Tor has posted an interesting article on Tor.com covering Tor Books president and publisher Tom Doherty’s presentation at BEA today. First of all, he discussed the aftereffects of removing DRM from Tor books. He said much the same thing Tor said at the one-year-mark. Citing Baen’s example, he noted that “…the lack of DRM in Tor ebooks has not increased the amount of Tor books available online illegally, nor has it visibly hurt sales.”
DRM, Doherty held, was a disruptive barrier that got in the way of readers, writers, and communities making connections. Getting rid of it has helped Tor push forward in supporting its writers in the ways it always has wanted to. Doherty gave the example of the free novella-sized paperback sampler of the first Wheel of Time book given away to fans and bookshops as the kind of thing Tor liked to do. It’s also helped let Tor experiment with new formats, such as serializing John Scalzi’s latest Old Man’s War book.
And, Doherty announced, Tor is going to launch a new (DRM-free, of course) Tor.com imprint for publishing novellas—mainly electronically, but also via print-on-demand (and possibly even some traditional print publishing) and audiobook formats. Doherty said:
“…we see it as a way for science fiction and fantasy to sort of reclaim the length of the novella, a format that I have always felt is a natural form to science fiction. A format that was very important when magazines were dominant in SF readership but which has almost disappeared as that market declined. A format we used in building Robert Jordan into the #1 epic fantasy novelist of his day. Readers have a wide range of reading appetites in regards to the length of a story, a range that a book publisher and a printing press can’t necessarily always react to economically.”
The press release for the Tor.com imprint has more details. Tor says it has worked to make the contracts as author-friendly as possible. It will offer the choice between a traditional advance and royalties, or no advance but higher royalty rates, based on net receipts, paid quarterly.
Essentially, it looks like Tor is once again leading the way in trying to innovate in e-book publishing, this time trying to shift itself toward a more self-publishing-like approach to publishing. It should be interesting to see if this works out. The question is whether Tor can become enough like self-publishing for authors to find it worthwhile to go with them instead of going it alone. Given the latest from Author Earnings, that’s a pretty good question.
Sadly, not many other publishers have even followed Tor’s lead in dropping DRM yet—not even the other imprints from Macmillan. It’s been two years, guys, what’s taking you so long?