Monthly Archives: November 2009

Kur of Gor: An Excerpt

Kur of Gor: The Tale Begins

Chapter, the First: The Containment Device

He thrust violently against the close, curving, transparent walls, howling with rage.

We can understand such emotions.

They are not strange to us.

In his own language his name was said to be Tarl Cabot.

Such things do not really much matter, with such creatures. Nonetheless, to themselves, and to some of their kind, they seem of much importance. I do not know, of course, whether it was important to him, or not. Perhaps some microorganisms arrange their cilia in some bizarre fashion, and then understand themselves as being somehow thereby exalted. Are names so important? Perhaps. But is that which is named not more important? One does not know with such creatures. I think they are strange.

They cannot tell themselves from their names, nor do they care to do so. They name themselves, and things, and think thereby to acquire them. They do not do so.

They have names; reality does not.

How is it, in any event, that they so invest themselves with such importance? What a piteously naive arrogance is therein displayed.

Are they truly so unaware of their small place in the yard of existence, so ignorant of the length of space and the breadth of time, of the flight of galaxies, of the journeys of streaming light, perhaps touching nothing for a hundred thousand years; are they unaware even of the patience of stone, cogitating its memories of a molten youth? It is hard to accept that they are the offspring of stars, a freshened reconfiguration of antique components long ago expelled into the darkness, but are we not all such?

They are so tiny, and so generally useless, an active rash on quietude, a small noise, perhaps brave in its way, in the night.

But are we not, in our way, as well?

When the Nameless One stirred the cauldron of stars did it intend them? Are they not a lapse of sorts? Might it have been distracted at the time? But in what workshop or cauldron was formed the Nameless One itself? From what unseen seas was it itself cast forth, beached on shores burnt by drifting, incandescent tides, and from whence came these, the tides, the continents, these, too, children of the mystery?

Before the Nameless One, you see, is the Mystery.

It is that which was, and that which is, and that which will be. And none have lifted its veil.

I suppose it is offensive to conceive that we are brothers to that woeful life form, the human, one so disgusting and treacherous in its diverse paths, one so despicable in its intolerable vanity. How absurd, how repulsive, one supposes, that we are siblings in virtue of the parentage of stars.

But then we may console ourselves that we are siblings, too, to the diatom, to the smallest living thing, to the worm in the sea, the mote in the air.

But how small, how trivial, is the human.

How easily might he be struck by some astral debris, not noticing him. Or fall prey to a prolific, invasive mite, a thousand mutations from an eye or claw, a mite not even visible to his eye.

And how despicable, how contemptible, is the human!

A spawn of greed, an embracer of comfort, a seeker of ease, a blemish on the world, a wart of vanity, a stranger to honor.

One who guards his mind, fearing it will awaken.

One who guards his mind, as one might guard a prisoner.

One who so treasures his mind that he dares not use it.

His bulwark is stupidity.

And what labor is not expended in its preservation!

How mighty is the sweet shield of ignorance!

How fearfully and carefully he burnishes it!

He is a herd animal. He is unworthy of the stars.

Yet there is in that life form a spark of awareness, for all its frivolity and frailty, for all its egregious contumely and its hideous ineptitude, a flicker of mind, however reluctant, in a largely oblivious, somnolent world. It is one of the rare places the universe has stirred, and awakened, and opened its eye, and looked upon itself, startled to learn that it exists.

Does it recoil, seeing itself in the human?

Surely it rejoices, seeing itself in us, we who are worthy of it.

It is conscious in countless minds, of course, in that of the mouse, and cat, in that of the urt and verr, in that of the barracuda, in that of the viper and leopard, in that of the hith and larl.

But we are most worthy of it.

In us is its nature most fully manifested. Are we not the outward form of its inward horror, or essence? Are we not the choice fruits of its inward terrors, the splendid robes of its dark, shrieking soul? In us, it finds its fangs, and talons, its hunger, its indifference, its terribleness, its sublimity, its rage, its glory.

And it is through our eyes that it sees the stars.

One day, perhaps, the human will disband his herds and be free. One day, perhaps even the human will lift his head, and see the stars.

They are there.

I am personally, you see, not ill disposed to the human.

If I were I should not tell this story, which deals primarily with some humans, and something not human, with the monster.

And, of course, with the Kurii.

I wonder if you know of them.

They know of you.

You could not understand our name for the human with whom we will begin. In fact, you would not even know it was uttered. One might use our name for the human, of course, but you could not pronounce it. For example, if a leopard or a lion, or a larl or a sleen, had a name for you you would doubtless not recognize it as a name, let alone as your name. We will, accordingly, refer to that individual with whom we shall begin by that name by which other humans might know him, namely, as Tarl Cabot, or, as some will have it, Bosk, of Port Kar.

He pounded again, and again, at the transparent walls, until his hands bled.

Bruised, and bewildered, he sank down then, naked, inside the bottlelike container. Such containers taper toward the bottom, that wastes may drain from them. They taper, too, toward the top. Near the top a tube descends periodically, automatically, through which liquid, if the occupant chooses to live, may be drawn by the mouth into his body. The entire facility is automated, though one supposes some supervisory personnel may be in attendance, if only by means of olfactory devices, listening devices, cameras, or such. Certainly one seldom sees them. The tube’s descent is indicated by an odor. The corridors are commonly empty and silent. One may conjecture, occasionally, from the outside, that within the containers there is sound, this being surmised from the expressions of the occupant, the motions and configurations of his mouth, the gestures of his limbs, such things. The container is rather oval, or ovoid, rounded, ascending rather vertically, but narrowing, rounded, toward the top and bottom. The diameter, in measurements likely to be familiar to the reader, would be something like four feet, whereas the container, as a whole, is something like eight feet in height, though much of this space is not conveniently utilizable, given the tapering at the top and bottom. In such a container one sleeps as one can. Indeed a soporific gas may be entered into the container remotely, which suggests there is some actual surveillance of the containers. Too, the air in the container may be drawn from the container, should one wish, say, to terminate an occupant, clear the space for a new occupant, and so on. Too, it might be noted that the corridor itself, as most of the structure, is airless. This contributes to the incarcerational efficiency of the facility.

Various life forms may be kept in such containers.

From where he was contained, the human in question, Tarl Cabot, could see several tiers of similar containers, several of them occupied. He did not realize at the time the absence of air outside the container, as the container itself contained a regulated, breathable atmosphere. And probably some of the other life forms did not understand that either. One supposes, incidentally, that there were diversities in the container atmospheres, as, upon inspection, there appeared to be substantial dissimilarities amongst their occupants.

In the human species, aside from some unusual specimens, there are two sexes. Commonly both collaborate in replication. Interestingly, the biological functions of conception, gestation, and nurturance in the human species are all centered in a single sex, that of the female. Among the Kurii, on the other hand, the procedures of replication are conveniently divided amongst three, or, if you like, four sexes. There is the dominant, the submissive, and the nurturant, who gestates and nurtures, until the child is mature enough to chew and claw its way free. At that point it is ready for meat. It is not clear if the nurturant was a naturally evolved entity or if it was the result of biological engineering long ago, in the Kurii’s original world, or one of its worlds, for it may have destroyed more than one. Indeed, the technology of the nurturant might have been obtained from another species. It is not known. These thing are lost in the prehistory of a species, so to speak, or at least in the time from which no histories remain. The fourth sex, if one may so speak, is the nondominant. Under certain unusual circumstances the nondominant becomes a dominant. It is very dangerous at such times, even to dominants.

The individual, Tarl Cabot, doubtless called out a number of times, angrily, requesting an explanation or justification for the predicament in which he had so unexpectedly found himself. That would be only natural. From outside the container, of course, given the container and the near vacuum of the corridor, he could not be heard, nor, it seemed, was there anyone there to listen. He may not have recognized this, or, if he suspected it, he might have supposed that somehow sounds from within the container might be conveyed, doubtless by means of some listening device, to some point at which they might be audited, or recorded, for future audition. On the other hand, given the emptiness of the corridor, and the absence of intelligible communication from an outside source, he had no assurance that his demands, protests, or such, were anywhere registered, or even that they might be of the least interest to anyone or anything.

Needless to say this can be unsettling.

Indeed, it can derange certain sorts of minds. The instincts of many caged animals, on the other hand, are more healthy. Understanding themselves trapped, they are patient, and wait. Beyond a certain interval they do not exhaust their resources, but conserve them, almost lethargically, for a given moment, for the sudden movement, for the lunge, the movement to the throat. So, after a time, Tarl Cabot, who was not particularly disanalogous to such beasts, became quiescent, at least as far as external observation might detect. This was in conformance, incidentally, with certain recommendations of his caste codes. One can learn much, even from the codes of humans. He was, as we learned, of what on Gor amongst humans is referred to as the scarlet caste. This is a high caste, doubtless because it is armed. Individuals of this caste are of great value to their cities, their employers, their princes, so to speak. Indeed, they are indispensable in their way; have they not, however unintentionally, secured the foundation of law; have they not, however unbeknownst to themselves, raised from the mire of brutishness, insecurity, and terror the towers of civilization? Surely it is they who must man the walls and defend the bridges, who must police the streets and guard the roads, and who will in sunlight, or in darkness and storms, carry forth the standards. They are unusual men and seldom understand their own nature, nor need they. Perhaps it is better that they do not. Let them laugh and fight, and drink and quarrel, and seek their slaves in conquered cities and taverns, and chain them and put them to their feet, and not inquire into the dark and mighty processes which have bred them, which have made them so real, and necessary. And so they are encouraged to emulate the stealth and savagery of the larl, the cunning and tenacity of the sleen, the vigilance and swiftness, the alertness, of the mighty tarn. They are companions to discipline; they are hardened to short rations, long watches, and the march; they are inured to the exigencies of camp and field; and trained to fight, and kill, preferably swiftly and cleanly. They do not know how they came to be, but they would not be other than they are. They are more beast than man, and more man than beast. They are, so to speak, dangerous beasts with minds. And such have their utilities. We may laud them or despise them. They are called Warriors.

Life is very real where they live it, at the edge of a sword.

The reader may be interested in obtaining an account, however superficial, of certain events antecedent to the incarceration of the individual, Tarl Cabot.

It is rumored that within recent years certain tumults or transitions have taken place in the realm of Priest-Kings. I do not know whether that is true or not. Who is to say what thrones may have been toppled, what crowns seized? Surely such things, coups, insurrections, fatalities, suppressions, and such, are not unknown even within the benign civilizations of the habitats. And are they not useful in subverting stagnation, and improving bloodlines? And if such things occurred, it is not impossible that they may have had a role in this business. Again, one does not know. On the other hand, such things, such conjectured events, bloody or otherwise, are not strictly germane to this history.

The individual, Tarl Cabot, had, it seems, upon occasion proved to be of some value to Priest-Kings. In some eyes, though not in his, we may conjecture, he was even taken as an agent of Priest-Kings. And certainly, whether this be so or not, one may well suppose that any behavior of his which might have been deemed counter to the interests or policies of those mysterious beings would not have been likely to be generously countenanced.

We can understand these things.

In this respect I do not think we are so unlike the Priest-Kings, whoever, or whatever, they may be.

In the north of Gor, in its polar regions, inhabited sparsely by tribes of humans known as the Red Hunters, recognizable by the small blue spot at the base of their spine, it is said that he, this Tarl Cabot, once encountered a great war general of the Kurii, Zarendargar, whose name, for convenience, we have transliterated into phonemes hopefully accessible to at least some readers of this tale, certainly in this translation. Colloquially, doubtless with a certain crudity, he, Zarendargar, was spoken of as “Half-Ear.” And, of course, few of the Kurii who ascend high in the rings will be without certain blemishes. A certain area of the polar region was at that time being used as staging area, under the command of the aforementioned Zarendargar, a staging area with munitions and such, for an attack on the Sardar enclave, destined to suddenly, decisively, and irremediably terminate the rule of Priest-Kings, destroying them in their own most-favored haunts or lairs. It had taken better than a century for this materiel, bit by bit, to be secretly assembled. One can well understand then its preciousness and importance to the Steel Worlds, its relevance to their projects, and such. The staging area, however, was destroyed, and somehow, in some way, Tarl Cabot seems to have been involved in its destruction. It was supposed at the time that Zarendargar was destroyed in the explosion, or conflagration, or such. But this turned out to be mistaken. When it became clear that Zarendargar had survived the destruction of the staging area, a death squad was dispatched from the Steel Worlds to hunt him down and kill him, for he had, after all, failed the people. The policies and decisions connected with the transmission of the death squad were controversial, incidentally, in the councils of the Steel Worlds, and the decree of termination, some months later, would be rescinded. This, of course, could not have been anticipated by the personnel of the Death Squad. Representatives of the Death Squad contacted Samos of Port Kar, clearly an agent of Priest-Kings, and Tarl Cabot, for assistance in hunting down and executing Zarendargar. It was assumed naturally that this assistance would be readily tendered for Zarendargar was well understood to be significant amongst the Kurii and a relentless, dedicated, and dangerous foe of Priest-Kings. The putative location of the at-that-time-fugitive Zarendargar was the vast prairies of the Gorean Barrens. Tarl Cabot, however, instead of lending his assistance to the Death Squad, himself entered the dangerous Barrens to warn Zarendargar and, if possible, protect him. This effort, of course, was not only contrary to the desires of the Death Squad, but, too, seemed clearly to be an act not in the best interests of Priest-Kings. On whose side, so to speak, was this mysterious, unpredictable, ungoverned Tarl Cabot? Was he an agent of Priest-Kings? Was he an agent of Kurii? If he was an agent, it seems he was his own agent, or an agent of honor, for, long ago, it seems, he and Zarendargar had shared paga.

In any event Tarl Cabot, having returned from the Barrens, and having learned later of his putative outlawry, resolved to leave the maritime city of Port Kar, only to return when it might be safe to do so, this intelligence to be gathered from agreed-upon secret signals to be displayed on the holding of his friend, Samos, of Port Kar.

Tarl Cabot remained at large, so to speak, for some time.

The surveillance of Priest-Kings is rather efficient, as we have reason to know, but it is also, as we have reason to know, far from perfect, particularly so in recent years. Perhaps this has to do with transitions or dislocations in the Sardar, such as have been occasionally rumored. But perhaps not. It is hard to know. Surely small ships, at least, manned by humans, have frequently enough, of late, penetrated the atmosphere of Gor. Many, apparently detected, have been ignored. Others, pursued, have eluded their pursuers. I personally suspect that this lapse of attentiveness or this seemingly tolerant permissiveness, or this seeming lack of zeal, on the part of Priest-Kings, and their ships, presumably mostly automated and remotely controlled, has less to do with technological limitations than with some reordering of priorities in the Sardar, perhaps even with an acceptance of the general harmlessness of the ships involved, and a disinterest in their common cargoes. It may be a simple matter of balancing costs. It is hard to know. Our information is clearly incomplete, and conjectural. On the whole, Priest-Kings seem tolerant of other life forms, their activities, partialities, and such. Indeed, they may even look with approbation, given the apparent current infrequency of their voyages of acquisition, or collection, on the introduction of additional human life forms to the world. To be sure, the chains of human females brought to Gor might conceivably, eventually, in some centuries, depress certain relevant markets. At that point presumably only carefully selected, high-quality merchandise would be brought to her shores. But one knows little about such things.

Eventually, however, we may conjecture that the presence of Tarl Cabot was detected. This may have been a matter of chance. On the other hand, he may have been sought for ardently, perhaps because of the heinousness of his offense, his treasonous concern for the welfare of an enemy. Perhaps he was to be used as an example. It is not known.

We now find him, at any rate, naked, in his container, in perfect custody.

He is completely helpless, and fully at the mercy of his captors, or keepers. In this respect he is not much unlike the human females whom men of his sort, on Gor, are wont to keep for their work and pleasure. They, of course, are not at the mercy of captors or keepers, but of owners, and masters. They are owned, you see. They are properties, possessions. Also, they are legally, and in the eyes of all, animals. And as such, as any other form of such an animal, an owned animal, for example pigs or verr, they are subject to barter, exchange, gifting, sale, and such. They are spoken of as slaves.

Whereas Kurii may own humans, and several do, they do not think of them as “slaves,” no more than men of Gor would think of their verr and kaiila as slaves, or those of, say, Earth, would think of their pigs and horses, or cattle, as slaves. They are simply domestic animals. The slave, then, from the Gorean view, is a domestic animal, but a particular type of domestic animal, one different, obviously, from other types, such as the verr or kaiila. Thus, not all domestic animals are slaves, but all slaves are domestic animals. Too, many Gorean men seem to be as fond, or even more fond, of their slaves than of, say, their sleen or kaiila, animals commonly much more expensive. To be sure, they master them with firmness, and do not let them forget that they are only slaves. That is seemingly the Gorean way.

Tarl Cabot was not certain how long he had been incarcerated in the heavy, narrow, glassine container. Nor are we. It was perhaps some days, or weeks. Given the absence of clocks, the unknown periodicity of feedings, if they were periodized, the nature of the soporific gas, and such, it would be hard to say.

The gravity in the venue, the Prison Moon, was currently indexed to that of its mother world, Gor, to which it was a satellite. We are not clear, given the small size of the moon, a mere several pasangs in diameter, how this was managed. It is done differently, certainly, and perhaps more primitively, in the cylinders and spheres, in the Steel Worlds. The capabilities of the Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they may be, are not well understood. Certainly it would not do to underestimate either their power, resolve or sagacity. Four times the Kurii erred in this regard, and their mistakes were costly. That such, the Priest-Kings, have form, and can interact with matter, however, seems obvious. The Prison Moon, for example, seems to make that clear, as it is obviously an artificial moon, with its architectural steel, its absorbing cells, its focusing and power mirrors, its shielding, and such, one perhaps once used for purposes of extra atmospheric observation, perhaps low-gravity experiments, and such. It seems unlikely that it was originally designed as a facility for the retention and storage of life forms, or, if you like, as a maximum-security prison for, say, particular prisoners.

Shortly before the unexpected disruption, one which seems to have taken even Priest-Kings unawares, this seemingly adding indisputable and welcome evidence as to their limitations and vulnerability, two human females were entered into the container in question.

It is clear they were females, as the human species is characterized by an obvious and radical sexual dimorphism.

It is seldom difficult to tell a human female from a human male.

Their sexes are quite different.

Too, as is common in the human species, these two females were considerably smaller than the average male, and considerably weaker.

That tends to be a characteristic of the human female.

Size and strength are common features of the human male, and accordingly the human female, smaller and weaker, often seeks to secure and protect herself within the shelter of these features.

These two females were in some respects similar, and in other respects quite different. Both were, as we understand it, of the sort which would be attractive, even excruciatingly so, to a human male. One was darkly pelted, with brown eyes, and the other was lightly pelted, or blondishly pelted, with blue eyes. Both were young, the darkly pelted one perhaps a bit older than the other. Each was, as tests later demonstrated, healthy and fertile. Each, too, was characterized by delicate, even exquisite, features, of a sort so clearly different from the coarse type found commonly in the human male. This has perhaps to do with several millennia of sexual selection. Too, both were, as humans understand such things, deliciously figured, this, too, doubtless having to do with generations of sexual selection. Indeed, the figures of both were nearly, if not quite, at what merchants in these matters refer to as the optimum block measurements for their size and weight. Block measurements, taken presale, are commonly, and in some cities this is required by law, included in a female’s sales information. They are often available, as well, before the female is put on the block, hence the name ‘block measurements’. Needless to say, too, given the female’s subjection to severe regimens of rest, diet, and exercise, it is almost assured, as is desired, by attention to these “block measurements,” that she will come to the block in excellent condition, healthy, vital, and well-curved. That is the way she is to be sold. She is, after all, merchandise, and, hopefully, good merchandise. Too, we may suppose, being healthy, each had the needs and desires of a healthy female, and, considering their selection, may have had these drives, and such, in an acute fashion, even uncomfortably so, which would render them particularly sexually vulnerable. Gorean slavers, for example, often pay close attention to such things. After all, most men buy women for pleasure.

Both of these females were of the sort, then, which, on Gor, would be of interest to buyers. They were typical of the females found in Gorean markets, and were perhaps, we suspect, given their insertion into the container, somewhat above average. Presumably both would have gone for a good price, and certainly so if they had been brought within suitable block measurements, to which, as noted, they were already in close approximation.

At the time that these females were entered into the small compass of the container Tarl Cabot was sedated, and thus unaware of their insertion into his small world.

They, too, at the time, must have been sedated.

The corridor was doubtless pressurized prior to their insertion into the container, and then returned to its near-vacuum condition.

This was done shortly prior to the disruption, as well.

That was seen to.

I have mentioned that the females were quite different, and you must understand that these differences pertained to far more than their pelting, eye color, and such. Before I discourse, however briefly, on certain of these differences, I mention something you, or some of you, may find of interest. That is that the human female, and the male, as well, for that matter, is relatively hairless. This may be an adaptation to facilitate heat loss in long-distance pursuit and pack hunting, or, again, it may have to do merely with preferences involved in sexual selection, or both. It is hard to know about such things. A consequence of this lack of hair, or fur, is that the species, in its wanderings and migrations, certainly into colder areas, must clothe itself. This seems to have been done first by taking the skins and fur of other animals, with which the Nameless One, if it was concerned at all with such matters, had refused to provide them, and later particularly by the utilization of plant fibers, and such. Clothing also, it seems, interestingly, is often worn by the species even when it is not climatologically indicated, and, indeed, sometimes when it is even uncomfortable. It can serve, of course, as a decoration, a symbol of status, a concealment of provocative or vulnerable areas, and so on. The harnesses and accouterments of the Kurii are presumably not dissimilar, at least in some of these respects. Female slaves may or may not be clothed, of course, as the master pleases. This increases their sense of vulnerability, and dependence. The female slave is seldom unaware of her condition but, too, interestingly, seldom does she wish to be. Her bondage may be her terror, but more often it is her meaning and joy. This apparently has to do with a variety of genetic antecedents and endowments, dispositions and complementarities, selected for in the long and interesting course of human evolution. One does not note with surprise that such complementarities should occur in a species so sexually dimorphic. Indeed, one would expect them. When they are clothed, the female slaves, it is often minimally, and provocatively. This reminds them, too, of their bondage, and is sexually stimulatory not only to the masters but to the chattels, as well. The pelting of the Kur female, of course, on the other hand, is thick, abundant, rich, and glossy, and, in season, heavy. How could a human female even begin to compare with a Kur female in beauty, let alone in power or ferocity? Her fangs for example, are negligible. The human female could not, for example, in three or four Ihn, tear loose a limb from a terrified, struggling tabuk.

But now to the more important aspects which characterized the new additions to Tarl Cabot’s container.

Neither, in effect, at least as yet, was Gorean…

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Hey Somali Pirates -You’re Working Too Hard! Hijack E-Books Risk-Free!

E-Book piracy in the United States is a $600 million business according to Mike Harvey, Technology Correspondent for The Times of London. Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol has been a particularly juicy target.

There’s some promising news coming from across the Pond, though: “British publishers are taking action to stop the pirates,” says the Times. “The Publishers Association has released a web tool that allows publishers to log the details of an infringement of copyright. It then sends a demand to the offending website for the link to be removed. The portal has been alerted to more than 4,000 cases of online piracy by more than 40 publishers and has succeeded in taking down 2,638 illegal copies of books.”

The article doesn’t state the name of the web tool, but it might be Attributor, the anti-piracy tool we reported last summer when Hachette employed it.

Despite improvements in piracy detection, we agree with the title of the Times piece: Pirates find easy new pickings in open waters of e-book publishing.

Richard Curtis

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Carina Press, Harlequin’s Other New Venture

Unfortunately, the Horizons controversy has eclipsed the news of another Harlequin project launched at the same time. “Carina Press,” the imprint’s website tells us, “is a new digital-only publisher that combines editorial and marketing expertise with the freedom of digital publishing. With a long history of digital marketing and editorial experience, the Carina Press team is committed to bringing readers fresh voices and new, unique editorial.

“Our philosophy is: no great story should go untold!

“Carina Press will publish a broad range of fiction with an emphasis on romance and its subgenres. We will also acquire voices in mystery, suspense and thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, erotica, gay/lesbian, and more!

“Our first books will hit the digital shelves in Spring 2010. Stay tuned!”

And, in case you missed it, here’s a blog posted by its new Executive Editor, Angela James, about her first week on the job.

RC

Week One…Learning the Ropes
Angela James | November 16th, 2009

Along with the more mundane posts of answering questions and sharing information about Carina, I wanted to bring you along on my journey. Not only was Monday the official announcement of Carina Press, but it was also my first day as an official employee of Carina/Harlequin. Though I had been working with the digital team in the weeks preceding, it was purely in a consulting manner and more along the lines of them picking my brain (after my trip to Toronto, I was quite sure I had nothing left to share after a lengthy question and answer session with the team!)

No longer having to keep the secret of Carina’s existence was the best part of the week. Do you have any idea how hard it is to not tell people such exciting news for weeks (and months?). When I flew to Toronto, I couldn’t Twitter or blog about my adventures, couldn’t share the coolness of visiting the Harlequin offices (all those books! And the Harlequin artwork! So cool), meeting the digital team, seeing Bobble Brent in person, and fessing up about just where I saw that Buggati Veyron. Not to mention that during all those weeks, I was still attending writers’ conferences and the sheer number of people who asked me how I was doing, what I was going to do next and if I had a job yet was almost overwhelming. But through all of those lunches, drinks, dinners, meetings and the workshops I gave, I couldn’t breathe a single word to anyone about what was coming. I deserve some sort of medal for holding out against that kind of pressure, don’t you think?

Yep, last week, finally sharing the news, was amazing. And the sheer amount of support and goodwill sent our way? No other word than wow will sum it up. But, alas, it’s not all glamour and glitz, this publishing business 😛 There was actual work involved last week. I’m fairly sure I generated more email and logged more phone time in that one week than I had in the entire month previous. Not to mention all the time spent visiting blogs, forums and Twitter answering questions and sending out thank yous. Maybe it’s most amazing that I didn’t develop carpal tunnel last week.

In addition to all that, I’ve been doing paperwork. And reading policies and procedures. I know, I know, you’re all jealous. But here, let me show you the packet of information I received this week compliments of human resources. I swear to you, it’s four inches thick!

And even with all the excitement of a new job, there’s still the other side, the learning curve. The other members of the Carina Press team have all been with Harlequin for years (some of them 20+ years), they all work in the Toronto office together (I’m working from home, which is such a bonus!), just feet from each other, and other than Malle, I’ve only met them once. So they all have established roles, understand the ropes and are well familiar with both Harlequin and each other. I’m the new kid on the block, which is always both exciting and fraught with nerves and no small amount of trepidation. Just learning the new email system is hard, let alone the aforementioned policies and procedures! And we won’t talk about trying to get my Mac to play nice with the Harlequin system!

So last week and these upcoming weeks are for learning about my role in Carina Press, the duties I’ll have and how I fit into the team. They’ll also be for reading submissions (holy cow, the submissions!), contracting books, gathering an editorial staff, setting up a style guide, assembling an author welcome packet and making lists of my lists of things to do, accomplish and put together. Even with a company that’s going to be utilizing some existing backend workflow, there’s still a lot to be done, more little details than we ever realize that need to be covered, and always more questions and ideas popping up. It’s an exciting and busy time, and I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else!

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Cell Phone Readers Learning What Japanese Have Known for Years

It’s taken a couple of years but it looks as if Americans are finally picking up on something the Japanese have been doing for years: reading books on cell phones. It may be a long time before it becomes the craze we wrote about last year – one Japanese publisher alone carries one million “keitai shoshetsu” titles and receives 3.5 billion visits in a single month. Sales of one or two million hardcover reprints of cellphone novels are far from uncommon.

Nevertheless, readers are discovering the pleasure of reading on mobile screens, however tiny (3.5 square inches) they may be. The New York Times‘s Motoko Rich and Brad Stone point out that many who don’t own an e-reading device are happy flipping pages on their cell phone, at least for short trips like train and bus commutes. After that the eyes begin to tire. The iPhone is a little easier on the eyes at 6 square inches, but Kindle, Sony and Nook screens are many times bigger than that, and they are midgets compared to tablet screens. One such, Wacom’s Intuos3 4×6, boasts a working area of over 228 square inches!

Tablets will inevitably become the professional and student reading device of choice, with screens capacious enough to read a full-size text- or picture book in open, double-page format. That said, for down-and-dirty reads, cells and smartphones will be a choice for those who don’t want to lug a dedicated reading device around – or pay hundreds of dollars for one.

“Publishers are now rushing to develop new forms of books to cater to readers who will see them on smartphones — books that will not work on today’s stand-alone e-readers,” the Times journalists write in Library in a Pocket.

RC

Every Blogger owes a debt of gratitude to newspapers and magazines. This posting relies on original research and reporting performed by The New York Times.

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Harlequin Renames Self-Pub Imprint

Lynn Andriani of Publishers Weekly reports that Harlequin self-publication imprint formerly known as Horizons has been renamed DellArte Press. “In the wake of widespread criticism over its self-publishing imprint,” Andriani writes “Harlequin has changed the imprint’s name from Harlequin Horizons to DellArte Press. As Harlequin publisher and CEO Donna Hayes said it would, the company renamed the imprint to a designation ‘that [does] not refer to Harlequin in any way.’ There is no mention of Harlequin on DellArte’s Web site.”

Andriani adds: “Harlequin did not respond to a request for comment this morning on the name change or if it was back in the good graces of the RWA. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers have called for Harlequin to completely cut ties to the self-pub program.”

Read Harlequin responds to criticism of its self-publishing arm with a new name

RC

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Michael Hyatt

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, brought to my attention that he actually did (and promptly) respond to questions raised by Mike Shatzkin about Nelson’s self-publishing venture, WestBow Press. His response was in the form of a comment on Shatzkin’s blog, and we’re very happy to reproduce it here.

Richard Curtis
***************************************
Mike

Thanks for asking these questions and giving me a chance to respond. I do, by the way, enjoy your blog and your perspective on publishing.

“1. How many such titles will they do per season or per year?”

This question doesn’t apply to the WestBow Press situation in quite the same way it applies to a traditional publisher. The WestBow model is the exact opposite of traditional publishing. In the traditional model, the publisher is the customer because the publisher buys manuscripts from authors. In the WestBow model, the author is the customer because the author buys services from the publisher.

The traditional model is resource-driven. The publisher is constrained by its access to capital and its appetite for risk. At Thomas Nelson, for example, we only do about 500 new titles per year, because we have a finite amount of capital that we can invest in royalty advances, inventory, and accounts receivable.

The WestBow model is demand-driven. The author is putting up the capital and taking the risk, so the publisher—or service provider, if you prefer—is only constrained by its ability to scale its operation up quickly enough to meet the demand.

All that to say, I have no idea how many titles we will do per season or per year. This is completely a function of demand.

“2. How will access to Nelson’s (always limited, as is any publisher’s) sales and marketing bandwidth be allocated to this imprint?”

Other than macro-level advice from time to time, none of Thomas Nelson’s resources will be allocated to sales and marketing. This is entirely ASI’s responsibility in the partnership. This kind of sales and marketing bandwidth is available to WestBow authors as a service from ASI, just like other services. Thomas Nelson’s bandwidth will be 100% focused on Thomas Nelson authors—just like now.

By the way, some of the questions we have received like this imply that traditional booksellers are the primary or only legitimate outlet for distribution. Many authors have their own platforms (e.g., speaking, blog, radio show, etc.) which more than justifies their investment in the WestBow model. They don’t need anyone else’s bandwidth to be successful.

“3. Will the books be vetted as suitable for Nelson’s Christian mission? And, if so, how and by whom?”

Yes, all WestBow Press titles must be congruent with the Thomas Nelson Content Standards. Every manuscript will be reviewed by either a WestBow editor who has been trained by us or a qualified freelancer who has been trained by us. This is precisely how we do it now at Thomas Nelson. In fact, I joked the other day that I think we have given the WestBow editors more training than our own people.

“4. Will the books be vetted at all for quality? Or will an author just choose the WestBow option and, if that’s the case, how much extra will be they paying and what will they be told they’re getting for their money?”

No, they will not be vetted for quality. They will be given a candid assessment of the quality and offered various editorial services that will make the manuscript better. But in the end, we are providing a service to the customer. He or she will be the final judge of quality.

These services are priced differently, depending on how involved they are. For example, substantive editing is more expensive than copy editing. Copy editing is more expensive than proof-reading. This is how it works in the world of traditional publishing, too, when we hire outside editors or proofreaders.

“5. The story says that Nelson editors won’t touch the books but will ‘monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.’ What’s the pre-monitoring launch plan? What’s the plan if Nelson editors actually identify a ‘potential big’ book?”

I’d like to tell you that we have all this figured out. We don’t. Here’s what I can tell you: we will be getting weekly sales reports from ASI. It will show all WestBow Press titles and how they are selling. We currently do this internally for our own titles at Thomas Nelson. We call it our “Movement Report.”

We will obviously pay attention to those WestBow titles that are selling the most or at the highest velocity. At some point, I envision one our editors reviewing the WestBow edition of the book and then calling the author to discuss the possibility of entering into a traditional publishing relationship with Thomas Nelson.

From that point, it will be handled as a typical author-publisher negotiation. We do not require them to publish with us or “lock them in” in via the WestBow contract in any way. They are free to publish with anyone they wish. However, we will have the early visibility and, hopefully, the first-mover advantage.

Someone asked on another forum, why would a WestBow author want to sign with Thomas Nelson if they already had proven they can be successful without us. Good question. The short answer is that they may not want to sign with us. No problem. Every situation is different.

But if they do sign with us, they will then go into our catalog, be represented by our sales team, and have the potential to get their books into other channels and accounts not available to them through WestBow.

I hope this answers some of your questions, Mike. I’m sure that I have created others! Please know that it is my desire to be as transparent and open about this as I can be, subject only to the availability of my time and attention.

Thanks again.

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Nelson CEO Hyatt Responds to Mike Shatzkin’s Questions About Self-Pub Division

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, brought to my attention that he actually did (and promptly) respond to questions raised by Mike Shatzkin about Nelson’s self-publishing venture, WestBow Press. His response was in the form of a comment on Shatzkin’s blog, and we’re very happy to reproduce it here.

Richard Curtis
***************************************
Mike,

Thanks for asking these questions and giving me a chance to respond. I do, by the way, enjoy your blog and your perspective on publishing.

“1. How many such titles will they do per season or per year?”

This question doesn’t apply to the WestBow Press situation in quite the same way it applies to a traditional publisher. The WestBow model is the exact opposite of traditional publishing. In the traditional model, the publisher is the customer because the publisher buys manuscripts from authors. In the WestBow model, the author is the customer because the author buys services from the publisher.

The traditional model is resource-driven. The publisher is constrained by its access to capital and its appetite for risk. At Thomas Nelson, for example, we only do about 500 new titles per year, because we have a finite amount of capital that we can invest in royalty advances, inventory, and accounts receivable.

The WestBow model is demand-driven. The author is putting up the capital and taking the risk, so the publisher—or service provider, if you prefer—is only constrained by its ability to scale its operation up quickly enough to meet the demand.

All that to say, I have no idea how many titles we will do per season or per year. This is completely a function of demand.

“2. How will access to Nelson’s (always limited, as is any publisher’s) sales and marketing bandwidth be allocated to this imprint?”

Other than macro-level advice from time to time, none of Thomas Nelson’s resources will be allocated to sales and marketing. This is entirely ASI’s responsibility in the partnership. This kind of sales and marketing bandwidth is available to WestBow authors as a service from ASI, just like other services. Thomas Nelson’s bandwidth will be 100% focused on Thomas Nelson authors—just like now.

By the way, some of the questions we have received like this imply that traditional booksellers are the primary or only legitimate outlet for distribution. Many authors have their own platforms (e.g., speaking, blog, radio show, etc.) which more than justifies their investment in the WestBow model. They don’t need anyone else’s bandwidth to be successful.

“3. Will the books be vetted as suitable for Nelson’s Christian mission? And, if so, how and by whom?”

Yes, all WestBow Press titles must be congruent with the Thomas Nelson Content Standards. Every manuscript will be reviewed by either a WestBow editor who has been trained by us or a qualified freelancer who has been trained by us. This is precisely how we do it now at Thomas Nelson. In fact, I joked the other day that I think we have given the WestBow editors more training than our own people.

“4. Will the books be vetted at all for quality? Or will an author just choose the WestBow option and, if that’s the case, how much extra will be they paying and what will they be told they’re getting for their money?”

No, they will not be vetted for quality. They will be given a candid assessment of the quality and offered various editorial services that will make the manuscript better. But in the end, we are providing a service to the customer. He or she will be the final judge of quality.

These services are priced differently, depending on how involved they are. For example, substantive editing is more expensive than copy editing. Copy editing is more expensive than proof-reading. This is how it works in the world of traditional publishing, too, when we hire outside editors or proofreaders.

“5. The story says that Nelson editors won’t touch the books but will ‘monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.’ What’s the pre-monitoring launch plan? What’s the plan if Nelson editors actually identify a ‘potential big’ book?”

I’d like to tell you that we have all this figured out. We don’t. Here’s what I can tell you: we will be getting weekly sales reports from ASI. It will show all WestBow Press titles and how they are selling. We currently do this internally for our own titles at Thomas Nelson. We call it our “Movement Report.”

We will obviously pay attention to those WestBow titles that are selling the most or at the highest velocity. At some point, I envision one our editors reviewing the WestBow edition of the book and then calling the author to discuss the possibility of entering into a traditional publishing relationship with Thomas Nelson.

From that point, it will be handled as a typical author-publisher negotiation. We do not require them to publish with us or “lock them in” in via the WestBow contract in any way. They are free to publish with anyone they wish. However, we will have the early visibility and, hopefully, the first-mover advantage.

Someone asked on another forum, why would a WestBow author want to sign with Thomas Nelson if they already had proven they can be successful without us. Good question. The short answer is that they may not want to sign with us. No problem. Every situation is different.

But if they do sign with us, they will then go into our catalog, be represented by our sales team, and have the potential to get their books into other channels and accounts not available to them through WestBow.

I hope this answers some of your questions, Mike. I’m sure that I have created others! Please know that it is my desire to be as transparent and open about this as I can be, subject only to the availability of my time and attention.

Thanks again.

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Clarify Your Self-Pub Program, Mike Shatzkin Asks Religious Publisher Thomas Nelson

We conclude Vanity Week with a blog that futurist Mike Shatzkin recently posted, publicly asking Thomas Nelson, the Christian book publishing giant, to explain its new self-publishing program, WestBow Press. WestBow is partnering with Author Solutions, the biggest player in author-subsidized publishing and a partner with Harlequin in its controversial self-publishing venture.

Here are the questions posed by Shatzkin. We are not aware that they have been answered:

1. How many such titles will they do per season or per year?

2. How will access to Nelson’s (always limited, as is any publisher’s) sales and marketing bandwidth be allocated to this imprint?

3. Will the books be vetted as suitable for Nelson’s Christian mission? And, if so, how and by whom?

4. Will the books be vetted at all for quality? Or will an author just choose the WestBow option and, if that’s the case, how much extra will be they paying and what will they be told they’re getting for their money?

5. The story says that Nelson editors won’t touch the books but will “monitor sales to identify potential big sellers.” What’s the pre-monitoring launch plan? What’s the plan if Nelson editors actually identify a “potential big” book?

Hyatt discusses the initiative on his blog and says he sees real revenue in it. But he doesn’t answer any of the questions above.

I am not alone in anticipating that publishers may change things around in the future with big authors, sharing more risk (less or no advance in this case, not cash for services) for more reward. But it is a more radical step than I would have imagined for a publisher with an industry brand for quality to allow authors to buy their way onto the list. Their must be some controls here, one would think. But we certainly don’t know what they are yet.

Read The new Thomas Nelson self-publishing initiative; more questions than answers.

RC

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HarperStudio’s Miller Weighs in on Self-Pub/Vanity Dialogue

Robert S. Miller, President and Publisher of HarperStudio, has been following the recent Harlequin/RWA controversy and, in a statement offered to E-Reads, suggests the author and publishing communities should keep their minds and options open on the matter of self-publication. “Just because a writer is paid an advance in a traditional way doesn’t make a book ‘good’, and just because they may be sharing the risk with their publisher to some degree doesn’t make a book ‘bad’.”

Here’s his statement in full:
RC
*************************************
“I was surprised to read here about how antagonistic the various writers’ associations (SFWA, RWA, MWA) have been toward the announcements by several large publishers that they are launching “self-publishing” divisions. While it seems fair to ask those publishers to make a clear distinction between those imprints and the others that they operate, and to make the differences clear to prospective writers, I don’t see what’s wrong with publishers offering a continuum of various services to writers. There are so many forms of publishing proliferating now; does it really threaten the writers in these associations that these publishing houses would have different publishing models under the same corporate roof? Just because a writer is paid an advance in a traditional way doesn’t make a book “good,” and just because they may be sharing the risk with their publisher to some degree doesn’t make a book “bad.” I say, let many flowers bloom.”

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Vanity? Self-Publication? Assisted Publication? Another Viewpoint

Eva Ullian, who describes herself as an impressionist painter, translator, historical researcher and retired teacher, has left an interesting comment on our blog about vanity publishing, You Got That Right, Ecclesiastes!

We thought her viewpoint was worth reprinting in full.
RC
**************************************************
I am not going to defend Harlequin or Thomas Nelson but just describe what these new imprints are about. They are not Vanity Publishers because such would mean they send you thousands of unwanted books to your garage and you sell them even though they keep 50% or so of royalty. They are not Self-Publishers because that would mean you do everything, and I mean everything yourself but you get to keep, obviously, 100% of the royalty. People have tagged them as Self-Pub for convenience. But they are ASSISTED publishing, which means you ask them, in the basic package, to publish your book, exactly the way you want it, or seek advice if you want a second opinion. They then have a distribution system in which you as the author like in traditional publishing, if you have any sense, will aid to sponsor your own book since putting a book on a shelf doesn’t mean it sells. You get 20% of the royalty for soft copies. With traditional publishers you get more or less 5% of which 15% is given to your agent- who has done what? Given you access to a publisher, changed your book round so much because obviously you are not the expert that an ASSISTED publishing author is otherwise you would take the responsibility of investing in your book with real money.

The way I see it is that such publishers cannot publish in the traditional manner, give out advances that are not earned out and survive. The problem is indeed that traditional authors expect to have their book published, get a big advance, and if it doesn’t earn out hard luck for the publisher- they have to take risks. Well not anymore- you pay, and it’s only a partial amount, for the cost involved so your book is published and what replaces your advance is the increased royalty percentage, so no one loses out. I don’t see any unfairness in that at all, it’s what they have been doing in most countries, except the UK, for decades.

You pay, only a partial amount, for the cost involved for publication in Assisted Publishing. The Agent Rachelle Gardner has given a detailed breakdown of cost involved in the publication of a book in Trade Paper which comes to $58,000 and Hard Back is $90,000. See her blog here: http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/2009/11/is-your-book-worth-it.html As you probably know, Harlequin asks for $600 and CrossBow $1,000 for a basic package. So, perhaps now you can appreciate why I don’t think it is possible that Assisted Publishing is there to make money off writers. They are there to give an unprecedented, excellent opportunity to writers who have no access to publishers because agents have denied them that access as judging such authors not fit for publication. Finally, publishing houses are opening up the doors to us, as most agents define us, SECOND CLASS authors. And I for one, thank them.

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