2011-09-16 05:40 am (UTC)
new writers and reader interoperability
One of the places I have discovered new writers (and decided to give older writers a second chance) are podcasts like Starship Sofa and the like.
They've taking the place the magazines used to have once upon a time (though they are having to explore alternative funding models too) but it has a very similar feel. Writers don't make anything from it but they aren't making anything from short fiction sales anyways.
My biggest problem with readers is the lack of interoperability, I can't read my story I bought on a kindle on a nook or an iphone. The fact they cost more than a paperback is ridiculous and wrong, but as more writers cut out the publishing houses it MAY get cheaper. The fact you don't actually own the copy of the story and just have a revocable license to it is troubling as well (the 1984 issue).
2011-09-16 06:39 am (UTC)
Re: new writers and reader interoperability
The last paragraph seems specific to Kindle and Amazon. No one can take a book back off my Sony e-reader, it is only ever connected to the computer as a pseudo-disk drive and I control what goes on there. Similarly I only buy books without DRM so I can read them anywhere (apparently even on Kindle, ePub can be converted to the format the Kindle uses easily I'm told) -- and if I buy from Baen I have a massive selection of formats including PDF and HTML and Kindle all for the price of one book (and again they can't take it back off me).
There are also Kindle apps for iPhone (and I believe other platforms).
And I feel that for writing informational pieces like this you should be paid (rolanni
is another one). It's non-fiction writing, and worth it. I'm one who likes 'donate' buttons, I'm not creative in that particular way (I don't write fiction I or anyone else would want to read!) and I like the mediaeval model of sponsoring the arts one likes (if I had pots of money I would so employ writers and musicians). I have been so tempted to say on occasion "here's 30 thousand dollars, now go and write that book without money worries!" (My financial manager would kill me for trying to increase my mortgage, so I don't, but I would love to be able to do that.)
Another way of getting new readers through "social networks" you may have missed. I have started reading several writers because they have appeared "in person" commenting on the blogs of other writers I was reading. In fact I came across Lee and Miller that way, before the term 'blog' existed, via your newsgroup back on SFF.net (and I came across that because I'd read Yog Sysop's books). The frustration I have is when someone comments about their own fiction or experiences and I don't know who they are! Yes, I know they have reasons for not making it public, but I want to read their work. (Sending them a private message feels like intrusion.)
(I'm also a person who doesn't like reading books on the computer. In a 'serial' format with a chapter per week or so, I can manage it, but a complete book I want to print out and read in bed. Or on my Sony e-reader now, I've been converted...)
You're right, I didn't specifically peel that use of social media out of the rest. I was considering all internet appearances--on one's own space or another's--as part of internet exposure (because it is, really) and it all takes the same amount of time from the writer's own work.
I agree with you about identifying oneself online. Yes, there are risks involved, but it's like someone coming up to me wearing a ski mask or a hood and wanting to chat. I'm not going to trust that person; I'm going to suspect that he/she means me no good. Show me your face, in person; give me an identity, online.
Thanks for the exact dates. The discussions I'm talking about happened before '99...I knew them only from print media and direct personal contact before we *finally* got internet service here ('96, I think.) Very frustrating that was; I had friends on GEnie who were always bugging me to get on it, but we couldn't get there. I also couldn't get on LiveJournal when I first tried, and PayPal and I are not buddies...several tries to start an account failed, and when I finally thought I'd made it, they suddenly insisted on my giving information that I didn't want to give.
I can definitely understand and agree with your arguments on publishing and funding for books. I don't know for the average guy, but if there is something I enjoy that I would like to see continue, I legitimately buy the product to make sure that that I'm doing my part to ensure what I enjoy continues to be produced. I know a lot of people do not feel that way.
But this brings up a question, perhaps someone of your expertise may be able to shed some light on. I have some story ideas that I want to tell, some inspired by your own work. Personally I have no expectation that I would be able to make a living off of it, but I would like to make some money from the efforts. What model would you think would be best for someone with no past readership at all.
The model I came up with for myself was simply to follow the route many webcomics have taken. Offer for free regular updates on my own website (for example: a chapter a week) and then provide a purchasable volume in book form (I was thinking kindle, nook, and ibooks). But I am not certain that this would even as supplemental income. What do you think?
But I think in the end, the explosion of the usage, speed, and availability of the internet at a speed human civilization is unaccustomed to has lead to a lot of problems for people providing entertainment (music, books, etc). It's hard to police the internet effectively, and a lot of people have been spoiled by the easy availability of about anything they want without having to pay for it. People are a selfish and greedy lot.
I certainly hope for my sake that a successful business model for authors comes. I enjoy good books and series, and would like to see them continue. I hate coming across unfinished work.
Thanks for your support...a viable model will always involve money flowing to the writer.
Your situation with your own work is tricky at best. You can certainly put up your work for free and keep track of the hits on that page...see if you're drawing new traffic. Make sure there's a way for readers to comment, because it's important to know how readers are reacting (suggests whether or not you may be gaining enough fan base to make any money.) I would suggest if you do that, that you use a Creative Commons license. One approach might be to put up a story a week (people follow blogs for new content...they like to see something new regularly) for a few months, possibly removing the earlier stories so there are no more than a small number (under 10, probably only 5) at once on the site, unless one is very popular. Then in 2-3 months, add a donation button and see what happens. (Be sure to check with your hosting service to see if they're cool with that. For some, any attempt to make money directly off the site is "commercial" and will raise your hosting fee.)
You may get comments earlier saying something like "I love it, these are really good, why don't you have a donation button?" At that point (even if it's earlier than your plan) you could decide to go with it.
Because of the expense of producing a collection volume, you should probably wait to offer anything like that until you see what reader reaction is. (You can research the cost of Print-on-Demand and small press services--these change--and be sure your intake from the online work will pay for a printing of a collection. And start learning--if you don't know already--about book design, fonts, copyright registration, ISBNs and so on.)
Meanwhile, depending on your genre, you may find markets for your work. Short fiction markets still exist, some in new places (NATURE, the great fast-pubbing science journal, now has a "Futures" short-short story every week. That's four stories a month--about half the number of a full-on SF magazine with monthly publication.)
I can't say whether these suggestions will be successful for you--or if some other route might work better for you. There are too many variables in the equation, starting with your writing.
"Funding Models for Books: the new age"
Hmm, I just read that as 'finding', which makes it read as a totally different subject *g*...
2011-09-16 02:58 pm (UTC)
Sorry, this turned out a bit long.
Interesting post; this is stuff I've wondered, so it's good to hear an inside view from your perspective.
All understandable points. Sounds like a sometimes frustrating business with the changes the internet brings. Yet good that reading (stuff other than blogs and articles) is coming back into fashion with the emergence of faster, fancier, wi-fi capable e-readers*.
It makes sense that impassioned people will more readily fund a cause. Such as, "My favourite author's publisher has abandoned them, and I really want to see this next book out! I don't mind dropping a few extra dollars and rallying the fans together to make it happen." or "Hey, what's the price of a coffee for the next installment of this saga -- especially as they're bringing them out in reliable time-frames, so I stay hooked and entertained. My money won't be going to waste."
I realise it's a less predictable or reliable market nowadays, but I'm certain there'll always be a market for books made of paper. Personally, I still bound excitedly to the shops with cash in hand when I know something I'm following has come out (or something I've heard is exceptionally good).
I will have to assume these critics who demand you write for nothing but the fun of it sit around on their butts doing creative and lovely things all the days through on someone else's income (partner, parents maybe). It seems utterly unrealistic that anyone living in the real world of Responsibility would suggest you writewritewrite, shareshareshare, and somehow manage to have time to respond to readers in various e-social avenues, attend actual functions, keep up with the latest technologies and prepare works for them, and attend some other kind of job on top of all this so as to basically survive. Nevermind your family life, or the notion of retiring at some point.
Regarding writers who don't already have a base, I can't help thinking it would benefit all writers to cross-promote each other. Sure, it will pull a bit of income if your fans rush to buy a new reader's stuff for this or that month, maybe instead of yours, but reading is a very dynamic past-time. The more one reads, the more one wants to read, and will develop the charming habit of making time to do so more often.
*Speaking of which, it might be an idea to have a work ready to sell when the first batches of coloured eink become available on the popular ereaders in the very near future -- kindle, nook, etc -- which makes use of the graphics and colour capabilities. This technology is already available on a couple of expensive readers, but is (like all things electronic) a work in progress. I hear a lot of complaints on the cruddiness of current ereader graphics -- to the point some people refuse to buy anything that isn't solely text, and some have bought utter trash purely to test a rumour that the pictures came out nicely on the kindle -- and I have the feeling people would be very excited to have a quality e-book "made" to utilise the system's capabilites.
2011-09-16 03:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry, this turned out a bit long.
Oh, and I'm very intrigued at the thought of getting my hands on some out-of-print works by some of my favourite authors. Lately I have considered I may buy one of these fandangled ereader thingees for that purpose (incidentally, I was excited recently when I did a quick search and found some of your own works are for sale in several formats).
Of course I will continue to buy my favourite stories in paper. I like having the collection for relaxed reading around the home or outdoors -- and there is nothing in the universe quite like the enchanting smell in a well-loved book.
2011-09-16 05:30 pm (UTC)
Books, in whatever format, are golden!
I have to say that I, as a fan of several authors' works, have embraced the ebook reader concept only recently. I still value my time with a paperback or hardcover, especially since you can trade them around easily with friends, and the hardcovers hold up well for years. I maintain that the feel of a book is going to remain a wonderful thing for a good long while yet.
That said, I've bought several copies of my favorite books over the years. Top of the list is the Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, first bought in 3 volumes (twice), then in the omnibus (three times, one as a gift), and now I've located the PDF of the omnibus on the Baen site and purchased that. I recently got a Kindle as a gift, and it was dismaying to see that only the more recent novels have been Kindle-ized, but I know not everything can be available all the time. I have just purchased the two newest Paksworld novels in Kindle format, and my daughter owns them in hardcover.
My point, I guess, is that while it is best to keep getting new readers, and readers who buy, I believe that having both options, print and digital, available will be a good thing, and hopefully send more $ to the authors who labor for so long to produce something intricate and well-told for the rest of us to curl up with.
I salute your efforts, madam, and hope that the world as a whole continues to realize the value author/storytellers have in our lives.
Gretchen in Minneapolis
2011-09-16 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Books, in whatever format, are golden!
Gretchen, you do know that the Baen books can be used with Kindle by some hand-waving magic of theirs, don't you? This page, http://www.webscription.net/
explains how. All my Baen books but the short fiction collections are in e-book form from them (Remnant Population was taken by Del Rey after Baen let it go out of print, so they don't have the e-book of that one.)
TWITTER: For stalkers who can't afford the gasoline.
I don't think that's entirely fair...at least not if applied to those who merely disagree with the Twitter-ID-holder. Yes, there are Twitter stalkers, trolls, and hornet swarms, but I felt in this case the person and I simply disagreed strongly, and I had more background in what writers have been doing than the person had.
Ill buy in to the music industry parallel when I see Madison Square Garden sold out 20,000 seats for 4 day in a row for any writers readings @ $40 a seat and when people pay 19.99 for a Tshirt with that writes face on it and they get 45% (the money is in the merch)
Hell I dont think King, Gamin, and Meyers combined could sell out one night at those prices in those numbers and over and over 180 nights a year?
I've certainly paid more than $20 for a writer's T-shirt (though they actually have cover art on them - both are by Sarah Hoyt: Darkship Thieves and Draw One in the Dark).
Any chance of some eg Paks or Vatta T-shirts from (say) CafePress?
Well, I'll admit it. Most of the online fiction I read is fanfic. And there's a lot of it, and it's all free. Or at least all that I know about is free. I suppose there may be pay-to-join websites that present fanfic that you have to pay the gatekeeper to access, but I don't really know of any.
But like you say, it is *really* variable in quality, and it doesn't support the authors in any direct manner apart from egoboo. Although it's obvious that there are a number of fanfic writers who built up a tremendous following, and that following is probably a very real factor contributing to their ultimately going pro (which usually resulted in their fanfic being taken down on the advice of their publishers).
Plus, a lot of fanfic is written as a *community* activity, and that pays back in other coin than, well, coin.
I will also admit that I have dabbled in the field of ePublishing--as a purchaser, having aquired a handful of works (so far) from Book View Cafe. And I like that paradigm. I hope that it succeeds. I *like* being able to "subscribe" to a work for the price of a paperback back in the days that a paperback was affordable ($2-$4). I like being able to download the work in any of a selection of formats depending upon whether I'm going to be reading it on a Kindle or a Nook or in .pdf on my computer. I like that having subscribed to the work, it is there in my account so that if at some point I purchase a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad or whatever, I would be able to download a version that I can read of that instead of the .pdf (or in addition to, I've not asked since the issue hasn't come up yet).
But no, free is free. And giving anything away for free is only going to pay back in good will, and not always even in that. That works for fanfic, where a fanfic "exchange" is assured of producing a mutual love-fest for the participants, but it isn't a *business* model. Not even in Utopia.
No question that loss leaders work--merchants have used them for, um, centuries. But loss leaders were typically small samples of a larger work (or one small sausage or cut off the wheel of cheese or one berry from the grocer). The free chapters of a book--those were loss leaders. And both the amount and the time it was available were limited.
In terms of books, the "freebies" at conventions were loss leaders in the traditional sense. And special sales in bookstores.
But with the use of digital loss leaders, and the growth of free online fiction from non-pro writers, some of the public began to demand bigger (up to whole book) freebies, and then began to feel entitled to more and more free fiction. This was aided by the "information wants to be free" crowd, which unfortunately included some writers who--being paid for nonfiction--decided to see if they could get a "market" for their fiction by giving it away. And some of them then declared that in the future no one would be able to make a living writing fiction, so fiction writers should just quit trying and instead make money off of teaching--and academic writer model--or writing nonfiction--the journalist/blogger model.
Loss leaders work best for sellers and producers when the public understands that this is a singular occurrence and (in my view) when the "whole thing" is not free, but a lower price for a limited period of time and only the "sample piece" is free. And I saw this out of a background of experience in retail sales as a child. We "store kids" on Main Street in a small town were taught how merchandising works. We knew that loss leaders drive traffic to a store...but that survival depended on people buying more than the loss leader--depended on them buying other items at regular price, becuase the loss leaders were in fact a loss...sold below cost. So in the hardware store where I grew up, which also sold small kitchen appliances and kitchen wares, pie pans might be a loss leader ahead of Thanksgiving, but cake pans wouldn't be. And ahead of white-wing dove season, one size of ammunition might be a loss leader, but not all ammunition. The dry goods store might have washcloths as a loss leader, but the towels were regular price. (Though the "white sale" in January dropped prices on sheets and towels, prices weren't dropped to the loss leader level.)
Once the public starts expecting lower prices or freebies to exist all the time, on a broad range of items...when they think "loss leader" is the ideal model for selling anything...your sales are in trouble.
I'm quite happy to have a sample available for free--as a loss leader--but I want people to understand that anything beyond that is bad for both my publisher and for me. Which I know you do, so this is probably just preaching to the choir once again.