Going on the Account: These Waters Be Full of Sharks…

So I’m reading io9 again (where I comment regularly, so if anyone wants to see me make a fool of myself in front of an even wider audience, grab the popcorn…) and come across this article about Peter Riley’s UNIVERSES.

What catches my eye about this is that here’s another author who is sharing his novel for free, an SF tale involving alternate universes.  The reason io9 gives this mention is that the author is offering prize money for readers that follow the tale and answer questions that he’s posting about the tome.

And before you ask, sorry, no; I got a family to feed in a bad slowly improving economy…

What strikes me about the piece are both the stated intents of the contests, and the commentary this has generated.  Riley has admitted that the main intent was to draw enough interest in the work through the giveaway / dialog that he hopes will “stir up interest on the Internet in order to get the book ultimately noticed and published.”

To which the commentators logging in at io9 with reactions to this state…  Well, having been to Mr. Riley’s London, ON, and met nothing but nice folk up there, I have to assume that none of these writers live in his postal code…

Frankly, it’s a nice idea, trying to get folks to draw enough eyes to monetize the work through having someone else get interested in republishing it, but it’s not likely.  Most publishers won’t do reprints of stuff that’s online, unless there’s a better gimmick than reader contests behind it.  Celebrity for a major endeavor comes to mind, which is easy to get if you star in a blockbuster film or blow up a city, both of which are harder than they sound…

And there’s also the whole question of audience fatigue to consider as well; would a reader shell out for a bound edition of the same work that’s been available for download?  Should a writer put his or her readers through that?

I’ve always been a big believer in giving the audience a reason to put up with you.  It was hearing that the Beatles were told to “Mak show!” in Hamburg, ultimately giving them the discipline and drive toward their later triumphs, that impressed on me the bonds that tie the artist and the audience, and it’s something I’ve never forgotten.

Which is why if this work comes out in a hard format, it will not just be printouts with a cover on them.  I may tighten the chapters from 300 one-pagers down to a more manageable few with the cliff hangers blended out to make the pieces into bigger chunks (and probably end up by doing that cut 15% or so of the word count).  I’d also try and add something that would not be on the site, like maps, deck plans, some other illustrative matter if some of the talented folk I know who are better artists than I can be intimidated convinced to contribute.

Then again, I could always stick to the other plan:  Offer this novel through this outlet, and be willing to provide other work for professional consideration to other outlets while using this as my “portfolio,” my proof of myself.

Your thoughts?  I’d love to hear them, and unlike Mr. Riley, I’m from New York, so don’t feel shy about saying what you want…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Going on the Account: These Waters Be Full of Sharks…

  1. esj

    whooboy this is one hell the problem will other people smarter than us (individually or combined) have been working on. I’ve been a fan of the phased release model. Free comes much later than the for fee release. The difference in time between fee and free depends on the value of the product. Fiction stories like ours have a maximum Delta of probably six months. I’d start out with two or three, see how subscriptions go and then slowly stretch it out if subscription warrant.

    another consideration might be improvements in delivery or information presentation. For example, a desktop application that is your whole book as you have purchased/acquired to date. Every time a new page/chapter/whatever is released, it is incorporated into the book. This is clearly a one-way transfer of book ownership. Copy to reader and, properly designed, the publisher has no say over whether or not the reader has the book. One cadet additional features such as validation codes to prove that the book is truly the official copy not something that’s been altered (think religious fanatics removing something they consider objectionable). The book application can also include some form of social networking features.

    But that’s just an idea that you may or may not want to play with. I’m try to figure out how I can implement it without going broke but that’s another story.

    I should disclose that none of my stories have seen the light of the net although I have one that’s really close 🙂 and I’ve had the good sense to not expose a bunch of them that really aren’t ready for prime time. need to spend more time with a review fuse.

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