The arrival of Neptune Crossing in the Kindle store is part of a grand experiment, begun with my free downloads and continuing into the indefinite future. The business model of how to make a living as a writer has been shifting on a daily basis, it seems. Just selling to a publisher and waiting (and waiting) for the check doesn’t work anymore for most of us. (It never worked that well to begin with. Most of us have always had to do other work to pay the rent, whether by teaching, speaking, doing another kind of writing, or serving venti lattes.) But self-promotion, networking, blogging, ebooks, self-publishing—and on and on—have become increasingly important jags and peaks on the tectonic upheaval that we call “the writing life.”
Back in the good old days, when men were real men, and little furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were—no, wait, that’s Douglas Adams’s line. Back in the day, though, we used to be able to tell aspiring writers that self-publishing was for niche-marketers and losers, with the occasional “exception that proved the rule.” (Did that expression ever make sense?) That’s no longer so obviously true. Publishers Weekly has begun paying attention to self-published books, and if that isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is. One thing that has become obviously true is that more than a few established writers are going to their backlists and getting their out-of-print books back into circulation on their own through places like Amazon and Smashwords, or through newer companies that exist for this very purpose.
Here are some examples:
- Thriller writer J.A. Konrath, whose high-profile blog has described his success in self-publishing his early and o.p. novels, and now new work as well
- Bookview Café, a consortium of SF and fantasy writers, including Vonda McIntyre and Ursula K. LeGuin, marketing their own previously published books and stories
- Closed Circle, a collaborative run by CJ Cherryh, Lynn Abbey, and Jane Fancher to sell their o.p. SF and fantasy novels
- Diane Duane, self-publishing some of her own o.p. fantasy novels and marketing directly from her website
Count me in. Trying, in my own way to pick a path through this chaos, I’ve now managed to get all my novels, past and present, into ebook format—and some into print-on-demand trade paperback. But which path to take? I’ve taken the broadband approach. As of now, I have ebooks available through the following channels:
- Three ebooks from traditional publishers, with traditional royalties — priced at $6.99 – $9.99
- Nine ebooks from E-reads, at a higher royalty (50% of net) — priced at $9.99, but discounted in some stores
- Three ebooks released already or soon directly to Kindle (and eventually to other stores), at a 70% royalty — priced at $2.99
- One ebook free for the download on my website — not available for sale, but with Paypal donations encouraged
- Five of the books on sale are also available for free download in limited (2) or full (3) selection of ebook formats, Paypal donations encouraged
I haven’t made up my mind what to do about the free downloads. There’s no question they’ve increased my readership. There’s some question about whether they’re helping or hurting sales of the books that are for sale. The next six to twelve months, I hope, will be telling. What they tell, I’ll post here. (Not exact sales figures, probably, but trends.)
Wish me luck. And tell your friends!