Tor Books to offer social networking, original short fiction and nonfiction online

Tor Books, a major science fiction and fantasy publisher, announced recently that it would offer free weekly ebooks of its print titles if you sign up for its email newsletter. But this is just part of a larger online expansion that will include social networking and the publication of original short fiction and nonfiction, sources familiar with the project told me.

Two sources who spoke to me on condition of anonymity said that it’s intended to be a “go-to site, a central community” for science fiction and fantasy fans. A few authors have already been approached to submit original short fiction to be published online. Tor is paying upwards of 25 cents per word for these stories and right now is only dealing with solicited authors.

According to one of the sources, this website will act in part as a form of branding and promotion for Tor book titles, “with an eye towards leveraging traffic into advertising revenues, down the road.” The project is being largely organized by Patrick Nielson Hayden, a senior editor at Tor.

So far the details of this site have remained a secret, hence why the sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

In an email on Friday, Nielsen Hayden confirmed many of these facts.

“Yes, it will involve lightweight ‘social networking’ features, although I don’t think those will be the core value proposition of the site,” he said. “We’re not going into competition with Facebook.”

The editor described the site as “a platform for original short SF and fantasy, by both Tor authors and non-Tor authors.”

As for those free ebooks?

“The free digital books are exactly what we say they are: an inducement to get people to pre-register as users and allow us to send them emailed progress reports,” Nielsen Hayden said. “The book-length freebies are a temporary program slated to run from now until when we launch. Although the site will be ‘giving away’ a lot of content–indeed, all of its content, as we don’t anticipate any part of it being DRMed or paywalled–the core of the site will not be built around a program of free novel giveaways. That said, we reserve the right to give away free digital books any time we think it’s a good idea to do so. (With the cooperation and consent of their authors, naturally.)”

He confirmed that the site would be functional in approximately three months, “but any such estimate has a large margin of error.”

Ebooks slated for free publication include Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, andThrough Wolf’s Eyes by Jane Lindskold.

In an article published last week titled “The rise of the genre ezine: Will it ever find a profitable model?” I predicted that many companies would launch online publications to act as a form of branding for their products. I think this project with Tor supports my theory.

UPDATE: Irene Gallo, an Art director for Tor, writes:

I will add that the commissioned fiction will be accompanied by commissioned artwork and we are working gallery section that will contain portfolios for 100 artists. This wont be the kind of peer-to-peer workshop site that and CgSociety is, but it will be a place for fans and art directors to get a taste of an artist’s work and then link into the artists’ sites.