Monday, November 9, 2015

$150,000 for an Eve-O Novel?

Last week The Mittani started a KickStarter for a Eve-O book about the Fountain War. The book is actually going to be fiction set against the stories of the players who engaged in the war. Sci-Fi non-fiction as Mitten's calls it.

My first thoughts were "HOW MUCH?" when I saw the $150,000 goal. That is a lot of money to ask for. Then I read on. Whilst I'd never heard of Jeff Edwards he is clearly a very accomplished writer. I noted he'd received the Clive Cussler Grandmaster Award for Adventure Writing back in 2008. If you've ever accidentally clicked on my fiction tab above you'll see Clive Cussler is listed at the top as one of my favorite authors. Given that, I've just gone and bought Jeff Edwards novel Angel City Blues to see what he is like.

Back in April last year Andrew Groen asked for $12,500 to fund the Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online. He reached that in seven hours. In the end just under $100,000 was pledged. I had no idea that so much had been raised. I saw his talk at Fanfest 2015 and was impressed.

However the Fountain War book isn't going so strong with $30k as I write this and 27 days to go to get the other $150k. 

A few people have been posting that $150,000 is a lot of money. Yes it is. However thinking about it, for a professional author and to get a book created of a standard like The Empyrean Age or Templar One, I'm not sure it is that much. Its broken down on the KickStarter page:-

60% Author Expenses (normally covered by a publishing house)
20% Publishing and Distribution (including editing and proofreading)
10% KS and processing fees
5% to Merchandise
5% to Marketing

When put down like that, it doesn't sound as bad. Actually for a professional author and a proper job, that really does sound about right.

I'm not sure if it's the money putting people off. So what is it? Maybe Grrrrrrrrr Goons?

I avoid the Eve Online forums, I really do. I had a quick visit just now to search for the phrase "Fountain War Book". Before I hop in the shower to try and scrub myself clean, I did find this post where the OP is immediately questioning what support CCP are giving The Mittani. The topic is even entitled "What is CCP giving to The Mittani?"

Is the big problem with this KS campaign the amount of money, the fact it is fiction or is it simply "Grrrrrrrr Goons"? Will that stop it reaching its potential?

I need that shower now after visiting the Eve-O forums, then I'm going to start reading that Jeff Edwards novel I just bought. Then I'll decide whether to join the other 500 or so that have so far backed the KS campaign. Now after doing my research I am more inclined to now that the John Rouke style "HOW MUCH?" has worn off.


  1. For me, it's the money. I know ballpark what sorta money authors get in advances, and what publishing actually costs including editing. And that is a stupidly huge amount of money for a novel.

    20% for publishing and editing is $30,000, that's insane. A good freelance editor now days will cost a couple thousand, we'll say 5 and that's well past the average. So 25 for publishing. Which isn't unheard of, but only if they're trying to go mass market and get the things in all the brick and mortar bookstores, and if that's the case they're selling the kickstart push for this novel to the wrong people.

    60% to the author is 90k. And that is outrageous for an advance. Even as a work for hire that's stupid money. There are authors that make that sort of money and more, but it's from the backend. Unless they happen to be real world famous or someone who's a perennial bestseller, they'll never see that sort of front end advance.

    The only reason to charge that much on the front is because they don't think it'll sell, which if that's the case why are publishing costs so high?

    1. Keep in mind, it says "author expenses"...That can be looked at one of 2 ways, a single author, or multiple authors. We don't know how much of that 90K the failed lawyer is pocketing directly.

    2. The reason to charge that much is because anything less and it won't be worth the author's full time employment for the next year. He's not going to write it as a favor to us, so it has to be worth him working on it instead of his normal job, so it's up to us to show that the EVE community wants an EVE novel.

      The thing is, the cost for buying the actual book isn't extortionately high, so it seems to be irrelevant how much they intend to raise to make it a reality. The question you have to ask yourself, is "is $10 for digital or $15 for paperback worth it for an EVE based novel written by a good author". To me the answer to that is an overwhelming yes.

    3. @Vince Snetterton
      I imagine very little, since that "failed lawyer" is rich enough to not care about a share of 90k. Careful, your tinfoil is showing.

    4. Someone pointed that, at 150,000 $, if successful, it would be the largest Kickstarter for a fiction book ever, the current record being 118,000 $ IIRC. That's "why" 150,000 $.

      Yet with the book being essentially a subscription book (one that's gonna sell only to subscribers who put money forward), the goal is outrageously high.

      As has been pointed a few tiems, even in the largest battles in EVE, 90% of the server population was doing something else. Big battles are small events compared to the server population, so a book about a war in EVE is gonna be of little interest to that 90% who never attended a battle.

      Seeing how the kickstarter performed until now, probably they'll fall short of 60,000 $. Which still is a lot of money, more than enough to make a book about anything...

    5. @Anonymous I don't expect him to write it for us as a favor. I expect him to be compensated for his work. But Mittens & Co are selling this as standard practice. "... how much it costs to pay an award winning author...". Well, it isn't. Most authors have a full time job to make ends meet. Edwards does because it's the one they're talking about him going part time for during the writing process of this novel. Only a very lucky few get to pay their bills exclusively from writing. That Edwards isn't one of those should tell you something about how out of the ordinary that sort of payment that 90k is. Granted, once taxes are taken care of it'll be about half that... authors do not do well with tax season.. but still. This whole situation is anything but "... how much it costs to pay an award winning author...".

      Awards are cheap in publishing, there's a thousand award winning authors out there, of major awards, that couldn't get a novel published through the system if they had to. Why? They don't sell. Think of all the authors with an amazing novel or series who finished up their run and then puttered out to quiet obscurity never to be heard from again. I very literally have a thousand books by authors in boxes stuck in a closet that fit that description perfectly.

      This is not the way publishing works. It's not even the way e-publishing works. Here's what is actually happening. The old standby saying. "Cheap, Fast, Good; pick two.". Mittens' picking Fast and Good with a sky's the limit budget that he's asking us to finance.

    6. Oh, and yes. 10 dollars for a digital copy and 15 dollars for a paperback is a lot for a novel by a good author. Because they aren't going to get the thing financed on 10-15 dollars a pop for those. Look how well the official Eve novels sold, on a very minor fraction of the playerbase bought them, and the playerbase was bigger then.

      Now, CCP did an absolutely horrible job marketing the things. They marketed them to us and that was about it. Amazon's auto recommend system did a better job than CCP did on the last one, "You bought this early.. this new one is out.. do you want to buy it?". I knew CCP commissioned the last one, but I found out when it was released and got the back cover blurb from an automated system. So surely they can do better than that... I hope. But they are not giving the right noises in the right places preaching to the choir that is us that they're really taking it seriously.

    7. @Halycon
      "But Mittens & Co are selling this as standard practice"
      It is standard practice. The author is currently working as a defense consultant. For him to stop doing that for an entire year + kickstarter fees, editing, publishing all the books, etc, that is going to cost a lot. The price is set at a level that guarantees him a certain payout so it's worth his time, and it's up to buyers to decide if they want a book written about EVE. Apparently they don't.

      "10 dollars for a digital copy and 15 dollars for a paperback is a lot for a novel by a good author."
      For the books I've bought that's pretty low.

      "Look how well the official Eve novels sold"
      The official EVE novels absolutely sucked.

      At the end of the day, people keep going on about the total goal, but that's completely irrelevant. The only relevant question is "would you pay $15 for this book". If they answer is yes, pledge. If it's not, don't bother. If they get enough interest to make it worthwhile to them, then they will make it.

    8. @Anonymous

      Please, pretty please. With sugar on top. Show me a publisher that actually cares about an author needing to lower their hours at another job to finish a novel. I'll wait. They'll work with the author, but for the most part finding time to finish the novel is the author's problem.

      Because let me say this again and I'll restate it in an easier to digest form. I'll even capitalize it and use small words.


      It is not standard practice in publishing.

  2. I think the big problem I have with it are the rewards and the costs. They're bloody expensive for what are essentially Mittens ego-stroking nonsense.

  3. If Tony Gonzales would kickstart an New Eden related book, $150.000 would no doubt be discussion.
    Concerning a(ny) goons from the Something Awful forum, non eve born community, doubts are raised.

    Regards, a Freelancer


  4. I recommend his book, "The Seventh Angel," I picked that one first, his style makes for a great read and his technical details satisfy my technical appetite as well!!! Those on the fence, the EVE Community won't be disappointed...this is for all of EVE!!!!

  5. The 60% for author is to allow the book to be written sooner than later, about posts are correct. But they are trying to fast track the project...most titles take years to develop and yes, the authors maintain other employment. But they they are hoping to get the work out in much shorter time frame.

  6. Like halcyon said, writing generally pays very poorly. While I support anything that leads to writers being paid more, I just want to put that $150k ($90k to the author himself) into context.

    In 2013, the average income of professional authors (those for whom writing is their primary job) in the UK was £11k ($17k) a year from their writing alone. Hence why most authors, including jeff edwards, work two jobs.

    Based on typical royalty rates, a book would need to sell about 50,000 copies to earn its author $90k. The average book in the US sells 3,000 over its entire life. Even if you only consider books with major publishers you're still talking around 10,000, and jeff's publisher (stealth books) is not one of those. They operate from a WordPress site and explicitly state that they're not mainstream. $90k then in incredibly good pay for writing.

    It costs more for a best selling award winning author, though. Right? Well, yeah, but that doesn't necessarily mean what you'd think it means. Many awards are very niche. The adventure writers award for example (organised by the Clive Cussler collectors society not the man himself) seems like a fairly small outfit which only accepts unpublished novels and those which have sold less than 5,000 copies. Best seller is also quite poorly defined - there's nothing stopping you calling yourself a best seller (at least so long as you're not claiming to be a NY Times best seller or equivalent), and the few stats that I can find for jeff's books don't look anything like best seller levels. Correlating against goodreads ratings for example, I'd make a ballpark guess that he's sold in the low thousands.

    All that said, I'm certainly not against eve players paying $150k if that's how much they think it's worth, and I certainly support the majority of that going to the author (normal paperback royalties are as low as 7.5%). It is, however, well above the market rate and I can't help feeling that it might have been priced based more on what they thought they could get, rather than what they thought it would cost.