May 18 2011

Google searches

Published by at 9:50 pm under Superhero Nation

  • Why are editors laughing at me for “nonfiction novel?” Novels are always fiction.  If you’re writing nonfiction, I’d recommend pitching it as a “book” or something more specific (i.e. a memoir, a textbook, a machine gun ownership manual, a ninja survival guide, etc).  PS: I don’t think a professional would actually laugh at you for “nonfiction novel.”   Nobody you’d want to work with, certainly.  While “nonfiction novel” suggests the author is new to novel-publishing, it’s a minor mistake that won’t affect the manuscript much.  (In contrast, mixing up something like there/their/they’re will require major proofreading).  Laughing at someone for something so minor, particularly something rarely taught in school, suggests a serious lack of empathy.
  • How late can a superhero get his superpowers in a novel? Personally, I think it’d be perfectly fine if the origin story took up the first quarter (maybe the first third) of the book.  It’s okay if there isn’t a clear superhero element before then–if I could make a fantasy analogue, the first clear fantasy element in Harry Potter was Harry getting told he was a wizard, and I think that was around page 50 or 60.   I don’t think you need to rush into the superhero angle because it should be immediately clear (from your cover art, from the backcover blurb and probably the title) that it’s a superhero story.
  • How long is the average science fiction novel? For adult science fiction, I’d recommend submitting on the shorter end of 100,000-115,000 words.  Sci-fi (and fantasy) authors get a bit more room than most other novelists because their worldbuilding is usually more involved.
  • Am I an ailurophage? Unless Garfield and Nermal strike you as pretty tasty, no.
  • Why does Charleston Air Force Base have a pet alligator? To make its training course more interesting.  Or maybe to cut down on curfew violations.
  • How to write an awesome male character. I can be reached at superheronation-at-gmail-dot-com.  Oh, wait…
  • Character trait for being able to dodge unwanted situations. Savvy?  Intuition? A rocket-propelled grenade launcher?
  • Do comic book characters have to be likable? Some protagonists are misanthropes and/or nasty to the people around them (i.e. Batman).  However, even if the other characters do not like the protagonists that much, I think it really helps if the readers do.  For example, Dr. House’s tirades are icy and totally unprofessional but he’s hilarious enough that I think he comes across as very likable (even though I’d hate to work with him).  With villains, I don’t think likability is as important.  Readers can be impressed by and/or interested in a villain even if they don’t like him.  On the other hand, you wouldn’t want readers to dislike a villain so much they are raptly waiting for the next page without him.  (I’m looking at YOU, Gorilla Grodd).
  • Do police need a search warrant for a hotel room? If the suspect is still renting the room, then a search warrant (or the suspect’s permission) would be necessary.  If the suspect has checked out, the permission of the hotel staff will suffice.   (Legal reasoning: As soon as the suspect returns the room to the hotel, he has no expectation to privacy on whatever he has left behind).  For more details on warrantless searches, please read this.
  • Do superhero novels sell well? Generally, not really.  If they sold better, I think we’d see more of them published every year.  (In the past decade, fewer than ~50 independent titles have been published professionally).  There are a few bright spots, though.  The Wild Cards series probably sold pretty well.  It had 12 books published by Bantam, 3 by Baen and 4 by Tor, and I doubt they would have continued if the books hadn’t been selling.  The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay was a bestseller and I get the impression that Soon I Will Be Invincible did well.   In these cases, I think the authors had strong reputations or at least strong literary backgrounds.  The books were at least somewhat intelligent and I think that plays really well among adult novel readers.  If you’re trying to write the next Hulk (or, God help you, the next Dragonball Z) as an adult novel, I think your prospects are exceedingly grim because there’s not much demand among novel readers for a novel that’s essentially a comic book without pictures.  (By the standards of the novel publishing industry, comic books themselves don’t sell all that well–only one comic book cracked 100,000 sales last month).
  • What supervillain would you most want to be? Evil Editor.  Failing that, Bill Belichick.

11 responses so far

11 Responses to “Google searches”

  1. Silvercaton 19 May 2011 at 12:15 pm

    I wonder what the statistics are for tie-in novels like they’ve done for Batman and Judge Dredd? I don’t think most people who come here want to write those, but I’m curious.

  2. B. Macon 20 May 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I think Marvel’s licensed something like 50 superhero novels itself (I don’t count licensed novels above) in the past ~20 years. Clearly, that’s more than just a few, so presumably these are selling well enough that Marvel keeps printing them, but 50 titles over 20 years is really not all that many. (Hell, Marvel releases more than 50 comic issues a month). If these were selling really well, I imagine that Marvel would be doing more of them?

    I imagine the situation would be pretty similar at DC, but I could look more into that if you’d like.

  3. C.R.on 21 May 2011 at 9:17 am

    Re:super novels and sales–Urk. Bad news for the potential of my ms. Yeah, AAoKaC was at the top according to Locus mag. Soon I will be Invincible… well I notice Grossman has not published anything since. :-\ Personally, about the only ray of sunshine I see is one’s agent working the movie angle as well as the book publishers. There seem to be a lot of superhero cinema out there, even independent supers, and they’ve done pretty good. Somebody has got to be looking for the break-out super novel that’s a hit movie too.

    From my perspective, there are too many super teams. Maybe a lone super in a human norm world can be used with the right pitch. Or is that too Sue?

  4. B. Macon 22 May 2011 at 1:13 am

    “I notice Grossman has not published anything since [Soon I Will Be Invincible].” True, but that might not be because of sales. (SIWBI was his first novel, so it’s possible that he just didn’t like writing novels. It is a LOT of work for probably less money than he was making as a video game writer).



    I’m not sure how much the success of superhero movies helps superhero novelists. Superhero movies are almost always dominated by action. I feel that most of the independent superhero novels that get published are pretty light on superpowered action. (For example, Kavalier and Clay had hardly any, I only remember 3 fairly short superpowered scenes from SIWBI and Captain Freedom had a few more).



    One thing I like about novels that focus more on individual characters rather than teams is that I think it’s easier to develop the characters.

    I don’t think a lone superhero would be too Mary Sue-like, assuming the villains were able to challenge him.

  5. C.R.on 22 May 2011 at 10:44 am

    Sure, that’s possible. He may have looked at the return vs the labor and decided it was not worth another shot. Or, now that he has a foot in the door, he’s working on a break-out novel in another genre that will sell better. Hard to say. On the other hand, he’s obviously got writing skills; if SIWBI sold well, it seems that some publisher would have taken a chance on a sequel or another super novel if Grossman had one.

    Absolutely. Super novels must have action scenes. Something Industrial Light and Magic and Pixal can work with. And not just fight scenes.

    I was thinking in terms of something like this: you go up to the agent who you want to be your rep and pitch. “Yeah, I know publishers aren’t buying superhero novels, but this ms I got, hey, it would make a great movie script too. Its got a fight here with terrorist jump-jets above the Pentagon and there in interplanetary space against aliens who want to squash the bugs infesting the third planet. The protag can fly at Mach 6, feet-first, through the steel canyons of New York.

    “So work your Hollywood contacts, too. And my ms, you could even sell a package deal–the movie premiere and the official novel… out at the same time!”

  6. Crystalon 28 May 2011 at 12:51 pm

    “Do superhero novels sell well?”
    One of these days, someone is going to publish a really good superhero novel, and, suddenly, that’s all that books will be about. Everyone will be writing superhero stories.

    My bet is that this person will be someone from this site.

  7. B. Macon 28 May 2011 at 1:17 pm

    I’ve seen some very good authors here–in particular*, I really feel confident about Becca’s and Ragged Boy’s chances of getting published in the next 1-2 years (assuming they write diligently; school/work/life can soak up a lot of writing time).

    *Not to detract from anybody else. I’ve worked with at least ten authors that I think could be professionally published in the next few years (and a few previously published authors), so don’t freak out if your name wasn’t the first or second that came to my mind.

  8. Crystalon 28 May 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I agree. Don’t forget your comic!

  9. Crystalon 28 May 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I would buy that!

  10. inspicouson 31 May 2011 at 6:56 am

    “Some protagonists are misanthropes and/or nasty to the people around them (i.e. Batman). ”
    —> e.g. batman 😉

  11. B. Macon 31 May 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Haha, Inspicous. My Latin isn’t so good. I use i.e. and e.g. interchangeably even though that isn’t how they actually work.

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