BookViewCafe.com and the New Publishing Model

by Sue Lange


Book View Café (www.bookviewcafe.com) is a newly-launched authors’ collective with a membership that includes Ursula K. Le Guin, Vonda N. McIntyre, Sarah Zettel, Jennifer Stevenson, and Laura Anne Gilman among others. These writers are taking advantage of a new Internet publishing model to get their out-of-print or otherwise experimental work into the hands of the voracious Internet reader. The opportunity promises to be win/win for both reader and writer.

Book View Café (BVC) began by offering fiction for online reading only. Members uploaded mostly serialized novels, short stories, and flash fiction. Recently the group stepped up efforts to diversify by publishing downloadable ebooks by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, Brenda Clough, Sylvia Kelso, Phyllis Irene Radford, Sarah Zettel, Laura Anne Gilman, Vonda N. McIntyre, and Sue Lange.

Ursula Le Guin’s unusual offerings include a screenplay (“King Dog”) and a series of comics (“Cat T’ai Chi,” “Pillow Books for Cats,” and “Supermouse”). Le Guin is using Book View Café as a way to try new venues. “I'm increasingly interested in graphic stories and novels -- I like them best on paper, where I can relate to the drawings more physically and the pacing of the narrative seems to work better,” she says. “As for King Dog, my ‘screenplay for the mind,’ it had been out of print for years, and I didn't see much chance of a publisher picking it up. I thought it would be interesting to see if the somewhat unusual narrative method would appeal to the adventurous souls who come to BookView Cafe.”

Vonda McIntyre’s Nebula and Hugo winning Dreamsnake has just been released at BVC as an ebook. “Dreamsnake has been caught in one publisher melt-down or another for most of its existence. I'm glad to have some control over how it's published, and I'm glad to be able to make it available to readers again,” McIntyre says. She also plans to post a screenplay at Book View Café. “It will be fun to publish ephemera such as my screenplay for ‘Message in a Klein Bottle,’ the 5-minute movie that Kat Ogden made for the 72-hour film competition in Tacoma in May 2009.”

To increase awareness of the site, the member authors are active in the online community. In addition to posting at the group blog (http://blog.bookviewcafe.com), they participate in  chat rooms and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. They’ve done the Mind Meld at SFSignal (http://sfsignal.com/index.html), a group chat at Writer’s Chatroom (http://www.writerschatroom.com/), and panels at Flycon, the Internet-only SF convention that took place around the clock, around the world, during the weekend of March 13th. Most recently BVC held a twitter-fic contest (http://twitter.com/bookviewcafe) in conjunction with the release of Pati Nagle’s new book, The Betrayal.

Since launching the website in November of 2008, BVC has received an impressive amount of support. During the first week of operations, Guardian Online (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/ booksblog/2008/nov/19/fiction-sciencefictionfantasyandhorror) awarded them “site of the week”. Ever since then, the site has been steadily building traffic. At this point they have almost 900 members and they’ve been operating for only seven months.

BVC adds to their online efforts by participating in events out in the real world as well. In December, members read from their work at the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series. Soon after that they attended Lunacon, the science fiction convention held in Rye, NY. Group members have given a presentation at the Library of Congress and on the Memorial Day weekend, they held panel discussions at Balticon in Baltimore, MD, BayCon in San Francisco, and Wiscon in Madison, WI.

To support their promise of new content daily, BVC began adding more members in May. The fresh faces bring in additional content and increase the type of material offered. Alma Alexander was the first new member. When asked why she decided to sign on board with BVC Alexander said, “Book View Cafe suddenly seemed the place which was a nexus full of people I already knew and liked and people whom I aspired to be when I grew up. It called.” Other new members to be added include Jane Yolen, Judith Tarr, and Rachel Caine. More will follow.

Book View Café invites all lovers of fiction, blog rants, and short tweets to stop by and participate in the always fascinating and ever-changing new publishing model: www.bookviewcafe.com.