Monday, February 22, 2010

a comment turned into a post: Burstein's Nebula Story

(I started to write this in the comments section of my Nebula Nominees post before realizing it was getting a bit lengthy)

Hm. Well, the Burstein may not be available to read online.

I sort of understand his reasoning, but I ultimately disagree with it.

He goes through a couple of reasons which make sense, including the fact that it is not eligible for the Hugo, but then he gets to this:

And I'll be blunt here – I'd like to sell more copies of the book I Remember the Future and I imagine my publisher would like to as well. This Nebula nomination is a chance for us to spotlight the book one more time, and possibly to convince a reader who hasn't bought it yet to finally get it. If a reader is interested enough and the story is only available in the book, it's that much more likely we'll sell more copies of the book.

Well, no. I really don't think so. I haven't read any of Burstein's fiction and though this is a collection chock full of award nominated work, what I want to read right now is "I Remember the Future" because of the Nebula nomination. Folks who have never heard of him (like me) will be coming in cold and have a chance for that story to be our first experience - one which could lead to sales.

I want Apex to sell more copies so they can keep publishing good stuff (and I did purchase Jennifer Pelland's collection from them last year), but I am deeply skeptical that withholding the story from public consumption during the awards period would really increase sales any more than giving people the chance to discover the story would.

I get that the obvious benefits for Burstein are limited: posting the story online will not lead to a Hugo nomination as it is ineligible. He's not going to get paid for the story again (most likely, but depending on what the electronic rights are for it, maybe he will - shoot, Ill pay him $20 if he'll let me reprint it here, but that's just about all I can afford and I'm sure he can net much better rates to sell a reprint elsewhere).

But, until this year, posting Nebula stories online could never lead to a Hugo nomination. The eligibility has been wonky in the past and there wasn't a Hugo benefit.

So, why do it?

I think it's a chance to reach an audience who don't have access to all the magazines and may not have discovered the writer via the Apex book or his (or her) website to check out a sampler.

The Nebula ballot is relevant right now, and this is a several month opportunity to reach new readers and maybe make some sales.

I'm not going to buy the book just because it has a single story nominated story I haven't read yet. But if I discovered the story due to its nomination and if I thought it was fantastic, I might.

I don't think I'm necessarily alone in that.


Chad Hull said...

I agree with you for all the reasons you've already stated. His logic makes perfect sense until you consider the amount of free content offered by writers of equal or greater renown.

We can't read everything and my criteria for purchase goes well beyond, "What awards did it win/was nominated for?"

I have no problem with authors and publishers wanting to sell more copies of book, just not sure this is the best way to do it.

Unknown said...

I understand where he's coming from, but I think I would have made the opposite decision, myself. But he's farther along in his writing career than I am, so he's not still in the "begging for eyeballs" stage like me. Have you considered seeing if you can get his book from the library?

Joe said...

Jennifer: Ultimately it's a philosophical difference I have with his decision, and I think the eyeballs would help sales of his book. Maybe Jason Sizemore will consider working something out with him, even going so far to pay for a reprint rather than using it as a promotional tool (though posting it online for three months for promotion still seems reasonable)

I did check both my library and the interlibrary loan catalog to check the rest of Minnesota. No copies to be found.

That seems to be the case with Apex, actually. There's been a couple of volumes I was looking for that didn't have any distribution into my library system. We seem to have some great buyers for Hennepin County who look at a range of SFF (including purchasing limited edition stuff from SubPress if there isn't a cheaper edition out there), but Apex seems to be missed.

Tea and Tomes said...

Agreed. You talking about this brought to mind the fact that one of the reasons I want to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is because I first read (completely randomly, following a link chain) a short story of Jemisin's. That access to a short story is going to result in another sale of that book as soon as I get the spare money. If someone told me that Hundred Thousand Kingdoms also contained that story and I hadn't been able to read it online, I probably wouldn't much care. It'd be another book by another author I hadn't heard of whose writing style was unknown to me. Aside from some positive online reviews, I wouldn't have a real driving reason to buy the book.

And buying a book that I may or may not want just to get a short story that I do want seems like a waste of funds to me, and is more likely to make me just skip reading the short story alltogether.

Carl V. Anderson said...

While I don't fault him for wanting to make more book sales...I don't fault him at all...I too think it is a strategy that is unlikely to make as many sales as giving people a sample of his work via this story would do. Books aren't cheap, and in a market flooded with choices people are reluctant to take chances on authors they don't know. I am much more likely to take a chance on an author whose not only been nominated for an award but when I've been able to check out his/her fiction to see if I like it.

I wish him great success, I certainly think his motives are above board, but I do think it is a shame that those of us who want to won't be able to compare his story to the other nominees prior to the award announcements...unless we want to take a chance shelling out the price for a full book.

Liviu said...

Actually you can buy the whole collection I Remember the Future in electronic form at Smashwords for example for 5$ which gives you all formats including html online.

The Kindle edition (and you do not need a Kindle since there is a PC application, while if you know how to convert, you can get easily an html out; since it seems to be un-drmed, you do not even have to use liberating scripts that some may avoid due to potential conflict with DCMA) is 2$...

There is a 15% sample at Smashwords available for free...

So I guess the author's reasoning makes more sense taking the above into consideration.

Personally since he is an Analog author the chances I would like his fiction are under 10%, so I am not going to bother, otherwise I would have bought the Kindle edition on general principles the way I buy most collections that are offered electronically at reasonable prices and are of interest - eg that J. Pelland collection mentioned here that I bought as e based on a ss I loved by the author in some anthology I read

Unknown said...

Tea: You're going to love Jemisin's book. She used to be a member of my writing group before she moved to NYC, so she sent us one of the galley proofs to read in advance. I don't even like fantasy, and I loved her book.

Joe: I'm not surprised that the library doesn't have my book, but I am surprised that they don't have his. That's a real shame. Ah well.

Liviu: Surprisingly, this story isn't very Analog-y.

Joe said...

Jennifer: On the plus side, my bookcase does have your book. :)

Unknown said...


And hey, most of the stories are available for free online, no less!

Jason Sizemore said...

Joe, perhaps if you request your library to start carrying our titles, they'll consider doing so. I know it's work for several other of our readers. We use the same library distribution via Follett and Brodart that most other book publishers have.

Joe said...

I'll give that a shot, Jason. If they can pony up for SubPress editions, I don't see why they wouldn't be willing to take some Apex.