Tao Lin, the author of two poetry collections, a novel, and a story collection, last Thursday posted a rather unusual offer on his blog. For two thousand dollars, readers can purchase a 10-percent share of the royalties, including all U.S. serial, reprint, textbook, and film royalties, for his unfinished novel, which is tentatively scheduled for publication next year by Melville House, an independent press in Brooklyn, New York. Tao, who writes on reader-of-depressing-books.blogspot.com about how he recently quit his job and needs money in order to have time to write, is a poetry editor of 3:AM Magazine.
Based on sales of his first novel, EEEEE EEE EEEE (Melville House, 2007), Tao projects sales of his second novel to be approximately thirteeen thousand after two years. "If there is more mainstream attention, and I think there is a 80- to 90-percent chance there will be, sales will be 'considerably higher,'" he writes on his blog. "Regardless of the amount of mainstream attention that happens, I believe that in the long term, sales will remain steady and that my second novel will remain in print. Based on what I know about my publisher, myself, the book, and my other books, I do not at all think that my second novel will 'fail' the above projection." At least a handful of readers out there share his confidence: Five of the six shares offered for sale on Tao's blog have already been sold.
Just in case Tao's projected returns aren't enough to convince potential shareholders, the author offers a more personal approach: "People who buy shares will also have more meaning in life....You can call yourself a 'producer' of my second novel if you want to do that." And if trust is an issue, Tao writes, "I promise I will not kill myself within five to ten years. Really I don't think 'trust' is an issue, I feel like people can trust me."
One thing readers can certainly trust is that the twenty-five-year-old author will stop at nothing to generate publicity—like the kind he's getting by offering shares of an unfinished novel—for this now-public project.