On the OMW Free eBook Release
Today Tor sent out the e-mails with links to the eBook version of Old Man’s War, which is available to the folks who signed up at Tor.com in pdf, html, and mobi versions (so all you folks who hate pdf and whined about it last week — look! Tor listens!). So those of you who signed up, enjoy. And now that it’s out in e-book format, let me answer the questions some of you have asked me and/or I have seen people ask about OMW and an eBook or eBooks in general.
1. Oh Noes! I didn’t sign up in time to get the e-mail link! Can I still get Old Man’s War?
I have no idea how Tor is handling this, actually. I don’t think it’s Tor’s intention to have these titles permanently available on a free basis (legally, I mean — once they’re out on the Net they’re out); I think they’re meant to be a premium to get people to sign up for notification when the new Tor.Com site goes up. My assumption is that if you missed the official mailing, you missed out, although if someone from Tor wants to explain the deal, I think that’d be fine.
2. So, uh, do you mind if I get the eBook file from someone else/give out the eBook file to a friend?
Not really, but I’d ask you to be sensible about it in both cases. If you’re getting the eBook from other sources, you still ought to go over to Tor.Com and sign up for e-mail notification, because a) the new Tor.Com is gonna be something you want to know about and b) more free eBooks are coming (I believe next week is Spin, which won the Hugo in 2006) and c) it will give Tor’s masterminds a warm and glowy feeling that their gamble to bring attention to their new site is actually working.
If you’re giving out the eBook to someone else, well, you know, I’d say give it to friends rather than dropping it into the swirling seas of BitTorrent. I don’t doubt it’s going to get out on BitTorrent; that’s not the point. The point is you saying to friends, “hey, this is a good book, and I think you should check it out.” In other words, what you’re doing is very much like loaning your own physical copy to a friend. That carries a lot more weight than just random availability.
3. Are you afraid having it out there as a free eBook will eat into your sales?
Oh, I don’t know. It might nibble into the sales of the OMW paperback a bit; it might not. My own personal experience with eBooks is that I tend to read enough of it to know whether I want to read more, and then I end up buying a physical copy because I don’t actually like reading novel-length works on the computer if I can avoid it. So maybe sales will go up! And maybe they’ll stay the same. And maybe we’ll all be consumed by dingoes. Who knows?
Honestly, here’s the thing: the book has made me a fair chunk of cash and thanks to how royalties are apportioned, even if no one buys a physical copy of Old Man’s War ever again (which, well, seems unlikely), I’ll still be getting royalties through the rest of ’08. By which time I’ll two other novels out in the stores and a third on deck, and the royalties of the other books should be chugging along fine, and if they’re not, then I guess I’ll have to get a day job or something. But I don’t see that happening in the short run. The point is I would expect that thanks to the sales of other books, I should be fine even if I don’t make another penny off of OMW book sales.
And so when Tor asked if I would be willing to do a free eBook version of OMW up as part of their promotion, I was in a position to say “yes,” without any real hesitation. Because I’m curious about it, you see. Eric Flint and the folks at Baen Books make a strong case that having eBooks up boost author sales; other folks think doing so constitutes the End of Days for writers, the genre and so on and so forth, blah blah blah blah blah. I am in a position where offering up OMW as free eBook constitutes a low risk for me, because I’ve already made a fair stick from it and my career is chugging along nicely. Why not put it out there and see what happens? If it kills my OMW or other book sales, then now I know. If it helps them, then now I know that too. If it does nothing one way or the other, I’ll find that out as well.
Here’s my best guess what will happen: If anything, it’ll lead to a modest increase in sales overall. The reason for this is — if I may say so — OMW goes down pretty easy and most of the time people who finish it want to read what happens next. And guess what? There are two (soon to be three) books that let you find out what happens next in that universe, and aside from that are two (and relatively soon to be three) other books that let you see what I’m doing when I’m not fiddling around with the Colonial Union. So really, I suspect it’ll be a good thing.
Like I said, we’ll see. In the meantime, the chance I’ll spend any time fretting about it is fairly low.
4. Why didn’t Tor release the eBook in [format Tor didn’t release the book in]?
Don’t know. Don’t care. You’re getting it for free. Deal.
5. I read the free eBook version and I want to reward you for your efforts. Can I send you money by PayPal?
Scott Westerfeld has a position on this sort of thing that I echo, which is that just sending money to the author is missing the fact a lot of other people work on the book too — editors, copyeditors, book designers, artists, art directors, publicity and marketing folks and so on. So like Scott my suggestion would be that if you really love the book and want to pay me for it, buy it (for yourself or as a gift) or pick up one of my other books. At a bookstore, even!
If you don’t want to do that but still want to send me money, what I would ask you to do is take whatever you were going to send me and donate it to Reading is Fundamental or some other literacy program. Thanks.
6. When will Tor put out eBooks of your other books?
Well, The Ghost Brigades is available for the Kindle right now. As for everything else, well, who knows? That’s a whole bunch of Tor and Macmillan corporate strategizing that I’m frankly not going waste a lot of brain cycles on. Yes, I know many of you want my books in eBook format; I want it too. But to be honest, at the moment, I’m more concerned about doing what I can to get my books in supermarket racks, i.e., get the books in front of people who don’t already have a clue who I am. I do know that Tor is working on getting eBooks out there into the market. Beyond that, I have to advise patience.
Any other questions? Put them in the comment thread.