I’ve been saving my pennies for the deluxe edition of Cory Doctorow’s self published anthology, “With a Little Help“, since he first told me about it in one of my interviews with him last year. There have been a lot of experiments with self produced creative works, involving free and pay what you will models but his plan exceeds them all by quite a bit.
Cory didn’t include a name your own price option but did consider different spending capacities by offering a good variety of options. Like all of his other works, the electronic editions are free to download and share, so long as you do not alter or sell them. To his usual bevy of electronic text formats, he’s also added free audio in a variety of formats. You are also welcome to contribute by shifting to any formats you might like that are missing from what is available.
Participation is one of the ways this project stands out. Cory has always supported fan translations and re-formats of his ebooks. Since the main print edition is printed on demand, he can updated the text for any reason. In this case, he has promised to include credit to any and all who help spot and fix typos and other errors in the text. It’s an excellent idea to reward the efforts of those who help improve the work for everyone.
He also will be transparently sharing the financial details of the effort. At launch, he already has a net of just over thirty-five hundred dollars, mostly the remains of the commission fee for one of the original stories in the book minus his production costs to date. He has promised to update the POD version with appendices for each new set of financial data.
I have to say, all of that aside, the packaging on the various versions for sale is to a one gorgeous. The POD editions, priced at eighteen dollars US, can be had with one of four covers, painted by Frank Wu, Rick Lieder, Rudy Rucker or Pablo Defendini. The deluxe, hand bound hard cover has an original, embossed, color drawing by Randall Munroe of xkcd fame, the iconic image of Cory be-goggled and decked out in a red cape. There is also an SDHC card embedded in the cover containing all of the digital versions of the stories.
Cory is one of my favorite authors, I’ve read just about everything he’s written. He’s also tied with Randy Chertkow of Beatnik Turtle for most appearances on my podcast. If you are unfamiliar with his work, his short fiction is an excellent place to start and you definitely can’t go wrong with this anthology. He’s shared most of the stories on his podcast, all of them I’ve heard are wonderful.
I am also excited about this project because it is the most open experiment in what Mike Masnick of Techdirt refers to as Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy. Cory has turned what is usually a loss in the traditional publishing industry into a possible means for strengthening his readership as well as contributing directly to support his craft alongside his more traditional book deals with his publisher, Tor. The care that has gone into the non-free editions promises that the upgrade from any of the free electronic ones will be well spent. The fact that you can still sample his work without risk means there really is no reason not to and that if you enjoy it, you can help turn on new readers without friction.
What I am hoping happens is that the data he’s publishing feeds into further experiments by other artists of all stripes inspired by his efforts. He’s already shared many of his experiences, both successes and challenges, around this project. I think there are many learning moments to be had for anyone looking to pursue a more bottom up, peer oriented project like this, especially one with serious expectations of return on investment.
I wish Cory all the luck, as I patiently wait for my hard cover to wing over the pond to me, and look forward to an upcoming interview focused on “With a Little Help” that we’ve already scheduled for my podcast next week.