Why I’m Crowdfunding My Next Novel, by Jack Heath (guest article)
Right off the bat, let me say that I’m a big fan of traditional publishing. It’s a good system, with many strengths. The author gets paid up front, brick-and-mortar booksellers get a high-quality product to sell and readers get a polished and engrossing story thanks to the rigorous copy-editing process. But it’s not right for every book and, for the first time, I’ve found myself writing a manuscript which won’t fit that business model.
Ink is about a teenage murderer (that is, he’s a teenager who once committed murder, not a murderer who specialises in teenagers). Every day he takes an empathy supplement – a drug called Care which gives him a conscience. When he’s kidnapped by a dangerous lunatic, his supply of the drug is cut off, which gives him a limited amount of time to escape before he once again becomes a monster.
You may already see the problem with this. Anyone who doesn’t like sci-fi will probably hate Ink. So will anyone who doesn’t like young adult fiction, or crime thrillers, or morally dubious protagonists. This leaves me with a very small audience. Enthusiastic, hopefully – but small.
The average sales price of books has fallen. I’m probably not the only one who remembers buying new-release paperbacks at $35 each, back before people decided that a book was never worth more than $10. But the costs of writing, copy-editing, illustrating and proofreading a book have not diminished, so publishers have to sell many more copies than they used to before a book is profitable. Where does that leave me and my “small but enthusiastic” readership?
A traditional publisher won’t want to buy Ink. Not without diluting it to suit a bigger market – which, I suspect, would sacrifice everything that makes the ideas worthwhile.
A sensible author would let the book die. But a sensible person wouldn’t be an author in the first place. Ink is a story I really, really want to tell. So I decided to get a little bit creative.
Crowdfunding allows me to pre-sell not only copies of Ink, but also other cool rewards. Want access to the work in progress? It’s yours. Want a mention in the acknowledgements? You got it. Want a character named after you? Done. I’ve given my audience the opportunity not just to read Ink, but to be a part of it. The best part is, there’s no risk. If the worst comes to the worst and not enough people pledge their support, then none of the investors will be charged, and I won’t have to waste my time writing a book which no-one is interested in reading.
But I really hope it doesn’t come to that. I’ll be back to traditional publishing soon. Oxford University Press will release my novel Replica next year. Before that happens, I want one last chance to write something savagely non-commercial for the small group of readers who, like me, aren’t sensible.
Jack Heath’s author website: www.jackheath.com.au
Check out the Pozible campaign for Jack’s novel Ink and the rewards on offer for pledging at: www.pozible.com/inkscifi
Writing Novels in Australia