Thursday, April 03, 2014

A Wake Up Call for Tracy Hickman

Via PassiveGuy, who was linking to an article from ScienceFiction.com about a convention speech by bestselling sci-fi author Tracy Hickman to a room full of writers.

Quote Tracy:

“I have to do more now,” he said finally. A hush went over the audience as Hickman continued to describe the conditions under which authors are laboring under today. One can write 12,000 words and sell it for 4.95, he said. At that price point, his 120,000 novel would have be $49.50, which would be impossible to market.

“I’m fighting for my life as an author,” he admitted frankly, his voice solemn.

He then said that his audience of 6 million no longer find him because the book store is dying. A booksigning in older days would have fans lining around blocks just to have his signature, but a booksigning now might only get six people. “I have a 6 million following,” he said quietly, “and they don’t remember me.”

Now, he works 12-14 hours a day writing four times the books he’s comfortable writing because he makes a fourth of what he used to.

Tracy, I was really torn in how to respond to this when I read it. But I did feel compelled to respond, because I want to help you by offering some hard-won advice.

On one hand, I'm sorry the system that helped bring you fame and fortune can no longer do that for you. I was only entangled in the legacy system 1/3 of the time that you were, and it didn't treat me very well. But a look at the early years of my blog shows how hard I tried to be a part of it. I naively trusted those in NY Publishing to do their best for me, and I worked harder than any writer, before or since, to help my publishing partner sell as many books as possible. That including sending 7000 letters to libraries, visiting over 1200 bookstores, and doing events in 42 states.

My thriller series, though in multiple printings, got dropped, and I was forced to write horror under a pen name for half the money (going from $40k a book to $20k a book), and then that publisher screwed me and I did sci-fi under a pen name for 1/3 the money.

So I understand the mentality of running as fast as you can just to stay in place. I did it for eight years.

On the other hand, when all three of my major publishing relationships ended, it was mainly because I finally woke up and realized I was getting screwed.

So while I believed I'd gotten a raw deal, I didn't whine in public about it, or throw myself a pity party about how hard this business is. I realized that no one owes me a living. Even the fans who love me don't owe me.

That's when I took back all of my books--through great effort and expense--and self-published them, along with a slew of new titles.

I chose to give NY Publishing the finger. I encourage you to do the same.

Writing 4x as much to make what you used to make? Why the hell would you do something like that? If you have millions of fans, Tracy, they'll read whatever you publish. You're the brand, not your publisher.

You're upset that it's raining and you're getting wet, and right there next to you is a barrel full of free umbrellas. Reach for one, for crissakes.

If people can write 12,000 words and sell it for $4.95, what is preventing you from writing 12,000 words and selling it for $4.95? Have you heard of Hugh Howey? Wool? Or are you so entrenched in the legacy system that you feel there is really no other way?

I noticed this type of behavior way back in 2011. I called it Stockholm Syndrome. Read it. But a warning: it's gonna hurt. Truth and change always do.

Yes, I know you're wounded, and depressed, and frantic. But you need to take a few deep breaths and be brave.

Being brave means turning down shitty publishing contracts in favor of self-publishing.

I don't know you. I didn't hear your talk. I only have your quotes, and their interpretations, to go by. Maybe you're a forward thinking, deliberate, self-aware, brave writer who had a brief, public moment of nostalgia for the old days. Or maybe you're crying because someone moved your cheese.

It doesn't matter if that article painted a perfect picture of you. What matters is you feel you have to work four times as hard as you used to, and you're unhappy because fans aren't showing up to your signings.

So change.

One definition of insanity is doing the same thing, over and over, hoping for a different outcome.

I'll assume you aren't insane, but simply stuck in a rut.

Here's my advice:

1. Start reading my blog from this post in 2009 until present. It will take a day or two, and you'll get a Master's Degree in how to self-publish. This progression shows me going from $30 a day on Kindle, to well over $1000 a day.

2. Get as many rights back to your old work as possible. This may involve hiring a lawyer. That's what I did.

3. Buy out your current contracts. That's what I did.

4. Self-publish everything, and make sure it is as professionally done as possible. That's what I did.

5. Experiment. That's what I did, and still do.

I remember the feeling of impotence that legacy publishing instilled in me. No matter what I did, I wasn't good enough. Matters were out of my hands, and I didn't know what to do.

In hindsight, the answer is obvious.

When your career is out of your control, take control back.

It's risky. It's ALWAYS risky. But at least you'll have a say in your own fate. Working your ass off, begging for the crumbs your publishers hesitantly throw you, is indentured servitude. Especially when the industry has changed enough to give you many advantages and benefits you didn't have five years ago.

Now, I'm being intentionally provocative and critical because I believe you could use a wake up call. This is also a wake up call for the thousands of other legacy authors who are in your exact same position.

If you know a legacy author bemoaning their career and latest contract, forward this post to them. Don't let fear and despair and routine and impotence keep you from connecting with fans, making better royalties, keeping control of your IPs, and finding peace previously unheard of in this career.

I know I sound like a Zoloft commercial. But there really is an answer to your problems. It isn't a pill. It isn't crossing your fingers, hoping your publisher will treat you better. And it isn't the industry going back to the way it used to be.

It's self-publishing. And you need to embrace it fully, not in your spare time.

If you want to talk, Tracy, email me.

Addendum:

Tracy Hickman graciously responded on his blog. http://www.trhickman.com/wake-up-call-five-years-ago/

62 comments:

Jack Badelaire said...

Thirty years ago, Tracy Hickman was the goose laying the golden Dragon eggs for TSR, the company that brought us Dungeons & Dragons. He co-wrote a bunch of media tie-in novels for TSR that were extremely popular (The Dragonlance novels).

Unfortunately, I think Tracy's legacy as an author was/is so tied up with TSR (now Wizards of the Coast, owned by Hasbro) properties, he can't reacquire any of the IP that made him so famous. The big question will be, can lightning strike twice for his career? I'd be curious enough to buy an original self-published work by him, but many of his former readers might decide that if it's not Dragonlance, they're not interested.

I guess the blessing and curse of the media tie-in market is that you get your name out to a lot of readers, but they might prefer to follow the series, not the author.

Still, all the above advice Joe gave is spot-on.

Ted Atchley said...

I remember reading Tracy's work as an undergrade during the early 90s. I think I still have some of the copies around my house. The Dragonlance books still rank among my favorites.

Tracy gave us Tanis Half-Elven, Raistilan, Caramon, Flint and Tasslehoff. I'm sure he could do that again.

I would buy a new self-pubblished work by Tracy on his name alone. Doubly true if he got Margaret Weis back to co-write.

Joe Konrath said...

I think Tracy's legacy as an author was/is so tied up with TSR (now Wizards of the Coast, owned by Hasbro) properties, he can't reacquire any of the IP that made him so famous.

That doesn't mean he's doomed like some a tragic Greek mythos. When the ride is over, get on another ride.

I'm not trying to sound insensitive. I have peers who worked (and still work) on series where they didn't own the IP. If the contract is decent, go for it.

But if the contract isn't good, and you'll never get the rights back, can someone explain why you'd stay? Fear? Ennui? Hope?

Writers write. We can write for others, and let them reap the majority of the rewards, or we can write for ourselves, and reap the majority of the awards.

Lamenting doesn't help sales. If one of my series stopped selling, I'd write something else. Hell, I write other things anyway, just to diversify.

You can't put all your eggs in one basket and count them before they hatch.

Kimberly Llewellyn said...

A literary paradigm shift has indeed occurred with authors…most anyway. The sudden awakening to the new reality of self publishing is mind blowing and life changing. I think you gave T.H. the wake-up call he needed. Once he answers the call and has that epiphany, I'm sure he'll never look back.

Christine Verstraete said...

Hey Joe, good points. I read that and thought it sounded sad. Here's a well-known author who should be doing extremely well since he has the fan base. Why not use it? Many of us can only wish we had 6 million fans... :) GIRL Z: My Life as a Teenage Zombie

Carlos Cooper said...

Great thoughts, Joe. I hope he sees the light, but I have a feeling that if he's standing up in front of strangers having a pity party, he's probably too entrenched in his own ego to change.

As you've said many times, it's a new world for us. Let's just see if Tracy will open his eyes and look forward instead of back.

Carlos Cooper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zane Sachs said...

Thanks for coming out, Joe. Clearly, you've been working your ass off.

I hope Tracy Hickman hears you.

I'm sure no one has worked harder than you, but a lot of writers work extremely hard (perhaps as hard as you) and make many sacrifices for their writing. No way around it, writing and promoting require a lot of time and energy. Personally, I spent so many hours writing that it cost me my marriage, I left a career in advertising so I'd have time to write, and I pour my lifeblood into my writing. Self-publishing has been great for me, but my sales are nowhere near yours.

My point is: every writer has to find their own path. Even if we follow your map, our experience and destinations will be different.

Thanks for all the road signs on this journey.

Jack Badelaire said...

Definitely not disagreeing with you, Joe. My point was only that there is, really, absolutely no way he can gain control of the property that gave him those "Six Million Fans". The question is, can he pull some of them back to original works, or perhaps build a new fan base on his own indie platform. Either way, he's got to get away from trad pub at this point.

Joe Konrath said...

My point was only that there is, really, absolutely no way he can gain control of the property that gave him those "Six Million Fans".

Yeah, that sucks.

But there are tens of thousands of authors who will never get their rights back, for various reasons. Salvage what you can, and move on.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's just see if Tracy will open his eyes and look forward instead of back.

Tracy is trying some things on his website, but it's too little, and too pricey.

Seems like he's trying to do some subscription thing, which is innovative but I can't see it working.

Put the ebooks on Amazon for $3.99 and do a BookBub ad during a KDP Countdown for $1.99. That seems like a surer bet than getting hardcover fans to plunk down $142.50.

Tracy seems to be focusing on his uberfans, when he could be focusing on millions of Kindle owners who have never heard of him.

Guy Anthony De Marco said...

Posted this on Passive Voice, but it's waiting moderation.

I was at AnomalyCon, and actually was on a panel earlier in the day with Tracy Hickman and Paul Lell, talking about developing desktop games.

Some of this is taken a bit out of context. The point Tracy was trying to make is that writing full-time is not an easy gig. He always takes long pauses when he talks — that’s the way he’s always talked. Sam Knight and I told Betsy Dornbusch, who was interviewing Tracy, about the way he takes a moment as he formulates what he is about to discuss so she would know to give him an extra moment or two to make sure he wasn’t in the middle of his thoughts.

Yes, it’s tough for a new reader to find him, just as it is for the rest of us authors. Every author has to work and struggle to get new readers to find their work. Tracy was just noting that sometimes it can be a struggle, even for the established writers, to make enough.

Some are saying he has to change, and (surprise!) Tracy has been aware of it for years. He’s branched out to new book projects, and even expanded out with a new gaming system called Sojourner Tales that was crowdfunded and is almost ready to ship to stores. Tracy is one of the hardest working authors and innovators in the industry, and he’s legendary when it comes to helping and mentoring others.

So, take note that becoming a bestselling author is not a ticket to easy street. It’s a constant struggle to get new work out and to get a new audience stream. Yes, I know that’s the indie motto, but now you have it from a traditionally published pro that it’s tough in every market for every author. It’s not a “woe is me” message, it’s a “be aware of this so you’re not blindsided in the future” message, from someone who truly wants you and your book, no matter how it was published, to bring you success and happiness.

Joe Konrath said...

It’s not a “woe is me” message, it’s a “be aware of this so you’re not blindsided in the future” message, from someone who truly wants you and your book, no matter how it was published, to bring you success and happiness.

That's a good message, but I didn't see the part where he mentioned quitting the legacy industry and self-pubbing full time.

If he's warning authors not to be blindsided by the future, shouldn't his message be "Don't ever sign a deal where a publisher owns the IP"?

I've been quoted out of context countless times, so I can easily see how Tracy might not have been whining. But he's only putting forth half the equation here. Bookstores are dying. Authors have to work harder. He can't get his rights back. So where is the advice on how to thrive in this new environment?

I'd speculate Tracy has no advice to give here, because a search of his website and Amazon page shows he's still entrenched in the legacy system.

Does Tracy own the Dragon's Bard series? If so, why isn't it on Kindle?

If he's stopped writing to work on Sojourner Tales, and said as much in his talk, then ScienceFiction.com should be spanked for letting out that tidbit of information, because they made Tracy sound like he was mourning the past rather than embracing new opportunities.

That said, even if my rant isn't applicable to Tracy specifically, it is still applicable to thousands of legacy writers.

Let go of the past. Accept the future.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

So... sigh. I'm the one who interviewed Mr. Hickman, and please know that this small "quote" mentioned in the article was part of much larger conversation, which didn't really skew to the direction you've taken it.

It was basically a lament over the loss of bookstores, losing the opportunity to personally meet many fans--something he clearly enjoys, and not getting to write as much of the long epic fantasy he loves because the per-word rates aren't currently as good as they are for shorter works (which was where his math came in).

Mr. Hickman has decades of experience in gaming and writing, much of it in established franchises and in epic fantasy length works. As someone said on another thread, I think we can give him some credit for doing the math and figuring out what works best for him.

I'm really not trying to start a war here. I think it's awesome we all have so many choices. And I'd highly recommend, if you ever get a chance, to hear Mr. Hickman talk.

--Betsy Dornbusch

Dan DeWitt said...

I don't think any of the commenters have skewed the conversation or taken it anywhere. The balance of the interview may have touched on other topics, but unless you're going to say he was misquoted, Joe's assessment of the quoted answers is accurate.

Anonymous said...

I know I sound like a Zoloft commercial. But there really is an answer to your problems.

Joe, I think you should at least have a minimal disclaimer on this post of the side effects that could occur if one reads it.

Joe Konrath said...

I think you should at least have a minimal disclaimer on this post of the side effects that could occur if one reads it.

Side effect include making extra money, sleeping better at night, and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

Carlos Cooper said...

Side effect include making extra money, sleeping better at night, and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

I'm in.

Anonymous said...

Betsy, your "sigh" is kind of condescending--you are to blame for this misinterpretation because none of what you say in your comment now came through in the sciencefiction.com interview. You took Hickman out of context and we responded to that out of context interview.

Joe Konrath said...

It was basically a lament over the loss of bookstores, losing the opportunity to personally meet many fans--something he clearly enjoys, and not getting to write as much of the long epic fantasy he loves because the per-word rates aren't currently as good as they are for shorter works (which was where his math came in).

Then, as I stated earlier, someone should spank the article author at ScienceFiction.com.

I don't like the loss of bookstores any more than I liked the loss of record stores. I'm also quick to point out that something better came along.

Lamenting just isn't helpful. Especially when solutions or explanations aren't offered.

The ability to interact with fans is easier than ever before, thanks to email and social media. If Tracy misses face-to-face, video conference services abound. As for in-person, there are still conferences like the one he attended.

I'm not quite sure what he's lamenting here. He has more opportunity and choices to meet more fans than ever.

As for per-word rates, I pointed to Wool, released serially. Tracy seems to be experimenting with subscription services on his website. If those are successful, I'd love to hear about it. Were those mentioned in his talk? If not, why not self-publish on Kindle?

I can understand Tracy's words being taken out of context, and ScienceFiction.com missing some important points and misinterpreting the speech.

I can't understand publicly lamenting the past, in any way, shape, or form.

Tracy is more than welcome to clarify himself here at my blog. I'd be happy to post a response from him.

Anonymous said...

Side effect include making extra money, sleeping better at night, and a smug sense of self-satisfaction.

And if we still have wood after five or more hours?

Joe Flynn said...

Writing for a living is an uncertain pursuit, no question. I was lucky enough to find Joe's advice on self-publishing — after writing for twenty years, a number of them in traditional publishing. Last month, I reached a milestone Joe mentioned: $1,000 a day.

Thing is, even when the money was much smaller, I loved sitting down at my keyboard to write. Writing has never been a chore to me, much less torture. I feel about writing the way I imagine a passionate musician feels when he's jamming. I'm having the time of my life.

It's so much fun that even when, maybe, I should be worried about money, I don't have the time or inclination. The story is flowing, the words are flying and I'm in the first car on the rollercoaster.

I can't believe anyone as successful as Tracy Hickman doesn't feel the same way when he's working. Maybe he just needs a nap or two during the day.

Joe Konrath said...

You took Hickman out of context and we responded to that out of context interview.

Betsy didn't write that article, Anon. That was Alison Baumgartner.

Alison did Tracy no service if she failed add context and counterpoints to the article.

That said, there are many legacy authors who need a wake up call, and this article was a nice opportunity for me to blow my bugle.

Joe Konrath said...

And if we still have wood after five or more hours?

Call your doctor.

Hell, call everyone you know. I would.

Anonymous said...

Betsy didn't write that article, Anon. That was Alison Baumgartner.

OK I see now, but Betsy still did the interview, so she bears some responsibility for the write-up on sciencefiction.com too.

Joe Konrath said...

but Betsy still did the interview, so she bears some responsibility for the write-up on sciencefiction.com too.

She bears responsibility for questions she asked, not Tracy's answers.

Not having seen the interview, I don't know what Betsy's follow-ups were when Tracy mentioned he was fighting for his life. There might have been some substantive back and forth that the article missed.

There are cases where a bad interview can be blamed on the interviewer, but we don't know if either the interviewer or interviewee did a good or bad job, because all we have is this article.

My blog was about the article, and from a look at Tracy's website and Amazon page.

Anonymous said...

Not having seen the interview, I don't know what Betsy's follow-ups were when Tracy mentioned he was fighting for his life. There might have been some substantive back and forth that the article missed.

We don't have Betsy's original questions. We only have snippets of Hickman's answers framed by the article. And the way the answers are characterized is mostly to blame for a misinterpretation (if there is any).

I see now that Betsy appears to have no connection to Allison, therefore, she has no real responsiblity for the accuracy of what is posted on sciencefiction.com. For some reason I was under the mistaken impression that they were working together on this interview.

Joseph Ratliff said...

The six million fans, at least the "true" fans, WILL find what Tracy puts out next.

If what Tracy puts out next is as good as D&D (which was legendary), they will also help spread the word.

The advantage Tracy has is the fan base is already started.

Writers write, and the fans find them. When I am interested in an author, I FIND what they put out next. I use Google, Amazon, YouTube etc... to find what's up.

They don't have to find me.

New authors have to find me, at first. If they do a good enough job of that, and they have written a good enough book... I'll find what they put out next.

w. adam mandelbaum esq. said...

Why get on a train that doesn't go to your stop anymore? Take the train that does. Don't bitch about the route change. If your train is late, wait for it, or try an alternate route. It's really that simple. Crying over the glory days of an intellectual property distribution system that no longer works for the creator of the intellectual property is like being a blacksmith and bitching about how nobody is buying your wagon wheel replacement parts. Get over it. As in any sales and marketing situation, some days you are a hero, and some days you are a zero, but if you have any balls at all, you stay in the game.

Carlos Cooper said...

...after writing for twenty years, a number of them in traditional publishing. Last month, I reached a milestone Joe mentioned: $1,000 a day.

Hellz yeah! Congrats, Joe!

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Writing for a living is an uncertain pursuit, no question. I was lucky enough to find Joe's advice on self-publishing — after writing for twenty years, a number of them in traditional publishing. Last month, I reached a milestone Joe mentioned: $1,000 a day.

Congratulations! Joe Flynn.
I've read almost all of your books and I really enjoyed them! Great characters and fascinating story lines. It's so fun to see your posts here and on PV.

A great example of what Konrath just said, "The ability to interact with fans is easier than ever before."

Joshua Simcox said...

"I'm not trying to sound insensitive. I have peers who worked (and still work) on series where they didn't own the IP. If the contract is decent, go for it.

But if the contract isn't good, and you'll never get the rights back, can someone explain why you'd stay? Fear? Ennui? Hope?"

I wonder if love for the IP factors into it. If, for example, I was given an opportunity to write a tie-in novel for a franchise I love (SUPERNATURAL comes to mind), I'd gladly take the shittiest deal imaginable. I wonder if most tie-in writers have a similar mentality.

- Joshua

Joe Konrath said...

I wonder if most tie-in writers have a similar mentality.

I used to feel that way. For example, I love both the 87th Precinct and Spenser, and think it would be incredibly cool to write for both universes. But only if I could have worked with McBain and Parker and split the work and royalties 50/50.

They're dead, so working with them isn't an option. And giving away royalty percentages to write in a universe I don't own doesn't make sense to me when I can write in my own universe and make 100%.

Now, if I was given a whole lot of money to write an 87th Precinct novel, maybe I'd consider it. But once you reach a certain level of success, you just don't take shitty deals anymore, even if it is something you want to do.

But that's my take. Reasonable people may differ.

Sarah Stegall said...

Okay, I'll just sit here a moment contemplating the awesome prospect of a Spenser novel written by Joe Konrath...

Joe Konrath said...

Okay, I'll just sit here a moment contemplating the awesome prospect of a Spenser novel written by Joe Konrath...

It would end with him and Hawk beating up Harry McGlade.

Tracy Hickman said...

First, thank you for your well-intended concern. Your advice in this article is both well-intended and, given the fact that you do not actually know me or my situation, thoughtful in its consideration.

I am often amused when reading what people say I said -- you may find my own article in reply at: http://www.trhickman.com/wake-up-call-five-years-ago/

Tracy Hickman

Simon McGregor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Self said...

Based on Tracy's response on his own website, his point seems to be that you don't have a single, rigid channel to publishing anymore. Rather, you have a zillion options with little to no guarantee behind any of them.

I disagreed with him on the point of 15k word books beating out 150k word books at the same price point. Readers are aware of what they're buying and would prefer to get a lot more for their money, IMO.

Ty Johnston said...

Hickman ... good luck to him in whatever path he follows.

All I really care about is I have witnessed Joe Konrath mention the possibility of writing an 87th Precinct novel, however farfetched such might or might not be.

Dear whomever owns the rights to McBain's work ... YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN. There is big money here, probably even movie potential.

Besides, Carella and crew have had enough of a break, and the Deaf Man grows bored.

Trent said...

Hi Joe....I recently discovered your blog and really like it. Might I suggest an easier way to browse your archives? The method of expanding all those dates is a little cumbersome. Some of us newbies want to catch up on all your content quickly ;)

Mark Edward Hall said...

"you have a zillion options with little to no guarantee behind any of them."

As far as I knew there have NEVER been any guarantees.

Brian Drake said...

If one can sell 12,000 words for $4.95, I am woefully under priced at $1.99. I suppose I should change that and see what happens.

Mir Writes said...

Heaven's to E-Readers! This person has loyal fans lining the block? Millions? WHY THE HELL IS THIS PERSON NOT INDIE????

I"m befuddled. WHen a writer has a loyal following, self-pubbing seems a no-brainer. OMG, really, please, let light dawn!

Michael J. Sullivan said...

Great post as usual Joe. I can't help but think how well a Kickstarter for Tracy's next book would do. Then once released to the general public through all the usual suspects, he would have no problem at all and be in a position to work half as hard for twice as much rather than four times as hard to just keep his head above water.

HH Johnson said...

I'm sure Tracy will be fine
whichever path he chooses.


Good luck, Tracy!

Jessica L Buike (AuthorJess and Operation Relax) said...

It hurts to read Tracy's comments - I've met him and he and his wife are incredible people and seriously great authors! I think a lot of your advice to him is sound, but perhaps might be more difficult for him because he is so firmly entrenched in the traditional publishing world already.
That being said, I continue to follow Tracy Hickman and hope he can find a more satisfying way to continue doing what he loves!

Joe Konrath said...

Thanks for chiming in, Tracy. I added a link to your blog post at the end of mine.

Part of me wondered if it was simply a case of inadequate reporting, which seems to be the case. The cherry-picked quotes in that article were misleading, and misrepresented your position.

Joe Konrath said...

Besides, Carella and crew have had enough of a break, and the Deaf Man grows bored.

McBain is the reason I write police procedurals. I've read every book, and the Deaf Man does need to return.

Nando said...

(Excuse my english if I make mistakes, I am from Spain)

I have a really hard time believing a writer with 6 millions fans is having a hard time making a living.

Just writing something he could sell to half of those fans for 1$ would make a huge profit, huge.

I don't have that many fans, not even a tiny portion of that and I am close to 2 years making a a living out of my books in the spanish market, wich is a tiny one compared to the english market.

Much less than 6 million fans should be more than enough for anyone to live from their writting better than any other usual day job.

Maybe I missed some point becouse of my english, but I don't think He has so many fans, true fans, wich is wierd because I also read his books back then and I know they are famous in many countries.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

I wrote 10-20K word ebooks for a series now available as a collection, and sold 20,000+ copies. The first book is currently free.

It's a fun way to get excitement building for the story and get fans involved. When you're done with 4 or 5 parts, you've got a full-length novel.

Wishing Tracy great luck going forward!

Alice B said...

Thanks again for writing a very interesting article and for all who responded. Like all the other here I have been following your blog and links for quite a while finding it all very interesting.

Here is my one worry now. Yes there are some authors charging $4.95 for a short (between 10k - 20k words) but for me it is really just not worth paying that. One (and this is selfish) I just read too fast and I feel cheated because its so short. Second, I pay in another currency that gets converted to US dollar or pound or whatever, in the end that means I pay almost the cost of a full length printed book for a novella.

Yes I have spend that on novella before and most of the time it was because the word count was not mentioned when I bought the book. Out of all those stories I enjoyed one. We are talking more than 20 stories here....

Publishing has changed and all the authors out there do need to make a living. I am hoping to be one of them one day.

Book, ebook pricing will and is a very interesting topic.

HH Johnson said...

$4.95 for 12,000 words?

Isn't that a little high?

I thought $2.99 or so was
normal for that length ... ?

How much are people charging
these days for 12,000 wds ?

Carlos Cooper said...

I just read Tracy's response on his website (thank you for that, Tracy), but I still walked away with the feeling that something isn't right in his world. If you've got that many projects under your belt, even if it's five years worth (in self-publishing) as he says, surely he's doing well for himself. I'm still curious about the tone.

My suggestion is to read what Robert Crane is doing. He's in the fantasy/sci-fi space and is making a lot of money doing it. His post "How To Make A Living As An Indie Author" sums it up nicely, much like our intrepid Dr. Konrath's posts.

Here's the link to Crane's article: http://robertjcrane.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-to-make-living-as-indie-author.html

It helped me have my best month ever in March.

Angry_Games said...

Tracy,

I and almost all of the other nerds in Idaho read your D&D and Death Gate books, basically everything you ever wrote. We played the pen & paper games, the video games, anything and everything that had to do with D&D, you, Weiss, and Salvatore (to name just a couple of the more famous writers).

You and Margaret inspired me to write books. I hope that I and others can inspire you to keep writing, and to start releasing everything self-pub.

As a young boy, your books filled my head when my life was pretty shitty. Thank you for that.

Travis

David L. Shutter said...

Carlos

I hadn't heard of Crane before. Great article, thanks for the link.

And if anyone else is interested, Tracy responded to a number of comments over at TPV, at length, about what he's been up to as an indie. Some disagreements about pricing remain but he has a number of interesting projects going on.

Wish him all the best.

D. Robert Pease said...

Tracy's response related to writing 12K word stories for $4.95 vs. writing $120K word stories for the same price didn't quite jive for me. He seems to say he would be forced to sell his larger stories for a much higher cost than he has in the past. But if he self publishes, and retains 75% royalties instead of the ~25% he would recieve from a legacy publisher, wouldn't that mean he could sell it for less than his readers are used to? Or is it because someone else can sell a 12K word story for the same price as his much longer work making him realize he's leaving money on the table, so he is forced to make a grab for that money before someone else does? Just something doesn't sit right with me here, and I'm trying to put my finger on it.

James D. said...

I just found this blog and though Im not close to being an author in any sense, I am trying to publish my hand drawn mazes. I tried contacting agents, publishing companies, etc only to be brushed off.. Now Im wondering if this ebook way would be a route to take. It sounds like it could be since pretty much all else has failed. Thanks for the insight otherwise I might have just given up all together...

Catherine said...

This article is great for authors just starting out. I love the part that says that the publishing industry says "You are not good enough." I tried finding an agent, got disgusted with it, and decided to self-publish. Authors have to have the courage to say, "You might not think I'm good enough, but I'll bet the people who read this will think it is." I'm also trying to learn to tap into all of the potential free marketing the Internet has to offer. Instead of focusing on Tracy Hickman, how he was misrepresented, etc., we all need to be focusing on how we can use what he has learned/has to say to move forward and encourage people to read.

Catherine said...

And thank you for this article and blog. I intend to read it to learn what I can to make my novel successful.

Frank Sergeant said...

Hi James D.,

> I am trying to publish my hand drawn mazes. I tried contacting agents, publishing companies, etc only to be brushed off.. Now Im wondering if this ebook way would be a route to take. It sounds like it could be ...

I don't see why not. We've used the Nepo Press formatting system for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry with great success, but we've never tried mazes! I think we'd be willing to give it a try, though. If you are interested in discussing this, email me at frank@nepotism.net.


Frank

Basil Baker said...

You are an inspiration, Konrath. Even your non-fiction sparkles!

James English said...

Ultimately, nobody has ever promised that a writer can make a living writing, much less writing only the things (s)he enjoys. If you can make a full-time living off it, great. Most don't, though. That's reality. Deal with it and figure out how to maximize the benefits of that situation.