Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer


by Rob - July 23rd, 2015.
Filed under: business, Writing.

I see lots of authors trying to fund the time to write their books via Kickstarter or Indiegogo, and I daily get requests from some of them to promote their campaigns on my Facebook wall. I haven’t figured out my stance on all this yet. Certainly, when I was writing my early books (I wrote my first three novels without contracts, and so without advances prior to their completion), I had to make sacrifices (working my ass off to earn enough money ahead of time so that I could afford to take time off from the nonfiction and corporate freelance writing I was doing then to pursue this).

I’m not saying people should have to suffer for their art, but I’m not yet convinced that this is the right alternative, either. And, of course, I come from an era (old fart that I am) in which authors were compensated on the very straightforward model that you made money when people bought your books, simple as that.

Yesterday, when yet another person asked me to promote their Kickstarter, I wrote:

Not to be a Grinch, but I get asked daily to support Kickstarters for authors, and I have very mixed feelings about the crowdfunding concept, which shifts the burden of risk from the artist to the audience (sight-unseen, with no one having reviewed the finished product, the audience is asked to fund the creation of something). I’m not passing judgment on your project — it indeed sounds worthwhile — it’s just the funding model in general that I have reservations about. Please forgive me.
So, I’m still struggling with this. I’ve supported some Kickstarters for projects that clearly are not commercially viable that I’d like to see done. But early books in a writer’s career? Those have rarely been commercially viable for anyone, and have always represented a substantial degree of risk and commitment on the part of the author.

Yes, I see parallels to the granting culture that swirls around much of Canadian literature. But far from being entrepreneurial, that culture (asking for government handouts) and this one (crowdfunding) strike me as quite the opposite. As I say, I shall continue to mull over the issue.

Robert J. Sawyer online:

2 Responses to Crowdfunding

  1. No one’s going to ask me to promote their Kickstarter, but I’ve helped to fund a few. For me, the key is a writing sample. Assuming it’s a novel, put the first chapter or two up for free, and I can tell if I’m going to like the whole thing.

  2. Rob, I agree with you and have essentially the same reasons as you for feeling that crowd funding to enable authors to write is a questionable practice. Not that I favor criminalizing the idea and desire of a creative artist to get an ‘advance’ on their work from a publisher or producer when that is available to them. But I do think that the ability to be paid for one’s work without the conditions typically set forth in such a professional contractual arrangement and with no requirement to be legally, ethically and financially responsible/liable to deliver said work(s) is far too fraught with potential for misuse of the crowd funding model and/or deliberate misappropriation (for want of a better word) of the funds generated. IMHO, a’course!

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