"Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist

Realizing the Monetary Value

"People offered to send me money when I'd written the short stories. They'd say, 'I feel like I owe you something because I've been so entertained by these stories. Can I Paypal you money?' That felt weird to me; I didn't accept anybody's money. But there is this thing on Reddit called Reddit Gold, where you as a user gets some extra features. You can see who has Reddit Gold, so it's supposed to be a status symbol, but then again anybody who bragged about how much Reddit Gold they had would get laughed out of any chat-room. But, really, it's a nice and simple way to show that you like something that someone did or wrote on Reddit, so it was a nice gesture that people bought me some Reddit Gold just to say thanks.

"I did get money through Kickstarter. From the second or third story, these comments would pop up in the threads that said, 'This should be a book,' or, 'This should be a movie.' I won the NoSleep writing contest with 'Balloons.' Carolyn Nowak [a cartoonist/illustrator], who I ended up working with later on the Kickstarter, originally wanted to turn it all into a comic book. There were a lot of people who seemed interested.

"Other people approached me who wanted to monetize my stories, turn them into an E-book, and sell them, but I didn't feel ready. If I was going to do that, there was a lot of work I needed to do, editing and additions. I never wanted to charge for something that I'd already given away for free.

"Before I ended it, somebody said that I could have just cashed out then, not finish the story on Reddit, only finish it for a book, and force everybody who wanted to know the ending to buy the book. Clearly that would've been a genius business plan, but I thought if I did that people would be unhappy with me. So I finished it, and then I expanded and revised everything for the book."

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