With all the talk of dwindling advances, shrinking sales, and too many scribblers willing to saturate the bookshelves with crap, Writers (with the admittedly douchey capital "W") must become more creative in monetizing their efforts. I anticipate the recent Amazon Kindle decision to open its interface to the blogosphere at large will ultimately impact blog-structured web zines like Literary Saloon and The Elegant Variation, acting in much the same way traditional door delivery currently works. But until a collective schism happens, what are those of us who produce longer, less blog-friendly works supposed to do?
Jeremy C. Shipp, author of Vacation, Sheep and Wolves, and the forthcoming Cursed (Raw Dog Screaming Press) recently adopted the subscription model for some of his own short fiction, a venture dubbed Bizarro Bytes. Quite simply, a subscription to Bizarro Bytes guarantees 12 previously unpublished short stories, delivered one per month. Interesting idea, to say the least.
I asked him what he hopes to accomplish, and what he thinks the greater implications, both positive (earning money, gaining fans, etc.) and negative (the stigma of a produce-without-passion model, etc.) may be:
I started Bizarro Bytes because I want to connect more directly with my readers. I'm hoping to create an interactive environment, without the conventional walls between reader and writer. Some people might not like this idea, but the great majority of the feedback I've received so far has been extremely positive. I'll always publish some of my future stories and books in the traditional way, but I'm excited about creating a direct link between myself and my readers. While I have my qualms about the civilized world, I'm a people person. And already, via Bizarro Bytes, I'm getting to know my readers more personally. They're helping to support me and my family, and for that, I'm going to send them my best work. It's a wonderful exchange.
Nathan Tyree, mid-author of the uniquely materializing Tom Waits and Charles Bukowski Fistfight in Hell, took to the online auction block for some inspired writer's fuel. Tyree held an eBay auction in which the winner was to become a character in the aforementioned Waits/Bukowski titled probable masterpiece. He netted a nice $107.50. Not bad, definitely good for a few beers to see him through the project.
I asked Nathan the same questions:
My reasons for the auction were three fold: Money, attention, direction. I figured that the gimmick could make money in a few ways: someone would pay to be a character in my book (about a 100 bucks was the most I expected to get and I did a little better than that), plus the notice (read "buzz") would sell more copies of the book, plus the auction winner would become a partner and help sell copies to their friends and family. I also thought that the buzz around the auction (plus the follow-up notice-like this) could interest a publisher. The main thing, though, was that this would force me to produce a new novel on deadline (I work best when forced to). There isn't any real produce-without-passion model here. Basically I came up with the idea for a novel in which the "second lead" was malleable. The narrator is set, but I thought I could (with some finesse) work basically anybody into the secondary character. In the end I got lucky. My auction winner was a woman who used to be stripper and had a coke problem, then cleaned her life up. That's a character I could have made the lead, if I didn't already have such a compelling character to write about. Differing reasons behind the endeavors, but important no matter how one approaches the concept. Writers want to make money and fans. And sadly, not many of us are worthy of a celebrity sex tape.