eBook Experiments: Doctorow, Goldberg, Holloway

“Still, this business of my giving away e-books is a controversial subject. I encounter plenty of healthy skepticism in my travels, and not a little bile. There’s a lot of people who say I’m pulling a fast one, that I’d be making more money if I didn’t do this crazy liberal copyright stuff, or that I’m the only one it’ll ever work for, or that I secretly make all my money from doing stuff that isn’t writing, or that it only works because I’m so successful. Of course, when I started, they said it only worked because I was so unknown.”
Cory Doctorow kicks off a unique publishing experiment–and a monthly PW column

Cory Doctorow’s new experiment to prove free, non-DRMd ebooks can help sales will be an interesting one to watch, and while his promise of full transparency is both refreshing and rare, it’s far from “unique”.

A couple of other authors at opposite ends of the known/unknown spectrum are conducting similar experiments that are also worth watching: Lee Goldberg and Dan Holloway.

Goldberg, author of the Monk novelizations (among others), has a series of enlightening posts, “You Can Become a Kindle Millionaire”, tracking his epublishing efforts (inspired by JA Konrath‘s similar expermient) that started with making two of his out-of-print books available (not for free) on the Kindle back in June and publicly tracking sales results. He has since expanded it to include 10 of his books, all originally published in print by traditional publishers.

All told, my combined Kindle royalties from June 1 to 11:23 pm Oct 13, are: $1750.

It’s not enough to make me follow Joe’s example and turn away from anything less than a $30,000 advance from a major publisher, but I’m very pleased. It’s hardly a fortune, and clearly the lion’s share of the royalties are from just one book, THE WALK, but it’s found money. And it’s gratifying to me to see THE WALK, which was out-of-print, on track to reaching more readers, and making more money for me, in a Kindle edition than it ever did in hardcover.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Dan Holloway — an outspoken advocate of self-publishing and the freemium model for writers, as well as organizer of the Free-e-day festival — goes a step further, establishing expectations and tracking the progress of his literary novel, released as part of his indie collective, Year Zero Writers:

I have always said that I want to be transparent throughout the self-publishing process. I believe it’s possible to succeed as a self-publisher with books like Songs from the Other Side of the Wall, especially as part of a group like Year Zero Writers. As part of this, I want to be up front about what I hope to achieve, when, and whether I am making that progress. So every month I will report on what has happened in the preceding month and what I expect to happen in the month ahead.

I will begin with an outline of my expectations for Year One – September 2009-August 2010.

There’s nothing resembling a consensus on how publishers should deal with ebooks — pricing, timing, distribution, DRM, and optimization are all being debated from every conceivable angle — and these authors’ experiments are just three of many potential case studies to look forward to.

eBooks: Opportunity or Threat? is the underlying theme of the series of Digital Book World sessions focusing on the “fiendishly complicated” and increasingly popular format, covering everything from pricing and timing of release, to optimizing the experience of reading on screen. Among the confirmed speakers for the event are Peter Balis, Director of Digital Content Sales for Wiley; Vook Founder and CEO Brad Inman; and writer Kassia Kroszer of BookSquare.

6 thoughts on “eBook Experiments: Doctorow, Goldberg, Holloway

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  2. Dan Holloway

    I’m honoured to be included in such a list.

    I’d like to explain alittle about my purpose for doing this. Above all else, what I want to do is offer a template for other people thinking of doing likewise. There are loads of generalisations (:p) when it comes to self-publishing or ebook giveaways, and because people who put them together are writers they are very persuasive. On both sides. Which is a dangerous situation when it comes to the many enthusiastic new writers who read an article and get excited and want to go and do likewise – it’s importantn before they do so that they have some evidence!

    So what I’m trying to do, by offering breakdowns of the stats AND what I’m doing with the book/what’s happening on the net or elsewhere with it, is to give others an idea of what works and what doesn’t – it’s already clear that some e-fiction sites, for example, have a much wider reach than others, and it’s not always clear – without being listed on them – which is which.

    I believe my fellow Year Zero Writers will be doing likewise in the near future, which can only serve to increase the usefulness of the data.

  3. Terry Palmer

    What an interesting experiment. Could an author of an action thriller publish a chapter a week, similar to the old fashioned saturday matinee for a nominal fee? How would a dual product approach work. Seems to have great marketing potential.

    1. yearzerowriters

      Terry, pay-per-chapter serialisation is definitely possible. I am sure mainstream authors do it, but the guy who’s got the market cornered on it and has thought the business model through incredibly well is called MCM – his website is http://www.1889.ca – he is also extremely helpful.

      In terms of dual product, at Year Zero (www.yearzerowriters.wordpress.com) we use a fourway product – we have a blog with original new fiction from our 26 writers most days for people to get to know them, as well as what we hope are higher-quality than our regular blog articles. We also run an anthology sampling our work that’s free to download – again, to give people a teaser of what’s coming (it’s largely opening chapters). In terms of our actual books, we give the eversions away free, and charge for the paperback.

      I am also trying to prove the “gigs and merch” model used by bands CAN work with books – I had my first gig last night, in fact, which was wonderful (will be writing it up in my report on Nov 1st), and Year Zero T-shirts will be available before Christmas



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