Life After Death?

Bill Crider pointed me to this interesting publishing experiment…

Lawrence Watt-Evans, who has written dozens of books, recently had his series Legends of
dropped by his publisher after eight novels. So he started shopping the series around

Alas, no major mainstream publisher is interested in continuing the Ethshar
series at present. On the other hand, I had several readers saying they
desperately want to see more. I decided to see whether enough of them were
willing to put their money where their mouths are to finance more Ethshar
stories — and perhaps eventually continuations of other series that no longer
have major publishers.

To my surprise, there were enough. My fans came through, and I have
now written the ninth Ethshar novel, financed entirely by reader contributions
rather than an advance from a publisher.

How has his experiment fared? It’s hard to say based on what he reports…

From April to October I posted the first draft of The Spriggan Mirror,
the ninth novel in the series, chapter by chapter. The last two chapters, along
with the epilogue and some endnotes, were posted on October 16, 2005. Below
you’ll find some options for making donations; each week, if I’d received
another $100 in donations (as I always did), I posted another chapter.

If I hadn’t received $100 to pay for a given week’s chapter, it
wouldn’t have been posted — but that never happened. If more than the $100
target came in, as it usually did, the extra was credited toward the following
chapter. No one needed to worry about ”wasting” a payment if I received more
than was needed for a particular chapter. At this point the entire novel has
been paid for, but the more money that comes in, the sooner I’m likely to start
a new serial.

So how much did he make? Was it comparable to what he would have received in advances and royalties if Del Rey had opted to publish another book in the series? I don’t know because he doesn’t say. For now, you can read the entire book for free on his website…until New Years Eve, when he’s signing the rights over to an e-publisher.

UPDATE: In a related story, GalleyCat reports that novelist Diane Duane is making the unpublished third volume in her TO VISIT THE QUEEN series available using POD:

she’s willing to consider satisfying her earlier fans’ desires by using
print-on-demand to bring The Big Meow out… if the market will bear it.
"Let’s just say that a ‘trade paperback’… is going to cost you hardcover
prices, not paperback," she suggests. "If I’m to make any money at all on the
deal (by which I mean, at least recoup my publishing and labor expenses), you’re
going to be paying $20-25 for a copy of this book." And then she invites her
readers to tell her whether they’re prepared to do that.

…Even Duane acknowledges that the demand remains to be measured, and she’ll be
waiting at least until next spring before she decides if there’s what we used to
call on Usenet "A Great Need."

2 thoughts on “Life After Death?”

  1. Someone pointed this blog entry out to me, so I took a look.
    No, the online serial did not bring in as much money as publication by Del Rey or Tor would have — but they didn’t want to publish it, so it wasn’t going to bring anything there. The serialization did gross about as much as a typical first novel, and was a lot of fun, so I consider the experiment a success despite the low financial return.

  2. [I received this note from Diane Duane, who gave me her permission to post it here as a comment]
    Dear Lee,
    First of all, thanks for the mention in your 12/15 blog: much appreciated.
    Just a note of correction, though: book 3 in the “Feline Wizardry” sequence isn’t anything like ready for release yet. What I’ve been trying to do is get a feeling from the (online) readership as to whether I should get serious about the prospect of writing the book, and if so, how soon. I’ve already got a fair number of writing projects on my plate for ’06 — and with the airing of our miniseries on Sci-Fi scheduled for March, Peter and I are both going to be really busy in Q1 of ’06 getting new projects ready to go to market: so timing issues as well as general advisability are on my mind.
    …That said, initial response has been pretty good. Just in the last few days I’ve already received about half the response I feel I’d need to start getting serious: we’ll see how the results go over the next couple of months or so. I’m testing the waters with a straightforward e-book release of an unpublished work (see for details) to see how that would go. If sales continue as they’ve been doing since I let A Wind from the South out the door, most likely I would quite happily go simultaneously “hard & soft” (POD print and ebook) on the release of The Big Meow. We’ll see how things shape up.
    Anyway, thanks again for the mention!
    best regards — Diane


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