Just an additional note on the 20booksto50K Nebula not-a-slate

This is more for completeness and general curiosity. An earlier post on the same Facebook group was posted in November last year:

“Jonathan Brazee shared a link. 16 November 2018 SFWA MEMBERS (Associate and Active) (Message approved by Craig)
Nominations are now open for the Nebulas. You can nominate five in each category. Indies have not fared so well in the awards, with only one work making the ballot last year. It probably takes 20 nominations to make the ballot, so there are certainly enough indies who have read each others’ works and can nominate. We can’t–and shouldn’t–have a slate to get an indie work the actual award, but we can get indie works visibility to that other members might notice them and read them. Then, let the chips fall as they may, and may the best story win, indie or trad. Below is a list of indie works or trad works from 20Books members taken from the Nebula Reading list. I have probably missed some, so please, let me know so I can add them. I will be repeating this effort later on. If you don’t want to nominate now, then please give support in the reading list. The more recommendations each work gets, the better the visibility. My feeling is that if a work is generally good, I’ll give it my thumbs up. For the nominations themselves, I will nominate the five stories I liked the best from the list. If you are ready to nominate, you can go to: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/ballots/ You can change your nominations up Feb 15. If you just want to give some thumbs up for now, you can go to: https://www.sfwa.org/forum/reading/ OK, now for the list I’ve gleaned so far:
A Fiery Sunset Chris Kennedy
A Light in the Dark AK Duboff
Bound By Law Terry Mixon
Fringe War Rachel Aukes
Hidden Enemies Terry Mixon
Integration Jonathan Brazee
Masters of Fate AK Duboff
Quantum Civil War Stephen Aresenault
The Human Experiment Kevin McLaughlin and Craig Martelle
The Lost Ranger CW Lamb
The Moons of Barsk Lawrence Schoen
The Other Marilyn Peake
The Terra Gambit Terry Mixon
Today’s Spacemage Timothy Ellis
Yesterday’s Spacemage Timothy Ellis
Fire Ant Jonathan Brazee
Invasion Lawrence Schoen and Jonathan Brazee
Messenger R.R. Virdi and Yudhanjaya Wijeratne
The Squad: Orion’s Belt Stephen Arsenault
Unexpected Bounty Terry Mixon
Short Story
A Galactic Affair Craig Martelle
Dirty Dreams of a Dishwasher Robert Jeshonek
Driverless Robert Jeshonek
Here Be Dragons Lindsay Buroker
Interview for the End of the World Rhett Bruno
One Last Battle Timothy Ellis
Queens Iris . . . Jason Ansbach
Scrapyard Ship Felix Strange
The Gordian Asteroid Chris Dietzel
The Spike Nathan Mutch
The Stars so Black, The Space so White Robert Jeshonek
Where no Furry Has Gone Before Robert Jeshonek
Please consider supporting the indie works you like at least with the reading list. Then go with your heart for the nominations and actual vote.”



179 responses to “Just an additional note on the 20booksto50K Nebula not-a-slate”

    • I’m quite sure that they are, especially after their success with getting things onto the Nebula ballot.

      But if they succeed in getting anything onto the Hugo ballot, they may find that they get as welcoming a reception as the Scientologists did.

      Seriously, did the self-published authors learn nothing from the Puppy mess — that awards mean additional scrutiny on your work, and if your work isn’t up-to-snuff, that scrutiny will be brutal? The SFWA members may be polite about this, because they don’t feel that they can criticize other authors. Hugo voters will not feel similarly constrained.

      Liked by 1 person

      • By “scrutiny” do you mean “carefully sieved for incorrect political beliefs”?

        Because that’s generally where the SFWA old guard goes when they want to protect the awards they believe they are entitled to.


        • ThirteenthLetter: By “scrutiny” do you mean “carefully sieved for incorrect political beliefs”? Because that’s generally where the SFWA old guard goes when they want to protect the awards they believe they are entitled to.

          Oh, please. Provide links to evidence of this. This sentence doesn’t even make sense. How does “sieving works for incorrect political beliefs” protect an awards program?

          By “scrutiny” I mean the sort of detailed analysis and discussion of the nominated stories which is currently going on, here at this blog as well as all over the internet, as it does every year during Hugo and Nebula season. And I’ve got to say, the slated works aren’t holding up too well, which is generally the result when subpar works which aren’t “ready for prime time” are gamed onto an awards ballot.

          There’s an old saying “Be careful what you wish for; you may actually get it.”

          Liked by 1 person

    • Bit skeptical they’d have too much success on the Hugo Ballot – You’ll note the comment up there in the post that ” It probably takes 20 nominations to make the ballot” the truth of which I don’t know, but is certainly less true of the Hugos. And they’re able to be successful because their membership likely coincides strongly with SFWA voters which are a smaller group than Hugo voters – an advantage they won’t have with the Hugos.

      At least for the Novel and Novella categories (can’t see Fire Ant for example getting a Hugo Nom). It’s possible for the SS or Novelette category the threshold would be lower, but I doubt it’s enough, same with the Lodestar YA award, which had max nominees last year when the Norton Award didn’t.

      (Incidentally, would love to see the #s behind the nominees for the Norton Award this year, because if this type of behavior helped get a full group of nominees, that’s a PLUS not a negative, even if the added nominee is not going to win. There’s no reason that award should not have a full group of nominees.)


    • I’ve not found anything for this year.
      Last year there was this: https://www.facebook.com/groups/781495321956934/permalink/1338395496266911/

      “Jonathan Brazee shared a link.
      25 February 2018
      Hugo Awards. If you went to Worldcon in Helsinki or have already bought your membership to San Jose of Dublin, you are eligible to nominate works for the Hugo. You can find the ballots here: http://www.worldcon76.org/ima…/hugos/2018-Hugo-NomBallot.pdf .

      I will be making nominations from the Nebula Reading List we’ve previously posted, but if anyone else wants me to consider their work, get it to me soon. Nominations end March 15.”

      Not much engagement with that post, even though (or perhaps because) other posts indicate people in the group are Worldcon attendees.


  1. Many names on that list don’t surprise me, a few disappoint me (I know some of those people and have featured their books in the past) and one person actually left the group over a disagreement, though he may still have been a member, when this post was made.

    And when someone made a similar suggestion regarding the Nebulas on an indie writer forum I’m a member of, he was promptly shot down with “We don’t do slates. Nominate what you like best.” Interestingly, one of the first shooting down the suggestion was a veteran of the puppy wars, so at least some folks have learned.

    I think the main problem here is that many self-published writers, especially the very business focussed ones like the 20Booksto50K folks, are not really plugged into the SFF community. They know little about the history of the genre or the currently raging debates or fandom culture and they don’t much care either. Just recently I listened to a podcast interview with a fantasy romance author who was both an RWA and SFWA members and said that one thing that really surprised her was that canvassing for awards was frowned upon in the SFF community and logrolling was out completely, because apparently it was different in romance. Many self-published authors just see the prestige and promo boost an award brings and don’t care beyond that.

    Another problem is that a lot of self-published writers particularly of the “write to market” school almost exclusively read other self-published writers and don’t know what else is going on in the genre. After all, one of the most common bits of advice is “read the top 20, top 50 or top 100 books in the subgenre/category you want to write in, subtract the traditionally published books and write something similar”. That’s how you get the romance author who’s never heard of Nora Roberts and thinks first person is a must for romance (even thought first person was extremely uncommon in romance until Fifty Shades of Grey) or the science fiction author who believes Becky Chambers does not write space opera because “those covers look like non-fiction and besides, the books don’t seem to have space battles. I bet if she had better covers, she’d sell more”.

    Or my personal favourite. the military SF author who claimed that women protagonists don’t sell and when someone pointed out Honor Harrington and Kris Longknife, the author replied, “Those books are irrelevant, because they’re old and besides, those authors don’t sell, because their Amazon ranks are lower than mine this week.” The same author also said, “if you’re not a reader of [insert list of self-published space opera/military SF writers here], you’re not my audience.” Whereupon I said, “Actually, I’m a long time space opera readers, but I don’t read those guys, so I guess I’ll pass on your book as well.”

    It’s folks like the 20booksto50K people or the content mills or CopyPasteChris who give all self-published authors a bad name. For self-published authors who don’t engage in underhanded tactics and don’t write to market, it’s a stupid situation, because at cons, in SFF forums, etc… we constantly have to say “I’m not like those people”. Meanwhile, the big name self-published writers sneer at us, because we don’t seel enough, so we have nothing to say to them. Honestly, some of the most unpleasant and arrogant writers I’ve ever met were self-published authors.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Cora Buhlert: Another problem is that a lot of self-published writers particularly of the “write to market” school almost exclusively read other self-published writers and don’t know what else is going on in the genre.

      Ah! That would explain why the 20Booksto50K works seemed so utterly predictable. If the authors aren’t widely-read in SFF, they may not realize just how incredibly predictable and hackneyed their plots are.


      • Being predictable and hackneyed is part of their shtick. The idea is to stick close to established genre tropes to give the market what the market supposedly wants.


    • In “MilSF with female protagonists”, I can pretty much immediately think of the Vatta’s War / Peace series(es?) and the heris Serrano books (both, I believe, written by Elizabeth Moon), and the first three (I think it’s three) Elizabeth Bonesteel books.

      Amusingly, I had to think longer to remember the Honorverse books.


      • Elizabeth Moon definitely came up in that discussion, though Elizabeth Bonesteel (it’s three books, by the way, though I hope there will be more) didn’t. Not that any example that wasn’t in the top 20 of the Kindle Store at that very moment would have swayed the person who claimed that military SF with female protagonists does not sell.


      • I’m not too surprised about the clueless indies who claim military SF with women protagonists doesn’t sell well because unfortunately that’s the view of many not very smart booksellers and consequently many people in publishing spout that mythic claim as false fact as well. And the one where military SF from women authors, man protagonist or not, supposedly doesn’t sell when the evidence doesn’t show that at all. It’s part of the whole parcel of sexism that is still in the industry and the indies, those trying to pick up formulaic marketing info from the industry, are naturally going to pick it up as well. Not that it excuses them from the sexism of the claim, but it’s not just endemic to them.


      • Oh definitely. Plus, the current editions of her Jani Kilian series are even indie published via the Book View Café. They’re on my personal Mount Tsundoku.


      • Cora. Get those Jani Kilian books off of Tsundoku and into your brain, they’re quite good. I personally found it very easy to relate to the protagonist, enjoyed the worldbuilded and even the few gimmicky scfi names for otherwise normal objects (a dispo instead of a disposable, a nicstick instead of a cigarette.) The only thing in the series that really bothered me was for purely personal reasons.*

        *There was an act forgiven that I’d have been unable to forgive under any circumstances.


  2. Well there’s a lot to unpack there. Indie writers tend not to read much in the fields they’re playing in, so at least this group is encouraging its members to attempt some reading, even if it’s a write by the numbers approach. They are also fed a lot of bilge-water about the industry and book-selling that they tend not to question, especially about print when they aren’t doing print. (Witness that it’s been coming up on twelve years and they still don’t get that Amazon is being completely off base and deceptive in calling giving authors their profits “royalties” — or they just don’t want to rock the boat about it.)

    The ones doing very organized publicity efforts like this group tend to be very focused on beating Amazon’s algorithms to get the most out of the large fees they pay Amazon for the platform, (they are focused on their vendor(s,) not specifically on their customers,) and to do that, they are fed a lot of straight product marketing theory for direct marketing and advertising for mass bulk selling, which is what the KU kind of offers, and which is less about fiction books than simply selling non-creative products with brands and special offers — deodorant, corn flakes, etc. This isn’t unusual for authors who come from marketing, retail and tech backgrounds to do — they are always the ones who try to “write to the market” even when working with publishers on a license. Which isn’t really writing to a market. It’s writing to a supposed formula that you are supposed to be able to plug in (such as using ghostwriters and stuffing filler,) and have it spit out automatic buyers/subscription samplers.

    Which is why they think certain things need to be in each title of a genre/book-selling sub-category. They think it’s a formula, not a field. (A lot of license publishing authors think that too.) And they don’t know the different slices of it. First person is actually fairly common in romance, but not in straight category romance. It overlaps with “chick lit” — comic stories with women protagonists — that are sold mainly outside category romance imprints but in conjunction with category romance — trade paperbacks from Avon, Harper Impulse, St. Martin’s Press, etc., and sold mainly in the General Fiction section/market. The RITAs from RWA cover non-category romance and romantic chick lit titles in nominations, and it’s how also indie authors have managed to then become RWA members.

    That was a process that is still going on. Initially most indie authors could not qualify for membership in the author orgs, and when self-pub exploded through the Kindle launch, this greatly pissed them off. But everything is transitional and those organizations found ways to set decent qualifying terms for more indie authors. And this has helped increase membership and widen opportunities in the field, but also means these organizations now have a lot of people blundering around not knowing how the whole field works and trying to “game” their awards as publicity opportunities.

    And yeah, a lot of the indie writers in SFF have no knowledge of the Puppies or other issues in the market. Organizing to get a marketing opportunity is what they do with these groups. They buy each others’ books, up-vote reviews, etc. Most of it, the stuff that isn’t a con-job, is perfectly fine — who’s to say that honest marketing that gets some results is bad — but trying to run the “algorithm” of awards and writer organizations is going to be a bit trickier for them outside the electronic indie bubble. The Nebulas aren’t voted on by Kindle Unlimited subscribers stuffing their gullets with reading material for ten bucks — they are a bunch of cranky authors. The electronic indies may assume that they can eventually sufficiently subsume a percentage of voters of various awards to run them, but again, like the Puppies, they’re better off on that front making their own awards, (which they’ve also been doing.)

    Ultimately, this is all transitional stuff of this part of the market developing. The electronic indies came in on the rapid expansion of the self-pub market due to Amazon, worked to be able to get some of them review and other market attention, saw their vendor options rapidly narrowed, started banding together to make the most of marketing strategies, and went through a gold rush stage where thousands of prospectors crashed in and started trying to game things, such as the KU thunderdome that Amazon set up. And that’s still developing, but indie authors are now more involved in the total book-selling market and they are learning, plus we have hundreds of hybrid authors doing both self-pub and license publishing. They aren’t going to take over but as they are more established in the fiction field, there will be surges of them where they weren’t before, and that’s what we’re seeing.

    At least they don’t have an anti-civil rights political ideology attached. But yeah, it will be an interesting culture mix. It is likely a lot of the electronic indies will find the awards too vexing and head off after a bit. Those will tend to be the ones interested in generating income on bulk selling more than making a bunch of stories, or who decide the awards simply aren’t an accolade they want to bother with. Others though want what they see as “respectability” in the market — of being parts of these author organizations, of conventions and writers conferences and book fairs, of reviews and interviews. And award nominations and wins can be a part of that for them. And there’s no reason they can’t have it too, just because they didn’t hook up with a publisher on a license deal.

    So hopefully there isn’t going to be a lot of battling, but there will be of course griping on both sides. And these groups are going to come in with a game the algorithm marketing mindset over a read everything and reward what you considered important and best in the field approach. But that doesn’t mean that attitude won’t change for the indies over time. They are the new wholesale mass market rack market, and that’s part of the genre fields’ traditions too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wouldn’t say that the vendor options for self-published writers have rapidly dwindled, though some stores where I used to list my books have disappeared. Meanwhile, other vendors and options have sprung up. But in general, I’d say that there are more options now than there were when I started out. And I can get my books into many stores now which wouldn’t take self-published books before.

      The problem just is that for many self-published writers, the world starts and ends with Amazon. They won’t even investigate other options, because the various marketing gurus tell them that KU is the place to be. Never mind that KU is an unmitigated disaster. But because a KU borrow counts as a sale towards ranking, even if the book is never read, KU books get a visibility boost at Amazon. Opening up Amazon ads for self-published writers made things even worse, because suddenly self-published authors started flooding the Amazon store with pricy and badly targeted ads, so badly targeted that the ad bars under books by authors like Ann Leckie, Becky Chambers, Kameron Hurley, etc… are full of the usual “exploding spaceships in space” indie military SF, the same bloody books that show up in every other ad bar in the SFF section.

      Amazon is making bank on the ads, though a lot of authors never break even, let alone make a profit. And once more, the ones with the deepest pockets, both honest folks and dishonest ones (though Amazon banned a lot of outright cheaters), get the biggest boost. And anybody who does not want to read about exploding spaceships in space, LitRPG, harem/reverse harem adventures, sexy bear shifters and witch cozies, has problems finding books, because that is what fills up the charts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • If you are self-pubbing print, then there have been more options/vendors developing and more willingness from bookstores to stock those titles (though some won’t take any Amazon CreateSpace titles apparently.) A lot of self-pub authors who started out just doing electronic now have expanded more into print and POD too, as well as more audio editions. But if you’re just doing e-books, the number of vendors stalled because Amazon kept a very tight grip on the self-pub e-book market and helped bloody Apple’s nose on it. So Apple didn’t develop its iBooks much further and other tech companies which might have come in as vendors stayed out. (There’s not a lot of money in it.) The market in terms of outlets has remained small.

      Self-pub authors can sell e-books all over the Web on their own and there’s going to be more teaming up organizing from self-pub authors doing just that, but they do tend to rely now on the few large selling platforms, particularly of course Amazon. And Amazon won’t give anybody sales data on what it’s doing, so self-pub authors have had to try all sorts of speculative methods and sales figures sharing to try to figure out what sales amounts you have to have to bounce up in the algorithm rankings. So now self-pub authors are also looking for other ways to publicize their stuff and, since they are now more able to get into traditional areas for doing that, they are branching out there. But selling platforms for e-books remain limited. Kindle Unlimited is a bloodbath that works for some authors but not for others. I’m not sure how many of the 20-50 folk are doing KU as their main thing, but if they are, it’s going to be harder for them to get votes on awards.

      The authors who are actually making the most money in self-pub e-books are the same ones who always do — the non-fiction ones who have far more publicity options and who sell information which is better boosted by marketing than fiction. But everybody focuses on the fiction because fiction is the small, glamour boutique. 🙂 I seldom see an article on self-publishing that even mentions non-fiction authors at all, but non-fiction has always been the backbone of self-publishing. Ads for fiction tend to have limited effect, especially in proportion to their cost, because fiction readers don’t care much about ads (but the recs mentions you get off the algorithms have a better rate of return.)

      Porn made the Web and erotica not surprisingly does well for fiction e-pub. It’s still a word of mouth thing, but some of those titles are always going to do well and may find more e-book outlets than non-erotic fiction. Right now, the churning out of large chunks of material (in part brought on by the KU mess,) are basically a parallel to the pulp era, where writers churned out tons of stories in magazines, zines, comics, cheap paperbacks and chapbooks sold in the wholesale rack non-bookstore markets and through direct mail, both ones put out by the big games and comics publishers and ones that were self-published as well, to be sold in bulk as quickly as they could be produced. And Amazon is a wholesale market, not retail trade. So that will continue for a bit. The ghostwriting factory stuff is an outgrowth of this but also of Amazon’s KU/goldrush promises. Very slowly Amazon is weeding that out, and the other e-book vendors too, which will slow the practice over time. But Amazon likes to have a lot of self-pub titles high in its rankings because it thinks it keeps the publishers in line and makes it look important to its main customers — marketing and business services. Whether the books actually should have those rankings we’re never going to know. It’s made Amazon less useful to folks as a search engine on books, which means Amazon loses some data to collect and sell. But in the end, all the books are around 7% of Amazon’s sales and the self-pubs about half of that. They don’t really care what happens to the industry or to the authors. Books are just a pretty scarf Amazon drapes around its neck, though they do like keeping everybody else from also wearing a scarf.


      • Yes, Apple hasn’t really done much with its e-book store and Google Play has the worst interface of all e-book vendors. I distribute my books via an aggregator there, because the backend is so horrible. They clearly don’t much care about e-books and other tech giants haven’t entered the market at all.

        Barnes & Noble is permanently flailing and have been dying since before I started self-publishing, though somehow they’re still around. Kobo isn’t very big in the US, but it has a big presence internationally and is actually my biggest market after Amazon. Kobo is also supportive of self-published authors and offers promo options and the like. And small stores like Smashwords and DriveThruFiction are supportive of self-published authors. Particularly DriveThruFiction is great to deal with.

        What really has opened up is the international e-book market, though very few indies take advantage of it. I can now reach a lot of international stores via aggregators or direct. Library services like Overdrive, Baker & Taylor or Blibiotheca and subscription services like Scribd, Playster, 24symbols and Kobo Plus have also grown and are accessible via aggregators. And unlike the disaster that is KU, they don’t require exclusivity. I do pretty well at Bibliotheca, Scribd and Libreka (German service), decently at Overdrive and Kobo Plus. Everywhere else is a sale/borrow in a blue moon.

        Most indies, at least fiction writers, don’t sell much in print. Non-fiction writers probably sell more print, though non-fiction, at least the self-help, diet book, etc… part of it, was also particularly rife with plagiarism, low quality scraped content and the like. I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to print either, because most of my titles are on the short side. And because I don’t write in the dominant language of my country, chances of getting local bookstores to carry my books are low.

        But most indies mainly focus on Amazon and particularly on Amazon.com. I also hear you on the lack of actual data provided by most vendors. it’s annoying, because so much is guess work.


      • Amazon sicked the U.S. government on Apple because Apple was working out a different payment system with publishers than what Amazon wanted, and Apple got its nose bloodied. Since books are a low money, time intensive creative product that isn’t very sexy beyond the marketing data off its well educated customers, Apple still got the pricing system it wanted but lost interest and so did the rest of tech. So dozens of potential global selling platforms for e-books were just gone, like that. Self-pub authors didn’t really care since some of them were making money on Amazon, but as the market develops, it’s more and more of a problem.

        But smaller companies in foreign territories are nibbling at the edges, as you note in international e-books now that the infrastructure of e-book formatting is more standardized and established in retail. Tech is never going to love books, but new selling platforms can get developed. And indies need to spread out.

        Barnes & Noble is beset by the same problems as Borders was, which really wasn’t about Amazon but about the mismanagement of scavenger capitalism. They didn’t have infrastructure in place to really go for the e-book market when Amazon accelerated it and their corporate owners have not properly funded it. Those corporate owners are loading up B&N with debt, doing short term stock rises for stock buy backs and slowly gutting the company of assets, leading it to continue to be troubled and looking for a buyer. Payless Shoes is the latest retail victim of this sort of operation. Toys R’ Us — which had 50% of the toy market before its owners destroyed it — Sears, Brookstone, etc., they all had the exact same path of debt loading, stock buy backs, overly austere layoffs, poorly run online presence and asset sell-offs. They’re hanging in there though and other, smaller bookstore chains are actually doing well.

        Kobo came from Indigo Chapters — Canada’s big chain, but they realized they couldn’t finance it enough. So they sold it to an Asian company and still partner with them, so Kobo has been doing fairly well developing internationally. Smashwords benefited from starting off right when Amazon was just launching the Kindle market and partnered up with all the selling platforms, including Amazon, acting as both selling platform and distributor. For some reason, Amazon decided not to crush them or buy them.

        Baker & Taylor is one of the big wholesale distributors in North America and if they and companies like them get more into the e-book game, that will be a big help for indies and e-books in general. One of Amazon’s big advantages has been that they are a wholesaler seller, not a retail seller, and able to slash prices whenever they need to due to investor income. They deliberately lost money for a decade.

        “I have to admit I don’t pay much attention to print either, because most of my titles are on the short side. And because I don’t write in the dominant language of my country, chances of getting local bookstores to carry my books are low.”

        For some indies, if they can get enough of a sales profile, having a rights agent and selling print rights in various territories outside their homebase and/or language to publishers has been a viable strategy.


        • I won’t touch Apple ebooks with a ten foot pole. When B&N re-entered the ebook scene in 2009, they had the absolute best shot at competing with Amazon, in the US anyway. They had an innovative ereader, in store support and perks, and if you must use DRM theirs *was* the most customer friendly. But they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. They lost me…now I get most of my ebooks from Kobo.


      • Kobo is still doing relatively well, and Indigo Chapters is doing all right, even if they’ve branched a lot more into being a ‘lifestyle’ store rather than strictly a bookstore. They still sell Kobo and other electronics equipment that’s good for audiobooks. The fact that the CEO runs her own suggestion list of books probably helps as well, making the company seem less like a faceless behemoth.

        Kobo also has ‘Kobo Writing Life’, which its own self-publishing assistance arm. I haven’t looked into that all that deeply yet.


      • Yeah, because women make up 70% of the book reading audience and women need the convenience of multi-task/item shopping. So they come in, pick up Marie Kondo’s latest or Scandanavian snuggling decor or a cookbook or a novel or a board book for the kids, and get gifts and housewares — pillows, throws, blank journals, a nice tray, geek toys and stuffed animals, a box of chocolates and a tote bag. And why the eff not? Books can be easily bundled with other products (see movie and t.v. adaptations,) and that gets people to enter bookstores more and buy more books than they would otherwise — just as fiction titles (and their movie and t.v. and game adaptations,) lure readers into the stores where upon they end up buying more non-fiction than fiction. Show ponies are useful.

        And that’s why the resurgence of book stocking in department stores is wonderful. The wholesale, non-bookstore market was devastated and shrank in the 1990s and the area that was hit worst was genre fiction, with its reliance on mass market rack paperbacks. Getting the trade paperbacks back into Target and Walmart and their online stores in big numbers was absolutely beneficial — and again, useful with an audience that is mostly women and needs to multi-item shop. That’s why grocery stores sell housewares, greeting cards and clothes, plus a pharmacy and sometimes a bank branch.

        And it was women again, young and old, who made the fiction self-pub e-book market huge. Groups like the 20/50 would be nowhere without the women, including in sales of military SF. Amazon bundled e-books with other products as lures just like they did print, which boosted sales; no reason plenty of other store sites can’t do the same. They’ve been doing it with print, which restores the wholesale market and boosted print sales. E-books can be a logical other step for a lot of outlets, especially ones selling consumer electronics — a market that has a customer base of 50% women also. Basically the tech companies were lacking in vision by not wanting to bother with the small fry e-book market. They think it’s all going to be business documents and services instead, but books can help with those markets too.


      • Fair enough. Chapters-Indigo is also helped by the combination of it being the only real bookstore chain left in Canada, and a certain amount of ‘buy Canadian’ attitude still prevalent. The fact that they haven’t made any serious financial missteps (aside from some issues back during the original Chapters/Indigo merger) and have been diversifying relatively organically have helped them, too. They also fairly regularly do advertising on transit; understandably, people who spend an hour or so each day on the subway are a fairly good market for books, ebooks, or audiobooks. Basically, unlike a number of other big bookstore chains, they seem to have been doing things well.

        (You mentioned Sears earlier… now that is a true example of completely mismanaged opportunities. Given how much of Sears’ business was via catalogue already, you’d have thought that they’d be one of the first to really make a solid Internet transition and bring all their catalogue deals and customer database online to make the transition seamless. Sears should have been treating Amazon as their main competition rather than playing race to the bottom with Wal-Mart.)


      • Sears was bungled by its corporate owners who kept trying to compete in both directions — with Hudson Bay, Macy’s and J.C. Penny’s while also with WalMart and Target, ending up doing poorly either way. And they dropped employees and inventory stock, did the debt load, stock buy backs for execs and major shareholders, the whole thing. The catalog advantage they had died off in the 1980s and 1990s.


      • Sears, whom I liked a lot, seems to have made the same mistake as the big German mail order retailers who clung to their outdated paper catalogues and completely ignored the internet until Amazon, Zalando, etc.. ate their lunch. Not that I miss them – I had scratchy clothes from mail order catalogues, made by prison slave labour in East Germany, while circumventing taxes, too, foisted on me once too often.

        As for Wal-Mart, they bumbled into the German market without a clue and so completely failed to become familiar with the way things work here that they eventually took their toys and went home to Arkansas, tail tugged tween their legs.


  3. Cora Buhlert: The idea is to stick close to established genre tropes to give the market what the market supposedly wants.

    Ugh, that would be so boring! How can the people who read their books stand to read the same things over and over again?


    • Well, I did read all 47 volumes of Margit Sandemos The Ice Folk. It is comfort reading. Easy and quick.


    • I tend to call it “brain candy”. It’s easy, quick, tasty, and not veyr filling. But, sometimes, that’s EXACTLY the right thing.


    • Well Modesitt has essentially been writing the same book for the last 20 years and it doesn’t seem to have done him any harm.

      Liked by 1 person

      • And yet he’s bitter about the fact that his work hasn’t been recognized with Hugo nominations.

        I absolutely agree that there’s a place for “nutty nuggets” and “comfort reading” in SFF. Sometimes that’s exactly what readers (including me) need. What I object to is people insisting that competent, serviceable SFF should be getting awards.


  4. I came across this article, and I just wanted to state that I, personally, do not support the MVP philosophy and do not follow those production practices with my own work. I respect readers’ and other authors’ opinions about my writing, and I fully acknowledge that it may not be to everyone’s taste.

    I believe that works should be judged by their content, not the publisher’s name in the frontmatter. I’m honored to have earned the respect of fellow authors, and I’ve also received positive reviews from respected publications (including Publisher’s Weekly) for my books.

    I’ve never experienced great commercial success, but I always strive to produce thoughtful stories that will resonate with readers. The high concepts in “A Light in the Dark” and the rest of the Dark Stars trilogy aren’t readily apparent in the opening chapters of the book, but that is why works are judged on the whole. There’s an exceptional list of finalists for the Norton this year, and I’m elated to be among them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, award nominations which are gained due to organized campaigns — or which even appear to have a hint of not having been fairly earned — tend to end up tainting an author’s career, perhaps even more than helping it. Look at the tanked careers of all of the Puppies who mistakenly thought that getting themselves cheated onto the Hugo ballot would turn them into successful authors.

      Also, just a suggestion: bragging about paid-for-reviews at PW’s reviews-for-hire website Booklife, which consist mostly of synopsis with very little critical engagement, is possibly not the best way for an author to demonstrate their credibility.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Booklife’s service is free and they only accept a very few number of books for review.

        My nomination was earned by writing a good book that just happens to be self-published. It is an honor to be recognized by my peers in a formal way like this after years of others writers telling me they love my books.


        • I’m sure that you think you’re helping your case, but you’re not. People can read for themselves at the link exactly what Booklife is. Commenters at this blog are well aware of what pay-for-play reviews and awards are. They are also well aware of how award logrolling campaigns work.

          What 20BooksTo50K should be doing instead of organizing award campaigns is teaching their members not to hunt down and engage with critical mentions on the internet. It’s extremely unprofessional, and the author invariably comes out of it looking bad.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Kirkus is a paid review service, and nearly ever trad book if I’ve seen seems to have a quote from. So are most of the other publications you commonly see with quote attribution. I didn’t pay for my review.

            I have stated nothing in this thread that I’m not comfortable having repeated on the internet for eternity. I believe it’s important to engage in discourse. I’ve said what I wanted to say on this matter, and I wish you all the best!


      • The BookLife site does say reviews are free – which makes me wonder how they make money. I’d guess that it’s all about selling services.

        However, I also read the review and it did the book no favours at all. It may be free but I doubt that it’s worth the price.


        • Paul King: I also read the review and it did the book no favours at all. It may be free but I doubt that it’s worth the price.

          That’s what’s so frustrating as a reader these days: 95% of “reviews” aren’t actually reviews. I’ve been doing roundups of reviews of the Hugo finalist works for File 770 the past few years, and it’s such a slog. In order to get links to 5 decent reviews which actually engage with a given work, I have to click on and weed through around a hundred Google search results. The vast majority of book-blogger reviews are only synopses, occasionally padded with a little fluff, which scream “I am avoiding saying anything the least bit critical about this work, because I want authors to keep sending me free books.” 😐

          On the plus side, it’s enabled me to identify a small number of reviewers who are actually doing quality reviews which genuinely engage with works and identify both their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve also got a very long list of book bloggers whose sites I know I can ignore, because their “reviews” are worthless.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I like watching quite a few of the sff Booktubers. They’re definitely not afraid to say both what they like and dislike.


      • @JJ:

        95% of “reviews” aren’t actually reviews.

        Dear me, yes.
        I’m so frustrated by this in the past few years. I’d say that upwards of 60% of my investment in the Hugos, comes from the fact that my first introduction to it was in Abigail Nussbaum’s annual analyses. Which were fantastic, and insightful, and you came out of them having gained a better understanding of current trends, and what “streams” were pulling up which works, and having considered each one’s faults and virtues, and comparing this all against Nussbaum’s own (superb) personal taste and ideas of what the genre can be…
        And then Nussbaum mostly stopped running those. For various reasons, all perfectly reasonable, from the ballots annihilated by the Puppies, to just being busy. But… I’ve found nothing to fill in the gap; nobody else who reads and engages with the list (and the rest of the field) as meaningfully as Nussbaum did.
        I really miss those. For me, they were such a cornerstone of what the Hugos were about — an opportunity not just to say “here’s a few creators who are awesome” (although it certainly is that!), but also to say, “Hey, let’s focus community attention on THESE for a few months, and DISCUSS THE HECK OUT OF THEM.”

        File770 has been really great, in that regard, although scattered over a great many scrolls 😛 And since Thing #3, I just haven’t been able to put in the time as a regular to be present and shoot the breeze :-/
        There are some extremely awesome short fiction reviewers I love, with great insight — but, they’re uniformly focused on the positive, and I don’t feel like I’m reading insightful criticism or well-rounded considerations. (And then there’s RSR, which goes the other way round — seeing how well stories fit into their preexisting rubric…)
        Oh! And there’s Strange Horizons, which really does have excellent criticism. I should read more of it…

        I think the adage was, if you want to build a following on the web, start in 2006? I feel like that’s part of what’s happening. Older-school reviewers are (naturally) phasing out; newer reviewers have trouble rising to prominence — and one way you *can* gain visibility, is being boosted by authors and publications you review, but that means it’s only your positive reviews that’ll get boosted.


        • Steve J. Wright (no relation) does a comprehensive suite of reviews every year of the finalists for the Hugos and Retro Hugos. He does a great job of identifying both positives and negatives. Even though I don’t always share his opinions on works, almost every time I read one of his reviews for a work I’ve read, I think, “Yes! That’s exactly what I would say, if I were more astute and articulate!”

          Mostly I read novels, so I pay more attention to who does good novel reviews. Let me go through the last 3 years of Hugo Review Roundups, and I can come back to you with some names of short fiction reviewers whom I’ve identified as producing quality reviews.

          Liked by 1 person

        • With the exception of Charles Payseur at Quick Sip Reviews, Jason at Featured Futures, and RSR, it looks as though the majority of short fiction reviews I found useful were done by people who were specifically reviewing Hugo finalists, rather than people who review short fiction on an ongoing basis.

          Goodreads does have some people who review some of the short fiction magazines, and there are some good reviewers at Goodreads, so you might try seeing who has done reviews for recent issues of magazines there.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve found some short fiction reviews by clicking the “Other Reviews” link that RSR has on all their reviews. It does a Google search on the title and author plus the word review.


      • Self-published books use the PW Select Program.

        “For just $149 your book cover and synopsis appear in front of thousands of book-sellers, librarians, agents, publishers, film producers and production companies.”


        If it is not self-published, well yes, then the service is free


      • Also, when you have registered for 149$, then the following happens:

        “Each period, from amongst the books listed, approximately 25% will be selected by PW’s review staff, based on merit, and assigned for a full review. These reviews will also appear in the supplement. There is no charge for reviews, and all reviews, positive or negative, will be published.”

        Yes, it is only 25% of all paying customers. But I wouldn’t say that is “a very few number of books”. I would say that it is an enormous amount of books.


        • And this is why authors should never hunt down and engage with critical content on the internet. A self-published author has come here to defend their manipulated place on the Nebula ballot, and instead of proving that they got there by merit, has instead provided a bunch of flimsy justifications which have been seen for exactly what they are, and has only reinforced the doubts that merit was involved in that finalist position.

          And because that work is now on an award ballot, it is going to be subjected to the kind of scrutiny and expectations that award finalists normally receive. I would be interested in hearing other peoples’ opinion of the book, of which I read the excerpt. I’m not a reader of childrens’ books, so maybe it’s the current style for them to be written like an RPG campaign full of infodumps, but I wouldn’t have found this appealing as a child, either.

          Liked by 1 person

      • @Standback: I really miss Lois Tilton’s short fiction reviews at Locus. I didn’t always agree with her, but her reviews were always well-informed and insightful, whether positive or negative about the work under discussion.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks all, and especially for the specific recs 😀

        I miss Tilton as well. I didn’t always agree with her on every story, but I felt we were on the same page, and her comments always felt like deliberate analysis that does the field good.
        IIRC, there was some criticism levelled at her, particularly for her more acerbic reviews. Which… I can understand. I’d go for “critical but not acerbic” over “vicious” any day of the week. OTOH, I don’t think hardly *anybody* walks that line well over time. I wonder if those are really our only choices — either everybody only saying the good things; a few lone arbitrators who elevate or demolish stories according to their own personal tastes; or a *wide* variety of mixed reviewers, so at least the sniping is evenly-distributed. ::sigh::

        I do like Goodreads for magazines (although, ::sigh::, they’ve got that whole “but are magazines REALLY books?” thing going on). I’ve got a few people there I particularly follow for short fiction reviews (and, since F&SF is my mainstay, I do try to review the issues — although I’ve gotten kind of sporadic on that…)


      • Hampus Eckerman, your information about reviews in PW Select is out of date. I Googled the text you quoted and didn’t find it on any page more recent than 2014, nor anywhere on the PW site. I tend to skim the PW Select supplement when I’m reading PW–yes, I read the print magazine, I’m old-fashioned–but I don’t remember seeing reviews in there in quite some time. It’s just a set of listings. No more or less ignoble to pay for that than for any other ad.

        Indie books can be submitted to PW through BookLife, free of charge. Some fraction of them are reviewed in PW the same way any other book is reviewed in PW: in about 200 words, for a trade audience. I have to laugh at people complaining they don’t “engage” with the book. They’re there to tell booksellers what to stock, not to do deep analysis.

        Sevearl of my indie author friends have done the BookLife thing. Some got reviewed, some didn’t. The process is opaque. I don’t know that the bare fact of getting a review is a significant indicator of credibility (for trad pub books either). But, at least at present, I don’t think anyone is directly paying PW for reviews.


        • King Regis: Indie books can be submitted to PW through BookLife, free of charge. Some fraction of them are reviewed in PW the same way any other book is reviewed in PW: in about 200 words, for a trade audience. I have to laugh at people complaining they don’t “engage” with the book. They’re there to tell booksellers what to stock, not to do deep analysis.

          Then surely you also laugh at the authors who point to Booklife “reviews” as evidence that their work is award-worthy.


      • King Regis: A synopsis of 200 words can’t by any measure be called a “review”.


      • I stand corrected by King Regis. The new policy says:

        “Will my book be reviewed as part of the PW Select program?
        No. If you would like to submit your book for review consideration, please do so through your BookLife account. There is no cost of any kind associated with submitting your book for review.”



  5. “I believe that works should be judged by their content, not the publisher’s name in the frontmatter.”

    See, nobody judges books by their publishers’ names. Most people don’t even know who the publishers are. They don’t pay attention to that. They barely pay attention to who the author is. The advantage publishers have is distribution — more book vendors stock them because publishers can, by having many titles, provide booksellers with the purchase and, for print, returns policies that they need and want, and publishers are also able to ship print books widely and cheaply and get e-book formats made up and supported on selling platforms. It’s a matter of scale, not prestige. There is very little prestige in retail trade fiction publishing, especially genre category fiction which isn’t considered prestigious at all.

    And the effect that has on genre awards is that more people are aware of a title from publishers, not because they care about or even notice who the publisher is, but simply because the book is more visible to more people who then might have read it. Bestsellers — including indie ones — tend to do better in award nominations for books because more people know the title exists and have read it. Some awards have juried judging committees, and there are certainly biases there, but who the publishers are is largely a non-starter. Some awards have small voting bases — World Con members, SFWA author members — and also have short fiction awards and those are going to have more variety than just bestsellers — but they are still going to be more aware of books from publishers for the novel awards because publishers have the distribution and consequently also get more review and media coverage. Some awards are public vote awards, which usually don’t include short fiction, and there bestsellers are going to usually dominate, which can include indie bestsellers but again, it’s a matter of who the voters are aware of as titles, not who publishes them.

    The self-pub fiction e-book masses came in millions strong when Amazon rung the dinner bell. And they immediately demanded that the entire industry rearrange itself to accommodate the sheer mass of them in a hot second, give the same terms for one solitary title that they do for a publisher with a 1000 titles and infrastructure to properly sell and market them, and declared that if all the millions of new self-pub titles didn’t instantly get mass review and media coverage — something most publisher titles don’t get either — that this was surely a massive industry conspiracy against them. They declared that they would somehow destroy all the publishers simply because they were selling their books on the same platform that publishers sold on and that countless self-pub authors had already been selling on for a decade before they showed up. They were rude, irrational and whiny for like the first five years of the self-pub market expansion. And then some of them eased up, stop trying to pretend they were part of a revolution and publishers were the evil enemy and started establishing better marketing channels. And then Amazon developed the KU and had massive scamming going on in every part of the store: https://twitter.com/DavidGaughran/status/1099622364877328385

    Amazon is a giant selling platform that exposes titles to a huge potential selling audience. But there are millions of book titles on it, which is why we get these desperations for Amazon rankings and ads to boost the profile on it. But that’s again an issue of scale. Publishers have their books other places besides Amazon, in print and in stores. Indies are working that market too, but the majority of indie titles, just like the majority of publisher titles, especially mass market paperback, are going to have limited visibility. The ones that do gather visibility benefited from word of mouth. Andy Weir’s The Martian got visibility and bestsellerdom from word of mouth and that led to a publisher reprint deal and more visibility. Fifty Shades of Grey got word of mouth and bestsellerdom, which led to a reprint deal and more visibility. Those books benefited by publisher distributed visibility all over the world in their reprint deals, but they weren’t getting sales or award nominations because of who their publishers were and they developed their core visibility before their reprint deals, which is why they got the reprint deals.

    Do publishers try to give away and get books that got award nominations to as many voters as possible to get the voters to read and maybe vote for them? They do make efforts on that because it’s their job. But the SFWA is again made up of working authors from many different publishers of different sizes and includes many hybrid and self-pub authors. And those authors are also fiction readers — and fiction readers are marketing resistant. Authors are cynical and they can be highly critical, even when being mutually supportive. So this group is not going to get very far with the SFWA voting membership if they try to treat it as simply an advertising effort. More voters will bestir themselves and vote for nominations if they think this group is trying to game the system. It’s an authors’ organization, not a selling platform. So it will be interesting.


  6. Jonathan Brazee cleared the posting of the reading list with SFWA beforehand, so there was nothing underhanded at play. It’s a reading list, and members nominated (or didn’t) the works they read and enjoyed.

    Indies have been part of SFWA’s membership for several years now, so it’s not surprising that there is now more representation at awards. I’ve interacted with many SFWA members on the forums and at conventions, so I’m not an unknown in writerly circles. Many authors don’t go indie because we couldn’t get a trad deal; we chose to self-publish because of the flexibility and income potential it affords. I am very excited to be an author during this time with so many possibilities.

    Thank you for the opportunity to chime in on the discussion! I’m going to go back to writing my next book now :-).


      • Aaron: Exactly how does one clear a Facebook post with SFWA?

        One doesn’t. SFWA wouldn’t ever officially “clear” or give a stamp of approval to something like that. If “permission” was indeed actually sought from SFWA, the most they would have said was “We don’t control what people do outside of SFWA’s own website and social media accounts.” Which, if you’re of the Puppy and JDA persuasion, would be spun as “SFWA totally gave us permission to run an organized awards campaign!”

        It’s as if they’ve made a list of all the defenses the Puppies tried to use. I could swear there’s a 2015 post — probably several — in Cam’s archive with these exact same comments on them. It’s very sad. I would suggest that they google P.J. Beese, Todd Cameron Hamilton, Joel Rosenberg, and Kary English to get a better understanding of the implications of what they’re doing.

        Liked by 1 person

    • The thing is the unabridged version of the Nebula reading list is available to view for both sfwa and non-sfwa. A posting like this comes to the attention of those outside the group and now everyone wonders if those nominations are really organic.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Well it’s not a reading rec list. It’s a directed voting slate for a specific sub-group of authors. It doesn’t have a bunch of non-indie titles in it or titles that are by self-pub authors who are not in that 20/50 group. So it’s a promotional list suggesting a slate to vote for, not a rec list. But unless SFWA has that against the rules, it’s not against the rules. But that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t advocating for all SFWA member authors or for works in the general SFF field. It’s a marketing group doing a marketing campaign for its specific members to sway an award as a marketing tool. And so you may run into upset if the group is disingenuous about what it’s trying to do, and further upset that your interest is simply in your own promotion and sales rather than titles that have made a real change and impact on the SFF field for the year, which is what the Nebulas are supposed to be about.

      I do think it’s understandable that self-pub authors, organizing to support themselves, feel underrepresented and under serviced by infrastructure in the field and by organizations like SFWA and are seeking to raise awareness and attention to their voices in the market. And I agree with you that it is a natural development that more indie representation develops in organizations, award nominations, reviews and other areas. And that is a good thing for the field over all. But this is still a very organized marketing operation and your group needs to quit pretending that it’s not. And it does have ripple effects that can be negative with fans and with category SFF media.

      Part of dealing with that is understanding the wound that y’all have stumbled into with the experience for the field of the Puppies and the Hugos, another voting slate situation. The Puppies didn’t break the rules of the Hugos either by having a voting slate and initially while people were annoyed, they weren’t against it. It was the Puppies’ other behavior that was unethical and abusive that became very problematic — accusing authors they did not like (and tending to be in marginalized groups,) of conspiracy and corruption defrauding the awards, putting authors on their political voting slate without the authors’ consent, harassing and trying to harm authors who insisted on being removed from the slate or declined nominations they felt they’d only received because of the Puppies’ voting block, an incident of attempted swatting, various types of slurs online, etc.

      It is highly unlikely that the 20/50 group is going to do any of that with the Nebulas. Nonetheless, the organized marshaling of voting blocks to push certain nominees is going to be seen by many as predatory. And fiction fans are not fond of viewing fiction authors as predatory and marketing obsessed. At this point, where the group’s authors have snagged some nominations from their campaign, my sincere advice for you all is to support ALL the nominated titles and authors for the Nebulas, not just the ones from your group, and to promote all the nominees, not just the ones from your group. That will go a long way into having fans, SFF media and other authors believe that you do support the SFF field, rather than just try to exploit sales from it. Many, many indie authors are part of the SFF community and that is part of long term sales growth in what is a symbiotic market. But if 20/50 comes in like a corporate takeover, those authors are not going to be seen as part of the community and some of the things you want — more review coverage, award nominations, more fan engagement — may be very limited as a result.

      Of course, you don’t have to be engaged in and supportive of the category field community. Many SFF titles are sold in general fiction just fine with little involvement in the systems that are loosely called fandom. But if your group wants to be involved with organizations like SFWA, it’s going to need to understand that this sort of participation isn’t just about marketing and PR, and certainly not about indie books over hybrid authors and license published authors.

      As for reviews, major industry review organs have both tried to expand regular coverage into some indies and take advantage of having sub-services selling review coverage to both indie and license published authors. That’s more a reflection on those review organs failing their purpose in a collapsing subscription and ad market than on the authors who are trying to pick among difficult marketing and promotion options. There is no point, to my mind, getting mad at authors who do buy reviews in hopes of simply raising awareness that their title exists, and trying to announce that a review is paid for or no becomes an ill-formed game for people who aren’t in the industry itself. The reality is that the majority of book readers who even bother to read a review don’t really care or aren’t going to notice, so saying authors are “tainted” by buying reviews isn’t practically true, though buying reviews hasn’t shown to be particularly useful to authors either.

      Certainly we’d like more transparency and more review coverage in total for all books, but that isn’t a system that authors can create or be responsible for — that’s the review publications themselves. And Kirkus and PW aren’t doing reviews for the general consumer — they do them for the book-sellers and libraries who also give them ad revenue and subscription fees. And the book-sellers are very well aware of which areas of these services are paid for reviews and which are not, nor do they make purchasing decisions based on one review or even just reviews. An author buying a review off of PW or Kirkus is totally wasting their money, especially if they aren’t doing print, in my opinion.

      As for the general consumers, it is the book reader’s choice, if they are going to read reviews, to determine whether they think a review is a credible recommendation or not, same as always. My general advice to authors has usually been that paid reviews aren’t worth the money, given the rate of return on them, and also that I’m not going to call an author who claims not to have paid for reviews a liar either. And it’s worth noting, once again, that negative reviews don’t have as big an effect as many authors seem to think they do — people are skeptical of negative book reviews, wanting to see for themselves instead, and more inclined to take the rec of a positive review as of possible interest. The lack of reviews at all is of course the bigger problem and always has been, since there is a small slice of audience who uses them, and so again, going after authors for buying some reviews or rounding up pals to review for them seems to me unnecessary. If people like a book, they talk about it, and that beats reviews and ads every time, even if many other people don’t agree with them about the book.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Kat Goodwin: There is no point, to my mind, getting mad at authors who do buy reviews in hopes of simply raising awareness that their title exists, and trying to announce that a review is paid for or no becomes an ill-formed game for people who aren’t in the industry itself.

        The problem isn’t authors obtaining reviews from review mills. The problem is an author pointing to such “reviews” as being an indicator that their works are award-quality.

        Not to mention insulting the intelligence of readers, as if they are so stupid that they will look at such “reviews” and not know exactly what they are.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I would like to amend one of my previous statements in light of new information. It has come to my attention that the post was NOT cleared in its final form with SFWA prior to posting, as I was led to believe it was. I apologize for the false statement; I was responding to the best of my knowledge with the information I had at the time.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. Well, a lot of readers don’t know exactly what they are. You’re taking your more educated position as someone deeply involved with fandom and SFF category media as a standard of discernment and a preference on reviews. Me, I don’t find reviews helpful at all in their analysis. I’m only going to be looking at reviews on rare occasions where I’m looking for plot info. I stopped reading movie reviews of all kinds years ago.

    But it is certainly true that Nebula voters — the members of SFWA — being working authors, are going to have a pretty good idea what’s a paid for review source versus a free discernment one. But those authors are also not going to be particularly interested in reviews of the works over their own assessments. So again, the 20/50 authors have maybe not a very good handle on who they are dealing with in the SFWA as voters and what criteria those voters are using. That criteria, as we know, is mainly first, the impact and attention/word of mouth the book has created in the field, and second, the author voter’s own preferences and standards in assessing the work itself

    What is award-quality is subjective. Reviews are subjective. As you pointed out from your own efforts, reviews’ value is directly tied to whether the reader of them views the particular reviewer (or review source if the reviews there are anonymous,) as a useful analyst that reliably fits their own preferences and interests enough to give insight into a title. So pointing to any review in terms of support for winning an award or even nominations doesn’t really mean much, paid or no. There are a few category media review sources that are generally valued in the SFF field enough to have those reviews carry a bit of weight with most people — Locus, some of the magazines, etc. — and some people may value some of the news reviews — NYTBR, Book Riot, The Guardian, etc. for those titles that made it into hc or trade paper and managed to snag a review. But the impact of book reviews on award voting is fairly minimal.

    Andy Weir made a splash with The Martian as an indie pub. It was talked about, it had an impact; he wasn’t considered a stylist in writing and there are aspects of the science plot that are more fanciful than accurate, but it stood out in the SFF field for what it did, just like books from publishers like Ancillary Justice or Red Shirts stood out (though they had impacts for different reasons.) And it was a bestseller as an e-book so a fair number of people read it, and a fair number of authors read it. And then the reprint deal did increase visibility (and complicate eligibility dates.) These 20/50 authors have not necessarily done all that, even if they’ve sold well. In the short fiction arena, visibility isn’t always the factor because far fewer people are reading and talking about short fiction before nominations, but there are some short fictions that do get talked about and make an impact, and the 20/50 authors might not be doing brilliantly there either.

    But they may feel that those works have made more of an impact than others assess and now it’s time for the author voters to assess them. And many may assess them as you did — not enough offered to be worth the win. And yeah, I agree that advising them that trying to show impact in the field by pointing to reviews that may well have been paid for PR is a good idea. But there’s less malice here than there is cluelessness. There’s always a learning curve with authors. What will be a bigger issue is what they do next year — whether they’ve gotten that only titles that have made a real impact in the field are going to get too far in the award process and get more in the spirit of the thing. Or hie off to take over the Dragons instead.

    Of course, there’s always the issue of titles that didn’t get the nominations that people feel should have gotten them and may have been shut out by titles we like less. That’s part of the discussion about books and short fiction that surrounds awards, one of the few times fiction authors directly compete with each other. But this group isn’t the Puppies and they are willing to take in new information. So I’m less inclined to yell at them, right off the bat. But I can understand that if you slogged through a lot of reviews and their works as well, you’d have less patience for it.


    • Kat Goodwin: But this group isn’t the Puppies and they are willing to take in new information.

      I have yet to see evidence of that. To me they look like just another group of self-interested authors whose primary and only concern is pushing their work in any way they can, regardless of the ethics involved. The only difference between them and the Puppies (and I will stipulate that this is indeed a big difference) is that they haven’t engaged in the public harassment and abuse of readers, authors, and fans that the Puppies have been doing for years now.

      And yes, as a reader and fan who uses the Nebula finalists as suggested reading for Hugo nominations, I really resent pedestrian, unremarkable works being logrolled onto the ballot by self-interested authors who regard awards as simply a marketing tool to which they are entitled, rather than as the recognition for excellence that the awards should be (and, in the case of the Hugos, as something which belongs to fans, not to authors).

      When such works show up on the Nebula and Hugo ballots, it devalues those awards. I recognize that the Nebulas have not been devoid of some amount of campaigning in the past, but for the most part, their ballot every year has done a good job of identifying excellent works. I dread the Nebulas being turned into simply a marketing tool for whoever can beg, borrow, or steal enough votes to get their mediocre works onto the ballot. And I suspect that that is exactly where SFWA’s awards are headed. It’s a damned shame. 😦

      Liked by 3 people

      • For the last couple years I thought it seemed like there were more things on the Nebula reading list that I’d never heard any talk of. I guess now I know why.


        • Laura: For the last couple years I thought it seemed like there were more things on the Nebula reading list that I’d never heard any talk of. I guess now I know why.

          Yes, and the self-published group have been very aggressive about mutual agreements to upvote each others’ works. (The public can’t see the number of recommendations for a given work by SFWA members, but the members can see that.)

          Liked by 1 person

      • For the Nebulas to become simply a marketing tool, it requires those authors — who are not the entire population of self-pub authors but one small slice — to take over the membership of SFWA by a substantial margin. That’s unlikely to happen. If it did, the organization would change and become an author organization with different goals and services to its members, as author organizations sometimes do. We don’t own the SFWA and it’s the members of the SFWA who get to decide what the Nebulas are going to be and how the awards will operate. Likewise, we don’t own WorldCon except for any membership stakes individuals make, and it is only the WorldCon attending members who get to decide what the Hugos will be and how they will operate. Much as we might like or respect a set of awards as a guide and not want them to change, that’s not how it works. It’s up to the people for whom the awards are for and who decide them. (A lesson the Puppies found very hard to understand.)

        You can’t simply shut indies you don’t like out of SFWA unless they do something that is against the rules of SFWA membership, including abusing other members and the organization’s resources (Beale). The field includes them and it’s going to continue to do so and overall that brings more readers to SFFH and other SFFH authors. As for whether the awards are devalued by works of theirs which some declare of lower quality, well that is again a personal assessment. The Puppies made that same argument — that Redshirts and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” were low quality and devalued the Hugos. I’m not saying you’re using Puppy-like evaluations on works or that I’m embracing the 20/50 group, but if they are members of SFWA and they think each other’s works are good and important, that’s their right, whether we agree with them or not.

        The reality is, the majority of members of a group or convention who decide a set of awards are often lazy and don’t get off their asses to nominate works. So then a small group like the Puppies or 20/50, if they have the memberships, can affect nominations. You can only log roll if nobody else much shows up, like any election. So maybe this will spur other members of SFWA to pay more attention to the nomination part of the process if they value their Nebulas and feel the awards are being taken advantage of. Like I said, it will be next year that will be more interesting on that front.


      • And yes, as a reader and fan who uses the Nebula finalists as suggested reading for Hugo nominations, I really resent pedestrian, unremarkable works being logrolled onto the ballot….

        This is particularly frustrating for me because the Nebula short fiction nominees often include quality works that were published somewhere that wasn’t free-to-read online, and it’s really useful to have some informed pointers to those so I know to check them out during the Hugo nomination period.

        I’m still hoping to read all of the Nebula-nominated adult fiction by March 15 but I really hope the quality of the 20booksto50K stories are better than last year’s “Weaponized Math”.


      • Well, it certainly seems to be heading in the direction of abuse now, at least according to some of the excerpts in the latest File 770 post about this.


        • Yes, Richard Fox seems to be a full-on Puppy; he’s got a complete lexicon of the buzzwords and all the bad attitude of the Puppies. He also clearly hasn’t bothered to do any prep reading to get an idea of who Camestros is and the chops he has as a reviewer.

          He also signed on with a publisher without bothering to research them first or finding out who they actually are, which is markedly… unprofessional.


      • Not sure what Fox histrionics is about. He isn’t even on the slate. Is he just searching the net for a place to vent his outrage about life, universe and everything?


  8. There’s a lot of discussion on the quality of a story based on the publication source, and not on the quality of the stories themselves.

    I highly encourage any and all of you to give the nominees a read and judge the work on its merits and nothing else.

    Full disclosure, I am nominated for the short story Nebula. I’ve previously won a Dragon Award and am a seven figure writer.

    I don’t understand how anyone can think that paying a fee to Amazon will result in sales.

    Readers like quality stories and if a writer is selling well, it’s because they’ve pleasing and delighting a lot of readers. You can’t buy success on the open market and no amount of artificial support can make readers enjoy the read or get them to pick up the next book in the series.

    If you’d like to read my nominated story, send me a note via Facebook (search for Richard Fox author) and I’ll get you a copy for free.


    • To be honest Richard, I’m less concerned about the process with which you got nominated for a Dragon or a Nebula than I am about your commercial relationship with pro-terrorism extreme nationalist Vox Day.

      Day is an open and unapologetic supporter of Anders Breivik, the mass murderer who gunned down teenagers in a camp for the crime of being left of centre.https://web.archive.org/web/20181020084928/http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/05/mailvox-breivik-saint-or-monster.html
      Day is a man who wants people like me dead and who would celebrate the murder of my children. He is actively promoting terrorism and ‘lone wolf’ style attacks against people on the left. So you’ll understand why I might be somewhat concerned about people who join his commercial enterprises.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Thanks for proving my point. You’re more interested in a bigoted viewpoint than the quality of the stories. It shows a good deal of insecurity on your part that you can’t actually discuss merit and fall back to virtue signalling as the only measure of what makes a story good or not.

        I’ve since ended my commercial relationship with Vox Day and don’t agree with him on much else than that there should be multiple avenues for comics to reach markets.


          • If you’re drawing a line from a sci fi short story that had nothing to do about murder and domestic terrorism to murder and domestic terrorism, you’re virtue signalling.

            Let me know when you want to discuss fiction and not what makes you feel important.


            • I’m always happy to discuss fiction and what works. Like yourself and like 20booksto50k I’m always happy to discuss the business side of books as well including marketing and promotion. Vox Day and Jon Del Arroz and Arkhaven comics and comicsgate are part of that mix with your work. In turn Vox Day’s politics are embroiled in that by design (ie Castalia and off shoots are part of a *political* project by Day). Also, not wanting to be killed by terrorist of any stripe (trust me, I don’t want to be murdered by ISIS inspired terrorists either & if an author dropped by here who was working with an overtly pro-ISIS publisher that would be top of my list of things to bring up)
              I get that Vox can be affable, supportive and helpful to writers and I also get that people tend to assume the extremity of his politics is something exaggerated by his enemies but…it’s not.
              I trust you’ve had time to read that post of Day’s were he praises Breivik. Understand that I have regular readers here for whom those murders were not a distant event in a foreign country but something much closer to home.
              The line between your story and that violence is not one I drew but one drawn by Day and one you involved yourself in I assume unwittingly. Reciting the magic mantra of ‘virtue signalling’ doesn’t make it go away.

              To clarify a step further: I am not saying you somehow support terrorism nor am I saying that your story is somehow contaminated by indirect association with Day. I am, though raising in a post primarily about how authors collaborate in the important business of self-promotion pointing out a factor that aspiring or even successful authors should be aware of: some apparently helpful people have other agendas and their ‘help’ comes with a price: in Day’s case the price is finding people to provide a cover of respectability over dangerous extremism.


              • Nothing in my comic that’s being published by Arkhaven has any sort of ‘dangerous extremism’ in it and at no point did Vox attempt to add anything to the work. You are the one that went into full scale virtue signalling without Vox even being brought up in the conversation by me or anyone else. You were on the hair trigger for outrage and you found an excuse.

                You aren’t interested in discussing what works in fiction. If you were, you’d ask how any of the Nebula got nominated on the quality of the writing and storytelling, not how associated groups got them nominated. Your mask is slipping, and what’s underneath is ugly.


                • I keep saying I’m happy to discuss all aspects. If you want to raise some other points about your work then go ahead. Dropping into my blog to say ‘virtue signalling’ is the opposite of discussing the merits of your work.

                  I’ve explained in detail why I’ve raised the issue of Vox Day. It is very relevant to my post and it’s a major topic of this blog, so YES I will bring up relevant topics on MY BLOG when they are relevant. Demanding that the topic of this post be discussed in a particular way or that ONLY some aspects should be focused on? Um, nope.

                  If you would like to change the subject then please, go ahead. Explain about the quality of your storytelling etc. I have zero objections to you doing so. Try and do it with maybe just a tad more awareness of the venue.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • You’ve yet to bring the conversation to the quality or merits of any of the nominated works. Don’t act like that’s something you’re fostering. Anyone with a shred of integrity and intellectual honesty can see right through you.

                    I’m encouraging any and all to read the stories and make up their own minds. You are pushing the angle that everything but the story is important, and that’s very bigoted of you.

                    I wasn’t aware that this venue was only to reinforce your viewpoint. If I did, I wouldn’t have bothered. I do hope you have a cat that can give you unconditional acceptance.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Oh…no offence as you are new around here but you probably don’t want to bring the C.A.T. into this. He has…um, opinions.

                      As for discussing the quality of the works PLEASE GO AHEAD! If that’s what you want to discuss you have my go ahead. If you prefer I can make a new post so that we can disentangle that discussion from this more heated one.

                      Liked by 4 people

                    • You’re more than welcome to invite others to read the Nebula nominated works so they can make their own judgement. That’s a very adult and open minded thing to do.

                      As I am nominated, I will not offer any opinions on any other work. People should make up their minds, not be told how to think. I don’t know how this can be a point of contention, but it is 2019.


                    • No worries on that part Richard. The regulars here don’t need to be told to read and engage with the Nebulas. I’m in the midst of Blackfish City and will probably have a review up next week (you know, because I read and engage with books on their merits 🙂 ) I look forward to reading your nominated work.

                      However your comment seems a bit at odds with your previous remark that I had ‘yet to bring the conversation to the quality or merits of any nominated works’ I understand why you do not wish to do this but it seems more than a bit off that you were criticising me for not doing something that you yourself are unwilling to do. Perhaps someone with a ‘shred of integrity and intellectual honesty’ could see through why…

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Me–as a nominee–sharing opinions in public about other nominated works is in poor taste. I don’t know why that isn’t immediately obvious. Since you’re such a Nebula expert you should know of all the other times a nominee discussed other works during a voting period. Oh wait…

                      You’re not nominated. There’s no conflict with you having opinions and hosting discussion. One with a shred of integrity and intellectual honesty would pick up on that. Must be why you’re struggling.


                    • What somebody with a ‘shred of integrity and intellectual honesty’ would have already acknowledged is that I do discuss books and stories and other media on a regular basis.

                      As for your status as a nominee, I can see no reason why that prevents you discussing the merits of your own work here. It’s a relevant example of one of the works nominated and a work that I assume you are deeply knowledgeable about.

                      Also, worth noting that I’ve never claimed any particular expertise about the Nebula awards.

                      Liked by 2 people

                    • Until you actually discuss any of the stories nominated for their merits, your integrity and intellectual honesty is suspect.

                      And for one that admits to not being an expert on the Nebulas, you sure do have a lot of strong opinions. See above for reasons you struggle.

                      I can’t tell someone how to enjoy or not enjoy my own work. See above for reasons you struggle.


                    • “Until you actually discuss any of the stories nominated for their merits, your integrity and intellectual honesty is suspect.”

                      Wayyyyy ahead of you dear Richard.
                      https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/01/01/bird-box-the-attack-of-the-concept-monsters/ (includes a discussion of A Quite Place)
                      https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/01/20/films-we-didnt-need-but-got-anyway/ (Into the Spiderverse)

                      So, yup, already engaged with multiple Nebula nominees from longggg before they were even nominated.

                      “I can’t tell someone how to enjoy or not enjoy my own work.”

                      Nobody is asking you to tell people how to enjoy your work. You get that talking about stories isn’t telling people how to enjoy stuff. You can talk about what your works mean to you, you can talk about the themes your tried to develop, your inspirations, the structural aspects of what you wrote. That would be interesting. Sure you don’t have to but given that you were very passionate about the whole idea of me discussing the merits of your work earlier, I’m finding it odd that you are backpedalling so quickly about the topic.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • When you get around to considering any of the Indy works you’re concern trolling over, then you’ll have shown a bit of integrity and intellectual honesty,


                    • [sound effect of goalposts being moved – crrrnch, umph, plonk, plonk]
                      So from “any of the stories” to “any of the Indy”, I wonder where the next goal post will be? In the meantime, thank you for your concern about my reviewing habits 🙂

                      Liked by 3 people

                    • You reviewed one written work from Tor. Clearly you’ve established yourself as an authority on the current slate. /slowclap


                    • Damn, the goalpost fell over and smashed a strawman to bits! I still haven’t claimed to be an authority on the slate but if reviewing multiple works on the slate is what is required to discuss it then…well we are back to the issue of what you are bringing to the table…which appears to still be nothing.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I’ve discussed multiple works nominated for the Nebulas. I’m sorry that upsets you for some reason. I can only offer virtual comforting noises at this point with respect to the point you are trying to make.


                    • You haven’t discussed any of the 20books ‘slate’ you’re so concerned over. I trust the blatantly obvious doesn’t need further explanation.


                    • I do hope this is the last place you are going to put those goalposts Richard. You are right that *I* have yet to discuss any specific content of the works in 20booksto50 not-a-slate (which I was more curious about than concerned over). I have invited you to do so and as has been pointed out to you some discussion of the content of the works in the 29booksto50 um, list has occurred here.
                      I shall certainly be reading your nominated work and I am eager to hear your own views about your work.


                    • Enjoy the read. It will be a nice chang of pace to be relevant and knowledgeable in your own conversation.


                    • Thanks for going where many of us are afraid to tread. (Or at least I am.) The irrelevant mention of a Dragon award win and making 7 figures strangely hasn’t persuaded me that something will be award quality work.

                      Liked by 2 people

      • During a Kerpupple early phase, when for odd reasons I’d been engaged in a (entirely civil) conversation with Mr. Theodore Beale about Hugo/WSFS matters, upon stumbling across Beale’s pro-Breivik editorial, I sort-of said to him ‘O RLY?’, and he averred to me that he believes my immigrant dad’s folk, the Norwegians, will come over time to regard him as a hero. I think I might have replied something about there having been far more volunteers for Vidkun Quisling’s firing squad than would fit in that Akershus Festning courtyard in ’45, that I know Norwegian obstinacy up-close, and that Theo was therefore advised to not hold his breath.

        My own overall assessment of Theo is that he’s adopted the standard Howard Stern / Limbaugh outrage-construction template (the one familar to all Usenet users), for attention and for finding of business opportunities. I’m not making claims about sincerity, as that strikes me as an irrelevant question: My point is that outrage is a key and very deliberate part of the shtick.

        Anyway, I have enough of a reading knowledge of norsk that I’d been able to translate coverage of the July 22, 2011 Oslo and Utøya murders — the ’22/7′ tragedy, as the Norwegians call it — for friends almost in real time, so Theo’s ‘Anders Behring Breivik will be a hero’ thing nearly got my knees jerking nicely, but I got a firm grip on ’em.


      • Oh you weren’t aware that your new publisher Teddy Beale was a terrorist-praising loon with outdated, discredited views on race, women and intelligence, amongst other things? Did you do even the slightest bit of research into who he was and what he represents before jumping into the deal? It’s literally his entire shtick.


    • Are you that dense, or are you just playing dump (okay I am normally much nicer even to trolls, but hello that hurts)
      Nobody is talking about the indie-esteblished publisherthink, it is about a slate and paid reviews on booksside.

      We are talking about the nebula here and you are talking to fans, most people here have nothing to do with judging this award, so no nead to read if someone isn’t interested.

      Sales doesn’t mean quality enough to be the best of the year. Should Twilight or the Da Vinci Code or Fifty Shades of Grey have won awards?

      Full disclosure, write Military SF on your book and it needs a lot of work for me to want to read it, I am so not into military SF.

      Your answer: So you have a problem with someone not wanting to give money to someone who wants to murder them, nice.
      So your works have no conection to days publishing house any longer?
      And multiple avenues for comics, you are aware that there are quite some comicpublishers in the USA? Not to mention Japan or France were some of us perhabs think first of comics?

      Congratulation Amy (A.K.) DuBoff is no longer the person who made herself look worst in this commentsection…


      • I don’t know how you can take a message like ‘read the story and decide on its merits’ and declare that to be trolling. Are you really so weak in your convictions that the slightest nudge to look outside your bubble sends you into fits of cognitive dissonance? You need to get out more.

        The overall tone of the OP and comments tends towards ‘how did these get nominated?’ and works from writers popular with readers are likely to be popular with the authors that are part of SFWA as well. I don’t know why that’s so hard to grasp, but you continue to set a very low bar for expectations.

        Winning the sales charts is an award of its own, but to suggest that what’s popular with the masses shouldn’t be popular with the ‘in crowd’ is very elitist and down right bigoted. Again, get out more.

        I don’t even know where to begin to tear down your straw man fallacy. Noting it as such is refutation enough.

        I write in English and have an English speaking audience. Going to Japan or France isn’t exactly a smart business choice. I’ve learned a great deal about the comic industry since beginning the project, and it is both unprofitable and time consuming for all parties. Not that you’d know anything about that aspect of publishing from your side of a computer screen.

        Congrats on the self own by comparing yourself to Amy. She’s shown patience and class, you, on the other hand, need to get out more.


        • Maybe tone down both the rhetoric and the cliches Richard – or at least the cliches if the aim is demonstrate your qualities as a writer.

          Stefan’s comment was neither elitist nor bigoted.


    • Cam: Can you please delete this comment in moderation posted it under the wrong name.
      Cam: Thanks for the defence, I stated as a warning that my coment was a bit more angry than normal.

      Richard: Okay I am trying to use that call. I could understand the elitist point if you didn’t understand the point I was making, but bigot care to explain that one?
      And what you misunderstood: Yes seling a lot of books means that people like your books, concretulation. (I will leave out, that they are at last in my homecountry on KU, which means people can get them for free) But what you misunderstood is my point:

      High sales doesn’t necesary mean that a work is (for a reader) so great that they nominate it as best of the year. You can enjoy a work tremendesly but exspecially if you read a lot books that should be nominated or win an award should be somethink more, and this somethink more happens for the reader if they read it. If you call me elitist for enjoying works but believing that not every work is good enough to be called best of the year so be it. Or is that about Military SF not beeing my favorite sub-genere?

      One the comicindustry, there are about 25 companys publishing comics tomorrow, The model from for example Image is very different for Marvel, DC DarkHorse, Boom, IDW…
      You are right, I don’t know much about the work of the industry, I am only an unimportant reader, you propably don’t need my kind. I am not even American.


      • Stefan, I don’t know what point you’re trying to make and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.

        I encourage you to learn how works are nominated for the Nebulas. Further, KU isn’t ‘free’. It costs 10 USD a month after the trial period. If a story comes from outside mainstream publishing, it doesn’t make it automatically good or bad. Same with a story from mainstream publishing. Read the stories for yourself and see if you like them.


      • Read the stories for yourself and see if you like them.

        Why should I want to read your story? All I know at this point is that you are published by Beale, a publisher with a track record of putting out really shitty fiction, and that you are willing to make up something about Cam in order to pretend to be outraged. No one here has infinite reading time, so why should anyone bother to spend their limited time reading a story produced by someone with your resume?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Beale? Never heard of it.

          I’m so sorry you don’t have time for short fiction. I guess that a Nebula nomination from the other authors of SFWA is a real minus when it comes to choosing where to spend your reading time.


        • Richard’s connection with Castalia is a bit more indirect. VD’s comic line, Arkhaven is doing a graphic novel version of Richard’s “Ember War” books with adaptation being written by our old friend (& Tim’s client) Jon Del Arroz.
          So as a marker of quality, Richard’s books may be better than the usual Castalia House stuff.
          Having said that, he’s not really put his best marketing foot forward here today 😉


    • Richard Fox: There’s a lot of discussion on the quality of a story based on the publication source, and not on the quality of the stories themselves.

      I guess you missed my comments on the works, which I’ve read, in Cam’s other post. I’m a huge Military SF reader, and your story is serviceable, but it’s incredibly predictable and certainly not exceptional or of award quality. Consider reading some works by Elizabeth Moon, Walter Jon Williams, Linda Nagata, and David Weber to get an understanding of what “award-quality” milSF looks like.

      Liked by 2 people

      • JJ, do you really think I went through every post ever to check for your opinion? Thanks for reading.


        • Richard Fox: JJ, do you really think I went through every post ever to check for your opinion?

          Nope, I think that you are angrily shooting off your mouth using your extensive collection of far-right buzzwords without doing the slightest bit of research to understand the people you’re talking to here, or to understand what’s already been said.

          Again, instead of posting award-voting slates, 20BooksTo50K really needs to be teaching its authors to not hunt down and respond to critical mentions on the internet, because what all of these authors have done thus far here and on Twitter is just to demonstrate how incredibly unprofessional and childish they are.

          Liked by 1 person

          • As opposed to pointing out how unprofessional and childish it is to kevetch over stories people haven’t read.


            • Everything I do here is unprofessional Richard. Nobody would play me to do this.
              Currently nobody here is complaining about the content of stories they haven’t read. The only person insisting that the conversation should now be about the content rather than other aspects (eg marketing…) is….Richard Fox.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes, God forbid stories vying for an award with ‘Best’ in the title should be about content.


                • Then once again I invite you to put your rhetorical-money where your rhetorical-mouth is. JJ has discussed the content of works nominated for the Nebulas here. I have discussed the content of works nominated for the Nebulas here. You have not. You aren’t required to, its fine if you don’t, but castigating others for not doing so when they have and you haven’t is…well let’s try to be nice and say ‘confused’.

                  Liked by 1 person

        • The point being Richard that before claiming people have not been doing something, you should check. Demanding people should be talking about the content of the work without checking whether people have been doing so is letting your opinions run way ahead of the facts that support them. Ignorance is not a good excuse for spouting an ignorant opinion.


          • Hmm, somehow I’m finding myself less and less interested in reading any of these. It’s about time for Panic Blob to appear and remind us about Hugo Nominations so I must be very choosy about my reading and viewing these days!


  9. Okay last post and I am done since either I am really confusing or Richard is not even trying to understand.

    How to nominate for the nebula: Sorry I am always willing to learn, but how is that relevant to any of the arguments in that tread?

    About KU: Yeah, you pay for becoming a member, but not for every book. Which means that if somebody already has KU it is free for them (no extra cost). (Yes I know also you have the book only for some time, like a libery)

    If you don’t understand that liking a work and loving it, isn’t the same, I can’t help you,

    For comics I still think what little you have given us is rubish.

    Will I pick up any of your works. Nope probably never. I already told you, I need a reason to pick it up, this tread has given me more reasons not to be interested in your work.


  10. Anyone know if there’s a publicly available list of 20booksto50k authors, beyond the list of recommended works in this post, preferably accessible to those who don’t use FB?

    I’m asking because I’ve been involved in a thread on the Nebula finalists on Reddit, and some of the authors who’ve been nominated have turned up in and gotten involved. Whilst most of the discussion has been perfectly pleasant, none that I can see has explicitly acknowledged their involvement with 20booksto50k. This has seems particularly egregious to me when we now have someone now turning up and, as an example of how great indie publishing is, recommending 3 novels that weren’t on the Nebula finalist list, but all four (including the poster) seem to be 20booksto50k members, which doesn’t seem very “independent” to me.


    • Hmmm, It’s a Facebook group and I think its not obvious the extent to which subscribing to a Facebook group is the same as being affiliated as a quasi-organisation.


    • John S: Anyone know if there’s a publicly available list of 20booksto50k authors, beyond the list of recommended works in this post, preferably accessible to those who don’t use FB?

      I think that there are thousands of members — there are 28,000+ on the Facebook group — but some are obviously more deeply involved in a cultish way than others. You can see a lot of the slated authors were on the programming list for the 20BooksTo50K Conference in Las Vegas. Ugh, that whole website has the same scummy vibe as cult MLM marketing companies like Amway and Herbalife.

      John S:
      I’m asking because I’ve been involved in a thread on the Nebula finalists on Reddit, and some of the authors who’ve been nominated have turned up in and gotten involved. Whilst most of the discussion has been perfectly pleasant, none that I can see has explicitly acknowledged their involvement with 20booksto50k. This has seems particularly egregious to me when we now have someone now turning up and, as an example of how great indie publishing is, recommending 3 novels that weren’t on the Nebula finalist list, but all four (including the poster) seem to be 20booksto50k members, which doesn’t seem very “independent” to me.

      It’s especiallyegregious because in that thread they are saying that the Nebula nominations are rigged to favor works by SFWA board members.


      • Actually, it was me who raised the issue of the SFWA board members who were finalists there, and that was before any of the 20books stuff came to light. I was also explicit that I don’t think there was any rigging, rather that those nominated may well benefit from name recognition:


        (Not posted th


      • Edit: apologies for truncated prior comment due to hitting Post button too soon.

        I was going to add something that I’d subsequently (re)discovered, but hadn’t posted to Reddit, related to the name recognition argument – one of the other (non-20books) Nebula finalists wrote, produced and performed a song about how great the SFWA is at the Nebula conference a couple of years ago.


        All power to him and the other performers for that – although I can’t say it’s to my musical tastes – but could it have helped when Nebula voters were thinking of candidates to nominate, especially in a YA category that they may well not have much familiarity with?


      • “but could it have helped when Nebula voters were thinking of candidates to nominate, especially in a YA category that they may well not have much familiarity with?”

        No. First off, Nebula voters are professional authors who are quite familiar with the field, including most especially the very vital and long running YA field. Second, those author voters are not focusing on who is the most known candidate, i.e. the most bestselling, though bestsellers have their share of noms. They focus on the works and how those have affected the field and how they assess those works. They take it seriously and there are no shortage of names for them to think of for any of the categories. They also can be highly critical of each others’ work, even if they are supportive of authors as a whole. So a funny song isn’t going to cut it. Third, the SFWA isn’t a clubhouse; it’s a professional organization and author members are routinely unhappy with aspects of it, not always for the same reasons but usually because they want it to do more stuff. A song praising SFWA has about as much sway with Nebula voters as a dandelion puff in a windstorm.


    • It’s a very big group with a membership in the thousands, as far as I know, and not every member is active. A lot are just passively lurking to see if there are some nuggets of useful information to snap up. And not every member is actively involved in group projects or follows the minimum viable product principle.

      One way to possibly figure out who is more active and in the core group is to check out which authors show up in their anthologies and who attended and presented at their various conferences. 20Booksto50K members also tend to co-author and write in each others universes a lot, so that might be another clue.

      But even then, there is no real way to be sure. Amy DuBoff and I are currently both in the same cross promotion, for example. She’s a member, I am not.


      • @Kat Goodwin: I hope I can be forgiven for having a degree of cynicism about what might motivate voters, given that even the current president of SFWA has expressed not entirely dissimilar sentiments in the (distant) past:

        > One of the words that gets mentioned around this time is “log-rolling,” the act of exchanging favors, along the lines of “You nominate my novella for a Hugo and I’ll nominate your short story for a Nebula.” Recent changes, such as no longer being able to see who nominated something for a Nebula, are encouraging, but the awards still sometimes seem less about the merit of the work than about the popularity of their author.



      • Authors can like each other and each other’s work and decide to support each other on nominations. (Authors tend to be readers and when they get to know other authors, they tend to check out their work.) Is that a good plan? Not necessarily, though two authors as fans of each other agreeing they’ll support each other’s work for awards isn’t going to have a lot of impact. (Again, log rolling and vote block usage only works if you have a big enough group and not enough other people show up to vote.) And those mutual support pacts, which usually aren’t organized, aren’t about the popularity of the authors. If you’re a popular author who is known, then you don’t really have to trade mutual support votes. Those sorts of log rolling are going to only have a real impact for authors of short fiction who aren’t that well known and there’s less immediate familiarity with their work. And you have to have a ton of those pacts still for that to work.

        But you missed my points, which were: A) a substantial number of SFWA member authors are YA authors. Even when they aren’t, most of them know the YA field well because it’s a centrally important area of the entire SFFH field. They don’t need to go looking for YA author names to nominate by noticing random singers who happen to do YA — the YA authors likely to make the ballots have usually already been talked about in the field for months; and B) if the guy was singing a fan song about a particular other author, maybe that one author would be flattered enough to vote for the singer — which wouldn’t help him much. But the members of SFWA are hypercritical of SFWA (which is not a bad thing to keep an organization striving to improve support for its authors and the field,) and so an author singing a song of praise for SFWA itself might be funny and entertaining but it isn’t going to interest the author members into voting him for a Nebula. Now, a song criticizing SFWA might get the guy some voting interest from the other authors, but a song of praise? No.

        So I know you had fun with your theory, but that particular example doesn’t work.


  11. Richard Fox:

    A sterling example of the First Rule of Hole-Digging.

    Damn, the goalpost fell over and smashed a strawman to bits!

    LOLOL (snort). New keyboard, please. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. John S: I was going to add something that I’d subsequently (re)discovered, but hadn’t posted to Reddit, related to the name recognition argument – one of the other (non-20books) Nebula finalists wrote, produced and performed a song about how great the SFWA is at the Nebula conference a couple of years ago.

    Damn you, John S! Every time someone links to that, it takes me days to get rid of the earworm! 😉


  13. I’m catching up. Wow, having this dude start unprofessional tantruming and showing little knowledge of two different industries — and this guy is part of the 20/50 group? That may then be a redux issue that would certainly not be fun.

    The only other person who brought up the idea that who the publisher is, i.e. self-pub not having one, is a criteria being used was the other 20/50K group author, and that was refuted, with several people of course talking about the various works. The big concerns expressed was that it was the author SFWA members from the 20/50K group who weren’t taking reading actual works in the field seriously but instead just concentrating on using the Nebulas as a selling tool for their own stuff by using a slate and a voting block. And that’s a valid concern, even if not against the rules.

    SFWA Nebula voters have long contained hybrid authors and have been perfectly fine with indie nominees such as Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light and Lawrence Schoen. While the members of the organization weren’t sure how to set professional membership requirements in the shifting landscape at first, they worked it out so that the group could help indie, hybrid and license publish/magazine authors all together. More to the point, several regular commentators on this blog are established indie authors — including Camestros himself. Why exactly would they be dismissing themselves?

    My original consideration was that the 20/50K group were a bunch of marketing-oriented authors who were a bit clueless as to the point of the Nebulas and the community of the category SFFH field but wanting to take part. But if we’re going to get steady streams of agiprop with wild accusations of a supposed war on indie authors by other authors in the SFWA and the most dedicated fans, then we’re looking at the same type of politically calculated, canned rhetoric as the Puppies. And that’s not about marketing issues and certainly not about SFF fiction. So maybe 20/50K is not a mutually supportive marketing group for indie authors that over-pushed it with a cynical voting block slate. Or at least maybe a sub-group within that group has decided to try to use it for different and nastier purposes.

    The members of the SFWA are a small group of cranky professional authors. Telling them that they are unethical elitists out to get you is hardly the way to get them to consider your work seriously in voting or to put up with that sort of attack from their fellow members in the professional group of the SFWA. It certainly doesn’t make for a warm reception in the larger field either when you declare the magazines who keep short fiction alive are out to get you because you didn’t serial publish with them. It may make nice posturing for far right social media instead, if that’s your boat, but the readers in that area don’t care about the Nebulas in the first place. Even if these 20/50K authors are just focused on marketing and not politics, the Nebulas are of limited use as a marketing tool to audiences in general. If their interest is instead outrage marketing by picking fights with other authors and knowledgeable fans and claiming persecution by them in a cultural war, as if you’re on 4Chan or Twitter, the Nebulas are pretty much useless for that.

    I feel greatly for Annie Bellet right now. She was horribly abused by the Puppies, who tried to shove her on their political slate for the Hugos, then royally went after her when she wanted to be withdrawn, and she was a key voice in establishing membership requirements that brought in more indie authors to SFWA. It’s going to be a continued and limiting problem for many indie authors if they keep trying to claim that the world is against them as a largely ineffective marketing strategy. Because the SFFH field isn’t against them and the indies need to get past their teenage years to develop the professional market.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a weird paradox where it can seem like the authors MOST vocal about their work being a business & focused on marketing & themselves as a ‘brand’ ditch the concept in an instance when even vaguely challenged online and proceed to treat their public persona as if it was a dumpster in need of a fire

      Liked by 2 people

    • The reactions here and elsewhere probably hurt their credibility more than they know, because up to now we were actually giving them the benefit of a doubt and assumed they were simply just clueless about what is considered acceptable and what isn’t.

      Also, this whole “indie versus traditional” rhetoric is so 2012. Haven’t we moved on since then?

      As for “X sells a lot of books, therefore X is a good author and deserves awards”, that has been discussed ad infinitum in the past four years. Honestly, this whole debate feels like a time warp.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah that’s really annoying. You’ve got small presses putting out anthologies for peanuts and magazines that try to make it online with ads or with limited subscriptions, and they’re the reason a lot of the indie/hybrid authors qualified for SFWA membership by getting a license sale on short fiction with them. And yet they’re acting like the short fiction outlets are the evil empire with Darth Vadar. Yes, Tor.com has the big distribution and pays well from being well funded so they’ve got stories people manage to see, talk a lot about and which can snag nominations, but they aren’t against indie authors either — they’ve highlighted a lot of them. It’s like they would like the short fiction market to die at a time when it’s actually doing well. How is that helpful to anybody?

        Nor is it super helpful to accuse the people who vote on the awards of fraud, hypocrisy, incompetency and shallowness. The come to the party and crap on the rug marketing strategy is really one that authors would do well to ditch.


  14. Ok, so still confused — the Fox guy isn’t on the 20/50K voting slate? Is he even part of that group at all? Don’t want to clump people together who aren’t together.


        • I’ve been having Puppy flashbacks ever since the first 50BooksTo50K author showed up here claiming that their nomination was due to “having earned the respect of fellow authors” rather than the result of an unfair slating campaign, and the other slated authors posting that their big sales and popularity meant that their work was award-worthy.

          Liked by 1 person

      • I know, I just don’t want it to be the official moniker. The 20/50K gang sounds like it is 1000 strong with a smaller core group of more active people. But that still meant they had to pick which of their works by only some of their authors — including short works — they thought were the most interesting and likely to get others to vote for them too. So I don’t, Fox notwithstanding, see this group as operating like the Puppies.

        That doesn’t mean I’m thrilled about what they are doing. But at least part of their stated purpose is not to condemn and drive out a bunch of authors.

        The thing is, it’s really important and good for indie authors to widen their market by teaming up for distribution, marketing, PR, better business conditions, etc. But if they use it as a battering ram against imaginary doors, then they are limiting their opportunities, not increasing them.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I agree with Kat here.

        There’s *always* going to be very indistinct border between the cases of:
        – “The SF that’s most important right now is (TYPE X), here’s a bunch of (TYPE X) stories you might want to nominate”
        – “We are a whole big bunch of superfans of (THING Y); let’s nominate (THING Y) for the award!”
        – “Hey, let’s game the award in order to get visibility and attention for (CAUSE Z).”

        It’s rare that you can unambiguously tease those out from each other — and, like it or not, the state of the field is that rec-lists, shared ballots, for-your-consideration posts, and all kinds of other mechanisms to focus attention, are now understood as de rigueur. That makes it *hard* to say “this promotion is OK; that one isn’t,” because… the lines just aren’t that clear.

        At the same time: These awards are all kind of predicated on the voting membership caring about who wins, but also caring about the award itself, as an institution. Caring about the award’s health; its integrity. Caring that it continues to mean “works chosen as the membership’s favorites,” not “works chosen by the internet clique with the best hustle.”

        Even here, there’ll be different interpretations of what, exactly, that means. But… you’ve got to have it. Otherwise, one way or another, we wind up with an award of no substance.


      • Some of the reactions to being called on it are all weirdly similar to that Other Thing that happened, albeit all on a lower level.
        I wonder if the Other Thing set a template for how to react, or it’s just an interesting demonstration of human nature.


        • The Five Stages of Slate Kerfuffling:

          1. Denial: It TOTALLY wasn’t a slate! How can you say it was a slate??? IT WASN’T A SLATE, those works got onto the ballot because the are massively popular! Those statistics don’t mean anything! We have binders full of readers, they just don’t use Amazon or Goodreads or LibraryThing!
          2. Anger: You’re just saying that because you hate [our group]! Everybody else does it!!! (fails to provide persuasive evidence of such)
          3. Bargaining: Our works are really good! Look at our screenshots of that time we put our book on sale for free and made the top 10 in our Amazon category! Look at the reviews we bought from review mills! It doesn’t matter how the works made it onto the ballot, you all have to be fair and read those works and give them fair and equal consideration, or it just proves that you’re bigoted against [our group]!
          4. Yet More Denial You people wouldn’t know good writing if it slapped you in the face! You didn’t actually read our works anyway! All those negative reviews you’ve posted are fake!
          5. Flouncing: We didn’t want your stupid worthless award anyway, you people are (choose one or more, as appropriate) [SJWs / virtue-signallers / indie-haters / cucks], and your award and your organization are dying and will be dead by next week! We’re going to create our own really fabulous award which will recognize what’s actually GOOD!

          Liked by 4 people

          • JJ, you forgot the other 5th: “Second Flounce” (“Ha ha! I just had to toy with you all some more! I’m really gone now, though I’ll check back every five minutes to see if anyone has responded to this, which I need hardly add, proves my point!”)

            Liked by 1 person

      • Well the revelation of the publisher behind the whole thing certainly changes the perspective. But I do think we are dealing with a way more varied stretch of authors in this thing. Some of them seem more bewildered than kerfluffling and fairly tentative. And then there’s Mr. Fox. 🙂


  15. […] To recap, this year’s Nebula ballot contained an unusual number of indie finalists (six in all fiction categories except for Best Novel), which in itself wouldn’t be that surprising, since the SFWA opened its membership to indie writers some time ago. A bit more surprising was that five of those six finalists were action heavy space opera or straight military SF of the “pew pew” type, i.e. not the sort of works that the Nebula electorate normally goes for. And upon closer examination, it turned out that all of the six indie finalists are members of a group called 20Booksto50K (for more explanation, see the previous posts). Camestros Felapton dug into the group and unearthed a recommendation list that is in the grey area to a slate. […]


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