Monday, September 12, 2011

VERY interesting...but not for the reason you think it is

In PW Daily this morning there's an article about  Omar Tyree and his new self-published novel CORRUPTED:


Despite having publishing deals with four major houses, bestselling African-American novelist Omar Tyree is experimenting with technology, self-publishing his latest novel, Corrupted, a feverish portrayal of power and ambition in the book industry, as a serialized Kindle edition e-book, releasing a chapter every week. Since July 15 and each Friday thereafter, Tyree has posted a chapter for readers to download for $1 each on Amazon.com, on his website omartyree.com, or at other e-book retail sites.


The rest of the article is here


Now, what caught my eye is the last line:  Tyree has posted a chapter for readers to download for $1 each on Amazon.com

My question is this: how many chapters does that book have? There are seven up at Amazon as of this morning.  If he gets $1 for each, and I wanted the whole book, I'd be paying ...$25? $35? $50? for the whole book.

Ummm...no.

No no no.

I'm all for selling content segments but if you choose to do this, you need to tell me how many segments make up the whole and if there are many segments, the price of the whole book.

I was all set to order this --I'm the exact target reader for this book cause it's about publishing--but I'm not going to just buy chapter after chapter without a limit on spending.

28 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Interestingly, here in the UK the government legislated to oblige partworks publishers to enable customers to know how many 'part's there would be so they could total up the final cost of getting their dollshouse furniture, HMS Victory model, or whatever, piece by piece. I have done some of these calculations. Partworks are impressively over-priced imo.

I definitely agree with you on this. FWIW!

Josin L. McQuein said...

Didn't Stephen King try something like this a while back? If he can't make a go of the $1/chapter thing, then I'm not sure anyone can.

Jonathan Dalar said...

I think in today's age of e-fever, folks are experimenting however they can. It's the brave new world. It's Daniel Boone's Kentucky.

There are so many wonderful possibilities, but it isn't without danger, and I think some of these dangers are only going to be seen in retrospect.

Like you, I love the concept, hate the application.

Maryann Miller said...

Josin is right, this isn't exactly new. There are all kinds of ways authors are attempting to increase sales, and selling segments is just one of them. It is easy to get caught up in all the marketing, but the important thing for every author is to make sure the writing is keeping up with the marketing. And how appropriate that the security word for posting my comment is "sweat". Yes, writing is work. LOL

Colin Smith said...

I had the exact same thought when I read this! A dollar per chapter? If most Kindle e-books retail around $9.99, then his book would be about 10 chapters long. How many novels have you read that are 10 chapters long or less? Especially if they are more than 60K words.

Another question I would ask is are these chapters the same or of similar length? I've read novels where the author, for artistic reasons, varies the chapter length, with some chapters being only a few pages, while others ten or more. This can easily inflate the chapter count.

Unless you're a die-hard fan of the author's work, in this cash-strapped economy, I can't see this working. But I could be wrong.

jjdebenedictis said...

I think doing something like this would be okay if he guaranteed a certain number of words per chapter. Then readers could make their own decision about whether that felt like a decent deal.

In some ways, this could be better for readers. A bad book costs the same as a good book, but you don't know it's bad until you start reading it. This would allow readers to bug out without paying full price.

Amy said...

Looks like between 23 and 27 chapters. The positive aspect is that if you decide midway through the book that you hate it, you could stop buying. If you paid full price for a hardback book, you wouldn't get 50% of that back if you never finished the book. I agree with everyone's feeling here, and support yours as well Janet. The worrisome aspect to me is that he's admitted to not having this edited in any way. I'm friends with a few indie authors who spend time and $ to put out a superior e-pub product even at a low price point. I would hesitate to buy anything that I thought might not be professionally polished even in e-book form. Simply because I'm a downloader doesn't mean I find a lower quality read acceptable. Really not sure I will do more than read ABOUT this book.

Leah said...

Didn't people used to do this all the time, though, with items like comic books? No one ever put a limit on Spiderman, right? But taken as a whole, the comic books do make up a novel-esq story.

Just another layer to think about.

Amy said...

Never mind the price, I think the distribution mechanism would drive me crazy. Even if I liked the chapters, I'd probably read a few and then forget about the rest because I'd get caught up in reading something else. I have a hard enough time remembering to keep track of my favorite authors (when is Amazon going to come up with a system of notification emails to tell me when my favorite authors have new releases out?). And what a mess that would be on my Kindle, 25 separate chapters. Ugh!

alwayscoffee said...

Hmm, I think that's an interesting tactic, but like you -- I'd want to know how many chapters total. Also, I'd want to know if the entire novel was complete and the rate at which the chapters would be made available.

I read very fast, and I can't imagine reading something piecemeal like that.

Laurel said...

I think it's an interesting idea but it's not the price point that bothers me. For one thing, I don't think you CAN price anything on Amazon for less than $.99 and nobody else rivals them yet on ebooks. I would think he might offer bundles of chapters once he gets midway through, though. Say, the first 10 chapters for $.99 and if you want the newest ones they sell individually. It would mimic the old hardcover price first, then paperback price down the road structure.

For me, though, the frustration of reading a book one chapter a week would make me nuts. I don't even read preview chapters from authors I adore until the book is out. I hate having an itch I can't scratch.

Gregory K. said...

What if you stop thinking of it as a traditional book? It's an experience... it's supporting an author you like (being a patron, in a sense)... it's getting new material to read every week for half a year. It might even be a social experience with other readers who are watching the book unfold with you, much like a TV series. In fact, it's very much like the idea of a TV series instead of a movie: it develops, it changes, you experience it with others, and that's part of the fun. Sure, nowadays you can wait til the whole TV season is out on DVD, but by then your fan-friends will be having convos that you aren't part of. It still works, but it's different.

People buy the daily newspaper instead of just a weekly news magazine. People buy comics in a series rather than waiting for the whole thing to be collected. These are different experiences, just like a chapter at a time is not the same as a book.

Colin Smith said...

Gregory: I think that's a valid point, and there certainly is a place for serialized books. They used to do it all the time in the 19th century (e.g., Dickens). It might not be to everyone's taste, but you can't please everyone.

I think the point I (and others) object to is the pricing structure. I won't re-hash what's been said above, but that definitely needs more thought.

jesse said...

There are too many ifs for me. If I loved the author, I'd be more inclined to gamble, but I have enough to read as it is. I'll wait till it's finished to see if it's worth reading, and what it'll cost. Waiting also equals eventual sale package - just sayin'.
That said, I like that people are trying new models. More options are generally a good thing.

Christy McCall said...

I remember hearing that the Three Musketeers was published in one exciting chapter at a time back in the day. So, I wouldn't put a blanket "no way" on this method, but you should be in Dumas' league if you hope to pull it off.

Heck if it were that good that it engaged me for a whole year or ??, I'd pay it. If it is dull, then it will meet a quick death.

Unknown said...

Maybe Amazon has it structured like iTunes, where after buying so many tracks of an album, once you reach the album's price, you get the whole album. So if the cost of his whole book is $10, once you bought 10 chapters, you bought the book and would receive the rest of the chapters at no additional cost. The advantage being if you read 3 chapters and hated it, you only spent $3, instead of $10, to find out.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Charging a dollar for the first few chapters could be a good, low-risk way to let authors read a bit and decide whether they like a book, but I'd find it way too risky to commit to a whole novel that way. I wouldn't pay $40 for most novels, but quite a few I've read have at least that many chapters, especially in fantasy. I'd rather hold out until it was done and hope a consolidated version would be available for much less.

Shelby Cross said...

Had to comment on this one, because I just gave an author a scathing review on Amazon because the "story" I thought I had bought wasn't a story at all--it was a *part* of a story. There was no mention of this fact on the product page, and no clue given to the reader when we could expect the next part, and how many parts there would be. Readers hate to be misled, at least this one is. He might make more money in the short term, but in the long run, he's turning off readers.

widdershins said...

What's more ... in the article he says that the chapters aren't edited other than a basic proofread. He expects readers to offer suggestions of changes, edits, etc ... this is a social experiment I suppose and it will be interesting to see how it goes, but if you see it through to the end it'll cost you $23 - $27 ...maybe worth it, maybe not.

JS said...

I'm not proofreading someone else's book for free AND paying them $27 for the privilege! I was born at night, but not last night...

And when you go to a bookstore, you get to read the first chapter to see if you like it, and you don't even have to pay the bookstore $1. This is why bookstores are awesome.

(Many, many epublishers offer sample chapters as well.)

Kristan said...

I did something similar last year, publishing 4 "episodes" of my web serial at a time, for 99 cents per "bundle." I said upfront that there would be 40 episodes (so 10 bundles x .99 = $9.90 for the whole, book-length story) but even so, many people were turned off by the serialized format. When I finished, I waited a couple months and then compiled all 40 episodes into 1 ebook. That has sold infinitely better than the bundles did.

Feaky Snucker said...

I have a gimmick I'm trying right now - it's the old, 'I've queried some agents to see if they'll be interested and use their expertise to sell the book.' It's just crazy enough that it might work! *rubs hands together and looks schemey*

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

It would annoy me. Too gimmicky :)

ryan field said...

This is the problem with authors who know nothing about digital publishing...or, more important, the people who read digital books.

Many retail web sites where digital books can be purchased are giving first chapters away for free, not selling them for a buck.

There are two kinds of readers now: those who know digital books well and those who are just learning about them. I'm sure this author will attract a few of those who are just learning about digital reading. But he's going to turn off the voracious readers who know digital books and draw lines when it comes to how much they will pay.

Jonathan Dalar said...

Wait. AND it's unedited? No. Frickin'. Way.

That's a money-grab in place of good old fashioned hard work and dedication. That's what beta readers and editors are supposed to cover, not something you sell to readers as "part of the experience".

There are ways to do the serial thing, but this ain't one of 'em!

ryan field said...

"Wait. AND it's unedited? No. Frickin'. Way."

I totally agree.

There's actually a new organization that's handing out comsumer seals that deal with the quality of e-books: QED. I don't know much about it, yet. But I'll be looking for the seal when I'm shopping for e-books. And both self-pubbed authors and publishers can submit books to them.

Terri Coop said...

Stephen King did "The Plant" on the honor system. You got a chapter a week and he trusted you to send in the buck. Well, that fell apart rather quickly.

However, he did it again in "The Green Mile," but each section was a small stand-alone segment of the story, not a chapter. There were 5 installments if I remember correctly.

I see both sides of the argument and wouldn't likely do it for someone unknown to me. King? In a heartbeat. Anyone else . . . hmmm . . .

Amy Eller Lewis said...

But don't we pay $.99 for single tracks from albums on iTunes?The whole album might cost $15-20. The Not Knowing How Many, that I have a problem with. But I think a book is worth more than the price of a packet of Trident. It certainly gives you longer to chew on it.