Notes on This Year’s Hugo Voter’s Packet

My Twitter feed in a tizzy this morning because Orbit books, which has three of the Hugo Best Novel nominees this year, has decided not to put the full books into the Hugo Voters Packet, opting instead to put in “extended previews.” The ostensible reasoning for that is here; a joint statement from the authors of the books in question is here.

As the guy who created the Hugo Voters Packet in its current form, some thoughts:

1. It’s worth remembering that the Hugo Voters Packet is not, in fact, an entitlement of Worldcon membership — indeed, for the first few years of its existence, it was run entirely independent of the Worldcon, and run by a guy with more enthusiasm than sense (that would be me). Moreover, participation in the Voters Packet has always been voluntary and usually contingent on publishers. Neither I nor the Worldcons (once they took over the compilation of the packets) can force or compel publishers to offer the works. It’s nice when they want to offer the full works, but if they don’t, then that’s their call to make. It’s always been their call to make.

Which is to say that if you were (or are) thinking of the Hugo Voters Packet as something you were supposed to get, with full and complete versions of everything, please stop. It is, literally, a bonus, something you got (and get) because of the intentional participation of those in it, and the willingness of volunteers to put it together and offer it to you.

2. Remember that the choices of the publisher may be at odds with the desires of the author — but that the author may not have a choice in the matter. If you hold the decision of the publisher against the author in any way, you are doing the author a disservice. Likewise, if you won’t read a book simply because it’s not in the packet in the complete form, or vote it lower because it’s not, well. At the very least, I think you’re doing it wrong.

3. If you read the previews of the books and you want to read more, remember: Bookstores and libraries (and friends with copies you can borrow, etc). These are things that exist in the world! And they are what people used before the Hugo Voter Packet, i.e., not all that long ago. It is not difficult, in other words, to give these works a fair reading and consideration.

4. As to whether the Orbit books are now at a disadvantage when it comes to the voting: Possibly, but then again, maybe not. The year Yiddish Policeman’s Union was nominated (and won), it wasn’t available in the downloadable packet; people had to jump through an extra hoop to get a physical copy sent to them. It did just fine. It’s entirely possible the extended excerpts will likewise do the job for any number of Hugo voters. It’s also, of course, entirely possible that enough readers have already read one or more of the books in question that their inclusion in the packet is neither here nor there (I, a very likely Hugo voter, have read all three, for example).

Furthermore, it’s possible that one or more of the books comes in with intangible advantages: Charlie Stross’ book may benefit from him being the only UK nominee on the novel ballot in a year in which the Worldcon is in London; Ann Leckie’s novel may benefit from having already won the BSFA and Clarke Awards for Best Novel (and being nominated for the Nebula); Mira Grant’s fandom is likewise loud and proud.

Which is to say that let’s not already declare these books out of contention, as I have seen at least one person do (hopefully in jest) on Twitter. There are almost three months between now and the end of the Hugo voting period. More than enough time for people to get reading done.

5. On a personal note, I will say that I think Orbit’s statement on why it’s not offering the full books in the packet is at least 63% utter bullshit; the whole “we’re so concerned about an author’s right of determination about their work that we’ve decided not to give them the right to decide whether to participate in the Hugo Voters Packet” bit is a particularly nice touch.

What I think really happened is that Tim Holman, publisher of Orbit (or someone above him), a) knows that this Worldcon is going to be the largest one in decades, with more than 7k people expected so far, b) saw that Tor was going all in on the Wheel of Time series, which would increase the number of people downloading the Hugo Voters Packet, c) did the math and decided that the packet represented a net loss of possible sales (particularly in the UK market) rather than a net positive in terms of goodwill and a possible Hugo win of one of his three nominated books.

This, by the way, would be a totally rational decision on his part and on the part of Orbit, if indeed that is their thinking. Giving away up to 7K copies each of three books is a lot, and Orbit is in the business of making money for itself and (hopefully) its authors. Likewise Orbit, as a publisher, has calculus to do on how valuable a Hugo win will be for them and these particular books, a figuring that has to include the fact that only one of the three can potentially win.

Which is to say I think Orbit has made the determination that one possible Hugo win, and the benefits thereof, does not outweigh possible lost sales on three books. Which again, is a totally reasonable argument to make (even if I, speaking from no little experience, might quibble with the argument). I don’t think that’s the argument their announcement is offering, however, and I don’t appreciate the level of credulity Mr. Holman (or anyone above him) appears to believe I or any of the rest of us have on the matter.

In any event.

My advice: If you are voting for the Hugos (or even if you’re not, but just like genuinely good science fiction) read Neptune’s Brood, Parasite and Ancillary Justice. They are worth your time, and they are well worth your serious consideration. Speaking personally, these three books are why it’s going to be a very tough year for me to vote, when voting in the Best Novel category.

122 Comments on “Notes on This Year’s Hugo Voter’s Packet”

  1. Personally, I think Orbit have shot themselves loudly and convincingly in the foot.

    The Orbit doublethink is Orwellian in its awesomeness.

    Charlie has posted a response over on Antipope. It’s pretty diplomatic, and I think it’s on Seanans’ site, too.

    However, I’ve already bought and read Neptunes’ Brood and Ancillary Justice, and I’ve already read a preview and decided not to buy Feed, so Seanan loses out – I might have been tempted to read the novel if it had been in the pack, but I really didn’t get into the extract.

    4.4M words of overblown overlong fantasy was never going to be my leading pick.

    So the other novel in this category is going to have to do a lot to overturn Ancillary Justice as my pick.

    On the other hand, the short fiction categories are the ones that have stuff I’ve not read in them, so if they are included in the packet, I’ll be fine with it. It’s harder to keep up with new work in those categories than in novels.

  2. Sometimes I wonder if you regret putting together that voter package in the first place. There seems to be quite some bad hubhub around it.

    On my end, I’m just kinda sad how fast a “here’s something nice I did for you guys” becomes the new minimum of things people feel entitled to do. I’ve seen it over and over again. Take Blizzard for example – they gave a players a pet for just logging in on World of Warcrafts birthday week for two years and then they stopped. The forums blew up. Even today people are STILL expecting free pets and get upset when they don’t deliver. They’d been better of as company to never have tried to do something nice for their players.

  3. Agreed in general, however…

    1) I’m not going to vote for anything I haven’t read.

    2) I’m not going to buy any books I wouldn’t have otherwise bought. (Being as a Hugo nomination is only very weakly correlated with me actually enjoying a book, and I have a finite budget.)

    Which means that any of the Orbit authors whose book isn’t at my local library is unfortunately SOL as far as getting a vote from me.

  4. Typo: “Charlie Stross’ book may benefit from him being being the only UK nominee on the novel ballot in a year in which the Worldcon is in London;” (overpopulation: too many beings in your sentence)

  5. Since the anouncement by Tor that the voters pack will include all 14 wheel of time books there have been over 1000 new supporting members of WorldCon. I, and I think orbit, believe that many of these people are joining simply to get The Wheel of Timr for $40. Once the pack is seen as a cheap way to buy books rather than as an aid to voting, with no money going to the publishers, I can see why publishers may be less keen on providing books to the pack.

  6. FluffyC:

    If your local library does not have the books, check to see if they are available via inter-library loan. You may be surprised at how many more books that opens up to you as a reader.

  7. It isn’t an entitlement, but the contrast with Tor’s decision to make the whole of The Wheel of Time available is pretty stark. I won’t tell anyone else what to do with their vote, but as for me, I feel this sort of nickel-and-diming is not to be encouraged.

    I will read everything in the packet as far as it can hold my interest, and then with respect to the novels, will rank the three Orbit books below “no award.” If I like any of them, I will buy them, but only after the date of Loncon. I don’t want to contribute in any way to the CEO who made this decision thinking it worked out well for his business.

  8. Looks like ILL for me, then. Luckily the UC system has a good ability to get things. I would still recommend people read the books – particularly Parasite, which is a fantastic read. I don’t feel that the authors should be punished for the shortsightedness of their publisher, even dismayed as I am at Orbit’s actions.

  9. I think it is a mistake. Thanks for linking to what Charles Stross posted on behalf of all 3 authors — it is not their decision.

    I sure hope Orbit isn’t also password protecting the excerpts they include in the Hugo Voters packet. I had fully expected to see password protected full versions of the Orbit novels (as they were in the past, which was very much a pain but workable), but if they are only excerpts and also password protected …

  10. May I say that I don’t think it is a reasonable argument to make if Orbit expects to be in the publishing business for the long run?

    Writers, UC are optimistic holy madmen and madwomen: they all without exception think their books are much better than they are–noticed that I am not saying the books are not good! All books are good! Even “Eye of Argon” is good!–And so the value to an author of having the book included in the Hugo packet should it get nominated far exceeds the cost to the publisher of distributing it in the Hugo packet (assuming, of course, that there is a cost at all, which is not clear to me).

    Orbit is going to have to pay through the nose in the future to keep Grant, Leckie, Stross, and other such authors in its stable. Thus I cannot see how Orbit can conclude that this is a rational economic decision unless it has already decided that it is playing the endgame…

  11. Thanks John. I was one of the incendiaries on The Twitters. I left a comment on Mr. Holman’s blog post. Do you know of a better way to (calmly, rationally, now Matt…) express our views on the subject; or is it too late, as Mr. Stross lamented on twitter?

    FWIW, my motivation is more than “I want free stuff for my 25 English Pounds!” I have already purchased one of the novels, and another work of a different nominated author, so I’m not adverse to spending money. It’s a Principle Thing ™ with me. Cory Doctorow has done just fine by giving away *all* of his novels and asking those who liked it to purchase it. I don’t see why publishers risk RIAA type hatred for a couple thousand sales.

    I am, of course, just a lay-person in this dispute, but hey, I can squawk, right?


  12. In terms of pure economics, the Wheel of Time has far outsold Orbit’s nominees to such a degree that a 7k loss in sales isn’t going to affect the bottom line anywhere like Orbit’s so if you look at it from a pure business perspective, it makes sense for them not to include all their nominees.

  13. I can ditto Chris S on mostly wanting the packet for the shorter works. The novel category tends to be a little easier to get a hold of on your own (from libraries, bookstores etc). A lot of the short fiction is available online, of course, but I’m lazy and would rather be handed a packet of it than have to go looking all over googledom to collect the set.

    I understand the authors being stressed about this–especially if they’re worried readers and voters are going to take it out on them. But for me personally, it’s not going to affect my vote much. I can’t say that will always be true–in a year with a different batch of nominees whose work I didn’t already know, it may have made a difference. But not this year.

  14. You’re right, no one should feel entitled to these works. Anyone shouting that they’ve been denied FREE BOOKZ!! is in the wrong, pure and simple.

    At the same time, I’m unequivocally not going to vote *for* a book I’ve only read partially. Can I go to the library, or simply buy the book? Sure. And all of the nominated novels are on my “Need to Read” list.

    But reading the Hugo packet is a pretty big time commitment for me in general, especially given that I read fairly slowly and we don’t have a whole lot of lead time. I will probably not seek out the Orbit novels in their entirety by the voting date, and I will not vote for them if I haven’t read them.

    That’s not punishing the authors or being spitefully entitled. I really like Seanan’s work, and I’ve heard great things about Ancillary Justice. It’s just the reality of the situation — including full works makes it easy and convenient for me to get them, and removing that convenience makes it a lot less likely I’m going to read everything in time.

  15. I said it a lot shorter on twitter but I will expand on the topic. Whether or not the packet is a privilege (and I agree that it is) this is a short-sighted move. The amount of good will engendered by including these books greatly outweighs the loss of the sale. That loss of good will is further heightened by the disingenuous statements regarding author choice. Moreover, I don’t know if you caught the fact that they are actively lobying World-Con to do away with the packet in its current “full work” format.

    Orbit is also forgetting is that a huge number of the “new” hugo fans are WOT readers. A big percentage of these folks not only are not traditional sci-fi/fantasy readers, but are now looking for new things to read. It’s a great opportunity to “capture” them. How in the heck do you then justify to them that you can only afford an excerpt when TOR just found a way to put more than a dozen books in the packet?

    From an author perspective, If I were any of the three who are being excluded I would seriously question whether my publisher had my best interests in mind the next time I needed to negotiate a book contract. There is a good (but not guaranteed) chance that Orbits cost some or all of them a chance at a Hugo. In a year where they each arguably deserve it and are not “throw in” nominations. Whether or not Orbit’s actions harmed their chances, if I were them I would always wonder.

    I agree with you the works should not be punished for Orbit’s stupidity. Still, it’s going to happen. If not intentionally, there will be those that will simply not have the financial means to buy these books. Others will try and fail to get copies from a library (Where I live (a major metropolitan area) there are 2 copies county wide of Stross’s work and both are reserved until the end of time). I hope that all will refuse to judge the work based on a cherry-picked excerpt. And, some are already on record about punishing Orbit for trying to permanently kill the packet. I will not be among them, but I will only be voting on those works I own (WOT, Grant), that are in the packet in full, or that I am lucky enough to get a copy of through a library. I will not vote any work based solely on a excerpt.

  16. Christopher Turkel is right – a big publisher can give away a whole lot more free books than a small publisher can. I do not believe awards should be determined on whether or not someone gets a free book, or for purely political reasons. Call me old fashioned – I believe awards should go to quality works. If I have to buy an extra book or two, I’ll buy an extra book or two (or get it from the library).

  17. Frequent reader, first time poster.

    Just wanted to make a point on Orbit’s calculus with respect to consulting the authors: it is at least possible that this is, in their view, the best way to provide full cover to all concerned, in that authors are sheltered from the ill-will the decision has caused. By being kept out of the decision-making, Stross, Leckie and Grant are allowed to express dismay at Orbit’s policy (which, to be clear, I fully believe to be genuine), but are spared having to choose between sales and their own generous impulses.

  18. Very well said John.

    I remember going to previous Worldcons, (Example, the 1992 one in Orlando, and reading ALL the nominated works on my own). Nothing entitles you to getting something for free.

    That being said, there are ways of acquiring things. People just complain too much methinks.

  19. @Pedro — I doubt it. I am betting the authors think that their best chance of winning the Hugo is not having their works at the center of a controversy like this. And I doubt any are thinking, gee I’d rather have the sales than the Hugo and a bunch of new fans of my work.

  20. I think the idea that the publisher is losing any amount of money by giving out books in the package assumes a lot. Specifically it assumes:

    1) Some large percentage of the Hugo voters would buy the book.

    2) The Hugo voters (fairly plugged-in SFF fans in general) who /would/ buy the book haven’t already.

    3) The Hugo voters who haven’t bought the book already won’t then go and buy it if they enjoy it.

    It’s very reminiscent of the specious anti-piracy arguments of yore.

  21. I agree with everyone, it appears, that this is a pretty shortsighted decision by Orbit. I would never spitefully rank a book below “no award” because of a decision by the publisher, though. People can call it what they like – “discouraging this sort of behavior,” or whatever – but ultimately it’s an act of spite. Attempting to punish someone for not doing what you wanted them to do. Even if it made a point to the publisher, it’s far more directly a vote against the authors. I’ve read and loved Ancillary Justice, as well as previous works by Stross and McGuire and couldn’t justify saying “I’d rather nobody get the award than you,” even if it was just in my own mind.

    As to the question of whether or not WoT fans are buying supporting memberships just to get e-books of the entire series inexpensively, there are a couple of statistical questions I’d wonder about. Unfortunately, neither can be answered until after the awards, so the answers couldn’t sway Orbit this year. First, how many votes were cast as compared to the number of supporting memberships sold, and how does that percentage compare to previous years? And if those numbers are comparable and WoT wins, how does its margin of victory compare to previous winners?

    Frankly, the real problem is that the entire series is eligible in the first place. I’m sure there are reasons why the rule exists as it does. I’m also sure getting the rule changed would be very difficult. It just doesn’t make any sense to me that a massive, years-long series of novels would ever compete against individual works. That’s like having the winner of the Super Bowl play the other 31 teams simultaneously. This situation shouldn’t exist, precisely because it creates these sorts of issues.

  22. This analysis makes a ton of sense. Would people really be all offended if Orbit said “It just isn’t economically in our best interest to provide these books free of charge to so many people”? Perhaps they would. I wouldn’t.

    Though, on an interesting note, Cory Doctorow makes all his books available for free download, and it hasn’t hurt his sales. (This information is a couple of years old, but I don’t think it has changed.)

    I’ll take your advice, if I can borrow copies of the books. I’ll read the excerpt from Parasite and see if I bounce off it (I have a severe aversion to horror).

    Someday again I hope to be able to buy all the books I want. I didn’t realize what a tremendous luxury that was.

  23. With due respect to Brad above, I don’t see how Orbit is at all wrong here.

    Tor is “giving away” 14 books only in the sense that very marginal sales of the first 13 are affected–and in an amount that isn’t material at the margin. (Does anyone who has been reading TWoT–and might buy the recent only–not already have at least most of the first 12 or 13 books?) Charlie’s claim that Tor’s decision is a raspberry to Orbit fails the MC/MR test.

    The only Orbit book similarly positioned is Charlie Stross’s (fifth of the series, iirc), and the algebra fails there, too. (Unless buyers of the Laundry series wait for Hugo Voter Packages?)

    Ancillary Justice is a first novel with a lot of especially-UK visibility (see awards notices above) and good-not-great trade sales–with the second volume due out six months from now.

    Give away several thousand copies–many of which will go unread anyway–and your paperback/ebook sales aren’t going to increase by enough to compensate for that.

    In short, if you want to be able to continue paying Anne Leckie and still expect to make a profit on UK sales, you don’t give away a substantial percentage of the copies you hope to sell–unless you firmly believe that UK readers (1) haven’t already been influenced by the two extant awards, (2) will be curious enough to read the volume included in large numbers, and (3) will rush to buy the sequel, instead of wanting to get it in Next Year’s Packet.

    I submit that anyone thinking that giving away several thousand copies in hopes of attracting that demographic is rational needs to mark their model to market.

    Parasite is in the same situation as Ancillary Justice–book one of a series with the next due in October. It doesn’t have the awards (though Mira Grant is a perennial Hugo nominee these years, as well she should be), but it’s also Temporarily Out of Stock at Amazon UK, which means it’s selling fine without having to give away books.

    So the Leckie logic also applies here–if you want to be able both to pay the author and make a profit, you don’t give away thousands of copies. If people aren’t willing to spend five quid on the Kindle edition, or a bit of time haunting the library and friends, they probably aren’t going to be buying the next book either.

  24. There are easier ways of getting Free Bookz.

    I’m a long term fan of the give something away and expect sales on the rest model. A bookshop near me used to give away a novel each quarter and Patrick O’Brian and Joe R. Lonsdale have done very well by me as a result. I’m less convinced by Cory Doctrow’s ‘give the whole lot away’ model. It made more sense when ebooks were weird and horrid to read, now they’re the standard. Still, he doesn’t seem to be starving.

    It might though hold up less well when considering Ann Leckie than the other two. It’s one thing to give away one novel when an author has a dozen on the shelves, it’s a bit different giving away an author’s entire published work(s). And then could one justify not treating all your authors the same?

  25. The DC Public Library has Parasite and Neptune’s Brood and I already own Ancillary Justice, so i’m good to go.

    I guess I shouldn’t be amazed at how quickly people have gone from thinking of the Hugo Voter’s Packet has a super nice voluntary extra to an entitlement. I can certainly understand Orbit looking at their bottom line and deciding they can’t afford to put in all 3 books free, since it would means giving away thousands of books in a way that really doesn’t generate anything quantifiable for them. Good will doesn’t pay the bills, and I’m guessing the majority of people reading the free ebook aren’t to think “that was an excellent read. I will now go buy the hard copy of that book or some other book because of the good feelings Orbit has generated.”

  26. I was surprised to lean that Orbit are also the UK Publishers of World of Time. And it’s going to be in the packet. Tor, in the USA, apparently have the right to decide.

    I imagine that the Wheel of Time contracts, partly because some of the books were originally published before ebooks were around, could have some important differences in the rights that Orbit bought for the UK.

    But it looks manipulative.

  27. I worked at a bookstore for a while in 1993-1994 and was always amazed how quickly those huge, expensive Wheel of Times books sold.

  28. The presence of the Wheel of Time set in this year’s packet is likely to be irrelevant to the decision by Orbit. I strongly suspect they would have made this decision no matter what was included in the packet by other publishers. Holman’s decision appears to be solely motivated by the fear of lost revenue to the WorldCon recipients and to perceived ongoing loss made possible by having those works widely distributed in electronic form (“They gave them away in the Hugo packet, so it’s okay for me to give them away too, since they’re obviously meant to be free!”).

    If Holman had been upfront about it, and couched his arguments in those terms, I’d have a lot more respect for him and for the company he fronts. As it stands, it is clear from his deliberate doublespeak that he isn’t comfortable justifying his actions based on his underlying reasons (as I see them, at least), which implies that he realizes that they’re incomplete or not compelling rationales. So, a fail for Holman and a fail for Orbit. While I have no desire to punish the affected authors (I already own all three books), Holman’s action will likely color my willingness to pick up future Orbit-published books.

  29. Josh:

    Ranking a book below “no award” is better for that book and author than not including them on your ballot at all, as others have said they might do if they can’t get them read. If “no award” is eliminated, that way you still are providing votes to that book; only if the winner has more or their votes ranked below “no award” would they be denied the award.

    On twitter I see Seanan McGuire has the same misconception; but despite it seeming like a deliberate slap in the face, putting a book below “no award” can actually help it.

  30. I await with interest to see whether the “extended extracts” are available in .epub and .mobi formats. If they are, I don’t think it’s a terrible decision. The one time I voted in the Hugos, 2 years ago, four of the five novels were provided in PDF only. I would much rather have an e-reader compatible extract that’s long enough for me to decide whether I want to acquire the whole novel.

  31. that should be:

    only if the winner has most of their votes ranked below “no award” would they be denied the award.

  32. I already own two of the three Orbit books, so it isn’t that big an issue for me. Still (and recognizing that it’s a bonus, not an entitlement) I am disappointed. Can’t help it. But I won’t take it out on the authors or their works…I’m disappointed, not petulant.

    I’ve always thought that the biggest benefit to the Hugo Voters Packet wasn’t in the novel category (those are, for the most part, easy enough to find on my own). The biggest benefit of the Packet is that it collects the shorter fiction into one place. Since I don’t read a lot of shorter fiction, tracking these down to read has always been the biggest struggle and the Hugo Voters Packet makes it much easier to read those.

  33. I think the point that people are missing is that this really isn’t about whether Hugo voters are entitled to the work. As many have stated, Hugo voters will do what they can to get their hands on theses books.

    The point Orbit has completely missed is that the packet is about fan service, building good will, and attracting future fans. TOR has nothing to gain from including WOT. There are no more of those books coming. Any new fans they garner are not going to be buying the next Jordan book because there isn’t going to be one (putting aside the encyclopedia which isn’t targeting casual readers). Each of the snubbed authors have multiple works out that many new Hugo voters will be discovering for the first time.

  34. RPF:

    This isn’t a “misconception,” it’s a difference of opinion. As Seanan’s one of the authors in question, I think I’ll take her word for what’s better for her. Both actions strike me as spiteful and petty.

  35. What’s the relationship between Orbit and the Penguin Group (which says is the American publisher of Neptune’s Brood)

    When I order from a new copy of Neptune’s Brood, does Orbit see any of that money, or does it all go to, Penguin Random House, and Charles Stross and his agents?

    RPF commented above that they will, because of Orbit’s decision, vote the three books below No Award, even if they like the books, to punish Orbit. While I think that is misguided, it’s their decision on how to vote. But, combined with the WoT-as-a-series controversy and the Correia-nominating-block controversy, it now appears that every single novel nominee has a reason to vote it below No Award that is not related to the merits of the work itself.

    As for me, this decision means it is less likely I will read enough of the nominees to make a decision, and thus I am even less likely to vote in that category. I think it’ll be interesting to see, compared to previous years and with other categories, how many others also abstain.

  36. Personally, I prefer to read the novels in hard-copy, and have gotten the ones I hadn’t already read through my library’s interlibrary loan. I do love the Voter’s Packet for getting access to the short fiction and art.

  37. dacapan, by the same token they have nothing to lose either. Tor isn’t giving up a tremendous amount of sales volume by including WoT (though it’s nothing to sneeze at). Orbit has made a business calculation; it may be right or wrong, annoying or not, but it’s theirs to make.

  38. Matthew – this has a marginal effect on voters like me.

    I haven’t liked any of Seanan McGuire’s books that I’ve read, so I have very little interest in buying this one. Were it in the packet, I’d read it, and judge it on its own merits, but not being in the packet leaves me either trying to hunt it down in a library (unlikely given how terrible my library’s purchasing of contemporary genre fiction is, and no net benefit for the publisher in any event), torrenting it (no net benefit for the publisher), or buying it despite the fact that i have low expectations of enjoyment (not going to happen).

    I don’t understand how this is in any way a win for Orbit.

  39. It’s probably true that most of the Hugo voters who were likely to buy the books otherwise have already done so, but there are also potential sales directly associated with the voting. There’s a good chance that I’ll end up buying the two Orbit books I haven’t already read, specifically to decide who to vote for. One of them I might have eventually got around to otherwise, the other one I probably wouldn’t have done.

    I don’t know what typical book sale numbers are, but if say 10% of eligible voters do the same, that seems like a respectable number of sales.

  40. I’m fairly sure the “If you put it below No Award, you risk accidentally voting for it” is from Kevin Standlee, who has been shepherding the Hugos through different Worldcon committees for many years. It’s how the Australian ballot works. Personally, I get a headache when I try to understand it, but I’m assuming he does understand it. (This also assumes I have that right.)

    I had no intention of reading either Neptune’s Brood (I like a lot of Stross’s stuff but bounced off its predecessor, Saturn’s Children) (note, it is NOT a Laundry novel) or Parasite (a couple reasons). Already read Ancillary Justice for the Sword and Laser book club.

    When I thought they would be in the packet, I was all “Okay, I can give them a shot.” Now I’m all “Do I really want to take the trouble to read a book I don’t expect to like?” Maybe I’ll get them, but given my TBR I wouldn’t count on it.

  41. Last year there was over eighteen hundred ballots for the novel category. Selling books to a percentage of those eligible voters is nothing compared to actually winning which translates to thousands or tens of thousands of copies. So it seems to punish the authors if anything else, because a win might have contributed to their career in some form or fashion.

  42. I agree with the sentiment above that the big value of the packet, for me, is the collected short works. The last time I read a novella (not counting ones associated with larger works) was the last time I got the Hugo packet. I found some great authors that way. I also agree that Orbit’s big goof here is paying lip service to authors’ choice and then clearly ignoring the authors’ choices.

    I guess my plan will be to start with the short fiction categories where all options are included, then move to the novels. If the excerpt grabs me, I’ll buy the book. If not, I wouldn’t want to vote for it, anyhow. So I suppose this move might have made Orbit a sale or two, after all. Still, I don’t envy them the ill-will.

  43. @klhoughton

    Give away several thousand copies–many of which will go unread anyway–and your paperback/ebook sales aren’t going to increase by enough to compensate for that.

    The ones that go unread don’t really affect anything, at least providing that the Hugo readers observe the request that they not give their packet away. It’s the ones that do get read by people who would otherwise have paid for them that potentially cost revenue.

    @Not the Reddit Chris S.

    On the other hand, the short fiction categories are the ones that have stuff I’ve not read in them, so if they are included in the packet, I’ll be fine with it. It’s harder to keep up with new work in those categories than in novels.

    I also value the packet more for the short fiction. I don’t subscribe to SF magazines and would rather not have to hunt everything down. I know several of the shorter pieces pieces are already available online for free (including everything from Tor), though most of the ones I’ve found are on a single lengthy web page requiring marathon scrolling. All of the short stores are online. Vox Day put out well-formatted eBook files.

    I’m almost finished with all of the novels except for however many WoT books I care to try, so for the most part the packet doesn’t do much for me in the novel category.

    As I recall, Orbit made a dedicated effort to making it unpleasant to read from the Hugo packet. I ended up buying Last of the California Browncoats because I didn’t want to read the one in the packet on my Nook. I don’t remember the details, other than the annoying password. Was it in .pdf only? I have a 7″ reader, the .pdf versions of stuff in the packet are typically not very useful to me. If Orbit’s objective was to make me want to pay rather than read the packet, they were successful.

    As I recall, Tor just gives you the same file you would get if you bought it from an eBook store in both Kindle and epub.,including the cover image. Kudos to Tor.

  44. Are there really that many people who will buy the books they weren’t planning on buying just to vote on them? I bought and loved Ancillary Justice based on the excitement after the nom but I was never going to buy Parasite or Neptune’s Blood for various reasons. Had they been in the packet I would have read them to give them a fair chance at changing my mind but honestly at this point it’s like giving me an excuse not to read books that I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to enjoy anyway. I’ll read the excerpts and see but they’ll have to be pretty exceptional for me to go further than that.

  45. Here’s a copy of my email to Orbit regarding their ill-considered decision. I think it speaks for itself and have nothing further to add.

    “You’ve made an extremely poor decision by not including your Hugo-nominated novels in this years’ Hogo Voters Packet. I don’t suppose at this late date that you’ll reconsider but hope it doesn’t hurt the chances of your nominees. All are excellent and deserve serious consideration.

    “I’ve already purchased all three of them so your decision doesn’t affect me personally but I think it does a disservice to the authors and reflects a poor understanding on your part of the role of sci-fi fandom and will end up costing you much more as publishers than any lost sales that might have resulted from their inclusion.

    “What you fail to understand is that Hugo voters are serious fans and serious readers. We buy a lot more books and share our opinions much more widely than the average reader. Gaining the attention and support of the sci-fi/fantasy fan community should be very important to you and you’ve completely blown a great opportunity to promote not only the nominated books but the Orbit brand in general.

    “You’ve certainly lost some measure of my good will and will have to work hard to regain it.”

  46. @Not the Reddit Chris S. – I’m not sure from reading your post if you’re confused about which Mira Grant book is in the running or if you’re just saying you’ve already passed on her work in general. Just in case, the book on the ballot this year is “Parasite” not “Feed,” if it makes a difference.
    Not a fan of the sense that the PR spin on this decision insults the intelligence of readers and Hugo voters. I do get the economic argument even though I generally feel like authors should have way more say in these things even given that reality.

    However, I’m not remotely ok with the “oh I would have read it if they gave it to me, now I guess they’re out of luck” theme I’m seeing in a lot of comment threads. Honestly if you can’t be arsed to do the (frankly minimal) work required to obtain and read all the nominated works, you really shouldn’t be voting on that category.
    As much as most of the comments I’ve seen in that thread start with some disclaimer about not feeling entitled to free books, clearly you do. If you’re only willing to do the job you signed up for if you’re handed the material, obviously you feel entitled to get the material in exchange for agreeing to read it. But guys, as a Hugo voter, you agreed to do the work of fairly evaluating the nominations – hell, you paid for the privilege of having the rest of us care what you think, along with getting a pretty great deal on the works already included in the packet.
    No one made you agree to this so if it’s just too hard for you to get your hands on copies of three in-print, recently published, mainstream popular novels in a genre you clearly like and care about, maybe you needed to think a little harder about your decision.

  47. My local library (Kansas City, but the little one – you know, in Kansas) actually assembled a list of Hugo nominees and made them all available as a “hot pick.” (Which means they knock a week off the rental time to speed up circulation.) I thought that was pretty nifty, particularly as someone who is not a Hugo voter but follows the proceedings with interest.

  48. Leaving everything else aside, I’m not sure how well Yiddish Policeman’s Union works as an example here; it was the first major work after Chabon won a Pulitzer, and I suspect had a lot more attention on it than even the big-name Orbit authors (like a front-page NYT Books review, etc).

  49. Color me unconvinced this is anything other than MAFIAA-style FUD. WoT didn’t influence my interest, and if I just wanted cheap books I’m sure I could find all the FR33 B00KZ D00D! I wanted. All this does is hurt the authors. I hold no malice for them–quite the opposite. Charlie is one of my favorites, I was looking forward to Ann’s novel, and I first got hooked on Mira by an earlier voter’s packet. But I cannot rate a book based on an excerpt.

    Since my reading time lately consists of visits to the can, stop lights, and walking between meetings, I’ll be hard-pressed to get through everything that’s IN the packet, even by prioritizing. Reading on a phone, PDFs and password-protected files don’t make the priority list. Physical books are right out. And books not in the packet have to wait until I’ve gone through everything else, instead of possibly being first read …

    Much as I’d like to ‘send a message’ to Orbit, I might still make the effort to see if B&N has Nook versions available once I’ve finished the others.

  50. “FluffyC: “I think the idea that the publisher is losing any amount of money by giving out books in the package assumes a lot. Specifically it assumes:

    Is the packet only ebook versions? I had assumed there would be physical copies involved. Because those would certainly involve a cost to the publisher and the equation would then be of the cost of books given away versus future/lost sales. If it’s only ebooks, then the potential loss/cost is dramatically less, though I would argue it is a nonzero number. The question becomes whether or not it translates into significant numbers in either direction to justify Orbit’s choice.

  51. ERose:

    I’ve agreed to support this year’s Worldcon, that’s it. Any further things I do with regard to the Hugos are entirely up to me.

    I understand the feeling some people have that you can only legitimately vote if you treat it as though you’re a juror on a juried award, but I don’t agree with it.

  52. @wizardru Yes, the package is only e-books. No physical copies. PDFs to boot, so not a particularly popular format but one everyone can read somehow, if only on their computer screen.

    I scraped together 42$ to vote on the Hugos when the Correia thing came up. But I wasn’t expecting to have to shell out another 31$ for the cheapest versions of 3 of the books.

    OTOH if this means fewer people voting in the novel category this could be very good news for some of the less popular categories, –if they don’t get total votes equalling 25% of the largest category they get smothered (no award is given) and I was afraid that all the new novel voters drawn in by the Correia thing would kill a bunch of them.

    For my part–yes, I was *expecting* those books. People can spit on me for that if they will, but that’s how my finances work and there is no need to be jerks to me because I don’t have the kind of discretionary cash they do.

    Absolutely I will be going to the library to fill out ILL forms. Tomorrow, because my library is so small they’re not open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. With luck, they’ll get me everything in time to read it before voting, but not all on the same day because I read fast but maybe not five novels in two weeks fast. We’ll see how it goes; I’ll do my best to make this fly despite this setback.

    Boy I hope the stuff in the other categories is in the packet.

  53. @ERose those are some mighty idealistic Hugo voters living in your world. These books don’t exist in a vacuum and while it’d be nice if everyone would read and judge them without bias that’s just never going to happen. A lot of the comments I’ve seen haven been along the lines of “I have reasons I didn’t read/plan to read these books in the first place and if they’d been in the packet it might have overcome those reasons.” For me, Saturn’s Children just didn’t grab me the way Stross’ other works have and I didn’t really see the point in continuing with a story I wasn’t that interested in. In the case of Parasite, I’m just not a big fan of Seanan’s novels. Since it’s a new series I might still get it if the excerpt is exceptional but based on what I’ve read of the Toby Daye series and the Newsflesh trilogy I’m not willing to buy it blind. Reading is something enjoyable, it shouldn’t be a chore. There’s nothing wrong with leaving a work off the ballot.

    I’m in the camp where the Hugo packet is most valuable for the shorter works. I am more or less aware of novel buzz throughout the year and will read the ones I think will interest me so while sometimes a surprise will pop up in the Hugo noms, for the most part it’s novels I’ve already parsed into must read/already read, probably will read at some point or not planning on reading. If a novel I’d planned on reading is in the packet, great! Maybe I’ll love it and buy it later or buy some of the author’s other work. If something I wasn’t planning on reading is in there awesome, maybe it’ll change my mind maybe it won’t but it’s really the exposure to the shorter works that make the packet so valuable.

  54. I’m curious what authors would think about the following statement. If I was writing for Orbit and I just got nominated for a hugo and Orbit did NOT give my book out, I would be pretty pissed. Even if it costs me some sales NOW, the marketing I would gain on future books from having ‘hugo winner’ on the cover would out weigh this. lists hugo winners, so does Barnes and Noble and so on. So when people are browsing for books they can see your name right there. I find alot of authors by looking at past Hugo winners (though I don’t always read the hugo winning book, but I read other stuff by that author).

    I’d be looking to jump ship to a new publisher. I think Orbit is a smaller press which implies that they pay smaller advances and pay for less book signing tours. If I get nominated for a Hugo I may be able to land a better deal at a larger press.

    My take: Ill check these out of the library. Assuming the wait isn’t too long, Ill hopefully get to it by the time voting is up. If not, I’m not voting for something I didn’t read. I won’t feel compelled to buy them over this. I’m rather annoyed that Orbit is trying to manipulate a Hugo voter into buying their books. Also, if any of the novellas/short stories do this and I’d have to go out and buy a big anthology book where I want to read just 1 story, I won’t read it and won’t vote for it.

    Putting the books into the voter packet isn’t about entitlement. Its about ‘do you want me to vote for your stuff or not’.

  55. Re putting the whole Wheel of Time in the pack…

    Does anyone realistically think someone who hasn’t been reading as it came out will read the whole cycle now, before the con, along with reading the other nominees and other categories?…

    The value is PR, and gap-filling for people who can’t find or remember one or passed the books along to someone else and want to refresh bits, and for people (like me) who burned out and dropped out a few books back.

  56. I think Orbit were entitled to run the math and make their business decision. I don’t think they’re entitled to blame author rights for that, or do without negative feedback for blaming the author rights for that.

    I think their math was naive, in that they evidently failed to take into account negative publicity and the net. Given the level of attendance expected, the odds of a negative reaction were predictably high, and … Foot, shotgun.

  57. I believe James SA Corey publishes with Orbit. Didn’t they give the one that was nominated last year away? What about the other Mira Grant book that was nominated?

  58. It’s going to affect me, and probably in the way Holman calculated.

    I had planned to use some of my purchase brand new books money to buy Ancillary Justice. Then I figured I’d wait until the Hugo shortlist came out to make that decision because then it might be in the Hugo packet. I borrowed it from the library to read instead.

    I’m not really interested in owning any of the other Novel nominees, even for free. I’ve bounced off Stross and Grant before, excellent authors though they are, I gave up on WoT ages ago and I dislike Correia’s entire subgenre—or at least the way he executes it.

    I had planned to give Stross and Grant a try (my wife, who also really didn’t like Saturn’s Children really *did* like Neptune’s Brood so it definitely sounds like it’s worth my giving it some of my time), so at least Orbit’s substantial excerpt will help me there. If I am gripped to read the rest, I live in a state with a very good library system.

    I figure I’ll dip into WoT here and there just to help me decide how to rank it. Having all the books available will make that easier.

    And, when Leickie’s next book comes out, I will probably go out and spend money on my own copy of Ancillary Justice. Ta Da! Way to go Holman. You’ve got me figured out. I’m not so sure I’m worth it, though. I note I am a tiny fraction of the possibly 2000-3000 Worldcon Best Novel voters who will buy the book because of this. The rest either already own it, don’t like that sort of fiction so now won’t read the whole book, wouldn’t have bought it anyway, or will do what we did in the pre-packet era and borrow a copy. Or they’ll be so pissed off at your horrible press release they’ll rank all three below No Award and that would be a crying shame.

    If Orbit had just laid out the financial calculations in their press release, I don’t think the backlash would have been so harsh. It’s the weasely doublespeak that makes this move look slimy instead of just parsimonious.

    RPF @ 11:22, I completely understand your desire to rank below No Award if the reason you want to do that is because of the slimy press release. I think you’re punishing the baby, not the bathwater, but I can understand it. However it sounds like you’re not as upset at the weasel words as you are at the “nickel and diming”. If so, I hope you change your mind. The Hugo packet is not a right we are owed. Publishers ought to be able to make these financial decisions without a bludgeoning from the members of WSFS. They’re doing us a favor after all.

    Bludgeoning for insulting our intelligence with a slimy press release is something else again.


    Blaise Pascal @ 12:36 – “…combined with the WoT-as-a-series controversy and the Correia-nominating-block controversy, it now appears that every single novel nominee has a reason to vote it below No Award that is not related to the merits of the work itself.”

    I’ve been thinking of how much of a workout No Award is going to get this year even taking the merit of the work into account. Between RSHD’s turgid novelette, WoT-is-not-a-novel, the pedestrian pissing puppies, and my personal (delighted and awed) realization that Gravity really isn’t SF/F, it’s *contemporary fiction*, I’ll no doubt be wielding it a lot more than I ever have before.

  59. @Cat Faber – The difference between the people I was calling out and you is in this quote: “I’ll do my best to make this fly despite this setback.”
    I do feel like it’s a dick move to pull the whole “while I’m principled enough to refuse to vote for something I didn’t read all the way through, I’m not principled enough to feel like maybe I should make an effort not leave out three nominees entirely because I didn’t get them for free so fuck Orbit” thing I’m seeing.
    I don’t have $31 to spare either, but it looks like we both have the familiarity with our local library systems one tends to have in those circumstances. I do think it sucks that this announcement happened now, after a lot of people bought memberships thinking that cost was their total expenditure for this very reason. I’ve always thought the packet was awesome precisely because it lowered the cost barrier for people like us.

    @Ell and @Mai – I do think that the Hugos, especially Best Novel, are kind of a big deal, so the community should be invested in making it a worthwhile award. So yeah, it annoys the hell out of me that people feel qualified to vote on Best Novel while totally disqualifying that many of the nominees, especially for such a dumb reason. If it’s just one you didn’t read or if you didn’t read the entire WoT series that’s one thing, but three novels is more than half the category. If you never intended to read those books, I do think you had no business voting in that category because how on earth could you have a remotely informed opinion?

    I do think this should have been decided and announced before people made their decision to be a voter based on the reasonable assumption that they would have no-cost access to the nominated works, and naturally, it’s shorter notice than a lot of people have time for to figure out a way to independently access all three novels in time to read them all. That doesn’t mean I think it’s ok to cast a vote based on two out of five nominees, or to sign on to be a Hugo voter if you don’t intend to make an effort to know what you’re talking about.

  60. The McGuire, Leckie & Stross joint statement was clear, well-worded, and dignified. I have sympathy for the authors.

    The Orbit announcement? Comes across as weasel-wording double-speak. Are Orbit trying to annoy Hugo voters? Because that is the impression I am getting.

  61. (I, a very likely Hugo voter, have read all three, for example).

    How much reading for pleasure time do you allow yourself in a typical week or month. Being as deep into language as you are being a professional writer, I would think you must have some rule for yourself, otherwise you would be reading to excess and not getting enough writing done to keep food on the table consistently. Just curious.

  62. My thoughts on this as a first time Hugo voter:

    It’s my understanding that the voting packet is electronic. What Orbit may have failed to consider is that I (as with other book lovers I know) like to own the physical books. I have not read any of the novels nominated for the best novel category, and was looking forward to receiving them in the Hugo packet. I lean more towards Fantasy than to SciFi, so it is unlikely that I would have picked up either the Grant or Stross books on my own, for example. I will not buy them just to decide whether to vote on them for the Hugos. If the excerpts grab me, I will check them out of the library.

    However, as with pretty much anything I read in the voter packet, if I enjoy it, I am likely to go buy the physical book where one is available, and am more likely to look at other books by those authors as well. So sales aren’t really lost there, only gained, as inclusion in the voter packet means I am more likely to try something out of my usual comfort zone than I would otherwise.

  63. Mai writes:

    @ERose those are some mighty idealistic Hugo voters living in your world. These books don’t exist in a vacuum and while it’d be nice if everyone would read and judge them without bias that’s just never going to happen.

    I bought a supporting membership to Loncon. I didn’t do it for the progress reports, I bought it so I could vote. In a normal year, I consider it important that I finish a work before I put it on the ballot in the fiction categories. So I might choose to omit a work based on Orbit’s excerpt but if I plan to put it on the ballot I see it as my problem to find a way to read the work. The Hugo award existed decades before the packet. People paid and didn’t even get a Hugo packet to show for it. For me the Orbit decision changes nothing, particularly since I’ve already read 2 2/3rds of the Orbit entry. This isn’t a normal year because there is no way I’m going to read the whole WoT before the deadline.

    I’m not sure that paying to vote for a literary award is idealistic, but yes, I paid because I want to take part in the process because I care about it to some degree. I think that obligates me to some degree of diligence. There are some categories where I won’t vote. I’m more flexible with sampling the best related works because they are more about difference in kind than difference in degree.

    ULTRAGOTHA writes:

    and my personal (delighted and awed) realization that Gravity really isn’t SF/F, it’s *contemporary fiction*,

    Well based on how much delta-V was available to the characters at times, you could probably characterize it as fantasy, and based on the arrangement of orbital real-estate you could call it alternate-history. :-)

    I really don’t have a problem with voting on Gravity for dramatic presentation.

    Before I nominated An Adventure in Space and Time, I did some searching to see if it should be a dramatic presentation or a related work. I had trouble finding anyone suggesting it as a related work.

  64. Blaise Pascal: What’s the relationship between Orbit and the Penguin Group (which says is the American publisher of Neptune’s Brood)

    There isn’t one.

    My agent sells North American (USA and Canada) territorial rights to Ace — a subsidiary of Random Penguin — and British/Commonwealth (excluding Canada) territorial rights to Orbit — a subsidiary of Hachette. Two entirely separate publishing deals. Orbit don’t get a penny from sales via Ace; Ace don’t get a cent from sales via Orbit.

  65. I wonder if some authors are now instructing, or at least considering instructing their agents to include a new clause in their next novel contract. Something to the effect of “if this novel happens to have the good fortune of being nominated for a Hugo, and the Hugo awards are still giving out voting packets, then this novel will be included in that packet in it’s entirety.”

    As another first time Hugo voter, I’m looking forward to the short fiction in the packet, and will read the excerpts provided. I already own Ancillary Justice and hadn’t planned on purchasing the other two. If I like the excerpts, I’ll try to get them through ILL or Link+ with one of my local libraries.

    I also have to read up on the voting rounds and what No Award means and what ranking something below that means.

    Guess I have my work cut out for me.

  66. I’m going to remember Orbit’s attitude next time I consider buying any of their books other than the Hugo trio.

  67. Hi. I thought I would comment not as someone who has ever voted for a Hugo award, but as a sci fi fan who has used these awards to help choose what to buy. I am upset by this. It feels like I can no longer trust these awards to be a measure of quality. Only some publishers will submit their books for free to the voters, thus gaining an advantage over those who do not. I feel at this point the Hugos can no longer be seen as impartial. I don’t intend to use them as a guide now. Such a shame for what used to be a good recommendation. Tbh, I think they might as well be cancelled now.

  68. Again Orbit books belong to their authors. Who didn’t make that decision. Holman did.

    Also, while I think that Holman’s weasel-wording is entirely misplaced, I think they really would have been better off pointing out, “Three of our books are in the Best Novel category. At this point, we’d be betting against ourselves financially speaking.” But I don’t think it’s wrong to ask folks to pay for books, to value them and the work that goes into producing them. Where Holman went awry was speaking pre-emptively for Ann, Charlie, and Seanan instead of standing by the value of their work and showing how the numbers don’t make sense for them.

  69. Count me as one of the folks who signed up as a supporting member for the first time because he thought it was a given that all of the books would be included in the Hugo packet (sounded like it was a given that they were part of the deal). I don’t share the outrage of others. I’m a little disappointed, but nothing I won’t get over. I own most of the Wheel of Time series, but liked the idea of an e-copy too, so figured why not see what the other Hugo nominees have to offer? But now, I guess I won’t get to see much at all.

    More importantly, It is truly a shame if 7,000 free e-copies makes that much of a difference to a publisher. And in general, If I like a book I buy it in hardcopy. Otherwise, libraries rock.

  70. gbutera: the British SF/F market is surprisingly small to Americans; typical midlist sales for an SF title are in the range 2000-3000 hardcovers and 7000-10,000 paperbacks. Also, the price/sales curve for ebooks is alarmingly worse — while, as with the US market, there’s a peak in the “under 1.99” category for cheap bargains, there’s no peak at a higher price point as there is in the USA for premium/new titles (selling for $9.99-$12.99 as ebooks) — sales at those prices are low. So distributing a bunch of free ebooks was deemed to be a significant threat to the market for Orbit’s titles — even 700 downloads of each would represent a 5%-10% slice of paperback sales.

  71. @Mike @ERose I’m sorry, I should clarify. I’m not dismissing the Orbit books out of hand (although I understand it sounds like it is). I am going to read the extended excerpts for Parasite and Neptune’s Brood (as I said, Ancillary Justice has been read and loved already) and should they grasp me I’ll source the entire book but if they don’t I’m going to leave it at that and probably leave them off the ballot. Had the entire novel been in the packet I probably would have read the entire thing because I’m not a fan of leaving books half read but if I don’t enjoy the excerpt I’m certainly not going to feel obligated to go buy the book in hopes that the rest of the book will change my mind just so I can say I read the entire thing and put it on the ballot. The excerpt works both ways, the publisher hopes it’ll lure readers into buying the entire novel but it could easily make people decide they’ve seen enough to decide.

  72. ERose:

    I’m not saying I don’t feel that I have an obligation with regard to voting, just that I don’t have the very stringent one that you outlined, and that I’m the only one who gets to decide what that obligation is.

    The possibility that I will read Neptune’s Brood is now somewhat higher, because someone in this comment thread said his wife also bounced off of Saturn’s Children but liked Neptune’s Brood. The possibility would also have been higher had it made it into the packet. I’ve already read Ancillary Justice, so that one’s moot; I may or may not choose to read Parasite, though I probably would have read at least a good portion of it if it were in the packet. Now? Too early to tell. I did NOT refuse to read the books. Nor do I expect to vote for No Award, largely because I never have, but also because it can backfire. And also because I’d rather ignore the stuff I think is appalling, should there be any in this set of nominees. (Again, too early to tell.)

    My Hugo voting is at this point a work in progress. I won’t vote in a category if I don’t consider *my own* criteria for voting met.

    I was just taken aback by the idea that I had agreed to all those things you listed by buying a supporting membership. Well, no, I didn’t agree to anything of the sort.

  73. I admit that the first supporting membership I bought was to get copies of the various nominees in the novel category. But what I got was exposure to so much more than I had realized. I found authors I had never heard of or seen. And I started looking for them. Books I would never have bought before suddenly showed up on my “to read” list, because I was impressed with the work I received as part of the Voter’s Packet. That has helped the authors and their publishers because I have purchased books I would otherwise not have. I didn’t buy the supporting membership this year for a variety of unrelated reasons, but the small remaining regret that I had to be missing out on new discoveries (for me), is gone. I am sorry. I will try to seek out some of the nominees, but my budget doesn’t extend to buying new books this year (one of the reasons I’m not a supporting member) and my local library has the worst SF collection imaginable. Clearly the acquisition librarian hates the genre.

    What is particularly troublesome for Orbit is that the doublespeak of their announcement was so blatant. SF fans have long memories and the announcement was insulting to the intelligence of their readers. Truly, it would have been smarter to simply explain that they felt it was not economically feasible. I get that giving away product is costly, but they would not have lost a sale by giving me a complete book. What they lose is the possibility that I will add one of their authors to my “always read” list. Unfortunately, this hurts the writers more than the publisher, which is a pity.

  74. Charlie 5:31 PM: Of course, Orbit is also making the assumption that most of the people getting the Hugo packet are in the UK market. Is there any information available as to how many of the Loncon supporters are in fact in the UK, as opposed to the US or some other market?

    Admittedly, I’m not a Hugo voter, but even if I were attending Worldcon, if I went out to buy any of the works in question, I’d be buying them beforehand in the US, and most likely from a US publisher. Not as a protest, but because that’s where I live.

    I’ve left a polite comment on the publisher’s announcement, the pull quote is “Sorry, but you’re watching the wrong bottom line”.

  75. Sarah writes:

    I can no longer trust these awards to be a measure of quality. Only some publishers will submit their books for free to the voters, thus gaining an advantage over those who do not. I feel at this point the Hugos can no longer be seen as impartial. I don’t intend to use them as a guide now.

    Sarah, I see your point, but I would suggest that when using the Hugo awards as suggestions for books to consider reading that you look at the whole short list. The Hugo’s Australian rules ballot will help pick a book that a consensus of the voters considers to be a pretty good choice, but it may not be the one that speaks to you.

    I’d also suggest the whole short list when using the Nebula awards in the same way.

  76. @Ell – You’re obviously correct that you can evaluate as you see fit and that a supporting membership is not a spelled-out contract. As Not the Sole Arbiter of the Hugos, I do appreciate your explanation that you have a process that doesn’t seem to be primarily motivated by whether you got a free book.

    I guess my original point was that as much as I am annoyed for a few reasons at the decision Orbit made, I feel like deciding to vote for the Hugos carries some degree of responsibility that just isn’t met by discounting books you didn’t get for free.
    It also did (and does) really annoy me that so many people either tried to pretend they didn’t feel entitled to free books, or that they were simply forced by their principles to not vote for those books now that they only got free excerpts. Just like it annoyed me that Orbit tried to position themselves as the champions of the authors’ rights when it so clearly wasn’t the case. In both cases I think you should make the argument you mean and own it. If you have to disguise it behind a pretty mask, maybe it’s just a bad argument.

  77. Dave Harmon @ 7:02 pm–“Is there any information available as to how many of the Loncon supporters are in fact in the UK, as opposed to the US or some other market?”

    Yes. As of today, there are 2317 out of 7594 total members of Loncon3 from the UK. All Worldcons publish demographic numbers.

  78. To be honest, I think some of these reactions are proving Holman’s point.

    His argument boils down to “We think that authors/publishers are being pressured to give their books away for free, because if they don’t, voters will punish them. We don’t think that’s fair, so we’re going to stop participating in it.”

    Response: “You’re not giving the books away for free? I’m not going to vote for you!”

    Not voting for the books because you honestly don’t have any access to them, whether from your local library or wherever? Totally legitimate. Not voting for them because you want to send a message that publishers better pony up the free books next year? Maybe that’s a sign that he’s right, and the packet entitlement is getting out of hand.

  79. Ultragotha: Hmm, so looking back up to Stross 5:31, the UK membership actually is pretty close to expected hardcover sales, or a significant chunk of the paperbacks — for the midlist, rather than “usual” Hugo nominees. Holman’s decision now looks a bit more plausible (though still arguable) as tactics, but I continue to think it’s bad strategy. (Time will tell, either way.)

  80. Speaking of ILL, many library systems have shared ebook collections–even my mom’s Podunk town joins forces with a number of others, so they have a nice collection and If they don’t have it, an easy suggestion process and pretty fast acquisitions. I’ve recommended books to the BPL and had them purchase it in a week which is very sweet.

  81. My principal thought is that the one book I have in retail right now has surely sold less than 10K. (It’s a specialist title with a high retail price.)

    If my imprint suddenly decided that they were going to give away 7K copies, I would surely want them to explain the upside of doing so.

    …In very small words.

  82. Free books encourage people to read books they might not otherwise read – and this is a marvellous marketing tool. It would particularly have benefited Anne Leckie, whose book is a first-in-series – the ideal volume to give away in order to sell the rest of the series.

    In terms of the impact on the Hugo vote – meh. It’s a popularity contest. There’s never been a requirement to read all the finalists to vote on any of them, and make some pretence of comparing them on some theoretical objective standard and choosing anything but “this is the one I like best”. A small minority might attempt this.

    I won’t vote for a book I haven’t read (or place them under “No Award”). But I also won’t go and read books that are not interesting to me. Or forget that this is a popularity contest where most people already have a favourite going in.

  83. @charlesstross if you have a different us publisher why does orbit get to decide if your book can be in the packet? Is there a concept of a primary publisher.

  84. I did make the decision to buy the supporting membership based on the inclusion of WoT in the packet — because I’ve never read any of the series. But I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t be voting in the Best Novel category because I wouldn’t be able to finish all of the nominated works, and although I could read the other nominees, I probably wouldn’t finish WoT in time. So my plan was to make sure I read as much of the other (text) nominations as I could in order to contribute an educated vote in those categories, and perhaps thereby offset a membership purchased by someone else with the sole intent of voting for Best Novel.

    But on hearing that three of the other four Best Novel candidates will be in the packet as excerpts only, I’m considering that I might, in a strange way, be more justified in voting in that category based on a partial read. That is, I might not have to read all of WoT if I’m only reading excerpts of the others. I dunno.

    I’m certainly likely to buy not only the full-length books (in print) but their prequels and sequels if I like them, so I guess in that sense Orbit’s strategy would come out ahead. This isn’t an endorsement or even opinion of that strategy, just a note that in my particular case it probably works.

  85. In Australia, voting before the voters packet existed was difficult. Chasing down all the magazines and short fiction? Impossible. Trying to read novels that had to be specially imported from the states, because they had not been published here? Difficult.
    Yeah for the voter’s packet, that’s my view. Honestly, there were years I would have cried just at the ability to get excerpts…..

  86. Eh, I bought the supporting membership to vote on the Hugos on the assumption that the works would be included, but I could have waited longer to know for sure. I thus am somewhat miffed, but not stomping around with signs miffed.

    I think Orbit’s press release is full of (elided), but I probably would have bought the Stross work anyway. I still have not read Feed, thought the Incryptid series was meh for me, and have rather liked Toby Daye. Had they put thier books in the packet, I would have put them earlier in the list to read. Thus, neutral outcome for orbit – perhaps an extra sale weighed against me reading a series with potential future sales.

    So, while I will give a try at reading the entire set, I will probably put the ones I did not get as part of the packet last, and I will only vote on what I actually read and either finish or stop in disgust. I doubt this is making Holman quake in his boots, but it should at least factor into the calculus of his decision next year.

    At the least, it was not quite the self-kill that Tori Weiskopf did at Baen

  87. I’m mostly amused that people keep referring to Orbit as a “small publisher”.

  88. I have read 2 of the 3 Orbit books so I don’t feel hard done by at all. Most years I have already read what interested me by the time the packet comes out but it has previously introduced me to new authors.
    I discovered Mira Grant/Seanan McGuire this way and have bought many of her books since. So for my 2 cents worth they may still garner new readers from a decent length excerpt but the sour taste from the business first attitude may make the audience find a free copy anyway just to spite them.
    Either way its bad publicity for Orbit. They want to sell some books at the con don’t they? Wouldn’t want to rile up those that attend? A bit short sighted of them.

  89. This inchoately valued bad publicity – isn’t that the flipside of asking people to do stuff for free just for the exposure?

  90. Just thought I’d add something of relevance to the discussion…

    There are 6000+ members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

    When nominated for an Oscar, is has been expected practice to send a physical or digital “Screener” copy to every member of the Academy.

    In 2003 the MPAA tried to shut down this practice, using terms of the MPAA membership on it’s own members to prevent them from sending Screeners. In december of the same year a federal judge struck down such a requirement, on the grounds that it was coercive to film makers, and excessively damaging to independent film makers. The practice swiftly resumed.

    There are only slightly more Worldcon members than Academy members.

  91. Dave Harmon: Ann Leckie’s book is a first novel. She’s most definitely midlist. I’m front-list in the US, but still not terribly far above midlist in the UK. Seanan’s book is not midlist (I think the “Mira Grant” pseudonym is now a New York Times bestseller, though I’m not sure how she’s doing in the UK). Hugo nominees are not all (or automatic) bestsellers by any stretch of the imagination.

    Guess: Orbit is my UK publisher. Ace is my US publisher. I asked them both for permission, as is required by my contracts. They discussed it at a high level, and Ace’s publisher passed the buck to Orbit as the worldcon is on their patch this year.

    CS Clark: This inchoately valued bad publicity – isn’t that the flipside of asking people to do stuff for free just for the exposure? — Yes, absolutely correct! Once you start doing stuff for free, a certain proportion of the audience come to expect it as an entitlement rather than a voluntary donation.

    Jay: The difference between the Academy and the WSFS is that the WSFS is open to anyone to become a member in return for cash (a supporting worldcon membership). The AMPAS is somewhat more exclusive.

  92. Given that the voter’s packet is lacking three novel entries this year, damn straight a supporting membership is not a spelled-out contract.

    You can’t have it both ways. Publishers don’t have to include their books; I for one have stopped expecting other fans to read all the works. There have always been fans who voted without giving everything a try; this year I guess there will be a few more, pushed into that category by the change in logistics. I just hate that the books most likely to be left out are the ones I suspect will turn out to be my favorites.

    And frankly, I think it is unfair to elide “people who don’t bother to read them all” and “people for whom the money/time barrier to reading them all is unreasonably high.” Money and dedication are different things and one term should not be used in place of the other.

    If I were Correia’s or Sanderson’s agent, I would be sending Orbit a *very* nice thank-you letter, with flowers, and possibly chocolates.

  93. Jay Blanc, I’m not seeing the relevance.

    1. Nobody is trying to prevent the Hugo packet from including material, unless I missed something, so it’s not clear how your example applies to the Hugo situation.

    2. As Charlie Stross noted, the WSFS is open to anyone. If anyone could pay a nominal fee to join the Academy and get a copy of all the screeners, I think the Academy would have millions of members, and the economic calculations would change.

    3. The movies up for Academy Awards nearly all have an enormously bigger market than SFF books and stories, so again, very different economic calculations.

    4. As I understand it, the WSFS members do not get copies of the best dramatic presentation nominees as part of the packet.

  94. Orbit’s statement doesn’t just say “authors”, though, they say “authors and rights holders” (and “writers and rights holders later” — not sure if that is a distinction). In the sense that the author and Orbit have negotiated distribution rights in the UK, presumably with contract terms allowing Orbit to decide how to sell and promote the author’s book, with the author’s consent, decisions that Orbit makes are decisions that the author has consented to having Orbit make.

    That the author might desire differently in a specific instance, post-sale, doesn’t really change any contract with Orbit about that kind of thing, and Orbit may be the “rights holder” in this instance. I don’t really see it as double-speak.

    Authors can negotiate contracts that express their desires about this kind of thing in a binding fashion. Or not, depending on how willing the publisher is to negotiate this kind of thing. The point seems to be that neither party should feel pressured to do things that they believe are damaging to themselves (in this case, “make their work available for free”) for the sake of avoiding being punished in the running for an award.

    They are very clear that this is Orbit’s decision, and not at the behest of any authors. This sounds like they are trying to avoid acknowledging that it is against the wishes of their authors.

    The opposite situation could happen too, such as Robert Jordan’s (supposed?) distaste for ebooks now apparently being ignored by distributing his books electronically (much less as a ‘free’ ebook in a voting packet). Though granted, his estate may have different desires than the living author had.

    All that said, I do think it is a bad decision on Orbit’s part. I am a huge fan of things like the Baen Free Library, and strongly believe in the value of exposure for authors. But then, I’m not a publisher, much less a regional publisher. I just don’t think that standing up for “authors and rights holders” is incoherent double-speak, even if the explanation, overall, is 63% BS and probably avoids going into Orbit’s real reasons.

  95. Charlie

    Thank you for your clarification, both here and on Antipope; I think it helps people to understand that there are major differences in the way the SF market works in the Uk, and the way it works in the US.

    More generally, I think the publisher’s perspective includes recognising that the people who actually buy, or have bought, the books may not view the promised land of free books for all as an idyllic outcome since the paying punter seems to be excluded from all the usual analyses of publication, piracy, DRM and so forth.

    I can certainly see why authors may believe that someone reading a free copy of their book will be so awestruck by its awesomeness that they will rush out to buy it, or another book by that author; after all, authors should believe in the value of their writing, because otherwise they wouldn’t do it (unless, of course, they’ve signed a contract for a lucrative series and the mother lode of inspiration has since disappeared, in which case they grit their teeth and soldier on).

    But the person who already thinks the author is awesome, and has laid out the money to prove it, may well have a different perspective on this; it is their money which pays the author, and the editor, and the artist, and all the other myriads of people responsible for getting the book, in any form, into their hands.

    Any sane publisher needs to bear this in mind, because pissing off the paying punters is a very good way of losing said paying punters, which in turn means losing the money they provided which enabled books to be published in the first place.

    Oddly enough, I am more likely to buy and read the Orbit books than I was a week ago; the publisher seems to me to have thought this through and concluded that it was a bad deal for the books, and for the business. He has faith in the books, which is a definite plus when I’m choosing what I’m going to read…

  96. Sam: “The opposite situation could happen too, such as Robert Jordan’s (supposed?) distaste for ebooks now apparently being ignored by distributing his books electronically (much less as a ‘free’ ebook in a voting packet). Though granted, his estate may have different desires than the living author had.

    I hadn’t heard of this, so did some googling. It appears you have the story backwards. From Brandon Sanderson’s blog:

    Question: Why a delayed ebook release for A Memory of Light?

    Answer: This is not my decision or Tor’s decision, but Harriet’s. She is uncomfortable with ebooks. Specifically, she worries about ebooks cutting into the hardcover sales. It isn’t about money for her, as the monetary difference between the two is negligible here. It is about a worry that her husband’s legacy will be undermined if sales are split between ebooks and hardcovers, preventing the last book of the Wheel of Time from hitting number one on either list. (Many of the bestseller lists are still handling ebooks in somewhat awkward ways.)

    As the last books have all hit number one, she doesn’t want to risk one of these not hitting number one, and therefore ending the series on a down note. (Even though each Wheel of Time book has sold more than its predecessor, including the ones I have worked on.) I personally feel her worries are unfounded, and have explained that to her, but it is not my choice and I respect her reasoning for the decision. She is just trying to safeguard Robert Jordan’s legacy, and feels this is a very important way she needs to do so. After talking about the issue, we were able to move the ebook up from the originally planned one-year delay to instead come out this spring.

  97. Of course Orbit can make whatever decision they want about the Hugo packet. Just like they can make any decision they want about where they send ARCs or review copies pre-publication.

    But whatever their decision is and whatever their reasons are, they should justify it on THEIR grounds and not bring others into it. This bit: “that writers and rights holders should be able to make their own choice” makes it sound like writers and rights holders (ie, publisher, in this case) will always agree. Nope! Even though they later note that the writers did not “request” this action, they didn’t say if they even consulted with the authors.

    I think Orbit could have either made the economic justification, or stuck with their “we don’t like the pressure to give stuff away” argument — as long as they did it as the rights holder and left the authors out of it.

    Right now, to me, after re-reading the Orbit release several times, I keep coming away with a feeling that Orbit thinks they know what’s best for the authors and the author gets no say at all. This bit in particular bugs me: ” we believe that we are acting in the best interests of our authors ” .

    As several people above noted, maybe there will be future contractual changes out of this…

    Does anyone know what the “extended previews” will be like? Are they teasers or a sort of readers-digest condensation? And who is selecting the content of the “extended preview”? Did the authors get any say in that, at least?

  98. In the past, many of the related works in the Hugo packets have been excerpts, I’ve never seen any outcry about that. I will have to admit that I’ve never purchased a copy of a Hugo nominee novel after reading the free one in the Hugo packet, even the password protected PDFs that are unreadable on my ereader because they are sized for a 8×11 with huge margins and printer registration marks. I’ve already bought the Stross, I’ll probably borrow the Grant from the library, I may buy the Leckie at some point. I do not fault them for choosing not to give out 7000 free copies of their books, but I hope that Orbit provides the excerpts as epubs and Kindle formats, to provide them as crappy password protected PDFs would be the PR equivalent of mooning the Hugo voters.

  99. I would argue that Larry Correia would have a better chance of winning if all the books were distributed in the packet. This is his first nomination as John noted. So if he is going to win he will need votes to be drawn away from the front runners. The two front runners are going to be WoT and Charles Stross. WoT due to the WoT fan base. Charles due to home town advantage and he is a long time SF writer and popular.

    BTW Charles, I respect your voting ‘no award’ for WoT, even though I’m a WoT fanboy.

    Charles stated that Ann Leckie is ‘midlist’. I don’t think I have seen reviews like this for a first book genre writer since Name of the Wind. I dobut her second book will be midlist.

  100. @georgewilliamherbert: People won’t read the entier WoT, but you won’t get the final book without reading the rest, so it makes sense to put it all in so people can atleast read the first one. Also, its a boon for Worldcon. Its worth buying a supporting membership for 14 books.

  101. My personal position. I am not in a financial status to go to London. I am a semi-active member of fandom and I do care about the Hugo awards.

    I was considering buying a supporting membership to take part in the voting this year. One of the reasons a supporting membership felt like a reasonable expense was the voter packet. Spending $60 to get 5 Novels, 5 Novellas, 5 Novelettes, and 3 Short Stories felt like an expense I could support. (I realize that the Wheel of Time is more than 5 novels, however I can buy most of the copies I don’t have from the local used bookstore for $2 apiece if I wanted to read the whole thing.)

    Orbit’s decision may reduce the value of the voter packet enough to have me decided not to get a supporting membership.

  102. Waiting for the voter’s packet to start reading the novels doesn’t leave much time. I’ve usually already read 2 or 3 of the books before the nominations come out because I’m looking for great books to read, and those are the ones that get nominated. I rely on the voter’s packet for the short works, which I’d never hunt down in the various periodicals.

    I just checked, and my local library system has all the nominated novels (I didn’t check that every single WOT book is there). I realize I’m blessed to live in a town with a great library.

    If you have an e-reader (or e-reader software on a computer) you can often* download a sample, and check out a book that way. If I hate the first chapter, I may know enough to rank a book.

    My sympathy to the authors whose books are published by Orbit – part of the Hachette Book Group. Not only are they getting the effect of some Hugo voters saying they’ll vote against the books just because of the publisher, but Amazon is deliberately making it more difficult to order books published by Hachette in order to negotiate lower prices. If you see a book on backorder on Amazon, check your local bookshop or another online seller, and you may find it in stock. I use a Kobo instead of a Kindle because I don’t like Amazon’s business ethics.

    *Strangely, the “sample” of some books is just the cover art, table of contents, and dedications. I downloaded the Preview because I was interested. If I’d liked it, I’d have clicked “Buy”. Now, if I remember the author and title the next time I’m in a bookshop, and it’s on the shelf, and I have time to flip through it, I might buy the book.

  103. I will fully admit that getting the voters packet was a big reason why I decided to become a supporting member this year. But I did it with the knowledge that the rights were not pre-negotiated, and that inclusion of a work was subject to the approval of the authors and publishers. Quite frankly, I expected WoT to the be sticking point, not everyone else, however. The non-novel categories were the main draw in the voters packet for me, as others have also mentioned.

    But since then, the idea of being involved in the process, of getting to vote on the Hugos, to vote on site-selection, and all that, has become more exciting than the idea of getting lots of top-quality SF/F fiction for cheap. So much that I’m already considering getting a supporting membership in next year’s WorldCon despite having no idea what is even available for nomination, much less will be in the voter’s packet.

    I would not be a supporting member without the voter’s packet, but the voter’s packet is not my only reason for joining.

  104. You are almost certainly correct about #5, but one thing being an indie publisher has taught me is the power of getting a book into the hands of a probable fan. Whatever sales they lose to the 7,000 attendees would be more than made up by sales of other books by the same authors. They’re passing up an amazing marketing opportunity while at the same time actively irritating fans.

  105. Sadly for Anne Leckie, she’s being double whammied. Not only is this going on, but Amazon is pulling their slimy ‘usually ships in two to three weeks’ crap on her book, as well as not discounting it one penny. Of course, they’ll gladly sell you their Kindle version. All of which is making me think very hard about whether I with to continue down the kindle eco-road.

  106. Unfortunately the Loncon website states that supporting membership:

    ‘This does not entitle the member to attend the convention, but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the Hugo Awards and/or site selection.’

    It would seem sensible, at the very least, for Loncon to have confirmed that with the publishers before they made the claim; as things stand the publishers are declining to roll over and beg, and that is not a huge surprise.

    ‘We believe we are acting in the best interests of our authors’ suggests that Orbit has actually thought about it; they have simply reached a different conclusion to the one that some of the people involved have been complaining about. As for the contractual stuff:

    Charlie Stross has noted on his own site that his agent is in negotiations with Orbit for the next two Laundry File books; in practical terms no other UK publisher would want to take those books on, and Charlie certainly is far too sensible to flounce around making impossible demands of his publisher when his income for the next couple of years depends on that publisher.

    Ann Leckie’s book is her first novel; it has quite good sales, but quite good sales in SF, certainly here in the UK, are not very large numbers. The idea that other publishers are queuing up to thrust vast sums of money into her hands, thus enabling her to demand that her books be freely available should they be Hugo nominated, really doesn’t fly. The second book of the trilogy, also published by Orbit, is due out in October, and the final volume, whenever.

    I haven’t a clue what Mira Grant/Seanan MacGuire’s sales are in the UK; over here the words ‘NYT best seller’ on the book cover are not a magic password to instant fortune, so I really don’t know. According to Amazon UK, Parasite is ranked 14,183 on the paid Kindle list, though if you refine the search to SF in general, and genetic engineering in particular, it’s ranked 25.

    Perhaps the most important figure is that Neptune’s Brood costs £8.99, almost twice the price of Ancillary Justice and Parasite, also on Kindle; that may make a difference to the willingness of voters to pay for it if the ‘substantial excerpt’ is insufficient for their needs.

    On the other hand, the same company owns both Orbit and Tor; one way or another the best novel Hugo packet is being subsidised by Hatchette. Declining to provide another 21,000 free books is a perfectly reasonable commercial decision…

  107. Tor is owned by Bertelsmann, not Hatchette. I think someone here said that WoT is published in the UK by Orbit, so Hatchette could have influenced that decision too if the wanted to.

  108. Stevie, “all the publications” means the materials published by the Worldcon, such as the souvenir program book. It doesn’t refer to the Hugo voting packet at all.

  109. @Stevie

    ‘This does not entitle the member to attend the convention, but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the Hugo Awards and/or site selection.’

    It would seem sensible, at the very least, for Loncon to have confirmed that with the publishers before they made the claim; as things stand the publishers are declining to roll over and beg, and that is not a huge surprise.

    I don’t construe the Hugo packet to be a publication of the convention. That line promises that a supporting member will receive progress reports from the convention. I would guess that a line like that has been in Worldcon promotional material for decades before the first Hugo packet.

    In retrospect, it does look like a little more specificity would be in order.

  110. @Stevie:
    ‘This does not entitle the member to attend the convention, but is for anybody else who wishes to receive all the publications and vote in the Hugo Awards and/or site selection.’

    In this case, “publications” refers to the CONVENTION publications (progress reports, programme book, etc.)

  111. Steven

    Sadly, I think a lot of the people signing up for the supporting membership thought that ‘all the publications’ meant all the publications that the Hugos are awarded for; a not unnatural conclusion given the proximity to the words ‘Hugo Awards’, hence the angst.


    Thank you for clarifying for me; Wheel of Time is published in the UK by Orbit, which is the source of my confusion. It looks as if Tor did a pre-emptive strike on books which Orbit holds the rights to in the UK, for a convention to be held in the UK, and Orbit has responded by declining to allow any further incursions into its territory.

    It is somewhat bizarre that Tor apparently chose to stuff the voters package with books it doesn’t hold the rights to in a particular country; the delay between the Tor announcement and Orbit’s announcement presumably involved both parties lawyering up.

    On the other hand, it may just be that Tor overlooked the fact that London is not in the USA…

  112. Madlogician:

    You realize that your plan implicitly punishes any writer other than the Hugo nominees who happens to be published by Orbit, right?

    Those writers had nothing to do with this decision, and if they had more than one publication offer to choose from, which they took wasn’t based on a crystal ball telling them what Orbit would do about the Hugo packet in 2014. And similar choices in the future are unlikely to be based on what Orbit just did here; it will be at most a minor consideration compared to how much money the publishers are offering for this book (or series of books) and what rights they are asking for in return.

    I’m not saying boycotts are always wrong. But they tend to be blunt instruments, and I don’t think this is the appropriate place for one.

  113. Stevie: Perhaps the most important figure is that Neptune’s Brood costs £8.99, almost twice the price of Ancillary Justice and Parasite, also on Kindle; that may make a difference to the willingness of voters to pay for it if the ‘substantial excerpt’ is insufficient for their needs.

    That’s because it’s a hardcover release. Paperback is due on June 1st in the UK, at which time the ebook price will drop considerably. (I’m hoping Orbit also see fit to make it a low-cost promotional lead item for a month or so as well.)

  114. Well, I’m making a good-faith effort here. I can’t afford to buy a bunch of hardcovers. My library doesn’t carry any of the three, though I imagine they will get the Stross eventually since they have all his others. I can do exactly one ILL at a time, and can take 4-6 weeks to get the book. So I requested the Stross. If I’m lucky I might be able to get one more before the voting deadline. Or I can evade the ILL restriction if I want to drive to different towns. Needless to say, the closest copies of the Leckie an the Grant novels are not in the same towns because that would make it too easy. With all the short fiction that will presumably be in the packet, I may or may not get around to that.

    Maybe I’ll try to read the entire WoT series after all. :) It’s possible for me, in theory.

  115. Charlie

    Thanks once again for your very helpful post about pricing; if they do chop the price of Neptunes Brood considerably, will that come into effect before Loncon votes?

    It would be one way of getting to know the book for those who have not much in the way of libraries to hand…

  116. Stevie, I understand Tor, in fact, does own the rights in question. And I am reasonably positive that if they didn’t they wouldn’t have made that offer to the Hugo Committee.

  117. I wrote a more detailed post over on Charlie’s blog, but I have to say I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. When people starting viewing the voting packet the whole goal–like an “Indie bundle” of the best SF of the year–rather than simply a way to help them make an informed decision on the voting they were going to do anyway, it’s starting to be a problem. And yes, I’ve seen suggestions that some people are starting to think this way.

  118. It’s Orbit’s right. It’s probably not their best decision.

    However, as many people have pointed out, it’s the short fiction that is the real gem of the voter’s packet. Periodicals are referred to as “ephemera” with good reason; prior to the Voter’s Packet the difficulties involved in tracking the short fiction down were severe enough that most people didn’t vote or voted based on the few they’d seen. Now, a voter can make an informed decision based on 80% or more of the entries.

    Incidentally, we’re an example of the folks who got a supporting membership because of the Wheel of Time—we own the series already, and had been discussing converting it to e-book format to gain shelf space. Everything else is a wonderful bonus. But I hope Orbit realizes how they’ve kicked themselves by providing excerpts—one of my prior top picks for Best Novel happened to be one that needed the full book in order to gain that vote.

  119. Amazon UK are currently charging £2.99 for the Kindle version of Ann Leckie’s ‘Ancillary Justice’, around the same price as a coffee in central London. So, for anyone attending Loncon who has not already read the novel that looks like a very reasonable price.

    And yes, London is an exceedingly expensive place.


    It would not be the first time that someone in New York failed to recognise that London is not situated in the US; English lawyers get quite a lot of highly profitable business out of that particular delusion. The myriad meetings required to settle matters were usually good for comic relief if nothing else. Of course, publishers may be much more geographically literate than bankers…

  120. On the flip side, does anyone know the proper way to thank publishers that included their works? Including the entire work in the voter’s packet is quite a gift to fandom even though many voters find a way to get it in hardcopy. I think we all appreciate the way that it allows voters that otherwise have difficulty getting a work to be able to fairly evaluate all the nominees. I’d send them an email or make Facebook post, but I’d hate to be a bother with an email, and I’m not sure if publishers would want the fact that you can get the books with the voter packet on their Facebook page. Tor posted about the packet on their blog, so a comment on that post would be the way to go, but I’m not sure how to thank Baen.

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