Monthly Archives: January 2013

The eBook Path to Riches: Possibly Steeper Than Assumed

A comment in my “The State of a Genre Title” post reads:

Wow, if you would’ve published that book yourself, you would’ve made over $300K from the ebook alone.

Actually, probably I would not have. And here’s why.

The poster of the comment is, I assume, taking his number from the idea that I would earn a 70% royalty from my self-published eBook version of Redshirts. In the timeframe noted in the entry, I sold 35,667 eBook versions at $11.99. And quick math shows that 70% of that gross is $299,353. Which is just under rather than just over $300k, but close enough. But:

1. Assuming that one is distributing through Amazon (the largest retailer of eBooks worldwide at the moment), one gets the 70% royalty rate from the company only if one agrees to certain things, like an exclusivity window for Amazon and an agreement to price the eBook within in specific price band, the top price of which is $9.99 (edit: see comment here, correcting me). So already the maximum gross for that number of sales drops, from $299k to just under $250,000. Still not bad, but also not $300,000. At the 70% royalty, Amazon also charges a download fee against royalties, to the tune of 15 cents per megabyte download. Redshirts is 449kb (just under half a MB), so that’s $2,407 shaved right off the top. That’s 1% of my gross, but, hey, $2,400 pays a lot of bills. There are other details that can also drive down gross here, but you get the idea.

2. If I don’t agree to Amazon’s demands for the 70% royalty tier, then I drop to the 35% royalty tier. The good news here is that (on Amazon, anyway) I can now price the book above $9.99, so let’s bring that back sale price back up to $11.99. At that rate, a 35% royalty nets me $149,676. Again, totally not chicken feed, and well done me. But it’s also less than half the $300,000 I was told I would get, and that’s not trivial in the slightest.

3. All of this assumes, of course, that I could, on my own, shift 35,667 eBooks in the timeframe discussed. I would like to think I could, because we’d all like to think that. But it’s worth noting that some non-trivial fraction of those sales happened in part because of large chunk of marketing and advertising provided me by my publishers (Tor and Audible for the audiobook), and that some chunk of those sales happened because of the incidental benefits accrued by being traditionally published. Hitting the New York Times hardcover bestseller list (which happened without the eBook sales at all, by definition) led to profiles and interviews with the Times and NPR and other mainstream outlets. Those wouldn’t have happened with eBook only. I had Redshirts advertised everywhere from Locus to The New Yorker — again, not something I could have accomplished on my own.

Yes, I am a well-known writer with a large footprint online, and that doesn’t hurt. But simply being well-known does not automatically equate to massive book sales. It’s pretty obvious I think well of myself, but ego aside I am skeptical that I would have sold 35k worth of books at an $11.99 price point on my own.

4. This leads to the obvious question of whether I would sell more if I chose to sell at a lower price point; say, oh, $4.99. The answer here is of course it’s possible, although it’s not guaranteed. But to reach the vaunted $300k gross at that price point, I would need to sell roughly 87,500 copies, if I was using the 70% royalty, and obviously about twice that for the 35% royalty. That’s a lot of books to sell with only myself for marketing muscle. And obviously, the lower I price the book, the less I gross per sale and the more I have to sell to get to the goal. And, again, clearly, if I didn’t sell a larger number of books, my takehome would be commensurately lower.

5. Yes, but, what about [insert favorite eBook success story here], who made tons of money without all that, and so on, etc? This is where I remind people of the fact that exceptional cases are not a great place to argue from. I know that directly since I’ve been lucky enough to be an exceptional case, and I cringe every time someone points to me and says, more or less, “There’s my argument.” Exceptional cases are, by definition, rare and not representative.

6. And beyond all of that, if I published on my own I would have to do all the work aside from writing, or (because I’m lazy and in some areas not competent) hire people to do it for me, so what I publish looks professional and not like a crap. That’s money I’d need to put out up front on the hope of getting those hundreds of thousands of dollars in ebook sales. I’m okay with someone paying me to do all the work.

So could I have made $300,000 if I had self-published Redshirts as an eBook? Well, it’s possible I could have. But it seems to me very unlikely. And regardless if I had made that money, it would have required much more time and effort from me than I would have wanted to exchange. And at the end of the day, the way I did publish is going to do just fine for me. So I am comfortable with the publishing choices I made, and am very happy and genuinely grateful I have the opportunity to make those choices at all.

LA Sunrise

I don’t realize how much I miss the foothills until I see them again.

Also, hi, I’m in Los Angeles. I’m here for meetings and then more meetings and then just when you think the meetings are done, even more meetings! Yay! Los Angeles!

Off soon to brave the 405. Pray for me.

The Human Division, Episode Two: Walk the Plank is Live!

It’s Tuesday, which means it time for another episode of The Human Division. Here are the details about “Walk the Plank”:

Wildcat colonies are illegal, unauthorized and secret—so when an injured stranger shows up at the wildcat colony New Seattle, the colony leaders are understandably suspicious of who he is and what he represents. His story of how he’s come to their colony is shocking, surprising, and might have bigger consequences than anyone could have expected.

“Walk the Plank” is one of the shortest of the episodes, but this particular episode carries a lot of freight, both in the sense of storytelling, and in the sense of being stylistically unique among the episodes. I like it a lot. Of course, I would say that. Even so.

Remember that in addition to “Walk the Plank” debuting today, there will be a discussion of the episode up over at sometime today (Update: It’s up!). There I talk a little bit about the writing and structure of this particular episode, as well as how the episodic structure of The Human Division came about. Interesting stuff.

And be sure to come around again for next week’s episode, “We Only Need the Heads.” You’ll see how then how the events of “Walk the Plank” start to resonate forward through the rest of the novel.

Walk the Plank: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBookstore (iTunes link)|Google Play|Kobo  (all US links)

The Kitten Setting

My friend Jenny Lawson
(aka The Bloggess) has a comment policy, in which she reserves the right to take the postings of the most obnoxious trolls in her comment threads and change the words to something else entirely, subverting the message of the troll. The troll usually returns, outraged that his golden prose has been changed; that comment gets changed too. This continues until the troll realizes that there is nothing he can say that won’t get subverted, and eventually the troll runs away.

I was reminded of this yesterday when, after posting about a racist sexist homophobic dipshit, one of the racist sexist homophobic dipshit’s craven lickspittles popped up in the thread. This particular craven lickspittle is already on my moderation list for being a contentless troll, and I usually end up deleting his posts, but this one seems honor-bound to continue trying to be an asshole on my site, deletions or no. So I tried Jenny’s technique on him. This is how it went, and bear in mind I am paraphrasing the lickspittle’s original comments:


My edit: I love hearts and flowers and pretty bows! I could dance in sparkly showers all the day long! Fa la la la la la!


My edit: When I think about all the kittens in the world that need to be cuddled, I just break down into wee little sobs.


My edit: Sometimes all I do with my day is brush my hair and sing Gilbert and Sullivan tunes in as high a voice as I can possibly manage.

And off he went, not to return.

A commenter in the thread called this “Setting the Mallet to ‘Kitten,’” which delighted me, so now I think of this technique as “the kitten setting.” Other commenters voiced concern about changing anyone’s remarks, even those of trolls, without making it clear that editing had taken place. I thought this was an excellent point, as the object is to subvert the troll, not deceive the rest of the commenters. So the Craven Lickspittle’s converted posts now sport an asterisk, which links to another comment in the thread where I explain what I’m doing.

Having a night to think about “the kitten setting,” here are my thoughts about it and its use here.

1. I don’t think I will probably use it a lot; my standard Malleting method works just fine for 99% of people who get out of line, and it’s easier and simpler to use.

2. However, for a particularly pernicious sort of troll, the sort with neither no interest in genuine participation, nor capability for taking a hint, “kittening” their posts seems like an effective tactic. So I’ll be keeping the kitten setting for now, with appropriate signifiers for everyone else (probably a link back to this very entry) that the alternation has taken place. It’s not the tactic of first resort, but it’s a tactic.

3. For any commenter outraged that his post has been thus kittened: Good, you sad little smudge of a human. If you’ve been kittened, your only purpose in coming here, in my estimation, was to shit all over the carpets. I like my carpets shit-free. So you get what you deserve. As the comment policy makes clear, I both expect intelligent, considerate commenting here and reserve the right to deal with comments how I see fit — and how I see fit now includes the kitten setting. If you don’t like it, don’t post comments. If the fear of being kittened dissuades various sorts of shitbags from posting risible nonsense here, I think everyone wins.

Feel free to discuss in the comment thread.

(also, the picture above is of Ghlaghghee, the very first day we got her, back in 2003.)

My Weekend Adventures

The weekend, in bullet point form:

* My weekend was primarily taken up with the ConFusion convention up in Michigan, which most of you know I consider to be my “home” convention (it was the first non-Worldcon convention I ever attended and the only convention I’ve been to each year since). The convention for me was generally lovely and also low-key. As I’m mostly taking the year off from official convention activities, I only did a couple of programming items. I unfortunately had to skip out on my last programming item and leave the convention early for a reason I will detail in a moment. Regardless, an enjoyable time as always, with some of my favorite people, and I’m glad to have gone. The above photo, incidentally, taken by Sam Sykes.

* My weekend was unfortunately cut a bit short because this morning I woke up at 5am with my mouth feeling as if someone had taken a chisel to one of my bicuspids. This is a not fun feeling, in case you are wondering. Because of it, we headed home early so I could be attended to by my dentist, who rather graciously came into office on a Sunday so that I would not have to be in agony until the next business day. The end result was a root canal, which while not fun was also not nearly as awful a procedure as I had always assumed it was, which I chalk up to expert dentistry. Now I’m at home, pumped up on amoxicillin and ibuprofen. This is the life, I’m telling you. It is, at the very least, far better than alternative.

* One of the things that I did at ConFusion was do yet another cover pose for Jim C. Hines Aicardi Foundation fundraiser, and this time Jim and I were joined by some friends: Charlie Stross, Pat Rothfuss and Mary Robinette Kowal. The results of this cover pose are available for your perusal here. Please note: At least fifty shades of pasty await you. I’m totally not kidding.

* On the way home from ConFusion today I received a concerned phone call from a good friend, who informed me that someone had just posted something about me online that to his eye was entirely libelous; he then gave me a brief rundown on the piece. It appears the racist sexist homophobic dipshit who has an adorable little mancrush on me has been spinning up his racist sexist homophobic dipshit blog readers yet again with a typically gibbering gout of stupidity, with my name inserted into it at some point.

I told my friend not to worry about it. Aside from it being just another example of this particular racist sexist homophobic dipshit trying to work out his adorable little mancrush issues in public, it’s probably not libel. One of the pillars of libel is that what’s being written has to effect material damage on the person allegedly being libeled. I experience no material damage in this case, because no one actually gives a shit what this particular racist sexist homophobic dipshit has to say about anything, other than his merry band of racist sexist homophobic dipshit readers. And why would I care what any of those racist sexist homophoblic dipshits think about me? They’re racist sexist homophobic dipshits. The racist sexist homophobic dipshit market is one I’m willing to lose.

I imagine that one day the racist sexist homophobic dipshit with the adorable little mancrush on me will finally figure himself out. Until then, I suppose his adorable little mancrush on me is cheaper than therapy. So mancrush on, you racist sexist homophobic dipshit. Because it’s adorable, and I get a giggle about just how much you can’t quit me.

For the Three of You Who Don’t Follow My Twitter Feed, This is What I’m Obsessing About Today

Yes, it’s true: Churro Waffles are a thing that exist in our world and soon in my mouth because when I discovered they existed I begged Krissy to make them for dinner for me tonight and she totally said yes because she’s the best wife in the world and ZOMG YOU GUYS CHURRO WAFFLES.

And yes. I registered It goes to a recipe for churro waffles. You are welcome.

For more churro waffle news and updates, you should follow my Twitter feed today.

Punting the Start Screen

For those of you curious about every aspect of my technological life, I will note here a slight change to my UI experience of Windows 8, namely that I’ve installed Stardock’s “Start 8″ program, which reinstates a Windows 7-like start button and menu to the desktop, and banishes Win8′s Start Screen into an optional little area you can visit if you like, and not if you don’t want to.

I did this because simply put I’ve come to believe the Win 8 start screen, and the whole environment it propagates is just terrible UI for those of us who actually use their computers for work, rather than using them just to play games and get on Facebook. When I’m working I often have several programs open in several windows, and have those windows up where I can see them all, because each window has information relevant to what I’m doing. If I need to access additional programs, I don’t want to have to leave that environment; it messes with work flow.

But in Windows 8, that’s exactly what you have to do: You have to stop what you’re doing, fire up a separate screen that obscures everything you’re working on, and locate a program in a tile (you can also type in the program name and then click on the result, but you still have to first leave your work environment). It’s a hassle, but more than a hassle it’s an arbitrary imposition of the UI on actual workflow. Or to put it more bluntly: Windows 8 is wasting my time, and for no good reason.

When I started working with Windows 8, I didn’t think this would bother me too much, but I wrong. Even something as trivial as pulling up the Snipping Tool (for screen captures) or the calculator became a production, and I found myself getting annoyed at my sparkly new computer because of it. It’s not the sparkly computer’s fault, it was Win8. So now I’ve fixed that part of Win8 that was annoying me. The Start Screen is still around and I can access it if I want to, but I don’t have to go there, and that’s a good thing.

While I’m on the subject of the Start Screen and the new app environment it’s part of, I’ll make the observation that I suspect that the Start Screen and the apps probably make better sense on a laptop, which has a screen between eleven and fifteen inches wide, than it does on my monster 27-inch screen. As an example, when you’re using an app, if you want to close it, you swipe downward on your screen from the top. Probably not a problem on a small screen, but on my Dell XPS One? That’s a whole lot of real estate to drag through, and it quickly becomes impractical. As do fullscreen only apps, which would be more practical and useful in a smaller window. This is one of the reasons why on a day to day basis I don’t use any of the apps at all and stay in the desktop environment almost exclusively.

What it really seems to come down to — and I don’t think there’s a nicer way of putting it — is whether you’re using your computer as a work tool or a toy. If you’re using it as a toy, and as an entertainment machine, then with Win8 Start Screen and apps are probably cool and fun. If you’re using your computer as a tool, they’re just in the way. And now I have them out of my way, so I can do my work.

The State of a Genre Title, 2013

Yesterday Redshirts, my most recent novel prior to The Human Division, was made available in trade paperback format, which formally ended its hardcover format era. There are still hardcover editions out there, but Tor isn’t printing any more of them; from here on out its print presence will be in trade paperback. Aside from switching formats, this offers an interesting point in time to take a look at the Redshirts sales numbers and see what, if anything, they mean for me, and what, if anything, it means for the genre of science fiction in a general sense.

So, below, please find the North American sales numbers for Redshirts, dating from June 5, 2012 (the day of release) to January 14, 2013 (the last day of the hardcover run).

For those who don’t want to pull out your calculators, the sales total across every format — hardcover, eBook and audiobook, was 79,279.


1. These are healthy sales, and importantly they are healthy and reasonably balanced across the formats the book was available in. This is an important thing because while people like to talk about eBooks being the future, or audiobooks increasing in popularity, the fact of the matter is that print sales continue to be important, and a solid author presence in physical book stores also continues to be important. For me to lose any of these formats — or to discount their importance — would represent a substantial loss of sales and income. I expect each of these formats to continue to be important to my overall sales for some time to come, and intend to make sure I’m adequately supported in each.

2. This sales profile also indicates to me that choosing to work with established publishers — in this case Tor (for print and eBooks) and Audible (for audiobooks) — is a smart decision for me. There are arguments made for self-publishing, and many people will make them, but at this point, for the majority of self-published authors, self-publishing primarily gains you access to eBook sales. Print sales are difficult (because it is difficult to place books into bookstores, particularly chains, on a non-returnable basis), and by and large self-pubbed audiobooks are still an emerging market. Working with established publishers gets my work into as many sales channels as possible. Aside from everything else they do — including editing, design, artwork, marketing and advertising (hey, did you see me on tour? Or see those Redshirt ads in Times Square?) — the market access these established publishers provide is reason enough to keep working with them.

3. The sales profile of Redshirts in its hardcover format run is vastly different than the sales profile of Old Man’s War, released eight years ago this month. Old Man’s War sales for its first year were totally supplied by hardcover sales, because neither the eBook version nor the audio version was available until years later, and both the eBook market and (to a lesser extent) the audiobook market were not as fully developed as they are today. It would be specious of me to make too many direct comparisons between my debut novel and my eighth, because my personal circumstances have changed significantly in the time between their publications. But a debut author today would still be very unlikely to have her book presented only in print format.

4. My sales profile here is nicely diversified, but it’s also clear that the largest chunk of my sales are in eBook. I attribute this primarily to two factors: One, my personal presence and history online, which presents me as an “online native,” with a core fanbase of similarly tech-savvy readers; Two, science fiction as a genre tends to have a tech-friendly readership, which is likely to have adopted electronic readers early. A third factor is that eBooks tend to priced more cheaply than hardcovers, which is not insignificant. That said, the healthy sales of the Redshirts eBook at the $11.99 price point suggests that readers are willing to spend at that level, which argues for publishers to continue at least initially to peg their eBook prices to their hardcover prices, lowering them as the print format shifts.

(I would note, incidentally,  that my eBook sales profile doesn’t come as a surprise either to me or Tor; we’ve been watching these sales for a while now, and it’s one of the reasons that we are initially sending The Human Division out in weekly eBook episodes. But also note that we are very quickly following up to serve the print market with the compiled novel — because print is important now and will continue to be in the future.)

5. My audiobook sales I attribute to a number of factors: One, healthy sales of previous audiobook titles; Two, an excellent and marketable narrator (Wil Wheaton) who has his own significant fanbase; Three, a strong marketing push by Audible for me and the book. It’s clear to me that audio is not just an aside to my print and eBook versions but a core aspect of my sales profile, which needs to be considered and tended to.

6. My own guess, based on watching my sales profile over the years, is that print, eBook and audiobook do not inherently cannibalize each others’ sales — it seems to me that for each there is a class of reader that is “native” to each — that is, there is a group of readers who strongly prefers print over eBook or audio, another group who prefers eBook strongly to the other formats, and a third group (correlated, I imagine, with people who have long commutes) who strongly prefer audiobook. I don’t think I lose a print sale by selling in eBook, or an eBook sale by selling in audio — rather, that selling in each of these formats is allowing me to expand my overall audience. Once again, this is an argument for remaining actively involved in all of the formats rather than throwing one (or more) overboard and putting all my chips on a single format.

7. This is a bit of inside pool but it’s a significant point and it matters: The fact that the absolute majority of my Redshirts sales came in formats other than hardcover means that the large majority of my sales were not tracked by Bookscan, the service offered by Nielsen that tracks book sales primarily at various brick-and-mortar stores. Bookscan tracked just under two-thirds of my hardcover sales, which is par for the service (a number of independent bookstores don’t report to the service, and I sell reasonably strongly in those stores). But overall it tracked just 21% of Redshirts‘ total sales, missing almost all the electronic and audiobook sales.

The reason this is significant is that Bookscan vastly underreports my sales record as an author — and yet Bookscan is the primary point of reference for sales for publishers and booksellers. I’m not in the market for a new publisher at the moment, but if I were, Bookscan’s report of my sales wouldn’t be doing me any favors. It also doesn’t do me favors with booksellers today when it comes to them making decisions about which books to stock. If bookstores look at numbers that don’t even accurately estimate how I sell in bookstores — much less my overall sales (which are indicative of a larger, overall sales potential), then my job selling to them gets tougher.

While my total sales profile is in many ways idiosyncratic to me, I suspect that science fiction, as a genre, is likely finding its sales underreported by Bookscan in a general sense, primarily because of lack of information about electronic sales. To be clear, as I understand it this is not solely the fault of Nielsen/Bookscan, as it’s difficult to report electronic sales if certain significant retailers are not exactly forthcoming with the data (and this is a whole other level of bad, because it makes it even tougher for authors to get an accurate idea of their sales — but I’ll address that some other time). But it does suggest that if one is looking at science fiction sales only through the lens of Bookscan, the image one is getting is distorted indeed.

8. For those who are curious, I gross roughly the same for each format (I believe that I gross more from audiobook for each individual sale because the unit price is higher but I would have to dig out a contract to check). So from a financial point of view it’s all the same to me whether you prefer hardcover or eBook or audio. Get the format you prefer. One nice thing for me on the royalty side of things is that the book went into the black in the first week of sales — this was a side effect of using Redshirts to cash out a long-unfulfilled contract for a different book I never wrote (on account of someone else publishing a book with almost exactly the same idea first). It was nice to have the book earn out that early.

9. On the personal side of things, I have a number of takeaway points from the sales of Redshirts during its hardcover run, of which I will now highlight two. The first is that I think I’ve successfully posted a relevant data point against a longstanding shibboleth that — aside from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy — humorous science fiction won’t sell well. Clearly, it sells just fine, or at least can. I like this because I have some more humorous ideas I want to turn into novels.

The second is that my basic philosophy of writing accessible science fiction, stuff you can follow even if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool literary science fiction fan, is one that continues to work out pretty well for me. Redshirts is obviously designed to tickle the pleasure centers of geeks, but it was also designed to bring in the people who consume geek culture without identifying as geeks themselves — the same people who go see science fiction films in the theaters or watch Big Bang Theory at home or play Mass Effect or Bioshock, but don’t carry that geek enjoyment into other aspects of their lives. I’m happy to make the argument to these folks that they can enjoy science fiction books as much as they enjoy other forms of science fiction entertainment. It’s working so far.

10. Science fiction books often sell more in paperback. I won’t mind if that’s true here, too.

The Big Idea: Steven Gould

When you build a universe, you set up rules that you have to follow from then on out. But can those rules in themselves add to the drama of the story? Steven Gould returns the universe he created in the best selling (and movie-adapted) Jumper with his new novel Impulse, and tells us how he fought the laws — and everybody won.


When I wrote Jumper (over twenty years ago) I was writing a book about the only person in the world who could teleport. By the time I wrote its sequel, Reflex, (ten years ago) the number of people who could teleport had doubled. Now, that number has tripled with the release of Impulse. At this rate I’m hardly going to achieve the massive societal transformations that jaunting did in Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination. Jumper has a smaller frame than that. But from the beginning it has made some assumptions about teleportation and though I do different things with teleportation (jumping) in each of the books these things have always followed from what we’ve found out in the first book.

In the first book we learned a few things about Jumping:

1. Jumping does not conserve momentum. Davy can jump off a cliff or a tall building and, as long as he jumps before he goes splat at the bottom, he carries none of the acquired downward velocity with him when he appears elsewhere. Likewise, when he changes latitude on the surface of the earth. Standing at the equator, the a person is traveling west to east at 465.1 m/s, 1,674.4 km/h or 1,040.4 mi/h. The angular velocity at any other locations on earth can be calculated by multiplying the speed at the equator by the cosine of the latitude. So, the velocity at near Davy’s house in Canada (at the end of Reflex and in Impulse) is less than half that of the equator. So, if momentum were conserved, jumping to the house from the equator should hurl him through the appropriate wall at over 500 miles per hour. This doesn’t happen so we are not only matching two disparate locations we are matching their relative velocities.

2. Another thing we learn in the first book is that jumping is opening a hole between both locations. This is illustrated by the original cover as a video camera captures a momentary Davy shaped hole through which his destination can be viewed. In Reflex Davy learns how to actually hold this hole open for longer durations allowing air pressure, water, fish, and even a bullet to pass through this Davy shaped hole in the universe, but the fact that it is a hole is set up in the first book.

3. You can’t jump anything you couldn’t physically drag around. Davy manages to move some fairly heavy books shelves from New York to Oklahoma in Jumper but when he is handcuffed to a railing he fails to teleport and nearly dislocates his shoulder. This property is exploited by Davy’s captors in Reflex to hold him prisoner.

So, Cent, Davy and Millie’s daughter, can jump, like her parents, but she takes this to another place, exploiting rule 1: Momentum is not conserved. If she can jump to the equator, gaining over 500 miles per hour to match her destinations angular velocity, why wouldn’t she be able to jump in place and add that same velocity? If she can fall off a cliff and be rushing toward the ground at over sixty miles per hour, then return to the top of the cliff with that velocity negated, why couldn’t she jump in place and add sixty miles per hour of velocity…straight up?

And so she does.

I will leave, as an exercise for the reader, the direction the next book, Exo, will take. I promise one thing, though. It will all have been set up in the first book

On the personal note, Jumper the series continues to mirror and process my personal life. I was that teenage boy with the alcoholic father. I was the reluctant parent unsure whether my own childhood would poison my ability to parent well. And, now with Impulse, I have daughters who amaze and surprise me with their choices and abilities

Hope you enjoy Impulse.


Impulse: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

Contest! Reviews! Links! Wheee!

As today is a double book release day, I’ve got lots of links for you to get your click on at.

1. First, a contest from ThinkGeek!

You’re being sent on an Away Mission, so what better way to prepare yourself than with this Away Team Kit? Best part about it is there’s a signed copy of John Scalzi’s Redshirts included! It’s got everything you need to succeed!

…at dying. Sorry, did we fail to mention that you’re sporting a red shirt? Good luck out there, buddy!

Click here to enter the contest, which is only open until  5pm ET, Wednesday, January 16th. You can also buy the Away Team Kit directly right here. All Away Team Kits include signed copies of Redshirts!

2. New York Times Best Seller (for the excellent Gun Machine) Warren Ellis has nice things to say about “The B-Team” over on his site:

What comes out is rich and smart and funny – still very much a good-time rollercoaster entertainment, but also pleasingly human and self-aware as it rattles along its tracks, scattering spaceship wrecks, lethal diplomacy, species dieback and interstellar spookshow paranoia in its wake.

Yes. All that. Ad if you’d like a second opinion, here’s a spoiler-free review from Stainless Steel Droppings.

3. Want to read me discussing The Human Division at further length? How could you not? So then I have two links for you. The first, over at Amazon’s Kindle Daily Post, I’m talking about how the episodic nature of The Human Division came about. And then, over at the Nook Blog, I write about the challenge of making a new book in an established series, and how I avoided the pitfalls. Both are good, quick reads.

4. There’s still time to enter the Choose Cory Doctorow’s Scanned Face poll. Go there. Now.

5. Oh, and hey: My pals Paul & Storm have their new Web show live and running. Meet Learning Town! And while you’re at it, listen to notable geeks like Felicia Day, Neil Gaiman, Scott Sigler, Garkfunkel and Oates and even me share our memories of the Learning Town show from our childhood. It’s all true.

There, that should keep you busy.

Five Things About the Audiobook of The B-Team

One: Here’s the link to it at Audible.

Two: Note the price. Cheap! All the episodes are at this point similarly priced. You could get the audio and the text versions of each episode and still be well under the cost of your daily Starbucks hit! Hint! Hint! Hint!

Three: The audiobook version is read by William Dufris, who read Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony. He rocks it.

Four: If you go to that link above, you’ll see there is a special deal available to you on the audio of “The B-Team.” No, I’m not going to tell you what it is, you gotta link through. What, do I have to do everything for you? Suffice to say you may find the special deal intriguing. Especially if you’ve not delved into audiobooks before and are wondering what the hubbub is all about. So clickity-click, friends.

Five: Audible now lets you pre-order, so if you’re so inclined you can pre-order the rest of the episodes so they’re ready for you the instant they go live. Oh, look, here’s a link to the audio of Episode Two.

And there you have it.

Update: For those of you who want it (and you do want it! You do!): A direct link to that special deal I was hinting at. Note: This special deal is available only for two weeks from today. So get to it! Also, this special deal is independent of any other things Audible might be doing, as I understand it).

Also, look! An Audible page for all the Human Division episodes! To make your pre-ordering easy and fun!

Redshirts Trade Paperback Edition Out Today

Today is not only the release of The B-Team but also the trade paperback release of Redshirts, meaning, yes! Those of you who wish to have to book in a slightly more compact, slightly cheaper print form, this is your day! Also, I imagine at some point today the price of the eBook version will drop a bit to reflect the changeover in format, so be looking for that, too.

I’ve been delighted with how well Redshirts has done out in the world; it’s my best-selling hardcover release ever and overall (including eBook and audiobook version) it’s done gangbusters. It’s fair to say that its success surprised me; I wrote it almost entirely for the sheer fun of it (“What? No one’s actually written a novel called Redshirts? Well, let me just pluck that low-hanging fruit”) and I thought it was going to be a fun little book that would do okay and kill time until The Human Division came out. But it’s clear that it’s outperformed well beyond that.

The lesson I take from that is: You never know how people will respond. Don’t worry about it and just write as well as you can. The other lesson I take from it is that all those people who think humorous science fiction doesn’t sell, or can’t sell, are really completely totally high. It sells. It sells just fine. I’ll probably talk about this a bit more at some point in the near future.

In the meantime: Look! Redshirts in trade paperback! Available at your favorite book store! If you haven’t gotten it yet, now is a fine time to do so. Also, if you want the book in hardcover, I’d hurry.

The Human Division, Episode One: The B-Team is Live!

And so we begin. “The B-Team,” the double-length debut episode of The Human Division, my latest novel and the newest book to take place in the Old Man’s War universe, is out today in DRM-free electronic book form, in as many eBook retailers across the world as we could get it into. It will be followed every Tuesday, through April 9, by another episode; there will be thirteen in all. Each of these episodes will tell its own story and adventure and can be enjoyed for itself, but if you read the entire sequence of episodes you’ll see themes and idea arcing through the entire run. It’s an episodic novel.

I’ve answered questions about the novel and its format, but to briefly recap: No, you don’t have to read all the other Old Man’s War novels to start on this one, since I put in context where necessary, but if you have you’ll get more right off the bat. Yes, each of the episodes works as its own tale, although again, the more of the episodes you read, the more you’ll see a larger structure. The length of each episode ranges (from 6,000 words to 22,000), but we’re selling each for the same price (99 cents here in the US). Yes, for those of you who prefer to read in one sitting and/or prefer print books, The Human Division will have a compiled, single release in eBook and hardcover: May 14. And yes, there is an audiobook version out. More on that in another post.

For those of you wondering what happens in “The B-Team” itself, here’s the episode description:

Colonial Union Ambassador Ode Abumwe and her team are used to life on the lower end of the diplomatic ladder. But when a high-profile diplomat goes missing, Abumwe and her team are last minute replacements on a mission critical to the Colonial Union’s future. As the team works to pull off their task, CDF Lieutenant Harry Wilson discovers there’s more to the story of the missing diplomats than anyone expected…a secret that could spell war for humanity.

A couple of early blogger reviews of The B-Team are available here and here. is doing a read-along for each episode that you can post your comments and questions to; here’s the one for “The B-Team.”

Also, look, here’s what New York Times Best Seller and dashingly-bearded human Warren Ellis said about “The B-Team” just last night:

So there you go.

I am really excited about the launch of “The B-Team” and about presenting The Human Division to you in this episodic way. Doing a novel like this was something that I had been thinking about for a while now, and one of the genuinely excellent things about this process is that Tor and Macmillan not only liked the idea but have been full partners with me in making this idea work — I’ve had really astounding support from everyone there for it. It’s good when your publisher not only lets you take a risk but steps out on the ledge with you. I’m grateful for that.

And now “The B-Team” is out to you. Get ready to go exploring again in the Old Man’s War universe. I hope you like it. And I hope you’ll tune in next week for Episode Two: “Walk the Plank.” This is going to be fun.

The B-Team: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|iBookstore (apple)|Google Play|Kobo (all US links)