It’s the unusual approach taken by Deanna Zandt, an American “media technologist and consultant to key progressive media organisations”. Last summer she issued a plea on her blog for donations to support her while she spent three months writing a book about social networking as a tool for social change and action, looking specifically at communities she says have too often been marginalised as social networks have developed: “women, people of color, queer folk, and more”.
Zandt has a publisher for this book, Berret Koehler, but they do not provide authors with advances to write their books. For some (unexplained, especially as the book is due to be published in June 2010) reason the book is “incredibly fast-tracked” and so she needed
“to stop working as a consultant for the next three months and do nothing but write the book. Thus, I need investors. I need you to help me raise $15,000 to cover my expenses, travel, and research. Please toss some money into a ‘Feed Deanna’ pot!”
Indeed. Feel free to send large cheques my way in order to fund any research I need to do. Given that I write about fantasy landscapes, I desire to travel to exotic locations to get a feel for other worlds. First up, the Bahamas.
More seriously, I think there’s a valid point with regards to marginalised communities in publishing – mass market publishing doesn’t exist to support niches, except when it suits a certain fashion or trend. But I’m probably very biased, being a writer.
What do readers think to supporting new authors in this way? You give them money to write about things you’re interested in. When you think about it, it isn’t too far removed from paying money for books written by your favourite author – because you’re funding them to keep on doing what you enjoy. These sorts of publishing models could help the small press authors thrive – because success in publishing, when it comes down to it, is deeply influenced by money.