"Try it before you buy it," as a book publishing model?

Share |
"Try it before you buy it," as a book publishing model?

I have a new book out called Bible Camp Bloodbath, and I published it using a print on demand service. I wish I could say that my choice to publish it myself was due to some noble fascination with digital technology, or some futurist embrace of a post-publisher world, but to be honest I just got too excited. When I finish a book, I want to show everyone. I want to put it up on the internet and read it over the loudspeaker at the mall. My publisher, ECW, wanted the book. But they wanted to publish it in 2012. I could be dead by then. Everyone could be dead by then! I want to see what people think! I want to have it banned from libraries THIS year, not in 2 years.

It's risky, attempting this without a publisher and their resources, but my website has a fairly large readership, and it seems like an experiment worth trying. So I hired an editor to edit the book. I had it copyedited. And then I hired the delightful Emily Horne to lay it out! And you can buy it right now. Or, if you want, you can read it online. I'm serializing it.

To be honest, putting it up online for free was almost as difficult a decision as deciding to do it without my publisher. Self publishing is nerve wracking, and of course I hope I sell enough books to make some money for my work. But I really strongly believe in the model of free things online.

Everyone I asked seemed to think it was a bad idea. They would convince me that maybe it wasn't wise, or maybe it would be best to wait a while, until sales were naturally declining, and then post it to renew interest (Not a bad idea, by the way). And so I'd decide against putting it online, and a day or so would go by, and then I'd ask somebody else what they thought. I kept coming back to it, even if I didn't have a good answer to the issues they raised. Which I guess means I just WANTED to do it.

But not everybody likes the idea. Yesterday someone got angry about me putting things online for free. They said, essentially, "I bought your last book, and then later you put it online for free. I felt ripped off." And I guess that sucks. But he did get what he bought, you know? That was the price of the book, and he decided that was worth it, and now he owns it. Really it sounds like he's saying, "I enjoy your writing, but I want to pay as little for it as possible."

So, my response to him was this:

"I like the model of putting things online for free. Our comics are all online for free, and people still buy the books. They enjoy having the physical object, and giving books as gifts. Also, it being free online means that you can see whether you like something or not, before buying it. You can share it with friends, who might like it enough to buy it. And at the end of the day, I want someone to be able to read my books if they want, even if amazon doesn't ship to them, or they can't afford it." And, as this article in today's Guardian points out, a lot of other people are warming up to the idea, too.

So, I'm serializing it. We'll see how it goes, I guess!

If you're interested, go read some of my new book Bible Camp Bloodbath online for free.

Or you can buy it on amazon.com

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Joey Comeau

Joey Comeau is the author of Overqualified and Lockpick Pornography. With photographer Emily Horne, he creates the comic A Softer World. One Bloody Thing After Another is his latest book.

Go to Joey Comeau’s Author Page