Saturday, March 06, 2010

New Lamps for Old




If you are a writer and you work at it steadily and you live long enough, eventually you will develop a backlist -- i.e. older books that are theoretically still available. There might be a handful of copies in a warehouse somewhere, or an electronic typeset version, or nowadays, e-files. As long as somebody could call up and order copies of the title and your publisher is willing to and can supply them, the book is theoretically still in print.

If, however, it has been more than seven years and your publisher deems it that they aren't going to bring those older titles back out in newer editions, and they pulp the copies, then the publishing rights are reverted to the author.

What this means is that the writer is free to try and peddle them elsewhere. This is usually not much use to the writer -- if the backlist was commercial, then it would be on the market, so the theory goes, and why would a new publisher want to buy those rights if the old one wasn't making any money on them?

Ah, but now we have ebooks. Amazon.com, B&N, several smaller outfits, and soon-to-be Apple, with the iPad. So a writer might be able to, if he had the e-files on the reverted books, pick up enough to buy him- or herself lunch by cleaning up those files and uploading them to one of the e-pubs.

As it happens, having wet my toes in that area, and having just gotten several old titles reverted to me by Penguin/Berkley/Ace, I believe I am going to give that a shot.

It will involve a bit of work. My original files are so old that I have to open them with a basic text editing program -- the program I use now doesn't recognize the old files. There are some program artifacts that will have to be fixed, I'll have to do the italics and justify the type, basic chores that the publisher did for the treeware, upload them in a form that Amazon.com likes, but that's fairly minimal stuff. I have the hardcopy for reference, so it shouldn't be too difficult.

The four titles are from the early- to mid- to late nineties: The Forever Drug, The Digital Effect, The Trinity Vector, and Spindoc. Unfortunately, the last title seems to be missing the first seven chapters in my old novel file, no idea why , so I probably won't do that one any time soon. I'd have to type those in manually or run the book through a scanner and fix that, and that's more work than I'm willing to do. The books will all stand alone, though Forever and Spindoc are linked.

I could also offer them as PDFs on my blog, as I have some others, we'll see how that goes.

He might be reluctant, but sometimes you can teach an old dog new tricks. Now to see if it will help keep the critter in dog food ...

16 comments:

EvMick said...

I buy exclusively e-books. The vast majority are from Baen. I use the MobiPocket reader both on my BlackBerry and my PC to read them.

Unfortunately not everything is available in MobiFormat. There is the much to be reviled Pdf from Adobe. I hate it....but I WILL read a book on it...ocassionally.

Good luck. If you decided to sell at Baen prices I'll probably buy some from you.

I recall SpinDoc, and one or two other that I have (somewhere) in paperback.

They'd be nice to reread.

paul said...

I recall enjoying all four of those books and wished for more adventures of Venture Silk. I've reread the V. Silk books a few times.

I'd love these in ebook format for easy rereading, preferably in ePub or eReader format rather than PDF.

Thanks for considering this!

Brad said...

Digital Effect is the only one I haven't read and haven't found anyplace. I'll take any format I can to read it.

Dan Moran said...

I'll buy 'em.

The magic word today is "lycesmut." Gross.

Anonymous said...

You could also look for Spindoc on pirate sites - I recall few authors mentioning on Mobileread they got their data back in manageable form this way.

Sean said...

And somehow it gives me a quiet pleasure to look at the shelf to the left of my desk, top row, and see all four of these in a happy little row next to your others sir...

Padua said...

Excellent! I really enjoyed those. Always hoped that Forever Drug would have a sequel, but it ended well. So damn hard to track down your older work.

Justin said...

I'm a huge anti-piracy advocate. I also avoid buying used video games (still my "home" industry) or used CDs from non-multi-platinum bands. Working for the heavy metal band GWAR for a spell, I saw how hard they worked and how little they made -- and that was before all these online torrent sites. Basically, I want to reward people for making cool stuff, and encourage them to continue.

That's why I feel kind of shitty that, of the dozen or so Steve Perry books I own, so few were purchased new. I'm lucky to find them at Half-Price Books (like I did Digital Effect a year ago), much less new at B&N or Borders. Most were eBay purchases.

Anyway, consider that my confession. Don't have a e-reader yet and not in love with reading via .PDF (though I just bought your "Blockhead), but I'll do my best to have my enjoyment of your work put a few coins in your typewriter case.

jks9199 said...

Piracy and buying used books/video games aren't necessarily the same thing.

In the case of a used book, the creator got their cut when it was purchased originally. (I am, of course, assuming legal purchase.) So, I buy Spindoc, read it, and in a fit of desperation for half a Big Mac, decide that I need the whole dollar I'd might get at my local used book store. (A little more if I go with store credit...) Steve got his cut when I bought it at full price. A week later, you walk in and see it, and buy it. The used bookstore charges you something like $2. None of it goes to Steve, or to the original publisher. So what? It's moving that item around more; it's not creating a new copy that they never got their cut from.

You buy a car & resell it. Ford doesn't get a cut, nor does the dealership you bought it from. That's capitalism.

Piracy... That's bad. In piracy, worst cases, nobody ever pays for the material in the first place. So, I steal the book, copy it myself, and start distributing it. Steve never gets his cut; the publisher doesn't get theirs...

Just to be clear: Piracy is very bad & very illegal. It's theft by any name. Participating in LEGAL resale of property legally purchased... Not such a bad thing, to me.

Anonymous said...

I think Justin's point re: buying used is just that he'd rather generate a fresh sale then save a couple bucks.

Ximena Cearley said...

I'll retype them for you. For a consideration, naturally.

Justin said...

jks9199: While piracy and used sales are not the same thing, they both have the same result: No additional moneys going to the guy(s) responsible for the item you're now able to use/enjoy. That bothers me some, personally.

For the last 3 years, I've been making video games. When someone buys a used game that we made, we get zip. Zilch. Nothing to help our stock price; nothing to pay me; nothing to keep the lights on. Doesn't recoup my hundreds of hours, nor the tens of millions spent in production. Of course, the dude or store they bought it from makes bank, but they're just a middleman -- essentially cock-blocking us.

And it's usually done so someone can save a couple of bucks. Now, "in this economy," bucks aren't quite as prevalent. However, I feel it's worth my extra paper to ensure the money goes to the right place. Does that mean I sometimes get buyer's remorse? Sure; they're not all winners.

I see the argument how people who buy one thing used might become fans, and buy other things new. That's especially true when something is out-of-print. But the fact is the artist got no monetary reward for my partaking in that particular ware.

If it's Britney Spears albums or Matrix DVDs? Not quite so sensitive as they made "enough" already. But for someone like Steve or my buddies in GWAR, they're not exactly swimming in doubloons. Thus, I try to buy stuff new when possible. Again, just my personal thoughts; I try not to hold others to my standards.

Okay, I just spent 5 paragraphs saying what Anonymous already succinctly stated in one sentence. Oops...

Steve Perry said...

I don't mind used book sales. I got my money from the original sale, and I don't begrudge somebody selling their copy or trading it in -- it's their property, they can do what they want with it.

The ebooks I'd put up are because there might be folks who want to read an old novel but who can't find it. Or who'd wind up paying more because it is a rarity and hard to come by. I actually have a couple titles that run more than the cover price. Once, during a time when the Matador books were mostly out-of-print, there was a guy selling a set for something like $400. Amazing.

I won't get rich selling ebooks, unless one of them happens to resonate, but even a few sales are better than none, and making the old titles available might be helpful to fans who don't have 'em.

heina said...

There's this wonderful thing called Delegation. If you want those 7 chapters typed up, hire a kid from the college who needs a few bucks. Give him a hardcopy and have him type in those first 7 chapters. Probably cost you $60, and totally worth the time. Try craigslist.

Steve Perry said...

Too easy, Jon. Much more fun to dig around in the old back-up CDs and hope I can find the file. I'd never have thrown it away, so it must be here somewhere.

Besides, $60, I'd have to sell a dozen books from my site to make that back, more from Amazon.com. Not like I'm a Mexican communications billionaire ...

TomC said...

I go back to all of the books on a 3-4 yearly cycle.

Today the Beeb (BBC in normal terms) put out a clip on a micro sculpture that MUST have been inspired by Digital Effect - see the cartoon Mouse in a needle eye.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/gloucestershire/8588893.stm