The only model we used to have for publishing was to pay for a book after it was finished. Authors would write the book, publishers would sell it and people would buy it. It’s a model that was converted well to the e-book format; I myself sell several books on the Kindle store, and all of them were ‘published’ that same way—book is written, it is offered, people pay if they want to.
But is there another way? Our friends at Book Riot had an interesting report about an author who is testing the waters on Patreon, a platform that lets content creators solicit a monthly subscription fee from fans in exchange for rewards of escalating value. Author N.K. Jemisin has apparently collected $4,000 per month this way. (Chris Meadows also covered this story a few days ago.)
On one level, good for her—if people are willing to pay it, why not collect it? I can see how a monthly amount, as opposed to a one-time payment, would appeal to authors as much as it does to vloggers and other creative types. But I think some of the ‘rewards’ are a little insulting. Those who contribute $1 a month will receive a monthly picture of the author’s cat, for instance. Color me unimpressed. One vlogger I know is offering an exclusive YouTube channel for her Patreon fans. That is more in line with something I’d actually be willing to pay for.
Plus, as Teresa Preston points out in her write-up, there is the issue of how much blood you can squeeze out of a stone, in the end. If I am already paying an author a monthly ‘subscription,’ can they get me to pay extra for the book when it’s actually released? Or is my fee only going toward the monthly cat picture?
Personally, I suspect I’d rather just pay for the book if I want it. But Jemisin did manage to get over 600 people to subscribe, so perhaps I’m the minority on that one!