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Old 04-01-2008, 04:12 PM   #1
Steven Lyle Jordan
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The Patronage/Subsidization System: Workable for e-books?

As long as we're batting around ways to make e-books workable, profitable and fair for the majority of people, I felt we might add this to the list of subjects to discuss.

The Patronage or Subsidization system is essentially the process of convincing some organization to finance the author of a work, allowing that author to give his work away for free. The benefit is two-fold: The author gets a salary for their work; and the patron or subsidizer gets the props for doing the subsidization (Heck, they can probably take it out of their taxes at the end of the year, in some countries).

The model can be designed to assume that X number of eyes will see the work, and the author is paid by the patron/subsidizer according to the projected X. (Usually, future agreements and payments can be amended according to measurements of actual X.)

Conversely, the model can simply pay a lump sum that corresponds to the author's agreed-upon worth.

If we're talking about an individual patron, there's not much here to discuss, I think. But a patron can also be a seller of a product, and said patronage could come in the form of advertising content added to the work. This brings to mind TV and movies, where commercials and product placement are added to promote the advertiser's product.

Subsidization can mean that a group of people will be charged by the group that is subsidizing the author... for instance, if a corporation subsidizes an author, they may raise the cost of their products to the consumer to compensate for the subsidization. Or, if the government subsidizes an author, they add it to the populace's tax base. Herein often lies the rub, as much of the general public may not be happy about an individual author that is being financed by their money/taxes. Artists of controversial material (homosexuality-based art, for example) have been the brunt of such criticism and attacks in the U.S. in the past.

In either model, there is the possibility (however slight) that the patron/subsidizer might influence the creative work, or stifle the author's creativity based on their own interests or bias.

But the clear benefit to any of these models is the "apparently" free nature of the work, which minimizes or removes the threat of loss through piracy or copyright infringement. It makes it easier on the consumer, for their purchases are paid for later, through taxes or increased product costs, and can be an essentially "invisible" charge to them. DRM can be abandoned, internet monitoring and surveillance is not needed, and work can be distributed worldwide, with no concern over price differences across borders.

How likely is it that the patronage/subsidization model can work for individual artists in this day and age? What (if anything) is in place, and what needs to be developed? Are certain artists better off pursuing one model over the other? Are certain countries likely to be more supportive of this idea than others? Are other countries likely to fight this model, or to challenge its fairness?

Discussion is invited.
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:25 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by Steve Jordan View Post
How likely is it that the patronage/subsidization model can work for individual artists in this day and age? What (if anything) is in place, and what needs to be developed? Are certain artists better off pursuing one model over the other? Are certain countries likely to be more supportive of this idea than others? Are other countries likely to fight this model, or to challenge its fairness?

Discussion is invited.
Check the "Academy of authors" idea in the Times (UK) article I linked to in News.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22420

I shudder to think of that...

Personally I think that the patronage model cannot work on a large scale today at least here in the US - it will be attacked politically, think the headlines - "people are dying of malaria, famine in poor countries, while here the food stamps usage is at a record high and you use your foundation money to subsidize that crap sf thingy" and the tax code is unlikely to support it either.
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:35 PM   #3
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Originally Posted by Liviu_5 View Post
Personally I think that the patronage model cannot work on a large scale today at least here in the US - it will be attacked politically, think the headlines - "people are dying of malaria, famine in poor countries, while here the food stamps usage is at a record high and you use your foundation money to subsidize that crap sf thingy" and the tax code is unlikely to support it either.
There are active patrons operating in the U.S. today. Most of them are applauded for supporting artists. I don't know whether they get a tax deduction or not, but for instance, if I donate to the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), I can take that off of my taxes. (It might mean an author having to register as a tax-deductible entity.)

The U.S. government also subsidizes through grants. Every year, certain organizations take the govt to task for giving grants to one group or another. Yet, the system is still in-place and used, albeit with a bit more oversight to make sure fewer quacks and crackpots get grants.

Bottom line: We get those headlines now. I'm pretty sure no politician or CEO has lost office because of one...

And by the way: "that crap sf thingy" ...I'll try not to take that personally...

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Old 04-01-2008, 04:47 PM   #4
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I think it's a good idea. I thought it was a good idea when I first had it. Same with "your" key-books-to-the-user idea.

As long as you are turning my ideas into threads, you might as well give me some karma. Other wise you're just pirating (parroting?) ideas.

Oblique reference: Top O' the Muffin To You!

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Old 04-01-2008, 05:19 PM   #5
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I rather enjoyed Steve Miller and Sharon Lee's approach.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Taylor514ce View Post
I think it's a good idea. I thought it was a good idea when I first had it. Same with "your" key-books-to-the-user idea.

As long as you are turning my ideas into threads, you might as well give me some karma. Other wise you're just pirating (parroting?) ideas.

Oblique reference: Top O' the Muffin To You!
You pay a fee of about a dollar each week (or you can pay $25+ up-front) and you get to read the chapters, as posted online. I've read their "Fledgling" book and am in the process of reading "Saltation". I chose to pay $30 for each book, right up front. And I have dutifully made copies of each chapter-in-the-rough (Yeah, that's right. You're reading the 'first-draft' versions of each chapter.) and have assembled "Fledgling" into an ebook for my Cybook. That way I can reference back while reading the second story. Trust me, it helps!

It's kind of like buying a pre-pre-pre-electronic-Advanced-Reader-Copy of the story. But I like the story enough that I'll certainly buy the final, edited, e-book (and the dead tree) when it gets released.

Derek
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:04 PM   #6
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Taylor514ce View Post
I think it's a good idea. I thought it was a good idea when I first had it. Same with "your" key-books-to-the-user idea.

As long as you are turning my ideas into threads, you might as well give me some karma. Other wise you're just pirating (parroting?) ideas.
These ideas are older than both of us, boyo. And I never claimed they were my ideas... I just set up a separate thread to formally discuss something that's been kicked around on this site before, and which you are also free to discuss, or diss, if you'd like.
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Old 04-01-2008, 09:09 PM   #7
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In either model, there is the possibility (however slight) that the patron/subsidizer might influence the creative work, or stifle the author's creativity based on their own interests or bias.


Steve,

It's absolutely (well...<almost> absolutely) certain that the patron <will> influence the creative work. Patrons will not normally subsidize art that they don't like. That ends up acting as filter, the same as an editor does. Of course the filter is different for different patrons, so the author can shop around for a sympathetic patron, but that's still being influenced (think of lobbyist money and politicians,)


That doesn't mean the idea is bad, but the matching of not-yet-popular authors and patrons would be most difficult. (Remember Das Capital was written under a patronage system - that's not a sneer, just an example.) It would work much better for back-listed authors, where a fan (or fans) could act as a patron to keep out-of-print authors in print (and e-book) as patron. (This, in essence, is what Jim Baen did for the estate of Jame Schmidt - Witches of Karras, Telzy Amberton, ect.)


As far as new works go, I don't know. Would the writer give up significant ownership rights to the patron? Most of the patrons would demand it, as they are funding something without a track record, and besides, if the book does well, they would like money back so they can invest in more books.
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:23 PM   #8
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And by the way: "that crap sf thingy" ...I'll try not to take that personally...
Come on; I love your books, read almost all (bought all); that was just the way sf is perceived - and hey I am a big fan of sf and could not care less about that
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Old 04-02-2008, 12:17 AM   #9
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there is the possibility that the patron/subsidizer might influence the creative work
How does this differ from the current model? I thought part of the "problem" was that publishers only want certain types of work and influence authors to provide that? Of course, that has lead to disasters like 4 or 5 centuries of christofascist so-called "music" coming out of Europe[1] and whichever long-dead lunatic paid a philosopher to come up with zero.

Of course, except for self-sufficient authors you will always have that problem since they'll be trying to write what the audience is willing to pay for.



[1] yes, sarcasm. Deal with it.
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Old 04-02-2008, 09:30 AM   #10
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How does this differ from the current model? I thought part of the "problem" was that publishers only want certain types of work and influence authors to provide that?...
True, there can be little difference between the patronage model and the publishing model... except that, in many cases, patrons and subsidizers are willing to make decisions that are not based on a profit motive, but on the more socially altruistic motive of having supported an artist. This can provide for more artistic freedom than when a patron (or publisher) demands a specific profit in exchange for bankrolling an artist, with the risk of dropping that artist if they do not make that expected profit.

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Of course, except for self-sufficient authors you will always have that problem since they'll be trying to write what the audience is willing to pay for.
Remember, if the audience doesn't have to pay for it, much of that pressure is off. As has already been mentioned in one or two places on this site (cue sarcasm meter), people are much more willing to take something that's free, so you will be exposing your work to larger numbers.

Mainly, this makes it harder for self-sufficient authors, if the only way for them to be read is for consumers to pay for their work... they will have to be pretty special and popular to compete with free works.
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Old 04-02-2008, 06:58 PM   #11
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if the audience doesn't have to pay for it, much of that pressure is off.
I was meaning the patron as the audience, but yes, outside of the direct patron the wider recipients might be more tolerant in that case.

I do wonder though - people do whine a lot about free-to-air TV, and the BBC/ABC/CBC all collect their share of critics.

But it does sound as though it might be a workable model for some people.
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:00 PM   #12
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I do wonder though - people do whine a lot about free-to-air TV, and the BBC/ABC/CBC all collect their share of critics.
What are they criticizing? In the U.S., PBS (largely patron supported) is generally held in high regard, and considered some of the highest quality television in the country. (Commercial TV is mostly just criticized for lack of quality.)
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Old 04-02-2008, 11:02 PM   #13
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Commercial TV is mostly just criticized for lack of quality.
That's just because they keep canceling the good shows (read: the shows I like), while dreck like Survivor: Cesspool Wrestling seems to never die.
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Old 04-03-2008, 12:45 AM   #14
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What are they criticizing? In the U.S., PBS (largely patron supported) is generally held in high regard, and considered some of the highest quality television in the country.
In Oz they're commonly criticised for being too left or right wing (or both, by some of the more confused commentators), and for the low quality or quantity of locally made content, the delay between imported shows being broadcast in their country of origin and here, or for the bizarre programming choices. Oh, and for funding "The Chaser" who are either terrorists or sympathisers with terrorists. I don't really pay much attention since I don't watch television (it's a very slow way to gain information).
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Old 04-03-2008, 06:46 AM   #15
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That's just because they keep canceling the good shows (read: the shows I like), while dreck like Survivor: Cesspool Wrestling seems to never die.
Same complaint here... intelligent programming is clearly losing out to mindless reality shows, game shows and CSI: Walla Walla. I spend more time watching home improvement programs on HGTV than anything else these days.

More on topic: What I wonder about is how well individual authors can hook up with appropriate patrons/subsidizers. There isn't exactly a program or clearinghouse for them. There is a grant program, of course, but I don't know how easy it is to apply for one (since I do work).
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