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Results of Another Web Publishing Experiment 117

Posted by michael
from the pulp-fiction dept.
Dienyddio writes "Shadowmarch, an ambitious web publishing project launched by Tad Williams last year (previously mentioned on slashdot) is to cease the bi-monthly story format after one year. The sad news was broken by Tad on the site. It seems that there were just too few subscribers to make the format pay, this combined with the heavy load placed on Tad by writing two episodes a month and a paper book to pay the bills has proved too much. All is not lost, DAW books has purchased the rights to three books based on the Shadowmarch story. It is hoped that these books will maintain the community side of the site. Tad will also be increasing the number of background stories and details relating to the Shadowmarch world on the site in order to promote fan interaction."
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Results of Another Web Publishing Experiment

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  • advertizing (Score:2, Insightful)

    by capoccia (312092)
    probably should have been more advertising. this is the first time i'm hearing about this company.
    • Targeted advirtizing would help. Not everyone would be interested in this kind of stuff. As for me, I would find boring to, saqy, come to a website twice a month to read a new story. I think there should be more material to attract people on a daily basis. May be, some news related to fantasy in jeneral. Once someone came to your website, you should try to keep their attention for a while. In case of such a site with original and interesting content it doesn't matter that you can find simi8lar news somewhere else. If one likes the site, he will come there again just to read a few paragraphs of new (even not original) material.
    • *sigh* indeed advertising would have helped, google for Tad Williams and Shadowmarch comes in number 3 ranking below a Fan page.

      It seems even exposure of /. does not catch enough peoples interest.
  • Books vs. serials (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday June 14, 2002 @08:35AM (#3700231) Homepage

    I think this and prior attempts don't show that publishing on the Web doesn't work so much as they show that publishing books in serialized installments doesn't work.

    • only well heeled novels will get published on net?
      There was a hacker story sent ebook style, (sterling?), and his intent was not to make $, but make a statement abotu an overzealous prosecutor(charged $50,000 for a $13 reference that got hacked)
      I'm sorta worried that this will go the way of the printing press: only money talks-and everybody else will shut up.
      says something about web ads, they can't make something profitable either.
      I do see it from the starving artist side too, he does have to support himself.
    • I'm not sure that serialized books "don't work", so much as that people are so accustomed now to their serialized entertainment being televized weekly (or even daily!) that waiting for only 2 installments a month might not be very appealing to that many people. {loser}This is just my gut feeling, based on how long a week can feel when you're waiting for a new episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" to hit the tube{/loser}. Add to that the reluctance of many people to pay for electronic text (Hell, even Stephen King couldn't make that work!) and this venture had a lot going against it. Too bad, because I really like the idea of authors being able to sell their work online, even if half the readers end up not paying them to read it. After all, I'm sure many authors get lots of new fans via second-hand book sales and libraries!
      • You're right that TV has replaced magazine serialization. Serialization was very popular in the past. In fact, early novels were simply bound versions of the chapters in stories that first appeared in serial magazines. Almost all of Dickens' novels appeared first in serials. Collier's and the Saturday Evening Post published them well into the 50s, when (coincidentally?) television went mainstream.

        I think serialization could be popuar again, especially in genre fiction (fantasy, mystery, etc.), which tends to be more plot-driven and episodic than "serious" fiction.

        To me, the problems seems to be the distribution medium. Web head that I am, I can't read a long piece of fiction on a computer screen. I gotta see it on paper, and I don't mean Letter or A4 with crap fonts.

        Does anyone know what ever happened to Barnes & Noble's plans for "print on demand"? They piloted a service where the book files (PDF?) were fetched off a network and then printed and bound right in the store. That seems to me like a good approach to serialized fiction on the net. You get your chapter once a month and then have it printed at Kinko's or something. Each chapter could be printed as a folio and saddle-stitched, then when the story ended you could have all the folios bound into a nice book.

        • Of course, serialization is one reason Dickens sucks so much... he's so wordy and drawn out because he was paid by the word and under constant pressure. His books could use some trimming down...
          • :-) Yeah, Dickens... Do you really think his books suck? (it's been ages since I read any, I can't remember much) I suspect Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were paid for by the word too, and they don't suck. Both great authors, who, to be fair, were writing in the style of their time. Jane Austen was verbose too. 19th century folks liked their novels the way they liked their women - with just a little extra padding.
        • don't forget about radio serials (ie soap operas) and movie serials: flash gordon was a staple of the movie-going public in the 40's and 50's.

        • I don't know that since serialization was popular in the past means that it will be popular now. First of all, as the information media we've consumed over the years has become increasingly frenetic, I don't think we've got the same level of patience as your typical 19th-Century "media consumer". Second, we have a lot more free time than Dickens' audience. And going back to the first point, I think people in the past took greater care and put more effort into certain things than we do today, such as reading. I'm an avid reader, but the rate I actually read at is almost skimming.

          In short, I don't think that comparing the success of serials in the past to their success today is valid because there are substantial cultural differences with respect to the concept of time between then and now.

      • Re:Books vs. serials (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday June 14, 2002 @10:00AM (#3700635) Homepage

        I don't know, Eric Flint and David Drake seem to be making decent money in royalties off electronic forms of their older books. Not great money, maybe 2 grand a year, but then these are older backlist titles that normally only sell 5-600 copies a year so royalties aren't that great for the paper forms either. And the copy-protected electronic forms of Drake's books barely make enough in royalties every year to pay for a decent pizza. I think it boils down to:

        1. People won't pay per chapter for serialized works, they'd rather get it all at once.
        2. People won't pay to deal with copy-protection hassles, but they will pay to have it readily available electronically.
        3. People won't pay as much for the electronic form as for paper.
        I think authors can live with this. See Eric Flint's essays over on the Baen Free Library.
        • Tad William's Shadowland was serialized but wasn't pay-per-chapter. There was a one time fee associated with it (I can't remember how much I payed but it wasn't a great amount, definately less than a hardcover, probably more than a paperback). The first couple of chapters were and are free.

          I had never heard of Tad William's till a friend turned me on to his Otherland series, which I devoured. I still haven't read his other books but I did look up his website to find out when the next book in the series would occur.

          That's where I found out about his Shadowmarch experiment. He was making an honest effort at it, unlike Steven King, so I decided to sign up.

          I think this fails for one reason: The average internet user isn't willing to pay a meaningful amount for content. If you've got old material which isn't selling well anyway you can probably make a bit of money. If you've got new material you'll probably never make enough to justify the time and effort writing it, assuming you're trying to make a living rather than supplement a living.

          Marketing is probably part of his problem, the only time I saw ads was when my ad-free subscription to Sluggy Freelance [sluggy.com] cookie would expire. I think I've probably seen the ad pop up a couple times on sinfest [sinfest.net] as well.
          • The average internet user isn't willing to pay a meaningful amount for content.

            This is a myth. Repeating it doesn't make it more true. We've just gotten through with at least four stories on this very site about how much people are GOING to pay for content.
          • I think this fails for one reason: The average internet user isn't willing to pay a meaningful amount for content.

            Flint disproves this with hard numbers from royalty statements on his Prime Palaver over on the Baen Free Library. People are paying enough for the electronic forms of his books to earn him somewhat over $2K a year in royalties from the electronic versions. If people aren't willing to pay, where's those dollars in Eric's checking account coming from?

            • I never said that people weren't willing to pay, I said they're not willing to pay meaninful amounts. The Baen Free library sells books that have already fallen out of favour in book stores, they've sold all they will ever sell that way. The authors are getting a couple grand more selling electronic copies. A couple grand doesn't make a living. It's a nice bonus if you've already made your living off of the book.
              • Re:Books vs. serials (Score:3, Interesting)

                by Todd Knarr (15451)

                Baen's Webscriptions would contradict that. It costs about $3.75 per book delivered in electronic form through it (or more, the terms are $15/month, typically 4 books per month). It's popular enough to be making Jim Baen money on the deal. It's making the authors money in royalties. And from the letters Eric's gotten people are not only paying for the electronic versions, they're then going on to buy the paper versions too.

                Note that Webscriptions meets the criteria I gave:

                • It offers complete books. Delivery may be over time but books don't get offered until the manuscript is in hand and it's on the way to either hardcover or paperback publication, and Baen guarantees delivery of all books ordered even if they shut down the service.
                • All versions are in open formats, freely copyable. No copy-protection hassles.
                • They're priced less than the paperback editions, but still high enough to be profitable.
        • >People won't pay per chapter for serialized works, they'd rather get it all at once. This is true. But they may pay if you send tree chapters from three different books at once. And give the choice to subscribe just for one book with significant dicounts for any extra book. If one finds this particular book (say one of the three) boring he will unsubscribe and save $$$ on buying the rest of the book. >People won't pay to deal with copy-protection hassles, but they will pay to have it readily available electronically. This is true as well. If the material is copy-protected, it is usully imposiible to print it. While it is much nicer to read a beautifully printed copy then watch the screen. >People won't pay as much for the electronic form as for paper This is true as well. But just for a book, not for a journal. And true only for copy-protected material. Once you can print it or send to a friend, electronic source is more benefitial then a paper copy.
      • One of the problems with serialized novels is that they take too long. I can knock out a 600 page book in two/three nights. Now, I consider myself a pretty good/avid reader, but that's probably the low end of the scale.

        Having to wait a month for the author to complete the next chapter would be absolute murder.
    • As a form of serialization, web comics do okay if they are done well. Witness Megatokyo [megatokyo.com], Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com], PvP [pvponline.com], and I guess to some extend Mac Hall [machall.com], although I've only been reading the last for a few months.

      The business model for these comics is interesting. The comic itself has no value; with so much competition in free entertainment there is no way they could make people pay for it. But they can sell merchandise and they can solicit fan endorsement. Kurtz sells comic books that are along the lines of the webcomic but not quite. Mac Hall and Megatokyo sell merchandise ala Cafe Press. Penny Arcade...well...I'm not exactly sure what they do, but it has something to do with wallpapers and Paypal.

      And let's not forget ads.

      What I would like to see, as a consumer, is a lot of these comics brought together under one web publication. In Japan, manga is distributed in a big monthly magazine containing works by many authors. The magazine sells, the ads sell, and the publication passes some of that along to the artists (I would hope). If something like this appeared online, say like Keenspot but more organized, more selective, and with much much much higher bandwidth, I would definitely pay for it, ads and all, simply for the convenience of a daily/weekly/monthly strip on a high availability server.
      • What I would like to see, as a consumer, is a lot of these comics brought together under one web publication.

        Which would draw instant, shrill and constant howls of "sell out!" from all of those comics' current fans. The publishers of the compilation would be called "greed-driven suits" and nobody would buy the compilation. The ads would be criticized, the content of the comics would be criticized, and the compilation itself would probably be criticized by anyone who bought it.

        There would also be a story here, in all likelihood, with at least 200 comments stating how this is conclusive proof that nobody will pay for content, so why don't these companies just give it all away for free.
        • Yeah, but Keenspace is down 2-3 days out of the week due to what I can only assume to be server issues. $3-$5/mo is not too much (IMO) to support decent bandwidth.

          The way I see it, the comics can (and probably will) be marketted in multiple ways. On the artists' own sites and as part of the compilation, for instance. Some people would pay for that kind of convenience and reliability. Throw in some articles, interviews, editorials, and tutorials and I think most people would consider buying it.

          Better yet, instead of a monthly recurring charge, offer a slightly more expensive "newstand" price for access to a single "issue." Forget the New Economy; just give people an easier way to access the old one.
      • Uhm, sorry, but how is Penny Arcade serialized in any way? 99.999% of the time you can jump into Penny Arcade without knowledge of it's past and not miss anything -- that's one of the things that makes it great. It's complete lack of continuity.
    • Publishing in installments never hurt Dickens...
    • Publishing books in serialized installments works fine. In fact, most of Tad Williams other books come in three and four book series, and people gladly waited until the next book came out.

      The problem with this experiment is that it had all of the disadvantages of a paper bound book, and none of the advantages. I love Tad Williams, but I am not going to shell out $21 bucks a year, in advance, for a story that he may or may not finish and that doesn't come in book form. Especially when I can go to www.baen.com and get books in a unencrypted format of my choice for $4 a pop (or four for $10).

      Tad wanted to charge hardback prices for a book that A) wasn't finished, and B) was available only in a digital format.

      • Re:Books vs. serials (Score:2, Informative)

        by LES.. (1366)
        erm the cost is $17.99 (US) [shadowmarch.com]. This is significanly less than a hardcover Tad novel in my neck of the woods. Still it is more than a paperback which most people seem to consider closer to what you are getting... I personally rate the art work as being well worth the difference.

        Shadowmarch is published in plain HTML fairly portable and open really.

        • When I looked into subscribing I believe the cost was around $21. That's maybe not as much as a Tad Williams hardcover, but it will buy you a hardcover from most other Fantasy authors.

          And in many ways ShadowMarch is considerably less than a trade paperback. It might have a nifty web site, but that's not necessarily a bonus for most readers. Tad didn't even have to pay for professional editting, marketing, or distribution. Yet he still expects us to pay nearly double the paperback price.

          I must admit that the HTML format is nice, but the book would be completely worthless if it wasn't in an open format. If I am going to pay $18 for a subscription to a serial available only in electronic format then you can bet that I am going to want it in an unecrypted format.

          The funny thing about this experiment is that it will almost certainly work out well for Mr. Williams. He has sold the book anyhow, and so anything he made from shadowmarch.com is pure gravy. Basically a whole pile of Tad Williams fans paid to proofread his newest novel. My guess is that the shadowmarch.com experiment will even increase the sales when it comes out in book form. I know that I will probably buy it.

          It does make me somewhat sad, however, that this experiment didn't work out better. I honestly believe that the major problem was that Tad priced his book out of the market. We'll never know now, but at least we will be able to find out how the story ends.

          • Tad didn't even have to pay for professional ... or distribution.

            The bandwidth probably wasn't donated, and they probably hired their own editor.

            If they *shelled out* (I hate these terms) a couple thousand a month for marketing, editing and distribution, would that really make it so much easier to part with 18 bucks?

            anything he made from shadowmarch.com is pure gravy

            Yeah. There is no such thing as "pure gravy" in business.

            It does make me somewhat sad, however, that this experiment didn't work out better.

            After listing 112 reasons why you wouldn't buy the book. lol
            • The bandwidth probably wasn't donated, and they probably hired their own editor.

              I have spent the last little bit reading the behind the scenes bit of ShadowMarch and it would appear that they had a lot of expenses. Everything from custom programming to fridge magnets. Sometimes I forget that just because I could program and host something like ShadowMarch inexpensively does not mean that Tad Williams can.

              If they *shelled out* (I hate these terms) a couple thousand a month for marketing, editing and distribution, would that really make it so much easier to part with 18 bucks?

              The whole point is to not have to pay for marketing. I don't want marketing, I want good books.

              Yeah. There is no such thing as "pure gravy" in business.

              Sure there is. Tad sold the book. It will soon be available at bookstores, and it will probably sell well. My guess is that it will sell extremely well. Many of the people who subscribed to ShadowMarch will end up buying a copy of the book as well. In essence Tad got people to pay to proofread his novel.

  • format? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It seems that there were just too few subscribers to make the format pay

    Yeah, I had that problem with the old printed book format too. You think maybe I just suck as a writer?
    • Perhaps you do. Certainly the grammar of your post would lend evidence in support of that.

      However, Tad Williams is a succesful novel writer and there are more than enough people in the world who enjoy his novels to make his web site a success. The difference between his succesful novels and his failed web site is the marketing, the format and the medium for delivery of his writing, not the quality.

  • Micropayments (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colmore (56499) on Friday June 14, 2002 @08:41AM (#3700257) Journal
    OK, I know it's been said a million times before, but we really need micropayments. And $1 paypal donations don't count. It seems like there's a lot of money to be had with micropayments, so why hasn't something started up?

    I guess I'm asking an open question. Micropayments have seemed like such a good idea for so long, why hasn't it happened yet?

    • This is probably because the econmics don't work. 1000 payments of $1 vs 100 payments of $10, its easy to see what companies would prefer, for every transacation there are the associated costs invovled with authenticating the payment etc. This seems to work ok for charities as the banks offer discounted rates, but it really doesn't seem to work at the moment.

      I heard the case for someone like Amazon to run a system for this sort of thing, though. Make quite a good one, large user base, a lot of the mechanisms are in place and there are a lot of readers there! Instead of suggested purchases there could be suggested online subscriptions etc.
      • Couldn't they authenticate the first time, then just tic off the amount until the end of the month and charge you per that amount? (if any) Seems that even a weekly draw would be better than every single time....
    • Re:Micropayments (Score:3, Insightful)

      by danheskett (178529)
      Anytime you think: "wow, this would be neat, why hasnt it been done?" there are exactly two answers to choose from:

      1. No one with any drive/ambition has thought of it and decided to try it.

      2. There is no economic incentive to try.

      REally, those are the two reasons any given thing hasnt happened yet.
    • Micropayments have seemed like such a good idea for so long, why hasn't it happened yet?

      ...maybe because we need a good way to make people pay without filling creditcard forms all the time. P3P [w3.org] doesn't really seem like the way to go [slashdot.org]. We need micropayments to be neat and easy, otherwise people won't bother. Filling out a credatcard form today is way too complicated. If I could do that just one time and trust my software to keep it secret and keep it safe, then I would be willing to use micropayments.

    • Re:Micropayments (Score:1, Informative)

      by e-gold (36755)
      Micropayments can be done with e-gold, but it's not just one click to do a spend. (If any system were just one click, criminals would probably find a way to steal from the customers of any payment system that tried it, IMO.) While they're possible, stats.e-gold.com shows that micropayments are not popular compared to slightly larger spends.

      Micropayments are also very small compared to the average tip tossed into a guitar case, so rather than pay-per-view as a model I'd prefer to see a more-voluntary system spring up, but I'm an idealist. Now that there are tiphat-style interfaces like clicktwocents.com and fastsci.com I think things will improve for us, but I doubt that any micropayments-only system will ever emerge. Nobody wants them enough to make it pay to produce it. Micropayments will always be "just a feature," and one that few people actually use. IMO.
      JMR

      Speaking ONLY for myself!!!

    • The cognitive demand for making a decision needs to be commensurate with the decision being made. So having to think about spending a nickel or dime generally isn't worth my time - that financial amount isn't worth thinking about.

      The consequence is that the content itself isn't worth thinking about.

      Clay Shirky [openp2p.com] argues this point better than I've expressed it here....

      • Even if the content isn't worth thinking about, you anyway may pay for it. Otherwise, why people by thins which cost a little at all? The problems with micropayments are: 1) very few people have a n account with, say, paypal 2) To use paypal is troublesome. (Just takes to much time for a thing which isn't woth thinking about) 3) Making one relatively big payment directly to the website in order to split it into many micropayments later works only for the sites where you want to make many micropayments. So, the site should have a lot of contenet. Note, that in such a case making a micropayment may be easy. Recall ordering an additional book from amazon.com
  • What people fail to remember for some inexplicable reason beyond my ability to comprehend the mass mind, is that *personal* computers were originally developed as a hobby. The open source movement, free access to websites, the whole state of mind of computer hackers (not crackers), they all derives from the mentality of hobbyists, and hobbyists do not like to be charged for something they can do, or think they can do, themselves. Model airplane builders don't run out and buy ready-made kits if they can build them themselves. People who want to profit from the web need to keep this in mind.
    • While what you say is true of those of us who build, tinker and play with our home-built computers, the vast majority of computer users paid for someone else to build their machines, and then pay for an ISP like AOL to get them online without much work on their part.

      Instead, I suspect the main reasons pay sites don't work involve a combination of the simple fact that when people think "internet" they think "place to get free stuff", along with a lack of interest in the particular product and, of course, the lack of income from web advertisers these days.
      • "that when people think 'internet' they think 'place to get free stuff'"

        Why? Exactly because the whole personal computer "revolution" began with the Popular Mechanics kit and the Imsai. Granted there were academic computer hackers built in at some point but they had the academic mentality (not to overgeneralize too much ;o) which has certain similarities to the hobbyist mentality: Neither of them is particularly enamored of paying for things.

        As for people who buy ready-made model airplanes, they bear as much resemblance to model airplane hobbyists as someone who buys a model train setup in a box at Christmas time does to a model train hobbyist.
    • Um, flawed analogy there.

      More and more model airplane builders DO go out and buy ready-made kits that they could build themselves. They are called ARFs (Almost Ready to Fly) or RTF (Ready to Fly). Check out Tower Hobbies listing for them (http://www2.towerhobbies.com/cgi-bin/wti0097p.pgm ?CATEGORY=AC).
    • by LES.. (1366)
      the whole state of mind of computer hackers (not crackers), they all derives from the mentality of hobbyists, and hobbyists do not like to be charged for something they can do, or think they can do, themselves.
      Consider the open source idea, a project is started, the original author in control, the author is in this for the love of it but opens up source and others contribute giving feedback on a wide range of ideas that are built upon. These are hobbyists.

      Tad as a bestseller author started a project where he had an idea, then opened that idea up on the web as an evolving and ongoing concern. He brings in art work from others, he starts a line of dialog with his readers which allows him to get a feel of what people want and where to take the story.

      This is not open source, Tad has full ownership of Shadowmarch but it is something wild to experience where your complaints and whines are picked up and answered by a master of his art. When i read Shadowmarch and comment on the story, then have my questions answered in the next episode, it feels like i have griped about the linux kernel then had Linus say "Here you go, have that feature" instead of "Code it yourself".

  • Old Joke... (Score:3, Funny)

    by colmore (56499) on Friday June 14, 2002 @08:51AM (#3700304) Journal
    What's the difference between an internet author and a large pizza?

    A large pizza can feed a family of four.

    (replace "internet author" with artist, musician, open-source programmer, etc.)

  • I think it is interesting that he says (in his post online) that insufficient marketing of the online story may have played a part in the low subscription numbers that Shadowmarch got. I, for one, hope that Mr. Williams or another of my favorite authors gives this online publishing gig another chance. I am definitely willing to pay for the quality content of such a site, and wonder if they spent more time getting the word out, they might have more success.
    • Re:marketing (Score:3, Insightful)

      I have to agree. This reminds me of when adcritic.com went out of business. I used to love the site, and I went to it all the time. Then one day *poof* I went and it was out of commision. What troubled me is that they never put out a plea for help! I for one would have payed money for the service, but I was never asked to. I know in this situation, they already had a subscription service, but did they ever bother to put out a red flag? Did they put up a donation link and say "We are running out of money, if we don't get more subscriptions and donations, we are going to have to sell out" ? Did they get thier loyal fans to go tell all of thier chat room buddies to check it out, and give a donation or buy a subscription? It just seems like a waste to me to have a "community" based site, and then not take advantage of it when it's really needed.
      • if you go to the adcritic site you get

        "The AdAge Group is pleased to announce the aquisition of one of the internets most popular
        web stites"

        "Advertising professionals will now benefit from the combination of round-the-clock industry news and a vast TV commercial archive.

        We will relaunch a new and improved AdCritic in the near future. While we build it, send us an e-mail telling us what you liked and didn't like about AdCritic.

        If you are interested in knowing when the new site goes live - please submit your name and email (at right), and we will send you an email inviting you to see the new AdCritic.com before anyone else."

        So there is hope that it will be resurrected. It too was one of my favorite browse sites. (Esp some of the European ads)
    • My girlfriend is a HUGE Tad Williams fan (I am also, to a lesser degree) and she hadn't heard of this at all until a couple months ago when I stumbled across it. She also spends even more time on the internet than I do. Better/more marketing would have helped alot (although I'm not really sure what they could have done, or what they did for that matter).
  • money money money (Score:3, Interesting)

    by squaretorus (459130) on Friday June 14, 2002 @09:05AM (#3700349) Homepage Journal
    This kind of stuff leaves me cold as a dead goose - so I can't judge the quality of it. But lets assume the quality is:

    a: BAD
    Then it deserves to fail because lifes too short for bad ANYTHING. Just because you have a funky new delivery mechanism doesn't make the product better.

    b: AVERAGE
    See a

    c: GOOD
    Then those people who read it should have shouted about it more - and persuaded more of their network to start paying for it too. As a kid at school (in Scotland) I started buying Batman comics in town. When I told my friends they started buying batman comics. They werent available in the mainstream newsagents at the time - so you had to go into the spooky comic shop with the stinky dudes. About 10 years later the guy that worked there told me that we collectively bought about 100 comics a month from him - from zero to 100 in 2 months in fact. Now that didn't make DC any more money -but it helped him! His little comic shop was selling 100 more comics a month.
    The point? I dont know. People have to hear of something to know they want it enough to part with the money!

    d: EXCELLENT
    Then he'll make more money doing it on paper and good luck to him!

    e: BESTTHINGEVEROHMYGODTHEYCANTCANCELTHATTHEBASTARDS
    Yeah right!
    • by Aanallein (556209)
      d: EXCELLENT Then he'll make more money doing it on paper and good luck to him!
      He will. He's one of the most popular authors of quality fantasy (as opposed to the kind written by the likes of Goodkind), and any book with his name on the cover is almost guaranteed to sell very well.
      It was a certainty way from the start that Shadowmarch would never make anywhere near the amount of money he makes with his books. So Tad was writing War of the Flowers (or whatever it will be renamed to if he finds a title he likes better) for money, and Shadowmarch as an experiment of how things could be.

      Shadowmarch was never started for the money; yet unfortunately it has failed (in part) because of it.

      And that is a damned shame. Because Shadowmarch was indeed an experiment of how positive things could be. There was no publisher involved; it was just Tad and a few friends who set up and took care of everything - publishing the episodes in plain HTML to guarantee readability (even 20 years down the road), thus making it possible to grep through those episodes looking for references you'd missed before.

      Beyond this, the reason for the project, Tad wanted more immediate reader feedback; what did we like, what did we want to know more about, which clues did we pick up? Before Shadowmarch he only got feedback starting close to a year after finishing a book; by which time he'd long since moved on to the next work.
      Yet with Shadowmarch, feedback was constant and immediate. And as a reader, this was awesome beyond belief; I'd gladly have paid a lot more than the price of a hardcover (rather than quite a bit less as was the case now) just to be able to see our comments have a noticable influence on the story; to see the world evolve before our very eyes.
      Shadowmarch will go on. We'll see more of the world in the three books DAW will be publishing [penguinputnam.com], and the website with its awesome community will continue to exist as well. Yet the awesome experience of this project has not managed to survive, and I fear that means a very real end to my hopes for the future of 'epublishing.'
    • by LES.. (1366)
      I personally would go for 'e' but objectively it would have to be 'd'

      I would also like to point out that inspite of the story coming to a conclusion in August there is still much to be gained form subscribing even now.

      You will get to read 30 or 31 chapters of an excelent fantasy story, access to some fantastic art and delve into the rich lore of a great fantasy world.
  • Not bi-monthly. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...heavy load placed on Tad by writing two episodes a month...

    Twice per month is semi-monthly not bi-monthly.

    Bi-monthly is every two months.
    • Re:Not bi-monthly. (Score:3, Informative)

      by AdamJ (28538)
      Bi-monthly and semi-monthly are synonymous in modern English. According to dictionary.com:

      bimonthly (b-mnthl)
      adj.

      1. Happening every two months.
      2. Happening twice a month; semimonthly.

      adv.

      1. Once every two months.
      2. Twice a month; semimonthly.

      However, it also says:

      "Usage Note: Bimonthly and biweekly mean "once every two months" and "once every two weeks." For "twice a month" and "twice a week," the words semimonthly and semiweekly should be used. Since there is a great deal of confusion over the distinction, a writer is well advised to substitute expressions like every two months or twice a month where possible. However, each noun form has only one sense in the publishing world. Thus, a bimonthly is published every two months, and a biweekly every two weeks."

      dictionary.com reference [dictionary.com]

      • [bi-monthly vs semi-monthly]

        I originally wanted to protest that bi-monthly does not mean "twice a month" in any way - but checking the various dictionaries (even the OED) and alt.usage.english I'm amazed to find the above is correct. Weird, because here [Northern Ireland] bi-monthly/bi-weekly etc
        means "every two months/weeks". I work in a USAn company and the meaning is retained there too.

        For "semi-monthly" and the shorter sense of "bi-monthly" the common UK term is "fortnight".

        Sorry, can't resist off-topic language wrangles...
  • subscriptions people are willing to pay for...

    pr0n,
    video pr0n,
    fetish pr0n...
    (*) pr0n,

    whos going to pay for a book on the net if its not pr0n?

    btw, book people are generally not that computer literate. i mean sure they can use email and sht but they generally dont spend the time to read of of a website when they can go and buy a book to cozy up to. especially since the book they can put on their shelf and display when their finnished. but this is a whole other can of worms.

    • Re:subscriptions (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AdamJ (28538) on Friday June 14, 2002 @09:43AM (#3700534) Homepage
      btw, book people are generally not that computer literate. i mean sure they can use email and sht but they generally dont spend the time to read of of a website when they can go and buy a book to cozy up to. especially since the book they can put on their shelf and display when their finnished. but this is a whole other can of worms.

      I think you're completely confusing two things here. Computer literacy has nothing to do with why many people prefer a proper book to reading on a computer. I'm extremely computer literate, but I don't exact relish curling up in my bed with the Athlon, nor do I want to be reading e-books during a RPG session.

      Lose the "btw, book people are generally not that computer literate. i mean sure they can use email and sht" and you have an interesting point, but claiming that computer illiteracy is one reason that e-books haven't caught on dilutes it.

    • Re:subscriptions (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      you know, if labeling me an anonymous coward looks like a cool thing, because I don't want to share my email address to get another wonderful website "update" or to have my surfing habits tracked through my domain, I'm okay with that. I like being a coward actually, even though friends just call me Raven.:)

      listen, I'm at a computer 40+ hours a week, doing graphic design and website related work, and I own more than 500 books, most hard covers, and read a LOT, so i don't buy the argument that "book people" are not that computer literate. I have no problem with e-books, in fact I own upwards of 20 e-books already (with more to be bought in the future) this was an amazing attempt at creating more than just an online story, for those that haven't even been to the site before now, you've missed a lot of quality art done exclusively for the site, short stories, as well as maps, and 2 or 3 collaborative online stories written by Msg. board members that I would have gladly paid for as well. It's fairly simple to categorize and talk blindly about a subject. It's far more complicated to invest your time into doing research on something you are going to have an opinion about. which, after reading almost every post on this matter here, I am convinced hardly any of you took the time to do. please don't use labels or stereotype something you know nothing about, some people would call that misrepresentation, and you don't look too bright when you do that. It's one thing to actually be INTO a large amount of hobbies and follow them, but to put up a pretense of being diversified in your interests by only skimming the surface of certain things, is just being shallow.

      Notice I am not attacking anyone here, just stating that you should use a more informed opinion when discussing matters about which you don't have that much knowledge about previously.
    • by jcsehak (559709)
      when their finnished

      You mean, after they've installed Linux? :)
  • Let's bear in mind (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday June 14, 2002 @09:28AM (#3700448) Homepage

    That Tad - by his own admission [216.239.33.100] - isn't that hot on writing to a schedule. And I agree with him on this; when left to his own devices, he produces seriously high quality work. When the deadlines kick in, he becomes much more generic and (dare I say it?) can border on the mediocre.

    Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy his work, I just think this ticking-clock scheme was a bad idea for his style of uncompromising "it's done when it's done" creativity.

    • by lloer (585460)
      The other problem that Tad mentioned, of course, is that it also meant he was neglecting the work that WAS going to put food on the table. I like Shadowmarch and one good thing is that the community that has grown around it is going to continue. Lloer
  • by dinotrac (18304) on Friday June 14, 2002 @09:29AM (#3700456) Journal
    First, congratulations to Tad for finding someone to publish ShadowMarch. I've not read the installments, but getting someone to foot your bills so that you can write is a good thing.

    Second,
    this may be a small insight to those who believe that "free as in beer" is what all entertainment should be. I remember a gazillion posts on why it's ok to simply take music et al without concern for whether the artist gets paid. Two common threads that I can recall were:

    1. We don't want to pay those stinkin' middlemen record companies and publishers.
    2. Hey, creators create. There is and always will be plenty of stuff.

    I have to agree with 1. I don't want to pay those stinkin' middlement record companies and publishers either. They really are a nasty bunch of thieves. OTOH, they will get people to pay for Tad's work and let him pay a few bills. The publishers make the fotune, but Tad can write without doing in the family.

    2 is problematic. It seems to presume either that the most artists have no concern for the material world -- no desire for family, home, lights turned on, etc -- or that all art is equal and that every Joe down the street can write or sing with the very best of them. Such people should spend a weekend tied down in front of a constant stream of Suddenly Susan episodes. It isn't true of programmers and it isn't true of artists.
    • Uh, dinotrac what in the heck are you talking about? Tad William's ShadowMarch was never about Free as in Beer. It was available in an unencrypted format, but to read past the first few chapters you had to pay the equivalent of a hardback novel. Oh, and you got the added pleasure of having to wait for the next chapter to come out. Personally I don't like to read that way. I was considering purchasing a subscription after he had "finished" the first novel (so I could read it all the way through), but now I suppose I will just have to wait until it is out in paperback.

      I am a huge Tad Williams fan, but he simply can't compete with the folks over at www.baen.com. They have entire books available for sampling, in a wide variety of open formats. If you decide you would like to purchase one of their novels they are approximately $4 each and are available in bundles of four for $10. These folks have almost got me completely transitioned over to reading on my Visor Handspring.

      There are plenty of people that don't mind paying for music and books, but they aren't interested in paying $20 for a book that may or may not ever get finished and that is released in installments.

      • I can understand your confusion as I was jumping from one place to another.

        Conceptually, though, the principle is the same.
        He has bills to pay and so he can not justify the time and effort to continue what he has been doing.

        Same with folks who do things for free:
        The need to make a living will tend to limit the time most people can devote. A few are not encumbered by the material world, but lots of potentially good stuff won't get made if people can't get paid.
        • Everybody needs to make a living. That is a given. Tad Williams tried an experiment in which he published a book over the Internet instead of using the normal route of publishing with a normal book publisher. He wasn't doing it for free, and he didn't really give up his day job.

          That being said, instead of writing and selling one novel this year, he has now written and sold two novels. Writing both novels took a toll out of him (which is why he isn't going to be continuing). The good news, for him, was that he was able to get a portion of his fan club to pay $18 a pop for the privilege of proofreading one of his manuscripts while he wrote it. That money is pure gravy; it is above and beyond what he would have received had he simply turned the book over to his publisher in the first place. Not only that, but it would appear that the members of his fan club that participated in the experiment love him for the chance. I read pages and pages of responses to the recent news all of which included the word "hug." From Tad's comments on the site it would appear that he also appreciated the near instantaneous feedback.

          Yet somehow you seem to think that this is some sort of a problem for Tad and are equating his actions to the actions of people that give stuff away for free. I don't understand the connection at all. Tad didn't give away anything for free. In fact, he charged top dollar for his work. You can waltz on over to www.baen.com and download comparable fiction at far lower prices (and all of this fiction has already already been finished and was professionally proofread). The folks at Baen seem to think that their behavior is making them money.

          I am a firm believer that artists and writers should get paid, and I also believe that the Internet opens up a whole new set of avenues for the writer or artist to profit from their work without pesky middlemen. However, not many people are willing to pay hardcover prices for a book that is only available in electronic format and that isn't finished yet. I will happily buy Tad's book when it comes out in paperback. I would happily buy it now in electronic format if it were A) finished and B) available at a price comparable to a paperback, but it isn't.

  • Free fiction? (Score:1, Offtopic)

    by Pembers (250842)

    This is probably offtopic (it's certainly shameless self-promotion), but if you're looking for a story to read, you might like the one linked to in my .sig.

    It's a shame that Mr Williams has decided not to continue this experiment, but I see from other comments that I'm not the only person who'd never heard of it. Granted, I've never read any of his work in print, either. Maybe if I'd already been interested in him, I'd have discovered Shadowmarch that way.

    I think that if authors want to earn a living through web publishing, they need to stop looking at everyone who downloads and doesn't pay as a lost sale. (Insert usual Slashdot rhetoric about uncopyable bits and non-wet water.) The author's promise shouldn't be "I'll release the next installment if 75% of you pay for this one." It should be something like "I'll release the next installment if I make at least $5,000 on this one."

    The shareware model could work here. Release the first few installments for free and charge for the rest. Shareware authors don't care that the free versions of their programs are all over the net - in fact, that's just what they want. It builds awareness of the software and saves on their bandwidth bills. Most of them have accepted that the important thing is the number of people who buy the program, not the number of people who don't.

    OK, Shadowmarch was a kind of try-before-you-buy, which is one of the main ideas of shareware. It didn't make money. But then, not all shareware makes money. For that matter, not all printed books make money, either.

  • by 2Flower (216318) on Friday June 14, 2002 @09:48AM (#3700560) Homepage

    Online publishing isn't always intended to be one's primary source of revenue. I think this example and the Stephen King experiments show that at least for now, we don't have a workable system that will allow someone to live off what they're writing online. (Closest I've seen are extremely popular webcomics like Penny and 8-bit, but they also have side businesses and advertising and sometimes don't meet their goals.) It's not time for pro writing online yet. I have faith that a workable formula will be found, but until then, it's not a bet I'd wanna take.

    For folks like me who are just publishing because they like to write and something compells them so that they HAVE to write, with the end result being freely available, it's much easier. I've got a day job that pays the bills so I can come home and write. Works pretty well in terms of keeping me in the black...

    The problem then becomes 'Death by Popularity'. As much as we love the internet as a bastion of free speech and free expression and so on and so forth, bandwidth is decidedly NOT free. The slashdot effect can pretty much wipe out your website -- and then your ISP will cheerfully charge you for all that traffic brought on by thousands of happy readers enjoying your work.

    Even pro sites and webcomics have this problem, where they start small, get popular, and get crushed by bandwidth costs from so many people simply digging their stuff. It's even worse for aspiring independent bands; the RIAA can afford to pipe thousands of MP3s off a website (even if they don't wanna), but Joe Q. Guitar Player might not be able to.

    I really hope someone comes up with a technology or a revnue model that works. I'll keep writing regardless of whether or not it turns a penny, but it'd be one less headache if I didn't have to worry about my work costing me an arm and a leg to get out there.

    Obligatory whoring plug for said work: Unreal Estate [pixelscapes.com], a scifi comedy. It's got open source reality innit. Whee! Now let's see if it survives the link being posted to slashdot. (Probably will since nobody reads comments, right? *EL WINK*)

    • I think this example and the Stephen King experiments show that at least for now, we don't have a workable system that will allow someone to live off what they're writing online.

      Not true, check out Fictionwise [fictionwise.com], which claims to be profitable. I think one key is that the content cost less than a dead-tree book would, but Fictionwise actually charges as much and gets away with it. I'm hoping to publish some content there if I can write something that doesn't suck. ;-)

      I think the thing that most hurt William's efforts was the $17.99 price tag. That was too steep.

  • If it wasn't bad enough that he had to close down his site for lack of traffic and subscribers, now we send 10,000 people over there to gloat over the corpse.

    *licks lips, rubs hands. "Brainsss..."

    • If it wasn't bad enough that he had to close down his site for lack of traffic and subscribers Except for the fact that they intend to keep the site online despite it losing money. The last of the bimonthly Episodes will appear in August; after that, the plan is to continue adding background material, art, etc.
  • I for one would like to see that model work. Eliminating the publisher, the distributer, the store. Writers and artists get only a small fraction of the money generated by their efforts. Some of that goes to the hawking of the work and the sails.. a creative specialty in its own right, but not one I see as as worthy as that of the creative worker. A necesarry evil maybe like lawyers.

    I have an artist friend that signed an exclusive contract with a gallery, then they chose only about 10% of her work and gave her maybe 10 pct of the sale price. Fortunetly she had a job teaching at the Art Institue of Chicago and was able to let the contract run out and still eat. She was new to this country and creative distribution system, not new to art.

    And they talk about us foolish Americans

    Well I just subscribed to Tad's site. I support the idea of his trying to get direct support for his work if not for the value given from the work itself (we are at a bootstrap point in this model).

    Here is an opportunity for someone to put up a site for these types of efforts to help get exposure and marketing. Well that will work until someone sees the profit of it then starts to squeeze. But maybe there will be a breif period when things work like they should, like early Greece or early Internet maybe.

  • this was a doomed idea from day one. Subscription to read a book...yeah right...Is a good thing Tad employs a business manager to take care of most of his finances. I am sorry but 8$ for a book is one thing, to pay monthly to read a new installment, this is not the 40's and this is not radio, and even IT was FREE. Somewhere some fool convinced the ad companies that banner ads work, that guy is a genius, and the ad companies are blind morons. I can honestly say I HAVE NEVER clinked thru a banner. If it is interesting enough I might, on my own go try a url BUT I refuse to use banners or pop-ups. I know I am not alone in this methodology.
  • ...does it work for unknowns? I have considered the payment scheme of many content sites, and thought that the MLM style might benefit an aspiring author (artist, musician, proctologist)... For istance, you subscribe, and bring 5 people with you, each of whom subscribe. They can only subscribe if they have an authorization from a member (which a person could get simply by clicking on a _Give Me a Member_ link). If you get enough people under you, the author shares his wealth with you. Dunno, just a thought. If you think the idea has merit, check out my [Shameless] Story [chaoschash.com] [Plug]. I currenlty have the bandwidth of a mouse sphincter, but as someone mentioned earlier, comments shouldn't nearly get /.ed, right? [Shoots self in head]
  • I read the free introductory stuff on this site, and it was excellent. Resulted in my buying other Tad Williams novels, because I like the style and his writing ability in general. And the Shadowmarch site has all kinds of background information, really nice artwork, forums, etc, that do add a lot to the story.

    THe only reason I didn't subscribe was because I didn't like the payment method. I can't even remember what it was, but I think it was PayPal only when I tried. (It was also hard to get at the "payment methods" screen -- I had to set up a login first.) It may be different now, but I never bothered going back.

    It's just so much easier to go out and buy a book, I guess. :( Too bad, because it's a really good story and a very interesting project. And now people will say "look, online publishing doesn't work!" when it might (might) be a logistical issue.

  • I sparced that as "Results of Another Web Punishing Experiment"

    Up too late last night. :)
  • Everyone is talking about the lack of advertising or the flawed subscription model, and that's fine, but I don't think that's the WHOLE story.

    I think a lot of people didn't buy into Shadowmarch simply because they were tired of Tad Williams' work. And when I say tired, I mean exhausted. Williams' is infamous for his 3000+ page epics that are chock full of characters and locales but very little actual plot. It happened with 'Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn' and it happened with 'Otherland', and there was every indication it was happening again with 'Shadowmarch'.

    Some people may enjoy that style of writing, but after the first two series I'd had enough. That's why I didn't subscribe.

  • 1. Who wants to buy a book that you can't read on "the throne"? (You know what I mean).
    2. I doubt an e-book will ever take enough internet audience away from the almighty pr0n.
  • A perfect example of the difficulties facing online publishers is the fate of Aardvark [aardvark.co.nz] in New Zealand.

    This is one of the longest-running online Net-news and commentary publications on the web, having started in 1995 and been published without a break ever since. During that time it has developed an enviable reputation for frankness and insight, and scooping important stories, while attracting an audience that is the "who's who" of the NZ Internet and IT marketplace.

    At one time in the late 1990s it was even profitable -- but that was when advertising dollars flowed like water.

    Now, despite having a regular readership of around 5,000 people (mainly IT/Net workers and decision-makers) and scoring over 80,000 visits to the front-page every month (not too bad in a country of just 3.8 million people), the crunch point has been reached.

    It costs more than $30K a year (mainly the writer/publisher's time) to produce on a daily basis and, given the general downturn in the Net marketplace since 2000, that's a figure which has become hard to justify.

    Attempts to generate revenues by soliciting donations produced no more than a few hundred dollars over a period of several months and finding a corporate sponsor appeared impossible. The very blunt and uncompromising nature of the commentaries may well have contributed to this -- after all, who wants to sponsor a publication that will jump all over you if you mess up? :-)

    Once it was announced that publication would cease, almost 100 readers came forward and offered to pay a subscription -- but that would still only return an hourly rate of less than $6 (US$3) on the time invested in its writing and publication.

    Since late 2000, advertising hasn't been an option. The low prices, cost of soliciting, scheduling, reporting and chasing debtors means that there's no profit to be had even if advertisers can be found.

    So, who's going to work for US$3/hr?

    Who can afford to work for US$3/hr?

    Despite the fact that publishing to the web is a whole lot cheaper than print or broadcast, it's still a difficult medium in which to turn a profit.
  • I don't think online books can work. There is something about holding a book and reading it under a small light in the wee hours of the morning that you just don't get online.

    There's also something comforting about placing a well liked book on a shelf, where it will sit until years later you pick it up and refresh your mind with it again or share it perhaps with your children.

    For these and other reasons I think not just online, but electric books in general will not do very well.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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