(WTF is this? See Problem #1)
The second hurdle Flattr faces is that it can’t guarantee that the artists in its community make much money, or really any money at all.
True enough. But I see two problems with the logic of this criticism.
Firstly, it has never been true of any system ever that it guaranteed even a large percentage of its creators make much money at all.
Most authors will never see any royalties. At least 70% of books do not make out their advance. ()Which not only means that they won’t ever get a cent from sales of the book, not making out the advance also means books get dropped, series get cut off, contracts don’t get renewed, and new contracts are harder to find.
And the common authors’ advances are hardly a living wage, when taking into account what actually gets taken home and the amount of time between one paycheck and the next.
But of course, most authors will never even get an advance, because most books are not accepted for publication period. It’s hard to give an overall percentage for this because acceptance rates vary from publisher to publisher, but a common estimate seems to be about 1-2%. Or lower.
The fact is that NO system guarantees writers–or any type of artists–either money or success and if it does, you should run away very, very fast.
So what does this mean for authors and Flattr?
It means that we need to stop making a high chance of a fat paycheck our standard for acceptance when it comes to potentially very useful services.
This brings us to the second problem with this logic: the notion that Flattr is intended to compete with a traditional author’s prime income source. It’s not. Flattr is not intended to be or to replace an artist’s main mode of support.
It’s a micro-payment system. Not a salary.
So what does this mean to us?
As artists, we are lucky to be living in a world where we have many opportunities to create, distribute and, yes, make money from our work. Rather than having one stream of support– that is, the royalty/advance model of traditional publishing–we have the potential for both many streams and many methods of support. Streams of support can include traditional sales through bookstores, Print on Demand technology, ebooks, start-up funding like Kickstarter, plain old donations, and micro-payments like Flattr. Methods of support can include financial compensation (donations, sales), building recognition through a fan-base (free advertising!), and mutual community support for professional development (e.g. online writing communities for critiques and guidance.)
Flattr could serve any of these purposes, and seems to already be doing all these things for different people. Some people are making money, some are discovering new content to enjoy, some are making connections within the sub-community of creators within Flattr.
But for the most part, micro-payment systems shouldn’t be seen primarily as a salary but rather as any number of community-related services. And we need to remember that creating community, connecting with other readers and writers, and building a mutually supportive network are equally as important as finding a way to make writing put food on the table.