An Experiment's End

Some of you may not know this about me, but by day, I am a scientist. No, really. I wear a lab coat and safety glasses and do calculations and stuff, occasionally all at the same time. Take my word for it: it's very impressive.

Years ago, when e-readers first transitioned from the early-adopter fringes to the mainstream and debate in the book-world turned to the artistic and commercial viability of self-publishing, I had no idea where I stood on the topic. So, ever the science-nerd, I decided to conduct an experiment. At the time, I had a number of short story credits to my name, and many of those shorts were out of print. I decided to bundle eight of them into a collection and put it out dirt-cheap, just to see what happened. That collection was 8 POUNDS.

I was fortunate. 8 POUNDS was well-received. It got some great reviews from critics and readers both, and was even nominated for a Spinetingler Award. And while I didn't get rich off of it, it sold well, too. So a few years later, when I'd amassed a set of new short stories, I put out a second collection, this one called DEAD LETTERS.

Folks seemed to like DEAD LETTERS, too. In fact, it won The House of Crime and Mystery's Reader's Choice Award for Best Short Fiction Collection. It sold a little less than its predecessor, in part no doubt because it cost more (it was longer and contained a previously unreleased tale, so the price seemed warranted to me), and in part because e-publishing had exploded in the years since 8 POUNDS was released, so it had a lot more competition. Still, between the two collections, I'd count my experiment a success.

I never intended, when I released these books, to put them out solely for Kindle. At the time I published 8 POUNDS, iBooks wasn't a thing, and Nook's upload interface was too buggy for this technological idiot to wrangle. And when I put out DEAD LETTERS, it seemed easiest to simply stick with what I knew. Credit where credit's due: a few formatting hiccups aside, Amazon really does make it easy to put out e-books, and the fact is they sell way more of them than does their competition.

Lately, though, I've been thinking a lot about the ramifications (whether intended or not) of publishing my short story collections with Amazon and Amazon alone, and what it means now that I'm an author with a few books under my belt and more coming (the latter from a subsidiary of Hachette, no less). I've come to the conclusion that providing what amounts to preferential treatment to Amazon is disrespectful to the other vendors who peddle my traditionally published wares, be they big box booksellers or scrappy indies, as well as to readers who choose not to do business with Amazon.

That's why I've removed both 8 POUNDS and DEAD LETTERS from Amazon. As of today, both are officially out of print. (Uh, e-print?)

Understand, this isn't me taking a stand against The Evil Empire Amazon. Like most people these days, I buy stuff from Amazon. I've also profited from others doing the same, and hope to continue to in the future. But when I pondered reformatting my aging e-books such that I could sell them elsewhere, it just didn't seem worth the effort. The internet is a Great Content Machine after all; without adding anything new to them or sprucing them up a bit, they'd likely be lost to the noise, and rightly so. I don't want to insult my audience by half-assing a wide release.

Perhaps these collections will surface again sometime, in one form or another: updated, reformatted, and bursting with bonus materials. Perhaps not. But in the meantime, if you'd like a copy of either, drop me a line at chris[at]chrisfholm[dot]com, and I'll send you a PDF copy, free of charge. Consider it an experiment in marketing.

EDIT (5/24/2015): All good things must end. After a year of sending copies of 8 POUNDS and DEAD LETTERS to anyone who asked, so too must my e-book giveaway. If you're interested in the short stories featured in these collections, stay tuned. I'm sure they'll resurface in one form or another.