All posts in The Wasp in the Lotus

Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance

Coming soon from Echelon Press is this neat little anthology of steampunk novellas – six in total, including my story, The Wasp in the Lotus.

Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance will be available as both an ebook and a print anthology, and as I understand it while Echelon is a US-based small press, there will be a UK printer and distributor as well. By my estimate, the six novellas should bring the book to around 120,000 words, so it’ll be a good, solid read. The anthology carries a vague theme, that each story contains a Queen of some sort; the heroine of my piece is none other than Tatiana Romanov, Tzarina of Russia and the sole survivor of the failed Russian Revolution of 1917, who finds herself aboard a hijacked airship.

I’ve already seen the stories by Jen and Kim, and I think we’re in for a treat. The three of us will be talking about this anthology, and steampunk in general, on the Saturday afternoon of Alt Fiction in the Mac podcast suite, so please join us!

Echelon are just finalising the details of the release, including the launch date and pricing, etc, so I’ll put those up when I get them.

18th February, 2011: Thursdayitis

Urgh. Thursdayitis strikes. Arthur Dent could never get the hang of Thursdays, and I know how he feels. Maybe it has something to do with being born on a Thursday, although you’d think that would grant you some kind of magical luck. Not for me.

Yesterday’s highlight was finishing off our Firefly rerun with Serenity, which for some reason I didn’t enjoy as much as I usually do. I think watching it back-to-back with the TV series is not necessarily a good thing, as Serenity doesn’t really feel like Firefly. I think it’s because Serenity is too space opera science fiction and lacks any Western elements, although that’s a necessity of the plot, dealing as it does with the Alliance and the Reavers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great film, but not one without faults.

Writing
Only half a chapter on Hang Wire , and I’m pretty sure all of yesterday’s words will be going in the edit bin at some point. That happens sometimes – you gotta get the bad stuff out to let the good stuff flow. Although I do quite like the idea of Ted, our hero, finding his lost cellphone in a freezer in a Chinese supermarket.

Project: Hang Wire (superheroes and serial killers in San Francisco)
Words today: 1,016
Words total: 36,991/100,000 (37%)
Total words for 2011: 55,976

Editing
Not enough of this either. Only a few pages of Ludmila, My Love polished, although in contrast to the above I was pretty happy with it.

Reading
No Firestarter yesterday, but a bit more of another novella set to appear alongside The Wasp in the Lotus in Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance from Echelon Press. Good, too, and quite a different (and fantastical) take on steampunk.

15th February, 2011: Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance

I’ve mentioned The Wasp in the Lotus several times now and charted its progress on this blog. For those who missed it, this is a steam/clockpunk novella that checks in at around 21,000 words. I wrote it in January on commission, which is the first time I’ve had to commit to a sort of write-on-demand schedule. It was hard work but it was fun, and I hope the end result is entertaining. And now I can spill the beans on what I wrote it for!

The Wasp in the Lotus is one of five novellas appearing together in a steampunk anthology from Echelon Press, a US-based small press. The anthology, Her Majesty’s Mysterious Conveyance, is due for print and electronic release in May this year, and my story sits very proudly alongside novellas from Jennifer Williams, Kim Lakin-Smith, Sean Hayden, and Nick Valentino. If all goes to plan we should have some stock available in time for Alt Fiction at the end of June, which myself, Jen and Kim will be attending. I understand there is a press release coming from Echelon, but the word got out on Twitter last night.

And what better way to celebrate than with the pinball number count from old school Sesame Street. Right? Well, I just so happened to be watching some vintage episodes this morning (what?), and I noticed that this classic piece of animation (which I first saw when I was probably 3 or 4 years old) is actually steampunk. Seriously. Check out the video and see if you can spot it.

Strangely enough, I’ve got an index card on my corkboard for a story about very high altitude airships. Which means Sesame Street counts as research.

*cough*

Writing
Yesterday was a busy day for writing as I worked on both Godless and Hang Wire. In the former I tied up chapter six and sent our hero on his way to the town of Sentinel, Wyoming. In Hang Wire, Ted, having suffered blackouts and lost time, heads off to San Francisco’s Chinatown district, following the directions given in a mysterious note signed in Korean that was slipped under his apartment door. It feels good to be back in both of these worlds, and they are different enough that working on both on the same day didn’t seem to pose any particular problems.

Project: Godless (horror Western novel)
Words today: 841
Words total: 20,131/100,000 (20%)

Project: Hang Wire (superheroes and serial killers in San Francisco)
Words today: 1219
Words total: 32,872/100,000 (33%)

Total words today: 2060
Total words for 2011: 51,857

Reading
Books: some pages of Firestarter by Stephen King.
Comics: None yesterday. Although I just acquired a job lot of classic Marvel GI Joe comics, so I may need to add those to the list sooner rather than later.

9th February, 2011: Typography matters

In a past life I think I must have been a typographer, maybe a famous one or one responsible for a famous typeface, because I’m a confirmed typography snob. There, I’ve said it. And I’m not ashamed to admit it either. In the world of commercial art and design, typography is the most important factor. Depending on the purpose and function of the design, the typography can transcend illustration, photography and other non-type components. Taken further, good typography can save any bad design. Poor typography can destroy it, no matter how wonderful and perfect the other elements of the design may be.

I’m not a designer myself, and my own practical experience with typography has been mostly limited to TSV, the fanzine of the New Zealand Doctor Who Fan Club that I edited for a few years. When I took over from the previous editor I undertook a complete top-to-bottom, inside-out redesign of the publication. Given the limitations of TSV – black and white A5 interiors, with layout done in Adobe Indesign CS – I deliberately chose a simple typographical style and stuck to it throughout. The result, I think, was a very simple but readable interior – article headings, boxouts, bylines and introductions in variations of Gill Sans and Gill Sans Light; body text in Adobe Garamond Pro; occassional use of special font for particular articles, but with a rule never to use free fonts or fonts pre-installed on most computers. When I was designing this here blog, the font choice was very important and it took a long, long time to settle on League Gothic for the main title banner (oddly enough, the banner is the one aspect of this site that I get the most feedback on).

I must admit I was quite surprised last week when I mentioned the issue of poor typography on Twitter. A lot of people didn’t really know what I was talking about and most of the replies were jokes about “anything is fine except Comic Sans”. Several said that typography didn’t matter at all – for example, most people I asked didn’t know why the use of the common font Papyrus for the film Avatar is so egregious. I know it wasn’t exactly a scientific or representative survey, but the discussion that followed was a bit worrying.

I was not, however, entirely alone. A friend of mine used to be a typesetter for an artbook publisher, and she and a few others joined me in lamenting the lack of typographical understanding. As a writer I’m interested in books, and as books tend to have covers, typography is tremendously important. Typography, for example, is usually the key element of design that will alert you to the fact that a book listed on Amazon from some unknown publisher is actually a self-published work. But even in the world of mainstream publishing, I’ve seen countless examples of excellent artwork or illustrative design totally and utterly steamrollered by the worst typography imaginable.

Anyway, an interesting study on the use of bad fonts came out the other day, suggesting that hideous fonts actually increase reader understanding. Freaky stuff. There’s also some good linkage at the bottom of that piece about good (and bad) typography.

Writing and editing
The first day back from Camber Sands was spent trying to get through a backlog of day-gig work and get rid of the traditional post-convention cold. Yesterday I managed to grab some time to give The Wasp in the Lotus another run-through, and made some further adjustments here and there before sending it off to the two other UK-based writers joining me in this anthology. We actually met up at the SFX Weekender and had a chat about our stories, and an interesting discussion about how fast-turnaround “production-line” writing is actually very good for the creative muscles. The ability to produce fiction on demand and to a fixed schedule – and for that fiction to be good – is a very valuable skill. I think the three of us all felt that writing the novellas was like being thrown into some kind of steampunk bootcamp, but a worthwhile experience.

I’ll be able to post more information about The Wasp and the Lotus and the other pieces, and the anthology they’ll be appearing in, later. For the moment, our submission deadline is tomorrow! But with Wasp out of the way, I can now get back to writing. As far as I can work out (I still need to double-check my schedule) I have got to:

  • Write the next chapter of Godless and send it off to my co-writer Kate.
  • Get back into the first draft of Hang Wire.
  • Plot a post-apocalyptic novel called The Suicide Tree and hammer a synopsis and sample chapters into shape for a pitch.
  • Get the final edit rolling on Ludmila, My Love, so it will be ready for my beta-readers on 1st March

Working out what needs to come first is the tricky bit. Godless and Hang Wire have no fixed schedules, but that’s not to say they don’t need to be chugging along at a good pace. I have maybe this month to get the pitch for The Suicide Tree ready, but the sooner the better for this really. I have started the final edit of Ludmila, My Love, having revised the first two chapters this week already, but the pressure is on there as my beta-readers are booked in and expecting to have something to read.

Today then will be filled with list making and pouring over my calendar to see what can fit where and when. Fun times. Proper stats will reappear tomorrow!

Reading
I’m back into Firestarter and just getting into the swing of the story, so it’s hard to make a judgement on it so early. The prose is classic King though, which is enough to keep me happy.

Books: A page or two of Firestarter by Stephen King.
Comics: Issues lined up and ready for today and tomorrow.

3rd February, 2011

Just a flash in the pan today as we’re heading off to the SFX Weekender, and we’ve got some packing and organising to do! Assuming I can get a 3G data connection down at Camber Sands, I’ll do my best to keep the blog posts rolling.

Writing and editing
Yesterday was pretty tumultuous for a variety of reasons – as it was Groundhog Day I spent the morning with one eye on the live stream from Punxsutawny while trying to finish some day gig work before my days off. It was also day two of our boiler replacement, with the plumber and electrician using a variety of exciting and loud power tools downstairs all day… and then there were phone calls from New York (work) and New Zealand (parental birthday greetings), and a wodge of important emails to chug through.

So yeah, pretty busy. But I did manage to get within two pages of finishing the edit on The Wasp in the Lotus. I should be able to knock that off this morning before we head down south, so at least some of my beta readers (the ones not attending the SFX Weekender anyway) will be able to take a look at it.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Reading
Just a page or two of Firestarter as I had another dinner to go to. I know, it’s a hard life, right? No comics either.

Books: A page or two of Firestarter by Stephen King.
Comics: Detective Comics #756 (2000), Green Lantern #78 (1970)

1st & 2nd February, 2011

I’m going to change the dating of these daily blog posts, because I want to talk about today today and not tomorrow. Because today is the best, most coolest day of the year.

They say the British are the best for strange ceremonies and weird anniversaries, whether it be cheese-rolling, running through the centre of town while carrying a burning barrel of tar, or the ceremony of the Quit Rents, to name just a handful of charming and eccentric events. But today (that’s February 2nd – see, told you I needed to change my dating system), the Americans have it all sewn up. Because today is Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is a relatively recent piece of folklore, at least compared to European and British traditions. It looks like it was first mentioned around 1841, and today has become a major annual festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. I’m sure most people will be familiar with Groundhog Day thanks to the 1993 film of the same name, starring Bill Murray. Thanks to this film, the term “groundhog day” is now in common usage to refer to unpleasant, unchanging, repetitive situations, and apparently this began in the US military.

Why do I love Groundhog Day? Well, Punxsutawny Phil, the groundhog in question, is unbearably cute…

…and there is something totally crazy and endearable about a cute animal who lives in a tree stump on Gobber’s Knob being called on to predict the weather by a bunch of guys in top hats, who claim to be able to speak to Phil in Groundhogese. This, in my mind, is damn cool. You can watch Punxsutawny Phil’s prognostication live online here from 6am EST (11am GMT), with the prognostication ceremony starting at 7.25am (12.25 GMT).

Also, Groundhog Day is my birthday, a coincidence that I am pleased as punch at. I know a lot of people who don’t like birthdays, but, like Groundhog Day and bowties, I think birthdays are cool. One day I hope to celebrate it in Punxsutawny.

Writing and editing
No words again. But that’s okay because The Wasp in the Lotus really, really needs to get to second draft ASAP. This steampunk/clockpunk novella has requiered a lot of revision, and it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve actually hit 2000 words a day just on corrections and changes. I’ve got ten pages left to go, then I’ll get it out to my beta-readers and let them digest it until early next week.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Reading
Surprisingly, I didn’t pick up Firestarter yesterday, but I did manage to knock off two comics. Okay, it’s not the five I need to read each day, but last night I was obliged to go out and eat a very large meal (obliged, I tell you) on account of Groundhog Day my birthday, and when I got back I wasn’t quite in the mood for a lot of reading. Detective Comics #756 from 2001 is a one-shot tie-in (Lord of the Ring) to Superman #168, but writer Greg Rucka manages to recap events in just a couple of panels, so I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. It’s a nice little story, although not one connected to the return of Catwoman, which is what I’m leading up to. I also love the art by Coy Turnbull (pencils), Dan Davis (inks) and Wildstorm FX (colours – although I’m not sure whether Wildstorm FX is a person or some department of Wildstorm comics). These issues of Detective Comics may be ten years old but they’re a real breath of fresh air for me. The other comic read was Green Lantern #78 from 1970, being the third of the famous O’Neil/Adams run. Black Canary makes an appearance here, although various aspersions are cast upon her character at the end which surprised me a little. That Black Canary, eh? A good issue but lacking in the punch of the previous two.

Books: A page or two of Firestarter by Stephen King.
Comics: Detective Comics #756 (2000), Green Lantern #78 (1970)

31st January, 2011

Coming up at the end of this week is the SFX Weekender, a two-day SF convention being held at Camber Sands Holiday Park on the south coast. I managed to win four tickets, so myself, the Mrs, writerly friend Jen (@sennydreadful) and her partner Marty (@boxroom) will be heading down to enjoy the company of George Takei, Sir Terry Pratchett, Keely Hawes, and a number of other guests. There is also going to be a sizeable book/writing contingent (not quite sure how to describe it!) so while this isn’t a literary SF convention I’m sure we’ll be mostly talking about writing and books and the like. I’m also going to be manning the Angry Robot Books sales table in the dealer’s room for a spell on both Friday and Saturday, so swing by and say hello. And then buy lots of books.

We’ve never been to a British holiday camp (although I have watched plenty of Hi-de-hi), and while the online reviews of the accomodation terrify me, I’m sure it’ll be a hoot. I’m expecting the worst (facilities-wise) and we’re coming prepared, and it’s only two nights anyway. I’m going to try to keep up with the blogging and writing/editing while I’m away (thanks to the ultra-portability of my Macbook Air). But… we’ll see how it goes.

Writing
No words yesterday. I’m sensing a pattern here, but editing has to come first at the moment as the deadline for The Wasp in the Lotus is fast approaching. Yesterday I did do a spot of beta-reading for one of my favourite authors, and there is more of that today, which is pretty gosh-darned cool.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Editing
Good progress on Wasp. If I can get the second draft done today, I’ll be pleased. The plan, such as it is, is to have the novella ready to send off to my beta-readers before we leave for the SFX Weekender on Thursday.

Reading
Firestarter by Stephen King showed up in the post yesterday, and I made a start on it although I only read a couple of pages as I need to review The Dead Zone first as part of the 2011 Stephen King Challenge. Once that’s done (a job for today), then I can dive right in.

Books: A page or two of Firestarter by Stephen King.
Comics: On hold until February. Wait, February is today! Okay… time to dig out my comics hat and get reading.

29th January, 2011

Yesterday I went out and bought Mass Effect 2 for the PS3, and a few people decried that a writer (ie, me) would indulge in such a time sink when they should be writing.

That reminded me, although in a far less extreme way, of a blog post I read recently where someone analysed the Twitter feed of Brandon Sanderson and concluded that he was spending far too much time not writing, and he really needed to knuckle down to work. Specific tweets highlighted included one mentioning that he went out for dinner, played some Magic card games, and went to visit some friends. How very dare he.

Now, clearly that blogger was suffering from entitlement syndrome, or whatever you like to call it – that their favourite writer somehow owes them, and that their primary function in life is to produce fiction. I’ve seen it a few times, although most usually when an author is late on something or their next book is eagerly awaited.

But writers are people too. Sure, I bought Mass Effect 2 for the PS3. I also play World of Warcraft. I read books. I go to the movies. I watch TV. I eat. I drink. I sleep. A far bigger problem is the amount of time I spend on Twitter when I should be writing/editing/scheming, but hey, I’m getting better.

Writers write because they have to write, and there’s not much that will get in the way of that.

Writing
No words yesterday either, but yesterday had a few unexpected twists and turns. Which is an excuse, I know.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Editing
Progress continues on The Wasp in the Lotus, and I’m hoping to have the second draft finished today. Following my post from yesterday about editing on screen versus on paper, wereviking from the Zephyr weblog comic mentioned that as a newspaper subeditor, he’s been trained to edit on paper and that’s a hard habit to break. Despite what I said yesterday, I actually agree that editing on paper is important, because you miss a very great deal of stuff on screen just by virtue of the way our brains and eyes work. This means then that printing a entire manuscript does need to be done, but as I mentioned in my response to wereviking’s comment, perhaps as the second step, after an on-screen edit. As a result the printed manuscript should hopefully be in pretty good shape and you can focus on things that were missed. Which means a lot less red pen, and a lot less hassle rekeying it all back into the electronic manuscript.

I also think I’ve decided to put editing Seven Wonders on hold, and start on Ludmila, My Love once I’ve finished with Wasp. I think I’ve decided, but there are still a few days before I can start so I may change my mind.

Reading
Something has happened in Death’s Disciples, and suddenly I’m reading a different book. This is very, very cool.

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

28th January, 2011

It’s stating the obvious to say that editing is as important as writing. If you are writing with the purpose of entertaining others (as opposed to entertaining yourself, which is a noble pursuit all in itself), there’s no point in creating a stack of manuscripts without actually going back and fixing them. And “fixing” is the right word, because those first drafts are broken, no doubt about it. I’m sure that the more you write, the less broken your first drafts are (and consequently the less editing time needed), but a first draft is a first draft is a first draft.

Editing can also be difficult – in fact, it can make you want to tear your hair out, and it frequently will. A lot of people are frightened of editing, and I don’t blame them. It’s not particularly pleasant to pick up something you wrote a few months ago, which you had put in a drawer and thought wasn’t too bad, not really, and discover that while some of it is pretty good, some of it really is pretty bad too. I can understand why some people don’t like editing, and why some people don’t edit. It’s one of the big obstacles that stop a lot of people from making a proper go at writing.

I used to not enjoy editing – in fact, I still don’t quite enjoy it per se – but I find it satisfying to carve the good stuff out of the mountain of words written. Scott Sigler summed it up when he said “you’ve got to get the clay on the wheel”. That’s the first draft. Write everything down before you forget it. Once that’s done, then you can sculpt the story and fix the writing.

One thing that struck me this week though is that I’m faster editing on screen than I am on paper, which I must admit is a surprise. I’m not sure why I’m surprised, exactly, because I can certainly type faster than I can write by hand, and I can construct prose in my head faster than I can type (which is why I never write in longhand, and have no inclination to try). My usual routine for novel-length fiction is to take the draft from Scrivener, import it into Word, massage it into standard manuscript format (Scrivener has a variety of formatting options for when you compile a manuscript, but it never quite seems to get it right), do a general spellcheck and fix anything really obvious (usually just grammar or punctuation, if I see anything as the spellcheck is running), and then have it printed at Lulu as a trade paperback for editing. I’ve done this for three books now, because Lulu is surprisingly cheap, and when I worked in an office I could throw my paperback in my bag and work on the editing with ease at lunchtime. The end result would be a paperback filled with red pen, and from this I could start amending the electronic manuscript.

I thought this was a good idea because a) it was practical, as having a 500-page manuscript bound into a trade paperback is much more convenient than a very large stack of A4 printed sheets, and b) it meant I could read the manuscript as an actual book, which I think put me in the right mindset for editing. So in this regard, this…

…is easier to manage than this…

This week I finished a new novella, The Wasp in the Lotus, and because the deadline is approaching fast I went straight into editing/rewriting. I tend to do this for short fiction anyway, as there doesn’t seem much point in getting a copy printed. So I’ve started editing directly in Word, using the track-changes function as my red pen.

Editing on screen works. Now, I knew it did, because I’ve edited short fiction on screen before. But the compiled manuscript of Wasp comes in at 75 pages and while it doesn’t have chapters, it has numbered section breaks. It feels like I’m editing a long piece, and after a day I’m already nearly a third of the way through. The manuscript is a mass of red tracked changes, but so far I’m happy with how the second draft is looking.

This month I was supposed to have been editing Seven Wonders, but after four weeks I’ve only made a very small inroad into the 600-page paperback I had printed. Whenever I think I should be working on it, the sheer bulk of the physical book puts me off – there are so many pages to fix, and marking everything up by hand takes a long time.

The thing is, I don’t work in an office any more, I work at home. Which means the convenience factor of a printed editing copy is now irrelevant – I can be editing on my own computer. Secondly, editing Wasp on screen has been much faster than I anticipated – I’m still doing a heck of a lot of rewriting and fixing, but it’s all there, tracked for me. With a paper and pen edit, I then have to rekey everything electronically. That’s another big chunk of time.

Additionally, I’ve been wondering whether I shouldn’t in fact be editing Ludmila, My Love before Seven Wonders – that’s not to say Seven Wonders isn’t good, I think it is, but Ludmila, My Love is a different kind of book and at this stage perhaps one that would be better to have completed and ready for submission first. In the back of my mind I’ve always thought that Empire State and Ludmila, My Love were my two “big” books, whatever that means, so maybe I need to invest the time in Ludmila now. I’ve been toying with this idea for a while, but the thought of getting the manuscript ready for a Lulu printing (another time consuming process) has been putting me off.

Except… I don’t need to print it, do I? I’m managing quite well with Wasp, better in fact than I had expected. I’m not only saving time by editing on screen, I’m probably making a better job of it as I can type faster than I can write, and I can make more detailed on-the-fly changes (and can try several alternatives if needed) with a keyboard than I can with a pen.

Suddenly things just got a whole lot easier. Sure, I can start editing Ludmila whenever I like. And doing it electronically I might be able to play catch up and having something ready for schedule I’ve already arranged with my beta-readers.

Writing
Another wordless day, but I’m keeping the tally up as there is no excuse for not being able to add 2000 words to something, even while working on a big edit/rewrite. Let’s see what I can manage today.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Reading
Half-way through Death’s Disciples and while I’m still enjoying it, I’m still not entirely sure what is going on. I’m hoping some explanations are going to start appearing soon!

Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.

27th January, 2011

Yesterday fantasy author Joe Abercrombie‘s new book Heroes came out in the UK, and being the popular author he is there was much chatter about it. His books are published currently by Gollancz, which means a nice hardcover release followed by a paperback in a few months (not sure what format as I think Gollancz shift their paperbacks around a little – possibly a trade, or at least a B-format). A Kindle edition was also made available on the day of release.

However, looking at the Amazon listings, the hardcover was discounted to £6.74 (down from £14.99; 55% off), the pre-order for the paperback was £5.99 (down from £7.99; 25% off), and the Kindle edition was… £7.99? According to the page for the Kindle edition, “this price was set by the publisher”.

Now, the ebook pricing debate is complex, and I’m not qualified or knowledgeable enough to dive into it. But as a consumer who buys both paper and electronic books, the above example shows there is something wrong.

As was pointed out here the other day, book pricing is not so much about actual costs as perception of costs by consumers. A hardback is expensive, a paperback is cheap, and in third place comes ebooks. The actual cost of an ebook is not much different from a printed book, because the majority of costs are editorial and the printing, shipping, distribution and warehousing are actually a relatively small percentage. The problem is that everybody assumes it is the other way around, that if you don’t have to print physical books, there is hardly any cost at all.

So while you can stick to your guns and try and explain this, people won’t listen. Of the three general formats – hardcover, paperback, ebook – electronic formats are perceived to be the cheapest, and if that’s what people expect, that’s what they need to get. If a customer sees an ebook for more than a printed copy, they just automatically assume the publisher had no clue what they are doing.

Actually, that example of Heroes is nothing like as bad as another one I saw recently – an old Stephen King novel, widely available in paperback for £4.99, had a Kindle edition listed for £19.99. That £19.99 was the RRP of the hardback edition, but of course the hardback edition has been out of print for thirty years.

When I mentioned the issue of Heroes pricing on Twitter, someone pointed out to me that the publisher can’t be blamed for Amazon putting such a huge discount on the hardcover, and that is quite true. However the Kindle edition had fixed price of £7.99 (using the agency model, where the publisher sets the price and there is no retailer discounting), which is the same as the RRP of the forthcoming paperback (which Amazon then discounted anyway to £5.99). The fixed cost of the Kindle version, using the hardcover > paperback > ebook sequence, should have been less than £7.99.

Quite where you position the price of ebooks is the big question. Publishers are businesses and they need to make money, and importantly some of that money then pays the author. I’m certainly not arguing about that. But my personal view is that the ebook edition should be about half the price of the paperback, which itself tends to be half the price of the hardback. Additionally, I’d like to suggest that publishers start following the model introduced by the Blu-ray market, whereby if you buy the “top” edition of something, you get the Blu-ray, the DVD, and a code to download a digital version for free. If we say these “top” edition releases are the equivalent of a hardback, then a hardback book should come with a code inside to download the ebook for free. Why? Because as a buyer of both paper books and ebooks, I generally would like to have both in my collection. Paper books look great on the shelf and, as Tracy Hickman once said, are souveniers of past journeys, like postcards. The ebook version is handy for travelling, especially if it means I don’t need to cart a big hardback around when I can have everything on my iPad. Plus ebooks don’t have quite the same souvenier quality – while I can happily pin postcards to a wall and looks at photos in an album, I have thousands of images on my computer that I have never looked at again.

For publishers who do not release hardback editions, it’s probably a bit easier – paperback > ebook. Keep the ebook cheaper than the paperback.

And allow discounting – if Amazon could knock 55% off the hardback of Heroes and 25% off the paperback pre-order, why keep the Kindle edition fixed at £7.99? People will not pay more for something they cannot hold, they will pay less. It’s a pretty easy rule to follow.

Speaking of ebooks, ebook piracy is another complex issue, but yesterday SF writer Tobias Buckell put together his thoughts on the matter. It’s well worth checking out.

Writing
Not a single world written yesterday. Actually, that’s not true, because I am currently working on the second draft of The Wasp in the Lotus. But that counts as editing, not writing. The problem here is that I should have been able to hit 2k words on something and work on the editing. Need to pick my game up.

Project: <none selected>
Words today: 0
Total words for 2011: 45,701

Editing
I’m going to need to rethink the schedule for Seven Wonders again, but the top priority is to get The Wasp in the Lotus in good shape. The deadline is approaching and I have to allow for beta-reading and more redrafting later.

Reading
Books: some pages of Death’s Disciples by J. Robert King.
Comics: On hold until February.