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TOR Books: 30 Years of Fantasy Can't Be That Bad For You

abstract:To celebrate its 30th anniversary—and have a little April Fool's Day fun—Tor Books recently took a tongue-in-cheek staff picture in front of its offices in the Flatiron Building, NYC. President and publisher Tom Doherty is in the center of the shot. We assume the flying saucer and serpent demon are photoshopped in. Are you surprised by the number of staff required to be a publisher? Those people are the reason why Tor has won the Locus Magazine poll for best science fiction publisher every year since 1988, and as of early 2009, they have produced 157 prize-winning novels. BookBuffet went online to learn more about this successful niche publisher. Fantasy and Science fiction are not just the reading fodder of teenaged boys. With a stable of over 100 authors they represent such notable writers as Cory Doctorow, Steven Erikson and Kathleen Ann Goonan. There are 15 editors on staff to keep up with the job of reviewing manuscript submissions, selecting and working up properties suitable to the house. Tor Books is one of two imprints of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, based in New York City. They also publish mainstream fiction, mystery, and occasional military history titles under its Forge imprint.


April 01, 2010
— Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, was formed by Tom Doherty in 1980, and sold to St. Martin's Press in 1986. Along with St. Martin's Press, Henry Holt, and Farrar Straus Giroux, it is now part of the Holtzbrinck group. An interesting tidbit alluded to in the somewhat unreliable post on Wikipedia for Tor Books is a reference to a ban on eBook publishing that the company was providing via Webscriptions. It seems someone hadn't quite worked out the digital rights aspects in the contracts, so for now that feature is unavailable. With the conversion of reads to eBooks for the Kindle, the Nook, and now the iPad, it's just a matter of time before you'll be able to download a Tor fantasy or sci-fi onto your chosen device.

Questions Posed to TOR BOOKS

1. Which authors and which books are you most pleased with having published?

2. Who reads Science Fiction? Who reads Fantasy? Is there a particular region, socio-economic base or education level associated with your readers?

3. What do you look for when reading a manuscript?

4. What is the most challenging thing facing book publishers today?

5. What predictions in science fiction books have come true?

6. I'm familiar with certain books by Ursula LeGuinn, Margaret Atwood and Steven King, but I'm afraid I don't tend to read this genre. Convince me about what I am missing.

7. Do the "best writers" win the awards in your genre? The Nebula Award. The Hugo Award. The Arthur C. Clark Award. The Locus Award. (Any other award I'm missing?)

A Browse Through The Author List

I took a browse through the link list of authors on the Tor Book website and discovered some interesting things. Most of the writers have some connection to science or teaching science with their particular field of interest or expertise becoming the source material for their novels. Doctorow writes about digital technology and copyright issues, Goonan writes about biotechnology and nanotechnology. She also loves jazz and her books are said to be numbered is "quartets". Here is a sample of three TOR authors:

I would not have known that William Peter Blatty, author of the book adapted into a cult horror film, The Exorcist had a new book out if not for researching this article. It's titled Dimiter, "a riveting story of murder, revenge, and suspense. Laced with themes of faith and love, sin and forgiveness, vengeance and compassion, it is a novel in the grand tradition of Morris West’s The Devil’s Advocate and the Catholic novels of Graham Greene," says the publisher notes. I listened to the audio excerpt, a soft-spoken voice uttering eerie words about torture and terrorism. The hard cover is $24.99, the un-abridged CD is $29.99 and the unabridged digital audio is $17.99. When you stop to consider the cost to make each of those versions, it is clear where the publisher is going to make the most profit and the customer the best deal.

It turns out Cory Doctorow is an interesting person beyond his sci-fi writing. He is also a Canadian blogger and journalist who serves as co-editor of the blog Boing Boing. He is an activist in favor of liberalizing copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons organization, using some of their licenses for his books. Some common themes of his work include digital rights management, file sharing, and post-scarcity economics. Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was Doctorow's first novel, published in January 2003. Little Brother published in 2008 under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license was nominated for a 2009 Hugo Award, and won the 2009 Prometheus Award, theSunburst Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award. His new novel is titled Makers, and is being serialized for free on the Tor Books website.

Kathleen Ann Goonan is an American science fiction writer. Several of her books have been nominated for the Nebula Award. Her debut novel Queen City Jazz was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and her most recent novel In War Times was chosen by the American Library Association as Best Science Fiction Novel for their 2008 reading list. In July of 2008, In War Times won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.



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