Premium content is on

Update: D'oh! I can only have one poll up at once!? Well, I'll bring the coolest weird species one back once I've got a good enough sense from the patron fee one. Sorry about that.

This evening, MeiLin completed the process allowing me to post material to the site that is only available to paying customers.

I am going to confess, I am scared shitless. Part of me is sure you're all going to stomp away in indignation, thinking how dare I have the insolence to charge for my writing, and then I'll have no readers. I know this is irrational. These kinds of irrationalities are an occupational hazard for writers. It's why we've been letting dead-tree publishers screw us for decades if not centuries.

But my theory is that I pretty much have to do this, or some other monetization strategy, else I can't make a go of weblit. (The other one I am considering is micro-payments.) There is no one making a decent living on the donation/advertising model, even despite great popularity--not Alexandra, not MeiLin, not MCM--no one (that I know of; you may correct me if I'm wrong). I have a theory about this upon which I am going to expound at length in a post at weblit.us sometime soon. I might crosspost it here. It's really mostly of interest to weblit writers, and it's about us and money.

Anyway, I've put up a poll (so sorry, there's two) asking what you think is a fair price for a monthly patron fee. What, you understandably ask, will you get for that?

Well, I've already moved the chat page onto the premium content page; as I mentioned before, character chats are going to be accessible to patrons only.

I am ready to start posting a story, told from the point of view of a temporary sea-captain, that mostly fills in the gap re how Chevenga gets from Arko to Haiu Menshir.

Oh and there's that three-way scene with Niku and Kallijas teaming up, against all odds, to comfort Chevenga after he's done "the Arkan thing" to Abatzas.

And the duel from Kallijas's point of view.

And any number of other related narratives.

Livewriting events will be either for patrons only, or patrons get in for free while others have to pay a one-shot.

My plan is to do one premium content addition per month--either another story, a Wave RP, a character chat... or something in some form I haven't even thought of yet.

When I start selling things like PDF downloads, POD books, audiobooks, ebooks and gear, patrons will get discounts.

Patrons will get preferential treatment when I'm considering reader ideas and input, of course.

And if you really go out of your way to help out in some fashion, I'll let you off paying some amount.

And of course patrons will be recognized on the darya semanakraseyeni page (ds), if they wish, your source for serious gobs of glory.

So my question on the poll is -- what's it worth to ya? What do you think is a fair price for patron status per month?

Please elaborate on your votes with comments.

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Comments

=(

Blahhh. Money. I think the the privalege of supporting you is worth at LEAST $10/month, but I can't afford $1 a month as I subsist on school loans and parents still, to my dismay, no additional income... I dream of the days when I will be able to sign up for $5/month patron positions...

I'm happy to give, but . . .

If I can't even make an account to comment with (and no, it isn't the dot thing, I made a new email account with no dots and THAT didn't work), I'm not sanguine about my chances with a premium account.

-msst

Checking the user list -

You're there. "Michael S. S. Thedford." If you email me a password I can manually put it in for you and then you can try logging on.

Are the email addresses you've tried with gmail?

Because that's been a longstanding problem with DN. If so, try one that's not gmail.

If that doesn't work, email me at hearth at xplornet dot com. We'll sort this out.

You have to have a user account to be a patron.

Yes, they're totally Gmail.

Sorry. I like it. Emailing you a password now.

-msst

Now I see you on the "Who's new" list

...but I'm not going to believe it until I see you under "Who's online," or a comment that's properly bylined.

And now (11:40 EDT June 4 2010)

...I see you under "Who's online". Glad we got that worked out.

Gmail and MeiLin's server do not get along, for reasons unknown, at least to me.

This is not a bad idea at all.

I would be willing to do that, and I think the girls would too. The way I see it; I love good art. Your talent is valuable and you should be encouraged. There's a lot of trash out there that are making a lot of hacks a lot of money. I feel that if I don't want that to be the only thing available, I am obligated to patronize good artists. As TINKs, we like do this as much as we can.

I don't think the fee should be too high--not more than the price of a novel becuase you are still competing with dead-tree novels even if only because the geek dollar only gets spent once--but it shouldn't be too low either. After all, we are getting a month's worth of a really good story plus all the doodads that come with it.

You are one of the most talented authors I've read. If hacks like Dale Brown and Steven King can make money at this, it would be a sin if you couldn't.

Once again you are making me blush

But I had to think for a bit what a TINK was. Oh yeah, triple income no kids. LOL!

Oh come on

I totally want to fly in the Old Dog. You tellin me that thing isn't really tucked away in the desert somewhere? >.>

I think it's located

right under the satellite that sits above the North Pole.

I can't abide him. He comes up with such silly stuff. Fantasy is fine. But I have a much easier time believing in a wizard in a world of magic than the old dog. Possibly this is because my plane was a B-52 (I can't watch the BUFF scenes in 'Dr. Strangelove' either. Did anyone ever see such a big plane inside?)

I can only suspend my disbelieve, not cancel it completely.

I'm actually quite the anal stickler (that's not what it sounds like) about that kind of stuff. I've had people threaten to hurt me over it; a very dear friend simply refuses to watch movies with me.

Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe there is a mega-BUFF hiding out at Davis Monthan; it's not like I'd ever know.

patron fee math & tangents

Firt things first: I know it's an occupational hazard, but please, repeat after me: "I provide products and services, I deserve to get paid for my products and services just like all other providers." I have seen MeiLin get a little negative feedback on these discussions (out of a vast majority positive), but even that wasn't a "how *dare* you" but a person getting defensive because of guilt/money woes.

Anyway.

I was trying to run some rough math on what sort of fee would actually make providing premium content worth your while. (Yeah, yeah, every bit helps, I know, and that's a nice tagline for donations, but this is *patronage* and *reality land* we're talking about here).

Bare minimum investment on premium content from you would probably be one of those character chats. Three hours of chat time, plus a little promo prep work. Call it 3.5 hours. What's a decently hourly rate for you, compared to time spent writing a paid-by-the-word journalistic piece, if you don't mind sharing? For simple math's sake, I'll use US$10/hr for now (plus it's at least above the $7.15/hr minimum wage in my state). So 3.5 hrs x $10/hr = $35 labor cost to you. I think five of us participated in the last chat, so that would be $7 per person that month, just to break even on the premium content. Or am I totally off-base in my assumptions?

$7 a month comes out to $84/year for patronage, which is the equivalent of buying 4 hardcover books... only 100% of the proceeds would go to you. To be honest, I'm not quite sure I could afford that, if I'm trying to support more than one author. I could come close to that, perhaps, so I guess I'll vote for the $5 monthly fee option (only $60/yr). Of course, once you get more than just five of us, it becomes a lot more feasible all around.

Tangentially: I know Pete Abrams of Sluggy Freelance fame has successfully supported himself using a premium content/patronage system for many years now, but unfortunately I don't know what his numbers look like. I have no idea how he'd respond to a polite email inquiry.

Wish-upon-a-cloud-tangentially: You know what weblit *really* needs? The ability to use Barnes & Nobles gift cards to donate to webfiction online. I have some that were presents, and while I will of course find a way to spend them at bn.com, I would much rather spend the equivalent "we love you so go buy yourself something to read" dollars on some weblit right now. Perhaps I'll start requesting Amazon gift cards instead, so at least I can buy any e-books that end up there. Perhaps I should share that suggestion on Ergofiction & weblit.us, too.

Let's get this out of the way first:

I provide products and services, I deserve to get paid for my products and services just like all other providers.

There.

BTW, I have to thank you all for... well, let me put it this way. When I started this, I was convinced that I had a good product. But only on the surface, only my intellect. Not the emotions, which, let's be honest, really rule. It's your comments that are convincing me at heart, so that I can say I know, really know, I have not just a good product but an excellent product. And feel that way.

Hourly rate? Well... I charged the guy who I did book illustrations for $60/hr. Yesterday I did a 473-word story @ 12 cents a word = about $57, and I did the interview in about 15 minutes and wrote the story in half an hour, so during that time I was working for about $76/hr. (It helps that I write fast.) That is the lowest word rate I make in journalism; it's usually 15. The highest was a story I just did for 80 cents a word, making about $1K for maybe 5 or 6 hours work, so that's somewhere between $150 and $200/hr., easiest money I've ever made in my life. For homeopathy I make less than that but more than 15 cents a word. I'd be much richer if I didn't give up assignments and clients so as to write weblit, because it's what I like doing the most.

So we can't calculate it that way. How much I make depends far less on the price than on how many people I can convince to pay it anyway. If it were $1 a month and 10,000 people signed up, I'd be golden.

But here's the thing -- a short version of the central premise of the promised weblit.us post on monetizing -- we were all taught in micro-economics that the number of widgets sold will be exactly inversely proportional to the price, in other words, the cheaper you can make your widgets, the more of them you'll sell. But this isn't exactly true when it comes to marketing a product to consumers. Because people don't want to pay the lowest price for something; they want to pay the price that most accurately reflects the value of it, but possibly also gives them a bit of a deal. And when they try to evaluate the value of something, part of what they judge it by is -- the price. Irrational, perhaps, but true.

This means that if you underprice something you can discourage buyers as much as if you overprice it. (And yes, in that post I will take this to its logical extension, which is that we are driving away readership by offering our works for free.)

Pricing is part of marketing in the sense that you want to set the price that will encourage the most people to pay. That price is basically what most people think is fair for what they're going to get, but also perhaps gives them a sense that they're getting a deal. This is one reason why I'm doing the poll -- to gauge what my existing readers think is fair, since chances are prospective readers will agree.

In my experience, creative people generally respond positively to polite emails asking to pick their brains. So maybe I'll send Sluggy Peter one.

I love the gift certificate idea. "Give the gift of weblit!" What it needs is for a co-op agreement between a bunch of weblit writers. Each would sell the gift cards on their site, and then pay the gift certificate price less a cut for selling it to the site at which it is redeemed. I suspect MeiLin would be interested in doing it through DN but it should be expandable to others as well, since the more selection, the more value is seen in the certificate.

That really depends

on the amount and format of the content. If it was something roughly chapter-length once a week, a dollar a week should be below almost anyone's radar such that they don't feel bad (budget-wise) about subscribing to several sites, thus fragmenting the audience. Possibly $2/week, even, which is ~$100/year.

If the content is once a month and is probably less than "4 chapters worth", my price point suggestion would probably be no more than $5/mo. $3 or $4 would work. Reality check: This is half the price of a paperback book for significantly fewer words. But there are other perks Smiling

Since the payment is designed to be nominal in nature (for each customer), discounts on purchases would have to be similarly nominal or the system is counterproductive...I wouldn't be upset if there were no discounts.

I highly recommend a variety of payment options, including PayPal, and possibly including both the "sign up for something reoccurring so I can forget about it" and the "pay a larger lump sum at intervals so I don't have to worry about something reoccurring without my explicit direction" approaches.

Recognizing patrons publicly will embarrass certain personality types...I'd suggest making it opt-in rather than opt-out.

P.S. All values in United States dollars.

Something else

I will be building up a stock of premium content items... so that people who sign on, say, a year from now, will have the whole backlog to look at as well as what is current. (At least I think that's how I should structure it... hmm...)

There are going to be entire books that are premium content. That's the plan with The Fool on the Mountain and Shirley's thinking that about The Games too.

Think think think consider contemplate listen...

Opt-in, check

Changed in the post. Different payment options are wise too. Re US$, it's so close to par with Canadian these days I hardly think about it. (Oh for the days when a US$2,000 advance translated in Cdn$3,000...)

I think the size of the content will vary. "Chevenga's Freedom," for instance, which will be the first offering, is about five chapters' worth, and was a heck of a lot more work than a character chat. I don't know that I want to do something that big every month on top of the regular posting. (And the day job, and the volunteer work, and the childcare, and the housework/home repair...) In July Shirley and I are going to do a whole book in a weekend. You'll be able to be on the wave if you're a patron of mine or if you pay us a set price (yet to be set), and then that whole book will become premium content (at least I think that's the plan -- I'll have to talk to Shirley about it) as well as ebook and other paid formats. But I do have something of a backlog and I can aim for an average.

Re the price of a paperback book: at the risk of sounding like I'm guilt-tripping, posting 2,000-2,500 words per weekday means I produce a paperback book's worth every two to two-and-a-half months. Basically I'm offering premium content at a price so as to induce people to support all the work I'm doing through the promise of material otherwise unavailable.

Let the discussion continue...

What guilt trip?

My rough calc said half the price of a paperback per month, spent strictly on the premium content.

By your numbers, the full story puts out a paperback every 2-2.5 months. So people are paying the full price of a paperback in a 2 month period for slightly fewer words out of you. And instead of...how much does a normal author make on a paperback book purchase? Something like $0.25? Instead of whatever the 6% or 4% contract is, you make the full price less the PayPal fee.

Thus, each regular electronic+premium customer is *far* more effective than one person who buys a conventional book. Most of your book is still free so your readership and word-of-mouth advertising can expand rapidly. Any hard-copy premium content is available in archives for financially-challenged people who can only subscribe say, 1 month a year and read a full year's worth at a shot. People who like and want to support your work have a good venue to do so and still feel that they get additional value for their money.

Studies like Capriox's hourly rates are important to see if this can move from hobby level to making-a-living level but studies like mine above would seem to make it very promising and efficient compared to other methods -- if you can capture a sufficient audience. I'm confident that the quality of material is there; the rest depends on details of promotion and presentation. How do they find it, how easily do they read/consume it, and what encourages them to stay? Maximize all of those and you'll do well.

*All* models depend on capturing a sufficient audience

...so that's not a drawback of this one or any of them, but it does mean the best model is one that will help capture a sufficient audience. I have a theory about this that I keep promising to elaborate on in a post on weblit.us, that I am getting closer to doing. I first wrote it months ago so it's needed revisions. Super-short version: not charging for something is bad marketing.

Thanks for the thought and calculation you've put into this, which I did more or less in my own head. I've slowed down lately, dropping to about 2K words per post or a bit more, but, yes, it's still a paperback book every 2 1/2 months unless I take a break. (Some call me Ms. Motorkeyboard.) I've become confident enough of the quality of my work just from the comments I get from you guys that I'm really feeling it, and gearing up for putting myself "out there" more strongly. (Maybe I should focus-group the ad I just did with you guys...)

Thanks very much for the positive outlook, that helps more than you know!

What do you mean, "maybe?"

Focus-group us yea unto exhaustion! Have we steered you wrong yet?

Okay okay

...posted on the blog.

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