...given how much time I spend with my babies, I'm sorely tempted to try and fit some sort of anal thermometer joke in here, but I'll refrain from doing so.
This post is mostly a question.
I've long wanted to put together a collection of my short fiction, but I'd always assumed this was something I would do via a traditional (if, perhaps, small) 'dead-tree' publisher -- and only *after* my novel was out, and my 'name' was (hopefully) a bigger draw than it is now. I'm now rethinking this approach in light of some interesting projects by Jim Hines, Tobias Buckell, and Mur Lafferty. I'm considering collecting my published short fiction, nearly all of which is already available online for free, with a couple of unpublished short stories and perhaps even some poetry.
Now. The fact is, like lots of people these days, I'm in a pretty cash-strapped spot right now. So optimum monetization is a prime consideration here. Thus this would frankly be a business move as much as an experimental labor of love. With that in mind, here's a nowhere-near-exhaustive list of questions for the hive as I think on this:
- Do you think people will people pay for the convenience of having material that's available elsewhere for free gathered into an attractive e-format? - If not,do you think the 'added bonus' of, say, two new stories would sway them? What if these stories (and/or ::shudder:: poetry) were a marked departure from a writer's usual style? - What is your ideal price point for an ebook short story collection? - What formats matter to you? - Do you find Kickstarter campaigns by writers inherently repellent/presumptuous? - What 'perks' in a Kickstarter campaign work for you? Limited editions? Tuckerizations?
I'm sure there are other questions I should be asking here - I don't know enough to know what I don't know, you dig? Thoughts/advice/warnings, etc. would be very much appreciated.
We've been chewing over these questions at Book View Cafe, but are still in the experimental stage about epubbing single short stories and collections. Not much data yet, other than that collections and individual shorts are selling more slowly than novels. We think.
I used AnthologyBuilder to put together a collection (that is, I submitted a whole bunch of stories, then used their format to POD the collection). They gave me a quantity discount, but it was mainly for publicity and gifts, so even then, I didn't make much money.
There's been a lot of great discussion about this at Codex, you might want to check it out.
Here's my personal take:
The e-book idea is a good one. You can publish it and sell it for as long as you want. Your chance of getting some long-term return is better than going through a small publisher for a print run (which will almost certainly be a one-time affair).
But don't expect lot up front. You are trading some quick cash (an advance) for a much larger return later. You will probably see a nice sales bump when the first book from DAW is released and new fans search for other work.
Use the $2.99 to $9.99 Amazon sweet spot for 70% royalties.
- Do you think people will people pay for the convenience of having material that's available elsewhere for free gathered into an attractive e-format?
Yes, if the cost is reasonable. Also, not all readers know where to look. If it is available on Amazon, they will find it.
- If not,do you think the 'added bonus' of, say, two new stories would sway them? What if these stories (and/or ::shudder:: poetry) were a marked departure from a writer's usual style?
That will help attract interest. Even for print collections I buy I like to see new material. Two stories is good. Poems are bonus.
But for the reader who doesn't read online, it is all new material.
- What is your ideal price point for an ebook short story collection?
The lower the better. I would start at $2.99 and you can raise the price over time. Getting some early sales is important so that the book gets some sales numbers. (Note: this is my take on the market, not my personal price point)
- What formats matter to you?
I would recommend going with Kindle, iBooks and Nook, in that order.
- Do you find Kickstarter campaigns by writers inherently repellent/presumptuous?
Is this question related? I would find it extremely unusual for a colletion of previously-written stories that is going to be sold as an e-book.
If you're talking about original work, I think Kickstarter is a great system.
BTW, a while back we'd talked about how traditional publishers are handling ebooks re: 'going out of print' - the answer (at least in my case, and I think this is becoming industry standard) is that if X number of years go by without your ebook having sold X number of copies, it's considered 'out of print' and rights revert.
I would probably buy your collection either way :)
That said, I think with your book coming out relatively soon, it might be advantageous to you to hold out for the dead tree copy, depending on how much you think a publisher would pay you for it. (Which, I suppose, is a whole other slew of questions.)
Adding several unpublished stories is a big plus for me. I'm not sold on a "marked departure," though. I'd personally want new stories that feel like new Saladin Ahmed stories - because the other stories of yours I've read are the reason I'll buy your collection :)
$2.99 for a collection of shorts is a real sweet spot for me. Much more than $5-6 would be pushing it for writers I'm not as sold on. Obviously, *I'm* sold on you - but my buddy might not be so much. (And since short stories are such a niche, I'd say the lower you can manage, the better.)
I'm not so sure about Kickstarter for this, or for most books/ebooks. It worked for Mur, but Mur's been doing so much podcasting for so many years and has such a big, built-in audience, it makes more sense for her, IMO. But YMMV.
It probably goes without saying, but I don't think you'll have the level of success Mur's having, which would be my only other real hesitancy suggesting the Kindle/self-publish route. Through podcasting, she's published 6 novellas, and a novel. Her audience is built in, and continually growing. I'd conservatively guess through all the different stuff she's doing, she's got 35,000 listeners per week. (The Force is strong in her.) Which is not meant to disuade you from doing it. Just mentioning some of the differences.
Anyway, that's all I've got. Thanks for posting this - I've been thinking about it a lot myself.
I don't have answers to all your questions, but here are responses to a couple of them:
Re buying a collection of available-elsewhere-for-free stories: I bought the BCS antho, not exactly for convenience (although that is nice) but as a form of support for a worthy cause. I'd be inclined to buy a collection from an individual author if it were priced below 2.99 and included some new material.
Kindle is the only ebook format that matters to me; beyond that, HTML or PDF or anything that can be read on a laptop works.
I'll be interested to see what you decide to do. These are interesting times for authors, who now get to (or have to) make decisions undreamed of by our forebears of 10 years or so ago.
I do find Kickstarter campaigns tacky at best and ethically questionable at worst. A little less so for writers than, say, the local wine shop-to-be, but nonetheless.
But yeah, I'd pay a little to have a conveniently packaged compendium of a writer's work handy, especially with a bonus story or two. How much/what formats I don't really know b/c I have not joined the e-reader bandwagon quite yet.
I'd buy it--having it all in a package, and knowing you were getting some dough out of it, would be good enough reason for me. I'd consider going the same route.
As for Kickstarter--yes, it can annoy. It had that uncomfortable feel of spam-from-friends. Then again, that's somewhat temperamental. I also don't care for it much when I get a "Yourfriend Likes Themselves on Facebook, and Thinks you should Like it Too!" Just another thing to delete, you know?
Kickstarter is cool, but it isn't the only way to get money upfront. Consider straight pre-sales. Will help you judge how much demand there is, and if there is demand, will help with the up front costs. Of course, then you need a mechanism for taking and tracking pre-sales. I wonder if there is a service designed specifically for that.