Here’s an interesting quote:
“For the first time in human history, a writer – or group of writers and editors – can instantly reach readers – even hundreds of thousands of readers across the planet – with no intermediary at all. And they can reach back. We want to create a place where readers – and readers alone – sustain the site. No bigger media companies will be subsidizing us; no venture capital will be sought to cushion our transition (unless my savings count as venture capital); and, most critically, no advertising will be getting in the way.”
The words are from former Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer, who raises the money for tours and albums from her fans, and acts responsively to them – so that they and not her music publisher control her career. It’s an extreme example of what’s starting to happen in the US, where fans want more than just content; they want a relationship to the artists and to help shape that content. Part of what Palmer has done, in addition to carefully itemising what the money raised is used for, is to turn what could have been a regular tour into a series of personal events.
It’s an extreme example, but elements of her approach could have a knock-on effect for writers. Already, there are Kickstarter-style sites like Unbound that allow you to contribute to the publication of books and talk to authors, but what if an author wanted to give a talk to a group of readers and couldn’t afford to hire a venue to speak in person? Could that be arranged if there was proven interest? Most writers who don’t sell a million copies a book (that’ll be me then) never get offered tours from publishers even when there’s clear interest – could readers help arrange such things themselves? And where do you draw the line at allowing readers to influence say, story lines?
What about something simpler and smaller? Offering a new short story for sale through Kindle for just one penny? Or writing a tale to a theme suggested by a group of readers? Surely this is no different to accepting a commission on a job. There’s a tricky line to toe here – nobody wants to compromise creativity – and yet that’s exactly what Hollywood does every time it spots a great new talent. I already fear for the career of Gareth Edwards, who made the brilliant ‘Monsters’ and got dragged off to remake ‘Godzilla’ in Hollywood. Then there are the scary fans – no, not you Stalky – the really weird ones who turn up at places you had no idea you’d be visiting. Is it a good idea to encourage them?
One of the things I ask from time to time on this site is your advice – what you think I should write next. Some time ago several people suggested a supernatural thriller, so that’s what I’m doing. In fact, I’ve already sold it unwritten. But this new world may be only just beginning – so long as the creators stay in control of what they create…