Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Publishing on the net

When I started this blog I sort of had the idea that I would use it to build up a readership base which would then go on to read my novel A Half Life Of One. I guess I hoped that after a while a traditional publisher might notice the interest I had stirred up and subsequently offer me a block-busting three book contract.

I received an e-mail yesterday from Octavia Randolph which I have to say rather undermines my faith in that particular business model. Here's what Octavia has to say on the subject:

I'm Octavia Randolph of, and my first novel The Circle of Ceridwen had the privilege of being the subject of two entries in your "International Book Reader Awards".

My site receives over 50,000 readers a month, from more than 60 nations. On it I have three complete historical novels, a novella, and scores of essays - over 500,000 words of text. Everything is free.

Readers find my work from sites like Ms Armstrong's Free Novels Online (who sends me hundreds of new readers each month), book groups, blogs, and simply using search engines.

I'd like to speak to the fact that conventional publishers live a parallel universe to those of us who publish on the WWW. It wouldn't matter to them how many readers download or access free novels on the internet, because that is just not how they decide their lists. If huge readership on the WWW was a factor in deciding what they pick up, a few of us out here would have heard from them. In fact I have heard from them - and still been rejected, having nothing to do with my existing readership. I have had a number of close encounters with large US and European publishers interested in my work, all to nought.

The most recent was in June 2004 when out of the blue a fiction editor from a respected publishing house in Hamburg contacted me about The Circle of Ceridwen, which she had come across trawling the 'net. She was interested in acquiring foreign and translation rights, and requested a hard copy of the MS. After two readings and 12 months she decided the cost of translation would be prohibitive and decided to pass. Never did they inquire as to my existing fan base - either in an attempt to ascertain how much of a "buzz" I would carry with me into a conventional book deal with my existing readers, or if I had already "eroded" my potential sales by having had so many hundreds of thousands of readers have access to it for free over the years.Every publishing house has its own criteria for establishing any given season's list.

On the face of it it seems rational and logical that free books that have large fan bases are ideal or even obvious candidates for publication on paper. Not so.

wes thu hal (be hail and hearty, in Old English)

Octavia Randolph

So, there you have it. A successful website, lots of readers and still can't get a traditional publisher. Hm. That really is a downer.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is a downer. I think L. Lee Lowe of into the lowelands would say similar (s/he has commented as such on Skint Writer, who is currently posting about his POD plans --- Lee says it is either one (self publish) or the other ("conventional" publish).

    However, Corey Doctrow of Boing Boing published his novel free on the web in PDF, and got it published "conventionally" as well, and it was a success. I believe, if memory serves, that Corey insisted that his publisher let him post the novel free as PDF: despite the publisher's reluctance, it agreed and the book did well.
    I have read that Steven King's experiment to ask people for a small fee to download chapters of a book was not that successful, whereas when he publishes conventionally, he sells tens of thousands.

    Funny old world, I suppose.