elz: (ada-reboot)
elz ([personal profile] elz) wrote2013-12-16 08:50 am

Women, fandom, and money

I've seen a lot of talk going around about the Big Bang Press kickstarter and whether it's a good idea to contribute to or not, and I have some thoughts on that.

1. If you put in an amount of money that you're comfortable paying for three as-yet unfinished and unreviewed novels by new authors with established fanfic backgrounds, you'll either get three novels out of it or you'll get your money back if they don't actually deliver. (Kickstarter ground rules.) Backing a kickstarter doesn't make you liable for any legal or financial problems the owners run into, so it's pretty much on them to decide whether those risks are too high. If you don't think the books are worth it or you don't have the money to spend, obviously that's also a completely valid choice.

2. Is their fundraising goal too high? Do they have professional editing and publishing experience? Do they have an actual lawyer on staff? I'm not sure I care. The thing is, I'm coming from the tech world, where it feels like a white guy can walk up to a VC and get $10 million to build an app that makes barnyard animal noises. I want to see more women out there in the world asking for money and starting businesses and taking risks. $40,000 doesn't exactly seem like a wildly exorbitant sum to launch a company, and worst case scenario is that they end up with more professional experience and some useful business and life lessons to go on with. And if they get more money than they need and turn a profit on their work? Why exactly would that be wrong?

Have you heard of Wattpad? It's a fiction hosting site founded by two men that (from what I can tell) seems to be used mostly by teenage girls posting One Direction fanfic. To date, they've raised at least $20.8 million by making the claim that they're out to disrupt the publishing industry.

Do you know how much money Etsy and Pinterest (both founded by men) have raised to date, on the backs of women creating and sharing content on their sites? At least $91.7 million and $338 million, respectively. And while I'm reading stories about these sites on Hacker News every day, I'm still looking around the internet and seeing a lot of talented women who are underemployed or trying to make ends meet while generating value in the form of content for other people's companies. So yeah, I love the fannish gift economy and have done thousands of hours of unpaid labor on its behalf, but I also respect the fact that people have to eat and pay rent, and I support their efforts to make money to do that as long as they're not hurting anybody. Will I be more cynical the fiftieth time I see people in fandom doing the same thing? No doubt. But if any of them make it big, I'll be thrilled, and in the meantime, if I pay for a book and I get a book that I enjoy as much as my average Amazon purchase, that's a perfectly good deal for me.

[personal profile] armadillo1976 2013-12-16 05:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Yes! Thank you, voice of reason. That is exactly the thing: do you feel that 25usd for three ebooks is a fair deal? Go ahead then, participate. No? Sure, no problem. And that's it! Yet there are so many voices along the lines of "I have experience in the industry and they have no clue what they are doing". But that's beside the point! Most ridiculous: the argument that 5000usd advance is "too much", as in "nobody pays that much". I don't know what the typical advance is, but good lord: why would you begrudge somebody a decent advance, just because others might not be getting it? Why?!
[Venting. Sorry. I completely agree with you, anyway:-)]

(Anonymous) 2013-12-17 01:36 am (UTC)(link)
Yet there are so many voices along the lines of "I have experience in the industry and they have no clue what they are doing". But that's beside the point!

It really isn't.

Here's their business plan: give us $40,000 to set up a small business. $15,000 of that is advances to authors, and $25,000 is paying for everything else (advertising, printing, salaries, etc.) They're claiming this will be a sustainable business model-- but they need to earn at least $40,000 dollars in clear profit in order for the press to continue as a business, to pay salaries and buy cover art and give out these large advances.

And to anyone who knows *anything* about how any *part* of publishing works, it's incredibly obvious that they can't do that. Nobody can. Their books and ebooks are overpriced for the market. Their timeline is unrealistic, even if the books were already finished, which they're not. They're claiming they're not going to use a print-on-demand service, which is nonsense. Their editors don't have novel-editing experience. They have no clear plans for marketing. All three books are in different genres, so it's going to be really difficult to form a brand identity outside fandom.

Will those first three books come out and be published on time? Probably. So the kickstarter will, technically, have succeeded. (Because you're not actually allowed to use Kickstarter to start up a small business, so BBP is sneaking that in under the table.)

But what will happen to the other $25,000 that fandom gave them in order to keep this business running?

(Anonymous) 2013-12-18 02:04 pm (UTC)(link)
I'm all for more women starting businesses but the thing is, they aren't asking some rich suit for 10 million, they are asking their fellow fans and the money isn't venture capital because the backers don't get a share of the profit. And because it's Kickstarter which has specific TOS they say that they aren't even funding a business, they're only trying to fund the production of those three books - except when they're calling it a press, of course, like in their interviews, it's fun to have it both ways. Their marketing strategy is to put advertisements on their AO3 fic which they know isn't allowed but eh, since the TOS violation has no major consequence it's worth a try, right? They're selling fanfic as a backer reward.
Everything text I've read from the people involved basically spells 'we are really trying hard trying to profit from gullible people here, let's see how much more bullshit we can get away with' and I find it reprehensible. I would also find it reprehensible if it was dudes doing this.

And the stakes aren't just the loss of someone's 25$, they can range from fandom-based publishers getting a bad reputation for incompetence, different sorts of legal trouble for everyone involved and the inexperienced authors actually getting screwed over.