Last week as I stood in front of a camera shooting a promotional video for my new book, it really struck me how much the Internet has changed world of historical research and publication. When I started writing history about eight years ago the impact of the net was limited – I had never even heard of podcasts. However now the internet is changing all aspects of research.
Podcasting is the way I publish most of my material and similarly profound changes are now impacting the funding end of the process. Indeed that is the very reason why I ended up in front of a camera!
Writing – A mugs game.
Anyone who has published a book knows that avoiding becoming the stereotypical broke writer is always a balancing act. It’s no secret that writing books doesn’t make money, but they can lose you a lot of money. Last year I published ‘Witches Spies and Stockholm Syndrome, Life in Medieval Ireland’ with New Island Press.
While New Island are a joy to work with and definitely one of the good guys in terms of how they treat and work with authors, there is no way I can justify publishing another book in this manner.
Despite spending well over a year researching and writing the book, I came away with less than 15%. To cover myself financially I would need to be selling somewhere in the region of 4,000 hardback copies. Even history books on 20th century events struggle to reach such figures – medieval history is just a bit too niche.
This brings me back to where this post started, talking about the net and podcasts. Over the last five years I have been making podcasts and it has been definitely the most successful side of my publishing. The various shows now are reaching around 40,000 downloads each month with an audience of well over 10,000 people.
Crunching the numbers.
These various figures have been swirling around my mind for the past few months as I returned to complete research for my next book ‘1348: A Medieval Apocalypse – The Black Death in Ireland’.
While I have much of the background research completed the question of how to finish and publish the book remained. I knew I simply couldn’t afford to publish the traditional route – I would unquestionably end up in the red. Figuring out a solution has been like an algebra equation. My podcast audience multiplied by X can surely sustain research. But what is X?
I knew ideally the best solution would involve a direct relationship with you the audience and try cutting out the middleman. In the last few weeks these numbers and ideas crystallized around the idea of crowd-funding.
What is crowd-funding?
Simply put crowd funding is the idea that lots of people who are interested in a specific project collectively fund that project; in this case my next book. The funders then receive rewards for their support.
In choosing to contribute to my upcoming book funders will receive unique rewards for their support. All funders of ‘1348 A medieval apocalypse’ will receive at a minimum an audiocopy of the book and a book poster. There are also t-shirts, tours, copies of a limited hardback edition and even a podcast on a topic of your choice available.
I have chosen this model because I think it will work best for both you and I, the reader and the writer. Writing needs to change if its to be sustainable into the future and it seems to me that this model is the best way forward.
It in effect makes you, the audience, the publisher and guarantees the book will be out on time. I wont be held up trying to save money to complete research or buy books. For me it gives me some security as a writer in the knowledge that this book wont end up costing me an arm and a leg to publish.
It also fits well with my concept behind writing this book. As some of you are aware I am keen to involve you, the audience, throughout the creative process. I have been producing podcasts (more info available below) about my research and where it has taken me. The idea behind this is that you can give your feedback as the book progresses influencing the final product. In this context crowd funding seemed like the perfect solution.
Stepping outside the norm?
Crowd funding is definitely new territory for a medieval history project like this. It means I have to do lots of things I would never have dreamed of. Preparing for this crowd-funding campaign has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone. Seeing yourself on film is always cringing but John Breslin has done a great job of making this face for radio palatable on screen.
Likewise artwork was not something I have really had to previously think about. Working with artist Luke Fallon has been great on this front and he has come up with some great images.
The campaign will start in the next two weeks – I am submitting my project to fundit.ie later today. It is exciting and has the potential to provide a different and more sustainable model to produce history in a new and innovative way. With your support and engagement, together we will be able develop a model whereby the audience and the historian can collaborate through the entire process making history better for all involved. So hopefully in the next few five or six weeks we can make history!
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