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A Legend of Ethshar on the Installment Plan

What is this?

This page is the original home of an experiment in alternative publishing.

I'm Lawrence Watt-Evans, author of some three dozen novels and hundreds of short stories, articles, etc. One of my best-known series has been the Legends of Ethshar, consisting (as of 2004) of eight novels originally published by Del Rey Books or Tor Books, and seven short stories that appeared in various anthologies.

Alas, I learned in 2004 that no major mainstream publisher was interested in continuing the Ethshar series. On the other hand, I had several readers saying they desperately want to see more. I decided to see whether enough of them were willing to put their money where their mouths are to finance more Ethshar stories -- and perhaps eventually continuations of other series that no longer have major publishers.

To my surprise, there were enough. My fans came through, and I wrote the ninth Ethshar novel, The Spriggan Mirror, financed entirely by reader contributions rather than an advance from a publisher. The finished novel was published in the February 2006 issue of Son and Foe, and in various formats by Wildside Press, but its writing was made financially possible by contributions from readers during its serialization.

I was sufficiently impressed to try it again, with The Vondish Ambassador. It worked again. A third serial, not Ethshar this time, is in the works.

Below I try to answer all your questions about my experiment, but if I've missed anything, e-mail me and ask.

How does it work?

From April to October of 2005 I posted the first draft of The Spriggan Mirror, the ninth novel in the series, chapter by chapter. The last two chapters, along with the epilogue and some endnotes, were posted on October 16, 2005. Below you'll find some options for making donations; each week, if I'd received another $100 in donations (as I always did), I posted another chapter.

If I hadn't received $100 to pay for a given week's chapter, it wouldn't have been posted -- but that never happened. If more than the $100 target came in, as it usually did, the extra was credited toward the following chapter. No one needed to worry about "wasting" a payment if I received more than was needed for a particular chapter. At this point the entire novel has been paid for, but the more money that comes in, the sooner I'm likely to start a new serial.

This system was partly inspired by the Street Performer Protocol, and by the system known as the Storyteller's Bowl, but I've modified them to suit my purposes. Similar things have been attempted before, I'm not inventing anything entirely new, but my model seems to have been unusually successful.

I'm pleased to say I appear to have been part of the inspiration for other such online serials, such as Diane Duane's The Big Meow, and others listed on my Misenchanted Tales page.

Are you going to do more serials this way?

Yes. The Vondish Ambassador is complete, and I'm about to start Realms of Light, the much-delayed sequel to my science fiction novel, Nightside City.

Can we read The Spriggan Mirror here for free?

Not any more; I took most of it down at the request of its eventual publishers. The Spriggan Mirror is available in various formats elsewhere. I have no plans to restore the original free version.

When I do more serials they'll be free while they're in progress, just as this one was -- but if the money stops coming in, I'll stop writing them. And they'll probably be taken down once they've found a real publisher.

How do we make donations?

I only found two convenient and reliable methods; if anyone has more to suggest, I'm still interested.

First:
You can send checks or money orders made out to:
     Lawrence W. Evans
     P.O. Box 14452
     Silver Spring MD 20911

Second:
You can use Acceptance Mark Paypal by clicking the button below:

If I haven't read the other Ethshar novels, will this one make any sense to me?

I certainly hope so; every book in the series is intended to stand on its own, though there are cross-references and interconnections. If you haven't read the others, I'd be interested in knowing what you think of this one -- does it work without any background?

If there's something you think isn't clear to new readers, I'm afraid it's too late now to can fix it.

Oh -- and it's been pointed out to me that this story gives away some of the plot of With A Single Spell, and a couple of plot points from The Spell of the Black Dagger. If you were thinking of reading those and don't want spoilers, well...

Why did you do it this way?

First off, my regular writing career is still perfectly healthy -- I've received some worried e-mail about that, and while I appreciate the concern, there's nothing to worry about. I'm still writing for Tor, and everything's okay there.

However, Tor dropped the Ethshar series because while it was selling decently, my other fantasy was selling significantly better, and they want me to write what will make them the most money. I sympathize with that; I like money, too. And taking the series to another major publisher didn't seem practical, given the realities of today's publishing business, where they want every book to be a blockbuster.

But I knew there were a lot of disappointed Ethshar fans out there, and I like Ethshar and wanted to write more, and this seemed like a way to do it. Strictly as a sideline, though -- even though this brought in far more money than I expected, it's still only a small fraction of what I make writing for Tor. But hey, Ethshar is fun, and having multiple projects going at once helps keep me fresh.

What happens now that it's all been posted?

It's been revised and professionally edited; the final version is roughly 8,000 words longer than the first draft. That final, more polished version was in the second issue of Son and Foe, and has been published on paper by Wildside Press. Both editions contain the complete revised text of The Spriggan Mirror, and the e-book edition includes a bonus short story, "Sirinita's Dragon," that originally appeared in an anthology called The Ultimate Dragon.

What are we paying for?

Now? Nothing. I will still happily accept donations for The Spriggan Mirror, but at this point you're giving me money out of simple generosity, as you would a street musician. Thank you. I'll add your name to the mailing list for e-mail updates on the project along with the other donors, but that's it. (You can also opt out of the e-mails, if you prefer.)

However, if you donated money while the serial was ongoing, it counted as an advance order against the finished novel, and I intend to do that with future serials, as well. Details will be announced when they become relevant.

Donations toward any future serials must be made through the pages for those serials, once they start, rather than through this page -- the PayPal button sends a code saying which project it's from, and I'll credit it accordingly.

Other stuff:

If you'd like to link to this page, or any part of the story, feel free. I've worked up a few little graphics for people to use, if they want.

I'll be happy to continue writing more stories this way -- not necessarily just Ethshar, either -- as long as the money keeps coming in. I'll take a few months off in between volumes, to do other things. Also, I need to charge more per chapter than I did on The Spriggan Mirror. Now that I've done this once I can see that while receipts were more than I'd expected, so were costs, and once I sent out all the paid-for books I hadn't even earned minimum wage. So this was a test, a loss leader, and future works will more expensive.

I've said above that this was first draft; this is true for the most part, but a very few changes were incorporated along the way. All these changes were very small. The serial version was not the final text.

Please note that while I accurately call payments "donations," this is not a non-profit enterprise and they are not tax deductible.

If you have any suggestions, comments on page design or payment methods, or other things you think I should hear about, e-mail me.

Donations are no longer being accepted for this project.

The Spriggan Experiment
How It Works
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
The remaining chapters have been removed in favor of the final version of The Spriggan Mirror published by Wildside Press.

Click here to return to the top of the page.

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That's it; here's your list of handy exits:


The World of Ethshar | The Misenchanted Page | Guestbook | E-mail me
An Introduction to Ethshar | Frequently-Asked Questions About Ethshar | The Ethshar Novels

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Created: Monday, April 18, 2005
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 26, 2009