I see a lot of proposed business models floating around, blog posts on what works and what doesn’t for making a living off of storytelling online. So far, I really like the idea of “pay for what you like” – it’s not only an impetus to produce quality work, but it’s a direct feedback mechanism for the author. Essentially, the digital author offers content for free, but asks for donations from those who like the work. Novelr has some posts related to the theory and practice of this model.
I’ve participated in this from a consumer standpoint: I download podcasts from PodCastle, EscapePod, and PodioBooks, and I use Duotrope as a resource for short story markets. All of these services are free, but I have given donations to all of them in appreciation and support of the quality of service they provide. And this was before I started my digital fiction crusade, before I recognized what the creators were doing, before I understood it from their point of view. I just felt quality work should be supported, so I supported it, both by word of mouth and by donating.
It’s not a mass-market business model, for sure. But it’s less reliant upon a huge corporation or publishing company backing you and financing you and marketing you. Only the Stephen Kings of this world really get that kind of big support from traditional models anyway. No, this model is closer to true free enterprise – at least, my understanding of free enterprise – and the concept of paying for what a product is actually worth, as opposed to what Madison Avenue tells you a product is worth.
Toward this end, I’m planning a total overhaul of my own website, and to start playing with these practices as part of both my personal research and my PhD research. I’m hoping this next year will contain less teaching for me, and more focus on my own work. Send me free time vibes, folks. I’m going to need them.