Yesterday I referred to a NYT essay by Stephen King on short fiction. Today, I’m cribbing from the Wall Street Journal, specifically a piece by Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) .
Adams used some of his past blog entries for a new book, which meant they had to be removed from the web. For that, he caught flak from readers, some of whom retaliated by giving the book bad Amazon reviews. As he said, “For readers of my non-Dilbert books, I inadvertently set the market value for my work at zero. Oops.”
Why does this interest me? Because next year I have an anthology coming out…of work I originally posted online for free. Let me explain…
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned I did annual online novellas. Freebies. The #1 ongoing question I get asked is: when will these be available in a real book? I’ve always said they’re meant to be free, but I’ve admitted to hoping that someday I can publish them as a charitable endeavour.
My chance came this summer. Long story short, my agent was approached and, ultimately, the collection went to my regular publishers. We negotiated to keep most of the short stories, my latest novella and a graphic-novella-in-progress online. The older stuff (4 novellas & 2 stories) is being edited, and put into a single volume. My advance and any royalties I earn will go to World Literacy.
This seemed a good way to balance the demand for a “real book” version with my unwillingness to profit from these “freebies.” But am I totally comfortable with it? No. And I wouldn’t have been any more comfortable turning down the offer.
I would have liked to keep the stories online. I understand why the publisher won’t allow that (and it was what I expected). I suppose if I bought a book and discovered the same stories were currently free online, I’d be miffed. And I don’t even like to read online. I just wouldn’t like the feeling I’d been “ripped off” (yes, I’m cheap)
So, is Adams right? Does putting work (fiction or nonfiction) free on the web set the market value at zero? What would you say if you bought a book of stories, only to discover they’d once been free online? Or that they were still free online?
Kelley Armstrong is the NYT bestselling author of the urban fantasy series, The Otherworld. For info on her novels or to read sample chapters, check out her website at www.KelleyArmstrong.com