Let's show the world how sharing can be good for business.

Photo by Kristina Alexanderson, via
Flickr, licensed CC BY 2.0

We want to write a book about the ways creators and businesses make money to sustain what they do when they give away their work for free under Creative Commons licenses. We're funding the project through Kickstarter. The book will be freely available to everyone. We think it's an inspiring and important project and hope you'll help us by backing it with a contribution.

Many creators and businesses look at the digital landscape and decide not to fight the current. Rather than trying to control copying of their work, they seek business models that involve sharing and reuse. Some choose business models built upon openly-licensed content, made with Creative Commons.

As we teeter on the brink of reaching 1 billion CC-licensed works online, we know there are plenty of creators, businesses, and organizations building things around open content. Some are producing original content under open licenses. Others are building on existing open content to make new things, provide new services, and host new platforms. Some of the strategies in these business models – like sharing your work early and often to grow an audience – are well-documented in must-read books for artists and writers, like Information Doesn't Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. But we don't yet have a full picture of the options for those who want to try ventures of all types building on open.

With this project, we want to fill that gap. We will document 24 successful open business models around the world and write a book about how they work. We don't want to profile unicorns. We're going to spend a year picking apart these business models to reveal the ways they can be reused and remixed by others. A major component of that is determining what won't work for others or what particular stars had to align to make something work in a given situation.

At the end of the process, we will put our findings together in an ebook, and we will publish an interactive tool that people can use to develop and evaluate their own open business models. In its simplest form, we think of this project as an exploration into the ways creators can make a living in the digital age.

As creators wanting to write a book we will give away for free under a CC license, we are our own case study in open business models. To fund the project, we have launched our first-ever Kickstarter campaign. We're feeling first-hand the ups and downs that come with this kind of crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is not for everyone, but we think it's a good strategy for our project. Along those lines, it's important to note that we may find there is no magic bullet. We hope to find and reveal innovative strategies for creators to prosper while sharing their work with the world, but we're not going to shy away from sharing anything that leads us to the conclusion that truly open business models simply won't work for some types of creators.

In fact, we're not going to shy away from sharing much of anything. The process for creating the book will be a year-long experiment in working open. As we research for the book, we'll publish regularly in our Medium publication, which we consider our digital whiteboard. There, we'll share insights as we go, try out new ideas, and we'll openly discuss obstacles we face, questions we have, and issues we are mulling. Our hope is that the process of researching, analyzing, and writing the book will be truly collaborative and open.

So, if you care about open content, working in the open, and the ways creators survive in an age of information abundance, join us for the ride. We don't have answers, but we're going to do our best to find them with you.

-Sarah Hinchliff Pearson