And it involves the book’s protagonist, Chris Shane.
What is it?
1. It may be a spoiler for those of you who have not read the novel already, so don’t click the link below unless you’ve read the book and/or don’t car if the book is spoiled in a sense (note the information does not spoil the plot, just something about Chris).
I’ll talk more about it in the comment thread here, which will serve as the spoiler-laden discussion of the book. So obviously, don’t read any further unless you’ve read the book and/or don’t mind it being spoiled for you.
When I came back from the book tour, I was greeted with hugs and kisses, which was very nice, but also with some potentially bad news, which was that Lopsided Cat, the Scalzi Compound’s most senior cat, had gone missing for two whole days, and that when last he was seen, he was wandering toward the treeline with a limp.
This was naturally cause for concern, because Lopsided Cat is not young — he was at least a couple of years old when he came to us, and that was a dozen years ago — and also because we live in rural America, which has things like coyotes in it. As a mostly-outdoor, working cat (we have agricultural fields on three sides, and in the fall and winter the rodents that live in the fields occasionally attempt to move into the house, so all three cats guard against those incursions) there is a decent chance that one day Lopsided Cat would leave the house and just not come back. Krissy and Athena had walked the treeline and checked the basement and the hedges thoroughly, but Lopsided Cat was nowhere to be found. Krissy thought it important to let me know the current state of the cat’s whereabouts or lack thereof. We all prepared to be sad for the possible end of our excellent cat.
Which why when Lopsided Cat actually showed up later in the evening, still limping a bit but otherwise perfectly fine, he was annoyed and surprised by the sudden amount of attention his appearance garnered — lots of happy yelling and petting and being picked up and squeezed. His expression at the time clearly communicated What the hell? but he tolerated the attention, then ate some food and went to sleep in the basement, as is his custom. And then in the morning he went back out again, because, well. That’s his thing. As is, for that matter, occasionally disappearing for a couple of days.
So, crisis averted for now. It’s still entirely possible one day Lopsided Cat will wander off and then just not come back, because, again: outdoor cat in a rural area, used to his independence. But today is not that day. He’s still around, and we’re happy to have him, for as long as we do.
While I was on tour with Lock In, I turned off the comments here at Whatever, opening them for Big Idea posts and the occasional post when I was able to spend a little time babysitting the thread. Among other things I was curious to see what, if any, effect turning the comment off would have on visits to the site.
The answer seems to be not a whole lot. Traffic to Whatever overall was down in the last four weeks, but I expected it to be down, because it always goes down when I’m on book tour — I’m not posting as much and what I do post tends to be short bits about where I am on tour. Turning off the comments doesn’t really appear to have dropped viewership lower, as a percentage, than any other time I’ve been tour — or if it had it was negligible enough that I don’t see it.
In one sense this is not too terribly surprising. As I’ve noted before, Whatever gets thousands of visits and visitors daily, but only (generally) a few dozen commentors on any given day. As a percentage, the commenting class here — as it is pretty much everywhere — is small compared to the overall readership. The inability to comment is not a huge thing when you don’t comment at all. Likewise, I suspect that most of the commenters were cool with the comments being off for a bit if I couldn’t sit on them like I usually do. So overall: Not a huge surprise, although it’s still interesting to me.
It doesn’t mean that I’ll be keeping comments off, mind you. The commenting class here may be small relative to overall readership, but it is of high quality, if I may say so myself, and for those folks to who do read for the comments (and I’m one of them), I would hate to deprive them of that enjoyment. So comments are back on. Comment away, you crazy kids!
That said, I am going to make one major change: After 14 days, comments threads will automatically close. I’m doing this for two reasons. One, in nearly all cases, the conversation in any comment thread is done two weeks out, and the only non-spam comments the comment threads accrue are from people who generally don’t have anything new or useful to say — indeed, late hits in my experience are generally some form of trolling. They won’t be missed.
Two, I turned comments back on here and less than a half hour later had more than 200 fresh comments in my spam queue. The good news is that WordPress’ spam catcher caught nearly all of them, but on the other hand, it was a reminder that I get a couple thousand attempted spam messages a day here. The site has close to nine thousand entries, many of which still have (had) open comment threads. If you’re a spammer, that’s a lot of shots on goal. Limiting the spam opportunities to just a few dozen active threads will make my site maintenance a lot easier, and these days I don’t have as much time to moderate as I used to.
So if you have anything to say on a comment thread, say it in the first couple of weeks, or forever hold your peace, at least here on the blog.
Here’s another change I’m going to make. From time to time while I was traveling (or otherwise busy), I’ve wanted to comment on some contentious topic or another but held off because I simply didn’t have the time to sit on the comment thread. As a result, and because I am rather more busy with travel and work these days than I was before, I find myself not writing up those pieces. I think Whatever’s range of topics has suffered a bit because of it recently.
So, here’s the plan: If I find I want to write something on a contentious topic but I don’t have time to moderate a comment thread, I’m just gonna write the thing and not turn on comments, or wait to turn on the comments until I have time to moderate. Simple! So simple, in fact, that I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t think about it before (In fact, there have been times when I’ve done that, but it never occured to be to think to myself “hey, you know, this is a thing you could do whenever you needed to.” Because I’m an idiot, you see).
When I have the comments off (or delayed), how will you comment? Well, of course, there is Twitter and Facebook and your own blogs and even (gasp!) email, which is how people used to comment to me before comments were on here at all. Who knows, it may even lead to an increase in hate mail, which, to be honest, I hardly get anymore (this is not an actual complaint).
Fort Loramie, a town just up the road from me, celebrates its German Heritage Days (on pretty much the same days as traditional Oktoberfest begins, incidentally) with a big tent, ruben bites (think a ruben sandwich, in nugget form), and of course, lots of beer. We went last night, and I took photos. If you’re interested, here’s the photo set. Click on any photo there for a bigger version of the photo.
One, as I have returned from the tour, full commenting has returned to Whatever: Comments are turned on by default, and all posts whose comment threads are not otherwise turned off are now open. I’ll have more thoughts a bit later on what I learned about having the comments off while I toured.
Two, I’ve turned off my email autoresponder, so if you’ve been holding off to send me email, go ahead and do it. Also, if you sent me e-mail anytime in the last month and wanted a response and didn’t get it (because I wasn’t responding to most email while on tour), go ahead and resend (Note: you don’t have to do this for Big Idea for October and November: I’ll be getting to those all by the end of the month).
Save for a couple of one-off events in October, the Lock In tour has come to a close. It was a lovely time and it was lovely seeing so many of you out there on the road, but it’s nice to be able to come back home and not have any place that I need to be for a little while, other than here with the family.
It’s been a great four weeks. If you were a part of it, thank you for being part of it.
Also, it’s well past time I came out of the closet as a Sith Lord, evidenced by my red lightsaber. Frankly, I’m relieved it’s out there. Now I don’t have to pretend I’m not Force Choking all who oppose me.
I saw this popping up the Twitters and the webs last night as I was heading back to the hotel, so I might as well give it a proper debut here on Whatever: The title and cover of the book formerly known as The Human Division 2: The Divisioning, taken, I assume, from the Tor catalogue for next year that just got sent out.
Pretty fantastic-looking, I gotta say. Once again, John Harris nails the cover image. But then he always does. And there are likely to be more cover illustrations, since as with The Human Division, we will likely do some form of episodic digital releases. Can’t wait to see those covers, too.
As for the title, and what it means for the Old Man’s War universe, I will say this only that the book will continue (and complete) the story that was begun in The Human Division, and that things will come to an interesting place for everyone involved. It does not mean the end of my interest in the OMW universe, just to get ahead of any concerns or incipient rumors, although I do suspect that after TEoAT, I’ll take time off from the world, just like I did after Zoe’s Tale.
So: the end of one OMW universe story arc, not the end of all possible OMW universe novels. Don’t panic.
The End of All Things will be out next year, and, uh, I’m still writing it. Don’t worry. I don’t miss deadlines.
My hotel room wasn’t ready, and my schedule is such that I won’t be getting back there until after my event tonight, so here: Madison Square Park, for your delight. Right to the left of me, some dudes are having an al fresco meeting about television advertising. I feel like I’m getting the full New York experience.
Well, I am, on the Thursday and Friday of the convention (that would be the 9th and 10th of October). I’ll be having a signing on Thursday at the Tor booth and on Friday I’ll be on at least one panel, and I’ll be doing a couple of fun things off campus as well. I’ll provide a more detailed schedule later (i.e., when I’m not on tour), but for the three of you who were on the bubble about going to NYCC, and for whom my presence will tip you over into the “going” column, there you are. Here’s the link to the convention’s Web site.
Tomorrow: I’m in Brooklyn, the borough where they keep the writers, for an event at Word Bookstore, also at 7pm. RSVPs at the event’s Facebook page are encouraged, but not required. Let them know you are coming (and bringing everyone you know, of course).
The hotel is very bed and breakfasty. I’m on the ground floor, which will make it easy if I have to evacuate in case of fire. I don not intend to set any fires. I feel it’s important to make that point clear.
Yes, I have three TV shows in development at the moment, which is very cool and wonderful for me and which means I’m having a totally giggly moment over here.
Hey, remember that there was supposed to be an Old Man’s War movie? That was optioned for five years and never made it to the big screen. Same thing could happen with Old Man’s War, the TV series. Or Redshirts, the TV series. Or Lock In, the TV series. Lots of things are optioned and put into development, rather somewhat fewer of them get the greenlight to go to screen. Even shows that get greenlit can be pulled before they air. And then once a show gets on the air, it may not survive past the first season, or even the first few episodes. In film and television, nothing is ever assured.
So, it’s possible that everything I have in development makes it to series. On each of these potential series, I’m working with super smart people, all of whom have sold things in film and TV before, and each of whom has been successful in LA in a way I find tremendously encouraging — it’s why I decided to let them adapt what I’m writing. But is it probable that everything I have in development makes it onto the screen? Well. We will see. It is a long journey, full of detours, potholes and opportunities to run off the road and over a cliff. Not just for me but for anyone.
This is just my way of reminding everyone that the very good news I got for Lock In is the start of a process, not an assurance of a series and success. The same goes for OMW and Redshirts. Everyone involved, including me, are working hard to make it happen. And at the very least I personally am having a fair amount of fun as it goes along.
I’m enjoying the moment — I really am. But I’m aware it is a moment. Now the real work begins. Maybe we’ll get to screen and maybe we won’t. But just like I’m enjoying the moment now, I’m going to try to enjoy the journey, too, wherever it leads. No matter what, the books exist, and that will never change.
To get ahead of some questions that might arise — it’s very very early days on this (I mean, obviously, since the book hasn’t even been out three weeks as I write this up), so I don’t have a whole lot of answers for folks about how it’s all going to shake out. What I can say is that I’m happy with the deal, I’ll be well involved, and I think Legendary is a very good place for Lock In to be. Aside from that, the answer I’m currently going to be able to give to you about just about anything is: “Interesting question! We’ll see.” I’m not trying to be evasive. Just: Early days.
I will say this, however: Holy crap, my life these days. Lock In is the third book of mine currently in development for a TV series at the moment (following Old Man’s War and Redshirts), a fact which is amazing and exciting and also kind of absolutely ridiculous if you think about it for three seconds straight. And in each case I am getting to work with fantastically talented people who know what they’re doing. And this is on top of the books, and the amazing people I get to work with doing those, and the video game, which again gets me working with just the best people you can imagine.
To repeat: Holy crap, my life these days.
More details, of course, when I have more details to give. For now, just know that I am happy. And thank you to all of you who are wishing or have wished me success. I think it’s working at the moment.
Unpacked some of the books and ARCs that arrived while I was on the second leg of the tour; here they are for your delight and perusal. Of particular interest, I think, are Ancillary Sword, the sequel to the multiple award-winning Ancillary Justice, and Last Plane to Heaven, the official final story collection of Jay Lake.
What do you find interesting in this collection of works? Share in the comments.
I am home today but tomorrow morning I set out again for the third and final leg of my Lock In book tour, which will take me to Brookline, Massachusetts; Concord, New Hampshire; Saratoga Springs, New York; Brookyn and Philadelphia. When all is said and done, this tour will have had over two dozen events on it, and I will have seen and signed books for, conservatively, about two and a half thousand people.
When I’m out and about and recount my tour adventures to people (I can reel off my itinerary just about in my sleep at this point), the question often arises about whether all this touring is actually still useful and/or desirable in an age where so many people get their books electronically, and when one (or at least, one like me) can show up to a comic con, at which between 20k and 50k people will show up in one place, where you also happen to be. In this context, book touring can at least initially seem like an anachronism, and of questionable value.
Here’s why it’s not questionable, at least for someone like me (and I will explain what “someone like me” means in a bit — stay tuned). In no particular order:
1. Because print books still matter. Chest-thumping about the digital revolution aside, print books are still 70% of the market in a general sense. I personally sell more electronically than in print, but my print sales are still substantial and I’m not inclined to ignore them. Book tours take me to places where those print books are sold, especially at the beginning of the book’s sales cycle. Showing up can make a difference.
2. Because it pumps up best seller list appearances. Lots of tours (including mine) include stops to bookstores that report to Bookscan, the New York Times, and to local and specialty newspapers and magazines, all of whom collate that information and offer up best seller lists. Best seller lists matter because it’s free advertising in newspapers and online, because bookstores (including Barnes & Noble, the largest book chain in the US) put best selling books front of store, making your work easier for people to find — especially if you’re in genre, because sometimes people won’t intentionally wander over to the genre racks — and because it becomes a useful tool in marketing. When you can claim you are a bestseller, it assures someone who has never read you before that they aren’t wrong for giving you a try; after all, lots of other people agree with their decision.
3. Because it helps to support bookstores, and not just in the sense of selling a whole bunch of books to people at the event to see me, although that doesn’t hurt. It also reconnects people to the fact that there is a bookstore in their city, gives them an opportunity to walk the aisles and look at the wares, and gives the bookstore a chance to make the argument to these folks that shopping at the store is still a great way to buy books and a great way to support local business. Helping keep bookstores in business and front of mind to locals is in my long-term best interest, because, again, print isn’t going away anytime soon… unless the bookstores go away.
4. Because it can generate local and national attention. Aside from best seller lists (which generally happen after the fact), local press often run interviews and features — or even just appearance listings — prior to an event, which can help draw people in to the local bookstore, and which can help my publicist capture the interest of reporters and media outlets further down the line on the tour. Simply just showing up can make the difference in whether there’s a review or feature. And again, people may snark about newspapers/magazines being in decline, but know this: Those newspapers and magazines still go out to tens and hundreds of thousands of people. You can still get a lot of attention from and awareness out of them.
5. Because it develops relationships between you and book sellers. If I come into a bookstore, fill it with dozens of people, all of whom buy books, talk up the book seller to my audience, and show appreciation for and respect to the book seller for having my event at their store, you know what? Weeks and months later, long after I’m gone, that book seller is still likely to be recommending and hand selling me and my books to customers who come into the store — and ordering my books, both in back list and when the new books come out. This matters quite a lot because, again, print isn’t dead, and people are people; they remember the people who have helped them out and have been on their side.
(The flip side of this is that if you come in to a bookstore, act like a jerk and give a disappointing appearance for the people who have come to see you, the book seller is going to remember that, too. So, you know. You try not to do that.)
6. Because not everyone who comes to your book tour is going to come to a comic con or other convention. Note that I don’t think these things are either/or — you can do book tours and appearances at large general events, like comic cons, book fairs and other such things. I mean, I do — I do several conventions and book fairs a year. But anecdotally, there’s a large number of people who show up to my bookstore events who aren’t going to go to something like a comic con. Some of them are people who do not see themselves as “geeks” — i.e., people whose idea of fun encompasses spending a day (or three) in a convention center among tens of thousands of other people. Some people hate large crowds and prefer an opportunity to see you in a more intimate setting. Some people have never heard of you before and found out about you through a book seller flyer or email, or a newspaper write-up. Some people just happen to be in the store when you start doing your thing. And so on. Limiting one’s self to one sort of appearance limits you to the sort of person who will come to that sort of appearance — limits your potential audience, in other words. I’m not sure why I would want to do that.
7. Because people want their moment with you. The number of people who have a book signed specifically to have a signed book is actually pretty small. The majority of the people who are getting a book signed are getting a book signed so they get a little time with you — to talk to you about the book, to get a picture, to share a thought or otherwise spend just a moment with someone whose work they like and who they might even admire in some way. A book tour is a good way to have those moments, and those moments matter — it can mean the difference between someone being a casual fan, and someone being a lifelong reader of your work (and being someone who recommends that work to others).
And yes, this is a very hands-on, time-intensive, retail way of doing things, but again, it’s not just about the moment, it’s about what happens after the moment — the knock-on effects of that moment, over days and weeks and months and years. Looked upon that way, it’s not a bad time investment.
(And once again, it can work the other way, too — if you blow that moment with someone, they’re going to remember that. You have to be fully engaged in the moment, and you have to make sure the person you’re having the moment with knows you are actually happy to be sharing it with them.)
8. Because it’s fun, even as it is a lot of work. I mean, come on. I get to go around the US and meet people who are fantastically happy to see me, perform for them for an hour with the reading and Q&A, and then spend a moment with them as I sign their books and/or take a photo with them. It’s a lot of travel and a lot of work being “on” the whole time, but it’s not hard, and there is, bluntly, a lot of ego gratification, which doesn’t suck, either. People geek out about meeting me. That’s weird. And delightful! But weird. I like it, and I like that every day that I am out of tour, I get concrete evidence that people enjoy what I do. It’s a nice life, you know?
There are other reasons to tour, including some that are very inside pool for publishing and book selling, but you get the idea.
Now, it’s important to note a couple of things here. The first is that in general I get toured a lot more, and a lot longer, than most authors; I’ve toured for five out of my last six books and I’ve toured for no less than two and a half weeks each time. That’s a lot, especially when you consider that I publish new books more or less annually. I am also someone who sells a lot generally and is well-along in his career; my position and perspective are different than many authors.
It’s also important to note that by and large the benefits of touring are not short term; at the end of my tour, Tor, my publisher, will just barely zero out the cost of putting me on tour, or will either eke out a tiny profit or suffer a tiny loss. This is all about the long-term benefits: To me, to them, to booksellers, and to the relationships between all of us and the folks who read my work. In the short term, the book tour benefits might seem iffy. In the long term, however, it is totally worth it.
So, again, for me, touring makes sense, and will probably continue to make sense, for a long time to come. I expect I’m not the only author for whom this is the case.