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Should Book Authors Pursue a Patronage Model?

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the tip-jar-running-low dept.

Books 342

blarkon writes "With ebook prices falling and some readers even unwilling to pay more than 99 cents for an ebook, some authors are starting to consider a move back to the patronage model that was successful in providing them with a living before the widespread use of copyright. Might such a model work or are the days where a midlist author can make a living off their work a relic of the 20th century?"

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342 comments

Don't worry writers (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648658)

In a few years, this AI I'm working on will put you out of business. You'll be able to give it a subject and length, and it'll write you a story about it.

Re:Don't worry writers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648768)

And I'm sure they will be boring and formulaic.

Re:Don't worry writers (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649014)

And I'm sure they will be boring and formulaic.

And how is that different from 90% of the writers out there?

Re:Don't worry writers (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649280)

Exactly. Have you been in a book shop lately? There's way too many books.

They all have glowing reviews* on the back cover. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is now impossible.

(*) Machine-generated?

Re:Don't worry writers (3, Funny)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648820)

Don't worry writers, Jeffery Archer, Dan Brown, and Tom Clancy have been successfully using this AI for years...

Re:Don't worry writers (3)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648938)

Reality is even stranger than that, with Tom Clancy selling his name as a brand to put on books written by other authors.

Re:Don't worry writers (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648986)

Well, he's been selling it as a brand to put on movies and computer games for decades, so I suppose that's not such a great leap. He's not that rare either. Arthur C. Clarke has 'co-written' a lot of books since the late '80s that are a sketch of an idea by him turned into a complete work by someone else, but a book by Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee sells a lot better than a book by Gentry Lee.

Re:Don't worry writers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648854)

I see Dean Koontz is beta testing for you.

1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 dollars (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648672)

Isnt that enough?

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (2, Informative)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648686)

If you charge $1 to suck a dick and then suck 1 billion dicks, you'll be a billionaire!

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648944)

Oh my! So many dicks...so little time! HUGLURHLUGHRLUH!

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648702)

Not for people born under the old paradigm.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (4, Insightful)

SerpentMage (13390) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648742)

And how many people have 1 million downloads? I would say the minority, and not the majority...

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (4, Interesting)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648812)

There are 7 billion people in the world and growing. About a half billion speak English. Literacy is at its highest in history. The patronage system existed at a time when there was less than a billion people. When the closest thing to a global language was Latin. A time when most people couldn't read or write. Also with the print publishing system authors were already making only a few dollars per sale. (Most went to publisher and retail stores.) The economics of writing is still good. Some would say its the start of a golden age for writers.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648832)

So the rest of the writers will just have to get by with less, like most of us?

The real enemy of authors is not 1 buck/download.

The real enemy of authors is obscurity. If people don't know that your work exists, they are unlikely to buy it no matter how good it is.

You could be the greatest author in the world as judged by all the book critics, so what?

It's been proven that hardly anyone cares if a great violinist busks in the subway, he'll get 30 bucks or so[1]. Whereas if Justin Bieber did a little song and dance in a subway there'd be chaos from all the screaming fans.

Go figure.

[1] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/04/AR2007040401721.html [washingtonpost.com]

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (3, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648842)

They could, if they worked at it. Writers and other artists have to start working at creating a more personal relationship with their audience again. This is what the internet excels at: blog, tweet, create video's, provide your readers with a place to discuss your work and chime in once in a while. Neil Gaiman [neilgaiman.com] seems like one of the few authors who get this, Doctorow [craphound.com] is another. When people recognize you as a real human being, one with whom their share a bond through your creations, they will be willing to pay.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649036)

When people recognize you as a real human being, one with whom their share a bond through your creations, they will be willing to pay.

+1 insightful

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648852)

Yes, but the mount of money that a best selling author makes on a given copy is probably only 10%, if you cut the price down to $1 or $2 and self publish through Amazon you'd get $0.30 or $0.70 per copy sold. Or $350k on 1 million copies. Whereas you might get $500k on a similar number of paperbacks selling for $5 a copy. But, when all is said and done, you just have to convince the potential reader that your particular book is worth 20% of the cost of a paperback book in order to make the sale.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648896)

Tiered pricing. Sell the digital copy for $ 0.99 a pop, paperbacks for $5, hardbacks for $20, signed editions for $50, etc. That way you can get the book out there to the masses for a reasonable price and allow your biggest fans to show their appreciation by buying something more permanent. Not coincidentally, this is also how Kickstarter [kickstarter.com] works and what a lot of webcomic artists do.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648880)

10,000 downloads doesn't sound too outrageous, and that's still a lot more than most authors make per book in the traditional model...

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648948)

And how many people have 1 million downloads? I would say the minority, and not the majority...

And how many people have books available for 99 cents? Certainly not the majority.

There is starting to be a fairly healthy self publishing industry, supported by Amazon's "Kindle Direct" and Barns & Noble''s "PubIt" and Lulu etc which allow authors to get books into ebook markets fairly easily. Sadly, some people simply write a crappy introduction to some public domain Classic, and try to pawn it off as a new work, but by and large this does not succeed.

But baring this, the 99 cent ebook really hasn't been given a real chance yet.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649018)

And how many people have 1 million downloads? I would say the minority, and not the majority...

And how many books are worth reading? I would say the minority, and not the majority...

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649086)

And how many people have 1 million downloads? I would say the minority, and not the majority...

And why is that bad? I don't understand why author's think they should make millions but programmers are expected to write code (which takes some creativity) and make $60,000 a year. Writing a book and writing a program isn't all that different, except at the end of coding you compile it to make sure it works but I've read a lot of books that don't really "work".

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

Stirling Newberry (848268) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648918)

On a 99 cent book, the author gets 35 cents.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (0)

Montezumaa (1674080) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649052)

Why should anyone care that an author made a bad contractual obligation? These authors would not give one goddamn if any of their readers made a bad contractual obligation. The whole Huffington Post "article" is nothing more than a "Boohoo, cry for me" plea. Where is the post for people to cry about losing their jobs, and still being unemployed, after many years? Where are these crying authors for those people?

I do feel bad for people who enter into agreements that impact them negatively. In the end, though, those people choose to make that bad deal. If these authors dislike Amazon's rather horrid pricing agreement, at $.99(It is a dollar, people, quit penny shaving), then the authors need to create their own platform, where they can deliver digital copies of their books and reap a larger portion of the bounty. The fact is, these authors have options, but they would rather bemoan their station in life, or cry about their horrible books.

Either negotiate better, renegotiate, take your business somewhere else, or shut the fuck up. If I can do it for my business, authors can do it for their business.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648988)

the writer gets maybe 30 cents out of that 99 cents. So if your book is popular, you get an income over months or years that may add up to 300000 pre-tax dollars or somewhere slightly above 200000 post-tax dollars. If it takes someone 5 years to a decade to write his book, he'll be seriously struggling. Even if he finishes quickly, he'll be slaving at part time jobs and burning through savings. In such an environment, a patronage model sounds incredibly attractive.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649056)

If it takes someone 5 years to a decade to write his book, he'll be seriously struggling.

If it takes someone 5 years to write a book they should find another profession. Of the authors I follow -- only one is so slow that it takes him 4 years to complete a book (and while I think his books are excellent, I wish he was starving more so that he would increase his production rate). Most authors I follow are able to get a book out in a year or less (and/or have other jobs).

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649070)

If it takes someone 5 years to write a book they should find another profession.

Tolkien's fscked then.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649068)

As an aspiring author and someone of means, I'd love to be a patron but I'd rather work 80-hours a week at McDonald's while I write than have a patron.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649222)

Well, there is some party getting way too much money here. Except for the author and the reader (ok, maybe one editor, but not that mcuh), everybody else is optional and should get rewarded as such.

Middleman know that, and are betting on copywrigth to keep the authors captive, and DRM to keep the readers locked. Both will not work for long.

Re:1 million downloads @ 99c is still 990,000 doll (1)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649158)

I'm going to guess, based solely on my knowledge of royalties from the record industry, that at 99c a book, the author is getting maybe 5c, if that.

No. That's dumb. (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648678)

Just write books and sell them for a buck a pop. What's wrong with that?

I notice that many publishers still insist on charging MORE for the e-book than for the paperback, despite the fact that the e-book can't be loaned out or resold. No wonder people are angry at them.

Get the net. Sell many copies for a low price. Accept that it is a competitive market and innovate a good means for people to search for and find books that will interest them.

If you wind up having to work a day job too, cry me a river, build a bridge and GET OVER IT.

Re:No. That's dumb. (2)

EdZ (755139) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649152)

Or sell your books and ebooks for whatever you want, and give them away for free as well. It works pretty damn well for Baen, and pretty damn well for me too. I can't count how many times I've bought the first book in a series, finished it, ordered the next, and then started reading it right away from the free version while I wait for it to be delivered.

We moved on for a reason (3, Interesting)

sjbe (173966) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648690)

With ebook prices falling and some readers even unwilling to pay more than 99 cents for an ebook

A lot of ebooks aren't worth even $0.99. Same with a lot of printed books. Most books are simply not going to sell well and won't command much of a price.

some authors are starting to consider a move back to the patronage model that was successful in providing them with a living before the widespread use of copyright.

Never been anything stopping them aside from finding a patron. Of course patrons usually tend to sponsor people with, you know, actual talent. Just because you want to be an author doesn't mean you automatically deserve to make your living doing it.

Re:We moved on for a reason (1, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648966)

Nothing you said addresses the point, which is that the pie as a whole is shrinking for authors, including reporters, and what that might mean for governance and culture.

Re:We moved on for a reason (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649002)

Is the pie actually shrinking or is it just that there are more hoses in the pool and some of the older ones upgraded their pumps "because they can"?

Re:We moved on for a reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649198)

A lot of books that go over the counter for dozens of euros hardly seem worth the money, but all the other books in the store have a similar price point. So I strongly suspect the pie is shrinking because it was too big in the first place.

Re:We moved on for a reason (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649144)

its funny how freetards like you magically decide everything is 'crap' the day you find a way to steal it isn't it?
Fucking lowlife.

Re:We moved on for a reason (1)

geek (5680) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649250)

It's easier to make a living as a Navy SEAL or Olympic gymnast right now that it is as a writer. There are only some 300 full time authors out there, these are people who do nothing but write novels for a living with no side jobs, teaching jobs etc. Writers get shafted on what they earn. Unless you are JK Rowling or Stephen King of course.

The publishers take it all. Every penny. It's far worse in the publishing world than in the music world. At least a musician can make money playing venues.

Renew your business model (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648694)

If people are going to pay 99 cents for one book, then why not just publish the same story in multiple shorter books (like 50 pages each)? This way there would more more constant income all the time. Also this would reduce the effort to get something published for young writers.

Re:Renew your business model (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649132)

If people are going to pay 99 cents for one book, then why not just publish the same story in multiple shorter books (like 50 pages each)? This way there would more more constant income all the time. Also this would reduce the effort to get something published for young writers.

Because it would be a good way to piss off your audience? I find it bad enough when novels are split across multiple books. If you start dribbling the story out in 50 page chunks (with each chunk required to have a cliff hanger to keep me coming back), I'll quickly find a different author.

Check out Open Design (5, Informative)

thirdpoliceman (1350013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648714)

Open Design has been running patronage projects for role playing games for many years now. There system works very well. People can pay for various levels of commitment which gives them various levels of input into the design of the adventure or world being created. I'm a big fan of their work, and it has provided Open Design with a solid customer base. This [koboldquarterly.com] is a list of recent stuff going on with them. And, here [koboldquarterly.com] is a list of their current projects. If you are interested in chatting about this process, their forums [koboldquarterly.com] are fairly active.

Cultural Tyranny (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648720)

Patronage was cultural tyranny in which those with money controlled what was produced and made sure that it was to their tastes rather than the creator's vision and that the political implications lined up with their (ruling class) interests.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (0)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648828)

Hi. I am not sure who the person was who modded this down. However that person apparently believes that because they disagree with the post that they should mod it down. Even if you disagree with the post it is interesting.

And the bottom line is that the OP is quite correct. If only the top a 1% funds books, guess who's viewpoints will be represented? But, my point really isn't to argue about the merits of a patronage model but to point out that the OP should be modded up and the person who modded it down shouldn't get mod points again.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (3, Insightful)

poity (465672) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649024)

OP rants against the archaic and irrelevant definition of patronage, which may be why he was modded down. Today, with paypal, and a website as a platform, anyone can seek patronage from anyone else. Look at Minecraft for example, it was mostly funded by people who bought an author's promise of a future product. In this modern world where access to ideas and the means to fund them is freer than any moment in history, using cultural tyranny to describe the patronage model is rather ignorant.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (2)

MrHanky (141717) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649038)

Sorry, but this is Slashdot. If you dare suggest people aren't entitled to get all the entertainment they want for free, you're automatically considered a troll.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648878)

That really hasn't changed. If you can convince a publisher to grant you and advance on the book, it greatly increases the amount of time that most folks have to revise their books. Under the old system they'd be paid before and during the initial draft, whereas now you put in that work for free hoping to be paid. Under the old system they might cut you off, but you'd been paid up until that point and it was roughly equivalent to being fired.

Sure, they had more control over what you produced, but under the current system they have a lot of control over what they will pay for and market. You always could write a novel if you had the time and inclination, you just wouldn't have it published if you didn't have the money. Same is true, but to a lesser extent with shops like Amazon opening up to inexpensive self publishing.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (3, Interesting)

stephanruby (542433) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648942)

As opposed to what exactly? Our current system. Art seems to be even more watered down when you're trying to cater to thousands of people for their patronage, instead of a single one.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (3, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648962)

Patronage was cultural tyranny in which those with money controlled what was produced and made sure that it was to their tastes rather than the creator's vision and that the political implications lined up with their (ruling class) interests.

Pop culture is tyranny too, one in which the lowest common denominator determines what crud is dumped onto the masses. Every system has its downside.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (2)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649072)

Ummmm... no it isn't. Although there are 20 Just Bieber stories for every story I want to read about, the fact is that i have a choice. A patronage model is quite different from what we have today.

Re:Cultural Tyranny (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649048)

Patronage was cultural tyranny in which those with money controlled what was produced and made sure that it was to their tastes rather than the creator's vision and that the political implications lined up with their (ruling class) interests.

Exactly.
But then, so is the publishing house model we have today. Its not really a lot different.

Both the big ebook markets, Amazon and Barnes and Noble have built self publish programs, as do a number of lesser known sites.
These open the flood gates to a large number of authors. Some are good, some are atrocious. The world has quite enough trashy romance novels if you ask me, but it seems like every 30 something female has yet another to offer.

But the key is no one is standing as gate keeper between the customer and the author.
Even well known authors are trying this route.

Even better Idea (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648722)

How about eliminate the idea of both imaginary property and the patronage model. Why the fuck should some fuck get any god-damned money for rearranging fucking pieces of data? If one must rely on your imaginary property or your imaginary works then that person is too fucking weak and should die, plain and simple. Oh, we need to help everyone? Then the better solution is to embrace communism and eliminate capitalism.

I'm willing to pay, unwilling to subscribe (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648738)

For me, price is not an issue.

I will not sign up for an account to read. I will not give out my name, address, phone number, and email address to read. I will not turn my reading preferences over to a large corporation or to marketers. My choice in literature will not be used to build a demeaning "consumer profile" or barrage me with unwanted advertisements for things I don't need. My reading preference will never be made a commodity and sold because I will never allow it to be collected.

Reading is a right, not a privilege to subscribers.

I will not buy a device which can revoke my right to read. I will not collect works subject to DRM or self-deletion.

Big content needs to get this through its thick, stubborn head.

Big content is out of touch with the thinking of a new generation.

Patronage is one solution which dissociates the identification, money, and marketing from the ideas being distributed.

Re:I'm willing to pay, unwilling to subscribe (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648920)

Must be lonely in your cave, but at least you've got your privacy, eh?

I don't feel like I'm being watched by big brother because Amazon knows I like Alastair Reynolds novels. I actually like it, because I find tons of great new books and authors I never would have heard about without their recommendations, which are based on their records of the other novels I've purchased.

Re:I'm willing to pay, unwilling to subscribe (1)

lolcutusofbong (2041610) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649190)

It's nobody's business but my own what books I read. If I want to copy a digital book and send it to my friends, I will do that. If I want to convert between formats and shift between devices, I will do that. Anyone who wants to tell me what, how, when, or where I can and can't read can die in a fire. Sometimes the "crazy" guys in the caves are right; just look at Richard Stallman.

Re:I'm willing to pay, unwilling to subscribe (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649066)

Wow. Talk about "out of touch"....

Reynolds Wrap much?

Re:I'm willing to pay, unwilling to subscribe (1)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649164)

Bullshit.

The new generation is the generation that cares least about privacy. Yes, I've seen the privacy protests, but they are posers. They protest about privacy issues when it is popular. (And I have seen several cases where their privacy wasn't even being threatened but the posers were out in force anyway.) The rest of the time, they are generally busy posting things on facebook that people of my generation (at least the smart ones) wouldn't even share in a conversation.

They don't want privacy. They want what *all* young people (and a lot of older ones) want: freedom from the consequences of their actions.

You, young sir, are an anomaly, not the norm.

Competition (3, Insightful)

danbuter (2019760) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648744)

The problem is making your book stand out from the 1,000 other books that get published each month. It's not easy, even if you only charge 99 cents. And if 100 of those other authors are also charging 99 cents, you're pretty much screwed.

Re:Competition (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648934)

That is why someone needs to innovate a good system of finding books that will interest you.

I am thinking of some kind of genre-tagging and element-tagging system with publisher tags, and also community tags/ratings, and some good search tools to wade through it all.

So people can search for murder mysteries that include horses and an aristocratic prose. Or romance stories with low violence and only heterosexual encounters. Or whatever combinations people seem to care about.

Re:Competition (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649142)

It would be great to have a system to help finding books, but I'd pass anything that relied on tags I enter.

If I knew what I'd want on a book, I'd write it myself.

Re:Competition (1)

Dragon Bait (997809) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649178)

That is why someone needs to innovate a good system of finding books that will interest you.

I am thinking of some kind of genre-tagging and element-tagging system with publisher tags, and also community tags/ratings, and some good search tools to wade through it all.

So people can search for murder mysteries that include horses and an aristocratic prose. Or romance stories with low violence and only heterosexual encounters. Or whatever combinations people seem to care about.

Possibly also an automated system to evaluate the quality of the writing style. Back in the '80s I used an e-mail system that would evaluate what grade level your e-mail was written to. Something similar to weed out the chaff would be useful to the consumer. (And sadly enough, my boss preferred 6th grade level versus 13th or above).

Re:Competition (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649162)

Cream rises to the top in any market.
Release a few books for free.
You build a following.

Don't quit your day job just yet, the market is big enough that anything well written will eventually get attention.

The promise of promotion is all the big publishing houses have left to offer. It may be a short-cut to popularity, but
the price is very very high.

Re:Competition (3, Informative)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649270)

I agree. The best horror novel ever written may be sitting on Amazon as an ebook for $0.99 right now. I'll never know, though, because it's a lot easier to just buy the next King book.

This is exactly why the big publishing houses still hold value for both the commercial writer and the reader. For the writer, it's the marketing, patronage (read: advances), and other benefits. For the reader, it's the filtering. Because someone has to actually take a chance on the work other than the author, there is a much better signal-to-noise ratio. And since there is a bigger audience word-of-mouth works better, there are more reviews, and etc.

Also, and this is a bit off topic but it should be said: anyone serious about making money off their work should probably stay away from self-publishing. Not only do you have all the disadvantages talked about above, but if you self-published the big publishing houses will not touch you.

the patron is Hollywood (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648748)

Write a good novel, and some Hollywood studio will buy rights and then likely sit on them without ever making a movie.

Yes, or No, or Use a Mixed Model (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648764)

Certainly more than one author has put Kickstarter.com into use to provide enough funding to pay for them to write and publish a work (books, graphic novels, movies, shorts, etc.). Many of these creators have also charged for the work either as an ebook or traditional print copies. One can also choose both. There is the custom group patronage route as well, where an author like Stephen King requires some amount of donations be contributed in advance and then releases the next chapter as a free work online. It seems to work in some cases and fail in others, just like any writing venture. It just moves who has control into the hands of the public.

Of course there is nothing wrong with publishing an e-book for 99 cents and making money on a large volume of sales if it is good enough and promoted well enough. It just means there are more unrealistically optimistic writers who enter the market with works that never turn a profit and are usually just not very good. It still beats hoping some publisher will be willing to take the chance on your behalf.

Re:Yes, or No, or Use a Mixed Model (1)

dadioflex (854298) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649010)

Arguably very few novels turn a profit. Writers write them when they get home from their real job, pouring their heart and soul, but more importantly their time into writing. Working a second job at McDs would generate a greater overall profit than writing. They do it because they enjoy it.

The barrier to entry for writing a novel is stunningly low. Anyone can do it. Look at NaNoWriMo next month to see what I mean. Anyone who funds a writer through kickstarter is an idiot. The average, old school publisher selected novel makes the author around 10 grand over the space of five years, with most sales in the first few months of publication and maybe a year's worth of sales to pay back the advance - pulled out of my ass numbers but broadly speaking in the ball park. That's equivalent to around three or four months paid work to most people, yet so many writers think they'll be able to write the next great American novel if only they took a year off work. Doesn't add up.

J A Konrath defends the 99c price point, but long term it's unlikely we'll see more people reading novels because prices are low. You go from a $20 (or more) hardback/$10 paperback model to a 99c e-book model and 80% of the money leaves the industry. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but even if you cut out the publishers, writers will still be paying for editing and promotion. Overall writers will make even less money and the majority of rewards will still go to a select few making their real money from tie-ins, movie deals and assorted side projects.

Re:Yes, or No, or Use a Mixed Model (1)

ninetyninebottles (2174630) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649126)

Arguably very few novels turn a profit. Writers write them when they get home from their real job, pouring their heart and soul, but more importantly their time into writing. Working a second job at McDs would generate a greater overall profit than writing. They do it because they enjoy it.

Most novels published by traditional publishers do make a profit, although that profit does not necessarily make its way to the author.

The barrier to entry for writing a novel is stunningly low. Anyone can do it. Look at NaNoWriMo next month to see what I mean.

The barrier to entry has traditionally been high in that most submissions were not accepted by mainstream publishers, never made it into mainstream stores, and were almost completely unavailable to the general public. The move to e-books has lowered that barrier so there are a lor more entrants into the market that the average buyer can choose from. This is still in transition though as the print book market still dominates.

Anyone who funds a writer through kickstarter is an idiot.

No logic or justification behind that? Okay.

That's equivalent to around three or four months paid work to most people, yet so many writers think they'll be able to write the next great American novel if only they took a year off work. Doesn't add up.

You're equivocating between the average published novel and the great american novel written by an amateur. It makes no sense.

J A Konrath defends the 99c price point, but long term it's unlikely we'll see more people reading novels because prices are low. You go from a $20 (or more) hardback/$10 paperback model to a 99c e-book model and 80% of the money leaves the industry. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but even if you cut out the publishers, writers will still be paying for editing and promotion.

This is sort of a broken window fallacy. Removing the cost of printing, binding, shipping, etc. is a real efficiency improvement. Expanding your potential market from those who can get to a bookstore you have a distribution deal with to those who can get to the internet changes the game entirely. Lower costs and greater potential market means lower prices can still turn a profit and are going to be needed in order to compete.

Overall writers will make even less money and the majority of rewards will still go to a select few making their real money from tie-ins, movie deals and assorted side projects.

You don't support this opinion with anything. Undoubtedly some will make more and some will make less but overall it could go either way. You have a lot of opinions but not much behind them.

Why does a book have to be valuable to everyone? (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648786)

There are plenty of books I wouldn't pay $0.99 to read. The fact is, there are millions of books I wouldn't read for any price...my time has value, and if I'm not interested in reading a book, I'm simply not going to read it. But that doesn't mean that these books aren't worth the price for someone who *does* want to read them. The author's job in that case is to try to appeal to a wide enough audience to make writing the book worthwhile...or patronage is sufficient if you can find it. Plenty of artists make art to sell, while others are commissioned to do a work for a specific price. Either works, and I don't see why there's a debate about one vs. the other.

Re:Why does a book have to be valuable to everyone (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649030)

my time has value, and if I'm not interested in reading a book, I'm simply not going to read it

That's a good argument that the $1 book is a bad idea in the first place. If a book is worth spending time reading, it's worth paying more than $1. The problem is you don't know until after you pay. A solution would be to make the first chapter free and the full book $5.

In volume, 99 cents is enough (2)

curmudgeon99 (1040054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648814)

The reality is that most authors don't make that much from a book that sells for $28. A 99-cent payment is about half what an author gets from a book. So, the e-book model is actually pretty sustainable--that is except for the big 6 publishers in NYC. They can't afford to support a big pile of corporate interests on such little money but authors can do fine on that--IF they can get their books noticed.

This also applies to software. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648844)

This also applies to software.
Each of you programmers would have to find a patron, whom you would fawn over at the beginning of your code. (A few centibytes of alphanumeric praise should suffice.)
This would apply to any creative endeavor, such as music.
Mirabile dictu! We're back in the 17th century.

Re:This also applies to software. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648972)

Most programmers already work for patrons.

At least if you look at the man hours going into packaged software vs the man hours going into back end systems and the like.

What's wrong with 99 cents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648862)

The publishing overhead is what took away most of the money in the first place, 99 cents seems like a fair price.

Academia (1)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648872)

I think what your looking for is tenure at a University. Study English and get a Masters? Doctorate? and get a teaching position.

Re:Academia (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649000)

Interestingly, neal stephenson makes the distinction between "beowulf" writters and "dante" writters. He explained that difference here, on a slashdot interview. That interview and in particular the answer 2 changed the way I see the difference between commercial authors and "intellectual authors" or even between academic researcher and R&D researcher.

http://slashdot.org/story/04/10/20/1518217/neal-stephenson-responds-with-wit-and-humor [slashdot.org]

Couple observations... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648882)

I've read anecdotes from several authors of technical books (oreilly, ms press, etc) who have said that the royalties didn't even come close to paying for the time that went into writing the book. However, they went on to note that publishing the book contributed greatly to their career and/or quantity/quality of the consulting gigs they got.

I.e. the book acts as a loss leader.

As far as patrons go, I think that that model would be quite valid, and kickstarter has proven that you can do such things very easily @ internet scale.

"Streaming" model would be nice (3, Interesting)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648892)

Personally, I'd love to see the netflix streaming model applied to books. Instead of paying per book, give me access to the entire Amazon Kindle library. I'll gladly pay, say, $200/year, and I can read all the books I want. Reward the authors whose books get read more with more cash, and maybe include a tip jar right there to contribute more directly to the author. I hate having to look through all the recommendations and decide what's worth spending $7.99 on, or skipping on things that might look interesting because I'm scared I'm going to buy it and it turns out I don't like the author. Or, worse, buying it and then realizing "wow, this is terrible, but I kind of have to finish it because I spent 8 bucks on it."

I don't know how that would work on the back end for compensating authors, but as a consumer I'd love it.

Re:"Streaming" model would be nice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648956)

Its done. I think I'll call it a Library!
Moving on....

Re:"Streaming" model would be nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649054)

There are entire buildings full of books that you can read as many as you want, without even having to pay! And if you know where to look you can even find some amazingly rare books in their collections. Look in your local phone book under "Library". (some of them also have collections of e-books)

Authors, no more free rides please (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648902)

Look, with all due respect, why should authors, and the copyright industry, get a perpetual free ride from a one time effort?

Don't we all create the future?

What a load of old cock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37648906)

Speaking with 35 years in broadcasting, let me have my say.

The colleges are turning out hordes of Meeja Studies graduates who think they that deserve the big bucks straight away.
The old pros like me know that they are worth jack shit, for at least the first 10 years, but given the numbers of them, and their sense of entitlement, things don't look too good.

I've met swathes of young directors who aren't fit to shovel shit, and I'm sure that there exists a similar number of wanna-be writers out there who have been told, by their college creative writing tutors, that their outpourings are worth paying for - they need to get a fucking life and pronto. The more of them that exist, the lower that the average price for their work becomes...... what's hard to understand about that

Thank fuck that I intend to retire at the end of the year - I'm sick of these needy fuckers!

There's too many authors (1)

serialband (447336) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648932)

There's just too many authors and too many books these days. The market has been driven downwards by the glut. The good books are worth the money, but there's too many writers that write crap or just churn out large numbers of cheap pulp.

Not only that, novels are ballooning into multi hundred page monstrosities. Who has the time to read them all? Bring back the better written 100-200 page novels. Word processors have allowed more writing, but very little of that is good writing.

Re:There's too many authors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649082)

Not only that, novels are ballooning into multi hundred page monstrosities. Who has the time to read them all? Bring back the better written 100-200 page novels. Word processors have allowed more writing, but very little of that is good writing.

tl;dr

Personally I pay for work (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 2 years ago | (#37648982)

When its of value. If its crap, then i feel i was cheated. In these 'entertainment' fields you get no warranty and have go to on faith alone.

anything for an extra 15% (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649044)

I'd be for anything that gets agents out of the way.

Fewer gatekeepers is always a good thing.

99 cents is fine, if the author gets all of it (2)

bcrowell (177657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649074)

On most traditionally published paper books, the author gets only a very small percentage of the retail price. That makes some sense. A bunch of people need to get paid: acquisitions editor, copy editor, truck driver, checkout clerk... The publisher is also taking a financial risk by publishing the book, and a small number of very profitable books are subsidizing the much larger number of relatively unprofitable or completely unprofitable ones.

But how does it make sense for Amazon to take 65 cents on the sale of a 99-cent book? Amazon has basically zero cost to recoup. OK, they take a loss on the kindle right now in order to get people locked into their system. But it's kind of pathetic if this ends up being a permanent arrangement and they manage to levy a 65-cent tax until the end of time. Most book authors would actually be pretty happy with a 99-cent price -- if they got all of it.

It's already here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649108)

Here in Europe there are much more writers that could survive on sales, most of them living off of government money.

If someone isn't willing to pay $0.99 for your (1)

makubesu (1910402) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649110)

book, why do you think some rich patron would fund you? Face it, you're a crappy writer.

Dynamic Pricing? (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649192)

I'm willing to pay $2.99 for a good book. I might be willing to pay 99 cents for a piece of trash. What I'm not willing to do is to pay the same price for an e-book as I would for the currently in print version, especially when the in print version is a $25 hard cover. Understandably, there are greater costs when it comes to technical works. But, people do not and will not care about the author's labor. They care about the enjoyment they get out of it. People generally enjoy print books more and therefor value them more and are willing to pay more for them. Just like everything else, a book is worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

The essential problem with selling downloadable content, which all consumers grasp intuitively but that publishers seem foggy on, is that the supply is functionally infinite. Econ 101 teaches the supply vs demand pressures on pricing. In the case of printed books, the publishers have to predict demand, then they print the amount of books they expect to be able to sell, and they mostly sell then at a fixed-ish price. Around 20 to 30 bucks for a hardback, discounted to about 18 if they don't sell. Paperbacks sell for around 6 to 10. That artificially limits supply and helps them keep prices stable. After all, if you see a book on the shelf that interests you, you know that it may not be available next month or next year. But with ebooks, there is no limit to supply. Buyers know they can get a copy, unless the publisher stops selling, and they know that it costs the the publishers virtually nothing to keep a copy on their servers for anyone to download 2, 5, 10 years down the line, and they know that it costs the publisher virtually nothing to sell them a copy. Publishers have been very good at predicting demand for printed books. What publishers have been very bad at is estimating how much people are willing to pay for ebooks. Instead, the large publishing houses seem to have been operating in a way to protect their print book sales from erosion by ebooks.

This is too bad, because what major publishers bring to the table is the expertise to help an author refine their work and market it effectively. They also have reputations to protect, so what they print will not totally suck, and consumers know that. But, if these publishers don't adapt to the times, they will go out of business. What publishers need to do is to realize that X number of people are willing to buy at 5.99, y number of people will buy at 2.99, and z number of people will buy at 0.99. They should be pricing ebooks dynamically. Introduce them high to get the established fans and let the price drop accordingly as demand lessens. If demand spikes as word spreads, then let the price rise as well.

what's this about paying? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649228)

I thought you just needed to buy the kindle and then download the ebookz

IMHO Kickstarter is the new patronage model (1)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 2 years ago | (#37649242)

Instead of pursuing money from just one rich person like in the past when wealth was mainly concentrated in the coffers of kings and the people they liked, today you can crowdfund using smaller donations from several people.

Wonderful idea!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649244)

What all you fail to comprehend is books are works of an idea. A position in society. A thought. We're not talking about trashy romance novels that already go for 2 bucks. Ideas transcend our lives. Many times you can see this guy is different, on the edge. Who knows it may be important, if not now. Maybe later. That is the purpose of the written record. Thats what patrons did. Allowed a writer to write, usual cause the patron saw eye to eye on one topic. But that writer was also expressing other ideas in his work.

The way it is now only those that make it commercial pass on ideas. But guess what, if a person has one true breakthrough in his life even that is worth recording so as not to be lost by ravages of time.

How about 1c per page? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37649276)

If you read the whole 200 pages the author gets $2. you lose interest after 3 pages they get 3c.

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