Sunday, September 7, 2008

Mike is thinking about publishing

One of the things I really want to do on this blog is exchange ideas about publishing. Specifically about getting more of Philip José Farmer's material back into print. Or into some other form of distribution. But, please understand that any ideas we may come up with have to of course be approved of by Phil and his wife Bette, and Phil's agent.

Several years ago some other collectors and I proposed to print a collection of Phil's rarities. Our idea, after discovering just how expensive it would be to actually print the book, was to use print on demand (POD) as means of producing the book. Phil's agent shot it down for a couple of reasons:

1. POD was new (at the time) and no one knew if these companies would actually pay and/or still be in business in 6 months.

2. While new authors might be trying POD, someone of Phil's stature shouldn't do this. If he did, traditional publishers would be less likely to reprint his books.

At the time the first objection may have been valid. POD was new and no one knew if the companies would pay or stay in business. Today, sites like seem pretty stable. The fact that amazon is trying to corner the POD market
, also seems like POD is going to be around for a while.

While there may still be a stigma attached to POD, does it really matter if Inside Outside, Tongues of the Moon, Dare, The Stone God Awakens, The Wind Whales of Ishmael and Ironcastle, which haven't been reprinted (in English anyway) since the late 70s or early 80s, are available this way? I mean it's not like any major publishers are clamoring to reprint these titles. And would these titles coming out via POD really affect the resaleability of the Riverworld series to a big publishing house?

I've also long wondered if maybe converting Phil's books to e-books wouldn't be the way to go. But since I hate reading more than several thousand words at a time on a computer screen, I haven't really pursued this idea much.

Another idea I had was to allow people to choose short stories they wanted in a collection, then make that custom book just for them. A lot like the idea you'll find here at Anthology Builder. Of course it would cost me a lot more to produce these single books than how they seem to be able to do it.

Here are some questions for you, dear reader:

If, via POD or some other method, I was able to reprint something like The Stone God Awakens, what would cause you to buy it? Since the book has only been out in paperback, would you only buy it if it was a trade paperback or a hardcover? (Perhaps that could be the angle, hardcover versions of books only available in paperback before. But, that means I'm selling an expensive product, $30 or more for a book you can buy used for $1; if you just want to read it.)

Would new cover art be enough for you to buy the book, whether in mass market or trade paperback?

Or would it take some new material to get your interest, like an introduction by a Big Name Author?

What about the other ideas? Do either e-books or custom books interest you?

Even more importantly, do you have any other ideas about getting Phil's work back in print? I'd really like to do something after Farmerphile finishes its run, but I just don't see what form that next project will take. Maybe you will be the one to come up with the next great idea.


Paul Spiteri said...

Hi Mike

Good questions.

POD is certainly much more legitimate now (Amazon getting involved seems proof enough).

When it comes to attracting me to buy new editions you hit the nail on the head three times. A hardback edition where only softback existed before is a big consideration (they should all have had hardback editions the first time round).

New artwork is important especially if it's by someone with an affinity to Phil's work.

Some new words would be great. Not necessarily an intro by a big name author (wouldn't hurt!) but, say, a well constructed essay on the novel in question.

Just a thought. A while back Sub Press produced an edition of The Green Mile and if you advance ordered you had your name listed in the back under 'walkers of the Green Mile' - I know Scattered Bodies is unlikley to be a project here but wouldn't it be great to see our names under the heading 'resurectees'?

Be good to hear what others think of these ideas, thanks for raising them Mike.


Anonymous said...

I suspect that the need to get more Farmer in print is to make it available to new readers more so than current fans. In that light might a publication like Readers Digest work. Condensed versions of the stories could be published like Farmerphile. I'm sure these would be of interest to collectors and would give new readers a taste of Farmer that would hopefully result in more demand for his work.
Just a thought.

Mike said...


The Reader's Digest idea is certainly thinking outside the box. I'm not sure I'd want to print condensed versions of his books...but I also like the idea of somehow whetting their appetites.

However, you raise an excellent point when you say that new readers should be the target audience instead current fans. That is something I definitely need to keep in mind.


Garzan said...

My favorite publisher is Baen. The reason is that Baen is one of the very few publishers that do eBooks right. When I buy eBooks from Baen, I don't have to have a special reader, my linux laptop works fine, my Palm PDA works fine. I don't buy proprietary formats if at all possible, since I feel if I'm buying the book, I ought to be able to read it in the manner most comfortable for me.

And as an aside, I have frequently bought print versions of books that I've read through the Baen eBook library, essentially buying two copies of the book rather than just one.

My preference is for reprints in an electronic format.

Mike said...

Garzan, Thanks for your input. If enough people say they like to read e-books, perhaps we can do one as a test.

Dan Getz said...

An introduction by PJF in which he talks about the writing, publishing or reaction would be great if he was up to it. I certainly would buy it.


Mike said...

Dan, me too! Unfortunately Phil doesn't have the energy to do this. And an introduction by anyone else talking about the book just isn't the same.

Ted Miller said...

I'd suggest a new e-book format which would start with a brief video commentary by or interview with Phil or contain a documentary about the life and times of Phil and Bette Farmer. It could include commentary by the readers. Each e-book would be linked to a myspace-like website specified for that book. This would link each e-book to a living tribute to the book and our favorite author.

Go rhab maith agat,


Mike said...

Ted, now those are some interesting ideas. I'm afraid that Phil would not be able to participate and provide an interview for each book. But we might be able to cobble something together or write a new introduction.

But I like the rest of the ideas where the e-book reader could interact with other readers of the book, reading their comments, or even full blown commentaries.

An interesting angle.

Arthur C. Sippo MD, MPH said...

There are several of phils books that are will be of great interest to Wold Newton specialists (Tarzan Alive, Doc Savage: Apocalyptic life, Adventures of the peerless Peer; Mother was a Lovely Beast, The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, etc.)

I think having them in POD and in E-book would be a great service. I know that I would want to purchase them, especially in E-book form so that searches could be made for particular topics.


Mike said...

Art, an electronic catalog of Phil's books to help make research easier is certainly a worthy goal. Great idea!

The Surrey Puma said...

As a big fan of PJF, I find it disheartening going into London's Forbidden Planet and seeing only a few books of his on the shelves.

I think it is a great idea for POD as it would mean people can order through the web site and receive from a local supplier. Not necessarily Amazon.

Not sure I like the idea of e-books, but on the other hand downloading a file to tag, read and search is a briliant idea. Along with the cross referencing. Could be that wearing my printer's hand and old fogey's one too. I like the idea of a portable non battery analogue book.

Some how you can't be a smell of a good book. I did pick up an old copy of The Stone God Awakes via Ebay UK, so there are still ways to pick up 2nd hand copies.

In some ways, if newer (younger?) fans can be pulled in then, there is more a chance of publishers reprinting. The Masterpiece series by Gollancz that has been done, is a great way to read some of the books that I search for when younger. Not sure if PJF is represented in this series?

Not sure if it has been mentioned, but a good RPG supplement might put in some younger fans? I know Riverworld was done, but some of my friends found it a bit difficult to play. World of Tiers might be an idea.

Enjoyed the website. Keep up the good work.