[See the bottom of this post for continuing updates about this project.]
Would you take me out once a week and buy me one of those fancy Starbucks coffees, perhaps a Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino® Blended Crème, if it meant keeping this site going?
We are at a fork in the road, you and I. Writing this site has taken up a big chunk of my day for almost half a year now.
When I was a couple months in to working on this site, I realized I could keep this going indefinitely, if there is an audience for it. The issue is one of time. You see, my day-job is essentially the same as working on this blog -- it's writing, consulting, and creating. And if I spend 25-30 hours a week working on this site, that's 25-30 hours I'm not only not making money, but I'm losing money because I pay people to help with the site. So it's not sustainable. So, for the the sake of, like, paying rent and having food to eat, I've come to the point where that chunk of time needs to go to people who are into what I'm doing enough to support it financially.
When most blogs want to monetize, the first thing they think of is ads. Well, I can't do ads because the readership is too small. And besides that, part of what people like about this site is that I can compare some dumb magic thing to an ISIS beheading video or something and there is no advertiser to worry about upsetting. Without that freedom, I wouldn't be interested in doing the site.
So for the site to continue, it will need to be reader supported. I kind of look at this site as the small-town newspaper for a community of people who have a particular relationship with magic that isn't what you read about in traditional magic media. The question is, are there enough villagers in this community to keep the newspaper afloat?
It was my friend Andrew Steele who came up with what is, I think, the best and most fair way of seeing if we can make this work. His idea was to follow the public television model. Essentially I've given away half a year's worth of content. I am now giving you the opportunity to back the second half of the year and get something in return if you do.
How much to charge. Well, I left that up to simple math. I estimated how many hours I work on this site in a given week, multiplied that by 25% of my standard hourly rate for freelance work, and then divided that by how man regular readers I think I have. Estimating how many regular readers I have is the difficult part. I can look at the stats on my site, but that counts the people who visit the site because they dislike me, as well as the ones who stumble across the site because they search for something unrelated that I happened to mention like "ISIS beheading videos."
What I end up with when I'm done with that calculation is a somewhat significant chunk of change for the whole year which makes me hesitate. But then I see books and even ebooks in our art that sell for $400, $600, even $1000 dollars and some of the ones I've read absolutely suck dong, so I don't feel so bad asking for a fraction of that to keep this site going.
What I like about this plan is that now the longevity of this site is a problem that solves itself. If there is a community to support it, then we're golden. And if not, then I stop. Stopping the site won't upset me. I still get to have the thoughts and create the routines that make up this blog, I just don't have to write them up, so it's not like I'm missing out on that aspect. What would upset me is if I stopped it when there were enough people out there who cared enough about it to keep it going and I didn't present them that opportunity.
So that's what we come back to. Would you buy me a fancy $5 coffee once a week to keep the site going? That's $260 for the year for what amounts to a 365 chapter online book AND you will receive The Jerx Volume 1 which collects the best essays and routines from what would be the first year of this site. They will be revised and updated with additional thoughts and all new typos! In addition there will be at least half a dozen unpublished routines that will be unique to the book.
So here's how it works. At the bottom of this post you will find a link to donate. If you want to keep the site going then click on it. There is a price for outside of the US that covers the additional cost of priority shipping internationally. If you are a regular reader of this site and you want to see it continue, you pretty much need to be on board. The readership of this site isn't large enough that it can be supported by a minority of the readers.
Now, I have a magic number in mind of how many people I need to contribute in order to continue the site as I've been doing it. There are two paths things can take, either enough people donate to back the second half of the year, or they don't. I've tried to set this up so it's a win-win-win for me, the people who enjoy the site, and the people who don't, regardless of what happens.
Below is what you'll receive if you contribute and we do or don't reach the goal amount.
Here is what you get if you donate and we reach our goal amount.
- You get to enjoy the second half of year one of the Jerx blog with postings every day.
- A copy of The Jerx Volume 1. 300+ pages that includes the best of the first year of the site and at least half a dozen new effects that will never be published in any other book. (See below for more details about some of these effects)
- A hard-copy booklet of an extended essay I wrote called The Amateur At the Kitchen Table, a long treatise on the performance of magic in informal settings and connecting with people via those performances. Writing this essay was the inspiration for launching this site.
- You'll be on my private email list and receive a monthly email newsletter of short reviews, recommendations, and alternate handlings of new and old magic releases. This is the sort of stuff I didn't write about too much on the blog, as I didn't want the site to just be a critique of other people's stuff. I've distributed this email newsletter for a while now to a small group of friends. If you're supporting the site, then I consider you a friend.
- A sponsored post on anything you want. If you offer a product or service or if you hate someone's guts, I will write all about it. I won't lie. I won't say your trick is good if it blows. But at the same time I won't say it blows if it blows either. These entries will be included in the Sunday posts and identified as bought and paid for.
- And I'll be less likely to talk shit about you, your product or your services if you're a supporter of the site. Yes, this is how the mafia works. "Pay our fee and we won't burn down your bar." I don't mean it that way. It's just, as I said above, I consider anyone who is helping the site to be a friend, and I'm not going to talk shit about my friends (at least not in a serious way).
Here is what you get if you donate and we DON'T reach our goal amount.
- You will get one EXTREMELY LIMITED EDITION book called The Complete Jerx. I know it will be extremely limited edition because in this case we didn't meet our target amount and our target amount is pretty low. This version of the book will include over a dozen new routines that will never be reprinted in any other book or online.
- The hardcopy version of The Amateur At The Kitchen Table.
- The newsletter mentioned above.
- You will receive a day's worth of consulting/writing on any project you're involved with. This is dumb for me to do because my day-rate is significantly more than the donation amount, but if you're involved in anything creative I'm sure there is some aspect of the project I could help out with. And I would be happy to help someone out with their project who was kind enough to contribute to mine.
The initial donation period will go for approximately a week from today, although the book will be available (without all the extras) at the same price until it is released. The blog will be on hiatus during this period. At the end of the donation period I'll know if we've met the goal or if we're nowhere near where we need to be. If we've met the goal I will pick right back up with daily posts. If we're nowhere near, then I'll shut this site down (I won't delete the contents, I just won't be publishing new posts).
Some of the effects that will ONLY be available in the book, The Jerx Volume 1 are:
And Now He Is Me: You show your friend some of the highlights from the 1978 movie, Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins as a psychotic magician/ventriloquist. You watch a few of the best parts but focus on the scene where he terrifies/seduces Ann-Margret with a Do As I Do routine. You then re-enact the scene with your spectator, through failure then triumph. Then things take a turn as the cards in the real world transform to those from the film, all culminating with you arguing with a puppet that unexpectedly appears on your hand about whether you should murder your spectator or not.
Dear Penthouse Forum: A story deck trick (that actually uses the full deck, unlike my other ones) that is genuinely funny and has a twist ending.
I Know What You Need: You have your friend over for dinner and she secretly decides what she would like to have based on dozens of options. Without ever telling you anything you place a delivery order (or you can do the cooking yourself) and when the food shows up it is exactly what she had secretly chosen. You then show that you didn't actually know what she wanted to eat, but you were able to get in her mind and swap what she was craving for what you had planned on ordering in the first place.
A Most Unusual Camera: Your spectator's cellphone camera takes pictures of things 5 minutes before they happen.
You want in? Here's your chance.
Q. I can't afford $260. Can I just send you something less as a general donation?
A. No. Look, I really appreciate the thought, but if $5 a week is too much to spare (and trust me, I've been in that position when I was younger) then you shouldn't be giving any money to some magic blog. Keep your money and hope enough other people support it to keep it going. My goal is not to wring as much money out of this as possible. My goal is give people who can support the site the opportunity to.
Q. How do I know you're not going to take my money and run off with it?
A. Well... you don't I guess. You've caught me in the midst of the world's dumbest con. I thought I would spend hundreds of hours writing an extremely narrowly focused blog with limited appeal in the hopes that some of the fans of the site would back the second half of the year. Look, the people who will be handling the finances for this and the delivery of the book are AC Costello and Michael Sullivan. They have spotless paypal records and have perfect ebay feedback scores going back 15 and 20 years respectively. But besides that, I would hope that if you've read this blog for any amount of time that you see beyond the crass, obscene, and impudent persona, and have come to see me as a genuine person who is not here to take advantage of anyone. I know magic has a history of people taking money for projects and then just being like, "Peace out, bitches," but that is not what I'm about. If this is a success, my goal is to keep this thing going well into the future, so I'm not going to flake out on you.
Q. When will the book be released?
A. Since it's a collection of the best of the first year, then it will come out when the first year is complete. If we don't reach our goal for continuing The Jerx blog, then the book will come out in the late winter, early spring.
Q. Will it be hardcover or softcover.
A. Hard, baby.
Q. Can I buy more than one?
A. Hell yeah. That's what I would do. Buy a dozen or a gross. Get on board before I'm recognized as a true genius and these books are worth a fortune.
Q. I come here at least once a week, and $5 a week is no issue for me, but I'm not going to donate.
A. Hey, that's not a question. But that's perfectly fine. Just know that the sustainability of this site is predicated on people in your position donating. So if you think, "Oh, I'm sure others will pick up the slack," that's not the case. There are no others. It's just us. I don't want a single person to pay if they don't think it's worth it. But don't come to me and complain about the site not being here if you don't contribute.
Q. So what exactly will happen to the site if you don't reach your goal?
A. Poof! Well, not like I did with my old site. This old posts will still remain, and I may check in on a very irregular basis, but the daily postings will end.
Q. Do you want to keep doing the site?
A. Yeah, I like doing it a lot. And I have a lot of ideas for longer-term projects I want to do with it. But unfortunately I'm very much an all or nothing type of person. The site only interests me as a daily publication, but obviously that's a big time commitment. I also think online is my best outlet as a writer. It allows me to do timely things, visual things, and incorporate all sorts of media from around the web. But, that being said, if we don't reach our goal, then I think people will still be satisfied with similar content in the book and via the email newsletter.
Q. Okay, I'm in. What do I have to do?
A. Click that bad-boy below.
Update 2 - October 13th - 3:12 AM
It is so strange for me to not write a post for this site. It feels like trying to go to sleep without brushing my teeth first -- like I'm forgetting something. There are very few things in my life I've ever done everyday for 6 months. I mean, like other than basic biological things. Have I ever gone a day without peeing?
Well... have I? Answer me, dammit.
Sorry. Lost my mind for a second there.
The fundraising continues. You know, people always complain about public television's pledge drives, but I always kind of liked them. I find something comforting about them. It's like, "Oh, here they are, interrupting the Peter, Paul, and Mary special again, just like the did last year, and the year before." I have a thing for traditions, even if they stink.
Update 1 - Oct 12th - 11:00 AM
First, I want to thank those of you who have already contributed. I will be emailing you individually in the coming days, but let me say a general thanks now.
A couple people have asked about donating by subscription, and Jack Shalom wrote in with this astute email.
I just paid via Paypal to subscribe to your site. It's well worth it.
A suggestion: I work for WBAI radio, (99.5 FM NYC) a listener-sponsored radio station that uses the model you are using, so I have some experience in this area. An amount like $260 at one time is a lot for many folks.
But...there are ways to set up recurring monthly donations credited from one's credit card or bank account. A recurring donation of $24/mo for a year is a lot easier for many to handle than $260 at once. I think your response rate would be much greater.
Just something to think about depending on how things go in the next week or two.
Now, he is surely right about this, but I want to explain where my head is at. I don't want supporting this site to be, in any way, a hardship on anyone. So if this isn't an amount you're comfortable dropping on a magic product, then I'd prefer you keep your money because I feel like you can put it to better use.
This is probably bad business sense on my part, but just as a human I would feel bad taking money from someone for whom this amount isn't well within their impulse purchase point.