21 June 2015

The Washington Post: “John Scalzi on his monster book deal, sci-fi fandom and diversity in fiction”

Were there any particular insights that came out of the experiment with “The Human Division”? Did people who bought it in installments also buy hardcovers? I’d be curious what behavior you observed there.

One of the things that we saw is that it didn’t really have an effect on the sales of the hardcover that we could see. There’s a market of people who are really into digital, and there’s a market of people who are really into print, and there’s some overlap. But by and large it was an opportunity to address two markets in a significant way. There’s a third market as well, which is audio book, which has expanded tremendously, and that’s the same kind of dynamic that’s going on there. Audio people really like the audio book, digital people really like to read in digital, and print people really like to read in print. So what we actually found, we sold hundreds of thousands of individual copies of the episodes of “The Human Division.” And then when the book came out, the book sold exactly in line with previous “Old Man’s War” books. So we didn’t lose any readers. We didn’t cannibalize our readership in any significant way as far as we could see. So that was a really useful insight: There are distinct markets if you take the time to address them.

Alyssa Rosenberg

Interesting interview with science-fiction author John Scalzi, who recently signed a multi-million, 10-year deal with Tor Books. I haven’t read any of his work because military sci-fi generally leaves me cold, but his insight about publishing and the role of editors is worth reading.

One thing that worries me about this kind of long-term deals is the same that he seems to enjoy: stability. There is certainly more incentive to experiment with diverse ideas, but authors could also fall into complacency, writing ‘for the sake of writing’, pushing out low-quality books to fill the terms of the deal. It’s just my opinion, but I think that’s happened to some of my favorite authors after they got a taste of fame: both 1Q84 and Never Let Me Go were massive disappointments, of much lower quality than previous novels. I would hate for that to start happening in SF as well…

John Scalzi new 13 books deal
About That Deal…

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