Recently, I have been watching The Guild and began to wonder why more books are not written like YouTube Mini Series. The advent of the internet has given many content producers the opportunity to be free of publishers. Artists have been using their own online portfolios, musicians have used websites like MySpace to syndicate themselves, independent video game developers have started using Kickstarter to fund games that fans want, and TV shows now exist entirely on YouTube as small mini series. My question is then, why haven't authors adopted a similar strategy? The basic idea is that the authors would write individual chapters at a time and release them on their website. They write enough content to get to the hook and then ask users to meet a donation quota before they continue writing the book. In my opinion this method has several advantages.
The Technology Already Exists
Setting up this system is basically as simple as setting up Wordpress or another content management system. Once that is setup, the author can use PayPal, Stripe, Kickstarter, etc to collect funding as well as put ads on the page if she so desires. Finally, adding Google Analytics helps give the author a sense of her readership.
You Can Fail Fast
In the world of start ups, one crucial thing is to fail fast. If an idea doesn't work, you hopefully sunset it as soon as possible and then move onto the next idea with the lessons you learned from the first one. This same philosophy can be applied to writing books in short installments. If no one is reading the book or donating have the author continue, she can just move on to the next story idea and learn from the failures of the first one.
Interactive Plot Lines
Since each chapter of the story could be a blog post, the author can enable comments on each chapter and get feedback from the readers. The author doesn't have to take any suggestions from the readers but can also incorporate ideas, fix plot inconsistencies with the help of the readership. This gives the readers a large stake in the story and makes them more likely to donate to support the author.
Multiple Stories at the Same Time
Once again, since each chapter can be a blog post, the author can start categorizing each post as being part of a different story. If an author is bored or has writer's block with one story, she can merely start another while she works on the other one and have them run in parallel. While I don't suggest that every author does this, it could work for some.
Who Cares About Piracy?
Since user donations primarily finance the author's story, she does not need to worry about piracy at all. People can already read the book for free so why worry about piracy? As Jonathan Coulton wrote on his blog, http://www.jonathancoulton.com/2012/01/21/megaupload/, piracy is an issue of availability and quality. The book is already available so that front is covered and if the story is high enough quality, readers will just donate to keep the story going.
What About a Physical Copy?
If the story is good enough, the author can always approach a publishing company about getting a physical copy published. I am not sure exactly how the publishing companies would react with the book already being online, but at least the author can point to solid metrics like site visitors and donations to convince the author of the story's worth.
The major downside of this approach is the author has to get herself out there in the first place. In today's world, this means the author needs to be an active social media user, pushing and promoting the story on every network possible to attract readership.
TL;DR Books should be written in short installments online and ask for user donations. If you know of any stories / books written like this, please let me know in the comments.