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Andy Weir’s ‘The Martian’ was a crowdfunding success story — but that model doesn’t work for everyone, he says

Unlike “The Martian,” Weir’s new sci-fi novel, “Artemis,” was written to be printed by a traditional publisher, and a movie version is already in the works.

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“The Martian” and “Artemis” author Andy Weir
“The Martian” and “Artemis” author Andy Weir
Aubrie Pick

When Andy Weir wrote “The Martian,” he didn’t expect that it would be adapted into a big-budget blockbuster movie starring Matt Damon. In fact, he wasn’t trying to make money at all.

Weir was releasing serialized installments of “The Martian” for free on his website, but fans wanted an e-reader version, which led him to Amazon’s Kindle marketplace. However, Amazon wouldn’t let authors charge less than 99 cents for their books — a restriction that transformed Weir’s novel from geeky niche side project into a life-changing success story.

"It started working its way up the bestsellers in science fiction, and that got the attention of Crown Publishing,” Weir said on the latest episode of Recode Media. “It got me an agent and a movie deal. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t just do this, it’s awesome!”

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Speaking with Recode’s managing editor, Edmund Lee, Weir said this accidental act of crowdfunding does not, in fact, represent the future of all media.

“I think it’s good on the small scale and it helps out people who are doing small-scale things,” Weir said. “But if you want to talk about something that’s large, that’s scalable — you couldn’t have something like this for a large company that employs 50 people.”

“I don’t think you can have an economy where people derive their income solely through donations,” he added. “Ultimately, if I’m going to do this thing, I need you to pay me, and I need that to be guaranteed. I can’t just do the thing and hope you give me money. I’ve got kids to feed.”

Weir’s new sci-fi book, “Artemis,” was funded the old-school way: Before he wrote it, Crown had already agreed to a traditional print book deal. And because its 2015 adaptation of “The Martian” was such a success, 20th Century Fox has already agreed to turn “Artemis” into a movie, to be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller (who previously directed “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street”).

With the book already written, Weir doesn’t know yet how much he’ll be involved in the “Artemis” movie.

“My only job on [‘The Martian’] was to cash the check, and I did that really well,” he said. “In ‘Artemis,’ I’m not sure to what extent the eventual screenplay writer will choose to include me. I’d be happy to be a resource for them.”

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