And speaking of something of value... Another interesting online subscription project was launched about three years ago by Tracy Hickman and his wife Laura Hickman, both fantasy writers with strong résumés and a big readership. In addition to their contractual work with publishers, the Hickmans have been writing an original fantasy series for subscribers at Dragonsbard.com. Each week, participants receive a new chapter which is available exclusively to them; when the novel is completed, each subscriber receives a numbered, signed, limited-edition hardcover of the finished novel. Eventually, the finished novel is released in a general edition which is available from booksellers. The subscription project has evolved to include various pricing plans and additional related projects, such as St. Nicholas and the Dragon, a Dragonsbard Christmas story that’s available as an ebook. Community building is again a strong factor in this project. An invitation to potential Dragonsbard subscribers reads: “Join our crew early and experience the writing process from concept stage through the final printing of the book. Get to know the authors personally, experience the journey of writing the novel and come to know others in the [subscriber] community.”
Obviously, crowdfunding and author-generated subscription projects aren’t predictable, reliable, or foolproof means of paying the bills; but do let us remember that neither is writing a contracted novel for a publisher.
(I, for example, have had various publishers dump me or fold under me, including canceling deals midbook and mid-contract.) However, although such projects contain their own risks and pressures, they are fiscally and artistically empowering means of earning income directly from readers, and they’re good examples of how the Long Tail is changing our profession by expanding our options and opportunities.
Laura Resnick invites you to send her information about writers creating and employing various Long Tail strategies, so that she can include those examples in a subsequent column on this subject: LaResnick@sff.net.