The sun is shining. I’m feeling light-hearted. Here’s a semi-serious list of ways of funding the type of financially-beleaguered writing which we hope will be considered literature in the future.
- Crowdfund. The White Review and Guernica are using kickstarter to identify and collect from small but dedicated audiences. Success means they pay their contributors. The novelty factor seems to be working.
- Run a subscriber model. It’s worked for magazines for a long time. For some better than others. And Other Stories (the publisher not the clothes shop) are using it for series of books. It was big in the nineteenth century. No reason why it can’t come round again.
- Sell novels as the works of art they are. You can buy War and Peace in a decent edition for considerably less than the price of a one day London Travelcard. It’s not that Penguin Classics are selling a naff rip-off; it’s not Michelangelo’s David printed on an apron but the real thing. Novels are far too cheap. Use thick glossy paper. Generous margins. Look at cookery books to see how it’s done. Now imagine an edition of Ted Hughes with top notch photography facing every poem. Coffee table Hughes.
- Put a high price on your novel as visual art. Not a ‘high price for a novel in today’s market’, not Folio Society or typical-hardback-plus-twenty percent. Try a really high price, completely outside the range of today’s customer expectations. £30 for a truly beautiful edition. £40. Make your novel a Veblen good. The higher the price goes, the more demand will increase.
- Sell limited editions of different covers on the same novel. Invite people to collect the range. Women’s magazines do it. No idea whether it works. Definitely not hard to do.
- Learn from medieval monks; write the limited editions yourself by hand. Most people won’t be able to consider the Margaret Atwood handwritten short story. How about a framed poem from the local amateur instead?
- Write bespoke poems for individuals and occasions. Andrew Motion did it for a butt of Canary Wine. It made careers in the seventeenth century. Charge to pen flash fiction about the guests during a wedding reception. Or send Lena Dunham a poem for her birthday and hope she tweets it worldwide.
- Set up a modern union. Taylor Swift pulled off Apple to help other musicians who needed every cent of royalties. Apple backed down. Imagine Stephen King, John Grisham, J K Rowling, Dan Brown (and the estate of Agatha Christie) all holding their publishers to ransom.
- Combine as many as possible of the above. Crowdfund your time to do handwritten limited editions about public figures that Stephen King auctions from his bed which he’s refusing to get out of until you are paid.
- Make the most of first mover advantage. You heard it here first.
And if all else fails, steal from internet norms. For once do what the blog gurus recommend and make your fiction a numbered list. You never know, it might just help.
For what I’m currently writing, click here