HOWTO sell your publisher on releasing your work under a Creative Commons license

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive from writers is, "How do I convince my publisher to release my book under a Creative Commons license?" It's a hard question to answer well, and luckily from now on I don't have to, because this amazing post at Digital Foundations has done a totally kick-ass job at it:
4. Pitch it with facts

Use case studies to argue with facts. It also helps for them to see that other reputable publishers have licensed books Creative Commons. O’Reilly has some a study on an Asterisk book that we used very effectively.

The Asterisk book sold 19k copies over two years (about what comparable books from O’Reilly were selling), but was downloaded 180,000 times from *one* of the 5 sites that mirrored it.

Also consider google as arbiter:

Results from google search breakdown of references to the two books in the oreilly case study (at the time of negotiation, early 2008): asterisk: 139,000 references in 2 years (2005-2007), or 70,000 per year

understanding the linux kernel, 42,000 references in 7 years (2000-2007), 6,000 per year

So there was 10x the press/blog/reference/hits for the CC licensed book.

HOWTO Negotiate a Creative Commons License: Ten Steps (via O'Reilly Radar)



  1. Cory,

    Thanks for putting this up. I hope that it becomes Boing Boing’s most heavily linked post.

    — MrJM

  2. You know, it really breaks down to the mind set of making ENOUGH money, versus trying to take all of it. Sure, everyone wants to make huge money with a blockbuster like the Harry Potter books, and certainly you want to cover all the costs for ALL your books for the year, but if you can have a reasonable number, you should be able to take it.

    Problem is that board members can be ousted by stock-holders if enough of them don’t like the idea.

    It is going to take time to change the collective mindset. It will probably take a decade at the minimum (probably more like 20 years)before Creative Commons has a major effect.

  3. For me it was very easy. Since I’m my own publisher I said, “self, why don’t I release my book free online through CC. Why Yes, Self, that sounds like a good idea!”

    And so I did.

  4. Isn’t the first rule of this that one must have enough muscle/reputation in the market place to make demands like this?

    On a most basic level if you have no muscle/reputation then just start a blog and create a following. Then use that following to assert demands if/when agents come knocking.

    That’s a basic rule that most people just don’t get.

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