Saturday, April 11, 2015

New Urban Fantasy Novel: Stemwinder

So, I am about to finish the copy-edit on the current book-in-progress, Stemwinder: An Urban Fantasy in 4/4 Time. Probably the subtitle and the cover image are enough clues to tell a potential reader there is music involved.

Bear with me and I'll spin you a tale connected to this biz, and a decision to which I have come regarding this particular book ...

So I am past the Geez-what-a-pile-of-crap-this-is! and to the transient stage where It-doesn't-seem-absolutely-awful, and still a ways from the Hey-this-is-better-than-I-remember-it! phase, which usually comes a few years down the line.

(When I look back at some of my early stuff, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised. I wrote that? Wow. That's not bad ...)

Um. Now the decision comes as to what road I should take to get the new novel into the hands of readers. The choices I see are two, and hereunder, a comparison and a conclusion.

Traditionally, I have gone traditional, i.e., I cleaned the ms up, printed out a copy (and later, emailed a copy) to my agent, and went on about my business while she shopped it around and looked for a New York City publisher to buy it. 

Sometimes, I offered up three-chapters-and-an-outline, which sped the process up a bit on the front end. 

When things went well, my agent would make a sale within a couple of months, the publisher would put it into their schedule, and a year or so later, plus-or-minus, the book would hit the racks.

Part of that process involved me getting some kind of advance against future royalties, and this stipend ranged from so-so, to not-bad, to whoa! depending on the project and publisher, and how well I had been selling other books. If the new title sold well, I got more money. If not, I still got to keep the advance.

Um. Anyway, when things didn't go as well in traditional publishing, the book took a long time to peddle, the pub date stretched out to a year-and-a-half or longer, and they divided the advance up into bits that came in three chunks: on-sign; on delivery/acceptance of the manuscript; on-publication. 

When they really didn't go well, the book came home to live on a shelf in Steve's garage. Some times I'd go back and rewrite 'em and try it again; others abide on the shelf still. Few of us bat a thousand.

When the book market crashed for many of us mid-listers in the nasty recession of 2008, I started poking around in early ebookery, and now have a goodly portion of my backlist up in a couple of places, most lucrative one being, where I get a small monthly check for titles long out of print. It's free money, they never go out of print, and I don't have to do anything past the initial listing.

There were a couple of novels my agent didn't find thrilling, so those I also put up as original ebooks, and they sell a few copies, too. Since my publisher no longer wants any of my Matador titles, any more of those I write will go straight to epub, too. 

Now, the either/or:

The good thing about traditional publishing is the advance. The bad things include the process of submission, waiting, wrangling with agent and editor, and elapsed time before the book sees the light of day, plus a short shelf-life.

With ebooks, these are reversed: No waiting, no wrangling, publication the next day, but also, no upfront money. Yes, the royalty rate is much, much better than traditional, unless you are George R.R. Martin or Stephen King, but in my case, the copies sold this way will be smaller in number and spread out over a longer time. At the end of a couple of years, I might make just about as much money in dribs and drabs as I would have in an advance.

Or not. No way to tell.

One of the things about this particular book is that it is skewed toward readers who are musicians. There are things in it that I hope will make singers and players smile, including some lyrics for songs, and gearhead stuff about guitars and ukuleles and amps and such.  I hope that I'm good enough so the gist comes through in context, but it might be that a publisher will worry that non-musician readers won't get it. And if they don't, it therefore might not sell a lot of copies.

I dunno, there are a lot of musicians out there. If 10% of them bought the book, I'd make millions, and the publisher would make tens of millions ...

Thing is, I don't want to take all that material out. I find it interesting, and I can't help but believe that enough readers will also find it interesting so there will be some market for the novel. Again, no way to tell. 

This is where ebooks shine. They allow a me to produce a work that, even if it does have a limited audience, I can still write it like I want without having to worry that I make a traditional publisher sufficient profit to justify their outlay. I don't begrudge them that notion, if you don't make money, it's harder to stay in business, but I am at a stage in my career that writing what I want and saying it how I want to say it is more important than making a lot of money. Who knew I'd ever get there?

So, yes, this will be an ebook, unless a print-publisher comes calling, and agrees to do it as I wrote it, and I won't be holding my breath waiting on that ...

Onward and upward ...


Mike Byers said...

As you might imagine, I'm looking forward to this one. And I just finished a music-related project, a home-built lap steel. When I get a chance I'll send some photos and a sound file your way.

Steve Perry said...

Lap steel. Way cool.

Cadeyrn said...

As much as the current project interests me, I cannot help but notice that you mentioned the possibility of more in the Matador series. I'd gladly pay for more from the Matador series. In fact, I've been trying to convince myself to buy the ebooks just so I have them in a more convenient format. Problem is, I've discovered yet another limitation in my mind: I have some kind of mental block against repurchasing something for $5.99 when back in the day I paid $3.99 and I still have the hard copies with the cover art.

Maybe you could compile them into some kind of treasury? Have a sale, maybe? A volume buying discount (first three for $10 or $12, anyone?), I'd gladly add fresh electronic copies to my well-worn hard copies. Love the work, always have. Give me an excuse to repurchase!

Steve Perry said...

I keep my ebook prices low, relatively-speaking, and there are a few folks who didn't buy 'em in paper, so I'm okay with charging what,I consider fair. Lot of things cost more now they used to -- a classic car might run you ten or twenty times what it cost new ...

Cadeyrn said...

Absolutely true in all respects. Moreover, I would never suggest that you should charge anything other than what you think is fair nor do I even have any say in the matter. It is totally your prerogative.

And yet... would it be totally amiss to suggest that you could bring these works to a whole new generation of readers, instill wonder and joy in still more people and fire up thousands of young synapses by offering just the first one at a discount? Sure, if you offer more, it makes a bigger splash and draws even more attention and creates a ripple effect through your whole library... actually, there's a decent post here (it's not me). There's a separate slideshow and around pages 51 and 52 there is some interesting data about lower pricing making higher sales and profits. To be fair, by slide 58 the suggestion is made that a number of authors are actually underpricing their work but it had been speaking about the $0.99 works and the exact conclusion is unclear. Empirically, I have seen cheap (sometimes free) samples or first books, followed by steadily escalating prices or a price jump for the most recent work - and I've fallen into that for my favorite authors over and over again.

Steve Perry said...

This is a long-running discussion among writers who have moved into ebookery, and I have heard the arguments pro and con.I have friends who have tried just about everything on the scale, from freebie first book in a series to full price. After looking my options over, I decided to price my ebooks where they are. Lower than new releases from major publishers; higher than the loss-leader freebie or ninety-nine cents.

Mostly, the low-balls don't pencil out. There are many readers who might be intrigued and move on; more who will read what they can for free or a dollar and then move on to the next cheap book. It made sense to me to do what I did long-term. If I don't value my work, others have no reason to do so. How I felt about it then, and it still seems valid now.