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01 March 2010 @ 02:13 pm
Hot Time wrap-up  

The “Hot Time” novella went dark last night around 5pm Eastern (with one person getting their purchase in quite literally at the last minute: I was taking the Paypal links down as the payment came in!).

This whole project has been an experiment in selling to a direct market. I pretty much think of this as patronage: the people who bought this story made it possible for me to write something that would not otherwise exist–and believe me, this story was one I have known for years *happened* and have wanted to tell, and yet also one which I very possibly never would have made time to write, had I not been paid to do so. So now I’ve got thoughts and commentary about the whole project, which I shall stick

I really genuinely had no idea, starting out, if people would want to pay for me to write them a story. I figured the worst that could happen was the initial fundraising goal detailed here simply wouldn’t work, and I would feel sort of squirmy and embarrassed and “oh well” about it. That’s really just part of the job.

However, it’s been an extremely successful experiment, all told. Between the first and second rounds of sales, about 140 people bought in, making my pay-per-word around $.08. That’s unquestionably a professional rate–a pretty damned good one, in fact, for short stories–and I’m completely delighted with not only the word rate but the number of people who opted to buy the story. I’d started out February hoping for 30 sales and thinking 50 would be really amazing, and I got nearly 90, which I’m simply agog over. It makes me want to rush out and write the next story in the sequence right away.

I’ve learned a couple things doing this. One is that it’s pretty damned nerve-wracking writing something on a short deadline for an exclusive audience who’s already ponied up the cash for the project. In fact, I blew my deadline by a month. On the other hand, the story ended up 3 times longer than my initial expectation, and the story patrons were wonderfully understanding when, humiliated, I emailed them and said “Look, I cannot do this in the time allotted, but it’ll be a much longer and better story in another month.” So probably in a really ideal situation I’d write the story first, then put it up for a patronage drive…but on the other hand, that’s sort of defeating the “it doesn’t get written unless I get paid” aspect, so I’m not sure.

Another thing I’ve learned is that frankly, it’s hard to advertise something like this without feeling like a shill. I’m profoundly grateful to the people who re-posted and Tweeted and Facebooked about it, and I appreciate that my more-or-less captive LJ audience didn’t throw tomatoes at me. I feel like there must be some better way to advertise, but I can’t figure out what it is (this, actually, is a recurring problem as an artist, I think, and I would dearly love to find a way past that hump).

I’ve also discovered that it seems that my approach for this whole project is a little different than many people working on the direct-sales model. A lot of people are apparently selling stories or books which eventually become online freebies. I’m much more inclined to just write freebies if it’s going to end up free in the end anyway, and to turn this kind of model into a scenario where I’m building up a backlog of short stories and new material which I can eventually sell to a traditional publisher, and therefore continue to make money off it. This is, after all, how I make my living. It’s utterly brilliant if I can ask a widespread group of patrons to support the creation of a new story in the short term, and give them exclusive access to that story–to that creative piece which they made possible–but in the long term, I need my words to keep generating income for me.

So the next step for this project is finding a traditional publisher for the novella. I feel I have two options here: one is to approach a smaller press and propose a short anthology of some 60,000 words which would include “Hot Time”, “From Russia, With Love” and the online freebie “Five Card Draw” as well as 3 or 4 new stories which would complete a sequence revolving in large part around Vanessa Grey, Daisani’s assistant from HEART OF STONE. This to me is the ideal next step. I love the idea that this series of stories could be collected as almost an aside to the Old Races universe; that someday when I go back to writing full-length novels in that world, that readers who’ve read that anthology would have an enriched experience with the universe without taking anything away from the readers who hadn’t. I love the idea that one or two characters could get exclusive focus in a small, dedicated anthology, and that their stories could be made to weft and wind around each other in a way that would be showcased and highlighted by a small anthology.

The second option is a much larger anthology which “Hot Time” might potentially be an anchor story for. I would probably try selling that to Luna, who published the Negotiator trilogy. An anthology of that size would cover a great deal more time than a smaller one, and have a much greater breadth of characters and dip further into the universe’s history (and possibly future!). I find that an equally appealing idea for completely different reasons. It’s also a longer-term project idea: I’d want half of it written before I even pitched it, and even if I included all the Old Races stories I’ve written so far I haven’t reached a halfway mark.

Either way, I will almost certainly repeat this direct-market sales strategy again in the future. In fact, what I’d really *love* to do is to do this quarterly, though I of course have no idea if the market could bear such conditions. It seems pretty likely that it’ll just happen once this year, as last year (the Jane Yellowrock-Joanne Walker crossover story might be the next project of that nature, actually, maybe sometime this fall.), but perhaps as I’m able to grow a broader base of direct patrons it’s something I can do more regularly. One way or another, I’ve certainly enjoyed it, I got a lot of positive feedback, and it seems like this should be a system that can be refined and continue to work.

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
ex_kaz_maho on March 1st, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this - very interesting to see how it all turned out. I'm looking forward to reading 'Hot Time', though I'm saving it as I still haven't finished the trilogy. :)
kitmizkit on March 1st, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
It can be read completely independently of the trilogy, but of course it does give you an extra little Old Races fix once you've finished the books. :) I hope you enjoy it!
Brianlogrusboy on March 1st, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
That's really great, especially for a first time experiment. Now if you could sucker Butcher into a Walker/Dresden crossover....
kit: gaming_rynnaenmizkit on March 1st, 2010 09:46 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, for those long-ago days when he and I role-played together on Amber. Had I only known then, I'd have used that time to co-write a Walker/Dresden crossover. :)
Brianlogrusboy on March 1st, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
I didn't know you were old chums. How nifty!
kitmizkit on March 1st, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
Oh. Yeah. I've known Jim since about 1995. It's a small, small internet. :)
Brianlogrusboy on March 1st, 2010 09:59 pm (UTC)
Indeed. And had I stuck with Amber until you and Jim showed up, I could've scored some stories to trade for drinks....

Important life lesson: Never give up; never surrender!
pgwfolcpgwfolc on March 1st, 2010 06:44 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. Really interesting to hear things from your side.

Just finished reading Hot Time yesterday, and I have to say I'm glad I bought in. I loved the Negotiator/Old Races books, and this pulled me right back in. Very much looking forward to reading the next story, especially given that ending.

Funny how trying to sell it yourself feels like shilling, though. I can totally understand that on an emotional level, but logically it's no different from having your publisher advertise or just standing in a market, hocking your wares. It's your profession, and advertising it is just part of selling the product.

Personally, I agree with you about keeping it exclusive. The early buy-in, followed by free release model never made much sense to me. (And I'm not sure the Dr. Horrible free release followed by paid buy-in model makes any more sense, either...)

Sounds like a very successful experiment, though, which is great news for you... and for your readership.
Natural20natural20 on March 1st, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
Well, I think you can guess what my reaction to more Old Races stories would be. :) The bigger anthology sounds, well, awesome, but I suppose I can live with the smaller one if you decide to go for that...
kitmizkit on March 1st, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
Well, the smaller anthology followed by a larger one including some or all of the smaller anthology material would be ideal for /me/, as it would be maximum profitability. Dunno what people would think of that, of course, nor is it of such a pressing nature to be worried about just now. :)
SaffronRosesaffronrose on March 1st, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
I would buy quarterly offerings. I like being able to directly support authors and musicians.
kitmizkit on March 1st, 2010 09:51 pm (UTC)
<3 :)
SaffronRosesaffronrose on March 1st, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
the Jane Yellowrock-Joanne Walker crossover story might be the next project of that nature, actually, maybe sometime this fall.

Yes, please!