Cory Doctorow’s Experiment: Does Free Work?

For his next collection of short stories to be published, titled With a Little Help, author and blogger-extraordinaire Cory Doctorow will be running an experiment so that he can see whether his strategy of offering his work for free is working.

With prices to range from $0.00 to $10,000 for various packages, Doctorow is to track his financial progress and the progress of the experiment as a whole on his new column at Publishers Weekly.

This first column looks at how he will be making money (his marketing and publicity strategy will be covered soon, too):

  • E-book: free, in a wide variety of formats
  • Audiobook: free, in a wide variety of formats
  • Donations: whatever happens
  • Print-on-Demand trade paperback: $16 (approximately; price TBD)
  • Premium hardcover edition: $250, limited run of 250 copies
  • Commission a new story: $10,000 (one only)
  • Advertisements: TBD
  • Donations of books: TBD

That’s how the money is going to come in. To be honest, I have no idea how much money that will be ($10,000 has already come in, of course). But I do know what I’ll do about it. I’m going to disclose it, all of it, every month, in a running tally in a monthly column here in Publishers Weekly. And incidentally, this article is grossing me all of $900, less my agent’s 15% commission, and the columns $400 hereafter. I will then put this into an appendix, which will be added to new editions of the book and compared to the revenues from Overclocked. That’s as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as I can come up with, but I think it will speak well to the question: what’s the best a writer like me can do on his own, versus with a traditional publisher for whom he does everything he can to aid in book sales?

via Marginal Revolution

3 thoughts on “Cory Doctorow’s Experiment: Does Free Work?

  1. Zack

    It certainly seems like an interesting experiment. If this kind of thing gets you goin, you should also check out Snarkmarket’s Robin Sloan who is running a similar situation with Kickstarter. He set up a page to write a novel by November 1st, with the contingency that he earn $3,500 in donations to pay production costs. There’s a few days left and has raised over $12,000. Which I think is pretty impressive, given that he hardly has the reputation or background of Doctorow (this will be his first novel).

    I think we’re definitely seeing a development in the future of publishing here.

  2. Lloyd Morgan Post author

    Thanks, Zack, I didn’t hear about Robin Sloan’s experiment.

    It’s a great idea, and I’m glad it’s taking off: it allows many others to see that there are many more routes into authorship than the tradition route and the more modern route (blog-to-book).

    boing — I admit, I don’t grok Doctorow at all when he starts posting most of the stuff he does. I respect him enormously, though.

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