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January 01, 2008

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Charles Sheehan-Miles

Chris,

Thanks for posting about this! Given that my micro-press uses a business model significantly inspired by your work, I'm delighted you saw this one and chose to post about it!

Best regards,

Charles

Benjamin Huot

Great idea. That is what I have done with my books. I have also licensed them with a Creative Commons License - the only condition being not to modify them. In fact, they were only available in print this year but they have been online for 9 previous years. I couldn't afford to get them printed from a standard publisher and I wasn't going to sell my copyright, but I found out about Lulu.com - print on demand and all I have to pay is a few dollars a book. There were no setup costs. And I designed the books entirely with open source software. My content is very specialized - philosophy/poetry and definitely fits into the long tail idea. I am definitely a Professional Amateur as I was mostly self taught and make no money off any of my work. I can afford to do this, because I am a disabled veteran. I get 300 unique visitors a month and it took me until a month ago to be satisfied with the design.

Sami Viitamäki

My thoughts exactly. I'm planning on writing a book this Spring but I'm definitely not planning on making big bucks with it directly. Instead I will allow downloading it for free and I will sell it for just the production costs (or maybe for just a tiny premium). The motivation is of course the chairman-of-the-board seats that ultimately result from spreading my infinite wisdom to the right people - as many as possible maximizes the possibility of 'right' ;)

There is however, an exception to this. People not being completely rational, they do place value to the amount of money it costs for them to acquire a book. In other words, they might not perceive a free book and the information it holds to be as valuable to them in comparison to one that costs money. There is surely a point in an aspiring author's career when she needs to start charging for books if not for other reasons, then just to stay credible and interesting enough to be picked up by the leading thinkers. Don't you agree?

Benjamin Huot

Good point, Sami Viitamäki. I am in a unique position as being a disabled veteran with 100% disability pension. I cannot make any money or I would end up forfeiting my entire pension. I have Paranoid Schizophrenia and truly am not able to work for money, although I want to work a job more than anything else. Why don't you charge some more money in addition to costs and then send it all to a charity?

Payday Land

I actually found your site due to the fact you're giving your book for free download. Kudos and good luck Chris.

bowerbird

> Tim O'Reilly was the first to say that
> the enemy of authors isn't piracy, it's obscurity.

he was. i'm not sure he believes it, though, at least
not all the time, since i continually have to remind him. :+)


> For the vast majority of authors,
> being read is actually reward enough.

that's right.

and for most writers of the future, it will become
the _only_ "reward" they're interested in collecting.


> How to turn that recognition into a living

hey, wait! now you've transformed the issue to
"turning that recognition into making a living",
which is _not_ the concern of most authors...


> is a whole other process, and not necessarily
> one that depends on the traditional book industry
> to deliver. Good thing, too, since it so rarely does.

you're right to remark that "the traditional book industry"
doesn't do a good job of "making a living" for most authors.

but i will repeat again that that will _not_ be the agenda for
"most authors". for most authors -- even today, and certainly
to an ever-increasing degree in the future -- the objective
for writing a book will be _to_tell_their_story_, because
they feel that they have a story that _should_be_heard_...

(or even one that _might_be_interesting_to_some_people_...)

and, with the virtual cost of _delivering_ that story to
the world dropping to zero (when the vehicle is cyberspace),
this reason for writing a book will spread like wildfire...

exactly like this same logic created an explosion of blogs.

i hope -- with your emphasis on the "free" book -- that you
will honor this growing motivation for the writing of books
as a means of using one's voice to tell one's story...

-bowerbird

Dhrumil

Well said. Thanks for posting this Chris.

Dane Cao

well,Mr Anderson,I guess on this issue Charles speaks for you? I asked you similar questions, and you gave reasons to the same effect. All I hope for then is letting exposure take priority does ensure you a more-than-decent living...

Matt Mason

The real problem the book industry has is people *not* being able to share books as effectively as they once did. People have not chosen to pirate books on a grand scale in the western world yet. The real worry is that independent book stores are closing and book review sections are disappearing. Books don’t appear to be as important to us as they once were, any way in which authors can connect to prospective readers should be welcomed.

Raza Imam

Chris,

So when will your book be available for free download? Or have you impaled the obscurity monster? ;-)

When I first heard about Radiohead’s move to share their album for free on NPR a few months ago I knew it was going to be a success. Web 2.0, user generated content, open source, peer-to-peer file sharing etc. all point to the growing communal inclinations of our society. The tide is changing and yesterday’s power-brokers are today’s paupers. I mean, we live in an age where a post on Digg can reach more people than all major networks and newspapers combined (and arguably from a more sophisticated audience)

The open source community has known this forever. It's like making a deposit in my emotional bank account that Stephen Covey talks about. Think of the Coke and Mentos guys, Chocolate Rain, Free Hug Campaign, etc. Now more than ever, authors, artists, performers, teachers, scientists, etc. have vehicles to deliver their message... as long as they provide something of value, (or perceived as valuable) the rest will follow.

Genuinely successful business people have always known that if you offer true value, publicity, money, fame, and happiness will naturally follow. ‘Pay it forward’ works. The writing is on the wall. People who fail to see it will go down with the Dodo bird.

Raza Imam
http://BoycottSoftwareSweatshops.com

Francis Hamit

There was a writer at WesterCon last year who had done podcast readings from his book for free and was able to leverage that into not one, but two contracts for conventional publication. But he wasn't giving away the whole thing. Electronic publishing has a problem; it takes time and effort far beyond just buying a print book to get the material. One thing I've learned from my little experiment is that if people don't want to read what you've written, you can't get them to do that by making it "free". Time is also money. Sampling is a good way to spark interest, but the difference between amateurs and professionals in this culture is that professionals get paid.
And people will pirate print books. SWFA has had problems with anthologies of science fiction and fantasy printed in third world nations and exported here where they are sold in warehouse stores. The authors get no royalties and have not given permission. When you self publish properly you are going to incur expenses that you will need to recover. I'm paying fees for cover art and design for the print edition of The Shenandoah Spy, which will be out in a couple of months. That cover is more likely to make people pick up the book and make a buying decision than any electronic sampling I might do. It's easier to do; just take it to the cash register. No downloading required. People will pay for what they want to read or need to read. If that motivation isn't there, then you can't give it away.

Francis Hamit

There was a writer at WesterCon last year who had done podcast readings from his book for free and was able to leverage that into not one, but two contracts for conventional publication. But he wasn't giving away the whole thing. Electronic publishing has a problem; it takes time and effort far beyond just buying a print book to get the material. One thing I've learned from my little experiment is that if people don't want to read what you've written, you can't get them to do that by making it "free". Time is also money. Sampling is a good way to spark interest, but the difference between amateurs and professionals in this culture is that professionals get paid.
And people will pirate print books. SWFA has had problems with anthologies of science fiction and fantasy printed in third world nations and exported here where they are sold in warehouse stores. The authors get no royalties and have not given permission. When you self publish properly you are going to incur expenses that you will need to recover. I'm paying fees for cover art and design for the print edition of The Shenandoah Spy, which will be out in a couple of months. That cover is more likely to make people pick up the book and make a buying decision than any electronic sampling I might do. It's easier to do; just take it to the cash register. No downloading required. People will pay for what they want to read or need to read. If that motivation isn't there, then you can't give it away.

Fiona

Interesting post. I've been trying the old Radiohead/ Stephen King giveaway model with a children's book I self-published a few years back. Sales of the hard-copy had more or less dried up, so I packaged the book up as a pdf and make it available as a free download from my site (http://www.thecraftywriter.com/publications/donovons-rainbow). There were a number of reasons:
1) as an experiment to test the concept of allowing the consumer to pay what they feel something is worth, or nothing at all.
2) as a marketing exercise - the theory being that someone who enjoys reading the pdf may buy a hard-copy and/or recommend it to their friends.
3) I'd rather share it with people (even without payment) than let it sit on a shelf gathering dust.

So far I've had quite a few downloads, and have only just received my first donation. I guess the jury's still out for me, but I still like the idea.

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!