Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Serialization of Speculative Fiction -- A New Publishing Model -- Josh Vogt

From The Examiner
June 29, 10:47 AM
by Josh Vogt

Donation link for T.A. PrattThe publishing industry as a whole right now is one of many struggling through some economic hardships. Editors and agents alike have tightened their criteria for bringing on new authors, marketing budgets have been slashed, and, unfortunately, a lot of the industry's time-worn policies and procedures (such as a bookstore's ability to send back any unsold titles for a full refund) keep profit margins slim on all sides.

So far, people are looking to advances such as Print-on-Demand (POD) services and ebooks and e-readers (such as the Kindle) to relieve some of the burden print costs forces the industry to shoulder. However, there is another approach that seems to be gaining some notice: Free novel serializations.

Free, you ask? Well...yes. Free. No strings attached. Of course, there is the option to donate however much money you wish to the author, if you enjoy the story enough (or just out of the kindness of your heart). Read Full Article Here.
We always hear the question: Why would an author, or anyone for that matter, give their hard work away for free? And most authors who do will say that it's all about building a platform, getting exposure, and gaining readership in the process. The author's hope is that, after the freebie, the readers will be happy enough to pay it forward by way of buying the author's work at a later time.

I question that logic sometimes myself. Well, maybe not the logic per se but more the psychological logic of the term "free" and how it relates to human behavior.

People love free stuff, so much so that quality often isn't really an issue. The fact that the "thing" is free seems to be more important, and it rarely affects their buying decision down the road. On the other hand, I think all authors should offer some sort of preview of their work. When I pick up a book by an author I have never heard of, I flip it and read some random pages. Why? I am looking for style. Regardless of a books subject matter, I tend to be more engaged by an author's style than anything else. If Poe wrote an auto-mechanics manual, I would probably love it. In any event, people have different preferences, so offering a preview is paramount, whether that be short stories for free, the prequel to a series you are writing, or even two or three chapters of the book you are selling.

Serialised fiction is a wonderful adaptation of the "freeview" idea, and it works better in some genres more so than others: speculative fiction of course, where world building is paramount, and romance as well, where storylines can span many generations of characters. Yes, like Dr. Who and Daytime Sopa Operas, but I don't know how well this will work for straight up literary fiction. However, free to read will get you attention, certainly, but I don't think used as a marketing tool by itself that it will equate to more book sales. You still have to promote the free-to-read. If the reader doesn't know it's out there, they won't find it, even if it is free. Not to mention: Free only keeps them so long, and the writing has to be engaging; beyond that, the author will still have to work the market in my opinion. Slapping up a freebie will get you traffic, but not everyone will continue through the tollbooth.

Of course, I don't have any hard data to compare the percentages of free reads to actual purchases over time, so I can only speculate based on my own author experiences and those of other writers I have spoken to on the subject. Commentary is welcome. Let us know how the "freeview" has worked for you.

Cheryl Anne Gardner
Chapter Previews for my own work can be found on Scribd and Amazon.

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