rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
There's nothing new about writers complaining about "book pirates", this being only one of the many posts I've seen on it. The usual arguments are familiar, too, and I see no particular need to cover them myself -- a bit of googling should find you more of the debate, if you're interested.

Personally, I try to be mindful in my reading (see: [personal profile] holyschist's post on it, here). If I read a book in such a way that the author doesn't make any profit from it, and there are legal ways to do this (secondhand bookshops, borrowing from a friend, libraries, free copies given out online), I usually try to make sure that the author does profit as a result, provided I think the author is worth supporting (e.g. I would not buy a copy of a book full of racist ableist crap).

The way I do this is twofold: first of all, I talk about the book. I tell people that I loved it, or didn't, and discuss it with people. That happens, in fact, regardless of whether I liked the book or not.

For example, I read Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal, on the train this morning. I didn't really enjoy it: the debt to Jane Austen is more than she seems to acknowledge. All the characters, the whole situation, all of it is taken from bits and pieces of Austen's work, and then magic -- "glamour" -- is pasted on over the top. Her writing is competent enough, but without Austen's subtleties. I'd recommend as "beach reading", not as something serious that has depth. Regardless, Mary Robinette Kowal has that benefit from me, if nothing else: she's being talked about, and reaching more people.

Think of Tim O'Reilly's essay, available here, in which he states that, "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy."

I have friends who would buy anything that has the vaguest link to Jane Austen. And they in turn will tell their friends, who feel the same way, so that from just my not terribly positive reaction to Kowal's work, there's a whole chain of potential sales.

Second of all, I buy a copy for someone else. For their birthday, for Christmas, or just because, whatever. In my case, the answer is usually "just because". That's pretty much the first point all over again, with the addition of my single purchase of the book for someone (which makes, what, 50p difference to the author's potential net profits?).

I have a lot of problems with the argument as it is so often framed. The accusation that "you don't work for free, so why should I?", for example. I didn't know they could read my mind -- wait, clearly they couldn't, since I do (so far at least) write for free. I might be a volunteer for a charity organisation. I might be the partner who stays at home to look after the children, in which case my hard work would almost certainly not be paid for.

(People involved in fandom almost invariably write for free, and often produce wonderful work which cannot legally be paid for. I haven't quite worked out how I want to work that into my argument, but it is on my mind. The idea that there is a moral imperative to pay an artist for their work is likely foreign to many people who are artists, whether they are popularly considered to be so or not.)

My final point is very anecdotal, and not directly related to books and publishing. The music service, Spotify, has been around for a couple of years now. It's a legal way to listen to whatever you want, apparently at no cost to you except viewing a few ads (unless, like me, you pay for a premium account). By this time, most of my friends and family have Spotify, and none of us do any kind of downloading of music, except perhaps where Spotify's catalogue of available music doesn't have what we want.

Spotify may have problems related to how much they pay the record labels and artists whose music they make accessible, but if we imagine it were a perfect system, I think it would cut down on a lot of the problems. One of the reasons people download music is because they want something specific, and they want it right now. Services like Spotify allow instant gratification, for little to no cost. It also allows people to try out new music, some of it old or obscure. Or, for another example, I'm not interested in Neil Young's music, generally, but I've had "War of Man" on repeat, entirely legally, since I was earwormed with it last week. The temptation of downloading it illegally would have been great, if this was ten years ago, when I would neither have wanted to buy the CD nor had a way to pay for a single song online (since I didn't have a credit or debit card).

I suspect that instant gratification is part of the attraction of ereading devices like the Kindle. When I have mine (Christmas!), I'll be able to download books instantly, wherever I am, thanks to 3G access to the Kindle store. They have many books available, many of them at very affordable/competitive prices.

As musicians have in the past, authors need to come to terms with the digital world. My first suggestion for that would be to make sure that your book is available worldwide as an ebook -- I've seen one artist decrying the illegal downloads of a scanned copy of her book as "unnecessary" when no official ebook was available -- and at a reasonable price.

There's a whole 'nother debate about what "a reasonable price" constitutes, which I don't have time to share my thoughts on, just now.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
First off, I've started using Flattr, as an experiment. Basically, if you have a Flattr account and you've loaded money into it, and you click on my Flattr button (in my profile, and possibly in individual posts that contain my writing), I get paid part of that monthly allowance. I like the idea, so we'll see how it goes.

Anyway, I've been promising a story for a while. Well, this isn't the one I've been working on, but it is a retelling from a slightly different slant, and I hope you enjoy it. If you do, feel free to share it, link people to it, etc -- please don't reproduce it elsewhere, though, without talking to me about it first.

Letters Home )

Flattr this

Creative Commons License
This work by Rhian Crockett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
It's really weird, starting a new blog, with a new identity. And it's very weird to be embarking on this sort of project. I'm not good with the legal small print. I'm not particularly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of publishing. I don't have my finger on the pulse of the literary world. All I know is what I want to write, and how I want to present it to people. The idea of running around trying to sell my work frustrates me -- I've grown up writing for an audience of friends and acquaintances who gave me instantaneous feedback. I've always been in touch with my audience, such as it was.

Well, I don't know how well that's going to translate to this project. Maybe I'll have to jack it in and go into traditional publishing. Maybe I'll never be able to earn a living like this. But I have to try this first.

The idea to self-publish more or less came from Cory Doctorow and Amanda Palmer. Cory Doctorow, for example, offers all his work online. For free. In a multitude of formats. Here's something he says in his commentary on the download page for his book, Makers:

So you own this ebook. The license agreement (see below), is from Creative Commons and it gives you even more rights than you get to a regular book. Every word of it is a gift, not a confiscation. Enjoy.
What do I want from you in return? Read the book. Tell your friends. Review it on Amazon or at your local bookseller. Bring it to your bookclub. Assign it to your students (older students, please -- that sex scene is a scorcher) (now I've got your attention, don't I?).

And yes. This is what I want. I don't know if I'll have print copies available, so my situation is different to his, but his ideas? Oh, yes. The day I read that, I said to my partner: "When I grow up, I want to be as cool as Cory Doctorow."

He's just that cool.

Amanda Palmer suggests a new model for the relationship between artist and audience. For example, from her blog entry Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.
artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.
artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.

That blog might've been the first glimmer of the idea for this project of mine. Seeing the community [community profile] crowdfunding also sparked something.

Like Amanda Palmer, I don't promise I'm going to get this stuff right. But I want to try it. This is a new model for artists of all kinds, and I want to be part of making it work. Or finding out that it doesn't work, and we need to go back to the drawing board. I want to have a frank and open relationship with potential readers, without getting het up about digital copies of my work flying around. I want to write as I've always written, only for a larger audience, who know that everything is happening just as I want it to happen. Nothing is going to happen to my work that I haven't okayed and done to it myself.

I want to know that people are enjoying my work. The most wonderful thing to happen to me would be getting some readers who will download my work for free (or a very low fee), and read it, and then come by and drop £2 in my metaphorical tip jar, and leave me a message saying I made them laugh, or cry, or squeal like a little kid.

Of course, I just read this blog, which I'm pretty sure is saying don't do it. For example:

I’m talking about the blogs and twitter-feeds that may be partly social, but which pollute the social ether with self-promotion and book marketing.

Yes, right up front: I am trying to market my work through social media. I don't have a twitter yet, but I might. I might also get a GoodReads account. I'm going to try not to be obnoxious about it, but yep: here I am, polluting the social ether. I might get the balance wrong -- scratch that. I will get it wrong. (Catherynne M. Valente's post, a rebuttal of that one, is worth reading for the point on the ratio for this. You can find it here.)

Here's the plan, such as it is. So far, I know that I want to use paypal as a kind of tip jar, as I've already kind of mentioned, and that I want to release ebooks for little or no cost. I think Smashwords is probably going to be my vendor of choice. I'm also considering Lulu to offer print-on-demand dead tree copies of my work. I need to read through the various terms and conditions, of course.

I am not going to remind you of this in every single post I make. But, this is my first post, so, if you like what I'm saying, if you like what I'm writing, there's a donate button in my profile, here. You could also help by promoting my project. Or, if you're good with graphics, and you'd be willing to work for little/no pay, then you could help by working with me on a book cover. To get into the Premium Catalog on Smashwords, a cover image is required, if I remember rightly.

Next entry, I think I'm going to talk about what I'm actually working on. But, if there's something else you want to hear about -- at any time -- drop a comment, or email me (rhian.crockett[at]gmail[dot]com), and just let me know.

I'm also thinking about something I can offer, for free, that will kickstart this little project. Stay tuned?

(I need an icon. And a better layout. I'll get right on that, too.)


rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

August 2013



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