- Home > Archive: September, 2013
The publishing world is changing (I know that’s a not much of a headline—everyone with open eyes and a modicum of sanity recognizes it). Anyone who approaches a career in writing as a get-rich-quick scheme is living more fiction than even the most preposterous novel. Now, writers have to be in this for the long run. For better or worse, the old model of a publisher paying a large up-front advance that rarely earns out is no longer valid.
I’m tackling this first-hand both as an author and as a publisher. At WordFire Press we’ve released my own backlist as well as titles by many other authors. We front all the production costs (and don’t charge them back to the author) and give a generous amount of the earnings to the creators, but we don’t pay an advance on top of that; our authors would unanimously agree that it has paid off quite well in the long run.
When Brad R. Torgersen, one of my students from Writers of the Future and Superstars Writing Seminars, suggested he wanted to publish a collection of his short stories, I paid attention. Not only do I know Brad from his work, he’s also a nominee for the Hugo, Nebula, and Campbell Awards, not to mention his win in the Writers of the Future Contest and an Analog readers’ poll. Despite his credits, no major publisher would tackle his story collection, but Brad wanted to have the book in hand for his fans, for something to show during his convention appearances.
With his credits, Brad could have shopped his collection around to reputable small-press publishers. Submitting a manuscript and waiting for editorial review, then a response, takes 4-6 months minimum. If he was lucky enough to sell his collection to, say, even the second or third publisher he approached, Brad was looking at a year or more before he even had a deal, and they wouldn’t get the book on the shelves for another year or so. Best case: July 2015—two years after he had started submitting it. For such a project, he could have expected an advance of around $1000.
But that would have meant two years of lost exposure and lost earnings. He wanted to have the book in hand soon, to meet his needs now as he waits for Baen Books to publish his first novel in a year or so. Rather than let the collection sit in limbo for two years, he was contemplating doing it himself.
Now, Brad is a bright and ambitious writer, but my warning bells go off when somebody decides to go the “do it yourself” route. To me, it’s like saying “I’ll just remodel my own kitchen. I’m sure I can figure it out.” Not only do you have to learn how to do the Kindle eBook version, but the Nook version (a separate thing entirely), and the Kobo, and iBooks, and Smashwords for everything else. If he wanted a physical printed book (one of his requirements), he needed to learn the Createspace, Lulu, or Lightning Source process—and that says nothing about simply having graphic design experience so the book wouldn’t look like an amateurish effort.
Rather than let Brad start the learning curve from scratch, I offered to have WordFire release his collection. We’ve been doing this for quite a while, and I have 25 years of design and publishing experience. We couldn’t pay him up front, as a small press publisher might, but we could get his book out right away—and earning money within a month. I had no doubt that he would earn more in the interim than another publisher would have paid him (two years later).
Brad has worked with us for a long time, and so he took a chance with WordFire. We were able to put his collection into production right away, and we gave Brad a great deal of input in the cover and interior design. He secured introductions from his writing mentors Mike Resnick, Stan Schmidt, and Alan Cole.
Brad delivered his final manuscript to us on August 6 and we had *finished, printed* copies of his book in hand, proofed, formatted, and laid out, by August 21. Fifteen days later.
We debuted Brad’s collection at Salt Lake City Comic Con the first week in September. Brad was there at our table, signing his book, and soon sold out of the 45 copies there in the stack; his fans have been ordering so many signed copies from his website that he’s had to order another entire shipment.
Thanks to social media promotion and a book bomb shepherded by friend and bestselling author Larry Correia, Brad’s collection burned up the amazon bestseller lists, hitting the #8 bestseller slot in hard SF, the #9 slot in high-tech, and #13 in post-apocalyptic.
We can honestly say that Brad has made more money in two weeks from his collection than he would have received as an advance from another small-press publisher, and his book is available for sale right now, long before another publisher could have released it. And he will keep earning money for the next two years and beyond.
Brad says, “To me, it was very plainly an advantageous deal. WordFire is not a ‘nobody press’ with zero cred. WordFire is the known-quantity label of not only Kevin J. Anderson, but the Frank Herbert estate. The percentages offered were stupendously good (compared to a traditional small press) and there was zero worry about returns, as well as zero worry about ever ‘earning out’ or making money, beyond the initial advance. Because I’d already written 90% of the material in the book, I didn’t care about an advance. I wanted a handsome product available *now* for those (out in the world) who’d been asking for it, and so I could go into the publication of my Baen novel (next year) with an existing audience who’d already had exposure to me via Analog, InterGalactic Medicine Show, *and* my story collection.”
This is a great book, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to release it at WordFire—it’s our first original story collection. I hope you’ll read these excellent stories. Click for: Print version Kindle version Kobo version Nook version Brad’s signed edition
POSTSCRIPT: I was already convinced this model made sense, considering the net present value of a book earning money immediately and building royalties over the long run. But I received a shock recently when I talked to another up-and-coming author who had published a collection through one of those traditional small-press publishers. I was surprised to learn that even from a respected, established house he received no advance, that the publisher took all production expenses out of the earnings (WordFire charges no expenses back to the author), and only then did the well-respected publisher split the profits 50/50. Wow. WordFire charges no expenses and splits royalties 65% (author) 35% (publisher) from copy #1.
Note, we aren’t open to submissions and I’m not trying to do a sell-job on our publishing house (though I would love it if you picked up a copy of Brad’s book). I am sharing first-hand some of the startling changes in publishing. Long-held assumptions are no longer valid.
WordFire Press is pleased to release the novel based on the forthcoming major fantasy film, THE CROWN AND THE DRAGON. The novel was written by one of our writing students and Superstars alumni John D. Payne. For fans of high fantasy and epic fantasy—the start of the Paladin Cycle.
The land of Deira burns. Two decades of war have laid waste to this once-green paradise … but even more destructive than rampaging armies is the wrath of the dragon—an uncontrollable living weapon unleashed by the invaders. Some brave rebels struggle against impossible odds. Others turn outlaw just to stay alive.
Like many of her people, Elenn of Adair has lost family, lands, and possessions to the brutal realities of war. To save her people, she seizes a desperate chance to defeat the monstrous dragon, break the occupation, and see the rightful king crowned—she must protect a sacred relic from enemy soldiers, bandits, creatures of darkness … and the implacable Magister Corvus.
Elenn’s reluctant guide is Aedin Jeoris, a bandit escaped from the gallows. These two must rely on each other to survive mortal danger and dire magicks. And both must decide what sacrifices they are willing to make so they can achieve their destinies.
We hope you enjoy it—and don’t miss the film from Arrowstorm Entertainment.
It’s my 25th anniversary! A quarter century ago my very first novel, RESURRECTION, INC., was published in paperback by Signet Books. It was just a mass-market original, got nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, garnered good critical acclaim, but went out of print before long. Then Overlook Connection Press published a hardcover 10th Anniversary Edition with a new Bob Eggleton cover, which also sold out. Eventually, we reissued the novel at WordFire Press in eBook and print format.
Now, ECW—the publishers of the fine, full-color hardcover of CLOCKWORK ANGELS last year—will be issuing a new hardcover 25th anniversary edition of RESURRECTION, INC. with a new cover illustration by well-known Rush cover artist Hugh Syme. The Rush connection with RESURRECTION, INC. has been clear from the beginning—that novel was entirely inspired by the Rush album “Grace Under Pressure,” which I acknowledged in the dedication. That’s how I got in contact with Neil Peart in the first place, more than two decades ago. Since Hugh Syme has done most of the Rush cover art for decades, and since he did all the artwork for CLOCKWORK ANGELS, having him do the cover for the 25th anniversary edition of RES. INC. is a masterstroke.
On Saturday, Hugh and I talked on the phone for the better part of an hour, brainstorming ideas for the cover image. In two days, Hugh has already sent me two roughs, and I’ve given him my feedback. This is going to be great.
ECW will release the new edition of my novel in April, to coincide with the trade paperback release of CLOCKWORK ANGELS. I’ll write a special introduction giving background on the book.I will post when preorders are available.
In the future, the dead walk the streets—Resurrection, Inc. found a profitable way to do it. A microprocessor brain, synthetic heart, artificial blood, and a fresh corpse can return as a Servant for anyone with the price. Trained to obey any command, Servants have no minds of their own, no memories of their past lives.
Then came Danal. He was murdered, a sacrifice from the ever-growing cult of neo-Satanists who sought heaven in the depths of hell. But as a Servant, Danal began to remember. He learned who had killed him, who he was, and what Resurrection, Inc. had in mind for the human race.
As a great cap for the summer season, Tim and I drove down to the mining town of Silverton deep in the San Juan Mountains to do two more segments on the Colorado Trail, 20 miles and 11 miles, two days in a row. It was spectacular.
We arrived in the rain and fog, and the weather report didn’t look great…but it took a lot of timing and planning to set this up, so we were going one way or another. Besides, my previous two weekends had been swamped with lots of people—75,000 at DragonCon and 80,000 at Salt Lake City Comic Con—and I really wanted some quiet, alone time in the mountains. Unfortunately, being crowded with all those people inevitably exposed me to the con crud, so I was about to hike over thirty miles in the mountains while sick and coughing. And that was not ideal either…nor was the weather.
But, it was a hike in the beautiful mountains, so that made everything worth it.
The first morning we got up at 5:30, got ready to head out before dawn. In the rain and fog. We drove both cars to the western end of the segment, left one car, then drove to the eastern end of the segment up a rough 4WD road, forded a wide, deep creek, climbed uphill until even the Ford Expedition couldn’t go any farther. We walked the rest of the way up the road to start the 20 mile hike back to where we had parked the first car. For the first few hours, we hiked in the rain—not a downpour, just a gentle constant rain, with a lot of fog masking the view. We wore our rain gear and gloves and pressed on. But then the clouds cleared, and we could see what we’d been missing.
I was dictating new chapters in the next Dan Shamble, Zombie PI novel, SLIMY UNDERBELLY. It was a real delight to be back in that fun and hilarious universe. I did three chapters that day.
It takes a long time to hike twenty miles. In late afternoon we passed through an area that had been burned in a raging forest fire in the late 19th Century, but still hadn’t grown back. We finally made it back to the Little Molas Lake trailhead after the sun had set and the light was fading. We arrived back in the little town of Silverton after 8:30 PM as the last restaurant in town was closing, but we got in just in time to get a hot meal. Then back to the room to clean up and get a good night’s sleep for the next day’s hike of 11-mile Segment 26.
Another early start before dawn, and off again to a much clearer day. We were sore, tired, but ready for the next segment. The terrain in this part was gentler, more rolling and forested. I dictated another three Dan Shamble chapters as well as my brief stories for this year’s Tales from the Trails calendar (which Tim and I produce with our photographs). We had some fog, and a brief rainshower, but overall a great day.
At the end of the hike, I reached the offshoot trail to where the Expedition was parked. Tim was only ten minutes behind me, and I got to the car, changed into my spare dry shirt, slipped out of my hiking boots and into clean socks and tennis shoes. But Tim didn’t arrive. I waited and waited, long past when I expected him. Though I was tired from the two days of hiking, I strapped on my pack, got my hiking stick, and trudged back up the trail to find him. I imagined he was hurt, had broken an ankle, had slipped down a steep slope alongside the trail. I knew where I had last seen him (we had taken pictures), and he wasn’t far behind me. But there was no sign of him. I found a hunter’s camp and asked two guys there; they had seen us hike past earlier, but no sign of Tim now. I had gone a mile and a half back up the trail, so I turned around and headed back.
I worked my way down the trail, still searching, and then I reached a spot where I finally received a text message on my phone. Normally, there was no signal, but Tim had sent a text and it finally got through. He was still on the well-marked Colorado Trail, but hadn’t seen me in a long time. Turns out he had overshot the offshoot trail to our car and kept going for about two miles, along the segment we had hiked the previous day (but didn’t recognize the scenery because it had been foggy and rainy the first time!) He got my answering text telling him to head back, and I hiked to the offshoot trail to meet up with him. That was an extra couple of miles each we weren’t expecting! But we were safe, though tired, and had another adventure under our belts.
We made it back to Silverton early enough this time that we had several restaurants to choose from (we settled on the Handlebars Saloon), and I treated myself to a T-bone and a locally brewed amber. I did do a little editing on the laptop in the evening, but I was just too tired to concentrate.
Next morning, Tim left early to get home, and I stayed to do a little work on the computer, had some coffee in a Silverton coffee shop, then headed out for the leisurely 6-hour drive home through the mountains. During the trip and the hikes, I dictated 12 chapters in SLIMY UNDERBELLY, definitely a successful few days.