Friday, March 11, 2016

Provoked by Peter Grant at MGC, I do this.

Over at the Mad Genius Club today, the boyishly handsome Peter Grant throws a small kitten into a group of sedate pigeons with his column,

Should we consider crowdfunding or the “subscription model” for our books?

Although I realized I had something to say about this topic, it wasn't until I had completed the first stage that I realized I needed to make the second stage my latest Ramble.  So, click on the above link to read what Peter had to say, as well as the numerous intelligent observations which follow (mine included), and then come back and finish reading this.


As a general rule, I've been pleased with the results of the few crowd funding projects I've been involved with.  I have contributed to the program which makes available digital copies of little known and somewhat elderly works of science fiction; I have helped reestablish nearly extinct fruit trees; service members have access to reading devices loaded with great books; veterans who sustained combat injuries which limited their mobility had their homes modified; meat is being smoked, sliced, sauced, and sold; and I helped launch a new graphic novel series about black superheroes.

None of those have been funding the writing of a particular book, though.  However, I have read a book which was produced that way, and it was a perfect example of how the process can go wrong.  After the author had the money in hand, the book was poorly executed in every way; and because the author already had some money (I don't know how much), he somehow equated the support he received for his ATTEMPT with support for his COMPLETED MANUSCRIPT.  "But my book has to be good, look at all the money people gave me to write it."

No.  Those are not the same thing.  At all.

Over the years, I've heard a lot of advice about how to become a writer.   What I regard as the best piece of advice has come from writers who consistently put out best-selling books and live in mansions, as well as writers who use their book income to buy cat food.  I've heard it from enough different sources to know that this isn't advice that comes from a particular academic perspective; all of these people aren't echoing Professor Putzfrow in his famous lecture "How I Did It."

This is the best advice:

Sit down at the desk and start writing.
Don't stop.
Do it again tomorrow.

So: if this is the secret of good writing, how will crowd funding make it happen?  When I have heard writers talk about this, they say that sometimes what prevents them from writing are the day to day, physical obstacles  associated with being a human and a social animal.  Examples of this type of obstacle include making dinner, doing the taxes, cleaning out the cat box, and processing e-mail.  And, that's not forget that obstacle facing nearly every writer: the need to have a job that pays the bills.

 However, they admit, more often than not, it's a failure of mental discipline that keeps them from writing, and I'm not talking about writer's block here.  I'm referring to sitting in the chair, and staring off into space; allowing 20 minutes of research to become 3 hours of rabbit trails; gaming; Youtube; netflix; you get the point.  These are all mental obstacles to writing.

While it is true that a sudden infusion of cash can shrink or even eliminate the physical obstacles, the only thing that more money does for a time waster is give them more time to waste.

I don't want to completely walk away from the idea of crowdfunding, though. Maybe we set up a scholarship. Provide pizza twice a week for six weeks. Hook them up with a laundry service. Hire a baby-sitter. But have it be no-strings-attached, EXCEPT that there is the expectation that whatever daily task you are freed of for a bit, you don't substitute another. Nope, if we do your laundry, you write. You don't do the dishes.

I could get on board with that. What do you think? Do I have a crowd funding idea?


  1. As I mentioned elsewhere, there is a particular genre/fandom that some of my fiction favors. Last year, after much prompting I wrote a sequel to the main book in that 'world'.

    Which got pirated to the point that I lost a lot of money by having written that book instead of writing one of the more commercially successful books that I've been writing for the last few years.

    As an aside, I know of quite a few authors and artists who serve that niche, who only produce via crowdfunding. They make nothing unless they are paid upfront. I always thought this was some sort of a scam, getting paid to make something that they're going to turn around and sell.

    Until this happened.

    Now I know why they do it, because the people they are selling to, as a group, won't pay for something to be made if they can just steal it instead. Yes, that's not true for everyone, but for enough that if you want to get paid, you have to get paid upfront.

    And that has become the culture for that genre/fandom. Some people pay more, perhaps lots more, so that the product gets produced, and then when the ripping off takes place, the author/artist isn't hurt financially.

    So, people are starting to bug me for the next book in the series, which I'd love to write, but financially I can't afford to, because I have to get paid for my work (because I have to eat and all that). So I've decided that once I have the outline completed, I'm going to crowdfund that book. I'll ask for a few grand upfront, enough that I won't be losing money by working on it. If I get the money, the book gets written. If I don't, well obviously there weren't enough paying customers to make it worth writing.

    And that's the benefit of crowdfunding. I can attempt to serve a market that otherwise won't get served, because the normal sales model won't work with those people.

    1. I hear you on the piracy thing. It's pretty disheartening to see how heavily my books are pirated, especially when I'm trying to make some money off of all my work.