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123 posts

Master Geek
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Topic # 29928 23-Jan-2009 14:49
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...or is it just scifi which is dead? About six months ago I read 'Radio Freefall', by Matthew Jarpe, and enjoyed it enough to go looking for something else of his. I did find his blog, and the promise of another novel on the way, but I was a bit taken aback today to read that Radio Freefall didn't sell enough for his publisher to take his new novel. The figures he quotes just don't make sense to me -- he sold 2,500 copies? If you'd have asked me, I would have guessed that a modern, reasonably entertaining 'cyberpunk'-type novel would sell 2,000 copies here in NZ, but 2,500 worldwide makes me wonder what could go that wrong.

Are we all waiting for the movie? Should he have sold it as a video game? Or is it just that novels have had their time? He writes this -- "I might have to spend some time in writer jail, or wait until the economy improves, or until a new form of entertainment distribution grows out of the rotting corpse of publishing." -- I wonder whether this new form of distribution is close, but somehow I don't think that world-wide 'Kindling' is the answer.

If Jarpe's second book ever gets published, and it's half-decent, I'll be back here promoting it blatently, as well as everywhere else I can reach folk, otherwise there won't be a third, and finding something good to read may be a lot harder than it should be.


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  Reply # 191580 23-Jan-2009 15:23
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Wow...

Struggling authors are in the same boat as struggling bands (speaking from experience here). Even if you're amazing, your publisher has to believe you're amazing also, and they need to believe it enough to take a risk in spending the time/money advertising and marketing it.

I've seen bands get dropped only after a few weeks after being signed, because it's "too niche" and would require too much hard work from the label.  I'd imagine a cyberpunk sci-fi book would fit into the "underground" box, IE: the people who would read it are the kind of people who go digging for it, as opposed to your average "Hey, it was in the top 10 at Whitcoull's" sort of crowd.

People are defiantely still reading strange, radical and thought-provoking material. Take Ian Banks for example. Some mind-bending stuff there, and the guy sells truckloads.

And people DO judge books by the cover. That book has a pretty poor cover. Looks like some bad late 80's sci fi stuff from my primary-school library.  Even if the book is good, the cover would put a lot of people off.

That's my 2 cents worth.

People are defiantely still reading. I have 2 books on the go right now.




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  Reply # 191581 23-Jan-2009 15:25
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Actually after reading the wee synopsis, it sounds similar (I could be waaay off the mark though) to Ben Elton's cynical futuristic stuff sci-fi-satire.




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  Reply # 191584 23-Jan-2009 15:33
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Yep - I'm a big reader 3+ books a week generally.....mainly political thrillers and espionage type novels not really into the sci fi so much




For billions of years since the outset of time, every single one of your ancestors survived, every single person on your Mum and Dads side, successfully looked after and passed onto you life.  What are the chances of that like?

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  Reply # 191598 23-Jan-2009 16:07
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BurningBeard: ...people DO judge books by the cover. That book has a pretty poor cover. Looks like some bad late 80's sci fi stuff from my primary-school library.  Even if the book is good, the cover would put a lot of people off.

You're quite right - this is probably the root cause of the authors woes.  A crap cover coupled with no publicity/advertising (?) is reasonably certain to guarantee a sales flop, even if it's a great novel.

Maybe he should look at pushing it out onto the internet to try and gather some sales that way.  Even if it ends up being illegally copied he'll be no worse off and the potential of viral marketing might do wonders for his next book...

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  Reply # 191626 23-Jan-2009 17:04
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Tell him to look at http://issuu.com for self-publishing.

I don't know how it works since I haven't looked around, but downloaded a couple of documents and white papers from there.




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  Reply # 191635 23-Jan-2009 17:47
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Dratsab:
BurningBeard: ...people DO judge books by the cover. That book has a pretty poor cover. Looks like some bad late 80's sci fi stuff from my primary-school library.  Even if the book is good, the cover would put a lot of people off.

You're quite right - this is probably the root cause of the authors woes.  A crap cover coupled with no publicity/advertising (?) is reasonably certain to guarantee a sales flop, even if it's a great novel.

Maybe he should look at pushing it out onto the internet to try and gather some sales that way.  Even if it ends up being illegally copied he'll be no worse off and the potential of viral marketing might do wonders for his next book...


Yip, and the same goes for any product/service. It may in fact be the best thing since sliced bread, but if nodoby knows about it, there's no demand.  Granted, there are exceptions, some things are just so awesome that word-of-mouth is sufficient. But it's really gotta be genuinely breathtaking or groundbreaking to make that sort of impact.

Another factor is just down to personal taste.  For example, the extreme metal music scene that I'm into is niche stuff that will only ever appeal to a handful of people. The twisted writing of Brett Easton Ellis; That would make most "normal" people throw up in their mouth happens to make me laugh out loud...  my point being this - if you're doing something that's so outside the box that only a few people "get it", you'll never appeal to a mass-audience. This rings true throughout society - music, art, scientific ideas, computer games, the list goes on.
But yeah, promotion and presentation is everything. Advertising is my career and has been for 11 years, and if I've learned one thing, it's that you can sell just about anything if you go about it properly.  If it looks like freakin awesome, then more people will get the impression that it is freakin awesome.




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  Reply # 191704 23-Jan-2009 23:54
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Yes, there are a few realities covered here, but my concern is still that once a book has been picked up by a publisher, you'd think that they'd have sufficient skills and resources to get the ball rolling. A publisher who picks up a scifi novel should at least have a good idea where to find the hard-core scifi fans and stores. Hey, if I had a published first book, I'd expect that if I did some serious pushing each weekend out of my car boot, I'd wanna sell 5,000 at least over a few months...

I'm certainly aware of the issues of niche-market products, that's how I make my living, it's just that I always considered that the 'experts' should at least do it better:)

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