The Business Rusch: Samples (Discoverability Part 12)

Business Rusch free nonfiction On Writing

 Business Rusch logo webEvery now and then, indie writers erupt into discussions of price.  Writers remain convinced—no matter how much logic you show them—that readers won’t buy a book written by a new writer unless that book is cheap.

If that statement were true, then traditional publishing would not exist. Traditional publishing—as long as it has been around—has sold books by new writers at the same price as books by established writers. There is no tiered pricing for new to old.

Honestly, tiered pricing has nothing to do with the arts. Tiered pricing is day-job thinking, believing that the writer’s experience matters more than the piece of art itself.

People who work day jobs expect to start at a lower wage than people who’ve been in the job for a while.

If you think about things from a writer’s point of view, day-job thinking kinda makes sense. You’d think that established writers would get paid more than writers who are brand new.

But even in the most corporate part of publishing, traditional publishing, tiered pricing does not exist. It doesn’t even exist when it comes to advances paid by traditional publishers. If a traditional publisher believes that Brand New Writer’s Very First Novel will be a worldwide bestseller, then that traditional publisher will pay an advance to Brand New Writer in the six- or seven-figures, while Established Writer with a long track record who has just released her fiftieth novel might get an advance in the five-figures. If she’s lucky.

Both books, by the way, will have the same suggested retail price on their covers.

Publishing isn’t about the artist. It’s about the art, the product, the item.

And for readers, it’s about the story. Does the reader want that story? Does the reader like reading that genre? Does the reader think that story will entertain them?

Readers do shop by price, but not in the way that writers think readers should. We’ve had that discussion. It’s in the pricing posts.

If readers don’t buy new writers by price, how do new writers get discovered?

That’s the point of all these blogs. And honestly, the best way for a new writer to get discovered is in the company of established writers.

That’s why bundles work (see last week’s post). That’s why networked blogs and other group activities also aid discoverability.

But the best way to be discovered is to become familiar to a reader.

How can a new writer do that without lowering the price of her precious novel?

There are a variety of ways to do that. And many of them involve sampling.

Most indie writers think of sampling as that opening of the novel that e-tailers let you put up for your book. The first ten or twenty percent absolutely needs to be available to the reader, so don’t clutter up the opening of the ebook version of your novel with pull quotes or a table of contents. (In the ebook, put the table of contents in the back.) Let the opening of the book speak for itself.

But there’s a lot more to sampling than simply having the opening of your book available to the readers.

The best way to let readers sample your work is through more of the work—not free copies given away on e-bookstore sites—but as part of a larger whole.

The best way to sample? Write short stories.

I write a lot of short stories. I love them, which is one reason I write them. I also write short stories as a means to world-build my novels. I would much rather work out a story question while figuring out how part of my world works, than write some dry nonfiction piece for the book’s bible which no one else will ever see.

Even if I’m not writing science fiction or fantasy, I write stories to world-build. I use short stories as practice. Writers so rarely think they need to practice, but we all do. Sometimes I practice a historic milieu. Sometimes I practice a character. Sometimes I practice a technique.

If the short story doesn’t work, I’m out a few hours (or a week) of my time. If the novel doesn’t work, then I’m out several months.

The best thing about short stories, though, is their versatility.

Let me give you an example.

My short story, “Play like a Girl,” is free on this website until Monday. I wrote the story by invitation for an anthology of short stories based on the songs of Janis Ian. The anthology, Stars, has just been reprinted through Lucky Bat Books. It also has a brand new audio edition through Audible. WMG Publishing has just published a standalone version of the story with a great cover.

So, as of today, readers have four ways to find that short story. Readers who come to my weekly free fiction post will find “Play like a Girl” and maybe like it well enough to buy some of the other slipstream stories or women’s fiction that I write. Maybe they’ll even pick up my novel, Bleed Through, which is also marketed as women’s fiction (and which also has a new audio edition).

Readers who like women’s fiction might discover the standalone short story through a search of new women’s fiction on the e-tailing sites. Or readers might pick up the e-book because of the spectacular cover that Allyson Longueira at WMG designed.

But the best way for readers to discover me and my work through that short story is in the anthology Stars. Thirty different writers have stories in that anthology. Fans of each of those writers might pick up the anthology. Fans who like more than one of the writers definitely will pick up the anthology.

If those fans are completest readers, like I am, they’ll read the other stories in the volume. If they like “Play like a Girl,” they’ll flip to the bio I’ve put in which accompanies the story, and find my other work. Or they’ll come to this website to see what else I’m doing. Or they’ll do a search of my work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or whatever online retailer they usually use.

They might not buy a full novel. They might buy a short story. They might sample some books before trying one. They might see the storybundle on the sidebar, and order it, getting a bunch of books for less than the price of one.

They might take one of my novels out of the library.

Or they might not remember my name at all—until they encounter another of my short stories somewhere, and then remember that they had liked “Play like a Girl.”

The best part of discoverability via short stories, in my opinion, is that the work introduces the reader to other work by the author.

Plus the short story is advertising. Think about it. It costs a minimum of $600 for a half page (horizontal) to advertise one time in one of the Dell short fiction magazines. It costs $1000 for a full-page ad.

In the current issue of Analog, I have a short story that runs seven pages. To run seven pages of full-page advertising would cost me $7000. Instead, I got paid for the short story—and readers get a chance to sample my work.

That’s quite a financial swing in my favor.

And the story’s not done doing its job. After a few months go by, my contract with Analog allows me to reprint the story any way that I want to. Including in an ebook, which will allow more readers to find my work.

Analog has this lovely fact on their website:

According to our reader survey, more than 80% purchase books by the authors they have been introduced to in our magazines. And about 33% read more than 15 science fiction novels per year!

I write science fiction, so having an sf story in Analog puts my name in front of their 27,000 readers.

When I edited The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, we did a similar survey and got similar results. Unlike book publishers, magazines do survey their readers because a loss of circulation means that magazines can’t charge as much for advertising. So magazines need to know what their readers want and how to make sure the magazine caters to those wants.

I have no idea how many people have bought/will buy the Stars anthology. But even if it’s only 10,000 readers, those 10,000 readers might not have seen my work otherwise.

I publish stories in a wide variety of venues, from the major sf magazines to small literary magazines like Rosebud, which has a small but loyal readership of 2500 to 5000, depending on the issue.

I can’t measure how many readers cross over from the short stories to the novels, mostly because I haven’t tried, but I do know that many, many fans tell me they encountered my short stories long before they bought my books.

I keep the short stories in the mail. I still submit to traditional short story markets all the time. I do so, because despite what new writers believe, writers never become “established.” There are always new readers who have never heard of you. As a writer, you will never ever be able to rest on your laurels. New readers enter the book buying pool every day—and the vast majority of those readers have not heard of you.  They haven’t heard of Nora Roberts either.

They’re new.

It’s up to you to find ways to allow those readers to discover you.

I can see the comments now: so many of you are going to tell me that you submitted five or fifteen or 100 stories to the various magazines and got some rejections. [Shrug] I got three form rejections two weeks ago. Writers collect rejection slips.

Keep those stories in the mail. It takes an average of 6 months to get a response from the literary and small magazines. Plan to keep your stories in the mail for a few years before taking them out of the traditonal publishing markets. I’ve sold stories ten years after I’ve written them—all because I kept them in the mail.

Chalk what you’ve written up to practice, keep sending the stories to a market that might buy them, and write more short fiction. It’s certainly better than spending your hard-earned dollars on display ads that won’t work unless you do them right (and yes, we’ll discuss that stuff for the rest of this month).

What if you never sell to the major magazines? What if they don’t like your voice or your quirkiness or whatever? What if you’ve been around for a long time as a short fiction writer and never gotten traction?

Go back to last week’s blog. Put together an e-anthology of your own. Make certain that you have the rights from your fellow contributors to do so, and make sure that you have a contract and a way to do the accounting if you’re going to charge for it.

Bookview Café does anthologies of its members on a regular basis.  So, on the traditional side, does The Mystery Writers of America.

And if you don’t play nice with others, what then?

One week, or one month, or something regular, put a story free on your website only. The idea is to drive traffic to your site and build readership. The nifty thing about my Free Fiction Monday short stories is that so many readers make a point of coming to the website every Monday.

I have no idea how many of these readers buy my work. Honestly, I don’t care. What these readers do is become a resource for other readers. Almost daily, someone recommends my work on Twitter to someone else. This week, the discussion has been about female science fiction writers, and someone linked to my work. Previous weeks, the discussions have been things like paranormal romances or noir fiction.

I don’t initiate these discussions. I see them only because someone has looped me in. But often, that looping includes a link to that week’s free story.

It takes time to establish an audience for the free fiction—several months of regular posting, in fact. But that audience will become loyal.

I don’t offer fiction for free in online bookstores. Only on my website. And only for one week.

It works.

It probably would work better if I made an announcement every week to the various websites that track free fiction. But I’d rather be writing, so I don’t do all of the things that I “should” when it comes to discoverability.

Short stories aid discoverability. So, logically, it would seem that nonfiction does too.

If you’re a nonfiction writer, then articles and blogs will help.

But think about this from a reader’s point of view. Readers are very smart people. They know that fiction writers and nonfiction writers use different skills. A nonfiction writer venturing into novels? Readers are skeptical.

So if they sample and like your nonfiction, they’ll search for more of your nonfiction, not your fiction.

And readers really don’t care about writing or publishing. They have their own lives and their own careers. They’re trying to escape from those things with a few hours of adventure or romance. They don’t want to read business stuff about an industry that’s not their own.

Are there exceptions that make nonfiction writing/blogging aid the discoverability of your novels?

Very few, and they have to be creative.

If you write historical novels, then articles in various journals on the difference between the way the time period is presented in fiction versus nonfiction might help. Or an article about the cool stuff you discovered on the way to something else.

For example, a mystery writer friend of mine who is researching women in World War II for a novel sent me an e-mail with this tidbit: Bea Arthur (Maude, Golden Girls) served in the United States Marine Corps during that war. Which makes sense, honestly, but it’s also cool.

An article based on found tidbits might lead readers to a writer’s fiction. Or it might give that writer a big nonfiction readership for the tidbits.

You want readers to sample your fiction if you’re writing fiction. Remember that.

A lot of systems enable sampling. Writers really need to stop bitching about libraries and used bookstores. Think of those places as a location for readers to get free samples. (And no, I’m not going to get into how to get into libraries right now. There are ways—and we’ll deal with some of that later in the month too.)

Finally, one other great way to encourage sampling is to get your books into the book club circuit.

I haven’t done it yet, but I plan to with Bleed Through. Several book clubs have already used the title to spur discussion.

How do I plan to help with Bleed Through’s discoverability for book clubs? A book club edition. Traditional publishers do them. They have essays from the author, sample questions, and suggestions for other titles that might be useful in the book club.

I asked my sister, an avid reader and member of at least one book club, to help with resources for book clubs. She gave me a long list of the things her club uses.

I’ve decided not to share those lists. Because the websites and lists make it very clear that the websites are for readers. Writers might be invited to give an interview, but they have no place on those sites. Nor do publishers.

Most book club loops on the internet are private. Many don’t want authors there at all. The book club members want the freedom to discuss the writer’s work without fear of insulting the writer.

Do a book club edition, mark it as a book club edition, with added material, and put that in your keywords. It’ll help.

If you need assistance, then look at various book club editions. Some are marketed that way. Others have a marketing bug that’s specific to a particular company. For example, Harper Perennial uses “P.S.” with a section of the cover marked off to let readers know there are “extras.” (You can see what I mean if you look at the front and back covers of this version Michael Chabon’s Manhood For Amateurs.)

Yes, you’ll have to do another edition. Yes, you’ll have to make sure that’s got a separate title from the standard edition. Yes, it’ll take some work.

Just like writing short stories will take work.

But this is the kind of work that writers are good at. Writers write. And if that writing makes the rest of your oeuvre easier to discover, then great. Do this.

Because what we’re going to move into for next week is going to cost you time and money and lots and lots of thinking and planning.

I’ve gotten through the easy (and cheap) stuff.

Next, I’ll tell you how to play with the Big Boys.

Now you know: I’m not doing this blog to sell more fiction. I’m doing it to pay forward for all the teaching and help I received from my mentors. Plus, I’m learning a lot from you folks. It’s nice to have a discussion as the world of publishing changes underneath our feet.

But this blog does take time from all the fiction projects I’m doing, which is why this blog needs to pay for itself, and why it’s the only part of this website that has a donate button.

So, if you’ve learned something or enjoy the blog, please leave a tip on the way out.

Thanks so much for your time and your visits!

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“The Business Rusch: Samples” copyright 2014 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch


Please Read These Assumptions Before Commenting:

I’m going to make some assumptions in the next group of blog posts, and I’ll repeat those assumptions each week until I’m done.

Assumption #1: I’m going to assume you’ve read the previous posts, which you can find here.  

Assumption #2: With only a few exceptions, we will be talking about fiction here. There are promotion techniques that work for nonfiction—even on the first book—that do not work for fiction. I don’t want to muddy the waters here. We’re discussing fiction in these posts.

Assumption #3: You have learned your craft well enough to intrigue readers. You know how to tell a good story, you have grammar, spelling, and punctuation under control, you create interesting characters, and you write what you love.

Assumption #4: If you have indie published your work, then your work has a good blurb, a great cover, and a well-designed interior. Your work is available in ebook and trade paper formats. (I also hope you have audio books, but for our purposes here, I’m not going to assume it.)

Assumption #5: If you have indie published your work, your ebooks are available in every ebook venue you can find. Your paper novels are in extended distribution on CreateSpace or Lightning Source. In other words,  if a bookseller whom you don’t know and never will know wants to order your paper book, that bookseller can call up a catalogue from a major distributor (Baker & Taylor, Ingrams) and order your book at a bookseller’s discount.

Assumption #6: If you are traditionally published, your books are with a company that makes the books available in e-book and paper formats, and your books are still in print. (If they aren’t, ask for those rights back and then publish the books yourself.)

Assumption #7: You have at least a minimal web presence. You have a website that readers can easily find. You have a list of your published books somewhere, also findable. You have some passive marketing in place. (A mailing list, a social media presence, or a contact button on your website. Something.)

Assumption #8: You have published more than one book. Most of what I tell you won’t work on one novel. You’ll need several—or at least a novel and some short stories. If you’re haven’t published much, make sure you’ve done 2-7, and write the next book.

Assumption #9: You will finish this discoverability series before you decide which of the things I mention is for you. Because one of the last posts I’m going to write is how to measure success. That should have been one of the first posts I wrote, but of course, I write out of order, and so it’ll go at the end. [VBG]

Those are the assumptions.

Now, I have one big WARNING:

Everything I say here, everything, MUST take place after you’ve finished writing your story/book/novel. Do NOT take ANY of this advice into your writing office. None of it. Be an artist: write what you love. When you’re done, then worry about marketing it. This new world of publishing allows us to write whatever we want and publish it. Please take advantage of that. When you write, be an artist, be a great storyteller, not a marketer or a salesperson.

I know, I know. Lots of warnings and assumptions. But I had to be clear, because these points are extremely important. I won’t get to everything this week or even the next week. So…you need to be on the page that I’m on to understand what I’m talking about.

46 thoughts on “The Business Rusch: Samples (Discoverability Part 12)

  1. I’ve been thinking about short stories. I don’t think I’m quite prolific enough to write a new story each week (and don’t have a backlist I could use instead), but I am in the process of writing a collection of ancillary short stories to aid in the discoverability of my novel. I was going to put the first one up permafree and then publish the rest one a month (there are going to be seven short stories plus two novellas), but then it occurred to me after reading this post that I could put them up on my site for free for a month, then have them for sale afterwards — or even simultaneously, because I doubt price matching will be a big issue with my very small blog readership.

    I also have a couple standalone ancillary stories in the works which I will submit to the markets. That way I can (eventually) have the benefit of the advertising, but also have the long tail and funnel effects from the ones available earlier. Plus I think regular publishing of short stories, in between the novels, is better than just having a novel come out in late April and the next in October with nothing in between.

    Such are my thoughts this morning, anyhow.

  2. Two things popped out for me.
    1) How magazines can help your discoverability.
    I didn’t like how magazines came on and off news stands, so I preferred anthologies for greater durability. It didn’t occur to me that, through subscriptions, magazines reach those “super readers” who are avid book buyers as well.
    Of course I knew that now, content endures, and I can always publish my own work for the term of copyright, and that magazines like Crossed Genres do both ezines and print anthologies. So I submitted to both magazines and anthologies, but now I see the value in both.
    If Ferran can reach hundreds of readers for his short stories, I can see why he’d go direct, but for me, I’d be lucky to reach 27, let alone 27,000. So I submit to magazines and anthologies, although much less since 2010. Gotta get on that.

    2) If you want people to buy your fiction, offer free fiction samples.
    I’m not organized enough to do weekly samples, and Amazon came down on me when I left a short story up for too long. Almost all of my books have free samples through my website (the MyBookTable app is masterful), but I’m not convinced people click on them. I’ll probably do samples on Wattpad. I daren’t do full-length, because Amazon frowns on it. Any thoughts welcome.
    Thanks, Kris.

    1. Sorry, I’d missed this one.

      “If Ferran can reach hundreds of readers for his short stories, I can see why he’d go direct”

      Heh. I wish.

      No. My point is about returns of investment, sorta. I am going to assume publishing in a magazine pays off [*] while the period lasts. But if a magazine takes 5 years to publish your work, then those 500 (or more) bucks are not for those 6-12 months you’re giving them, but, effectively, for 5.5-6 years.

      Now, as I see it, *do go* to magazines first. My priorities change slightly, though. Two magazines, according to my data (might be way wrong),

      * Cicada, SFWA market, 3-6 months waiting period. 25¢/word
      * Lightspeed, SFWA market, 2 weeks waiting period (IME, 2-3 _days_). 8¢/word Now, it’s currently overwhelmed and won’t accept submissions, but…

      Advice I’ve usually read would put Cicada first (3x the pay!!). I would put Lightspeed first (at least 6x faster!).

      If we account for “publicity”, what’s the readership of both? Not the payment.

      The usual advice takes one reason (promotion, eyes) and justifies it with another (money). If it’s promotion, then use readers. If it’s money, then account for _all_ the time involved.

      Take care.

      [*] If I sold, say a hundred ‘booklets’ a day of a particular story, it wouldn’t, but that’s fantasy.

  3. I think I’m just going to copy your strategy, at least for a couple months.

    I’m going to post a short story once a week and then take it down. Maybe when I get 5 to 10 I’ll bundle them into a short collection. If nothing else it’s good practice.

  4. You know, Kris, I thought I understood the discoverability value of short stories, but you managed to throw in a few wrinkles I hadn’t thought of. Thank you.

    (Well, as long as I’m thanking you, I should also thank you for reminding me that I have stories waiting to be sent back out. Oh, and for reminding me that I need to research book club editions.)

    I also liked your point about world-building through short stories. It seems so obvious when you say it, but I’ve only ever done it once. At least, deliberately. And this was a couple of weeks ago. For some time now I’ve had this background itch to write a few sword and sorcery stories in the vein of Leiber, Wagner, and Moorcock. I placated that urge by writing a short story (well, technically it’s a novelette by a few hundred words).

    I’m not sure the story works, but I now have characters, a magic system and a world to contain them.

  5. Samples are something that all business use constantly to spur new products, so it seems that it would be natural to do so in the publishing industry as well. The problem with sampling though, is that you have to place to put the samples. For someone such as yourself, with thirty plus years, those spaces come easy. For newly published authors, it becomes a bit of a challenge. Not impossible, not at all, just not as easy to get the eyeballs on it.

    1. I know you new writers want to believe it gets easier for writers with long careers, but it really doesn’t. Just last week, Brendan DuBois–one of the best writers in the biz, in my opinion–finally sold his first story to Asimov’s. We “established” writers get rejected all the time–even from markets that buy our work. Asimov’s bounced a story of mine not too long ago–and Sheila likes my work.

      It’s a myth that “the spaces come easy.” Nope.

      It’s hard for all of us. The difference between long-time writers and new writers? The long-timers know that if we keep at it, we’ll eventually sell that book or story. New writers get angry when it doesn’t get easier, and many of them quit for that reason.

  6. The best way to sample? Write short stories

    I must be doing something right. An anthology accepted my latest short story this week. 🙂

    I have believed for quite a while now that e-reading devices may help revive a couple of formats that have languished for awhile. I think that for some strap-hanger who is reading during a 20 minute bus commute, a short story or serial might be just the thing. On my daily 45 min commute, I see literally hundreds of train riders reading. It has become an obnoxious hobby of mine to ask people what they are reading; at least half the respondents say they are reading short stories or anthologies. I’m hoping that e-readers may revive some nearly moribund formats like the novelette and the novella, which are too long for print nowadays.

    Writers really need to stop bitching about libraries and used bookstores.

    Oh, hell yes. Libraries are temples to the reading arts, and we writers are its gods. Why would we NOT love them?

  7. “don’t clutter up the opening of the ebook version of your novel with pull quotes or a table of contents”

    YES!!!! There is nothing more frustrating than getting only one page of a book b/c the sample is all ToC and reviews and thank-yous and preface and title page and half-title and… It guarantees I will NOT buy that book b/c the author/publisher obviously doesn’t give a crap about me and only put the “sample” up b/c they had to. And then it ends in mid-sentence.

    With ebooks, the ToC is available at a tap anyway, so putting it at the end is fine. I’ve noticed that Harper-Collins has figured this out, as have many indie writers.

    If you have to put it at the beginning, make the sample longer. 10% of the actual content.

  8. A number of successful and/or prolific authors have suggested short story writing to me. And as you know many in the romance genre (where I write) have moved into that space. I was always told that novel writing and short story writing aren’t the same skill. I’ve been reading many of the short stories released by romance authors and I’m finding that to be true.

    I know how to write a book. Took years, but that I can do. Do you think it’s worth the time to develop the other skill (writing short) to increase visibility?

    1. If you don’t have the money or the time to do proper (high-level) promotion, then yes, I think it’s worth the time to learn how to write short stories. However, you have to like reading them and/or read a lot of them before trying. I hope that helps.

  9. So many great ideas in here, Kris. Thank you! I especially like the idea of working out back story and side stories for a series in various short stories–it’s a win-win for writer and readers.

  10. Those of us who do both fiction and nonfiction really do need two separate names.

    The best thing I’ve done for my fiction sales was to change my name in the various online bookstores.

    I’m pretty well known as a nonfiction writer. Using a different name for my fiction made me look like two different people. Suddenly, my stories started to sell. Not quickly, mind you — my fiction name isn’t known. Yet. But certainly better than they did when I had everything lumped together.

    I am SO glad I did that before putting out novels later this year!

  11. I have some boneheaded questions about short stories (and stories in general).
    1. character names: I’m weird about naming. There are some names I just don’t want to use for main characters. But I worry (rolls eyes at self) about running out of good names if I write a lot of stories. Is that silly or what? What do you think about re-using character names across subgenres. Like if I have a Sam in a paranormal romance story & then a completely different Sam in an erotic romance short. Is that too confusing for the readers?
    2. romance short stories (I write romance). I struggle with making romance stories short enough to be short stories. I tend to feel like all my story ideas are too big to fit into the short format, especially with romance. Maybe that’s because I always want to show the whole arc of the romance, instead of just a tiny slice of it. Is it enough in the romance genre to show only a tiny bit of a romance? Like just the meet or something.
    I’d really like to do something like your Free Fiction Monday on my blog, but I struggle to a ridiculous degree with these problems.
    3. A non-story related issue: how does an impoverished indie writer meet established writers? I don’t want to be one of those user types who just hangs around famous people’s blogs in order to get something from them.

    1. Dean reuses names all the time. Me, I use the internet baby naming sites. But nothing wrong with using the same names in unrelated stories. Think of what the university professors will do with textural analysis years from now on your work. 🙂

      It’s possible to do good romance at the short length, but generally just the meet cute or the center of the relationship. I’ve done several. A lot of romance novelists do the novella length. You could put up four sections in a month, then the next month four parts of a different novella. Just a suggestion.

      Conventions are okay to meet people, Tori, or just visiting/commenting. Also, joining writers organizations gets you in touch with anthologies they’re doing and other writers. Plus there’s nothing wrong with online, as long as you’re polite about things. The key to invites to a closed anthology is that the editor already has to be familiar with and like your work for you to get an invitation. There are lots of writers I like personally whose writing I don’t like, and lots of writers whom I don’t like personally whose writing I do like. So when I’m editing, I’m going for quality stories first, friendship second. (Fortunately, my friends know that.)

  12. That’s very interesting information about the book clubs. I am wondering if a separate book club “supplement” might also work, which just has the questions/discussion starters, at least for ebooks. (I suppose having the extra material already bound in the printed book would be preferable). I’ve never participated in a book club, so I am curious what their criteria are for the supplemental material and how they prefer to use them.

      1. You could probably also make the supplemental “book club PDF” available for free distribution on your website for readers who bought the ebook instead of the special book club paper edition. That way everybody wins.
        Just a thought.

        (And I’m another of your data points, Kris. I love anthologies & magazines, and will often look for authors I was introduced to through a short story/novella collection – and am frequently surprised to discover that “new-to-me” author is a “well-known name” elsewhere!)

        1. Thanks, Lyn. Yep, new to me is a big deal for readers. It doesn’t matter who they are, not everyone has heard of them.

          On the extras–nope. The minute you make people download or get an extra copy, they won’t do it. One-click, one purchase, make it easy for them. Folks like easy. If your work isn’t easy, they’ll go to someone else’s work. (On the pay/buy/download side. You can still write challenging reads.)

    1. Electrons are cheap. Why not make every ebook the book club version? It’ll take up no more room.

      A friend of mine who writes for Macmillan just has the discussion questions in her ebooks and paper books automatically. People can read it if they want, or skip it if they don’t.

      Her website has the fun facts she’s discovered as she’s researching and writing in the historical period, esp. the ones that don’t fit in the books but are cool.

  13. (In the ebook, put the table of contents in the back.)

    The Smashwords Meatgrinder will not allow this, last I tried with a book I was formatting for someone else. No dice; book rejected from extended distribution, even though it had a cursory Table of Contents at the front. The Meatgrinder expects the ToC at the front of the book. I didn’t try going through and re-naming the chapters with different internal names, or re-naming the Table of Contents something besides ToC, though. I might be able to get around it if I’m careful to use non-standard chapter-names and put in a one-page “Frontmatter; startbook; bigTOC” kind of “Table of Contents” in the front…

    (Might have to, on the ginormous thing I’ve got now, if all my beta-readers can’t find enough to slash.)

    On the plus side, Smashwords will allow you to set sample length on its own site. (My novels are 50% sample, on the theory that if someone gets half-way through a book, and hits the end, they’ll scream and reach for the buy-button. This is a theory I’d love to have people discuss sometime, though.)

    On the minus side, I don’t think any of the other sites that Smashwords ships to will import Sample Length as well as the book files.

    ToC in the back of the book is something Amazon doesn’t care about; the Amazon version of that book went through without a hiccup. I don’t know if the self-publishing arms of Kobo and Nook care, either. (My “better off writing” evaluation fell into the “upload to only 2 places; worry about only 2 converters” category. I want to make stuff for DriveThruFiction, but honestly, Yet Another Thing To Format For is just… blah.)

    1. This is why you should go direct to every single site you possibly can. When WMG went direct, sales went up on each, and payment was faster. Plus the problems in the metadata disappeared. Smashwords is great for tiny companies and for Smashwords, but awful as a distributor these days. (It was great in the beginning, but the systems of the other e-tailers outgrew Smashwords) So go direct.

      1. I don’t like either to be paid only quaterly by Smashwords. As you, I go direct whenever I can. But Smashwords can be useful for writers based on Europe, because Pubit (Barnes & Noble) is reserved for US residents.

        It’s now possible to send directly an epub to Smashwords, in order to put the table of contents in the back.

      2. I know that some aspects of going direct would be better, at least probably to Kobo, but mucking about with different sites fails my WIBBOW test. If I were going to format things for a different site, it’d be DriveThruFiction, which so far does not have any partnerships with anyone. (Or maybe I’ go prod Xinxii again, with trepidation because of Amazon’s razzinfrazzing price-matching stuff and my concerns about foreign markets somehow back-matching to the US.)

        (Also, my short stories get *more* money from B&N when I go through Smashwords — 60% of 99c instead of 30% or whatever it is normally. (And when I say short stories, I mean it. They’re mostly teeny. Except the one I’m going to get around to price-raising sometime soon, since it’s gonna get reprinted in an anthology this year.))

        1. Boy, I get that, and with the proliferation of sites, it only gets worse. Smashwords and Kobo don’t play well together, so you might consider going direct at least to Kobo as well. Kudos to you on the WIBBOW decisions. It’s tough, these days, with so many distractions out there.

        2. @Beth, someone on The Passive Voice (or was it kBoards? can’t remember now) said they have a truncated TOC at the front of the ebook: link to first chapter, link to their bio, link to other works by the author, and something else that escapes me at the moment. She said that she hasn’t been turned down by SW yet.

          Might be worth a shot, and I’m certainly going to try it going forward.

    2. Nook doesn’t care where your ToC is. I get ToC-last Nook books all the time, from both indies and Big 5.

      Nook uses good ol’ .epub format, so do your thang and upload. When I have a choice in formats for side-loaded stuff, I go for epub, but my Nook reads PDF, MS Word, and many others, so I have those as well.

      (I got that latest bundle Kris was in in epub, an MSWord copy of a book for beta readers, and a couple of PDFs from last year’s Hugo nominees.)

      1. All the major storefronts and distributors now (including Smashwords) do direct epub ingestion. I now make one epub with a few extra linked “also by” pages, then delete the appropriate ones and save a temp copy to send to each vendor. Amazon gets amazon links, Smashwords gets smashwords links, Kobo gets Kobo links, etc.
        It’s worth learning epub. One pass mastering, infinite distribution. Since it’s become an option, it’s cut my ebook creation/upload time down from several hours to a couple hours (starting from finished mss + cover art and finishing at “upload of beautiful ebook finished to all retailers).


  14. This posts resonates with me; I’m glad you mentioned the short stories in particular. I’m not sure I can do them anymore, since I naturally write long, then trim, but I’ve set a goal to try. I like your method of worldbuilding via short story; it sounds more fun than me just keeping the backstories in my head or notes.

    As for your point, anthologies absolutely aid discovery. I’ve always picked them up specifically because I’m trying to find new novelists. I’ve bought books by authors I first discovered in anthologies. I honestly thought discovery was the whole point of anthologies …

    And on the non-fiction side, I’ve got a few books in my bookcase by historians I first discovered 1) On a segment of the History Channel’s “Barbarians” week, 2) In articles excerpted on blogs. Further, when I was researching a historical period for my WIP, bloggers and historical re-enactment sites kept citing one historian in particular. I Googled him, saw he had a blog where he discussed some movies set in the time period he specialized in, and compared and contrasted the reality to the Hollywood version. I bought one of his books; I plan to buy more.

    So, I’m a data point that shows this kind of discovery is definitely effective. Now I’m going to head over to and see which anthologies are looking for writers …

  15. I wondered what that “P.S.” meant, thanks for the clearing that up. 🙂 I actually have a couple of pages at the back of the first in what I’m calling historical fantasy series, because it happens to be set about a week before the Wall St. Crash, and has a NY Yankee (baseball) player of the time as a minor character. I mentioned books on the Wall St. Crash and books about the player and the stadium that I thought people might find interesting.

    But now you’ve got me thinking about setting up a separate edition that expands on that…hmm. Sounds like some extra work, but sounds like fun! 🙂

    And I like the idea of offering free fiction once a week or once a month. Hmm. Still working out the details of my site, so thanks for this idea too.

  16. Short stories are a good discoverability tool for sure. I started publishing with a novella and hope today or tomorrow to have the second one out. On my blog I posted fiction for readers. It took a while but I do have a very small little group that comes by every week. I just posted my latest cat flash fiction this morning. It’s a long process and I have a long ways to go. My main focus right now is to keep writing and publishing.

  17. I must admit that the idea of submitting something to a magazine and waiting for 6 months for an answer seems like to put my baby in a suspension stasis, for me. Yes, I’ve done that in the past, and I know it makes sense to try to reach a wider audience. But it’s not for me anymore.

    On the contrary, your idea of putting a short story for free for a week on a blog is seducing to me. I think I’m going to try it.

  18. I used to think that I disliked short stories, but I think it’s more that I don’t want collections or anthologies. I look at them and feel nauseous. It seems wasteful, somehow, like I’m picking up a lot of potential dross. And if I really like, say, 2 out of the 11 stories, I’ll have to fish them out and then I’m stuck with stuff I don’t want, which has to be stored somewhere. (No e-reader here.)

    No idea how common this is, but as a reader, I’d be willing to pay a couple of euro for a single short story, or maybe 2 or 3 put together, as opposed to more for a collection/anthology. (It’d work out as more per story, too.) That’s how I’m discovering, veeerrrry slowly, more short stories right now – in single story volumes of William Trevor and Zadie Smith, and two story volumes of Irene Nemirovsky and Katharine Mansfield. It’s nice, but I can’t seem to get these stories in the way I want. (The way I want might not be feasible, but if that’s the case I’d feel better knowing.)

    1. Being aware of what you want as a reader is great, Liz, because then you can provide all of that as a writer to your readers. If you’re thinking this, then other readers are as well. Older writers–Trevor, Mansfield–aren’t as flexible as the newer ones. (Sometimes it’s the estates, sometimes it’s existing contracts.)

    2. Yes, collections are hard. My reasons are different, but I do tend to prefer singles myself. Took me a year and a half to subscribe to Fiction River. *NOT* my usual way of dealing with books.

      1. Expanding,

        One of the reasons is indexing. I have no idea where to find some of the tales I have in collections. I know I have them, I don’t know where. For example, right now Smashwords’ search showed me “Alien influences” when I searched for “Spires of Denon”. I know I bought it there, so I kept trying, and I finally found the original and “Five Short Novels”. Of those five, I have at least 2 twice. I think more, but they must be in some other anthology because… I can’t find them.

        Then, there’s a certain feeling of… “Gods, I still have to read those other tales…” when you checked a bigger anthology and you’ve already read the ones that piked your interest.

        Plus, you have to trust the editor’s taste and that of a good share of the contributors (how big a share is personal and subject to change). And this includes single author anthologies. If it were “any 5 for the cost of 3”, it would be different.

        And I think I had some more reasons… Can’t remember them right now.

        Take care

    3. No idea how common this is, but as a reader, I’d be willing to pay a couple of euro for a single short story…

      Liz, I think there are many readers like you. My short stories packaged as singles sell at a steady trickle for $2.99 US each. I’ve only just released a collection of them for readers who prefer that format. It will be interesting to compare how the different formats perform over time.

      1. Thanks for that. I’m not normally into fantasy, but I’ve mentioned your name to a friend who is into it (FWIW) and I’m so delighted that someone’s doing this that I might just see if I can find your work in Ireland (again, FWIW).

  19. “If you think about things from a writer’s point of view, day-job thinking kinda makes sense. You’d think that established writers would get paid more than writers who are brand new.”

    They kinda are, but you have to use good accounting. Once the advance is paid, and assuming similar success of the individual work, who’s going to get more out of it, a writer with a single book or one with 49 other books? The second one will still have royalties (that’s why I said good accounting), and ripple effects. The first one only has “The Book”.

    “I’ve sold stories ten years after I’ve written them—all because I kept them in the mail.”

    I have a small problem with that. These days, is the advertising you might get through a magazine worth waiting 10+delay years publishing it on your own? Now… where’s the limit? And where is it WRT how much published work you already have? Yes, there ain’t no such thing as an stablished writer, but I’d think you and me would reap very different benefits from being published in Asimov after a, say, 3-year wait.

    “This week, the discussion has been about female science fiction writers…”

    Argh! I hate those. Only behind “women and SF” and “sex in SF”. Or “politics in SF.”

    Of course, I’m the fool who kept thinking Tracy was short for Patricia Hickman. Basically, and wikipedia has changed this, I don’t much care about the writer. Certainly not before I’ve read the work. Afterwards, I might be curious, and satisfied curiosity might turn into empathy. And something just might come from this (that’s how I met Rory and his ferret of a friend), but…

    Book club editions: considering current distribution, wouldn’t it be better to publish “add-on” extras for book clubs? Epub/PDF files, for example, likely at a loss, to guide discussion. Does it really make sense to have a separate edition?

    Take care.

    1. I’m assuming (see the assumptions) that the readers of this blog are professional writers who write a lot. So a short story, turned out in a day or two, can stay in the mail for 5-10 years with little cost to the writer (no postage, for example, most of the time), and you get huge benefit when the story’s published.

      New-to-the-readership writers get tons of attention from the readers of a magazine. And it’s advertising in a place you the writer can’t normally reach. Why not go for that?

      Royalties? You think traditional publishers pay royalties these days? Excuse me while I have a good laugh. My older books still pay royalties, but things contracted in the 21st century? Nope, not so much. All the writers are mentioning that. So my point stands.

      Yes, separate edition on the book club. Make it less work for these folks. and it has to be in paper, because many book club readers (most) don’t use e-books.

      1. I’m still unsure about that 5-10 year issue. The field changes. And you could be getting your log-tail sales for as long. If you write a lot, precisely, you’ll be able to send some more in no time. And I’m not including deaths and wills.

        A 600 bucks short story (novellete, at 5¢/w) “only” needs to sell 120$ worth of copies a year to reach the same point of a magazine sell. And I’m not accounting for inflation or “contagion”. That would be 30-40 copies, less than one a week. I’m not sure that the wait is worth it.

        In general, unless I’m wrong, I recall most advice for submitting to magazines to be along the lines of “best paying first”. The more I think about it, the more I believe it should be “fastest answering, first”. When you’re starting, for the moral Oomph and not having “your child” alone, out there. Later on, as an investment. 5-10 years… I believe it’s way too much.

        Take care.

        1. I’m not thinking of money when I’m telling you this advertising. I’m thinking of eyeballs. You’ll get 27,000 eyeballs on your story–even if they thumb past it–that you wouldn’t normally get. That’s why it’s advertising. After the story gets published, you can put it out as an ebook. And seriously, Ferran, you need to be looking at your writing as a career. That means you look at the long-term benefit of something, over years. Keeping a story in the mail as potential advertising, cost-free advertising to you, is a good gamble, imho.

          Fastest response–with a good readership–is what you might want to look at for your work. But paying markets only.

          1. Last first:

            Sure. No pay, no write. Whatever other faults I find with it, SFWA market requirements are a good starting point.

            Advertising… yes… but. Word of mouth is also advertising, _and_ the goal of advertising is to make money. How much “word of mouth” will you get in 5-10 years while you wait for your story to get out there? And, meanwhile, it’ll make money, return some time: posting a story is not that hard (although keeping track will need some practice), but when done time and again for 5 years… it adds up time.

            Take care

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