WSB Special Correspondent Valentin Ivanov reports exclusively on Russian writer Sergey Lukyanenko‘s new experiment.
The Russian science fiction and fantasy writer Sergey Lukyanenko (of the “Night Watch” fame) just reported on his blog (Attn, it is in Russian: http://dr-piliulkin.livejournal.com/233826.html) the results from a small experiment on e-book sales.
Actually, the experiment is not that small – apparently he asked the readers of his blog (http://dr-piliulkin.livejournal.com/) to pay him 1 Russian ruble (about 0.03 US dollars, as of Nov 29, 2010) to support his writing. In return he promised to release a free piece of his writing. Many of his books are already freely available over the net, albeit without his approval. Also, he wants to test if the donations could be sufficient to support a SFF writer.
He is not pressed for money so he promised to donate the income to some charity, and after the test was over he said he would even match every ruble to double to donation to the charity. The donations are collected via some Russian analog of PayPal (PayPal doesn’t work in Russia, or rather you can pay with it, but you can’t draw real money).
The post was read by nearly 52,993 people. It is not clear if multiple visits were accounted for, i.e. via IP checks. Lukyanenko points out that this number is higher than his typical number of readers which is about 25,000.
Donations from 2640 people were received, for 6404 rubles (about 200 US dollars) in total. Many people donated more than the one ruble he asked for.
It appears that only about 5% of the readers are willing to pay money to support their favorite writer.
Lukyanenko draws two conclusions:
(1) A new writer in Russia typically sells 5000-7000 copies. If only 5% of the readers are willing to support him or her, there is no hope to sustain a writing career via donations.
(2) An established writer like Lukyanenko himself sells 200,000 copies (the blog readers mention that the typical cover price is 250-300 rubles). He doesn’t quote his income but he implies that it exceeds by far what he would have made if he was getting only the full cover price for 5% of the sales.
Finally, Lukyanenko said that the low response level didn’t surprise him, but that nevertheless he will release to the readers a piece of his work for the money that they have sent him.
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It is a curious experiment and it does give some food for the thought. The low returns are not a surprise to me given the state of the Russian economics, and the low fraction of people would Internet access, with respect to the West. However, I suspect that with time the public consciousness of the readers will cause more and more people to reach for legal e-books and to become more … accustomed to the concept of supporting their favorite artists.
It is interesting to compare this “study” to the on-going project “With A Little Help” (http://craphound.com/?p=2360) of Cory Doctorow.