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Old 05-11-2010, 11:37 PM   #16
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If I can download a book for free there is no chance that I would buy it except as a gift. But free eBooks have allowed me to "discover" new authors and have made me buy other works from them and ,as many have said here, I try to only buy eBooks when I can.
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Old 05-11-2010, 11:53 PM   #17
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Some thoughts that sprang to mind when reading your initial post.

The other books in the series are all long out of print correct? If so and if the paper book indicates it's book 4 in a series then that could be a big problem right there. I know I for one always start with book one in a series so I wouldn't even consider book 4 right off the bat so I'd skip it because of that if browsing at B&N or Borders and look for a series where I could start at the beginning and if you were an author I knew from way back I'd probably have already purchased the HC.

Folks here probably aren't the best source for data on this as if they're going to buy your book it's likely going to be the ebook version not the paper one.

Giving away the first three I'd think would be beneficial in getting new readers and getting readers for the new book (I've found many new authors this way). However how many folks are likely to read the first three in e and then the fourth in p? I'd think they'd want e (especially with the number of folks moving to ebooks now) and since they couldn't buy it and you had it up for free they went that route if they were interested in reading it. By the time the official ebook was available most would have either read the one they got for free and that's that or have read it and have no idea it's out officially (where they might decide to purchase an ebook copy from Tor to help support the author) it might be long forgotten for them. While I think it was generous to give away book 4 I'd imagine if it's hurt anything it's more likely to have hurt sales of Tor's ebook version than their print version.

I don't know what paper sales are like for Science Fiction these days, but I'd think it'd be one of the top genre's of folks making the switch to ebooks. You mention they're the worst numbers of your career, but maybe they aren't great for others writing in the same genre?


Anyway just some thoughts.

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Old 05-12-2010, 12:07 AM   #18
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I agree with most of what others above have said.

1) This is probably the wrong place to ask about pbook sales since we're a big group of ebook junkies.

2) People that read ebooks tend to not want pbooks. I won't buy a pbook, except for children's books, ever again.

3) The free books did effect me. I purchased your entire backlist from fictionwise as a result. But I won't buy any of your pbooks.

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Old 05-12-2010, 12:10 AM   #19
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I get what everyone's saying about "for me it's ebook or no book." I'm a little that way myself. (Not quite, but I do now greatly prefer to buy an ebook in most cases.) I guess my question is partly trying to get a sense of how pervasive that view is (not that MR necessarily represents the whole spectrum of people who buy ebooks--but you're the only sample I have handy).

Still, I know that there are ebook buyers who also buy paper books. Or who are in the minority in a family of book readers, as I am. So, for instance, I have sometimes bought paper copies of ebooks I read, and given them as Christmas gifts.

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Obviously retailers don't care about them, but does Tor consider sales of the ebook equivalent to pbook sales? If so, I'm wondering how the delay in a commercial ebook might have hurt you, among people like me and the others above who resist buying in print at all costs.
That's a question I wish I knew the answer to. The Tor ebook was delayed more than a year from when it was first promised. I'm sure that cost some sales. I don't know if the publishers have yet begun to think in terms of an ebook sale being as good as a paper sale. The bigger problem is that in the treebook retail business, there's a cascade effect: poor sales of this year's title results in reduced orders for the next book, which results in lower sales, etc. It's called "ordering to the net," and it's stupid but it's a death spiral that has ruined more than one author's career.
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:13 AM   #20
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Downloads of ebook definitely kill paper back sales and I cannot think why it would not - is the whole point of inventing "ebook" to replace casual paperbacks and save trees? I dont think the fact that it's free would hurt that much, as a matter of fact, a free sampler would encourage people to know the author and the book better. But electronic versions would definitely cut phsyical sales. iTunes does kill CD sales at Walmarts even though the downloads are not free (and if you are getting all the songs in the album, you may even be paying more than the CD price tag and for a lower quality format.) Would people still buy CDs after they purchased downloads from iTunes? Obviously some audiophilers still may, but I doubt most peopel would do that. I guess it's same for the books.
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:34 AM   #21
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The other books in the series are all long out of print correct? If so and if the paper book indicates it's book 4 in a series then that could be a big problem right there.
Oh yes, this is definitely part of the problem. But the reprint market being what it is (lousy), I couldn't persuade Tor to reissue the older books. Believe me, we have had conversations about this.

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I don't know what paper sales are like for Science Fiction these days, but I'd think it'd be one of the top genre's of folks making the switch to ebooks.
You'd think. And clearly there are a lot of SF readers here. But I haven't really seen much evidence that either readers or writers of SF are making the switch in great numbers. Both groups tend to be great collectors of books, for one thing. The physical books matter.

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You mention they're the worst numbers of your career, but maybe they aren't great for others writing in the same genre?
According to my editor, many people are having the same problem, and it's not just SF. Much of it has to do with tremendous consolidation in the wholesale distribution business, which has squeezed out diversity in favor of lowest common denominator (bestsellers). So many mmpb's never get distributed decently in the first place.

It's a systemic problem.
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:44 AM   #22
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Oh yes, this is definitely part of the problem. But the reprint market being what it is (lousy), I couldn't persuade Tor to reissue the older books. Believe me, we have had conversations about this.
It's too bad they can't put them out as some kind of omnibus edition like Daw did with Tanya Huff's first two Valor (Confederation) books when she started that series back up. I mean I can see their side of things too, but...


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So many mmpb's never get distributed decently in the first place
I see that. It used to be I could grab a book quick on impulse at Target or even a convenience store or drug store. Some of those still offer a selection of paperbacks, but what they offer is much less diverse than it once was.
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:47 AM   #23
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Downloads of ebook definitely kill paper back sales and I cannot think why it would not - is the whole point of inventing "ebook" to replace casual paperbacks and save trees?
Maybe in future years. Ebook sales are not yet high enough to account for a significant dropoff in paperback sales (generally speaking). A few percent, at most. But not 50-70%. Free downloads, on the other hand, can run into much larger numbers.

Mind you, I don't think the free downloads are the cause of the problem I'm describing. But I also think they did not have the boosting effect I was hoping for.

Except for my backlist, for which I am grateful.
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Old 05-12-2010, 12:57 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by starrigger View Post
Maybe in future years. Ebook sales are not yet high enough to account for a significant dropoff in paperback sales (generally speaking). A few percent, at most. But not 50-70%. Free downloads, on the other hand, can run into much larger numbers.

Mind you, I don't think the free downloads are the cause of the problem I'm describing. But I also think they did not have the boosting effect I was hoping for.

Except for my backlist, for which I am grateful.
The problem is there is just so much more out there for folks to consume and ways for folks to consume it. In the past video games weren't as huge as they are now. You didn't have MMORPG's where people spend hours and hours everyday. Home video has never been as huge as it has been since DVD really took off for the masses. In the past if you missed a TV show you just missed it, unless you taped it, and might read something instead. Now you have on demand and Hulu and can even catch the latest episodes on the networks sites a lot of the time. Plus you have the things that have been competition for years, TV, sporting events, movies, etc. Publishers have done a poor job of understanding that they're competing against all of that and more. They do very little marketing compared to some of those other forms of entertainment.

It's hard to know on free downloads. For a lot of folks if it's free they'll download it if there's the slightest bit of interest, but would be unlikely to buy it. I don't really get why some pubs have offered freebies that are the latest book in a series or a book in the middle of a series, it makes no sense. Baen does it right with the Free Library by offering the first (and sometimes 2nd and 3rd, etc.) in a series to potentially get you hooked. It's worked with me on a few series from them.

Last edited by AnemicOak; 05-12-2010 at 01:00 AM.
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Old 05-12-2010, 01:04 AM   #25
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The problem is there is just so much more out there for folks to consume
That is so true.
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Old 05-12-2010, 02:45 AM   #26
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Jeff: I think you've asked a good question about a complicated issue.

Speaking for myself, I don't typically go back and buy a paperback copy of something I've gotten for free. At the same time, I don't buy a lot of new paperbacks anyway - I typically use the library or buy them used, if I buy them at all. (Since space constraints are a big factor at my house, I'm more likely to buy an electronic copy if I buy anything at all.)

Your question raised another issue - something I've been wondering about - and you are the perfect guy to ask about it. You were one of the very first guys whose stuff I read when I first went out onto the internet and started researching about writing science fiction. You've done a lot to support other writers; as such, I'd love to hear your take on the flipside of the issue you've raised.

How can we as the reading public (and in some cases writers and wanna-bes) best support an author such as yourself? Do we download free books and send you contributions? Should we buy the backlist from somewhere (Baen, Fictionwise)? And which means more to you - the sale of a new paperback or (perhaps multiple) sales of backlist titles?
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Old 05-12-2010, 03:08 AM   #27
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Jeff: I think you've asked a good question about a complicated issue.

Speaking for myself, I don't typically go back and buy a paperback copy of something I've gotten for free. At the same time, I don't buy a lot of new paperbacks anyway - I typically use the library or buy them used, if I buy them at all. (Since space constraints are a big factor at my house, I'm more likely to buy an electronic copy if I buy anything at all.)

Your question raised another issue - something I've been wondering about - and you are the perfect guy to ask about it. You were one of the very first guys whose stuff I read when I first went out onto the internet and started researching about writing science fiction. You've done a lot to support other writers; as such, I'd love to hear your take on the flipside of the issue you've raised.

How can we as the reading public (and in some cases writers and wanna-bes) best support an author such as yourself? Do we download free books and send you contributions? Should we buy the backlist from somewhere (Baen, Fictionwise)? And which means more to you - the sale of a new paperback or (perhaps multiple) sales of backlist titles?
Thanks for the kind words. As for your question.......that's a good question. Any of those things you mention are helpful. One other thing that helps that you don't mention is just going into bookstores and encouraging them to carry your favorite authors' books. And telling other people about books you've particularly enjoyed.

As far as the options you listed are concerned:

1) Donations buy beer this week, and are a nice personal connection.
2) Buying backlist ebooks helps sales figures and buys beer in a few months, when the royalties trickle in. (Maybe I'll be thirstier then.)
3) Buying a paperback probably buys less beer in the short term. It might not ever reach the author in the form of cash, though it helps to earn out the advance. But it helps the numbers look better to the publisher and the booksellers, and improves the sales potential of this book and future books.

Bottom line, there is no clear answer.

So do what feels right to you, because everything helps. And what helps most of all is getting out there and generating word of mouth (or of keyboard).
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Old 05-12-2010, 04:15 AM   #28
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Q: Do free downloads kill paperback sales?

I have a personal interest in this question. It is the currently accepted wisdom in the progressive ebook community that putting books up for free download spurs regular book sales, rather than hurting them. It appears to work for Cory Doctorow and several other high-profile authors. But I wonder...
Here is the answer to your question.
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Old 05-12-2010, 05:52 AM   #29
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I'm not going to claim to be the norm on this topic, because I have no idea what the norm IS in this case.

Speaking specifically to the Chaos Chronicles, I did it all backwards. I've had the first three in paperback for what seems like forever. Sunborn was one of the first "freebies" I picked up...and then promptly used Paypal to donate the pb price equivalent for it and all three of the others. Hope the beer was good! LOL

In another case, I picked up a free copy of Karen Marie Moning's book, Darkfever, last summer. By then end of the year, I'd bought everything else she's ever written in ebook form, and copies of 5 of those in paperback, plus one in hardcover, for a friend for Christmas--all new from Amazon, not used. I've also lost track of how many people I've convinced to read those books; at last count before I gave up, it was over 25. So that's 25 new readers for her. Were most of them ebook readers? Yes. But not all the friends and family they recommend to are going to be!

Because I read those books, others were recommended to me as things I'd also like. I've picked up over 10 new-to-me authors and series since last summer that are all a direct result of Random House giving me one free book. In each case, I've bought all the books (in ebook form), recommended them in half a dozen places, and bought paperbacks as gifts. We're talking literally hundreds of dollars in sales now--all from one "free" book.

Again, I'm not saying I'm "the norm". What I do believe though is that there is simply no way to tell what the overall ramifications of issuing a free book may be. I don't download every free book that's made available, but I end up buying the complete series for about 80% of those I do obtain and read. And if they're good enough to read, they're good enough to recommend to others--many of whom don't have e-readers.
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Old 05-12-2010, 06:31 AM   #30
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Thanks for the responses, everyone. I understand the part where winning a reader with a free ebook might win you readers for your other, not free, ebooks.
It seems to me that this would be the primary motivation for an author to release free ebooks - increasing sales of other books, not necessarily the one which is released free.

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But from the point of view of the economics of writing, paper books are still where most of the money comes from. And one's standing with one's publisher, and with all the wholesalers and bookstore chains, depends far more on the sales of one's current p-book than anything else.
That (the standing with the publisher part) is interesting - is that just due to the fact that that's where most of the money currently comes from , or is there a p-book focus in addition to that? In other words, would your standing with your publisher be higher if you made them $X from p-books than if you made them the same amount from e-books? (Clearly the wholesalers and bookstore chains have different priorities).

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