Authors Take Up The Tiered Support Models Also

from the good-for-them dept

Another day, another example of content creators embracing the business models we’ve been talking about — and once again, this one is outside of the music industry. Recently we wrote about movie makers picking up on tiered funding offerings, similar to what Jill Sobule has done, and now we’ve got a budding author as well. To be clear: I’m absolutely sure there are others doing this as well, but I just heard about this particular example. Elinor Mills has the story of an author, Robin Sloan, who has apparently put some popular short stories that he’s written online for free. But now he’s trying to write a whole book. But rather than go the standard route, he’s self-funding and then self-publishing the project, and like Sobule, Josh Freese, and many others (um, including us!), he’s offering various tiers of benefits that you get for support:

Pledge $3 or more
DIGITAL PACK. Get a PDF copy of the book and follow along with behind-the-scenes updates.

Pledge $11 or more
PHYSICAL PACK. All of the above, plus get a physical copy of the book. (The more people who choose this level or higher, the better the book is for everybody!)

Pledge $19 or more
SINCERITY PACK. All of the above, plus your book is signed, and it comes with a little surprise.

Pledge $29 or more
PATRON PACK. All of the above, plus your name (or secret code-name) is listed in the acknowledgments.

Pledge $39 or more
SUPER OCCULT VALUE PACK. All of the above, plus get three more copies of the book (for a total of four), so you can give one to a friend, donate one to the library, leave one in a coffee shop with a line of hexadecimal code scribbled across the title page…

The cool thing? At the time I’m writing this, the last one had the highest number of buyers, and the cheapest one had the lowest number of buyers. And yet the Hollywood lawyers of the world insist that people just want to get stuff for free. Not true. Provide them real scarce value and people will buy.

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Comments on “Authors Take Up The Tiered Support Models Also”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:


I like it, I really do, but there is such a stigma amongst the literary industry against self-publishing that it’s making me wince at this.

I’ve made the point before, but I think there’s a fundemental difference between the music industry and the literary industry in that the publishers and the bookstores are often under contract with one another to distribute books and allow for returns of unsold product, in fact sometimes they’re owned by the same parent companies, whereas the record labels don’t have any such control.

The analogy is that the music venue, say the House of Blues is to music as Borders is to books. Right now, Borders is entirely controlled by the traditional publishers. Imagine if the music labels controlled what acts went on EVERY stage around the country.

Which isn’t to say this can’t work. The story with self-publishing has ALWAYS been that it can work, if you can figure out how to market the work on your own and sell it directly to the customer. The other question is how do you then turn that underground audience into a movie deal?

hegemon13 says:

Re: Stigma

“I like it, I really do, but there is such a stigma amongst the literary industry against self-publishing that it’s making me wince at this.”

That’s true, but I think that will go away with time. When publishers are no longer gatekeepers to content, it won’t really matter so much what the industry thinks.

“Right now, Borders is entirely controlled by the traditional publishers. Imagine if the music labels controlled what acts went on EVERY stage around the country.”

You are assuming that Borders and the like are the only stages. They’re not. They are more like the event arenas. For everyone else, Amazon is a pretty huge open stage that anyone can use. So is P2P. So is a good website. So are social networking sites. Etc. Etc. Etc.

“The story with self-publishing has ALWAYS been that it can work, if you can figure out how to market the work on your own and sell it directly to the customer.”

Absolutely correct. The problem isn’t with self-publishing. The problem is that most authors aren’t businessmen, and they don’t know how to go about manufacturing, promoting, and distributing a product. When done right, however, an author makes a LOT more money on fewer copies because they keep all the profits instead of a small percentage. My uncle has successfully published two young-adult novels that went on to win awards and allowed him to move to writing full time. He has not sold enough copies to make a large income through a traditional publisher, but because he self-published, he has been able to make a living from them. (The books are Runt the Brave and Runt the Hunted, if you are curious. They’re on Amazon.)

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Stigma

Yes, I’ve been saying for some time now that Baen, who I currently have an MS out to for consideration, will be the only traditional publisher I’ll be submitting to. Otherwise I’ll be attempting some similar kind of experiment on my own (and I’ll expect a little pimping Mike!…J/k).

The other problem with self-publishing is getting through the near-criminal companies that completely take advantage of folks with vanity publishing houses.

I don’t know, I’m going to tread carefully, but I think it can work, particularly if you have an idea of how to make something go viral.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

I liked it

I read his short story “Mr. Penumbra’s Twenty-Four-Hour Book Store” and liked it. It has modern day references (Craigslist, Google, the recession) has a good twist at the end, but the growing crystal spires of Google just got weird. Outside of that, I like his writings.

Once my bank fixes their website so I can balance my check book, I plan on pre-ordering the “SUPER OCCULT VALUE PACK”.

John Doe says:

This highlights the problem

This example highlights the problem with the industry. It cuts out the “industry”. So organizations like RIAA and the record labels are running scared. They will continue the money grab as long as possible just hoping that content creators don’t wake up and realize the labels aren’t needed anymore.

Nick Coghlan says:

Re: This highlights the problem

Well, more to the point, it creates a *new* style of supporting industry that folks like Topspin and Nettwerk are stepping up to supply (in the music case). I wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see something along those lines happen in the publishing world, but it seems less likely since there are some existing book book publishing companies (such as Baen and O’Reilly) that appear to be a bit more adaptable than the major record labels.

It didn’t have to be that way, but if you resist change long enough, you will eventually go the way of the buggy whip manufacturers.

Business types like to talk about it being a good thing when companies stick to their “core competencies”. But there’s also such a thing as recognising that your core competencies are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the rest of the world and it is time to either wind up the company or else start looking for new ways to make money (preferably in ways that are at least vaguely related to what you currently do, but not necessarily).

wirtes (profile) says:

Providing all the value

The book industry provides three kinds of value to authors:

  1. Production/Distribution – so you get paid
  2. Marketing/Promotion – so people know about your book
  3. Professional Editing – so your book doesn’t suck

Robin Sloan appears to have the first two covered, but does anyone know if he’s self-editing? Seems that this business model has to cover #3 if it’s going to take off in a big way. Even Salinger had an editor.

Scath (user link) says:

Re: Re: Providing all the value

Self-publishers (or ‘independent authors’) that are serious about honing their writing craft DO hire editors.

Some hire cover designers and someone to format their books (or purchase such services from POD publishers like, because they want to get away from the madding crowd of aspiring writers who don’t bother with editing, etc.

Doesn’t mean their finished works are any more perfect than a traditional publisher’s finished product. And I’ve seen many, many mistakes in traditionally published books in the last five or so years.

copycense (profile) says:


We like all these alternative business models, and conversations thereof, but let us not forget that there were groups like Wu-Tang Clan doing unique stuff like this as far back as the early 1990s, when (unlike now) the Internet mostly was unknown to the public and it was more socially acceptable (and economically viable) to make money by signing to large labels. Wu-Tang’s model wasn’t necessarily tiered in the way outlined here, but its model of self-production, self-promotion, collaborative royalty earnings scheme, and spinoff groups and acts was revolutionary at the time. While we know less about her music, Ani DeFranco probably falls into this category as well.

Dave H (profile) says:

Robin also does the CwF to increase the RtB

i got in for the super duper deluxe version. I mentioned in the comments that I wasn’t sure I was down to read the book, I just loved the idea, and thought I could give away the book to friends and hopefully get my kids names in the acknowledgments (comes in the patron pack). Robin replied ( ) with “here’s what I’m gonna try to do… I’m gonna try to post such interesting updates and teasers between now & the book’s publication that you are totally enticed to read it. This is my new mission.”. Awesome. CwF for a RtB.

so i asked him if he’d heard of techdirt (after confusing techdirt accidentally with lifehacker… soooo sorry) and he said no, but came over here via the link i provided and checked in on the post, and the comments.

anyway, just thought i’d update.

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