Philosophy of Writing – 15.2 – A Thought Experiment About Books and the Donation Model – Part Two

Posted on September 21, 2012 by


Part One is here, and is about me. I’ve split this into two so practical readers don’t have to slog through a personal post. (N.B. from the future: I’m represented by an excellent agency. Decision made.)



I provide my fiction for free, including print copies. I hire artists and other professionals necessary to produce a good book. I cover costs with donations. When donations no longer cover costs and I can’t invest any more money into the project, I provide my work as undecorated pdfs. I take no action against piracy whatsoever.


Consequences & Considerations

1. I burn every single bridge to traditional publishing and distribution, especially if successful.

2. The work I publish through the donation model should immediately be considered unpublishable by conventional means. Cat Valente and Sarah J. Maas have published works traditionally whose initial drafts were originally available to read in full online – but for practical consideration this never happens. Scarcity of resource = money.

3. The donation model seems to work for games and music. The Humble Indie Bundle is a consistent success, and music has found an outlet via indiegogo and Kickstarter.

4. Donation model successes bank on the name recognition of already established artists who have impressed gatekeepers in their industry enough to get a large following. See: Amanda Palmer, Tim Schafer, indie game developers spotted by Valve Software. I am entirely unknown.

5. I suck, suck at marketing. I just will not do it. I do not like pushing my work on anyone. I’ll have to rely on word-of-mouth entirely. The best I can do is hand out copies to independent bookstores and hope they’re pretty enough for the bookstores to agree to stock them experimentally.

6. I’d have to write a contract that legally enables any 3rd-party distributors to keep a specific percentage of donations.

7. mein Gott the IRS paperwork

8. I risk annoying friends who also happen to be traditionally published authors, especially if successful.

9. I risk never being reviewed by any book reviewer of any note whatsoever, even when self-publishing is fully legitimized, because the donation model is another beast entirely.

10. just try imagine the internet shitstorm if successful

11. How do I measure success? Profits? Market saturation (how many people have obtained copies of my work as a percentage of estimated potential reader demographic)?

12. Artist contracts are going to be an absolute bitch.

13. Nobody gives an actual fuck and my work doesn’t spread via word-of-mouth even when absolutely free. Ouch.

14. People claim my work as their own, perhaps even change it. This would make me furious, but for this experiment to work as intended, I’d have to allow it.

15. [Edited to add:] I like being managed. Shocking, I know. I like the idea of someone taking a cut of my profits to manage my life for me, so all I have to do is fart around absorbing every piece of knowledge there ever was, exposing myself to gorgeous things like the outdoors and film and music and art, and of course write stuff. If I could I would hire someone to take care of every part of my life I hate: insurance payments, cleaning dead things from windowsills, washing my car.

16. [Edited to add:] I love gatekeepers. I need people to hold me accountable for the quality of my work. I need people who are simultaneously literary intellectuals and keen businessmen to help me earn my living. If my art sucks, for heaven’s sake: I need someone smart to tell me how and why so I can fix it. Yes, yes, creative differences – big deal. Films have directors’ cuts. Once the copyright licensing runs out I can just release my preferred version, if there are significant differences.