The thing about having a writing career that spans more than thirty years is that that you write things – books, comics, all sorts of things – that for one reason or another become rare. They go out of print. Often because you are embarrassed by them, or do not want to see them in print. Or because circumstances are against you. Or because something was only ever published in a limited edition.
I have a basement library filled with mysterious copies of things. Some I only have one copy of. One book, the hardback of my Duran Duran biography, I paid $800 for, about eight years ago, astonished that anyone would ask that much, but aware that I'd only ever seen one other copy. (I saw another one for sale last week for over $4000.)
Many years ago, I sued a publisher for non-payment of royalties, registering copyright in his own name on things I'd written, and various other things. And, because it felt right, I decided that any money I made from the case would go to charity. Long after the case was won, when the finances were eventually settled, I found myself with a large chunk of money. I didn't want to give it all to one charity, and instead formed the Gaiman Foundation which has, for several years, been using that money to Do Good Things. The Gaiman Foundation has funded the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's Education program, various Freedom of Speech initiatives, the Moth's High School program which teaches kids the power of telling their own stories, along with helping to fund good causes like the Lava Mae charity, which gives showers and cleaning facilities to the homeless around San Francisco.
Giving money away to good causes has been a fine thing to do, especially when the results were immediate and obvious.
The only downside is that the initial chunk of money from the lawsuit is almost used up. I've been putting money into it as well, but last year Holly Gaiman (who is not only my daughter and an ace hat maker, but is studying running non-profit organisations and has been invaluable on the professional side of things of the Foundation) pointed out to me that if the Gaiman Foundation was to continue, it would need me to put in a big chunk of money as an endowment. And I started thinking...
Some years ago I took part in one of the earliest book-based Humble Bundles, and was really impressed with how the Humble Bundle thing worked. E-books (back then, of out of print or unavailable work,) would be put up DRM free: some of them would be available to anyone who paid anything at all, some only for those who paid above the average, some available to anyone who paid more than a specific amount. Artists and writers got paid, and money also went to support good causes -- when you paid for your books, you could choose how much of the money going to charity went to which charity, how much goes to the creators, how much to Humble Bundle.
Hmm. I had the beginning of an idea.
Charles Brownstein at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is always willing to listen to my strange ideas. He liked this one.
This was the idea:
I'd put into the Humble Bundle all the rare things we could find.
Books that were long out of print, stories and such that collectors would pay hundreds of dollars for, obscure and uncollected comics and pamphlets and magazine articles. Even the things I am still vaguely embarrassed by (like the Duran Duran biography, a hardcover copy of which, as I said, can set you back thousands of dollars these days, if you can find one).
Books which have been out of print for 30 years, like GHASTLY BEYOND BELIEF, a collection of quotations from the strangest SF and Fantasy books and movies that Kim Newman and I made when we were 23 and 24 respectively. Things that were absolutely private and never before sold, like LOVE FISHIE, a book of poems and letters from my daughter Maddy (aged 8) to me, and from me back to Maddy, that was made into a book (with help from my assistant the Fabulous Lorraine) as a gift for my 42nd birthday.
Two long out-of-print books from Knockabout Comics: OUTRAGEOUS TALES FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT and SEVEN DEADLY SINS, with stories written and or drawn by me, Alan Moore, Hunt Emerson, Dave Gibbons, Dave McKean and a host of others.
Rare out-of-print comics stories by me and Bryan Talbot, by me and Mark Buckingham, even by me and Bryan Talbot and Mark Buckingham.
There would be small-press short story & suchlike collections like ANGELS AND VISITATIONS and the LITTLE GOLD BOOK OF GHASTLY STUFF containing stories that went on to win awards and be collected in the more big, official collections (Smoke and Mirrors, etc), and stories no-one has seen since, not to mention non-fiction articles, like the one about the effects of alcohol on a writer, or the one where I stayed out for 24 hours on the streets of Soho, that are now only whispered in rumours.
There would even be a short story of mine, “Manuscript Found in a Milk Bottle”, published in 1985, that is so bad I've never let it be reprinted. Not even to give young writers hope that if I was that awful once, there is hope for all of them.
Charles from the CBLDF liked the idea.
It was a good thing Charles liked the idea. He had to do so much of the work, coordinating, finding, talking to people, getting contracts with artists and publishers and everyone signed, all that. Which he did, cheerfully and helpfully and uncomplainingly.
The Humble Bundle people liked the idea too.
Humble Bundle money is divided between the creators and the charities, with the person buying the Humble Bundle deciding how the percentage that goes to the charities is divided.
I'm giving my entire portion of Humble Bundle creator-money directly back to the Gaiman Foundation. (My agent Merrilee has donated her fee, too, so 100% of what comes in to me goes to the Foundation.)
There are, obviously, other authors and artists and publishers involved. Some have asked for their money to go to charities, and some are, perfectly sensibly, paying the rent and buying food with it.
(Originally, we'd hoped to split the charity money between the CBLDF and the Gaiman Foundation as well, but in the very last couple of days of putting things together we discovered that was impractical, so we made the other charity the Moth's Educational Program instead: it's the Moth storytelling in High Schools, it's done some really good things, and I'm proud to be helping it.)
Normally Humble Bundle likes to explain that you are paying what you like for perhaps $100 worth of games or books or comics. It's hard to price this stuff – buying Duran Duran and Ghastly Beyond Belief together could set you back thousands of dollars. Here, you'll get some ebooks if you pay what you like, more ebooks if you pay over the average, and some choice plums (like Duran Duran, and “Manuscript Found in a Milk Bottle”) if you pay over $15.
There's a total of about 1,300 pages of DRM-free ebooks and comics, fiction and non fiction. There's even a Babylon 5 Script I wrote.
These books and comics and suchlike are going to be available during the two week on-sale life of the Humble Bundle. After that, they are going away again. This really is your chance to read them.
Click on the link: https://www.humblebundle.com/books. It will take you somewhere that will look a bit like this, where many pages of ebooks will be waiting for you:
And remember, it's pay what you want. (If you want to pay the thousands of dollars it would have cost you to buy all this stuff as collectibles, you can do that too. I'll be grateful, and so will the various charities, not to mention the artists, other writers and so on.)
Thank you to Charles Brownstein; to Mary Edgeberg, Holly Gaiman, Cat Mihos, and Christine DiCrocco, on my team; thank you to my agent Merrilee Heifetz; to everyone who drew or wrote or published or in other way gave us permission to put things up; to Mike Maher and the team at Scribe for mastering the eBooks; and above all thank you to everyone at Humble Bundle for relentlessly doing good for wonderful causes.
I hope you enjoy all 1,289 rare and collectible pages. Even “Manuscript Found In a Milk Bottle”.