March 17, 2016

On crowdfunding and philosophy and the mighty Zon – your opinion wanted!

Metalheads Who Read, Rage against the manuscript, Steff, Writing Runes

steff metal reading book

steff metal reading book

The philosopher Heraclitus had a lot of say about change. “Everything changes and nothing stands still,” and “nobody steps in the same river twice”, are the credos at the heart of his doctrine. If Heraclitus were alive today, he would probably work in Amazon’s Kindle direct department.

I’m an Amazon exclusive author. I do this not because I’m an Amazon fangirl (although I am pretty grateful for the opportunities and exposure they’ve afforded me) but because as an indie author I need the exposure of its Kindle Unlimited program in order to find new fans and readers.

Kindle Unlimited is basically Spotify for books. If I choose to put my novels into the program, as well as being able to buy my books outright, Amazon customers are able to “borrow” my books to read. It’s pretty cool if you’re a voracious reader, because you can borrow an unlimited number of books (as long as they’re enrolled) for $10 a month.

But as an author, Kindle Unlimited (KU) can be difficult to navigate. Instead of being paid a flat royalty rate as per sales, we’re paid a certain amount per page read. However, Amazon doesn’t announce what this amount is going to be (because it changes depending on how much KU is earning and how many total pages are read by KU readers each month) until the 15th of the following month. So authors have a huge uncertainty around what they’re actually earning.

Add to this, Amazon constantly tinkers with the KU program. Until recently, they paid the same rate for a page read across the world. Now, they pay a pro-rata fee based on each country, so the US might be 0.0041 per page, but a page read in India is worth significantly less.

We’re only had this current system for 10 months. Previously, Amazon paid a flat fee per book borrowed and read more than 10% of the way through. But they dropped that system after readers were complaining there were too much short fiction. Amazon gave authors two weeks notice of the change. Authors I know had their income drop from five figures a month down to three. Now, we’re swimming across an entirely different river.

The mighty Zon are currently tinkering with KU. They just limited the total number of pages paid out on a single book to 3000 in an attempt to stop scammers taking advantage of a loophole in the system by stuffing books with 100000 pages of useless junk. A lot of authors – myself included – suspect that some more big changes are coming, and it’s safe to assume those changes are probably going to cut into our earnings, not increase them.

I earn enough from my books that, if I were to really scrimp, I could live off my royalties. What I can’t afford to do, however, is to quit my wonderful steady income job and then have Amazon change things up on me again and see my income source stripped away, again.

I don’t like to sit around and complain. I’d rather find a solution. And the obvious solution to me is to become less reliant on Amazon for the sole source of income. After all, being beholden to one large corporation is exactly the publishing stranglehold indie authors like me were striving to avoid.

I am thinking about a change.

I want to be able to bring my work directly to my closest fans. That’s you. I’d like to use crowdfunding to take Amazon out of the picture.

I’ve considered using Kickstarter for some of my previous book projects, but I’ve never had a project I thought was a good fit for the platform. Also, my publishing schedule means I don’t have a lot of time to set up, manage and promote campaign after campaign. I need something that’s ongoing, and that’s where Patreon comes in.

Patreon is another crowdfunding platform that’s a great fit for creators like me, who are putting out new content on a regular basis. Patreon works on the ancient patronage system: an artist seeks “patrons” who pledge a certain amount (either per month, or per “Thing” created), thus enabling the artist to continue to produce Things and get them out to awesome people. In exchange for their generous patronage, backers get cool rewards, such as exclusive content, behind-the-scenes peeks, and other fun stuff.

What this would mean is that if you wanted to become my patron, you would sign up to Patreon and pledge a certain amount (from as low as $1) and every time I finished creating a Thing, Patreon would take the $1 out of your credit card to give to me. You can even set a limit for the amount of Things you’ll patronise each month, so I don’t suddenly decide to drop 65 stories and wipe out your savings.

I only get funded when I produce work, and you get to follow along as I write and experiment via the patron-only feed. Depending on your reward level, you’d also get my ebooks for free, signed paperbacks, exclusive short stories, peeks at early drafts, backer swag, and the chance to name characters and vote on story elements.

I am pretty excited about all the possibilities around this, but I only want to do it if it’s something you guys are keen on, and I’d love to hear your ideas on how to make it awesome. I’ve created a short survey about Patreon. I’d really appreciate if you could take a few minutes to fill it up and give me your thoughts on this idea.

I’ve been a huge crowdfunding supporter for years. I love being able to directly support projects and people I think are awesome. I’m really excited about being able to be on the other side of the creator/backer relationship, and I’m psyched to be able to produce some awesome books and projects with your support.

Here’s the survey again. Thank you!

\m/ Steff

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