When a Book Makes You Jump for Joy!

When Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Fledgling was published, I was ridiculously happy.

Links: Lee & Miller Homepage; Baen Books; Meisha Merlin; Liaden Universe; Miles Vorkosigan;

Not because it was a new Laiden Universe novel, although that is in itself a triumph.

Not because it is a good science fiction book; “good” is in the eye of the beholder and I’m sure some folks will hate this book. (Rule of thumb: if you like the Miles Vorkosigan books, you’ll most likely like these.)

Not because the authors seem to be nice folks, and I having a book on sale means the increased possibility of more in the future.

Nope, this one is cool because I helped make it happen, albeit in a tiny way. How you ask? I’ll be happy to tell you. But first some back story may be in order…

Lee & Miller have written a bundle of books across a lot of years set in the Liaden Universe, and they are beloved by a group of science fiction readers. They are not, however, large mass-market success; at least that is my intuition based on how hard it has been to keep their books in print.

After initial market penetration with a mainstream publishing house, they were dropped before finishing the series. Then, there was the magic of the Meisha Merlin rebirth. Meisha Merlin was a small, independent publisher that republished all old the Liaden books, plus several new ones. It was tremendous!

Then Meisha Merlin went belly-up in “owing-authors-money” mode. Sigh. No more Liaden novels soon, or so I thought.

Then, sometime in 2006, Lee & Miller tried a new thing. They wrote a new novel, the aforementioned Fledgling, online. One chapter a week. Free to read.


The catch? They wanted $300 donated for each chapter. Each time they received $300 dollars, they would crank out a new chapter. So, they cautioned their readers, it might take a while to finish, if it finished. How much would loyal fandom donate for a book that in theory might not get finished?

A couple things worth noting. First, Lee & Miller had kept feeding their fans by putting out two-story (usually) “chapbooks” each Christmas season — these have become known as the Yule Chapbooks. I always jump for joy when mine arrives. Secondly, they promised that the first thousand people who donated $25 or more would get a signed copy of Fledgling if it was ever published, be it as trade paperback (seemed most likely), mass market paperback, or hard cover. Of course there was no guarantee it would ever be published, but still, it was a nice carrot.

The result? They got their donations in very quickly, and “declared a draft” at somewhere around thirty chapters.

My records show my contribution in December of 2006; I don’t remember the exact date the serialization started, but I do know that I waited every Monday at noon for the next installment of Theo’s story. When the sequel to Fledgling was announced, Saltation, I was in a position to donate $300 in one shot, covering a chapter. Worth it to me.

Fast-forward to several weeks ago: Baen Books released Fledgling in hard-cover with Saltation to follow. Fast-forward a bit more: last week I got my personal signed copy in the mail.

I didn’t do any of the hard work, write anything, talk about it with other fans, nothing. I read the book as it was drafted, and donated a sum I could afford.

Still, I cannot tell you how happy I felt when I held that book in my hands.

So cool!

So to Steve and Sharon, if I (and all your other fans) haven’t said it enough: Thank You!!!!!!!!!!

(And keep writing!)

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2 Comments on “When a Book Makes You Jump for Joy!”

  1. uninvoked Says:

    Wow. Congratulations on helping an author stay in the publishing world. With the current financial climate, that is no small thing. Your donation may not seem like much to you, but it may well have been the difference between a great book disappearing forever, or staying just as long.

    You should be very proud of yourself. You did a great thing.

    • designbygravity Says:

      I’m proud; I know it is mostly ridiculous, yet proud I am. And I didn’t do anything but the smallest part! Lots of other folks did more than I did. But I am still proud. Hee!

      I will say, I am way *more* proud of Lee & Miller for trying the experiment and making it work.

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