Author Puts Novel Online For Free... And Gets A Book Deal

from the but-free-never-works dept

alex was the first of a few of you to send over the story of how author Marta Acosta posted her "young adult vampire novel" online for free at Scribd, where it became a top download with tons of great reviews... and that helped her get a book deal with Tor, who will be publishing the book in hardcover shortly. Once again, another example of how "obscurity" is a bigger problem than "piracy" for most content creators.

Filed Under: books, free, marta acosta
Companies: tor

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  1. identicon
    Claire Ryan, 14 Jul 2010 @ 3:39am


    This is pretty interesting, but you should be careful to note that this is not a first time author. Acosta is already published, and has a vampire series of books out there called Casa Dracula.

    Essentially what happened here is that the novel was pitched to various publishers (by her agent, I assume) and nothing was heard about it for months. Then Acosta put it up on Scribd for free, and lucked out by getting great reviews and a lot of interest - and the editors at Tor took enough notice to believe that there was a market for the book, and bought it.

    Putting it out there on the net for free is risky - it means one less thing you can offer a potential publisher. (Ebook rights, if I remember correctly?) Most agents tell aspiring authors to never, ever do this unless it's a work you're using for promotion only, and do not expect any publisher to want to buy it.

    It worked for Acosta, and it's brilliant that it did in her case, but I would argue that this isn't a good strategy for an unknown, unagented writer. Obscurity is indeed a big problem for authors, far more than piracy, but this only comes into play for authors who have a marketable, sellable product - and very frequently, starting writers don't have that.

    That it worked for her shouldn't give them the impression that it will work for them - it's far, far more likely that it won't and they'll be left with a crappy book up online that will reflect badly on them later in their career. I should know, because I've written two books already and although I thought they were pretty hot stuff at the time, I can look at them now and recognise that they're actually shit. If I had made them available to the public back then, I'd be dying of embarrassment right now.

    This is not to say that it can't work, though. I'm pretty sure it can for a new author. But chances are that it won't.

    (If you read blogs by literary agents, you'll find out pretty fast that they're desperate for good books. They want to be the one to find the next big thing and sell it to Random House or whoever for a million bucks. But a lot of what they get from aspiring authors is just terrible; books that are badly written, unmarketable, outside their field of expertise, too long, too short, too similar to already published works. In short, they're not turning people down just because they're the evil gatekeepers of the literary world and feel like shattering the dreams of many.)

    Hmm, wall of text...

    tl;dr - Yes, this can work, but the odds are not good if you're not already published.

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