Writer Richard Herley Gets Bad News

Teleread chronicles it:

March 6, 2008
Well-regarded U.K. writer Richard Herley offering The Penal Colony and other novels as shareware

“As far as I know, I am one of the first mainstream writers to adopt this publishing model. It somewhat recalls an earlier age, when the arts were supported by patronage and subscription; in operation it is indistinguishable from the modern model of shareware.

“I believe this is a better way of funding authorship: the conventional model is inefficient, bad for authors and new writing, and unduly expensive for readers.”

May 13, 2008:
Share the ware but not the wealth? Nonpaying readers dash U.K. novelist Richard Herley’s shareware hopes

So what are the results of the experiment after three months? Despite 11,000 downloads of The Penal Colony and other titles, Richard got paid by a mere 25 people for 89 books.

May 20, 2008:
No Free Lunch Department: U.K. novelist Richard Herley takes shareware book site down

Richard Herley, a prize-winning U.K. writer of such lively books as The Penal Colony, hoped that the shareware model would work for his novels. It didn’t, at least not as he saw it.

Now he’s taken RichardHerley.com down and disabled the related e-mail address since he doesn’t consider the hassles to be worth it.

I doubt he will ever read this post, but still.

Richard, you have just made a big mistake.

This is the year ebooks will really begin to take off.

Next month Apple will open its AppStore for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Things will be exploding on the ebook front as e-reading software is offered for those devices.

Suddenly, millions and millions of people who otherwise were never exposed to ebooks in an easy way will have a chance to experience them.

What you’ve done is started a race and the fog on the track has obscured the Finish Line for you and so you’ve given up. Ignore the goddam fog! It will pass.

When you began as a writer, did you expect instant success? (Please dear god be one of the realistic ones who replies No!)

Then why should you expect anything different when acting basically as your own publisher?

Forget that figure of 11,000 distributed. That really is meaningless.

In fact, I’m shocked that the figure is so damned low. (And no, you do not get to claim torrents; those too are meaningless, unless you’ve done a movie.)

How did you promote this new move of yours? Did you try to get the attention of mainstream media? Did you try to get on radio talk shows to spread the word? Did you distribute any press release? What did you do other than the equivalent of dumping a bunch of books on a street corner with a handscrawled sign declaring, “Please take and pay if you read it and like it”?

Hell yes I’m coming down hard on you.

Because your action is going to influence others!

I never got to your site, so I can’t comment on that. I don’t know what it was like or what you were doing there or how often you updated it. Was it anything like John Scalzi’s site? Or was it more a promotional vehicle that lacked a personal touch? (Oh, I could name names, but then I’d never be able to face some of the writers I list here!)

Christ, man, what were you in it for? Giving up after three months?! What the hell is that?

Do you know how far behind I am personally in my own reading? Part of it is because I’m not yet doing ebooks. Rothman has educated me on the evils of DRM and lock-in file formats and I’ve seen too many teleread people comment on their ebook investments being lost. And I can’t buy any more print books because it’s been hellish just packing and transporting what I already have during moves. So I’ve been using the New York Public Library — where I’ve now got a collection of fines about the cost of two hardcover books.

I looked you up at the NYPL (where I turn first when I’m interested in a writer). Let’s see:

Um … you’re not there. Why not? (Don’t scream “Go to the next screen!” at me. The next screen begins with Herlianey!)

I go to amazon (my backup lookup, but I really should use bn.com, dammit). The results are not happy. Out of print in the U.S.?

Well, that’s even worst news. Imagine if you’d gotten — let me go temporarily insane here — 250,000 copies distributed and 25,000 people who paid.

Do you realize how much money you would have also lost? Because those ebook readers wouldn’t have been able to go to a store to buy a printed copy to give to their non-ebook reading friends.

And if you had gotten that hypothetical distribution and paying result, do you think it would have impressed a major print publisher? You’d have been pissed on as either a fluke or seen as a minor-leaguer. (“Wait. You tell us you’ve won awards and you could only sell how many?”)

You say you’re sitting on a thriller. For Christ’s sake man, get back in the game and release that.

Speaking personally, looking at the descriptions of your past work, most of it doesn’t appeal to me. Stone age people? Historical dramas? Uh, no.

But a thriller, a mystery?

Learn the lesson that Tom Piccirilli did:

I’ve been a horror writer since I was twenty-one or so. And despite having written in just about every genre across the board, I always felt like a capitalized HORROR WRITER who just dabbled in those other fields. I’ve never quite understood those authors who only write in a single genre. I would think that most authors are inherent readers who read widely throughout all the breadth of literature. Since I read a little of everything, it’s only natural that I write a little of everything. One of the reasons why we do what we do is because we want to impress ourselves upon the grand annals of the fiction that we enjoy so much. You read a book that amazes and awes you, and you think, I want to do this too, I need to become a part of this thing.

But over the past couple of years I’ve drifted further and further away from the core genre I always felt most attached to.

The older I’ve gotten the less interest I’ve had in writing fantastical work and the more I’ve turned toward realistic fiction. Now I think I’ve actually become a CRIME WRITER, or maybe better put, A WRITER OF DARK AUTHENTIC STORIES, THE SHIT THAT MIGHT HAPPEN, THE SHIT THAT DOES HAPPEN.

He’s a damned good writer with many books behind him (read his other blog entries).

Out of all of that work over all of those years, how did I happen to finally find him? By one of his few crime fiction novels. And what sealed the deal was that Ken Bruen wrote an introduction to it. (Ken Bruen was the one who introduced me to crime fiction; I never considered reading it before I came upon his The Hackman Blues. I thought anything with the label Mystery was the stereotypical drawing room mystery; as dull as most of the “mysteries” American TV has presented under that label.)

So that thriller? Get it the hell out there. It could the one that saves you.

Get your website back up. Keep pounding at it. Don’t let the site look like a “I’ll do it when I feel like it” whim. If you are serious about staying a writer, get serious about your future. Ignore the print publishers. They haven’t a clue (just ask Rothman!).

Dickens, Balzac, Poe, Nerval, Dostoyevsky and many others would have jumped at the chance to liberate themselves from print publishers. You live in an age they never imagined. Are you going to pass up such an incredible chance?

Get back in. Do it now!

Previously here:

Writer Harlan Coben Shares His Favorite Link Ever
Orson Scott Card Rips J.K. Rowling
Quote: J.D. Rhoades
Quote: Ken Bruen
More Words About One Thousand True Fans
J.K. Rowling Trial Ends
M. Dylan Raskin: The Curse Of The Writer
Reference: Author Magazine
J.K. Rowling Is In NYC For Her Silly Lawsuit
Warren Ellis Twists My Dendrites
Mark Billingham: Writer, Crime Victim
Harlan Coben: Writer’s Perspective
Quote: Warren Ellis (Again)
Writers Don’t Fear The Future: Publishers Do!
Red Room: Social Net For Writers
Quote: Warren Ellis
Quote: Jean Rhys
More On The 1KTF Matter
When One Thousand Means Over Fifty Thousand
Harlan Ellison (Again)
I’m Infecting You
Self-Published Ebook = DIY Or Vanity?
A Spirit That Can Conquer The World
Self-Confidence Vs. Self-Delusion
More Writers Getting Screwed
Iain Banks Interviewed
Defensive Pessimism: Part Of The Real Secret
Quotes: Benn Jordan
Edgar, The Fount
Quote Fight
Quote: J.K. Rowling
Quote Goodness
A Quote To Learn From
You Go, Ringo!
Harlan Ellison
Why Don’t More People Read?
More About Trent Reznor And Saul Williams
Hollywood’s Worst Nightmare: Obsolescence
DIY Book Marketing
The New School: Saul Williams Vs. Trent Reznor
Trent Reznor Meets Real Life And Weeps
Print Publishing Is In Self-Destruct Mode: eBook S.O.S.
Writers: Laugh Last, Laugh Best
Video Vitamins For Our Souls
Who’s Flogging Their Work Online?

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One Comment on “Writer Richard Herley Gets Bad News”

  1. Cliff Burns Says:

    I agree that Mr. Herley jumped the gun by pulling the plug on his e-book venture. I’ve had hundreds of people around the world downloading my novel SO DARK THE NIGHT and while only a few have used my voluntary “Donation” button, that was never the point. Mr. Herley’s main complaint seems to be that he’s not making any MONEY. I never got into writing for the dough. I’ve been at it nearly a quarter century and, with a few exceptions, my yearly take rivals that of a Third World sweat shop worker. Doesn’t matter. I’m looking for readers, not profit. It would be nice to make a decent wage for the enormous amount of work I put into my writing but it’s a compulsion, a necessity (like breathing) and I’ll write no matter where I am, what the circumstances are, rich or poor or living in the gutter. The art is the thing, the ability to express myself even in “defiance of all the world’s muteness” (to quote Mr. Nabokov). I understand Mr. Herley’s frustration but if making a tidy profit is his motivation, I’m afraid he’s probably in the wrong line of work…


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