Friday, February 27, 2015

Crowd-funding authors - The New Financial Reality?


    Recently, on The Bookie Monster, we had an interesting article by someone I respect a great deal called "Writers Begging For Money." Which was an article about writers asking money for them to continue writing.

Writers Begging For Money

    Excerpt from the article by Shana Festa (Time of Death):

    A few months back I happened to be perusing Facebook. All of a sudden I see a post from an author asking their fans to donate money so they can pay their bills and continue to write full time.
 

    Hold up a second. Did that really just happen?
 

    Rereading the post again, sure that I had gotten it wrong the first time, I found it to be exactly what I saw on first glance. So I ask you, when did it become acceptable for authors to beg their readers for money? And frankly, could someone’s moral and ethical compass be THAT out of alignment?
 

    So I chocked this up to one authors gross negligence in judgment, shook my head at the post, and moved on. Thinking, ooh that’s going to come back and bite them in the ass. But then I saw it again. And again. And yet again. So this really seems to be becoming our new reality. I’ll admit, for a split second I thought about it. But immediately felt icky.
 

    My thoughts on this? It’s just tacky. Allow me to dazzle you with my opinions as to why.

    Oh Shana, how does one of my favorite authors who is intelligent, witty, and observant be so very wrong? For those unfamiliar with what she's talking about, she's discussing the recent trend in authorship to crowd-funding. Most of us are familiar with Kickstarter after high-profile projects like the Veronica Mars movie and the Legacy of the Avatar video game.

    However, Shana is more specifically referring to similar-sites like Patreon which consist of readers going to the account of their favorite authors and basically pledging to donate a set amount per new content within a monthly maximum. Like Kickstarter, Patreon recipients offers receive bonuses the more they donate. One of my favorite websites, Atop the Fourth Wall: Where Bad Comics Burn, functions due to this.

    The primary difference between it and Kickstarter is the former is for one specific project, like, say a pledge goal of $10,000 so an author can create his masterpiece over the course of a year rather than focus on earning his supper like so many others. Patreon is more about pledging in general so authors can continue writing indefinitely about whatever they want. It's very useful for things like blogs, webcomics, videos, and review sites which are about regular content rather than larger projects.

    There's a controversy for authors who make use of this method because it is a question of upending the traditional association of the author putting their nose to the grindstone and receiving revenue from book sales after the completion of their product. Shana draws the comparison between a book revenue which supports you being the difference between a hobby and a career.

    Woah-woah-woah, Shana, I think that's going a bit too far.

    Do you know what also used to be out of fashion when referring to "real authors"? Independently published books. You used to be considered only a real author if you'd managed to get someone else to sign off on your work.

    That was before the internet made it possible for success stories like Wearing the Cape and the Demon Squad series to reach just as many books as the Big Five publishers. There was also a bigger benefit to many authors in that individuals like Tracy Hickman (Dragonlance), were able to reap almost the entirety of their profits rather than just the small percentage they previously gained.

    Shana says it's awfully presumptuous of authors to ask their fans or would-be fans to support them in their writing. That it's rare enough for authors to be able to make enough money to succeed as a full-time author. The thing is, I believe Patreon and crowd-funding is a solution for that and merely a new phase in the way writing is done rather than something shameful. For example, my rebuttal to Shana saying authors about being presumptuous. Well, do people send them money or not? Because if they do, they're not.

    Authors who get patronage, by and large, are proven qualities. In the dawning age of social media, fandoms are created left and right by authors for authors. In short, they're fans and they're willing to help independent authors form their own one-person publishing houses. While many authors struggled and worked themselves to the bone at their day (or night) jobs only to work out a little of their magnum opus at a time, that may be changing thanks to patronage.

    Which is a good thing.

    Now, not every author can make it via patronage and it may turn off fans who are being asked. I believe patronage is best used for those who have already established themselves to some degree either with a website or a previous books. It's just a way of defraying costs and keeping a steady output for the people who are willing to open their wallets for more of what they like. I wish these authors luck even if I'm not one of them.

    After all, who'd pay to read me?

    Hopefully lots someday.

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