We are Miracle Jones (u/miraclej0nes) and Jeanne Thornton (u/glambourine) of Instar Books.


Instar Books is a new publishing company that we both run. We are using the sale of our own books to finance future projects in development. So far, it is working pretty good! Here's a little about us:

  1. All our sales are public. We sell ebooks direct to customers. Over time, we will make our books available through additional channels, assuming that these are effective and ethical.

  2. As our books breach arbitrary "sales goals," new art projects and new forms of our books open up as bonuses. For instance, when one of our ebooks sells 500 copies, it becomes a print book from OR Books, the independent publisher of Julian Assange, Eileen Myles, Ed Wood, and many other dissident voices.

  3. We publish fucked-up underground fiction, poetry, and non-fiction—the kind of action that BIG CORPORATE PUBLISHING does not want and does not understand. We are also into publishing peculiar Internet errata, like twitterbots and leaks and games and interesting code.

  4. We don't deal with Amazon. Fuck Amazon. We know many people love Amazon, but seriously, they are terrible for the ecosystem of American literature. Ask us about it.

  5. We also sell our books in "seed" form, as custom-designed USB sculptures.






I am Miracle Jones! I am from Houston, Texas (though I now live in NYC) and today is my birthday. Some of my "hits" include "How to Get Laid for Zero Dollars and Zero Cents," a story about a "rat king" in the WTC wreckage of 9/11 (here's the video), "Fulfillment," a story about working in an Amazon warehouse over the holidays, "Fear Boys With Dolls," a story about Batman's terrifying high-tech sex doll collection, and "Vitalics," a story about a Catholic priest whose job is to go around baptizing artificial intelligences.

You can read THESE FINE TALES and many other stories for free at: http://www.miraclejones.com.

My novel "Sharing" was just published last week at Instar Books. It's a fantasy/sci-fi thriller, and the first part of an ongoing epic about messed-up psychics waging interdimensional war against manipulative unicorns, in the grand slipstream tradition of China Mieville and Henry Darger.




I wrote the book "The Black Emerald," a bunch of short stories about creepy stuff and sometimes trans women's issues. One of the stories from the book is available here at CURA. It is about a trans woman agreeing to sleep with an alcoholic couple in exchange for dessert, kind of on Nietszche's advice. I also wrote the book "The Dream of Doctor Bantam," which is about a Scientology-like cult, and which was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. I do these webcomics, Bad Mother (badmothercomix.com) and The Man Who Hates Fun (manwhohatesfun.com), and publish Rocksalt Magazine, with Geoff Sebesta. I also work as a freelance editor & copy editor for myriad books on myriad subjects. It is not my birthday today, but it will be on February 2!


You can check out our 2014-2015 catalog here, but some of our other upcoming titles include:


VIDEOGAMES FOR HUMANS: An anthology of Twine games, edited by merritt kopas (creator of Consensual Torture Simulator, Lim, and Hugpunx), as played by other Twine creators, writers, and journalists, and dedicated to the idea that digital games, to evolve, must show increasing diversity both of creators and of subject matter. Contributors include Zoe Quinn, Imogen Binnie, Christine Love, Emily Short, Anna Anthropy, Pippin Barr, Leigh Alexander, and many more.

THINGBODY: A mixed-media experimental verse narrative by Clare Louise Harmon that tells the story of a young classical musician's journey, following a traumatic assault, through hospitalization and toward recovery and reintegration with the world, via verse, visual art, typography, critical analysis, and Claymation.

HOTWRITING, V.0: Working at the conjunction of words, sounds, wearable computing, and performance poetry, "code poet" Todd Anderson brings together the best of his Hotwriting pieces from the Derangement of the Senses and Poetry Observed events, painting a surreal image of a hypermodern America beset with James Brown lines, drunken Santas, sex revolutionaries, and dance breakdowns forever. The book will include both straightforward poetry and an interactive collection of word art and technology (check out this example of "hotwriting in action" and be eternally changed).

EVERYWORD: THE BOOK: Celebrating the one-year anniversary of the conclusion, in June 2014, of the Twitter bot @everyword's run through the entire English language one tweeted word at a time, "Everyword: The Book" collects the entire corpus of tweets by @everyword from 2007-2014, including accurate information about the number of favorites and retweets each word received, for the convenience of the casual reader. Foreign rights are available for this title.


Ask us anything. We will answer EVERY question. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. That means we will continue to check up on this AMA indefinitely, so this thread will always be a place where you can reach us if you have questions / concerns / ideas / want to pitch us a book. You can also sign up for our mailing list at www.instarbooks.com.

PROOF: https://twitter.com/Instarbooks/status/544883836493266944

Comments: 129 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

bduhb4 karma

I am absolutely dying to read Burning. I loved the first two books in the series as much as I have loved any fiction. Whenever books come up, and often when they don't and I forcefully steer the conversation in that direction, this series is one I always insist people must read.

All that said do you have any idea about how long it might take you to finish Burning?

Related questions:

  1. What was your writing process like for the first two?
  2. Do you sit down and write for long periods? Or do you get easily distracted?
  3. Also how long did each take you to finish? How much of each did you end up leaving on the cutting room floor?

miraclej0nes3 karma

"Sharing," the first book, came out really quick.

I get chronic kidney stones and so I was soaking in a bath of scalding hot water, probably thinking about how nice it would be to rent somebody else's body for a bit (or at least be able to leave mine) when I had the idea that binds the books together (the central interlocking concept re: Building and Traveling) and came up with the four main characters (no doubt while also distracting myself with the progress of one of the many "does not give a fuck" cockroaches that inhabited my apartment at the time).

I write in a bit of a fury, getting it all done quickly and then editing it at length. I do not get easily distracted as a general rule. In fact, I am something of an endless cogitator and planner. I did the editing for "Sharing" back home in Austin while uh essentially homeless and staying on the couch of a very good friend, working fulfillment actually in a warehouse. I was sure that I had finally written a publishable book and somebody might take it up and I could get a little advance to write the next one. Unfortunately, it was turned down by everyone...my agent had a nervous breakdown and quit being an agent...and I was rather bummed out, especially for me, since I already have a pretty dark view of the universe.

But onward! I worked for six months and saved up and then I went homeless again to write the second book, going on a traveling circuit of good friend's homes in NYC and Texas. It was quite pleasant actually, although I probably couldn't do such a thing again (you only get to burn up all that goodwill once in a lifetime). "Shifting" turned out better than I had hoped (perhaps because I was able to focus completely on it and did not give a fuck basically) and I was really pleased, but then I realized that there wasn't anything I could do with it. People hadn't read the first book, so now I had two dead unpublishable books to my name.

But I knew I was gonna keep going so I needed to find a way, sort of a patron saint perhaps. While passing another stone, I ended up watching Jodorowsky's "The Holy Mountain" and had sort of a transcendental epiphany. I got real into his personal story (his autobiography is amazing) and have become something of a superfan. Here was one of the world's most colossal failures (on paper)...and yet he was completely uncompromising and has had a wonderful life and artistic career despite the derision from his peers and in spite of the malicious nakedly-commercial goals of the medium he loves.

I decided to write a book about him in order to perhaps have some of that "psychomagic" for myself, and so I did.

I would say each book took me about six months to write and six months to edit. I would also say that I rewrote each book completely during the editorial process, so that one could say I left 100% on the cutting room floor.

As far as my writing process goes, I write quite a bit. Every day, if I can. I know I haven't gotten "Burning" done yet, but since "Shifting" I have written three other books...two short story collections, and this book about Jodorowsky I am calling "Dune" and which I may or may not ever show anyone.

bduhb3 karma

First, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. It's just lovely getting these insights and backstory.

I really loved "Sharing" and read it pretty quickly. But "Shifting", "Shifting I read like a madman. I was totally obsessed and could not be convinced to do anything other than eat, sleep and read that book. Which was unfortunate because I had made a trip with my girlfriend to visit her Father and did not complete my expected social duties. She had words with me and was very happy when I finished it. Thank you for that!

Did you ever find a patron to support you?

I watched "The Holy Mountain" last year as well. I'd be really interested to read what you wrote.

miraclej0nes3 karma

I might print out one copy and read it personally to people who ask. The rule will be that the reading must occur all in one night, from sundown to sunup, and I must be fed and provided accommodation for one week before and after this reading, first as preparation and then as payment.

Perhaps in such a way I can turn all those who might wish to hear a tale into my patrons.

arremmemm3 karma

Let's say you meet a genie and he gives you the following choice. You can use one of the following transportation options for the rest of your life, but only one.

You CANNOT use any other transportation method besides your feet and normal state, federal and municipal laws will still apply to you and your transportation option.

Will you please rank these options in order of preference?

Monster truck
Hang glider
Hitch hiking with murderer
Shopping cart
Burrowing machine
Motorized toilet

miraclej0nes3 karma

Please elaborate on the "hitchhiking with murderer." Is it the same murderer every time, like I send a text and "OH LOOK HERE COMES MARIO WOULD YOU MIND TAKING ME TO LAS VEGAS MARIO WE BOTH KNOW THE MURDERING IS LOVELY IN LAS VEGAS DURING A DOWN ECONOMY AND YOU WERE HEADED THERE ANYWAY," sort of a "Death Uber" type situation, or do I have to stand by the side of the road and wait for a murderer to come along, turning down every other viable option until I find a murderer to hitch with...the Craigslist model, I guess?

arremmemm2 karma

It would be like the "Death Uber" model. Murderers waiting to pick you up anywhere at any time of day. Assume a 5-10 minute wait. Not necessarily the same murderer every time.

miraclej0nes3 karma

Incredible! In that case:

  1. Hitchhiking with murderer
  2. Burrowing machine (a distant second)
  3. Monster truck (this beats motorized toilet I suppose)
  4. Motorized toilet (I feel like this would lead to many conversations I would rather not have)
  5. Shopping cart (there are at least some practical applications here)
  6. Hang glider (seems utterly useless for both short trips and interstate transit)
  7. Giraffe (might as well walk; also I would feel bad for the giraffe)

arremmemm1 karma

That's fair but I think you're slightly underrating motorized toilet.

miraclej0nes1 karma

Just sounds like the subway, you know? Only I'd have to drive and wouldn't be able to read.

miraclej0nes5 karma

In fact, if you combine "hitchhiking with murderer," "burrowing machine," "monster truck," "motorized toilet," and "shopping cart" all into one vehicle, you have a full description of the subway itself, my favorite form of transportation. I suppose I have done my ranking unconsciously in order of "aspects of the subway I like the most."

glambourine3 karma

This is a really strange genie, imposing conditions but not really granting wishes? I would pretty much go

Shopping cart Giraffe Hang glider (but only recreationally) Motorized toilet Monster truck Hitchhiking with murderer Burrowing machine

They are ranked this way because I want to use the least obtrusive means of transportation possible at all times and shopping cart seems pretty low-key and practical.

miraclej0nes2 karma

You do not want to always and at all times have the ability to summon a murderer in five minutes? This seems like the only one that is not just utterly a curse.

cap10wow2 karma

Tell me more about the 'USB sculptures'. Vas ist los?

glambourine2 karma

Oh boy!

So here is a photo from the page for THE BLACK EMERALD: http://www.instarbooks.com/books/emerald.jpg

Here are schematics from the "printer": http://www.instarbooks.com/books/emeraldUSB.jpg

Basically they are a way to make ebooks into a physical thing that's valuable in its own right as a sculpture rather than as a cheapo disposable format. We endeavor, when enough sales come in, to make all of our books available in this format, though right now there's just the proof of concept from The Black Emerald. It's all of the book formats loaded into the USB drive, which can then be loaded/copied onto multiple devices, or just erased.

One day I endeavor to sell printable cutout/fold curio cabinet stands, so that you can have all of your "seeds" (that is their "format name") in one creepy display case. The plan for the Fold series is to publish all the books in formats that correspond to "things you find in a diner"--pepper and salt shakers, knives, forks, etc.--so that when all seven books are out you can basically start your own diner with the books, except each item is secretly encoded with a novel in various formats.

Miracle Jones wrote a big article about why this is a good idea here a few years ago: http://fictioncircus.com/news.php?id=407&mode=one

miraclej0nes4 karma

Then there was uh also the uh time I sold my short story collections "Seed" and "Soil" inside a matching pair of neon USB genitals to see if this idea was uh viable:


It was! I sold out of everything I made and people were pretty happy about buying them.

Shaeos2 karma

Hi! How do you find and sign up new authors and can I direct you to one of my favorites?

miraclej0nes3 karma

You can pitch us here (there is a thread for it around here somewheres!) or you can go ahead and email us at [email protected] or [email protected], depending on I guess which of us you think will be more sympathetic based on whatever you can glean from the way in which we field questions from strangers (or you could just send it to both of us, I guess, but this seems less fun).

bduhb2 karma

How did you come to decide to make Tessa's Shares lowercase?

miraclej0nes3 karma

Good question! This was definitely a conscious decision, and I think it has something to do with the way a certain kind of person communicates online who jettisons all formal capitalization and grammar rules in order to speedily and accurately convey raw information. I actually like such people very much / trust them more for their honest response to the Internet's dishonest language imperative (the joking jovial "just folks" manner in which we all must communicate in order to prove that we are human and nice and good and acting in good faith), although I cannot bring myself to actually join them in their efficiency and imperiousness with regard to text-based communication.

FarT00canadian2 karma

Will you come do an event for Videogames for Humans at Word Up?

glambourine2 karma

Yes definitely! I feel that Word Up, one of NYC's finest bookstores, has definitely VERNed our esteem and we would love to do this! We're planning launch stuff for the end of April, coinciding with the Theorizing the Web conference, so I will see what can happen?

miraclej0nes3 karma

Also look for a "Videogames for Humans" event at Babycastles Gallery on 14th St!


AbsurdlyAddicted2 karma

'Sharing' and 'Shifting' are two of my favourite books. Absolutely engrossing and creative and they've inspired my own writing. Thanks for making them! All of the upcoming titles in your catalog look wicked as well; I hope to buy a few.

If you could Build your own Fetish, how would it go?

miraclej0nes2 karma

Well, hell, thank you very much! Glad I could get in there and write something that you dug.

That's a really good question, and it is obviously a question I think about a lot. My answer, for now, is that it would probably be very empty...just lots of old food containers and maybe an extremely big and comfortable bed.

...also a giant sea of human flesh constantly being ripped apart and reconfigured. I would swim in it, like Scrooge and his money pit.

Ha ha, just kidding.

But you asked "how would it go," and "rampant neglect" is probably how it would go. Such spartan squalor isn't what I would WANT; but that is how things would end up. I am bad at taking care of my soul / responsibilities.

If possible, I would spend most of my time Traveling, which is why I put it higher in the Fold, even though this makes no real logical sense: it is much easier to travel to a place than build it.

But I'd rather live in hotels forever with a nice suitcase and rumpled suit rather than hang out in my own house. Neither options are really viable for me right now / will probably never be viable. Hotels are damn fucking expensive.

I will probably have a completely different, far more true answer by the time I am working on Building, though.

Richard-Rider2 karma

I always wanted to publish a story about a guy that messes up public toilets for kicks (shitting on the floor, pissing on the floor etc.)

What are my chances of pitching that idea to a major publisher? And if I can't, how do I need to change the concept?

miraclej0nes2 karma

I am invested already! I mean, I want to know more. Who is this man? Why does he do this? Is he getting sexual thrills from this act, or is it more like some kind of emotional catharsis...like achieving an "absence of pain?"

With respect to your chances of getting such a story in front of a major publisher, I would say that they are not good. You would first need to get your story to an agent, and since pretty much every agent lives and works in Manhattan, they would not know what you are talking about with respect to a "public toilet" (they do not exist here).

I like your concept; I wouldn't change a thing. I am curious about how you would execute such a story. Really, a story can be about anything as long as it is inventive and engaging and gives pleasure to the reader.

Richard-Rider1 karma

I thought his motivation is mainly just the thrill of vandalism. I used to paint graffiti and taught that adding the thrill-seeking to an absurd situation like someone messing up a toilet might add some humor to the whole thing.

The way I wanted to convey the story is to not tell the reader what dangerous activity the protagonist does until about the last act of the story. The book is supposed to be full of hints but the big surprise comes at the end.

glambourine3 karma

My editorial advice is to reveal that the protagonist is messing up public toilets in the first sentence and never back down from the consequences of this plan.

This company works well because I am 100% certain both Miracle and I are each composing like at least ten fanciful versions of this book in our mind now and they will not necessarily overlap in any place

miraclej0nes2 karma

Yeah, I am seeing this character hired by the State to keep public toilets terrible in order to justify their absence. Or maybe this character is searching for someone...someone who doesn't mind a terrible fucked-up public toilet...someone who will use it anyway...someone who can see past it...someone who sees beyond the broken and unusable...a friend...a companion...THE ONE BLIND MOTH THAT POLLINATES THE FUCKED-UP PUBLIC TOILET ORCHID

miraclej0nes1 karma

I gotta question for YOU, Jeanne: what do you think the hardest part about publishing "Videogames for Humans" will be, on account of the whole contentiousness of the Gamergate situation / the high-profile nature of our authors?

Sedatephobia1 karma

Hello. I've never heard of you.

I'm not particularly sure I understand your site. I clicked the little English roach friend. Or your purpose. But I love you.

Could you explain to me in dumb?

glambourine1 karma


  • We are publishing books, primarily fiction and poetry, ideally with some experimental component (i.e., Videogames for Humans is a collection of Twine games, Hotwriting v.0 is a collection of interactive poetry experiments) that would be more interesting to see as an ebook than a traditional ebook maybe.

  • As books hit certain sales thresholds, we introduce new formats for each title, or just do something weird. For example, we're doing this AMA because Sharing sold 25 copies, and at 50 copies, we'll release a download file of just the map + concept art. At 25 copies sold of my book, The Black Emerald, I elected to sing an extremely stirring cover of Born to Run.

  • We do this in part because obviously it drives sales a little bit, but also it gets people invested in the success of a book they happen to like, and it makes the actual mathematics of book publication and sales a lot more transparent. I think people who are not publishers would maybe be surprised how few copies of a book have to sell for a book to be "a success," or to be discussed? I at least find it really interesting?

  • We're partners with OR Books in the following ways: (1) they've agreed to take on print publication of any ebook that reaches 500 sales, and (2) we use their ecommerce architecture. We also just like them.

  • Our purpose is just to find people whose work we like or find interesting or important and to celebrate that work with a big weird publication that is as party-like as possible. We work tirelessly and maybe obnoxiously to invite as many people as we can to read these books and participate in this party, and we solemnly assert that we're not going to waste your time in doing so. We like these books and are trying to find fun and exciting ways to communicate the fun of reading weird books to you, the reading public, in a way that we feel other publishers are maybe unwilling to do because idk it's like "not classy"?

Does this work?

Sedatephobia1 karma

It did! Sorry for earlier. It was 3am. But you're certainly taking a new approach to publishing. I'm definitely gonna have to get a few ebooks.

miraclej0nes1 karma

I would start with "The Black Emerald," by Jeanne if you really want a taste of our editorial prejudices going forward into forever! It's a new kind of writing, really, that has definitely inspired the work I have done throughout the years...fiction as glass-smashing, gleefully-malicious transformational magic. Also, Jeanne dips into almost every "genre" in this collection so you can really see how a certain writing philosophy plays out while clashing with many different tropes and expectations...

Unhyper1 karma

Do you put DRM in your books, and what are your thoughts on it in general?

miraclej0nes2 karma

Nope, our books are all DRM free. I personally think DRM is silly. If you have the money but do not wish to buy me a glass of Wild Turkey at a bad Manhattan dive bar (pay $10) either before or after reading my book, then that's on you. If you are legit poor but are into book piracy in order to escape the hard confines of your horrible penury, then I am of course ecstatic if you can find a way to access the particular kinds of books you want to read, especially if the books in question are my books. We will of course try to protect the interests of our authors, but I think our particular swamp is full of good people who understand that books cost money and that authors ought to be paid: not so they can be millionaire celebrities or anything, but so that they can attempt to be professional authors at all instead of fretful waiters or splenetic, daydreamy criminals (or in addition to being splenetic, daydreamy criminals, I guess).

not_unoriginal1 karma

Did y'all plan to have this AMA on Philip K Dick's birthday, or was this just a happy accident?

miraclej0nes2 karma

I am sort of an expert on December 16th birthdays for reasons that Jeanne has explained! Did you know that the day also belongs to Jane Austen, Beethoven, Bill Hicks, and Krysten Ritter, who was born on the exact same day as me in 1981 and who also knows how to party?


Sonmi-4521 karma

the grand slipstream tradition of China Mieville and Henry Darger.

Henry Darger and China Mieville have almost nothing in common. Mieville is a successful and brilliant, socially conscious writer and fantasist whose published works are sold worldwide and heralded as complex and interesting works that often address social issues.

Henry Darger was essentially a painter/collagist with some rote artistic processes and an incredible sense of composition, who wrote a single tome no one has ever read all the way through, filled with brilliant strange artworks and some of the shittiest prose ever written. Seriously, In the Realms of the Unreal should be called In the Realms of the Unreadable - it's that unworkable as a narrative.

My question is this: aren't you just name-dropping? Or is there something to this wonky comparison?

Follow-up: I support your independent publishing efforts. That said, I think the graphic design on your site is appalling. Are you considering hiring a designer to rework the graphics of your site?

miraclej0nes3 karma

I would say that whatever Venn diagram does exist between Mieville and Darger, that is the space I am trying to occupy. What does "workable" as narrative mean exactly?

I'm sorry you don't like the graphic design of our website!

John_ORBooks-2 karma

Didn't Darger have a thing for little girls? what are you, crazed publishing perverts?

glambourine3 karma

I'm now consumed with the question of whether or not we would counterfactually have published Henry Darger, and what the obligations of publishers to represent All Human Voices is relative to the obligations of not like actually endangering people and reactivating trauma in a huge number of readers and others that I like know personally maybe? This is a good question because what's interesting about Darger is his way of distancing himself from fundamental thought crimes through acts of imagination, and how much credit imagination can rack up relative to a massive human debit sinkhole of pain.

I say we are squarely on the side of imagination, which I guess dovetails with the side of craziness and perversity generally, sure! We will "own" that label. Though our books are so far not all that perverse I guess, except obviously EVERYWORD.

miraclej0nes3 karma

This is a good question; because yes, there is something innately disturbing about the work of Darger, something deeply problematic and toxic and therefore deeply strong. But I have always had the feeling that his work of monumental effort was at root an act of personal spiritual devotion and he would never have bothered seeking a publisher, needing nothing in the way of validation or connection with others going through the same tribulations (if such people could even be found...how do you market the living Darger to living readers?). Hence, the counterfactual nature of the question. We would be the perfect publisher for someone like Darger...but publishing his work would also destroy it in some fundamental way, and so we would probably refuse / encourage him in some other way rather than promoting his literary efforts.

John_ORBooks2 karma

And tell us more about the name, please. Whence cometh...?

miraclej0nes5 karma

You talking about INSTAR BOOKS? HAW HAW HAW!

The name refers to the various stages that an insect goes through as metamorphosis. A developmental stage for any and all arthropods, really. We feel that this is representative of the way literature itself works: a clicking shambling monstrosity that grows ever more powerful with time, and thrives in darkness on waste and filth.

John_ORBooks2 karma

so...are you a sort of pesticide applied to the plague of corporate publishing? or are you the infestation besetting the bland, tasteless orchard of the mainstream?

miraclej0nes3 karma

I would say we are more like a fertile pile of unclean dishes in the house of a good-natured junkie...a good place to grow up and raise a family, if you are the right kind of vermin.

luckydogarf1 karma

What about the children?

miraclej0nes1 karma

While we do not currently have any plans to produce any books for children (or even that hateful non-genre known as "YA"), we are certainly open to suggestions, as long as such titles conform to our usual "pandaemonic" editorial logic.

bduhb1 karma

Do tell more about why you think YA is a hateful non-genre.

miraclej0nes2 karma

I am all for "YA books" and "YA writers" and people should obviously read whatever they want, no question...

But the designation YA is merely a parochial marketing label that refers to what books a corporation has decided are acceptable for people of a certain age, and has nothing to do with any kind of formal qualities as determined by internal artistic motivations.

I could go on at great length about why this is bad...that it makes people equate the fantastical and risk-taking with books for children...and that it keeps books for children from having inventive or challenging literary devices...that it makes things much easier for marketers at the expense of literary freedom...but it is enough to say that all "YA books" break the rules about what children might want to read all the time, and this designation only serves as a method of control from marketing departments who want to use the excuse of market pressure to soften, declaw, and uncomplicate books they don't like / don't understand.

We deplore censorship when it comes from a government; we should not force it on our writers by seeking out books that carry a label that has no other inherent meaning other than "this category sells, therefore your book must be like the latest book we arbitrarily threw into this category and that happened to sell." It is lazy, and worst of all, has no strong actual meaning and so by talking about it as if it is real you have already ceded your rhetorical position that all good books transcend the comfortable labels that we apply to media created purely for consumption, and that every writer ought to be trying to write good books above all else...

miraclej0nes1 karma

In other words, it is like waking up one day and going "HOLY SHIT. A lot of my favorite movies seem to be PG-13. Whoa...I guess that means PG-13 movies are my favorite kind of movies."

I can think of two ways to fight this tendency: start referring to music that people between the ages of 13 and 25 tend to enjoy as "young adult" or start calling "young adult" books "adult child" books. People need to recognize how ridiculous (and unfulfilling!) it is to let the marketing techniques that are convenient for polling and metadata-crafting shape their desires and preferences.

Weirdly, I am however a fan of the Diablo Cody film "Young Adult" (it is rated R):


Unhyper1 karma

For some reason which I cannot fully explain, I was thoroughly disappointed to note that, as I ordered a box set of one of my favourite books of all time, the Harry Potter series, that they were categorised as "young adult". I always thought they were "fantasy". Suddenly, they were YA, and I felt like I had no business enjoying them so much.

miraclej0nes2 karma

...whereas books like "The Da Vinci Code" and "50 Shades of Grey" and the works of James Patterson probably should be categorized as YA (and only books like these), since adult and intelligent themes have been removed by marketing departments from the plots of these books in favor of reaching an immature audience who has no desire to grapple with complexity or nuance.

D-Hex1 karma

Hey, thanks for this AMA. So what if your work isn't really sci-fi and is in the literary fiction genre? Would you be interested? Does it have to be a US based novel?

glambourine2 karma

I feel like you want to pitch us your work so go for it if you do not mind a reply to the pitch in the context of this AMA!

D-Hex3 karma

I do. I'm kind of nervous about outing my details so how much would you need?

I'm British Muslim and I wrote a book about the lives of British Muslim. It's not anything like the film "Four Lions" or in Mohsin Hameed's "Fundamentalist" territory.

I can tell you it was in the hands of A Big Agency at one point but the 2008 crisis nailed the project finance for risky projects. Risky because they thought the style was too unique - I'm not conceited enough to think that though so I was surprised. ( I suspect because it wasn't like the stuff from people like Monica Ali they didn't understand it)

It's at second draft stage, proof read and checked by Big Agency people. I just never pursued it because life intervened and my champion at Big Agency moved on.

I'd love to discuss more details in my inbox.. anymore and I'll end up outing my identity.

I do realize every author will tell you this, so will understand if you feel like taking a pass.

But it will be worth it.

Oh and thank you very much for taking the time to respond to my Q. :)

miraclej0nes3 karma

For sure, for sure! Jeanne and I are both looking at each other, wholly and utterly intrigued. Would you be comfortable emailing me with a pitch or an outline and perhaps a sample chapter or two: [email protected]

We'd love to take a look!

Echo18831 karma

Since you begged the question (literally, you asked me to ask you) what does Amazon do to American Literature? The more in depth the better. I am just curious to hear a publisher's take on what a "healthy" literature economy would be and how Amazon harms that economy.

miraclej0nes1 karma

Thanks for asking! I hope this turns into an extensive and thoughtful discussion. Here are the four biggest "quadrants of concern" for me personally, and I am happy to elaborate or defend any of these points at greater length, should they prove unpersuasive.

1). Amazon is terrible to its employees. Whether on a corporate level or whether referring to the temporary workers hard at work right now for the holidays, they are the crystallization of a particularly repellent Puritanical capitalism whose goal is to grow and "disrupt," instead of serving as a way for the people involved to earn a living and retain human dignity. Hopefully, such a vision runs counter to the aims of literature, and such a steward of literature is therefore unnatural and alien.

2). By forcing writers to do their own marketing, editing, sales, and design, only a certain kind of writer gets to have a voice. Namely, those who are simultaneously wealthy and unconflicted about what they do. Such writers can be fun to read, but it is a goddamn shame if these are the only people who are able to get their work out there because there is not a second-order system in place to find and promote work "in spite" of the bad marketing abilities of authors.

3). Amazon does not actually make any money from books. They sell them at a loss in order to capture the market for other goods with a higher profit margin. I would recommend Brad Stone's excellent book "The Everything Store" if you are interested in "market reasons" why Amazon is extremely troubling, but the fact that they do not have a financial incentive to profit from books is the reason that they so assiduously and loudly devalue them whenever possible ("books should be cheaper," etc). This is the same reason why I do not like buying books from a place like Walmart.

4). Amazon has proven that it will censor material that it finds objectionable. Whether by eliminating adult content or the books of people with whom it is in economic conflict, Amazon has shown time and again that its business interests trump their imperative to deliver books to their readers, privileging writers who "do what Amazon says" over those who do not want to think about what is good or bad for Amazon, the company. This is terrifying to me.

Echo18833 karma

they are the crystallization of a particularly repellent Puritanical capitalism whose goal is to grow and "disrupt," instead of serving as a way for the people involved to earn a living and retain human dignity.

I know a person who works for Amazon and I know he works BRUTAL hours and has mandatory over time like every week. I don't know how well he is paid but I do see your point. I feel a local opposite for me would be Boeing. I live near(ish) to Boeing and I know them to be a a pretty solid career for anyone who works there.

On your second point, as a reader who is fairly young and has a taste for longer series I do not tend to look for new, unique books but tend toward the genre's (sci-fi/fantasy) and authors I already know and have known for many years (Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Terry Goodkind). I will have to take your word on the limits of self-marketing and the struggle of promoting via Amazon. Doesn't mean I disagree or don't understand, I just have no direct experience with this aspect of the publication process.

Third point. I can absolutely agree. I do not know where the best places to buy books are to give authors the most market share of the purchase price so any help here would be appreciated. I agree with your conceptual disagreement with the "walmart effect" that things get devalued because the store wants to lower their price so as to attract customers for other reasons. The issue is that the customer ultimately decides somethings value, and I cannot blame Amazon for being better at marketing than other potential sellers. What this says to me is we need to raise the perceived value of books and literature in our culture and encourage first party sales (direct from the author, not sure if thats the correct term here). If a culture de-values something then the place where its cheapest wins. You could draw parallels to all kinds of other things (food, we de-value nutrition so since McDonalds is cheap, fast, and tasty, it wins over healthier options) and this is more of a cultural problem then an economic matter regarding Amazon as a company. But I digress. I also did not know that Amazon sells books at a loss, so I learned something new.

Fourth point. I highly disagree with censorship of any kind. This is because I know I have the ability to censory my own damn self. If I don't want to read a story about a dude vandalizing public toilets (to use an example from this very thread) then I won't read the book. If I had reached the last 1/4 of Wizard's First Rule (one of my favorite books/authors) and found the theme of the end of the book objectionable then I would have stopped reading. There is never ANY reason to censor anything. I agree and find this point to be your absolute strongest by far. Censorship is a terrifying subject. 1984 and Brave New World (to name two of the most famous dystopian books in history) both show fantastic descriptions of a world where a select few decide what the masses are "allowed" to consume as entertainment, news and information in general.

All in all you gave a great account of what makes Amazon bad for the general author community and economy of american literature. I have no doubt I will be coming across American Lit in college before too long and may have to dredge this topic back up. Thanks for the reply. I am most certainly in NO way an expert on anything relating to economics or literature or authorship so please correct me if anything I said was off the mark. Please add to my understanding as you see fit. Unfortuantely I do not DISAGREE with anything in particular you said so it is a little hard to maintain a solid discussion without any debate or counter points.

And thanks for the AMA. They are always interesting when the person holds a unique status, job, belief, etc.

miraclej0nes1 karma

NP! Thanks for hanging!

bduhb1 karma

Couple of questions to start off. I'm sure I'll have more:

How different is this edition from the edition I read from Smashwords?

Also how many people do you estimate have read Sharing until this point? Maybe assuming 75% of people who downloaded the book read it?

glambourine1 karma

The story is the same; the language is tweaked throughout? I think the biggest single change is that Preston's story, "The Girl Who Made Her Friends Out of Sand," isn't in the new edition.

I can't answer reallly about the other stuff, but I know we've sold 29 copies of the new one as of this morning and some reviewers have read copies besides, and there are about 39 total Goodreads reviews of the first edition, so maybe multiply that by 5-10 to get a rough actual reader count, at least of those who used both Smashwords and Goodreads during lifetime of the first edition? But the only readers who are real are the ones who you meet kinda!

miraclej0nes2 karma

This feels about right from my angle. Nothing substantial or plot-wise has been changed. You could probably read it and notice nothing different, unless you are also a deeply-troubled obsessive with a near-physical allergy to tangled prose (in which case, reading the new edition will be a much more pleasant experience). I would say maybe 200-300 readers or so, thus far. ALL GOOD PEOPLE GOD BLESS THEM ALL

DoctorFawkes1 karma

Hey, thank you for your recent Sharing release. I'm really fascinated by the world you've made with that.

Are there any plans to give Shifting, or possibly Burning a similar treatment?

miraclej0nes3 karma

We probably will put out Shifting next year. It just makes sense, and it's already written and all. It needs a few strong edits and I want to change a few things around...the latest edition of Sharing, for instance, is much much better for having been "actually edited" by the best editor I know. It is strange to be two books into a series that very few people have read: the deeper you go, the less people are along for the ride and so you feel like you are journeying alone into some kind of frozen razorwind hellscape...not that this is a problem (I am into lonely journeys into mental hells) but there isn't as much incentive to move quickly as there is to move CORRECTLY.

I still need to write Burning is what I am saying. Sorry I am taking so long. I have a giant outline and I obsess about it every time I take a shower or take a long walk or ride the subway alone. I wish I was a better writer; better able to capture the contours of this world I am compelled to write about. I wrote a book about Alejandro Jodorowsky and two short story collections about technology and corporations in order to grow in this direction. I know this is no excuse, but it makes sense to me and will hopefully make sense to you once Burning is finally done.

miraclej0nes3 karma

Heh, I think I answered the question in my head rather than the question you asked. Your gentle prodding is the ROAR OF DESTINY unto me.

miraclej0nes1 karma

I have a question for you, reddit: you got any book ideas? You know any authors who might could get into what we do? Pitch us something!

miraclej0nes2 karma

I know Jeanne has worked specifically as this kind of courier in the past and so likely has more interesting thoughts than I do. I am, generally speaking, not in favor of anything at all that can be done with a smartphone and see them as the automobile to the Internet's mass transit system, leading to changes to America's cultural landscape similar to those enacted to America's geographical reality by the automobile (i.e. making life generally crappier and lonelier and "safer" and more suburban, making certain classes of people invisible).

That being said, this just leads me to believe that Amazon's next goal will be to form a clearinghouse / liaison between their "failed" Fire phone and individual mainstreet merchant partners, finally leading to the "brick and mortar" real estate that they have been seeking this whole time, in the form of sad debtors doing all their marketing for them, a new vendor class that Amazon has as of yet been unable to reach, and which will fill in the cracks for same day delivery to small towns. Countdown till Amazon buys Postmates, essentially. This article is an OKCupid message from Postmates to Jeff Bezos.

It was about two weeks between Goodreads being hailed in the NYC press as a legit democratic alternative to Amazon's book search hegemony, and the announcement that Goodreads had been bought by Amazon.