About Brian Niemeier

Brian Niemeier is a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer finalist. His second book, Souldancer, won the first ever Dragon Award for Best Horror Novel. He chose to pursue a writing career despite formal training in history and theology. His journey toward publication began at the behest of his long-suffering gaming group, who tactfully pointed out that he seemed to enjoy telling stories more than planning and adjudicating games.

Corroding Empire: Amazon’s Civil War

The controversy over The Corroding Empire just gets stranger and stranger.

The Corroding Empire

Amazon KDP has given Castalia House’s new science fiction parody more green and red lights than a drag racing track.

First it was thought that the book had been pulled at the behest of Tor Books, publisher of The Collapsing Empire.

Suspicion also fell on Collapsing Empire author John Scalzi, who tweeted this message the same day:

However, details emerged last night that neither Tor, Scalzi, nor Amazon per se were to blame for The Corroding Empire’s publication delays. Castalia House Lead Editor Vox Day explained:

UPDATE: Since some people seem to want to go on the warpath, let me be perfectly clear here: Amazon is not to blame. I even suspect that it is entirely possible that Tor Books is not to blame either, based on a) when the book was pulled and b) the fact that the book has shown as Live for nearly 24 hours but still does not have a page on any Amazon site. The most likely scenario, in my opinion, is a rogue low-level SJW employee, possibly two, in a specific department.

I have already spoken to the manager of one department and they have begun to investigate why Corrosion is Live but not available. They’ve done everything we asked and we have no problem with the way we have been treated.

Today, Vox announced that Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1) was finally live on KDP.

As we suspected, there appear to have been internal shenanigans taking place at Amazon, as one or more SJWs appear to have abused their positions to interfere with our ability to sell THE CORRODING EMPIRE.

We’re still working with Amazon to sort out exactly who was responsible for precisely what, and to establish what, if anything, legitimately needed to be changed according to their guidelines. This should all be nailed down by the end of the day, but in the meantime, you can now order the book and post reviews again.

The Corroding Empire isn’t out of the woods yet, because following that conversation, it was blocked again, reinstated again and blocked a third time in short order.

Corrosion (The Corroding Empire Book 1)

Here is where the matter stands as of this writing:

UPDATE: Finally got to speak to a supervisor. She’s not only escalated the matter to legal, but has assured me that the book will be unblocked, stay unblocked, and that the matter will be fully investigated. It’s not just the three blocks, the culprit(s) also put the book on the Excluded list for Amazon Associates, which prevents others from being paid when someone buys the book.

The publisher insists that the issue is with rogue elements within KDP quality control and not with Amazon itself. If so, we could be witnessing a civil war within the world’s largest book distributor. However the situation gets sorted out, the resolution should be informative for publishers, authors, and readers alike.

@BrianNiemeier

MILO Witch Hunt Unmasks Legacy Publishers, Media

MILO

 

Media witch hunt

The recent witch hunt against Milo Yiannopoulos offered a valuable insight into how the legacy media, the political establishment, and New York publishers operate and what their real motives are.

The elites who run our government, press, and entertainment industries see themselves as better educated, better morally, and simply better than the people they seek to control.That’s why they’re unpersoning a gay Catholic of Jewish ancestry–because he poses a threat to their cultural dominance.

Look at the timing of their attacks. Three weeks ago, Leftist terrorists started riots over Milo’s planned speech at UC Berkeley. As a result, his upcoming book Dangerous climbed to the top of Amazon (which I can personally attest to, since a book on which Milo and I are credited as co-authors received a similar bump). Last week, he appeared with Bill Maher on HBO. Then came his (now cancelled) CPAC keynote speech announcement.

As independent author and journalist Mike Cernovich notes, Milo’s meteoric rise was on course to land him his own show on Fox News. The media and political elite that Milo has made a career of lambasting couldn’t allow that. In their panic to keep Milo from going mainstream, they got desperate.

Concern trolls are playing into the enemy’s hands.

Before we talk about what the media establishment’s dog-piling on Milo means for free expression, particularly on the part of non-Leftists who want to remain employed and enfranchised, let’s dispense with the blatantly ridiculous narrative that’s been deployed against him.

Here’s the video that was cherry-picked to falsely portray Milo as a pedophilia apologist. The conversation that the press mined for quotes occurs from 1:01:38 to 1:06:07 [Warning: NSFW language].

Law professor Glenn Reynolds examines a transcript of the video and delivers his informed opinion exonerating Milo (emphasis mine):

“It’s complicated” is usually the correct answer about questions concerning sex. But Milo’s actual position on pedophilia — he’s outed three pederasts in his reporting — doesn’t seem complicated at all.

Here is Milo’s own statement on the matter. The definitive quote:

I do not advocate for illegal behavior. I explicitly say on the tapes, in a section that was cut from the footage you have seen, that I think the current age of consent is “about right.” I do not believe any change in the the legal age of consent is justifiable or desirable.

Read the rest for some indispensable and devastating context. The short version: Milo himself was abused as a minor–in some instances by a priest. He continues to work through his childhood trauma using humor. His comments in the video weren’t intended to advocate for pedophilia–which he specifically denounced–or to belittle other victims.

Milo reiterates and expands on these points in his press conference from earlier this afternoon.

By spinning a pedophilia advocacy narrative against a victim of child sex abuse, the media establishment showed just how frightened they are.

The footage they’re using to crucify Milo has been publicly available for over a year. This isn’t a case of skeletons hidden in someone’s closet suddenly coming to light. It’s a brazen, coordinated attempt to de-platform a rival who’s proved spectacularly effective at competing for the public’s attention–specifically the vital college-age demographic.

In their attempt to destroy Milo, the legacy media resorted to pure Alinsky tactics. They targeted Milo personally and tried to polarize the Right into pro and anti-Milo camps by playing Conservatives’ own principles against them. Though support for Milo remains strong, more than a few people who are otherwise opposed to the social, political, and spiritual destruction wreaked by the mainstream media have been duped into helping them by letting themselves be led into the weeds of pointless semantic arguments and Pharisaism.

And if you think they won’t do it to you, it just means you’re not big enough yet.

The best argument for indie

Descending into the journalistic gutter to pull down Milo tipped the establishment’s hand. When they claim to champion the rights of gays, minorities, and immigrants; yet converge to destroy a homosexual Jew visiting the US from Europe, its obvious that all they care about is power.

They’re also projecting, as Milo’s former publisher Simon & Schuster demonstrate by continuing to publish admitted incestuous pedophile Lena Dunham. Aware of the glaring double standard, Salon tried to scrub all of the pro-pedophilia articles from their site. Unfortunately for them, the internet is forever.

What does all of this mean for non-Left wing writers, journalists, and public figures?

  1. Most of the government, media, and entertainment industry is corrupt. The elites who run the bureaucracies in Washington, Hollywood, and New York care only about maintaining their monopolies on power.
  2. Since their primary concern is maintaining their narrative, and because that narrative contradicts reality, the mainstream press cannot be trusted.
  3. Given that the legacy media is wholly invested in keeping its monopoly and will shamelessly lie to protect said monopoly, they will not think twice about turning their heavy artillery against anyone who dissents. This means YOU.
  4. Before indulging the urge to join the latest MSM witch hunt under the aegis of “keeping your side honest”, remember that the other side are proven liars who will distort or fabricate facts as convenient to push their narrative. Divide and conquer is their strategy. Don’t be a useful idiot.
  5. Legacy publishers are no longer a viable option for authors who are anywhere to the right of Mao. That goes double for the Big Five New York publishers. This is a blessing in disguise, since indie is almost always a smarter alternative to trad book publishing, anyway. The only exceptions I know of are Castalia House–who will be publishing my next book–and Baen.
  6. It doesn’t matter how lucrative or high-profile your brand is. The corrupt entertainment industry will gladly sacrifice anyone who deviates from the approved narrative. S&S forfeited at least $80 thousand of Milo’s advance, many times that in pre-order refunds, guaranteed spots on every major bestseller list, and millions in future sales. They knew this and still cancelled his book deal because power is more important to them than money.
  7. We need to wake up and realize that the industries and institutions that used to serve us have become not merely self-serving, but actively hostile to most people. You can’t depend on them. Stop helping them. Don’t give them one red cent of your dwindling, hard-earned wages. If you’re an author, use nontraditional publishing channels. If you have the means, build alternative platforms free of the thought police.
I don’t expect people over a certain age to understand the gravity of the situation. But for anyone who’s watched childhood promises of prosperity, an even playing field where success depends on merit, or even basic survival evaporate, trust your eyes. We are at war because war is being made on us. No one’s shooting yet, but our liberties and livelihoods are under attack by history’s most powerful cabal of lawless tyrants.
Worst of all, our forebears let the establishment have this unprecedented power over us. Our parents, professors, pastors, and politicians gave up the Western culture that was our inheritance without a fight. Mostly because they didn’t want to look “hypocritical” or “intolerant”.
Dislike Milo if you want. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m not here to police anyone’s thoughts.
But if you act on misinformed opinions by joining the establishment’s witch hunt against Milo–or any other outspoken critic of the mainstream media’s campaign to quash everyone’s right to free thought–you make yourself a willing pawn of billion dollar corporations who want to see you enslaved or dead.
You say you’re protecting our side from hypocrisy and moral turpitude? I say you’re just virtue-signaling. It doesn’t make sense to fret about the sniper who might be hiding in the hills when you’re surrounded by conspirators who are currently stabbing you to death.

Let’s get our priorities straight.

@BrianNiemeier

How to Design Magic Systems

Souldancer of FIre
When two magic systems love each other, sometimes they hug.

A speculative element is what sets the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror apart from literary fiction. There’s no element more speculative than magic, and it’s become a common term of art to speak of an SFF universe’s “magic system”. By reader request, here is my philosophy of magic in genre fiction–with advice on how to handle magic in your secondary world.

Changing depictions of magic in SFF

Historically, there have been two general approaches to depicting magic in speculative fiction.

  1. The old-school way: Magic is mysterious, ineffable, and unpredictable.
  2. The new-school way: Magic works like a technology that we can systematize.
The first way can be seen in works as late as Tolkien and going back to the Matter of Britain and before. Tales like these make little if any effort to explain where magic comes from–other than perhaps hinting at divine (sacramentality; not magic) or infernal origins. Nor do they define any explicit limits on what magic can and can’t do.
Wizards in these stories are almost never central protagonists. Instead they pop into the narrative at key times to aid and advise the main protagonist before exiting the stage for lengthy intervals. Think of Gandalf and Merlin, and you’ll get the idea.
In terms of story mechanics, the reason why wizards like Gandalf and Merlin don’t protag much  is due to the needs of dramatic tension. A well-made story should elicit suspense in the reader over how conflicts will be resolved. Being on the edge of your seat wondering how the hero will get out of this one is the main ingredient for good pacing.
The difficulty with old-school wizards in lead roles is that there’s no inherent reason why they can’t just magic themselves around obstacles. Sure, you can set limits on a wizard’s magic to set up situations he can’t just cast his way out of, but you’ve got to establish those limitations early on to avoid cheating the reader.
And if you do set limits on what magic can accomplish, guess what? You just systematized it a little.
That’s why Tolkien’s wizards are kind of old and new-school hybrids. Gandalf is a superhuman spirit, but he’s explicitly forbidden from drawing upon his angelic power. Instead he’s got to work with the skills available to his human form. That’s a pretty big limitation!
New-school, aka Sandersonian magic
No, Brandon Sanderson didn’t invent contemporary SFF magic. But he is the most prominent advocate for new-school, systematized magic, so I’m sticking with the “Sandersonian” description.
A better candidate for the father of new-school magic is the venerable Jack Vance (though yes, others did it before him, but again, he’s more popular).
If you’ve ever played D&D, you know how Vanceian magic systems work. Magic spells are 5th dimensional formulae of such complexity that a human mind can only hold a limited number of spells per day, and when the knowledge is actualized, i.e. a spell is cast, it’s totally purged from the caster’s mind. If a Vanceian wizard wants to cast that spell again, he has to memorize it all over again.
The upshot of this system is that it allowed Vance to use his transient amnesiac wizards as protagonists while maintaining dramatic tension. A Vanceian wizard can still use magic to escape from sticky situations–but not if he’s used all of his daily spells or memorized the wrong ones.
Categories of Magic
I like to put the various types of magic systems into a few broad categories.
Actual Magic: the original meaning of the term “magic”, using preternatural powers to achieve natural ends. In its archetypal form, magic means asking demons to do stuff for you with their superhuman powers. Old-school authors usually meant this when they wrote about magic.
Technology: this can be anything from Clarke’s sufficiently advanced tech to methods of turning invisible or making things go boom that are otherwise indistinguishable from actual magic. The key difference is that the users aren’t petitioning demons but manipulating “forces”.
Here;’s the tech vs. magic litmus test: if your characters are channeling and shaping created or emergent energies, they’re dealing with an esoteric technology; not real magic.
The vast majority of “magic systems” these days are actually cosmic force-driven technologies. The Force and Sanderson’s allomancy are examples of technology-style magic systems.
Superpowers: this category is rather nebulous and tends to overlap with technology-based magic systems. I distinguish between the two as follows: technological magic is a skill that can be learned. Superpowers are abilities beyond the natural powers proper to humans which are intrinsic to a character.
Super strength, invulnerability, psychic mind-powers, super intelligence, unaided flight, eye lasers, etc.–all are commonly recognized as superpowers. But like I said, sometimes this category overlaps with technological magic systems, such as Star Wars characters who are born with Force-sensitivity (an innate superpower) that lets them learn Jedi skills (a technology).
Designing your own magic system
To design an original magic system for your book, ask yourself these questions:
  • How do I want the presence of magic to affect my story’s mood and tone?
  • Will there be magic user-protagonists?
  • Is my cosmology purely material, or are there beings that transcend the natural?
  • In my world, is magic the result of a pact with preternatural entities, a skill which harnesses natural forces that anyone can learn, or innate to certain characters?
The answers to these questions, in light of the info we already covered above, should give you a basic starting point for setting up your own magic system–if you want a system at all.
It’s also perfectly fine to have multiple magic systems. The Soul Cycle series features all three categories of magic, because I’m greedy that way.
Priests and Teth disciples deal with gods and demons.
Factors learn how to draw on cosmic prana energy to fashion Workings.
Nexists are born with the power to directly affect the world by will alone.
And because clearly delineating these systems would be too simple, there’s considerable overlap between all of them.
Here’s the takeaway: in magic as in everything else, make it fun for the reader. Dramatic tension is a key ingredient of fun, so if you’re going to put magic users in lead roles, make sure to give them obstacles they can’t just magic their way out of. And if you’re going to limit their magic, make sure you clearly lay out what magic can and can’t do as early as possible.
I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. See these principles in action in my award-winning Soul Cycle.
thesoulcycle1

And the Soul Cycle tie-in short story “Elegy for the Locust”, available in the new best selling anthology Forbidden Thoughts!

forbiddenthoughts

The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III: Now Available for Amazon Kindle

I’m pleased to announce the official release of the third thrilling volume in the award-winning Soul Cycle, The Secret Kings.

About The Secret Kings

 
Campbell Award finalist Brian Niemeier’s highly acclaimed Soul Cycle speeds toward its climax in the thrilling sequel to Dragon Award winner Souldancer, The Secret Kings.

The god of the Void is free. Aided by a Night Gen fleet, Shaiel’s fanatical Lawbringers spread his Will throughout the Middle Stratum and beyond.

Teg Cross, whose mercenary career took him to hell and back, finds the old world replaced by a new order on the brink of total war. A fateful meeting with a friend from his past sets him on a crusade to defy Shaiel’s rule.

Meanwhile, Nakvin strives to muster a last-ditch resistance in Avalon. But can worldly kings and queens stand against divine wrath?

The Secret Kings cover - clean

Thanks to my international team of publishing experts, including my lovely and talented editor L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, my astounding cover artist Marcelo Orsi Blanco, and consummate professional formatters Jason and Marina Anderson from Polgarus Studio. This book wouldn’t exist in its current wonderful form without you.

Special thanks to all of my outstanding beta readers for helping me to polish the manuscript and get the book out the door by Christmas. We made it!

On the subject of early readers, initial reviews have been unanimously positive. Just because they’re beta readers, that doesn’t mean they’re sycophants. These guys have been some of my most rigorous and astute critics going back to Nethereal, so I’m inclined to trust their judgment.

To be completely honest with you, I wasn’t expecting quite this kind of response to The Secret Kings. I knew that the book was good, but I’d expected a reception on par with Souldancer, which is still my personal favorite entry in the series. SK is actually shaping up to be the fan favorite, which is fine by me. I work to please my readers, and if you guys are finding yourselves increasingly entertained by each new book I write, it means I’m succeeding at my job.

The Secret Kings - Front and Back Covers

On further reflection, it’s not surprising that this book resonates so well with audiences. There’s a nigh-universal hunger for good space opera, and The Secret Kings definitely fits that genre–even more so than Nethereal did. Compared to both of its predecessors, SK features more space battles, more fight scenes, and more overall action, all tightly wrapped into a little over 400 print pages.

The most common reader observation about The Secret Kings is that the previous two books in the Soul Cycle make more sense in light of the revelations it contains. That’s probably because SK ties together plot threads and character arcs from Nethereal and Souldancer in satisfying ways. In terms of things making more sense, it’s not that I didn’t give readers all the pieces in the prior two books; it’s that I’ve now provided categories that help frame the puzzle. As a result, the answers can be seen more clearly.

I’ve also provided sword fights, space werewolves, another kind of space werewolves, disintegration rays, space jellyfish, multiple flavors of teleportation, true friendship. long-awaited revenge, and even a touch of heartbreak. Because a little bitterness gives contrast and context to sweetness.

The Secret Kings, Soul Cycle Book III is available now from Amazon for Kindle. The trade paperback is currently undergoing review at Createspace and will be available any time now. I’ll update you as soon as the print version goes live.

In the meantime, please enjoy The Secret Kings with my heartfelt thanks.

For those who haven’t read the first two books in the Soul Cycle yet, I haven’t forgotten about you. Nethereal and Dragon Award winner Souldancer are both on sale now for $3.99 each.

Get all three exciting novels today and get ready for the fourth and final Soul Cycle book, which you’ll find a preview of in The Secret Kings.

Unpersoned by Twitter’s Deep Shadowban

No Twitter

Having written before about Twitter’s nasty penchant for censoring and outright banning users who deviate from the company’s rigid left wing ideology, I fully expected the Twitter thought police to come for me. Milo Yiannopoulos warned as much.

I just didn’t expect them this soon.

Daddy Warpig tweet 1

Late Friday afternoon: friends on Twitter started complaining that they couldn’t see my tweets. Daddy Warpig placed the blame on a shadowban.

NB: if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of a shadowban, it’s an unofficial and highly passive-aggressive method that Twitter uses to censor people who disagree with them, but who haven’t broken any rules. By keeping the shadowbanned user’s followers from seeing his tweets or even notifications from him, Twitter can say it’s a bug and maintain plausible deniability.

Shadow bans usually last for 24; sometimes 48 hours.

Daddy Warpig tweet 2

Mine was still in effect a day later.

Keep in mind, this whole time I hadn’t received any communication from Twitter. No prior warnings, no notice of a TOS violation, no explanation of what was happening or why. Nothing.

This wasn’t a surprise, since it perfectly fits the kind of arbitrary censorious behavior that conservative and libertarian users have sadly come to expect from Twitter. I’m neither a conservative nor a libertarian, but Twitter just puts everyone to the right of Chairman Mao into the same badthink box.

The censorship continued through Sunday and into today. Lasting longer and with more extensive effects than ever before, this represents a new form of Deep Shadowban.

Rawle tweet 1

Brand visibility is a matter of life and death for a writer’s career. Until quite recently, deplatforming an author could only hurt his career. That’s clearly what Twitter was banking on, but for a social network they’re pretty mired in analog thinking.

The shadowban’s main effect has been to piss my followers off.

PoW tweet

I can’t blame them for getting mad when conversations that look like this to me:

Convo 2

look like this to them:

Convo 3

But it’s the unintended side effects that should really make Twitter rethink the wisdom of shadowbans, especially in this age of antifragility.

Convo 4

 

Greyed tweet

My number of followers before the shadowban: 970.

My number of followers now: 1,033 and counting.

And has this whole messy business helped me sell books?

You bet 🙂

I’m not upset with Twitter for censoring me. Like a small but growing number of independent authors, that only makes me richer and stronger.

I am upset that my readers are upset. I answer to them; never to Twitter. So I’d appreciate it if Twitter would kindly stop belaboring my bosses’ social media experience.

Of course, I expect Twitter to double down. Again. They enjoy making people weaker than them miserable. Let’s see how they like it when the tables are turned.

In Defense of Ghostbusters (1984)

Ghostbusters

I really shouldn’t have to do this. At this point, the best course of action for everyone is to dismiss the artistic and moral failure that is Ghostbusters 2016, let the remake die a quick, unmourned, and forgotten death, and rest secure in the excellence of the one true Ghostbusters film.

But now inveterate contrarians and shills are vainly trying to make the reboot look better than the Cannon Films fire sale material it is by taking passive-aggressive shots at the original classic.

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: your claims that the original Ghostbusters is dumb, sexist, or overrated don’t make you sound cool. They make you sound like a smug, revisionist poser. It’s just as irritating as a hipster saying he liked a band before they were popular. And in this case, calling the first Ghostbusters a bad movie is empirically wrong.

The short version

Ghostbusters (1984–how detestable it is having to clarify that) is an SNL satire–from back when SNL was good–of a Lovecraftian horror story.

The reimagining, on the other hand, is a cynical parody of the original.

That is what fans are upset about; not the sex of the lead players or the perceived effrontery of making a new entry in a “sacred” franchise. By all reasonable accounts the new film is a shallow cash grab smothered in sanctimonious propaganda, and fans have been wise to the con since the trailer dropped.

The film makers should have heeded the fans’ warning. But as I’ve said before, Hollywood hates its own audience.

Defense in depth

If you still doubt the original Ghostbusters’ greatness, consider the following reasons why it is rightly hailed as a classic.

The talent

Ghostbusters talent

Comedy is the hardest genre to write well. Just ask any pro screenwriter to find out why good comedy writers are held in such high esteem. Nothing else requires such precise timing, tone, and dialogue.

Well-crafted, genuinely funny jokes aren’t written by accident. If a writer is consistently turning in solid comedic scripts, you can be sure he knows what he’s doing.

It’s no coincidence that the creative team behind Ghostbusters includes Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Ivan Reitman, and Bill Murray–talents responsible for the golden age of Saturday Night Live, Animal House, Meatballs, and Stripes.

When a pro writer goes to work, he operates at a certain level of ability. Ghostbusters didn’t just rise to its creators’ high standard of excellence, it took their game to a whole new level.
The world building

Ghost Smashers

Okay, Ghostbusters might not be your thing. That’s understandable. But with the shortage of movies based on original IPs these days, you’ve got to at least give the first movie credit for originality.

I already explained that comedy is the toughest genre to write. Ghostbusters ups the difficulty even more by genre bashing comedy with horror and sci-fi: two of only three genres that require the added element of world building.

Take it from someone who’s built an expansive SFF/horror setting: world building ain’t easy.

 

The unique lore of Ghostbusters wasn’t thrown together in a weekend, either. Aykroyd first developed the film’s core concepts based on a real-life fascination with the paranormal stemming from his childhood. He spent years refining these ideas into an expansive mythos that’s only hinted at on screen.

Come to think of it, the fact that Aykroyd’s original, somewhat rambling, vision was pared down to a manageable yet still satisfying feature length experience stands as further testimony to the film’s brilliance.
The performances

Filmed in one shot.

Not only were the talents behind Ghostbusters ingenious writers, they were also gifted comedic performers. Stellar acting chops are also on full display among the rest of the cast–especially Bill Murray, whose celebrated deadpan delivery made Dr. Peter Venkman a font of legendary quotes.

Seriously, this film alone accounts for at least four percent of the 100 funniest movie quotes. All four belong to Murray, who improvised most of his lines. It’s been argued, and I think rightly so, that Murray deserves a co-writer credit on this film.

Also worthy of high acclaim is Rick Moranis, who improvised the notorious party scene during a single, long shot.

Sigourney Weaver, better known for more serious roles, ad-libbed the famous “You’re more like a game show host” line.
The visuals

Ghostbusters Wrightson

“Effects Movies” tend to get a bad rap, but let’s face it: if your film deals extensively with SF and/or horror elements, you need sharp visuals to sell the story.

Few films can boast the art design pedigree of Ghostbusters. With an art team that included venerable Swamp Thing and Frankenstein artist Bernie Wrightson, this movie’s startling yet endearing visuals and largely practical effects continue to endure as CG effects from movies made five years ago grow old before their time.

Ghostbusters Librarian

The original Ghostbusters was indisputably smart, funny, visionary, and visually gorgeous. What more proof do you need? I rest my case.

@BrianNiemeier

Author Earnings: Amazon a Majority of the Print Market; Indie Publishing Vindicated

author earnings - Amazon eBooks

My stance on indie publishing has changed significantly in just a few short years (not coincidentally, over almost the same period covered by the graph above).

I’m one of those rare folks whose minds can be changed by data. When I first set out to become a professional writer, I did my homework. Reading books, blog posts, articles, and reports on the publishing industry led me to the following conclusions:

  1. The Aspiring Author Who Works Hard to Land an Agent and Finally a Book Deal that Makes Him an Overnight Superstar is a pure fairy tale. Movies and TV shows perpetuate this false view of reality because audiences like a good Cinderella story. Also, it boosts the screenwriters’ egos.
  2. Even if you’re among the 1 percent of aspiring authors who do land agents and book deals, chances are all you’ll get is a $3000 advance for giving up all rights to a book that will languish spine-out on Barnes & Noble’s shelves for a few weeks before getting pitched to make way for next month’s contestant. The circle of life goes on.
  3. Despite 1 & 2, traditional publishing is still the only viable game in town.
But I kept up on my research, and after a couple of years, my thinking shifted to the following position:
  • The publishing industry as a whole still sucks.
  • Amazon has now made indie publishing a viable option for certain people, e.g. traditionally published authors who’ve recovered the rights to their big midlist catalogs.
  • Either way, expecting to make money is the wrong reason to get into this business.
Rather recently, after reading all of Joe Konrath’s eye-opening Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, I further modified my opinion.
  • Traditional publishing is broken.
  • Some authors are actually starting to earn a living by self-publishing.
  • Indie publishing is the right choice for me, but that’s a call each author needs to make based on his own circumstances.
I’ve been self-publishing for a year now, and the amazing results have more than vindicated my decision.
Sales of my first two books placed me among the top half of Amazon writers, even before Larry Correia’s BOOK BOMB!
Enough people read and liked my writing to nominate me for science fiction’s most prestigious award for new authors.
As for what I might’ve given up by rejecting the tradpub route, I’ve already out-earned the standard advance for a first-time author. Except I don’t have to pay that money back before earning ongoing royalties.
Royalties which are 5.6 times higher than those earned by most traditionally published authors.
Yeah, going indie has worked out pretty well for me. But I still wasn’t ready to recommend indie publishing to everybody until I read the latest Author Earnings report.
The Definitive Study of Author Earnings
The May 2016 Author Earnings Report expanded its scope to include 82% of Amazon’s daily eBook sales. This study shed light on many dark corners of the market that had been hidden from the public–until now.
Here’s what AE found, specifically in regard to indie vs. tradpub earnings.
Author Earnings May 2016 midlist
This graph shows the number of authors in the midlist (here defined as making at least $25,000 a year), divided into four categories based on date of first publication.
Not only do indie midlisters dominate every category, they do so even when pitted against traditionally published authors who’ve been working for decades and have substantial catalogs under their belts. We’re talking everybody who’s debuted since 1916, including Hemingway, Tolkien, Heinlein, Card, King, Martin, Patterson, and Rowling.
Then figure in the fact that Amazon has only been around since 1994 and the Kindle has only existed since 2007.
Yet indie authors have remained on top of the midlist regardless of when they started out, while the number of tradpub authors lucky enough to make even 25 grand per year keeps getting cut in half.
But 25k is chump change, I can hear the tradpub diehards say. Surely, if you want to make it big, a big deal from a big publisher is the only way to go!
Author Earnings May 2016 7 figures
Not so much.
The power of big New York publishers to hand out golden tickets capable of turning struggling authors into millionaires is an artifact of the 20th century. Now? As Moe Greene would say, they don’t even have that kind of muscle anymore.
If you were an aspiring author trying to break in prior to the 1980s, New York publishers were your best shot at the big time. Since 2006, indie has stolen tradpub’s thunder to the extent that you’re now four times more likely to make seven figures by going indie than by signing with a traditional publisher.
The other side of the Coin: Dark Matter
Indie publishing might be going like gangbusters at the midlist and seven figure levels, but what about the low end? Are self-published authors also over represented in the shadow market of books that never make the category best seller lists?
In short, yes. But that’s not the whole story.
Author Earnings May 2016 Dark Matter authors
Only 14% of authors on Amazon have eBooks on category best seller lists.
Author Earnings 2016 Dark Matter earnings
But authors with eBooks on Amazon’s best seller lists earn 58%  of the Kindle pie.
Author Earnings May 2016 Dark Matter sales
And just as they account for a majority of best sellers, eBooks by indie authors make up 52% of Dark Matter sales.
It would appear at first glance that going indie gives authors a nearly equal likelihood of being totally invisible or becoming best sellers. But appearances can be deceiving. According to AE:

Once again, indies make up the bulk of these invisible sales and authors — an even higher proportion than in the other shades of Amazon sales matter. We even found a few dozen invisible authors here — mostly indies — who are earning six figures from titles that live entirely in this “pure” dark matter. But the majority of these 2,600,000 titles comes from the lowest-selling 750,000 authors on Amazon, and 900,000 of them belong to the lowest-selling 160,000 indies.

Even though a few indie authors are quietly making six figures in the Kindle Store’s black hole, 160,000 indies are among the 750,000 worst sellers on Amazon.
But as tragic as that sounds, tradpub authors have it even worse.

It might be discouraging to consider the 300,000 lowest-selling Big Five titles that we find here in the “pure dark matter”, belonging to 86,000 invisible Big Five authors…Each of these authors successfully fought their way through the traditional-publishing slush pile, and secured themselves an agent and a publishing deal — even a Big Five deal. Those achievements appear to have granted them little career advantage, in either sales or visibility. Today, these several hundred thousand traditionally published authors find themselves earning even less than the very lowest-selling indies are.

[Emphasis mine]

In the past, when traditional publishing was the only real choice authors had, their manuscripts would have instead languished in traditional publishing’s slush pile, unpublished and unread. Instead, they are now collectively selling 150,000 copies a day, earning each of their authors, on average, $250/year — or roughly $100/title. And getting read, too, if not yet by many, and hopefully finding a few fans along the way.

The takeaway: the Big Five have lost their power to make winners and losers. A traditional book deal doesn’t guarantee more sales or visibility than going indie. Even if your self-published book ends up among the lowest sellers on Amazon, you’ll still average $250 a year instead of zero.
Several factors the AE study didn’t take into account:
  • Of the highest/lowest earners, which authors commissioned effective covers?
  • Which of them had their books professionally edited?
  • How many made sure their books were formatted properly for Kindle?
  • Which authors published just one book, and how many have series?
  • How many authors treat publishing like a job?
  • Which of them do any marketing, e.g. blog regularly/release podcasts/engage fans on social media?
Publishing is still a gamble, but there are steps all authors can take to improve their chances. The AE report proves that self-publishing shifts the odds in your favor more than any other step.
Get off the manuscript submission carousel. Stop waiting for agents and editors to give you validation like a fat kid hoping to be picked for kickball. Seek validation from readers. Write good books, get professional editing, formatting, and covers. Then publish them yourself on Amazon.
And check out my category best selling books.