we need diverse books

/Tag: we need diverse books

Realtalk about the ebook-to-print jump.

yellingintothevoid replied to your post “I’m back! (Belated post-NYCC ramblings.)”

To be honest, I kinda want to never become a Real Published Author ™ if I’m expected to do the whole con thing. Terrifying. Also, are there plans for actual physical purchasable editions of your books? ‘Cause I much prefer books over e-books.

“Expected” is a strong word, given that I volunteered to do it! And everyone was really lovely about everything: the people from PRH who made it all happen and held my noob hand through the process; the wonderful people who came to the signing; and the more experienced authors who offered advice and talked to me when I was the stranger in the room. It’s much easier than going to a con as a “non-professional” attendee in that regard, IMO, since there’s a bigger support network of people who really want to make everything run smoothly for you.

So it’s not that bad. Really, all I had to do was show up on time and smile and be polite. I think I mostly managed, heh.

Re. physical copies of the Wyrd books (Liesmith and Stormbringer); I get asked this a bit so, for reference, this is the Publishing Real Talk 101 time.

Basically, being able to get physical copies of the series printed hinges on exactly one thing, and that one thing is whether or not physical bookstores in the US will agree to stock the books on their shelves. (Note that, for the rest of this post, I’m talking about the US industry. Things work a little differently elsewhere, with the emphasis on “a little”. Most of this still applies in broad strokes, no matter where you are.)

That’s it. That’s the trick. Not just for me, but for every other traditionally published author out there. There’s a whole lot of history and backstory behind why this is the case (it’s the returns system), but the tl;dr is that the market for physical books–specifically, what kinds of physical books you can buy in a physical bookstore–is dictated not by what books publishers print, but what books the buyers for the big retailers will buy.

Here’s where we get to the ugly reality, because the ugly reality is that buyers for physical bookstores aren’t really interested in adult urban fantasy with queer PoC male leads. It sucks, but it’s true. Bookstores have finite shelf space, and they’re commercial entities who need to make money to survive. Making money means selling books, which means stocking books they know will sell. What books do retailers know will sell? Well, go to a bookstore and count what’s there: grimdark pseudo-medieval European epic fantasies; conservative military sci-fi; near-future sci-fi with plucky geekbro male leads; heterosexual female-lead paranormal romance. You get the idea. Write inside those constraints, and yeah, it’s very likely you’ll get a print run from your publisher, because it’s likely you’ll be picked up by a store buyer as something “new” in a niche they know sells. Write outside one of those, and, well. Things get harder, unless you have some kind of other hook in (e.g. you’re already famous from some other platform and thus come with a built-in audience).

Under those circumstances, the chances of Liesmith ever seeing a print release is pretty much nil.

So this answer isn’t entirely depressing, the next obvious question is so what’s to be done about it?

Well, easy: if you want more diverse titles to start getting print runs in physical stores, you have to start buying those titles from physical stores. And yes, I mean the ebooks. Which yes, you can do: here’s Liesmith at Barnes & Noble, for example. (No, Amazon doesn’t count for this, because, a) Amazon’s relationship to publishers is different to the traditional physical stores, and b) Amazon doesn’t share its sales data. So Amazon might know a niche is booming, but that doesn’t mean anyone else does… including the publishers. Amazon is the room’s elephant in the ebook space, but if you want to see things in print, you have to play the brick-and-mortar game.)

That’s really the only secret. If and when physical stores see a jump in demand for a particular book or a particular subgenre (i.e. diverse spec fic), then their buyers go to the publisher sales reps and ask the “what else do you have like this?” question. That’s when the sales reps bring out their back catalogue. And if the buyers see a title that’s ebook only, and want it for their physical stores, they’ll say so to the publisher, and that, dear readers, is how one breaks into the print market. I think a lot of people outside the industry think the ebook-to-print boundary is done on total sales volume (i.e. sell 100,000 ebooks, get a free print deal!), but it’s not. Total ebook sales can influence the end result, but the reality is it’s all on the buyers and what they think they can move from their shelves. Which is why both, a) you don’t see even some very popular subgenres in physical stores, and b) some ebook-only deals get expanded to print even without a sales history if a store rep shows interest.

Incidentally, none of this is a secret within the industry. We just tend, for whatever reason, not to talk about it too much to actual readers. Well, now I am. And now you know.

Tl;dr, if you want to see books with diverse leads stocked in physical bookstores (including mine!), you need to buy those books (and ebooks) from physical bookstores.

2019-04-29T11:56:41+10:0030th October, 2015|Tags: liesmith, publishing, replies, stormbringer, we need diverse books, wyrdverse|

Words make reality.

(all images via weneeddiversebooks.)


So here’s the punchline.

I write books that use elements and characters from Norse mythology. Things being what they are, there’s a certain level of, well, racism that’s difficult to shift from that, thanks to decades of baggage. The link between the Viking gods and white supremacist movements is, sadly, a strong one.

It’s also a-historic.

Here. Read:

The world was divided into three parts: from the south, extending into the west and bordering on the Mediterranean Sea, — all this part was called Africa, the southern quarter of which is hot, so that it is parched with the sun. The second part, from west to north and bordering on the ocean, is called [Europe]; its northern part is so cold that no grass grows upon it, and no man dwells there. From the north and all down over the eastern part, even to the south, is called Asia. In that region of the world is all fairness and pride, and the fruits of the earth’s increase, gold and jewels. There also is the centre of the earth; and even as the land there is lovelier and better in every way than in other places, so also were the sons of men there most favored with all goodly gifts: wisdom, and strength of the body, beauty, and all manner of knowledge.


Near the earth’s centre was made that goodliest of homes and haunts that ever have been, which is called Troy, even that which we call [Turkey]. This abode was much more gloriously made than others, and fashioned with more skill of craftsmanship in manifold wise, both in luxury and in the wealth which was there in abundance. There were twelve kingdoms and one High King, and many sovereignties belonged to each kingdom; in the stronghold were twelve chieftains. These chieftains were in every manly part greatly above other men that have ever been in the world. One king among them was called Múnón or Mennón; and he was wedded to the daughter of the High King Priam, her who was called Tróán; they had a child named Trór, whom we call Thor.


In the northern half of his kingdom [Thor] found the prophetess that is called Síbil, whom we call Sif, and wedded her. The lineage of Sif I cannot tell; she was fairest of all women, and her hair was like gold. Their son was Lóridi, who resembled his father; his son was Einridi, his son Vingethor, his son Vingener, his son Móda, his son Magi, his son Seskef, his son Bedvig, his son Athra (whom we call Annarr), his son Ítermann, his son Heremód, his son Skjaldun (whom we call Skjöld), his son Bjáf (whom we call Bjárr), his son Ját, his son Gudólfr, his son Finn, his son Fríallaf (whom we call Fridleifr); his son was he who is named Vóden, whom we call Odin: he was a man far-famed for wisdom and every accomplishment. His wife was Frígídá, whom we call Frigg.

That’s from the Prologue to the Prose Edda, one of the two main surviving text sources we have that describe the Norse myths.

That’s right. #WeNeedDiverseBooks because it was less controversial for a thirteenth century Icelander to say his people’s traditional gods were the descendants of Turkish migrants, from a place “lovelier and better in every way than in other places” and with people who were “most favored with all goodly gifts: wisdom, and strength of the body, beauty, and all manner of knowledge”… It was less controversial in the thirteenth century for a guy to write that than it was for Marvel to cast a Black man to play an alien version of Heimdall in a film nearly eight hundred years later.

That’s fucked up.


2019-04-29T11:15:00+10:003rd May, 2014|Tags: books, culture, we need diverse books|



The first three days in May will be a social media firestorm of people calling for greater diversity not just in characters in novels–though that’s very important–but also from diverse authors.

The focus is primarily on fiction for young people. Children, whose lives are being shaped consciously or unconsciously by the images they see of people “like them” in media.

At the moment, for a young African American or Latin@ or Middle Eastern or–closer to home–Indigenous Australian kid, those messages aren’t always… great.

Actually, they’re rarely great.

That’s why #WeNeedDiverseBooks. Kids of all types–not just the white, the able-bodied, the cis-gender, the straight, the neurotypical–all types deserve to grow up knowing they exist, they’re valid, and they can be heroes.

They deserve to have the narratives people with lived experience of those intersections can tell, not just (especially not just) the thoughtless stereotypes the privileged pass down.

We need diverse books because life is diverse, and denying that–especially in children–is a form of violence, whether it’s intention or not.

So. Let’s make something better, instead.

Tweet. Share. Buy. In the end, no one loses, everyone gains.

2019-04-29T11:14:56+10:0030th April, 2014|Tags: books, culture, we need diverse books|