Presenting your work online, free (the debate hits the radio...)

Hey all--

I know there's been a lot of discussion here (and in the wider writing community) about the sense/lack of sense in authors offering their novels online before they're available as "real" novels. Obviously I'm partisan because I'm doing exactly that (and will happily defend it right up until we get our sales figures and I discover it's bitten me on the ass...) but since it's a discussion relevant to all of us here (as book-buyers and writers resident on the net), I thought I'd give you a heads-up about a radio show dealing with it.

BBC Radio 4's "OPEN BOOK" show, which airs on Sundays at 1600hrs (GMT) and can be heard via their website (HERE) all through the week afterwards, will have a segment this week on this very topic. I know this because I'm on it.

So tune in on Sunday, if you fancy. It's a debate set to rage and rage - and I doubt this show will go far towards solving it - but at the very least it might interest those of you involved in both writing and netting!

Details of my own online giveaway bonanza, for those who want to tell me I'm being an idiot, and the whole idea of freebies is repellent to anyone who cares about the novel industry, and etc etc etc, are HERE (and there's a funky viral vid relating to the book HERE).

Cheers!

-s

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Personally, I don't think it's a bad idea.

Baen books seems to have had a lot of success following this very model. They've been posting the first books in a series on the web for download in various formats, as well as including CDs in some of their books with the entire catalog of previous books in that particular series.

They do science fiction and I think it's worked well for them because their readers are very comfortable reading on a PDA or a computer monitor. I don't know how well it would wok for crime fiction, though I think
websites like this, and the host of sites with short fiction on them bodes well for the idea.

http://www.baen.com/library/
The effect of file-sharing on music has been studied with some interesting effects.

At its heart, the study says that unknown bands tend to benefit most from file-sharing -- they gain fans who buy their music -- while the popular artists lose money, because they gain fewer fans relative to the music being traded.
Fascinating stuff.

In the same vein, I'm aware there's been a bit of anger amongst one or two established authors about this trend too; their argument being that by giving fiction away for free, debut authors are depriving established authors of sales.

I can't help thinking it's a slightly daft argument. Unlike with music, there's no question of "either/or" -- the net will never replace novels as a means of reading stories, simply because it's so unpleasant to sit and read for hours from a screen. Authors will therefore always rely upon people going out and buying their novels from stores, so for one "known" author to complain about another "unknown" author's attempts to publicise themselves and their novel smacks of sour grapes, regardless of the method.

Besides, the Internet's not going away. Complaining about someone else using it in an unusual way is like a naked man complaining about being cold. Put some clothes on, log-on, try it yourself.

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