The End of An Era (or at least a serial)

Well, so much for that.

I have received and approved the contracts for Relics of War, a.k.a. Ishta’s Companion, and will sign them when I find a pen. This means I need (per Wildside’s request) to shut down the online serial.

Said serial got twenty-two chapters into a twenty-four-chapter novel; very disappointing. I think this pretty much settles the possibility of doing any more serials this way; they aren’t worth the trouble anymore.

I’m not sure yet what this means for the future of Ethshar, or my writing career in general. Given the way things have gone for the past five years or so, I think I’m effectively retired as a novelist, whether I want to be or not. Not that I’m going to quit writing, but I’m no longer necessarily going to consider it my full-time job. I’ll continue writing as a hobby. Haven’t yet decided whether to look for another job or not — I have enough investments that I don’t really need to work anymore, though money will be tight if I don’t. (I’m not counting my wife’s income in this calculation; with that, we’ll actually be quite comfortable.)

I’d be interested in feedback, folks — suggestions, advice, comments, anything.

26 thoughts on “The End of An Era (or at least a serial)

  1. Perhaps not a serial done _this way_, I think. My guess would be that the reading public is moving to more social media-based platforms, rather than searching directly for an author’s webpage to read material there. I’m thinking Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Facebook, Kickstarter. I don’t know if you want to pursue these other routes (I know about Vika’s Avenger, and Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship), but it’s an idea.

  2. The Kickstarters appear to be working, but if that’s not the solution, maybe try self-publishing short stories on Amazon Kindle (I assume other platforms would work as well). I know Terry Brooks published a handful of short Shannara stories for 99ยข each (I enjoyed them all). I don’t know what kind of volume you could expect, but in short story form, you wouldn’t really be out as much time as a serial would take. I’d even sign up for a subscription of monthly shorts. FWIW.

    I hope you keep publishing. I’ve enjoyed your tales since I was a teenager and first discovered Valder (or was Garth my first… I forget). I’d hate to lose the expectation of something new coming from your imagination ๐Ÿ™‚

    Steve

  3. LWE

    I am sorry to hear that you are considering giving up writing. I have always found your style to be refreshing, engrossing and a heck of a way to waste an afternoon! You and a select few others have gotten me through times of trouble, poverty, doubt, and many other “not so fun” things.

    I realize that in this new age of “Cheap Crap”, it is easy to find entertainment in other ways than reading a book. There are so many outlets, it really dilutes the playing field. Still, talent must count for something, and in that, I’d say that you are worth quite a lot.

    I really have no suggestions, per se, but rather a word or two of encouragement. You have taken me to places that I have never dreamed of, and shown me possibilities that I could not fathom. Reading your stories has broadened my imagination and helped me to believe in the magic of…well, magic. And, this has spurred me to go forward in spite of the outside world.

    Whatever you decide, I know it will be the right decision, at least for you and your family. In the end, that is all that matters. But I for one will miss reading about Ethshar and hearing tales of “Dragons Blood” and “Overmen” and the magic of “What If…”

    Regardless, thank you for the smiles, the dreams, the laughter, the cringing at what will happen next…and for being the one place that I could turn to that could lift my spirits and help me to hold on for another day.

    Ken

  4. I have contributed to every Serial on this website.

    But things are changing.

    When Jim Baen’s Universe (JBU) started, the business model worked (Note 1). But now the field is dominated by free e-zines that are recognized by the Science Fiction Writers of America. These free e-zines have a different business model than JBU.

    Eric Flint’s Grantville Gazette has flourished, but it is not only a different business model than Jim Baen’s Universe, but its is supported by new authors, old authors, new fans, and old fans on the free Baen’s Bar Forum. Their business model, paid fan fic, that allows them to coopt social media to feed interest and future material while letting unpaid volunteers contribute to such low profit activities as mentoring, and slush pile reading.

    Originally Apple Inc. wanted low App pricing so attract the most business, but is now frustrated because the low App pricing makes it difficult to attract quality Apps (Note 2).

    Besides this website, I currently contribute to Kickstarter, Blogs, Free Serials and eBook short stories.

    I like Kickstarter because if the interest is not there, I don’t pay for an unfinished story. I make an exception for this website, since I have so many of your novels on my shelf or read in the library when I was poor.

    I have bought several eBooks composed solely of Blog Post collected such as John Scalzi’s _Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded_ since I already know I like the writer’s style.

    Ilona Andrews ran the free serial _Clean Sweep_ using free stock illustrations and leaving off the Epilogue. I bought the eBook which was edited, contained illustrations from a paid artist, and included the Epilogue. According to Ilona Andrews, the eBook did very well. I am looking forward to the sequel which is currently being written.

    Before the free serial, Ilona Andrews was keeping their name in front of potential readers with eBook short stories. Several authors such as Brandon Sanderson and John Scalzi publish eBook short stories. Others, like Patricia Briggs and Kevin Hearne, contribute to anthologies then publish as separate eBook short stories when the terms allow, usually one year.

    Happily, you appear to have followed John Scalzi’s advice for writers (Note 3)

    If you want, I hope you find ways to continue to write. But no matter what happens, you have brought me, my family and my friends many, many enjoyable hours of entertainment, laughter, joy, and enlightenment.

    Note 1)
    So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish
    Written by Mike Resnick

    The business model for Jim Baen’s Universe was valid when it began, but outmoded within a year of its initial issue. To this day we can compete with the digests . . . but we can’t sell an e-zine when so many quality e-zines are available for free.
    We’d like to think that we’re at least partially responsible for those e-zines. We’d like to think they looked at JBU and said, “Hey, we can do that!”
    Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a simple fact. When JBU started up, we were the only e-zine paying what the Science Fiction Writers of America considers a professional rate.
    And how many are there today? It’s a field in flux, but this list is valid on the day I’m writing this (March 24, 2010):

    Note 2)
    The Banner Saga dev says Apple is frustrated that mobile gamers ‘don’t want to pay anything’ for games
    http://www.pocketgamer.co.uk/r/iPad/The+Banner+Saga/news.asp?c=60732

    Note 3)
    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2008/02/11/unasked-for-advice-to-writers-about-money/

    http://whatever.scalzi.com/2011/04/13/multiple-revenue-streams-revisited/

  5. I’m one of those who thinks a kickstarter model (or given that this is an art project, an Indiegogo model) might be the way to go. That way, when you have an idea, you can leave it up to us readers to decide how much we want to donate to the total that you believe is necessary to justify paying for the book.

    The benefit there is, while some of us will likely only pay $5 or $10, most will pay the $20 we’ve been asked to pay all long, and many might even pay multiple $20s which the idea being that the perk they get (probably a copy of the book) they can then gift to friends and family.

    Finally, from some past updates it sounded like some of us were more than willing to contribute quite a bit more than the requested amount. With an Indiegogo campaign, it would be relatively simple to provide perks that more closely matched the contribution. For example, $500 – Get a signed copy of the entire Ethshar Collection. (I’m not sure how easy that would be to gather on your end, or if it would be worth more or less, just giving an example.) Or $2000 – Dinner with the Author, discuss the history of the series, including possible plans for the future.

    It’s possible such a campaign wouldn’t work, but it’s free to try. And I’m not sure about the rest of my fellow sponsors, but I’ve grown up with the world of Ethshar. There’s something about the place that’s just a bit more trivial, and therefore a bit more real, than any other book series I’ve ever read. It may just be that for every big story, like the bigger warlock books, there are tiny books that follow regular (or at least semi-regular) people around, and those tiny stories are really what makes the world so approachable and charming.

    Anyway, whatever you decide to do. I hope this really isn’t the end.

  6. I never really looked at IndieGoGo much — Kickstarter seemed more to my taste. I might want to reconsider.

    I should point out that I’ve been offering dinner with the author for considerably less than two grand on Kickstarter. Two people took me up on it for Vika’s Avenger, but so far no one has for Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship.

    (For $1,500 you could pick which novel I write next; no one’s gone for that one, either.)

    A complete Ethshar collection — that’s an interesting idea. I could do that; don’t know what it would come to.

    Anyway, I’m not going to stop writing; I’m just not going to look at it as my career anymore. (Right before coming here I was working on Stone Unturned, the next Ethshar novel.)

  7. Well after a bit of a lull your Kickstarter seems to be picking u steam again so the demand for your work still exists. I wonder though if maybe a bit of franchise fatigue set in with your readership after so many Ethshar serial? Not that I didn’t enjoy them of course!. Anyway if you’e not ready to retire as a fulltime writer (and I really hope you’re not) then as mentioned above you’re best bet is to explore the different publishing options and business models out there. Perhaps modifying the current serial system via Patreon, letting your backers on the next work to have a chapter posted every time you reach the five hundred dollar mark or something.

  8. It’s a little disappointing to hear that you won’t be writing as much, but if you aren’t making enough money off of it, it doesn’t make sense to push yourself to spend more time writing than you enjoy. If you keep writing Ethshar stories I’ll support the Kickstarters or buy the ebooks or whatever, and probably I’ll do the same with whatever non-Ethshar work you do as well.

    I hope that if you go direct to ebook retailers for some projects, that you will make the work available in one or more open, standard formats through Smashwords or some other independent retailler, and not exclusively through Amazon in Kindle format. Besides the various ethical dubiosities Amazon is guilty or suspected of, the Kindle reader software seems to be a hassle to deal with on Linux (or so I’ve heard). But I’d jump through those hoops if it were the only way to get the next Ethshar book.

    Thank you again for all the wonderful stories you’ve shared with us over the years.

  9. Have you considered Patreon?

    It’s like a kickstarter that never ends- your patrons make an open-ended commitment to support your work, and you produce entries at your pace. There’s even two different payment concepts that people can pick- a monthly sum to be donated, or a recurring pledge contingent on chapters/works posted (with a maximum). The whole thing is designed to get patrons to support works they love collectively, without scaring them with a big number. ($5 a month? I can do and forget about that. $30 this month? A little harder.)

    It might be worth a shot. This guy writes a webcomic I read every day, and I donate a small part of his $8k/mo salary. http://www.patreon.com/ZachWeinersmith

  10. Yes, Patreon seems to work best for artists who are putting out new content on a pretty regular schedule of once per month or more. It might work for a novelist who’s doing one serialized novel after another with relatively short intervals between them, but if you want to give yourself more flexibility about what kind of thing to write and when, Kickstarter or some similarly structured system would work better.

  11. I hope you don’t give up writing. I’ve been a fan since I picked up the Misenchanted sword in the 4th grade, and have purchased almost every fantasy novel you’ve written and some of the science fiction. Ishta’s companion as a serial didn’t pull me in like some of your other works, but I’d be hard pressed to specify why and I still liked it. It’s probably more than a bit unfair to compare a first draft with finished products. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’m not a writer myself, so I don’t know what sort of helpful suggestions I can give, but I can suggest some things I would like to see.

    Maybe stepping outside of ethshar for a bit would help? Even if you don’t create a new setting, I wouldn’t mind seeing what happens after the Obsidian chronicles, or what would happen if someone deliberately set up a pregnant woman to be infected with magic in that setting.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing followup to existing Ethshar characters either, as a main novel rather than a cameo in someone else’s one. The unwelcome warlock and the spriggan mirror were excellent I thought.

  12. Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship. – Just foudn this today. Will e-mail you later to add my pledge, but been off doingthings, including a week out of the country.

  13. I think there may be some simpler issues. Perhaps e-mailing all your previous clients, to let them know a new serial is ongoing … I’ve stumbled into several that I was unaware of … one was on Chapter 16 or 17! That’s not helping. I know you have my e-mail … probably many others, keep them informed; they’ll let you know if they don’t want the odd update, You seldom do more than a book a year.
    I prefer Ethshar over many of the other story lines … not sure why, but there is a sort of relaxed fit humor about the series, my wife also likes it.
    It’s a fun place to game, with any of a number of systems EXCEPT I still don’t get your Magic system… which maybe because it does whatever you want with loose rules you mostly follow ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d appreciate a solid description/outline of it … and yes, I’d pay some for that. Maps too.

  14. I did e-mail my previous donors; many people, apparently including yourself, did not get those e-mails. I don’t know why, but I’m guessing over-eager spam filters were involved.

    As for the magic system, I worked it out in detail in 1983 and haven’t changed it; I still refer to the original 3×5 index cards every time I mention a new spell. It’s complicated, and parts of it are arbitrary, but it’s not loose.

    (I didn’t get my first computer until August of 1984, which is why it’s on index cards.)

  15. I will keep buying them somehow as long as you keep writing them.

    The serialization never worked for me because I check back every year or so to see if you have a new book and always seem to find that I missed out on the offering. However it usually means (like now) that you’ve sold the serialized work and I just buy the finished book. I have done so three times now IIRC.

    I love your work and enjoy reading the book immensely. And rereading.

  16. So, this Stone Unturned you mentioned. Any update on that? Where/when will that be turning up? You said you would not be doing a serial, so are you going to publish it yourself? If so, do you have an editor/agent/publisher to nag you for the first draft to be finished?

  17. No news, really. It’ll be published (eventually) by my own Misenchanted Press — I notified Wildside last week that I wouldn’t be sending them future Ethshar books.

    No, I don’t have anyone to nag me about it. See above about being semi-retired.

  18. I would happily sign up to notification emails and the like. The serialisation method didn’t quite work for me – but a fire and forget kick starter? That would drop a new book in the mail as a random suprise would be great.

    Only downside is I’m running out of back catalogue – every year the relatives get a list of your books that they’re allowed to buy me for Christmas. Is now very short!

  19. I certainly hope you don’t give it up. My life has gotten so busy yours are about the only books I actually *read* these days. I was delighted to find two of your titles on Audible.com and got them today…I hope the others are available in that format very soon, as I can listen to Audiobooks at work (though they frown on actual reading).

    I love your work and buy everything of yours I find. Thank you for the wonder and joy you have given my life.

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