Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

To serialize a sequel?

by Rob - February 27th, 2009.
Filed under: Publishing, Wake, Watch, WWW.

Over in my Yahoo! Groups newsgroup, Martin Bennedik wrote:

I read Wake on my phone by downloading the ebook version of Analog from Fictionwise. Not only was the novel excellent, but I found this was a good way to get the book early and in a format which allowed me to take it with me on my commutes.

So I wonder if there is any chance for Watch being serialized in Analog, too?

Thanks for asking. I’m not planning to offer Watch to Analog. It was great publicity for launching the series to have the first volume serialized there (I did the same thing with the first volume of my Neanderthal Parallax series, Hominids), but I’m not sure it makes business sense to cannibalize overall book sales of the entire series.

Analog has about 26,000 readers (paid circulation in 2008); if they all bought the paperback (not the hardcover, just the paperback) of Watch, my income would be $18,000 in royalties … whereas Analog would pay $4,000 (at 4 cents a word) for serialization rights.

Of course, not all Analog readers will love Wake enough to want to buy Watch, but some number will. Still, even with relatively conservative numbers, it might in fact be best for me personally to sell the serialization rights (assuming they’d want them) to Analog. Some plausible sounding numbers:

1 out of every 10 Analog readers decides they liked Wake well enough that they want to read Watch, too. Of those 2,600 people, three-quarters are content to wait for the paperback and one-quarter spring for the pricier hardcover.

Then the math looks like this (my paperback royalty from Ace is 70 cents a copy; my hardcover royalty is $2.50, on the first 5,000 copies and more thereafter):

((2,600*75%)*$0.70)+((2,600*25%)*$2.50) = $2,990

But that’s what I get. What about my publishers (Ace in the US, Penguin/Viking in Canada, Orion in the UK)? What’s their share? On serialization rights? Nothing at all. On book sales, well, they doubtless make at least as much profit as me per book sold (even after they bear all the expenses, too — printing, distribution, promotion, editorial costs, etc. etc.).

Yes, I could sell the serialization rights without their permission, but my publishers have advanced me a lot of money for the book rights, and I owe it to them to help them earn that money back. :)

(I do think that serializing the first book is good for everyone — me, Analog, and my book publishers, because we have 26,000 people who have read the book now before it comes out, and they can provide good word-of-mouth for the series when the first volume starts appearing in stores next month. But I’m not sure it makes sense to serialize later volumes.)

However, fear not: unlike Tor, which has been crappy about getting my books out as ebooks, Ace is vigorous on that front, so you’ll certainly be able to read Wake, Watch, and Wonder electronically.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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