Day confirms the Castalia retreat

I suggested a few days ago that it looked like the far-right publishing house Castalia had stopped publishing new science fiction. There was not an immediate reaction from Vox Day, the white nationalist behind the publisher. However on his blog [archive link] today he more-or-less confirms what was apparent:

“In light of the changes in the ebook market and our retreat from the Kindle Unlimited space, we’ve been making some strategic changes at Arkhaven and Castalia House. Now that we’ve successfully entered the video space, we’re concentrating our efforts on our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties, primarily because we don’t have the bandwidth to devote to everything.

This is why we’ve returned the publishing rights to their books to a number of our authors, although we continue to support them and their self-publishing efforts, and why we have methodically reduced the number of books that we are publishing. Our sales remain strong, which tends to indicate that our revised approach is a viable one.”

So what does Day mean be ‘our strongest fiction and non-fiction properties’. There are some clues.

  • We know John C Wright has at least partially been dropped or moved on.
  • We know that the core of this announcement was shifting what comic would be provided to people who had pledged to a crowd funding campaign. Day is shifting from a story by Rolf Nelson to an adaptation of one of his own books.
  • In a comment Day says: “And given some of the lessons we’ve learned, we are no longer going to push IP that we do not control into other media.” What IP does Day control? What he writes himself.

The problem with being a publishing house is you have to deal with two groups of people best avoided in business: writers and readers. Castalia’s business model also includes a third: Amazon. It sounds like Day has problems with all three. As part of the same comment I quoted above he says:

“Publishers are in a trap of sorts. If a book doesn’t sell well, the author thinks he should have self-published. If the book sells really well, the author thinks he should have self-published.”

Castalia was offering very little: minimal editing, very variable cover design and a brand name that was appealing only to a very narrow and ideologically defined base. Since 2014, the technological knowledge needed to self-publish on Amazon has become more broadly understood by authors in general. It’s still weird but there is plenty of free advice available and also mini-publishing outfits willing to provide the relevant services for better return than Castalia and without the associated stigma.


33 thoughts on “Day confirms the Castalia retreat

    1. Yup, it’s bored of music my thing is video games, bored of video games my thing is journalism, bored of journalism I’m a sci-fi writer, bored of being a writer I’m a book publisher, bored of books I’m into comics now, bored of comics I’m a movie producer. He doesn’t know if he’s Toad of Toad Hall or Mr Ben

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s not quite linear. When he was a publisher, he was also doing video games. (He was doing some sort of gladiator game in the middle of the Rabid Puppies.) Somewhere in there he was a chip designer and a game hardware manufacturer. (Was it War Mouse?) In some ways you have to give him credit for having so much confidence in his ability to recreate himself and to convince others to go along on his latest field trip.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Beale uses magic values of success that don’t match those we “plebians” use.

      Yes, that’s how he thinks you spell it.

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  1. “minimal editing” is being very generous
    “variable cover art” running the whole range from merely mediocre to absolutely atrocious

    The one bonus to publishing with Castalia is that it comes with a baked in audience of idiots who’ll give Ted money for virtually anything, but you’d probably still be better off avoiding that market which alienates virtually anyone outside of the alt-right, and quite a lot of people within it.

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      1. I expect that’s true as well. Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general is a game of diminishing returns when people catch onto your grift.

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      2. To be fair to Vox (!) he appears to have done better in delivering on the comics crowdfunded rewards than other ComicsGaters but it is notable that he’s had to change plans on this one and is complaining that he’ll be out of pocket.

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      3. Technically Beale isn’t a Comicsgator, remember. He got kicked out because he tried to claim the whole brand for himself, take over the campaign like he did the Puppies. This upset the rest of them.

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      4. The product is real enough but the marketing is still the same old grift – buy THING and support CAUSE and OWN THE LIBS! We’ll bring down IMPOSSIBLY SUCCESSFUL MEGACORP with these few thousand dollars!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. And again, to give Beale all the credit he deserves, he actually believes that bullshit while he’s saying it. He really does think when he starts out that THIS TIME it’s going to work, and he’s going to get the success he is “owed”. Which considering that the projects are always lazy, cargo cult style stuff cludged together with little thought to craft, is pretty much what happens, not that he realizes that. And so, as epic success invariably fails to materialize, he gets bored and the project joins the dead list, even as Beale declares that once again, everything goes according to plan.

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      6. Space Oddity:

        Oh I don’t think that Beale does believe it at all when he starts a project. He starts these projects to move up in the right wing media/political sphere, to be seen as important and an influencer and a pundit in them. Once a project gets him as far as it gets him, he dumps it and moves on to the next project and area that might make him appear to be a bigger cheese to the people he wants to be a big cheese with. It’s not enough to have money, because a lot of them have money; he has to be able to command a lot of people for harassment or protests, etc., and have media interview him and so on.

        The Puppies stuff was a way for him to get higher with Breibart/the alt right astroturfing that was going on then and it did give him some pump up, but written fiction is just not an area they care that much about, so he’s moved on to various other “projects.” He’s chasing “culture wars” and he tried to get in, somewhat successfully, on the outrage over Google lawsuits stuff. The comics war was small stuff, mostly related to the Marvel movies and comics collectors who are upset that market collapsed, and he overreached and got into a slapfight with other people trying to run Comicsgate. The movie stuff — mostly aimed at Disney but in general — is an area that has increasingly come into prominence since The Force Awakens debuted and we’re in the middle of streaming entertainment developing the same way cable channels did in the 1990’s. It’s a more expensive area, but logical for him to go into next.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Kat Goodwin: I will respectfully disagree with you on that for a simple reason–Beale doesn’t just take the money and run, he actually makes a product. True, it’s invariably a shitty, half-assed product, but it’s something. That, to my mind, doesn’t suggest a man who’s just scamming the marks–that suggests a man who genuinely believes his own hype. Mind you, I don’t disagree that a large part of his motives for each move is him chasing after a greater profile–I just believe he isn’t the pure con artist you paint here.

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      8. No, you misunderstand me, SO. I’m not saying he’s a con artist in it for money. My understanding is that he’s well off and doesn’t need the money. It’s not money he’s after, but status in certain specific circles — right-wing media and right-wing political groups/networks. He wants to move up in the system as a figure of authority and attention. Putting out products is a means to an end and once he takes that as far as it goes, he puts out more products in another area. Making money is secondary to personal political goals he seems to have and sometimes talks about. Witness his anger towards Patterson, who he saw as an interloper who got popular and prominent very quickly.

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      9. Kat/SO

        I agree he’s after status. I don’t think he himself is fully conscious of it though. He does something and rationalizes it to himself. Then it fails. Then he does it again. That’s WHY he does it again – because he’s not capable of recognizing the underlying problems with what he’s trying to do, or of admitting his underlying motivations to himself. The number of times he’s said he’s not a leader, doesn’t want to be a leader, doesn’t want credit, etc etc – when everything he DOES demonstrates the exact opposite.

        The more I look at the overall track record the more the Puppies look like one of the most complete and total own-goals in any political contest. He didn’t shift the Overton window, he didn’t make the style of fiction he prefers more common in SF/F, he didn’t tilt the social institutions of the field a bit more in his direction – instead he motivated the people who most dislike him to put forth a maximum of effort to shift things in their preferred direction and to increase their influence over the field. Which then happened. He handed them a completely unexpected and avoidable win (prior to the Puppies, was anybody consciously planning on making the Hugos into a great battle of the culture wars? I doubt it), and got absolutely nothing in return.

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      10. KMP:

        Oh no, Beale got quite a lot out of the Puppies. The goal doesn’t seem to have really been doing anything to SFF except some disruption; it was raising his status with the right-wing. He got higher in the GamerGater/Breibart arena, bringing them in to do another culture war campaign, got to hang out with Milo in his heyday and Michael Cernovich from it. Business Insider called him a leader of the alt right and quoted him in their article on the Damore case. His Infogalactic might be a complete bust as a wiki rip-off, but when he launched it, he got coverage in publications like the Washington Post and Wired as doing a major thing for the alt right. That’s currency with right wing media and groups/networks.

        Beale’s big problem is that he can’t travel back to the U.S. and I gather from folks like Cora that the European far right is a bit harder to break into. So that has limited him, but he did use the Puppies to raise his profile in the political and media areas in which he wanted to raise it. The Comicsgate efforts seem to be trying to capitalize on that in the same way but half-backfired.

        It doesn’t really matter if any of these enterprises fails as long as they give him more exposure and shows he can get attention for the right. That isn’t to say that Beale is a big cheese on the right or that he doesn’t hold grudges, but he did use the Puppies to move up a notch.

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  2. On a quick Amazon check, I still see Castalia titles by the following titles in either Kindle or Audible Audiobook format or both (in addition to paperback and hardcover in some cases): Martin van Creveld, Jon Mollison, Milo Yiannopoulos, David the Good, William S. Lind, Gregory A. Thiele, Jeffro Johnson, Thomas Hobbes (no, the other one), B. V. Larson, David VanDyke, Moira Greyland, Owen Stanley, Rolf Nelson, C.R. Hallpike, Peter Grant, J. Mulrooney, John C. Wright, Mojo Mori, G.D. Stark, William S. Lind, Kai Wai Cheah, Steve Keen, D Lawdog, Ivan Throne, Marc Aramini, Jerry Pournelle, Gordon R. Dickson, David Drake, Harry Turtledove, William F. Wu, Edward P. Hughes, Stefan T. Possony, Jon Del Arroz, Jean Sutton, Jeff Sutton, Jack Posobiec, Joel Rosenberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Benford, Geoffrey A. Landis, Greg Bear, James Patrick Kelly, John F. Carr, Larry Niven, Philip K. Dick, Orson Scott Card, James Blish, Jack Vance, Ben Bova, David VanDyke, Doug Beason, Mike Cernovich, Robert Silverberg, J.P. Boyd, John Brunner, Norman Spinrad, Christopher Anvil, Poul Anderson, Robert Adams, John Brunner, Anthony Marchetta, Nick Cole, James D. Miller, Chuck Dixon, P G Wodehouse, Richard Cain, Fenris Wulf, and Steve Rzasa.

    So, there’s still a bunch of Castalia authors/editors whose publishing rights haven’t so far been reverted to them (or their estates).

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      1. Right. Beale has essentially been left with his already-produced backlist, with nothing but diminishing sales to look at there, and whatever the hell he writes up in the future. It’s entropy in action.

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    1. He doesn’t really gain anything by disposing of his back catalog.

      He’s already done the work and paid any expenses for his existing back catalog. While I can’t imagine this is going to help sales, it’s not going to cost him anything to keep them on Amazon and he’ll get money from whatever sales they do generate. His web site isn’t going anywhere.

      At the same time, it would probably cost him time and/or money to release those books to their authors (depending on the contracts he had the authors sign). I personally suspect he won’t release them unless he gets paid (again depending on the contract). I haven’t taken into account physical copies of the books, but he can dispose of them if he has to pay storage costs, continue to sell them through Amazon and his web site or just sell them out of his closet.

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      1. I suspect his sales for the next year or two will resemble whatever he has now. It’s obviously not a lot or he wouldn’t be moving on to the next thing–he’d be hiring somebody else to run the book publishing end of the business.

        Long-term prospects don’t look good unless he strikes gold with a movie (which isn’t real likely).

        I’ll bet John Wright feels great about pissing off Tor for this guy.

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      2. Right. There will be a steady trickle, not least of all because there’s a very low overhead here, but this isn’t the money machine Ted thought it would be.

        As for Wright–that would require him to admit he made a mistake, so, yeah, never happening. I suspect he’s blaming phallic idols right now.

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  3. The fun thing is that not even Conicsgators are Comicsgators anymore. If I remember correctly, Ethan Van Sciver left Comicsgate a year ago over all the infighting and he was mainly see as one of the leading voices. Since then, no one well-known or “respected” is really left.

    The remaining gators mostly mill around shouting at each other. There aren’t really any campaigns or anything organized, apart from making fun of a hashtag now and then.

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    1. EVS only left Comicsgate for a hot minute. Going after the Captain Marvel movie was a big thing for him. He’s currently still putting out new fundraising campaigns for the same title that is nine months late. And when Beale tried to take the Comicsgate brand as his own, EVS and others went after Beale for poaching on their turf. Right now, there does seem to be a lot of in-fighting over whatever is left though.

      Like

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