October 25, 2010
by NPR Staff
Cory Doctorow's With a Little Help will be available online with four different covers, including this one by Frank Wu, and in limited edition hardcover. Enlarge for full cover.
Cory Doctorow is a best-selling science-fiction writer, champion of creative commons and, now, self-publishing pioneer. He's distributing his latest book, a collection of short stories called With a Little Help (read an excerpt here), without the aid of a publishing house. Instead, he has turned to his online community, and social networks like Facebook and Twitter, to help build buzz, get advice and even copy edit his new book.
Doctorow tells NPR's Michele Norris the key to making money off a business model that's built around the word "free."
"I'm doing everything," he says. "I'm doing everything I've ever done that ever made me money, and everything that anyone else has ever done that seems to have made them money."
In other words, Doctorow is giving away free e-books in hopes of getting people buy the paper books; he's offering print-on-demand paper books with four different covers through Lulu.com; he's soliciting donations; and he's printing 250 hand-sewn limited-edition hardcovers that will run $275 each.
He's even sold off commissions in which he agreed to write a story about a mutually agreed-upon subject to be included in the new book.
Doctorow explains that he started his experiment by cherry-picking the best of what's already been done and throwing it all together. Once it's all said and done, he plans to publish his data about the process and its results for other would-be self-publishers to have a model to work off of — which is yet another way to help his cause.
"I think people want to buy the book partly because they want to be part of the experimental data set," he says.
And how will all that money compare to an advance from a publisher?
"For short stories it compares very favorably," Doctorow says. He's published two collections of reprints through New York publishing houses: the first paid a $1,500 advance and the second paid $10,000. This new experiment has already made him $10,000 — and it hasn't even come out yet.
"I reckon if I sell the hardcovers — which I think I will — I'll make $40,000 to $50,000," he says. "Then, whatever I make from the audio books — which I'm selling on CD as well as giving away as free downloads — and the donations, and the print-on-demand books where I'm getting $3 a copy instead of $1 a copy … I'm thinking $70,000 to $80,000 net."
But it's not all about the money. Believe it or not, the already-successful author's motives are pretty self-less.
"I don’t have to do anything else to make ... money," he says. "I feel like it's giving something back to people."
Monday, October 25, 2010
NPR: Sci-Fi's Cory Doctorow Separates Self-Publishing Fact From Fiction