In November, I wrote a short-short story every day, and included a PayPal button in each post. The gist of it was simple: like the story? Give me a few bucks. I've entertained you; feel free to give me what you think that entertainment was worth. It's not an uncommon concept in other venues these days. Radiohead did it with their newest album; Jonathan Coulton did it with his Thing A Day. I set a modest goal - $300, or $10 per story.
I made $1,400. Almost enough to cover my cat's emergency surgery + testing. In a normal month, that could've taken a decent chunk out of the credit card debt; that could have covered holiday shopping and travel.
At the same time, I'm hearing mumbles and grumbles about sci-fi and fantasy publishing being moribund. Where's the future in SF? I hear. Magazine sales are down. I don't know about books.
Y'all, the internet has changed everything. I am standing here waving my arms, yelling "Hey! You want to know where the fans are? You want to know where the money is? They're here. It's here."
People want stories. People love stories. Maybe what they don't want is to buy a pricey magazine on the chance that its stories will appeal to them. Maybe what they want is to read the story, then decide if they liked it, then decide "Yeah, that's worth my coffee money." (See: iTunes.) I got some $1 and $2 donations, but the majority of my sponsors threw in about $10-$15 a pop; some did that repeatedly. Some gave me more - one sponsor gave me $300! (She got a very personalized story from her prompt. :) ) Some bartered - I got Wyrding Studios credit, for example.
People want stories. They want stories, and they want to support individual artists and writers. I got sponsorships from total strangers, based wholly on story - but most of my sponsorships came from people who've been reading my LJ for a bit. I didn't get paid *just* for story, in at least a few cases; I got paid because people wanted my cat to be okay, because people sympathized with the financial struggle, maybe even because I volunteer for the rape crisis center. I got paid for story, but I also got paid because of who I am as a writer and as a blogger. People want a connection with writers and artists.
Now we come to the title bit.
1. I made more than standard SFWA rates for the Wind Tunnel Dreams stories.
2. Many markets count posting on blogs to be first publication; many markets don't take reprints.
3. haikujaguar points out that I can make more money doing Wind Tunnel Dreams than I probably could selling to standard genre markets.
4. But blogging is not a career-builder. I want stuff in magazines, and I want to sell books. If a dazzling story is posted on a blog, and no one reads it...
You see the predicament.
I've been puzzling out how to deal with this, and my root problem is that I don't like the standard idea of short-story writing; I don't like writing something and not sharing it with you guys, waiting months and then telling you to go buy a magazine. It goes against my instincts. My instincts shout that story wants to be free, and that people will give money for things they perceive as valuable.
My ideas for the 2008 Wind Tunnel Dreams project - expanding a short-short the first seven days of every month - are as follows:
1. Post the first day in my LJ, then post the rest members-only in windtunneldream. This protects the first publication rights, I think, but it also narrows the audience. :(
2. Pre-write all twelve and submit them to markets. Post them after the first publication rights of said markets expire. If they don't sell, just post 'em.
3. Pre-write all twelve and publish them in a chapbook with the original 30 short-shorts. Sell this in advance of their publication on my LJ - that way, chapbook buyers get the stories earlier, but the stories are still eventually Out There for all to enjoy.
The big question at the core of all of this: By posting stories here, I may be losing the chance to sell them, but I'm making more per story than I would have had I sold them. Is it worth not having the wider genre exposure?
Expect to see me puzzling at this Gordian knot for a while. (Anybody got a sword?) Discussion is invited. This may be the future; you, dear reader, are part of it.