Something for Future Hugo Finalists to Consider

I’m looking at the vote tallies for the Best Novel Hugo, and it turns out that Old Man’s War placed third on the final tally. Second place was Charlie Stross’ Accelerando, and first, of course, was Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.

Question: Is it coincidence that the novels that took win, place and show for the Hugo vote were also the books made freely available in electronic editions to LACon IV members (and in the case of Accelerando, to humanity at large)?

Discuss.

14 thoughts on “Something for Future Hugo Finalists to Consider

  1. Heya, I’d like to congratulate you on the Campbell win. Well deserved, and it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

    Er, as far as this post goes: I guess that this half of the marketing worked :)

    -c

  2. No, not a coincidence. Free books work.

    However, both you and Charlie have great internet following, which means that lots of people (like me!) will read whatever you write, and a book that you’ve read is a book you can vote for. I also think PNH’s Spin plug got some people to read that book.

  3. I don’t propose to suggest that a single data point means anything at all, but I downloaded /Accelerando/ (it is, or was, freely available in many formats — I read it on my PDA) and ended up actually buying a dead-tree edition of one of Stross’s other titles.

    We sort of have a moratorium on buying genre paperbacks in this house (we are running out of shelf space, you see) so I don’t regularly buy Sci-Fi (or Fantasy, or Crime…) anymore. To get such fiction we have to make a trip to the library; something I haven’t done in some time. Hence, I have not read the other Hugo finalists (yet).

    But on a visit to one of our local megalo-mart-bookstores I took a cruise down the Sci-Fi aisle. Needing *something* to read, I picked up Stross’ first or second, simply because /Accelerando/ was so much fun.

    Don’t get me /wrong/. I’ve /looked/ at OMW. I’ve held it in my hands. I’ve considered it. I just didn’t have that little push that takes a book home, simply because I’m not sure what is actually inside. I’m guessing words and things. But what /kind/ of words?

    Consumers funny old things, aren’t we?

  4. clvrmnky:

    “I just didn’t have that little push that takes a book home, simply because I’m not sure what is actually inside.”

    Well, that’s why you open the book.

    Also, of course, I have an entire novel online — Agent to the Stars — for the expressed purpose of allowing people to get a sample of my writing style, and have since 1999.

    Admit it, you just hate me.

  5. John Scalzi:

    “Also, of course, I have an entire novel online — Agent to the Stars — for the expressed purpose of allowing people to get a sample of my writing style, and have since 1999.”

    And it’s one of the most interesting and entertaining stories I’ve read in a while. Anyone who hasn’t read it should. The cover art from Mike Krahulik (Gabe) is a nice bonus to any PA fans. I haven’t found much science fiction that has such a humourous vein. The e-mail response in chapter 17 (I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read it yet) was a great laugh. On the order of General Szliard ordering one of his subordinates (the name escapes me at the moment) to eat the cookie in the general’s mess in The Ghost Brigades. I had a feeling for most of the book that he’d be the one to break that rule.

    To the topic at hand, though, I’m not a member of LACon IV, so I wasn’t eligible for this offer, but I’d already read Old Man’s War before hand. Just in the past few days, I found that Accelerando was available online, so I downloaded it to my personal disorganizer to read in my free time. With so many stories up for awards, people would be hard pressed to buy all of them, or even read them all, I’d imagine (I’ve read three, seen four of the movies, all except for Wallace & Grommit, and see the BSG episode up for short-form). Offering them free to voters at least solves the money dilema, though everyone’s on their on on how to make the time. The results may have come back the same either way, but in a close race (I don’t know how close this one was) I’m sure such an offer could make a huge difference.

    Similarly, Fictionwise had been offering a number of Nebula nominees in eBook formats for free, or for a lower cost, to anyone at all. I’ve read a number of the Nebula nominees from there, and not just the free ones. I think it’s a great promotion, and a great way to get those stories out there to people who might not read them otherwise.

    And like clvrmnky, I may not go out and buy Accelerando after I’ve read it, but I’ll probably pick up some of Stross’s other books.

    Congrats again on the Campbell, and I look forward to seeing The Ghost Brigades on the ballots next year.

  6. Note also that the short story “Singing My Sister Down,” by Margo Lanagan, had the most votes for the first three rounds, but then dropped in the end, winding up in third. It was put online very late, and may have ultimately fallen because people hadn’t read it (and in general don’t know Margo’s work; she’s not a perennial nominee).

    There are also folks who don’t think it’s skiffy enough, or whatever, but that’s a different debate.

  7. So are we saying that in order to get a fan award these days the only viable strategy is to give the book away for free online? The side benefit of course is that you will sell more books to the non-hugo-voting public who see the “Hugo Award Winner” stamp on the next printing? Well, at least the winner will, the other four nominees are just giving it away (with hopefully some extra word-of-mouth sales).

    Fine. Assume that a equal amount of the populaton is still choosing to read for pleasure in a decade: a larger percentage of the population will be reading primarily from digital devices so will a fan award be too unprofitable to contest if winning requires releasing a non-drm’d copy? Remember, it’s not just the hugo-voters who will download your free book.

  8. Kell Brown:

    “So are we saying that in order to get a fan award these days the only viable strategy is to give the book away for free online?”

    We’re not saying anything either way. I’m asking if people think it’s coincidence.

    More to point regarding your question, however, I do think the cost/benefit ratio of allowing voting members of an award free access to your work is pretty favorable. Movie studios and music companies have little problem with it in terms of material being considered for Oscars and Grammys, and in the case of the Hugos, the voting population for them is small enough that the potential loss of sales is negligible (this is separate from offering an e-book free to the general public).

    Let me put it this way: I seriously doubt offering my book free to Hugo voters affected my sales at all. And I think the net benefit has been obviously positive.

  9. I do think the cost/benefit ratio of allowing voting members of an award free access to your work is pretty favorable.

    Indeed. And Hugo nominees Stross and Doctorow have made a good living while offering all of their work free online to anyone, without DRM. Baen Books has been giving lots of stuff away too, very profitably.

    Drug dealers know this. Authors should too.

  10. I’d prefer to think that the results just reflected good taste… But, then again, who knows…

  11. Maybe, maybe not. I think that having a significant and consistent internet presence probably helps more. It’s my theory that a blog enables an authors selling ability in that they manage to create a personal connection with their readers and as such the blog readers then buy their books and vote them in awards and the like. I haven’t read Spin or Learning the World yet and am only a third of the way through Accelerando so it’s hard to judge just how they all stack up against each other. Though to be honest it looks about right at the moment.

  12. Scott Westerfeld wrote:
    Note also that the short story “Singing My Sister Down,” by Margo Lanagan, had the most votes for the first three rounds, but then dropped in the end, winding up in third. It was put online very late, and may have ultimately fallen because people hadn’t read it (and in general don’t know Margo’s work; she’s not a perennial nominee).

    I can’t help noting that it’s also the only one of the five short story nominees that wasn’t podcast for free listening on Escape Pod.

    Which isn’t to say I didn’t try to buy it. I made offers on all five nominees, thinking that I could then guarantee being able to use “We’ve run Hugo winning stories!” as a brag point. As it was, my odds were still 4 out of 5.

Comments are closed.