Review Round-up: Detectives, Aliens and a Succubus
Pierce Brown - Morning Star UK Tour

Weirdness Rodeo: Tube Posters, Monsters and Smell


Books are getting longer. According to the study [from VerveResearch], which looked at 2,500 books from The New York Times best seller list and Google’s annual surveys, average book length has increased by 25%. In 1999 books were 320 pages. In 2014, they averaged 400.

There are a couple of conclusions to jump to from here. The author goes for audience immersion - people want 'deep and meaningful'. I'm personally thinking the reverse - people want more 'bang for their buck' and the feeling that the appearance of size matters for print books - especially given the growth in ebook sales over that 15 year period.

It is also worth noting that the data doesn't cover Amazon, where I suspect the 99-cent indie novellesque (novels of indeterminate length) market changes things quite a bit. Basically, this article is a cute metaphor-springboard about brands, but there's way too much context in that 15 years, and not enough data in the sample.

Speaking of data, YouGov have added 'Tube line used regularly' to their lovely, lovely Profiles tool. I immediately ran the numbers against 'Fiction genre liked' and found some amazing results. Granted, the number is still around 5k-6k at this point (that's low for YouGov), but still statistically significant. And FASCINATING. For example, 8% of Northern Line regulars like Fantasy books. Whereas 48% of Jubilee Line travellers do.  I suspect a lot of media agencies will (or should!) be doing spot buys from now on.


What was also interesting is how Underground travellers - long held as the publishing 'sweet spot' of educated urban AB1 commuters - aren't actually that much more fiction-friendly than the national average - if at all. And, for certain fiction and non-fiction genres, they're actually a bit worse.

Tube posters have always been the glossy prestige format for UK publishing's marketing campaigns, but maaaaaybe it is time for something else. [SOCIAL MEDIA *COUGH*]

Since publication of the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual, Wizards has released a total of two player-centric books, Player’s Companion for the Elemental Evil storyline and the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The total product catalog of books beyond the core stand at six. Yes, six books in 16 months. Compare that to 3/3.5 and 4th editions where you were drowning in books at any given moment, and it’s a dramatic shift in the way Wizards approaches D&D.

Best of all, it’s working. While Wizards does not share sales figures, sales of 5E have been characterized as “staggering” and the company has gone through multiple reprints of the core rules.

This Ars Technica review of D&D 5e is a very thorough look at the new edition and the market factors that forced its birth. What's amazing is that, as noted, this completely new model is absolutely kicking ass. Given it has been going for 16 months, it is - presumably? - beyond all the auto-buyers as well. Could this change everything? Or is it only applicable for a publishing brand with this degree of reach and loyalty?

Incidentally, we tried it for the first time a few weeks ago. It ain't perfect, but it is very, very good. And perfect for bringing new players into the fold. That might be part of the secret?

We learn about other places and other people by their food, by their language, by their dress. I think there’s another way though. I think we can also learn by the stories they tell to frighten themselves. Those mythologies reveal them at their most insecure; they teach us of their perceived weaknesses.

Sami Shah on "The Monsters We Keep".

The most enduring and evocative remembered smell from all our growing up, Anne and I decided, was the smell of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the objective of innumerable field trips. As we drove there, I could easily generate a mental simulacrum of its smell, a concentrated essence of antiquity, brass polish, school shoes, and institutional gravity.

Terrific piece on the power of smell. Also, the Nelson TOTALLY SMELLED LIKE THAT. Also been to the Dime Store and, of course, Winstead's. This is all probably essential reading for WorldCon attendees. Or, you know, writers. (Or, behaviouralists. Did you know that a study showed that piping the smell of cookies into a shopping mall made people nicer? True fact.)

For 363 days a year, nobody gives a fuck about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Today is one of the two remaining days, when suckers care—and other suckers pretend to care—about who gets nominated for the Oscars, which are worthless trash and always have been.

Deadspin on the Oscars. And, let's be honest, many awards. Burneko raises a good point in that the Oscars kind of exist, well, for the Oscars. I did a Google Trends search for search patterns around the Hugo Awards once, and spotted that awards season created a really big spike for the Hugos... and no difference into searches for the nominated works. Part of that is because of the Hugos' unique structure - amongst other things: the voters who would be most likely to search for the books are getting them free in the pack, which is another... issue, but, we'll get there. And part of that, let's be fair, is that most book-related searches are well below Google Trends' threshold of giving a toss. So this is Hugo-bullying, but I suspect it is true for most - if not all - awards.

Someone should get Amazon to play ball and release their search data around awards. But then, since most awards would rather eat their own young than give a prize to an Amazon-published title, I suspect there's no real value in them playing nice.


Worth noting is the new YA site from Simon & Schuster. Cons: kind of unpronouncable (Rivetelidt? Rivetedlet?! Rivdideded. ARGH). Pros: They're kicking off with some rather spectacular giveaways. And they are smartly putting their content (like their video - good job, YA marketers!) across platforms. 

Congratulations to Whitefox's Unsung Heroes! A really impressive list of the secret gatekeepers that actually make publishing work.

A new award for African fiction, with a broad (and appealing) remit.

You can now optimise non-promoted posts on Facebook. I've been tinkering with this on the Pornokitsch page (see? it does have a purpose!) and so far,... I dunno. I suspect more useful for even larger communities. Apparently the real mojo comes in the insights, but I'm holding out another week or so before checking in. Watch this space.

Short story vending machines. 

Which reminds me, has anyone done wearable tech short stories yet? My cheap cheap PEBL has about six apps, but none of them are flash-fiction. This seems perfect for Jeff Noon's twitter microstories or the like.

Louis Vuitton have a video game character as a model. Amazing.

Links that need to live somewhere

Don't troll data scientists.

Yay! We can be liberal again!

Miss Frank E. Buttolph collected over 25,000 menus over 23 years.

A galaxy of covers.

Literature fractals.