Cory Doctorow's New Publishing Experiment

(I want to apologize in advance that this turned out longer than I’d originally intended, but if you read at an average speed, you’ll still get through it only 2-3 minutes; 12-13 minutes if you watch the accompanying video)

Publishing Point has an interview with Cory Doctorow about his new publishing experiment which involves a collection of short stories sold in what I would call the Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead model, where the bulk of the material is available for free, but special editions are available for those who want them.

I’ve embedded it here, but in case it gets taken down, there’s more below…

I think my favorite part was the advice that Cory provides near the end for aspiring writers. To summarize: Finish a book, sell it to a publisher, and then ask for advice on how to market your book. It’s great because at this point, the best way to end up like Cory Doctorow (which is what those aspiring authors asking the questions about marketing want – i.e., the ability to sell a book exclusively via Publish-On-Demand) is to do what Cory did, which was basically to sell a book to a traditional publisher. Yes, he did fight to make it available under Creative Commons, but that’s been done now, so it won’t gain an author as much notoriety as it did for Doctorow at the time.

I am still anticipating (as I’m sure many others secretly are) the first artist and/or author to gain the kind of fame that platinum artists and bestselling authors have without going through a traditional label or publisher. (Perhaps it’s been done, but since it hasn’t registered on my radar, it has yet to meet my internal criteria) The traditional problem has been that physical media had required a distribution outlet. But with digital media (and POD) becoming more prevalent every day, it’s only a matter of time before the garage band and short story author go from internet-sensation-signed-with-big-name to internet-sensation-making-living-without-big-name.

Going a bit off topic… The transition to the new model will continue to be aided by discovery engines. I continue to use the music industry because, as I’ve noted many times, I’m a slow reader, but I can listen to a lot of music, and so, once again: I signed on to Lala this week to discover that Dashboard Confessional and Wale both released new albums. I knew that Wale’s was coming, but didn’t really remember when. I honestly didn’t even know that Dashboard Confessional had a new album coming out. But I’m listening to it right now. Did Interscope (their label) have anything to do with that? Not really. All they did was (I’m speculating a bit): Give DC some money, make an album cover, and put them in stores. All of that is useful, but none of it helped to make me aware of the release. Lala did it all. It knows that I’ve listened to a lot of DC and so it highlighted it on my personal home page. Same with Wale (I mean, who knows how many times I’ve listened to Chillin’ already, right?).

Amazon has the same kind of information, and it will only become a stronger recommendation engine for books as more people get Kindles. Of course, if I were Amazon, I’d be working hard on making sure that anyone could read any eBook they wanted on the Kindle as long as I could verify what book they were reading. More reading data = better recommendations. My theory has always been that people who aren’t going to buy stuff aren’t going to buy stuff, so let them use whatever free media they want, and work on the people who will actually buy stuff if you make it easy enough for them. Back to Lala to finish the analogy: Dashboard Confessional’s DELUXE album is only $2.16. Compared to $9.49 for the MP3 version, I’m willing to make the sacrifice and take the restrictions that come with only being able to listen while connected to the internet because that’s $7 that I can put into my retirement account. Bam, said the lady.


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