Saturday, February 05, 2005

Thom Bray's Pulp Museum

Well, folks, after all my ranting about new methods of distribution for short stories someone has had the guts to try something new (not that what I said had anything to do with what Thom is doing). Thom Bray, writer and actor, has a "modest proposal" for published authors.

Thom is starting a zine called "
Pulp Museum" where he will experiment with some different business models in order to see if he can develop a market for genre short stories that pays pro rates.

"I've observed, alas, that most [zines] do not pay writers for their stories. I
certainly understand why: these hearty and brave publishers have not found a business model that permits them to make enough of a profit (if any) to be able to pay for material. The obvious question I ask is, is a non-paying publication the only business model that is possible for short fiction? Hmm...

I've decided that the way I can help nourish short stories, besides continuing to write them, is to experiment with different business models for publishing them. I am convinced that we must keep trying to find a
way to expand the audience base through publications that pay writers
professional rates (which means charging readers to read their fiction),
otherwise short fiction will go the way of the theatre in this country: either
it will become a non-profit arts model that relies upon government and corporate support to survive, or it will simply disappear and/or be left to amateur writers, the professionals going where they can make a living. We can not keep counting on our best writers to write short mystery and fiction simply for the love of it. Would the great Asimov have spent hours in front of the typewriter, writing short story after short story if he could not have sold them to put food on the table? Of course not.

I look to two business models as my inspiration: Fictionwise and Apple's iMusic Store. They both share, as a common thread, the downloading of electronic formats of intellectual property.

Everyone has heard of iPod, and not much has to be said about it. Apple has, like Kodak before them, created a piece of hardware and then provided the software to go in it. By using the principal of micropayments, it has carved out a powerful product base at a price point that can't be beat. It is a model to be emulated."

Thom will be publishing audio files of stories as well.

"In addition, we'll experiment with a feature called Pulp Radio; the recording of a certain number of stories into mp3 format, also available for downloading. As a professional actor and voice talent, I'm in a unique position to bring spoken word stories to life. I believe that this may--may--represent a huge potential audience of people who hate reading electronic material but love listening to mp3's on their iPods, and are used to paying for their content. Notice that word: paying. I'll charge for the intellectual property in The Pulp Museum. And if I can't convince enough people to buy, well, at least I will have tried, and I'll go back to the drawing board."

I think that there’s a decent chance that this will work. With the right price point and a good and ever-growing selection of stories this could be a big deal. Probably the mp3 section has a better chance of making money than the print side to begin with. As Thom says iPod users are used to paying money for content.

Thom Bray is going up on my Wall of Heroes. Here is a man with the guts to put his whatever where his mouth is. I encourage everyone who reads this to drop over to the
Pulp Museum website and read Thom's proposal. Right now he's got the best game in town for expanding the paying short story market. I've already signed on.


At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds good, and, perhaps, doing so will get Harlan Ellison to publish The Last Dangerous Visions in some manner or fashion.

Thank you for your time.

James C. Hess

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Aldo said...

I read the proposal and I like it. Look what you started Bob

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Bob said...

Hold on there, pardner. As much as I would like to take the credit for this, I happen to know Thom was thinking about something like this long before I started shooting my mouth off. Thom deserves full credit for thinking this up and especially for actually doing something about it.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Megan said...

Don't know if it'll work--so much depends on volume, traffic and/or distribution--but I like noble experiments. I feel much more optimistic about their success when the enthusiasm is focused. And I really like the fact that there are no exclamation points involved in the business plan.

At 4:07 PM, Blogger Hardluck Writer said...

I'll be amazed if he generates more than $200 a year in revenue, but I hope he proves me wrong.

At 4:28 PM, Blogger Bob said...

I think Thom's going to have to publish at least as many stories per year as AHMM and EQMM combined if not more. The more often stories are added to the site (not just monthly or quarterly) the better chance he will have to keep sales up. And promotion is going to be as important as having the stories. If no one knows they are there, the stories won't be bought. Hopefully Thom's connections in the entertainment industry will help with that. Maybe he can get Bono to promote short stories 8-). He will have to keep the Cool Factor in mind and promote the hell out of it. In any case, I still believe that the mp3 portion of the site has the best chance of paying off in the relatively short term.

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