My wee experiment at playing publisher continues, although at a somewhat reduced rate given I have to write a seriously complicated novel between now and next August. Fergus Bannon's novel Judgement is still on sale at Smashwords, and it's been selling steadily, if not spectacularly, although I'm already getting emails from those who bought it telling me they'd have happily bought it at full price; which is no news to me since I happen to think it's a knockout piece of work you should all be reading.
All of this unexpectedly became an opportunity to play around with the tools of modern zero-cost online publishing and all that it offers, as well as all that it promises, which is almost certainly considerably more than it can actually deliver; nonetheless, I've noticed one or two out of print novels, including at least one one-time bestseller, popping up on Smashwords, which appears to be going from strength to strength.
After spending a bit of time reading up on online promotional methods, I decided to also set up a website for Fergus, modelled roughly after this one. It's called 'Neurological Intervention For Beginners', and it's very much under construction at the moment, so some of it's still a little bare bones and uncompleted. Nonetheless, I put the complete text of the novel up there, so if you're still too shirty to either sign up to Smashwords or part with cash, you can at least see what I'm on about. Also up there at the moment is Burning Brightly, Fergus's one and only appearance in Interzone way back in 1993. You can still, of course, buy the complete book in ebook format for $2 (about £1.40) at Smashwords.
The thing I have noticed - and this will of course surprise no one - is that the book's sales are entirely dependent on online mentions. Every time it's been mentioned online, the sales have briefly spiked. First there's a spike in downloads of the 50% sample from Smashwords, then within a day or two there's a spike in actual cash sales that gratifyingly trails only slightly behind the number of freebie sample downloads.
It occurs to me that there's a better way for me to explain why I think you should be reading the book. It involves a bit of history, specifically relating to GSFWC, ie the Glasgow SF Writer's Circle, which I first attended in the winter of 1990. Fergus was already a member, as was a very young and callow Hal Duncan. The circle also featured Duncan Lunan, a frequent contributor of non-fiction articles to Analog, and author of Man & The Planets, which was huge in the early to mid Seventies. Right place, right time, as they say. Also present was Mike Cobley, whose fourth novel Seeds of Earth was recently published in the UK. Two other members, Jim Steel and Paul Cockburn, are frequent contributors to Interzone, while Neil Williamson, who's had a fair number of stories published in that magazine and elsewhere, has a short story collection out and co-edited the anthology of Scottish SF Nova Scotia. And let's not forget Bill King, author of numerous novels for Games Workshop.
And in the middle of all that is Fergus, whose career stalled way back when, not because he wasn't as good a writer as the rest of us, but because sometimes shit happens. If not for fate, Fergus's books would have been up there on the Waterstones sf shelves next to books by me, Bill, Hal and Mike. That is why $2 for the ebook is an extraordinary bargain. Buy it. Or read it online and, if you like it, tell people about it.