Posted by John Scalzi

My Big Idea schedule says I was supposed to run the Big Idea for Fran Wilde’s Horizon today, but I already ran it last week. Which means that I screwed up, because today is the release day. So: If you missed the Big Idea when I posted it early, here it is today. Also, congrats to Fran for the release of her third book!

Also, a small public service message: Hey, if you ever want to just see Big Idea posts, there’s a way to do that: Use the URL. It works! Try it!

Also, also: I’m sending out my final batch of October Big Idea slots today. If you sent me a request for October and have not yet heard from me, check your email accounts. If you haven’t heard from me by the end of the day, I’m all slotted out.

October Rec'cers: Volunteer Post

  • Sep. 26th, 2017 at 5:18 AM
Hey, guys, it's that time again!  This comm lives and breathes, based on our Rec'cers, so please volunteer!

This entry will be open to volunteers through September 30th.

Comment with the username you'll be using to rec and the category you want.  Choose a category from the list below or select a more rare category that has been used in the past. If you want to rec a category that is not on the list below or in Memories, please feel free to ask.  (Memories have been loaded in here at DW, so you no longer need to refer to them at LJ.)  Remember that you may volunteer for a category that isn't listed.   

By signing up, you are committing yourself to reccing at least two (preferably four) stories in that category during the month of October. September reccers may only sign up for next month after posting their minimum two recs for this month.

Please note that we are no longer asking reccers to check the Memories before choosing which stories to rec. If you have a good fic to rec, go for it! The FAQ and rec template, with detailed instructions, can be found here.

You must be a member of [community profile] stargateficrec in order to post, so if you're a new reccer, be sure to join the community.

categories below the cut )

Remember: first come, first claimed.

Check-In – Day 25

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 7:30 PM
Like a pair of comfortable house shoes, I will be with you until the end of this month. :-) What have you been doing?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Silly question: What footwear do you have when you are writing? Do you prefer to be barefoot, are you more of a bunny slippers type, etc.?

Posted by John Scalzi

There was thread over at Metafilter this week talking about book sales and author earnings, including a link to a study that purported to chart author earnings, based on sales at Amazon.  I have to admit I had a bit of a giggle over it. Not because it was attempting to guess author incomes, which is fine, but because the methodology for estimating those earnings came almost entirely from trying to estimate sales of the authors’ books on Amazon, and extrapolating income from there.

Here’s the thing: For non-self-published authors, the correlation between annual book sales and annual “earnings” as a writer can be fairly low. As in, sometimes there is no correlation at all.

Confusing? Think how we feel!

But let me explain.

So, I’m a writer who works primarily with a “Big Five” publisher (Tor Books, which is part of Macmillan). For each of my books, I’m given an advance, which in my case is paid in four separate installments — when I sign the contract, when I turn in the manuscript and it’s accepted, when the book is published in hardcover and when the book is published in paperback. This is fairly typical for most writers working with a “traditional” publisher.

Once the advance is disbursed, my publisher owes me nothing until and unless my book “earns out” — which is to say, the amount I nominally earn for the sale of each unit (usually between 10% and 15% of each hardcover, and 25% of the net for eBook) exceeds cumulatively the amount I was offered for the advance. Once that happens, my publisher owes me for each book sold, and that amount is then usually disbursed semiannually…

usually. There could be other complicating factors, such as if the royalties of the books are “basketed” (meaning the contract was for two or more books, and the royalties are not disbursed until the advance amount for every book in the “basket” is earned out), or if some percentage of the royalties are held back as a “reserve against returns” (meaning that some books listed as sold/distributed are actually returned, so the publisher holds back royalties for a payment period to compensate).

Bear in mind that most publishers try to offer as an advance a sum of money they think the book will earn, either over the first year in hardcover, or across the entire sales run of the work. Which means that if the publisher has guessed correctly, it will never have to shell out royalties. Sometimes they guess poorly, which means either they paid too much for an advance or not enough; in the latter case, that’s when the royalty checks come (please note that even if a publisher pays “too much” and the advance isn’t earned out, it doesn’t mean the book wasn’t profitable for the publisher — their bottom line is not necessarily heavily correlated to the author’s advance — nor does the author have to pay it back).

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that for a non-self-pubbed author, often none of their annual earnings from a book are directly related to how many of those books sell in a year (or any other specified time frame). In fact, depending on how the advance is paid out, three-quarters or more (even all!) of the author’s earnings from a book are disbursed before the book has sold a single unit.

Like so:

Book is contracted: 40% of the advance (“signing installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0.

Book is turned in and accepted: 20% of the advance (“delivery and acceptance installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0

Book is published in hardcover: 20% of the advance (“hardcover installment”) goes to the author. Books sold to date: 0 (there may be pre-orders, but the sales don’t usually start being counted until this time).

Book is published in paperback: Final 20% of the advance goes to author. Books sold to date: Hopefully some! But even if the number is zero, the final installment gets paid out (if so few books are sold that the publisher foregoes the paperback release, there’s still usually the contractual obligation to pay out).

Note these advances can be paid out over more than one year — I once got a final installment for an advance roughly six years after I got the first installment (it was a complicated situation). Likewise, once the book starts selling, it can be years — if at all — before the author starts earning royalties, and even then, thanks to the reserve against returns, what the author gets in those semi-annual royalty checks is not 1:1 with sales for the period the check covers (note: this sometimes works to the benefit of the author). Also note: Those semi-annual checks? Often cover a period of time located in the previous fiscal or calendar year.

All of which is to say: For a “traditionally published” author, at almost no point do what an author’s yearly earnings for a book directly correspond to how the book is selling in that particular year.

(Is this bad? No, but it needs paying attention to. Authors tend to love advances because they’re not directly tied to sales — it’s money up front that doesn’t have to be immediately recouped and can help tide the author over during the writing and the wait for publication. But it also means, again, that it can be years — if at all — before money from royalties comes your way. Authors need to be aware of that.)

To move the discussion to me directly for a moment, if someone tried to guess my annual earnings based on my yearly unit sales on Amazon (or via Bookscan, or anywhere else for that matter), they would be likely be, well, wildly wrong. At any moment I have several books at various stages of advance disbursement — some contracted, some completed but not published, some published in hardcover and some published in paperback — a few all paid out in advances but not earned out, and several earned out and paying royalties.

Add to that audio sales (another set of advances and royalties) and foreign sales (yet another) and ancillary income like film/tv options (which are not tied to sales at all, but sales help get things optioned) and so on. Also note that not all my sales provide royalties at the same rate — a lot will depend on format and how many were previously sold (if they are in print or physical audio), unit price (if they are eBook or audio files), and on other various bits that are in contracts but not necessarily disclosed to the wide world. Oh, and don’t forget my short fiction and non-fiction!

Basically, my yearly earnings as an author are a delightful mess. I’m glad I have an accountant and an agent and a very smart life partner to help me stay on top of them. These earnings have almost nothing to do with unit sales in any calendar year, and more to the point, never have, even when I was a newbie book writer with a single book contract to my name. I signed my first book contract in 1999; since then I have yet to have a year when my earnings from being an author approach anything like a 1:1 parity with my book sales in that same year.

Does this matter? Well, it matters if you are, for example, trying to extrapolate what “traditionally published authors” make based on their annual sales, and are then comparing those “earnings” to the earnings of self-published authors. It’s ignoring that these are entirely different distribution systems which have implications for annual earnings. I don’t think one is particularly better than the other, but a direct comparison will give you poor results. Note also that’s true going the other way — applying “traditional publishing” income models to self-published authors will very likely tell you incorrect things about how they’re doing economically in any one year.

(And as a further note: Do likewise be aware of the caveats for anyone trying to extrapolate self-pub/indie annual author earnings from Amazon as well. It misses direct sales, which for authors who ply the convention circuits can be significant, and also may not fully incorporate how Amazon deals with payments in its subscription models, which are handled rather differently than actual sales, and which (unless it’s changed very recently) come from a pre-determined pot of payment rather than a straight percentage of sales. Hey, it’s complicated! Almost as complicated as the “traditional” model.)

Here’s one thing I suspect is true: It’s possible to make money (sometimes a lot of it) as a traditionally published author, or as an self-published/indie author — or as both, either in turn or simultaneously, since, as it happens, there’s no deep ideological chasm between the two, and generally speaking an author can do one or the other depending on their project needs, or their own (likewise, it’s possible to make almost no money either way, too. Alas). It’s not an either-or proposition.

But yes: Here is a grain of salt. Please apply it to anyone who tells you they know how much any author (traditional or self-pub/indie, but especially traditional) is earning in any year, based on Amazon sales, even if they’re  limiting it to Amazon sales. They’re just guessing, and you have no idea how far off their guesses are. And neither, I strongly suspect, do they. Only the actual authors know, and most of the time, they’re not telling.

Faux Mongolian Beef Stir Fry

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 5:28 PM
Adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light, August 2017.

Canola/vegetable oil
12 oz flank steak, thinly sliced (I'm not sure what size mine actually was, or if it was flank steak; it was unlabeled in the freezer)
black pepper
kosher salt
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
3T soy sauce (I used the full sodium stuff)
2T rice vinegar (ours was unseasoned)
1 yellow onion, diced
1.5 Cups fresh broccoli florets
1 thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 package Uncle Ben's quinoa/brown rice mix for microwave

Heat 1T oil in large skillet over high. Sprinkle salt & pepper on steak. (If you use low-sodium soy sauce you may need more salt, ymmv.) Add steak to pan, cook 5 minutes or until browned. Remove steak from pan but don't wipe out the pan.

Add the yellow onion and a little more oil if needed and cook until tender. Add broccoli and bell pepper and more oil if needed (you might not need any though). Cover. Cook 2 minutes.

While veggies cook, mix sugar, soy sauce, and vinegar together. After the 2 minutes is up, uncover veggies and add soy mixture. Cook 6 minutes or until veggies are crisp-tender and liquid reduces by half.

Add steak, stir to mix and coat, cook 1 minute. Start Uncle Ben's rice (90 seconds in microwave).

Divide rice among 3 plates, add steak & veggies accordingly.

~ ~ ~

The original recipe said this makes 4, but we only got 3 out of it. Then again we cut the broccoli and pepper quantities by half; otoh I added an onion because I like onions.

I think next time I might add a little crushed red pepper to add some heat, and either edamame or sliced water chestnuts for some more crunch.

Mom, Dad and I all agreed that as is, this was really delicious, way better than at restaurants.


Commonly confused words: amoral and immoral

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 11:26 AM
In this week's commonly confused words, we will look at the difference between amoral and immoral. Participating in our examples will be the cast of Person of Interest )
Show: SG1
Rec Category: 5 Things
Characters: Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson, Samantha Carter, Teal'c
Categories: Multi
Warnings: One segment involves underage sex, and non-con (in the Goa'uld host sense)
Author on DW/LJ:  [personal profile] cofax7 
Author's Website: See the AO3
Link: Five Holidays That Jack O'Neill Never Celebrated on AO3
Why This Must Be Read: These stories are at times painful, always intriguing, often surprising, and really well written. In this series of might-have-beens that (sometimes thankfully) never were, Cofax gives us a mundanely flawed future instead of tragedy, worst case scenarios, and, ultimately, hope and thanksgiving. It's a great read, and thought provoking. 

snippet of fic )


Busy Weekend

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 7:47 AM
This weekend we ended up going to my husband's 40th high school reunion. It was a lot of driving and sitting in traffic to get there and get back (perpetual high way construction taking four lane highways down to one lane, trying to exit onto another highway just as a large sports event was ending, etc) but we had a good time. (Also we went to a party out in the country where our GPS tried to direct us into an open field.) But everybody ended up having fun. At one point we went into Denton with friends and went to Recycled Books which is a bookstore so huge I think it hurt my brain. We also got to see my family including my two year old grand-nephew, and that was a lot of fun.

I posted a story to the Raksura Patreon: and that was about all the work I did this weekend besides answering email.

In Memoriam: Kit Reed

  • Sep. 25th, 2017 at 12:27 AM

Posted by Editor

Kit Reed (b.1932) died on September 24, several months after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.  Reed published the story “The Wait” in 1958 and was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best New Author of 1958, a forerunner of the John W. Campbell, Jr. Award.  She published short fiction mostly in F&SF in her early years, but eventually branched out to other magazines.  Her first novel was mainstream, and in 1969, she published Armed Camps, her first genre novel.

Beginning with Mister Da V and Other Stories in 1967, Reed published ten collections of her short fiction, most recently the massive The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories in 2013.  Three of her works, “Bride of Bigfoot,” Weird Women, Wired Women, and Little Sisters of the Apocalypse were shortlisted for the James Tiptree, Jr. Award.  Her novel Where was nominated for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and she won the Alex Award from the ALA for Thinner Than Thou.

Reed has published horror novels and detective novels under the pseudonyms Shelley Hyde and Kit Craig. She published her final novel, Mormama in May of this year.

Kit was one of the champions of our community: writer, teacher, and mentor. She will be deeply missed.

Kit’s son, Mack Reed, has posted an additional remembrance on Facebook.


Check-In – Day 24

  • Sep. 24th, 2017 at 7:50 PM
*coughs* I missed two days. Inexcusable. But let us say that this post covers the entire weekend. What have you been doing?

— Thinking. Maybe a little, maybe a lot.
— Writing.
— Planning and / or researching.
— Editing.
— Sending things to the beta.
— Posting!
— Relaxing, taking a break, etc.
— Other stuff-ing. Look at the comment.

Standard Sunday question: What are your projects for this week, if any?


  • Sep. 24th, 2017 at 5:28 PM
This weekend was free-play Overwatch, test the game, see what you think, etc. AngryDandelion asked if I wanted to try it, since I used to play TF2 (I would say "still play" but lbh it's been over a year).

And it was fun! It was goofy, it was fun, I tend to have a bad case of "spray and pray" but you never run out of ammo, and of course I just don't have the reflexes I had in my younger days. But I had fun.

It makes me wish I had friends to play it with, but... realistically, most of my friends wouldn't be able to, due to various health reasons. Which is a drag. :/ Because I know I'm a bit of a load until I get experience, but until I can play quite a bit and get experience, I'm going to be a load on the team. That's the way these work.

Also, it's pretty much shoot'em'up nonstop, which is what the game is meant to be, but some kind of story mode or whatever would be nice... but that's what City had, wasn't it? A chance to shoot stuff and still have a story mode, and your team could all be about the same skill level and still get through things.

*sigh* It was fun, though.

ETA: Overwatch will record your best moment in a match (if you have one; that is, it can't just be you messing about) and you can download the video until you completely exit the game, whereupon it seems to disappear. I wish I'd known this yesterday. ^_^

Anyway I got 4 videos today!

Junkrat 1:
(I actually do OK in this one!)

Junkrat 2:
(only has a clip of his special attack at the end, the match ended then)

(not super special but at least it happened)

(This one was actually Play of the Game!!eleventy!1!! omg!!!)

What are my powers? How do I do specials? What's going on???

Tech haiku

  • Sep. 23rd, 2017 at 10:31 PM
Error 404:
Your haiku could not be found.
Try again later.

A common problem
have you tried turning it off,
and then on again?


playing Dragon Age: Origins. Duncan was a babe, but I've moved on to Alistair because he plays with my dog. in googling which gifts go to who I discovered what kind of fucked-up endings can happen with him if you're not playing a Human Noble, so I'm just chilling and figuring out where to go from here.

[insert rant about old white dude coming out to the land and feeling entitled to tell me what I can and cannot do with my life here]

said old white dude stomped off like a prissy little bitch when I told him to change his tone while he was talking to my mother, that she does not deserve being berated by him, so whatever you fucker, get off my land.

still have to jump through old white dude's hoops though because my mother forgot to send in the money for the land, and now we're on the verge of being foreclosed on. AGAIN. lolololol I want to die.

not getting writing done because of aforementioned hoops and also because I have to do a lot of shit outside in the small spurts of shade we get during the day. I've had a migraine nonstop since I posted the last fic, tbh, and that hasn't helped much. the only reason I'm playing DA:O is because the camera control via keyboard slows the swing down enough that it doesn't exacerbate things. which is good? but also doesn't help with productivity.

just took a benadryl for the itching/sneezing/post-nasal, so I should pass out in a couple hours. it is now raining for the first time in two weeks, whoopie. guess I'll go see about killing the zombie horde or whatever is pouring out of that castle, blah.

comments disabled because I have no wherewithal to respond to anything, soz.

New Books and ARCs, 9/22/17

  • Sep. 22nd, 2017 at 6:52 PM

Posted by John Scalzi

Just in time for the weekend, a new batch of books and ARCs at the Scalzi Compound for you to peruse. Which would you want to give a place in your own “to be read” stack? Tell us in the comments.

October Prompts

  • Sep. 22nd, 2017 at 12:15 PM
Below the cut are a whole bunch of Inktober prompt lists. I included them all from the original post for sake of completeness.
Eight of them, actually )

Now, I could try to do arts... but I haven't tried to do any arting since last October when I tried Drawlloween. I'm not sure I would be any good at this.

On the other hand, I might manage short fics or drabbles on some of these lists. Shadowrun for Urban Fantasy? My WW1 soldiers for Post-Apoc or Steampunk? (their world is already off from our timeline anyway, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch) In years past I'd try Supers but idk now; otoh anyone from Johnny Pandemic's world would fit right in with the Space Travelers theme.

I still have a couple of days to think on this. I know I haven't posted fic on my journal(s) for a long time, and the newer folks haven't seen anything I've written, I'm sure.

If anyone else wants to take a whack at this - art or writing or anything - please feel free, I didn't create these lists. :) Feel free to comment, discuss, whatever. I'm feeling like doing a month long challenge.

(I might also do Nanowrimo again this year, but haven't really thought about that one much yet.)


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