As I’ve hinted at before, once I finish rewriting Way With Worlds over at Seventh Sanctum (and republished here) I plan to wrap it up into a book. Admittedly this could be quite a ways away since it is not just a rewrite but adding everything I learned in the last ten-fifteen years, so my guess is I may be doing this for up to a year longer. However, at some point I want to take it, re-edit it, maybe add a bit more, and do it as a book.
(Also possibly to take a break as this is pretty intense).
Anyway the reason I plan to turn this into a book:
- I think it’d be pretty useful.
- People who read the column in the past had commented on the value they got from it, and one had even printed it out.
- It helps preserve knowledge, which I wrote about previously.
I was discussing this with Serdar, and mentioning some of his past reviews and writings, and future plans. He’s quite adept at reviews and writing, and I thought maybe he should consider something similar. He noted he wouldn’t, as some writing is appropriate for a book, some isn’t, some things are good to put in print, for others being on the internet is enough. Plus some things aren’t appropriate to charge for.
This discussion (which admittedly also included snow, anime, and “Guardians of the Galaxy”*) got me thinking about my past commentary on the ethics of saving our work and putting it in other forms. My previous writings on the subject may have missed a few things and not been complete enough – and since many of us write and blog and draw, it’s worth exploring the subject of putting our work in other forms (and possibly charging for it).
The Core Point
The core point of my previous discussions was “is the work that you created, that provides benefits, available to people.” I felt that bundling work up, making it available, syndicating it, etc. gave it wider exposure. Therefore it was not just good as a writer, but as an act of citizenship to ensure your creations are available (I also covered what happens when you create crap).
So I would say that if your work is beneficial and available, then maybe you don’t need to worry about bundling it up, republishing it, etc. It’s done and is properly available.
Now you may need to consider that putting it into other formats and making it accessible in different ways – if you think your works will do more good. There’s a chance they won’t or it’s not worth the effort. If your blog is doing fine, it’s not something to consider, for instance.
In short, bundling/republish/what have you just may not do anyone any good.
On the other hand if you think it will do good, then there’s a very good reason to make the effort. If, say, your geeky work includes a huge list of useful cosplay tips that would be good in an book or an alphebetized eBook, then go for it.
Of course the next question is “should you charge for it,” especially if it was free on the internet. I’d actually address that next
Charging For That Which Was Free
As I’ve noted before, I actually taken blog posts and rewritten them or used them as seeds for other works. Sometimes a blog is a rough draft, or you learn so much the core work can be expanded. Either way, you may wonder if you should charge for it.
My take is that there’s no problem with it if:
- The contents are extremely new or rewritten or updated. In short, if there’s additional value provided.
- If the contents are un-altered or not significantly altered, you are honest about this. In short, tell people what they’re getting if it is not changed significantly (make the value clear).
- If there’s important or useful additional work (such as historical commentary), cultivation, and other additions to the original work.
- If the work has value in the new form. For instance my above example of extensive cosplay tips would be very useful in a kind of handbook (and come to think of it, make a heck of a CHristmas gift).
- If the work itself brings value period.
- The price is reasonable – though that’s a place of argument, period.
A grand example of this, to me, is the work of Dave Barry, the humorist who was a big influence on my writing. Even though I read him back in the pre-internet days, his talent and the quality of his work, and its relevance to history, mean the books that just compile his columns are quite valuable in many ways. Had he been a blogger at the time, and posting for free,I think it is safe to say books of his works would be quite appropriate to charge for even though they’d be reprints.
I am of course, biased, but I am noting the value. Also it means I can read him in the tub.
So no, I have no problem if one is clear and appropriate about charging for works in new forms – based on the above factors.
However, monetized or not, I do still want to encourage one thing – preservation.
Preservation As Publication
One thing I wanted to re-encourage people to look at, in “bookifying” their past works is simply that it makes the work further available in another form.
Yes, things on the internet seem like they’ll be there forever, as we all know when that embarrassing fanfic arises to make you feel like a complete ass. But these things may not always be available, they may be hard to find, they may get lost in the searches, they may not get to the right people. I’d say barring an unthinkable disaster, we’re probably going to have the internet with us in some form when we voyage to the stars**.
But bookifying things, putting them into a physical form helps preserve your works, your knowledge, and your effort. It can reach others, it can be found without an internet connection, and it can last. It can influence people much later – and best of all it’s compatible with all technology.
So I’d like to put the idea in mind that perhaps you could preserve some of your works in a book not for sale but simply to print out a bunch of copies. You can give them to friends and family, or fans and co-workers, or donate them to libraries. You can make sure things last.
(Oh, and as I harp on, they look great to give away in interviews if they’re appropriate.)
That’s worth doing with your good works.
Moving On . . . For Now
So I think perhaps I’ve said my peace on publishing, geek citizenship, and the ethics of transitioning works into other forms. But I’m sure there will be more in the future . . .
– Steven Savage
* RACCOON WITH MACHINE GUN RIDING TREEBEARD VIN DIESEL.
** Possibly with the help of uplifted raccoons. I just waned to put that out there.