Not The Fox News: 66% Gradient

I have a book in my comiXology wishlist. It’s the first She-Ra graphic novel. Looks great, I love the show and this fits an extra piece of canon in there. I have a comics budget and I couldn’t quite stretch to the 8.99 it costs. I put it on my wish list and figured I’d come back later.

On Wednesday the book was 8.99.

Today it’s 12.99.

With no warning or announcement, Comixology have rolled out a 66% price hike in the UK and Europe wide. The assumption is that this is to begin to recoup the amount they’ve lost subsidizing the industry over the last few years. The assumption is that this is yet another way that Brexit the eternal foot-to-own-bollocks of the UK has found another way to make this island smaller, more expensive and less joyful. The assumption is that this is just the way of late stage capitalism and we should all just shrug, accept it and move on.

That’ll probably happen. The fact the comics press have rolled out one whole article about it certainly seems to suggest it’s less important than the Black Cat’s new armour or the persistent rum ours that DC are about to retire every single one of their lead characters and replace them. Got to get the clicks, right?

But 66%.

That doesn’t just correct the subsidies talked about in the Bleeding Cool article. That’s a 1:1 parity. Here’s how BC breaks it down:

(A quick aside: Hate on them all you want but they are the only site that bothered to report on this.)

To put it all in dollar terms, right now ComiXology UK is charging $6.44 for a $4.99 comic, despite not incurring shipping costs. When last week they charged Brits $3.86 for a $4.99 comic. They have been subsidizing the pound’s collapse for some time.

That, by itself, is bad. But the manner in which this has been rolled out is bluntly offensive. There’s been no warning, no statement, no explanation beyond a bland ‘We take lots of factors into account’. Just an eyeblink and suddenly the money that got me 4 comics last week gets me 2 this week.

I’m a comics reader. I’ve worked in marketing. I’ve done my time in customer care. This is genuinely one of the absolute worst ways to deal with customer relations I’ve ever seen. At best, it presents as cowardly. Hiding from the audience you know is furious and hoping none of them will notice. At worst? It’s arrogant. The same people who paid £4 last week can pay £6 this week.

So far, that second response seems to be the one they’re getting. As part of the Amazon mitochondrial network. Comixology is simultaneously super available and remarkably difficult to talk to. Tweets and DMs (polite ones, you know me) go unanswered. There’s no press release. No statement. But there is a message. Whether it’s one Comixology wants to send isn’t for me to say. But by not saying anything, they’re saying this loud and clear.

You’re not a big enough market to care about.

Because it’s not just this multi-currency price hike. Comixology run a service called Unlimited which is, in essence, a fire hose. You pay a flat fee a month and can access tens of thousands of books. It’s brilliant the sort of library you can lose yourself in for months.

It’s not available in the UK. And as of one day ago, the same account that won’t answer questions about this was responding to queries about that with bland ‘no plans at this time but thanks for your interest!’ tweets.

So, to be clear, the week is closing with digital comics now more expensive to lease than physical comics are to buy, with no explanation or warning in a country where Unlimited isn’t available and exactly one article has been written about it.

In the dictionary under slow clap, there’s a picture of this.

I want to say this may help retailers, and it might. But retailers are hurting worse than this particular arm of the Amazon Mechalith ever could. Multiple stores are cutting their shelf copies to the bone and because the reordering system in comics is a joke told by a shrieking god to a sleeping giant in a rainstorm, there’s no certainty anything you want will actually be in print. And now, if you want to lease it digitally, it costs more than the physical copy you may not be able to get.

 

I used to work in this industry. I don’t miss it. But God does it make me sad on days like this.

 

This is going to hurt everything and everyone. Customers have seen their budgets cut in half, smaller titles that could find homes online will now continually lose out to the big names, retailers will be under more pressure, companies will get risk averse. This will shrink the industry. Demonstrably hurt it. And the only outcome that suggests it might not? Is one where we all shrug, accept that we really do live inside a commerce system that’s dead but somehow still moving and start saving up for the next issue of our favorite title. But hey maybe it’s one our local retailer has risked a measurable percentage of their own profit margin to buy a shelf copy of. Living the DREAM.

So what do we take home from this? Two things:

-Pre order titles you want. Yes I know it means you basically have to be psychic. I’m sorry. This system is broken and shouldn’t have lasted this long yet here we are.

-Choose between what comforts you and what excites you. And get ready for it to be a very tough choice.

Ted Brandt, whose comics you need, has a good thread on it here.

The BC article is here.

News from Iona Winter

Foxy folk, we are delighted to pass on this announcement from Iona Winter who you may remember joined the Skulk with the release of Pacific Monsters.
 
Iona Winter is of Māori and Pākehā descent and lives in KaritaneAotearoa New Zealand. Her writing has appeared in HeadlandHaloCentum PressReflex FictionFlash Frontier, and various online publications.In 2016 Iona was awarded the Headland Frontier Prize, and performed at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She was also long-listed to the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Her story in Pacific Monsters is based on the myth of TePouākai, the extinct Haast Eagle. The largest eagle to have ever existed, it inhabited TeWaipounamu, the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.
 
Now the message from Iona
***
 
Kia ora koutou katoa
 
I’m delighted to share that then the wind came (Steele Roberts Aotearoa) my debut collection of short fiction and poetry, is set to be launched on December 14th 2018. For those of you in or near Ōtepoti Dunedin, I’d love you to join me at the Dunedin Athenaeum Library that evening (more details to follow).
 
Whakawhetai ki a koutou, huge thanks to Siobhan Harvey, Tina Makereti, Sue Wootton and Thom Conroy for reading the manuscript – and to Roger Steele for accepting it. Aroha nui ki a koutou, much love to everyone who has supported me as a writer – be that edits, reading through screeds of heavily notated paper, or the gift of honest feedback. Thank you to everyone who has published my writing, and invited me to attend festivals and events to perform my work – some previously published and performed pieces are contained within the book. And of course, my advance gratitude to everyone who might buy a copy of then the wind came.
 
I look forward to sharing then the wind came with you. Kia pai tō rā, have a beautiful day,
Iona
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sisyphus and The Long Tail

Another small press closes its doors. One that has been run sensibly, with a good business head and great books. One that hasn’t madly over reached or got itself into trouble in anyway. So why has it closed?

Well I guess it’s time to speak frankly about the realities of running a small press.

We have over 50 titles out. One has made a profit. A non fiction one. Two others have come close to covering their costs. Then Nun & Dragon counts as profitable because it was done on pure profit share right at the start. It has probably paid for the first couple of years of the URL.

Creating and producing books costs money. In the case of FS, we’re working with people who are willing to take mates’ rates and token payments, but that’s still money. More if it’s an anthology, or has extra artwork. Add to that the costs of author copies and postage, my gods the postage The books are print on demand for us, so that’s printing and shipping in the US to the UK, around £60+ to get the books here, then I post them all on.

So a paperback, of which we sell more, takes roughly £1.00 per copy sold. 70p to the author in most cases. 30p to us. So, to cover costs of the average anthology we need to sell around 1,350 copies. Of each book. And again, these are at the greatly reduced rates for work that we’ve negotiated with friends and people who want us to do well!

This is before we look at the costs of going to events, web hosting, marketing materials, launch events – even an accountant because we are a Ltd company now so we need to do formal business accounts. The annual return to Companies house. It all adds up. We don’t offer many hard copies for review because of the cost. We don’t submit to many awards because, even if you only have to send copies, it’s a cost. Every time we try an advert somewhere new… it’s a cost and a massive risk.

all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds
all of the books indie table at Nine Worlds

The funds come mostly from what the accountant charmingly calls ‘director loans’. Those come out of our day job wages. If we can’t afford to go a friend’s birthday it’s because the money is sunk into getting a book out.

And none of the accounting includes the time myself and my business partner and Mr Fox put in. There is neither the time nor the money for holidays, and much of my time is spent on the verge of burnout. If I seem to nap a lot it’s because I haven’t slept well since Nun & Dragon came out.

Running a small press occupies most of my free time and most of my disposable income. It’s a labour of love and boundless hope and optimism and waking up at 3am worrying about the costs of the latest thing and the lack of sales for my authors and whether the last book went out with typos we’d missed and a million other small things.

If I am saying NO a lot more often it’s because it’s the only way we can survive. I still need to get better at it.

More presses are looking to Patreon to help keep them going, or Kickstarter so books are effectively no or low risk. Many people running small presses have other jobs which either subsidise the press or subsidise the bill paying or both.  Some small presses are folding, it just doesn’t pay. Brexit and the uncertainty and additional costs it brought with it – another nail in the small press shaped coffin.

Thing is, as a business, few small independent presses really make sense. We don’t. Oh, we believe we can get there but it’s a long way and we tell ourselves that we have to survive that little bit longer to start to see that upswing.

BUT…

In a time when large publishers are tightening belts and taking fewer chances on those quirky projects and cross genre works, small press is a life line for a lot of writers. Authors who don’t want to do it all alone, who want editing support, professional cover art, and the business aspect managed by a trusted partner. It’s a lifeline for readers who want something a little different, a way of discovering new voices and new stories, of trying something that fills a peculiar niche or appetite.

If you want to help, if you want to keep your favourite presses open, if you want those unusual little projects to be published… the simple truth is they need more sales. You don’t have to buy all the books yourself – there are other ways you can help. Tell people about them! Review the books! 50 is a magic number on amazon, but 10 is the minimum for any kind of impact, or to even be considered for a lot of marketing systems. Share posts and retweet. Help build word of mouth. Come to their events and their tables and enthuse because honestly just seeing people there and hearing that we are loved can help get through the next month of bleak sales. Put them forward for fan awards, many of us are too dignified to sneakily do this ourselves, but those nominations and long lists mean the world, they mean someone is paying attention. Tweet nice things to the authors because when they get their sales figures and meagre royalties your words help them believe it’s still worth it (like Tinkerbell and the clapping thing).

Moments like this, keep us going.
Moments like this, keep us going.

Small presses may not always be as professional and business-like as larger ones. They may not always go into it knowing everything they should. But the hard truth of it is, if it weren’t for our naïve passion, most of us wouldn’t exist at all.

Launch Day: Dark Travellings by Ian Whates

Ian Whates is not only an established author but runs the well respected and multi award winning British indie NewCon Press where new writers butt up against legendary names such as Tanith Lee and Neil Gaiman. With numerous short stories published and novels out with Solaris and Angry Robot, we at Fox Spirit were obviously extremely pleased when Ian said yes to doing a collection with us.

This is the third collection of Ian’s short stories, and our first with him. It’s a collection of thirteen of his darker tales for fans of the fantastic.

Welcome to Dark Travellings.
Cover image is by Michael Marshall Smith, layout by Vincent Holland-Keen

dark travellings - front

Showcasing the darker side of the author’s imagination, Dark Travellings takes us from a post-apocalyptic future where music offers mankind its only hope to a quiet country lane where an apparently chance encounter leads to deception and betrayal, from rain-swept London streets terrorised by a creature out of folklore to the nostalgic beauty of a seaside town, where a young girl learns far more about her grandfather than she ever wished to. We are introduced to a cast of heroes and villains, including a brilliant artist with a unique form of inspiration, an ordinary man who stands firm against a vampire horde, and a woman who personifies a dangerously misunderstood legend. Thirteen stories that reveal the best and the worst of humanity: murder, adultery, treachery and depravity, but also compassion, hope, and love. Thirteen stories that will unsettle, delight, and entertain.

“The stories of Ian Whates manifest a vivid particularity of place and a clarity of suspenseful plotting, along with an endearing ability to conjure up vivid characters both noble and nasty.”

– Paul Di Filippo.

“Ian’s stories, unexpected yet unnervingly apt, come as a masterfully easy read that can lull or shock, please and dismay, and may quietly break your heart.” – Tanith Lee

“It is his characters who live through the story and make the reader need to know just how it’s all going to pan out, human characters who may seem familiar but then there’s that one thing, that shifted alteration that changes the world and changes the reader too.” – Interzone

“Intelligent, ingenious, often funny, and told with an easy and down to earth style.” – Adrian Tchaikovsky

“Brilliantly inventive.” – SFX

Some news items from elsewhere on the web

Something a little different on the blog this morning. We’ve picked up a few submission calls to share with you all.

The first is for a Leicestershire charity that seems like a pretty good cause, so we said yes to giving them a signal boost.

Since 2013, The Big Care Sign-Up has been raising money for Leicestershire based care charities via celebrity charity events and memorabilia auctions.   Following the success of our 2015 event at Leicester’s Guildhall, we are now launching The Big Care Write-up.
 
In September, The Big Care Write-Up will be releasing it’s debut charity short story anthology eBook, “Carers of the Cosmos” and we are currently seeking submissions for our consideration from local writing talent.
 
We would like 1,500-5,000 word stories which use the theme “Carers and Science Fiction” as a starting point for a unique and interesting idea.  There is no limit to the number of stories one writer can submit.
 
Successful stories may also be recorded as audiobooks at a later date so we ask that all submissions are original pieces that have not been published elsewhere.
 
All finished short stories should be sent to Dale Anthony Church at submissions.bigcarewriteup@gmail.com in either DOC, TXT or RTF format and should also be accompanied by a 200 word biography of you and your previous work to be published with any chosen pieces.  The closing date for all submissions is midnight on31st August 2015.
 
The eBook will be available from September as a free download to anyone who donates to our chosen charity, The Carers Centre: Leicestershire and Rutland (Registered as a charity no. 1043956), via our book-specific donations page.”
 
We also have a website with further information about our chosen charity, our previous events and links to our social media at bigcaresignup.wix.com/celebcharityevent.
IMG_0704
Next up a kickstarter highlighted by Juliet E McKenna, blurb taken direct from the site. 

‘This project will fund TWO science fiction and fantasy anthologies, titled ALIEN ARTIFACTS and WERE-, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories each from established SF&F authors in the field—including Phyllis Ames, Jacey Bedford, Patricia Bray, David B. Coe, Walter H. Hunt, Faith Hunter, Gini Koch, Gail Z. Martin, Seanan McGuire, Juliet E. McKenna, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Steve Miller & Sharon Lee, and Jean Marie Ward, plus others. The books will be edited by Joshua Palmatier & Patricia Bray, both editors of the DAW Books anthologies “After Hours: Tales from the Ur-bar” and “The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity,” and the Zombies Need Brains LLC anthologies “Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens” and “Temporally Out of Order.”

Unlike the previous two Kickstarters run by Zombies Need Brains, we are NOT using the Kickstarter to help set up and solidify the small press. Backers of this project will essentially be generating the base funds needed to produce these two anthologies—including payment for the contributing authors, payment for the cover artist, production costs for producing the anthology, etc. Because of this, the reward levels for the anthologies have been lowered to more closely resemble the cost of the final product when it goes on sale to the general public. In essence, backers of the project are simply “preordering” the anthologies, although there will still be aspecial mass market Kickstarter edition produced for backers who help fund the project at the paperback level. This special edition will have a limited print run to cover the orders made by the backers and will not be printed again after the Kickstarter print run. After that, there will be a trade edition issued to the general public that will have an unlimited print run. So get in on the Kickstarter now and get the special mass market Kickstarter edition! Help the new small press Zombies Need Brains LLC expand!’

Guest Post : The Future Fire

The Future Fire has been a great supporter of small press including ourselves and is celebrating its 10th birthday in style, with an anthology of reprints. In order to pay the authors a fair rate for their stories they are kickstarting the process and we are glad to welcome them to Fox Spirit to talk about it all. – Aunty Fox

***
TFFX: Ten Years of The Future Fire
An interview with editor Djibril al-Ayad

Q: How did you first get involved with The Future Fire? Without looking it up, what is the first story you can remember buying, and what did you love about it?

Djibril al-Ayad: I was among a group of friends who founded TFF in 2004, and brought out the first issue in January 2005. Within a few months there were only two of us working on the zine, Bruce and myself, but we’ve had upward of a dozen beautiful collaborators come and go over the years. I remember when onto our (at the time very shallow) slushpile landed the first Terry Grimwood story we were offered, and I was very excited by the grittiness, the humour, the way Tel made unapologetic use of flippant tone and genre cliché in the service of his very dark, very political, almost nihilistic story. It’s not a story without flaws (so few are) but it sure bit me on the ass!

Q: What does the next ten years hold for the world?

DaA: I know I ought to answer this question as a dystopianist (“we’ll be living in a repressive regime where corporate interests hold governments and civil society to ransom”) or post-apocalypticist (“runaway climate change will bring rogue weather, sea-level rise and social instability leading to economic collapse and we’ll all be road warriors”) or even utopianist (“we’ll have seen the error of our ways and thoroughly overthrown the corrupt, late-capitalist establishment”). But I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’m (a) an optimist, and (b) a believer in incremental, peaceful progress (and, needless to say in this political climate, just as often regressiveness!). While I hope and think we will overcome the excesses of the environmentally damaging unfettered markets and warmongers, I think we’ll still be working on it for at least the next ten years. I’m sure we’ll see progress. I’m sure we’ll have our hearts broken again. Just as I’m sure that no science-fictional miracle will come along to make carbon-pollution safe. But we’ll be moving forward, working very hard toward a world where society is more accepting toward people of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, creeds, beliefs and abilities, and where human (and natural) survival is not subsumed to economic profit. (Does sound a bit utopian when I put it like that, doesn’t it?)

Q: How do you assess a story and decide whether to publish it or not?

DaA: On the one hand this is the easiest thing in the world—if I read a story from the slushpile, and fall in love with it from the first page (and am still in the blush of first passion by the last line) then I buy it. No questions asked. On the other hand it can be the hardest thing in the world: I can read a story and really really really like it, love the style and language, totally dig where the author’s coming from, and still not be convinced that it really fits what TFF is looking for. In that case, I give at least one or two of our co-editors the chance to talk me into it. Or I can love a story, but one of my co-editors points out a really problematic element (misogyny or cultural appropriation or ableism) that had passed under my privileged radar, and we have to let it go. Or sometimes (and this is my favourite thing, because it’s what collaborative editing is all about) I can be lukewarm about a story on first reading, but one or more of our co-editors talks me into it, shows me the subtlety and elegance of the story, the way that is challenges the lazy status quo, and is “political just by virtue of existing.” These often turn out to be among my very favourite stories in retrospect.

Q: What one story (or work of art, etc.) of all time would you most like to have published/discovered?

DaA: I wish I had been the first person to notice that on the very ancient Colossus of Memnon (2400 BCE statue of Amenhotep III) were inscribed four epigrams by lyric poetess and imitator of Sappho, the princess Julia Balbilla. While we shouldn’t condone the vandalism of 2500 year-old monuments however or by whomever it was committed, to edit, publish and translate this poetry would be a wonderful achievement and a lot of fun. Hells—I might do it anyway some day, but I won’t have been the first.

Q: Tell us more about the TFF tenth anniversary anthology and fundraiser.

DaA: So to celebrate our anniversary we’re going to publish a print anthology, titled “TFFX” to give readers a taste of the last ten years, and to introduce some of what we hope to be doing in the future. It will contain a mix of reprints, modified pieces, mini-sequels, and completely new fiction, illustrations, and creative nonfiction. To make sure we can pay the authors and artists a fair rate, we’re holding a crowdfunding project throughout the month of August—your readers can support the campaign by preordering an e- or paperback copy of the anthology or our other books, or by picking up one of the other fun rewards (artwork, story critiques, customized knitted zombies!). We also have stretch goals that will feed directly into paying a better rate in future TFF projects. Thank you so much for the opportunity to plug this exciting project!

Aunty Reads : The Night Circus

For the longest time I’ve struggled to finish books, to read something unrelated to Fox Spirit for my own pleasure. I am starting to reclaim that pleasure. Since I started out reviewing, I thought I might share my thoughts on those books I manage to complete here, with you.

I picked up The Night Circus after a number of friends recommended it to me. They were right!

night ciurcus

The Night Circus is beautiful, complex and enchanting. A story of multiple layers, based around a magical contest whose contestant are committed without their consent and not told the rules. The game must be played and they are tied to it until it is complete. Everyone who works for the Circus or falls for its enchantments is also, more subtlety but just as irrevocably bound to it.

The combatants actually show a frustrating lack of curiosity about the game itself, while as a reader I was initially impatient to understand it better. It isn’t long though before the book casts its spell in full and I was lulled into the nightly life of the circus, less concerned with how or when it will end but rather wandering endlessly down the ouroboros like paths, gawping and gasping as each new marvel is revealed, but never quite shaking the unease fully, knowing that something is not quite ok here.

Two magical prodigies battle, using the Circus as their stage and while Marcus and Celia work and spar their respective mentors manipulate and protect the secrets of their ego driven with little regard for who is harmed or at least forever altered by the process.

The writing is beautiful, the story gently compelling, the characters never fully revealed in their complexity, everything is done so beautifully. The Night Circus is a masterclass for aspiring writers in how to create an atmosphere with every aspect of the book that reflects the tale you are telling.

I fell fully under the illusions of this book, absorbing it, watching it unfold slowly like the living statues that adorn its paths. Holding my breath as the illusions unfold ever more intricate and dangerous. What will become of Marcus and Celia as the game inevitably concludes and can the circus survive? Why is Poppet no longer able to read the stars and what is the role of young Bailey in all of this. With workings more delicate than the complications of the Circus’ amazing clock this is a book that draws you in and binds you to it gently, from which you cannot simply walk away before the game is done.

Tenebris Submission Call

Calling all foxy folk with a penchant for fairy tales. Our lovely friends at Tenebris are looking for new faces for their follow up to the gorgeous and brilliant ‘Willow Weep no More’ and have sent us details of the submission call.

You can find everything you need to know about the tentatively titled ‘Shadows of the Oak’ HERE on their site.

They are an excellent press so if the lesser characters of fairy stories have always attracted your interest get your submission over to them!

WWNM_Cover

And the business of another manic week.

First up our new release

Fox Spirit books is seeing in December with a creepy gothic tale of love, death and science. The first of our holiday season treats is available now as a paperback and we expect it to be available this weekend as an ebook.


Heart for the Ravens by Colin F Barnes

In the traditions of Poe and Shelley, Heart for the Ravens is a gothic horror story set in the 19th century following a heroine in search of a man with a good heart. 

Katerina Roeslling is the daughter of a wealthy businessman and resents being treated as just another asset by her father. When she meets Willhelm, a rough-hewn, but charismatic, soldier, she thinks he is the right man for her, but he is just the start of a tragic nightmare. 

The novella is available as a paperback of ebook via Amazon and will shortly be available through Wizards Tower Press for other e readers.

Cover image is by Bill Munster
Cover model Kiley Adriance

Colin’s Website

Next up, our friends at Anachron released their first Pulp Line novel

Curse of the Jade Amulet by Jack Calico

Jack is guest blogging at Anachron and has his own site here

 

We’d also like to remind you that the submission deadline for YA appropriate stories is the 31st December and for those on the Fox & Fae / Mouse & Minotaur invite list, it’s the 1st Jan. 

Press Release: Techxorcist Book ,1 Artificial Evil

Three hackers.
A deadly plot.
One chance to save humanity.

Ebook:
Anachron Press
Amazon: US | UK | Kobo | Lulu
B&N & iBookstore coming soon.

Print:
Anachron Press
Amazon: US | UK | CreateSpace

Sample Chapter

Description

In the tradition of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and Richard Morgan, British writer Colin F. Barnes delivers a cyberpunk tech thriller for the modern age.

2153. Post-cataclysm. The last city exists beneath a dome where the mysterious benefactors ‘The Family’ tightly control the population with a death lottery and a semi-autonomous network.

All is well until the day family man Gerry Cardle, head of the death lottery, inexplicably finds himself the no.1 target of a malicious Artificial Intelligence. Gerry’s numbers are up, and he has just 7 days to save himself, find the source of the AI, and keep the last stronghold of humanity safe.

Gerry finds help in the shadows of the city from two rogue hackers:

Petal – a teenage girl with a penchant for violence, hacking systems and general anarchy, and:

Gabriel – a burnt-out programmer-turned-priest with highly augmented cybernetics.

With his new team, Gerry discovers there is more beyond the dome than The Family had let on, and his journey to find the source of the AI leads him through a world of violence, danger, and startling revelations.

Everything is not as it seems. Gerry is not who he thinks he is. Evil can be coded…. can Gerry and his friends stop it before it destroys humanity?

Artificial Evil is book 1 of 3 of The Techxorcist series. The larger-than-life offspring of Blade Runner, Mad Max and The Exorcist.

Out now!