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It's creeping up on the Big Names (long)
- To: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
- Subject: It's creeping up on the Big Names (long)
- From: Jean Lorrah <a21711f@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>(by way of Kennet Gencks <kennet@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>)
- Date: Mon, 22 Sep 1997 04:16:17 -0500
- Reply-to: xanadu@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
This isn't pagan stuff or mystical things. But it's germane to any of us
who can read, and it rather matters and is alarming...if it's intrusive,
delete away. (Forwarded from author Jean Lorrah). Pass it on if you feel
Here is a copy of a letter Spider Robinson, a MUCH bigger name than either
Jacqueline or I ever had hopes of being, has just sent out to the (count
'em) 60,000 of his fans whose e-mail addresses he apparently has. Read it
and weep. Jean
------Begin Forwarded Message-------
Subject: Open letter from Spider Robinson
From: ted@xxxxxxxxxx (Ted Powell)
I just received the message below from Spider. Although I'm in the
middle of setting up some computers here, I figured this was important
enough that once I get this posting done I'm going to HTML-ize the
letter to put on the web site (http://psg.com/~ted/spider/).
I hope you'll consider it important too.
[--Spider's text begins--]
I'd appreciate it a great deal if you would post, forward, link,
and/or otherwise disseminate the following screed to all those at
alt.callahans, #callahansIRC, the Compuserve SFLIT Forum, AOL's
Callahan's Forum, and/or any related sites you can dig up or
swing up out de jungle:
"Squeegee That Monitor For You, Sir?"
AN OPEN LETTER TO ALT.CALLAHANS AND RELATED SITES
FROM SPIDER ROBINSON
My toast tonight is, "To writers--may the saints add preservatives to =
This is something I swore I would never do.
But I'm too worried not to. The horse I ride on--the publishing =
industry, never exactly a thoroughbred--has just begun to stumble and cough
blood. Suddenly I need your help too badly NOT to pull on your coat-tail.
You alt.callahans folk and related accomplices owe me nothing. You have
made YOUR Callahan's Place all by yourselves, with no help from me, and =
I think it is in many ways a better, finer creation than my own--one in =
its way more wonderful than I COULD HAVE imagined. I'm not trying to call =
in some nonexistent marker--just asking for a minute of your time. I =
promise I'll play you out with a song when I'm done, at least, like the last =
time we spoke. Okay?
Let me try and give you an idea of HOW worried I am:
I have recently given serious thought to what else I might do for a =
living, besides write books.
No, really. I have even...God, this is hard...I have even contemplated
honest work. Of some kind. There must be some trade you can pick up at
As concise a statement of the problem as I can provide:
The publishing business has, in slow stages over the twenty-five years =
I've been writing, essentially been captured by the same kind of vampires =
that ruined Hollywood. Freebooters, parasites, looters...oh, come out and =
say it: SHAREHOLDERS, and their chieftains and goons...who want only to milk
the industry--ANY industry--for the maximum possible short-term return, =
and don't mind at ALL if they bleed it dead in the process, so long as they
personally get sufficient advance warning of the crunch. People =
who--for reasons I will NEVER comprehend--actually WANT to be Very Rich. =
(People, in other words, who either don't know or don't care whether they =
themselves are happy or not...as long as they have all the marbles.)
They have the same swing-for-the-fences mentality that is screwing up
cinema. All we want here are zillion-dollar superstar blockbusters...and a
few "little" pictures in which to groom the superstars of tomorrow.
Nothing in between; no second features. In like manner, many of the =
people making decisions in publishing today would like to have a list =
consisting of nothing but Clancys and Parkers...and a handful of talented
who might be the NEXT Clancy or Parker, but meanwhile are willing to =
work for first-novel prices. (I hasten to add that I mean no slightest
disrespect to either Tom Clancy or Robert Parker; I picked them because =
I respect them both highly, and buy their new books on sight.)
This isn't the editors and publishers themselves I'm talking about, =
either. Many if not most of them love good books, even now. But their
are being made for them by the conglomerates that swallowed them up in =
the last decade or so. Men and women who got into the business for the
fundamental purpose of publishing (at least some) books they were proud =
of, are now working for people whose ONLY guiding principle is the mantra,
"Place yourself between the talent and the money." The ultimate,
industry-shaping decisions are being made, as in Hollywood, by people =
who don't give a toasted DAMN about the PRODUCT, much less the =
What they want is simple: HUGE profits, NOW. Blockbusters...and good =
first novels, or hacks who are willing to work REAL cheap.
What they DON'T much want anymore are MID-LIST writers. Quirky =
scribblers. Ones with faithful but not mammoth audiences. Ones difficult
to sum up
=to a salesman in Paducah with a one-sentence soundbite. Ones PEOPLE =
magazine isn't talking about. Ones whose books haven't been a sma-shit (no, =
that's not misspelled) movie yet. Ones whose works not only reward, but =
REQUIRE a high-school education and some imagination. Ones who sell
not VERY well--or not all in one big lump, but over time.
They'll keep a few around, for show...but only if they're willing to =
accept a little serious downsizing.
I'm not the only one squawking. At least one colleague recently =
circulated an urgent open letter similar to this one, triggered when he
that after over 25 years of award-winning publishing, he can literally no =
longer sell a book in New York--even to editors who like his work. The sales
figures for his last book (and ONLY his last book) just weren't good
Upon reading this, I suddenly became very interested in things I'd never
paid any attention to, like my own sales figures and print runs. I was
fairly cheered by what few numbers I could find, lurking under =
concealment on assorted "royalty statements"; my printruns were routinely
100,000 copies, always sold well enough to call for at least a second
printing, always hit the Locus sf Best Seller list. The rent always got
paid--often on time. But lately there has been all sorts of Bad News in
the publishing biz, talk of "cutbacks," so I resolved to keep a weather =
eye out, or peeled, or whatever it is you're supposed to do with a weather
Guess what I just found out? Tor, citing "industry retrenchment," only
printed up less than ONE QUARTER AS MANY copies as usual of the latest
Callahan paperback, CALLAHAN'S LEGACY.
That's right, a book which carries in it printed acknowledgment of all
60,000+ of you alt.callahans members out there plus all the related =
forums, channels and groups was not printed in sufficient numbers for HALF
you to buy a copy, should you be so inclined.
They will only go back to press if most of those sell out. Those =
pitifully few copies, like ALL paperbacks, have a maximum shelf-life of
month. Tops. In some venues, a week. (If they GET to the shelf at
So here at last is what I'm saying: if you were by any chance thinking =
of picking up a copy of Spider Robinson's new one -- or the new one by ANY
author you care about who isn't already a blockbuster superstar -- for =
the love of God, PLEASE DON'T PUT IT OFF! This chance may not come again. =
If it's not on the shelf, ORDER it....FAST, before they pulp the returns =
and unshipped copies...
Times have changed. If you love books, you must now start to change =
your thinking, and come to see them as precious, evanescent fireflies, which
flicker briefly and then are no more. If you do not stay alert for =
them, and grab them on sight, they will probably never be reprinted: the =
concept of backlist is on its way to the ash-heap. All of us who put words
row for your enjoyment are in serious no-shit danger, and we need your =
help and support. I know *I* do.
How much? Let me give you a clue: I LEARNED the above information about
my most recent print-run while trying to get an explanation for why the
proposal I had submitted to Tor for my NEXT book about Jake Stonebender =
and his family and friends (working title: CALLAHAN'S KEY) had, after months
of puzzling silence, just brought back an offer of...60 percent of what =
they paid me for the last one. (In devalued dollars.)
Cousins, I was just barely making it at the OLD rates. Until a month =
ago, when a miracle occurred, I was composing my books--all my work--on a
computer which I just saw advertised in MacWorld for US$49 plus =
shipping. I can't TAKE a 40% pay cut and pay my rent. And at 48, I just
got the stamina to go back on the road as a musician; it's a young man's =
The ONLY lever I can hope to apply is to show a LARGE sell-through for =
that miserable first printing...and the next (dear God let there BE a
next)...and the next...and hope that eventually one of those illiterate =
but NOT innumerate bean-counters way up on the corporate ladder of unknown
strangers who tell the publishers what to do will see numbers he or she
likes, and decide that there just might be room for me somewhere on one =
of the bottom rungs of the Star section. "Knock that cat a living wage..."
rather than "Throw a statue where that cat blew..." as Lord Buckley =
might have it. THEN I'll be able to write you all the next Callahan book...
(And again, I'm not trying to put a knock on Tor. They've showed strong
commitment to the Callahan series; this must be the best they can do for
me, the way things are these days.)
Christmas will be here all too soon. Why not get your shopping done
early...down at the bookstore? They happen to have, or should have, =
THREE Spider Robinson paperbacks on the shelves at once, just now--another of
those wizardly publisher decisions--containing a total of SIX complete
Spider Robinson novels between their six covers. (See my website for
details-- http://psg.com/~ted/spider) A Sixpack of Spider (and
Jeanne)--for under US$22/CAN$30!
And trust me: they won't be there long...
(The combined ad and promo for all three volumes, from two different
publishers, has been far less than I'm used to seeing for a single novel
in the past. I guess they now want to wait and see how the books sell, =
before deciding if it's worth advertising them...see what I mean? Typical
As Homer and Jethro used to say at the end of every number, "Thanks for
your sympathy." I appreciate your listening, and appreciate any help =
you may be able to throw my way. So--just like the last time I wrote to all
you folks--I'm going to play you out with a song, to thank you for =
letting me jingle my cup.
I was sitting here in my office one night 'round midnight, last month,
pecking away, and Jeanne was two open doors away, invisible to me, lying
on the couch in the livingroom reading a Zen book...and all of a sudden for
no particular reason I looked up and smiled and called out, softly, "I'm =
aware of you."
And she purred, and stretched on the couch, and called back, "That's a =
song title." So when I got dressed again and got back to the computer, I =
wrote it, and by the next day I had the tune right.
Slow ballad, attempted Ray Charles flavor, key of A. It goes:
I'm Aware of You, Jeanne
(c) 1997 by Spider Robinson; all rights reserved
I'm aware of you
When I'm busy at my work and you are humming in the parlor
I'm aware of you
We don't have to say a word, I never need any reminder
I'm aware of you
And I care for you
I will be there for you
You're aware of me
You give me what I need most times before I know I need it
You're aware of me
I don't have to slay a dragon just to come to your attention
You're aware of me
And you care for me
You've been there for me
And this house is alive when you're home
When you're gone, it's a pleasant hotel
I don't ask if you're home as I come through the door
I can tell
I can tell...
I'm aware of you
While my mind is chasing characters across the Galaxy
I am aware of you
When I'm rapt at my computer playing poker with myself
I am aware of you
And I care for you
I know you know I do...
You know I know you do...
'Cause I'm aware of you
THANKS FOR LISTENING. PLEASE FORWARD. TELL YOUR FRIENDS. HAUNT YOUR
BOOKSTORE REGULARLY, *ESPECIALLY* YOUR INDEPENDENT OR SPECIALTY =
ASK THEM TO PHONE YOU WHEN A NEW BOOK BY YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR COMES OUT;
THEY'LL BE *GLAD* TO TAKE A LIST. IF YOU DON'T HAVE SUCH A STORE =
NEARBY, GET AMAZON.COM TO AUTOMATICALLY SEND YOU YOUR FAVORITE AUTHORS' NEW =
BOOKS ON RELEASE; THEY'RE SET UP TO LET YOU FILE A LIST.
"'PEOPLE WHO READ BOOKS'...NEXT ON GERALDO..."
IT'S NOT FUCKING FUNNY.
Well, okay, it IS...but it's a funny DISASTER, for our whole species.
And certainly for
15 September 1997
| James L. Terman | Science may set limits to know- |
| | ledge, but should not set limits |
| terman@xxxxxxxx | to imagination. |
| http://www.slip.net/~terman | - Bertrand Russell |
--------- End forwarded message ----------
Jean Lorrah A21711F@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (alternate Jean1@xxxxxxxx)
**I will be inaccessible by any e-mail Oct. 10-12, 1997**