In November, I discovered a Kickstarter project from an author I really like — C.E. Murphy — in which she proposed to write a novella about one of the major secondary characters in the Walker Papers series she’s been writing for the last several years. She wanted to write it, her publisher probably didn’t want to buy it, but maybe her fans wanted it? I gladly bought in, because I thought that it was a super-cool use of Kickstarter, and, hey, a novella about Gary! Rock on!
And then this happened.
“The “No Dominion” campaign just passed $17,000. You, my readers, are paying me more than any New York City publisher has paid me up front for a book. This *blows my mind*. To little tiny bits. Itty bitty bits. I will have to spend rather a lot of time collecting all those bits so I can write you TWO NOVELLAS, FOUR SHORT STORIES, 3 chapters of a book that doesn’t exist, and, um, a partridge in a pear tree, I guess. 🙂 Seriously: the wordcount we’re looking at here is right around 90K, which is absolutely no question about it a book’s worth of words. “
In the end, the campaign broke the $20,000 mark. 517 backers offered up more than $20,000 directly to the author so that she could afford to create something we wanted to read. I think that is a remarkable thing, and that it indicates something about the future of publishing. Consider that because of this Kickstarter she had the cash and the time and the desire, all at the same time, to write something that there is a proven and known demand for. And which she was able to distribute herself, because sending 517 e-pub files via email is no big these days. And which she can then re-sell to a traditional house if she so chooses, because there are plenty of readers out there who are not reached by Kickstarter, the internet, or e-pub files. And which the traditional publishing houses ought to be paying very close attention to.
The future is now. The traditional publishers need to do more than react to that.
And so I also emailed Murphy, because I just thought it was the thing to do.
I’m pretty psyched about this; I love the Walker Papers, and Gary (who gives me hope that life doesn’t get boring after the rapidly-approaching 40) and think you’re a remarkable writer. So just in general this is awesome.
But on top of that, I’m a librarian, and right now libraries are caught in the middle of the publishers’ belated realization that the information economy changed while they weren’t paying attention. That realization really sucks for us — lots of rapid-fire changing of policy and protocol about ebook availability, lending, pricing, DRM, etc, and explaining that to our users in public and academic libraries is hell. Trying to plan our budgets, assess what we ought to buy in which formats, honoring our philosophical positions about which publishers are reactive jerks and which are good partners… it’s a hard time for us.
So I spend a lot of time thinking about the changing industries that provide information to our society, and about how it’s gonna look in 5 years, and which models have potential. Things like this Kickstarter — in which a group of fans paid you more for a (believed) novella than you’ve ever been paid by a traditional publisher up front for a novel — are the things that give me hope. There’s a remarkable future out there, and people like you and all the other creators who’re embracing the new models made possible by the internet while also working within the traditional system are the ones who are going to change our world. I’m sure of it (or, as sure as I am of anything in when you throw “people” and “the internet” into the mix).
So. Anyway. This thing you just did and allowed us to help you do is really damn cool, and I’m going to put No Dominion on my iPad for my trip to Wisconsin next week, and I’m going to love everything about the whole experience forever. When I read the update that said we’d pushed you into “you just bought a novel” territory, I turned to my boyfriend and said “let me tell you about the coolest thing I’ve ever been a part of.” And I still mean that. So thanks, on a bunch of fronts.