The Business of Science Fiction: Two Insiders Discuss Writing and Publishing
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Two prolific and award-winning science fiction writers, Mike Resnick and Barry N. Malzberg, have been publishing a "Dialogue" in every issue of the SFWA Bulletin, official publication of the Science Fiction Writers of America, for more than a decade. These collected columns explore every aspect of the literary genre, from writing to marketing to publishing, combining wit and insight with decades of experience in 25 topics.
gullible your editor and publisher are, the answer is still a resounding No. Short ﬁction? Well, that’s a different ball game. For years the digests sent copies of all nominated stories to the voters; then came the internet, and now Asimov’s and Analog post them on their web page. (I don’t remember if F&SF does.) But that’s all after the fact; no one’s posting every story that was published during the year so the voters can read it for free. So you’re looking at sending out 1,200 copies of a
possible to live the illusion for a little while that Science Fiction Rules The World. (Rumsfeld and Spielberg probably feel that way all the time.) My own experience with conventions is obviously atypical of most professional writers and hardly functions as a working model. I don’t particularly like them, I don’t do much business there (above I mentioned sales initiated at the Boston and Baltimore World Conventions but these constitute the only business or pre-business I have ever contracted at
nice idea but a totally unsalable story. In fact, he has a lot of unsalable stories. In truth, he’s not a very good writer or a 102 1 : WRITING AND SELLING very frequent seller. But his friend Writer B is both, and agrees to take one of Writer A’s horribly-mishandled concepts, rewrite it from scratch, and sell it to one of his regular markets. He may call it a collaboration out of friendship, but clearly he did almost all of the ﬁnal draft, and indeed it sold only because of his literary
Westerns never had to compete with her science ﬁction.) Sladek, a wonderful writer with great ambition, faded out of print due to collapsing sales and was pretty well undone by the 1970s. He published little in the last two decades of his sadly abbreviated life (1937–1999). Sladek wrote mysteries, he wrote science ﬁction, he wrote mainstream novels, he stubbornly or bravely maintained his name through all of this and 138 2 : THE BUSINESS his audience, such as it was, utterly fractured. He was
force might take that kind of chance, no small press will. If the publisher wants to stay in business, he’ll place a few copies with Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com and let it go at that. He can’t afford a multi-thousand-copy print run; that’s why he’s POD. So what does all this mean? First, that the newcomer who places his novel with a POD small press will earn far less than a substandard ﬁrst novel advance from any mass market publisher. Second, most people, seeing the novel, will assume,