This Web Site is Free

This morning I went and opened up a SubStack account, for a couple of reasons. The first was to take “Scalzi” off the market on SubStack; I do this pretty much which every social media site, for branding consistency across the Internet. Second, at some point or another I might decide to do something I’ll want a paid subscription model for, and if I do, SubStack offers a relatively frictionless way to do that. What might that be, and will SubStack actually be the best way to do it? In both cases, the answer is: got me. Taking the SubStack account is for possibilities, not certainties.

That being said, taking the account gave me a moment to reflect on what I do here and how I do it. For the last twenty-one years and ten months, this blog has been up and has been absolutely free to visit; I haven’t charged for any content here (I have on occasion put stuff up and let people know there was a voluntary payment, usually for charitable purposes, but that’s different). I’ve done it this way because, one, it’s simpler than trying to manage either advertising or subscriptions, and two, because it’s allowed me to always post on my own terms — if I decide to take a break, or a hiatus, or stop posting altogether, there’s no harm and no foul. This web site is free, so you get what you get, or don’t get, as the case may be.

There’s another reason as well, which is that for the entire two-decade-and-change existence of this site, I have made a comfortable living doing other writing, first as a consultant and freelancer, and for the last several years as a novelist. There has never been a need for me to look at this site as something that had to make money, either passively or actively, so I didn’t. I wouldn’t trivialize this site by calling it an affectation — I have put out nine(!) books from material that was originally published here, including a novel that launched my fiction career and a short story collection that got me my first TV story credits — but it is true that its nature and character are what they are in no small part because of the thing it doesn’t have to be: Something explicitly commercial.

I think of this because so many writers have turned to places like SubStack and Patreon and other subscription vehicles and venues as part of their way of making a living. I think this is great — writers making money is a good thing — but it does generally entail a certain level of attentiveness to one’s audience that I’m not sure is in my nature to attempt, or to fulfill, here. The “you get what you get” nature of Whatever suits me, and if people don’t like what they get, they can leave, and I don’t have to worry about what it means for my bills and my bottom line. There are other places where I have to craft my writing specifically to please some specific person (or many of them). This doesn’t need to be one of those.

Still, who knows? I have sold things directly to people before, here and elsewhere; there might come a time when I decide to do it again, and it might be that a subscription model, either limited or ongoing, will be the best way to do that. I’ve been writing professionally for three decades now. I wouldn’t have made it this far if I was precious or snobby about how I make money writing. If I think up of something that would fit a subscription model, I just might do it, and see how it turns out for me.

And if it does great, well, then, it can be the thing that subsidizes this, where you get what you get, and hopefully like it, but it’s okay if you don’t. This web site is free, after all.

35 Comments on “This Web Site is Free”

  1. Congrats, it seems a good site. I’ve been following historian Heather Cox Richardson’s daily comments on contemporary affairs on Substack for quite a while.

  2. ” The “you get what you get” nature of Whatever suits me, and if people don’t like what they get, they can leave,”

    It suits me too. I’ll stick around. And thank you.

  3. I dunno…when it comes to paying it boils down to, how invested am I in this person/site? I’m not 100% committed to that many sites/people, especially since I dabble here and there. I may want to read ONE article on Miami Herald today but I don’t want to pay to read it, especially when I don’t live there. I also don’t want to be paying to read fifty websites, which is just too much. Paywalls force me to be picky and choosy on my reading. How much do I care about this article/site? Turns out, not that much most of the time.

    I am also concerned about the freeness of sharing news and whatever else online if half of it is behind paywalls. I very frequently go “I don’t care that much, fuck it” and don’t read it, or find something similar elsewhere.

    I gave up on trying to make a living creatively years ago (I cannot deal with the business aspect at all) so maybe I’m biased in the wrong direction, though.

  4. How can you even say that? Every other time I visit I end up buying a book! :-D

  5. I like the idea of signing up for something in order to take something, say a userid, off the market.

    Did my first, I think, with CompuServe AOL, or Prodigy about 30 years ago.

    Thanks for the validation, John. Not that I make any money online in any way.

  6. Thanks for the heads up on SubStack – I try to get “ealasaid” everywhere, and since it’s “celtic and mystical” or something, people use it as a handle. (I’m ealasaidh on sites where I was too slow to get my name.)

    I need a newsletter to let me know about all these new newsletter/social media/etc services so I can sign up and get my name in case it goes big! :D

  7. I see from your Twitter that this *is* at least a bit related to the Deadspin/Defector news and not just happy coincidence. I think there’s a place for free, ad-supported “free”, and subscription content on the web, and I’m glad that there finally seem to be relatively low-cost systems available for content creators to go the subscription route if that’s something they want to try.

  8. And sometimes it works the other way ’round too with this site. I knew generally that the Old Man’s War series existed, but it didn’t seem like my sort of thing. I wouldn’t say I even knew its author’s name. I found this site while working on a paper for a Theories of Communication paper and presentation when I was finally wrapping up my degree. (Hey, it may have taken me 30 years, but I *did* finally finish that degree.) A research paper I found in my search cited your Straight White Male post. I found it intriguing, read the follow-up posts and found Being Poor in the process. That hooked me.

    I then decided to try some of your fiction. I read Redhsirts and enjoyed it. I loved Lock In. I bought the print edition of Virtue Signalling. I haven’t gotten to The Last Emperox yet, but I preordered it and it’s on my shelf. Loved the series. So this site brought you at least one additional reader who has, you know, bought some of your stuff! With money!

  9. Thank you. I appreciate being able to keep up with the scamperbeasts … and you and yours. I may not always agree with you but the great thing about that is it’s ok with me. I still enjoy your content.

  10. I despise the new comment format. Now I’m not even getting my money’s worth!

    Guess I’ll stick around anyway.

  11. I, for one, love that some of the most interesting and popcorn-worthy pastimes I’ve ever enjoyed is absolutely free.

    This is due, in no small part, to the mallet, the quality of the commenters and your willingness to kick sociopolitical vipers’ nests.

    This is neither an echo chamber nor a troll-infested pit, something for which, as a commenter and reader, I am appreciative.

  12. Might be a venue for ‘collaborative’ efforts between yourself and young animators or film makers. You write a story, they produce a film, they get credit, experience and a bit of money. The income wouldn’t be much for anyone but it could be fun for all.

  13. I appreciate the fact that I get to “hear” your thoughts, see your pictures and adventures without having to pay. Frankly, it is now difficult to even get critical news without paying more than I can afford.
    Thank you.

  14. I appreciate this site, and that you haven’t tried/had to monetize it. Thank you

  15. The first was to take “Scalzi” off the market on SubStack; I do this pretty much which every social media site, for branding consistency across the Internet.

    I can only do one thing with this piece of information, and urge you to take “scalzi” the onlyfans userid.

    Adult content from everyone’s favorite balding Internet author sensation? Where does one sign up for that sweet monetization? Do it.

  16. I’ve never heard of it frankly. I doubt I would pay to read a blog but some so I guess.

  17. I came to this site from your books; I know others who went the other way.

    The thing I really like is “The Big Idea.” I’ve bought a *lot* of those books, and found much joy. I appreciate your generosity in helping other authors find an audience. I know you probably feel that 1. It costs you very, very, little, and 2. It does not cost you sales or anything else. But the generosity of spirit is important.

    I like it best because it is generous. Don’t mistake; I really like the other items you post here. But “The Big Idea” seems to me to speak of your character.

    If you ever went to some kind of subscription model I’d pay at least as much as I pay for the Times (soon to be gone, you can claim that coin!) or the Post. And I would be unsurprised to find a “pay if you wish” model. I’d pay.

  18. @Tarik beat me to it, but I have better connections. The robocall lady who speaks Chinese? I’m on her direct-dial!

  19. In one of my random idle moments (rare) I clicked the Random link a couple of days ago, and got a nice little story about voting in a multi-species election, maybe from 2010. In the comments, adverts were mentioned several times, but they weren’t visible in the text.. So, maybe not always? I get constant requests to put adverts on my sites, but as I would have no control (hey, I have cornered my bit of the market, why would I let you in to offer your corner?) (and, hey, my Buddhist site got gambling links and sex lines, I don’t think so…) there’s nothing more to be said..
    I note more and more lately that the content of sites is covered by the adverts, and this seems like the worst possible bad manners…

  20. Helenhowes:

    In that particular case, the story was paid for by Subterranean Press and they asked to run it here, with some advertisements for some of their upcoming books interspersed (as photos with captions). I did it as an experiment to see what people thought. It did fine, but not well enough for either I or SubPress to pursue it (and eventually I snipped out the ads).

  21. Perhaps not the place to say this, but why did you remove the most recent posts list from the right-hand column? Other things are still there – although the Twitter feed seems to vanish from time to time – but the most recent posts are gone. I wish they were back. That’s all.

  22. I heard of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded first, years ago. Later, someone linked to “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is,” and I kept passing it along, then fell into the habit of reading the new posts as well when I did so. Am now a regular reader. Have consistently enjoyed the commentary and photos, but it took me embarrassingly long to realize I needed to start reading your novels. I try to buy them new rather than used (and at my fantastic local SFF bookstore) since I like hanging around here and haven’t had to pay a cent for it. Thanks for all the ongoing efforts.

  23. As long as we’re commenting on the site design changes – I find the extremely thin line separating comments to be hard to spot, and on comments other than your own, it can be hard to tell whether the name of the commenter is the one at the top of the comment or the one at the bottom. The old design had clearer separation between comments and made it more obvious who the author was.

  24. Thanks very much, John. It saves time for me when I’m looking to see what’s new.

  25. As the teachers in our elementary school say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” I love reading this site.

  26. ” there’s no harm and no fowl. ”

    You certainly wouldn’t want to get the birds involved. We all saw that movie.

    Yeah. I’m that guy.