Creativity, Commercialism, ?

It isn’t that I want to be intentionally anti-Commercial, that I want to produce art so-much-for-art’s-sake that it has no chance of being sold. Rather, I want to avoid creating art for the sake of money; I don’t want to be creating simply to sell it, because I need the money (which I do; don’t get me wrong about that), but to be creating what I am inspired to, to follow my heart, mind, & dreams – and then hope that others share my heart enough to want it hanging on their walls.  (And then maybe enough that they’ll pay money to put it there.)

It’s difficult.  Partially because I do need the money, so the commercial aspect, the idea that I’m making art I’m going to try to sell in order to buy groceries, is constantly in mind.  When I get in the neighborhood of thoughts like ‘what can I paint that will sell?’ and ‘what sort of art do people want?’ I tend to get stuck.  Like writer’s block, but for artists.  Well, like writer’s block for writers whose block stems from not wanting to “sell out,” anyway.

I have no interest in freelancing, or in getting a job as an illustrator, designer, journalist, pro-blogger, or any other such thing.  I don’t want to write the same book over and over again (ie: formulaic fiction, or process-wise, most non-fiction).  I don’t want to paint/create the same image over and over again.  I know, yes, verily I know, that these are core ways writers and artists are able to “establish” themselves and their “style” and to build a career.  To build a base of buyers who want to read another one like the last one you wrote, who are comfortable with your art because although each swirly tree is different, they can at least count on you to still be painting swirly trees the next time they need something for their walls.  And buyers would be nice.  Repeat buyers would be even better (and I have a few), but I nearly never want to be painting the same thing I’ve painted before.

((Technically, my not-very-publicly stated policy on the subject of re-creating an original work is that the base price multiplier for each successive recreation doubles.  I have a formula (an occasionally altered one, but fairly consistent for the last few years) which accounts for a work’s size and quality to determine price.  It is intentionally tweaked to give quirky prices.  I like them.  But imagine for recreations that formula is multiplied by 2n (where n is the number of times I’ve been asked to reproduce the image).  If created in quick succession, at the same size and quality, prices would quickly rise, say from $60 for the original to $120 for the second, $240 for the 3rd, $480 for the 4th, $960 for the 5th, $1920 for the 6th, $3840 for the 7th, and very quickly someone asking for the 8th copy is paying 128 times the cost of just buying something different instead.  Luckily, people don’t often ask me to paint something I’ve done before – and when they do, I simply tell them how much it would cost & see if they want it that much.))

But it is hard even to paint something new, if all I can think about is wanting to avoid painting something that won’t sell, because the bills just keep coming, even when I have a couple of dry sales months.  I’ve even been stalling a little, lately, in working on my next novel, which is intentionally an experiment in writing a formulaic (or at least recognizable) zombie novel – because although I’ve come up with a story I want to tell (and in my research of what makes a formulaic zombie novel fit, I’ve discovered that my novel won’t be as formulaic as I’d hoped… which is part of the problem), both writing a novel in reaction to people’s negative reaction to my last one (which is what motivated this experiment in the first place) and knowing before I start that my experiment will be a failure (ie: my novel will fail to be a cookie-cutter zombie novel, or to follow the ‘rules’ of commercial fiction) give me pause in pursuing it.  Even though it’s a story I want to tell, a book I want to write.

I am having trouble both because I don’t want to write commercial fiction and because I fear my attempt to do so will be ridiculously far from that blasted mark.  How can I be properly creative with this dark and complicated cloud of commerce always hovering over everything I do?

video: Publishing Revolutions

I’ve just finished a new video, on some of the exciting changes taking place in the publishing world (I recommend you watch it in High Quality & full screen, if possible):

If you watch it a couple of times (once to absorb everything I’m saying, then again to absorb the production techniques) you’ll see that … at the beginning of working on this video, last Monday, I had never done any 3D animation and only a modicum of modeling (mostly in SL), and had never used Kinemac before.  (I bought the Macheist 3 bundle earlier this year, for access to that and BoinxTV, mostly.)  As I worked for about a week and a half on this video, I became more and more experienced with the software, more aware of what it was capable of, and more comfortable doing more advanced things with it.  So at the beginning, the big 3D text is pretty neat, but by the end I have an entire bookcase of individually hand-animated books leaping in and out of a box.

There’s things I’d like to change about it.  Not just improving the animation in the first half, either.

On Demand Books is now saying they’ll have two million titles available by years’ end, rather than one, for example.  Plus, I feel like I may have represented the kindle more strongly than the iPhone – while I believe the 41million iPhones/iPod Touches in circulation worldwide, each with hundreds of individual book apps and at least 4 different major eReader apps, each with robust eBook catalogs and (coming soon) in-app purchasing will do significantly better and reach wider and have more of an impact than the roughly half-million, all-US-based kindles.

I’m already working on the script for the next couple of videos.  More thoughts on what it means to have over 1400 new titles published every day.  More thoughts on print on demand.  Something about eBook pricing.

new eBook pricing – an experiment

Speaking of mood swings and mental instability, here’s another post about my books – with a totally different perspective from the last one.  After reading a post about the results another author has had with experimental pricing, and considering the matter, generally and in terms of my recent frustrations, I’ve decided to try a similar pricing scheme.  So, at least for the remainder of the summer, the eBook versions of my books will no longer be priced according to parity of margins.

I’ve reduced the price of the Kinde versions of all my eBooks, and then all the Smashwords versions of my eBooks, to under $2 each.  Forget What You Can’t Remember & Lost and Not Found, for only $1.99 each.  Dragons’ Truth & More Lost Memories for only $1.75 each.  And on the Kindle, each of the first three books of the Untrue Tales From Beyond Fiction – Recollections of an Alternate Past series for only $1.50 each.

The Kindle versions, of course, can only be read on the Kindle.  Sorry.  The versions at Smashwords can be read on most any device – your PC’s browser or word processor (.txt, .rtf, & .pdf), the Kindle and other Mobipocket-compatible eReaders, Palm devices (.pdb), Sony eReaders (.lrf, etc.), iPhone/iPodTouch (via Stanza)… pretty much anything.  And yes, for reasons I’ve stated clearly before, there are still free versions available for those of you who either 1) can’t afford to pay and/or 2) refuse to pay.

This is an experiment. Tell your friends. Twitter about it. Link to it. Set up an affiliate account at Smashwords & take a cut of every sub-$2 sale.  ($0.15 here, $0.18 there, repeat hundreds or thousands of times & it adds up!)  Copy it.  Compete with it.  Blog about how you think I’m devaluing my content. Blog about how you think I’m building my reader base. Blog about how you think Amazon’s 65% cut is terrible and I’m a fool for even publishing a kindle version.  Or ignore it.  If unit sales increase over the next couple of months, which is what I’m hoping for, great! I’ll keep the prices low.  (Sub-$2 low? Maybe…)  If, by the end of the summer, unit sales haven’t changed (or haven’t changed enough that my significantly lower per-eBook take gets close to my current -relatively low- sales numbers), I’ll put them back up.  Maybe put them up to a $9.99 price point & see if “fitting in” increases sales.  Maybe split the difference.

So give one (or all) of my books a try.  The prices are low enough that it’s worth the risk of not liking my writing – but if you like to think, I think you’ll like my books.

Update: In super news, it looks like Amazon updated the list prices of my books without updating the actual “kindle prices”… ie:

No idea if/when they’ll get this corrected, but I’ll keep an eye on it. Theoretically, this means that if you buy one of my books for your kindle right now, you pay ~$7 and I get ~$0.60. Wheee!

Contest, contest, who’s got my contest?

As you may already be aware, my last contest (Tell me what Forget What You Can’t Remember is about, and win a prize!) didn’t reach as many people as I’d have liked, didn’t have as broad a response as I’d have liked, and didn’t give me as many well-thought-out answers to the question as I’d have liked.  There was a lot not to like about how it went.  Since that time, I’ve been thinking about what to do about it.  I’ve only recently responded to the two winners, letting them know they’ve won and requesting their information so I can send them their free books.

Now, I’m going to try to turn something disappointing into something a little bit better.  I’m going to change the nature of the contest, and the reward.  The idea now is to have an open-ended opportunity for anyone who reads my books and wants to try another.  Anyone, at any time, for any of my books, who can provide something to help me sell my books that’s better than what I’m currently using can win a free paperback of one of my books of their choice.

If that’s a better answer to the question “What is this book about?” – great!  If that’s better marketing copy, a better “elevator pitch,” a blurb from another author that I can put on the cover & the website, or even an entirely new cover image – wonderful!  If that’s an insightful blog post, or a detailed review (not necessarily positive), or a thoughtful analysis of character, theme, plot (or lack thereof) – I look forward to it!  Be creative!  Write a spin-off or sequel, a short story in the same universe, a song or a poem, shoot a video, or create any other derivative work (automatically allowed for non-commercial uses, since all my novels are available under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license) – and you’re a shoe-in!

As before, simply email your entries to me at – perhaps containing your entry, or perhaps linking to your blog / a review / a video – and I’ll consider all entries using my personal judgement as to whether you’re doing a better job marketing my book than I am (which shouldn’t be hard – Marketing is not one of my strengths).  Every time I receive an entry that I believe will help sell books, I’ll send out a signed paperback copy of one of my books (their choice) to the entrant, and I’ll get my marketing efforts updated to incorporate the new materials.  So go, read or listen to one of my books, and think about how you might let someone else know about them.

Void where prohibited. No purchase necessary: You can read the eBook or listen to the podcast for free. Officially open to US Residents only – but only because I don’t want to deal with shipping books internationally. You can still enter from anywhere and, if you’re willing to help me with international shipping, get your free book. Winners will be selected by whatever method I want – probably I’ll just pick the entries I think are best, but I’m not ruling out asking people on Twitter or some such. Contest runs until I don’t feel like it anymore – which probably means it never ends, since when wouldn’t I want to sell more books?  By submitting an entry you are granting me an unlimited, nonexclusive right to use your entry and any derivations thereof for any purpose, including commercial – ie: the point of having better marketing material is to be able to get more people to read and/or buy my book, so I need the right to use the best entries to that end.  If you create a derivative work & would like to license it for commercial use (ex: you want to be able to make money by writing a sequel and selling it yourself), we can talk. I’m open to that, too.

I don’t write every day

I am not one of those writers who writes all the time.  I am certainly not one of those writers who swears by writing every day.  Something, every day, no matter what.  Not for me.  (Though I have calculated that if I did, I could come out with something in the neighborhood of 10 to 20 new books a year, every year.)  Looking back, I haven’t written any new fiction (or produced any actual pages of the two non-fiction books I have in mind) since NaNoWriMo ended November 30th, 2009.  Four and a half months now, I guess, without writing a word.

Some writers include everything – from my thousand-word blog posts down to my 140-character (or less) Tweets, and grocery lists besides, but that always seemed disingenuous to me.  Until I take the time to put together a book or two from my blog posts (that pot is still boiling away at the back of my mind, believe me), writing blog posts isn’t the sort of writing that I consider Writing.  Using Twitter more mostly improves my ability to use Twitter more.  Most of the time the write-every-day writers seem to be doing so in the hopes that it is like playing an instrument & they just need daily practice to get better and better.  Which is an interesting idea.  Have fun with that.

I just choose to think every day, instead.  A lot of the day, every day.  Thinking.

One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about lately is my audiobooks.  The audio version of Forget What You Can’t Remember was completed this week, both on my feed and on  I began podcasting the audio version of UTFBF-RoaAP, Book One on my own feed yesterday (it goes live at April 27th).  Book One will be 10 episodes, after that I’ll start Book Two, then probably Book Three – each of them about 10 episodes, since the books are all about the same length…  And then, in about 30 weeks, I’ll be out of novels to podcast.  According to the Google Calendar, where I just mapped out those 30 episodes to Fridays, I’ll run out in mid-November.

So one of the things I’ve been thinking about is that, between now and then, I’d better write something new.  Maybe the Self-Publishing book I’ve been thinking about writing will be podcast-able, but in addition to that I’d better write some new fiction.  There’s a good chance that, reading UTFBF over and over again for the next six months will get me to a place where I can write Book Four (and maybe continue from there with the series).  And I realize that since I can certainly write a book in a month (and have produced various first drafts in: 3 weeks, 2 weeks, and even 3 days, once  upon a time) that six months is plenty of time, but … I also know that for me, a big part of writing is thinking and I’d better get to thinking.  Thinking I’m going to write more books.

One of the other things I’ve been thinking, along these lines, is maybe I’ll not do that cards/book thing I was thinking about.  I dunno.  Thinking about the packaging/marketing/sales side of it has been making me queasy.  Writing the book is one thing, painting/creating the cards is another, each difficult in its own way, but then … I can’t just set it up with Lightning Source and know that anyone can walk into a book store and order it, or get it on Amazon/etc..  I can’t have it set up for Wholesale/POD at all, really, since I need the cards to be packaged with the book – I’ll have to order a huge amount of books, order the same number of decks of cards, package them together all by hand, and then … frankly, sell them by hand.  Which … I, ugh… I mean, in person sales at Art Walks and Art Fairs and even via social media is all fine, but … going to stores and trying to get them to carry my product, dealing with consignment and/or other even-more-bizarre methods everyone apparently uses for accounting for business transactions… the thought of it makes me sick.  I really like the idea of the product, but dealing with getting it to market makes me feel like shit.

Which has a lot to do with why I haven’t moved forward with the research and/or the art for that project.  At all.  bleh.  (Overwhelming depression is also a factor, but one that I’m at least able to grind some productivity from.)

I’ve got to go get ready for an Art Fair today.  Maybe I’ll get a chance to think more, in between customers.