Additional Notes & Comparisons

Some people have wondered whether I could justify charging 2.5 times as much per chapter this time as I did for The Spriggan Mirror; well, it’s only this past week that The Vondish Ambassador has finally taken in as much money as the serial of The Spriggan Mirror did. That first serial brought in far more than I’d expected.

Both serials came to about 82,000 words; The Spriggan Mirror gets that by rounding up, The Vondish Ambassador by rounding down.

The final draft of The Spriggan Mirror ran a little over 90,000 words; The Vondish Ambassador feels a little rougher to me than Mirror did, so I expect it to run a bit more than that.

Am I going to do more serials? I don’t know. Not right away; I need to concentrate on stuff that pays better, and I want to incorporate some lessons I’ve learned and not do such a rush job next time. I do hope to tackle more eventually, and not just Ethshar, but sequels to some of my other work where there are marketing reasons to not try to sell them through the major publishers — such as my science fiction.

Specifically, I’m considering offering serials of the third War Surplus novel and the second Carlisle Hsing novel — the working titles are respectively The Exile and the Empire, and Realms of Light. I also plotted a sequel to Shining Steel long ago that might be worth a shot, and a prequel to Denner’s Wreck.

And as for Ethshar, I know a lot of you want to see The Final Calling next, but I’m not sure how much I want to write it, so I am not promising it’ll be next. There are several other candidates.

Comments on all these subjects are welcome.

44 thoughts on “Additional Notes & Comparisons

  1. I don’t think you have to justify charging as much as you want for the serials, it is of course your time, and I know the effort required is considerable to not only do the writing, but also the publishing, mailing, etc…

    I do wonder if part of the reason that the Spriggan Mirror took so much money might have been the lower price points to get a book ($5 or $15 IIRC) however, you would have more data than me, but for me $15 somehow seemed considerably less than $25 (probably because most books run under $20 when I buy them), and it took longer for me to donate (I waited until you almost didn’t make a chapter 🙂 because of this. To me it seems that their is a perceptual price break at $20.

    I look forward to any book you choose to write, while I love Ethshar, I figure that we are much more likely to get more Etshar eventually if you can write whatever strikes your fancy.

  2. The Final Calling is actually why I started buying into this, as a long term project to encourage that novel to be written.

    I’m surprised this hasn’t gotten more misc. buzz — there ought to be a Wall Street Journal story about the two novels, which would generate some traffic and probably additional money.

  3. You may be right, Jon, about the lower price being significant on The Spriggan Mirror. Depending how things go on The Vondish Ambassador, I may or may not drop back to $20 henceforth, but $15 was really too low.

    Offering an e-book version might also be worth doing after all; I want to give that some serious thought before doing another serial.

    As for The Final Calling, if I keep doing these I promise it’ll be one of the next three Ethshar novels, but I don’t want to commit myself to it further than that yet. Let things cool a bit.

    I’d hoped to stir up more buzz than I did, but alas, I’m not very good at P.R. stuff. I did inspire a few other writers to follow in my footsteps, as you can see on the Misenchanted Tales page, and I’m pleased about that.

  4. If you do a non-Ethshar novel next, I’d vote for Assassin in Waiting. The premise sounds like it should generate an interesting story, and one well suited to serial form.

    If you’re undecided which of a few novels to do next, you could always hold an auction to decide, with all or part of the money going to pay for the first few chapters.

  5. At the Sign of the Crimson Wolf next Please!!!!!
    Besides you’ve been writing all these epic books isn’t time to relax and write a relatively low key novel. A nostalgic piece that takes your life long fans back to the first days of Esthar while maybe at the same time using it as a device to bring us up to speed on aspects of Esthar that haven’t been laid out in other books that you might have wanted to bring up. The novel will take place in a bar full of strangers from all around trapped in a storm. Perfect place for some awesome dialogue.
    Yes I know laying it on thick but I’d love to get a chance to read that book.

  6. I’m not going to serialize Assassin in Waiting; Tor will probably take it.

    Alan, sorry about the delay in your comment appearing; if you haven’t commented here before your post goes through the moderation queue. I’ve had trouble with spammers, so I had to resort to that.

    You should be able to have your comments appear immediately now.

    I put your other two on hold, since they seemed to just be testing the system; I’ll either let them appear or delete them, whichever you prefer.

  7. Oh, and an auction is something I’ve been thinking about, but I haven’t worked out the technical details yet.

  8. I suspect now that you’ve announced that the book is finished you might see an upswing in donations. $15 was low enough that I could just send it and even if the book was never published, at least I knew it went to a writer who had given me much enjoyment over the years. At $25 I was more interested in waiting a bit to be sure I’d get the product.

    I can certainly understand why $15 was too low. With the effort of arranging publishing, packing books, autographing books (not in that order :), etc…, any profit would be rapidly consumed by the time it took you to do all the work.

    I’ve tried submitting your site to slashdot again. Hopefully they’ll take it this time.

  9. Speaking of P.R., isn’t that something your agent could help with? Or are you leaving him/her out of the serials so you can keep more of the take for yourself? I suppose that publicity is something that the publishers generally take care of, but aside from the issue of Dragon magazine where I first read a review of The Misenchanted Sword, I’ve never seen any promotion for any of your books that you didn’t do yourself, so I don’t know how well you are being served in that capacity, even for your mainstream published books. The Watt-Evans books I own have either been ones I found by looking through the shelves or ones I bought directly from you.

    I’m somewhat curious to hear more about the sentiment behind the comment, “I know a lot of you want to see The Final Calling next, but I’m not sure how much I want to write it,” and why that is.

    Are you feeling that you just aren’t ready to address it properly, are there other stories which might have aspects to them which play into the development of The Final Calling that have yet to be written?

    I certainly don’t begrudge you wanting to write better paying stuff, either. I’d love to be able to walk into my local bookstore and pick a Watt-Evans book off the shelf more than once a year. If you can up your more lucrative production and get more books into that pipeline, maybe we will continue to see serials coming.

  10. The idea that donors get the ‘secret’ maps is a good one.

    Also, assuming the paypal subscriptions method is not massively time consuming, you could give some bonus to those who subscribe. People might be willing to pay $3 a month who would not be willing to pay $10 in one go.

    You could also have ‘secret’ scenes for donors that would not affect the story much … but that is probably going to far. Another option would be to exclude some unimportant parts of each chapter. This content would be included in the final verion. However, that may be more trouble that it is worth and may ruin the ‘flow’ of the chapter.

    I still think that emailing the chapters to donors a week early is one of the best methods to achieve more donations and it is effectively costless.

    Any method that gives donors extra content runs the risk that a donor will make the info public, but that is probably not a major risk. All that is required is that the donation required is less than the effort to find that info.

    One of the other sites also had a system where the names of donors would be included in a list of patrons at the end of the book (assuming that they wanted to be). There were multiple tiers of patrons depending on how much was donated.

    Another option depending on how much risk you are willing to take is Tabarrok’s dominant assurance contracts. This is basically where there producer agrees to compensate donors if the project fails to achieve funding. However, the result is that it assures funding occurs … assuming that there are actually enough customers. It isn’t really designed for a serial model though.

    The basic logic is that if someone thinks the project is going to fail, they will ‘donate’ in order to get the compensation. However, that causes the project to succeed due to the increase in donors.

    You could define a ‘project failure’ as the project not being completed within 1 year of the start. In such a case, the customers would get back:

    1-10 chapters: Donation + 35%
    11-20 chapters: Donation + 17.5%
    20+ chapters: Donation + 10%
    Completed: Nothing

    This also allays the feeling that people might have that they might pay and get nothing in return (if they plan to wait until the end before reading any of the story). However, since the system attracts more payments, the chances of project failure (and having to pay the compensation) is low, unless the price is set to high.

    Another option is to set each chapter as a mini-project. This also reduces the risk.

  11. An agent is not a publicist, and my agent isn’t involved in these serials. Not his job.

    Some authors do hire publicists; I never thought it was worth the cost.

    Why am I reluctant to write The Final Calling? Well, first off, until a few hours ago I didn’t have all the plot worked out, but as it happens I woke up this morning with a revised ending running through my head, so I think now I do have it.

    Second, it will effect a rather permanent change to the World of Ethshar, and I want to be sure I haven’t closed off other stories I’ll want to write someday. That makes me a bit reluctant to tackle it — suppose I write it, and six weeks later have a brilliant idea for a story about warlocks that doesn’t fit in anywhere before The Final Calling?

    Third, it’s always a bit of a let-down to end a long-running mystery.

    Fourth, I’ve already written a bunch of warlockry-related stuff and would prefer to do something a bit different.

    Fifth — there is another story that could lead into it, as you suggested, and I’m not sure just how that’ll all fit if I write them out of order. I can’t tell you which story, though, because it would be a spoiler.

    Actually, there are a couple of other possible lead-ins I could write, as well. One’s a short story about Lord Hanner, another a story of indeterminate length about Teneria.

    Anyway, I’ll write it, but I’m not in any hurry.

    Tabarrok’s contracts are interesting, but I don’t think I want to go that route. That turns it into a sort of investment scheme, and I just don’t care to deal with that.

    Listing patrons in the book — or rather, offering it as an option — is one of the things I want to try in future serials.

    E-mailing chapters to donors — naah. I just find it unpleasing.

    More bonus features only available to donors, that I could do. I’m just not sure yet what they might be.

    As for doing each chapter as a mini-project, I don’t think I know what you mean. How is that different from the present system?

    By the way, I’m $70 short of posting Chapter Twenty-Four, $1,070 short of completing the novel.

  12. At $15 I didn’t think long, but at $25 I figured I would just pass. Once I was truly hooked, I admitted that I’m an Ethshar-whore and ponied up.

    While I have most of your other books, I don’t think I’d even read a non-Ethshar serial, let alone donate towards it.

    As for The Final Calling, I think it would be anti-climatic, it’s best to leave that a mystery.

  13. E-mailing chapters to donors — naah. I just find it unpleasing.

    But, don’t you already email to donors when each chapter is ready? It would just be a copy and paste to the end of that email … or is the issue more aesthetic?

    Anyway, I think it would be an easy and probably effective method to increase donations.

    As for doing each chapter as a mini-project, I don’t think I know what you mean. How is that different from the present system?

    I meant for the Tabarrok’s method, compensation (or lack thereof) would be paid if the chapter was late rather than basing it entirely on the entire novel. As I said, his system doesn’t really work well for serials.

  14. Oh, and an auction is something I’ve been thinking about, but I haven’t worked out the technical details yet.

    Depending on how many you are willing to do at the same time, you could have the auction be between multiple serials being written at the same time.

    Whichever serial has the most donations in its bank gets the chapter published for that week and its bank decreased by $250.

    Alternatively, you could say that the first serial (or multiple ones) to hit $1000 pre-donations is started. The real problem is that it is expensive to return bids for the non-winner via paypal. One option would be to require $1000 pledges and then when it wins at least $750 of those pledges turn out to be authentic.

  15. Yes, I e-mail donors when each new chapter is posted, but attaching the chapter to the e-mail just feels clunky to me.

    I’ll admit it’s not rational.

    And yes, that’s the sort of thing I had in mind for an auction. Haven’t settled the details yet.

    By the way — $30 to go for Chapter Twenty-Four.

  16. I’d like to see Sorcerer’s Wife next (though my vote probably doesn’t count since I haven’t donated yet). Is it too late to consider doing an ebook of Vondish? I’m more willing to spend $10 for that than $25 for a trade paperback. If not, I’ll probably end up just paying $5 for the secret maps.

  17. I may well offer an e-book of The Vondish Ambassador; I just didn’t want to offer it as a pre-publication, pre-completion deal.

    The Sorcerer’s Widow should be fun, and is fairly high on my personal list of what I’d like to write, but at this point I’m not going to commit myself to anything.

  18. If you donated the $25 in two or more separate payments will you automatically add them together so the person will receive the final book?

  19. I would probably not pay for a non-Ethshar serial, with the exception of the Denner’s Wreck prequel (I love that book!).

    I would like to see a PayPal subscription option. I can’t always come up with a chunk of $$ but wouldn’t mind $3 to $5 a month out of the ol’ account.

    Keep up the good work!

  20. Don’t listen to Humbaba, I want to read The Final Calling, and while I am willing to wait, I would really like to read it sooner than later, but later is rather much better than never.

  21. Christian, yes, I add ’em up.

    Bret, I realize not everyone will be interested in all the choices. A subscription option is a pretty good idea, and I’ll look into it.

    lee, I do intend to write The Final Calling if I keep doing serials; I’m just not promising it’ll be next.

  22. Okay, I have given in. I really wanted to see what would happen if a funding deadline was not met. How quickly would people jump on the wagon. But, in fact, all it seemed to take was a warning from LWE and people would step up. So, I have ponied up my money for TVA.

    A quick comment on future serials. I would warn LWE and hope he understands that Ethshar seems to have sufficient support for this method of writting, but I would be concerned about his other worlds. I would suggest that if another world is the subject of a serial and it does not succeed as well as Ethshar novels that LWE not abandon the concept in whole. I think we have shown that Ethshar addicts will keep coming back as long a the writting is as good as we have come to expect. While I like the other worlds I cannot guarantee that I would donate to a serial for one of them. Just a thought!!

  23. I donated early on to the _Spriggan Mirror_ because of the ebook. Even if a paper edition was never produced, I was hoping for enough donations for a finished electronic version.


    Note 1)

    Lawrence Says:
    Offering an e-book version might also be worth doing after all; I want to give that some serious thought before doing another serial.

  24. I agree with Jon. I figured $6 for the first four chapters of The Spriggan Mirror and then again for The Vonish Ambassador was just support for a favorite writer. Even if both serials were never finished, I would count it money well spent.

    Now that the first draft is finished, I am just waiting for the epilogue. If I do not like the rest of the book, I may donate another $5 to help with revision and editing. If I do like the rest, I am very tempted to pony up another $20 for a first edition. I am not donating $5 now and $15 later to keep down processing fees.


    Note 1)
    Jon Lundy Says:
    I suspect now that you’ve announced that the book is finished you might see an upswing in donations. $15 was low enough that I could just send it and even if the book was never published, at least I knew it went to a writer who had given me much enjoyment over the years. At $25 I was more interested in waiting a bit to be sure I’d get the product.

  25. I agree with Lawrence. I do not think a publicist is the solution. I think the problem is eBooks.

    I love ( ) and ( ). Webscription is $15 per monthly eBook bundle (usually 6 novels), or $6 per novel if you decide to purchase eBooks individually. Webscription allows me to access my eBooks from anywhere; friends house, sister’s across the country, parents when I had no power, etc.; and acts as a backup if my books were destroyed in a disaster. Jim Baen’s Universe is $30 per year for 6 issues of 120,000 words. I give $100 per year to be a Saturn member of the Universe Club for ( ).

    Both of those ventures are electronic, as is Lawrence’s serials. All three have trouble generating buzz. Both Baen ventures are making money, but are still sidelines, as is Lawrence’s serials. Eric Flint has written hundreds of pages on electronic vs. paper and consumers (Note 2). I love backing up all my eBooks and eStories on my USB Hard drive, but I still buy paperback copies, and hard back copies. ( helps generate buzz for the trade paperback editions.

    I think there will be more buzz when the hard cover of _The Spriggan Mirror_ comes out. In the future, I think there will be even more buzz when an hard cover edition of an eBook tops the New York Times best seller list.


    Note 1)
    Lawrence Says:
    Some authors do hire publicists; I never thought it was worth the cost.

    Note 2)
    ( )
    Unfortunately, we now run into the second of the two big disadvantages of electronic publication. To wit:
    How do you make people aware that your product even exists in the first place?
    For all the costs and burdens that the distribution system places on paper publishing, it automatically brings with it one great and beneficial result:
    The books are there, on the shelves in bookstores all over the world, where customers can see them. Tom Doherty, who runs science fiction’s largest publishing house Tor Books, puts it this way: “Every book on the shelves is a billboard.”
    Electronic publishing has no such equivalent. We don’t get saddled with the costs of paper distribution, true enough, but we don’t get the benefits either. And trying to come up with a substitute is difficult.

  26. I would donate for any of the non-Ethshar serials, especially the third War Surplus novel, but would prefer another Ethshar novel — preferably one that stands alone well and doesn’t require you to have read earlier Ethshar novels for full enjoyment. I suspect both The Spriggan Mirror and The Vondish Ambassador suffered some from this factor — however much publicity they got in various Internet fora, probably few people would keep reading, much less donate, if they are confused from not having read the earlier novels these books’ plots developed from. Being able to tell people “this book stands alone, it’s a good place to start reading the Ethshar stories and see whether you like them” would probably attract more readers and more donations.

  27. Another question, following up on my previous comment: how many of you donated to The Spriggan Mirror who had not yet read With a Single Spell, or donated to The Vondish Ambassador without having read The Unwilling Warlord (or Night of Madness)?

  28. I have all the Ethshar books, though not all of the short stories. Those three are sitting on my shelf between The Wizard and the War Machine and Touched by the Gods. The rest of my Ethshar books are elsewhere in the bookcase or the house because I’ve re-read again them recently.

  29. I think you should write the novels in an order that matches how the stories lead in to one another. Tower of Flame sounds intriguing. It wasn’t there the last time I looked at the list.

  30. I intend to write the stories in whatever order I feel like, same as I have in the past.

    I think, from what readers have told me, that The Spriggan Mirror does stand on its own pretty well, though obviously if you’ve read With A Single Spell you’re better able to appreciate it. Don’t know yet about The Vondish Ambassador.

  31. [i]I’m considering offering serials of the third War Surplus novel and the second Carlisle Hsing novel — the working titles are respectively The Exile and the Empire[/i]

    I’d have thought more along the lines of “The Enchanter and the Empire” or “The Mages and the Machine” to keep the theme of having different mage type names in each book, (sorceress and wizard respectively)

  32. “Sorcerers,” not “sorceress,” but I see your point. Still, I settled on The Exile and the Empire a long time ago, and I’m in no hurry to change it.

  33. Jumping in a bit late on this – I fully agree that you most certainly don’t have to justify charging whatever you want for these. As I understand it, you are doing these serials at what effectively amounts to below cost price anyway – providing us with your time at well below your normal going rate.

    Also, although my first vote is for “Stranger in the Forest”, I understand that it’s not one of those that you’d get sufficiently excited about to jump up the queue anyway, so I’ll just wait (and hope) that it gets done eventually. Accordingly, my second vote is for “The Rune of the Implacable Stalker” – you’ve mentioned that your children want this one ASAP, and they’re most likely to know you best (including anything you’ve let slip on Ethshar over the years that you haven’t mentioned to us)

  34. Stranger in the Forest was one of the first ones I ever plotted, and for a decade or more it was always near the top of the queue but never quite made it. More recently no one seemed terribly interested in it, so I’m surprised to see your vote. Not in a bad way.

    The Rune of the Implacable Stalker has the advantage of being completely unrelated to any of the ongoing situations.

    In fact, both of those are totally stand-alone works, which makes them tempting.

  35. I would also be very interested in those stories. While I would love to see what Valder has been up to, Stranger in the Forest makes me think of Shatra that are still hanging around, and if I’m right, we might get some additional insight into them (Northerners and Shatra were never explicitly declared extinct to my recollection), and Rune of the Implacable Stalker would be another chance to delve into the littany of previously unmentioned spells, so that’s quite welcome too.

  36. Didn’t I mention that? A sequel to Shining Steel is possible, but I probably won’t get to it for awhile yet.

  37. Is Shining Steel available on Fictionwise? Will you do something to make the story (or at least enough background to make the new book make sense) available to those of us unfortunate enough to have missed getting that book?

  38. Yes, it’s available on Fictionwise, and if I do write the sequel all the backstory you need to know will be explained in the first chapter or two.

  39. One of the attractions of Stranger in the Forest for me is that we have hardly ever seen the World north of the Great Highway. Apart from Valder at the start of The Misenchanted Sword, all we have is Dumery in Aldagmor in The Blood of a Dragon. Everything else is Ethsharitic Coast/Small Kingdoms – which is fine, but I’d love to see the rest of the World.

    (There are snippets in some of the short stories, but (1) – I haven’t got all of the short stories; and (2) – the short stories are, well, short 🙂 )

    We also might learn a bit more of the backstory of the Northern Empire and the Great War – another attraction.

    But I’ll happily read whatever Ethshar stories you write (Even “CSI:Tintallion”, if you wanted to)

  40. One of the ways we can all help with P.R. is to cosider our friends who read, but who haven’t read Ethshar novels. Pick one close to what they like to read (my wife loves CSI, NCIS, and The Spell of the Black Dagger), and purchase it for them for any gift giving holiday of your choice. LWE gets another novel purchased, more personal libraries sport an LWE novel, and eventually, they might read it. Other friends of theirs (or family) might see it, borrow it, love it.

    I would personally vote for another Ethshar novel. But anything LWE enjoys writing will probably be worth reading.

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