Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guest Blogger: Simon Wood

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Here's a post about ebooks from writer Simon Wood.


GOOD STORIES NEVER DIE (THANKS TO TECHNOLOGY)


For me, print will always be king. You can say what you like about other forms of media, but print will always be important. A book is tangible. It proves I wrote it, that I jumped through all hoops required of me and someone had the faith to publish it. There it is. A book. It’s real. It’s solid. Damn it, I wrote it and you can't take that away from me. Hopefully, you get the gist of how important this is to me.


Forgetting the bible and the Da Vinci Code, the life of a book or magazine is fleeting. There's a point where the publisher pulls the plug and the lights go dim on a story. That has meant a lot of great works disappear, lost to generations who had the misfortune not to be around when that story was on a bookshelf. Reduce this down to my own case, where my early books were with the small press with print runs numbering a couple of thousand and sometimes a lot less. The same is true with my short stories. Some of the periodicals I appeared in were no longer available before the calendar year was out. All those words lost like tears in rain (that was the for the Blade Runner fans).


But that isn’t necessarily true with the rise of electronic media. Now I know there's a lot of wringing of hands and renting of clothes when it comes to the state of publishing. Electrons are out to destroy traditional publishing. Something is coming in the way of print publishing and it’s scary. I’m not sure what it is, but I’m sure it’s going to mean change for everyone involved from writers and publishers to booksellers and libraries. But I don’t want to talk about how eBooks, Kindle, and deep discounts will be the end of publishing. I want to focus on the positives of what technology is doing for me as a writer.


There are stories I’m very proud of that never got widespread release but thanks to e-publishing, these stories are being kept alive. Long before Amazon’s Kindle threw a wrench in the printing works, Fictionwise.com provided a home for previously published fiction—especially short fiction. It has operated on a similar platform as iTunes where users download stories like songs. This proved to be a marvelous home for many of my short stories that deserved to be read. The lifespan of short stories is brief. As soon as the exclusivity rights run out or the magazine or anthology is done, I send the story along to Fictionwise. My stories live and can be downloaded for around fifty cents. For someone who has never anything I’ve written, it’s a nice try before you buy scenario.


Obviously, the expansion of the eBooks model has moved on leaps and bounds since the introduction of the Kindle. People, for better or worse, are latching onto eBooks. While this may be a platform for self-publishing, it’s also a lifeline for all those books going out of print—and I’ve done this with a couple of my titles that are going out of print. Dragged into Darkness went out of print in 2004 and only a handful of copies of Working Stiffs are still available. The chances of either these books getting picked up by a new publisher are slim. The demand at this point doesn’t support a new print run, but is plenty to an eBook retailer. I have to admit that I was slow at making Dragged into Darkness available, but I’ve been more on the ball with Working Stiffs. I’ve made both these books available through the Kindle store and over at Smashwords.com. Recently, I’ve been expanding my e-résumé with some of the nonfiction pieces that I wrote for Writer’s Digest. E-publishing also provides an outlet for stories that don’t fit into traditional buckets such as novelettes and novellas.


I have to admit, I’ve found it quite satisfying resurrecting work that I continue to be proud of.


So does this mean I’ve abandoned my print-is-king principles? Hell, no. My primary printing goal is to get published in print, but also in audio, graphically and electronically. What can I say? I’m greedy. I want it all. But what is of primary importance to me is that my work be available for people to read for the long term and the electronic revolution provides that. The thing to remember here is paper is finite, but electrons are eternal.


Yours keeping the stories alive,


Simon Wood


Simon Wood is an ex-racecar driver, a licensed pilot and an occasional private investigator. He's had over 150 stories and articles published. His short fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines anthologies, such as Seattle Noir, Thriller 2 and Woman’s World. He's a frequent contributor to Writer's Digest. He's the Anthony Award winning author of seven books. As Simon Janus, he's the author of The Scrubs and Road Rash. His next thriller, Terminated, will be out next June.


Learn more about Simon at www.simonwood.net and his work at:

Kindle Store
Smashwords.com
Fictionwise.com

7 comments:

Mike Dennis said...

Very thoughtful, Simon. I'm a big book guy myself. I love to hold them in my hand, knowing that they're the irrefutable, visible result of the author's work.

But I also firmly believe we're on the cusp of a brave new world. As you pointed out, short stories have traditionally had the life span of a culex mosquito. Now, however, thanks to technology, they will live on, many with the distinct likelihood of being easily rediscovered by future generations of readers.

You know, Jim Thompson was convinced no one would ever appreciate his work until ten years after his death. He knew his novels were being shoveled out there at 25 cents apiece, and quickly devoured, with no lasting impact. But he knew his work deserved better. He envisioned a world where his type of fiction would have a real life. And it found that life in reprints.

Now, all of us can look forward to a world, rapidly approaching, where our work, like Thompson's, can have a real life, can resonate for many more people than would have ever read it by trudging to a newsstand or bookstore and buying it.

Simon Wood said...

Thanks Joe for letting me invade.

Thanks Mike. I have to look at the positives any technology presents. While I admit ebooks will take away in one direction, it adds in another.

Happy T-giving...

Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA said...

Happy Thanksgiving Joe!

Peter L. Winkler said...

"Now I know there's a lot of wringing of hands and renting of clothes when it comes to the state of publishing."

Renting of clothes?

PASS!

Gordon Jerome said...

Thanks Mr. Wood for an excellent article that supports something I've believed ever since I got a Kindle two years ago: e-books will outlast anything on paper.

People tend to think electronic files are somehow fragile, probably because they can be so easily deleted and don't work without electricity. However, one must think a little further about this. The same technology that makes deleting an e-book easy, also makes reproducing it just as easy. Where it might be easily deleted, it's more survivable in that it can be easily produced--a million copies a second if one wanted to.

Granted an original unpublished e-book could be destroyed through deletion or mechanical problems with the hardware supporting it, but a manuscript can be burned in a house fire, or chewed to bits by mice, as well. One an e-book is published to multiple platforms, it's here to stay.

That is unless humanity loses the ability to generate electricity. In that case, I admit we will lose e-books. But we will also lose civilization. Who built the pyramids? Who knows? Who built Stonehenge? Who knows? Civilizations at times do come and go completely. Ours is a technological civilization, if we lose the ability to generate electricity, we lose our civilization. In that case, our books won't matter. If anyone survives, they will start over. They will develop language and literature and find ways to print it. It will be their books that matter for their civilization.

Therefore, e-books are permanent. Or as permanent as anything can be that matters.

Anna Murray said...

More evidence that a self-pubbed writer can find success:

Self-published Kindle novel optioned for film!"

Go Karen!

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks for the blog post, Simon.