Sorry for the bad pun. Moving on. Almost two weeks ago, Tor.com announced its plans to launch a new imprint, simply called ‘The Imprint’. My first and most immediate response was something along the lines of, “Oh sweet! New stuff from Tor.com!”
But then the devil on my shoulder chimed in: “Woah there turbo. Careful. Random House put out a SF imprint back in 2013. Look at what a mess that turned out to be. It seemed the general opinion was that it was the worst thing around, but there was so much discourse surrounding the subject, it was impossible to determine which head to swing at.”
Finally the angel manifested itself upon my other shoulder. “But . . . Tor.com” came its feeble reply.
The devil spoke again. “And what of Simon451 announced back in January. Have you heard one lick from them since their announcement?”
It was time to take back the conversation. “A) That argument doesn’t make any sense and B) it’s only been 4 months.”
The devil hrrruummped loudly while the angel just continued to look feeble. I suppose I need to work on that side of my personality. I probably also need to lay off the Groovey Bears.
Anyway, here are 5 (medium legit) reasons why I think Tor.com’s Imprint will be stellar:
This first reason, for me, is probably the most exciting. I’ve long thought that both Science Fiction, and Fantasy, have been suffering from a bit of an abundance of exposition. Basically, writers (and readers too) get so wrapped up in the process of world building that it can be hard to focus on the arc of the plot. Or even care about it for that matter. It’s obvious to me that some writers enjoy creating the world more than the drama taking place within it. The setting can be an amazing aspect of a story provided it is original and well thought out. Unfortunately, both of these requirements are not always met, in which case the excess page count can become quite burdensome.
I’m thinking, that the just-longer-than-novellette page length of The Imprint’s stories will give authors the freedom to invent some truly inventive worlds, but also some truly compelling plots.
2) It’s ok, there will still be serials.
I’m always refreshed to read a one-and-done these days. But while I hope most of the stories released in this format will be singles, I know well the appeal of serialization. More money for the authors. More money for the publishers. And the readers get to experience a great feeling of catharsis at the end of a long series. They truly (and I mean truly) get a feeling of accomplishment when they reach the end. Some series I’ve read have perhaps felt more like mourning but then later, nostalgia, which is equally important and powerful.
I don’t think these feelings will go away with smaller page counts. Smaller chunks are more digestible. Who knows, they may be able to string us along for even longer! 😀
3) Diversity in the type of stories we will see.
There is really two points here. I know I’ve been harping on the page count, put I really feel that the page count represents a market niche. A market niche which I feel has been untapped because of production costs. It hasn’t been worth the cost (speculation here) to print something in this range, especially for stories that will not be serialized. However, the digital component makes this seemingly irrelevant. Stories can be as long as they
want need to be and there is no significant cost difference. Storage is cheap.
The immediate benefit I see here is for stories which have already been written but are cut from the market because of the costs mentioned above. Those stories now, suddenly, have a place to live and a place where readers can find them. The long term effect is that authors (and again readers) will eventually be conditioned to write/read stories of this length, and then creativity can really flourish as writers begin challenging whatever standards arise.
4) Seems a pretty safe bet.
Tor.com seems to have put a lot emphasis on the fact that it will use The Imprint to explore ‘new’ publishing models. However, in my mind at least, there isn’t a lot that’s new here. Sci-fi and Fantasy both have had a rich history of publishing novellette length works in the past. I think what’s really new here is the digital-first aspect of the imprint which smaller presses and independents have been rocking for quite some time now. In my mind, the path is already been cleared, Tor.com is just finally deciding to take it.
5) If the price is right?
The success of The Imprint will largely depend on how they price their product. Tor.com is known for giving authors good money for their work (50 cents a word I think). Originally, I assumed that this would keep prices of the e-novellettes/novellas high. However, as I mentioned before, Tor.com will not be taking the hit on production costs so the profit for them will still be high. The Imprint can probably bring down the cost of the product and still make a good amount of money. Lower price, more sales, and more supply of writing because authors are after the higher price per word. Seems like the price is right to me.
There is really no doubt in my mind that this new imprint from Tor.com is a good thing for readers, authors, and the publisher alike. In the press release, Tor.com mentions the rich legacy of Tor Books and how The Imprint seeks to carry this legacy into the new market. In reality, despite the 5 reasons I’ve stated above, I believe it is this legacy that will make The Imprint a success. They brought me The Wheel of Time, Old Man’s War, Mistborn, and most recently the Stormlight Archive, Little Brother (just getting around to this), and Three Princes. I can hardly keep up with the amount of short fiction they publish, but Kai Ashante Wilson’s SuperBass and Richard Park’s Four Horsemen, at Their Leisure are two of my favorite short stories . . . ever. A quick Google search showed me that Kai Ashante Wilson has recently put out a novellette length story, The Devil In America. Perhaps The Imprint is already at work? Either way, I can’t wait to see what The Imprint has in store for us, and am anxious to see what other companies will do to compete. In other words, we have lift off!