The Donation Experiment

I recognize now that the title of this post lends itself to a much more interesting piece of fiction; so sorry to disappoint, but this is not fiction. (But it has already inspired a short story which I will begin writing now.) With all of the doomsayers, cheerleaders, skeptics and know-it-alls out there proclaiming they know the future of the publishing industry, I thought that with the release of my new novel I would try something a little different. You all know my thoughts on the publishing industry so there’s no need to re-hash that here; you can reference my blog if you need a recap.

My experiment is to sell my print book through donations.

No, it’s not the most original concept (er, read: Radiohead), but for the context, it may be. For a nobody writer with little track record than a thread of short stories mostly published right here, it is a risk that I might lose money on the print copies and/or the shipping costs. My ambitions for my writing are unrealistic, yet I persist, day after day, month after month, year after year. So why not let the very small market for my novel determine what they want to pay? We’ve had so much discourse over the value of our work, that instead of further pontificating about it and guessing and hoping that the price I attach to my print and electronic work shall be without someone bitching and moaning about it, I’ll let the people who really want to read my work place a value on it themselves.

Oh sure, I spent months writing, more months editing, more months waiting for the graphics, even more months formatting, pre-marketing, and re-editing the book. I lost hours of each night for the past year agonizing over it (in mostly a happy way) and I’m letting someone else set the price. Because that’s the way it works. Our work is indeed a commodity, and we need to look at that as a positive thing. It’s hard for certain of us writers to accept that it’s a compliment when someone breezes through our work, we can only hope that once they are done reading it that something about it sticks with them for a much longer time.

So you set the price. But whatever you pay, be sure to pass on the work to someone else  when you are done and don’t let it sit on your shelf.

Donations for Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn can be made HERE.

~ by yearzerowriters on August 21, 2010.

17 Responses to “The Donation Experiment”

  1. This is really interesting. If I remember correctly, Radiohead had a bad experience with this – nobody wanted to pay more than 1 pence or something – but they are a huge band, and I do wonder if the niche market for indie books might be willing to fork over a little more. I certainly hope so. Monetizing is something I’ve been thinking abot a lot lately. How, when, where, why etc. So I’m watching you closely, my dear. It’s brave.

    • Well, that’s kind of what I thought. There would be some solidarity among indie writers and fellow appreciators of our work. Who knows.

      Sometimes when you’ve been at it for a long while, the whole free thing gets a little tedious.

      I also fully still believe in print media. I don’t hold it over digital, and I do embrace digital, but print books are embedded in the minds of all readers and only the most radical of those readers will no longer read print books.

  2. Yes, Cody, it was for “In Rainbows”

    It’s intriguing that you’re doing this for the physical book rather than the download.

    Like Cody, I’ve been thinking about the money thing quite a lot – it’s one of the things behind setting up eight cuts gallery and press – to try and see if it’s possible to run something sustainable where I don’t take a single penny from authors on sales from their books.

    • Ah, two experiments from Year Zero-ers involving money… capitalist pigs we are, huh?

      Look, I myself am not a fan of paying for digital versions of books. For the solidarity indieness I’ll shell out a few shekels. But nothing along the lines of what the big boys are charging–$9.99 is hectic for a digital version that you can’t even share with your friends.

      But for print — and I must say, Back(stabbed) In Brooklyn looks pretty amazing as I gaze at it right now — I don’t think $8 is outrageous.

      I did this because my last book didn’t sell more than 100 copies. That POD short print run cost me about $300 and I made my money back, including free copies I gave to those asshole fucking indie bookstores to read before they never ordered a copy to stock.

      So if I can sell 100 copies of Back(stabbed), that would be a major coup, I my opinion.

      Like going to a Las Vegas casino and playing craps for hours, drinking their free drinks, see a few free shows, even if I lose a little money playing, I’ve still gotten to play and drink their drinks. So I come out ahead, in my mind.

      • getting near 100 is pretty good. I think i sold about 10 of Benny.

        It’s tough at the bottom, but it’s also funnier, and maybe we’ll write better now than if we ever made it big.


  3. Interesting.

    While I would more have understood that approach for the digital version of the book, doing this for the physical copy seems a little foolhardy, but also brave.

    I am interested in seeing what the results of this experiment are.

    • I wouldn’t in a million years ask someone to pay for the digital version of my book. I mean, I have it loaded up on through Amazon DTP and I’m charging $2.99, but I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy it there when they can download the .mobi copy on Feedbooks for free — and I tout Feedbooks as the main source of multiple download versions on my website. I encourage people to go there.

      But here’s the cool thing about the exercise: a fellow poor indie writer donated $5; but then my mom’s rich friend donated $50. Each will have a print copy of the book (AND a free copy of the latest Gupter Puncher mag!). So “the market” might actually work.

      Look, if I get a bunch of dicks donating $1 for a copy of the book I”ll stop the experiment, or I”ll mail back their $1 and say sorry, fuck off.
      But it’s not like I’m talking a volume of thousands here (even though this book is really more a commercial fiction story than it is experimental, so I DO HOPE I CAN GET HARVEY KEITEL TO READ IT AND GET A FILM MADE…but that’s just a sidebar).

      I’ll keep you all informed. Thanks.

  4. what happens if Harvey only stumps up $1? Will you send him one or not?

    marc nash

  5. No comment on the idea, as I’m not sure I have anything constructive to add, but it concerns me to hear you talking about your last book in the past tense. You’re not subject to release slots like traditional publishers are, so the sales window is ongoing. Back(Stabbed) will generate more interest in 29… and as long as it’s available electronically, there’s potential demand for print copies.

    • if you were as paranoid as I am, you’d talk about it in the past tense. i am the sole breadwinner for my family and i can’t lose a job. when it comes to paying the mortgage and feeding my toddlers, no amount of artistic integrity can get in the way.

      and as much as you’re right about generating interest, i can’t afford to make any links between the two books. if they find out who i am, i’m finished. so i’m starting over and looking at the first release as a lesson.

  6. Totally off-topic, but Lenox, your sleeves are bad ass, girl.

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