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.

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Review: For the Killing of Kings, by Howard Andrew Jones

I received a copy of “For the Killing of Kings,” by Howard Andrew Jones for review. Cirsova Magazine has regularly ad-swapped with Howard Andrew Jones for Tales from the Magicians Skull and has ad-swapped for this title in the Spring issue.

FortheKillingofKings_comp-2I’ve always been wary of starting new fantasy series that have not yet been completed. The last time I committed myself to such a series, it stalled out after the third of five books (though rumor has it book 4 may finally be coming out!). Given Jones’ track record, I don’t think I’ll have to worry about that, but the wait for the conclusion of a story can be rough. I think this one may be worth it, though.

Narrator voice:

“A kingdom has enjoyed a fragile peace for seven years after the end of a great war. The final battle of said war and the uneasy peacetime has fragmented the kingdom’s heroic top-cop force, the Altenari. Their previous leader died in the fight, many senior members resigned or went missing, and squires with magic potential are being siphoned out of the corps into a new mage auxiliary. The great fallen hero N’lahr’s sword, kept on display in a reliquary, proves to be an elaborate fake, and conspirators are willing to murder their sworn comrades to maintain the cover-up. As the mystery of the false sword unfolds, the kingdom teeters on the brink of war while its most ardent defenders are hunted down as traitors by their mad sorceress queen and her scheming minions.”

“For the Killing of Kings” is a very modern fantasy, in its style and plotting, in rather sharp contrast with the last book I’d read. It’s not a bad thing, and tastes may vary, but it definitely took some shifting gears to go from a Kline adventure to this. The opening of the book is a very slow burn as Jones builds his mystery and establishes the atmosphere. The multiple perspectives and introspection from some of the characters can drag out the pace of the story in places, but it ultimately evens out. The action is grand and exciting, and while the myriad characters are a bit shallow, they remain endearing.

Spoilers below

Admittedly, the one worry I had throughout the book was whether there would be a pay-off at the end. “For the Killing of Kings” is a bit of a brick, and being the first of three bricks, one could understandably be concerned and hope that it not end on too big of a cliff-hanger. “For the Killing of Kings” is more two shorter novels with their chapters interspersed that split off from a common starting point. One of these novels, the one which follows the first group of characters introduced at the beginning of the book who are forced to flee from the conspiracy, delivers a payoff, while the second, which follows characters who initially remained behind and try to unravel the mystery behind the conspiracy, ends with a “darkest hour” cliff-hanger.

Overall, though, the book delivers on its premise: at the beginning of the book, we’re told of a prophecy that a sword will kill a king, and by the end of the book, someone has killed said king with said sword.

Spoilers end

Most important, perhaps, is the question of whether I’ll be picking up the other books in the series. Yes, I will, because yes, I want to know how it ends!

ShanePlays Feat. Michael Tierney & Cirsova Up Now!

The podcast version of the ShanePlays broadcast from saturday is available online now.

shane-plays-podcast-title-3-2-2019

So, if you missed it live, you can check it out here:

https://shaneplays.com/young-tarzan-and-the-mysterious-she-edgar-rice-burroughs-podcast/

You can pre-order the new issue here from Amazon.

If you’re interested in getting a hardcover, sign up for our mailing list–we’ll send out an announcement with the link when they’re available, plus we’ll send you a promo-code for a discount.

 

Free D.M. Ritzlin Story – The Infernal Bargain

With all of the excitement about the new Tarzan story in our upcoming issue, it might seem easy to overlook some of the other cool stuff we’ve got coming out next month.

Well, it would be a mistake to do so, for sure!

One of the other stories our spring issue will be featuring is by D.M. Ritzlin of DMR Books. Dave publishes some of the best Sword & Sorcery out there today, and we’re thrilled to have one of his stories, Born to Storm the Citadel of Mettathok,  in our upcoming issue.

And if you sign up for DMR Books’ mailing list, you’ll get another of his stories free: The Infernal Bargain!

Don’t forget to sign up for Cirsova’s mailing list, either! We’ll be sending out discount codes for hardcover copies to our mailing list subscribers when the hardcovers become available.