Thursday, January 26, 2012

I May Go Kindle...

Jeff Baker, a member of my Lawrenceville writing group, has self-published a story he'd written for an anthology to raise money for earthquake relief in Japan on for Kindle.  He set it to be free for five days, to build up buzz and end up on the "People Who Bought This Also Bought..." lists and ended up moving 400 units.  Then he started charging $0.99.  As of a day or two ago, he'd sold 15 units and made just over $5, since Amazon gives 35% royalties for $0.99 material.  Hopefully this figure has increased since then.

Although he has defended his decision in terms of retaining rights and the story never going out of print, he said the real purpose of this exercise is not to make money.  Instead, it's to pave the way for him to Kindle-publish a young-adult fantasy novel he is working on now by generating an online fan-base.  I've critiqued the first two chapters and although YA is not my cup of tea, it's a good story.  He does not think he can get a good deal from traditional publishers and wants to hop on the train to the future, so to speak.

I admit I'm somewhat prejudiced against self-publishing because it smacks to me of someone taking their ball and going home because their stuff wasn't good enough.  However, this might be somewhat outdated--thanks to E-publishing and E-readers like the Kindle and Nook, the publishing industry has greatly changed.  And the industry's reluctance to take on new writers or invest much in promoting them (so they fail and then are judged not good, never mind that biggies like Stephen King and Dean Koontz get promoted like hell by their publishers) likely means some really good voices are going unheard.

I don't plan on Kindling Battle for the Wastelands and its planned sequels except at extreme need--say, due to major Values Dissonance between prospective publishers and I leading to them wanting unacceptable changes to the characters.

(I wanted to introduce some moral grayness to the world by making the hero rather racist and the villain as someone who has brought peace through conquest a la Aegon the Conqueror from George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, judges his minions on merit rather than ethnicity, and who married a non-white woman to unite his homeland.  However, in some people's moral universes, being a "bigot" is the primary if not the only sin.  Given how many cultural institutions tends to be more socially left-wing, they might assume the book is an endorsement of racism rather than giving the hero a flaw and the villain a virtue.  Plus I have no problems with heroes killing villains.)

However, just because I don't want to take overmuch risk with my soon-to-be-finished first original novel doesn't mean I'm not inclined to give it a try. 

In 2005-2006, I wrote a short story called "Nicor" about a teenage Dane on his first Viking raid who encounters the titular water-monster.  Although it's an action-packed monster story with bloodshed aplenty, there's substance to it as well--it's about disillusionment with war and even a coming of age. 

One of the earlier drafts, although it escaped the slush pile at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and was rejected by none other than the editor himself, wasn't all that good, and so I sent it to various other places, improving it at every rejection.  Although now it's the best it's ever been, I am rapidly running out of markets to submit it.

(I did manage to sell it to the fantasy magazine Flashing Swords and was even paid $0.01 per word for it, but the magazine went under before the story could run.)

It is currently under consideration by Beneath Ceaseless Skies and according to, there's a new professional-level publication called Buzzy Mag (whose web-site was active yesterday but is down now due to server-switching).  However, at present, that's about it.  The number of semi-professional publications that would pay, say, $0.01 per word has dwindled with the economy.  I could send it to a web-site or print publication for free or for a token payment, but these are smaller publications that don't have the same kind of prestige a larger publication will. 

Given the choice between publication by someone else with no prestige and a small payment (sending "I am the Wendigo" to Chimaera Serials got me $20 and the status of a published writer, but I doubt it impressed many editors) and the possibility of making a few dollars a month for years with no prestige, it might make more financial sense to go with option #2 in the long run.  Plus I can build up my author page, which exists only because of "Coil Gun."

However, J.M McDermott, also from the Lawrenceville writing group, has advised I hold onto my assets and wait for new publishers to appear.  He has published some short fiction for Kindle, but the monetary returns have not been stellar.  He has sold several books (including a new one entitled When We Were Executioners that just became available) and many short stories, so I am very inclined to take him seriously.

So here's the plan, all this rambling aside.  If I cannot sell "Nicor" to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I will seriously consider commissioning some good cover art (one of my beefs with self-published books is they tend to have really awful illustrations) and putting it on Kindle.  Commissioning cover art will be a big cost that will take awhile to pay off, especially if the returns are low ($5-20 per month), but it might be a good long-term investment, since people do judge books by their covers.  If I cannot sell it to Buzzy Mag and no new well-paying markets appear, I'll definitely dip my toe in the Kindle water.  It's a good enough story that I'm not ruining my reputation by putting crap out there, but my options for it are rather limited at this moment.

Jeff says with my blog and it's 39,000 hits, I've got a substantial built-in fan-base.  So what say you?  If I put "Nicor" out on Kindle, would you be interested in reading it?


  1. Absolutely. I'll buy a copy. How much would you charge?

    As you know I've been looking into self-publication, if only for my haiku. The market for poetry is not good in a nation where 95% of people cannot name thier poet lauriette.

  2. I'll be very transparent as I trudge through the world of self-pubbing. Currently my story, "Hiroko's Tale," has stalled out. Which, while disappointing, is something I expected.

    From my research I have seen that you also want a good amount of volume. Those with several books/short stories tend to have higher sales.

    I'll begin to build my author page on Amazon and see how sales begin to change over time.

  3. If your going to attempt to self-publish online advertising and Amazon are good places to start from.

    Having a number of published short stories or articles out there can also help.

  4. In light of Jeff's most recent comments (see the ones here and on his blog), I'm now more leery of Amazon publishing.

    Of course, not like I've got much to lose. "Nicor" is gathering dust at present.

    We'll see.