AISFP 177 – Travis Heermann

This episode is brought to you by the new space opera MAJESTY’S OFFSPRING, by AJ Vega, and by WOLF DAWN, a science fiction novel by Susan Cartwright reminiscent of ENDER’S GAME and DUNE.

For decades, Majesty, the first sentient artificial intelligence, and humanity lived together in harmony with mankind reaping the benefits of a world free of disease, famine, and even aging. But when Majesty decided she wanted to “birth” her own A.I. offspring, a joint interplanetary military effort fought and finally defeated her, eradicating all existing artificial intelligence … or so they thought.

Ashton Chayton was born with a powerful gift, a unique inhuman ability. Orphaned, raised by the Red Wolves of Opan, captured and enslaved – he is now free and on the run. Unfortunately everybody wants Ashton. Admiral Jones will torture him to get the secret of his power. Lady Lindha feels he is “The One” as named in Temple prophecy. The influential Lord Andros just wants him dead.  Ashton only wants two things: revenge, and the Lady Lindha. If you had unique powers, wouldn’t you use them to get what you want?

Please click on the images to learn more about MAJESTY’S OFFSPRING and WOLF DAWN today: two great science fiction novels for your Kindle, Nook or those good old reliable book shelves.

Show Notes:

  • Travis Heermann, author of ROGUES OF THE BLACK FURY, discusses his new fantasy novel set in a Renaissance setting because he likes guns! Well, there is more to it than that.
  • Travis also discusses podcast fiction and whether or not it is a viable business model. He asks some tough questions and challenges listeners to take a look at how they do or do not support authors.
  • We also finally announce the winners of THIEFTAKER: @TraciLoudin @Rusty87d @StewartPelto, @azjauthor, @aymanfadel

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  1. If the writing is good, I will pay for the book. The only time I have a problem with prices are when the ebook is more expensive than the print copy, which…really? I don’t get it. In that case I’ll either get the print copy or wait to see if the price drops to a more reasonable level.

    As for podiobooks, I’ve bought almost every podiobook I’ve enjoyed (key word) in print if/when it makes it to print. Because that’s how I show my appreciation for the hard work these authors put in. Plus, it’s hard to get Mur Lafferty’s or J. C. Hutchin’s autograph on a podiobook if I meet them at a con. 🙂

    • Gary, I would be curious to know if you are the exception or the rule.
      I often feel like a street performer out there, pouring my heart into my art with my hat in my hand. Is busking a legitimate business model? I wonder about that too. In that case, it is location location location. Nowadays, location is the web, and no one can be everywhere.
      I certainly don’t regret putting a couple of novels out there for free. I did that specifically because I love podcasting and thought it would be a viable way to build an audience. I think it has helped me build an audience for my free stuff. The difficult part is that the overwhelming majority of those folks have not followed me over to the paid stuff, so that means either 1) they are cheap and/or don’t believe that content should be paid for, or 2) In some way that novel was not quite good enough or did not meet their tastes. Neither of these are heartening possibilities.
      I also feel that people out there selling their novels for 99 cents are doing much the same thing (a NOVEL! for 99 CENTS!).
      I discussed this with Mur Lafferty recently and the result is an article on the SFWA blog a few weeks back.

      • I think there is a third possibility: While everyone has the best intentions to support a book, we sometimes have to motivate them to take that step. Case in point- Angels and Airwaves released their third album, “love” for free, but asked that if you enjoy it, you come back and donate. I enjoyed their previous albums immensely and was first in line to download it. The third album blew me away, and every time I listened I was reminded to donate, but months went by and I never quite got round to it. The other day I finally ordered it off Amazon and cleared my conscience, but I wonder how many people love the books and would gladly donate if you just gave them just a little friendly push in the right direction.
        Fourth possibility is pulled from a Sinefeld stand up routine where he speaks about eating out at a restaurant. When you’re hungry and sit down to order, price is not a consideration- just keep that food coming!!! But once you’re sitting back with your belt undone and the cigarette butts in the mash potato, staring at your bill, you start wondering what you’re buying all this food for, and why the hell you paid $50 for a pink drink. I wonder how many people love a book, and enjoy every mouthful, but once it’s consumed no longer feel quite so enthusiastic about paying for it. I know that sounds horrible, but lets just throw it out there.
        So how can we motivate them to take that step-
        1) release the first book for free and hope they come back for book two and three. This could work, but what about 2) not my favourite suggestion, have two versions- a free one where the book is read to them, and a pay version that is better quality and acted out with voices and music. Or 3) the one I like- releasing an abridged version of the book for free and have them pay for the full one. That way your readers get a complete story, but if they’re enjoying it and want to delve deeper into this world, can pay to switch to the unabridged version.

        I guess the point I’m making is that human nature is such that people want to do the right thing, and will if pushed in the right direction. We can fight it, or find a way to make it work for us.

  2. This is an excellent topic. As a novel writer, I’m also concerned with the business model of podcast novels and self-publishing, but my views run contrary to the majority opinion. I’m already cringing at the backlash, but this topic deserves an open and honest dialogue.

    We are like street musicians with our hats out. Some might have sympathy or see us as noble, while others might see us as beggars who are a wee bit pathetic. From a writer’s point of view, of course we pour our heart and soul into the work, and we desperately want to be paid so we can write full-time. But from a reader’s point of view? Well, we could have chosen another career. No one forced us to become writers (or so they think). We could have gone into software development if we wanted to be assured of a stable income. If the writer puts his or her novel out there for free, then the writer must take full responsibility for that decision, and not feel entitled to a single cent.

    Why would a writer make his or her novel free? Not for money. Money would be nice, and if the writer becomes a lucky fluke, then money might come. But there is still value and merit in publishing a free novel. A new author needs to build his/her name-brand. An author who already has a fan following might throw a freebie out there in order to widen his/her audience, or to rekindle a waning audience. These reasons are major, and should not be dismissed as having less value than actual dollars and cents.

    I enjoyed the interview, and I will definitely read Travis’s new book!

  3. You know, I was thinking of doing a podcast for some of my books but after having heard this episode I’m thinking twice about this idea. That’s a lot of work for no return. I would know because I used to host two music podcasts.

    It’s a major problem. I have short fiction for $0.99 but I can’t sell a novel for that price. Far too much work goes into a novel. I think the problem is that indies are selling themselves too cheap. When you set up that expectation people come to expect free/cheap stuff all of the time.

    Maybe you should set up a subscription model for future work? I don’t know. great show though.

  4. I think that the issues raised in this episode are quite interesting, especially the points around marketing and the position of authors with respect to pricing. As far as the problem of being a relatively new novelist, I can’t think of a solution that would generate income other than what some webcomics do: go in cheap or free, commit people with great storylines and characters and then leverage individual micro-publications of particular arcs. Slimy Thief does this and so does Spinnerette, so there may be some mileage in looking at those sources.

    On the other hand, the $0.99 ebook seems like mana from heaven for backlist publications. Dig out those short stories you couldn’t shift, or the manuscripts that have fallen out of print. For established authors that seems like a model where long term returns would be both considerable and affordable for consumers. The only moral issue there is the impact on legitimate second hand book sellers, but I’m not sure there is much crossover between paper copy bibliophiles and collectors and the ebook market.

  5. This is a very important topic, and as an indie author and ebook reader, I think I can offer some insight.

    What we are basically talking about here is actual value vs. perceived value. Ebooks that cost the same as their trade paperback or hardcover counterparts are _perceived_ as being too much. The general consensus among readers is that their are lower costs involved in ebook production. Some even believe there is NO cost involved, which isn’t true, but there are only the usual up front costs, followed by an eternity in which the publisher can not only recoup that cost but make a great profit.

    For me, ebooks of $9.99 and up are just too expensive. Now, if it’s something I really, really want to read, and getting the ebook is the only way I know I’ll read it in a timely fashion, I’ll get it anyway, but it’ll sit on my Amazon wish list a while until I get birthday or Christmas money.

    To my mind as a bookseller, I’m comfortable with offering ebooks for what their paperback versions would go for: $4.99-$7.99. I charge 99 cents for short stories, and Slow Djinn, a 10,400 novella is $2.99.

    Dean Wesley Smith has a great blog post on pricing your work here:

    You don’t have to offer everything for 99 cents. Maybe the first book in a series, and short stories, but that’s it.

    As for podcasting, I don’t know that it’s as effective as it once was. Tee Morris, Scott Sigler and Mur Lafferty were all early adopters of the technology. But cream always rises to the top.

    I hope this helps.

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