1/28/2012

Brain In A Jar Books

So, about that secret project.

I had a minor epiphany just before New Year when I realised I knew a number of writers with works that had been 'resting' for quite a while. By 'resting', I mean, out of print or not actively making them money or helping them to maintain their profile. I'm talking about ebook publishing, of course. I know people who have books that have been out of print for a good long while, or have had a variety of stories published in the pro SF press. It seemed a shame that none of it was available for the Kindle.

Bill King, a fellow Glaswegian (though now resident in the Czech Republic) has recently been enjoying quite a bit of success putting some of his work online, particularly novels that have sold in translation but not in the English-speaking market. One of the lessons he's learned - and that is becoming a standard wisdom of the new era of independent ebook publishing - is that it's not enough to have just one book, or even two, for sale on sites like Amazon or Smashwords. You really need several, since those who like one book by an author (typically the first in a series featuring a central character) are likely to go on and buy the next, and the next, and so on. A cumulative effect can be achieved by regularly producing work - much as it does in traditional publishing. Whether that same effect can be achieved with a number of disparate authors published under a common imprint is another matter, but it's worth a shot to find out.


I've since spoken to a number of professional authors of my acquaintance about getting some of their work online, as part of something I'm calling Brain In A Jar Books. As a result of my enquiries, authors who are going to be published by Brain/Jar include Angus McAllister, Michael Cobley, Duncan Lunan and Fergus Bannon. All of them are pros, some with long publishing careers.  There are one or two other well-known writers who may have work forthcoming through Brain In a Jar, but until certain negotiations are complete, I can say no more.

Of course, I'm not the first to do something like this. Keith Brooke is already enjoying considerable success with his own Infinity Plus Ebooks. Like Keith, Brain in a Jar is something I do in my spare time, and there's nothing I could really call a regular 'release' schedule. When a book is ready, out it goes into the wild. Mike's is already up on Amazon, and more should follow in the next week or two.

Here's a quick look at what you can expect to be seeing from Brain In A Jar in the coming weeks and months:

Iron Mosaic, by Mike Cobley - a collection of short fiction by the author of the Shadowkings and Humanity's Fire trilogies, currently still available in hardcopy format by Immanion Press (who kindly granted us permission to release this ebook edition in the UK). The book was first printed in the mid-2000s, before Mike won the contract to write the Humanity's Fire trilogy. For the moment, Iron Mosaic will be available only in the UK, but it's already out, at the special introductory price of £2.

The Cyber Puppets, by Angus McAllister. Angus is the author of (amongst others) The Krugg Syndrome and The Canongate Strangler. Angus has never been the most fortunate of authors: The Cyber Puppets was due to be published by Big Engine several years back - only for Big Engine to go out of business, just two weeks before the book was due to be printed.

Also forthcoming in the reasonably near future is With Time Comes Concorde and other stories, by Duncan Lunan. Duncan is the author of non-fiction works such as Man and the Planets, a runaway non-fiction bestseller when it was first published in the 70s. Since then, he's published fiction as well as a huge number of non-fiction articles for leading US sf publications such as Analog and IASFM. With Time Comes Concorde will collect four linked novellas first published in Analog and IASFM.

Finally, there's going to be a collection of short stories and essays by Fergus Bannon, most of which originally appeared in Interzone and sundry other publications, and whose novel Judgement acted as a kind of guinea pig when I published it on Amazon a while back. Since then it's done extraordinary well, and I can't tell you how pleased I am to see it getting the attention it deserves. And, indeed, if it wasn't for it doing so well, I don't think BIAJ would be happening.

If you want some indication of the quality of work we're going to be bringing to you, you could do a lot worse than check it out. It's also been 're-released' as part of the BIAJ family, although all that really means is that the cover has been redesigned to match the overall look and feel I'm aiming for with these books. When you see a Brain in a Jar Book, so my thinking goes, it's immediately recognisable as such: a house style, if you will.

Some of you will be aware that in a previous life I was a graphic designer. Not a particularly gifted one, to be frank with you, since my ability to originate art is pretty much minimal-to-zero. What I can do, however, is glue pre-existing things together in a hopefully attractive and interesting fashion, while also mucking around with typography, and so on, in order to make something stand out. And one of the great advantages of creating online material is that it can be done for essentially no cost. The ebooks are formatted and outputted using Scrivener, a paid copy of which I do own. The ebook covers, however, are all done using open source software and public domain or creative commons images (most of what you see was done using Inkscape, an open-source alternative to very expensive software such as Adobe Illustrator). I make no great claims for these designs as works of artistry, but I do like to think they stand out.

And that's just the start, really. The books are to be priced between 99 pence and £4.99, in most cases tending strongly towards the middle of that range. There's a dedicated blog/web page at braininajarbooks.wordpress.com where details of forthcoming releases will be posted, as well as here. 

6 comments:

Merlyn said...

This is a great idea, though I'm wondering if you'd also make these available in epub format as well? The kindle is great, but I'm a proud nook owner.

Merlyn said...

For example, I've been waiting for your books to be available for the nook on the Barnes & Noble site. I came across the Shoal series in the library and loved them, but I look forward to also having them on my nook. Incidentally, I'm a huge Yes fan, as you must be too. I've seen them 15 times in concert over the years, starting with the "Drama" tour.

gary gibson said...

Merlyn - the books are all DRM-free, so even if you download them as Kindle format, it'll be very easy for you to use Calibre to convert them to epub. As for my own books, I believe they should be becoming available n North America sometime later this year. You may be already available to buy them in epub format on bookdepository.com, but you'd have to check, as I could be wrong.

And yes, I am a fan of early to mid-period Yes, particularly the Close to the Edge/Fragile period. So is Kim Stanley Robinson, I believe. The inspiration for the miniature worlds in Stealing Light came from the cover of Fragile.

paulfcockburn said...

I think you're being quite modest about your design abilities; the important thing is that you've come up with an uncomplicated, visual brand which still allows a degree of flexibility. Great work; hope it goes well for you and the authors.

Daniel Livingstone said...

Wow - great news and great idea Gary. Any chance of the Krugg Syndrome coming out as an ebook or are the rights for that tied up? If it was available I'd be recommending it to folk like crazy!

gary gibson said...

Daniel - As a matter of fact, Gus is in the process of getting the rights to Krugg Syndrome back from the publishers. Assuming that works out, it will be coming out from BIAJ at some point in the future. But I don't want to big it up or talk about it too much just yet until we find out how things work out. Cyber Puppets will be out in the next week or two .