Monthly Archives: June 2011

Copyright Agency Limited releases results from digital publishing trends survey

June 30, 2011

The full article is here but I thought I’d pick out the key points and comment on them as it makes for interesting reading. And you know how I like to comment on stuff. CAL conducted a survey of members to learn more about their views of, and experiences with digital publishing in Australia. Over 2,000 CAL members responded, making this survey the largest of its kind in the Australian publishing environment. The survey was sent to all CAL members, ranging from international publishers to self-published authors, asking about their digital experiences and thoughts on the future.

Here are the key findings, in bold, with my comments after:

Both authors and publishers think the benefits of digital publishing far outweigh any of the downsides

I think this is a given now. There are very few people left, I think, who see digital publishing as a problem.

Around half of all authors and publishers create digital products

This surprised me – I thought it would be more by now. But more on that lower down.

The majority of publishers are still developing their digital strategies

This is not really a problem, but I see it more as a reaction to a rapidly changing environment. I think publishers will be constantly developing their digital strategies to keep up. It’s not something that will settle for a long time yet.

Only 15% of publishers have a competitively differentiating digital strategy

This is a problem. Digital needs to be seen as something different to the standard, existing print model of publishing and has to be treated differently. Publishers are already being left behind due to a resistance to accept this change and the longer they prevaricate, the harder it will be to catch up. Which they will inevitably have to do.

To date, 26% of publishers have no digital strategy at all

This is astounding! Just over a quarter? This is fiddling while Rome burns. It’s playing bowls while the Spanish Armada hoves into view. It’s foolish in the extreme to simply ignore the digital publishing revolution. Whether you like it or not, it is happening. It’s going to continue happening. It’s not a passing fad. There will be paper books and traditional publishing for a long time yet, but e-publishing is racing to catch up and will be rolling alongside as completely mainstream very soon.

To digress slightly, there seems to be a large proprotion of people that ask: Are you into paper books or ebooks? It’s not an either/or situation. I regularly buy both. I enjoy both. The vast majority of readers will be the same. But there are a lot of things now that I’ll buy as an ebook that I would never have bothered with in print – for cost, storage and ease of reading reasons – which makes the combination of print and digital far better than simply one or the other. Videos didn’t kill cinema, television didn’t kill radio. Ebooks won’t kill print publishing. But to completely ignore the rise of digital and have no strategy for it as a publisher is idiotic.

Digital publishing currently contributes less than 5% to the income of most authors and publishers – however, around 10% of authors and 14% of publishers currently make more than half their income from digital publishing

These are slightly rubber stats, but interesting nonetheless. Overall, the 5% figure stands, but that will be growing and will continue to grow until it is a much larger number. I’d say the authors and publishers making more than half their income from digital are the self-published, indie publishers and small press. And they will continue to grow in number as well. The digital options now make self-, indie- and small press publishing far more viable options than they ever were before and that’s very exciting.

Lower costs and improved access to markets are the greatest benefits for authors and publishers alike

See above.

Technical expertise, market dominance of multinationals and piracy are the three concerns shared by authors and publishers

This is no real surprise and is always going to be the case. Keeping up with technology and feeling the pressure from the “big guys” is a concern in all forms of business. From the corner store threatened by the massive super mall, to the indie music label threatened by the big labels, to the cottage industry threatened by the conglomerates. It’s always a battle in a capitalist environment. And piracy is something that affects all creative industries – film, music, television and publishing. Hell, I remember borrowing my friend’s Dungeons & Dragons rule books and spending hours photocopying them in the school library, because I couldn’t afford to buy my own.

But remember – the only thing worse than piracy is obscurity. It’s not going anywhere and we have to accept it as part of the digital landscape.

Low-level technical skills are the most significant barrier to market entry

I think this is more a fear than a reality. Anyone who suggested this has probably not tried to publish digitally because they think they won’t be able to. It’s actually bloody easy, and getting easier all the time.

Authors and publishers share some common views in relation to e-book royalties

Well, that’s good. We need to see the explanation to understand this point. So, from the original article:

Even in the contentious area of e-book royalties, authors and publishers shared some common views. No doubt there was some divergence of opinion, but the differences were by no means extreme. Similar numbers of authors and publishers (16.9 and 17.8%, respectively) thought e-book royalties should be set in the range of 11-20% of net receipts. Another 16% of authors and 13% of publishers thought that range should be 21-30%. Unsurprisingly a large cluster of authors (16.3%) felt the range should be 41-50% (whereas only 4% of publishers agreed). Interestingly, only 14.3% of authors felt the royalty should be 51% or greater. It should also be noted that when asked about the topic of ebook royalties, there was a significant proportion of both authors (24.3%) and publishers (38.8%) who chose not to express an opinion.

I think you’ll also find that a lot of authors are seriously considering retaining their e-rights and self-publishing their digital catalogue, so the percentage of royalties to a publisher becomes moot. But, speaking personally, if my publisher will cover all the technical aspects of design, layout, editing and so on, and leave me to write, I’m happy to split the royalties, just like regular publishing. Percentages will vary a lot, as they already do with print.

2/3 of CAL members believe that digital sales will eventually overtake print for the Australian publishing industry as a whole

And I agree with them. As I’ve said many times before, print will not die, but it will become boutique to some degree. Plus, does Print On Demand count as digital or print? Because the vast majority of paperback sales are likely to be POD before too long, in my opinion.

Of all the 2,090 CAL members surveyed, almost 19% own an iPad and over 12% own a Kindle

Given the supposed resistance to the rise of digital publishing, these are very revealing figures. There are also a lot of other ways to read ebooks and I don’t know if those were covered. It’s happening and only a handful of grumpy old bastards are really complaining.

These are exciting times and we should be enjoying the greatest change in publishing since the invention of the Gutenberg press!

Go to the original article on the CAL site and have a read. Especially check out the italicised comments at the end. So, what do you think?


A short a day – my plan

June 28, 2011

Benjamin Solah mentioned this on Twitter and the original idea came to him from Jodi Cleghorn. The idea is that a person makes time to read (at least) one short story every day. This appeals to me for many reasons.

I love short fiction, as I’ve mentioned here several times before. I love reading it and writing it. I’ve got loads of anthologies and magazines piled up all over the place and I try to dip into them as often as possible. Some are books that I have a story in and I’ve got a contributor’s copy. Others are anthologies or single author collections I’ve bought because the theme or writer appeals to me, maybe it’s someone I know and so on. Then there are all the magazines, in print and online, that I enjoy. So I read a lot of short stories.

When I read a good book, I try to review it here, and on Amazon and Goodreads. I posted on that very subject recently. Sometimes that will be a review of an anthology or single author collection. But too often, the short stories I read go by unmentioned. When I saw this “A Short A Day” idea, it occurred to me that I could use it to draw attention to short stories with the same kind of reviewing I do for books. I’m not really a reviewer, as such, but I do think it’s important for people to spread the word about stuff they enjoy. Why not apply that to short fiction too? It only takes ten or fifteen minutes to read a short story and surely we can all find that much time in our day to have a break and read.

So, here’s the plan. I’ll be reading at least one short story every day and I’ll try to keep a note of them all. Every week or so, I’ll post here with a list of the things I’ve read and I’ll review some of the ones that really moved me. With any luck that will help other lovers of short fiction out there find stories and authors they might otherwise have missed.

I’m posting now to put it in permanent ink that I plan to do this and hopefully that will help me see it through. If I slack off on the concept, be sure to give me a virtual kick up the arse about it.


Christians upset about Muslim billboard

June 28, 2011

I know, those crazy Christians are always upset about something. For that matter, so are the Muslims. Let’s be honest, the religious of any persuasion have always got something to moan about. But it’s been a while since I lampooned a bit of religious idoicy here on The Word and when I saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald, I knew I had to comment.

In a nutshell, an awareness campaign by Islamic group MyPeace has resulted in some billboards going up to try to point out that Muslims really aren’t so different to Christians, or anyone else for that matter. Of course, they’re just people like all of us. The religious, regardless of persuasion, are all far more alike than many of them will ever be comfortable admitting. If nothing else, they share a large portion of willfull ignorance. And, that one foible aside, they’re no different to anyone else. But I digress.

One of these awareness billboards says: JESUS: A PROPHET OF ISLAM. And there’s a number and a website.

Some Christians are upset because it demotes Jesus from the son of god to a mere prophet and thereby injures their delicate religious sensibilities. And here’s where the relevance to this blog comes in – I can turn anything I find interesting into a debate on words, language and storytelling after all. The Muslims in question are trying to point out that they revere Jesus too, just not in the same way. Meanwhile, the Christians are upset that the status of Jesus is not being recognised. What we have here are two fantasy epics warring about who has the better angle on truth, when, in fact, neither of them have anything even vaguely resembling proof. Ah, religious tolerance – what’s that then? Some of the quotes really made me laugh.

One complainant said that Jesus “must not be associated with such [an] aggressive religion”. Oh, the irony! She burns!

Here’s my favourite:

“What [my child] knows of Islam she has learnt from watching mainstream news broadcasts and to have her saviour identified as being part of this malicious cult was very traumatic!”

Your child told you that, did she? After a considered exploration of available religions and a decision to be Christian? Or did you just tell your kid that’s what she thought?

Anyway, a complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Bureau and, thankfully, common sense prevailed:

”such a statement does not, of itself, discriminate against or vilify people who hold different beliefs… The board acknowledged that the Islam faith does consider that Jesus is a prophet of Mohammed… and that it is not unreasonable for children to be exposed to a variety of information in their daily lives, some of which may conflict with the views with which they are raised”.

No shit, Sherlock. We can be thankful for that decision, at least.

MyPeace founder Diaa Mohamed said, ”[The advertisement] conveys the message that, like Christians, we the Muslims also regard Jesus with extreme reverence. The idea being that the people will see beyond the words in the advertisements and recognise that Islam and Muslims are not much different from any other ordinary Australian.”

Which you’d think was quite fair enough. I wonder if he would be equally magnaminous if the Christians put up billboards all over town saying, “Mohammad is not a prophet of god and the only way to heaven is through Jesus.” The Muslims would be fine with that, right?

These kind of things give me so much fuel for characterisation and plot in fiction. People really are fascinating creatures. Or, to put it another way, as my old Grandad used to say, “There’s nought so strange as folk.”


ThrillerCast Episode 20 – Books You Want to Be Buried With

June 27, 2011

thrillercastIn this episode, we talk about which books are so important that you can’t even die without them, let alone live without them.

Many people gave us their answer and we have a chat about several of the selections, so have a listen and see who says what. Some pretty interesting answers crop up. Plus, we have one special guest who rings in on the subject- Justin Macumber, one of the hosts of the Dead Robots Society Podcast!

We won’t list the other guests or books here, so not much in the way of show notes for this one, but we do end up discussing a broad range of awesome books, some in detail. Enjoy!

Get the episode here.


Game changer – J K Rowling, Pottermore and ebooks without a publisher

June 24, 2011

The internet has been abuzz lately since mega-billionaire-super-author, J K Rowling (of Harry Potter fame, in case you’ve been a monk in a cave for more than ten years) announced Pottermore. In a nutshell, it goes like this:

After seven books and eight films and more merchandising than you can fit in George Lucas’s ego, Rowling has now announced a website which will be a complete interactive experience for all ages based on her stories. Along with that she’s announced that for the first time ebook editions of the Harry Potter series will be made available. Well, legal ebook editions that is. Rowling truly is the master at monetising her ideas and characters, having turned some books about wizards at school into an international behemoth across all media.

With Pottermore, as the press release says:

For this groundbreaking collaborative project, J.K. Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects in the much-loved stories, which will inform, inspire and entertain readers as they journey through the storylines of the books. Pottermore will later incorporate an online shop where people can purchase exclusively the long-awaited Harry Potter eBooks, in partnership with J K Rowling’s publishers worldwide, and is ultimately intended to become an online reading experience, extending the relevance of Harry Potter to new generations of readers, while still appealing to existing fans.

It’s a pretty inspired concept. Of course, Rowling with her riches and business partners is the kind of author with the kind of clout you’d need to make something like this happen.

The real game changer among all this, however, despite the partnership comment above, is that the ebooks will be essentially self-published. Her publishers, Bloomsbury, Scholastic, etc., don’t own the eletronic rights – and I bet they’re really happy about that. So Rowling is planning to make the ebooks available directly through Pottmore. Of course, when Rowling self-publishes, she’s has a team of people behind her and her own company on the case, so it’s not like she sits there on her own and uploads files to Amazon. But the key here is the lack of a third-party publisher.

The Kindle will accept epub format ebooks soon and the announcement that the Harry Potter ebooks will be available from October seems to fit in with that, so it’s likely the books will be in epub. That certainly does seem to be the prominent format and, aside from Amazon’s mobi format, has been the industry leader all along. Once the Kindle accepts epub too, we have the first stage of industry standardisation and that’s a good thing for all of us. Perhaps we have Rowling to thank in part for forcing that change – who knows who talked to who while this was getting off the ground.

Authors leveraging their existing print success to manage their own ebook releases is nothing new – just see J A Konrath’s example for one. But nothing on this scale has happened before and we can see things shifting a little more on the axis. I’ve said it before – we’re living in exciting times in writing and publishing and the ride ain’t over yet. I wonder how many kids will get an ereader with a set of Harry Potter books on board for Xmas this year? This will be a big step in mainstreaming ereaders, which are becoming more and more mainstream anyway. On a recent flight to Melbourne I noticed several people reading from Kindles and Sony Readers while waiting for my plane.

The kind of cross-media storytelling and promotion which Pottermore represents is certainly not new, but we’ve seen nothing on this scale before. Just the official announcement video is better than any book trailer a lowly author like myself could hope for. I wonder where we go from here?

Here’s the official release video from Rowling herself:

And here’s the Pottermore site.

Interesting times indeed. What do you think? Is this a good thing or not? Where do things go from here?


So you don’t understand Twitter?

June 22, 2011

I really love Twitter and find it one of the most useful social networks I use. But I regularly get people saying to me things like, “What’s the point of Twitter? I think it’s stupid. I don’t get it.” And therein lie two different things. Asking what it is and saying you don’t understand it is like saying, “What’s the point of French? I don’t understand it.” Well, if you learned French, you’d understand it and find it really useful. Especially in France. So I always try to explain what Twitter is, as that seems to be the best starting point. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.

Half the trouble when new people come to Twitter is figuring out what it really does. And when people like me, absolute Twitter converts, have trouble explaining it, you can see why a lot of people give up on the whole idea. So I was driven to figure out a decent, clear, concise description. Here it is:

So what is Twitter?

Over time, with a bit of effort, Twitter becomes a self-curated news feed of information, gossip and conversation that you’re personally interested in, with all the noise you don’t care about filtered out.

If people are still interested after that, we can spend a bit more time explaining it. Notice that I open with, “Over time, with a bit of effort”. This is a fundamental point. You can’t just go to Twitter, look at the thing and expect to understand it and benefit in any way. It doesn’t take much time and effort to get started, but it takes some.

You start by setting up an account. Once you have an account I highly recommend a third party Twitter application. I use Tweetdeck, because I can sort my feed into columns and keep much better track of things that way. Using Twitter directly from the Twitter site is messy. Also, I have Tweetdeck for iPhone, so I can tweet and read tweets wherever I am. Once you have an account, you must fill in your bio and pic, then you can start to tweet things, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Getting the most out of Twitter is all about following the right people. Whenever someone you follow posts a tweet, it will appear in your news feed. So don’t follow people who don’t interest you – only follow people who you think might say stuff you care about. Initially you can do a few searches with keywords. For example, you can search for things like:

science fiction
dark fantasy
martial arts
kung fu

The list above is an example of the kind of things I’m most interested in. Those are the sort of searches I started with. When people cropped up with those things mentioned in their tweets or their bio, I followed them. If they tweeted interesting things I would reply to them, maybe retweet them to share what I found interesting with people who follow me. If they were boring or inactive, or just on a hard sell, I’d stop following them.

Once you’re following a few people you’ll start to see who they follow. It’s a fair bet you’ll all have shared areas of interest, so follow some of their friends. The hashtag #ff or #followfriday is useful for this. It’s when people list all the people they follow who they think their followers might enjoy. So check out some of those people too.

You see how this is taking a bit of time and effort? It doesn’t have to be much. You can have a search and follow a handful of new people a day. Before long you’ll start to have a very busy news feed. And a lot of those people will start to follow you back. You’ll start to interact with them and away you go.

What do I post?

So, let’s get to what you post. First, you absolutely must fill in your bio and add a picture. Twitter is all about interaction and sharing, so you have to tell people something to help them decide if they’re interested in you. Here’s my Twitter bio:

Alan is an author from NSW, Australia. He writes dark fantasy, sci-fi & horror, rides a motorcycle and loves his dog. He also teaches Kung Fu.

It’s concise, as it has to be in the restricted world of Twitter, but says plenty about me. It says what I do, what I like and where I’m from. That’s enough to start with. After that, people will read my tweets and continue to follow if I interest them. So what do I tweet? Everything!

I tweet interesting or funny things that happen to me or that I notice.

I tweet about writing projects, progress on them, ups and downs of publishing.

I tweet about my dog and cats and regularly tweet photos.

That’s all the chit chat stuff. I also share all the links that I find interesting. And here lies the real power of Twitter. On the one hand I interact with people and have a chat and a laugh. On the other, I share information I find interesting. I also find stuff that the people I follow post. If I really like it, I’ll retweet it and share it around some more. Interesting blog posts, news articles, submission calls, new releases, movie reviews – you name it, if it’s interesting, I’ll post the link. That way my followers can see the tweet, which might say something like: Great review of the new X-Men movie , and they can choose to go and read that review or not. If you spend a bit of time reading the tweets of others you’ll soon get the idea.

This is where it becomes a self-curated news feed. I only follow people who interest me, so they’re likely to post links I’m interested in. In the reverse, my followers are likely to be interested in the links I post. There are Twitter users posting links to pony club announcements and Barbie Doll parties (whatever the hell they might be), but I don’t know about it because I don’t follow those people. The folks interested in ponies and Barbie Dolls follow them. See how it works?

I get most of my news from Twitter now, as I follow the BBC, ABC, Reuters and a few others. They post headlines and links and I’ll read the stories that catch my eye. If people’s tweets start to bore me, I’ll stop following them. I’m always following new people who strike me as interesting. And you have to accept that most of what happens on Twitter you’ll miss. Just get used to only seeing the tweets that happen to go by while you’re actually checking Twitter and let the rest slide. All the really good stuff comes around again in retweets anyway.

Finally, here’s a few things not to do:

Don’t just promote yourself – I’ll often talk about my writing and occasionally promote it and ask people to buy my books in one way or another, but very infrequently. I want at least 10 tweets about other stuff to every 1 tweet about myself, and a much bigger ratio when it comes to actually pushing my stuff. It’s not about selling yourself – it’s about being yourself. If you’re interesting, people will check out what you do.

Don’t just vomit minutiae constantly – If you have a really good breakfast, sure, tell us about it. But we don’t care about what you have every day.

Don’t spam people – Just chill and interact, all casual-like.

Here’s a golden Twitter rule:

Will this tweet entertain or inform my followers in any way?

Ask yourself that question before every tweet and don’t post if the answer is no. Of course, a lot of people are pretty poor at judging that stuff and think they’re a lot more interesting than they really are, but we’ll let natural filtration take care of them.

Here I am – follow me if you think I’m interesting: @AlanBaxter

What about you? Do you tweet? Feel free to offer your tweeting advice in the comments.


ThrillerCast episode 19 – Reading & Writing

June 22, 2011

thrillercastThe latest episode of ThrillerCast is now available. In this episode we talk about our Parsec Award nominations, fiction podcasts, I review The Intruders by Michael Marshall, David reviews C J West’s The End Of Marking Time, then we go on to discuss the importance of reading for a writer and what kind of influence our reading has on our writing. It’s thirty minutes of interesting stuff, so go get it now and have a listen. As ever, we’re happy to get feedback – you can comment on the ThrillerCast blog or email us. If you want to join in on the podcast and review a good book you’ve read, drop us a line.

All the details and episodes can be found here:


X-Men: First Class – review

June 19, 2011

X-MenI’ve been getting a bit tired of the X-Men movie franchise. You may remember how disappointed I was with the Wolverine movie. So I went into this one with some trepidation, but also a secret hope that it would be good. After all, it’s directed by Matthew Vaughn, who previously directed Layer Cake, Stardust and Kick-Ass, so we have good reason to expect quality from him. And I wasn’t disappointed. X-Men: First Class was absolutely brilliant.

It’s a genesis story and tells us how the whole X-Men thing began. In essence, it’s really a Magneto story, focussing more on what made Erik Lehnsherr into Magneto than anything else, but it manages to be so much more than that. It touches on how the mutants are the children of the nuclear age and not an aberration but the evolution of humanity, thereby setting the stage for the stand-off between humans and mutants that we’ve seen in the other films.

Charles Xavier, excellently played by James McAvoy, discovers Raven (Mystique), played by Jennifer Lawrence, when they’re children. They realise they’re not alone in their weirdness and thus begins Xavier’s interest in genetics which leads him to become a professor. He’s a genius and a telepath and, through a few connections with the CIA, begins to gather other mutants together. He shows them they’re not alone and gives them a safe place and a purpose. I’m deliberately skipping a MASSIVE chunk of the story here, as it’s far better experienced through the film.

Alongside this story we see Erik Lehnsherr, forced through horrible methods by Kevin Bacon’s Sebastian Shaw, to embrace his own mutant powers, and there the seed of his genesis is planted. It turns out that Shaw is up to no good in a massive way and is trying to trigger a nuclear war. In this way the film manages to weave the plot of the mutants into the real world history of the Cuban missile crisis and it does a superb job of that. If you’re a serious history buff you might have trouble with some of the liberties taken with events surrounding the Cuban missile crisis. To this I would point out that there aren’t really mutant people with incredible super powers, so if you can suspend that disbelief and accept a young man who flies by screaming at the ground, you can let a bit of alternate history go.

The film is set in 1962 and the faith to the era and environment is really well done. The performances are top notch. I’ve already mentioned that James McAvoy was excellent as Xavier. Other stand-outs are Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique and Nicholas Hoult as Hank McCoy/Beast. Kevin Bacon is excellent as Shaw and creates in that character a very convincing bad guy. But the entire film is stolen by Michael Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto. His performance is true brilliance.

The film largely focusses on Magneto’s genesis, and an integral part of that is the friendship between Xavier and Lehnsherr and how that grows and then fractures. The film does a great job of exploring that dynamic. Some of the best scenes in the film are conversations between Xavier and Magneto, which is some going for an action flick.

The political backdrop of the missile crisis provides an excellent crucible for the bigger issues explored by this film. Always the X-Men have been about accepting difference and this film is no exception. This is particularly well explored with the relationship between Mystique and Beast, with her spending all her time trying to conceal her true appearance, while he does all he can to cure his. Eventually, of course, they face the truth of who they are and make decisions based on those realisations. The film manages to get its messages across in entertaining ways, with plenty of humour thrown in and some stellar action sequences. Also, talking of humour, there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in this one that will have fans nerdgasming all over the place. It’s hilarious and brilliant. You’ll know it when you see it.

So there’s new life in the X-Men franchise and this is perhaps the best X-Men film yet. Well worth your time and money. I already want to see it again.


Real world inspiration for fantasy and horror

June 19, 2011

They say a picture says a thousand words. Which is annoying, but largely true. After all, it really depends on the picture, as some would struggle to say a sentence and others could illustrate a novel. But I digress. No great analogy stands up to close criticism. I saw some pictures today that simply blew me away and made me realise that when we’re writing genre fiction, trying to create incredible “other” worlds or horrific scenarios, it doesn’t all have to come from our imaginations. There is so much wonder in this world that we have enormous reserves of the fantastic all around us to draw on.

Below are some examples of something truly magnificent and truly terrifying. Here’s a writing exercise for you – Try to get this image convincingly conveyed in words.

(Click the images for a bigger version)

Isn’t that just incredible? That’s lightning striking above the explosion of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in south-central Chile, about 500 miles south of Santiago. According to the Mail Online, “A three-mile long fissure has opened up in the Andes as toxic gases and ash belched a cloud more than six miles high across Chile and Argentina.”

Here are a couple more pictures:

The ash cloud can be clearly seen from space and is having a massive impact in the surrounding area. Check out the apocalyptic beauty of this picture of a rose covered with volcanic ash in the Patagonian city of San Martin de los Andes, Argentina:

You want inspiration for your apocalyptic fiction? Here’s some imagery to get your brain working:

I’ve been staring in wonder at these pictures for ages this morning. This kind of activity is part of the reason that we exist on this planet, and when the Earth decides to cough this stuff up, there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. Not a fucking thing. We are specks on the face of nature and that fills me with awe.

Go to this article at the Mail Online to read more about the explosions and see more photos, including shots of the ash plume from space.


Other authors are not your enemy

June 16, 2011

I was talking recently about how important it is these days for readers to review and talk about the books they like in order to help the authors of those books have a career. I also mugged myself with an idea about making a list of all the Aussie authors who tweet. That turned out to be way more work than I thought it would, but I’m glad I did it. And I’ve been surprised by a few comments here and there from people that basically boil down to, “Why do you do so much to promote other authors? Aren’t they your competition?”

Which is a bizarre position to take. I’ve always thought of other authors as partners, not competitors. We’re all partners in this big old mess of writing and publishing. We all need to work together to keep the publishing world alive and fresh. Readers are voracious animals – they subsist on stories and get really ornery if the stories run thin. It’s not as if my promoting another author is going to result in the loss of a sale for me. Can you imagine ever reading something on my site and thinking, “Hmm, well I was going to buy RealmShift, but Alan’s convinced me I should buy this other book by this other author instead”? If anything, a reader is more likely to think, “Excellent, I’ll buy RealmShift and then I’ll go and track down this other book that Alan thinks is worth reading.”

Of course, that assumes said reader holds my opinion in any esteem, which is unlikely, but the principle of the argument is sound. Readers love books. Duh.

I wouldn’t have a fraction of the tiny career I do have without other writers. The spec fic community in Australia is particularly friendly, but in my experience writers in general are very supportive of each other. Of course, there are the dicks who think they deserve the career they have and no one else is worthy. But you get elitist fuckknuckles in every walk of life and they’re usually the scared and insecure people, terrified of being exposed as having something they don’t deserve. Which is rubbish, because they deserve everything they’ve worked for, and so do the rest of us.

Other writers have been incredibly supportive of me, from when I was first starting out, wandering around an SF convention like a startled rabbit, wondering just how the hell I was supposed to find my way in this bizarre world. I’ve subsequently done all I can to embrace and encourage other emerging writers and help them to get a start in any way I can. Hell, I’m still an emerging writer myself! I don’t have any great career upon which to rest my laurels. I’m paying it forward and back and intend to continue doing so until I’m bigger than Gaiman. Which I will be, of course. Aim for the stars and all that – if I don’t dream big, how can I ever expect to succeed at all? And regardless of how successful I may or may not get, I’ll still keep doing what I’m doing, and talk about the other writers out there who I believe in. I don’t want to ever look down from my own success on other writers, or ever think that other writers are in any way my enemy.

So don’t think of other authors as your competition if you’re a writer. If you’re a reader, don’t think you need to be faithful to a particular handful of authors – you’re doing no harm by promoting everything you like. There’s loads to go around and we all need all the help we can get, so it’s only reasonable that we help each other too.



The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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