Internal Book Workings

Answering a couple of questions I’ve gotten recently about the mechanics of the book-related stuff here:

* First, for those who were wondering about the disposition of the Duck and Hate Mail contests: The winner of the Duck contest will be declared on Monday. The Hate Mail winners, I suspect, will follow shortly thereafter, because I have to compare notes with the other judge. Hey, you guy spewed some excellent bile. It takes time to digest it.

* Several people have asked me how I got book companies to send along their books (presumably so they could do something similar). The short answer is I didn’t do anything, other than letting it be known I was happy to get them, and once having gotten them, perhaps to talk about them here. I’m not entirely sure this is an effective tactic for others. Hell, I don’t even know if it’s an effective tactic for me, since not every science fiction publisher — not to mention publishers in general — sends me stuff (I don’t think I’ve seen anything from Eos or Bantam Spectra, for example, and now that I think about it Tor’s been erratic as well, which is ironic).

And this is fine: Publicists are generally good at what they do, but they’re not psychic, and if I don’t actively ask to be put on mailing lists, they can’t be blamed for not putting me on them. It’s not like their Scalzi-sense is tingling, or anything. While it’s not out of the question for me to ping a publicist (I’m sorely tempted to beg for an ARC of the new Neal Stephenson), I’m mostly content to just sit here and see what comes my way. Because I’m lazy, you see.

* Given that this is my method of procuring books, you may be unsurprised to learn that my method of procuring participants for The Big Idea is basically the same: I wait for authors to ask. Now, sometimes if I’m at a convention and I see an author and I know they have a book coming out, I’ll remind them that I run the Big Idea feature here, and that if they want to participate, they should ping me. But that’s about it. Otherwise it’s mostly about others asking me, and me looking at the schedule. This keeps things relaxed and fun, for me at the very least.

* Do I read every book I am sent? No, nor do I attempt Klausnerian feats of speed reading in order to do so (Harriet Klausner, incidentally, just wrote her review of Zoe’s Tale, which was mostly positive; I was unaware there were shapeshifters in the book, but in her copy, apparently there are). If I did nothing else, I could read one book a day enjoyably, but I don’t do nothing else; rumor is, I occasionally write books myself. I typically read a couple a week.

* What do I do with the books when I’m done? Some I keep, some I give to friends, and sometimes, after a suitable time has passed where I’m no longer concerned that I’m interfering with author sales, I’ll give them to the local library, which will incorporate a few into their holdings and put others into their library sales. Seems a good way to do things.

You ask, why don’t I give them away to Whatever readers, hint, hint? It’s a nice idea, but unless you’re all planning to make a pilgrimage to my house to pick up your books (note: please don’t drive to my house with the plan to pick up books; Kodi will eat you), sending books out by mail costs me money, and I’m not sure why I would want that.

That said, I’ve toyed with the idea of putting together a mystery box of books I’ve received and auctioning it off, with the proceeds (minus shipping costs, naturally) to go to Reading is Fundamental or some such. It’s a thought; maybe I’ll do it when I’m more organized.

Any other (book-related) questions?

34 Comments on “Internal Book Workings”

  1. With the way this crowd rolls, you may be talked into another trip to the Creation Museum.

  2. It was considerate of you to prepare a special copy of Zoe’s Tale for Harriet Klausner.

    Perhaps she got Toe’s Tail instead?

  3. Um, Harriet also claims that Zoë flirts with her Obin bodyguards. I know that you’ll be adding layers to Zoë in this book, but I’m not sure that’s one I can imagine.

    As to the “shapeshifter” comment, that’s what the colonists get for calling the damned things “werewolves” and having a speed-reader skim their book.

  4. I was unaware there were shapeshifters in the book, but in her copy, apparently there are.

    Dude, that’s like saying you didn’t see the invisible people. Of course you didn’t know they were shapeshifters: they’re shapeshifters. Sheesh.

  5. A box of unknown proofs would be a fun charity auction deal.

    I love reading Harriet’s reviews after I have read a book just to see what she has gotten wrong again.

  6. Heh, I wish my local library was better stocked. The entire sci-fi/fantasy section consists of four bookcases. Maybe I should donate some of mine…

  7. Just a note to those that want to get ARCs or books for review and the like:

    The best way to do it if you’re not already famous like Scalzi, who apparently the publishers chuck books to in truckloads, is to establish yourself online. Start with a blog or a website that has regular content. Build a following doing amateur reviews of books you buy. If you’re lucky, in a year you’ll be able to ask publishers directly to be put on their review lists. If not, keep at it. I got lucky and was able to do reviews in under a year with the help of a friend who had a larger following than I did.

    So, in recap:
    a) Get a blog or website with regular content.
    b) Do your own amateur reviews of books you buy or win in contests, etc. Try to be new about them. Don’t just review books from the 1940s, get some new books in there, particularly from publishers who you might be interested in reviewing for.
    c) Do all this for a long while to build a following. Advertise yourself, but smartly (don’t be annoying).
    d) If you have a decent enough following, try asking publishers if you can do reviews for them, or, possibly, get into a group with folks doing reviews of works like you who may already receive work from publishers, and cleverly ask them for leftovers :P. Sometimes this actually works. A lot of review blogs are run by one person, and publishers have this thing about sending a lot of books all at once. Sometimes they can’t review all of them and feel it’d be better to do as giveaways or hand off to other reviewers.

    That’s basically it. Doesn’t work all the time, takes a lot of work to get even a pathetic following and a lot of patience. Don’t expect to get Scalzi numbers in a year, or even ten years, or ever. Most blogs don’t break the 5 readers mark :P.

  8. Patience, man. That box of books is not on the table; it’s just temporary storage. I’ve still got sorting to do.

  9. I think the auction is a good idea. I’ll even suggest one (cause yanno, I’m volunteering *your* time) for the flood victims–maybe a library in Iowa or something.


  10. I’ve got an inane, worthless question that has been goading me.

    I have been trying to get my practice novel done (heard some hack author tried that once) and have been steadily hitting ~1,000 words a day beside my full-time job and my life that includes two kids, one wife, and a tank full of near-dead fish.

    John, when you’re working on a manuscript do you have a daily word count that you live by?

  11. No. I live by deadlines, not word counts. Some days I write 5,000 words, some days I play videogames.

  12. Kodi will eat you.

    I see you’ve already found the title for the sequel to “Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded”.

  13. The local library in Bradford must have the most awesome scifi collection ever.

  14. SMD has it right, that’s how I started getting sent books out of the blue.

    I will say though that after over a year of this, I’ve only just now started getting sent for free books I would have gone looking for/bought in the store. I do get a lot of Literachoor(TM) stuff in the mail that I wouldn’t have picked out for myself to read. Sometimes I have been pleasantly surprised at that, though.

  15. My suggestion for what to do with excess books (at least the non-ARCs): release ’em into the wild!

    BookCrossing explains it way better than I can:

    My shelf is under the Gryffud name there.

    The idea is simple: register the book on the site with a unique ID #, and then give it away – friends, family, park bench, doctor’s waiting room, etc. Future folks will pick the book up and read it, and by going to the site and putting in the BC ID# they can journal their experience – where they found it, what they thought of it, and where they left it if they passed it on. In this manner, you can, if so inclined, follow the book’s progress around the planet.

    BookCrossing is free and, if you wish, anonymous.

  16. Gryffud:

    “My suggestion for what to do with excess books (at least the non-ARCs): release ‘em into the wild!”

    But these are books that have already been domesticated. They’d be much better off in a zoo, er, library.

  17. Just for the record, the local library in Bradford does have a fairly nice little scifi collection. Also, one of the most complete collections of Scalzi available in a public library. Unfortunately, it is still a SMALL library. I’m re-reading Janet Evanovich for mystery fun and have just discovered (I know, I’m late) Terry Pratchett for fantasy fun, and they are both shelved in the generic fiction section. I hate it when I’m in the mood for a certain genre, and can’t tell by the spine of the book what type of book it is, or have to browse through six shelves of “fiction” to find one or two mysteries I might possibly like!! Oops, sorry. Nerdgassing.

    I like Right-to-Read as a charity, but how about the local chapter of the Internatial Reading Association, or even your local school’s library or fieldtrip fund?

  18. Alisha:

    “Also, one of the most complete collections of Scalzi available in a public library.”

    Well, it benefits from the author contributing copies.

  19. Scalzi two questions: One, how do you get to be so awesome? I want the secret.

    Two, how do you prefer to be addressed online? Jon? Scalzi? Mr. Scalzi? Monkey Boy Writer?

  20. I got one free book from a publisher once. A nice heavy hardback just showed up in the mail one day. I liked it. No idea why I got it, though.

    Then months later I got a letter explaining that since I had not turned in my review for the first book, they wouldn’t be sending any more. Apparently a letter got lost somewhere.

    I still have no idea why they wanted me to review it though.

  21. “I was unaware there were shapeshifters in the book, but in her copy, apparently there are”

    There’s high-concept for you: a science-fiction review of a science-fiction book.

  22. Sir, I have a question, or rather a request for clarification.


    I refer to your wistful aside that you would like an ARC of Mr. Stephenson’s new book, and I was unaware that such a book was forthcoming. If so, this news floats my bubble.

  23. I still get the occasional shipment of review copies from when I used to own a bookstore. I do what I can to see that the books I’m sent get a little extra attention in the blogosphere, although I haven’t gone so far as to set up my own site.

    If you’re still wanting that Stephenson ARC, I’ll cheerfully ship you the one they sent me.

  24. Mr. Scalzi @26

    Wasn’t Admiral Scalzi in a silly little Paul McCartney song.

    and if you don’t want the Alice’s Stephenson ARC, I’ll take it and I’ll pay for shipping too. :P

  25. Sounds like if you want to donate them to your library, you’d have to donate a library building first. Your best bet then is either your original idea of a roll-your-own charity auction or donate them to a charity that already has an established book-fair.

  26. My wife is a blogger on a fairly well known ‘mom’ blog and gets ARCs of books and other free stuff randomly sent just because she does reviews of stuff sent to her.

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