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HapiSofi
01-19-2012, 03:32 AM
I am pinching the bridge of my nose, just like Uncle Jim sometimes does.

Want to see a remarkably ill-considered piece of self-promotion that's going on even as we speak? Go here (http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/01/vote-in-the-torcom-2011-readers-choice-awards#235670), to the voting page for Tor.com's annual Reader's Choice awards for science fiction and fantasy.

There's a publisher in Tennessee, Seventh Star Press, that's set up a link to it on their front page, along with a list of eligible works they published during 2011. It's pretty tacky of them, and it's no favor to their books and authors, which are not the sort that normally spring to mind when one is contemplating a "best of the year" ballot.

But that's not the real problem. One of their authors, Stephen Zimmer, is obviously getting everyone he knows to vote for his novel, The Seventh Throne (http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Throne-Stephen-Zimmer/dp/0983740240/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326926134&sr=8-1), plus the novel's cover art, and an obscure short story he had published in 2011. None of them are what you'd call likely or plausible choices in their categories. (I don't know whether there's any connection between Seventh Star and Seventh Throne.)

Most of the votes for Zimmer vote only for his work, which is improbable. Readers who are interested in SF and fantasy would also cast votes in other categories. More than a few of the votes for Zimmer have had identical formats and wording, which is so improbable that there's a term for it.

Stuffing the ballot box is a bad idea. The SF community isn't a big place, and it has a very long memory. What makes this worse is that the entire first chapter of The Seventh Throne (http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Throne-Stephen-Zimmer/dp/0983740240/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326926134&sr=8-1) is available on Amazon. That book is bad enough to make your eyeballs bleed. (Surprise! All the reviews give it five stars!) Here's the opening sentence:
"It would seem that these are all disparate groups, from all over the world, with widely different agendas. But in truth, their efforts are focused upon a unified, singular purpose ... something that is called the Convergence, by the ones that know the truth underlying it all," Father Wilson Rader stated, with an air of deep solemnity.
After that it gets really murky.

The awfulness of Seventh Throne (http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Throne-Stephen-Zimmer/dp/0983740240/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326926134&sr=8-1) isn't just a matter of bad sentences, though they're plenty bad. Zimmer's narrative technique is so defective that half the time you can't tell what's happening. He makes errors I've never seen before, like forgetting to mention until he's halfway through a section that his POV character exists and is present onstage. Since I'd naturally been reading it as 3rd person omniscient, having to suddenly recast everything I'd read so far felt like a ten-car pileup in my head.

When narrative is handled as badly as he handles it, a book becomes literally unreadable -- your brain can't process it the way we normally process fiction. I doubt that most of the people who've voted for his book could pass a pop quiz on its contents.

Stephan Zimmer can't have thought through the implications of forcing the SF community to take notice of his book. If people start linking to that sample text, he's going to make himself famous in ways he'll regret for the rest of his career.

Drachen Jager
01-19-2012, 03:50 AM
I love bios that start off "Originally born in..." Makes me wonder if they're born-agains or just redundant. Reincarnation perhaps?

Considering he's over the four million 'best sellers' mark on Amazon, I'd say he hasn't sold a copy in months. Apparently his strategy isn't working. I presume the TOR hosts will check the IPs of incoming votes and disallow multiple voting when they catch on.

Even the book synopsis on Amazon is unreadable,

"The quest will take them to the brink of hell itself, but it is one that may hold astounding revelations."

"Seth Engel and his teenage friends venture forth once again to seek proof of spreading rumors; this time of rounded-up townspeople being herded into large detainment facilities close to Godwinton."

"The Seventh Throne will leave the reader hungry for the next installment, after a revelation of tremendous magnitude culminates the latest Rising Dawn Saga adventure."

The only people it will leave hungry are those who use it as a form of verbal ipecac.

The Lonely One
01-19-2012, 03:58 AM
It doesn't sound so bad to me. I mean, the guy seems accomplished enough to have done something right along the way.

The whole promotion thing sounds tacky as hell, though.

swvaughn
01-19-2012, 04:00 AM
Oh, dear...

This is why I gave up entering contests long ago. I don't even pay attention on the rare occasion I'm nominated for one.

Not cool, writer dude. Very not cool.

Alessandra Kelley
01-19-2012, 04:04 AM
:popcorn:

Alessandra Kelley
01-19-2012, 04:13 AM
The cover art is perfectly ok, but I would not consider it a contender for "best of the year."

"Best of the year" sorts of art tend to wind up in the Spectrum fantastic art books, (http://www.amazon.com/Spectrum-18-Best-Contemporary-Fantastic/dp/1599290596) and I can't picture this cover in that company.

KalenO
01-19-2012, 04:22 AM
Honestly, the big thing that stands out to me when reading the Amazon synopsis, is I can't even figure out what GENRE this is. At first I thought it was secondary world fantasy (epic fantasy), then it seemed like it was set in our modern world with fantasy elements, then it seemed almost like a futuristic world with fantasy elements....no go. Sorry dude.

And did anyone see this comment on the Tor page and have a major moment of *headdesk*?


I read Dance With Dragons and Alloy of Law and while they were good, Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare was breathlessly good writing. I wish they would stop marketing books to teens just to get them to read.

Clockwork Prince being a YA novel, for those that don't know.

ETA: Btw, for a different kind of bad promotion, I'm going down Tor's list now and looking up books on Amazon, looking for some new reads, and what's with traditionally published books that don't have a synopsis or back cover copy or anything with their Amazon listing? When you have to scroll through reader reviews to get even an inkling of what the book is about, somebody's dropped a ball somewhere.

aliceshortcake
01-19-2012, 04:38 AM
From an Amazon review:


His imagination knows few bounds

Sadly, self-promotion is one of them.

CrastersBabies
01-19-2012, 05:10 AM
Sometimes I loathe internet voting . . .

That is all.

MJNL
01-19-2012, 06:57 AM
Holy shills, Batman!

Please people, learn a little about business ethics and why behaving ethically can only help you.

HapiSofi
01-19-2012, 07:11 AM
I love bios that start off "Originally born in..." Makes me wonder if they're born-agains or just redundant. Reincarnation perhaps?
Yup. It should either be "[Name] is originally from" or "[Name] was born in." Badly-written bios are little minefields of redundancy, cliche, and inadvertent causal linkage.


Considering he's over the four million 'best sellers' mark on Amazon, I'd say he hasn't sold a copy in months. Apparently his strategy isn't working.Amazon numbers are very approximate, but they can give you a rough idea of the magnitude and direction of sales. I've put an asterisk next to the books that are part of the Rising Dawn Saga.
2,529,371 The Exodus Gate, 05 February 2009*
3,786,509 Crown of Vengeance, 01 December 2009
4,508,092 The Storm Guardians, 01 June 2010*
4,805,153 Dream of Legends, 08 December 2010
4,612,362 The Seventh Throne, 09 August 2011*
The higher ranking on Exodus Gate might be interpreted as a series starting to get traction, with readers going back to pick up earlier titles, if the sales numbers on Storm Guardians weren't so dismal. I'd say the story here is that buying one book by Stephen Zimmer doesn't increase the chances that the reader will buy another. He needs to rethink his program.

It doesn't sound so bad to me. I mean, the guy seems accomplished enough to have done something right along the way.
I'm not saying he's never done anything right, but he's miles from accomplishing the essential task: writing a readable book. Until he can do that, the rest is wasted effort.

The whole promotion thing sounds tacky as hell, though.I wish people would stop quoting the line about how there's no such thing as bad publicity. It's not true.

The cover art is perfectly ok, but I would not consider it a contender for "best of the year."
It's passable. That's about all.


"Best of the year" sorts of art tend to wind up in the Spectrum fantastic art books, (http://www.amazon.com/Spectrum-18-Best-Contemporary-Fantastic/dp/1599290596) and I can't picture this cover in that company.The Spectrum collections are beautiful.

Another way to track promising artists is to watch them rise through the ranks in the "also nominated" lists for the popularly-voted awards. It usually takes a few years for the voters to notice an artist and decide they like his or her work. Stephen Zimmer's ballots don't even list the artist's name. This is not believable.

Honestly, the big thing that stands out to me when reading the Amazon synopsis, is I can't even figure out what GENRE this is. At first I thought it was secondary world fantasy (epic fantasy), then it seemed like it was set in our modern world with fantasy elements, then it seemed almost like a futuristic world with fantasy elements....no go. Sorry dude.
I actually bought the Kindle edition. I can tell you two things: it doesn't get better later on, and I still don't know what genre it's supposed to be.


ETA: Btw, for a different kind of bad promotion, I'm going down Tor's list now and looking up books on Amazon, looking for some new reads, and what's with traditionally published books that don't have a synopsis or back cover copy or anything with their Amazon listing? When you have to scroll through reader reviews to get even an inkling of what the book is about, somebody's dropped a ball somewhere. You mean these were published as commercial trade fiction, but there's no editorial copy on Amazon? Who published them?

At the company I know best, that information is not supposed to go missing. It was a major project to build the system whereby the info flows straight from the publisher's database(s) to Amazon's. Cover copy and editorial copy are important.

KalenO
01-19-2012, 07:36 AM
You mean these were published as commercial trade fiction, but there's no editorial copy on Amazon? Who published them?

At the company I know best, that information is not supposed to go missing. It was a major project to build the system whereby the info flows straight from the publisher's database(s) to Amazon's. Cover copy and editorial copy are important.

The very first book on Tor's spreadsheet, actually. Rivers of London (http://www.amazon.com/Rivers-London-Ben-Aaronovitch/dp/0575097566/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326943980&sr=8-1) by Ben Aaronovitch. There's no copy under Product Details, just barebones minutiae like number of pages. I don't recognize the publisher (Gollancz) but I thought it odd particularly because I recognize the author and have seen his Del Rey published books in quite a few stores.

KathleenD
01-19-2012, 07:40 AM
But if he gets enough votes to win?

(Full disclosure: Insert rant here about contests I've entered and not won, complete with a faint whiff of eau de sour grapes because I really would have liked the prize money, not that I am bitter.)

These "internet readers choose the winners" things are traffic drivers meant to get people motivated to visit the site... and maybe scroll down the list of nominees looking for new books to buy :D

The only way to prevent ballot stuffing is to make the voter "pay." Mail a ballot (costs time and postage), vote with the purchase of a book, etc.

Drachen Jager
01-19-2012, 07:45 AM
Amazon numbers are very approximate, but they can give you a rough idea of the magnitude and direction of sales. I've put an asterisk next to the books that are part of the Rising Dawn Saga.
2,529,371 The Exodus Gate, 05 February 2009*
3,786,509 Crown of Vengeance, 01 December 2009
4,508,092 The Storm Guardians, 01 June 2010*
4,805,153 Dream of Legends, 08 December 2010
4,612,362 The Seventh Throne, 09 August 2011*
The higher ranking on Exodus Gate might be interpreted as a series starting to get traction, with readers going back to pick up earlier titles, if the sales numbers on Storm Guardians weren't so dismal. I'd say the story here is that buying one book by Stephen Zimmer doesn't increase the chances that the reader will buy another. He needs to rethink his program.

Even one sale is enough to propel a book into the 6 figure range for a few weeks. Books above the million mark haven't sold a single copy in some time.

In fact, I would wager that he currently has more votes than he's sold copies of his book.

Drachen Jager
01-19-2012, 07:46 AM
But if he gets enough votes to win?

Admins can look at the IPs of the people who post comments. If even a half-dozen of those come from the same IP (and I'm sure they probably all do) they'll probably just chuck all the votes for him out.

The Lonely One
01-19-2012, 08:41 AM
I'm not saying he's never done anything right, but he's miles from accomplishing the essential task: writing a readable book. Until he can do that, the rest is wasted effort.

I guess from what I saw I don't hate the writing as bad as you do. It isn't great by any means, but I could probably read it if he writes good stories. And he's also a screenwriter so if he's getting work his plots must sell.


I wish people would stop quoting the line about how there's no such thing as bad publicity. It's not true.
Don't know where you got that. I was saying quite the opposite. I was saying his publicity here is tacky and lame, unprofessional and embarrassing.

EDIT: it turns out his filmography is pretty unnoteworthy, but I still didn't hate his writing. Just his behavior in this instance.

shaldna
01-19-2012, 01:39 PM
What I'm noticing is that when he does get a vote, he gets three of four of pretty much identical wording in teh space of a couple of minutes.

I think you should have to register to be able to vote for these kind of thing.

A voter did say :

65. Lastyear
VIEW ALL BY | WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11, 2012 04:08PM EST
Seems to be some padding going on here. 3 identical lists featuring a rather unknown author. All three contain the same misspelling.

To which they got the response:


74. Stephen Zimmer
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 11, 2012 04:42PM EST
@Lastyear: It is possible that some of my readers came here and one of the earlier voters had a typo that one or two others cut and pasted to save time in the posting (passing along the misspelling in the process). I have just made the information available as to what book and short story of mine qualify.

I just wanted to make this comment as there is no "padding" going on. The information of what titles are eligible and the opening of the voting has been made available, that's all.

I hope you try my stuff out sometime so I don't remain an "unkown author" to you, LOL. My readers are a really great bunch and very supportive.

Which doesn't sound all that likely to be honest.

jemacba
01-19-2012, 01:46 PM
opening sentence wasnt too bad until the dialogue tag came in:

"Father Wilson Rader stated, with an air of deep solemnity."

yikes

bearilou
01-19-2012, 05:15 PM
Even one sale is enough to propel a book into the 6 figure range for a few weeks. Books above the million mark haven't sold a single copy in some time.

This is an interesting comment and shows how dreadfully ignorant I am of amazon ratings.

Can you (or anyone) recommend some reading that explains how that all works on Amazon? I'll take keywords to google! I'm just interested in how the ranking thing works because I've always been suspicious when someone starts quoting their ranking as a badge of honor.

eta: In other news, my tbr pile just got larger... *sigh*

Terie
01-19-2012, 06:00 PM
TCan you (or anyone) recommend some reading that explains how that all works on Amazon? I'll take keywords to google! I'm just interested in how the ranking thing works because I've always been suspicious when someone starts quoting their ranking as a badge of honor.

The algorithm Amazon uses is a closely held secret.

The bottom line is that an Amazon ranking for print books is meaningful only if it's three digits or fewer and stays there for any length of time.

Beyond that, watching Amazon ranks (your own or anyone else's) is an exercise in crazy-making.

bearilou
01-19-2012, 06:10 PM
The algorithm Amazon uses is a closely held secret.

Oooh...the plot thickens... :)


The bottom line is that an Amazon ranking for print books is meaningful only if it's three digits or fewer and stays there for any length of time.

Good to know. That's useful information, even if the accuracy of the numbers appear sketchy at best.


Beyond that, watching Amazon ranks (your own or anyone else's) is an exercise in crazy-making.

:ROFL: Yeah, that's the gist of the impression I get when anyone starts talking about amazon rankings. I have a while before I descend into the crazy-making process.

I guess it just flies up my nose when someone wants to start throwing their amazon ranking around as if it's some big achievement to be at the top of some obscure tag/list ranking chart and I was hoping to have something that would put it in perspective.

Sounds like it's similar to statistics, you can make the numbers mean anything you want.

Thanks!

shaldna
01-19-2012, 06:16 PM
I don't recognize the publisher (Gollancz) but I thought it odd particularly because I recognize the author and have seen his Del Rey published books in quite a few stores.

Gollancz are a pretty well respected imprint, part of Orion.

http://www.gollancz.co.uk/

Terie
01-19-2012, 06:52 PM
The very first book on Tor's spreadsheet, actually. Rivers of London (http://www.amazon.com/Rivers-London-Ben-Aaronovitch/dp/0575097566/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326943980&sr=8-1) by Ben Aaronovitch. There's no copy under Product Details, just barebones minutiae like number of pages. I don't recognize the publisher (Gollancz) but I thought it odd particularly because I recognize the author and have seen his Del Rey published books in quite a few stores.

Hard to guess why the info on Amazon.co.uk (here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rivers-London-1/dp/0575097582)) isn't porting over to Amazon.com. I wonder if it's because it's an import rather than a US edition? Not that even that makes much sense!

Lillie
01-19-2012, 07:25 PM
Mmmm.

I remember Gollancz.

Back in the 70s, I'd come home with a stack of bright yellow books after my first forays into the adult section of the library.

It was the first publisher that I actively looked out for, because those books were so recognisable. A yellow spine would draw me like a bee to a flower.

Good times :)

fadeaccompli
01-19-2012, 08:18 PM
Hard to guess why the info on Amazon.co.uk (here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rivers-London-1/dp/0575097582)) isn't porting over to Amazon.com. I wonder if it's because it's an import rather than a US edition? Not that even that makes much sense!

Rivers of London is published under a completely different title in the US. Specifically, it's called Midnight Riot there. (I think the UK title is better, but I do not know how to market books, so I defer to the experts on that one.) Maybe that's the issue?

Mac H.
01-20-2012, 06:03 AM
These "internet readers choose the winners" things are traffic drivers meant to get people motivated to visit the site... and maybe scroll down the list of nominees looking for new books to buy :D

The only way to prevent ballot stuffing is to make the voter "pay." Mail a ballot (costs time and postage), vote with the purchase of a book, etc.I was asked to vote on something similar - for best screenplay for a pile of indie films.

I replied saying I'd be happy to - just show me where the screenplays are so I can read them. The reply? Sorry - the screenplays aren't available. Nobody voting can read them. But we'd like you to vote on which one was better...

They didn't seem to find a problem with that approach ...

Mac

KalenO
01-20-2012, 07:41 AM
I was asked to vote on something similar - for best screenplay for a pile of indie films.

I replied saying I'd be happy to - just show me where the screenplays are so I can read them. The reply? Sorry - the screenplays aren't available. Nobody voting can read them. But we'd like you to vote on which one was better...

They didn't seem to find a problem with that approach ...

Mac

....That...umm.....it boggles the mind.

Wow.

They really thought that one through, didn't they?

jjdebenedictis
01-20-2012, 07:55 AM
Sorry - the screenplays aren't available. Nobody voting can read them. But we'd like you to vote on which one was better..."I liked the blue one best! Check out the brads on that baby!"

Alexandra Little
01-20-2012, 08:49 AM
I remember Gollancz.

Back in the 70s, I'd come home with a stack of bright yellow books after my first forays into the adult section of the library.


In the UK at least, Gollanz has reissued a number of classics in that yellow. Caught my eye as soon as I walked into the bookstore.

James D. Macdonald
01-20-2012, 09:52 AM
Yeah, that's the gist of the impression I get when anyone starts talking about amazon rankings.

Amazon rankings are completely meaningless. For starters, they only show sales via Amazon. If a book primarily sells from the publisher's website, it won't show up on Amazon at all.

The rankings are some sort of decaying average, measured against all other books -- numbers for a title can fluctuate wildly up and down without the book selling any copies at all.

Amazon also seems to have some kind of random fudge-factor cranked in, which makes sense: They aren't interested in telling Barnes & Noble how many books they're selling. Nor are they interested in telling authors how they're selling. Those sales ranks are just a marketing tool for Amazon.

The only actually useful/reliable thing I've found in Amazon sales rankings are is this: No sales rank listed means no copies sold.

Drachen Jager
01-20-2012, 10:06 AM
I'm not so sure about that James. I have a friend who was published over the summer. The first day the book was available, he checked and had a sales rank. Given that it only sold 7 copies for the whole month on Author Central (which compiles B&N, Amazon and most other big retailers sales figures (it's available for a fee, or if you're the author/publisher you can access your own books for free)) it's highly unlikely a copy had been sold already when he checked. It's a textbook so it sells mostly in University bookstores which are off that particular grid.

Terie
01-20-2012, 01:19 PM
The only actually useful/reliable thing I've found in Amazon sales rankings are is this: No sales rank listed means no copies sold.


I'm not so sure about that James. I have a friend who was published over the summer. The first day the book was available, he checked and had a sales rank.

James didn't say 'no sales means no rank'. He said 'no rank means no sales'.

I've read speculation that there are other things, such as seaches for a title, that can affect a book's sales rank

For example, if (and again, this is just speculation) the algorithm includes a phrase such as 'N searches = 1 sale', and if your friend's book had N searches (say, friends searching for it just to see the listing, look at the cover and so on, without actually buying it), the book would've got a sales ranks without having sold a copy.

Besides, it's not entirely impossible to imagine that someone pre-ordered a copy of your friend's book so that it got that ranking the first day it was available. Friends and loved ones do that kind of thing.

Stephen Zimmer
01-20-2012, 09:00 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm Stephen Zimmer, the subject of this thread (yes, that Stephen Zimmer, LOL), and I hope you will take a moment to consider a few things I wanted to say here, in a spirit of goodwill.

I found this thread thanks to Google Alerts (sometimes a blessing, and other times not so much, lol). I know there's not a lot of goodwill at the moment on here, from some of the comments towards the beginning of the thread, but I thought I would visit here to say a couple of things that will hopefully give you another perspective, one that I hope will put this whole thing in a different light.

I'm not here to respond to how you feel about my writing. Every reader is different, and what one reader hates, another may like. I write for my audience, and as long as they are enjoying the books, I can continue. A quick look at George R.R. Martin's newest book's Amazon reviews will show how wide ranging opinions can be, with almost equal distribution across every star level. That's the nature of the business, and it is a writer's challenge to connect with readers, and hopefully connect with enough that they can have a career at it. So how you feel, is how you feel, and I do understand that and respect that.

There are a couple of minor things I did need to correct. Seventh Star Press is based in Kentucky, not Tennessee. And my short story An Island Sojourn is not self-published. It is from an anthology of Steampunk called Dreams of Steam II put out by Kerlak Publishing, who happen to be the company behind the reboot of the "...in Hell" anthologies started with Heroes In Hell (the newest being Lawyers in Hell) from Janet and Chris Morris. I just wanted people to know where that one came from, as Kerlak is a wonderful small press publisher.

Now, as far as where the votes are coming from, the Amazon rankings, etc. I hope to give you all some perspective of the (not so easy) existence of a small press author.

Most small press authors do not have big shelf presences in national chains, and small press publishers are careful not to overextend due to returns, which can be a killer for a smaller operation. As such, shelf placement tends to concentrate where the author is supporting the work.

I am based out of Kentucky, and I have a pretty large regional area that I cover in terms of book fairs, conventions, bookstore appearances, etc. I did more than 30 events in both 2009 and 2010, with around 12-15 being conventions. Chicago, Memphis, Des Moines, Indianapolis, and many other cities are within my circuit. These shows are where I sell most of my books, and then there are a number of independent bookstores within this same region that provide for another larger chunk of sales. I invite all of you to see my appearances schedule via my site, and you will see that I work very hard year round to reach as many events as I can. This is the core of where my readers come from.

I have come to know a great many of my readers on a face to face level, a relationship that continues in the private discussion groups for my series that I have on Facebook, etc. I am a very responsive and accessible author to my readers, and they have demonstrated a great enthusiasm and loyalty in return. I interact with them all the time, and many of them are very tuned in to what is happening with me.

When I commented on the thread about the person that cut and pasted with the spelling mistake, I could do so with confidence about that situation because I recognized their screen names and knew who they are. I can tell you which conventions I see them at, etc. It is one blessing of being small press in that I've come to know many of my readers very well. I know the individuals I referred to in that post were readers, and I also learned later that yes, they did cut and paste to save time.

As far as making my readers aware that the contests exists, and what titles are eligible for it, I do not see anything wrong with doing that. I have been very careful in how I've presented that, merely saying that the contest is going on, what I'm eligible for, and just trying to make sure my readers were aware of it. That's all I have done, and I am honored that my readers responded in the way that they did.

Some of the people that have voted for me are blog reviewers who are very familiar with my work, and one on that thread is a NY Times Best Selling author who really enjoys my Rising Dawn Saga. So several votes on that thread have come from the fantasy blogosphere and elsewhere.

I do not enjoy the situation of having a large team behind me that a major press author has. They have a full group/staff that takes on so many different tasks that I have to absorb as a small press author. Those of you that self-publish or are small press know what I am talking about. I have to promote what is going on or what I am doing, as nobody else is going to do that for you.

Do I enjoy having to wear multiple hats? No, but it is a necessity in an increasingly difficult climate when major press/major retail is in decline and you have an explosion of releases via Kindle/Nook/etc. This is only going to get more and more difficult as thousands upon thousands of self-published releases enter the market, as barriers continue to fall (especially when the last major bookstore chains close). Life is increasingly more difficult for an author in terms of the publishing climate, and I hope you understand what an author is up against.

I hope this note has helped you see another view on the situation. I present it to all of you with a spirit of goodwill, and hope that it helps your understanding on a small press author's world, which is very different from that of a large independent or major press author. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask anytime.

most sincerely,

Stephen Zimmer

Pyekett
01-20-2012, 10:33 PM
Stephen, welcome to Absolute Write.

I've only been halfheartedly following the situation, but I much appreciate your friendly tone and willingness to take the time to sort things out from your perspective. That can't have been easy.

Stacia Kane
01-20-2012, 11:15 PM
Hi Stephen,

Welcome to AW! We're glad to have you.

I'm very familiar with the world of the small-press author. I'm also very familiar with the idea of regularly communicating with my readers. I do the same.

Which is why I also make sure that, when I announce a contest or something of that nature for which my books are eligible and I discover that some of my readers are behaving unethically, I send out a note reminding them that this is not the sort of behavior I condone or appreciate, and that I consider it cheating. I ask them, nicely, to stop.

Because frankly, if they're there because I sent them there, their behavior reflects to some extent on me, and if I don't make it clear that I don't condone their behavior people will assume I do or that I put them up to it.

This isn't meant to be a criticism of you or me implying you put anyone up to anything. It's merely me saying how I handle such a situation, and that if you had nothing to do with your readers' attempt to cheat a contest--because that is what they're doing, is cheating, and you sent them there to do so even though you had no idea they planned to cheat--you should say something and ask them to stop.

Stephen Zimmer
01-20-2012, 11:25 PM
Stephen, welcome to Absolute Write.

I've only been halfheartedly following the situation, but I much appreciate your friendly tone and willingness to take the time to sort things out from your perspective. That can't have been easy.

Thank you very much Pyekette. If I ask for people to see things from my view, then I can only try to see things from theirs, and I do understand how somebody can come to an impression like has been reflected without knowing me, how I am, or the details of the situation. I do understand which is why I wanted to respond and try to explain my situation. No, it isn't easy, but that's the way things go for a small press author.





Because frankly, if they're there because I sent them there, their behavior reflects to some extent on me, and if I don't make it clear that I don't condone their behavior people will assume I do or that I put them up to it.

This isn't meant to be a criticism of you or me implying you put anyone up to anything. It's merely me saying how I handle such a situation, and that if you had nothing to do with your readers attempt to cheat a contest--because that is what they're doing, is cheating, and you sent them there to do so even though you had no idea they planned to cheat--you should say something and ask them to stop.


Hi Stacia, thank you very much and we are on the same page on this issue. That's something I hope people come to understand. I know you probably haven't been privy to the nature of my posts and such, but I have done precisely that. I've told my audience to only vote if they are familiar with the book or short story or cover art. I know that some of them may have gotten upset by some of the response comments early on, and I try to convey that it is best to just let it go, but I can't control what they do in a post if they get upset, and I hope that people understand that.

I just want you to know that I've been very careful and clear about it all.

As far as cheating goes, I do hope they are being very diligent if anything is coming in from the same IP address (which might nix a few legitimate votes, as there are some husband/wife or couples living together who are avid readers of mine). I don't know what's happening behind the scenes there as far as votes they've found to be not legitimate and canceled. I have tried to watch that Tor thread to see if I can identify anyone cheating. But if I were to make a list of the votes I'm seeing in there right now, I could tell you in over 90% of the cases I'm seeing there, I do know who the people are, probably what city they live in, and even what convention or book event I met them (and give you their Facebook page or email, etc). I just checked today to see if anyone was being out of line in accord with your comments above and I recognized nearly every one of the individuals who have recently voted for me. Those that are posting are from all across the convention circuit and the bookstore events (some that I've had really good turnouts at), and the fantasy blogosphere (I can tell which ones they were as well) and the NY Times author, who is very supportive of my work.

And if anyone is attempting to cheat, then I do hope they catch it and I do not condone it. I'm with you fully on that.

Pyekett
01-20-2012, 11:29 PM
Thank you very much Pyekette.

No worries, Stephanie. ;)

Anne Lyle
01-20-2012, 11:38 PM
Slightly off-topic, but re Amazon - they screw up sometimes. My forthcoming book's US edition was listed as available for pre-order on the UK website some months ago, and in my excitement I told everyone about it. After a few weeks the UK edition was listed as well, and eventually the US one was demoted to "not available" and then finally removed. Everyone who pre-ordered the US one has been told that their pre-order has been cancelled, but with no indication that the UK edition is now available for pre-order :(

I suspect that Gollancz are suffering similar problems over their differing UK and US editions...

Alessandra Kelley
01-20-2012, 11:49 PM
Does Gollancz even do US editions? All of my books of theirs are from the UK. Some of them are titles decidedly published by other major publishers on this side of the Atlantic.

Not sure what the situation is with the OP, but if as described it wouldn't be the first time a small but devoted fanbase affects things.

Anne Lyle
01-20-2012, 11:58 PM
I don't know if they do them themselves - even if it says Gollancz are the publisher, they may work through a US intermediary. Angry Robot's US editions are done through Random House, and a few US ebook stores erroneously list RH as the publisher, or AR's parent company Osprey.

I think some of these book database systems are groaning under the weight of the ebook revolution. Scalability is a big issue in IT these days.

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2012, 12:04 AM
I love bios that start off "Originally born in..." Makes me wonder if they're born-agains or just redundant. Reincarnation perhaps?

Considering he's over the four million 'best sellers' mark on Amazon, I'd say he hasn't sold a copy in months. Apparently his strategy isn't working. I presume the TOR hosts will check the IPs of incoming votes and disallow multiple voting when they catch on.

Even the book synopsis on Amazon is unreadable,

"The quest will take them to the brink of hell itself, but it is one that may hold astounding revelations."

"Seth Engel and his teenage friends venture forth once again to seek proof of spreading rumors; this time of rounded-up townspeople being herded into large detainment facilities close to Godwinton."

"The Seventh Throne will leave the reader hungry for the next installment, after a revelation of tremendous magnitude culminates the latest Rising Dawn Saga adventure."

The only people it will leave hungry are those who use it as a form of verbal ipecac.

Sounds pretty readable to me. At least as good as what I've read on many published novels.

HapiSofi
01-21-2012, 01:04 AM
The very first book on Tor's spreadsheet, actually. Rivers of London (http://www.amazon.com/Rivers-London-Ben-Aaronovitch/dp/0575097566/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326943980&sr=8-1) by Ben Aaronovitch. There's no copy under Product Details, just barebones minutiae like number of pages. I don't recognize the publisher (Gollancz) but I thought it odd particularly because I recognize the author and have seen his Del Rey published books in quite a few stores.
Gollancz is a major UK publisher. That's got to be an error. Whose, I can't tell.

HapiSofi
01-21-2012, 02:32 AM
Even one sale is enough to propel a book into the 6 figure range for a few weeks. Books above the million mark haven't sold a single copy in some time.

In fact, I would wager that he currently has more votes than he's sold copies of his book.
Certainly more than he's sold through Amazon.

Admins can look at the IPs of the people who post comments. If even a half-dozen of those come from the same IP (and I'm sure they probably all do) they'll probably just chuck all the votes for him out.
I'm not sure they'll all prove to come from the same IP. Some of the votes have identical and distinctive text, but vary in their line spacing. There are several different versions of these variant spacings. What this suggests to me is that the text passed through different e-mail setups. If the author sent mail to all of Rabbit's Friends and Relations, asking them to vote for him and giving them the text to be posted, you'd get just that effect -- and they'd all have different IP addresses.

That wouldn't make the votes legit; it would just make them hard to challenge. As I think I said earlier in the thread, voters who cared about SF/fantasy would stray into voting for other works, and voting in other categories. Zimmer's voters don't do that. (I think a few very recent ones do vote for other works. I'll have to check and see whether those were generated after I posted my remarks here.) If people don't read the genre, it's not really honest to ask them to vote for TST as the best novel published in the genre last year.

I guess from what I saw I don't hate the writing as bad as you do.

I don't hate his writing. In fact, I'm fairly dispassionate about it. I do think that it's unreadable or nearly so, and that it doesn't belong on anyone's shortlist of best novels published in the genre in 2011.

Did you read the second segment?


It isn't great by any means, but I could probably read it if he writes good stories.
He's not an instinctive storyteller, if that's what you're suggesting. If he were, I'd know what his book is about.


Don't know where you got that. I was saying quite the opposite. I was saying his publicity here is tacky and lame, unprofessional and embarrassing.
I'm sorry, I should have made myself clearer. I was agreeing with you. What I was referring to the way that in any sufficiently large discussion of auctorial PR blunders, you get at least one person saying "there's no such thing as bad publicity." It's not true, as this thread demonstrates. Publicity that leaves people saying "tacky and lame, unprofessional and embarrassing" cannot be described as good.

Rivers of London is published under a completely different title in the US. Specifically, it's called Midnight Riot there. (I think the UK title is better, but I do not know how to market books, so I defer to the experts on that one.) Maybe that's the issue?
If the system for transferring that info from Gollancz to Amazon is keyed to the books' titles, I can easily see that happening.

James D. Macdonald
01-21-2012, 02:54 AM
If one follows Kant, in order for a thing to be ethically correct it should be something that all rational beings must do: "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law."

More currently, it is not sufficient to avoid impropriety. It is necessary to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

Stephen Zimmer
01-21-2012, 03:08 AM
Certainly more than he's sold through Amazon.

I'm not sure they'll all prove to come from the same IP. Some of the votes have identical and distinctive text, but vary in their line spacing. There are several different versions of these variant spacings. What this suggests to me is that the text passed through different e-mail setups. If the author sent mail to all of Rabbit's Friends and Relations, asking them to vote for him and giving them the text to be posted, you'd get just that effect -- and they'd all have different IP addresses.

That wouldn't make the votes legit; it would just make them hard to challenge. As I think I said earlier in the thread, voters who cared about SF/fantasy would stray into voting for other works, and voting in other categories. Zimmer's voters don't do that. (I think a few very recent ones do vote for other works. I'll have to check and see whether those were generated after I posted my remarks here.) If people don't read the genre, it's not really honest to ask them to vote for TST as the best novel published in the genre last year.
.

Hi HapiSofi,

I don't know if you saw my long post above, but I wrote today to offer another perspective regarding the general impressions people have gotten here. It was my intention to explain where the voters are coming from, and who they are. As I explain in that note, it is a much different situation for me as a small press author, as my core of book sales and readership center around a year-round travel schedule to numerous conventions, bookstores, events, etc. No, I do not have big Amazon.com numbers, but I do have a base of readers that has grown over the past 3 years.

I posted which of my titles and short stories were eligible under the Tor.com rules, as I had the 2nd book in my other series come out in the end of December 2010 and I had to make that distinction for my readers (as well as a short story that also came out near the end of the year). It is very likely that many of the readers did pull from the eligibility postings I made, but they didn't do it lockstep, as if they did, I should expect to see even numbers in the three categories. I have significantly less votes for the short story, and there are many single votes being cast for just the cover art or the book.

One of the few good aspects about being small press is that I do engage and interact with my readers on a regular basis, and I can go up and down that list and tell exactly who the people are who have cast votes for me. If Tor wanted to follow up to verify that they are different people, it would be very easy in an overwhelming majority of the cases.

At the end of the day, the math itself is extremely realistic, if you take a look at the volume in the overall voting. If everyone involved in the reading groups for my two series along all cast votes the numbers of votes cast for me would actually be significantly higher. For example, I have about 80 readers alone in an active discussion group about the two series, readers that requested to join the groups and are dedicated fans of the books. For another example, my last Lexington signing alone brought in about 85 people according to the bookstore (which has grown from my first signing there in 2009 which brought in about 40). I can cite more concrete examples, as I have groups of readers that come to see me in all the visits I make in the larger region. I'm not saying this to brag or anything, as these are tiny numbers in comparison with a major press author's base, but I definitely have a large enough reader base that can justify a legitimate 60 or 70+ votes in an open reader's poll. It is not an unrealistic total at all for the size of base that I have.

I wanted to present this in the hopes that everyone reading this thread will take some of these things into account, and look at the full picture, to understand the situation. As my readers became aware of the contest, they simply acted and voted. I am honored that they took the time to do so. They didn't break any rules, the ones I see on that list definitely exist, and they are a really great bunch of folks. They have been very supportive of me along this road and I'm proud to have them as readers. Some are writers, others are fantasy blog reviewers, bookstore owners, or fantasy fans, and I know without question that they actively read the genre. I hope you will accord them the same respect that you do for the readers and fans of other authors.

I may not be able to remove the distaste you felt (gauging from the earlier posts), but I would hope you take a look at my first post, and the things I present here.

I appreciate and understand your initial impression, I just would like to have you take what I've had to say into consideration.

sincerely,

Stephen Zimmer

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2012, 06:21 AM
For bad publicity, it sure has a lot of people talking about the writer and his book.

James D. Macdonald
01-21-2012, 08:07 AM
But not in a good way.

More and more we're seeing writers organizing their posse to write five-star reviews, try to delete one-star reviews, flame people who gave them bad reviews, or vote for them in contests. There have been a half-dozen examples in just the past two weeks. Even when it isn't the author using sockpuppets, the effect is the same.

Stacia Kane
01-21-2012, 05:52 PM
One of the few good aspects about being small press is that I do engage and interact with my readers on a regular basis, and I can go up and down that list and tell exactly who the people are who have cast votes for me.


I do wish you'd stop speaking as though those of us published by major houses don't engage and interact with our readers on a regular basis.

ChaosTitan
01-21-2012, 07:50 PM
I do wish you'd stop speaking as though those of us published by major houses don't engage and interact with our readers on a regular basis.

He also seems to be under the misguided impression that we also have some sort of magical sales/promotion staff working directly for us. The truth is, the majority of Big Six authors still have to do most of our own promotional work or no one is going to see our books.

Anne Lyle
01-21-2012, 08:48 PM
:sarcasm

You mean you guys don't have a personal assistant to handle all your fan mail?

aadams73
01-21-2012, 08:59 PM
I hired Santa's elves to do all my promo work. And the reindeer are my PAs. They're using Rudolph's nose as a letter spike.

HapiSofi
01-21-2012, 09:35 PM
Hi everyone,

I'm Stephen Zimmer, the subject of this thread (yes, that Stephen Zimmer, LOL), and I hope you will take a moment to consider a few things I wanted to say here, in a spirit of goodwill.

I offer you my good will in return. Also as much truth as I know, expressed as clearly as I can.


I found this thread thanks to Google Alerts (sometimes a blessing, and other times not so much, lol). I know there's not a lot of goodwill at the moment on here, from some of the comments towards the beginning of the thread,
There's disagreement and some disapproval, but no shortage of good will. AW stocks the stuff in bulk.


but I thought I would visit here to say a couple of things that will hopefully give you another perspective, one that I hope will put this whole thing in a different light.

I'm not here to respond to how you feel about my writing. Every reader is different, and what one reader hates, another may like.
No. Judging books good and bad isn't just a matter of individual taste.

Taste is whether you'd prefer to drive a Range Rover, Lincoln Town Car, or Cooper Mini. If your book were a car, it would be one that's blown out its freeze plugs, thrown a rod through the engine block, and dropped its transmission.

I've got serious professional chops as a reader. I've also bought and read your book. There are many passages where I can barely follow your prose. Other passages are so murky that while their meaning might be decoded or reconstructed -- I haven't tested that hypothesis -- they can't be read in the way one normally reads a book. That's not to anyone's taste.

You're the one person in the world to whom these problems are least visible. You know what everything is and what it's supposed to signify, so when you look at your writing, the meaning is there.

Diagnostically, I'd say you're not in control of your exposition, and there are a bunch of standard narrative mechanics and devices you need to identify and learn how to use. The good news is that these are all learnable things. It's a finite problem.

As a sidenote, that tessellated zillion-POV structure is not your friend. You need all the help context can give you.

If you've been using beta readers, you may have gotten confusing or misleading feedback from them. If so, go easy on them. I'm sure they meant well, and you confused them first. Beta readers are great when they can read your story and tell you what does and doesn't work for them. But if your prose has problems that break reading, your betas will know it isn't working for them, but they won't be able to explain why, and they'll constantly feel like there's stuff they aren't getting.

This gives them two options for feedback. One is to bluntly tell you they couldn't make sense of it. That's unlikely, if they were obliging enough to beta-read your work in the first place. Their other option is to tell you about the bits they liked, which is like praising your choice of interior upholstery fabric when the car is visibly standing in a pool of engine fluids flecked with twisted bits of bright metal.

It's not their fault. Normal happy readers are not prose technicians, pretty much by definition.


I write for my audience, and as long as they are enjoying the books, I can continue.
This is the hardest part. I don't think they are. I think they like you, not your books.


A quick look at George R.R. Martin's newest book's Amazon reviews will show how wide ranging opinions can be, with almost equal distribution across every star level.
You're not in his category, then, since your books only receive five-star reviews.

(Sorry, but that was irresistible. I know a lot of people get their friends to give them five-star reviews, but it's still dishonest. More to the point, it isn't nearly as undetectable as author and friends imagine.)

Back to George Martin. Let's look at this more closely. A Dance with Dragons (http://www.amazon.com/Dance-Dragons-Song-Fire-Book/dp/0553801473/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2) currently has 1,583 reviews on Amazon, many of which are several screens long. Here's how they break down:

5 star: 314
4 star: 218
3 star: 308
2 star: 401
1 star: 342

That's much less positive than the stats for his first book, A Game of Thrones, which got ten times as many five-star reviews as one-star reviews, and anyway half of those one-stars were complaining about poor quality control on the Kindle edition.

The drop in GRRM's approval ratings is no surprise. Everyone knows his fans have slowly gone mad waiting for him to finish the series. What I'll point out is that, first, no matter how many stars they gave A Dance with Dragons, each of those reviewers has bought and read all five books in the series; second, the single biggest reason they're angry is because they're desperate see how the story comes out, and it's not finished yet; and third, even the ones who are bitterly denouncing A Dance with Dragons are displaying a detailed knowledge of and engagement with the series.

GRRM's fans do that. There are acres of forums where they discuss his work with great vigor and at never-ending length. This is another area where you're not in his category.

I've been doing lot of Googling, taking more time than I probably should, in a search for everyday conversational evidence of people talking about reading Seventh Tower. I haven't found any. I've found press releases, editorial copy, and other sales copy that originated with you or your publisher, but the kind of casual mentions people normally give books they're reading are just not there.

Four things there are that cannot be hidden: a pillar of cloud by day, a pillar of fire by night, love, and what people are talking about on the internet. I am sorry, truly sorry, but I cannot agree that your books are finding an audience.


...My short story An Island Sojourn is not self-published. It is from an anthology of Steampunk called Dreams of Steam II put out by Kerlak Publishing, who happen to be the company behind the reboot of the "...in Hell" anthologies started with Heroes In Hell (the newest being Lawyers in Hell) from Janet and Chris Morris.
Do you honestly believe it's the best short story of 2011?

Did your voters buy and read that anthology as well as your novel, or were they just voting as you suggested?


Now, as far as where the votes are coming from, the Amazon rankings, etc. I hope to give you all some perspective of the (not so easy) existence of a small press author.
This is not a new subject for us. By my best estimate, I've been doing self-publishing and small-press publishing since you were a rugrat, and many others here have done it as well.


Most small press authors do not have big shelf presences in national chains,
Most of them don't have any. If Seventh Star has a distribution deal that gets them onto bookstore shelves, they're doing better than average.


and small press publishers are careful not to overextend due to returns, which can be a killer for a smaller operation.
Returns can be a killer for publishers of any size, though if they're coming back from bookstores they're at least whole-copy returns, not stripped covers.


As such, shelf placement tends to concentrate where the author is supporting the work.
You mean they don't have a brick-and-mortar distribution deal? I'm confused. Which is it?


I am based out of Kentucky, and I have a pretty large regional area that I cover in terms of book fairs, conventions, bookstore appearances, etc. I did more than 30 events in both 2009 and 2010, with around 12-15 being conventions. Chicago, Memphis, Des Moines, Indianapolis, and many other cities are within my circuit. These shows are where I sell most of my books, and then there are a number of independent bookstores within this same region that provide for another larger chunk of sales. I invite all of you to see my appearances schedule via my site, and you will see that I work very hard year round to reach as many events as I can. This is the core of where my readers come from.
The amount of work you do promoting your books has no necessary relationship with how good they are, and it doesn't justify what you're doing at Tor.com.

Your whole program strikes me as a terrible waste of effort. You're driving yourself like an army mule, trying to sell books nobody wants, instead of putting your work into learning to write books that will sell themselves on their own merits.

You're misidentified the problem. You're not up against the gatekeepers and publicists of the big trade publishing houses. You and every other author, editor, and publisher is up against the readers. No one has ever come up with a way to force them to buy and read books they don't want. Changes in manufacturing technology and distribution systems have made it easier to get marginal books published, but they haven't made the readers one bit less picky.


I have come to know a great many of my readers on a face to face level, a relationship that continues in the private discussion groups for my series that I have on Facebook, etc. I am a very responsive and accessible author to my readers, and they have demonstrated a great enthusiasm and loyalty in return. I interact with them all the time, and many of them are very tuned in to what is happening with me.
Let me repeat: I can easily imagine that they like you, and that you sell a lot of copies face-to-face. What I can't believe is that they're reading your books for enjoyment, and I'm finding no evidence of that happening with Seventh Tower.

If so, liking you better than they like your books is hardly the worst thing one can say about a writer, or about their friends.


When I commented on the thread about the person that cut and pasted with the spelling mistake, I could do so with confidence about that situation because I recognized their screen names and knew who they are.
Your interactions with these people are primarily face-to-face, yet you know them by their screen names? How many people total are we talking about here?

Also, if only a few cut-and-pasted, why is it that none of them mentioned the names of the cover artist and the cover designer?


I can tell you which conventions I see them at, etc. It is one blessing of being small press in that I've come to know many of my readers very well. I know the individuals I referred to in that post were readers, and I also learned later that yes, they did cut and paste to save time.
When people see those duplicate votes, the first thing they're going to think is not that they were an innocent cut-and-paste job. Your reputation will take the hit.

Can you explain it away? Maybe, maybe not. Ask Todd Cameron Hamilton and P. J. Beese, authors of The Guardsman, who were widely suspected of having tried to tamper with the Hugo Awards after a third party unknown to them bought large numbers of dummy supporting memberships and used them to block-vote for TCH & B's book. All the odd and hard-to-parse details about what really happened came out slowly later on. The moment of looking at the final Hugo ballot, recognizing almost instantly that there had been block-vote tampering on behalf of TCH & B, and attaching that suspicion to the authors, was an immediate first-hand experience that happened to people all over fandom.

The history of not very good novels that have been forcibly brought to fandom's attention is also daunting. Just ask Thomas Monteleone, whose NVG first novel, Seeds of Change, was distributed to conventions in unassimilable quantities as a promo freebie for Laser Books, and was consequently much mocked. Or ask Janine Cross, whose NVG (and not much edited by the publisher) first novel, Touched by Venom, was excerpted as a chapbook distributed at World Fantasy Con in 2005. The chapbook was used all weekend for Eye of Argon-style readings, and Janine Cross stopped writing for years thereafter.

When I referred to your attempt to stuff the ballot box at Tor.com as "disastrous self-promotion", I didn't mean it was disastrous for Tor.com.


As far as making my readers aware that the contests exists, and what titles are eligible for it, I do not see nothing wrong with doing that. I have been very careful in how I've presented that, merely saying that the contest is going on, what I'm eligible for, and just trying to make sure my readers were aware of it. That's all I have done, and I am honored that my readers responded in the way that they did.
I hope your readers feel honored at being made part of a scheme that many people are going to see as tacky, unprofessional, and borderline dishonest. And frankly, I'm one of them. I'm willing to believe you meant well, but it was still a boneheaded move, and you shouldn't have done it.


Some of the people that have voted for me are blog reviewers who are very familiar with my work, and one on that thread is a NY Times Best Selling author who really enjoys my Rising Dawn Saga. So several votes on that thread have come from the fantasy blogosphere and elsewhere.
You have not written a good book, and their votes will not make it better.

Listen to me. There are serious moral issues in play here. Neither you nor your voters believe The Seventh Tower is the best novel published in the genre in 2011. Organizing block voting for it is dishonest. Trying to stage a takeover of the Tor.com reader's poll -- not your site, not your project, not your readership -- in order to turn it into a vehicle for your own self-promotion is selfish. Swamping the "best cover" category solely in order to use it as an additional channel for self-promotion -- you didn't even give your voters the names of the artist or the cover designer -- is all that, and mean-spirited besides.

Are you really so desperate for approbation that you'll take it on those terms? Is that how you want to be known in the community?


I do not enjoy the situation of having a large team behind me that a major press author has. They have a full group/staff that takes on so many different tasks that I have to absorb as a small press author.
That's no excuse. First, you chose to go this route. You knew you'd be handling many of the tasks that commercial trade publishers handle for their authors. That was the tradeoff: Seventh Star was not a full-service publisher, but they were willing to publish your books, which the commercial houses were not. You can't complain about the provisions of a deal you went into with open eyes.

Second, none of the departments at the big commercial publishing houses are pulling this kind of stunt. Their books and authors get the benefit of conventional sales copy, book packaging, press releases, and other mechanisms of sale. Those are all varieties of promotion you can do for yourself. Nothing's forcing you to abuse reader polls on other people's sites.

Third, there will always be publishers and projects that enjoy more resources than you have available to you. If you take that as a justification for dishonest behavior, you'll be lost. There'll be no end to it.


Those of you that self-publish or are small press know what I am talking about. I have to promote what is going on or what I am doing, as nobody else is going to do that for you.
Your problem isn't a lack of promotion. You're overworked because your publisher isn't handling your distribution, and your books don't sell because they don't read. Suborning reader polls won't fix any of that.

Even if promotion was the problem, it wouldn't justify what you're doing. There are better ways to promote your books.


Do I enjoy having to wear multiple hats?
I don't object to you wearing multiple hats. We all do that. I object to you putting on that black silk top hat.


No, but it is a necessity in an increasingly difficult climate when major press/major retail is in decline
Book sales were fine last time I looked.


and you have an explosion of releases via Kindle/Nook/etc.
The growth of the e-book market has very nearly been an unalloyed blessing for authors like you and books like yours.

This is only going to get more and more difficult as thousands upon thousands of self-published releases enter the market,
You can't cope with that by trying harder and harder to sell books that people don't want.

I've said this many times before at AW, and I'm sure I'll have occasion to say it again: There is no substitute for writing a book that people want to buy and read. If you can do that, the odds are excellent that your book(s) can get picked up by a commercial trade publisher. If you can't, no half-baked publishing scheme is going to compensate for it. We are all at the mercy of the readers.


as barriers continue to fall (especially when the last major bookstore chains close).
What?

I don't know who told you that was going to happen, but in future, try not to listen to them so much.


Life is increasingly more difficult for an author in terms of the publishing climate, and I hope you understand what an author is up against.
I know exactly what authors are up against. I'm pretty sure I know more about the subject than you do. I'm sure some of the authors on this site know more about it than I do. Professional writers have a hard life. But there's nothing about it that compels or excuses dishonest, predatory behavior.


I hope this note has helped you see another view on the situation. I present it to all of you with a spirit of goodwill, and hope that it helps your understanding on a small press author's world, which is very different from that of a large independent or major press author.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask anytime.
If you think being a small press author gives you permission to behave in this fashion, what are you going to do to promote your next one?

Maryn
01-21-2012, 10:25 PM
Damn! Best Drycleaner on the Block doesn't begin to cover it.

Maryn, awed

Jamesaritchie
01-21-2012, 10:40 PM
Hi HapiSofi,

I don't know if you saw my long post above, but I wrote today to offer another perspective regarding the general impressions people have gotten here. It was my intention to explain where the voters are coming from, and who they are. As I explain in that note, it is a much different situation for me as a small press author, as my core of book sales and readership center around a year-round travel schedule to numerous conventions, bookstores, events, etc. No, I do not have big Amazon.com numbers, but I do have a base of readers that has grown over the past 3 years.

I posted which of my titles and short stories were eligible under the Tor.com rules, as I had the 2nd book in my other series come out in the end of December 2010 and I had to make that distinction for my readers (as well as a short story that also came out near the end of the year). It is very likely that many of the readers did pull from the eligibility postings I made, but they didn't do it lockstep, as if they did, I should expect to see even numbers in the three categories. I have significantly less votes for the short story, and there are many single votes being cast for just the cover art or the book.

One of the few good aspects about being small press is that I do engage and interact with my readers on a regular basis, and I can go up and down that list and tell exactly who the people are who have cast votes for me. If Tor wanted to follow up to verify that they are different people, it would be very easy in an overwhelming majority of the cases.

At the end of the day, the math itself is extremely realistic, if you take a look at the volume in the overall voting. If everyone involved in the reading groups for my two series along all cast votes the numbers of votes cast for me would actually be significantly higher. For example, I have about 80 readers alone in an active discussion group about the two series, readers that requested to join the groups and are dedicated fans of the books. For another example, my last Lexington signing alone brought in about 85 people according to the bookstore (which has grown from my first signing there in 2009 which brought in about 40). I can cite more concrete examples, as I have groups of readers that come to see me in all the visits I make in the larger region. I'm not saying this to brag or anything, as these are tiny numbers in comparison with a major press author's base, but I definitely have a large enough reader base that can justify a legitimate 60 or 70+ votes in an open reader's poll. It is not an unrealistic total at all for the size of base that I have.

I wanted to present this in the hopes that everyone reading this thread will take some of these things into account, and look at the full picture, to understand the situation. As my readers became aware of the contest, they simply acted and voted. I am honored that they took the time to do so. They didn't break any rules, the ones I see on that list definitely exist, and they are a really great bunch of folks. They have been very supportive of me along this road and I'm proud to have them as readers. Some are writers, others are fantasy blog reviewers, bookstore owners, or fantasy fans, and I know without question that they actively read the genre. I hope you will accord them the same respect that you do for the readers and fans of other authors.

I may not be able to remove the distaste you felt (gauging from the earlier posts), but I would hope you take a look at my first post, and the things I present here.

I appreciate and understand your initial impression, I just would like to have you take what I've had to say into consideration.

sincerely,

Stephen Zimmer

I wouldn't worry abut any of it. What matters is how general, non-writer readers think, and whether they buy your books, vote for your book, etc. If they buy them, or vote for them, nothing else matters.

When you start listening to criticism from other writers, it's a never-ending road to nowhere.

HapiSofi
01-21-2012, 10:46 PM
Come off it, James Ritchie. You have never in your life had to resort to stunts like that to get people to read your books.

Medievalist
01-21-2012, 10:49 PM
I wouldn't worry abut any of it. What matters is how general, non-writer readers think, and whether they buy your books, vote for your book, etc. If they buy them, or vote for them, nothing else matters.

When you start listening to criticism from other writers, it's a never-ending road to nowhere.

Dude, HapiSofi isn't "another writer," she's an editor.

Stuffing a voting queue is not appropriate or ethical.

Notice how writers like Charlie Stross mention their eligibility--they don't send all their readers, friends and relations over to vote for them.

Half the time when you see a pro mention an award at all, they mention another writer as worth considering.

Williebee
01-21-2012, 10:56 PM
Here's another thing. By attempting to manipulate Tor's contest and site you piss off Tor.

Piss off Tor and your name gets known. Not by readers, but by publishers, and not in any good way. Being known as dishonest and unprofessional -- even when/if your writing gets good enough to represent, will kill the deal.

And, not being able to know, with absolute certainty, the future of self-publishing (and anyone who tells you they do is selling snake oil) a professional is wise not to burn ANY bridges like this.

G. Applejack
01-22-2012, 12:24 AM
Here's another thing. By attempting to manipulate Tor's contest and site you piss off Tor.

Piss off Tor and your name gets known. Not by readers, but by publishers, and not in any good way. Being known as dishonest and unprofessional -- even when/if your writing gets good enough to represent, will kill the deal.

And, not being able to know, with absolute certainty, the future of self-publishing (and anyone who tells you they do is selling snake oil) a professional is wise not to burn ANY bridges like this.


Seconding all of this.

After glancing through the 'votes' in question, and considering the minimal online presence that your book has generated prior to this... I'm very sorry, but I have little doubt that the votes weren't stuffed.

I don't believe that the publicity generated by winning the contest is worth the negative press AND getting blacklisted by a major publisher.

HapiSofi
01-22-2012, 01:28 AM
I know that writer-folklore believes in the existence of editorial blacklists for misbehaving writers, but I've never known an editorial department that maintained one. There are too many writers, too many manuscripts, and too many varieties of weird behavior to keep track of.

Scout's honor: Insofar as I know of editorial departments maintaining blacklists at all, what they were keeping track of were bad copy editors and sometimes bad proofreaders.

A misbehaving writer (one you don't publish, I mean) is usually just a passing irritation, and anyway the soonest you'll hear from them again will be when they've written another novel. A bad copyedit can ruin your work week, and in really bad cases can damage the book and/or your relationship with the author.

Editorial assistants will sometimes keep mysterious lists of their own, which may be accompanied by voodoo dolls or other talismans, but it's been a long time since I was privy to gossip about who's on them or why. I just hope it isn't me.

Williebee
01-22-2012, 01:43 AM
I certainly wasn't referring to anything as formal or even informal as a blacklist. But we all have people, whether we know them personally or not, that the mention of their name brings on bad memories or the reminder of a bad reputation. Cultivating a bad reputation would seem to be a self-defeating mode of operation.

HapiSofi
01-22-2012, 02:25 AM
Cultivating a bad reputation would seem to be a self-defeating mode of operation.
True. Small community, long memories.

James D. Macdonald
01-22-2012, 03:57 AM
... but I've never known an editorial department that maintained one.

Several independent sources have told me that PublishAmerica maintains just such a list.

I'm pretty sure I'm on it.

I'm sure you would be too, if they knew who you were.

aliceshortcake
01-22-2012, 03:13 PM
Damn! Best Drycleaner on the Block doesn't begin to cover it.

Maryn, awed

I second Maryn's awedness. That was fabulous.

Anne Lyle
01-22-2012, 04:25 PM
If Seventh Star has a distribution deal that gets them onto bookstore shelves, they're doing better than average.

FWIW, Seventh Star do seem to be upping their game. I thought I recognised the name from somewhere - they got a shout-out recently on the Sci-fi Guys' "Best publishers of 2011" list:

http://www.scifiguysbookreview.blogspot.com/2012/01/best-of-2011-publishers.html

HapiSofi
01-22-2012, 06:26 PM
Stephen, are you all right? The part about the good will was real. Please say something so we know you're still breathing.

Stephen Zimmer
01-24-2012, 10:26 PM
HapiSofi,

I'm alive and well, just been very busy the past couple of days. I just wanted to say that I appreciate the chance to present my thoughts to everyone here. That's all I can ask of anyone.

:)

HapiSofi
01-27-2012, 06:11 PM
Um. Does that mean you didn't read the thread?

Libbie
01-27-2012, 07:28 PM
Yep.

zahra
01-27-2012, 11:56 PM
Wow, that was intense. (Lies back on the pillow with a cigarette).

KalenO
01-28-2012, 02:30 AM
Eh, that kinda annoys me to be honest. It seems pretty clear to me that Mr. Zimmer only came here to be heard, not to listen. When you come into a new forum specifically to respond to criticism and post epic length posts that people then take the time to respond to indepth with specific points (without being inflammatory or attacking you) - the least you can do is take the time to read said responses and acknowledge them and their attempt to be constructive, even if you still don't agree with them.

But you know, just IMO.

Drachen Jager
01-28-2012, 03:09 AM
If that were in his nature I don't think he'd be in this particular hot-seat in the first place KalenO.

James D. Macdonald
01-28-2012, 03:17 AM
No one is required to respond to any particular thread, or any particular post in any given thread.

Many times this is a good thing.

Old Hack
01-28-2012, 12:18 PM
Stephen, are you all right? The part about the good will was real. Please say something so we know you're still breathing.


HapiSofi,

I'm alive and well, just been very busy the past couple of days. I just wanted to say that I appreciate the chance to present my thoughts to everyone here. That's all I can ask of anyone.

:)


Um. Does that mean you didn't read the thread?

If Mr Zimmer had not been reading the thread, how could he have noticed HapiSofi's request for proof that he was still breathing and then responded to it?

I do hope he's found Hapi's longer comment to him useful. She made many good points. I think it would be polite of him to at least thank her for it, but I can quite understand if he finds it all a lot to take in.

Celia Cyanide
01-29-2012, 12:50 AM
No one is required to respond to any particular thread, or any particular post in any given thread.

Many times this is a good thing.

Word.

HapiSofi
01-30-2012, 09:19 PM
If Mr Zimmer had not been reading the thread, how could he have noticed HapiSofi's request for proof that he was still breathing and then responded to it?
By dropping by for a quick check, and reading the one-line post that's sitting at the bottom of the thread.

I hope that's not what happened, but I can't tell. One silence is much like another.

I do hope he's found Hapi's longer comment to him useful. She made many good points. I think it would be polite of him to at least thank her for it, but I can quite understand if he finds it all a lot to take in.
There is that.

If he did read it and is still processing, fine, he has my sympathies. And if he didn't read the thread, his problems are not my problem.