Discover more from The Reframe
Shall we put The Reframe between covers? Shall we put it upon shelves? Let's find out together. A modest proposal to the readership.
Hi all. It’s a pretty busy couple weekends and weeks coming up. There will likely be a pause in regular publishing for a week or maybe two, but I’ll be back strong after.
Something a little different today. An experiment, I suppose.
I’m going to ask you to consider doing something.
I write essays at a pace of about one a week. You all read them, I presume, or anyway when I try to think what else you might do with them, my imagination falters. Some of you pay me for doing that if you feel like it, and that is OK with me. Others don’t feel like it, or can’t, and don’t pay me, and that’s OK with me, too. It seems to be working out for you. It’s also working out for me.
Fairly often these days somebody or another floats into my mentions on one or another or the various social media platforms, and says something along the lines of “I really hope that these essays are going to be collected in a book at some point.” I’m not trying to big-time, here. I’m never mobbed at the grocery store. I’m not being bugged about it like George R.R. Martin is being bugged for the next tome of Ice and Fire, but yeah, it comes up. At least dozens of times. Maybe over a hundred? Probably not that many times, but then again maybe. Enough that I’m not sure how many. And when I ran a poll earlier this year, hundreds of you told me you were interested in such a book.
As somebody who writes books, I actually also hope that they are going to someday be collected into a book. In fact, over the last months and years, I’ve been working on a manuscript that is, functionally, a collection of Reframe essays. It incorporates parts of the very similar pre-The-Reframe essay series called “Bubbles” and “Streets,” as well as many of the essays you’ve read in this very newsletter—again, presuming you are reading them, and not using them to line the virtual cages of virtual birds.
It’s not exactly a collection of essays. It’s got perhaps 5-10% new content, and it’s been editorially reformed into something with more of a cohesive throughline. It’s also (rather mercifully) been cleaned up a bit from original form, which as you may have noticed tends to be more dashed-off1. It’s a picture of my dawning awareness from the beginning of the Trump years until recently, of a fundamentally supremacist country that I had failed to see; and it’s my assessment of why we are where we are, and what we might now do about it.
I’m calling it Very Fine People.
So that’s the “what.” Here’s the “so what,” which gets us into the experiment.
I suspect the audience for this book is mostly subscribers to this newsletter. There are 11,000 of you as of this week, which feels like a crazy number. If all 11,000 of you were likely to buy such a book, I think that it would suddenly become an interesting project to traditional publishing. But I know that only a certain percentage of that 11,000 even open the emails (which I understand is pretty normal), so 11,000 copies sold—or even something remotely close to it—is unlikely, and those are the sort of numbers publishers need to think likely to be interested. That’s just how it works. Sorry, traditional publishing, but the polls were probably right. It’s probably hundreds of copies, not thousands.
The end? Maybe not.
Hundred of copies may not be interesting to traditional publishing, but it’s interesting to me, because even though my profit margins aren’t a great deal better than a traditional publisher’s would be (they might be worse), my main interest is in having the work out there. I’m thinking about self-publishing.
However, unless you want to read my manuscript without editing (you don’t) or with a cover I designed (you definitely don’t), it’s going to cost money, and it should, because people should be paid for their labor. And unless I’m going to spend the time to learn all the ins and outs of publishing (for now it’s a no from me, dawg, less because I lack interest and more because I don’t have the time to spare), I’m going to need to use one of the many fine and reputable services out there that handle the printing and distribution, and that’s going to cost some more money.
I don’t mind putting money up, if it’s for a project that has a readership interested in such a thing … but now my problem is, I simply don’t know if the market exists. Despite the many suggestions from readers that a book of essays ought to happen, the idea that there’s enough interest to recoup from a printed version of material that readers have (mostly) already read for (mostly) free seems unproved.
So I’d like to prove it.
Thus: Experiment time!
Let me lay out for you the contours of my grand experiment.
There is a Founding Member level of The Reframe. It comes to $12.50 a month, though it is paid in an annual bulk amount of $150. Subscribers at this level get a free signed (and personalized, if you want) copy of my novel, The Revisionaries, which was well-reviewed and is enjoyed by people who enjoy the sort of thing that it is. It was “the weirdest novel of the year,” according to Ron Charles of The Washington Post, which is about my favorite thing anybody has ever said and should give you an idea of what sort of a thing it is. It’s where literature meets fantasy meets weird. I was hoping it would read as if Thomas Pynchon wrote a Kurt Vonnegut novel using a Stephen King plot, and I think it’s pretty good, by which I mean it came out the way I wanted it to, so I guess at least I believe that’s how it reads. I buy copies from my local bookseller and send them to my founding members as a thank you for supporting my work, and for sponsoring it for others, so it can be free for all.
As we come up on year one on this site, I’d like my founding members to renew. I hope that they’ll do that for the same reason they signed on, which is I presume mostly out of appreciation for the weekly essays, rather than the opportunity to get a free book. Nevertheless, I’d like to give them something in year two, and yet another copy of The Revisionaries seems repetitive2.
So I’d like to print Very Fine People and give it to my founding members.
I think new founding member subscriptions could fund the project. That’s a hypothesis I’d like to try to test this month. I don’t think it would take many new founding members, honestly, to convince me that the interest is there. Less would make me less convinced. More would make me more convinced. That’s just how interest works.
Here’s where you come in. I see five broad categories of “you.”
If you are not a paid subscriber yet, and you want to vote for a print (and ebook) version of Very Fine People by funding the project, and you can afford to do that, subscribe at the Founding Member level. You’ll get a copy of The Revisionaries, and, provided this experiment is successful, a copy of Very Fine People when it arrives (looking at spring 2024). I’ll keep the “both books” offer open through November for now, after which I’ll probably switch to a “pick which book” model. (And, if the experiment shows that the project won’t go forward, I’ll check in with you to see if you want a refund, and if you want one, you’ll get it. )
If you are already a paying member, and you want to vote for a book (and ebook), upgrade to Founding Member. This will be a relatively modest uptick if you’re already at $10/month or $100/year, for example, but it will still very much register as a full “vote” in my books. You’ll also get a copy of The Revisionaries, and, provided this experiment is successful, a copy of Very Fine People when it arrives (looking at spring 2024). And, if the project’s a no-go, I’ll check in with you to see what you want to do.
If you are already a founding member, thank you very much for that and do nothing for now. If the project is a go, and you’re still subscribed, you’ll get a copy. I do have one other request, that costs nothing, but I’ll send you a separate email about it.
If you are interested in this book but can’t afford that subscription level, hopefully you don’t need me to tell you, but do nothing. I mean it. Don’t be a hero, Johnny.
If you’re aren’t interested in this book, also do nothing. You don’t need my permission, and you already know that, but it occurs to me you’re probably also not even still reading this, so now I feel like I’m talking to myself. Yikes.
Here is the button to do the thing!
And here is the button to do nothing!
There are a number of aspects of this experiment that I like, other than the obvious fact that it alleviates my financial risk before I engage in a money-intensive and time-intensive project.
First, it’s simple. Because I offer a pay-what-you-want model, there’s a lot of different payment levels out there, so it’s administratively very easy to keep rewards at a single level of payment, especially one that already comes with a signed book as a thank you gift.
Second, it’s expansive. Once the book is actually made, it will be distributed on all the usual places (and some of the unusual places), which means that anybody who can’t swing a Founding Member subscription will now be able to pick up an ebook at ebook prices or a printed copy at paperback prices (including a personalized signed one through my local bookstore, just by buying through the author page my local bookseller set up for me). So your Founding Member subscription is not just getting you a copy, it’s also making copies accessible to others.
Third, it will give me a trustworthy gage of interest. If there’s barely enough to fund the project, I’ll probably still do the project. I might even cover a modest funding gap if it only gets most of the way there, because I really would like to have it out there. However, if that’s what happens, I’ll know it’s niche and that will influence how I think about doing something like this again. On the other hand, if this shows a lot more interest than I thought there would be … well then, I’ll very probably do more. I might start thinking about hardcover, or audiobook, or annual “best of The Reframe” volumes, or maybe other things that are very much putting the cart before the horse right now.
Fourth … nah, three is probably enough reasons.
There we go. Experiment is on. I hope we’ll learn there’s going to be a book! But if not, at least we’ll all know, and we can carry on as we have been so far, and that’s pretty damn nice too.
Thanks as always for reading, and see you out there in a couple weeks at most.
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Sorry about the typos. I’m very good at making them. I’m less good at not making them. I’m working on it.
It seems repetitive.