how to support creative work

Explanation - I’ve sat on this post for a while now - I’m just going to publish it, get it out there knowing that I can always add to it at a later date.

Since I wrote it (back in July!), I’ve learned that there are a few explorations around publishing shorter form content. Last night I watched State of Play on the BBC, available to watch like a normal show or to be binge watched on iPlayer. Each episode is 10 minutes long and depicts a couple preparing to go for relationship counselling.

I read a fantastic article today that reminded me - sometimes what we think, what we believe to be the case, is not the only way of doing things.

Connie Chan’s article, Outgrowing Advertising: Multimodal Business Models as a Product Strategy, outlines how China’s different online world, constructed of their own alternatives to the social media and digital monoliths that we recognise in the West, utilises a far greater range of business models that we may look clean past when we consider how things work.

The article is incredibly detailed, describing monetisation strategies for a range of media but the books section was inevitably the one that I was drawn to. Chan describes 3 different ways, apart from a Kindle Unlimited style subscription service, that creators are paid for their work.


The first strategy is a classic - use a lead magnet or free offering to entice the reader. Self-published authors often use a free book as a gateway into a series, based around a recurring setting, world or character.

The second is actually very old school - serialisation was the way that Charles Dickens was published, using the distribution medium of newspapers. Now that distribution is essentially free, there is no need for it to be provided by an intermediary if the author can establish their audience.

The third, tipping, is another variant of the Patron model but on a micro level. Tipping small amounts of money could suit long article writers who would struggle to receive payment for short form content.

All 3 strategies allow for a closer relationship with an audience and, as Chan explains, are abetted by China’s mobile first integrated payment systems. It’s easy to tip 15 cents on a phone; it feels like nothing and you never physically hand money over. Likewise, short form content is perfect for mobile device consumption.

Another crucial aspect of this closer relationship is the fast feedback that it enables. No one tips you? It’s not good content. People check in and ask you questions about what’s happening tomorrow? You can tailor your narrative to suit the audience. A fast feedback loop makes the creative task easier, taking a tech MVP mindset and applying it to another discipline.

Where are our commuter fictions? Serialised stories that people come back to each day? It feels like by challenging how we think about monetisation, we can innovate in the way that we tell stories.

The Chinese strategies appear to be working:


Ebooks are declining slightly in the West, partially as a result of their rise to prominence effecting an improvement in the print book industry. If you can give the content at a lower price, the physical product needs to be well differentiated, a pleasure to pick up.

For my own book, I’ve been considering how I can deliver more of an experience around it. Now I just need to publish it and am going to be using Amazon, a topic that I’ll explore in greater detail in the near future. Some authors, using platforms like Kickstarter and the like, are able to offer rewards to readers who want to contribute more and I’d like to be able to do something similar.

What I will be doing though is creating and curating some material around the upcoming Rugby World Cup for free. I’ll distribute this material, a sort of repository for useful information, comment, videos and podcasts and I’ll link to the book as a way of receiving a tip if you like. I won’t be being paid for the curation but there is a way for people to support it by buying my other work.

In this respect, I’ll be participating in this new way of doing things, it’ll just have to use some existing solutions. For now.

Ben Mercer