Over the past week and a half I have become aware of two separate stories that I believe are closely related. Last week there were reports circulating on comedian Louis C.K. (who I have only seen in passing on cable at some point along the way) and his novel approach to marketing his latest made for television performance. David Carr in his regularly excellent column in the New York Times highlighted the effort in Monday’s paper – http://nyti.ms/vMq0O7 .
The story on Louis C.K. is that he decided to “go direct with his fans: no cable special, no middleman, just a simple download for $5 on his Web site to see his comedy show “Louis C. K.: Live at the Beacon Theater.” A true DIY (do-it-yourselfer) Louis C.K. writes, directs, produces and acts in his own series “Louie” and now he is a bona fide distributor. What impressed me more is that shortly after he went out with this novel offer – 200,000 people paid $ 5.00 each for two streams and three downloads of the special. It cost him $ 250,000 to create the show and he will bring in roughly $1 million. To say that’s not bad would be an understatement.
Unrelated I saw another story yesterday on a website unboundbooks.co.uk – a site live in the UK and soon to be in the U.S. as well. The idea of Unbound is best first read straight from their website –
“BRINGING AUTHORS AND READERS TOGETHER
We think authors and readers should decide which books get published. On the Unbound site, (unfortunately the U.S. site http://www.unbound.com or unboundbooks.com is not yet up but the British site www.unbound.co.uk is up and running), authors pitch their ideas directly to you. If you like what you read, you can pledge your support to help make the book happen. Everyone who supports an author before they reach 100% of the funding target gets their name printed in every edition of that book. All levels include a digital version and immediate access to the author’s shed while they write the book, and supporters of projects that don’t reach their target receive a full refund.”
You can read more from an article straight from The Guardian – http://bit.ly/rxELnz
In short the idea is that a big problem for the publishing industry is that many book advances to authors are non-returnable and do not earn out their advances. What Unbound proposes to do is to have potential readers pay in advance for the book that has yet to be written. It reads better than it first sounds –
“The site, launched last May, acts as a forum for authors to pitch books directly to readers, who, if they like the sound of a project, commit money right away, before the book has even been written. Each book has a target number of pledges it must receive to be viable (generally between 500 and 1,000). When you click on a book on the site, you are shown how many pledges it needs in total, and the percentage it has so far received. You can then pledge your support at a number of levels: from buying the eBook (generally £10), through purchasing the hardback (usually £20) or a signed copy (£50), all the way up to being invited to the launch party (typically £150) or, sometimes, going on an excursion with the author.
Justin Pollard, one of the founders, points out that although pledging involves handing over actual money, supporters aren’t taking a risk, because if the book doesn’t receive the required number of pledges, the project is scrapped and everyone gets their money back. Meanwhile, the publisher avoids exposing itself to upfront advances.
Crowdsourcing has become a bit of a buzzword but to see it in action in both the case of Louis C.K. and Unbound impresses me greatly.
How about your take on these new models?