2011 is shaping up to be one of the wildest, craziest years in American publishing history. After a long, semi-abortive childhood, e-books have finally emerged as a mature, commercially-viable technology. Even as recently as five years ago, electronic rights were one of those “neverland” slices of the intellectual property pie that writers took for granted. No more. Electronic rights are suddenly big money and big business. Even many authors who have been successful in the traditional New York publishing world, are beginning to consider e-publishing as a viable alternative.
Just ask my friend Steve Savile, who has a top-selling book through Amazon UK. His excellent book “Silver” is defying the odds, and paying big dividends for its author!
No doubt you’ve read or heard about a few other authors — like Steve — who are jumping the New York ship for a swim in the e-book ocean. At least one notable e-book queen — Amanda Hocking — drove her electronic numbers so high, she parlayed them into a very lucrative New York deal and a Hollywood deal.
All of this activity — plus what I’ve learned at the Superstars Writing Seminar combined with the Dave Wolverton novel workshop — has forced me to scrap my e-book strategy I’d developed for the year. I’d originally planned to do free chapters on the blog for my Emancipated Worlds Saga, then package them all up in December as a single e-book, for release to the Kindle. But I’ve realized that I’m looking at the new e-book model backwards, and I am moving too slowly to boot. Many of the old rules from the old model, don’t apply anymore, so after some degree of internal debate, I’ve arrived at a new plan.
One thing I realized very soon after I began doing the Emancipated Worlds Saga, was that this was going to be a sprawling epic that had a BIG cast of characters jumping around on a BIG stage. But releasing one chapter a week? It’s one thing to sit down and start reading a 300,000 or 400,000 word mega-novel that’s already been written. Depending on how fast or how slow you are, you can cruise through it at a decent clip, more or less keeping track of people and events as the book unfolds. But doing it in the “sip-gulp” fashion that chapter-a-week dictates can be frustrating from a writing standpoint, to say nothing of a reading standpoint. Thus I was often stymied when writing up the new chapters because I kept wanting to throw in more and more stuff to the tune of, “…and if you’ll remember from last week, Bob…”
Well, I kinda think that’s a crappy way for me to try and tell my story. And to be bluntly honest, it’s been difficult to burn the time necessary to make it worth the readers’ while, because I’ve also had — as some of you may well be aware — a lot of paying projects jumping to the forefront. This year alone I’ve sold more fiction in the first four months than I sold in the previous 18 years, so the money-making side of the house has been cranking up very well. And since I’m a capitalist about my art, I gotta go where the money is.
But damn, I still want to do EWS! I have the epic in my head! It’s a project worth doing. How can I make it work?
Novelettes and Novellas. The doomed kid brother and kid sister of the paperback. Hard to fit into the digests and other science fiction magazines, but far too short for the New York novel houses to mess with. But for e-books, they’re perfect! Nicely-sized drafts of substantial story, available inexpensively and with no arbitrarily-imposed expectations on size.
Going back over my EWS outline — revised, heavily, as a result of the Dave Wolverton workshop — I realized that what I was trying to do was tell lots of individual tales and cram them all into the sweep of the broader tale. Again, for a whole novel, that works. But for chapter-per-week, I think it fails. What I needed was a way to be able to tell these smaller tales, and do it in a way that wouldn’t amount to massive, painfully long blog posts — and which might also be able to financially support the project along the way.
The new world of e-publishing makes it possible.
So, I am breaking the EWS up into novelettes and novellas. I don’t have an exact release schedule yet, but I should be putting out some of this material over the summer. Nothing about the existing chapters or material is being retconned or discarded. It’s applicable within the arc of the bigger story, and the characters too. Some of it will show up in the novelettes and novellas, in fact, because many — if not all — of the chapters to date, are essentially beginnings for each of the different novelettes and novellas I want to do.
…much of my other original fiction is going to be coming out via e-book as well. That link above? For the first Camarro Jones novelette? That’s going to be its own series too. I invented that character and that universe because I’d been wanting to kitbash a lot of elements into one project. Camarro’s world is not too far into our own future: grimy, wet, sexual, and occasionally deadly. Perfect for a femmebot cop packing a .45 ACP to go with her 38 DDDs, if yah know what I mean. It was tough finding Camarro a home with the digests or other short fiction markets, but thanks to e-books and e-publishing, Camarro can be out there kicking ass on the Kindle, Nook, and other platforms.
She’ll be joined, gradually, by a supply of other stories — bundled in threes and fives, depending on length — because quite frankly there’s no sense in letting them sit around. This is good fiction, ready for a good audience. And I don’t have to wait for the paper publishers to realize it. I can take my product directly to the market, which I am absolutely going to do!
Scott Howard, Kendall, Jackman, Garth Steck and I are going to be firing up a project that is near and dear to my heart. Searcher and Stallion began life as a home-grown half-hour science fiction radio drama on KRCL-FM in 1992. After numerous episodes and several abortive format switches, S&S is coming back out into the world with all-new audio production and — most important for you readers — a series of (ding, ding) novellas and novelettes!
We’ve got the arc fleshed out, the major events mapped, and the plan is to produce one new title every month through November. I am so happy and thrilled to be working in this universe again, and with these characters, after all these years. Searcher and Stallion is where I got my start, and it’s going to be a complete gas returning to this project for some all-new material.
Oh, and I’ll be selling and publishing more stories through the magazines and whatnot. (he he he) I’ve got at least one story due out in Analog Science Fiction and Fact within the next issue or two, my story “Exiles of Eden” is currently up at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, and so forth.
It’s gonna be a whale of a fun summer! Stay tuned!
Oh, and while you’re at it, please go check out what some of my other friends are doing?
And my Writers of the Future classmate Tom Crosshill has a very well written — and disturbing! — piece now up at John Joseph Adams’s on-line magazine, Lightspeed.
Al also has some e-books out too (above) as does my friend Annie Bellet. Annie’s got a short story collection available that I downloaded recently, and am enjoying very much.
Everyone, much recommended, all the way around.