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The Future of Genre Fiction (an interview by Marc Marion) Part 3

This is the final installment of a three part interview by Marc Marion. Be sure to read Part 1 and Part 2.

7. What innovative things are you seeing that the industry is doing to promote genre fiction, or should be utilizing more? Where are publishers falling short?

THEA

Just as this interview is focused a lot on the digital aspect of books, I’m gonna say that the publishing industry’s perceived resistance to the grand crossover to digital media is the biggest shortfall. Those publishers that can take advantage of the new technologies available, market to readers online, and have available digital books are the ones that will thrive.
In terms of book promotion, I’d like to see more online content. More author interviews, more publisher blogs, more interactive websites for titles. Strangely, Young Adult genre fiction is by far and away the packleader in my mind for online marketing. YA publishers and imprints sense that younger readers are more digitally-oriented, and some publishers take advantage of this wonderfully (see Harper Teen’s website). Then, there are the publishers with awful, antiquated, antithesis of user-friendly websites. You know who they are. I cannot bang this drum enough – the internet is your friend. Publicize yourself and your titles effectively online. It’s the way of the future, man.

ANA

I completely agree that YA publishers are the front runners of the market at the moment. It just blows my mind how they seem to get it right. They are absolutely open to new ideas and innovative content.

But do you know which adult Fantasy/ SF publisher is also doing it right? Angry Robot – a new Harper Collins imprint. They run a mean blog, they are innovative, they publish cool books and they have an openness to blogs that we hardly ever see. They are also very, very new – less than 2 years old, so that probably explains a lot.

It drives me insane when I go online for an excerpt of a book or information about an author and I can’t find it anywhere – either because the author doesn’t have an updated blog or website or because the publisher doesn’t have one (and I don’t which is worse) . I have seen people saying that online readers and bloggers are a minority, but do you know…I think that is bound to change, and sooner than we think, as teens start to read more and more folks. Wake up.

MARK

As a blogger I do look around to see what is about, but I find that publishers don’t send out press releases or general emails with information on releases they have coming up. Getting the word out is by far the most important thing to me – if readers don’t know what’s coming up then how will they know what to pre-order and buy?

JOHN

The industry has done an excellent job in making new technology work for them. Early adoption of websites, social networking, advertising and other internet related technology has been great.

Publishers could do more to target advertising. Publishers often post author appearances on their sites or Facebook pages, but coming up with a way to let a reader know that a favorite author will be in town in a month would be helpful as readers have limited time to go looking for author schedules. In fact, many authors are having to publicize their visits themselves and that only works if a reader subscribes to the author website or blog. In other words, publishers need to target readers regionally, using their address databases (assuming they have them) to let readers know when an author might be in town. This might be something that is already being done, but I am not seeing it myself, so I’d like to take this opportunity to call for more of it.

Many publishers have utilized the blogging community, much to their advantage I think, and need to continue doing so. They need to get authors in contact with bloggers for interviews and for guest posts. When a blogger does something for an author, the publisher needs to publicize it widely both inside and outside the publishing community, showing their gratitude for the blogger and pride in the work of their author and themselves. Overall, the genre community has used utilized technology much more quickly than others, and as such, is a leader in new and innovative ways to use technology. It may start with fans, but eventually the publishing houses (at least of genre fiction) eventually catch up, and even then are paving the way. Tor.com is one example, as is HarperTeens sharing site for young authors and their adult writer site Authonomy. It was genre readers who first participated in AnthologyBuilder.com and innovative way of getting the fiction a reader wants – with no excess – in a personalized anthology. Genre readers and writers are as cutting edge as the fiction they read.

8. It may be cliché to ask, but which new and upcoming authors are grabbing your attention and are poised to become the next big household names?

ANA

I can’t wait to read Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by NK Jemisin is already a top favorite of 2010. Other than those, I am really looking forward to reading Fantasy Wolfsangel by M.D. Lachlan, Hunger , a YA debut by Jackie Kessler , UF Mind Games by Carolyn Crane and another fantasy novel The Last Stormlord by Glenda Larke which I hear is pretty awesome.

JOHN

Being the epic fantasy buff that I am, people grabbing my attention include Peter V. Brett, Robert V. S. Redick, Mark Charan Newton, David Anthony Durham and Karen Miller. Lavie Tidhar, Matthew Hughes, Justin Allen, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kij Johnson, Laura Anne Gilman, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mary Robinette Kowal, Jason Sanford, Michal Burstein, Nnedi Okorafor and George Mann are names to watch. And careful reading of collections of original fiction by John Joseph Adams, Ellen Datlow, Gardner Dozois, and Jonathan Strahan will indicate some of the new authors who may break out on the scene at any time. Reading magazines like The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Black Gate, Asimov’s, Apex, Interzone and online fiction outlets like Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, and Clarkesworld give some indication of who has lots of potential to become a household name.

THEA

There are a lot of the “new kids” on the genre fiction bock that I think are garnering a solid following because of their outreach online, their excellent marketing campaigns, their beautifully packaged books, and, most importantly, their awesome writing. Sam Sykes, debut author of Tome of the Undergates has already amassed a strong online following, even though his book has yet to be published! Carrie Ryan, author of the haunting, Stoker Nominated debut YA novel The Forest of Hands and Teeth has her sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves hitting stores next week, and I think she’s poised to do Great Things. Kaaron Warren, Stoker Nominated author of Slights is a mindblowingly awesome writer. N.K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is rapidly making her way around the SFF readership. I am also counting Seanan McGuire, Paolo Bacigalupi, Kat Falls, Justin Cronin, and Karen Healey as authors to watch out for in 2010.

MARK

Debut fantasy author Blake Charlton is one who I’ve heard good things about – I’m about halfway through his debut, Spellwright, and it’s ticking all the boxes for me. Science fiction doesn’t tend to have as much hype for new authors as fantasy does, but some debuts that I’m particularly looking forward to are Veteran by Gavin Smith, The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi and also The Nemesis List by R.J. Firth (winner of the Tor UK/Sci Fi Now competition, War of the Words).

9. The DRM (digital rights management) battle between industry and consumers has happened before in music and film, and we’re starting to see the same thing happen in books. Some publishers are heavily investing in DRM technology, while others are making their titles available with no DRM whatsoever. How do you predict this scenario will play out, who will be the winners and the losers, and what side of the fence do you stand on?

JOHN

Eventually, no-DRM will win. People don’t like to be caged, and that is what DRM does. Personally, I hate DRM, as it keeps me from enjoying stuff I want to enjoy when I find it is not compatible with the technology I have. I have a couple of CD’s that are DRM locked that I never listen to because I listen to everything on my iPod, and I can’t get those CD’s (by very popular artists by the way) onto the iPod. The publisher may consider it a victory because they got me to buy a CD, but unless any new CD by those artists is DRM free, I won’t buy it. The music house lost additional sales because of their choice to block me out.

MARK

Personally I do not want to buy a book that has DRM on it. This is something that will be ongoing for a while, but I whole heartedly applaud the publishers that do release their titles with no DRM. I know the intention of DRM is to stop illegal copying and selling, but this has been ongoing for years anyway – just walk into a second hand book shop! While I appreciate the fact that publishers are trying to protect their investments, DRM is just short-changing the customer.

THEA

Oh DRM. Where is Cory Doctorow when you need him? All I will say on the subject is this: the struggle and bitterness in the music and film industries should be a very applicable, precautionary tale for publishers. In those scenarios, labels, artists, and producers antagonized the consumer. Never a good idea. Needless to say, I’m a proponent of Mr. Doctorow’s and agree with “Doctorow’s Law.” That is:

Any time someone puts a lock on something you own, against your wishes, and doesn’t give you the key, it’s not being done to your benefit.

I take a skeptical look at Macmillan CEO John Sargent and his “DEVIL BOOK PIRATES!” battle cry. No one likes DRM. If I buy an e-book for my Kindle, I bought the damn book, and if I switch over to a Sony Reader later, I want to be able to take my e-books with me. A bunch of folks a lot smarter than I have made some very articulate speeches and articles about the drawbacks of DRM, so I’ll leave it at that.

ANA

What Thea said.

10. Just what does the future of genre fiction look like to you?

MARK

I see the near future continuing very much like it is at present – fantasy and urban fantasy will dominate while science fiction will occupy a corner of the market. I don’t see anything drastic changing that, but you never know what is around the corner :)

ANA

I wish I had something witty to say but I don’t so I will go with: bright with the occasional cloudy day.

JOHN

The future is bright. A diverse population of readers, writers, and industry professionals is going to make genre fiction both stronger in content and wider in effect. New subgenres are going to crop up, and new trends are going to appear. Reading fiction is a part of the human experience, and no genre better delves into what it means to be human than science fiction and fantasy. It’s many wonderful worlds.

THEA

Big and beautiful. (See, I’m capable of giving short answers)