Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I need your feedback, please

With the publication of my latest book, the time has come to look at my publishing activities overall, including this blog (which consumes up to 2 hours every day, finding material, preparing articles, and putting them up).  Blogger is a free platform, which helps, but it has limitations.  I need to think about a dedicated author Web site, which will include this blog, and also look into book promotion and other activities.  This will probably be accompanied by a legal framework for my writing, such as a Limited Liability Company (LLC).

The problem is, my blog doesn't generate any income.  I don't want to generate funds by burdening my readers with advertisements.  I know how I loathe them, so why should I inflict them on you?  (Besides, I use ad blocking software, and I daresay many of you do as well.)  However, if I'm to invest in the services of a Web site designer, pay for hosting and ongoing upgrades, and migrate my blog to a new platform, I need to find some way to pay for it all.  Following my year-long hiatus in publishing, due to health reasons, I don't have the spare cash available to fund that sort of thing right now.

I've thought about setting up a so-called 'tip jar', where readers can make an ad hoc donation using Paypal.  Unfortunately, such income isn't regular or reliable.  One month I might do very well;  the following month, I might be left with unpaid bills.  It's just too chancy.

I'm therefore considering setting up a Patreon account, just as many other authors and artists have done.  Patreon offers fans of an author or artist the opportunity to sponsor him or her on a regular basis, usually in return for sneak previews of their current work and/or a free copy of each book as it's published.  I'm more than willing to adopt a similar approach, but I don't know how many readers will be interested in it.  If I can find a thousand readers willing to contribute $5 per month, there are no worries.  If there are only a hundred readers willing to contribute that much, and/or if average contributions are only a dollar or two . . . not so good.

I know other authors have succeeded in raising more than enough for such needs.  Luminaries such as Howard Tayler (creator of Schlock Mercenary) and Zach Weinersmith (of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal fame) are relying on it to fund their operations.  Can I also succeed?  I guess that's up to you, dear readers.  So, I'd be grateful if you'd please tell me in Comments whether you'd be interested in and/or willing to fund my operations through a regular monthly donation, and if so, approximately how much.  In return, you'd get a free copy of every book or story I write, as soon as it's published, and probably a sneak peek every month at a chapter from my work in progress, as well as a discussion of current projects.  I might also throw in some options like using your name for one of the characters in a book, in return for a donation.  (I promise not to kill off your namesake too messily - unless you want me to, of course!)

I know some of you simply can't afford anything due to the circumstances of your lives.  That's fine.  I'm never going to insist on support in return for access to my Web site, or anything like that.  All I want to do is investigate what's possible right now.  If there's sufficient interest, I can start planning to contract with a Web designer and get things moving.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.



Billy said...

I would probably do Patreon I am supporting a YouTube channel via it and like it.

Randall Schuff said...

Cut down on or eliminate the blogging. Put your efforts into your vocation.

Austin in TX said...

I'd donate to Patreon - I've always enjoyed your books and want to see more of them.

If this helps I'm up for it.

Gorges Smythe said...

Wish I could help you, but I'll have to wait to even buy your book. I hope you figure something out; I've been in business and understand cash-flow all too well.

Topher_Henry said...

I would be interested in $5/month. I'd know it's going to support an artist that is more interested in his craft than politics. I'd rather do that than spend $20+ a month to go to the movie theater.

Old NFO said...

$5/mo is fair, IMHO.

Javahead said...

$5/mo is fair enough, I think.

Though I'll point out that your blog also functions quite well as advertising - I first checked it out because of links from other blogs I follow, but it was your writing here that caught my interest enough that I followed through by buying your books.

Kristophr said...

A $1 or $2 per month pay by chapter scheme? This would require regular once a month chapters, of course.

Patrons get an advanced reader copy in instalments, everyone else coughs up the cash on release.

Alfred Genesson said...

Do you have anything that might work as a Patreon exclusive work(for now), like John C. Wright's Superluminary? A serialized story, especially with small once a month/week entries is something I'd be interested in that wouldn't interfere too much with your writing schedule. But I personally wouldn't want to interfere with the income your publishers might get by Patreon publishing.

As to ads, go for it. Brave looks to replace them soon, so revenue won't be lost.

David said...

I would do $5/month.

Ray said...

Wordpress is the platform of choice. Free, but hosting fees.

Blogging gives you a chance to interact with fans and build your brand. Does it need to be everyday? I find your content a good read. What of your content gets comments? What builds your buying audience?

Mogrith said...

I'm another $5/moth.

Anonymous said...

I hate adds but over at Rural Revolution (http://www.rural-revolution.com) she used selective ads that she believed in to cover costs. I have no problem with ads that are not flashing at me or block or interfere with my reading. Maybe you might want to check out this site http://mausersandmuffins.blogspot.ca/ as she writes to.

TisDone said...

I'm in for $5 - I enjoy your commentary on all things ranging from the fiscal policy to the cultural landscape to the planes to the humor.

Doug McMillan said...

I like your blog but I really am just coming to check on anything new about your books. I would be willing to do 5 a month to see arc chapters if you are having someone else maintaining the blog for you. Why burn 2 hrs a day on the web? Heck some of us could probably help you do the blog and help you proof read arcs. A rotation of people each giving 4 hours a month should cut time from non-money makers so you can write more. Thatwould be a win win for those of us that love your books.

Anonymous said...

Peter I'm a somewhat regular and would happily support a $5/month effort.
I will tell you that I particularly value your compilation of articles written over the years.

Jim said...

I'd do $5. I generally check your blog a couple times a day and generally find it informative and/or entertaining. I would hate to see it go.

Anonymous said...

$5 a month with free boks, etc...even a cheapster like me would be up for that.


selkiemaine said...

I don't think you're going to see that much of an income stream from Patreon.

The two Patreon/blog examples you mention are two of the web's premier comics. Those guys are producing superb original content on a daily basis, and have been for a long time. This blog is interesting, well written, thought-provoking, and worth following. But, it isn't the same kind of blog. You're doing as much linking and reposting as you are original material. I think that people are much less inclined to pay for that.

Of course, that doesn't take into account the possibility of early book access.

You never know unless you try. I might be (and hope I am) completely wrong. I can't see that starting a Patreon account could hurt.

I too use an ad blocker ... I actually don't mind a reasonable quantity of ads, but so many sites are so overloaded that I had to put one in for sanity's sake (the sites load a lot faster too). That said, if you have to do some ads, so be it. I'll even turn off my ad blocker for you.

One way or the other, I'll continue to purchase your books. Not only do I like your writing, but I also like what I feel your career in authorship stands for: perseverance, self-sufficiency despite adversity, values, and work ethic.

IMO, your health/income/sanity come before the blog. If you have to cut back so be it. Whatever you decide, you have my best wishes!

Rich S. (Selkiemaine)

DaddyBear said...

I'd definitely be willing to set up a regular payment.

Andrew said...

I'm in for $5 a month. I check in here, at DaddyBear's, and Commander Zero once a day. I'd be happy to have all you,guys on Patreon so I can donate regularly.

Jones said...

Why are you not looking at getting your
publisher to do more of the heavy lifting
in terms of your professional marketing
and promotional placements?

More to the point, why can't your blog be
integrated into your publisher's operations,
saving you the cost of hosting it yourself
while also working with your publisher to
provide updates, teasers, and other content
that fits your publisher's needs?

It's probably a good time to give up some
control in order to stop worrying about the
day-to-day stuff, and this is probably one
of the things that will help.

It would certainly be more helpful and less
stressful to have some assistance in putting
up new content on your Web site, even if you
have to phone it in literally as well as
figuratively on occasion.

Successful people don't in-source -- they
out-source and get as much help as they can
to make their big projects bigger and more

It wouldn't bother me in the slightest to see
your blog become a part of your publisher's
presence on the Internet -- in fact, I'd see
that as a positive indication that you are
increasing your stature as a writer.

If your publisher will take reasonable bets
on you, it shows people you are someone who
should be reckoned with.

So I'm going to advise against doing anything
with PayPal, Patreon, or anything of that kind
on your own. It shows that you are working as
a free agent and that you're not making full
use of what your publisher can offer.

Instead, it's time for your publisher to help
you out more while you help out your publisher.

Don't eliminate writing for the Web entirely.
Make it work better for you instead. Special
and exclusive content is lovely, but it would
be more lovely if you can get targeted marketing
and placement through your publisher to work
for you.

It's tempting to be a one-man team or a one-
family team, but at some point you have to give
up control to get to the next level.

Health and other issues that have been coming
up recently may be a sign that it's a good time
to start considering how to do that.

As for your LLC, seek out the help of an attorney
with expertise in intellectual property and tax
matters, especially royalties income. Sometimes
individual income pass-through allows you to avoid
taxes that you would otherwise pay when running
your income through a corporation of any kind.

There may be a way to arrange things so you
can take advantage of multiple structures, and
it may be possible to get better protection
for your work, including better treatment of
author's moral rights. This can sometimes be
referred to as "forum and venue shopping", and
in many cases it can really pay off.

Where and how you receive your income also
matters, especially if you can take advantage
of tax treaties and exemptions.

Finally, look into whether an "S" corporation
would work better -- it may be treated like a
"disregarded entity" for certain purposes such
as royalties income, which might mean that you
could take advantage of some situations that
might not otherwise present themselves.

You will need competent legal help for this,
and it's something you will want to research.

Best of luck with what lies ahead.

Peter said...

@Jones: All of those avenues are being explored. However, no publisher of which I'm aware currently offers its authors the kind of support you've described, with the sole exception of top bestselling authors who probably don't need such help anyway, because they're making enough money to afford their own experts! In today's publishing world, you usually have to provide your own social media platforms - in fact, you're unlikely to be accepted by a publisher unless you can bring a significant online presence to the table, along with your book.

C. G. R. said...

It seems like you opted for "vertical integration", doing most of the heavy lifting as well as a lot of the minutiae yourself. Why not doing the web presence the same way? There are currently a lot of cloud service providers offering web site hosting for really accessible prices with a lot of the trivial services included (high-resilience, backup and restore, self-service, card processing APIs, etc). You shouldn't go into three figures for starting your web presence and the maintenance should be really cheap since the bulk is provided by the hoster anyway...

Peter said...

@C. G. R.: I could, but I'm no expert at that sort of thing - and there are already too many mediocre, "me-too" Web sites out there. If I'm going to have one, I want it to be as good as I can make it, and if I can't make it very well, I want to hire someone to do a better job! I guess there's a bit of the perfectionist in me.

Nahum B said...

I'd do $5/month instantly.

Borepatch said...

Blog ads were a waste. I tried it a couple years ago and maybe made $20, and I was getting a fair amount of traffic.

Dirk said...

I use a reader (The Old Reader) to read blogs, and thus never see blog ads, unless I click over the actual blog site in order to post a comment. And even then, I rarely/never click on ads anyway. I'm reading blogs, not shopping. :)

nono said...

LLC's do and more than one. Talk to David Weber who already uses one, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Vox Day, then find a good lawyer.

Remember you can back charge web costs to your LLC's and write them off as as business expense on your taxes. If it makes more than expenses, that is all gravy. Talk to a good accountant.

Mike said...

I'd do $5/mo. and would prefer that to ads.

Aaron de Bruyn said...

On the geek-side of things, if you are comfortable with Linux you can spin up a Digital Ocean server for $5/mo to run your blog. It's about the most cost-effective way I've run into for running small sites, or even developing and testing applications.

David Lang said...

I'll point out that the success of Brings the Lightning is mostly due to the visibility that it got from this blog.

Anonymous said...

I wish you well, may your endeavors be successful. right now I cannot donate even a dollar a month to you. My computer is my link to the world beyond my windows.

Your blog is a must read, and you are much appreciated.
God bless you sir

Quentin said...

I suggest you look at this blog as - in part - an advertising tool. You advertise your books here, you advertise yourself here. You build your brand. People hopefully buy your books as a result.