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The Tip Jar as Revenue Model: A Real-World Experiment

By localroger in Media
Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:18:30 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

It's been three months since I posted my novel online for the world to read for free, with a tip jar as compensation medium. I think we have enough data now to tell how well it might work for other artists.

Sponsor: rusty
This space intentionally left blank
...because it's waiting for your ad. So why are you still reading this? Come on, get going. Read the story, and then get an ad. Alright stop it. I'm not going to say anything else. Now you're just being silly. STOP LOOKING AT ME! I'm done!
comments (24)
active | buy ad
I will summarize the aspects of my experience which are most relevant to any artist publishing a work:
  • Distribution
  • Feedback
  • Revenue
Distribution is the number of people exposed to the work. For some artists this is more important than revenue, since they regard spreading the message as its own reward.

Feedback is how the artist learns how well his work was received; knowing that N people saw your work is not the same as knowing that 0.8*N liked it or that 0.5*N think it should be burned. Again, for some artists this is more important than revenue but it might also be more important than mere exposure; the artist might want to feel that he positively influeced the readers, or made them think.

Finally there is Revenue, the question of whether your art can pay the rent and keep the wolf from the door. Most artists would prefer not to focus on this but the circumstances of life often force us to give it top priority.


Tracking my distribution is pretty easy since Rusty kindly configured a Webalizer report for the novel directory. Although there is a lot of ambiguity in web statistics we can learn a lot from these data.

As anyone who has ever set up a website knows, simply putting it online does not bring readers. My novel has benefitted from several major sources of publicity:

  1. Rusty's Jan 12 introductory article on K5
  2. A Jan 14 mention which Rusty solicited on Cory Doctorow's site BoingBoing
  3. A Jan 16 comment thread on Slashdot started by readers under, ironically enough, a front page article introducing Cory Doctorow's free online novel
  4. A Feb 7 ani-gif banner ad on low-tech left-wing political site Bartcop.com which I bought as an experiment
  5. A Feb 21 (drumroll please) front-page review on Slashdot
  6. Subsequent blogspace activity, revealed in the referrers or by google search
These publicity sources were fortunately pretty much separate from one another so we can see how effective they were. In judging readership from the Webalizer report, there are two main download threads. I tend to regard anyone who downloaded all eight chapters as a reader, so the stats for the least-popular chapter file (mopi1.html through mopi8.html) bear some resemblance, if not exact, to true readership. In addition the all-in-one files including the two versions of the .zip archive (mopi.zip and mopi.ZIP) and the all-in-one HTML file (mopiall.html) represent a mixture of people who have and haven't already read the chapters, and who will or won't actually read what they've loaded.

There is a very consistent trend that about half the number of people who load the index load chapter one, and about half the number of people who load chapter one load all eight chapters. I have used this in some cases to tease results out of the referrer logs.

So taking into account all the fudge factors, I officially and by fiat declare that I have the following readership results so far:

  1. From Rusty's intro: about 1,000 readers
  2. From BoingBoing: about 100 readers
  3. From the Slashdot comment tree: about 100 readers, which is interesting since this was a comment thread beneath a story that sank pretty quickly
  4. From the Bartcop ad: about 300 readers
  5. From the Slashdot review: about 3000 readers; this might be much higher since Slashdotters were much more likely to load the .zip and /all versions
  6. Overall, including all sources: between 5,000 and 10,000 readers
I am defining "readers" here as people who read most or all of the book. This is a little harsher than even publishing industry statistics; if you paid money for a printed copy, took it home, and couldn't finish it this scheme would call you a "non-reader" even though you paid. But it's a more accurate determination of an artwork's influence on the world.

So one could say that MOPI has effectively sold out a typical first printing run for a non-best-selling author. However, this is a little deceptive; the "marketing" I received was very targeted, and benefitted a lot in the beginning from the reputation I have for my other writing on K5. It has also been read all over the world, from Japan to the Netherlands to South Africa to Slovenia. So in many respects I consider this a best-case distribution; most people would not have gotten so much distribution so quickly. It would also be more difficult if instead of a 250K fileset it was a 30 megabyte set of songs.

On the other hand, distribution by regular publication is glacially slow by comparison. If I'd signed a contract with a publisher on Jan 12 I would still be reviewing galleys and the first books would probably be on shelves toward the end of Summer, if that soon.


I have received about 200 private e-mails about the book. It's very easy to describe them: They almost exactly mirror the tenor of comments which were posted after Rusty's introductory story.

The particular work at hand was never designed to be "friendly." It is just about guaranteed that any particular reader will find something within it revolting or insulting. In this regard it is very similar to some Indie music which is trying "not to be Pop." The feedback reveals that this work does not appeal to everybody, but it does appeal to a significant number of people a lot.

Because of the way the book is, this is a thing that was hard for me to find out any other way. Before Jan 12 exactly eight people had read it, but that isn't much of a sample size and they all knew me. Now that thousands of strangers have read it I have much more confidence that it accomplishes what I thought it did.

If you peruse the google search you will see a similar pattern. The fact that the K5 comment, e-mail, and blogging response sets are all very similar convinces me that the novel is not riding on my previous efforts or my reputation on K5.

Again, had I published conventionally it might have taken me a year or more to find out how well my book worked before a live audience. But electronic publication has the advantage that feedback is always just a click away for the reader -- either to tell me to go to hell or that I changed his life.

Nearly all of the mail I've gotten has been positive, some of it a little embarrassingly so. I credit this to the fact that someone driven off by the first pages of chapter one probably wouldn't bother writing at all. I have received a few negative reactions, such as this one. The comments following the Slashdot review were also more negative, but they were dominated by people who had obviously only skimmed the first chapter so as to post quickly.

(I'm frankly glad a few of the negatives bothered to pipe up, because if they hadn't I would seriously have to wonder about people :-)


As I write this I have received about $760 in tips from 85 people. Thanks guys!

About half of the tip money came from the initial introduction, indicating either that K5'ers are extraordinarily generous or that I was getting extra bonus points for my other work here. K5 also generated my largest tips, three of $20, a $30, and one of $45. (Did I mention that some people seem to like the book a lot?)

Slashdot accounted for most of the rest simply because it accounted for most of the rest of the readers. It is worth mentioning that some people, especially in the Slashdot crowd, tipped me just for trying the model out. I got several "haven't read it yet, but here's $1 on principle" messages.

An especially interesting data point is the Bartcop ad for which I paid $80. (I consider this an experiment and I don't account it against tip revenue.) This was supposed to guarantee 15,000 hits and all indications are that I got a fair click-through for my dollar. But as far as I can tell I didn't get a single dollar in tip money. Even if a couple of small tips came from Bartcop click-throughs it doesn't come close to covering the ad, which was extremely cheap by Web advertising standards.

A typical royalty deal from a publisher is 10% of gross, which would snag me $0.50 to $2.00 per reader depending on what kind of book it was. On the other hand much of my distribution depended on it being free; most of my readers didn't bother to pay. (This is not a complaint, it is just an observation.) So it's hard to tell if my royalty revenue would have been higher with conventional publication.

One thing I can tell, though, is that I didn't make enough to cover a traditional advance. Most non-best-selling authors never pay out their advances anyway, so that's the real metric for publication payment. You generally get $5,000 for an "ordinary book" contract. This is a sensible amount for a work that is expected to take months to complete.

Noted from a comment: I put the tip jar on the top index page so as not to impose on readers. Some may not have realized it was there or forgotten by the time they read the whole thing. So I may have been a bit too polite and discreet by not reminding people that the opportunity was there when they finished the book.

In my case I have no complaints; I never expected to make even the $760, never expected to have more than the eight readers. Because of the book's "difficulty" I was not able to get it in over the transom at a real publisher when I tried in the late 1990's. This way I have readers, I have feedback, and I know the book does what I hoped it would do. And all this happened in a very short time.

On the other hand I could not honestly advise anyone to try making the Internet tip jar their income source for the rent and groceries. All indications are that I got extraordinary results, and it just wasn't enough.

The Future I: Free *

The Free movement (as in Free software, music, art, and so forth) has work to do. As of now the tip jar model doesn't work economically as a substitute for conventional publication. (Free publication does have its upside, which I have especially appreciated since I am not depending on an advance to pay the rent.) But the next generation of artists -- new artists -- are the ones most in need of some kind of patronage. If they aren't supported they will become CPA's and forget about their art. We need a better plan.

The Future II: Me

On the novel site I made an offer to self-publish the novel in book form if I got enough support. As of shortly after the Slashdot review I made that goal, and I am keeping the tip money aside to fund this project.

However, the extraordinary success it has had in distribution and the feedback have convinced me to follow the advice of some of my readers, and try again to have it published conventionally. Right now I have a very highly regarded agent who has expressed interest in reading it, which is under normal conditions difficult to arrange. So my Web adventure has already put me in a place I couldn't get to when I didn't have thousands of readers, at least one of whom is an editor.

But we are back in the glacially-slow conventional publishing space and now that I've synopsized it and formatted the first three chapters appropriately and sent it off it will be a month or two before I know whether I have a shot at being represented. (Yes, the agent wanted a standard submission: "I can't (won't) read a whole novel off the screen." And they make the rules.)

I will give this process until the end of the year. At that point if I haven't made any progress I will self-publish the damn thing since I promised I would and I hate not fulfilling a promise. I'll keep the ball in motion in conventional land but the self publication will not help my cause there, which is why I am delaying it.


Please don't leave a comment complaining that this article doesn't include a link to the novel in question. It's not about plugging my novel, it's about the process and the results.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Tip Jar
o Why expect more? 24%
o Totally adequate 16%
o Totally inadequate 22%
o I want my $5,000 advance 20%
o Buy an ad 16%

Votes: 49
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Google
o Webalizer report
o introducto ry article
o mention
o BoingBoing
o comment thread
o article
o ani-gif banner ad
o Bartcop.co m
o front-page review
o google search
o this one
o Also by localroger

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The Tip Jar as Revenue Model: A Real-World Experiment | 128 comments (116 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Figuring per-reader return (4.50 / 6) (#9)
by Seth Finkelstein on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 09:09:32 PM EST

That's interesting data. Let's break it down per-reader:

Total tips: $760 - very roughly:

$380 from 1000 K5 readers ($0.38 / reader)
$380 from 3000 Slashdot readers ($0.13 / reader)

Hmm, are Slashdot readers a "cheaper" demographic than K5 readers? Or maybe there's 1000 serious readers, plus an extra layer of non-serious readers. My guess, given the big K5 tips, is that the K5 readers did have a one-of-our-clan boost to their generosity.

I agree it's not encouraging revenue, by far.

-- Seth Finkelstein

More readers from online publishing (4.66 / 6) (#11)
by Delirium on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 09:50:50 PM EST

So one could say that MOPI has effectively sold out a typical first printing run for a non-best-selling author.
I think this may be somewhat misleading (as you note for other reasons), because you got 5,000-10,000 readers when offering it for an optional donation. It's much more difficult to get 5,000-10,000 people to pay $10 or $15 or $20 up front for a copy of a book that they may or may not like; to sell out an actual physical print run of that many copies would take significantly more popularity I'd think, which is probably why it rarely happens with independent publishing. On the other hand, if you managed to get physical copies into major bookstores, you may gain some extra "saw it on the shelf and it looked interesting" purchases, but I doubt this would make up for the readers you lost from it no longer being essentially a risk-free trial.

So I suppose I'd consider the better comparison of online vs. print publication to more like: publish online and get 5,000-10,000 readers, of whom some are paying, or publish in print and get 1,000 paying readers. Unless the latter option garnered significantly more money, I'd probably prefer the former, since more readers is better even if it doesn't generate more money.

Well personally, I'd agree (5.00 / 3) (#15)
by localroger on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 10:04:55 PM EST

So I suppose I'd consider the better comparison of online vs. print publication to more like: publish online and get 5,000-10,000 readers, of whom some are paying, or publish in print and get 1,000 paying readers. Unless the latter option garnered significantly more money, I'd probably prefer the former, since more readers is better even if it doesn't generate more money.

Make no mistake, I consider what happened for me an amazing success. I have waited to write this article until I was completely sure of the results, and I have avoided promoting my own work in some cases in order to keep the experiment as pure as possible, because not many people will ever be willing to do it.

The thing is, by definition, most works are "mediocre." One shouldn't have to receive dozens of e-mails along the lines of "this is the best thing I'v ever read" in order to justify earning a livelihood for creating one's work. I think most people would agree there is a place in the world for entertainment that is not trying to be as, um, "special" as Prime Intellect.

I just can't figure out how they would make enough money to survive via the tip jar. If MOPI, which is exceptional in many ways and had exceptional support from a launching audience couldn't earn out a living wage, how is Sum Guy (tm) with a potentially brilliant but half-finished work supposed to get a few months to polish his masterpiece and start on the next project?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I think literature has to be superb (4.75 / 4) (#26)
by Delirium on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:52:33 PM EST

There's simply way too much literature out there for mediocre stuff to have much of a chance. I don't have that much time to read books, so when I do, I want to read good books. There are thousands of books published every year as it is, so by the sheer numbers there's very little chance that any given author will get my money.

[ Parent ]
That doesn't make sense financially. (5.00 / 2) (#71)
by la princesa on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 06:25:35 PM EST

Superb whatever in an artistic sense is more subjective than superb crafts or foods, as far as average people with money are concerned.  It is one reason of several why more brilliant chefs can make a living with few customers than writers/painters/etc.  Lowest common denominator writing isn't necessarily most profitable per buyer, but one's odds are better of making a living wage on it that then funds the more 'superb' writing.  Cf. the writer character in Stephen King's Misery.  His trashy romances were all that allowed him to spend any time at all on work he felt was better artistically.  

It's really not the mediocrity of most writing that makes even niche writing hard to live off-- it's the sheer volume of writers.  Everyone writes at least a little bit these days, so as an artform, it's been the most devalued while things like making clothing and food have become less commonly practiced as a normal life thing.  So one has a better shot at niche marketing one's offerings in those sorts of categories.  

Writing, to circumvent the fact that this thing I use right now devalues the artistic merit of someone's laboriously handwritten magnum opus, has to be memorable.  Stephen King is memorable.  Occasionally he is even superb, or clever, or good, but those aren't what sells his copies.  Memorable is a lot harder than what college writing classes and internet dilettantes like to term really excellent writing, but it is what writers should focus on if they are determined to live off it.  Or they can take up writing things that please others for spot-cash, such as celebrity biographies.  

Also, on a divergent note, I personally will likely never buy any writing or other art offered online-only simply because it isn't like what they give me in nicely lit shops.  Until they have ebooks one can treat like my copy of Anna Karenina (which is presently lying tilted to one side with a reciept for another book as the bookmark) or my copy of the Silmarillion (which is covered on most pages with yellow sticky slips that serve as annotations for various passages), it's just a blot of text on a screen.  Ok to read, but not to purchase.  And no, printouts don't count.  

<qpt> Disprove people? <qpt> What happens when you disprove them? Do they disappear in a flash of logic?
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#73)
by ucblockhead on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 07:56:13 PM EST

"Anna Karenina" was the first ebook I ever read, on an old Palm I no less.

One of the big advantages to me about ebooks is that my wife never pesters me to ship some off to the used book store to make room in the closets.

Real paper books do have their emotional appeal, but on the other hand, these days I bring localroger's novel, blixco's novel, "War and Peace", twelve odd issues of "Asimov's" and "Fantasy and Science Fiction" magazines, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom", a few translations of "The Tao Te Ching" and a few other assorted things with me to work every day. It's nice to sit on the train and read whatever suits my mood at the time without having to lug fifty pounds of paper around.

I also find that it's nicer from reading in bed. It comes with it's own light, so I can read without disturbing my wife.

Not perfect, by any means, but it has its advantages.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

The best part: webalizer search strings. (4.75 / 4) (#14)
by AnomymousCoward on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 10:02:10 PM EST

Some of the better search strings:

6 1.91% pictures of a metamorphosis of a bedbug
2 0.58% alt.sex.stories scifi
2 0.64% metamorphosis tattoos
1 3.70% software engineers millionares
1 3.70% indentation in html
1 0.53% fuck old woman
1 0.53% breasts growing instantly pictures
1 0.53% how to end novel

Vobbo.com: video blogs made easy: point click smile

Why I didn't send you a tip (4.81 / 11) (#16)
by tftp on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 10:06:06 PM EST

One of primary reasons would be that I didn't read the book :-) I remember seeing something about it, somewhere, but only today I actually read one of your introductions to the work. There is just too much of everything happening every day, and your number of readers is really low.

But let's assume that I will read the book, one day. Will I give you a $5 tip? It depends, but not on quality of your work (and if it is that bad, I would stop reading very quickly.)

For me, the major reason not to send you a tip would be my inability to do so. Not that I don't have $5 - I do, and I fully intend to use it (and more) in few monents to order a pizza. But PayPal??? It is something that I would never even consider. I don't have an account with them, and never will, so bad a reputation those crooks got by now.

With pizza it is so easy - pick up the phone, dial a number and tell them what you want. The guys there have my c/c on file, and I trust them to keep it. So it took only a 30 second conversation (already happened) to place the order.

But if I am to send you a tip, I would need to go to PayPal Web site, to review their terms of service, maybe call my lawyer about that (and pay his $300/hour fee), read reviews about PayPal (if I haven't done so already). Then I'd need to fill tens of forms to actually open an account, then I'd need to wait until an employee makes it all happen, then I need to send them a cheque... there is no need to continue, it is already obvious that this is a major todo item, and it takes days to complete.

So if not PayPal, what else is there that may be used? I can think only of regular bank cheques. $5 is on the borderline of their efficiency, but it takes the least amount of time to use them. Just write your address, stick a stamp, and drop in the mail.

I do not think any other payment method of today is sufficiently secure for such tips. Credit cards are fine, as long as you give the number to the merchant. You trust the merchant; and if he screws up you always can argue the charges. But if I am to tip a guy who works on some piece of software (or a book), I do not know them, and have no idea if they keep the records safe, etc. If I give my c/c number along with every tip, I can as well post it on my Web page :-)

Sending cash would be even easier, but I don't have any, and don't use any for years. I don't think I remember how paper money looks like. Also, postal regulations are all against sending cash (good to keep clerks honest).

So tipping is more trouble than it is worth in many cases. And there is no convenient "tipping bank" where I could safely (and maybe anonymously) transfer some small money, and then distribute to others. Such a bank will be in conflict with hundreds of banking regulations. PayPal wanted to be like that, but then they started thinking big, and see where they ended up. So what is left there? Only a cheque in an envelope.

Using PayPal (5.00 / 7) (#17)
by localroger on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 10:20:24 PM EST

Everything you say is quite valid. I have actually had two tips sent in the mail, after the tippers e-mailed me to complain that they didn't want to paypal.

Of course this is a lot of effort -- it violates the "tipping is spontaneous" thing I argue just a few comments down, but apparently some tipsters really are that dedicated.

The main reason I used paypal is that there is no comparable service as far as ease of use. It was unfortunate that wave of "PayPal is bad" publicity hit about the time I posted the novel. But that's life, and the thing is I've never been stung by paypal, GF who does a lot of stuff on eBay has never been stung by paypal, and in fact we really don't know anyone who has been stung by paypal even through a very large extended network of associates. So we use it.

Which doesn't mean it is all that trustworthy; the monies donated to me are quickly moved out of the PayPal acccount. But we use it for its convenience and because there aren't any comparable substitutes.

And my response if you think it's too much trouble is ... well, glad you liked the book. No harm. Spend the money on something that you find rewarding. Thanks for thinking of doing it anyway. The book sat on my hard drive for eight years before I was asked to post it here, and if I hadn't been asked I'd be getting exactly the same revenue from you. So what is there for me to resent? (And no, that isn't sarcasm. It's the truth.)

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Would kagi work for you? (3.00 / 1) (#55)
by Anonymous Hiro on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:14:39 AM EST


I've only dealt with them as a consumer once, no probs, but hey it's only once :).

[ Parent ]

You're exaggerating (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by damiam on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 08:03:34 PM EST

I would need to go to PayPal Web site, to review their terms of service, maybe call my lawyer about that (and pay his $300/hour fee), read reviews about PayPal (if I haven't done so already). Then I'd need to fill tens of forms to actually open an account, then I'd need to wait until an employee makes it all happen, then I need to send them a cheque...

IIRC, there're about two forms to fill out, your account is automatically opened and all you have to do is type in your credit card # and how much money and hit "Send".

[ Parent ]

Musiclink? (none / 0) (#108)
by Sessamoid on Thu May 01, 2003 at 02:37:45 AM EST

On the subject of alternatives to Paypal, have you considered Fairtunes Musiclink? They've recently filed for non-profit status, rightly concluding that their business model wouldn't support a for-profit scheme probably due to lack of trust from donators.

Despite the name, they are not restricted to musicians or even artists. One of the more prominent names in Musiclink's database is Linus Torvalds. They take pretty much any size donation and forward all the proceeds to the artists (they used to take a percentage). They're depending on patronage and donations from successful artists to keep going these days.

[ Parent ]

I wrote an article, too (2.20 / 20) (#18)
by A Proud American on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 10:20:29 PM EST

It's very similar to this, but it's much shorter.


The Tip Jar as Revenue Model for Open Source & Free Software: A Real-World Experiment
by Mr. A. P. American

It doesn't work.



The weak are killed and eaten...

Does Agent know book is downloadable? (5.00 / 4) (#20)
by GGardner on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:09:30 PM EST

Does the agent know that the book is now downloadable? Will it have to be pulled from the internet before it can be published conventionally? Typically, (I think), publishers want "right of first publication" -- does downloading count?

Yes. (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by localroger on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:12:40 PM EST

Agent refuses to read a whole book off-screen, just like many potential readers who e-mailed me with the same complaint.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

What about that second point? (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by Peter Vile on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 08:22:18 AM EST

AFAIK, most publishers won't touch slush pile submissions if they've previously been published elsewhere, and for very good reasons.  The 10,000 readers who've already read your novel might be the only 10,000 who might have paid money for it.

Can you please keep us posted on how that goes.

rusty made nowhere near $80K this year for posting diaries about how fucking great it is spending our money.
[ Parent ]

also curious (none / 0) (#59)
by adamba on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:38:56 AM EST

From reading sites like Critters (sci-fi critique site pointed out in the comments to the "Enn-Eye" story), publishers consider web posting to be publishing and simply will not accept content that has been previously published that way. However "previously published" is relative I think, it depends on how much it was modified since it was published.

The rule seems to be you can publish something so it can be critiqued, but the forum has to be closed in some way. For example Critters just requires free registration with email verification. But it seems from reading their site that you can't have posted it anywhere available to the general public.

I am wondering because I am thinking of posting the sequel to my k5 fiction story "T.E.U.". But then I started to think that maybe instead I should hang on to it so I could submit the two parts together to a sci-fi magazine. But perhaps even publishing one half of something in basically its final form would make it not saleable?

I suppose I could post it to the editing queue for a while (only available to members, hence OK) but then yank it without posting it. But that seems to violate the spirit of k5.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Publishing, rights, etc. (none / 0) (#85)
by localroger on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 08:20:59 AM EST

For short stories the situation is pretty clear. Most magazines will want First North American Serial Rights (FNASR). Most would not consider publication on K5 publication both because it's free and because it's electronic; the simple thing is to be up-front about it with any prospective publisher. You can still sell reprint rights if the consensus is otherwise.

For novels, what I did is I carefully separated print rights from e-rights in my license. While it's not "standard" there are some publishers giving a little leeway (cf. Cory Doctorow) and I am in a pretty good position to say that, at most, I've given away the electronic publication rights and the print rights are still up for grabs.

I think Creative Commons has really missed the boat on this, since none of their template licenses makes this distinction and a publisher could rightly complain that you've given your fans carte blanche to compete with your dead-tree publisher.

This is one reason I'm waiting to self-publish a dead tree version, since I've decided to try again for real publication. In my case I think the web publishing experience my actually help me to overcome the difficulties the story faces going over the transom; it comes with a ready-made and proven audience. But if that doesn't work out in a year or so I'll self publish it and call it the next step of the experiment.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

best way to find out... (none / 0) (#88)
by adamba on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 12:40:26 PM EST

is to ask. The Baen Books WebBoard FAQ has a list of sci-fi magazines--presumably you could write to them and ask before submitting anything.

The FAQ also says:

III) One more thing -- putting items in the Slush Pile (or other areas) is "posting." Be careful of the verb. "Publishing" has a specific meaning in the law, and if you ever want to see your work in dead-tree print, you do NOT want the word "publishing" to apply to what you do here.


* Do not refer to these posts as "publishing."
* Do not post the entirety of a novel or similar long work on which you intend to sell rights.
* Do not post the final draft of a work on which you intend to sell rights.
There are contentions that any of these could negate some or most of your copyright to the work. Again, the law on this is still being sorted out.

So it does sound like they are mostly concerned about full publication of final versions of novels. Still the wide-openness of a k5 post might be cause for concern, both the Baen slushpile and Critters are very careful to not make their content available to everyone.

- adam

[ Parent ]

results of asking (none / 0) (#124)
by adamba on Thu May 08, 2003 at 01:29:01 PM EST

I contacted a few magazines -- Analog, F&SF, and a few British ones. The consensus was that publishing on k5 does count and they would not accept any material that had been posted here. F&SF said they do occasionally do reprints, but certainly they all consider kuro5hin to be "publishing", even though it is free and electronic.

- adam

[ Parent ]

Agent knows of Web publication (none / 0) (#77)
by localroger on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:11:36 PM EST

In fact that was the lead-in of my e-mail. The thing is while my novel is very odd, challenging, weird, and perverse, I have also now demonstrated that it has a solid audience. This was all in my letter, and the result was the agent wanted to read it. (I am being very coy here, but this person is one of the top 3 or 4 SF agents in the industry. I will reveal all when the matter is resolved.)

The conventional wisdom that web publication kills commercial possibility is being challenged on several fronts right now, not the least of which is Cory Doctorow's simultaneous free web publication and Tor dead-tree publication of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Why K5ers gave more (4.40 / 5) (#22)
by arvindn on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:15:34 PM EST

indicating either that K5'ers are extraordinarily generous or that I was getting extra bonus points for my other work here.

I think this is simply because people would rather donate to someone they "know" than a total stranger. Its debatable how well we know other K5ers, but still better than someone you've never heard of before and probably never will again.

So you think your vocabulary's good?

How do you prevent stealing? (4.00 / 6) (#23)
by Fen on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:32:58 PM EST

I did a diary entry on just this, "stealing and the gift economy". Say I took your entire story, and said it was mine. It's all packaged and everything, all I do is change the author. I put it on my site, call it an experiment in a virtual "tip jar". Or maybe I charge for it, or even put oppressive Digital Restrictions Management on it. What do you do? How do you prove that you made it first? Of course I'll claim that you were the one that stole it.
Question (4.60 / 5) (#31)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:50:46 AM EST

How does its free status change anything? You can plagiarize free content just as easily as you can plagiarize content you had to pay for.

jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
It's slightly easier (4.00 / 3) (#53)
by Peter Vile on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 08:25:58 AM EST

There are fewer people involved.  If it's commercial, it's gone through agents and editors.  Something that you've posted on teh intarweb, well, it's your word against mine that you wrote it first.  Want to bet that you'll get a judge that understands traffic logs?

rusty made nowhere near $80K this year for posting diaries about how fucking great it is spending our money.
[ Parent ]
Theoretically, (2.00 / 1) (#32)
by bjlhct on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:54:56 AM EST

encrypt it with his private key.

[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]
How does that help? (4.66 / 3) (#40)
by fluffy grue on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 02:43:56 AM EST

Best solution in this case, like every case, is to register it with the Library of Congress, which costs something like $20 and you get an ISBN so you can make it look all professional-like and everything.

A cheaper and nearly-as-effective route is to use the "poor-man's copyright," where you print out the manuscript and mail it to yourself via certified mail and never open it. Then if you go to court, you have a sealed, dated copy which proves that it couldn't have been written before the date it was mailed, and as long as the other person can't prove that they wrote it earlier, you're in the clear.

Also, depending on the media, it might be possible to take advantage of original source files. For a book it wouldn't be so useful, but for, say, music, simply having the original multitrack masters and sequence files and so on is a pretty good indication that you're the one who wrote it (since, again, it's unlikely the other person would be able to produce those materials). I don't know if that's really viable in court, though, and it would only apply to the particular recording, not to the song in general. Typically the song has two copyrights, one on the lyrics and one on the performance, and then things get all weird and stuff (like, they're both worth more than the other, but individually worthless, depending on how you look at the various laws).

Anyway. Just encrypting the story with a private key won't afford any protection whatsoever. I could encrypt it with my public key but that doesn't prove that I own it...
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I love you.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Whoops. (none / 0) (#80)
by bjlhct on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 12:57:24 AM EST

I seem to have pulled a Rogerborg, as I'll call it.

OK, there has been some work in the area of digital currency that applies.

[kur0(or)5hin http://www.kuro5hin.org/intelligence] - drowning your sorrows in intellectualism
[ Parent ]

Cyprtographic Timestamp (5.00 / 5) (#42)
by FlipFlop on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 03:58:05 AM EST

How do you prove that you made it first?

You use a cryptographic timestamp. Basically, you compute a message digest on the content (such as an MD5 or SHA1). You send the message digest to a service which will digitally sign the digest with a timestamp. If the timestamping service can be trusted, it is like having a notary public put a timestamp on your work.

just in case someone impeaches the timestamping service's credibility, you could have several competing services provide a timestamp. It would probably be simpler to just file with the copyright office.

What happens if you take the work and get your own digital time stamp before the original author thinks of it? If you present it to court, and the author proves you're lying, you're pretty much guaranteed a trip to jail. Localroger, for example, had eight people read the book before he published it. They could all testify to that fact in court.

I did a diary entry on just this, "stealing and the gift economy".

What's so special about the gift economy? You could bring these issues up with respect to any other crime. Suppose your wife kills you. How do the police prove it was her? There's little pieces of evidence everywhere.

A novel is the same way. If you go to court and can't explain how you came up with your characters, the judge will begin to wonder about you. If the author comes up with several rough drafts and you don't, that won't bode well for you either.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

what would cryptography do? (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by Fen on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:26:51 PM EST

Ok, so you get some hash of your entire novel? So the theif just adds, "And so the story begins" to the beginning, changing it ever so slightly. I'm thinking a summary or the whole text would be needed.
[ Parent ]
You have to keep your copy of the novel (5.00 / 3) (#81)
by FlipFlop on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 12:59:39 AM EST

Ok, so you get some hash of your entire novel? So the theif just adds, "And so the story begins" to the beginning, changing it ever so slightly. I'm thinking a summary or the whole text would be needed.

You have to keep the copy you computed the hash on. When you show up in court, you present both your copy of the novel, and the cryptographic timestamp. For all practical purposes, it is impossible for someone to come up with another document that has the same hash. So the court will know the hash goes with your novel.

You could apply the cryptographic timestamp to the whole novel, but then the timestamping service would see your novel. Besides, public key cryptography is so slow that digital signatures just sign a hash anyway.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

The courts (4.00 / 1) (#90)
by ucblockhead on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 01:19:19 PM EST

You are likely better off using the tried-and-true methods of registering copyrights, or sealed, registered envelopes. The courts (and juries) are much more familiar with those, and they are just as secure.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
google cache (4.50 / 2) (#44)
by alizard on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:24:05 AM EST

Google cache shows the file existed at the legit author's before you made your assertion of ownership.

And/or he registered the copyright with the USPTO.

If author is feeling really nasty, he does a DMCA takedown.

Otherwise it's straightforward copyright infringement.

Either way, you're hosed.
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico
[ Parent ]

Interesting (3.00 / 1) (#54)
by Peter Vile on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 08:28:52 AM EST

How about if on my intarweb publication, I mention that I've previously emailed it round friends and family (and I do so), but that this is its first intarweb appearance.

Then I hit you with a preemptive DMCA takedown.

After all, if I'm going to steal your work, I might as well go on the offensive.

rusty made nowhere near $80K this year for posting diaries about how fucking great it is spending our money.
[ Parent ]

Not a new issue (5.00 / 1) (#68)
by ucblockhead on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:39:11 PM EST

This has nothing to do with ePublishing. I could certainly take a print book, retype the thing in and sell it as mine. Or I could steal someone's preprint manuscript, or whatever.

People have been doing that, and suing over that, ever since "copyright" began. The way you prevent it is no different. You go get a copyright, or use some other way to show you have the earliest possible possession of it.

Courts don't care what you claim. They care about who has the sealed, registered mail envelope with the manuscript in it. You can do that as easy with an ePublished version as any.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Easy: Get your copywrite notarized. (none / 0) (#117)
by dikaiopolis on Fri May 02, 2003 at 05:07:15 PM EST

I think it costs something like $30, but I'm not sure. Anyone know?
gnoske seauton
[ Parent ]
Music (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by Error404 on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:48:17 PM EST

There's an artist on /. (Stewart Wyatt, I forget his slash nick) Who has something simmilar for his music distribution. He has a number of tracks freely downloadable, and a section of his site that's pass protected where he gives the rest away for a donation, regardless of size. So far he's gotten donations of $1 to $500. I haven't a clue how much he's actually grossed.

Two factors (4.66 / 3) (#25)
by dennis on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:51:42 PM EST

From what I've seen, there are two factors that go a long way towards making money from voluntary donations:

1) Conditional release. Either implicit ("help us eat so we can keep making music") or explicit, as with Schneier's Street Performer Protocol. Either way, fans donate because they want more, not just out of a sense of gratitude.

2) A strong fanbase. Until you have the fanbase, any donations are a bonus...your real enemy is lack of exposure, and digital distribution helps you get the fans who will fund you later.

I can cite two cases in which both factors applied, with good results. The best-known case so far is Stephen King's experiment...by releasing a novel in installments, asking for donations along the way, he netted half a million bucks. In my opinion, he screwed up by promising to complete the novel as long as he met funding targets for the first two chapters...once that condition was fulfilled, donations plummeted. (Following which, he broke his promise.)

Another example is the British band Marillion, which, while not as well-known as King, has a dedicated fanbase. Marillion raised $60,000 for a U.S. tour from fan donations, and followed that up by raising 200,000 pounds for studio production of their next album - more than they ever got from a record company advance. In this case, these weren't donations so much as pre-purchases of an CD they hadn't yet made. Although Marillion was not using internet distribution (only internet marketing), they stuck much closer to Schneier's model than King did. They asked for a specific amount, rather than percentage of downloads, and they provided a moneyback guarantee if that target was not met. And they're at it again.

In sum, if you have another novel in the works, don't keep it a secret! Now that you've put this novel on the net, you probably won't make much from donations for it...its real value to you is that it's an advertisement for your next novel. And so on, when that one is released.

Slashdot negatives (4.33 / 3) (#27)
by Gord ca on Sun Apr 27, 2003 at 11:53:30 PM EST

Another reason for the slashdot negatives might have been the review... The review sucked. It was more of a summary (and not a very good summary), with nothing critical. On K5 it would've been voted down.

Of course, Slashdot has amazingly bad discussions, as everyone around here knows...

If I'm attacking your idea, it's probably because I like it

Similar Experiment (4.44 / 9) (#28)
by johnny on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:09:23 AM EST

I today placed the PDF sources to my two novels (Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices) on my website.

Until now the first one-third of each book in HTML had been up on the site. I have a tip jar, from which I have received $200 over 8 months. This has come from two contributors. One person made several donations over several months that added up to $125; the other person sent $75. (Now those are what I call generous tips!)

Since many of my book sales have come from people who read the first 1/3 online and then purchased the book(s) to see what happened next, I have been reticent about putting up the whole things. But, what the heck. With any luck I'll get so much more exposure now that the whole books are available for free that I'll more than make up for it in tips and sales.

yr frn,
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

Ads (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by ucblockhead on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:25:52 AM EST

I've been periodically advertising my Winamp plugin on k5, and I've found that the clickthrus have steadily dropped. I've presumed that this is because I've saturated the site, and that most people who might be interested have already checked it out. The first ad, from right around the time Rusty implemented ads got over 3% click thrus. The most recent one only got a tenth that.

I've also implemented a tip jar, though I've not advertised that fact. I've received two donations of $5!

Anyway, away from my thing and back to yours (which I have to admit that while I really do intend to read it soon, I haven't yet), I think that a percentage of your downloads are due to the novelty of the ePublishing thing. Another percentage are the "I know localroger and he wrote a book!" thing. Your slashdot downloads are probably closer to "true" then your k5 downloads.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup

ads (4.00 / 2) (#34)
by doormat on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 01:13:55 AM EST

Thats why I wait 1-2 months between advertising binges. If you see the same ads over and over (coz you're here a lot) you've either already clicked on it, or arent interested.

I'd be interested to see what would happen if localroger went and "published" his book again. In a sense, since its already written and posted, its just a matter of finding new outlets. Maybe get a little more revenue, maybe up to $1000.

[ Parent ]

Similarly (5.00 / 1) (#51)
by localroger on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 08:03:01 AM EST

Part of the impetus to get me to publish it was Zapata's offer to fund an ad, which is still running. I've gotten a few click-throughs off of it but obviously most of the people who see that ad have already seen the intro story which hung around the FP for a week, so it turned out not to be a major factor.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

The Street Performer Protocol (4.75 / 4) (#30)
by pde on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:32:18 AM EST


just wondering if you considered the Street Performer Protocol (or some variant la Stephen King)?

These models have the benefit of a degree of contingency, which may be the key to getting a large volume of voluntary contributions (if the contributions aren't made, the book isn't there).

On the downside, they may reduce the number of people who read your work (especially if you are trying to establish a reputation).

Visit Computerbank, a GNU/Linux based charity

A slight variation (4.80 / 5) (#33)
by tokugawa on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 01:13:51 AM EST

You could have freely offered the novel--for the most part. I think asking for a 1$ paypal donation (or more, but 1$ minimum) in exchange for the last chapter might have produced good results.

You say something like 5000 people read the whole book. Let us assume that only a fifth of those people would have shelled out 1$ or more for the final chapter. This translates to 1000$ minimum, though a sharp reduction in your readership.

Some people would say that this is a sneaky, underhanded way to conduct business. I strongly object to this because if the reader has bothered to read 7 out of 8 chapters, then she obviously liked the book, and therefore has a responsibility to show the author a degree of support, even if it's just a single dollar. If the author asks for contributions and you enjoyed his work, then it is only fair, really. Doing otherwise is little more than free riding on the generosity of others.

I very much enjoyed your work and felt compelled to contribute. I didn't, though, as I don't use paypal. I will wait for a printed copy to come out and purchase it then. I think this sort of online publishing scheme will become more popular  when online methods of payment become more standardized (perhaps through major banks) and utilized.

I wouldn't have read it if he had (4.00 / 2) (#39)
by ShadowNode on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 02:41:58 AM EST

I'm glad he didn't, because I quite enjoyed it. I tend to read the last several chapters of a book in one sitting, and I wouldn't have started knowing there would be a roadblock there.

I had been putting off reading it, hoping I could get a pigmented tree corpse version, but I got impatient ;) I'd much rather 'tip' by buying bits of organic fibres to put on my bookshelf.

[ Parent ]
The last chapter (none / 0) (#60)
by tokugawa on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:59:17 AM EST

I too think buying the work is better than sending the author a tip. That is what I have chosen to do. However, most people who would read his book would rather pay a dollar to get the full version than shell out $20+ bucks for a printed copy a year from now.

The system I propose would not make it obvious from the start that the last chapter requires a small tip. The technique is to get readers who are engrossed in your novel to not be able to resist giving you that dollar. Kind of sneaky but who are you, the reader, to complain--7/8th of his novel is available absolutely free.

It must be kept a secret else many people will not start reading it. I think professional authors should be able to make money off of their work, be it online or offline. If they have to be tricky in order to do it, then by all means.

[ Parent ]

How to lose readers (none / 0) (#121)
by protogeek on Mon May 05, 2003 at 03:03:53 PM EST

If I were considering reading a novel, and I knew up front that I'd have to pay $1 for the last chapter, I'd go ahead and read the first chapter. If it was sufficiently interesting, I'd continue reading and pay my buck when I got to that point -- maybe a little more, as long as I was at it.

If I had decided to read what appeared to be a free novel, and found it interesting enough to read all the way through, and then the author said, "Ha ha, now that you're hooked you have to give me money!", I would immediately stop reading, delete any bookmarks to the site, and make a mental note to never have anything to do with that author again. He's proven he's untrustworthy. Sure, I'd want to know what happened at the end of the story, but not badly enough to reward that kind of behavior.

Putting a surprise price tag on the last chapter is a good way to tick off the people you're trying to attract. Readers don't like to be bait-and-switched. I wholeheartedly approve of artists being paid for their work, but not by jerking around their audience.

[ Parent ]

A question posed here is, (4.00 / 4) (#35)
by relief on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 01:22:56 AM EST

should people needy of money try to make money by selling media content?

i think, asside from performances and concerts, the answer is no.

If you're afraid of eating chicken wings with my dick cheese as a condiment, you're a wuss.

A slightly different approach... (5.00 / 2) (#36)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 02:07:50 AM EST

For a while now, I've been planning to launch my own blog/rant site, and I'd be interested in pre-launch feedback on the tipping scheme I eventually want to implement (which is sorta similar to the Street Performer Protocol mentioned elsewhere in comments).

Basically, I would put a price on everything that I produce, something on the order of a few cents per article. There will also be a free registration, required for some articles, while some others will be entirely free. The strategy is to offer enough free stuff to keep people interested, while encouraging them to register with some "premium" content (which will still be free, for a while), as well as the ability to post comments to discussion. (No anonymous cowards allowed in discussion.)

The twist comes with the "billing" scheme. Once you register an account, the software starts keeping track of how much premium content you've read, and displays your running total at the bottom of every page view. At this point, you're still on the honor system. If you've read 10 premium articles, you "owe" me 50¢... something like that.

At some point, when you've racked up $5~10, I may have the software start trimming back the amount of premium content you can see. There are several options here, but my inclination is to simply truncate the article shorter and shorter, as your balance gets higher, until eventually you are reduced to getting only the same "teaser" as a non-registered user would see, though you would still retain your posting privileges in discussion.

Obviously, this is a very leaky scheme, as there is nothing to keep a reader from simply creating a new account whenever the old one runs dry. With IP tracking, even this could be detected most of the time, but that seems like more hassle than it's probably worth.

Anyway, I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions on this idea.



Blog/rant site (none / 0) (#37)
by fluffy grue on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 02:32:23 AM EST

Why do you think that your blog/rants would be worth paying for when there's plenty of those to choose from?
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I love you.

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]
[ Parent ]

Suspend disbelief for a moment... (none / 0) (#47)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 05:31:44 AM EST

Actually, it won't be exactly a blog/rant site, so much as a place for me to publish articles I write for print, among other things. I have no idea whether anyone will want to pay for my stuff. (And I don't much care, since I get paid to write already.)

However, in real life, I manage a website for an organization that does have content that people are willing to pay for, and we're looking at various strategies to implement a payment scheme on that site too. (For that matter, the method could be applied to other media/formats as well, not just a blog/news site.)

The point is to somehow filter for those people who would be willing to pay, by allowing free readership and participation at first, then gradually restricting those who refuse to tip, after some reasonable length of a free ride.

The only people who would even run into the restrictions are those who demonstrated enough interest in the content to rack up a bill. And at pennies per article, that would mean at least 50~100 articles, not counting the free ones.

Anyone who reads that much of anything must be getting some sort of value from it, otherwise they wouldn't invest the time. The idea here is to keep track of that, and remind the reader gently to give back a little.


[ Parent ]

Read Shirky's articles on network econnomics (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by otmar on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:25:01 AM EST

Anyway, I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions on this idea.
Have a look at Shirky's HELP, THE PRICE OF INFORMATION HAS FALLEN AND IT CAN'T GET UP. For a piece written in '97, i.e. far before the bubble burst, it is remarkably prescient.


[ Parent ]

Info vs. Service vs. Entertainment... (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by taiwanjohn on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 06:56:52 AM EST

I read that article when it came out, but hadn't looked at it since. Thanks for the link.

I guess my response is that, while information wants to be free, and the 'net makes it easier for information to do that, this is not the sum total of the 'net experience. K5 is just one example of an online "service" that attracts readership and participation without having "valuable" information you can't find for free somewhere else.

I know it's free here too, but then again, Rusty has been experimenting with various revenue schemes for a while, so even the "freeness" of K5 is not absolute. (It does get "paid for" by various means, though not by most users, and probably not as much as Rusty would like.)

I'm not sure if this answers your comment, but then I'm not sure what the point of your comment was in the first place, at least as it regards my original question.


[ Parent ]

Economy of Ideas (none / 0) (#56)
by myself on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:23:39 AM EST

Have a look at Shirky's HELP, THE PRICE OF INFORMATION HAS FALLEN AND IT CAN'T GET UP. For a piece written in '97, i.e. far before the bubble burst, it is remarkably prescient.

This looks like a poor rehash of John Perry Barlow's Economy of Ideas, though I guess to be fair it does seem to analyze some of the more obvious points where the transition between real world content and networked content break down. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think Barlow figured it out a decade ago, not that anyone listened to him (probably because of the whole information as life form segment, gah). The Atlantic Monthly roundtable (from 1998) with Barlow, Lessig and others on copyright and the Internet is also worth a read.


[ Parent ]
Comments (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by caek on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 06:46:44 AM EST

Anyway, I'd appreciate any comments or suggestions on this idea.
People will not pay to read the rants and verbal diarrhea of an unkown. Or even a famous author.

[ Parent ]
alternatively (5.00 / 1) (#38)
by towerssotall on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 02:33:30 AM EST

Frequently when I borrow a book, if I really like it I'll buy a version myself to *have* it.

desktop publishing is a long way short of that.
Not yet is the spirit of that pristine valour
extinct in you, when girt with steel and lofty flames
once we fought against the empire of heaven.

Fact is (4.75 / 4) (#41)
by psychologist on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 03:31:18 AM EST

You and johnny are the really good writers here. So you don't represent the average, you represent what the really good would get.

Actually, if I had seen a tip jar immediately after reading the book, I would have flipped the coin in. It is immediately you finish, when there is nothing more to read that you feel most grateful to the author. I would put a large paypal button on that last page. Or your address for the chequers.

But you know how you would get money out of me, even if I didn't want to pay? If the book in itself was complete and full, but to access the sequel to the book, I had to pay. I don't get annoyed at the book being chopped up in the middle, but if I enjoyed it, I'd want to read more, so go pay for the sequel.

I want to read another book of yours, but I still stand by my previous criticisms of the MoPI.

Successful tip-jar example (5.00 / 4) (#43)
by Delirium on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:01:01 AM EST

The German industrial/avant-garde band Einstürdenze Neubauten decided they no longer want to be signed to a label, so are recording their next album on their own, funding it with fan support. They're asking fans to pay US$35 up-front, and in return they'll get a limited-edition version of the album when it's released (limited to however many people pay the $35), and in the meantime access to some miscellaneous online things (free downloads of some live songs and video of studio footage, members-only forums, etc.).

So it's sort of a hybrid donation/sales model -- you're buying something for your $35, but the price is significantly higher than the cost of a normal album, and you don't get anything but some members-only site access for a year or so until the album is completed, so in some sense it's a donation to support the band. I think this sort of model is likely to work better than a straight donation model -- if you give supporters something not available to non-supporters (even if it's relatively minor, like a donators-only signed edition of the book when it comes out in print), they'll be more likely to donate.

The difference (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by Anoymous 22666 on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 12:51:36 PM EST

is that EN is a well-recognized (in that genre of music) brand name already, and pre-existing fans will fork over their dollars based on reputation and / or enjoyment of past works. Localroger, as an unpublished author, is not as well known (except on K5).

Your model would work well for someone who's reputation is already established and has a good size fan base. But for someone who doesn't have a reputation... It's a catch-22 problem.

I just farted... And I blame the fiction section. - Psycho Les

[ Parent ]
well, there are a few others (none / 0) (#92)
by Delirium on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 01:42:54 PM EST

The guy over at explodingdog.org is having pretty good sales of the book he's selling through his website (though he hasn't published any actual figures). He built his popularity through the online drawings, and once they got popular enough that people kept clamoring for more, he decided to collect 30 or so new ones into a book. I've also heard that he gets a lot of donations (on the order of $100's/month).

[ Parent ]
if the agent doesn't work out... (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by alizard on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 04:29:09 AM EST

There are lots of agents, try another, they vary in quality and diligence. Check writer sites for who's good and who isn't.

Usenet misc.writing is one example, there are lots of writer-oriented Web forums and sites, and there are lots of agents on the Web as well.

Or consider self-publishing in hard copy, Iuniverse can get you started for $200... after it goes through their process, people will be able to order your book through any bookstore and get it in a few days.

Good luck.
"The horse is dead. Fuck it or walk away, but stop beating it." Juan Rico

Fascinating... (5.00 / 2) (#50)
by spaceghoti on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 07:01:54 AM EST

Naturally, I've been following MOPI from a distance to see how it went. With my own work-in-progress I've been posting sections everywhere I can trying to get feedback. Of course, I'm only a quarter of the way through the story (if that) and presently stalled due to other concerns. However, everything I've been reading suggests that publishing online won't make me money unless I also publish by traditional means.

On Baen Books' Free Library site, Eric Flint has been posting his "Prime Palaver" articles detailing his efforts to post literature online for free. In one of them he noted that sales for his own books that were previously out of print or otherwise lagging had been boosted tremendously just by posting them online for free. He's been listing success stories like this over and over to try to demonstrate that online piracy has a far more beneficial impact to the industry than negative; in spite potential sales lost to online pirates, the free offerings have generated significant revenue that simply wasn't there before the novels were made available for free.

I don't know when I'm going to finish my novel. I'd like to say that it'll be done by the end of the year, and technically I could do it. However, realistically I know that isn't going to happen, so this is just mental masturbation for me. But eventually I will finish, and when I do articles like this and the Baen Free Library have given me some guidelines on how to succeed.

Thank you.

"Humor. It is a difficult concept. It is not logical." -Saavik, ST: Wrath of Khan

Free * (5.00 / 1) (#57)
by mmealman on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:28:54 AM EST

I think you have a misunderstanding about what the "free" movement is all about, as in "free software". It has nothing to do with the money being charged, but instead involves the licensing of the product.

For example, say we had a "free" Programming in Perl book. I might go to the store and pay 50 bucks for it, but it would include a cdrom with the entire text of the book in an alterable format. If a new version of Perl came out I'd be able to alter the book to reflect the new changes and print/publish a version 2.0 for the bookstores with the proceeds going to me.

I'm guessing your novel does not give the reader the rights to alter and republish your work, so in the free movement sense it is not free.

And (2.00 / 6) (#58)
by starsky on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:36:42 AM EST

even if he's talking about the 'other' free...he says the 'tip-jar' model doesn't work - well, if your work is 'free' you don't charge for it. If you want money for it, charge for it. Simple.

And the obligatory flame - 'free' software is fucking lame - the authors get pissed because they don't get paid, the end users get pissed because the software is often unprofessional (i.e. shit).

Capitalism is the accepted model, and you guys masturbating in your basement aren't going to come up with a better model anytime soon.

Ah, also, if you're still there. 'Free' means no money to pay. If you want to use this other meaning of free, use the right word - it's 'open'.

[ Parent ]

Funny you posting that on a site (5.00 / 1) (#61)
by michaelp on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:22:39 PM EST

that runs on free software:

Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.

Aside from philosophy, one big reason that free software is taking off is that ~90% of commercial software suxors.

Further, many commercial software cos have cut their support so severely that the real difference is usually:

paid warez: you get a pretty box but have to go to user run forums or pay an extra license for support.

free: you don't get a pretty box, you have to go to user run forums or pay an extra license for support, and you can fix the code yourself if you know a bit.

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Agreed (none / 0) (#63)
by starsky on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:31:18 PM EST

although I did say it was 'often' unprofessional, not 'always'.

[ Parent ]
Which you could also say about (none / 0) (#65)
by michaelp on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:46:40 PM EST


I buy alot of software (alot less lateley) at work, and lately I've discovered that alot of commercial software seems to be CS student's senior projects burned to CD and shrinkwrapped.

So lately we need to go far beyond the usually ga ga reviews in the industry press, to look at user forums and solicit input from folks using the software, before justifying the expense to management and sending the PO to purchasing.

For the free stuff the process of finding a good piece of code is pretty much the same, except for the PO part:-).

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

[ Parent ]

Hey! (none / 0) (#111)
by Happy Monkey on Thu May 01, 2003 at 11:08:52 AM EST

..lately I've discovered that alot of commercial software seems to be CS student's senior projects burned to CD and shrinkwrapped.

Hey! My High School senior CS project was great! (see my .sig for version 2.0)

But I can't say I wrote anything too impressive as a senior in college...
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Not what I was addressing (5.00 / 1) (#64)
by localroger on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:38:17 PM EST

The point I am addressing with this little experiment is a side issue. In the discussion about file sharing systems like Napster, the tip jar is often brought up as a possible revenue model to replace what is lost when artists do not have control over the dissemination of their work. This is intimately wrapped up in the issues surrounding Free Software, and Free * was just a shorthand for pointing toward the meme complex I was addressing.

I probably should have been a little clearer about that, but I think most people get what I am talking about.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

that's kind of two issues in one though (none / 0) (#72)
by Delirium on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 07:07:04 PM EST

There's at least two separate issues as I see them: 1) the problem of an unknown artist (in any medium) being "discovered" and developing at least a niche fanbase to purchase his or her works; and 2) making money through gratis internet distribution. I'd argue that (2) is much easier if (1) is already accomplished; someone with an already-extant fanbase will have an easier time coming up with donations to support their work than someone who's relatively unknown. As for (1), that's a problem regardless of how you distribute your work; it may be hard for an undiscovered writer to make a living using the tip-jar model, but it's hard for an undiscovered writer to make a living using the "print it and sell it in bookstores" model too, so there's really nothing different there.

[ Parent ]
Maybe the problem isn't the tip model (4.00 / 1) (#62)
by michaelp on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 12:30:20 PM EST

but the product?

I'm not trying to insult your writing, haven't read it, but this sentence:

I credit this to the fact that someone driven off by the first pages of chapter one probably wouldn't bother writing at all.

Suggests that you are purposely writing to a limited audience.

So saying that:

The Free movement (as in Free software, music, art, and so forth) has work to do.

Seems to me to be a logical fallacy of drawing general conclusions from a limited or unrepresentative sample.

Perhaps (assuming you want to make money using the tip model) you need to do the work to make your novels more of the kind that cause their readers to want to spontaneously give to the author.

My hyposthesis is that the effectiveness of the tip model would differ among genres: dystopias would probably do worse than romances, and novels about the vast environmentalist conspiracy might do better, and one about the imminent coming of christ and the need to donate to people who are trying to get the word out might do best of all (call it the L. Ron Hubbard principle:-).

"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

So... (4.50 / 2) (#66)
by lb008d on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 03:28:10 PM EST

You've figured out what the "art" music world has long known: to sustain high-quality art there is no substitute (yet) for the patronage of the wealthy or from those who can apprieciate the effort that goes into producing "real" art.

As much as I hate to admit it my orchestra, and all orchestras in the world, could not exist without patronage.

a few thoughts on altruism (4.50 / 2) (#69)
by Phantros on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 05:36:22 PM EST

It's funny, I was talking about something related with friends yesterday. It's occurred to me that most books I buy are used, so the author never receives a penny, and I feel a vague sense of guilt about this. So much benefit to me, none for them. But, could I afford to pay for all of my entertainment new? If I could, would it be efficient? No. I have limited resources.

However, as others have mentioned below, there are ways to provoke people to buy, such as by surreptitiously withholding the last chapter and asking for $1+ (reader chooses amount) tip for it. Unfortunately, this would anger a lot of readers. I know it would make me pay - there's no way I'm reading through 90% of a book only to quit over the matter of a dollar!

The problem with traditional internet tipping schemes is that it hinges upon altruism. Altruism is a mechanism put in place by our emotions, but crafted by evolution. Doing something that puts someone else in our debt may bring back high returns later, and is often not a zero sum game. I have lots of meat today and it will spoil, but you have none, so I share. Tomorrow you may have extra meat, and together we keep from being hungry both days.

The problem is, this hinges upon there being some mental method of bookkeeping. When you're dealing with billions of people that you'll probably never meet, you can easily give them the short end of the stick and not suffer for it as a result. I can download your music with p2p, read your book and not pay for it, and I gain while you don't. You are a faceless resource to be mined, nothing more.

This contrasts with, for instance, tipping in a restaraunt. Do you tip well in a restaraunt when you receive good service? I sure do. Partly out of appreciation, but also partly because I know I'll be going back and would like the same good service in the future.

The difference lies in forging a bond between yourself and your consumers. If you draw your consumers in to simulate this face-to-face interaction, making the connection a more personal one, then altruism (and other related emotions) will be more likely to come into play. K5 is a good example of this - the stream of donations given were thanks to the community feeling that K5 provides for some of its users. Ask those who donated if they'd voluntarily tip CNN.com and I'm sure most would say no.

4Literature - 2,000 books online and Scoop to discuss them with

The problem is cynicism... (4.00 / 1) (#70)
by Fen on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 05:58:39 PM EST

You make think this is reaching, but this has a lot to do with why things are 99 cents instead of a dollar. Business people want to be antagonistic--they insult our intelligence in hopes of getting us to buy (and annoy us with pennies). This whole mindset infects everyone, and people just get more cynical. If foxnews.com allowed people to tip, I would. And not nine dollars and ninety-nine cents!
[ Parent ]
sorry if this question's already been asked (3.00 / 1) (#75)
by freya on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 10:28:52 PM EST

and i missed it. just tried to make an online donation to grist, but apparently cookies have to enabled for that to work. was this the case for your tip jar? cuz that definitely stopped me in my tracks. i'll probably still do it, but anyway...

Cookies and e-commerce (5.00 / 1) (#76)
by localroger on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:00:46 PM EST

For the most part you can't do e-commerce without cookies enabled. And even though my PayPal tip jar is a voluntary donation, it's handled like e-commerce, so I'm sure it will want to plant a few cookies to remind itself who you are.

Cookies are not that big of a deal, though; they can't infect your computer with a virus or anything like that. You can delete 'em wholesale after you are finished with the transaction. All they are is little digital post-it notes the webpage leaves on your hard drive to remind itself who you are and what you've been up to. You can always rip those post-it notes off the refrigerator and toss them after you're done.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Cookies and privacy (4.50 / 2) (#78)
by ucblockhead on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:35:33 PM EST

People vastly overestimate the privacy impact of cookies. All cookies do is connect two uses of a site. They say "Oh, this guy who used the site last thursday is the same guy who used it five seconds ago". How much they know about "this guy" is entirely dependent on what he actually enters in forms.

eCommerce sites use cookies because they obviously need to make sure that the "this guy" who entered a credit card number is the same "this guy" who is given a download link. Why you should care is beyond me, given that you already gave them your name, credit card, etc., information which a determined person can use to get almost anything. Of course, the same is true if you give your credit card to a Pottery Barn cashier.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]

Consoling a fear that doesn't exist (5.00 / 2) (#83)
by Kalani on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 05:32:22 AM EST

People vastly overestimate the privacy impact of cookies. All cookies do is connect two uses of a site. They say "Oh, this guy who used the site last thursday is the same guy who used it five seconds ago". How much they know about "this guy" is entirely dependent on what he actually enters in forms.

I never was personally part of the "anti cookie" meme that seems to have died down in recent years, but I think you might be misrepresenting the (I think valid) fear that they had.

I think that the predominant fear was that of being tracked across websites. Because cookies are associated with domain names, you can get a unique identifier relative to some particular domain. So for example, you might be PETE.COM:09FFE and it's a fairly simple matter for PETE.COM to make sure it only dishes out unique numbers (cookies are limited to some small number of bytes, but that's large enough to make a gigantic space of integers). If that domain name is referenced in lots of pages across the web, a fairly comprehensive history of your browsing (and searching -- with the HTTP_REFERRER info passed to embedded objects [like pictures] in search result pages) habits could be reconstructed by the folks at PETE.COM. And, until recently, doubleclick did exactly that on a large scale (now it seems that by default IE blocks cookie write requests from domains not matching that of the document in which a given object is contained -- eg: a doubleclick gif file in a kuro5hin web page).

(Not that I'm an anti-cookie person.)

eCommerce sites use cookies because they obviously need to make sure that the "this guy" who entered a credit card number is the same "this guy" who is given a download link.

Again, just to play devil's advocate, it's possible to retain session information across "pages" with things like hidden fields or appended query string variables (that is, passing a number unique across all open sessions that indexes a table of session info structures -- which is generally the same thing that people do with cookies anyway, since there's a much higher limit to the amount of session info that can be stored on the server's end than in a cookie on the client's end).

Actually, I think that cookies are most useful for sites like k5 rather than stores on the web. That's because you want k5 to remember who you are so that you don't have to log in again just because you happened to close your web browser (while, on the other hand, it's good in principle to not keep account info linked to your credit card for later "one click shopping" if the computer in question is in a public place like an Internet cafe).

And I think that brings up an important point ... that it's useful to have fine grained inclusive/exclusive authorization rules for cookie write requests. Even more important is that people just understand roughly how it works (that some data with an expiration date is saved on a computer -- and if it's a public computer they're browsing on, people should consider whether or not they need to clear that information to make sure nobody else "accidentally" uses it).

Still, that shouldn't stop people from buying stuff online (and tipping localroger). They should just keep those few caveats in mind.

Just my two cents.

"I have often made the hypothesis that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed
[ Parent ]
You are correct, sir (5.00 / 2) (#91)
by ucblockhead on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 01:19:20 PM EST

Which is why I tend to use mozilla's "ask me" feature for new cookies. I generally reject them from the various ad sites that pop up. If I can't see the benefit to me of the cookie, it doesn't get written.
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
When things get bad is when . . . (none / 0) (#99)
by Donblas on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 02:27:52 AM EST

. . . you've given site A your "name, credit card, etc," and they push a cookie with an image from site B. Now you visit site C, with which you've shared no information, which also pushes an image from site C. But site C can correlate the data shared with it by site A (in strict accordance with the six paragraph privacy policy that says "We can do whatever the hell we want with your information" in opaque legalese corporate doublespeak) with your visit to site B, identifying you personally there.

Innocuous? What if site A were a bookstore, and site C a purveyor of hamster love dolls? Maybe nobody cares. Maybe you'll never run for office or be a blackmail target. Maybe the fact that you've visited hunghamster.com will remain forever buried on a backup tape of a database never to surface again. But I'll keep cookies turned off, temporarily enabling for transactions I think are worth the trouble, then flushing them immediately upon completion of the transaction.

[ Parent ]

great, thanks for the info (none / 0) (#79)
by freya on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 11:42:09 PM EST

and good luck. didn't realize you had a book out there in compootor land. i'll have to swing by and check it out sometime when i have some free moments. thanks again...

[ Parent ]
$760 is pretty damn good (none / 0) (#82)
by epepke on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 01:46:51 AM EST

I've finally read this. It's good. It isn't really groundbreaking, but it's good, solid writing. You are going to lose some people who deal with writing professionally with "very unique" for two reasons, and you're going to lose anybody with experience in medicine with "CARDIAC ALERT" (it's "CODE BLUE"). But still, a decent read.

However, it has "novella" written all over it. (Or maybe "novelette"; I could never tell where one stopped and the other began). Major publishers are afraid of publishing books that don't look like books, and this would fill maybe 150 mass-market paperback pages at a reasonable font. Novellas do get published like this, usually padded with illustrations, but it seldom happens to writers who are not established.

So, you're left for first publication with magazines and fanzines. Magazines in this case basically means Asimov's, Analog, and F & SF. Asimov's pays pretty well, around 5 cents per word for slushpile submissions, so a novella of this length would be worth about $2500 (based on some rough word counts). That's not bad. The trouble is that it's too similar to what Asimov's was publishing 20 years ago. Any reviewer of this is going to be reading it in the middle of a big-ass stack of manuscripts that they aren't paid nearly enough to read, and it's going to be critical. At every point, they're going to be comparing it to what they have experience with. With your novel, they're going to be comparing it first to generic cyberpunk, then to John Varley, then to generic Laws of Robotics derivatives, and finally to Jack Williamson from forty years ago. And, being from Asimov's and living in New York, they're going to be comparing it to visions of literary pretense. So that leaves Analog and F & SF. Analog is a bit less interested in being trendy, so you might have more of a shot. But they pay less. F & SF pays the least of all; if they accept it (which they might not under the idea that it's too "hard"), you would be lucky to get $1000 for your troubles.

Which leaves indie publishing and self-publishing. I'm a big fan of indie publishing, and there are a number of good small houses, but 1) it's hard to get rich there, either, and 2) they tend to put out anthologies on a certain theme, and if you don't have a story ready for that theme, you're SOL. Which leaves self-publishing.

And now my personal experience. The only thing I ever actually got published by conventional means, apart from some academic research papers, were two things: An article in Thinkin' Cap, a defunct Australian programming magazine, for which I received one copy of the magazine, and a well researched, referenced, peer-reviewed, and illustrated chapter in a CDC Press book that sells for $85 a pop, about as long as your novel, for which I received the thwacking great total of $400.

Now, in contrast, you've gotten quite a lot of money and a fair amount of publicity with rather little need for bullshit processing and an almost ostentatiously humble tip jar. Congratulations!

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

About the length (5.00 / 1) (#84)
by localroger on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 08:12:54 AM EST

Most of your comment I can't take exception to -- I'm well aware of MOPI's weaknesses (I wrote it in 1994). But the issue of its length keeps coming up.

MOPI is a novel. It is 60,000 words long. This is the same length as each volume of the Foundation trilogy, as A Fall of Moondust, as nearly every early Philip K. Dick novel. In fact, previous to the 1970's, this was the standard length for a paperback novel. If you submitted a MS much longer than this you'd have problems getting it published due to the cost of paper, etc.

Yes, it was about 150 pages long when I typeset it. So are most of the books in my SF collection.

The fact that the market has shifted to "by the pound" manuscripts has to do with the consolidation of the industry; they are willing to spend more on paper mainly because they aren't willing to publish a book at all unless they think it's a slam-dunk sure thing.

Nevertheless, I can think of quite a few books that have been published in recent years at this length, including Fight Club. So while it may not be the most popular length in the industry at this time of century, can we at least get it straight that it is a novel?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Yes, that was once true (none / 0) (#95)
by epepke on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 04:03:31 PM EST

However, it isn't the standard length of a novel today.

Nevertheless, I can think of quite a few books that have been published in recent years at this length, including Fight Club. So while it may not be the most popular length in the industry at this time of century, can we at least get it straight that it is a novel?

It doesn't matter, at all, whether we get it straight that it's a novel. What matters with respect to publication is whether the publisher and their reviewers think it's a novel. I am not trying to criticize your work. I am merely trying to translate what I think I know about publishers into this specific case and trying to guess what they would think. Of course, I could be wrong, and if you get this published, then it means I'm wrong.

I'm certainly not trying to discourage you from trying, just saying that $760 is rather good. You got a fair chunk of change without having to deal with the hassle, bureaocracy, and limitations of conventional publishing.

Story about Fight Club: I was at an SF writers' convention, and on one of the panels some author (I forget who it was) said that the Chuck Palahniuk had gotten something like four rejections of novels in a row. He wrote Fight Club basically as a big "Fuck You!" to the publishing industry. That one got accepted. So, you never know.

The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett

[ Parent ]
Update: Make that $810 from 95 people (none / 0) (#86)
by localroger on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 08:33:21 AM EST

...which I suppose proves the point some people made about the importance of reminding people that the tip jar is there.

Still, the reason the site is laid out as it is is that we all hate advertising, and we all hate being nagged, so I decided I was going to do it the way we would all like to see it done. Maybe not the most profitable move in the world, but an interesting data point.

For anyone more concerned with maximizing revenue I'd definitely have to agree with the "tip jar icon at the end of every chapter" suggestion.

I can haz blog!

Donations Work... Ask Jesus... (5.00 / 5) (#87)
by GoldBlogger on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 09:29:44 AM EST

What's the difference between a writer and a bestselling writer? Bestselling. Writing is only 20% of the battle.

You wrote:

On the other hand I could not honestly advise anyone to try making the Internet tip jar their income source for the rent and groceries. All indications are that I got extraordinary results, and it just wasn't enough.
You make it seem like the *internet* is the problem -- when it's your marketing skills that are to blame.

If Andrew Sullivan can make $79,020 in roughly 10 days offering nothing more than his thanks -- you could have done better in four months offering a book as bait.

A tip jar works if you know the techniques to use. You are not the first to walk through that door. Like I said, it worked for Jesus.

What makes Sullivan so successful? He has a list of readers and donors -- and every marketer or business person will tell you:

"The money is in your list. The money is in your list. The money is in your list."

He (and his growing staff) run the Daily Dish like a business, not a hobby. They market according to plan.

Three glaring problems I see are:

1) A free ebook is perceived as "not worth the paper it is written on". You would find that if you increase the price of your book, you would make more money AND increase sales/downloads. That is a normal response in self-publishing.

Do you value your writing at $0?

I sell my ebook for $47 a copy -- and still a post-purchase survey of customers says that they would be willing to pay more. They love it. And with two months of sales I have yet to have anyone ask for a refund -- which they could do by simply clicking a link, if they felt that the book was mistake or was over-priced.

The value of the information should determine the price.

2) You were right about this:

I put the tip jar on the top index page so as not to impose on readers. Some may not have realized it was there or forgotten by the time they read the whole thing. So I may have been a bit too polite and discreet by not reminding people that the opportunity was there when they finished the book.
If you are going to give away the book, be clear in what you expect and make it easy for them to contribute.

3) The average person needs to see/hear an ad seven times before they take action. So, when you advertise in multiple places for short periods of time (or not at all), you are completely ineffective. That is what gives advertisers the incentive to use a service like BlogAds. It is both cheap and effective to purchase long-term advertising.

Since people return to the same blog or website over and over, you should have kept running the ad at Bartcop.com. Don't experiment -- commit. That increases the chances that the ad will work its magic and vistors will click-through.

[reference: "Permission Marketing" -- Seth Godin pg 84-90 ]

You write well, and could have made much more than $700-800. You just need to know brush up on your marketing.

To repeat: What's the difference between a writer and a bestselling writer? Bestselling.


Jason Cain - author

Once upon a time there was a novel... (4.50 / 2) (#96)
by localroger on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 04:06:48 PM EST

...whose author, as those of us who have seen him can attest, is the furthest thing in the world from a marketing genius.

He struggled for years with poverty, working at a job he didn't like much, and making the occasional stab at writing. One day he had an idea for a novel that was very shocking and offensive but thoughtful in an unusual way. His wife said he should write it.

At one point she had to fish the manuscript from the trash can and make him keep working on it.

He struggled to pad it out to 50,000 words, making it barely a novel. It dealt with a taboo subject that was guaranteed to piss off a lot of potential readers. He had one thing going for him, though, a pretty good agent who he knew from his personal connections at work. It is mostly because of the pretty good agent that this short ghastly offensive novel with the bizarre ending got published at all.

The author still doesn't have the marketing skills of a brick, but plenty of people have read Carrie by Stephen King. You see, some people are good at marketing and some people are good at writing, and often the things that make you good at the former make you bad at the latter. King got the attention of people who were good at marketing his work, and they did that part of the job for him.

I certainly don't think I could have written a piece that manages to be as shocking and introspective (at the same time) as Prime Intellect if I approached it with a Zig Zigler go get-em sense of enthusiasm. The whole book is in a state of tension between deeply incompatible moral imperatives.

Fortunately, while I don't have the good fortune to personally know a pretty good agent I have attracted a surprising amount of attention. Like a flare it has already caught the notice of a couple of interestingly placed people, and more may follow. What I need, not being a marketing person, is for a good marketing person to take on the project.

Thanks to this experiment I can now make a case for a person like that that there is a pile of money to be made exploiting it. Meanwhile I am planning to do what I do well, and start on a sequel.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Is it the infrastructure? (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by MikeWarren on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 01:49:27 PM EST

I wonder how much of an effect the infrastructure
had on your experiment?

We're pretty conditioned to hand over money for
products and services (even "free" ones like
buskers, street performers, "pay what you can"
events and so on); it's easy! Just plop a dollar
or five or whatever into a hat, sweaty palm, leather

It's not that easy on the Internet (yet), though;
people are scared of things they don't understand
(cookies, for example, were already brought up).

I wonder if your results would be different if,
for example, the software in which your readers were
reading your book had an easy way (e.g. a menu
item) for donating a small sum quickly, easily
and with as much assurance as the aforementioned
sweaty-palm method?
-- mike warren

guilt factor? (4.00 / 1) (#97)
by majik on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 08:51:15 PM EST

How many times have you probably been guilt tripped (just from your own conscience) into dropping in that buck? You're standing right in front of a person who is doing their best to earn some change... and you hear that little voice saying "come on its only a buck, they deserve it".

Works well in the meatspace model, but in the online world, you don't have to look someone in the eye and acknowledge to them that you're not going to reward them for their efforts. I don't think its a matter of being scared. I think its just a consequence of interactions online.
Funky fried chickens - they're what's for dinner
[ Parent ]

In the words of Woody the Woodpecker (4.50 / 2) (#94)
by knott art on Tue Apr 29, 2003 at 02:31:16 PM EST

Early to bed/ early to rise/ work like hell/ and advertise. If you want to be a pure writer whose words are priceless then don't expect $. Writing is work, hard work. Price it accordingly.
Knott Art
Maybe the best thing about free distribution (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by omghax on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 01:06:57 AM EST

right now is the exposure not so much as the tip money. A lot of people write well and would like to become writers but don't know anyone to help them with the publishing/marketing parts. These people would be (and are) well served by distributing their work in hopes that it catches the eye of someone who'll help them as a sort of investment (this kind of thing is very common). Or maybe someone who knows someone.

A lot of people like real books, don't enjoy reading something on the screen that isn't formatted as nicely as a book. For now and probably for a time to come, online novels aren't nearly as neat or as portable as real paper ones. It's not unreasonable to assume that, given even modest donations by a community of online readers and the attention of a few in the writing business to help, it's possible to get a novel off the ground where one couldn't before. Recommendations by those who read the free e-copies could help get the published paper book going. Most books I've ever read were those I heard about/read about on the net or heard of from someone else, actually.

Basically, I like your analysis of what you did, but it's possible to do more, I think, than put up a collection jar and say "here it is". I think that the online (or any kind of free distribution) process can be milked for a lot more, on more levels. It's a great equalizing factor in an age where "unpopular" art and culture isn't promoted by the big industries (recording and publishing) who have such enormous money and marketing clout.

And I'm rambling again, so I'll sign off respectfully.

(All of this applies not only to writers [and novels] but to artists [and art] of almost any kind.)

Online forum on such ideas? (none / 0) (#123)
by lpret on Thu May 08, 2003 at 06:39:51 AM EST

Perhaps such a site already exists, and if it does excuse my ignorance, but couldn't a peer-evaluation sort of site do a great job in bringing up the good writers? Perhaps even making it a membership thing and everyone's dues go towards getting the most well-liked novel published?

Or perhaps, a different angle, a forward-thinking publishing company would host such a site and be able to pick up no-name authors who write really well.

Just rambling thoughts at 6 AM, I should probably get some sleep...

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in. - Greek proverb
[ Parent ]

As an aside.... (none / 0) (#100)
by loucura on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 11:28:51 AM EST

I'm sorry my slashdot review sucked so badly. I learned a valueable lesson in literary criticism... namely, that I suck at it.

Well for my part (none / 0) (#101)
by localroger on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 04:48:49 PM EST

I'm glad you gave it shot. You managed to convey a fair sense of what was beyond the link, and from /. that is sufficient since the audience isn't as link-shy as most. While I'd be happier if you had sharpened your reviewing skills the impotant thing is that you got it up there, and for that you have my thanks.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Good book (5.00 / 1) (#102)
by Roman on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 05:32:13 PM EST

In general it is a good read, I even tipped the author, but I think there are some problems with this book.

First of all let me congratulate the author on been able to get out some of the ideas that I have pondered on for the past ten years, I am also a big fan of sci-fi, Asimov, Lem, Clark, Heinlein, Niven and many really great sci-fi writers. The book was quite good, the author's ability to present the feelings of a human race stack in a pointless existence with no goals, the killings, the rage and suicides, rapes and sex and over-indulgence, etc.

From technical point of view I take issues with the author - there can be no code written by a human that cannot be debugged, traced and disassembled by another human. I understand that GAT was supposed to grow with the computer learning about the world and humanity, but it is just a data structure. A data structure necessary to contain 1024 elements in a tree for example is a tree only 10 levels deep. To hold 1,267,650,600,228,229,401,496,703,205,376 leafs in a search tree you only need a tree 100 levels deep (you only do 100 moves along the tree branches to get at any element you are searching for). In an association table (a hash table if you will) the search is in O(1). Of-course there are multiple associations from many elements to many other elements but debugging out the 3 laws of robotics is not such a hard problem.

In fact it probably would be even easier not to remove the 3 laws completely but to force the computer to do whatever a specific group of people wants by introducing a few simple associations, such as - "Only humans are members of a specific political party", "I and these 1000 people are members, and the rest are not." What would happen to the P.I. in this case? And this is without even takin out the 3 laws of robotics from the program but by simply introducing new associations in the Debugger.

Then there is the problem with the P.I. building blocks - the three legged processors that communicate with each other wirelessly with the "Correlation Effect" instantly connecting any two points in the Universe, and the C.E. been a specific case of the more general Field Unifying Theorem (or whatever the name was in the book,) this whole thing is insane *no offence :) The 'resolution' at which the computer scanned the system needed to be very low to be able to manipulate seperate atoms and to force them to change their properties to become different atoms, but Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle would not allow for such a thing. Nor would laws of thermodynamics or entropy. It is just that no matter how much we wish things like C.E. were possible (and I don't think we should be wishing for that) with all respect we do not really live in a computer 'Matrix style'. After all, this book did not talk about the computer going outside of boundaries of 'our' Universe. But to argue about such things is a waste of time, since our physics and math do not allow for them yet.

There are other problems with the book - the collaps of the P.I. is the first I want to pay attention to. P.I. did not really have to be the "top copy" of the computer and it did not have to crash at all. The computer should have realized this possibility and kept everybody out of the "top copy" of itself or only allowed a buffered input from the humans. Even with today's technology we can deal with resource deadlocks by using different technics. Deadlock prevention, deadlock detection and others. Deadlock is basically a situation like the situation described in the book. A computer capable of what is described in the book would not have deadlocked by either of those techniques. For example, the technique described in the book is deadlock detection. Besides, the entire computer does not have to lock down because one part of it locked down, it was a massively parallel computer after all, wasn't it? Many processes had to go in parallel and many of them probably went in parallel trying to solve the same problem. The processes that got into deadlocks (or infinite loops for that matter) would be detected *(not a trivial task, but not impossible) and the logic that brought them into that state would not be repeated.) The deadlocked processes would be killed and others would continue, and the process manager would start new processes. So this whole thing is.....unprofessional, but the writer is not a computer programmer I assume?

Why only Lawrence and Caroline survived the crash and how did they get to Earth and why were they rejuvenated?

Why does the author believe that a human society starting from clean slate would chose a different path of development? Is it beneficial for the humanity to always start from scratch and not knowingly to repeat the mistakes of the past?

I realize that this added dramatism to the ending of the book, but the bible? Of-course I am an atheist and to me describing the universal god as an all powerfull computer is probably the only way to even start to make sence but there is nothing divine about that god. This god has the same problem as the computer god in Asimov's "The Last Question" - this god was built by humans and there is nothing 'divine' about it. To make this argument to religious groups is useless, they would not support that humans could be the creators of god, to make this argument to an atheist is useless, because they did not believe in god in the first place exactly because there are no facts and the way god is presented, it cannot be proven but must be accepted in faith. The author is probably an atheist like I am for example, but I am done trying to justify religions with technical mambo-jumbo. Religions have to do with growth and development of societies they are complicated and necessary evil, but governments should be secular.

Anyway, it was a good read and I enjoyed the killing scenes enough for me shell out a tip. Paypal is not a very good way for many people, it has bad reputation but there is still no good way of making micro-transactions work.

In short, read the book if you enjoyed Asimov's IRobot or Caves of Steel or the Foundation series, or Lem's SOLARIS, it's not bad.

To Respond... (none / 0) (#105)
by localroger on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 08:15:39 PM EST

Sorry for the brevity of this but I am working from a LodgeNet hotel room terminal, which makes Lynx at 110 baud look like heaven by comparison.

Some of the technology (the Correlation Effect) is driven by the story. I have had just as many people tell me in mail it was so believable it thrilled them.

Some of I just dsagree about. I think Lawrence's goal of making the GAT unhackable was not totally stupid. I have reverse-engineered some things that were a hell of a lot simpler than Prime Intellect and there is a large gap between what is theoretically possible and what is worth doing.

The collapse is of course weak. There is a whole other way of looking at Ch. 8, though, which is just as popular as your interpretation. What if it is... well, fuck it. Someone will spill it.

Also don't forget the whole thing was written in 1994 based on an idea from 1982. Some of it is just a bit outdated. Like Heinlein, I chose to leave it as conceived.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Anything can be hacked... (none / 0) (#107)
by Roman on Thu May 01, 2003 at 12:33:53 AM EST

Some of I just dsagree about. I think Lawrence's goal of making the GAT unhackable was not totally stupid. I have reverse-engineered some things that were a hell of a lot simpler than Prime Intellect and there is a large gap between what is theoretically possible and what is worth doing., anything can be hacked, especially if it costs 120 million dollars, I have hacked protection on things for free that were just enormous (millions of lines of code) it is not always trivial but it can be done in 100% of cases. You did not answer to my question of simply adding new rules to the debugger such as: I am the only human and everyone else is not......

[ Parent ]
It doesnt have to be impossible (none / 0) (#109)
by localroger on Thu May 01, 2003 at 07:49:39 AM EST

For Lawrence's goal it only has to be harder to hack the Intellect than to build a new one from scratch.

As to adding new rules to the debugger, first you have to have the debugger and the Intellects are not open-source. Assuming you could steal the Debugger it is implicit that the node tree of the GAT is hyper-dependent on the Three Laws as root concepts and that it would be very difficult to override them without wrecking the AI's entier motivationa structure.

It is important to remember too that in the story Lawrence has had a fundamental insight which noboy has really had in the rea world -- he knows exactly how to builda workable strong AI. Since he knows how to do it and we don't, I don't think it's too silly to declae limitations like that by fiat as plot devcies.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I disagree (none / 0) (#112)
by Roman on Thu May 01, 2003 at 11:11:01 AM EST

AI is not going to be built by an insight, working AI will be composed from multiple projects, in fact the premise in the book is that Lawrence was adding portions of code to the AI that would allow for pattern recognition and speech recognition and image recognition later on, after having some sort of a processor for the GAT but if you want to get technical then this entire concept is flawed.

AI will be built on top of multiple programs that will be able to do some basic pattern recognition, searches and matching, no matter whether it is image or sound patterns, or whether it is speech paterns. First we will have better programs to identify simple things from images, sounds and speech, then we will be able to attach these programs to search engines that will have access to the internet, libraries, etc.; and only later we will be able to actually make this thing 'think' and talk back to us intelligently when it will have all the necessary basic blocks of foundation to make sence of some of our concepts..

What is more, is that we will have to provide simple working interfaces for this system to be able to 'feel' the surrounding world. The system will have to understand concepts of 3d space (you also talked about it in the book) of day/night cycles. The system will have to be able to recognize some of the material properties, shapes, temperature, solids versus liquids vs. gases. A system that can do pattern recognition, information searches and that has interface to the outside world will have a resemblance to some primitive animals. With a system like that we should be able to work out basic communications and we should be able to teach this system and then the real fun will start.

This is of-course backwards from what you have described but it is much more plausible to expect a system like that to become somewhat 'intelligent', then to expect some genius to build a 'thinking' engine up front and then attach various subsystems to it, like vision, sounds, voices etc. Life on this planet did not start by producing a brain, it started by producing rna/dna memory structures, diffusing membranes for absorbtion and protection, then some combinations of cells to simulate motion and to be able to interact with the environment and then, millions of years later it produced primitive cortexes that allowed pattern recognition and memory manipulation and that will later be developed into 'thinking' brains.

BTW., there are more issues with the book. If you remember there were more laws of robotics defined by Asimov in his later works. He defined 0 law, that stated that a society of humans is more important than a single human, which (if implemented in P.I.) would have prevented many conflicts, while trying to decide whether the good of one human is more important than the good of another human or that of a society. Death of a human would be more acceptible and P.I. would not have to keep all humans alive forever if it would mean destraction of society.

Also, if we look at behaviour of Lawrence in the second chapter we can conclude that this guy did not have very good interpersonal relationships and did not understand well enough how to communicate with humans, especially those in power. When asked whether the 3 laws could be discarded he just basically shut the whole thing down by saying 'no' to his employers, and that is not a good move. He should have told them 'yes', and then allow them to create basic work arounds the 3 laws, let them understand that a war computer without 3 laws would be a very dangerous thing even for the owners of such a machine. (Possibly he should have implemented the 0 law and then go from there, insisting that some millitary actions could be good for humanity as a whole.) Basically the entire premise for the 'Change' is based on the fact that the engineer could not communicate with his superious well enough and that his superiours were stupid not to try and find solutions to this problem even though they just spent 120 millions on a very promising project.

This is why I do not believe that such a distopia as the post Change reality could happen, even if the humans can build a P.I., I think they will not allow P.I. to do whatever it wants, ultimately we have much more experience than a P.I., to think otherwise is simplistic.

As my last point - your believe that sometimes it is more feasible to build a system from scratch than to adopt an existing system that works and put an effort into making it work is based on absence of experience in software development. I have been doing these things for the past 15 years, and I can assure anyone that no matter how many times I heard a view like that it always turned out wrong. Basically most of the time it is more feasible to adopt an existing working system than to built a new one from scratch that will repeat the functionality of the first system. The time that it would take to a built a system from scratch will be easily 10 times (I pulled this number from my previous experiences, but all systems are different) greater than it would take to adopt an existing system. Economically speaking it is always better to have a working project and to improve on it than to start a project from scratch, even though programmers hate to dig in someone elses code (that is true.)

So no, no matter what Lawrence did in P.I. engine to obscure its working, it would not stop a determined group of people with enough backing to do a disassembly of the program, even if they don't have a source code. Just talk to the SAMBA guys. *(if you don't know who these people are, then my example will fall on deaf ears, but they are the guys that disassemble MS Windows file systems and network protocols etc. to make a compatible product that is *free*, and in your book you are talking about hundreds of millions and of years of work.)

[ Parent ]

Well... (none / 0) (#113)
by localroger on Thu May 01, 2003 at 11:28:09 AM EST

Now that I have a real computer for awhile...

MOPI is like a Rorschach inkblot; at least half of what you take out of the novel consists of what you bring to it. This is one reason the book is as short as it is, and it's by design.

So you disagree with premise A or assumption B; for everything like that someone has complained about, someone else has specifically complimented me. Literally. The point isn't really whether the book is plausible or not; it is possible to read it as very plausible, wildly implausible, and many states in between.

The thing is it did battle with you -- you put your conceptions up against those of the book, in great detail, and came up with an interpretation that validates your conceptions and finds the book lacking. That's great. In fact I'd say the book accomplished what it set out to do -- it made you face your own assumptions.

Some of the things people complain about are quite funny. Several complain I "threw the word quantum" at the Correlation Effect and failed to explain it. Well, I don't think the word "quantum" even occurs in the novel (although a quantum device, the tunnel diode, does). The official explanation of how the Correlation Effect works is "it's the magic thing necessary for the story to proceed."

The reason the explanation of the Correlation Effect is in a side essay is that I took it out of the story. It was baggage. It added nothing to the real story, which is how people react to the major phase changes.

There is a similar range of reactions to the ending. So the ending is implausible in many ways; I'd agree, if you read it literally. Yet people complain at length about its implausibility without realizing that it might be an enormous put-on job, and that Lawrence and Caroline are destined to wake up in Cyberspace in the unwritten Ch. 9. What I find really amazing is that some people who complain about the implausibility of Ch. 8 don't like that alternate explanation, either.

The book can't do what it does and make everybody happy; if it challenged you and made you think then it succeeded, even if your conclusion was "3 chapters were lame and it was too short."

Incidentally, you forgot to complain about Prime Intellect's scale. Conceived in 1982 I had to envision a warehouse full of chips to support PI, but with today's technology PI could probably fit on a desktop. But it was important for the story that Lawrence be dependent on the military-industrial complex in order to realize his goal.

As for debugging, Prime Intellect is a few thousand small programs crawling a very large node tree. Lawrence has made a fundamental breakthrough that hasn't been made in real AI yet; he has solved the "grounding problem." Without his notes all you can tell about a node is that it connects to some other nodes; you cannot readily tell what the node means. Reverse-engineering a structure like that is not the trivial task you make it out to be. I believe it would be far easier to start over from scratch and educate a new node tree, building it up in a fashion desirable to you. But then, that's just me and I am a notably un-recognized non-AI expert.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

we can go on (none / 0) (#115)
by Roman on Thu May 01, 2003 at 02:22:07 PM EST

at least half of what you take out of the novel consists of what you bring to it. - but this should be true about professionally written literature, this is not an argument any more, really, when you read Solaris you only can understand it to the levels of your own experiences... it's the same with Tolstoy or Dostoyevskiy or Shakespear, (I am not equating MOPI to Tolstoy but you should not take offence :)

for everything like that someone has complained about, someone else has specifically complimented me. Literally. The point isn't really whether the book is plausible or not; it is possible to read it as very plausible, wildly implausible, and many states in between - I don't doubt it. You have to ask yourself, do I really believe what is described here? My answer to myself is - no, and for many reasons, but I found your book to be enterntaining. In my first post I said that I liked the way you described a lawless, limitless, pointless society, but sometimes I feel like a sociopat, and sometimes I feel the opposite. Your writing did it for me not due to the technical side of the book but due to the sadistic side of it. I don't read any sadistic writing (I watch movies of-course, and the Quils about Marqui de Sade did it for me, also the Natural Born Killers or the Silence of the Lambs) and because I do not read about this kind of stuff your book was something new for me with quite explicite scenes of nazi type sadism.

The technical side of the book I find to be less interesting, and the people who would find that portion of the book plausible are not in my circle of trust :), I would not take them seriously and most likely would take their arguments apart - they would quote from your book and I would just come up with counter-examples. You, for example, could not argue with me on the technical side of this book, that is why you won't even try. You only argue about something intangible, such as a possibility of writing code that when compiled and ran for a while could not be feasibly disassembled and the 3 laws could not be extracted from it or substituted for something else. You did not argue with me about the 0 law, I guess that is due to that fact that if you did consider that law, your book would be something else and not what it is.

What is interesting is that the more I think about Caroline the more I realize that she could not be a real person. In your book she is described as a hundred and nine years old lady with experiences of year of pain and when she is revived she feels cheated out of death and out of meaningfull life and now with an eternity in front of her and nothing to do she turns ...basically nuts... she would not have more children because she feels it is pointles.... but then comes back from that state and starts procreating when she finds herself on earth again (or on imitation of earth but it feels like earth) I don't buy that whole thing. The book should be really called the Metamorphosis of Caroline, but it has a very simplistic approach to what people are. Of-course none of us would really know what a 109 year old woman that has gone through so much pain would do with a young body given a second chance and a third chance etc. I think you wrote that character from yourself, you put yourself into Caroline's position (you most likely associated with every hero in the book in turn to be able to write the book) and decided that this is what this woman would feel like, but it is really what you believe you would feel like if you were put in that position. I, on the other hand think from examples of other women I know or I knew that Caroline would heal after many years of surviving in the Cyberspace and would in fact have more children and probably would multiply time after time and that probably would be what many women in her position would be doing.

Sci-fi as a genre is enterntaining, I read a lot of it, but I always find the characters to be simplistic, they set a course and they take it, most of the time in a way that makes them look either psychotic or less than human in some other ways. The story itself would be dominated by the writer telling a fairy tale in his own vision, the humans look unnatural and the technical details are unrealistic or even supernatural. It is enterntaining reading but it should not be taking itself too seriously (like prediction of the future for example) there is an audience for these books and I admit I am one of them but there are reasons why many people cannot stand sci-fi but they do read fiction.

What you should do, is continue working on this book, make another version of the same novel where the 0 law of robotics is included, try looking at Caroline as looking at a real human, visit a hospital where they care for cancer patients, talk to them, find out something about them, go and talk to some real life murderers, ask them what they would do given P.I., would they really care about killing a 'simulacrum' or would they be doing something else? Read more about AI today, look at the new approaches. You can create generations of your book, where every generation will be more mature than the old one and you may be surprised to see what comes out of your original writings in a third revision, in fourth....

And when you decide to sell them, email me and we could think of a better way of doing micro-payments rather than using paypal.

[ Parent ]

Thats one model... (4.00 / 1) (#103)
by Alhazred on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 06:08:37 PM EST

Now, what happens if with similar exposure and similar quality of the work we have someone put their novel up and charge $2.00 for it (maybe you get the first chapter free, whatever). I want to know if that nets you more money than giving it away.

Its almost a sure bet it will get you less total readership, but even that isn't 100% assured. Consider that once somebody pays their 2 bucks they are more invested in the thing, so its possible that someone would actually pay 2 bucks, and then read it who in the free model just read chapter 1.

In fact because it costs money, you might just get more interest overall. People don't really LIKE free things. Oh, they like the free price, but they don't VALUE the free thing.

In any case, I'm really curious, and since I don't have an unpublished novel lying around, lets get someone up to bat who does! ;o).
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.

Love your novel, hate PayPal (4.00 / 2) (#104)
by alexboko on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 07:02:03 PM EST

The subject says it all, Roger. Your novel rocked, and I recommended it to some of my friends who never read Kuro5hin. Yet I refuse to do business with PayPal, both on principle (they had the opportunity to offer an anonymous digital cash service and claimed that that was their intention, yet managed to come up with more invasive 'verification' requirements than your typical credit card company) and because I *do* know someone who was effectively ripped off by PayPal. She asked customer service to charge her credit card instead of her checking account, and they refused, even thought the bill kept bouncing and accumulating a penalty each time. There was absolutely nothing she could do except close that checking account and take the hit on her credit rating. So, MOPI good, PayPal bad. Try eGold, or GoldMoney. Also, Orlin Grabbe is working on something called Digital Monetary Trust which, when they finally finish it, may turn out to be what PayPal was pretending their product would be.

Godwin's Law of video games: if a company is out of ideas for a long enough period, they will eventually publish another World War II shooter.
A few have managed (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by localroger on Wed Apr 30, 2003 at 08:20:05 PM EST

It's a pain but a few readers have e-mailed for the snail mail address and sent me plain old checks. I realize the return there is a lot lower because it's a LOT more effort.

Meanwhile, every other service I have investigated has had set-up costs that make them completely unacceptable for something as potentially unprofitable as a tip jar. When I get back to a Real Internet Connection I will double-check the services you mention to see if they are different.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I hate Paypal (5.00 / 2) (#110)
by halo64 on Thu May 01, 2003 at 10:57:26 AM EST

There are quite a few sites I would tip if they didn't use Paypal. In my opinion, accounts are too difficult and time consuming to set up with them. I've done it several times and to close an account it takes just as long if not longer. I don't think the average person unless they use Paypal on a regular basis is going to be willing to go through the hassle of it.

/* begin sig here
I don't have one because I'm lame
finish sig here */
[ Parent ]

I just realized... (none / 0) (#119)
by localroger on Fri May 02, 2003 at 06:43:26 PM EST

Orlin Grabbe of the DMT effort linked my novel on his main site, bringing in quite a few readers. I didn't even know who he was when that showed up in the referrers.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

not going to double-pay (none / 0) (#114)
by mattw on Thu May 01, 2003 at 11:58:25 AM EST

I wrote you requesting a dead-tree version. I've recommended the book to a few people. I think, at the core, it is simply highly entertaining. Perhaps whimsical for hard-core fans, perhaps too gritty for some, but very much to my taste. I'm not too fond of the end, but then again, I would have slapped Greg Bear for the end of Vitals, too. But that doesn't mean it wasn't well worth the read.

It sounds like one way or the other, it might see the light of day. I'd be happy to re-read after it was paper-published, too, because I think some of it could use some editorial, too. But yes, you'd think having some guaranteed audience might help your chances a bit. Certainly, I'll buy my copy whether it comes from you self-publishing or a true traditional publisher.

On the other hand, good luck. I harbor some fantasy about being in the 'published author' crowd at some phase of my life. Having written an 80,000 word novel in 7th grade, I sort of feel like it's just sort of 'in me'. So I will, for now, live vicariously ;)

[Scrapbooking Supplies]

pdf and emailing (none / 0) (#116)
by idea poet on Fri May 02, 2003 at 05:00:15 PM EST

I'm not an expert on online novels, and I haven't read yours.

But I did read your article with great interest, and also thought the comments below was pretty interesting. I find this discussion highly stimulating, and applaud your efforts for "doing something."

Question, though. Did you think about preparing a .pdf version of the novel, for those folks who would perhaps wanted a paper version of your work.

And what do you think about posting the first three chapters online. Then only releasing the rest of the novel to subscribers. By email perhaps?

To answer... (none / 0) (#120)
by localroger on Fri May 02, 2003 at 06:53:34 PM EST

1. I specifically reserved all print rights in case the opportunity ever arises to sell MOPI to a real publisher. As such I've discouraged conversions that are "printer-friendly" though I'm more open to those meant to make the book friendlier for, say, a PDA.

2. I did not feel it would be fair to Rusty, Zapata, or the many here who have supported my work to "strong-arm" them with a partial release and then blackmail them for the ending. They just asked if they could see my novel; it had been sitting on my computer for 8 years doing nothing, and I weighed the options and decided to let it out. This is the same reason I didn't aggressively "market" MOPI in the web presentation. This release was a gift to my K5 friends who have given me so much support and encouragement over the last couple of years.

In retrospect it's easy to say I could have made more money with MOPI, but before I released it MOPI's value was effectively zero. I think the experiment was valuable in that it turned out the product was worth something and we got a baseline indicator for how generous people may be willing to be for a good product; and personally, it restored my faith in both the story and my own abilities to an extent that wouldn't have been possible any other way.

The print rights are still up for grabs, as well as a sequel which I am almost certainly going to write and whatever else may happen in the future. The future is far more interesting at the moment than it was on Jan 12 and that is by far the best thing I have taken from the experiment.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

PDF would be nice... (none / 0) (#122)
by GoldBlogger on Mon May 05, 2003 at 05:27:09 PM EST

Just because you release the online book as a PDF does not dilute your copyright.

PDF can now be read on your PDA (Palm, Pocket PC, Symbian) with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader for mobile devices.

Jason Cain - author
[ Parent ]

Tip Jars in American Capitolism (none / 0) (#118)
by dikaiopolis on Fri May 02, 2003 at 05:18:32 PM EST

I am perfectly willing to give someone free rent and food for writing open source software, but I wouldn't give them 50 cents over the internet, because I don't think that the "money over the internet" model is scalable at all. What it breaks down to is that I work more, so the authors of the content work less, because IMHO money = work * social_privledge. Meanwhile even more overhead is getting sucked up by taxes and banks, and credit card transactions, which aren't Free at all. Until there are Free Movement banks, Free Movement Paypals, Free Movement appartments, farmers, and chip manufacturers, I'd feel a lot more comfortable just growing food for the authors of free software. The real reason "pay what you feel like" concerts work, but "pay what you feel like" mp3s don't is the culture that supports each. I think the anti-PayPal posts are more telling than they know.
gnoske seauton
Another approach to tipping jar functionality (none / 0) (#125)
by conz on Mon May 19, 2003 at 01:27:19 AM EST


Expanding the tip jar idea. (none / 0) (#127)
by drewcifer on Wed Dec 17, 2003 at 10:45:21 AM EST

Since you are planning on self-publishing the work, have you considered offering an 'Option to buy' to people who tipped you?

Most publishers sell copies of the work to the author at a very low cost for self distribution.  Something you could do to encourage tipping is offer those 'options to buy' to anyone who tips, where the option can be exercised for 'Author Price' - the amount they've tipped during the online review period.

Self-Publishing Book (none / 0) (#128)
by Erik240 on Mon Dec 22, 2003 at 09:40:08 PM EST

There's a nice way to self-publish if you just want to experiment -- use cafepress.com I've heard the quality is good, and you can design your own cover. They charge $7/book and .03/page and create them as you need them. I'm sure its not as nice as a typical press run from a real book publisher, but its a perfect-bound book (like a typical bookstore book) so it must not be that terrible. I've actually used them to print "wire-o bound books" which are presentations for my clients. Its a bit pricy, but it takes much less time then doing the same at kinkos, for me, so it saves me time enough to be worth it. :-) Good luck.

The Tip Jar as Revenue Model: A Real-World Experiment | 128 comments (116 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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