Bundling, or, welcome to the brave new future…

The concept of book bundles has been on my mind recently. Partly, as to the timing of my spring, partly as a series of conversations with Fabulous Publisher Babe(tm) about the many possible futures of indie publishing.

In about three weeks, Knotted Road Press will be publishing one of my stories in the second CampCon anthology, Horseshoes, Handgrenades, and Magic.

An anthology is (loosely) defined as a collection of short stories by different authors, assembled into one package for purposes of sales and marketing. In the old days, the only way to read short stories by an author you liked was to find them in a magazine such as F&SF, or Asimov, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents; or to pick them up as part of an anthology, either grouped under a theme, or in a Year’s Best kind of collection. If you were lucky, the publisher might roll up a set of short stories from a single well-known author and publish a collection, but those were rarer and harder to find.

Today, with the internet and the rise of the electronic bookstore, any author can publish just about any story they think will sell, and, assuming they price it correctly, make money at it. I was listening last night to an author I know talk about how surprised he was that his short fiction had become such a significant portion of his overall income stream, sold individually.

It is a lovely place we live in today.

However, the problem you run into then is discoverability. You might be writing fantastically entertaining stuff, but so are thousands of other folks, so readers have a hard time locating your words to discover that they have to buy them ALL.

One of the ways around that for a writer is to be in an anthology. That way, you advertise yourself to all of your fans, and they (hopefully) buy it and read it. In the process, they will likely read all the other writers and find things they like.

[As a side note, I am putting together an anthology this year with some folks I know, for publication next year, EXPRESSLY for the purpose of exposing each of our fans to the rest of everyone’s fans. And so I can learn all the weird, little technical crap that goes on behind the scenes of making an anthology, with folks I can trust to be professionals about those sorts of things.]

As I writer, I get access to all the fans of the other writers, when when one of they fans buy it to read the person they fan-girl over. I know I can tell a good story. (It might not be to your tastes, but that’s a different story.) If I can reach them, and they life me, then I have a chance at generating a good halo. That’s where someone reads my story in the anthology and decides to go see what else I have, and end up buying some books. Hopefully, all of them.

So I am going to be in an anthology in March.

Every time I publish something, I have a chance to hit it big, and I have potential exposure. More readers means the possibility of more fans. That’s what the CampCon anthologies are all about.

At the same time, I am also going to be in a book bundle in April. A book bundle follows the same general rules as an anthology, but works with stand-alone works. Usually, these are novels, again under a particular theme, where you pay one flat, low fee for part of the bundle, or a larger amount for the whole bundle. Frequently, you can get the whole set of novels for $20. Compare that with $25 you spent for a single hard cover recently, or $12-15 for the ebook version of your latest best-seller.

Our target is not the casual reader, who consumes 3-5 books per year, but the voracious reader who goes through 10 books per month, every month. Bundles are a good deal for them, because it feeds their otherwise expensive habit.

For the writer, just as with the anthology, you can get exposure, because people will be attracted to the bundle for “their” author, but will also find you and hopefully like you well enough to read your book, and then bounce out to look at the rest of your catalog with their credit card in hand.


 

I’m going to be in a bundle in April. And I’m excited.

The bundle is called “Middlings,” because these are shorter works, running 10,000 – 30,000 words instead of the usual 60-100,000. For most authors, they can only indie publish things that are this length, because magazines want stories under 6,000 words, and traditional publishers want them over 60,000.

What falls in between is a wasteland. The Island of Misbegotten Stories.

I have had success in what we call novellas. All three (so far) of the Science Officer books are this middle length, as is The Story Road.

What’s coming in April is the initial publication of The Siren. This is another novella set in the Alexandria Station universe. The main character is Vo Arlo, the Security Marine off of RAN Auberon, who has a small part in Queen of the Pirates, and a larger role in Last of the Immortals.

After the events of Last of the Immortals, a significant amount of time is going to pass (spoilers not explained, you have to read the novel to understand) and I’m planning for Vo to have a fairly significant role in the fourth Jessica Keller book, Goddess of War.

For me, the best way to flesh him out as a character then is to write a story about him, for him. It is an old technique, but it has a new lease on life these days, because I can take something around 18,000 words and put it out on the market. Readers can enjoy it and support me. The universe gets richer and deeper. Everyone wins. Once upon a time, I would either have to throw it into a trunk (we usedto call this sort of thing a “trunk story” for that reason), or rework all those details into some other novel, because I couldn’t publish an 18,000 word story by itself.

BTW: I’ll have links to everything soon.

The key realization today, your takeaway, is that walking into the bookstore to find the next big thing you want to read limits you to only those books that have been traditionally published. (Technically, you can walk into most bookstores and place an order for most of my works in print. They would call the warehouse. Someone would download the file, print the book, and ship it to the store. When you buy a print book version of mine off of one of the big retail websites, that is exactly what happens. You have to be in Portland, OR to be able to just walk in to Powell’s in Beaverton and pick it up right there on the shelf. Thanks, Peter.)

Instead, you can go look for bundles and deals on Kobo, Amazon, and iTunes, or go out and search for book bundle websites like Story Bundle, Humble Bundle. Finally, you can sign up for Book Bub, or The Fussy Librarian and they will send you curated daily links for book deals you might like.

What I’m trying to say is that there are now LOTS of different ways for you the author to find more readers, and a tsunami of ways for you the reader to find you.

More and more, the future of books is discoverability. For many of us, one potential avenue is bundling. Hopefully, it makes us all happy.

shade and sweet water

bd

West of the Mountains, WA

1 thought on “Bundling, or, welcome to the brave new future…

  1. Barry Melius

    Have no idea what motivates the average anthology buyer,but I buy them rarely,usually to get a known author’s work that is unavailiable elsewhere. I may skim one of the other authors in the anthology but normally not. What you read is what you feed your mind(crap in,crap out)so I tend to stay away from stuff I haven’t discovered thru my personal filters(BookBubScifi Fanatic,Book Gorilla,Amazon’s algorithms,etc). Will try out Fussy Librarian,thanks.

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