So my plans to publish Star Wanderers have run into a little snag…Part II was rejected for distribution to iTunes, Sony, and other retailers, with an order to unpublish both parts and republish them as one work. The order probably came because of this clause in the Smashwords Terms of Service:
9d. You further warrant the book represents a complete work:
• this is not a work-in-progress;
• the uploaded file is not a partial sample or sample chapter, or is not a collection of sample chapters, or not simply a catalog advertising other books
• the uploaded book represents a complete story with a beginning, middle and end; not a short serial
Now, I do not believe that I have knowingly violated any part of the agreement. Each installment of Star Wanderers is a complete 15,000 to 17,000 word novelette with its own arc, including a beginning, middle, and end. I have finished all four installments and only need to revise them before publishing, hopefully in a couple of months. None of them contain sample chapters from any other work.
However, up until now I have seen this story mainly as a novel published in four parts, kind of like how Tolkien originally intended Lord of the Rings to be one giant book, published in three parts. In my mind, “a novel in four parts” and “a series of four novelettes” are not mutual exclusive. Apparently, Smashwords doesn’t think so.
All this makes me wonder, though: should I just drop my plans to publish this as a whole novel and instead keep it as four separate novelettes? I intend to write a parallel series of the same events from Noemi’s point of view, and may expand that to include other viewpoint characters. Maybe I should wait to novelize this series until I can include other scenes and chapters, turning it into a substantially different work.
This kind of puts me in an awkward position, though. I’d originally planned to drop the price of Part II to $.99 after Part III comes out, and Part III to $.99 after releasing Part IV. The idea was to keep the total price of all four parts below $4.95, the price point I’ve chosen for all my other novels. But if Star Wanderers in its current form remains a series of four novelettes, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to drop the price of any one of them below $2.99 (except for the first one, which I still intend to make permanently free).
If I have to make a choice between unpublishing parts I and II of Star Wanderers and publishing it as one novel, or simply repackaging the parts that are out as separate and distinct works, I’d much rather do that. It seems a truer reflection of the overall story structure, and gives me a lot more flexibility to add more in the future.
This is a pretty big shift, though, and I worry it may offend readers who expected me to drop the price according to the previous plan. I really don’t have any excuse for that: it’s entirely my fault for misreading the Smashwords TOS, and I apologize.
For newsletter subscribers, though, I still plan to make each subsequent release available for free for the first two weeks following publication. That’s a promise I made to my readers, and I’m not going to go back on it, no matter what I end up doing. And if I do repackage Star Wanderers as a series of novelettes instead of a novel in four parts, I’m not going to make any substantial changes to the actual story of Part I or Part II–just the titles, and possibly the author’s note at the end.
All of this is still in the air, though, so if you have any ideas or suggestions to offer, I would very much like to hear them. I still have a lot to learn as a writer, and the publishing landscape is changing so quickly that I really have no idea what I’ll be doing even a year from now.
The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll still be writing.