Monday, January 17, 2022

2021: The Year in Review | 2022: The Road Ahead


Obviously, we didn’t make our January 15th target for releasing Stupefying Stories #24

To say 2021 was challenging is an epic understatement. While we began the year in fairly decent form with the release of Stupefying Stories #23

[Buy the book, wouldja? Or if you downloaded a copy while it was free on Kindle Unlimited, read a story in it now, if only to make the KENP counter tick over and reassure me that the book is still alive.]

 —and The Pete Wood Challenge got off to a great start, in hindsight, by June there was clearly something going wrong with Karen’s health, although that didn’t become inescapably obvious until July. 

Then July hit like a two-thousand-pound JDAM. Then August. Then September. Debris was still raining down and we were still running around putting out secondary fires in October, and while the smoke cleared a little in the first half of November, that was just an illusory respite.

Six months in, it’s time for me to admit that our definition of “normal” needs to be recalibrated again, and this situation is not going to improve significantly any time soon. My available time has become even more constrained, and the sales and KENP numbers tell the tale. Stupefying Stories isn’t getting much interest, except from writers hoping to sell stories to us. The books that are selling well for us are:

#1 - Henry Vogel’s FUGITIVE HEIR series. 

If you have not already read it, check it out. If you don’t have time to read yet another book, grab the audio book. With all of Audible’s promotions you can probably get the first one free.

Seriously, if you like audio books, get this one. The Fugitive Heir would have been a wildly profitable series for us, except that I plowed all the profits from the e-books back into producing the audio books. I’d like to recoup a little of that.

Fortunately, Audible has changed their process since then, greatly reducing the up-front costs, and I am now cautiously optimistic that we won’t lose money on the audio book version of Eric Dontigney’s THE MIDNIGHT GROUND that is now in production.

#2 - Henry Vogel’s THE HOSTAGE IN HIDING.

Strictly speaking, Henry’s Kindle Vella serial novel-in-progress hasn’t been making money for us—at least not directly—but it’s been burning up the Vella charts and generating a lot of royalty and incentive bonus income for Henry, and we have high hopes that at least a few of his Vella followers will want to get the print edition when we release it. We don’t know exactly when that’s going to happen, as Henry has yet to finish writing the story, but we expect it to happen fairly soon, as he’s already plotting out the follow-on books in the series. 

Indirectly, since THE HOSTAGE IN HIDING is the direct sequel to the FUGITIVE HEIR trilogy—think of it as The Fugitive Heir: The Next Generation—this probably explains the renewed interest lately in the Fugitive Heir trilogy.

#3 - Henry Vogel’s SCOUT’S HONOR series.

While the most recent titles in this series haven’t sold as well as the original four books, the series as a whole continues to sell, and the standalone “side quest” novel HART FOR ADVENTURE is doing quite nicely. I’ve advised Henry to strike while the iron is hot and continue working on the HOSTAGE IN HIDING series, as it’s doing so well on Vella, but if you’d rather see him write another Scout book, let him know. Authors love to get feedback from readers! And ratings and reviews, too!


But, do you begin to see a pattern emerging here?


2022: The Road Ahead

As loathe as I am to admit it—as much as my heart rebels against it—as much as I really hate the trite cliché, “the new normal,” it’s time to face the facts. I have been living in crisis mode for so long, lurching from one medical misadventure to the next, that I’ve lost sight of the larger picture. What happened to us in 2021 was exceptional only in its severity. Otherwise it was a repeat of 2020, which was a repeat of 2019…  I think we need to go back to 2017 to find a time when our situation really seemed to be under control, and when we weren’t scrambling, improvising, or trying to make Stupefying Stories successful through sheer egotism, optimism, and force of will.

Perhaps more egotism was exactly what was needed. I never did make a strong case for why a story hand-selected by Bruce Bethke® was something that should be given more than the usual amount of attention given any other small press publication.

Too late to change that now. The time has been spent. The candle has been burnt at both ends for too long and is now just a smoldering wick. The tank of midnight oil has run dry, and the Big Bag o' Clichés has just some lint and a few loose Scrabble tiles bouncing around at the bottom. Whatever we set out to do ten years ago with Stupefying Stories, it’s been done, or never will be. We helped launch a few careers. We’ve seen writers who we were the first, or among the first, to publish go on to become award-winners, successful novelists, and names on the covers of the big magazines.

But the spare time has been spent, and it’s hard to come by more. The fact that I still haven’t been able to find the time to finish that review of No Time To Die I began writing two weeks ago—that it’s taken me six hours to chisel out the time, in five- and ten-minute increments, to write this column today—speaks volumes.

It’s time for me to embrace the lessons I’ve learned and find the exit. 

Stupefying Stories will continue for two more issues. #24 is just about done and ready to release anyway, so what the Hell, let’s go for it. #25—that’s a nice number, twenty-five—is going to be our “going out with a bang” issue; no excuses, no explanations, and no holds barred. #25 will be composed entirely of stories that made me say, “Damn, I wish I’d written that!” Louis Shosty, you’re up.

The original novels will continue. After all, they’re the things that make money.

This website will continue. We have a lot more Pete Wood Challenge stories in the pipeline, as well as at least three serials. This website will in fact continue to evolve, as I push it towards becoming the site I wanted SHOWCASE to be. We will continue to publish original fiction on this site, though we’ll be scaling back our ambitions considerably. The Stupefying Stories Presents line will continue as well, as I have a few more projects I want to get out the door under that aegis.

Unfortunately, this also means that at this time we have far more stories accepted and under contract than we’ll be able to publish in the immediate future. So beginning this week, I will be contacting authors to let them know whether I would like to use their stories in our remaining planned publications or if I’m releasing them from their contracts.

It’s been fun. Thanks for all the fish.

Bruce Bethke


ray p daley said...

If you want to publish my outstanding reviews, feel free.

I'm just sad to hear another market I was involved in is going under. You've got my details if you need me for anything which isn't money because I haven't got any either. Anything creative, you know what I mean.

Or moral support.

Maybe now is a good time to announce the "secret project"?

Judith said...

I’m sorry to see this. I too am up for creative stuff and moral support.

Love to you both, Judith x

~brb said...

Ray & Judith, thanks for the kind words. They're much appreciated.

Graham said...

Ah, sorry to hear that, Bruce, but it makes sense. I'm looking forward to the last two, great issues!