Time for an update and a chat.
My Patreon has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. It was fun that during the BrainstormATX conference one of the speakers (who was asked about Patreon) said, “It is an interesting concept, but I don’t know any author who has successfully used Patreon to serialize a novel.” Since I’d talked about my Patreon success earlier in the day when this speaker wasn’t there, a bunch of people started pointing at me. I winked and said, “I’ll talk to you after.”
When I spoke to the speaker after his session, I asked him “What do you consider ‘successful’?” Because too often people have some wrong opinions of what Patreon is and how it works. I don’t think of Patreon as a way to sell books or monetize my email list. I see Patreon as the re-institution of a fantastic old way of supporting artists whose work you want to see get made. And it in the same way it is a way to release serialized literature in a way that used to be prevalent. In the 1920’s (and consistently all the way back into the 1600’s) it was common for patrons to support artists in order for better art to be produced. One example is when Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway started a fund called The Bel Esprit. The long and the short of it is that T.S. Eliot was working as a bank clerk with little time for writing, and Ezra and Ernest thought this was a monumental waste of talent that was robbing the world of art it desperately needed. So they started a fund to “get Eliot out of the bank.” It was mostly supported by artists and other authors who pledged a certain amount a month to keep Eliot writing poetry.
So when I asked this speaker “What do you consider ‘successful?,’ I was concerned that he was looking at Patreon as a way to fund a novel. My personal opinion is… if that was the case, I wouldn’t use it. I believe that novels should be purchased by readers who want to read them AND who want to support the author. I don’t have a problem with anyone who uses Kickstarter or Indiegogo to fund a novel, it’s just not something I think I would do. The trick of it is, though, that the industry and the current social climate means that most people don’t want to invest in Literary Fiction. I thought, well, if they could get a good story — serialized like in the old days — and follow it through to completion, perhaps there could be a working together that would allow me to write more of the stuff I’d really like to write. Anyway, the guy said “Well, most of the authors who I’ve known who have tried it, some pretty big names, have brought in maybe $100 or so and that is it.” Well, if that is the purpose… to make a novel successful, then I think it is being looked at wrongly. I didn’t start the Patreon to make a profit (right now) on a book. I started it to get readers involved in helping me produce better art, even if the powers-that-be say that no one wants that kind of art today. And by that measure we’ve been wildly successful… by working together. As of this morning we are very nearly at $300 a month and June was a fantastic month of new subscribers.
The deal works like this. You sign up as a patron and I promise to give you at LEAST a chapter a month. In June I released 3 full chapters. And you can sign up for as little as $1. Every time I release a new chapter, you’ll get the whole work up to that point, including changes and edits of the previous chapters. If you want to sign up for a little more ($10 seems to be the favorite,) you can get added bonuses, like monthly personal videos and emails with me talking about the story and the process.
Every full-time author has to make a decision every morning what project to work on. Sadly, that means that what is commercially viable gets the time and effort. While this is great and produces some fun and exciting books, if you look across the landscape of publishing very few truly literary novels are being produced. The ones that are… well, they are coming solely from mainstream publishing and they are generally social engineering tracts and not traditional Literary Fiction of the kind we all read and loved in the past. I’m fine with the fact that those books are being written, but they rarely make money and when they do it’s only because Oprah or someone jumped on board. So many great authors cannot spend the time working on books like these because they can’t support themselves that way.
So my Patreon is NOT about selling a book. It is about us working together to produce some Literature I think you’ll agree is good for us and the world. And if I finish Hell and the Sea in 4-5 months, I’ll start immediately on another one.
Have you been wondering what Hell and the Sea is about? It’s getting rave reviews from patrons who are reading it as it comes out:
Revolutions are confusing. Sometimes they are bloody things, but they are always confusing.
Accidental Indie author Dim Hardy, a promising writer with a sketchy past, navigates the turbulent waters during the heady days of the Amazon publishing revolution. From the crowded bars and pubs on the banks of the San Antonio River to seedy agent-hosted hotel parties and sweaty jazz clubs of the French Quarter, Dim discovers that revolutions are confusing and sometimes bloody things, and that friends and enemies can be hard to discern when fame and money are at stake.
An author friend of mine put it like this:
“Michael Bunker blows the lid off Amazon’s biggest success story with this hilariously brutal insider tell-all of a Wonder Boy who dreamed of being a best selling writer and the Frankenstein monster Jeff Bezos brought to life. This is the Primary Colors of the Amazon Digital Publishing revolution. It’s a witty, wry and acerbic Catcher in the Rye for everyone who ever dreamed the novel in the drawer might take them straight to the top of the Amazon 100. Hacks, charlatans and phonies abound in this naked crawl through the digital revolution that changed the world and destroyed Big Publishing.”
But the best thing to do is try it yourself. So far three chapters have been released and you can get them all immediately (plus other bonus goodies if you want) for as little as $1. Try it, read what’s out there, and if you don’t like it you can always cancel your patronage. No hard feelings.
“An opinionated and fiery poet, the Ph.D. dropout (who sometimes wore a sombrero over his wild red hair) was a tireless advocate for fellow artists. And he was quick to stress that his plan was not charity. “I can’t come back too STRONGLY to the point that I do NOT consider this Eliot subsidy a pension,” he wrote to one donor. “I am puke sick of the idea of pensions, taking care of old crocks. … I put this money into him, as I wd. put into a shoe factory if I wanted shoes.” To Pound, Bel Esprit was an investment in poetry, and he expected it to yield dividends to all humanity.” ~ Ezra Pound’s Kickstarter Plan for T.S. Eliot
Wouldn’t you like to see art win though?
Also, check out my latest update video for information about what else is going on…
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