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A Legend of Ethshar on the Installment Plan

What is this?

This is a continuation of an experiment in alternative publishing begun in April of 2005.

From April to October of 2005 I posted the first draft of The Spriggan Mirror, the ninth novel in the Legends of Ethshar series, chapter by chapter. The last two chapters, along with the epilogue and some endnotes, were posted on October 16, 2005. Each week, if I'd received enough in donations (as I always did), I posted another chapter.

The experiment was successful enough that I promised to do it again, and while I was busy with other projects for almost a year, I did finally make good on that promise. I wrote the first draft of The Vondish Ambassador, posting one chapter for each $250 readers donated. I finished posting the first draft of twenty-eight chapters and an epilogue, totalling about 82,000 words, on March 2, 2007.

Since then, the final revised and edited version was published in a limited-print-run trade paperback edition, and a mass-market edition is scheduled for publication in June, 2009. An e-book edition either is available from Fictionwise, or will be shortly.

How did it work?

I started by posting the first chapter and the rules, and announcing the project in various venues, asking for reader donations.

Each week I would look at how much money had come in; if it was $250 or more, I would post the next chapter and subtract $250 from the running balance. If it was less than $250, I would announce the fact and wait. Invariably, the difference would be made up within a day or two, and I would then post the chapter.

If the money had ever stopped coming in, I would have stopped writing. Fortunately, that didn't happen.

Anyone who contributed $25 or more was promised that if the novel was completed, he or she would receive a copy of the eventual trade edition. When the novel was finished and the limited edition printed, I sent those out. If you donated and did not receive your copy, notify me immediately, while I still have a few left. (I'm only aware of a couple of people who moved and couldn't be reached.)

Due to the higher shipping costs, foreign readers needed to donate $30 to reserve a copy.

With my first serial I also did an e-book edition for $5 donors; I didn't do that this time, as it was a surprising amount of hassle, but an e-book edition should be available on Fictionwise.

Anyone who made any donation had his or her name added to the mailing list for e-mail updates on this and future projects. (You can also opt out of the e-mails, if you prefer.) Donors were also be given access to a private area on the web where I posted a couple of maps I hoped would be of interest, and I may add other extras someday. Or I may not, but the maps are there.

One of the maps was also included with the limited edition, as an insert. I do try to give donors a little something extra; after all, they're taking a risk. The serial may flop, the book may go unfinished...

Are you going to do more serials this way?

As long as they keep working, yes. The next one will not be an Ethshar story, but a sequel to Nightside City, and I expect to start it by December, 2008. The title is Realms of Light.

If Realms of Light flops, I'll still probably try another Ethshar eventually. It's a different audience.

Can we read The Vondish Ambassador here for free, even if we don't donate?

Not any more; I'm afraid the publisher of the paper edition asked me to take it down.

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.

How do we make donations?

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

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

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You can use your credit card to send money to my Paypal business account by clicking the button below:
If you have a PayPal account, you can save me the fees by using it (but not a credit card, despite what the form says!) to send money to this personal account instead of the business one:

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?

This novel does give away some of the plot of The Unwilling Warlord.

Why did you do it this way?

It lets me write stuff that the big New York publishers aren't interested, and it's fun.

It's purely a sideline, though. My regular writing career is still perfectly healthy -- as of November 2008, I've delivered the first volume of a two-book contract to Tor and am working on the second. See the Misenchanted Page for more about my latest work.

You say this is a first draft; is there a final edition?

Yes. I revised the novel and had it professionally edited. The remaining copies of the limited edition can be purchased from my Books for Sale page, the mass-market paperback should be out from Cosmos Books in June, 2009, and an e-book edition either is available from Fictionwise, or will be shortly.

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.

My serials are posted in first draft. Although changes are usually relatively minor, the serial version is 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.

Who are you?

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 have now written two more Ethshar novels, The Spriggan Mirror and The Vondish Ambassador, financed entirely by reader contributions rather than an advance from a publisher. While both finished novels were then published in traditional form, their writing was only made financially possible by contributions from readers during its serialization.

I've tried to answer all your questions about my experiment, but if I've missed anything, e-mail me and ask, or check out the blog I've created for discussing this project.

Donations are no longer accepted on this project.

The Vondish Ambassador
How It Works
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
The Serial Box

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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: Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Last Updated: Friday, November 21, 2008