A Short Fiction Experiment

We’re going to try something interesting here today, and I want to give you a little context for it.

Not too long ago, I wrote a short story that I wanted to time for release for the US election. After I wrote it, I sent it over to Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press, because a) I thought he would like it, b) Subterranean Press pays quite well for short fiction (well above the SFWA minimum professional rate), c) and it sends payment fast. All of these things happened, which of course makes me happy.

After I sold the story to Bill, I assumed he would post it at the Subterranean Press Web site, where he usually posts the fiction he buys from me and from others. But instead, Bill sent me a note asking to try an experiment: He wanted to post the story here on Whatever and in the story post a couple of advertisements for new SubPress eBooks he wanted to promote. How would I feel about it?

I thought it would be interesting to try. I don’t typically run advertisements on Whatever, because on a day-to-day basis I don’t have the need to. But obviously Subterranean Press is a company I have a relationship with, they’re promoting works and authors I like, and I feel the company’s ethic regarding writers (pay well and pay quickly) is one well worth supporting. In terms of the advertisements in the story, I have control over what ads are placed and how they show up. And beyond that, the idea of getting paid to post one of my own stories on my own site appeals to me on several different levels. So I said yes.

And so today — just about a minute after I post this intro, in fact — you’ll see on Whatever a short story, by me, presented by Subterranean Press. The story will have a couple of ads in it, for SubPress books I like and I hope you’ll check out. Enjoy the story, check out the books and if you have any thoughts about this experiment, by all means let me know in this thread or in e-mail. Thanks.

Update, 11/2/10: Here’s the story.

35 Comments on “A Short Fiction Experiment”

  1. The premise is good, though I think it wouldn’t work quite as well with less popular bloggers for obvious reasons.

  2. I think it is a really good idea. I have no problem with support other writers’ work while getting to read me some Scalzi!

  3. Finding inserts with books was surprising… but I approve conceptually.
    Unfortunately I’m somewhat biased since I don’t trust the internet with my money so I wouldn’t purchase something found there.

  4. I would purchase the one I don’t have, however I refuse to buy ebooks from Amazon due to their terms of service.

  5. I have no problem with your posting it on your site, and taking the money for the advertisements. I do want to note two things:

    1) Direct links to Amazon are fine, but if Subterranean Press starts linking elsewhere adblocker software will render the experiment moot. (Perhaps a link to something like Book Depository as well, for those of us who won’t order from Amazon?)

    2) If the links are from your site, you will not be considered to be advertising the books, but endorsing them. Do you have any control over what books they will post?

  6. As it happens, for these particular books, I do endorse them, since I’ve read and liked them both.

    That said, I disagree strongly with the premise that the appearance of an ad on my site would constitute an explicit endorsement, short of a statement like the one above. I equally strongly suspect the Whatever regular readers are savvy enough to know that.

  7. I am all for it. Small presses have a hard enough time surviving in today’s world. Bill has been producing high quality book for a long time and hope that more people become aware of subterranean because of this.

  8. i’m guessing, mr. scalzi, that you get more hits per day than SP’s website does, so this seems like a good deal for both you and them.

    on another note, as a published author with an agent who gets to use more ‘exclusive’ channels like subterranean press, how do you feel about magazines and websites–like SP–that do not accept unsolicited materials? after all, we can’t all ‘send over’ our new stories to mr. schafer. are there any sites/journals you recommend for those just starting out?

  9. I like it. The ads were noticeable but not intrusive. I can get behind this sort of marketing. Great story, similarly great book recommendations, what’s not to love?

  10. Wonderful story, and if the ads are for books you like then I’m definitely interested in hearing about them. I think this is a win/win proposition.

  11. Great story. Thanks for writing it. I already had ordered the books advertised, though, so I’m afraid Subterranean didn’t get any additional dollars out of me this time. I will spread the word,though.

  12. Interesting choice on the part of SP. I would think they’d actually get more eyeballs on more book ads if they made readers jump from here to their own site. But obviously they thought it was worth the experiment.

  13. Susan Reader:

    Whatever has a large audience, and it’s an audience of readers, and it’s also an audience that does not have to click through another link to get to the story (and the ads). So I think overall SubPress is going to get a more-than-sufficient eyeballing for their ads here.

  14. Pretty cool. I was looking for something new to read and thought I would go grab one of these just to support you indirectly. The bummer is that I have been such a addict to my nook ebook reader that I really want to read it on there. I am sure I will find a way to buy something, but anything they can do to make it easy for the rest of us to give them money would be great.

  15. Boy, what a fiendish plot. You got me to buy NOW what I was thinking to buy in the future.

  16. Well, I have to admit, thatthe first thingthis proposal makes me think of is Terry Pratchett’s first German publisher. But I’ve not clicked the next article yet, so we’ll see how it goes.

    Well, from my vantage point the experiment was both a success and a failure. It was a success for me, because the ads didn’t intrude on the story one iota. It was a failure for SubPress, because I didn’t really notice them at all. I went back and looked at them because I knew that you were hoping I would.

    But, there’s an upside – I think that if the experiment were truly blind, I would have glanced at the ads to see if they were illustrations, since they’re about that size and occupy that much space. Since I’m in the ad’s demographic (sci fi and fantasy readers), I might even have read the text, though I would have waited until the story was done.

  17. Good story and a pretty good idea.

    If the idea is to post short stories on Whatever occasionally and the price for these ‘bonus’ posts is a couple of tasteful non-animated ads by a publisher, I’m all for it. Props to Mr. Schafer for the idea.

    Since I have a Kindle and DRM is still extant, my threshold for buying books that only I can enjoy lies much closer to $5 than $15.

  18. excellent idea and a great way for the other authors to get more exposure.
    :wanders off to read the story:

  19. I must apologise – I didn’t actually spot the ad’s until I read the ‘explaination’ post, which was after I’d read the story (I read them in reverse posting order). I then scrolled up thinking ‘what ad’s’ and had something of an ‘oh’ moment.

    I liked the story, though and as a person in a country with a relatively low turn out in elections, agree with it on many levels.

    Thank you.

  20. I don’t mind the ads. My suggestion would be to repeat the ads at the end of the story to make it easy for me to go visit after I’m done–I’m not likely to click one that would take me away from the middle a Scalzi story.

  21. Like the story, and I really like the exerpiment. Kudos to Subterranean (and, of course, John) for trying things like this.

    I don’t know how well it would generalize for other authors, but then I’m speaking out of my bubbly orifices on the business side of sci-fi publishing, so don’t listen to me there.

  22. Well, I saw the ads, and I thought they were, in fact, blurbs for, and links to, recent “Big Idea” presenters, which sort of made sense in context (of your story, and your site).

    And the adblocker at work let them through, which is impressive.

    I totally lost that they were Subterranean Press books, but that’s not surprising, as publisher is definitely at best third on my list (right ahead of the human!) of things that matter to me in a book (unless it’s Elvesier or PA, of course).

  23. Loved the story, and the format was great. I clicked through to the books on Amazon… sadly, I won’t use the Kindle reader because of their DRM policy (deleting Nineteen Eighty-Four! this level of irony is only attainable in the real world) and the impossibility of sharing the books even with my own wife and kids.

    Paperback versions are now on my wishlist!

  24. If you continue to run short stories like that, have all the ads you want. I thought it was hysterical. And the reality is that I might never have seen it on the Subterranean website.

    I hope this story (or the continuing political saga of David, James, Latasha and Nukka Farn Mu) will become an election night tradition at the Whatever.

  25. Great story – and I liked the ads – I’m always looking for new books/authors, and I bought both. Thanks!

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