Selling Science Fiction Books in 2005

I’m finding the aftermath commentary to the Stupidity of Worrying About Online Piracy very interesting; apparently this subject is something people are thinking about, particularly for its long-term implications, much of which boils down to: Being willing to not worry about online piracy may work now, today, in 2005, when people are still lugging around those laughably obsolete objects known as “books.” But what happens in a couple of years when the literary equivalent of the iPod hits the market, and physical books become a thing of the past, and the only copies of everything are digital — and some pirate has your entire canon of work uploaded in the P2P networks? How will you make money then? You won’t be so happy about all that piracy then, will you? Where is your God now, Mr. I-Don’t-Worry-About-Piracy monkey boy? Huh? Huh? Huh?

You know, these are all really fascinating questions, and I’m sure at the next WorldCon or other science fiction convention I’m at I’ll be on a panel discussing these things with other folks, and we’ll all be very interesting and thought-provoking on the matter, and who knows, maybe something we say won’t be completely full of crap. However — and I want to be very clear on this, so allow me to use some profanity to bring the point home — in a very real and fundamental sense, I don’t fucking care. Right now, it’s 2005, I’ve got one science fiction book published and two more coming in the next twelve months, and my primary concern is selling those books in the here and now. Today I am looking for ways to get my writing in front of people, perchance to convince these fine people to purchase that writing.

Pursuant to that, the following data points.

1. Old Man’s War has been out for six months and despite what I am told are very positive sales for a first-time unknown writer, not once has it been available at my local bookstore, whose science fiction/fantasy section is jammed into a corner of the store as it is, well outside the main traffic pattern, and is confined to one and a half shelves, of which three-quarters of one shelf is reserved for Star Wars/Star Trek/Tolkien crap. This one bookstore serves its town, and the towns directly north and south of it. So effectively, my book is not physically available anywhere in a 30-mile radius from my home — except at my local library, to which I donated a copy. Yes, I live in rural America, but not everything in that 30-mile radius is rural.

2. Anecdotally, I hear my book is hard to find in bookstores, period; this is partly a reflection of its strong sales (i.e., when it is in a bookstore, it doesn’t stay long) and partly (I suspect) a reflection of Tor’s printing strategy for the book, which has been of multiple small printings (the largest being the first printing of 3,800 copies), that keep Tor from having an overprint situation for a new, untested author (which is to say \you probably shouldn’t count on finding the hardcover of Old Man’s War on the remainder table. Sorry). I can’t and don’t fault Tor’s logic here — the last thing I want as a new author is my publisher having rather more copies of the book than it can sell — but the regrettable side effect of this is that people can’t browse a book that’s not on the bookstore shelves.

3. The Kroger supermarket nearest me, whose (actually fairly extensive) book section functions as the bookstore for its town, not only doesn’t stock my book, it doesn’t stock science fiction at all, and aside from Harry Potter and Eragon (good job Christopher Paolini!), no fantasy, either. Not stocking my book is entirely not surprising (remember: first-time unknown SF writer in hardback), but not stocking any science fiction or fantasy at all? What the hell? For comparison, the store is generously stocked with romances, contemporary thillers, and westerns. Yes, westerns. You thought that genre was dead, didn’t you. Surprise! The Wal-Mart and Meijer near me have remarkably similar stocking patterns.

What do these data points tell me? Clearly, that I shouldn’t expect people to discover my book in the conventional ways, because the book isn’t there. Now, some or all of these issues may be alleviated when the book goes to softcover; the reason Tor bought the book, as I’ve noted before, was that it believes that this is the sort of book that can crack the “no SF in supermarkets” barrier, because — yes, we can admit it here among friends — it’s a Heinlein-esque adventure without all that scary edgy stuff, and maybe you can shove that next to the Clancys and the Grishams and sell it. If it were a car, it’d be a Chevy, and I see a fair amount of Cheveys in the Kroger parking lot. So we’ll see. But that’s tomorrow, and this is today.

In terms of promotion, well, I would love to promote Old Man’s War in the Old School ways. I’m not a snob, and I’m not stupid — there’s an incredible amount of promotional power in “old media.” Way back when, when I met my editor at Tor for the first time, he asked me if there were any media I thought the publicity department should approach for the book. You know the first place I suggested? AARP Magazine. Because the book’s about an older American, and the magazine has a subscriber roll of 21 million. It doesn’t get much more old school than AARP Magazine, and I’d be a friggin’ moron not to put the book in front of that audience. I still want to, hint, hint, Tor publicity department. But again: new writer, writing science fiction. I have been absolutely blessed with reviews in the Washington Post, in the Cleveland Plain-Dealer and in Entertainment Weekly, and it’s a minor miracle I got those (not withstanding AARP Magazine, Tor’s publicity folks rock). Most science fiction writers, even the established ones — and even the good established ones — would be happy with that. Right now, this is what I have to work with in terms of the Old School presence.

New School, I have options. I have this Web site, which pulls down some nice visitor numbers; I have the AOL Journal, which does the same. I have had good press from prominent bloggers, whose recommendations have translated into real sales with aclarity, because their readers trust their recommendations. Right now, there is no downside in letting someone go onto Amazon and reading as much of the book as Amazon lets them — they are on Amazon, after all, and one does typically go to the Amazon site to buy things. The chances of turning a sale there are good, and inasmuch as we’ve already established looking at a physical copy is difficult, this is the next best thing. There is no downside in offering an entire novel’s worth of writing for free on my own site; why not let people get a feel for my style? If you like Agent chances are pretty good you’ll like Old Man’s War; it’s a different set-up and story, but, well, I’m me, and for better or worse, that’s how I write.

Will these methods work in the future? Don’t know. And, mostly, don’t care, because they’re working now, and now is the timeframe I need to sell my book in. I don’t doubt that a dozen years from now, getting my books out to readers — and making money from them — will require different things and take on a different form than it does now, since among other things most of the ways I’m promoting my books now didn’t exist a dozen years ago. But here are a couple things I expect to be true in 2017: That people will still want to be amused by creative types, and that the more enterprising members of that class will have found new and exciting ways of extracting money out of people who wish to be entertained. As so long as I’m not dead or somehow deeply mentally damaged between now and 2017, I expect to be in the latter camp. I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, I’m happy to do what works.

39 thoughts on “Selling Science Fiction Books in 2005

  1. I think the notion that your opponents are missing is that the constraining factor is not storage, but the publications channel and the shopping channel. I’ll grant them the bits vs atoms argument, but even if you copied every book in the known universe, plus every book that will be published in the next ten years onto an ipod, I’d still have the challenge of finding the good stuff, and finding the time to read it.

    I’m confident that you and your publishers will find a way to charge me money for helping me to find your books. [I suspect that the publishing industry will have to experience an anal craniectomy in the process, but that's what economics is all about.]

    Thanks for the book, and thanks for thinking straight about the whole intellectual property issue.

    And thanks for sending the book to the troops – a classy guesture which I respect.

  2. I’ve looked for your books in a few bookstores in PDX on occasion, and have never found them. But have seen them on amazon, of course. Although I’ll sometimes browse the bookstores and find something I want, lately the books I have wanted were internet finds that I’ve either ordered online or went and found at the bookstore later. I also find myself to be only purchasing books on amazon with the “look inside” option or that I have read excerpts of on a website somewhere. So, yeah, I think it is worth promoting and sampling books online. I have yet to read a whole book online though.

  3. John, if you don’t mind indulging my curiousity: have you ever tried to schedule a “meet the author” thing at your local bookstore?

  4. What is the point of selling the book in hardback if the paperback would sell so much better? What about having just the one small hardcover printing and immediately release the next printings in paperback? I know there are very few books I would buy in hardback.
    I actually found Old Man’s War via Instapundit and put it on my wishlist so I could remember to get it when it came out in paperback. I only got the hard back version because my relatives use my wishlist for birthday gift ideas.
    I loved the book, but could have waited for paperback for an “unknown” SF author. I can’t say the same for Ghost Brigades.

  5. I found out about your book, Old Man’s War, not thru a bookstore, but thru Amazon’s Book Recommendations, because I spent the time adding my favorite books and then rating them on Amazon’s website. Because I’m picky about what I read, I knew that if a populated my favorites in the Amazon site, they would use their business intelligence algorithms to find other authors I would be interested it, but probably would have only found via word of mouth (btw, I do the same thing for music). Then I go thru Amazon’s suggestions and make sure to go thru them all, weed out stuff I would obviously not like, add the promising ones to my wishlist, and leave the rest alone (for review at a later time). When I’m looking for my next book, I hit my Amazon wishlist, grab an ISBN and then surf over to the Borders site and see if they have a copy in my local store. If they have it, I’ll stop by and pick it up. Otherwise, it is back to Amazon, place the order, and then wait for it to show up (I usually then buy a couple items from Amazon, like CDs, a computer game or maybe a tech book (which my local book stores seem to never have the right tech books)).

    For your book,, I like the info found on Amazon, and then went out and Googled your name, and found your website. Once I read some of the site, I knew I want to buy the book, and did me normal routine. In your case, I couldn’t find the book locally, so I bought it thru Amazon. I live in suburban New Jersey, and I’ve yet to find a copy of Old Man’s War in any of the big book stores I hit (since I have a bunch of friends that are authors of tech books, I’m use to looking in bookstores to see if they have their book).

    Now, I’m a systems architect/developer who works pretty closely with Microsoft, and from what we have both seen, the total elimination of paper is not going to happen any time soon. There are 2 major stumbling blocks, the form factor, and the display quality. Reading text on a computer is not easy on the eyes (although things like ClearText fonts have really helped) so a small screen is a major deterrent (think PDAs), but if you make form factor too large, people don’t want to lug them around (think laptops). The slate form factor for TabletPCs is currently the closest thing to a perfect mix, but try spending a week reading all your books/magazines/mail/etc. on it and you will realize that paper still has digital beat.

  6. “What is the point of selling the book in hardback if the paperback would sell so much better?”

    Well, for one, because there’s money to be made in it. For another, it serves as an advertisement for the paperback version of the book, just as the theatrical release of a movie serves as an advertisement of the DVD for the people who won’t see it in the theater. The hardback doesn’t hurt paperback sales and in fact helps them, so it’s a good deal for publishers, even if the hardback sales are modest compared to the paperback sales.

  7. Another reason for the hardcover is because very few newspapers and magazines review paperbacks. If you collect enough good blurbs from qualified reviewers, you can turn them around and use them to promote the trade paperback edition (which I’m planning on buying; my wife wants to read OMW but can’t stand ebooks).

    BTW, John, AARP is a surprising choice for promotion, but it makes perfect sense. That’s the generation that was brought up on Asimov, Heinlein and the rest, and they would embrace OMW. Plus, they’ve got the money to afford the hardcover.

  8. There’s something about a book that a computer can’t emulate. Until they make e-books that FEEL like real ones, I doubt I’d make the switch. There’s just something about a book, especially an old one, that excites a person. The e-book just couldn’t have that “THIS IS REAL” aura about it.

  9. For me, the reasons I bought Old Man’s War was a) because I read Agent to the Stars online and liked it, and b) I was able to read the part of OMW available at Amazon.

    I read most of Agent on my BlackBerry – so much for the theory that people won’t read books on a PDA…

  10. “John, if you don’t mind indulging my curiousity: have you ever tried to schedule a ‘meet the author’ thing at your local bookstore?”

    I once contacted the local bookstore in question to see if they might be interested in doing something where people call in an order and I would autograph the book, and then they’d ship it — the idea being that I’d be able to help out the local bookstore with a couple dozen sales or such, and it would be a convenient way to deal with autographing, since I go to the bookstore anyway. They were pretty uninterested in it; the person with whom I had the conversation I had on the phone didn’t seem to think it would be worth the trouble. I got the distinct impression they thought they were dealing with an author in a Publish America-like situation, in which they would be unable to return copies or whatever.

    Now I do have an author event coming up — it’s at a Sam’s Club to promote Book of the Dumb 2.

  11. You probably noticed already, but . . . Fantasy & Science Fiction gave you a nice write-up in their June issue. I understand they have a few readers. (Me, I just get F&SF so I can steam each month — What! ANOTHER Robert Reed story???)

  12. I did notice — I wrote something about it a week or so back. Very pleased with the review, naturally.

  13. I have had good press from prominent bloggers, whose recommendations have translated into real sales with aclarity, because their readers trust their recommendations.

    Yeah,this is a powerful tool. I know when I did a write-up for your book on my blog,it sent literally tens of people your way! :)

    All kidding aside, I was discussing the power of the blogger with some friends the other day and the general consensus was that blogging is quickly becoming the greatest buzz machine…ever. There are blogs in the er…blogosphere that get more traffic than some T.V. commercials.

    I would take an army of bloggers over an “old school” marketing team anyday.

  14. John H mentions that he read most of Agent on his Blackberry device and draws the conclusion “so much for the theory that people won’t read books on a PDA.”

    Except that he’s committing the logical fallacy of confusing anecdotal data for statistical data. Certainly, there are folks who can and will read books in electronic format over print format. But let’s take a look at the market impact of these types of devices. Comapred to the broad market of book readers, there’s not enough of them. You can’t assume that people who have readers are all willing to use them as their primary reading device. Heck, all of my geek friends who *do* use those devices use them to supplement regular books, not to replace. They use them in situations like reading on the bus, or during breaks at work, where the bulk of having multiple books can be a disadvantage. They don’t whip out the ol’ PDA and read everything on it as a matter of first choice.

    Any arguments that books are going away soon are flat-out naive. They’re an incredibly value-packed format for data exchange. Sure, they’re not re-usable, but who cares? Certainly not the majority of the reading public. I can use them without batteries, indoors, outdoors, without having to hard or soft reset them, without having to worry about whether the publisher is offering them in a format compatible with my reader, without having to troubleshoot synchronization. The publisher offloads all that potential wasted time and energy and offers me a value-packed bundle of data. Until ebooks become that easy, they’ll never be that ubiquitous.

  15. Take it from someone that has invested large dollars – and lost them – in the “e-book” market, the usage model of sitting with a bound book in a nice easy chair is not going the way of the dodo anytime soon. Will people read on small screen devices? Sure. Will the masses do it to the exclusion of the “enjoying a good book” experience? Not anytime soon.

    I came by Old Man’s War while browsing about the scifi writing blog-o-sphere; being a huge fan of early Heinlein (Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress in particular) I trundled on over to Amazon and snagged a copy.

    I know you don’t need validation from me, but you’re going to get it anyway! Your’re leverage of multiple media outlets to drive traditional AND online book sales is a smart play. The notion of publishing a book, putting it on-shelf and waiting for folks to find it is nuts in today’s world.

    Worrying about losing out to piracy via ipod like ebook readers is nuttier still.

    BTW, OMW is the best fiction I’ve read in years. I read a lot… currently blowing through Kevin J. Anderson’s new Forrest of Stars trilogy like Grant through Richmond; the comedic edge of your style made OMW stand apart. I’m looking forward to more.

  16. I definately do not live in rural america. I live outside of Chicago in a hihgly populated suburban area. Notwithstanding this, I have never seen your book at either Borders or Barnes & Noble on any occasion that I stopped there.

  17. As a reader who loves gadgets I cannot see books going the way of the dodo either. At the risk of sounding crass (oh what the hey) would you really want to risk your ereader in the bathroom? I wouldn’t. Also, there is a certain romance to reading a nicely bound book. And what would I put in my library?

  18. Scalzi to Critics: Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a *#$#@

    Author John Scalzi responds to critics regarding his blog posting that he isn’t worried about ebook infringement (Selling Science Fiction Books in 2005). His response?:However — and I want to be very clear on this, so allow me to use…

  19. The author as willy loman

    Douglas Clegg has been writing about his marketing plans for his upcoming Vampire novel and has moved on to the next stage: the eBay auction.

    A look at the

  20. As someone who lives in a small apartment, with at least half my “library” in storage units (including many in my parents’ mini warehouse, 500 miles away), I say bring on the e-books. I’d be willing to sacrifice a lot of the look and feel of dead-trees books for portability and compactness. With models like the Sony Librie starting to come on the market, I’d say we could have some pretty good readers available by the end of the decade. That is, if the manufacturers and publishers don’t cripple them with too-restrictive DRM (like Sony’s 60-day self-destruct), which may bring us back to Scalzi’s original point.

  21. Devin says: “Any arguments that books are going away soon are flat-out naive.”

    I sure hope you’re right. I love books. The look, feel and smell of them. All those things contribute to the experience of reading. I wouldn’t be the same if I had to read a book on an electronic device.

    John says: “Now I do have an author event coming up — it’s at a Sam’s Club…”

    Mary Higgins Clarke has been at our local upscale super market (Wegmans) for a book signing. My Mom first met her and had her book signed at a “Price Club” (which I think is now Costco). If this is how main stream authors are getting in front of the public now – you’re doing just fine!

  22. I read most of Agent on my BlackBerry – so much for the theory that people won’t read books on a PDA…

    I’m one of the lucky ones who paid their buck-fifty for OMW before Tor bought it, and I read it on my Palm.

    Same with all the David Weber and Eric Flint I have read.

  23. I just want to know, was the year 2017 picked for the Billy Joel reference? I grew up in a house on 2017 Eugene Street, and got a kick out of sharing the same obscure number with that song (“Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway”).

  24. More data points from your local market. The Dayton area has 5 large bookstores (1 Borders, 2 Barnes & Nobles, 1 Books & Co, 1 Books-a-Million). I regularly shop the first 4 of those locations, and I’ve only ever seen one copy of OMW – the copy I bought. Despite being a fan, I wouldn’t have spent the money if I hadn’t had a chance to browse through the book and assure myself that it would hold my interest. Tor needs to get those books into the stores!

    Also, when you did the book signing at the local B&N for Book of the Dumb, the staff did not realize when I asked that you were the same John Scalzi who wrote Old Man’s War. I wonder if there are any cross-promotional opportunities, or if you simply have to develop an identity in each genre independently.

  25. Scott Spielberg:

    “I just want to know, was the year 2017 picked for the Billy Joel reference?”

    No, it was picked because it’s a dozen years from now. I like Billy Joel, but not quite enough to bend my writing to accomodate an obscure reference.

    Tony Dismukes:

    “Also, when you did the book signing at the local B&N for Book of the Dumb, the staff did not realize when I asked that you were the same John Scalzi who wrote Old Man’s War. I wonder if there are any cross-promotional opportunities, or if you simply have to develop an identity in each genre independently.”

    In the case of that in-store appearance, I was definitely obliged to talk up BotD2 rather than OMW, as it was Portable Press who set up the appearance. I don’t know that two separate publishers promoting two separate products would want to share time with the other, unless they were both equally splitting the cost of the promotional schedule (and I see that as unlikely).

  26. I’m still debating between the internet magazine and paper magazine. I still see the internet as more relevant and up to date vs. paper magazines. But it does seem that paper magazines are more efficient and technically advanced, maybe.
    With a paper resource you can flip the pages faster usually then a website. With paper I can take chunks of pages at will using site and feeling to search with a website you usually navigate amongst a jungle of colors and text to go where you want each site being different then the next.
    Because magazines are more smaller and compact then websites they seem more portable. With an ebook you have to use hand finger eye coordination on a screen.

    Even if everything went totally virtual I still think hands, feeling and holding something close is more efficient (quicker) then using mechanical operation.

    Even if it was downloaded to the brain you still would have to use a decision making process to navigate to what you wanted. So the more simple something becomes the stupider we can get but a combination of the analog and the digital seems best. Hopefully bug free and in optimal working condition in the future.

  27. To Devin’s point, I certainly wasn’t trying to suggest that books are going away. The fact is some people will settle for reading books electronically while others will insist on having the real thing.

    Having said that, I still prefer real books, not only for the various reasons already mentioned above, but also for the sense of permanence. Data can be altered on a whim, but once a book is published, that’s it. Even if you edit and republish the book it doesn’t automatically supplant previous editions.

  28. Damn you, Tony Dismukes, you are the reason I had to special order OMW from Books & Co. You bought the only copy in Dayton! After weeks of checking Books & Co every time I went I finally gave in and placed a special order.

    John, Books & Co in Dayton (Kettering really) does a lot of author signings/Q&As. They have a permanent special raised area in the middle of the store for it. When I ordered OMW there last week I asked them how they arrange for the appearances. The clerk said that in some cases the publisher contacts the manager in charge of it, sometimes the author does. I meant to email you. It’s a good store, as close to an independent as we get in metro Dayton. (They were indy for years and then got bought by Books a Million). They promote the heck out of their author appearances in their monthly magazine and lots of in-store signage. Might be worth contacting them.

  29. I think that you should give the local bookstore another try. Talk to the manager in person and drop off an ARC and press packet. Since you’re a local author, it would be mutually beneficial for both of you to carry your books. Sometimes people are looking for a last-minute present (Father’s Day, etc.), and don’t have time to order the book online.

  30. I think that you should give the local bookstore another try. Talk to the manager in person and drop off an ARC and press packet. Since you’re a local author, it would be mutually beneficial for both of you to carry your books. Sometimes people are looking for a last-minute present (Father’s Day, etc.), and don’t have time to order the book online.

  31. Lisa:

    I’ve looked for your books in a few bookstores in PDX on occasion, and have never found them.

    Whaaat? Powell’s downtown, my dear, had a respectable pile when the book was released, and there were still 3 or 4 left last month when I visited.

  32. Lanna sez:As a reader who loves gadgets I cannot see books going the way of the dodo either.Me neither. Something I find amusing about this issue is that most people think that whichever form of literary paraphernalia they don’t favor is going to be a curiosity at best within a decade or two. Personally I’m betting the adoption of ebooks is going to be a relatively gradual curve.At the risk of sounding crass (oh what the hey) would you really want to risk your ereader in the bathroom? I wouldn’t.Err, at the risk of continuing the crassness — sure, no problem. I might go so as far as to say I do it all the time, but that might be pushing the crassness a bit too far, so I won’t (say it, that is). I’ve almost always got my ebook reader (my PDA) on me, which is one of its great attractions.Also, there is a certain romance to reading a nicely bound book.Granted, no argument there. There’s also a certain romance to traveling on horseback, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the best way to get around in most circumstances. Of course that doesn’t mean people don’t ride horses anymore — horses are still working animals on many farms and ranches, a relatively small number of enthusiasts devote much of their lives to equestrian pursuits, and millions more ride occasionally for pleasure. The existence of trains, cars and planes does not immediately sentence Black Beauty to the glue factory.And what would I put in my library?Well, I’ve already got more paper books than I think I’ll ever have adequate display space for, so I don’t need to worry about that. But more to the point, where would you put your library? The New Wing of my personal library is almost always in reach, and already contains hundreds of volumes. Thousands more are available for download in an instant for free (Project Gutenberg rocks) and I can buy many new titles at a significant discount (I got Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace for about $14 when it came out in hardcover (at a price of roughly $27 if memory serves)). Granted, the selection of works still under copyright is still limited, but honestly it’s limited in the sense that the giant regional library near my home is limited — they still have an essentially infinite number of books I want to read, when compared against my available time.John H sez:Having said that, I still prefer real books, not only for the various reasons already mentioned above, but also for the sense of permanence. Data can be altered on a whim, but once a book is published, that’s it. Even if you edit and republish the book it doesn’t automatically supplant previous editions.Eh, I hope you actually meant the “sense of” part of “sense of permanence”. A single fire could destroy almost every paper book I own, but it’s hard to imagine any event that would destroy all the copies of the ebooks I’ve bought (on my home PC, laptop, work computer (25 miles away), Fictionwise’s servers (who knows where — although I wouldn’t be surprised if they were within 5 miles of my office) and my PDA (almost invariably in my pocket)) that wouldn’t also reduce me to a wisp of unrelated atoms.I understand your point regarding the mutability of data, but replication at basically zero cost is a pretty good defense against gnomes running about and modifying my favorite works.

  33. John, I’ll second Shae’s recommendation that you contact Books & Co. They really are by far the best place in town for supporting appearances by authors.

  34. Justin: That’s exactly what I meant – a sense of permanence. I know that the physical book can be lost to fire, water damage, etc. But when you read something in a book you know that it will say the exact same thing the next time you read it. Whereas an electronic file can be changed, a book is more or less permanent (or at least it should be obvious if it has been altered).

  35. Whereas an electronic file can be changed, a book is more or less permanent (or at least it should be obvious if it has been altered).

    If that’s the sort of thing you worry about, with only a little preparation it is much easier to detect alterations in an electronic file.

  36. John,
    I’m ducking most of the argument and passing on more anecdotal(sp) information. I was raised, trained, and indoctrinated in the “old model” but I’ve been forced by the evidence of my own eyes to conceed effectively all aspects of your point. My own book was released first as an on-line serial where acess to the archives was free. I only have sample chapters on my own website (because I’m a cheap sonofagun) but the entire book is still available on the original archived site. To the best that we have ever been able to determine, every person who read the original on-line (the majority of whom did so for free) ended up purchasing a hardcopy. The reasoning is obvious: a book is permanent and they wanted to have it and keep it. Even though it was obvious, I was stunned because the marketing/publishing side of my brain was locked in another century. My current stance is so far removed that, if it were not for publishers who get confused and have issues with “previously published materials”, I would put everything free on-line and run it by donations. Hopefully, in a few more years, even those kinks will be worked out and we can move on. You and I talked about this at Penquicon. There’s also the entire sub-discussion of “the author as a commodity” instead of a singular work.

    To summarize: my ear to the ground comes back with one consitent message–if you write well (and that includes being professional, dealing with editors, etc. not just the ‘artist’ preening)–sorry, sidetracked–If you write well, you will make money. Piracy of intellectual property is no true threat. It is a strawman advanced by people who don’t want to move from their comfort zone or who are wringing the last drops of blood from an undertalented turnip. Writing is simple: do it. Marketing is hard but equally simple: put your work “in harm’s way” as often as possible and have faith in its value.

    (Yes, I know I’m oversimplifying but the gist is there.)

    Aquaintance of dubious merit,
    MKeaton

  37. I also live in suburban Chicago, and I’ve see OMW on the shelf at the local Borders. So there’s another data point.

    I have to say, comments about it on Instapundit and related blogs had the greatest effect on me.

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