Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Show Me The Money; Or, Putting The ‘Fun’ Into Crowdfunding

As all three regular readers of this blog will know, I’ve been banging on about a writers’ co-op recently, this despite (or because of) the fact I don’t have two brass farthings to rub together. You’ll also know that I’ve written a novel called A GONZO NOIR (aka BAD FOR GOOD), the gist of which runneth thusly:
A GONZO NOIR is a story about how a struggling writer – one Declan Burke, coincidentally enough – is approached by a character called Karlsson, the latter being a character from an m/s Burke wrote some years ago, but which got shelved for its lack of commercial appeal, principally because Karlsson is a hospital porter and something of a psychopath, given to alleviating the pain of old patients in a terminal fashion. Trapped in the half-life limbo peopled by fictional characters who never see publication, Karlsson has a suggestion for Burke: make him a nicer psychopath to give the novel more commercial appeal, and give the story more oomph. To this end, Karlsson will collaborate on a rewrite of the m/s, which will involve him blowing up the hospital where he works. If Burke doesn’t play ball, then Karlsson will turn his psychopathic tendencies on Burke’s wife and baby daughter …
  The novel has been out under consideration with a number of publishers for some months now, and – ooh, the irony – it appears that, despite the largely positive reaction from commissioning editors, the story lacks for mass commercial appeal.
  As a result, I’m thinking strongly of self-publishing the novel, albeit self-publishing with a twist, as a kind of dry run for the co-op idea mentioned elsewhere on this blog. But before I get into the hard sell, let me offer you first a sample of the reactions I received when I sent the m/s to a number of writers in the hope of a blurb or two:
“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” – John Banville, Booker Prize-winning author of THE SEA

“A GONZO NOIR is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” – Adrian McKinty, author FIFTY GRAND

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” – Reed Farrel Coleman, three-time Shamus Award-winning author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“A GONZO NOIR is shockingly original and completely entertaining. Post-modern crime fiction at its very best.” – John McFetridge, author of EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE

“A harrowing and yet hilarious examination of the gradual disintegration of a writer’s personality, as well as a damned fine noir novel … Burke has outdone himself this time; it’s a hell of a read.” – Scott Philips, author of THE ICE HARVEST
  Okay, now for the hard sell.
  Generally speaking, self-publishing involves a writer investing his or her own hard-earned money in having a book published, and then hoping that enough readers will buy the book to make it worth his or her while. Generally speaking, I tend to go about things backasswards, so I’m going to invert the conventional model and ask the readers to put their money where my mouth is. It’s a variation on crowdfunding, in which a reader pledges a certain amount of money to see the book published, and in return receives a copy of the book when it sees the light of day.
  Now, I know we’re living through straitened times, and that no one has money to toss around willy-nilly. That said, and these straitened times notwithstanding, people are still spending money and reading books; the crucial issue these days, at least in my own experience, is value for money.
  So: how much am I asking readers to pledge? Well, I reckon that €7 lies somewhere between what you might pay for a conventionally published book brand new off the shelves, and what you might pay for a decent book in a second-hand store. €7 converts (as of today’s conversion rates, February 17th) to roughly $9.60 (US), $10.60 (Aus), $10 (Can), and £6 (UK).
  The cost of self-publishing, going the print-on-demand (POD) route, is roughly €1,500. At €7 per book, that means I need to sell 214 books to break even, which seems to me eminently do-able. Of course, if everyone who pledges is receive a copy, then I need to build in post-and-packing at €5 per book, which bumps up the cost-per-book to me to €12. Were I to ask for a pledge of €12 per book, that would mean I’d need to sell 125 copies to break even. Sticking with the original pledge of €7, however, which I’d prefer to do, means I need to sell 367 books to break even, which still seems do-able to me. In total, then, I need to raise €2,570 to print, publish and post 367 books; if such can be done, I will receive a profit of almost exactly nil, but I’ll have a new book on the shelf, and – hopefully, if a tad optimistically – 367 readers given good value for their €7 investment.
  How to raise that amount in a fashion that is clear, transparent, and leaves the reader reassured that he or she isn’t going to be bilked for their €7? Well, there’s a site called Kickstarter, which offers a platform for the raising of capital for such projects as this. The basic idea is that I set up a project with a total amount that needs to be raised (€2,570). I let people know where and how they can pledge their €7, and hopefully 367 people buy into the idea. If the amount is raised within a specific time period (three months, say), then your pledge is accepted and transferred to my bank account, and shortly afterwards you receive your copy of A GONZO NOIR; if the total amount isn’t reached in a specified period, all pledges are cancelled and it costs nobody anything, except possibly yours truly’s pride. For more information on the Kickstarter project, clickety-click here.
  So there you have it. Any takers?