You’ll notice something new on my blog today. On the right-hand column you’ll see a new PayPal donate button. I didn’t want to do this, but it’s coming down to a question of economics. Let me go over a few numbers with you about the costs and profits of alternative and skeptical inquiry into the human past so you can see why donating is so important.
I have been blogging since 2001, when my first website launched its “News and Quick Views” column—long before the current blogging wave. My current blog (the one you’re reading now) launched in 2010 with my JasonColavito.com website. My agent and publishers agreed that writing a blog was a smart promotional tool that would draw readers to my work and thus increase sales.
Well, it didn’t work out that way.
The blog has become the tail that wagged the dog. Instead of the blog generating book sales, my books have led readers to my blog, which has seen exponential readership growth. (On good days, more people read this blog than the total number who have ever bought all of my books, combined.) This is all to the good, and I love sharing my research and ideas with my readers. However, unlike my books the blog doesn’t make me any money, and it takes a great deal of time and effort to maintain at its current level. In short, my blog is simply “too good” and is cannibalizing the audience for my books since readers feel they are getting enough from me for free.
So this leaves me with a few options:
I don’t particularly like any of these options, but the fact is that the economics of publishing are increasingly dire. Let’s take the case of my last professionally-published book, A Hideous Bit of Morbidity. This book was illegally downloaded on file sharing sites more than 4,000 times in the first six months after publication. I stopped monitoring the figures after that, but it hasn’t stopped, despite cease-and-desist letters from McFarland’s lawyer. In the most recent six month period for which I have figures, the re-launched paperback version of the book sold one copy. One. In six months. Meanwhile, the book is still being downloaded on dozens of file sharing websites every day. The fact is that people aren’t buying books when they can download them.
A couple of months ago, I asked readers to help support my site by buying a book. In the two weeks following my request, I sold one JasonColavito.com Books paperback, for a profit of $0.63, against a daily blog readership of thousands. Consider this: My YouTube video “The Lovecraft Connection” has been viewed more times in the past two weeks than the entire number of people who have bought The Cult of Alien Gods (on which it is based) in the past two years.
Now contrast this with ancient astronaut theorists, whose audience is not just willing but happy to shower them with money. Consider: Giorgio Tsoukalos is paid to speak on Ancient Aliens, paid again as a producer on Ancient Aliens, paid thousands per week to deliver speeches about ancient aliens, paid to travel the world to “investigate” ancient aliens, and makes more than just pocket change selling merchandise with his face on it. He also takes a fraction of all the subscriptions to the Ancient Alien Society and all the books sold through his Legendary Times Books website. Sales are robust enough that he can afford a staff to maintain his website. (My website and everything on it are entirely my own work, even down to the graphic design.) And what exactly has he actually created? Nothing. No books, no documentaries, nothing. And yet his audience is willing to pay him handsomely. Even the lesser lights of ancient astronautics—the almost completely unknown people, the ones who lie, commit plagiarism, or produce outright fraud—still receive speaking fees and book deals because of publishers’ perceptions of the reading public’s desire to be lied to. I have been told outright by major publishers that my work can't be published because no one wants to read truth. They told me to come back with aliens, Atlantis, monsters, or something sensationally untrue.
I’m not saying that I deserve cash just for being me (though, of course, that’s correct), but the fact of the matter is that I can’t keep churning out quality material for free. I wish I could, but every hour I spend writing this blog or adding to this website is an hour I’m not working elsewhere to make cash money. Fighting for Truth takes cash. Other skeptics have relatively cushy academic positions that give them the freedom and the cash to do skepticism part time; I work freelance, and every hour has monetary value. Eventually it will come down to a choice of whether to write a blog post or pay my health insurance premium.
So, consider buying something or donating. (I'll also be posting an Amazon wish list at some point if you'd prefer donate things rather than cash.) Otherwise, I’ll be forced to either reduce the quality and frequency of the blog or add a lot of annoying ads to pay for the site. And the only winners in that case will be ancient astronaut theorists, who have the benefit of shamelessness.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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