I have been following this new phenomenon as it relates to fiction writers, and have often wondered where it would lead. On the surface, it looks like a pretty cool thing – a funding source that never existed before, a replacement to the publisher’s advance, this time, paid forward by readers. But then I tried to look at the pros and cons (I’m cautious by nature) and this is what I came up with:
a)Money paid up front to recognize the writer’s effort.
b)A vote of confidence by readers on the success of the book.
c)Advance publicity for the writer and her work
d)The opportunity to create new followers from the crowdfunding space.
e)A yardstick to measure the book’s potential before going through the expense of publishing it.
a)Publicly perceived failure if the sum of funds targeted is not raised.
b)An expectation of performance by readers that can put undue pressure on the writer.
c)Intrusion by readers through discussion forums (some call it collaboration) on the writer’s idea and delivery, thus cramping his style or forcing him to make tough choices.
d)Withdrawal by traditional funding sources (i.e. publishers, grants organizations etc.) when they know that this public funding source is now a mainstream event and should be a writer’s first port of call for financial assistance.
e)Withdrawal by crowdfunders when the space gets “crowded” and choices have to be made, or when diminishing returns accrue.
Crowdfunding, or any other patronage model for that matter, had to happen, as traditional sources began to dry up. But as it relates to fiction, where we have created a culture of “content is free” I am finding it hard to understand why consumers will pay it forward to fund a book, and pay far more than the price of a copy (which they were reluctant to buy in the first instance due to the “free” thing we cultivated) when they do not know its outcome. When the faddishness dies out, will crowdfunding for fiction dry up? Or has crowdfunding opened readers’ eyes to the plight of writers who spend lives of quiet desperation on their creations that have then to go through myriad channels of gate keeping and rejection before a lucky few spill out through the front doors of traditional channels? Are crowdfunders fighting the battle on behalf of writers?
Whatever the outcome, this new development in the world of writers is a welcome one and I shall follow it closely, perhaps even dip my foot in the waters when it comes time for the release of my next book.