With a Little Help launch!

At long last, I have finally launched my self-published short story collection With a Little Help.

With a Little Help is my first serious experiment in self-publishing. I've published many novels, short story collections, books of essays and so on with publishers, and it's all been very good and satisfying and educational and so on, but it seems like it's time to try something new.

You see, I've always released my work under open licenses from the Creative Commons project, so that my readers could share and remix my works. A good number of these readers wanted to know why I didn't distribute the physical book as well, and see what a writer working on his own could do.

So here you have it. With a Little Help, consists of 12 stories, all reprints except for "Epoch," which was commissioned by the Ubuntu project's Mark Shuttleworth for $10,000 (this being the most expensive option for buying the book -- don't worry, there are cheaper editions). The book is available in many forms:

* Paperback, on demand from Lulu.com: $18.
Available in four covers, with art by Frank Wu, Rick Lieder, Rudy Rucker, and Pablo Defendini (who also did the book's design, working from John Berry's wonderful typography). Every month, I add a new appendix to this edition, detailing my balance sheet for the project, as a service to others contemplating a similar venture.

* 250 super-limited hardcovers: $275.
These are hand-bound at the Wyvern Bindery in Clerkenwell, London, and printed by Oldacres of Hatton Garden. Each book has original paper ephemera (see Flickr set) donated by various writer friends to the project, and comes with a SD card bearing the full text of the book as well as the full audiobook.

* Audiobook: MP3 CD $10. Ogg CD $5.50.
I tapped many voice actor friends (Neil Gaiman, Mur Lafferty, Wil Wheaton, Leo Laporte, Emily Hurson, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Hugh AD Spencer, Mary Robinette Kowal, JC Hutchins, Roy Trumbull, Jonathan Coulton, Spider Robinson, Jesse Brown, and Russell Galen) to record the stories in this volume, and their recordings were mastered by John Taylor Williams, who also masters my podcast. (Podcasters, see here)

* Free electronic editions: Free.
The full text of all the stories in this collection is available as free downloads under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, meaning that you can copy them and make your own versions, but you can't make money off them and you have to let others remix your creations. The audiobooks are likewise available as free downloads on the same terms.

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  1. Cory, what would you suggest if I don’t want a physical copy of anything, but would like to give you money? Is the idea here that physical copies are the only kind of product you’d like to receive money for? I’ve liked the “optional payment” schemes for electronic editions I’ve seen some authors/musicians make available.

    In any case, looking forward to the new story, and any of the reprints I haven’t yet read.

    1. Fine with me! You can have it gratis!

      But if you want to pay it back — now or later — you can always donate cash to me or buy a copy of the book for a school or library (see the site for links).

      Cory

  2. I’ve heard that it can be hard for authors to get their money out of lulu.com. I don’t want details that should remain private, but as your dealings with them develop, could you see your way clear to sharing your informed perspective on whether you think it’s a good option for independent publishing?

  3. Purely out of curiosity — not a complaint, I swear! — how much flexibility is there on the paperback pricing, Cory? $18 seems high for a paperback (at least in the U.S., where $10-$13 seems to be the norm.) This might be a big hurdle for self-published authors — scale might help publishers bring down costs for readers. Would it be cheaper if the book was not on-demand? (I understand that this would involve some financial risk for the publisher, obviously…)

  4. Cory, to me this seems very brave. I am jealous though too. As an aspiring writer this gives me something to shoot for. One thing that gives me pause/I’m curious about is how you vet what you publish in this fashion. When writers try to “get published” they have that (possibly false) validation. I find nothing more valuable in writing than a second or third set of eyes. How do you decide what work is something that should be published and what should be er… rejected? Sometimes it happens the other way too. Writers can be their own harshest critics. I seem to recall an anecdote about one of Stephen King’s (and maybe David Foster Wallace’s also) works being rescued from the dustbin by his wife. Who do you rely on for an objective opinion about your work?

  5. Cory, to me this seems very brave. I am jealous though too. As an aspiring writer this gives me something to shoot for. One thing that gives me pause/I’m curious about is how you vet what you publish in this fashion. When writers try to “get published” they have that (possibly false) validation. I find nothing more valuable in writing than a second or third set of eyes. How do you decide what work is something that should be published and what should be er… rejected? Sometimes it happens the other way too. Writers can be their own harshest critics. I seem to recall an anecdote about one of Stephen King’s (and maybe David Foster Wallace’s also) works being rescued from the dustbin by his wife. Who do you rely on for an objective opinion about your work?

  6. I would like VERY much to see an overall breakdown of value of each component part of production per a livable wage (ex – union wages for readers, printing, design etc.) and weighing THAT against your profit margin.

    Thanks

  7. Yikes, $18 for a 360 page 6″ x 9″ paperback. That seems a bit excessive when compared to your other books. The paperbacks of your other works range from $9.99 to $15.95 list price (the hardcover of For The Win is 1/3 longer and retails for $17.99 though Amazon discounts it by quite a bit).

    What does this then say about your experiment so far? Is the state of technology such that creating the physical print object is still too expensive for an individual to do on this scale? Are other formats better suited for self-publishing authors? Will you publish future print editions through Lulu or go back to traditional publishing houses?

    1. The original price was $15 — but because of the way Lulu is structured, adding an ISBN (which is a requirement for library sales) added another $3/book.

  8. Astonished that you didn’t print-on-demand it with Lightning Source instead of Lulu. It’s way cheaper. Lulu is just a bit too expensive for retail books.

  9. Astonished that you went with Lulu rather than Lightning Source. Lulu isn’t quite a vanity press, but it’s oriented towards ‘amateur’ self-publishers, such as diarists, genealogers and the like. You can’t publish at a reasonable price and still make money from your books.

    Lightning Source is harder to work with, true, but it’s much cheaper to get the books printed. That’s where ‘professional’ self-publishers go.

    1. Lightning Source couldn’t handle any of the quick-change stuff I wanted to do, like changing the interiors 10-50x a day for the first week as typos got spotted — later I want to try short term ad inserts, bonus material, etc. None of that is possible with LS, which doesn’t really work like a PoD in that there is fairly high amt of friction between editions.

  10. Cory, as you mention you released your work under open licenses from the Creative Commons project, i’m a bit puzzled why my hardcopy of little brother (Harper Voyager)states: Copyright 2008 by Cory Doctorow. no mention of Creative Commons. I always thought one had to go with traditional copyright or a creative commons license?

    1. Anon, copyright is the right to control how you licence use of a creative work, and Creative Commons licences are options for how to do that. They don’t mean giving up copyright (except for ‘CC0’).

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