigating how to handle this new post-Createspace world of self-publishing. But despite potential lost revenues on price differences that we’re still trying to work out, I think we’ve managed to come through and are happy that the new Cirsova came out when we said it would.

Thank you for sticking with us through this transition and supporting us like never before!

We have more great stuff for you this year, some of which we’ll be announcing super-soon!

Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense Out Now!

The Spring issue of the All-New Cirsova Magazine of Thrilling Adventure and Daring Suspense is out now!

The big star of the spring issue, of course, is the brand-new Tarzan story Young Tarzan and the Mysterious She, by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Michael Tierney. Based on a fragment from 1930, this previously “Lost” Tarzan adventure takes place in the Jungle Tales period and, in addition to being a cool adventure in and of itself, ties into and resolves some issues from The Jewels of Opar.  Young Tarzan ponders his nature among his ape family in the jungle when he hears there may yet be another such as he! Who is the white-skinned she who lives among the Gomangani tribes, and is it she whose visage haunts the ape-man’s dreams?!

But in addition to this all-new Tarzan story, we’ve got a bunch of other thrilling adventures that you’ll want to check out!

Atop the Cleft of Ral-Gri, by Jeff Stoner – The Nazis’ never-ending quest for powerful and sorcerous relics to aid the Father-land’s conquests brings the SS to the mountains of Tibet, where a deadly and mysterious weapon is rumored to lay dormant and waiting for a new master!

The Idol in the Sewer, by Kenneth R. Gower – A reverse of fortune sends Kral Mazan fleeing through the labyrinthine sewers of Vasaros empty-handed from his audacious heist! His life may be forfeit to the rat-men who lurk in the tunnels—unless he accepts a job to retrieve their idol for them!

Born to Storm the Citadel of Mettathok, by D.M. Ritzlin – For aeons, Verrockiel the Warlord has struggled vainly to seize the stronghold of Mettathok! With infinite time and resources at Verrockiel’s disposal, what of those fated to claw, tooth and nail, inch-by-inch, progress towards their master’s goals?!

The Book Hunter’s Apprentice, by Barbara Doran – An ancient and powerfully magic book has laid a curse of death upon a sage who had spitefully defiled it! Can Zhi, a book hunter, and Qing, her apprentice with the power to “fall” into nearby closets, retrieve the volume from a haunted manse?!

How Thaddeus Quimby the Third and I Almost Took Over the World, by Gary K. Shepherd – A strange object has fallen from the sky and into the hands of one Thaddeus Quimby III! The alien artifact creates life-like facsimiles of anything imaginable, so it’s only a matter of time before everyone’s wildest dreams may be fulfilled, right?!

Deemed Unsuitable, by WL Emery – A beautiful young woman is at the center of a high-speed chase and shoot-out right where Morgan, a crack-shot Construct, was about to grab some lunch! Against his better judgement, Morgan enters the fray, but who is after this woman and why?!

Warrior Soul, by J. Manfred Weichsel – A strange man with a mysterious camera claims that he can capture the truth and inner beauty of a subject’s soul! Lured in by the photographer and his entrancing prints, a pair of young women find themselves imprisoned and in dire peril!

Seeds of the Dreaming Tree, by Harold R. Thompson – Its fruit are the subject of myth and legend—some hope to exploit it for knowledge and medicinal purpose while others are prepared to kill to keep its secrets! Can the bookish adventurer Anchor Brown survive the trials of the Dreaming Tree?!

The Valley of Terzol, by Jim Breyfogle – Kat and Mangos have been hired to accompany the adventurer Andorholm Wallenoop to the ruins of Terzol in search of an ancient lost delivery! A thousand-year-old receipt offers a clue to fabulous reward or certain death in the Valley of Terzol!

The Elephant Idol, by Xavier Lastra – The blind thief Auger sneaks into the opera house to steal a trinket that the lovely Trännen von Fitzburg received from a lovestruck foreigner! The gift-box’s riddle and its giver’s suicide engulf Augur—and the opera house—in a world of darkness!

Moonshot, by Michael Wiesenberg – The Government wants to put a barn on the Moon—why?! To prove that the United States is capable of landing a barn on the Moon, of course! But the question is, whose barn are they going to send and can they send it to the moon on budget?!