Volume 6 of the Gazette is coming out three months later than we’d projected. There are three reasons for that, which are closely connected. The first reason is that our copy editor fell behind, for various reasons including some health problems. The second reason is that she’s also one of the copy editors for Baen Books, with many other assignment. And the final reason is that the launch of the new online magazine, Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, further complicated the situation because the Gazette’s copy editor is now also one of JBU’s copy editors.
To put it another way, the Gazette was the runt of the litter.
On the bright side, the long delay due to production problems also means that the editorial staff of the magazine is way ahead of the game. We’ve pretty much got the next volume already put together, and most of the one that comes thereafter. From a purely editorial standpoint, therefore, we could publish Volume 7 very quickly, and Volume 8 soon thereafter.
We’d likely run into the same bottleneck and logjam with the process of copy-editing and proof-reading.
The tie-up with Volume 6 was not the first time that’s happened, and it’s very likely to happen again. Being the runt of the litter is never any fun, and, alas, the runt is what the magazine shall remain.
Facts are stubborn things, and it’s just a fact that while the paper editions of the Gazette generate a significant income for Baen Books, this electronic magazine does not. Yes, yes, granted—it’s the root source. But publishers are no different from you or me or anyone else, when they are faced with that nastiest of all nasty eight-letter words:
Okay, it’s two words. But, as everyone knows, they roll right into each other, like a mudslide approaching a town of people who have their budgets neatly in order. Abstractly.
In a pinch—and there’s always a pinch in publishing—the work of copy-editing the electronic edition of the Gazette keeps getting pushed aside in favor of other, more financial pressing projects. So it has been, and so it will continue to be.
There’s only one way to solve this problem, and that is to boldly go where…
Well, actually, where Baen Books has been going for years now. Henceforth—beginning with Volume 7, not this one—we are going to start publishing the electronic edition of the Gazette the same way Baen publishes e-books through Webscriptions. Using the same basic approach, at least.
We’ll simply put up the volume for sale as soon as the editorial staff has it ready—except we’ll put it up all at once, not serialized across three months the way Webscriptions does. But, like Webscriptions, we will produce the final copy-edited version after the volume goes up for sale.
How soon thereafter? I don’t know. Unlike Webscriptions, we can’t guarantee that we’ll have it ready within three months. But it shouldn’t generally be much longer than that—and, as with Webscriptions, anyone who has paid for the magazine will automatically get the later, copy-edited version free of charge.
Mind you, the text will have been proof-read, at least once, before we put it up for sale. We’re not going to be putting up raw text. But “proofing it once” is not the same thing as the normal, time-consuming, and very laborious process of copy-editing, querying authors, and two rounds of proof-reading that is standard practice in commercial publishing for paper books.
But that’s really the key: paper books. Publishers have to put the time and money into copy-editing and extensive proof-reading before they produce a paper edition, for the good and simple and obvious reason that once tens of thousands of printed and bound volumes have appeared on the shelves of bookstores, it is effectively impossible to call them back.
That is not true, however, with an electronic edition. Molecules are not electrons—and electrons respond just fine to a recall notice. With electronic publishing, the difference between “in production” and “in print” is a continuum, it’s not the Chinese Wall that it is in paper publishing. It is perfectly possible to keep making corrections in a text after it’s been made available for public sale. With the proviso, of course, that you have to make sure your customers are informed of that.
You are hereby informed—and we will repeat the information regularly.
If any reader spots a typo or what they think is an error, and has the desire to do so, you can inform us in any one of three ways:
1) Send an email to the editor
2) Post a notice to that effect in the 1632 Tech conference in Baen’s Bar.
3) Post a notice to that effect in the 1632 section of the discussion area in my own web site: http://www.ericflint.net/forum/
Note: The forum on EricFlint.net is not currently available.
On a periodic basis, we will incorporate the corrections. (Assuming the reader is right, anyway. Not all “errors” are actually errors.) And, of course, we will replace the existing edition with the copy-edited edition when that finally becomes available.
Granted, it’s not an ideal solution. But it seems a far better one to us than continuing to have the magazine delayed for long stretches of time by purely production problems.
* * *
One final note. In terms of the editorial work, this volume 6 is a transitional volume. Paula Goodlett and I co-edited it, essentially. Beginning with Volume 7, however, Paula has become for all practical purposes the editor of the magazine, not me. I say “has become” rather than “will become” because the transition has already happened. When I said toward the beginning of this preface that “we’ve pretty much got the next volume already put together,” I could just as easily—and considerably more accurately—have said that Paula has pretty much got the next volume put together.
Henceforth, starting with Volume 7, she will select the stories, she will edit them, she will make all final decisions regarding the magazine except whatever few decisions might need my overall input. My own position with the magazine will no longer be “editor” in any real sense of the term. I will simply be what amounts to the publisher. Yes, I retain final control over the magazine and, yes, I’m the one who writes the checks. But, like any sensible publisher, I will leave the regular operation of the magazine in the editor’s hands. If I didn’t have confidence in Paula, I wouldn’t have asked her to do the work in the first place.
Mind you, that reality might not be reflected in the official titles in the masthead. I don’t want to use the term “publisher” officially, because it’s a complicated situation, in that the magazine is distributed through Baen Books even though it’s independently financed. That doesn’t matter much with regard to the electronic edition, but it would become an obvious problem if any electronic edition of the Gazette wound up—as the first three now have—being produced in a paper edition by Baen Books.
Jim is the publisher of those editions, not me, because what ultimately defines a “publisher” is that he or she is the one who pays the bills to get a volume produced. I pay the bills for the electronic edition—one of which is the commissions I pay Webscriptions and Baen Books to use their existing electronic outlet—but Jim pays the bills for the paper editions.
It would be more accurate to label my position with the magazine from now on as something like “chairman of the editorial board” or “editorial director” or… whatever. In practice, I suspect we’ll just keep using the term “editor” for me and “assistant editor” for Paula.
Well, because it’s time to introduce you to the nastiest nine-letter word in the English language:
If you didn’t know already, producing Immortal Prose, from the commercial standpoint, is not much different from producing sausages or 1/4-20 nuts and bolts. It’s just a fact that the names that get plastered on a cover make a difference in terms of how many copies distributors and major retailers order to begin with.
No, that’s not a big problem with an electronic edition. But we always have to keep an eye out for a possible later paper edition.
That said, “marketing” is what it is. A nine-letter word that you take seriously enough, in its own terms—but nothing more than that. The best depiction of marketing in the English language, that I know of, are the following words of wisdom from “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, the author of the Alice in Wonderland stories:
Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe
Those same words—albeit not as brilliantly—could have been penned by any marketing department in the world since the advent of generalized commodity production, lo these many centuries ago.