Waaaaaaaay back in the dark ages, when I was writing Masks as a series of adventure stories primarily for my own amusement, I would often meet people who told me I should consider becoming a professional author. Never mind this high-school serial nonsense, they told me—write a novel! To shut them up, I made up a plausible-sounding story. I told them that I was only writing this silly little serial in order to build up an audience, so that someday I could walk into some publisher’s office, slap down the manuscript for the great American novel, and say, “I have _______ million monthly subscribers, and they all want to buy a copy of this novel from you. Let’s talk advances.”
Now, I wasn’t actually writing the series as any kind of marketing experiment. I was writing it because I genuinely enjoyed it, and because my friends genuinely enjoyed it, and because total strangers genuinely enjoyed it and sometimes e-mailed me to tell me so. But people who didn’t understand writing for love could understand writing for money, and it satisfied them.
Now, to my great amusement, I find I am actually going through with my stupid idea.
It works like this. On May 1, 2010, I am going to post an all-new, never-before-seen short story set in the Masks universe. It will also be available in limited-edition zine format at Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, California. Both versions will be available free of charge, in honor of Free Comic Book Day. The story will feature new characters, new situations, and all kinds of goodies. I’m going to post it to Scribd in a PDF file, where it will be available for you to read or download. I’ll post a link to that Scribd page on this blog, and on the Facebook and MySpace pages, and anywhere else I can. Now, Scribd keeps track of the number of reads and downloads each file gets—it doesn’t keep any more specific information than that, but I can see the raw number of people who look at my stuff. So if you download the PDF, and you repost the link and get your friends to download the PDF—well, I see a whole bunch of people downloading my story, but I don’t get any information that will allow me to spam you. I just see a number.
Wouldn’t it be something, I ask myself, if I could walk into that publisher’s office with that number and say, “Look at all the people who downloaded my most recent short story on its first day online!”? I think it would get some attention. After all, publishers live and die by early adopters—the people who buy a book in its first few weeks on the shelves. That’s the kind of data that can land a book on the bestseller lists, or consign it to midlist oblivion. A good-sized crowd of early adopters might make the right people drool just enough. If they adopt early enough.
Now, I know you might not feel like downloading the story on that first day. I feel like I’m imposing by asking you to rush right out and download something, even if it’s free. But I think I can make it worth your while to hurry.
How’s this? If you download the file on May 1, you’ll find a little something extra in there, after the FCBD story. Say, a couple of scenes from the novel? Maybe even the expanded versions? I’ve got a honey of a scene showing Trevor on his last day as a sidekick that probably won’t get into the book in its entirety, and I’d be willing to throw that in to sweeten the pot. Maybe a little glimpse of Rae’s secret origin, too. Or some Masked Rider action—there’s a great scene where the Rider gives Rae a lift, and they have a hilarious conversation as she’s trying to figure out how to jump off a moving horse. And I’ll throw in some previously unreleased artwork as the cherry on top. Does that sound like it’s worth 30 seconds of your time to download a PDF file at some point on May 1?
Of course, if the Internet breaks and you can’t make it online until after Free Comic Book Day, the regular version of the story and its regular goodies will be available. It will, in fact, be a permanent link on this blog. But all those extra goodies will be reserved for those willing to help me make New York salivate.
You don’t have to buy anything. The file will be utterly harmless—a standard PDF, no technological monkey business. Heck, you can delete it as soon as you download it if it offends you for any reason. So can your friends, relatives, coworkers, and total strangers you recruit on the subway. I’m willing to give you something just so I can brag about how many people I gave it to.
So—to recap. I post a free story online that can be downloaded whenever you feel like it. And if you download it the day it comes out, you’ll get extra scenes that will give you a sneak peek at the book. That last is a reward just for downloading on the first day. You get a truckload of free stuff. I get to brag about how many people took my truckloads of free stuff. That’s the deal.
What do you say?
Oh, and there will be another fan contest in this blog on Monday—an Internet scavenger hunt. First reader to correctly answer all the questions gets an autographed copy of the zine. Just in case there wasn’t enough bribery on this blog already …