Thursday, June 20, 2013

Time Traveled Tales and Publishing

I'm finally mostly recovered from Origins, and while I had a great time in the seminars and schmoozing and even playing the occasional game, the one thing that has really had me bouncing off the walls is the reprinting of last year's anthology.

On the surface it's all pretty simple. The anthology was a limited edition for the convention and the authors have all got together to reprint it.  Where it gets interesting - really interesting - is in the details.  I'm not talking about contract issues and fights between authors though.  There hasn't been any of that, and that kind of thing is pretty small in the grand scheme of things.  No, what I'm talking about is a potential change in publishing that may have a huge effect in the future.

No, I'm not exaggerating.

The Industry

It's no secret that the publishing industry has been in deep bantha poodoo for the past several years.  Newspapers and magazines have been collapsing left and right.  The big publishing houses have been firing their staff.  No one wants to take a chance on an untried author ... at least, no one with money, and the days of large advances on book sales are pretty much history.  It's enough to make me think I waited too long to start writing.

If publishers aren't going to be funding the print runs then who will?

Two of the most common options are self-publishing and print-on-demand.  Self-publishing still carries a stigma from earlier days when it was the last resort for amateurs, hacks, and the truly desperate.  It also has a high up-front cost and significant risk of losing money.  Print-on-demand takes the high costs and the risk out of the equation, but it adds the new wrinkle that the printer ends up getting a far bigger share of the proceeds than the author.  What's more, because of the low cost of entry there has been a flood of low quality books into the market.  That means an author taking this route will have to spend a lot of time and money marketing their work to keep it from being lost in the noise.

This effectively means that for a new writer to publish their work, they have to shell out a bunch of money on editors, printing, and marketing ... and hope for the best.

Crowdsourcing and Shared Risk

One possible solution to this quandary is crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter.  This is where the Origins anthology comes into the picture.  Ron Garner of Silence in the Library Publishing has set up a Kickstarter Project for Time Traveled Tales that is truly inspired.

You can click through the image above to see (and support!) the project, but let me point out some of the benefits to this approach that may not be readily apparent.

The first is that there is little to no risk.  If such a project fails then the publisher/author is out some time and work, but they haven't spent a fortune on printing books that no one will ever buy.  This is kind of like the print-on-demand approach. In contrast, a successful project has all the money up front and can therefore get the kind of price break from the printers that you can only get by ordering large quantities like the big publishers do.

As they say in late-night television ads, "But wait, there's still more!"  Without the overhead of the big publishing houses, the authors end up getting much more of the proceeds - much more than in just about any other method of publishing.


Now here's the really cool part.  Almost since the invention of the printing press, publishers have decided what the reader can buy.  They choose which authors get published and what kind of stories get sold.  But in crowdsourced publishing the readers get to decide.  The authors and publishers present their projects and whichever ones the readers choose to support are the ones that actually go to print.

Now if all that isn't enough, go and take another look at the Time Traveled Tales project.  The book has great stories by some very talented authors, stunningly beautiful artwork, and other cool stuff like challenge coins and postcards.  Oh, and it also has a story by me.