Michael Stackpole on Digital Publishing [Writing]

From io9.com.

Plenty of blockquotable material in this one… Let’s get right to it:

A lot of writers are worried about online piracy, but Stackpole dismissed those concerns. “People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never going to buy them anyway. It’s no money out of my pocket.”

Here, here. Of course, I think this will change as eBook readers become more common, and I do fear that what happened with music will start happening in publishing. That is: right now, downloading a book isn’t really an apples-to-apples exchange for buying one unless you have an eBook reader (and even then, you might have to convert the book depending on what format the download comes in). When people started downloading music, though, it was at least as close as red-apple-to-green-apple (i.e., you prefer the green apple, but the red apple will suffice in its place if you get it for free). College kids especially were well-equipped to listen to downloaded music since most of them came to campus with some sort of computer, and the speakers attached were usually powerful enough to fill a dorm room with noise. Most kids (and most people in general) don’t have eBook readers besides their computer, and reading a book on a computer is not anywhere near as enjoyable as listening to music on a computer.

But, as eBook readers become cheaper and more enjoyable to use, I’m sure downloading of books will start to have an effect on book sales. Hopefully the publishing industry will use the extra lag time and the example of the music industry to come up with a good way to provide consumers with what they want and still be able to make money.

Writers still trying to break into the publishing world have an unprecedented chance to start their own websites, build an audience and create a market for their work without relying on major publishers at all, said Stackpole. Posting short fiction or even a serialized novel on a website won’t cause problems if a writer tries to sign a publishing deal at a later date because mainstream publishers don’t see digital publishing as a serious threat.

Rearranging things from the original article, I think this is a good final point to be made:

From Stackpole’s perspective as an established author (more than three dozen published novels, eight of them Star Wars novels), digital publishing offers more control and direct, reliable payments. Selling stories directly though his website generates a payment before the buyer has even finished downloading the story, and the profit margin on even a short story is far higher than on a paper novel. By comparison, the lag time on payments for sales of a hard copy novel is six to nine months, and even then he pretty much has to take the publisher’s word for it that the accounting is accurate.


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