In the world of ebooks, is a story ever finished?

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Over the last year, a consistent comment I’ve gotten is that the third book of my sci-fi trilogy, Oyu’s Trident, seemed rushed. At the time, I thought, “OK. I’ll be more conscious of my pacing that next time.” But lately I’ve had the thought of fixing it — not changing the story, but just describing what happens at the conclusion in greater detail. I think another 20-40 pages would do it. (This would also be something to occupy my mind with while my next book goes through pre-publishing reviews.)

For some reason, at the time I finished Oyu’s Trident, I found the suggestion that it was too short to be irritating. Now I can see their point. It’s practically Japanese in its ending.

I know what I intended — war is bad, it’s not as neat as movies, and (I suspect) there’s less a feeling of victory than survival. But I recognize that I was clumsy in my execution. You can have a modern ending (you survived, yay!) without feeling like someone just unplugged the TV set.

Using reader feedback to edit a narrative is nothing new. The Iliad and Odyssey were probably tweaked over a period of centuries, as the orators responded to their audiences. “Oh, you like that fight scene? OK, I can add a stanza. The romance is dragging a bit? OK, I can talk about that like it already happened.”

Even Shakespeare tweaked his plays, based on audience response. Depending on which quarto you look at, Hamlet says either:

‘To be, or not to be, I there’s the point’ (1603)

or

‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’ (1605)

This was fine, because the quartos were short and not mass-produced. They were for actors and directors, not a general audience.

It’s only in the age of the modern novel — say, Don Quixote (1605) onward — that we’ve had to nail things down. The printing process was just too costly to screw around with it.

That paper-is-expensive tradition helped forge writers like Kurt Vonnegut, who worked on each page until it was perfect, then didn’t change it again. What if the story went in a crazy direction? Well, anyone who’s read Vonnegut knows the response to that: “So it goes.”

Would it irritate you, as a reader, if an author changed the book after you read it? How about after you reviewed it?

Kindle Unlimited service earns authors $1.62 per ebook read for October

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Hugh Howey, author of the WOOL series and proponent of self-publishing, has organized the October 2014 Author Earnings Report for Amazon-exclusive authors.

If I’ve understood it correctly, I should be getting $1.62 for each of my books that someone (a) read more than 10% of, (b) while borrowing it through the Kindle Unlimited service, in October. Kindle Unlimited is a $10/month ebook membership that lets you read as much as you want from a select library of content, in a manner similar to a Netflix streaming-only membership for watching movies.

I’ll confirm whether or not my royalty rate prediction is correct once I get paid, probably at the end of November. If this estimate is close to correct, I’m quite happy. Some authors won’t be happy, though. Why not?

When people can borrow your ebook for cheap, they are less likely to buy it. Typically, authors who can command a good price for their ebooks — say $3.99 and higher — would earn more from a sale (in this example, at a $3.99 price they’d get a 70% royalty and earn $2.79). The Kindle Unlimited payout system is not based on the price of the ebook. It’s a flat rate, determined month-to-month, based on the pool of money Amazon decides to invest in the system.

In my case, my ebooks are currently priced at $1.99 each, so my royalty from a sale would be $0.69 (you get a 35% royalty for content priced below $2.99). For October, I’d earn more from a KU borrow ($1.62) than from a traditional sale ($0.69).

Further, as a new, self-published writer, people are more likely to give my work a shot if they can just borrow it for no additional cost through a membership they already have.

So, for someone like me, making my work available on Kindle Unlimited — which requires me to remain exclusive to Amazon and not publish via iBookstore or B&N — is worth it. Amazon has 70% of the ebook market, and most of my readers will be ebook sales/borrows. For established authors, giving up 30% of the ebook marketplace to cannibalize their own sales for rentals may not make sense.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months. For some of the best vitriol on the whole self-published young punks vs old Mr Burns-type traditionalists, I recommend Joe Konrath’s blog, A Newbies Guide to Publishing.

Work in progress

OK, time for a little feedback. I’m about 1/4 through writing my next novel, and would like to know if this jacket blurb is interesting: You can just click Like if you like it, or you can write a comment if you have questions or suggestions. Thanks.

Cade Alvarez has moved from town to town throughout his career — all 118 years of it. He knows how to fit in, how to take what he needs, and how to disappear.

He’s only been in Dallas for a few years, and his instincts are already telling him it’s time to go. But when a mysterious woman driving a ’61 Checker Cab offers him a ride, he begins to realize it may be too late.