As you may or shortly will know, I have resumed work on The Victorius Revolution, the novella-turned-novel I started last summer for the Clarion Write-a-thon. It’s been really quite liberating, for a lot of different reasons. First of all, I had already charted some of the plot as backstory to a different novel, and I had spent a little time with the protagonist in earlier drafts of that novel, so I wasn’t starting from scratch with all that. Second, the story itself marks a return to a very comfortable form for me, a sort of thinking man’s action movie, after a couple of years of experimenting with different voices and genres and formats, all of which was very helpful in terms of growing as a writer but was also very hard, as I was doing things that come less naturally to me than some other things. Third, and perhaps most important, when I started the project I gave myself license to relax and have fun with it and really just cut loose, to write the thing in my own voice, if that makes any sense.
Best of all, I’m pleased with the results. And I’ve decided to take the plunge and self-release it when it’s finished.
Nobody really knows what’s up with the future of publishing. I’ve done a fair bit of reading and thinking about it (Kristine Katherine Rusch in particular has been extremely helpful), and while I’m not above going the traditional publishing route should that avenue offer itself, I think the distribution tools that are available to writers nowadays are sufficiently game-changing that it’s worth it to roll the dice and self-release as an indie author.
So here’s my plan:
1) Release it for free on my (or its own subsidiary) website.
If there’s one thing the internet has taught us, it’s that people want stuff for free. I’m cool with that. If someone wants to read my work but can’t (or even doesn’t want to) pay for it, that’s okay by me. As long as they’re not infringing on my intellectual property rights, whoever wants to can read my book with my blessing.
The thing is, I don’t think most people are going to want to read a novel-length fictional work on a computer screen. What I’m hoping is that people will start reading it there, out of curiosity and because it doesn’t cost anything, and will like the story well enough to buy it in a more comfortable-to-read format.
Between those two, I can reach dozens of markets catering to every conceivable e-reader. At three bucks a pop, it’s cheap enough for an impulse buy, but since the royalties are so much higher I still get a not-insignificant quantum of money for the e-copy.
I don’t think e-readers will make paper books obsolete, but I do think they are the future in terms of casual reading. Bibliophiles will still want a copy to keep on the bookshelf, but there are plenty of readers who don’t care about that at all and find a physical copy of a book to be an inconvenience after they’ve read it. Plus they save trees, and I like trees. Everybody likes trees.
3) Run a limited printing of trade paperbacks.
This I need to figure out how to do, and may come a little further down the road than the previous two. It will also, unlike the previous two, cost some money. I may try and fundraise for this, or save up whatever proceeds come my way from e-book sales, but I would like to have physical copies of the book, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand.
The first reason for this is the obvious one: I’d like to be able to sell them, and to give copies to friends and mentors and other writers. I imagine them costing in the neighborhood of ten dollars. It’s my understanding that at the scale I’m talking about, the copies are maybe two or three dollars a pop, which gives me a not unreasonable margin on whatever copies I manage to sell.
The second reason is that I’d like to designate a couple dozen copies as itinerant or pass-along books, with the notion that once you finished reading it, you would give it to someone you thought might like it. Maybe there’ll be a card in there where you can write your name in it if you want to. I think it’d be cool to just set some copies loose and see where they end up (or, as is more likely, never really know where they end up, but be able to fantasize and daydream about it forevermore).
4) Audio/podcast serialization of the story.
Another thing I need to learn about, but that seems within my grasp. I have lots of friends with recording equipment, thanks to my years as a music venue bartender, so production of professional-grade recordings of me reading it should be easy enough to make happen, and while it might cost me a little money I don’t think it’ll be that much.
After all, there are some people who really like stories, but don’t really like reading. I am happy to read it for them.
The idea is to break it up into 20-30 minute episodes, which I’ll serialize for free as part of the rollout, and then sell as podcasts later, with the first few episodes free, then $.25 an episode after that or $2.99 for the whole thing, broken up into commute-friendly chunks timed to the many cliffhangers and natural breaks in the story. Depending on how many there are, I’ll release them two or three times a week, aiming for the whole thing to take about a month.
5) Promotion and rollout.
That’s the tricky thing, innit? After all, not that many people know who I am.
Besides the legitimacy of having a gatekeeper’s stamp on your work, this is another big plus to going the traditional route, and a potentially serious stumbling block to the route that I’m taking. How does an indie author get the word out?
Well, in my case, for a start I’ve got 1100 facebook friends (many, even most, of whom are also actual friends), this website, and a small but respectable network of semi-pro to professional speculative fiction writers and editors that I can hit up for signal boost. With luck a few of them will even want to read it.
As for the order of events, I think for the initial rollout I’ll serialize it both online and via podcast for free. The plan is to release the e-pub version soon after, if not simultaneous with the initial rollout. That way people who decide they’re into it can go ahead and read the whole thing at their own pace. I’m considering offering the e-pub version for $.99 or possibly even free during this period. I’d like to have physical copies by then, too, but I suspect they’ll come afterward, if for no other reason than it’ll be a good excuse to do another round of promotion without being too overly obnoxious.
As for the promotion itself, my plan is to make the information available without being obnoxious about it, mostly via this website and the occasional facebook update. As things draw closer I’ll start making a bit more noise, and then amp things up right before the rollout date, whenever that is. After all, I still have to finish and edit the thing, though I expect to be done with the bulk of that within a month or two.
So there it is. What do you think? Comments are eagerly solicited from any- and everyone who has any light to shed. This is semi-charted territory at best, and there is almost certainly a great deal I haven’t thought of. I am, after all, making this shit up as I go.