Pay The Writer: eHow?

Following a considerable amount of good points and grueling comments on the innerwebs this week, opening the discussion about how to pay the artists and laborers responsible for Needle seems a good idea. The original idea was to tack on a wee bit to the Lulu print price and work from there. But it’ll be a while before we make enough to pay anyone. So, let’s work on that.

A few ideas for revenue models and my quick thoughts:

1)      Increasing the cost of the magazine. I don’t like this idea because it means fewer people will get to read it.

2)      Putting a DONATE button on this Web site with a donation count.

3)      Working something with Check them out.

4)      Taking “Gold Level” sponsorships in which people donate $500 and get something of value besides my thanks. What would that be? A copy of NEEDLE signed by all writers? How would we do that? What else could we do as a “premium” to sponsors? Get them the magazine a week early? I dunno. This seems kinda cool.

5)      Some sort of co-op partnership. People put in $500 and after NEEDLE covers expenses, any left-over money goes back to the partners?

6)      Advertising. I think this is a big “no thanks.” I don’t want to spend time selling ads. I want to read crime fiction. That’s the whole point.

7)      Lowering costs by going online only? No. That’s against the whole point.

8)      Creating a Kindle edition to generate more revenue? Again, that’s not ink on paper. I am against it for this project, which exists to put great crime fiction on paper. Great for other projects, but not for NEEDLE.

Everyone agrees that the artists and laborers need to be paid. Let’s discuss how to do it. Also, let’s chat about ideas to boost sales/drive traffic to the subscription page.

Thanks for your help,


37 responses to “Pay The Writer: eHow?

  1. I don’t quite yet understand the “rewards” aspect of Kickstarter. It seems like an interesting donation/pledge mechanism, but I have to do more research to understand what we might offer as said “reward” to those who pledge.

  2. Oh, yeah. What about using BookSurge (Amazon) rather than Lulu? With Amazon, there’d be more exposure and maybe enough to cover expenses. Just a thought.

  3. I quite like your idea of a co-operative partnership. I think it might appeal to people to pay a certain amount to feel that they are suporting / encouraging emerging talent. They could have their name on the back cover and receive a ‘free’ copy.
    They could be called ‘friends’ of Needle Mag.

  4. What you really need is a wealthy benefactor.

    Aside from that… Sponsors might be a good way to go. Maybe you could, at the back of the mag, have a section where sponsors could have advertising. Kinda like “This issue of NEEDLE brought to you by…”

    Though that puts you back into selling ad space.

  5. BookSurge might also be a better way to go. I had several people decline to buy NEEDLE because they have no interest in dealing with Lulu.

  6. Yes, the sponsors/co-op sounds like something worth looking at.
    I wonder how much. Donate $50 and get an issue of NEEDLE. Donate $100 and get, I dunno, an issue and a NEEDLE cap? I’m just throwing that out there.

  7. Kent — People don’t like Lulu? Something about pricing? I know people have “ethical” concerns about Amazon, for whatever reason.

  8. Some quick thoughts to your quick thoughts:

    1. agree

    2. Donate button — I don’t see any problem here besides no one really knows how much has been given etc. If it’s possible to put the button and some kind of updater if possible (so many people doanted this much for transparency purposes) though kickstarter may actually do this better

    3. I looked at kickstarter and if you used it there are some benefits. Costs are clearly labelled up front.

    People see how close the project is to meeting goal

    The donations can keep coming until the next issue/quarter then if extra funds are available they could be evenly distributed to writers.

    Downside, there are fees from kickstarter and amazon.

    Needle would have to do this for every issue

    4. Sponsorship — this seems somewhat complicated in terms of their return on investment — what do they get out of it besides warm fuzzies and a magazine? I’m not saying it’s a bad idea, just unclear on the practical and implementation issues

    5. Co-op — I like, but if writer’s etc are buying copies, isn’t that already a co-op?

    6-8 — agree

    Why not have a simple donate or kickstarter and a contract/statement that says if expenses covered then all profits evenly distributed between contributors — so even if it’s 3 bucks a contributor can get a coffee somewhere and sit down and read the mag.

    I like what you folks are doing — it’s not easy — and as writers we all know that you could be doing other things with your time rather than creating a forum for others to publish in and enjoy, so thanks to all of you.

  9. From Kickstarter’s site:

    Kickstarter collects 5% from the project creator if a project is successfully funded.

  10. Some people have a problem with Lulu since certain infamous self-publishers use it. Personally, I think that’s a tad silly, but it still shakes out that some folks won’t hit that buy button because it’s Lulu.

    And you’re right, some have their own silly issues with Amazon, too.

  11. I’m going to straight up say it even though you’ll disagree with it. Put together a Kindle/iPad version of the magazine. There’s nothing wrong with being out there in multiple formats. The NY publishers do it, most magazine publishers do it and if you want to become a paying market, this is a great way to further monetize the publication.

    And I’ll agree with making the move to Booksurge. It will provide Needle with ISBN numbers and will be pushed through a far more respected outlet.

    • For the record, I agree with Keith — in this day and age, no reason to limit audience when it comes to releasing a Kindle or ePub or app version. It’s one more angle to pimp the magazine — I know that “print” is an ethos that’s important, but I think you hit that base by dint of offering a primary print version.

      — c.

  12. A set amount of comp copies of the print mag. Like I said in the comment thread on Chuck’s site, it’s not money, but it’s like money, since it saves the writers from having to pony up the cash for their own and their families’ copies.

  13. I’m personally a fan of Kickstarter. Silly as it sounds, Kickstarter is “hot” right now — meaning, you’ll earn attention just for doing it. In six months, Kickstarter may be “passe,” and so people will roll their eyes or something.

    But, it clearly gives various levels of financial input and, as a result, a reward.

    Plus, the sponsorship/co-op idea actually folds in (you top out at a $500 donation, which is when John Hornor comes over to your house and gives you a naked back massage).

    Alternate revenue model: profit-sharing. An antho could offer a small percentage to the writers, doled out through, say, Paypal.

    — c.

  14. I don’t think Kickstarter is a solution. I’ve seen others use it, mostly artists and they really have tangible things to up the ante for donations.

    All you have is a book. Unless you get original art done, then you may consider prints as an upgrade. But it’d have to be kick-ass art.

    As opposed to Kickstarter, you can use … which will show donators the running tally.

    You may even consider getting the book published elsewhere, figure out the cost, and use the ChipIn to raise money to print. Then sales minus print cost would go to the creators.

    Don’t break even, well that’s the pitfalls of publishing.

  15. I do like the contributor copy idea as a form of payment.

  16. Potential Kickstarter rewards:

    Name in the book.

    A flash fiction challenge about someone who donates (ala the Hilary’s scar one).

    One free copy. Two. Three. An ePub copy.

    Some Merch — mugs with a needle logo or cover, t-shirts, something (plus, this is advertising that goes out and potentially walks around — “Hey, what the fuck is that bad-ass t-shirt?”)

    Dinner date with Dan O’ Shea.

    Access to some kind of “archival” content online.


    — c.

  17. (Typing “Kickstarter + Magazine”) into Google earns you some links to check out to see how they’re doing it up.)

    — c.

  18. A Kickstarted mag:

  19. Based on what I’ve read about NEEDLE so far, I think the co-op model is the foundation upon which any of these other options need to be built, and contributors outside of the co-op should AT LEAST be paid with a couple of copies.

    Donors/sponsors/benefactors have plenty of places to give their money, so NEEDLE should represent an investment in something bigger than just another literary journal.

    Also, while I laud your dedication to print, not offering an electronic version (paid, not free) is both unnecessarily limiting your reach and doing your contributors a disservice. Whether a Kindle edition or an eBook via Lulu (or, hey, both!), it’s another channel for potential readers to find you, and it also gives you some breathing room on the price of the print edition.

    Finally, sell NEEDLE-branded merchandise; everything from coffee mugs and t-shirts, to toy guns and custom knives!

  20. One idea in terms of an electronic edition was to offer a PDF of the first issue when the second issue is printed — and so forth for each issue that comes along. When the new one goes to print, the last one is PDF-available.

  21. I like the name-in-the-magazine option for contributors — I like this genre, and I’d be proud to be seen as a supporter of it. I don’t know if I could afford $500 a year, though. Maybe break it up into smaller intervals?

    I like the idea of a membership plan, too. Paid membership can come with benefits ranging from a laminated membership card to access to a members-only forum to sneak peaks at upcoming issues. (You could also in this case partly reimburse authors with a one-year membership) If you plan to have a con presence, some kind of members-only get-together would be a nice touch.

  22. I didn’t see good, old-fashioned subscriptions on the list anywhere. Offer people a bit of a break on the per-issue cost and send it out a week before it’s available on the virtual newsstands and it might be one of several options to consider.

  23. Here’s a stupid idea. Feel free to shoot it down.

    I don’t know how often you plan on putting Needle out during the year, but perhaps you could set aside a single issue each year. Readers will bid in an auction for the right to outline the elements of a story. The auction winners will be paired with a willing writer participant, who will incorporate the themes, elements, characters, what have you required by the auction winners. The auction winners will share ownership of the story, 50-50, with the writers.

    I just thought I’d throw that out there, for what it’s worth.

  24. A lot of good ideas here. Subscriptions is one. And as long we hold to Needle being issued in print, there’s no reason it cannot also be published in digital formats because that could help subsidize both author payment and the hardcopy costs. You could be like the big publishers and issue the hardcopy in advance of the digital versions.

    I think we need to figure out what the payment would be, and how many copies, in whatever format, would be necessary to cover payment.

    But just so you know, Steve, I’m on board no matter how it shakes out, payment or no.

  25. I will contribute to the Lulu discussion. Lulu is the most famous and popular of the Print on Demand (POD) companies, which provides both upsides and drawbacks. While Lulu itself has a relatively polished interface and good customer service, they _gouge_. Their prices are 5-10% higher then their average competitor at minimum. Ok, this is their right as market leaders, but I still won’t use them!

    Assuming that you are looking for all methods of minimizing print costs, I recommend checking out their competitors

    Hope this helps to minimize your costs.

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  27. Great ideas. Thanks for the conversation.

    Contributions, memberships, donations are all cool, as long as people get something of value in return. The auction idea sounds great.

    Hardcopy in advance of digital would work, too.

    And do we need a site such as Kickstarter to offer benefits to donors? Couldn’t we just do that on this site?

    • One of the advantages of Kickstarter is that it’s a neutral third party. Some people feel more comfortable giving their money to a third-party site instead of directly to the seller — it’s how sites like eBay have flourished. If you have a strong and committed fanbase, though, you might not need that degree of separation.

  28. would the HBO model work in publishing?
    Maybe not yet in novels, but howabout if it was trialled by a hip young magazine?

    As far as advertisments and sponsors….this idea will be a little out there but dont paint my ass red just yet. App’s like TWEETIE have two versions. Theres the free version that has sponsors and addverts, then theres the premium version where you get no adds but pay extra.

    Howsabout a cheaper version of El Needlo that has Ads and then a “premium” version that is more expensive and runs with maybe a ciuple extra features, interviews or stories, that runs without any adverts. The the buyer can choose, and you’ll see which model is preffered.

    I’m a regular visitor, and a member, of a website called ifanboy. Focuses on comics. It has a membership program, and three tierd (i think its three) membership that you can opt into. You pay via paypal and it helps pay for their bills and content.

    Orrrrrr combine the two. A membership, members get the magazine shipped to them without ads and have access to a few special bonuses and extra features -website maybe- and for the non-members there’s a version with adverts.

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  30. How about this: When you know what the lineup for one issue will be, post names, titles, and word counts, plus a word count for the whole issue. Then put up a donate link for just that issue and say,

    “Here’s the deal. What these authors get paid depends on what gets donated from now until the issue goes to print, divvied up by percent of the total wordcount. In order for all the authors to get 1c per word, you need to collectively pony up $X. For 5c per word, it’s $Y. Anything above $Z gets put toward the next issue.”

    So, if Issue 2 comes to 100k words, you’ll need to collect $1000 to pay 1c per word, or $5000 to pay 5c per word.

    This approach is pretty overhead-intensive, but has the virtue that donators know exactly what they’re putting in for — and gives the authors a chance to elbow all their friends to put in a few bucks. Or their mothers, if they don’t have friends.

    Also, two words: Swimsuit Edition.

  31. Ask for sponsors via kickstarter or similar, and give people walk-ons in stories, with the author’s permission?

    I really like the staggered PDF idea – if you sell out in print, ain’t no more.

  32. Sounds like a cool topic for a panel discussion at a conference this year.

  33. Please no more advertising. Paying directly for the material is the only transparent means to know what you are really funding. Online ads are an unsustainable bubble just like giving away free shit was during the height of the bubble. When advertisers realize no one is clicking, no matter how specifically they target the ads, the bubble WILL burst.

    Also please no patronage. Do we really want to go back to the old days where only rich people could afford to make art, and your only other option was offering up your anal virginity to get funded?

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