Playing around with online publishing ideas

I'm thinking of trying a small publishing experiment when I have the time. First, some background.

About twenty years ago, a fellow author, member of the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle (from whence came myself, Hal Duncan, William King and Michael Cobley amongst others) and one-time contributor to Interzone known as Fergus Bannon wrote a pretty decent sf thriller called Judgment.

He sent it off to a couple of agents or publishers, got it sent back, then shelved it forever. He hasn't written anything since. There's nothing wrong with his writing - he'd been published, as I say, in Interzone, and I think had one or two stories in a couple of other places, including a reprint of that Interzone story in the Shipbuilding paperback anthology our writer's circle put out for the Glasgow '95 worldcon.

Eventually I asked to read it some years back and really, really liked it. It turned out one reason he'd given up trying to push it was that much of the story - in his eyes - was dependent on the politics of the late Eighties. He had the bad luck to write a very near-future thriller only a year or two before the Berlin Wall came tumbling down. Then Mandela was freed from prison, and the international political climate underwent some severe shifts away from the background of his story.

After reading it sometime in the early 00's I felt that it wouldn't take much work to rejig it to get past some of the more out of date references, and with his prompting that's exactly what I did a few years back. Then I got busy with my own writing for Tor and had to put it down for a while. I was driven by the feeling that if Ferg's book never got read by anyone else, it would be a terrible shame.

Since then, however, ebooks have come up in the world in a big way and now I'm beginning to think it's time to actually do something with the damn thing. Professional publishing deals are out of the question, because it's a one-off by nature: Fergus isn't likely to do any more fiction writing. But I need to give it one more go-over edit-wise to incorporate some comments, and then I'm going to think about putting it up under his name on ebook sites like Smashwords.

The only real problem I see is that I can't see myself having much time to spend on promoting it or persuading people to read it, let alone let them know it even exists: it may be that about ten people will download it in total and that's it. And since the aim here isn't necessarily to actually make a profit, the best way to do things as I see it is a combination of a)selling it at a low, low price, based on online recommendations on various ebook-related forums: b)simultaneously give it away for free: and c) trying to persuade various other bloggers to mention it on their own sites if at all humanly possible.

At some point soon-ish, I'll post the first chapter up here. Any other thoughts on a suitable plan of attack?


Bob Lock said...

If he wanted a few printed copies for family and friends then tell him (or you) check out Createspace which is part of Amazon. I had a novella lying around for ages which a few people had read and asked for a printed version of but I couldn't get anyone to publish it and so gave Createspace a try. It worked a treat and about 30 copies went in the first month (I doubt many more will sell 'cos that's just about exhausted my list of family and friends!)
They also do an electronic version in the price and for a 180 page novella it didn't cost too much. Email me if you want a cost breakdown.

You can check out the quality of it on Amazon.com ('A cloud of madness' -- it has read inside) BTW, by quality I mean book production - not writing :)

Smashwords is good too but I found it hard to check how the various formats converted from the original .doc as I don't have Kindle etc. I wonder if you can get an emulator?

The other method to think about is Issuu, which I told you about before, it's a page flipping format and pretty, very pretty. Not sure if you can sell through it though, the stuff I have on there is free.


Anonymous said...

Damn, I was gonna suggest Blurb.com - my buddy Stewart (we`ve been mates since high school, when we wuz 12) recently did me a coffeetable book of photos that he has of me going back to 1975! (a pretty good 50th b/day present). And then I read this and thought, yes, wow, this is the way to go!

As Bob above has suggested. And theres Lulu as well. And yes, I know I was supposed to read Judgement over a while back, but...got buried under the work on Orphaned Worlds.

So whaddya think?

Anonymous said...

Have you looked at Fictionwise?

RFYork said...

I guess the answer to your question depends on what you intend to do with potential eBooks. Are you planning to sell them? Or, offer a time sensitive free download? Or a CC type free download of the whole book?

In addition to the options mentioned above, you could post chapters on your website. You could offer chapters through one or more of the most prominent SF/F websites; IO9, SFSite, SFSignal and many others.

I think you probably need to do some strategic planning/thinking around your ambitions. Where do you want your writing career to be in 5, 10 or 20 years (5 is probably the most realistic)?

You are blessed to be living and writing in a period where there are so many options available to you.

Personally, I'd love to see some early chapters. Anywhere you want to post them.

Gary Gibson, science fiction writer said...

Bob - if you download Sony's ebook library software, that'll give you a very good emulation of an ebook's appearance on a Sony Reader. Given it's effectively the same screen in pretty much all the e-ink devices (I own a Sony), what you'll see is probably much like the end result (except where epub is concerned - that appears ragged right on a Sony, but can be justified - or so I believe - in other hardware.

I'll have to check out CreateSpace, thanks for that. Issuu is neat, but better, I think, for viewing magazines online or casual browsing. A magazine like Black Static might look pretty good there.

Thanks for the tip about Blurb.com, Mike (shit! you're 50?!? That means I must be - sob). It looks pretty good. I'm wondering if it might be worth printing a single one-off 'proof' copy of Judgment to pass around people back in Glasgow that I can maybe get behind this, since it would be a lot easier to look at than viewing on a monitor. I seem to vaguely recollect that it's so cheap now you can in fact get single copies made up.

If you do get the time to check it out, Mike, I'd appreciate it. Lulu.com is one I'm certainly aware of.

Jim - aware of Fictionwise, spent a scary amount of money there since I bought a Sony 505. I'll have to check out their policy on what books they carry - they have restrictions to weed out the majority of the dodgier self-published stuff, I think, whereas Smashwords has no such restrictions. But I may be talking through a hole in my head until I actually check it out.

RF - I think you're missing the point here slightly. This is a one-off experiment with someone else's book, not mine, although I had a hand in editing it to update it a bit. i09 and the like ain't gonna be my route for Ferg's book.

Whether I publish my own stuff electronically is something I might think about one day, but only as a distant sideline to my professional career.

As for Baz's book, the point is that I haven't made up my mind how to sell it, though there are at least some ideas formulating in my mind.