Friday, February 22, 2013

Baen Books: End of a dream or Start of a new era?

It was one of those classic facepalm moments last week when I read in Dark Matter fanzine that English author Terry Deary had called for the closure of libraries. I thought it was a glaring example of someone who could not accept that sometimes giving something away for free can actually make more money for you than watching every farthing. I immediately thought of Baen Books, the SF & F publishing house that was famous (or infamous depending on your viewpoint) for giving away books in their Baen Free Library. It has always been a showpiece of the mindset that free distribution of prequels is the best way of authors attracting new sales. One of the originators of the free library concept, Eric Flint, proved with hard figures that this had improved sales!

Imagine my dismay when I found that it had been gutted!

The Free library still exists but they have ... 
... had to remove some titles. Others are undergoing alteration and will be brought back into the Library over the next few months. The Second Editions with new material will be available for sale at all venues; the original editions will be restored to the Free Library. We are trying to keep as many titles here as possible. We will also be adding new titles soon, including ones by Larry Correia, and Sharon Lee & Steve Miller.

Has Baen Books jumped the shark by trading many of the things that made them unique for the ability to sell their books on Amazon? Amanda S. Green jumps to their defence and paints it as a win for Baen authors and has many valid points.

Personally I think that we need to remember that Baen Books is a commercial enterprise and not a charitable organisation. We, as readers, have no rights to the free ebooks they made available to us however they, in turn, need to realise that they are in danger of  losing the gains that it brought them.

The operative question here is, will the gain be worth the loss? Is the increased exposure that Amazon listing will give them worth the loss of the sales boost that Eric Flint espoused? Just what is the Amazon market share of the ebook market and will they keep it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Trek fanfic of the week - Star Trek: Frontiers

This Virtual Series is something totally different from traditional book/zine-based fiction. It is an iconic, long-running, ground-breaking production that will give you the closest thing to a cinematic experience in the printed word!

Their long journey started in 2004 but their popularity caused them to become one of the founding members of the following year. This was their heyday which they shared with ST: Renaissance, ST: Star’s End and later ST: Avalon and Knights Haven lasting until 2008 when a downturn in interest caused them to move to MZP-TV, which at the time was an active hub for fan-based virtual seasons from many fandoms.

Their storyline had drawn critical acclaim amongst fans as holding true to the spirit of Star Trek but their move to MZP-TV was not popular because of the lack of new material and their focus on re-releasing edited and rewritten episodes of their previous seasons. Their tenure at MZPtv (as they rebranded themselves) came to an amicable end in May 2012 when their host changed their focus to Indie Virtual Series and since then Frontiers have been re-establishing a presence on the web, with facebook as their major fan interface and an striking new website, designed by Cador Davis, housing their resources.

What impresses me the most about this is the innovative way that the story has been presented! Unlike traditional fan fiction which is book/zine-based, Frontiers and the Virtual Seasons that followed have been made available as movie format scripts. Whilst this might take some getting used to, like audio dramas, the combination of dialog, stage/transition directions and scenery descriptions make the story come alive as a movie in the cinema of the mind!

Frontiers and the other Virtual Seasons have worked hard to build on the idea of their work as a cinematic production. In Mar 2011 they released their much anticipated Season 1 vDVD (virtual DVD) set. Containing all 17 episodes, many edited and rewritten, it also had special production podcasts, the popular video trailer by Paul Weaver and a gallery of digital images. Perhaps the neatest feature of the vDVD set its groundbreaking menu interface, designed by Paul, that authentically portrayed a "real" DVD set on your computer screen! As with all prototypes it had its teething problems and the season 2 vDVD released in Dec 2012 worked much better! Download the vDVDs and all their other episodes from their website, HERE.

Conceptual art for the vDVD
Now is the perfect time to start following this series since, in Oct last year, they announced the lineup of their 3rd and final season. If they can build on the amazing body of work that they have created over the last nine years this is going to be an epic ride!

Production Blog
Youtube Channel

NOTE: All graphics on this post came from Star Trek: Frontiers

Sunday, February 17, 2013

DIY eBooks 101

It is no great secret that I'm in the process of teaching myself how to create ebooks - starting with ePubs - of the pdf paperbacks that we've published for TrekUnited Publishing. What have been my major influences so far?


A massive forum of eBook readers and creators plus an informative and relatively non-partisan Wiki. One example thread you really must at least skim is this thread which, for the past three years, has gathered advice & links to resources which are an invaluable resource for the beginner and journeyman creator alike. How and Where to Publish Your Ebooks 

Catherine Ryan Howard

Her blogging on self publishing is exhaustive and exceptionally accessible to the average person! You can support her by buying her book from her website HERE - I did, it cost less than my daily industrial strength size coffee!

Steven Saus

Many of the posts that he later made into his book on self publishing are still on his personal blog which is also a mine of commentary & information on the subject in general. You can thank Steven for his help by buying his book from his website HERE.

What draws me to these two particular authors rather than the dozens that Google ads throw at me all day long, offering to show me how self publish your own eBooks? They offer most of the information in their books on their websites *for free*, trusting that their readers, as aspiring fellow authors (even fan authors who cannot make any money from their work!) will show their thanks with a little support.

I did! For the cost of a couple of magazines I did my bit to make sure that these two authors (who on face value espouse diametrically opposed methods) will continue to contribute to the self publishing community.