Just a reminder that the online serial of THE LOVING DEAD will be taken down on July 1st, a few short days from now. Thanks very much to everyone who’s checked it out, talked about it, and written to tell me what you think. I’m really pleased at the advance feedback from readers — even including a few corrections! Publishing can feel like it’s happening in a vacuum: once the text is out of your hands, you’re waiting to see what the reception will be. So far, so good.
THE LOVING DEAD will be front of store at Barnes & Noble and Borders during July, and is on sale already at independents including Borderlands Books in San Francisco and University Book Store in Seattle. The big online retailers will start shipping soon. I’ve got my author copies. My book is out in the world, and has already started making friends, and is in fact probably hanging around in shady alleys, drinking something out of a paper bag and talking to the kind of people you don’t bring home.
I feel that the online serializing was a success; that the book got more attention as a result of giving it away, and that any sales that might have been lost because people read the book for free are more than offset by the increased profile of the book. Studies have shown a correlation between free e-books and upticks in sales of the physical book, and while correlation is not the same as causation, there’s a few things going on.
One is that the publishing industry is still feeling around for ways in which to monetize electronic publication, in the context of an internet culture where content is expected to be free (never mind that the ways in which books and writers are publicized have changed dramatically). When I wrote up the summary of magazines published in 2009 for the February 2010 issue of Locus, I found that of the various publishing strategies, the commercial models that seemed most viable had both print and electronic components, models like online content as a loss leader to get traffic to the print books. And there’s also the voluntary donation model used by established authors orphaned by recent slashes in publishing; i.e. Tim Pratt’s BROKEN MIRRORS serial.
Publishing is all a matter of distribution, and electronic distribution skips the obvious cost involved with paper and printing and shipping, etc., but content is not free to generate; there are costs associated with writing, editing, proofreading, art, design, and running a business. That’s the second half of the famous quote about information wanting to be free; information also wants to be expensive.
So do the devices that let you access this information, in its many forms. I’ll read on my iPhone, but I’ve held off on buying an e-reader in part because of the regular generational shifts in technology; there’s no guarantee that the books you buy will be accessible in a few years. I’ve already found this to be the case when I let my Audible subscription lapse: I have to start paying them again in order to be able to download the books I’ve already bought, and that doesn’t feel entirely right. Sales of e-readers and e-books are a huge growth market, though, and as a working professional I’m happy to see growth.