Author Michael Stackpole: I don't worry about pirates

Bestselling novelist Michael Stackpole says he's making great money selling fiction directly off his site; he doesn't worry about pirates, "People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never going to buy them anyway. It's no money out of my pocket." and "He even admitted to downloading some of his own books from bittorrent sites if he didn't already have a digital copy, saying it was far easier than scanning it in himself."
Rather than simply changing the method of delivering stories to readers, Stackpole believes digital formats will change the nature of the stories themselves. At the very least, authors should tailor their work to these new mediums. He cited what he referred to as "the commuter market," people who read two chapters per day on their half hour train ride to work. It's an ideal market for fiction broken into 2,500 word chapters, and could presage a resurgence of serial fiction. "It's kind of like a return to the Penny Dreadfuls," he said. "But the readers today are more sophisticated, so we as writers need to put more work into it."

It was interesting to hear the formulaic way Stackpole approaches writing. He described how the method of writing old pulp stories could easily be adapted for modern audiences by eliminating certain ubiquitous but unecessary subplots and adding a bit of character development. A serial detective story should be, "70 percent case, 30 percent soap opera," with a little more soap in a later story to satisfy readers interested in a character's developing personal life.

Even amidst all this embracing of change, Stackpole reassured his audience that digital formats were not sounding the death knell for paper books. "Cars did not kill off horses. Digital publishing will not kill off books. It _will_ change the way they are written and retailed."

The Best Way To Break Into Science Fiction Writing Is Online Publishing


  1. The thought of a general, technologically-mandated return to plot-focused fiction, after centuries of experimentation, development, and improvement, saddens me. But then maybe we’ll be getting an explosion of short, lyrical Robert-Walseresque writing too? A resurgence of poetry?

  2. “People downloading my stories from the big torrent sites were never going to buy them anyway. It’s no money out of my pocket.”

    I’ve never understood why people who create books, movies and music worry about this. Do they worry about libraries? Mine has a well stocked DVD and CD section too, and nothing beats the bandwidth of a library.

    Places where people could get content for free have existed for about 5000 years that we know of. Why start a culture war over it now?

  3. “He even admitted to downloading some of his own books from bittorrent sites if he didn’t already have a digital copy, saying it was far easier than scanning it in himself.”

    Lords, yes. That’s been a big revelation over the past ten/fifteen years. I want to find out when in the Harry Potter series a certain dialog exchange took place? A few minutes of downloading and searching give me the answer.

    Unfortunately, my behavior has made J”K”R a homeless begger…

  4. Oh man I remember reading this guys stuff back when he was writing for Battletech. Good Times.

  5. Except for a slightly grayer beard, Mike Stackpole doesn’t look much different than when I used to run into him at game conventions in the ’80s!

    Mike has “come around” to some extent; he used to worry about folks reading library copies of his books.

  6. Of course authors shouldn’t worry about piracy because reading a book on a computer sucks versus reading an actual book.

    Musicians and movie studios should worry because listening to music or watching movies in an easy-to-pirate digital format doesn’t suck.

  7. Mr. Stackpole actually lives in my area (Greater Phoenix Metro somewhere), I’ve met him numerous times at conventions as well as seen him around at local pubs. He’s a very cool, very smart guy as well as a great writer. I think this just proves that even more. I’ve never been able to understand why so many SF writers are such luddites, or worse – DRM advocates – when it comes to computer-based distribution. And the bit about d/ling his own books rather than scanning them? Genius!

  8. @3: Margaret Atwood called librarians the moral equivalent of car thieves. This did not endear her to librarians

  9. I live in a neighborhood where you can’t spit without hitting an author or someone in the publishing industry. At parties I’ve been saying that in the future books will be either cheap and print-on-demand, electronic, or expensive beautifully designed and crafted art objects, and that publishers will soon become irrelevant but you will see the rise of superstar editors and designers.
    Nobody has disagreed yet.

    And yes, I live in Park Slope

  10. Stackpole is great. I read his Star Wars books years back when I was in grade / high school.

  11. As a teenager, I remember some of his work in gaming; Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes and the CRPG Wasteland. I once had the fortunate time of getting to chat with him briefly at a gaming convention, and heard him speak of a sequal to Wasteland that was being worked on that had time travel in it called, “Meantime”. It never got finished. Still pretty cool to get to listen to him.

  12. Another happy mutant smiling over Mr. Stackpole’s Battletech books. And lest we forget…X-Wing ruled the school.

    And it’s not ‘Margaret Atwood’. Her friends call her ‘Peggy’. I had an English prof who never let us forget that. “I was just talking to Peggy last night…”

  13. Stackpole is my hero, even before this article. He has always been a forward thinker.

    I know it’s old school but, I’d love to see another Battle-tech novel by him…

    …oh to dream.

  14. I havn’t thought about Michael Stackpole in years! Good times!

    I think I may have to dust off my copise of the Blood Of Kerensky Trilogy when I get home tonight!

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