Kickstarter Campaign To Fund New Short Stories For The Public Domain

from the don't-miss-out dept

Ross Pruden, who has written for Techdirt occasionally, is a filmmaker/storyteller who is experimenting with Kickstarter to fund a bunch of short stories for the public domain. For $10 he’ll write a short story specifically for you. For just $1, you’ll get sent an email with all of the stories before they’re officially released. As he says, this is a pretty simple experiment that he’s hoping to learn from. He’s already reached his target goal, but if you’d like to help expand the public domain for just $10, why not check it out?

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Comments on “Kickstarter Campaign To Fund New Short Stories For The Public Domain”

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rosspruden (profile) says:


Mike, thanks for mentioning this. You rock.

Dear AC, $10 buys you an awful lot, in my view: patronage, immediacy, access, exclusivity, unique experience… not to mention ALL the content written for the campaign no matter how big?i.e., if I had 100,000 $1 backers, all 100,000 backers (no matter their pledge level) would receive a 100,000 word novel. For the public domain. At that point, you’re part of a freakin’ movement which means I’m selling belonging, as well. So $10 gets you a great deal, in my view. But $1, where you still get all the content before anyone, also offers good value. ๐Ÿ™‚

N.B. I’ll be writing a detailed case study for Techdirt later this week or next. Watch for it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Thanks!

You still failed to explain why it has any real value. When you start listing “patronage, immediacy, access, exclusivity, unique experience” you make me think that the writing is only secondary, a needed step to accomplish other things. It makes me think that writing isn’t the goal here.

If you wanted “patronage, immediacy, access, exclusivity, unique experience” why not go play miniputt with people?

rosspruden (profile) says:

Re: Re: Thanks!

The writing is important, absolutely, but those other attributes add unique value to the writing in a way only I can offer. That turns the writing into a scarcity, and increases its use-value high enough that $10 starts to look cheap. Yes, the content is what people pay for, but the other attributes add so much value that the scales tip in favor of it looking like a bargain.

When I pass a game store in the mall, I see a fantastic game priced at $50. Because Steam offers such unique value to the game that only Steam can offer?automatic updates, recommendations, stat tracking, social connectivity?I run home to buy that same game on Steam. The game store may have the same awesome content, but without Steam’s unique value added to it, that same game is worth nothing to me.

I’m open to miniputting, sure. But how would that show off my writing? The idea behind Dimeword is to build up a fan base by offering all donors a large sampling of a very brief stories. The “real value” is the opportunity to patronize an author and to help new modern literature enter the public domain. Plus, you know, the stories might actually be entertaining. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Thanks!

“That turns the writing into a scarcity”

If your writing is good, it’s already a scarcity. You can only write so much in your life. All the other stuff is just smoke, mirrors, and the three ring circus to get people to pay attention to your writing. The problem? They are paying for the circus, not your writing anymore, and as soon as the elephants go home, you are left with just your writing.

My advice? Make your writing unique and special, and market it for what it is, great writing. You don’t need to tie a pork chop around it to make the dog play with it.

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Thanks!

You really don’t understand this do you? There is a difference between the scarcity of content and scarcity of the availability of that content. The first is irrelevant in this discussion and you are either wilfully misusing it or under such a remarkable false impression that your argument has to be fundamentally flawed.

The issue here is that writers unlike, say, musicians don’t inherently produce anything to which the availability has to be scarce. Musics on the other hand have live performance, which is scarce and for which your argument above would actually make sense, they can only play so many live shows before they die, they can only tour so much. So if a fan wants to see a musician perform they are faced with a scarcity of that product.

Books are like recorded music but a author can’t make a living play them “live”. Yes, before you say it, I know people will often go to see an author read their work but it’s not a piratical way for people to consume a book for any number of reasons.

Anyway point is that with out something that is inherently scarce and inherently valuable authors are trying to find ways to add value to each copy of the work in the face of those copies not having to be scares at all. The most common and easy of these is to create artificial scarcity like limited special edition prints.

In this case Pruden is trying to both create scarcity while also connecting with his fans and promoting his writing. It’s a really interesting move because it combines the PR he should be doing anyway (the best writing in the world is pointless if no one reads it in the first place) while giving fans a reason to buy.

In a world where every one who is in the market for my writing could easily get hold of a digital copy of it the fact is that no matter how unique or special that writing any given copy of it is not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Thanks!

“You really don’t understand this do you? There is a difference between the scarcity of content and scarcity of the availability of that content. The first is irrelevant in this discussion and you are either wilfully misusing it or under such a remarkable false impression that your argument has to be fundamentally flawed.”

The thing is writers are just like painters or other artists: What is really rare isn’t copies or duplicates, it’s the original item. If he only has so many hours per day to write and spends them writing schlock for $10 a piece rather than writing something really good, then he loses – and importantly so do we.

His true scarcity is time, his true talent is writing, and the pinnacle scarcity is his time writing.

I understand the rest of it as marketing, but I think it’s pretty weak marketing, as it appears that it will more likely connect with people who already know him as a writer. He might reach some others, but then again, he isn’t reaching them with his A game material, but rather with some novelty stuff written for $10 a crack.

“In this case Pruden is trying to both create scarcity” – Artificial scarcity isn’t valuable, at least not in reality. Creating scarcity when you are trying to reach and make more fans seems to be a pretty self defeating concept, aren’t you trying to reach as many people as you can, not as few as you can?

“In a world where every one who is in the market for my writing could easily get hold of a digital copy of it the fact is that no matter how unique or special that writing any given copy of it is not.”

It’s why the only real scarcity is the original writing, and not much else. If the writing isn’t good enough of it’s own accord, adding a free dinner date or whatever isn’t going to change that simple fact. People may take the $10 dinner option and never come back. The original writing is scarce. Everything else is artificial.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Thanks!

“Out of curiosity, why do you assume that these works will be schlock”

No assumption, beyond the obvious: at $10 a shot, if he is putting more than an hour into it he is working for far less than a living wage, to the point where it’s painful. That isn’t even counting the time required to collect the information up front, and to correctly send the work to the right final person (or at least let them know which one is “their” story).

I know what I can get for a fiverr, I don’t expect a tenner to be any more than twice as good as that.

rosspruden (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Thanks!

…at $10 a shot, if he is putting more than an hour into it, he is working for far less than a living wage, to the point where it’s painful.

I was wondering when this would point would come up. The assumption is that I’ll be (or expect to be) adequately paid for my time, right?

Well, first off, it takes me far less time than an hour to write a 100 word story. Closer to 10-15 minutes. 20 at the most. I’ve done this for years. I know my game.

And secondly, my main objective with this campaign isn’t to make money, but to discover who among my followers are solid fans and find new fans. If I break even, or even if I spend more money and take more time than I expect, but find new fans that I end up forging a strong long-term connection with, then this campaign will have met its objective. In spades.

Amanda Palmer kept about $40,000 from her 1.2 million Kickstarter because she spent 90% of her profits on making killer perks. If she didn’t, “my fans would never trust me again.” How do you build trust when you’re starting out? You make something great. Even if it means you spend more time than you should and don’t keep any profits at the end. The payoff comes in the long-term after you cross the tipping point.

My long-term goal is build a strong connection to my fan base. I’m willing to invest a lot of my time and money to make that happen, even if it doesn’t appear cost-effective. It’s certainly better than working a minimum wage job at Walmart.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Thanks!

Actually, it’s a zero sum assumption, which is really, really odd and wildly out of place when applied to creative expression.

The notion that a lower commission or a shorter production time will automatically result in the worst quality of work–this notion actually undermines the basis for copyright entirely.

The expectation in copyright is that artists would continue to produce more and more and that at times, after perfecting their craft, a creative spark would ignite and produce a truly marketable product, which would then recover the forgone opportunity costs of all the other works that only served to forge the artist.

This is especially important when there are significant entry barriers for production.

While copyright is now a far less important element, now that barriers are almost non-existent, even so, the underlying process of producing first an artist and then great art is still the reality. Your response belies a huge misunderstanding of how art is made.

You would deny Moonlight Sonata, the first movement of which was composed in a single sitting; the vast majority of Van Gogh, which sometimes sold for little more than a meal; you deny Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, which was written as a half-hearted joke to make fun of bad poetry.

Do not assume that because many here deny the value of copyright that we will agree with your discounting the value of art to the cost of commission.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Thanks!

Actually, I was going to add this: This idea sort of reminds me of the guys at the beach and whatnot that draw caricatures for $5. Some of them I am sure are actually very good artists, and they have a real skill. Yet, they waste their time and skill on something to make enough money to buy lunch. The problem is all of his time is spent on the effort there, and not on the effort to do something more meaningful.

” The “real value” is the opportunity to patronize an author and to help new modern literature enter the public domain. Plus, you know, the stories might actually be entertaining. “

Just like the cartoons, they might be amusing, but I don’t see a clear connection here beyond the “neat stuff for a minute”. You may connect to some people, maybe not.

Do you have that many full length stories pre-written getting absolutely no attention that you need to do this?

Tim Griffiths (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Thanks!

Those artist need to eat, they can either do that by getting a job or using their talent in a way that lets them practice and improve. Getting an unrelated job may pay better but if they want to do something “meaningful” (I’m not even going to bother commenting on that) it’s still going to require unpaid time and effort on their part until they build a fanbase or get enough backing to be paid to do that full time.

Your ability to ignore the reality of the situation based confirmation bias is honestly remarkable. I just wish you’d use it to do something more meaningful than troll techdirt.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Thanks!

Tim, see above. At $10 a shot, if he’s putting even a couple of hours into each one, he’s working for less than a living wage. Forget eating, he isn’t paying the rent.

It’s his own prerogative, but as a method to make new fans, it’s limited. As a method to please his existing fans, it’s time intensive with little return. I am not sure what the real upside is on this one.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Thanks!

You don’t seem to understand the process for fiction writing. You speak as though writing dozens and dozens of short stories somehow undermines the production of long form fiction.

Many if not most, if not nearly all novels marketed from the 1920s up through today began as shorts or collections of shorts.

Several of Faulkner’s novels completely lacked a unified plot and were really nothing more than interpolated shorts with similar themes.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: And I halped!

Once upon a time, there was an AC who was very contrary.
With bluster and bellow he decried that which he could not comprehend. He challenged and wheedled, for he could not understand the connection between the author and his fans.
While the AC’s often complain, your stealing from artists you freetarded fools, when an artist did things differently he sat and he stewed.
He complained loudly and tried to defame, the good noble author seeking to expand the public domain.
With Kickstarter the money did flow, some artists have raised over a million… just so you know.
This isn’t the path the old AC can stand, its not the gatekeeper model but something different… connect with the fans.
With fans holding dollars the author did write, and the public domain grew overnight.
Then next time you hear the same lame AC refrain, tell him to shove it we don’t want to hear you complain.

Burma Shave…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 And I halped!

Ironically, poetry is the next chapter for Dimeword. But thanks for the suggestion anyway. ๐Ÿ˜›

Sure it is. You clearly thought of this before me.

Whatever. Go get your own ideas. “‘Lame AC Refrain:’ The Inimitable Poetry of the Quasi-Mentally-Stable Techdirt Poster, Vol. 1 of 23” is nearing completion and I’ve almost got the Kickstarter pitch perfected. I’ll be a hundredaire in no time.

PS, this is why the “independent invention” defense is a great idea in concept, bad idea in practice.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 And I halped!

Umm I’m TAC not Ross.
I’m a published author, but not of poetry.

Sadly you seem to have mistaken my mocking for actual art, it makes me quite sad that you have to start tearing down others to keep yourself up, is your head just a bubble your neck just threw up?
Do you have something useful you’d like to inspire, or are you some idiot who claims it is witchcraft… kill it with fire?
To prejudge and mock is the corporate shill way, oh what the hell I think I’m stuck rhyming today.

Burma Shave.

Jason says:

Re: Re: Re:3 And I halped!

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

-Stolen, not sure from whom

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 And I halped!

“He complained loudly and tried to defame, the good noble author seeking to expand the public domain.”

Idiot. I don’t complain that he is trying to expand the public domain, nor do I defame him. Where ever do you get that?

Oh wait, you aren’t paying attention, you are just filtering my comments and putting whatever meaning you want on them. Excellent work! Mike might give you a job, he can’t be a prick 24 hours a day.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 And I halped!

poetic license jackass… look it up.

His skin thin as rice paper, his ego did bristle.
He was going to whine as he kept chewing gristle.
TAC be nimble, TAC be quick, TAC will mock you…
better run away quick.
You call his model something stupid and its a shame, you seem to think he can’t survive filling the public domain.
Ars gratia artis, doesn’t seem to apply… must make money with copyright if you want to survive.
But bold steps are taken by a few brave souls, they put themselves out there among the consumer “wolves”.
But clearly this model is working, not for everyone of course, but its better than keeping the same copyright course.
My rhymes they are awful, and I don’t really care.
You don’t get poetic license so kiss my derriere.
The model must be tried, the money will flow, stop being a naysayer, and just blow.
Meter and rhyming are not what I do, I’ll leave that to Ross who is quite talented too.

Burma Shave.
(bonus points if you find the last time I did this stunt)

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s a fine idea, and it is a very straightforward offer.

I think what my anonymous colleague, above, is disappointed about is that it’s not an offer that optimizes for writing quality. Writing quality and impact is only a small part of the value offered; some would say it’s a sideshow. The actual value is in the total experience of good feelings generated by the opportunity to help out a starving artist, stick it to the man, “join a movement” (however loosely affiliated, etc.) Most of the sources of the “good feelings” you’re paying for aren’t even as tangible as the actual writing/content.

Malcolm Gladwell eloquently describes marketing research that shows that putting the same product in a more attractive package makes it taste better. You haven’t objectively changed the wine, or the ice cream, one iota, but you’ve changed the experience. Since you’re not selling wine or ice cream and you are selling the experience, it’s not really a “cheat” even though it feels that way once you find out what’s going on. You’re exploiting a flaw (or quirk) in the human brain to your advantage.

When Hollywood (or other Big Content) puts out mediocre content with a blitzkrieg marketing campaign so that a “meh” movie can still gross $150M, it’s widely derided here. I am sure the same strategy, executed by a free culture supporter, will be lauded.

It’s all about the totality of the experience: when “they” are doing it to “you,” they’re sucky and evil. Negative value. When “you” are doing it to “them” you’re freedom fighters.

Because of flaws in how nature and society and the brain work, good writing standing alone will rarely succeed over well-marketed, shrewdly-bundled mediocre writing. Old business models you hate knew this, new business models you love know this also.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

rosspruden (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Hey, I would suck as an author if it took me an *hour* to write a 100 word short story. You forget I’ve been a writer for two decades, so I know a thing or two about swift storycrafting. Not to mention that I type 78 words a minute. Under pressure, I can knock out a 100 word story in about 10 minutes. What is that? $60/hour? Walmart doesn’t come anywhere close to that.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Thanks!

I was curious how having the story tweeted to someone without a twitter presence will work… o_O

But then I’m still dealing with Kickstarter trying to reveal my location to the world, do these people not understand the concept of a separate meatspace life from an online identity?
Antarctica should work for now, stupid geolocating applications…

rosspruden (profile) says:


You may have a hard time imagining it, but I stake my integrity on it: all the stories written for Dimeword are 100% original. They are not based on previous stories I’ve written (nor are they based on stories anyone else has written, in case that might be misconstrued.).

Think of Olympic skaters: they spend years training to do something and then, seemingly without effort, captivate us for a scant three minutes. Trained talent make quality look easy. As I said, I’ve been writing for 20 years so writing stories is second-nature to me now. 20 years ago, a 100 word story would have probably taken me an hour or two.

As for the quality of the stories, I’ll let you be the judge. There is a sample story on the Kickstarter page.

Anonymous Coward says:


You call it a fine idea; didn’t stop you shitting all over it.

If Hollywood is doing it, based on their history of calling the consumers pirates and often claiming that their movies never turn a profit, it’s well within consumer’s rights to disagree with what they’re doing. Maybe not in terms of “sucky and evil”, but it gives me much less reason to want to support them.

If ‘”you” are doing it to “them”‘ it doesn’t matter. If people find that the product turns out lame they won’t support it either. I’m personally not all that interested so I’m not supporting it.

See, that’s another reason why you copyright maximalists and derived anti-consumer types fail at arguments like these – you assume consumers are all pirate sheep for downloading only Hollywood stuff because that’s the only stuff pirated online, and later scream at how your indie products are being pirated. You’re inconsistent, disingenuous, and you treat consumers as idiots at best, criminals at worst.

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