The Business Rusch: Experiments

Business Rusch logo webThis morning, on my Twitter feed, a kind gentleman tweeted me with the news that he had just bought the first volume of Fiction River on Smashwords. Then he thanked me for “having good sense to make it easy not to steal.”

I know what he meant, even though the tweet was oddly phrased: WMG Publishing has published DRM-free editions of Fiction River, in addition to editions that are specific to devices that require DRM, like Kindle and Nook. I never really thought of that as “making it easy not to steal,” though, although that is the end result.

The BBC was, perhaps, the most high-profile entertainment company to learn make-things-easy-not-to-steal lesson, and to do so quickly.

In 2011, Doctor Who had the dubious distinction of being one of the most illegally downloaded shows in the world, “with as many as 200,000 illegal downloads the week new episodes air, many of those coming from the U.S. and Australia.”

So, in those two countries in particular, the BBC decided to air Doctor Who’s episode within hours of the airing in England. In Australia, in fact, the BBC put some episodes up on their streaming service at the same time as the British broadcast. Piracy has gone down, although I can’t, on a quick search, find out by how much.

Ewan Spence, who blogs at Forbes, writes,

There will always be a hard-core online that will pirate the episodes, and I doubt that they will ever go away. But by going for the low hanging fruit of the people who just want to watch the episode as soon as possible, and making sure that the easiest way for them to get that episode is through an official source, the broadcasters are doing themselves a service, they are supporting fans, and it feels the right thing to do.

If you look at the top illegally downloaded television shows worldwide, you’ll see that most of the downloads occur in countries where the shows don’t air, or don’t air in a timely fashion. Right now, Game of Thrones is the show with the most illegal downloads in the country in which it does initially air, the United States, because the show is on HBO, and HBO has a pay wall. It’s a premium service in which its subscribers get the product first.

Rather like, ahem, Kindle Select.  You need a Kindle (or a Kindle app), and you need to buy from Amazon to get the book product. I know that some magazines, like The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, are only available on Kindle, and I believe that to be a mistake.

I think that readers, no matter what their device or preferred method of reading, should be able to get the reading material—book, magazine, anthology, or whatever—that they want, in the way that they want it. Dean agrees with me, and so does the staff at WMG Publishing. That’s why Fiction River is available on as many e-book platforms as we can find, why it has a trade paper edition, and why the audio edition will be out before the end of May.

I try to do this with my books as well. I’ve suffered the frustration of the unavailable book from both sides, as a writer and as a reader. As a reader, it’s rather nightmarish and stupid. You want to give someone your money for something you desperately want, and no one wants your cash. I’ve purchased pee-stained used copies of books and held them gingerly while trying to read them, just to find out what happens next in some series.

The advent of ebooks and available backlist and reissues in a variety of formats is slowly changing that.

But it doesn’t change easily. Throughout my career, books of mine have gone out of print for stupid reasons (Book 4 of the Fey, even though there are reorders? Really? Why, Bantam? Why?), and the readers write to me, demanding to know why I did this. Well, I didn’t, at least not back then, and I certainly wouldn’t have if I had a choice, which in those dark and gloomy days, I did not.

I do now have the choice on most of my work—and I have to say, most is the operative word. Pyr published the first three books in my Diving universe sf series, and only bought North American rights. You’d think I’d just be able to upload those books in English for the rest of the world, but it’s not that simple. I live in the States, and most of the ebook distribution companies based here make it very difficult to have books that exclude the US. I’m working on it, but slowly, although it’s rising up the priority levels, with the fourth book, Skirmishes, scheduled to appear in September.

That frustration, which I have written about before, has led me to make the books I do have control over available to as many readers as possible. I give away short stories for free only on this website and only for one week (although WMG will do a weekly free story at some point, probably using some of mine). The following week, there will be a new free story, for as long as I can maintain this.

The free stories started as an experiment, just like this weekly business blog started as an experiment. I’m still experimenting in this new world, finding what I like and what my readers like.

With the help of WMG Publishing, I’ve done a few experiments this year, and have a few more planned. The first, Bleed Through, is a novel that came out in February. It’s had a slower build than I would like. I had hoped to get a few more sales early on, but that’s not happening.

Still, I’m really, really pleased with the way that we’ve chosen to publish Bleed Through. It’s a book about the aftermath of a school shooting. If I had sold Bleed Through traditionally, we would have been doing final copy edits in July of 2012 when the Colorado shootings happened, and the sales force would have been marketing the book hardcore in December, right over the horrible Newtown massacre. About the time the after-publication marketing would have hit full force, the Boston Marathon bombings would have happened.

God, it’s been a horrible year, and I would have felt embarrassed and exploitive about the marketing on the book, about doing interviews, about talking with reviewers during that time.

Bleed Through is not a book to force readers to pick up. It’s one they have to want to pick up, and if they don’t want to, that’s okay with me. I’ll let them find it, and hope they find out that the book isn’t about exploiting other people’s pain; it’s about surviving someone else’s horrible decision.

So, in my mind, the experiment is working. I am proud of the novel, but I really don’t want people to feel obligated to read it, review it, or even think about it if they don’t want to.

WMG Publishing and I are conducting a different experiment starting this week. I love serialized books, and when I finished my novel, Spree, I thought it uniquely suited to serialization. WMG is offering the book for free on its website, one chapter at a time. Full disclosure: If you wait for the weekly chapters, it will take a year to read this book. The other chapters will remain online, so you can read it in full for free by May of 2014.

Right now, though, the entire book is available, however, so if at any point, you feel the need to finish it immediately, you can.

I can’t wait to see how this will work, because I know I’ll want to do it again with another book. Am I doing this to stop people from stealing the novel? No, but that is a net effect. If you want to read it for free, you can. You just have to be a bit patient. I won’t make a dime on the free serialization, and we’re not putting a donate button on it either. I only make money if I’m a good enough writer to make readers impatient, to make them feel like they need to finish now.

It’s a nice little high-wire act for me, except that I hedged my bets. I finished the book before serializing it, unlike what so many other authors are doing when they serialize online.

Dean Wesley Smith’s performing a different high wire act this week. He was hired to ghost-write a novel for another author. He does this a lot, and he always does it very fast. His experiment isn’t the novel or the speed with which he’s writing it. The experiment is that he has, for reasons I still haven’t fathomed, decided to blog about his method. The blog is truly eye-opening. Someone called it a reality-show for writers, and it is that.

The content of the blog is not eye-opening to me. I live with him and have seen him do this for twenty years now. What’s eye-opening for me are the comments and questions he’s getting. (I’m amazed he’s willing to answer them while he’s so busy.) Most writers who are following his blog and commenting seem to believe you have to know what you’re going to write before you write it, that you need a detailed outline (God, I’d never write a book if that were true), that you need hours and hours of uninterrupted time to write (see the previous parenthetical phrase), and that you need to rewrite something to death before turning it in.

Myths all, and Dean’s exploding them by example. Although I find the comments on other blog sites referring people to his hilarious. People who claim he’s unknown and doing this as a stunt. (Don’t they have search engines?) People who claim that Dean can do this because he’s, well, Dean, and no one else should try it. Dean is experienced, after all. No one who makes those claims seems to understand how Dean got his experience. They all seem to believe he was born from the forehead of Zeus as a fully formed professional writer. (Well, all of them but the lame asses who don’t know how to use a search engine.)

Dean and I have been experimenting for the last few years. The online classes that he’s teaching (and I’m helping design) are an experiment. If they hadn’t worked, we would have stopped them. We’re both doing lectures online, as well.

Fiction River itself is an experiment. We ventured into Kickstarter with it, figuring if the Kickstarter failed, then we wouldn’t return to editing. Instead, we achieved our initial goal in less than 48 hours, and more than doubled our initial ask by the end of our thirty days.

The first volume came out on Tuesday, and the book only exists because of all the Kickstarter supporters. (Thank you!) We expected to ship the initial volume to the supporters and maybe a few bookstores, and thought that the bulk of the interest would occur after the volume was out.

But we’ve been getting subscriptions ever since the Fiction River website went live with subscription information months ago. We shipped several hundred copies more than we expected on the first issue, sight unseen.

By then, WMG had hired Jane Kennedy as audio director, and she has put together several different voices to perform the volume. It’ll be available as an audio book in May. I’ve listened to excerpts from all of it, and it’s beyond my wildest imaginings. I figured we’d get to audio in a few years. Instead, it’s going to happen within weeks.

There’s more experimentation to come, with podcasts and all kinds of other things, some of which we can’t talk about yet.

Some of this is simply because Dean and I can’t help ourselves. Recently, Mike Ashley  contacted me to discuss my personal history as the editor of F&SF for a book he’s writing. I realized as I answered his e-mail questions that I always go at things with an eye toward what works better, what’s new, what should we do? With Dean’s help, I brought F&SF into the computer age, and redesigned the contracts so that they no longer had clauses that no longer applied due to the 1976 Copyright Act. I arranged all kinds of ad possibilities and subscription drives and all sorts of things that editors don’t normally do.

It felt normal to me, but it wasn’t, and I took a lot of heat for it from a variety of quarters.

The same thing happened when I tried to be innovative with my books. More than one genre? What’s wrong with you? Pick a genre and stick to it. (One agent told me she had trouble selling my books because I was “all over the map.” I needed to pick the most important thing and settle down. Hah!)

A friend of mine, a reviewer, told me that I really should stop writing elfy-welfy crap (my fantasy novels) because it was ruining my reputation. And then I just plain old trashed the reputation (according to people like him) by writing tie-in novels like Star Trek. Why did I do that? Because the novels were fun to write and because John Ordover, who oversaw Pocket’s Star Trek line at the time, was an innovator. Dean and John and I would get together in New York and come up with all kinds of series innovations. John invented ways to put all of the Star Trek series together as crossover titles, he started a new writer contest (that Dean edited), and he tried all kinds of behind-the-scenes promotion stuff for his authors’ original books, for the sf field, and for games.

Before all of these changes in publishing, innovators either had to go into publishing themselves or hope to get an innovative editor who could hold onto his job and work with them at the same time. John always called us because he knew we were game to try anything, to stretch our creative wings, and to do the best we could in any way we could.

I loved that. I still do.

I feel so free these days. I feel like anything is possible.

And I’m not the only one.

On April 14, Neil Gaiman gave keynote speech at the Digital Minds Conference as part of the London Book Fair. He thought the speech failed because no one applauded, but it went quickly viral on Twitter.  The speech lasts about thirty minutes, but the truly pertinent point to this blog comes toward the end. Neil says,

Embrace the old as we embrace the new because we’re on the frontier, and there are no rules on the frontier. We can actually break rules that nobody’s thought to make yet. We can enter through doors that still say, ‘Exit only.’ We can climb in through windows.

The model for tomorrow, and this is the model that I’ve been using with enormous enthusiasm since I started blogging back in 2001 – probably since I started using CompuServe end of 1988, the model is try everything. Make mistakes. Surprise ourselves. Try anything else. Fail. Fail better. Succeed in ways we would never have imagined a year ago or a week ago. I think it’s time for us to be dandelions willing to launch a thousand seeds and lose 900 of them if a hundred or even a dozen survive and grow and make a new world. And I think that’s a lot wiser than waiting for 1993 to come back around again.

Perhaps one of the reasons you see me being so consistently upbeat about this new world of publishing is because it suits my personality—try this, experiment with that. If that fails, oh well, let’s try this instead. I have always been willing to launch a thousand seeds and let 900 of them fail.

This method does not fit into traditional publishing models. In those models, for writers, you get one or two shots per pen name, and then you’re done, failed, kaput. Traditional publishers, on the other hand, have always used the dandelion method. They’ve always sent out a lot of books, expecting most of them to fail. It doesn’t matter to traditional publishers, because there’s always an entirely new pile of books to launch, without as much care or thought as a dandelion releasing its seeds on the wind.

Do I expect all of my experiments to succeed? Well, yes, I do. But let me tell you what I mean by success. I don’t mean all of them will make me famous or make me millions. I expect all of my experiments to tell me something. I expect to learn from them.

What I might learn is simple: Don’t try that particular thing again. Or this other thing, it doesn’t suit my personality. Or it costs too much. Or it takes more time than I am willing to invest.

I always remain focused on a few things:

1) I have to write. Not I want to write. I have to. It’s as much a part of me as breathing. So I need time for writing each and every day.

2) I want my writing to reach readers. I prefer to do so the best way possible, but I suspect the best way differs for each project. If my goal is to reach readers, then of course, I do my best to take the restrictions off what I publish. If that has the happy side effect of keeping the piracy of my works down to a bare minimum, then great.

3) I’d like to build something that will last. In writing, that means I need to write enough to get to that one story, that one novel, that one novella, that everyone wants their children and grandchildren to read when the time comes. I doubt I’ve done that yet. I also need the personal infrastructure to keep that work in print until it does get discovered, no matter how long that takes. What is that infrastructure? I’m not entirely sure I have it yet, since it will be a combination of things from properly publishing the piece to making certain that my heirs somehow keep that work in print. All things to work on and think about.

As I wrote this, I took a break for my daily walk.  As I headed out the door, a writer friend called with an update about his career. On that walk, he told me about things I hadn’t even dreamed of, innovative things he was doing, and I told him some of the things we were doing here. It was fun to hear from him at that moment, because he had no idea what I had just been writing about.

We’re both blazing new trails, and doing it in completely different ways. Perhaps that’s the best part of this new world. There is no longer one way to have a writing career. There are as many ways as there are writers.

I wish more writers would realize that, and understand the freedom that awaits them, if only they’d stop believing the myths, looking for rules, and trying to find the one true path. There is only one path: It’s your path. You just have to build it, one step at a time.

This blog has become part of my writing business. I arrange my writing week around the blog so that it disrupts as little as possible. That’s hard, especially right now, as I am finishing up several projects, all of which demand my full attention.

As I’ve said from the beginning, this blog needs to earn its own way. That’s why I have the donate button up. I hope you will leave a tip if you read something interesting or  you found this blog series helpful.

Thanks to everyone who has donated and thanks to the folks who comment, e-mail, send links, and forward this link to their friends.

See you next week!

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“The Business Rusch: Experiments” copyright © 2013 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 




 

 

 

 

 

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42 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting the link to the Neil Gaiman talk. I just watched it – loved the ‘dandelion’ analogy he uses to say that you should try lots of things and let them free and see which seed, like dandelion seeds being scattered on the breeze.

    I don’t feel as relaxed as he does about the changes caused by digital. A lot of people – him included here – use music as an analogy and say that musicians are fine despite the switch to digital because now they can make money from concerts but this is not something that writers can do – we can’t perform a six-hour reading and expect people to sit there. I suspect he’s also relaxed because he’s hugely successful so if he loses a big proportion of his income stream he’ll still be sitting pretty. I think the world of publishing looks very different to a bestseller than a midlister, especially a beginnning midlister.

    There was applause following his talk, not silence – it sounds plenty loud! But the video is cut off there so maybe there wasn’t as much as he was expecting for half-hour talk.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Julie. I didn’t wait for the applause line, so took Neil’s word for it in the other link. What we hear when we do speeches is different from what happens, I think. I watch people’s faces when I give talks and I’m like the comedian who lets one heckler bother her when the rest of the crowd loves it. Might’ve happened to Neil too.

      As for music, yes, there are many differences. Neil gives (and gets paid for) public speaking, so I think he sees the equivalent. I am going to write about the differences at some point (in my copious spare time), but one big difference is music went through this first and so, we’re benefiting from some of the mistakes made there. We have more opportunity because of it rather than less, imho.

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • I was an ice skater as a kid, and in one competition, I thought I did pretty well and afterwards I bitched at my friends for not cheering and clapping for me during the routine, in the way that only 12 year old girls can bitch.

        Of course, they HAD applauded and cheered wildly at all the jumps and spins — I was just so focused and wound up that I didn’t hear anything except my music.

        So, it happens.

        Reply
  2. Hmm… I already missed something I wanted to tell a couple of weeks ago. Not missing this one. Let me get a soapbox…

    I believe your mixing your nots in the second and later “making it easy not to steal” instances. Also, one of the reasons several in my circle download “pirated” [*] Dr. Who and others is that they’re… in English. Spanish TV channels, at most, leave a channel for the original audio. While they might be a minority, they’re a seeding minority. Also, you’d think Prohibition taught lawmakers a thing or two about demand vs. legality, even in DC.

    The restriction on files is _THE_ reason I don’t have a kindle. Tried the kindle app, and it’s a nightmare [+].

    Suggestion: make it somehow possible to purchase your ebooks through your own site. Buying through the big ones’ a pain in the ass (and impossible until recently, from here); Smashwords is so-so (and even so I’m reaching 200 works purchased). And there’s something simply wrong when you visit a writer’s page to get information (or samples) about a book *and you have to leave it* to get it.

    WRT serial books, two things: I didn’t reach the first serial before I bought it. You’ve really dumped the produce model, now we’re a step away from the DEA raid. Although I don’t know what’s the detox protocol for readers.

    Also, “I finished the book before serializing it, unlike what so many other authors are doing when they serialize online.” That’s something I always found weird; I couldn’t live with that (as a rule, I find myself extremely uncomfortable around the pay-before-it-exists model of writing; I can understand it when it’s under specs, but written on the writer’s own? How many other professions say “I’ll have something really great I want to sell you, but you must pay before I put myself to it”?).

    I haven’t followed Dean’s comment threads, yet, but his column is doing, to me, about the same as that quote of yours: “ok, so I wasn’t really that far off.” His timetable is a bit weird, for me, but that’s personal.

    “I want my writing to reach readers” OK, my weird-shit’o’meter just pinged. What’s the point of *writing*, otherwise!? I can talk to myself rather well without having to grab a pen, much less a keyboard.

    Off the box, for now. Thanks & take care.

    [*] Good luck in Spanish courts, RIAA lookalikes. Basically, there’s a right to “private copy” which RIAA lookalikes have tried to attack up front instead of clarifying. Not won a single case, yet. Not one.

    [+] Although it hasn’t been challenged, it would probably be at odds with that “private copy” _right_ above, _as implemented_. Insert “Not a lawyer” standard disclaimer.

    Reply
    • It’s not easy to sell e-books off your site, Ferran. It’s very hard, as Ella is discovering. It requires a lot of space (which must be paid for) and there are downloading issues all the time. So it’s not as simple as putting up an e-book and letting people download. Plus they’d have to go to another site anyway, because most writers’ sites don’t have the right construction for a store. Not easy at all, I’m afraid.

      The old serialization model from the 1930s was pay to finish. The writers usually didn’t have the books done then either. I’m just being an anal control freak outlier by having the book done first. :-)

      Lots of writers write for themselves and put the work in a drawer. Witness Emily Dickinson. It’s pretty common, in fact.

      Reply
      • It might be the techie in me, but… difficult… Hm… Could point you to the odd writer’s page, here and there, with such. Plugins can be a pain in the ass, but shouldn’t be that hard if enough writers did it so they could swap notes. As of space, lots of space = lots of books, no? A book is not that big. Come on, people, there are musicians selling their songs online. How “heavier” is a song?

        “The old serialization model from the 1930″ is A) old B) from the 30s. It had its own “guardians at the gate”. These days? Why should I pay a writer for something I have not seen? Stop that “special circumstance” song. Specially online. A publishing house might fall for it, “that’s how it’s done”. But if I pay for your first 4 chapters and you don’t get enough subscribers and stop (or you have other things going on, or… life happens) and I can’t get the rest… then you have negative publicity. Bad, in my book.

        I stopped reading Jordan because of that. Also Wingrove. I won’t start Martin’s saga until he ends it (and I _love_ his novellas; goddamm, do I, indeed!). And so on (I fell for Potter, I have to admit, but I was reading it in the hospital as my mother struggled with cancer).

        Your difference between “author” and “writer”? Mine is: an author writes for himself, a writer for others. Whatever he wants to write, mind you, but thinking on other people. On readers.

        Sorry; while I can grasp your first point, I don’t share any of them. Not as a reader. As a reader, I don’t much mind if it’s hard to set a site, I want a way to reach my writer beyond what amazon provides (remember, I’m from Spain; buying from many established fronts is a pain in the ass… if possible at all). As a reader, I don’t care about 1930s publishing traditions. As a reader, I don’t care for writers who don’t think of their audience. And I really don’t have all that much patience for those last two, frankly (again, I understand website management can be a pain in the ass).

        Take care.

        Reply
        • On the website arrangements, Ferran, either writers write more or they do techie stuff. It’s easy to upload to various sites, harder–much (several degrees) harder to run your own. So until that becomes as easy as uploading to Amazon, it’s just not going to be something most writers do. They’re better off writing.

          Which is your complaint about Jordan, et. al. You wanted them to write more. ;-)

          And the writers who write for themselves? You never see their work–because it’s in a drawer. :-)

          Best,
          Kris

          Reply
          • Transaction, through Smashwords, of a single 2.49 book: 32¢ for Smashwords, 37¢ as “transaction fee”, plus banking fees of the transaction to the writer. 27.7% less income. I still think a personal, selling, site is worth it.

            I do not want Jordan en al to write more. I want them to *publish* their stories more *often*. Different thing. And I didn’t say a thing about length. Also, frankly, the pace of some is geological. Or they could make their stories more self-contained (like a certain PI from the Moon; or Potter), because some of those are simply unreadable unless you follow the whole.

            Really, I can’t be all that weird. How many people, readers, *customers*, have ditched a writer because they got fed up? How much damage, long term, does that do to a writer? Word of mouth and such.

            I do not see the works that *stay* in the cupboard. I sometimes see works that should have.

            Take care.

      • I use Payloadz to sell my ebooks on my website. Joe Konrath have Xuni to do the work on his website, but it is costly (about $800 I believe, maybe more): http://xuni.com/ebooks.php

        There’s others solutions, but if others can provide the solutions they use here (or do a special blog for it and share the link), it would be useful.

        Reply
      • Kris, as someone who has worked retail and does web stuff, I’d rather you kept writing rather than trying to squeeze out the small percentages of income you’d get trying to market and sell the books all yourself–even with the WMG staff.

        There are reasons people use Amazon although a lot of people feel frustrated by them. I do have a choice on Amazon about DRM or not-so I don’t think they require it, although you do have to have a device that you can read it on.

        Finally, most plugins that are available and even the coding for such things are more suited to the person selling short e-books for a specific customer rather than writers who are writing full length novels. There just isn’t the power there (although in the last three years they have improved with leaps and bounds)–not to mention the upgrades on hosting.

        As a webmaster and as a customer for people that I’ve helped work through downloading their single short ebook, targeted at a specific customer who would then want to be on their site, I find that there is also a level of work making sure everything looks professional and on the up and up so that people do purchase through that site.

        Reply
        • Thanks, Bonnie. So true. I appreciate the confirmation. I watch what our web guys go through just to get things done well, and think I’d rather be writing… :-)

          Reply
  3. I’ve been serializing fiction since 2004 and it can be a lot of fun! A lot of work also, but it’s great to watch readers chat about the book. It’s almost like sponsoring a book club, and people get together every session to chat about the story and make speculations and talk about their favorite characters (both to love and hate). It’s to the point where I feel lost when I’m not running one!

    I think people fear experimentation–and failure–because they don’t have the emotional energy or time to recover from too many failed experiments. I can sympathize with that. Unlike dandelions, we have to invest a lot more time and energy into our seeds. They don’t float off on their own; most of the time we have to actively cultivate them, or they’ll be sure to fail. When I was trying to decide whether to run that first serial in 2004, one of the voices in my head kept saying “Just choose a story you don’t care about to write, so that if it flops you won’t have devoted too much time to it.” But that was a rough decision: knowing I was possibly committing to writing a novel that no one would read and (in 2004) would never be touched by a publisher because it had been previously published on the web.

    We’re all making these decisions when we experiment. And living at a time when it’s all experiments can be exhausting and daunting to people who can’t afford too many failures and really wish there was a path or two for them to tread to get to a point where they’re comfortable. I have every sympathy for them. I’d like to be one of them. I just had no choice but to strike out on my own because no one was helping me do it the “right and proper way.”

    As Ayn Rand said, “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.” :,

    Reply
    • Thanks, MCA, although I worry about using Ayn Rand as an example. (That’s just my history degree flapping in the wind there.) :-)

      Good to know on the serialization stuff. WMG’s debating whether or not to allow comments. You say yes. Sounds like they’ve worked so far…?

      Reply
      • I wouldn’t turn off comments on any of my work. My readers catch typos, talk to each other about the story, and often point out interesting things to explore (“Hmm, they really like Secondary Character, maybe I should give him his own story…”). The sociological SF I did in my Kherishdar series inspired some of the most amazing discussions about politics, ethics and social values I have ever seen.

        I learn a lot from the comments section, and am grateful to my readers for helping to build the book-club-like atmosphere and letting me participate even though I’m the annoying member who has all the spoilers…! ;)

        Reply
      • Moderated comments, I think (Even though I still get stuck in moderation here after all these months — what’s a girl have to do?). If only to keep out the spam about your mom’s neighbor’s cousin making $8712 a week. Or the outright abuse.

        Ayn Rand has become so firmly associated with heartless 1% tycoons and annoying boys ranting around the internet that I’d stay away from quoting her even if she’d written that the sky is blue. That, and the turgid extra pages of speechifying that really needed to be cut by about 90% aren’t a good example for writers, IMO.

        Reply
        • Perhaps. But The Fountainhead saw me through a tyrannical fine arts faculty that did its best to drive me out of the program because I wouldn’t conform to their ideals of what an artist should be. Their idea of critiquing my work involved mocking me for wanting to paint “Thundercats” and telling me that narrative art was puerile. But it was the college I could afford, and the only thing, the only thing that kept me from going crazy was reading Howard Roark’s refusal to make buildings the way other people thought buildings should be built.

          If people want to associate her with crazy people who cite her, that’s their business, just like people who want to associate the Bible with cruel Christians or the Koran with cruel Muslims. But I had parents who fled a Communist regime, and I can understand the forces that twisted Rand into the shape she became, and I can have sympathy for that.

          *shrug* My two cents, anyway.

          Reply
          • I’m sorry that happened to you, MCA, and glad she got you through.

            Sadly, that probably would have happened to you at any college you went to. Check out my post on perfection and this post, particularly the comments. It’s ugly out there in academia, particularly for artists.

          • M.C.A. – You have my sympathies! I went through a similar thing with my Creative Arts degree. I majored in Creative Writing, but I also did drama. It was all about how art was supposed to ‘educate’.

            I once suggested to a lecturer that maybe art would do a better job of educating people if it also tried to entertain. Otherwise it’s just preaching to the already converted.

            I still remember the look of horror on his face. “Art isn’t about entertaining!”

            The arts centre attached to my uni has this on its website:

            “At present we do not promote stand-up comedy, amateur performance or performance aimed at families or children, pop, rock or folk bands, or other work in theatre, dance, poetry, music or visual art which does not appear, in our humble opinion, to be facing up to the challenges confronting such art-forms in the 21st century.”

            That sort of attitude went through everything – including the writing department – which is probably why the course left me with a dozen years plus of writer’s block. Yep, I wasn’t a good fit for that course!

            Long live entertainment, and artists deciding for themselves what they want to be. Cr*ppy college course survivors of the world unite. :)

          • I second Kris on this. I was a fine arts student in painting and sculpture. I got sick of the BS and eventually left the field–because my passion for writing proved to be greater than my passion for those other two arts, and the headache of dealing with those folks stopped being worth my time and effort. You would have experienced that very treatment at any art program.

  4. Wonderful post! I think if more tradional authors would think outside thier box they would be more accepting of change and I’m talking about young authors who write YA. I’m afraid for them when the day comes that they don’t make that NY bestseller list and find themselves out at the curb. It will be quite a shock to them. They have molded and shaped into thinking one way and told not to forget it.
    I think what Neil said was right and I think those listening couldn’t think outside the box. Those are the ones that want the old days back for some strange reason.

    Reply
    • I’m beginning to realize I don’t even see the box. And so when people point it out, I’m quite confused. I worry about writers who want a box as well. It makes creativity hard to sustain, imho.

      Reply
  5. Kris thanks for this post, it came at an excellent time. I’ve been angsting over the past few days, trying to decide whether to publish a 35k word story as a novel or novella. After reading this, maybe I’ll just try an expirement…

    Reply
  6. Perhaps one of the reasons you see me being so consistently upbeat about this new world of publishing is because it suits my personality—try this, experiment with that. If that fails, oh well, let’s try this instead. I have always been willing to launch a thousand seeds and let 900 of them fail.

    This is what all the great inventors have done. After all, Thomas Edison said about the light bulb, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” But he didn’t quit, did he? :-)

    Something for me to keep in mind as I keep going forward. As always, an interesting post, thanks!

    Reply
    • I’d forgotten that quote, Nancy. Yeah. I get that. :-) That’s why I keep trying to write a particular story that I haven’t pulled off yet, although I keep selling the other versions…

      Reply
  7. I admit this is off-topic, but I figured you wouldn’t mind having this shared here. Alexandra Bradbury announced that 16 books written by her father, Ray Bradbury, would be available in ebook format this month.

    Some would see it as one more sign that the book industry is changing. Some would see it as good news because they can get copies of books they’ve wanted to read or own. Both would be right.

    Reply
    • So glad to see this, as I’ve always wanted to read Something Wicked This Way Comes but never got around to buying it. Since the Kindle version is only $2.99 right now, I may be picking it up soon.

      And Dandelion Wine also is priced well – at the weird price of $6.83. I’m also thinking of picking up that one soon as well…

      Reply
  8. I’m very excited about the possiblities with Ella! Can’t wait to find out more come July!

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  9. FYI, Kindle doesn’t require DRM. All of my Kindle e-books are DRM-free, and I’ve never knowingly bought a Kindle e-book that had DRM (sadly, it’s often hard to tell for sure).

    Reply
    • And we set ours up DRM free too. The problem is that you still can only buy Kindle books through Kindle devices. So you’re restricted, like you are with HBO. Sure, you can strip the stuff for other devices, like you can steal from HBO, but that takes some technical skill. So being on Kindle only requires your readers to have Kindles or to have technical knowledge. That’s all I’m saying here.

      Reply
      • I absolutly agree that being Kindle-only is a problem. I would make the same statement about being Nook-only or Apple-only. The problem isn’t Amazone or the Kindle, it’s with the idea tht making it impoasible for some of your potential readers to get your book is somehow a good thing.

        Amazon (and the other stores) like having exclusives, but I don’t see how it is good for the readers or the authors.

        Kindle Select is a bad thing for the industry and for readers, even if it gives some authors more money in the short term.

        The Kindle file format is basically the old Palm .prc/.mobi format, just with optional DRM added on.

        Baen and O’Reily sell books in both .mobi and .epub format for readers (as well as .pdf if you need it).

        As for converting from one format to another, unless there is DRM, just install Calibre and it will convert items from one format to another with very little technical skill required (if you need to strip off DRM, that takes more work)

        Reply
        • Thanks, David. And we agree on exclusivity. It hurts these days rather than helps, whether it’s Nook or Kindle. I have apps for all the different devices on my iPad, and I order across the board. I prefer the Kindle format because it looks best on the iPad, but if that changes, so will I. Smashwords offers .mobi, and I know Fiction River is in all formats, which is what WMG does. I’m just not in charge of where or when or how, and I’m happy about that, as I’m trying to finish this next book…

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  10. With the marginal readership of the monthly SF magazines, you’d think F&SF would provide it via skywriting if they had to. Asimov’s and Analog are both on B&N and Google Play. Exclusivity is STUPID nowadays.

    And no, I haven’t pirated a Doctor Who episode since they started showing them here 8 hours after the BBC.

    (Dean’s sleep/wake schedule seems to be about like mine, give or take a couple hours, incl. the cat nap. But the Walternator doesn’t look that white to me.)

    I’m an extremely slow writer (of fiction anyway) but never bothered with an outline either. Even when writing reports in junior high, I’d write the whole thing and then backdate the outline. And when I had an office job that had lots of downtime, but no computer, I’d grab a legal pad and crank out pages in cursive (!!! Yes, kids, I’m that old!) and then take them home and type them up at night. I’m a “write the fun/cool/necessary scenes first and then go back and put in the boring connective stuff” type.

    Reply
  11. Good luck with the serialization. :)

    I agree that moderated comments sound like a good idea. That or a forum where readers can discuss the work. I think that people like being part of a community with a shared interest in something, and you’ll probably get people following through the serial and then buying the paperback.

    I try to make sure that my work is available DRM free in as many formats as possible. I’m not keen on piracy, but I don’t waste any energy on it. Most of the people who download pirated works wouldn’t have paid for them – and some may go on to buy a hard copy, or a copy of the next book.

    The ones who make me mad are the real thieves, who steal someone’s work and put it up for sale – they really ARE costing people sales. Thankfully, it’s much rarer.

    It’s occured to me that one bright lining to piracy is that, if your work is popular enough to be pirated, then it means that there are copies out there. So, if you die and your estate messes up and doesn’t keep your work up for sale – then there’s still the possibility for your work to live on and for new people to discover it.

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  12. I love your attitude, Kris. :) Just the sort of thing I need as I come out of my funk.

    I can understand the thing about having a product exclusive to your store, in an effort to sell customers your brand of ereader. Lots of stores have items or entire lines that are sold only in their buildings/e-tail stores.

    The thing that always amazed me about Kindle’s Select program was the lack of quality control over the books that came in. If these books were supposed to be so special that Prime members would flock to get them, the experiment failed. The vast majority are, frankly, atrocious.

    As I mentioned over on Dean’s blog, reading about his work habits has been making me rethink my own process. I’ve been trying to work to a schedule that has me writing in large blocks, in the early morning.

    But I’m not a morning person. I’m up and moving around, but I’m not really all there. So I’m looking into changing things as my life settles down, now that my parents’ health is improving and my teenager is getting ready to graduate.

    I’m ready to try new things, and spread some dandelion fluff!

    Reply
  13. I love your comment about failing and using it to learn. I read (can’t remember where, maybe Forbes) a term coined “smart fail.” The article indicated that more companies, specifically publishing, needed to encourage these smart fails if they were going to move forward.

    Regarding the direct selling of ebooks from a website, I agree with you 100% as to how difficult that is. I spent an entire month doing nothing else except building a direct sales site for an author cooperative of indie writers, Windtree Press. It took me a month, even though I’m a techie and even though I used a good e-commerce engine in the background. In addition to the selling of books, the press also needs to have a way to display sales to all their authors and get them paid. This is all done via a separate online backend that integrates with the bank(s) you use. Then, once you get everything up and running, every time you want to experiment (e.g., pre-sales, coupons, newsletters, gift certificates, onsite vs offsite blogs, etc.) you must re-think some of the internal logic and how it impacts everything else.

    Though it’s difficult, it is worth it for the freedom of easily tracking reader purchases, tracking trends, and most of all for getting higher returns (royalties) on each sale. Hang in there with it.

    Reply
    • Thanks for putting the hours in, Maggie, and letting the rest of the Windtree Press authors benefit from your expertise!
      See, audience, that’s another way to experiment: find someone who knows what s/he’s doing and hang on to the coat tails.

      Reply
  14. Speaking as a former librarian (you can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the library out of the girl), I am singing AMEN as loudly as I can on the format/piracy issue. As an author, I always want more readers. As a reader, I want to be able to buy in my preferred format. But as a librarian? I just want writers and readers to connect in as many ways as possible. Period.

    Which is why I’m going to be taking Dean’s classes about how to create print books. Because that’s the next step for me.

    Reply
  15. I consider myself risk-adverse and relatively slow to jump on the indie publishing bandwagon, only dipping a toe in at the end of 2010, but once I hit it full bore in 2011, one of my writer friends said, “Oh, that makes sense. You’re a risk taker.” So experimentation is relative.

    When I thought about it, I realized that my whole life is about experimenting and risking failure, including the writing-related part. Limiting my emergency room shifts so I can write? Writing multiple genres? Flying out for writing conferences? These are all risks, however major or minor they may seem to outsiders.

    When you said no one applauded Neil Gaiman’s speech but Twitter loved it, I thought, that’s the perfect example for our age. If his dandelion seed failed in one venue, it can still grow in another. I think it’s important to note that, in his speech, Art Spiegelman’s placement got tossed–not every seed’s going to sprout, no matter how worthy. But some will grow.

    “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Think Different, narrated by Steve Jobs
    Is that how you see yourself, Kris?

    Reply
    • I don’t know if I push the human race forward, Melissa, but I’ve been called–accurately, mind you–a misfit, rebel, and a troublemaker. I truly do not fit. And I like rules…if I can make them up and then forget they exist. :-)

      Reply

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