The Attention Economy and Alternative Publishing

Great thread here to spark this article:

I sell my books a variety of ways – Amazon, all other alternative direct sales, and through patronage on subscribestar.

The problem with building alternative platforms or alternative methods of artist support is not, and has never been, the difficulty of actually programming or organizing such a venture.

The problem has always been attention.

Building alternatives to Amazon to sell your books is largely putting the cart before the horse. In fact, it is more like building a cart while the horse is still being trained in Arabia. Also, there are dozens of other carts lying about.

Patronage models may well be the future, as Brian Niemeier thinks, or it may be something else we can’t quite see yet, but the real problem is not the model, but rather getting customers to buy into it.

They won’t buy into anything if they don’t know who you are.

So, that leaves you with the real problem at hand if you are an indie author or artist – how do you get the attention of people who want to pay you for your work, regardless of the model?

Patreon or any variation of indie subscription/donation model requires that your customers know who you are already. That means you need to gain their attention. That could mean tweeting out hot-takes, making YouTube content (my specialty), making a popular blog (like Vox Day), selling books on Amazon, or direct advertising.

Amazon allows me to sell my books to people who don’t know me yet. That’s why, unlike Mailchimp, it’s not something that is wise for me to just abandon.

I can also say from personal experience abandoning Patreon was likewise a mistake. I thought my patrons were attached to me, but it turns out the hassle of setting up their info on another site (subscribestar) was too much for most of them. I lost about 80% of my patronage – and this was from people who already liked me and wanted to pay me for my work!

Intertia is a big barrier to overcome, but just like the migration from Myspace to Facebook, once it gets going, it really gets going. The truth is, there are already massive amounts of alternatives out there, whether you are selling books direct or trying to gain attention for yourself. If you actually want attention, though, you need to be where the people already are.

That means operating in enemy territory until it ceases to become an option. This is necessary if you want to build an audience that can let you sustain the ban hammer when the stroke inevitably falls.

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