Late Books and Crowdfunding

I think most people are pretty clear on this concept — art takes as long as it takes, and if it takes a writer a little longer than expected to come out with their next book, well, so be it.  Or, as Neil Gaiman so memorably said to a fan who was impatient for the next “Song of Ice and Fire” book, “George R. R. Martin is not your bitch.” A writers have contractual obligations to their publishers, not to their readers.

Except, well — what happens when your readers effectively are your publisher?

Six years ago, Diane Duane started to ask her readers if they’d be willing to subsidize her next book through subscriptions as she wrote it. Things went great for a while, and then they didn’t. Diane’s health, circumstances, and life went through a long, bumpy patch and her book went off the rails.

Now she’s finished it, and put it online with a long and heartfelt apology to the readers who’d backed her.

This is an important — and underreported — problem with “micropatronage” and “street performer protocol”-style artistic experiments. Writers are often late with their books.  [….]  This is normal, and we know how to deal with it in the world of traditional publishing. But in the world of public writing-as-performance where there are hundreds or possibly thousands of people with a financial stake in the book — people who aren’t editors at a house with 400 books under contract, but rather people who’ve never been around a book during its creation — it gets really difficult and sticky.

Diane Duane’s crowdfunded publishing experiment finally concludes – Boing Boing.

(I know, I posted something else about Diane Duane just the other day, but doing that reminded me that I had this link buried somewhere in all my “you really should blog this someday” bookmarks.)

This is an interesting question and a problem we’re going to start seeing more often as these models of direct patronage become more common. The answer seems to be communication, communication, communication — keeping your readers in the loop. If you’re going to involve them in the production of your book from the beginning, you have to keep them involved, letting them know each step of the way if something changes.