Broken Mirrors
a serial novel by TA Pratt

Postmortem Post

I thought I’d do a little postmortem post, largely about filthy lucre, since it might be of use to other people considering such online serial projects, and of interest to others. Prepare for some transparency.

I have no idea how many readers I had, but I had 215 readers who liked this project enough to donate. (I’ve heard from several others who plan to buy the print edition or e-book versions rather than donating, too.)

Gross donations came to a bit over $13,700. (For Bone Shop I only made about $4,000 in donations. I think offering fundraiser prizes was a huge help this time.)

The average donation was about $63.86; the median donation was $35; the mode was $10. The donations ranged in amounts from $1 to $2,000. (The latter donor will get a chapbook with a new Marla Mason story written just for them, about a character of their choice. I’m already working on it, and it will either be called “A Void Wrapped in a Smile” or “Thirteen Views of Joshua”.)

A dozen people paid the minimum $300 necessary to have a name of their choice Tuckerized in the text. (And every one gave me a great and interesting name to use!) That option was more popular than I expected.

Paypal’s cut of the transactions worked out to around 4%. Taxes account for another third or so. Sending out fundraiser prizes, including postage, will run me a fair chunk of change, too. I imagine postage alone will run me around $500, and I had to pay for the comic I commissioned, and I have to buy copies to send out (I get a good author discount, but still), and pay to print the chapbook, and etc. But that still leaves a lot of healthy profit.

In total I made about 30% less on this Marla book than I did on the previous volumes, which were purchased by Bantam Spectra. Though since I didn’t have to pay my agent’s (always well-deserved!) commission on this project, it’s really only about 20% less than I got from Bantam, in terms of net income. (My agent will get a piece of the print sales, as she negotiated that contract for me.)

My readers, thus, paid me about 80% of what the world’s largest publisher used to pay me. (Hell, it’s a fair bit more than Bantam paid me for my first novel, The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl.) And based on how well my previous project Bone Shop has done as an e-book, I’ll almost certainly exceed that amount once the Kindle edition of Broken Mirrors starts to sell.

My generous donors paid for my kid’s preschool all year, and health insurance payments, and helped dig us out of the hole left by my wife being laid off for half a year. Their support has made this a financial success… but it’s been an artistic success, too. I found a way to continue telling a story I care about passionately, and to satisfy my fans, in a way that would otherwise have proved impossible.

I’m not planning to become a self-publisher exclusively. I’ve sold four other books in the past year, to publishers large and small, both original and work-for-hire novels. (None of them have been announced, either because they’re pseudonymous work-for-hire or because contracts are now being nailed down.) I’m still happy to work with the industry’s editors and marketing people, who labor greatly for not enough recompense. I hope to sell original books to major publishers again in the future, even if it’s under a new name. My experiences with Bantam Spectra were almost uniformly positive, except for the bit where they dropped me — but they laid off my editor and reorganized the imprint out of existence first (it’s Ballantine Spectra now), so in many ways, I was just an ancillary casualty. Plus, frankly, given the way sales diminished over the course of the series from a pretty healthy book 1 to a pretty lackluster book 4, it didn’t make sense financially for Bantam to keep publishing me… but it turns out it makes sense financially for me to keep publishing myself. (Though I had the advantage of an existing fan base for an ongoing series, which is not to be underestimated. Had I tried to start my career with online serials… I doubt it would have worked out so well.)

Self-publishing has been better to me than I would have imagined possible. Which is why I’m trying it again with my science fantasy adventure The Nex. I hope some of you will check that project out, too.

And next year, assuming I have time, I’d like to write a sixth Marla book, about her life in exile, and a bunch of people trying to kill her.

This has been an amazing experience. I’ll post one more time at least, next week, to point to the Kindle edition when it’s for sale. (I’m trying to get other e-book versions available too, but the Kindle is the easiest, so that’ll be first.)

Thanks again, everyone.

11 Responses to “Postmortem Post”

  1. Warren Ellis Says:

    [...] Author TA Pratt did a donor-funded online serialisation of a novel, the fifth instalment of a sequence whose first four books were published by Bantam Spectra. The postmortem numbers are very interesting. [...]

  2. Elsa Says:

    *le sigh* I’m not sure mainstream American culture is ready for Marla, alas, with her unapologetic independence and ferocity. I wouldn’t be surprised if the series is on some feminist lit reading list in the 22nd century, but for now… maybe people were expecting some Anita Blake-style “character growth” (a.k.a. man-collecting)? Anyways, I’ve said this before, but it’s a damn shame the series was dropped. And I’m insanely happy that you found a way to continue it in a way that was worth your efforts and time.

  3. PHil. Says:

    Don’t know if you noticed but the postmortem got picked up by Warren Ellis. http://www.warrenellis.com/wp-trackback.php?p=10396

    Hopefully you’ll get some extra readers (and donors) from his legions.

  4. Gary Says:

    I’m glad that the serialization was a viable method of income. It at least guarantees us more stories! Win-win all around :)

  5. Mur Says:

    So glad to hear this worked out for you, and thanks for the frank and honest debriefing. I’m heartened at your success and will be attempting my own similar project soon, so thanks for blazing the trail.

  6. Ilona Andrews Says:

    A very thought provoking post. Congratulations on such loyal readership and thank you for sharing your experiences.

  7. Helen Stubbs Says:

    Hi Tim,
    I am super impressed by your creative delivery, business method, and your honest financial transparency.
    Helen.

  8. Kendall Says:

    I’m happy this worked out for you–both for you, Tim, and for us, since it sounds like we’ll probably get another Marla book. ;-) (I’m hoping that even if you don’t have time next year, that you might do one at some point.)

    Thanks for sharing the financial information; it’s fascinating.

  9. Von Says:

    Glad it worked out Tim. I’m interested to read The Nex and will cast a vote for a 6th Marla novel.

  10. Daniel Says:

    As long as you keep writing Marla novels I’ll keep donating. I’ll say it again, she’s like no character I’ve encountered before and I love her and her universe. I’m excited to read your next project (Nex) but I’ll always want more from my favorite urban witch.

    Best wishes and please keep writing. You and your characters are amazing.

  11. Siobhan Says:

    While I am SUPER happy this worked out so well for you (80%) honestly I’ll donate as long as you keep writing Marla books!

    I look forward to the new series and hope for the best for you and your family.

    GO FOR MARLA #6!

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