28 May 2010

The First Chapter’s Free

Kathy Temean’s Writing and Reading blog pointed me to this article from the Wall Street Journal headlined “Publishers to Issue Digital Works Intended as ‘Appetizers’ for Novels”:

Ballantine Books and Harlequin Teen each plan to issue short standalone digital works intended to serve as “bridges” to coming novels.

On June 1, Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises, a unit of media company Torstar Corp., intends to give away e-book copies of Julie Kagawa’s “Winter’s Passage.” The 15,000-word novella will serve as a link between Ms. Kagawa’s February debut novel, “The Iron King,” and her second teen novel, “The Iron Daughter,” which goes on sale July 27. . . .

Harlequin plans to offer “Winter’s Passage” at $2.99, beginning in late August.

Separately, Ballantine Books, an imprint of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc. publishing arm, plans to publish in September a digital short story, priced at $1.99, from thriller writer Steve Berry.
This is a variation on the rule common in other forms of commerce: “The first one’s free.” It has the best chance of success in series publishing, where giving away a bit of one book (or even one whole book) can produce sales of many more.

Digital downloads also offer a way for book publishers and their authors to make money from short stories and novellas, particularly those tied to larger series. In print publishing, those were usually too small to fit the economics of the business.

Yet publishers see risk in this sort of giveaway, fearing that readers will get the idea that texts can come much cheaper than they are now. Such worries made firms insist that Amazon split its Kindle bestseller list into paid and free downloads.

TOMORROW: And then of course there’s the fear of piracy.


nyrdyv said...

However much I hate to say it, I think the physical publishing world is slowly headed to extinction. I think it is very sad but is the nature of technology to provide convenient replacements of this sort. Therefore, the business world of publishing will have to undergo significant changes, too.


Steven G. Willis

J. L. Bell said...

I don’t think the printed book will disappear, but it will become a luxury good. For print publishers that survive, the upside will be being able to charge higher prices. But the major conduit for written stories will be in some digital form.