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Posts Tagged ‘industry neepery’

Panel suggestions, free to a good home

After the brouhaha over WFC’s panels the other week, I took to Twitter to brainstorm ideas for panels that would make World Fantasy more up-to-date with the current genre. Wound up with quite a few I’d like to see at some con, a selection of which are below.

Additionally, I propose a guideline for all panel programming: if you’re discussing a topic or subgenre and your panel is not explicitly about either a historical period in the genre or its most recent works, then it may be good to have your panel description reference one foundational work, one classic, and one recent title. So, for example, if you were going to talk about vampires in fiction, you could name-drop Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. If you cannot think of an example from within the last twenty years, then get Twitter or Facebook to help you out. Otherwise you wind up calling Interview “recent” and looking pretty ignorant . . . .

Anyway, panel ideas! Feel free to suggest more in comments.

* Serialized Publication — Both self-publishing and projects like Serial Box have revived this approach to storytelling. How does it differ from its Victorian or pulp-era counterparts (and from modern serialization on TV), and what are the benefits it offers to the writer and the reader?

* Living Memory as History — Fantasy is stereotyped as being mired in a medieval past, but historical fantasy has started to mine the twentieth century for settings. What’s the appeal of setting a novel not in the present, but within living memory, and what perils does that hold?

* Works in Translation — English-language authors often derive a portion of their income stream from translations of their works into other languages, but the flow in the other direction is much smaller. Let’s highlight recent successes of translation into English, and discuss what the barriers are that keep the numbers from rising higher.

* DVD Extras — Author websites and social media provide many opportunities for writers to “add on” to their works, providing additional details or explanation or behind-the-scenes glimpses of how a book came to be. Do these add to the experience, or does knowing too much take away from the magic?

* Trigger Warnings — Fiction, by its nature, often includes content that might be distressing to a given reader. There’s a trend on the internet to note when a post might contain references to triggering content such as sexual assault or child harm, and fanfiction has a long-standing practice of tagging stories to give a preview of what’s inside. How might professional writers do the same — and what, if anything, is the aesthetic cost of doing so?

* Everybody Writes It, Nobody Reads It — Certain genres appear to be more popular with writers than with readers. Or is that just received wisdom? Agents and editors say nobody wants a portal fantasy, and yet many authors want to write them; the same might be true of pulp. Why the disjunct?

* Resurrecting Books — It used to be that your backlist, once out of print, might never be seen again. Self-publishing offers the chance to give these books new life — but what should an author do when these works aren’t up to their current standards of craft, content, or more? Is it better to revise them before republishing, or should they stand as the historical artifacts they are?

* Examining Empire — Good-bye, faceless minions of the Dark Lord; hello, realistic examinations of empire and colonialism. Recent works such as Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire, Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings, and Seth Dickinson’s The Traitor Baru Cormorant have delved into the ways that empires acquire and maintain power. Let’s discuss the angles they take, and what this tells us about the world today.

* Alternatives to Violence — The default assumption in the genre is that the stakes are high only if a lot of lives are at risk, and the most exciting victory a character can achieve is to win a climactic fight. But there are books that present alternatives, either by solving problems through non-violent means, or by basing the conflict on some other axis entirely. How do writers create excitement and tension without resorting to violence?

* It’s Not About You — Popular authors may find a fandom springing up around their works. How do they strike a balance when it comes to interacting with those fans? Authors have been cautioned for years that it’s dangerous to acknowledge fanfiction and other fanworks, but is that really true? And what’s an author to do when the fans say they aren’t welcome in their own fandom?

* Grimdark Women — When we hear the word “grimdark,” most or all of the authors who come to mind are men, and the stories they tell are often criticized for sexism and misogyny. Who are the women writing in this corner of epic fantasy, and do they receive that label on their works? Are the female characters in their stories handled differently from those in the works of men?

* Poverty in Fantasy — Many fantasy protagonists grow up poor, but in most cases it seems to be cosmetic poverty: the rural farmboy and the girl from the streets never seem to be malnourished or wondering where they’ll sleep tonight. What books feature protagonists who are realistically poor? What are the difficulties in writing about someone who lacks the free time and disposable income to engage in the usual activities of a protagonist?

* Bring Your Own Dragon — Our modern world is mobile like never before, but a lot of urban fantasy still features protagonists who are ethnically and culturally homogenous with their homes. Who’s writing about immigrant protagonists? How can an author navigate the mesh of different folkloric traditions, the dynamics of multiple cosmologies being real?

Convention Accessibility Policies

A while back John Scalzi made a public pledge not to attend conventions without a harassment policy, and many authors signed on.

I’ve decided to add a new pledge(1) for myself: I won’t attend a convention that doesn’t have an accessibility policy.

The proximate cause of this decision is the abysmal experience Mari Ness had at yet another World Fantasy Convention. She’s the one who has spoken up the most about this, but far from the only one it affects: as she says there, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, the Guest of Honor, was using crutches. Many of our most respected writers are elderly and use assistive devices; Gene Wolfe was using a cane. Injury can strike anyone; Scalzi was in Australia when he tore a calf muscle, requiring a combination of crutches, cane, and wheelchair to get about and get home. (How many ankle surgeries have I had, again?) And those are just the authors, then ones a convention might invite and then either lose or massively inconvenience because of bad accessibility. It doesn’t even touch on the fans who might want to attend, but stay home because they just can’t face the hurdles imposed by trying to get around or enjoy themselves while present. But if you make it more accessible for them? You may be surprised how many show up.

I think it’s easy for this one to slide under the radar because many of us are lucky enough not to be affected. In the wake of Mari’s recent experiences, though, I found myself thinking: saying “well, I don’t need accessibility assistance; therefore I don’t care about the policy” is kind of like saying “well, I’ve never been harassed at a con; therefore I don’t care about the policy.” Both of those statements are crap. Do I care about my fellow writers and fans being able to attend and enjoy themselves? Yes. In that case, I need to make sure they’re welcome.

So: if a con does not have an accessibility policy, I will not attend.

Of course, it isn’t enough for me to just say that. What do I mean by “an accessibility policy”? What kinds of measures does a con need to take for me to say I’m willing to attend? Fortunately, other people have put a lot of thought and effort into these matters. Tanya Washburn was kind enough to help me out with this, pointing me at several resources: Geek Feminism Wiki has a page linking to several sub-topics, has a page, and the WisCon policy is generally agreed to be the best example out there. Just reading through those things can teach you a lot.

The first purpose served by an accessibility policy is to inform people. Maybe the policy says “we regret to say that we cannot arrange wheelchair access to X part of the venue.” That may be disappointing to a wheelchair-bound attendee — but it’s a lot less disappointing than showing up to the con and only then finding out that they can’t go everywhere they want to. If you say you will not be providing gluten-free food in the con suite, then gluten-sensitive attendees know to bring their own victuals. Etc. And providing this information is, quite frankly, not very difficult. It costs no money (you’re already paying for your con website); it requires only a small amount of time and effort. But writing it up is a really good exercise, because it will prod you to think about these issues and consider whether you can’t make some adjustments — which is the second purpose of such a thing; it makes those of us who don’t deal with a given issue more aware of it, which in turn can help us do better.

And that brings us to the third purpose of the policy, which is to actually, y’know, make things accessible. I think that my pledge should include some minimum standards of access, without which I will strongly question whether I should attend. I don’t expect everything: for example, the policy for my friendly local FOGcon acknowledges that they cannot afford to pay for interpreters (e.g. ASL sign), and they haven’t been able to find any volunteers. That, for me, is not a make-or-break issue. Ditto their comment on fluorescent lighting, which is ubiquitous in the kinds of hotels and convention centers that cons take place in; expecting a con to somehow deal with that problem is not realistic.

But some things require very little effort and money, and I think it’s fair to expect them at any con that gives half a damn about access. At the moment, for me, these include:

1) A con staff member who is the designated accessibility contact. This person is in charge of making whatever arrangements the con will be implementing, answering questions from guests or attendees in advance of the con, and handling problems if they arise during the con. If the hotel has locked the door at the top of the wheelchair ramp to the restaurant, this is the person who gets that unlocked. Etc.

2) If panels or other program items take place on a stage, this stage must have a ramp. This was a major issue at WFC this past year — and the most galling thing is, if the con had spoken to the hotel about it ahead of time, ramps could have been arranged with very little difficulty or cost. If for some reason your venue charges through the nose for such things even with advance notice, reconsider whether your panels really need to be on a stage.

3) In larger rooms, provide microphones for panelists. There are some panelists who project well enough to be heard by everyone in the room. The number of such people is rather smaller than the number of panelists who think they can project well enough. Providing mikes reduces the interruptions where somebody has to say “could you repeat that, please?” and the disappointing panels where the audience only heard half of what was said. And again, venues will usually supply and set up these things, as long as you say you’ll need them.

4) Make sure aisles are wide enough for people using mobility devices, and mark out space for them in the seating area. This can be difficult in tiny panel rooms, but in larger ones it shouldn’t be a problem. Blue paper tape is cheap and easy to use for marking pathways and “parking” zones. You can also use it to stripe chairs at the front for the use of those with visual or hearing difficulties.

5) Signage on food in the con suite, green room, and/or banquet. Even if you can’t provide vegan or gluten-free options or whatever, you can at least tell people what’s in front of them, so they don’t have to go out of their way to find out.

Those, I think, are the bare minimum elements I want to see at cons. Other things are great! Other things should be encouraged at every turn! (If there are other things you think should also be on the make-or-break list, let me know!) But if the accessibility policy for a given con doesn’t mention these five things, I’m going to ask. And if the answer is “no, we’re not doing that” . . . I will probably say that in that case, I decline to attend.

And finally, the fourth purpose of a policy like this is to provide accountability. If you say there are wheelchair ramps to the stage, and I get there and no such thing is in evidence? Then we have a problem. And when I bring the problem to the attention of the staff, I’m not making an unreasonable last-second demand. I’m just holding them to the promises they made.

So that’s my pledge. You can sign onto it yourself if you like, or make one of your own. But just as we’ve been pushing to get cons to deal with the harassment issue, we need to push on this one, too.


(1) I’ll note that I started drafting this post before Mary Robinette Kowal posted her own accessibility pledge; various personal issues (including, ironically, a month spent in a cast) derailed me from finishing it in a timely manner. I considered just signing her pledge and scrapping this post, but I decided I wanted to talk about this in more detail, so the post stands. But I’m well aware that I am not the first person on this particular bandwagon.

update on the WFC harassment policy

Official wording isn’t out yet (they’re still working on it), but this year’s WFC con com has announced that they’ll be expanding their harassment policy, using that of the 2014 World Fantasy as their guide. This is a relief to me, and means I will (barring new disasters) be participating in the program as scheduled.

Even more encouragingly, Ellen Datlow told me via Twitter that the WFC Board — the body which farms out the right to run World Fantasy to individual committees each year — will be meeting next week to discuss implementing a standard policy for the con series as a whole. That chicken has of course not yet hatched, but I find this very reassuring. At present, the Board only “encourages” the cons to have a policy, and lays out no guidelines for what shape that policy should take, if it exists at all. I think it’s become abundantly clear that this approach is insufficient; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that what the Board puts in place will improve the situation going forward.

Edmund Schubert, IGMS, and the Hugos

Edmund R. Schubert, editor of Intergalactic Medicine Show, has withdrawn himself for consideration in the category of Best Editor, Short Form.

My understanding is that it’s too late at this point to actually withdraw; his name will be on the printed ballots. But he no longer wishes to be in the running, and therefore would prefer people not vote for him.

Why am I posting about this? Because he’s put together a free sampler of material from IGMS — basically the stuff he might have put into the Hugo Voters’ Packet had he stayed in. And there’s a story of mine in there: “A Heretic by Degrees,” the first Driftwood story I ever published.

Schubert approached me ahead of time and asked whether I would be willing to let him reprint that story in the sampler, given the controversy around the Hugos. I told him I was fine with that, and in turn, I asked and received his blessing to talk about my relationship with IGMS.

As many (but possibly not all) of you know, the full name of IGMS is Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. And Card, as many (but possibly not all) of you know, has become increasingly vocal over the years about his homophobia. This is, to put it mildly, not a position I support — which makes my relationship with the magazine complicated.

When I sold “Heretic” to IGMS, Card’s homophobia and other offensive behaviors were not fully on my radar, and I had not yet begun to think through such matters to the extent that I do today. I was just looking for a place to sell the story, that would pay me a decent rate. Later on, that changed: I knew full well what he was like when I sold them “Love, Cayce,” which is the other story of mine they’ve run. By then, my decision hinged on two things:

1) Card’s name is on the magazine, but he isn’t the editor. He hasn’t been the editor since 2006, and while he has occasionally selected a story for the magazine, this is rare. The vast majority of what you read in IGMS is there because of Schubert, who is not taking his marching orders from Card.

2) It pleased me to take money from a magazine bearing Card’s name for a story that has a lesbian relationship in it. (It’s a small detail, not the focus of the story — which is part of why Schubert didn’t pick “Love, Cayce” for the sampler. But it’s there, and it’s treated as both positive and unremarkable.)

And this brings us back to the sampler. Schubert told me his reason for putting it together was, he wanted to showcase what IGMS stands for, under his leadership. Because he is not Orson Scott Card, and he is not running a magazine that stands for homophobia, racism, misogyny, or any other kind of bigotry. I’m not claiming IGMS is a flawless paragon of diversity and progressive ideals; to be honest, I don’t read it regularly. (These days I don’t read any magazines regularly, not even BCS: most of my fiction consumption has been novels.) But it is not a microphone for Card’s views. Nor is it the kind of straight white male conservative bastion the Puppies seem to love so much. Schubert was not asked if he wanted to be on the Puppy slate; he does not applaud their tactics. And he does not agree with their bigotry.

Jim Hines posted recently against the polarization of the field, the sense that you have to “take sides” (and of course in that view there are only two sides, with no crossover or nuance or conflicting agendas). In the end, I think of my stories in IGMS, and my professional interactions with Schubert, as being a rejection of the notion of “sides.” As I told Schubert in email, I have no idea what his politics are, and I don’t care. Or perhaps it would be better to say: what matters to me about his politics is how they influence his professional behavior. I have seen no sign that he’s using his editorial position to promote bigotry; on the contrary, he deliberately crafted the sampler to be 50/50 men/women, and a quick glance shows me at least four non-white writers on the TOC. Nor has he been so publicly hateful that I can’t avoid knowing about it, a la Card. Could I judge him for keeping company with Card, for being willing to run a magazine that bears the name of a man who is so interested in hurting gay people? Sure. And I’m sure there are people out there who judge him in precisely that way. I can’t really fault them for that. But if I’d let that stop me back in 2011, IGMS wouldn’t have run a story about a bunch of second-generation D&D-style adventurers, one of whom happens to be a lesbian, getting into all kinds of trouble.

I don’t want to help build the echo chamber. I’d rather tear the walls down.

So that is where I stand. I haven’t sold IGMS anything since 2011, though I did send them one piece in 2012. Whether or not I send them anything else will depend on how much short fiction I manage to write, whether I think any of it fits with the magazine, and whether think I can sell it somewhere else that will pay me more — no offense to Mr. Schubert. 🙂 They aren’t my top market, but they aren’t off the list, either. And I’m happy to see “A Heretic by Degrees” included in the sampler, because I’m happy to be an example of what Schubert wants IGMS to stand for.

Sad Puppies Aren’t Much Fun

Quick synopsis, for those not already aware: this year, Brad Torgersen organized the third iteration of the “Sad Puppy+” slate for the Hugo Awards, which, at least on the surface, was about campaigning to get conservative SF/F authors on the ballot (giving them the place they have been denied by their political opponents). Unabashed racist/sexist/homophobic bigot Theodore Beale/VD++ apparently also decided to organize a “Rabid Puppy” slate, on similar principles, only more so.

Between them, these two initiatives managed to have a huge influence on this year’s Hugo nominations, dominating the short lists for many categories. (Here’s a rundown on what they achieved.) This was met with a great deal of dismay in many corners of fandom.

We all caught up?

+No, I don’t know how that term came to be attached to this. If you know, please enlighten me in the comments.

++I find his chosen moniker sufficiently arrogant that I decline to oblige him by using it.


I’ve felt for years now that the Hugos are a thing I should maybe be more involved in. Two things have stopped me: first, you have to pay for a Worldcon membership in order to nominate or vote, and even a supporting membership is a non-trivial expense, at $40. Second, my reading is very disorganized; much of what I read in any given year was actually published long before, meaning I’m not very au courant with the stuff that’s eligible for awards. This latter point makes nominations in particular quite daunting, because there’s a whole swath of stuff to choose from, and I haven’t read most of it.

This year, for the first time, I’ve bought a supporting membership so I can vote on the Hugo Awards. I’d like to talk about why, and what exactly I intend to do with my vote.


The Head of H.P. Lovecraft

No, I didn’t win Best Novel. That went to Sofia Samatar, who is richly deserving.

There’s a part of me that had mixed feelings about the prospect of winning the award — not because of anything against the World Fantasy Award in and of itself, but because of the thing that signifies the award: a Gahan Wilson sculpture of the head of H.P. Lovecraft. For starters, he isn’t who I think of when you say “fantasy;” I associate him much more with horror. For another — with all due respect to Mr. Wilson — I find the visual aesthetic of the thing seriously unappealing. But most of all, it’s really kind of offensive.

H.P. Lovecraft was an influential writer: no doubt about that. But he was also a deeply unpleasant person in exactly the ways that we as a genre are trying to get past.

I know there are people who want to keep the award’s design as it is. All the arguments I’ve heard from that side have amounted to “tradition” or “fondness” or something else in that vein. I’ve yet to hear anyone say that people will be hurt by changing the design. But right now, people are being hurt by not changing it. To the point where Sofia Samatar felt obliged to mention this problem in her acceptance speech.

I have a hard time seeing why tradition or fondness should outweigh that.

Had I gotten the award, I would have crossed my fingers that I could say I had received the very last head of H.P. Lovecraft ever handed out as a World Fantasy Award. Honestly, that might be too ambitious of a time-scale; I don’t know whether the WFS could get through the design and production process quickly enough to have it be different for next year. But one of my friends pointed out that they could unveil the new design at next year’s con, and that would make me very happy.

What should it be instead? People have floated lots of suggestions, ranging from the heads of other writers to various symbolic objects. Me, I say throw the doors open: let the community submit designs. We have a wealth of excellent artists among us; let them exercise their collective creativity, let the membership vote to select a shortlist, and then the board can choose the final design. Or make a board shortlist, and the membership votes on the final design. Or whatever. Something that makes the an exciting opportunity for the community, a positive to counteract the negative of the current controversy.

There was a poll at this year’s con, completely informal, to see whether it should be changed. I’m glad to see the WFS taking notice of the issue; I hope we see them take action soon.

Official Member of the Insect Army

As of about ten minutes ago, I am (finally) a member of SFWA.

I’ve been eligible to join since 2004, when I sold my first novel. But back then I was a starving graduate student, for whom the membership fee was a non-trivial expense . . . and soon thereafter, SFWA began shooting itself very publicly and head-deskingly in the foot, not just once, but several times in a row. Its forums were legendary for their toxicity, the org as a whole was run by people who hadn’t been working professionals in the field for years, and while some may have had good intentions, SFWA was not doing a very effective job of coping with the realities of modern publishing. Why should I pay money I didn’t really have to call myself one of them? The answers people gave me basically fell into two categories: 1) “Griefcom and the EMF are good things and worth supporting!” and 2) “Join and be the change you want to see!” While I had no disagreement with #1 (the Grievance Committee advocates for authors in disputes with their publishers or agents, and the Emergency Medical Fund assists writers without health insurance), #2 got up my nose something fierce. Oh, yes, let me give you money for the privilege of trying to reform a group that shows no signs of wanting to reform. Where do I sign up?

But things got better. Actual working novelists and short story writers stepped up to run for election and, well, did what I wasn’t willing to do: dragged the org kicking and screaming toward a better future. Members who weren’t toxic layabouts raised their heads and went “oh, thank god, I’m not alone.” SFWA’s officers did yeoman work during the whole business with Night Shade’s ongoing implosion. Incidents that would have been allowed to slide ten years ago started to be called out.

It still isn’t perfect. SFWA has its share of dinosaurs and reactionaries, and they don’t always get rebuked as fast or as effectively as they should. But it’s improving, and then there was this thing, and I said to myself, “Self, I want to be one of those people Scalzi et al. brought in.” He isn’t president anymore, but the truth is that he and his cohort — people like Mary Robinette Kowal and Rachel Swirsky — are the ones who changed my thinking about SFWA. I actually meant to join after that happened . . . but I got busy, and I forgot. Fortunately (for suitably flexible values of “fortunately”), the sexist racist homophobic assholes of the speculative fiction field are the gift that keeps on giving. Two weeks ago, when John C. Wright was spreading his revisionist history around the web and various people were debunking him as he deserved, I got off my posterior and joined.

So there you have it: I am officially a member of the Insect Army — which is to say, SFWA, The 21st Century Edition. I will try to use my newfound powers for good.

Amazon is at it again

The one bright spot is, people are starting to notice.

In 2008, Amazon got into a pissing contest with Hachette, the smallest of the large publishers (and owners of Orbit, who published my first four novels). In 2010, it was Macmillan (owners of Tor, my current publisher). In 2012, Penguin. And now, in 2014, we’ve wrapped back around to Hachette. Books published by subsidaries of Hachette are currently shipping “in 2 to 5 weeks” — including Warrior, Witch, Midnight Never Come, and In Ashes Lie. Is it because there’s a problem with Hachette? Are they not supplying stock to Amazon in a timely fashion?

Nope. It’s because Amazon is trying, once again, to use its market share to strong-arm publishers into accepting unfavorable terms. Unfavorable for the publishers, unfavorable for writers — and ultimately, unfavorable for readers.

This isn’t an isolated incident. It’s an ongoing pattern of behavior. It’s something people have been warning about for years, but the response has usually been that Amazon is your friend. They sell things cheaply and ship really fast (just don’t think about how they treat their employees), and hey, 70% royalties on ebooks! Except that Amazon is demonstrably willing to tank the customer experience if it will help them gain more power in the marketplace. And the more they control, the less friendly they become. They are the abusive boyfriend who systematically isolates you from everybody in your life and then, once you have nowhere else to turn, shows his true colors.

If we had better anti-trust legislation in this country, Amazon would have been stopped long before this. But we don’t, and they haven’t been.

Back when they pulled the buy buttons off Macmillan books as a “negotiating tool,” I removed the Amazon links from my website. (Mostly. Scanning the pages, I see I left the Book Depository there; I don’t know if they hadn’t yet been bought by Amazon at the time.) I’m going to go through and scrub the remainder, with two exceptions: Audible (also owned by Amazon, but they are the publisher of my audio editions) and Kindle Direct Publishing (for the BVC-published ebooks). Notice a pattern there? I’m leaving up the links where Amazon has enough power over me that I can’t just walk away from them. I don’t like it, but I don’t feel I can choose differently. More than half of my ebook sales come via Amazon, and there is no way to buy the audiobooks that doesn’t put money in their pocket.

But they don’t control everything, at least not yet. You can get my books from Barnes and Noble — ebook and print alike. They aren’t perfect, but they’re Amazon’s main competitor. Or you can buy from Powell’s. Or from IndieBound. Or Books-a-Million. Or Indigo, if you’re Canadian. You can also get my ebooks from Book View Cafe or Kobo (and by the way, if you’re the sort of person who’s motivated by Amazon’s “author-friendly” habit of paying a 70% royalty, note that Kobo pays the same, while BVC pays me a 95% royalty instead). Maybe it won’t be as convenient as Amazon; you won’t get free two-day shipping. But that convenience is the bait: they use it to shift more and more business into their hands, and then they use what they hold to change the market to benefit them.

It isn’t illegal. But it also isn’t something I care to support. There are alternatives, and I encourage you to use them.

Random House and Hydra/Alibi/Flirt/Loveswept

John Scalzi has been doing a splendid job of chronicling the problems with Random House’s new e-book only imprints and the evolution of same: index post here, with updates here and here.

He’s already covered most of what I might want to say on those matters, but I do want to pull out one particular thread and swipe it a few times with highlighter:

Random House is referring to this model as “profit-sharing.”

Which isn’t false: it does involve sharing profits. But so does the standard model. That’s what royalties are; they’re a share in the profits earned from sales of the book. I’ve been sharing in my publisher’s profits since the first royalty accounting period for Doppelganger, because that book earned out its advance in a couple of months. And the advance, let us note, is an advance on royalties — meaning that the publisher shared with me some of their profits before they even earned any. The math for how an advance gets calculated is complicated, and not every book earns out, but the point is that we’ve always been splitting the proceeds, in one fashion or another.

Calling this “profit-sharing” is a bit of marketing speak, designed to make the author feel like the publisher is offering something that you don’t get under the advance-first model. Which may be true in degree (the royalty percentage), but not kind (the existence of royalties in the first place). As for the degree, it depends on the extent to which Random House hammers out the egregious flaws in the initial contract, such as charging production costs against the author’s share of net (not even gross). As many people have pointed out, that’s called “Hollywood accounting,” and it’s why no reputable Hollywood agent will ever recommend accepting net points as your compensation. The studios’ accountants will make sure that translates to nothing whatsoever. Not to mention that charging the author for production is what vanity presses do . . . but I digress.

One more time with the highlighter: don’t get suckered in by the terminology. All (non-scam) publishers share profits with their authors, one way or another. Random House’s way started out as insanely bad, is somewhat better now, and needs watching in the future. But whatever language they dress it up in, it is not some brave and generous new world.

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