38 Responses

  1. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas July 6, 2009 at 3:15 pm | | Reply

    Since I have been saying that Facebook and Twitter killed blogs, let me clarify. Blog are not dead per se and the freemium model is valid. But before we learned how to write or read we spoke out-loud, like the name of your blog. Speech is our primary form of communication. Even when it’s a digital chat, still verbal. So where you find people talking about ideas is where the cultural mixer is. That place has migrated from blogs circa 2005 to the social networks circa 2009. The energy that driven the early blog adapters is now gone.

  2. oscar_bermeo
    oscar_bermeo July 6, 2009 at 3:37 pm | | Reply

    Freemium is where it's at for an aspiring poet author.

    I've gotten my chapbooks in the hands of good editors, curators and reviewers through a swap exchange–my chapbook for your chapbook, used book, CD, or media item of choice.

    As for blogging vs (current social media trend): They are both extensions of the water cooler but I always feel like my own blog is my water cooler where folks come to catch up with me and not the other way around.

  3. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 3:40 pm | | Reply

    Twitter and Facebook have extended the conversation's reach, but what remains on blogs is arguably more thoughtful and has more long-term value. Your great exchange with Wilson wouldn't have been quite as meaty on Twitter, and I'd have probably never seen it there since I wasn't following you at the time.

    Interestingly, Wilson believes there's four primary channels for social media: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs and blog comments, and I agree. I love Disqus because it socializes comments, extending them beyond the blog, and not surprisingly, Wilson is one of its backers.

  4. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas July 6, 2009 at 3:43 pm | | Reply

    Oscar, you right about your blog being the place where people interact with you. But it used to be the only place for people to let off steam about ideas and such and it is no longer.

  5. facebook-701608903
    facebook-701608903 July 6, 2009 at 4:44 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for explaining these critical differences to an aspiring writer. You have confirmed the advice someone else gave me about blogging before publishing. How much better it is to sharpen your skills by publishing short works in a public forum than getting creamed by criticism when you publish your opus of the heart. I am now blogging in preparation for a book I am currently writing, but is nowhere near to being published. I blog mainly about politics, BDSM and GLBT rights, and post book and movie reviews.

  6. Susan Cross
    Susan Cross July 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm | | Reply

    Twitter is a great resource for finding blogs relevant to my particular needs and resources about writing. My blog is totally dedicated to the memoir I am writing of Leroy Cooper, bandleader for Ray Charles, and includes info and excerpts from the upcoming book. I don't find Facebook useful but have used MySpace since it is musician friendly. I'm new at blogging and owe a lot to Maria Schneider. As for free, my stock answer is “I don't write for free.” My blog is the only place where you can read my work for free. Mags have cut pay & keep trying to get me back but I give them my stock answer.

  7. facebook-701608903
    facebook-701608903 July 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm | | Reply

    Thanks for explaining these critical differences to an aspiring writer. You have confirmed the advice someone else gave me about blogging before publishing. How much better it is to sharpen your skills by publishing short works in a public forum than getting creamed by criticism when you publish your opus of the heart. I am now blogging in preparation for a book I am currently writing, but is nowhere near to being published. I blog mainly about politics, BDSM and GLBT rights, and post book and movie reviews at evilgrrlslair.blogspot.com.

  8. Molly Swoboda
    Molly Swoboda July 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm | | Reply

    Guy, thanks for the open invitation for blog URLs. The discussions here are rich and helpful, albeit a bit scary. I am much older than Seth, so am employing an aggressive 1-1/2 year MashedPlan approach. I respectfully submit http://mollyfromthe.blogspot.com . Bring all recommendations.

    Tweets as @WhattaWoman
    Face at http://www.facebook.com/swoboda

  9. Barbara Jane Reyes
    Barbara Jane Reyes July 6, 2009 at 5:05 pm | | Reply

    Good post, Guy, as always. I like what you say about what remains on blog as being more thoughtful and having more long term value. This is why I have not jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. I'd also like to add that comment streams in response to blog posts are easier to follow in their being centrally located. I tried to follow what sounded like a pretty important conversation a few of you were having about the poetry industry via Twitter and I just gave up, and wrote my own blog post, which then carried into the comment stream.

    Finally, I am wondering why “personal brand” is so dreaded and blogging apparently obstacled. Oscar and I have been talking about establishing our areas of expertise, which just sounds like a logical and sensible thing to do especially when promoting the product.

  10. oscar_bermeo
    oscar_bermeo July 6, 2009 at 5:17 pm | | Reply

    Ben, I agree with you that there are more opportunities to be heard in e-world now but I think that blog is the way to go for aspiring writers as it allows you to post full-length reviews, detailed reading information and opens up conversation with potential readers. But that's me and I'm sure each writer, depending on genre, will find the SM app that best serves there need.

    Would I discourage using Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, (SM Flavor of the Month)? No.

    Would I encourage picking one social media application of choice and directing all of your peripheral SM to that one source? Yes.

  11. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway July 6, 2009 at 5:25 pm | | Reply

    Hi, this is fascinating. Freemium is a model that shouldn't really be considered so alien to writers. We're not that different from musicians who are very familiar with the concept of giving away the basic content in order to encourage the purchase of value-added content such as merchandise and special editions. I think writers are too quick to say fiction and music are different entities. My moment of realisation came when I got excited about buying the 2009 Murakami diary, and I thought, hang on, I can't be the only one. Now I'm an avid believer that writers should follow the Trent Reznor approach of providing the basic for free and offering something special for which fans can pay, be it with extra content, special binding, whatever.

    The other advantage for authors who are new in providing free content is that readers aren't committing their bucks to something they don't know. My model is to give away e-copies of my books as widely as possible to my target market (I write contemporary edgy fiction aimed at 18-25s), and hope they'll come back for the paper copy.

    There's another issue at stake here, and that's the wider question not from the writer's but the reader's point of view. I believe in letting the public have access to as much great writing and music as they can (that was the principle behind setting up the free download festival and indie culture celebration free-e-day [www.freeeday.wordpress.com]), and not just what the established industry can support. I spend a lot of my time trying to think of ways to bring that material to the public so the next time they decide they want to spend $10 on a book or an album, they can choose from the whole range of wonderful material out there, not just what the industry points in their direction. As a writer, it's not solely a question of business models (and yes, I'm a broke writer and would give anything to be able to give up the day job because I'm paid to do what I love), it's a question of striking up the conversation between writer and reader that is the lifeblood of culture. And that means giving my work away for free.

    Dan Holloway

  12. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway July 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm | | Reply

    Could I add on the subject of blogs, blogs are great bcause they allow interaction and conversation (although I love wiki even more), but I want my readers to HAVE something as well, so you have to offer downloads they can take away ready for their iPhone or whatever.

    I also think we should be looking to build an experience for our readers – think of Lilyholics, which for me is still the ultimate reading experience. I've tried to do that by writing my current novel interactively and in real time (hence room to take readers through the edits and the writingprocess as well as the story). I've written The Man Who Painted agnieszka's Shoes on a Facebook group (same name) rather than a blog because the structure of the group lets me leave pieces of backstory dangling nicely for people to stumble upon, in a way I'm not sure blogs do as well. It's meant I can build a real sense of community around a common story – abit like a rock tour only for a book. I hope my readers have enjoyed it.

    I'd just like to make that last point again – I see too much about what writers should do, and how writers can succeed. I'm a writer and I'm under no illusion – I have only one duty and that's to my readers. The moment a writer stops being reader-centric and looks at what's in it for him/her, his/her writing's dead.

  13. Sandy
    Sandy July 6, 2009 at 8:15 pm | | Reply

    Excellent article! I've seen examples of this in the DIY community, particularly authors who build a following by giving away their fiction in the form of serialized podcasts, then publish a book later on. Their enormous fan base means the book actually sells, despite the fact that most of it was (or still is) available for free. The excellent point made here is that this is not easy, and building this kind of audience takes YEARS.

  14. Dawn Maria
    Dawn Maria July 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm | | Reply

    Very interesting post, which, by the way, I found via Twitter. I don't believe that blogs are dead at all. Mine is admittedly small, but as a reader (and emerging writer) the first thing I look for when I find a new author or person of interest is their blog/website. I use Twitter in conjunction with that. I'm not on Facebook because I don't have the time right now (with a job, family and novel to sell) to manage one more thing.

    I've had content of mine lifted off another website before, so I'm not interested in offering FREE content online (of say, my novel), but am toying with the idea of podcasting, since I listen to a few and enjoy the medium. So that would put me in the FREEMIUM arena. Thanks for the good discussion on the difference between the two and what advantages each offers.

  15. Kimberly Davis
    Kimberly Davis July 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm | | Reply

    Great post. There is a huge difference between free and freemium. That being said, I think it's getting harder and harder to fight one's way through the fray. There are so many writers trying to establish themselves via blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. Sometimes it feels like a lot of people broadcasting and nobody listening. I would just like to remind writers that they can also connect in many ways with their local writing community, or make contacts with other writers by going to writers conferences. You can't do it all online.

  16. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 9:23 pm | | Reply

    Twitter isn't for everyone, but it's ultimately what you make of it; I use it as an RSS reader / notepad / IM hybrid. I'm pretty specific about whom I follow and what I tweet, and it's become the primary traffic driver for my blog over the past six months, arguably because of that focus and self-discipline.

    The “personal branding” comment was a bit of sarcasm from the marketer portion of my brain. A “personal brand” is a smart thing for writers to develop, but too many marketers have become obsessed with it, in some cases to the detriment of the brands and/or clients they're supposed to be marketing. Depending on your job, it can be a tricky balance, but for writers, it should definitely be all about their personal brand.

  17. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 9:32 pm | | Reply

    Making a direct connection to your readers is the most powerful aspect of social media, and I wholeheartedly agree that a writer must keep them in mind when developing their strategy, using the tools that make the most sense for their specific goals. The important thing for writers to remember is that the “premium” aspect of “freemium” requires something of value for it to be profitable; in your case, that could be exclusive printed versions of your work a la Trent Reznor.

  18. Ben Atlas
    Ben Atlas July 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm | | Reply

    I gave up and posted about the Free for All debate http://a2a.me/Vrn Let me know what you think?

  19. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm | | Reply

    Would you be charging for your podcast? They're usually a free component of a freemium platform, not the premium itself, so you'd be going against the grain there.

    As for content scraping, it happens, but depending on your strategy and your ultimate goal, it's not necessarily a bad thing to have some of your content spread far and wide. As Stackpole notes in the io9 article, people pirating content probably weren't going to buy it anyway. “It's no money out of my pocket.”

  20. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 9:57 pm | | Reply

    Agreed; an online platform is no magic bullet, and the abundance of free content that Anderson and Godin laud makes it difficult to cut through the noise and find an audience for your work. It also makes quality content that much more valuable, and the advantage there goes to the passionate professional. No matter what, though, writers have to be comfortable marketing themselves these days, both online and within their local writing communities.

  21. Hamish MacDonald
    Hamish MacDonald July 6, 2009 at 10:00 pm | | Reply

    I'm doing it the other way around: I'm giving away a “DIY Book” podcast I'm pretty sure will be of interest and use to lots of people (telling them how they can write, make, and sell their own novels), partly 'cause it's fun and it feels like the right thing to do, partly 'cause I'm hoping some people will be inspired to buy some of my novels — which are a much harder sell: everyone's taste in fiction is so personal that it's a long-shot to ask them to buy it without any previous experience of me or my work.

  22. Hamish MacDonald
    Hamish MacDonald July 6, 2009 at 10:03 pm | | Reply

    P.S. If you want to get these podcasts, my website is hamishmacdonald.com, or search iTunes for “DIY Book”. (Perplexingly, iTunes only shows the introductory episode, but there are four podcasts available once you subscribe, and I've got another one coming out very soon.)

    Happy writing!

  23. glecharles
    glecharles July 6, 2009 at 10:48 pm | | Reply

    Godin's timeline is a guideline, not a hard rule, so a speedier “MashedPlan approach” could certainly work; really depends on your goals and your ability to focus on them.

    My first question would be what are you trying to accomplish with your blog? I loved your “OPBs” post, and “Bank: Investors” seems to suggest you're just winging it at this point with no real agenda, which is perfectly fine. There's already a lot of personality, and a lot of truth, in the little bit you've posted so far, though; made me curious about you, but neither your tagline nor your short bio offered any real info, and there's no indication of your Twitter account, which if it's not purposeful, is a missed opportunity.

  24. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway July 7, 2009 at 4:51 am | | Reply

    Thanks for the response. Yes, I definitely want to go the Trent Reznor route. The point about giving things away for free and creating a loyal fan base, is that there is no pressure on the readers to buy anything in odrer to get your wor, but as fans, there is a willingness on their part to pay for something a bit special. So I intend to make my books more like (as Seth puts it) souvenirs – adopting a more music merchandise-like approach rather than just a regular retail one. I want to treat my readers like kings and queens, which has got to be an advantage for them. And for me, the advantage is I can charge a premium, special edition price, making much higher royalties and relying on fewer fans.

    Oh, and everyone here who offers something for free, can I invite you to join in Free-e-day via http://www.freeeday.wordpress.com – the online download festival celebrating independent writing, film, art,and music?

    Best of luck to everyone.

  25. Lori
    Lori July 7, 2009 at 12:05 pm | | Reply

    Wow, I was just thinking about all of this. I'm a travel writer and blogger who has just started revving up my content to daily in my blog. I'm in the midst of writing a book and am gaining a pretty decent following that way. I guess the key is to have that book available as “Fremium” content.

  26. Paul Squires
    Paul Squires July 7, 2009 at 7:32 pm | | Reply

    That is an excellent summation of the situation as it stands. Your freemium model is the only one I've found that works. Giving away enough writing to convince people that the book is worth buying and then, if the book adds genuine value to their lives, relying on them to pass on the word. Really, it is not much different from how writers, particularly poets, have worked for centuries. I believe it is easier now to build a career as a writer than ever before. The possibilities are endless.

  27. glecharles
    glecharles July 7, 2009 at 9:29 pm | | Reply

    With your travel experiences, you might work towards building a premium offering around tips and deals; maybe something similar to Natalie MacLean's model with her wine reviews: http://www.nataliemaclean.com/

  28. glecharles
    glecharles July 7, 2009 at 9:31 pm | | Reply

    That's the key right there, Paul: “The possibilities are endless.” While these are troubled times for the publishing industry, it's actually a huge opportunity for savvy writers who seize the moment.

  29. Nia Malika Dixon
    Nia Malika Dixon July 7, 2009 at 11:09 pm | | Reply

    Very insightful article. I plan to use the freemium platform (or something similar) to sell my latest novel online. I got the idea from writer John August who sold his short story “The Variant” on his blog. http://www.johnaugust.com

    Thank you for the information.
    My two blogs are:


  30. Will Hindmarch
    Will Hindmarch July 8, 2009 at 6:00 pm | | Reply

    John August is a great example of a writer spending the time to build his own reputation for years, and then leveraging it to charge for content that is genuinely worth money — and recognized as being worth money! — by his audience. It's very tricky to get people to pay for something from a writer they aren't already keeping up with.

    Thus the function of the Jet Pack writer's gallery is to generate a following with free, quality works, so that people might decide some of our work is worth paying for and, then, down the line, pay for it. Let's see if it works.

    Part of what we paid for when we paid for “The Variant” was the feeling of being in on it. The privilege of being conversant in something is sometimes premium content. (“The Variant” was worth the money I paid for it all on its own, though.)

    Thanks for keeping this discussion going, Guy. I'm a lot smarter now than I was a week ago.

  31. glecharles
    glecharles July 9, 2009 at 8:26 am | | Reply

    I wasn't familiar with August's background, but he seems like a perfect example. I checked out “The Variant” and was intrigued enough by the sample to buy it. Wow! Wow!

    As for Jetpack, I love “The Dirty Model” manifesto and the collective concept. It's fundamentally the same as the poetry reading I started years ago that evolved into the non-profit organization louderARTS. This whole discussion has uncovered some impressive things for me, too.


  32. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway July 10, 2009 at 2:39 pm | | Reply

    Will, I love the Jet Pack site. The manifesto strikes a real chord, and combines a lot of what we're trying to do at Year Zero Writers (http://www.yearzerowriters.wordpress.com) with the democratising manifesto and Free-e-day (http://www.freeeday.wordpress.com) with the commitment to giving the public access to the widest range of independent culture possible.

    I have just blogged on this at http://www.agnieszkasshoes.blogspot.com and given a plug for Jet Pack. Very best of luck with it

  33. Will Hindmarch
    Will Hindmarch July 15, 2009 at 9:47 pm | | Reply

    Sorry, I missed this before. Thanks for saying so, Dan. I saw Year Zero online just a day or so before you posted this comment and thought you looked like a similar initiative. Except, huge! You have a lot of writers involved over there — that's fantastic. Best of luck on your end, and thanks for the plug.

  34. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway July 16, 2009 at 3:28 am | | Reply

    Hi Will, I've been plugging your site in a few places – I think it's a fantastic idea. The advantage of having fewer people is that your manifesto can be more radical – the more of you there are the more you have to be aware of the concerns of everyone, so there are benefits and drawbacks either way (the benefit of numbers is that we can keep a steady stream of new material – provided we don't all get block at once!). I'd love to chat about whether you'd be interested in taking part in the Free-e-day festival (http://www.freeeday.wordpress.com), a celebration of indie culture I'm running in December based around a day of events and free downloads of writing, music, art, and film. It would be great to have a webchat session on working in collectives. I'm working with a great artisan collective from Canada, and a T-shirt collective from Texas. It would be great to have another writer's group so we can all answer questions on how to pitch manifestos, who does what, hopw to create a USP and so on. Drop me a line – my email's on the website. Very best,

  35. PromotionalIncentives
    PromotionalIncentives August 27, 2009 at 3:16 pm | | Reply

    I don't know that free is necessarily good for everyone. Yes, it's great for consumers who can scale their promotional incentives so that 1) free items are low-cost, and 2) the few buyers will essentially fund the campaign. That IS something that Anderson discusses as part of the “Freemium” model.

    But that can't work for writers, since our effort isn't scalable. We just don't have a way to have a few publications pay for our time and experience, and have that fund our “free” writing. Either you write for free, or you don't. And while I like Chris Anderson's book, it takes a rather narrow view that if companies embrace this model, everything's going to be great for everyone, including the small businesses that can't afford to do free.

  36. Dan Holloway
    Dan Holloway August 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm | | Reply

    I know I usualy get laughed out of town when I talk about the way writers can use the 1000 true fans model with freemium by selling merchandise and value-added products, but I came across a great example of this the other day when I was speaking to the great writing combo Deberry and Grant on twitter, who sell tie-in merchandise based on their books (not models or anything obvious, but baghs like those used by the characters in the book:

  37. Lindsay Price
    Lindsay Price October 9, 2009 at 10:43 am | | Reply

    When it comes to free and using free to sell a product, you just have to be very clear about what you'll do for free and what you won't. The more you clarify for yourself, the easier it is to put your skills into the two camps, the easier it will be for those who seek you out to figure out.

    It depends on your target market as well. I've had success (ie: paying the mortgage) with 'this is free, this isn't' because I work with a very niche market that tends to be loyal – they appreciate 'free' so much that when they have money to spend they spend it with me.

  38. Guy LeCharles Gonzalez
    Guy LeCharles Gonzalez October 10, 2009 at 4:03 pm | | Reply

    Agreed! Knowing the value of your product and who your audience is are both critical to making the freemium model work.

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