My latest short story "The Night the Lights Came On"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Releasing Our Fiction in Bite Sized Portions

A couple of websites I've stumbled across lately have confirmed something I've been thinking about a lot lately. With our device toting busy culture, doesn't it make sense to deliver our fiction in small bite size portions? Something a reader can consume while on a break, in line, or waiting at the doctor’s office? I don't think curling up with an entire novel (paperback or eReader) will ever go away, but in many situations I think this makes a lot of sense for writers these days.

Daily Lit distributes free eBooks in short installments which you set up. I signed up and the site has been sending me emails, which come right to my phone, every M-W-F & Saturday. They take about 5 minutes to read. Even I can find time to read The Farther Adventures of Robinson Crusoe with this method, it's great, because it caters to my busy lifestyle. Much like Phil Rossi's Guerrilla Writing, this could be considered Guerrilla Consuming. Getting stuff done in the slivers of time we have here and there.

Most titles deliver a 30 to 45 minute audio installment of a novel, which is the average commute time. This is a great model for audio fiction delivery. I think for text, people will move to small portions of stories that they can consume in a short amounts of time on their device of choice. I am going to try and write my long form fiction to suit this, as Michael Lee has with his great online YA novel The Hidden Kitchen. He is posting it, one chapter a day until it's done, and you can read these chapters in a short amount of time. Each one has left me wanting more, but if you're caught up you have to wait. It keeps the reader's interest in you and your work in their mind for a longer time. That's what I mean when I say writing to suit this smaller chunk serialized format, make my story a series of one small arc after another that leaves the reader wanting more at the end of each installment. Cliffhangering them, as J.C. Hutchins fans would say.

What do you think about this? Will this only work well with certain genres? What about a 110K word epic fantasy novel? I'd love to hear your comments.

UPDATE - Just had to plug one of my favorite writing podcasts and an article that describes exactly what this post is talking about, from the mouth of bestselling author Michael Stackpole.

Writing Excuses recently put out episode 4.6 called "Pacing with James Dashner" where they talk about writing shorter chapters to pull the reader along. Michael Stackpole talks about this, even breaking it into a word count suggestion. The quote below is from an article called "The Best Way To Break Into Science Fiction Writing Is Online Publishing."

Rather than simply changing the method of delivering stories to readers, Stackpole believes digital formats will change the nature of the stories themselves. At the very least, authors should tailor their work to these new mediums. He cited what he referred to as "the commuter market," people who read two chapters per day on their half hour train ride to work. It's an ideal market for fiction broken into 2,500 word chapters, and could presage a resurgence of serial fiction. "It's kind of like a return to the Penny Dreadfuls," he said. "But the readers today are more sophisticated, so we as writers need to put more work into it."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I Went for a Run

This Tuesday morning at 6AM I ran 2.2 Miles in 27:49. Man am I out of shape! I was glad to know I could run that loop again cold turkey, it's been a long time since I've gone for a run. There is a long hill on the loop I run, and I was only planning to run to the bottom of the hill and back, but I felt good enough to run up and back down it. I used to run this loop in 20 minutes. Even that was a pretty slow pace. In high school I ran the mile in 4:46, the half mile in 2:02, and the 3 mile in 16:42. Of course that was after training year round with the team for 3 years, so I've got a long way to go, but my main goal is health. My grandpa died from a heart attack, and high blood pressure runs in my family. So I need to get on the ball now while I'm still (kind of) young, it'll be easier than starting when I'm older. I think it's the Olympics that inspired me to get back out there. I'm hoping to keep it up and run at least every other day. I saw an ice skating race, and they showed a whole story of the American who was in the race beforehand, it was really cool to see his story and then see him compete. Stories always make everything better.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

eBook Prices

My first thought on eBook prices was that they should be much less than a hardcover or even a paperback. My reasoning behind this was that there is pretty much no cost associated with creating and distributing an eBook. No printing, no shipping, no sending the copies that didn't sell back to the publishing houses. See these reasons from this wired article:

But at least some book publishers think charging $10 for a new release is not enough, even though:
a) Charging as little as $3 more seems to be enough, which is still a hefty subsidy of the cover price.
b) The economy of scale only improves the more e-books you sell.
c) The cost of producing an e-book is as close to $0.00 as you can get. 
With this in mind I have been hoping that if I waited long enough I would be able to buy eBooks for only a few bucks; that eventually the hype would die down and prices would fall. I don't know if that will ever happen, and I'm not sure it should the more I've read and thought about this.

Something I hadn't taken into account was that even though an eBook costs virtually nothing to produce, you're still getting the content that the author worked hard to create. I still think eBooks should be cheaper than hard copies, but I also wouldn't want that to cheapen what goes into making a book. I myself am a writer who hopes to be published someday, and I know that writing a book is a lot of work. I once heard a quote that an artist was asked how long it took him to create a certain painting. Instead of telling the man how many hours it took him he told him the number of years he had been a painter. Yes, perhaps someone can paint something beautiful in a couple hours, but does that mean their paining should be sold for less? What about the years they spent improving on their craft to get to that skill level? The same is true with writers, or even bands. For the most part, every "overnight" success story you hear about with an author or band's breakout novel/album, has been the product of many manuscripts/records that they honed their craft while producing before they became good enough to create something as good as their "breakout" novel/album. I'm not sure what the sweet spot for eBook prices should be. I do think they should be cheaper than paperbacks, but should not devalue the work and content they deliver.

I wonder if there will be different versions of eBooks in the near future, at different price points depending on the content. Apple's iBooks, read on the iPad, can have color photos and video. So will there be a text only, text and full color photos, and text, photos and video version of the same book? Like the DVD model, perhaps they'll go towards the standard eBook, and then the special or extended version with a whole bunch of bonus features at a higher price. All we can do is wait and see, but what do you think? I'd love to hear your comments.
Also, for more on this topic, check out this great post by Published Tor author John Brown:
Amazon vs Macmillan = River Fighting to be Big Banana

UPDATE: Another great article on The New York Times website:
Apple’s Prices for E-Books May Be Lower Than Expected

UPDATE: A Survey on Ebook Prices from
Survey Results

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

First Drafts

I posed a question to a writing buddy, Mike Plested, who's the host of a great podcast for writers called Get Published, in episode 24 he answered this question for me:
  • First Drafts: format as you go, or get it down as fast as you can?
The best writing advice I've ever heard was to stop editing your first draft, and just get it all down on paper. You can always go back and fix things, but while you're writing that first draft, just get it all down. I've heard story after story from other writers that it took them 7+ years to write their first novel, because they would go back and fix every sentence after writing it, staying in chapter one for a lifetime. The simple fact is, most people need to write several novels before they start getting it right.

Thanks to this advice, I scratched a 10K start to a novel I had and started a fresh one with the intent to simply finish it, learning as I go. I wrote a 48K book in 4 months, and I then wrote 50K of my second novel all during the month of November thanks to NaNoWriMo. I just got it out as fast as possible, writing in windows notepad because there's no spelling or grammar check to slow me down. I even started writing everything in one large block. I stopped making paragraphs as I went along, made no attempt to format the text, just got it all down.

My question is this, is it best to do what I just described on your first draft, or would it perhaps save you a little time to at least try and form paragraphs as you go. I have yet to edit my first manuscript, so when I do that I guess I'll find out. If it is a huge pain to format, perhaps I'll start making paragraphs as I go, but I'm not so sure. I expect to change a lot as I edit, and it's then that I'll finally be able to look at each sentence critically. I think it's in this mindset that I could best decide where the next paragraph should start. Listen to Mike's podcast and find out what he has to say about this question, and stay subscribed to this blog to hear more about my findings as I go back and edit my un-formatted manuscript.
I would love to read your comments, maybe you have some experience with this and wisdom to share. Thanks for reading.

Image Source: From the site of Ann Kroeker | Writer