Saturday Waffling (July 20th, 2013)


Have still not quite finished the Tom Baker essays, mostly because I realized I'd forgotten to do the commissioned essays from the Kickstarter, so those ate some week. One more, I think. /checks the Kickstarter again. Ah. Bugger. Two more. Oh well.

TG, back on the self-publishing post, left a wonderfully helpful and interesting comment about self-publishing and libraries. It was a perspective I hadn't really seen, so I'm reposting it here:

First, these can be taken to apply to larger public library systems. Some of this may not apply to smaller districts--especially those are severely underfunded.  
Follow all of Phil's advice above. Think of libraries like bookstores--you're competing for space with the output of the established publishers. And despite the long-predicted death of print, there are a lot of great books coming out every year. Even in a library people aren't going to pick up your book if it looks amateurish. Especially when it's sitting on display next to the latest release from Harcourt or McSweeney's. We are only going to buy what we think will check out.  
For fiction writers, you're best off sticking with your local/regional libraries. Despite what a publicist might tell you, there's little point in mailing off copies of your book to libraries around the country. The only self-published novels I'm going to even look at are from local authors. Besides wanting to support our local writing community, it's also an effective way of narrowing down what we consider.  
For non-fiction--if it's a memoir or very regionally-focused, the same as above. For niche subjects such as in-depth analysis of Doctor Who or MLP--those sorts of things we're interested in. The best way to get it to our attention is get it into a trusted review source. Your best bet is Kirkus-- they review indie/self-published books and are closely read by librarians. Publishers Weekly also has a "Select" program you can submit your books to for possible coverage and review.  
You don't need to give us a copy of your book. (And if you do, don't expect it back.) If we want your book in our collection, we will buy it. Librarians support authors! Promotional materials are sufficient. Just do your research and try to send it to the right person or department. When in doubt, send it to "Acquisitions." Also research the collection--are there other materials like or related to your book? For example-- does the library have Doctor Who on DVD? Is it just the new series or do they have the old episodes, too?
Research suggests that libraries help drive book sales. Getting your book into a library exposes it to a large, diverse population of readers. It's worth the extra trouble to try. 
Finally, Last War in Albion. We've hit the end of the first chapter, and of the essays I've prepared. I've started work on Chapter 2, but it's not quite ready to go up Thursday, though once it starts I intend to keep Last War in Albion as a weekly feature. This amounts to a bit of stubbornness on my part - readership numbers on it are not great (though those who like it are quite happy with it), and I've decided to just keep posting it in the hopes that it grows momentum.

Nevertheless, this is the period where it's likely to be tinkered with, so if you have any comments or insights on how it should be improved, please do share them. I'm both proud of it and really enjoying it, but now that it's had some time to unfold and give a sense of what it's doing, I'd love to know what people think, good or bad.

Sunday Pancacking to inevitably follow when we get an announcement about something at Comic-Con.


overflowontology 7 years, 6 months ago

Last War in Albion is fabulous! Whatever flaws you might have as a writer, you're one of the best I've read in recent memory.

Unfortunately, I don't have any criticism, but I was wondering if you'd be experimenting with the structure of Last War in Albion like you have been with Tardis Eruditorum?

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timber-munki 7 years, 6 months ago

Re Last War in Albion, could the low numbers be down to the time period it's currently focusing on, and the relative lack of availability of the Morrison & Moore's material from that time. Personally I'm loving it and so salute your stubbornness!

It should pick up when you get to the more readily available work from all involved, speaking of which the Best Of Milligan & Mcarthy from Dark Horse looks nice.

As to improvements/suggestions, all I can think of is having the images opening in a new tab when you click on them - it's minor & I know I can just right click and use the menu but it does let the art be accessed more 'immediately' and allow easy switching between the text & images. I've no understanding of web page design so if it's unfeasable no worrys.

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Darren K. 7 years, 6 months ago

I am enjoying Last War very much, though from my perspective it has some knocks against it and some elements that can use refinement:

1) Viewership of Doctor Who: 10 million +. Dedicated readership of American comics: probably under half a million. Readership who then care about the British Invasion of the eighties, its sources and its fallout: a lot less than that. (Watchmen has had a lot of readers, but it is an outlier).

2) Absence of real, long form academic comics criticism on the web. The Last War has no real precedent online. In some respects, neither did the Eruditorum, but Doctor Who criticism is at least a great deal more sophisticated than most comics criticism, which is usually even worse than video game criticism online.

3) Format: the blog hasn't been divided into daily/weekly chunks. It is much more like a bande dessinée or manga serial, where this is what you are getting this week and next week we will pick up from here, regardless of how appropriate the break is. The blog does break down better than that, but it violates how people expect to read blogs, where there is a title at the top and the post references that, that is what the post is this week, and at the end of the post, the post is finished, rather than an extract from a larger chapter. I would suggest that for easier readability you adopt a clearer, "blogier" style, though that is a violation of what you are setting out to do. But if you want more readers, the readers should have a better idea what they are getting

3a) Additionally, this might encourage more comments, as there is a concrete unit to post on, rather than a fragment and a complaint that next weeks post on Moorcock (or whatever) isn't in this post. Or perhaps add a "next time:" at the end, to then prod discussion in that direction.

4) Subject matter: Grant Morrison's juvenilia is never going to attract a huge audience. The comics have been little read, pretty much unavailable, and the quality is … well, it is juvenilia. Literally, as Morrison is just 17 for a lot of what he does here. I'm sure once you move into the early hits of Alan Moore, readership will pick up. The problem is that you are setting up the influences and arguments to come, the things that are in some way going to form the spine of the blog and the critical approach, but you are burying them in 17-year old Grant Morrison's admitted Mary-Sue Moorcock in Ballard adventures. In a book, this is not an issue, but in a blog whose readership will grow, there is perhaps a worry here that too much important stuff might get covered before the critical mass of readership joins.

5) Images: there has been a lot more worthwhile in the way of images since the first post (and the "Heroin" image was hilarious), and I definitely don't think you should shy away from posting whole pages or even more as needed. You clearly have no intention of posting entire stories but as you move into wider read works, I don't think a series of pages would be that much of an issue if the commentary makes it necessary. I am interested to see where you take the use of images, as Morrison and Moore are primarily writers working in collaboration. Even working full script - which are generally lost or unavailable - the collaborating artists will bring a lot to the table, but I don't know how much of what *they* bring is what you are interested in.

I think you will gain readers as you move into wider read territory, but as a once a week addendum to a Doctor Who blog, it may take some time to find its readership. Perhaps it needs its own heading at the top of the page for a dedicated readership. But I also think the format you are playing with is going to play against you in the long run. You aren't playing by blog rules, which is fine, as long as you recognise that that is going to count against your readership in the long run, for better or worse.

Anyway, I always look forward to the next post and I hope I have been helpful in some way and not a whiny know-it-all pedant.

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Pen Name Pending 7 years, 6 months ago

I honestly haven't been keepin up with Last War because it's not something I'm familiar with and I kind of got lost.

Speaking of comics though, I just read about this:

It sounds like something you'd be interested in covering: the Doctor realizing he's fictional? The Doctor meeting the actor who plays him?

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Matt Michael 7 years, 6 months ago

Like Pen Name Pending I kind of got lost on the Albion entries having struggled through the first couple. I'm not only unfamiliar with the material itself, but many of the allusions too (I've never read Moorcock, for example) so I'm afraid my own ignorance was a stumbling block. Coupled with the idiosyncratic format of the posts, I have to admit I bailed partway through post three.To me, it looks the absolutely the kind of thing that ought to gather a readership and deserves persevering with and I wish you all the best. In the meantime, I'm holding on for my thrice-weekly Who fix!

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Daibhid C 7 years, 6 months ago

I just wanted to note that I'm finding Last War in Albion fascinating, even if I don't have enough insight to make sensible comments most weeks. I think the first Morrison book I read was JLA, and the first Moore book was Watchmen ... in 1994. I was already aware of them, though, as "the people who used to write Swamp Thing and Doom Patrol, who everyone seems to agree were better than the people writing it at the moment".

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Mark Johnson 7 years, 6 months ago

I am enjoying the LWIA posts, I read some Ballard and Moorcock in the 80s, but I know next to nothing about comics. It is still interesting and I use google to fill in any gaps I have. I may not be a typical reader though.

I don't have a trouble with the style or format. It is atypical for a blog, but in general that is a good thing. I am not sure if you dumped a 20,000 word essay on me in one chunk that I would get through it.

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BerserkRL 7 years, 6 months ago

Some of the material I know a lot about (Moorcock) and some I know close to zero about (early Morrison), but I find it all fascinating. Though I reckon I'll be on Team Moore once we get there.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 7 years, 6 months ago

I don't know. I haven't seen an obvious way to yet, but there also hasn't been a post that calls for it. In some ways I designed Last War in Albion to be experimental in its overall structure instead of its micro-structure.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 7 years, 6 months ago

Very possibly it is just because it's starting with obscure material. In which case it'll hopefully pick up when we get to Marvelman and V for Vendetta, which isn't actually too long away. (I mean, months, given that I'm doing it weekly, but.)

And images are handled by Blogger's software, and I don't think I can hack that.

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Elizabeth Sandifer 7 years, 6 months ago

Full pages will surely happen - actually, I did at least one with Luther Arkwright.

The format is probably a bit off-putting, yes. I imagine I'll get better at it - I have started adding the topics of the posts to the subject lines, which hope helps, though they are a lot of characters in. But yes, the format is... I wanted something that felt very different from the episode guide structure of Eruditorum.

And a tab on the top is coming.

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Anton B 7 years, 6 months ago

Just adding my vote for the continuation of 'Last War in Albion'. Keep going! Readership will spiral upwards when when you get to the less obscure stuff.

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Daru 7 years, 6 months ago

Hiya Phil - not much to add to those above except that I have in a way been grabbed by your recent Doctor Who posts and been following that narrative. So I think when I read the recent Albion posts I may do that it one chunk - they all look superb though and I am a familiar with the material mostly.

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