Barbara Hambly sequel stories to download for $5

One of my favourite fantasy writers, Barbara Hambly, has written some stories set in universes that the publishers cancelled and is placing them on her webpage as downloadable PDFs for $5 each. There are a couple of Benjamin January stories and a 15,000 word Antryg novella.

She says:

This is an experiment. As pretty much everybody knows, fantasy serieses get dumped by publishers—and as pretty much every author knows, other publishers generally do not fall over themselves to pick up these abandoned serieses.

That doesn’t mean the author doesn’t want to write about those people anymore, or that fans of the series are not longer interested.

These people are very real to me. I like them.

I also like being able to pay my medical insurance.

Thus—at the urging of those who’ve loved my old Del Rey fantasy serieses—I will continue to write original short stories about the people and places in those serieses: Antryg and Joanna, Sun Wolf and Starhawk, the gang at the Keep of Dare, John and Jenny, the Sisters of the Raven… anyone whom I’ve written about in previous books.

I love the Antryg books, The Silent Tower, The Silicon Mage and Dog Wizard in which an evil wizard is trying to make a copy of his brain run in CP/M. The world is on the cusp of an industrial revolution, with connections to our world (in the eighties) and very interesting magic. I’m also very fond of the Benjamin January mysteries and most especially the Sun Wolf and Starhawk books—The Ladies of Mandrigyn and sequels. If you are also interested, you may well want to check this out.

I think this is an interesting experiment in the set of things people are doing with fiction online—are people going to pay $5 for individual PDF stories? The economics is interesting.

If she’d sold a 15,000 word original fantasy novella to a magazine she’d have received somewhere between $750 (5 cents/word) and $3750 (25 cents/word) for it. You’d need 150 people paying to better that first figure, and 750 to better the last. It’s not hard to imagine far more than 750 people paying $5 for a story in a series they enjoy. There are also a lot of people who wouldn’t pay that—a whole novel is only about $10 in paperback, or in an electronic edition, and a PDF is an unwieldy thing to be locked into. But she doesn’t need all the people in the world to download it, if she gets a thousand she’ll be well ahead. This goes against the general trend of putting things online free as free samples, but she’s also doing it with sequels to existing series. I really have no idea how well this is likely to work. I suspect a number of authors will be watching with interest.

It might be worth noting here that Hambly’s fantasy worlds always have very designed economies.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.


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