Thursday, November 19, 2009
How do you write for a living in a digital world?
Over at one of my favorite blogs, TechDirt, Mike Masnick and the TechDirt community discuss eBooks and publishing works in the digital world somewhat regularly. One of the key mantras tends to be that those that intend to make money in the digital world need to incorporate new and smarter business models. For writers of fiction, as with musicians and movie-makers, this can be frightening. Some of us spent years or even decades studying not only our craft, but the traditional business world that surrounded that craft. So the question is: how does an author make a living in the digital world?
Rather than be dismayed, I see a great deal of opportunity for authors that can give away digital works for free. Below are some simple ideas, but I'd appreciate any feedback or response offered:
1. Signed books: This is the simple one. In my case, one of the things I'm going to be doing is to release chapters of Echelon on this blog, obviously for free. Around the middle of the book, I'm going to make the entire work available in PDF format via bittorrent (still looking for help on any torrent experts to learn how to upload and create a torrent link, ala on the Pirate Bay). The idea will be to gauge the response from readers. Hopefully the appreciation of the work reaches a sort of critical mass where its popularity begins to propgate itself. If that should happen, I've been working to prepare a signed hardcopy of the book along with a few extras that can be purchased as well (more on that below). My theory is that, while eBooks are wonderful when traveling, most people still enjoy a hardcopy of a book that they enjoy, and a signature from the author adds a collectorship feel to the product.
2. Fan Participation: One of the things I'd like to do for those that see enough worth in my work to purchase a hardcopy or make a donation for their eBook copy, is to allow them to be involved in small ways in the next book. My chief idea in this was to auction off character names in my next work. For instance, you can purchase a signed copy of Echelon for $X, but if you would like to buy the book AND join the Echelon Club for $Y, allong with updates and deeper access to myself, you will have the option to have me include your name as one of the minor characters in the sequel, Wunderwaffen. Assuming agreement could be reached on legal issues, I would also be open to certain extremely limited product placement type deals within the sequel. For instance, in Echelon one of the main characters drives a Toyota Prius. I see no reason why that car couldn't be another should an auto manufacturer wish to sponsor my work.
3. Write for hire: One of the criticims you hear from pro-copyright folks when they examine new business models is that artists shoudn't be focusing on business, they should be producing art. So what can we do to bring the business component closer to the artistic expression? Well, for an author that wishes to make a living writing, their artistic expression is (you guessed it) writing. So what could be more sensible than offering a kind of write for hire deal. If you like my work on Echelon, I am thinking of making myself available to write for you personally on a work for hire basis. Say you have a boyfriend/girlfriend into a subject similar to what I write. I could write a short story for you personally with you supplying the names and basic premise of what you would like written. Or say a business wanted a fun piece of fiction to go along with one of their products or services, say as a holiday message or something to liven up a newsletter. Well, here I am to write that for you. Perhaps you think I'm going to be famous someday and you would just like to give some kind of personalized short work as a Christmas gift, not unlike painters used to do during the renaissance period.
The key to all this, of course, is to first be HEARD. To build up a fan base. To become known. The most difficult hurdle a writer faces is obscurity. What better way to defeat obscurity than to give away digital works for free?