Talking indie science fiction with StoryBundle's Jason Chen

Finding great science fiction reads, especially in a sea of millions of available books, can be a daunting task. And if you want to support independent self-published authors, it can be next to impossible finding that perfect book to read. Fortunately, StoryBundle has decided to make this process much easier. The concept behind StoryBundle is a simple one: select a group of quality self-published books and offer them to the public for whatever price people are willing to pay.

Similar in concept to many indie video game bundles (think HumbleBundle), StoryBundle is the brainchild of Jason Chen. Chen and his team read all of the titles themselves and then decide which ones to offer in the bundle. And the reader decides what price to pay. It's basically a win-win for everyone involved.

In an interview with Chen, we discussed the benefits of StoryBundle to science fiction authors and readers.

How many people are currently involved with StoryBundle?

I'm handling the bulk of StoryBundle's operations, and I have a coder (my wife) helping out on the back-end development. There's also our designer who we love working with as well, as well as folks who are helping us vet submissions.

How did you originally come up with the idea?

The idea came from a combination of inspirations. I've always loved the indie game and app bundles, where you pay what you want but are also exposed to titles you wouldn't normally hear about. No matter what you pay, you feel like you're getting a good deal. I've also loved ebooks for a long time now, preferring them to normal books for reasons like portability, comfort, ease of page turning, and just because I like holding an ereader in my hand more than a physical book. (I'm weird like that.)

Combining the two seems like a natural next step, but nobody was doing it. Could there be an easy way for me as a reader to discover quality titles without having to look through a bunch of lists and trudge through hundreds of reader reviews? There could, and I wanted to make it happen.

Why did you choose the science fiction genre for the first bundle?

I felt sci-fi was a natural genre for the first bundle, because early adopters (people who read DVICE for example) are more likely to have ereaders, tablets and smartphones, and they're more likely to be into sci-fi than the average person. A lot of indie lists are filled with romance titles, so sci-fi is a little bit (but only a little) underserved when compared to that. Plus, I love sci-fi, and managed to find these seven really talented authors that did a great job with the genre.

Do you feel science fiction literature will play a big role in the future of StoryBundle? Also, what other genres would you like to focus on?

We're definitely going to revisit sci-fi in the future because it's in the nature of sci-fi titles to do world building, and when you build a world you want to play around with it for more than one book. We're also going to diversify and feature various genres like fantasy, crime, romance, thriller, zombies, vampires, zombie romance, and zombie time travel, for example. As long as there are indie authors out there writing good books, we'll find them and feature them.

How does an author get involved with StoryBundle?

Authors can also submit their work at submissions@storybundle.com by telling us a little about their work and we'll take it from there. The only real requirement we have is that the author has to have permission to distribute their work themselves; if their work is currently under an exclusivity contract with a publisher then it's trickier, but we can negotiate exceptions with publishers for the duration of the bundle on a case-by-case basis.

Do you have a favorite book from this current bundle?

I love all the books in this bundle equally! I love how Undersea feels very much like Battlestar Galactica (the new one) mixed with a little touch of BioShock, and I love how Hart's Halo and Bypass Gemini have two different takes on the future (and space) while both making sense. They're all good, and I've read and enjoyed all the books immensely.

What is the average price that buyers have been paying?

Our average price has been higher than the bonus price! I know that as a reader, the fact that you can pay a little bit more to get two titles that are the sequels to two titles included in the regular bundle would get me very excited. At just $7 (which works out to be a dollar a book), I can make sure that if I do enjoy the first books, I have the sequel ready to go, rather than having to pay more for it after the bundle's over. I think many people are seeing it this way, which makes the authors happy because they're getting their work out there to more readers.

So far we've sold a little under 2,800 bundles, and we're hoping on breaking 3,000 when everything's done. 3,000 bundles sold for our first outing is tremendous, and blows away our expectations. For example, one of our authors in this bundle has sold more (in units) and made more (in proceeds) in just the two weeks that the bundle has been live than the last 15 months of his book sales. That's pretty extraordinary, and goes to show that StoryBundle is a fantastic showcase for authors to get their work out there.

I've also heard from a lot of readers that are excited by the bundle idea, but aren't necessarily sci-fi fans, so they're looking forward to our next bundle before jumping in. I'm sure they won't be disappointed.

As of this post, you have just over two days left to get in on StoryBundle's first offering. See if their picks are right for you over at StoryBundle.

For the latest tech stories, follow DVICE on Twitter
at @dvice or find us on Facebook