Monthly Archives: December 2009

  •    Snarkmarket’s Tim Carmody on pricing eBooks:
    Now, dig­i­tal books also offer the pos­si­bil­ity that books, like CDs, can be split and sold sep­a­rately. Maybe I just want to buy a copy of “The Unde­feated” and “In Another Coun­try” — a taste of Hem­ing­way, not the whole short-form cor­pus. Big pub­lish­ers haven’t really done this yet. But among inde­pen­dents and self-publishers, the other price point that seems to be emerg­ing — the sym­me­try with iTunes is aston­ish­ing — is the 99 cent short story. And again — this feels just about right, espe­cially appeal­ing to folks read­ing these things on their iPhones, who don’t want to leaf through a whole novel or anthol­ogy, right around the same price as a cheap iPhone app or a sin­gle song.
    This strikes me as about right. So here’s a business idea: a marketplace for $0.99 short stories, downloadable in pdf, Kindle, and .mobi formats. #
  •    The e-Fiction Book Club is back online, and better than ever. #
  •    Mark Barrett’s written a brilliant post about Yog’s Law (which states that in publishing, money should flow toward the author):
    At its most basic, however, publishing is not a question of maxims or appraisals or even authorial merit. It’s a question of cash money. Which brings me to my criticism of Yog’s Law, my criticism of the industry for exploiting Yog’s Law, and my general exhaustion with the idea that all the bad people are on the outside of the publishing industry and all the good people are on the inside praying to Daniel Webster. Because nothing about Yog’s Law deals with the fact that a pay-you-later publisher can screw authors as effectively as a pay-us-now subsidy or vanity publisher.
    Salient points, all of them. This is the kind of article I wish I’d written myself. #
  •    Jan Oda’s new reader-oriented magazine, ErgoFiction, is finally up. Can’t wait to see what the December issue looks like. #

Please Don’t Pay Me: Dispatches from a Digital Publishing House

Isa is the president, founder, and all-around person in charge of digital publishing house fluffy-seme. Here she talks about the continued relevance of publishing houses to web fiction.

About four months ago I got an email from a writer asking if fluffy-seme would be interested in publishing her work. The timing couldn’t have been more wrong. Although fluffy-seme had been “publishing” for a few months, we’d only just decided to throw caution to the wind and just make it official and incorporate. We had started the pilot run of Hyperlocal (a scavenger hunt where players solve clues to collect pieces of an on-going story), and that program had just been featured in TimeOut New York under their 75 Things To Do Before Summer Ends cover story. The competitive environment of Hyperlocal turned out to be more competitive than I ever imagined it would be: clues were released at midnight and most of them were solved before 9am. On top of that, Split-Self had only just started publication and it needed a lot of tender love and care to help it find fans. On top of that I was also writing two other serials for a grand total of three serials at roughly 4,000 words each part … about 12,000 words a week.

Nevertheless, despite completely overcommitting myself … we were a publishing company and I was itching to start recruiting writers (mainly so that I did not have to write 12,000 words a week). So I said okay, send me something to look at.

What she sent me wasn’t going to win any Pulitzer’s, but it was serviceable and marketable. A little polishing and I could see it being a series that attracted an audience. There was just one problem…

“Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to pay writers right now.” I explained.

“Oh, that’s alright … you don’t have to pay me.”

At first I kind of assumed this was just naiveté, and so I explained to her that yes … in fact we do have to pay you. In order for us to publish you, you have to sign a contract giving us the right to reproduce your content and to profit from said content. You should never sign away those kind of rights without some compensation. So I suggested … “How about this? I can draw up a temporary three month contract at a low rate and then when it expires we’ll renegotiate.”

“Oh … no … really that’s okay, I really don’t feel comfortable getting paid for my work. It’s not that good.”

Negotiations actually stalled and inevitably fell apart over this unbelievable problem: she really didn’t want me to pay her for her writing.

Because to me when you’re selling something: $$ > $ and $ > free I assumed that this encounter was merely an anomaly … instead it foreshadowed the hair pulling frustration that was to come in October when fluffy-seme opened up for submissions and went about trying to recruit writers. Nearly every single time I started negotiations with a writer discussions would come to a dead stop as soon as the fact that I actually intended to pay them became clear. Once I spelled that out one of two things would happen: either the writer would suddenly have a crisis of confidence like the encounter described above, or the exact opposite, the writer would turn around and declare (some more subtly than others) that since I was willing to pay, then maybe a BETTER publishing company would also be willing to pay. Or better yet, maybe the author could go out on their own and get to keep 100% of the profits.

  •    Stephens Emms on falling out of love with Murakami:
    So was our love of Murakami, like sushi bars, no more than a passing vogue? John Wray, who interviewed Murakami in 2004 for the Paris Review, offers an answer. “Murakami’s world is an allegorical one, constructed of familiar symbols – an empty well, an underground city – but the meaning of those symbols remains hermetic to the last. His debt to popular culture notwithstanding, it could be argued that no author’s body of work has ever been more private.”
    I’ve always wondered about the miasmic oddness of Murakami’s fiction. Seems like I finally got my answer. #

On The Weblit vs Webfic Debate

Over the past couple of days, there has been some debate over which or what term we should use when we are talking about our work. On the one hand, we have writers who think that we should call our field ‘web literature’, or ‘weblit’; on the other, we have writers who want to use ‘web fiction’, or ‘webfic’. While this does seem like an unnecessary discussion, particularly so on the face of it, it appears to send quite a number of us into a religious rage, and so it would do to take these issues apart to explore them properly, if only for the sake of completeness.

Firstly: why settle for a name? The reason most commonly given is that a name serves to unify the platform on which we’re writing, making it easier to promote and/or find our fiction. On Twitter, these terms are particularly important: the hashtag feature of the medium serves as a community gathering point, and there should only be one of them in use (in order to prevent community splintering, word limit, etc et all). And so if we see promotion as a primary reason to choose a name, then it would be useful to note that we are really talking about two platforms on which said promotion occurs: normal web search, and Twitter.

Let us now look at the semantics of the two terms being proposed. I am particularly interested in ‘literature’ as it is used in the phrase, ‘web literature’. We must acknowledge that there are really two uses for this term in daily discourse. The first use (the one, I suspect, that is being adopted by the WebLit.us crowd) is the definition taken from the Oxford Dictionary: i.e. (any and all) works of artistic merit. This definition includes fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and even certain forms of journalism (though this last category is certainly debatable). ‘Literature’ as is used in this manner can best be seen when a potential customer approaches a technical salesperson, and asks “to see the literature” on a particular technology. What we’re talking about here is that of ‘literature’ being used as a category, the same way that ‘prose’ is a category, and ‘photography’, and so on.