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January 13, 2005

Agent to the Stars: Sold

So, I sold Agent to the Stars to a publisher.

But wait, I hear you say. Didn't you say recently that you weren't going to sell Agent to the Stars to a publisher? And now you have? Doesn't that make you a dirty, dirty liar?

Well, no. I said I wouldn't actively try to sell Agent to publishers -- which is to say, have my own agent push the novel. Because, among other things, I wanted to be able to have it on the site for people to check out my writing style. But if a publisher came by and was okay with me keeping the novel on the site, I would be happy to listen. And one did, and was, and so here we are.

Yes, that means that once again I've sold a book with no real effort on my part. I'm sorry.

The publisher? Subterranean Press, who specialize in really excellent special editions by some very intimidating authors, including Dan Simmons, Robert Silverberg, Poppy Z. Brite, Charles de Lint and Richard Matheson. It's nice to be in the same room as these folks. We're still working on the details, but the general idea is to give Agent a nice limited-run hardback edition for collectors and fans of the novel. I've heard from a number of people about the general excellence of Subterranean Press, and so I'm happy to give Agent a home there. It seems like a pretty good fit all the way around. I'm very excited.

I'll have more details for you, including release dates, when I know about them. In the meantime, let's open the floor to some questions:

So will you keep Agent available online?

Yes. I'll be retaining most rights to the book, including electronic rights, and as I've mentioned, I think having Agent on the site is a real bonus. I am of course not the first person to do this; Cory Doctorow famously has had downloadable editions of his published work available online. He believes -- and I suspect it's true -- that letting people sample the complete work leads to more sales, not less. Now, the dynamic with Agent will be slightly different in that the hardback will probably be a limited edition, not a mass-market edition of the book, as Cory's books were with Tor. But the concept should be the same. I know many people have told me over the years how they'd love to have an actual hard copy of Agent, including Krissy (Agent is her favorite book of mine); now they'll have that chance, and I'm delighted about that.

So, this is twice you've sold a novel you've put up online. What, are you too stinkin' proud to sell a novel like a normal human being?

Hey, I already said I was sorry. I can't explain it either. I have sold two other novels the old-fashioned way, and I expect I will sell any additional novels the old-fashioned way as well, if for no other reason than that I have no other completed novels to put up online.

Let me be clear: I don't pretend that I've not been in fact incredibly lucky to have sold novels online, with minimal effort on my part. At this point I'm getting a little twitchy recommending to other people that they continue to submit their work the old-fashioned way, since I think the more suspicious could suggest that I'm just trying to keep the "toss your stuff on your Web site" method of selling a novel to my greedy little self. But I swear to you, it's not that. I sold OMW to Tor at the end of 2002; I'm selling this one to Subterranean Press now. In those 25 months, I don't know of anyone else who has sold a complete SF novel they've posted on their Web site; meanwhile, hundreds of novels were sold to SF publishers the old-fashioned way. Entertain the notion that I'm some hideous freak of nature, and give your novel the best chance of being published by submitting it the way publishing houses ask you to.

Having said that, this goes to show that a well-stocked, well-maintained personal Web site is indeed an excellent thing for a writer to have; of the seven(!) books I've written and/or am writing, four can now be traced back to writing on this Web site (OMW, Agent and the Books of the Dumb). Having this site has had other, less directly tangible benefits as well: For example, I note Instapundit mentioned Old Man's War again yesterday (as commentary about a mention from Professor Bainbridge), and between Glenn and Prof. Bainbridge, the book's Amazon ranking went from about 8,000 yesterday to over 300 today.

Glenn and Prof. Bainbridge mention the book because they like it, which I am very glad for, but part of the reason it's on their radar screen is because we are fellow denizens of that nation known as the blogosphere, where the rule of thumb is "help out the other guy." I know I've promoted the works of people I've met as part of this online community (which reminds me: Ms. Bear, I'm really enjoying Hammered so far), and the impetus there has simply been to help friends and people who I see as being part of my tribe.

So, if you're a writer, you could do worse than to be part of what's going on online. Clearly, it's worked for me.

How are you going to celebrate?

Are you kidding? I've got deadlines. I'll celebrate in a week. But I will say this: Mmmmmm.... mini Mac. I was just thinking to myself, I kinda want one, but how can I justify what is essentially a pointless expense? Bwa ha ha ha ha! If there is a God, clearly he wants me to have my toys. Of course, I still need approval from the finance department, i.e., my wife. So Steve Jobs may have to line his pockets with other people's money first. But still!

Any other comments or questions, drop 'em in the comment thread.

Posted by john at January 13, 2005 12:21 PM

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Tracked on January 25, 2005 06:10 PM


Bushie | January 13, 2005 02:02 PM

Instapundit? Good Lord!

John Scalzi | January 13, 2005 02:05 PM

Hey, now. Glenn and I don't always come to political arguments from the same side of the table, but he's a good egg, and I do consider him a friend.

Jon Hansen | January 13, 2005 02:17 PM

Congratulations, you lazy lazy man.

Incidentally, I'm working through OMW right now, and I have a technical question. Is the word on page 102 supposed to be "dickwad" or "dickward"?

It works fine either way as a put-down, but I've never seen the second spelling before.

John Scalzi | January 13, 2005 02:21 PM

It's suppoed to be "dickwad." Hmmm. I think that's the first error to be spotted.

jason | January 13, 2005 02:22 PM

Congratulations, John - pulling off the near-impossible (selling a book via Web site, that is) not just once, but twice, is pretty amazing.

Jon Hansen | January 13, 2005 03:45 PM

Ah, you can claim it's a regionalism, like when my father-in-law (who grew up in Tennessee) adds an extra 'r' to certain words. To whit: "warshing machine." And he's a engineer.

iJames | January 13, 2005 03:52 PM

Rats. I was looking forward to your collaboration with Iain M. Banks, LOOK TO DICKWARD.

Dave Pittman | January 13, 2005 05:13 PM

Pretty serious mistake, I think, as a "dickward" could be seen as a complement. One who wards off dicks. Like with dracula, you'd be garlic or a crucifix or something. Now imagine Dracula (or vampires in general) were just a**holes. A dickward.

Joe Nassise | January 13, 2005 05:22 PM

Congratulations! Subterranean puts out beautiful books and Bill is a real pleasure to work with - you've done quite nicely for yourself in my view.

Dawn B. | January 13, 2005 06:04 PM

You lucky, lucky man. ;-) Congrats.

Ellen | January 13, 2005 08:46 PM


But the real reason I got online just now was to say that I laughed aloud when I got to page 166 and saw the names of two of the "new guys." (Though I'm not sure who "Watson" is.)

John Scalzi | January 13, 2005 08:47 PM

He's from Sherlock Holmes, of course.

Ellen | January 13, 2005 09:42 PM

Aha; I was trying to fit him in the pattern and was unsuccessful. (Now I know why!)

Jaquandor | January 13, 2005 10:06 PM

Congratulations. And I hate you. (harumph!)

Soni | January 14, 2005 12:31 AM

Allow me to say WOOO HOO HOOO-HOOO HOOOOOOOOOO! Yeah baby! Whose yo freaking daddy! Go Scalzi! Go Scalzi!

Hmmmm...would it be in bad taste to have Scalzi cheerleading outfits done up for the cons? You could even use your flag from BTW for mascotage and hire starving publishing interns willing to trae dignity for proximity to greatness (and a handful of dineros) to shake pom-poms around your signing table.

I'm thinking that if I ever see you in person, I'm going to "accidentally" bump into you, just in case it's contagious. Not a butt-whomper or anything. Just a little "sidewalk brush."

Just so you know.

Mark Musante | January 14, 2005 06:38 AM

Re: mini-mac

Wait until rev 2 of the hardware, is my advice. Rev 1 hardware (from any company) tends to have... issues.

rick mcginnis | January 14, 2005 08:04 AM

"Dickward". Heh. Man, that's the word I'd use to describe the way I was when I was single.

And congratulations, John. That's a real bonus. You deserve it.

(Speaking of bonuses - Cordelia Joyce McGinnis - born last Friday night, 9 lbs. 5 oz.)

John Scalzi | January 14, 2005 08:13 AM

Whoo hooo! That's excellent, Rick! That beats my news by a mile.

-dsr- | January 14, 2005 09:23 AM

The best point of the miniMac, IMNSHO, is that it allows me to keep my wife in the style to which she has become accustomed: that is, she's a fanatic Mac user, and I know now that when she tells me that it's time for a new Mac, I'll be able to purchase one without agonizing over it for months.

Also, it's just so darn cutely functional.

Tripp | January 14, 2005 09:51 AM

Am I the first to say it - "Old Man's War - the movie!"?

Hey, my predictions have been pretty good so far, and I represent a HUGE market segment - the male baby boomer.

Okay, I will officially predict "OMW, the MOVIE!" Now, who would play the parts?

John Scalzi | January 14, 2005 10:17 AM

Re: OMW the Movie -- Well, it's being shopped in Hollywood at the moment, but any more than that I can't say, because I don't know anything else about it. It's being dealt with in the inscrutable realm of agency.

Realistically, however, I wouldn't be getting my (or your) hopes up. Having followed the movie business in a professional capacity for more than a dozen years, I know what the odds are for my book making it to the big screen -- regardless of the book's inherent quality -- and it's not, shall we say, anywhere close to inevitable.

Somewhat more likely (but still very unlikely) is someone buying an option on the book and then putting it on the shelf with the rest of their optioned books, to get around to when they get around to it, or not, before the option runs out. This is an interesting twilight life of books, and it's entirely possible for a writer to make a reasonably nice side business in simply having his work optioned over and over again -- the literal money for nothing.

I would imagine this is less frustrating for a novelist than for someone whose native writing form is the screenplay, if for no other reason that no other person ever sees an optioned screenplay, whereas a published novel has its own audience.

Tripp | January 14, 2005 10:29 AM

I know that "The Stainless Steel Rat" is optioned, and I predicted a movie from that, but I still have a feeling about OMW.

I'm not getting my hopes up, mind you. It is just an inkling.

Tripp | January 14, 2005 12:13 PM

Is dickward the direction in a spaceship opposite the stern?

Brian Greenberg | January 14, 2005 12:57 PM


It's suppoed to be "dickwad." Hmmm. I think that's the first error to be spotted.

Actually, no - just the first someone told you about. I wasn't go to say anything (again for fear of being overly critical), but here goes, from pg 84:

"Gee, thanks," I said.
"Not at all," Dr. Perry said, and nodded toward the Colonials.

I'm sure what you wrote was "Dr. Russell."

Anyway, as to ATTS, congrats! I agree with Krissy - I think it's the best you've done. Also, with due respect to Tripp, I think ATTS would make a better movie than OMW. I'm not sure why I say that, it's just a gut reaction.

Bill OH | January 14, 2005 02:29 PM

Hi, John. Just finished OMW and thoroughly enjoyed it. Liked Agent to the Stars and bought OMW (rec from the Instapundit helped sway me too). Congrats on the sale! Looking forward to the further adventures of Captain Perry.


John Scalzi | January 14, 2005 02:32 PM

Thanks! Glad the book lived up to the hype for you.

Carol | January 14, 2005 05:36 PM

A big congrats to John. I haven't read AttS in a very long time, but I definitely liked it. It's time to clear room for the the Scalzi BookShelf.

Also, major congrats to Rick McGinnis (I miss "The Diary Thing"). That's fantastic!

Merrie Haskell | January 14, 2005 11:06 PM

Congratulations! You are a fine non-example to us all. :)

Soni | January 15, 2005 01:51 AM

Anybody else seeing the snarkily aging Clint Eastwood as Perry? Because that's what I'm getting on my "Why The Hell Not" future-vision screen.

rick mcginnis | January 15, 2005 03:36 AM

Getting optioned isn't so bad, John - you get a wad of cash, sometimes a substantial one, with more with every option renewal, and if they don't end up putting it into production, you're spared the horror of watching your work get mutilated beyond recognition by a succession of writers and producers.

And thank you, Carol. I wish I still had the time and energy for the diary, too, but sometimes there's just too much life and too little time. Or at least that's my excuse.

John Scalzi | January 15, 2005 10:38 AM

"Getting optioned isn't so bad, John - you get a wad of cash, sometimes a substantial one, with more with every option renewal, and if they don't end up putting it into production, you're spared the horror of watching your work get mutilated beyond recognition by a succession of writers and producers."

Ha! Yes, well, actually, that's very close to my opinion about the process. I wouldn't mind paying off the mortgage with no effort on my part.

elizabeth bear | January 15, 2005 05:04 PM


Glad you're enjoying the book so far. I find the same thing about the online communcity; the vast majority of writer-folks on the internet are tribal, and go out of their way to help each other out.

It's a sort of small-town decency that pleases.

I've actually had a similar experience--been solicited for articles and short stories based on my online presence, although no novels yet. It seems to be pretty common--I know some other writers who can make similar statements.

In any case, conga-rats. And good wishes on a movie option too. Development money keeps the cats fed as well as the kind you have to work for....

mythago | January 16, 2005 01:17 AM

Scalzi? Oh, yeah, I used to read him, when he was GOOD, you know, before he sold out and went all commercial.

No, really--congrats!

Jim | January 17, 2005 10:11 AM

I've recently had the pleasure of reading Ms. Bear's Hammered -- along with a certain amount of coincidence of location: I began reading in on a flight out of Providence so that I was still in the introductory chapters when the pilot announced that we were now flying over Hartford and finished reading it in Las Vegas (a week-long technical conference) where I came to the author bio which told me she was now a Las Vegas resident.

Her book was terrific and I look forward to reading when it comes out this summer. (As, of course, I look forward to future entries in the Scalzi oeuvre.)

Jim | January 17, 2005 10:13 AM

I'd swear that my comment had said "Her book was terrific and I look forward to reading her sequel when it comes out this summer."

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