Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Great Electronic Debate Part 2

A cappella Zoo is opening an online archive of previously published stories. The editor, Colin Meldrum, sent an email asking for permission to publish/archive "A Sort of Honeymoon". I didn't hesitate in replying "yes".

I started this internal debate here. Today, I'm adding evidence in favor of online publishing.

During an average week at Fifty-Two Stitches, we see over 250 visitors. While this isn't an astronomical number, the count has been growing steadily over the past four months (thanks largely in part to the fantastic stories and buzz created by the author/contributors). Two points for online publishing: new content can be added frequently with less effort. Imagine a print magazine with weekly editions...imagine the cost involved (both in labor and actual capital). Online is cheaper and more cost effective.

Some write for themselves. Some write to be read. For some, writing is a blend of both worlds. I do write because the process of writing is important to me, but I want as many people as possible to read/understand/enjoy the products of my labor. I don't live in a vacuum. Another point for online.

Consumers (and here I use the word in its most general sense) are wary to give up their hard earned $$ for untested products. Give it to them free, however...and online wins another point. Even publishers stand to gain by giving away content: you build consumer trust and following. Another point for online. (this is turning into a rather lopsided affair)

I haven't even addressed the "green" issue. (online wins again)

In my previous post, I mentioned this as a head vs. heart issue. My heart still likes to see work in print, but my heart is also swayed by knowing people are reading and sometimes, on rare occasions when the planets align, even enjoying, my writing.


Catherine J Gardner said...

I am astounded by the number of vistors 52 Stitches gets a week - fabulous.

Jamie Eyberg said...

I couldn't agree more, although I have to give print kudo's for longer stories. It gets much beyond 3,000 words online and I just look at the scroll on the side of the screen and shudder.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - I'm thrilled. Viral marketing, word of mouth...

Jamie - Very true. I don't even consider print for my flash. Vice versa for longer stories.

Horror Girl said...

it is hard to read longer stories on the computer. nothing beats having a book or magazine in your hands to read.

i can see how you could see it as a heart versus head conflict.

katey said...

What's a story with no one to read it? Not to be crude, but it's pretty much a wank. That's all right, don't get me wrong, but it's not the point.

I love reading short fiction online-- which you've probably guessed. Long, short, whatever. I love print anthologies, and nothing beats the smell and feeling of cracking open a book... but the fact is that it's a craps shoot. You don't know if you're paying $15 for one good and several mediocre stories, or if they're all worth your money, until the publisher is, as you say, tried and tested. Same goes for magazines. (I definitely shelled out for the NT subscription because they proved how awesome they are online, for example.) I like how Morrigan books has an online wing for that very reason. Think it's really smart of them.

And frankly, online fiction is a more expedient marketing tool for a writer. So while I'll always prefer reading a book, there's just too much goodness in favor of online publishing, like you say.

K.C. Shaw said...

I agree, especially with flash fiction. Online is a perfect medium for very short stories that can be read quickly but which stick with the reader so he/she can think about them while doing other stuff.

Alan W. Davidson said...

I agree. The online flash fiction is a good way to see if a writer is worth buying in print (that being said, I had no problem buying a friend's first novel online to save a few bucks--though sitting in my office chair is not as comfortable as the sofa).

I am likely to buy a book of someone whose flash I've enjoyed at NT or EDF or wherever.

Good topic of discussion, Aaron.

Aaron Polson said...

Katey - I love that you used the word "wank". That is all.

K.C. - oooo..."but which stick with the reader so he/she can think about them while doing other stuff"--as a horror writer, I loooove that idea.

Alan - As a marketing tool, flash fiction is brilliant. I'm only starting to understand how brilliant.

Barry Napier said...

I will admit that when I am looking for a home for one of my stories and the max word count is 2,500 or less, I get infuriated. Think of the kids growing up that will get the bulk of their short stories online. What will they do when faced with a short story of 8,000 words in print?

I am still on the fence about the whole digital reading process. I am totally fine with e-zines, but this while Kindle business REALLY pisses me off.

Anyway, as usual, great post!

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - I know what my students do...whine. "And they call this a short story?"

Natalie L. Sin said...

If I had to pay for everything I read I'd have to sell my eggs. I certainly wouldn't have money for my sweet, sweet Korean Boy Bands CDs.

So I thank you, electronic publishes. And Korea thanks you.

L.R. Bonehill said...

I’m all for electronic content – up to a point. Flash is ideal, but who really wants to read 5000 words online? The potential for feedback is obviously greater (for a new writer, at least) online; it’s always nice to get some comments on your work... especially good comments. How often does that happen with a small print zine?

Times are changing and we need to keep up, that’s for sure.

Great to hear 52 Stitches doing so well.

Jodi Lee said...

As much as I love holding a magazine or digest in my hands (I have a thing for the smell of new books and mags..LOL) I don't have time to read hardcopy any more.

Online, I can pull up a 'zine and have it open while I'm waiting for other stuff, waiting for folks to finish typing their responses in chats, etc.

It's far handier for someone that's working on the computer for 10 hours a day. ;)

Benjamin Solah said...

This debate's been playing in my head all day.

I used to think that I was striving for print. It seemed more 'real' or more 'official' like it would count for a real publishing credit which meant I'd be able to flaunt it around.

But the last week or so I've gone on this binge of reading short fiction and it's all blogs, online fiction and ezines that I'd print for longer stories.

But print magazines survive by people selling their magazines. How does online fiction survive and how do you differentiate between credible writing credits online and just some random person posting people's fiction up online?

Aaron Polson said...

Benjamin - check a site's submission guidelines. If they pay (anything, really), then the work therein is probably pretty good. Also, online magazines can register for an ISSN (international standard serial number) which is a pretty good sign that the site is serious.

Online sites survive because they are cheap (sometimes free) to run, even if they pay their contributors. Being online (and usually free to read) they can attract more traffic than a print magazine, and eventually that traffic converts to advertising revenue. Did I miss anything?

Aaron Polson said...

Oh...and print magazines don't survive from profits on sales of copies, they survive because of advertising revenue. (I know how much you loooove capitalism)

Basically, you want to sell a sh#t ton of magazines so you can say to advertisers, "look how many people will see your ad--fork over some cash".

Alan W. Davidson said...

All of that makes a lot of sense, Aaron. Like what Benjamin said, for most folks, it doesn't feel like you've accomplished something as a writer unless you have a hard copy to wave about (and a pay cheque to go along with it).

I get the feeling, though, that we may be on the edge of a big shift in how business will be conducted in both the worlds of music and print.

Carrie Harris said...

I guess I'm a little different since I'm primarily a novelist, but I'm trying to go with a balance of both. People are constantly telling me to stop posting so much stuff on my blog since it's giving away material for free. But really, there are plenty of advantages to it, and I know my name is out there to people who would never hear of me otherwise. So I intend to keep it up.

Yeah, I want it all. I admit it.

Robert said...

... yet people will crawl all over themselves when an anthology opens up paying five cents a word but only has a print run of 100 or so copies.

Doesn't make sense in my mind.

You want to be paid, yes, but don't you also want to be read -- and not just read, but read well?

The hard part is finding that happy medium.

Aaron Polson said...

Too true, Robert. Where is the happy medium?

Benjamin Solah said...

Ah, so tempted to go on a rant blaming capitalism for the whole problem...but I won't :P

I'm still thinking hard about this though. I'm leaning toward online more and more though.