Two ends of the spectrum. Or maybe better to say two pieces of it.
On the one hand, there is Cat Valente's impassioned defense of traditional publishing over the freemium money-later model, where (in her purview) a few short-term gains are weak compensation for a long-term denaturing of publishing as a whole.
Then there is C.E. Murphy's notions about sustainable crowdsourced funding for fiction, a way to get the fanbase to support you in a more graduated way.
I don't think these two points of view contradict each other or are in competition. I think they're highly complementary.
Yes, on the one hand, the current system of publishing is monolithic and clumsy. But the alternatives that have been proposed — the solutions that amount to dumping the whole stinking system and living with the consequences (as the UNABOMer once put it) — are not solutions. Scrapping publishing as we know it and replacing it with what amounts to a long-term honor system will only ensure that the people who get paid poorly enough now (both authors and publishers) will get paid that much more poorly and inconsistently in the future. By and large, a tip jar is not a business model by itself — unless you're a waitress, and even then it's not really a business model either.
That doesn't mean we can't find transitional steps, which is what Item #2 above is about. Yes, by all means explore ways to make use of your current fanbase to more directly support the work you want to do as opposed to what your editors simply think will sell. Given enough time and enough variants on that basic scheme, I suspect we'll be able to see just how sustainable — and with what specific types of fanbases — such work models can be.
This last part, the matching of the work model to the nature of the fanbase, does not get nearly enough discussion. Stephen King's pay-as-you-go experiment tanked because the biggest and most valuable chunk of his readership are people who are accustomed to paying one upfront price for everything. He might have better luck with it now than before, but I suspect the people who'll have the best luck with such things are folks who have a closely-knit connection with their fans and who started off having no choice but to develop such a thing. The newer generations of 'Net-savvy authors, the ones who start with webcomics or whatnot, they seem to develop this sort of thing far more easily. They're used to talking one-to-one via blogs and LJ and TwitterBookFaceFeedTubeSiteEtc. They don't need a PR guy or two to three levels of remove from their own readership to keep from stepping on their own tongues.
This stuff's hard to cultivate. It should be. It means the people who can't do it (or do it badly) get weeded out, and the attention goes to the people who know how to create and keep an audience. Kind of the point of being a writer. Communication to an audience has to continue even outside the pages of the work itself.
So from now on, it's in our best interests to find out what else might be possible — how to take the existing citadel and add new wings to it without wrecking the foundation and letting the roof collapse from neglect. Feel free to invent your own metaphor.
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