Get paid or give it away?
April 6, 2013 § 6 Comments
For several hundred years, writing has been a job. That is, a writer wrote something, and someone paid to read or perform it. Sometimes, people paid writers before they wrote anything. In olden days, those people were called “patrons.” Today, they’re called Kickstarter contributors.
But there’s a new model of publishing that’s emerged in the last year or two, or perhaps it’s been around longer and is just now gaining the spotlight. In this model, you write something — a song, a play, a short story, a novel — and then give it away, trusting your readers to pay when they read it. It’s the “leap and the net will appear” philosophy applied to the writing biz.
The latest take on this new model is Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s venture, HitRECord:
BIG NEWS: We’re gonna be on TV!
“Hit RECord on TV” is gonna be a new kind of variety show. I’ll host the show and also direct our global online community to create short films, live performances, music, animation, conversation, and of course, more! Each episode will be focused on a different theme. And like always, anybody with an internet connection is invited to contribute.
Amazon Studios is a similar creature. You write a screenplay or teleplay, upload it, and let others read it for free in the hopes that someone will deem it worthy of making into a movie or TV show. I have an Amazon Studios account, and actually got a little recognition at first. I thought about chucking novel writing for scripts as a result, but the more I learned about Hollywood, the less I wanted to be a part of it. Besides, I love books more than I love movies, which means I want to make books more than I want to make movies. Simple math, in my mind.
But I come back to the idea of giving it away, of leaping and waiting for the net to appear, and it continues to appeal to me. John Scalzi certainly found success that way; he published Old Man’s War as a serial novel on his blog for free, posting a chapter a day and offering the complete book for $1.50 “if someone was impatient.” He landed a traditional publishing deal a month after he started giving away his novel, and now it’s a classic.
So there’s evidence that it works, this whole idea of giving it away. But it’s unnerving, isn’t it? It is to me. I mean, my net gain from my Amazon Studios experience was a hat, a t-shirt, and a mug. Not exactly filthy lucre, and certainly nothing I can pay the mortgage with. So I’m not sure why I feel like it’s such a cool idea, but I do.
Would you give your work away, trusting your audience to pay for it as they could?