Episode 73 – Hugos, Lawsuits, and Zombie Memes

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Question of the Week: If you were on the shortlist to get a Hugo nomination in the midst of the Sad Puppies controversy, would you have withdrawn your name? Why or why not?

Jim and Bryan started the episode by announcing their new Patreon page. By becoming a patron of the show, you can get your book mentioned on air and contribute to several awesome milestones like extra episodes and an SMBS road tour! Check out the page at https://patreon.com/smbs
During the episode proper, the sluggers of self-publishing news tackled tips on improving Dragon Dictate, selling direct, and pricing your books. News stories included the last-second acquisition of PubSlush, the closing of HarperCollins Authonomy, Ann Jacobs’ attempt to join the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit, Konrath and Eisler’s take on the “Amazon is a Monopoly” meme, Amazon’s new Also Boughts drop-down menu, and the massive Hugo Awards controversy. This week’s Question of the Week is “If you were on the shortlist to get a Hugo nomination in the midst of the Sad Puppies controversy, would you have withdrawn your name? Why or why not?”
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How to become a patron of the Sell More Books Show
  • What one author did to improve accuracy on Dragon Dictate
  • How Jane Friedman sells products directly on her site
  • The differences between selling at $0.99 and $4.99
  • Which company picked up PubSlush off the pile
  • Why HarperCollins dropped Authonomy
  • What Ann Jacobs’ motion means to the Ellora’s Cave suit
  • Why Amazon isn’t a monopoly
  • How the new Also-Boughts drop-down menu may impact sales
  • Why history may not smile on this year’s Hugo Awards
Question of the Week: If you were on the shortlist to get a Hugo nomination in the midst of the Sad Puppies controversy, would you have withdrawn your name? Why or why not?

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  • Edwin Downward

    I find this weeks question hard to get my head around. Based upon what I know about most book awards my first reaction to being nominated would be to ask what I did wrong to get noticed in the first place. I’m not certain I can place the HUGOs above the other literary awards even though it does recognise the type of writing I love the most.

    Another issue comes to mind. Though aware of a controversy, I have never been of a mind to delve too deeply into the details. Unless taken aside and taught otherwise, I wouldn’t have known the full story or had any reason to refuse my nomination.

    • Bryan

      Well, that’s why we’re here. To provide that information. Next time you get nominated for an award, you can check here first to see if it’s sketchy :).

      • Edwin Downward

        I had only just began listening to podcasts ( you were one of the first) to add value when our upcoming move resulted in a longer commute as the whole thing hit. Next time you will be at the top of the list when it comes to being informed.

        • Bryan

          Good to know. Welcome to the wonderful world of podcasts :).

  • QOTW – I might have turned it down. I think the ones who did might have felt that accepting it was tantamount to support for either the sad puppies (or the even worse puppies) OR the Social Justice Warriors on the other side. All two or three sides seemed like jerks, and took the fun out of the awards, for good or for bad.

    • Bryan

      Yeah. I totally understand trying to stay out of the argument.

  • I don’t buy the explanation in the article that you read in regards to the Hugos. The ‘Puppies’ seemed to feel that the awards were ruled by a liberal elite who value author and subject diversity and ‘literary style’ over what readers love to read. This is what they said, from what I read, whether it’s true or not would require reading all the nominations. 😉

    • Bryan

      For sure, the source I used was biased. That’s why I try to say, “according to…” in those instances :).

  • Bill Weiss

    One of the driving forces in science fiction is new blood spilling onto pages to bring new ideas and unfamiliar perspectives to a wider audience. New faces and extended diversity helps to grow interest.

    Had I been nominated and one faction sought to stifle diversity and introduction of new authors, I would have withdrawn my name in a heartbeat. I have no time for elitists or control freaks.

    • Bryan

      Agreed with the blood spilling. Thanks, Bill.

  • Disagree with the comments about winning a Hugo not affecting your sales- Librarians and Booksellers who are not fans need a shorthand way to keep track of excellence in Genres they aren’t up to speed in. I think it’s well known that Winning a Hugo, Nebula, Caldecott, Newberry etc. helps sales.

    Also the way the Hugos work is through Open Nominations. Anyone who is a member of world con submits a list of up to five nominations for each category. The committee then tallies the nominations and the top five nominations get on the ballot. So it was extremely easy for the 200-500 or so puppies to crowd everything else off the ballot. I won’t get into the actual politics or worthiness of the nominees, because that way lies madness, but a lot of the “No Awards” were a protest against the slate process itself.

    Would I have turned down the Nomination? In a heartbeat. I don’t agree either with the puppies Politics or their tactics. I also believe all the discussion about “Taking back the Hugos” and the politics was a stalking horse to cover for self-promotion and sour grapes.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, I think you’re right about Jim’s comment not being 100% accurate. Awards can definitely help sales when they’re the big ones.

      Thanks for the input!

      • John L. Monk

        I remember browsing bookstores as a teen and discovering how, for some reason, the Hugh/Nebula winning books were always “incredibly awesome.” Every time. I didn’t know anything about the publishing business, I just remember those little sticker graphics on the cover and going “totally buying that.” [edited due to sobriety]

  • Patrick Stemp

    QOTW: I’d withdraw. It would be nice to win, but I hate the politics. While I think the award positively affects sales, ultimately, the Hugos are pretty meaningless. Like everything else, they’re a question of personal taste.

    There are plenty of past winners I did not enjoy reading at all. There are others that I loved.

    Just because a book won the Hugo doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be a great read for everyone. It doesn’t mean you will like it, only that some other people did.

    I wonder how many voters have read every book in the categories they’re voting in? I’d wager that many are voting for the only one they read out of the five choices.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Patrick! Thanks :).

  • Kyle Schiebel

    During this week’s show, you discussed the question of why the conversion rate for mobile ads on Facebook might be lower than on desktop ads. I’ve wondered about this, too, and I think it may have a lot to do with how Amazon has not enabled Kindle purchases in their mobile app yet. To make a Kindle ebook purchase on Amazon, you have to use the web version. That does work on mobile, but it may not be the preferred channel for mobile users who might rather use the app instead. They may not even be logged in to the web version of Amazon on their mobile device, so when an ad sends them to an Amazon webpage, they may be reluctant to login to make a purchase; they’d rather use the app, but they can’t. This makes me wonder if it is better to focus ebook ads on desktop users instead if Amazon Kindle is your primary/only sales outlet.

    • Bryan

      Very interesting, Kyle. Hadn’t thought of that. Makes sense.

    • It’s not that they haven’t enabled it YET, but that they probably never will. Anything you buy in an app is an ‘in app purchase’ and 30% goes to apple, amazon, or google play, depending on where the app is from.

      You CAN buy in an actual Kindle, because they provide their own app. You CAN buy in ibooks on an Apple device for the same reason.

      If Apple ever releases an iBooks app for Android, most likely their will be that same two step process to buy a book to avoid Apple losing 30% of the revenue.

  • I would never be nominated in the first place, but if a miracle happened and I found myself honoured, I would have to burst into tears and withdraw. Any award should be about the craft or book, NOT politics. If I ever accepted and later learned I was a “shoe in” because of political maneuvering I’d be devastated.

    Jim, as a shareholder in the show now (patron) I DEMAND more sounders… or at least more of your guitar playing. Maybe a special guitar solo for an intro 🙂

    Mark E. Cooper

  • Taylor Coil

    Thanks for mentioning the Written Word Media article on book pricing!

    • Bryan

      You’re welcome! Also, great interview with Ricci on the Creative Penn this week. You guys are blowing up :).

  • Crissy Moss

    Yes, if a company folds the rights still belong to someone because they (the company) can sell those rights to someone else to recoup some of the costs. That’s what happened to Tess Gerritsen when she sued the makers of “Gravity.” They bought the company who owned the rights to her book, but didn’t actually pay her for making it into a movie. Then she lost the case. http://variety.com/2015/biz/news/gravity-lawsuit-warner-bros-tess-gerritsen-1201530746/

    QOTW- I wouldn’t withdraw my name because being on this list would be a little advertising, and winning or losing wouldn’t make a big difference to me.

  • therealcromar

    About the Hugos, your sources are leading you astray re: old guard/new guard, “white male” whatever, and all that nonsense. Gawker (which is unreliable at best, outright lying at worst) is making their stance for political reasons and slandering the Sad Puppies organizers by adding a bunch of stuff about race/gender/whatever to the Hugos controversy. It’s a pure fabrication.

    First, the new guard/old guard bit is actually switched. The old guard here are the editors at Tor, who have a history of excluding authors for political reasons, as well as the old self-appointed “fandom” from WorldCon. Tor is the poster child for your mahogany desk syndrome diagnosis. The Sad Puppies organizers are the upstarts trying to break the mold.

    Second, the nominees are not selected based on race or gender, and the slate is actually much more diverse than the actual winners. The women who were nominated in the slate were actually “no awarded” by the Hugo voters, at the behest of a campaign from Tor. You can read more about SP3 and the reasons why he did it on Larry Correia’s blog:


    Don’t get your information from Gawker. Go straight to the source.

    Third, the media is trying (intentionally) to conflate them with a copycat group called Rabid Puppies, run by a nutjob with a moderately popular political blog. I don’t know what books he nominated or why because I don’t follow his stuff, but the two campaigns are not related except that he ripped off the name. If you read an article that tries to put them in the same bucket without explaining what they actually are, it’s a sign the article is lying to you and should be ignored.

    The most amazing part about this mess is that the goofballs running the Hugos accidentally proved Larry Correia right by getting together and voting “no award” for all the categories that were filled with Puppy nominations. He’s been saying for years that the voting fandom, which is actually a very tiny group of WorldCon attendees, are selecting books for reasons other than quality and excluding authors based on political reasons. This year they proved him right by doing exactly that and excluding perfectly qualified editors and authors like Toni Weisskopf and Kary English for political reasons instead of quality. All of those new Hugo voters registered just so they could vote No Award as the mahogany deskers asked them to.

    I know this seems only tangentially related to self publishing and selling books, but I think it’s a valid concern because the very same traditional publishers that you guys complain about in every show are running the Hugos into the ground with this nonsense and have been for years. It’s just not a prestigious award anymore.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the input on this. It’s good to hear from both sides!

  • John L. Monk

    I’d totally sell out and take the award. Then I’d try to whip up some controversy over at the Nebula to win that one too. I’d be the Bad Boy of Sci-Fi, get in fights with paparazzi…wardrobe malfunctions…doping allegations…high speed car chases, you name it. (kidding…a little)

    • Bryan

      He’s been doping! His words are… drug-words!

  • BTW, Ellora’s Cave hasn’t folded, and the lawsuit has settled (with Ann Jacobs’s motion still hanging). And yes, the company still owns your contract after they fold as it’s an asset. One of the better guides to what happens to author contracts in bankruptcy was written by Jane Litte over on Dear Author. (yes, the defense in the EC case) http://dearauthor.com/features/letters-of-opinion/authors-rights-when-a-publisher-files-bankruptcy/ Hope this helps.