Redshirts eBook to Be DRM-Free From Day One

By now, you have probably read that Tor Books (along with the other divisions of Tom Doherty Associates) will be releasing all their eBooks DRM-free by July of this year. But some of you have wondered what that means for my upcoming novel Redshirts, which comes out June 5. Will it have DRM on it when it comes out? Or will it be DRM-free from the very moment of its release? Here comes the official notice:

Yes, the Redshirts eBook will be DRM-free from the day of release.

Therefore, you eBook lovers will have absolutely no reason not to buy the book the very second it is available, thus driving my sales through the stratosphere, making my publisher very happy and showering me with precious, precious coin that I can convert into my daughter’s college education, and also maybe a hot tub. For the cats. Hey, some cats like hot tubs. This is what I hear.

(My thanks to Hillary Veith and all the other cool cats at Macmillan Digital for letting me get just a tiny bit ahead of the curve here. You guys rock.)

Also: The print edition will be DRM-free, too! So that’s an option for you as well, don’t forget. We like the stores that have the physical version as well. They make great gifts, as well as objects for me to sign when I am on my book tour this June (the dates of which are being finalized as I type this). Camp out at your favorite local bookstore! It’s not too early to get in line!

Point is: No matter in which medium you buy Redshirts, it will be totally yours to do with as you will.

And there you have it.


Tor/Forge to Go DRM-Free By July: Immediate Thoughts

This is pretty big publishing news: Tom Doherty Associates, an imprint of Macmillan and the publisher of most of my science fiction work, has announced they plan to ditch DRM (Digital Rights Management, i.e., the stuff that keeps you from moving or copying your eBooks) entirely. Here’s the release that’s going out about it.

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.

“Our authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. “They’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

DRM-free titles from Tom Doherty Associates will be available from the same range of retailers that currently sell their e-books. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

About Tor and Forge Books

Tor Books, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is a New York-based publisher of hardcover and softcover books, founded in 1980 and committed (although not limited) to arguably the largest and most diverse line of science fiction and fantasy ever produced by a single English-language publisher. Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, is also the home of award-winning Forge Books, founded in 1993 and committed (although not limited) to thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction and general fiction. Together, the imprints garnered 30 New York Times bestsellers in 2011.

I called Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Senior Editor of Tor Books, to ask what going DRM-free will mean for the publisher’s efforts regarding online misappropriation of author copyrights, because I know that this is a very real concern for many writers. This was his response to me, which he allowed me to post here:

Just in case anyone is worried: I can tell you with complete confidence that Macmillan and Tor/Forge have no intention of scaling back our anti-piracy efforts in the e-book realm. We expect to continue working to minimize this problem with all the tools at our disposal.

As you know, we already have a legal team in place that pursues major infringers. We don’t expect that to change at all, and we hope we continue to get the kind of cooperation from infringed-upon authors that’s been such a big help in the past.

Now, thoughts. Please understand this is me speaking personally, for myself, and only for myself.

As an author, I haven’t seen any particular advantage to DRM-laden eBooks; DRM hasn’t stopped my books from being out there on the dark side of the Internet. Meanwhile, the people who do spend money to support me and my writing have been penalized for playing by the rules. The books of mine they have bought have been chained to a single eReader, which means if that eReader becomes obsolete or the retailer goes under (or otherwise arbitrarily changes their user agreement), my readers risk losing the works of mine they’ve bought. I don’t like that. So the idea that my readers will, after July, “buy once, keep anywhere,” makes me happy. I had been planning to ask Tor whether or not it would be feasible to offer my e-books without DRM; now I won’t have to have that conversation.

Does this mean it’s easier for someone to violate my copyright? It does. But most people don’t want to violate my copyright. Most people just want to own their damn books. Now they will. I support that. And I believe that most readers who like my work will support me. They get that if I don’t get paid, they won’t get books — and more than that I really do believe most people who can support the artists whose work they like will support them. So personally I don’t think ditching DRM will mean people will stop buying what I and Tor have to sell.

That said, I know that there are people out there who don’t give a crap about me or my career and are happy to put up anything I write for other people to copy and take. These are the folks on whom I am happy to bring down the hammer. I have informed Tor/Forge before of people and sites who have violated my copyrights; they have done an admirable job sending their legal strike teams against them.

So Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s very quick and public assurance that Tor/Forge is not abandoning the principles of defending its authors’ copyrights is heartening to me. One reason I stay with a large publisher is because it has the people, resources and experience to do any number of things I find difficult to do myself, from editing to page design to, yes, legal action. If Tor/Forge (and by extension, Macmillan) continue to back up their words as they have done in the past, on my behalf as well as on behalf of other authors, then that’s a cogent argument for authors to continue to work with them, and for readers to support their wares.

What will be interesting is to see how other publishing houses will respond to this action. I won’t speculate in detail at this point, but I will say that I strongly suspect this is just the first of many changes we’re going to see in how business gets done with major publishing. I’m watching, both as a consumer and as a writer.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments, please.

Update: additional thoughts on today’s announcement from Charles Stross.

Update 2: Redshirts, my upcoming novel to be released on June 5, will be DRM-free from Day One.

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Suzanne Johnson

Fantasy novels can and do take place in the real world — and when they do, there’s a special responsibility the writer has to reality just as much as to the fantasy she places within it. So former New Orleans resident Suzanne Johnson learned when it came time to write Royal Street, which takes place in the Crescent City, a setting Johnson had reasons for wanting to get right. She’s here to explain the process of keeping it real, for the sake of her fantasy.


The big idea behind Royal Street, an urban fantasy set in New Orleans during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina, came about—to use a bad pun—as a “perfect storm” of things happened in my life in late 2008.

It is a deceptively simple “what-if” that turned out to be complex in the writing, both structurally and emotionally: What if, when Hurricane Katrina’s winds and storm surge destroyed New Orleans’ fragile levees, it also destroyed the “metaphysical levees” between modern New Orleans and the world Beyond? How could the fantasy genre be used to explore the aftermath of August 29, 2005, and the way New Orleanians learned to come back from the catastrophic flooding that covered eighty percent of the city?

When Hurricane Katrina blew ashore on that August morning, I had been living in New Orleans more than a decade. The next few years of rebuilding eventually blurred into a confusion of heartbreak, anger, cynicism, fear, despair, frustration, elation, and love. A day without tears was a rarity.

So what happened in 2008, when I began writing Royal Street? First, I’d moved away from New Orleans for family reasons. I was horribly homesick. I also had “Katrina withdrawal,” realizing with naïve surprise that people in other parts of the country had moved on. My every day for the previous several years had been preoccupied with nothing but the aftermath of the flood, and suddenly I went days, weeks, months without hearing the word “Katrina.” I was still wrangling with mild post-traumatic stress (which I knew because my employer in New Orleans had us tested periodically). And, finally, I read a fantasy book that tried to take on Katrina, at least in a tangential way, and got it very, very wrong.

I wanted to get it right. And after spending every day of the previous three years writing about Katrina for my day job, I thought I could get it right.

“Getting it right” meant plundering my own memories—some funny, some very painful; reading every issue of the New Orleans Times-Picayune during the days leading up to and the months following the storm; and talking to friends who’d been trapped in the city during the flooding and knew what conditions were like before I came back from the mandatory evacuation.

Where should my characters live? What would the damage to their homes be like? Would they stay in town or evacuate? How could they get back into town with a mandatory evacuation in effect? When did certain neighborhoods drain of floodwater—what could only be reached by boat? What neighborhoods got electricity back first, and when? When was the water deemed potable? How could my characters get food when stores and restaurants were closed?

Even though I was writing urban fantasy, I wanted my characters grounded in life as it was for most people in New Orleans immediately after Katrina, so my worldbuilding—which involves magic and wizardry—needed to severely limit the degree to which my characters could circumvent the real post-flood conditions. I wanted no easy Harry Potter-esque wand-waving to conjure up magical food and water. My characters needed to live as their (unaware) human counterparts had to live—without electricity, reliable water, working traffic signals, or cleared roadways. They needed to find boats to take them into flooded areas, and they needed to get past National Guard security checkpoints to travel around town. Hurricane Rita blew through the city and shut everything down again three weeks after Katrina, reflooding parts of the city, so my plot had to be timed to grind to a halt while yet another hurricane raged.

Most of all, my main character was a New Orleanian at heart. She needed to not only be dealing with the urban fantasy element of missing mentors and voodoo gods and rampaging undead pirates. She needed to feel the gut-wrenching emotion of coming back into a city she loved and seeing it virtually destroyed, because I knew myself that no amount of media coverage could prepare one for seeing it firsthand. She needed to reflect the heart and whacked-out sense of humor and unabashed love of New Orleans that all of us who lived there experienced during that time.

Finally, I faced the challenge of striking the right tone between telling a good story and being respectful of the real-life tragedy going on in the background. More than a thousand people in the Greater New Orleans area died during Katrina and the post-Katrina flooding—many bodies were never identified, and several hundred people were never found. More than a million people were displaced in the metro area alone; it’s estimated that upwards of three-hundred thousand homes were damaged or destroyed in the metro area. The Katrina flooding exposed difficult issues of politics, poverty, class, and race that had to be acknowledged but not exploited.

I knew from the outset there would be readers for whom this setting will be uncomfortable, that it might provoke some controversy. I had a lot of folks in NOLA read the book as it progressed, and talk to me about whether it hit the right notes. I wanted my love for the “hometown of my heart” to show through. I wanted to do it with respect.

I think I got it right. I hope I got it right. Only time will tell.


Royal Street: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read a sample. Visit the author’s website. Follow her on Twitter.

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