I have been “self employed” for a couple of months now, and have been “networking” with and connecting to more and more independent people who are doing the same sorts of things; authors, authors doing their own audiobooks, bloggers, artists, illustrators, graphic designers, photographers… et cetera. As I have spoken to them, I have noticed that there seems to be a difference between their ways of thinking and mine, about success and about what they are trying to accomplish. Even the independent creators who -at first- seem to be the most successful and accomplished and appear to have a lot of fans and plenty of “true fans”… and presumedly sales to go along with them …seem actually to want more traditional forms of success. Authors are trying for, hoping for, dreaming of getting a deal with a “real” publisher. Podcasters seem to want to have radio or TV shows. Bloggers want to get hired by a company and get a salary for blogging. I haven’t managed to network with enough artists to figure out what they want, but it’s not hard to guess that it’s in the same neighborhood. These creatives, these independent creatives, the ones using “social media” and “web 2.0” and advanced technologies connected via the internet, print on demand, RSS distribution, CC licenses, crowdsourcing, et cetera… Creatives who own their IP and connect directly with their fan base in a meaningful way – which I know for a fact cuts out a long line of middle men and increases the creator’s share of every sale substantially – seem to want to “sell out” as it were, or “hit the big time” as has been defined for the last 50+ years.
But that’s not what I want. I’m not doing what I’m doing in an attempt to get a job doing something else. I’m not doing what I’m doing because I want to get noticed by a big publisher, an internet startup, or some faceless corporate entity. I’m doing what I’m doing because this is what I want to be doing.
I want to create art. I want to write stories. I want to record my stories, in my own voice. I want to explore new distribution techniques (podcasting audiobooks, publishing books with some features of a wiki, creating an internet video channel of a poet reading their own poetry, et cetera), new ways of sharing, using and re-using ideas (all my novels and audiobooks are available under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license), and new ways of connecting with an audience of interested people and of fans (twitter, blogging, facebook/mySpace, and platforms yet to come). I want people to be able to enjoy what I create.
I hate money, conceptually. It would be my preference to not have to deal with the foul stuff at all. I have no desire to accumulate wealth. Yet I must eat, and the grocery store doesn’t seem to accept stories and art in trade for food. So: I want to publish my books myself, not just because it gives me complete control and complete freedom with the finished product, but because as the publisher and the major retailer (via modernevil.com), I get those portions of the revenue (70%+ vs. 8%-12%). I want to show my art on my own terms, sell directly through my website to the people who want it, talk to the people who are interested in it directly, and -yes- take the full retail price for myself, not just out of greed, but so that -as I’m starting out and building a name- I can set my retail prices lower (and hopefully make more sales), and still make a reasonable amount of money. — If I get a deal with a publisher, I still have to do most of the marketing (a fact that most authors learn too late; that except for the top few books, most publishers do little to market the books they print) for the book I wrote myself, but I only get a small percentage of the retail price of each copy sold (the retailer takes half or more, the distributor takes some, the publisher takes a chunk, and the author gets the leftovers). If I get my art shown in a gallery in Phoenix, and hand-deliver it, the gallery takes half and I get the other half, but if I get shown in galleries out of state or -ohmygosh- in a big gallery in New York or internationally, then the gallery takes their half AND I get to pay (at least part of) shipping costs for getting everything there and -for everything that doesn’t sell- back again.
Advanced technologies, internet connections, and other modern wonders make these things possible. One person, from anywhere, can run a business doing most anything. They can have books professionally printed and distributed, and can do so with less overall environmental impact and for lower upfront costs than “big” publishers by using the bizarrely looked down upon technology of print on demand instead of giant offset print runs coupled with later pulping of unsold copies. They can connect with more people, in more meaningful ways, anywhere in the world – far more than a traditional author signing tour or art festival circuit allows – and they can do it every day, all year, even while doing those more traditional marketing things. This is the future, people. Creators whose hard work pays them directly, and gets the IP into the hands of the fans directly, using technology. It’s either this or a total collapse of civilization and a return to pre-oil lifestyles, and then the sell-outs lose, too.
Why does it seem like I’m the only one who not only sees that this is the future, but actually wants to make it a reality now? I’m not doing what I’m doing because I want to be doing something else – this is what I want to do, and it’s possible now, and I’m doing it! I may not be the best at marketing, but at least I’m getting every dollar of pitiful sales that I earn instead of a few cents of each dollar my weak marketing can pull in. At least I’m trying to be both feet in the future instead of one foot in the future and both eyes on the model of success that is rapidly becoming past. I’m going to get to work on another painting (write-up soon; it’s nearly complete). That’s enough blogging for now, I think.