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Old 06-30-2010, 10:27 AM   #61
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I think you might be looking too starkly at a black-or-white scenario here. There is a huge middle-ground between writing for the sake of writing, and who cares if anyone even sees it... and writing commercial content and going for the gold.

I don't see how the present medium, technology or social state (ephemeral as they all are) have removed that middle ground... in fact, they seem to have widened it and filled it out with many new opportunities, some transient, some surely with us for as long as we can imagine.

And we have to face it: The world continues to revolve around money, something else which will be with us as long as one person needs the services of another... and I don't see that going away anytime soon. So there will always be room for those who want to earn money by doing something creative, at large or small scales, to house their families or just to buy a hamburger... even if it's harder and harder to manage it.

(By the way, I hope you didn't waste that lunch you didn't eat...)
Actually I do see it in black and white terms, and it is exactly because of what you said about the world revolving around money. If I want to make money then I have to take note of how money is made. Making money has very little to do with good craft or art or personality or anything like that, it is merely a proposition of shifting as many units of x as possible with the greatest margin for profits.

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Old 06-30-2010, 11:19 AM   #62
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EDIT: Oh, and let me just add that if you do want to make money right here and right now, the only way I see as possibly working is using the old pulp model. Write fast, write a lot, write it under pseudonyms and pump it out there. If you can get ten to fifteen books out a year, you'll be making a fair packet, enough maybe to see you through when the whole thing stops working. But you have to give up all notions of individual expression or artistic integrity. You have to treat it just like you would selling widgets. Study what is selling, look at the numbers, write something similar and simple, very simple with a paired down writing style and quick, very quick chapters.
Um, you do know that nearly all of the greatest writers learned their skills by starting with "the pulp model" don you? Just as painters and dancers and musicians have to spend years at sketches and scales and such. Furthermore, when you have an audience, you must practice in public. You must perform. That's what the pulps are for us. It's like an actor who takes a job as a carnival barker to work on his ability to project and engage the crowd.

I really hate to says this (because I went to grad school in creative writing and I have done my share of it) but the reason "literary writing" is unpopular these days is because most modern literary writers are just not very good. Because they neglect learning their skills in favor of personal expression.

There was a young and brilliant violinist who told Itzak Stern that she didn't want to be a "mere virtuoso" (that is someone who played flashy, crowd-pleasing works), and the old man told her quite bluntly - "Before you can be more than a virtuoso, first you have to BE a virtuoso." In other words, the skills come first.

And I'm sorry, but your model implies that art is a commodity, and it just isn't. Never has been, even in cash-free societies. Supply and demand is and has always been irrelevant.

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Old 06-30-2010, 11:29 AM   #63
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Um, you do know that nearly all of the greatest writers learned their skills by starting with "the pulp model" don you? Just as painters and dancers and musicians have to spend years at sketches and scales and such. Furthermore, when you have an audience, you must practice in public. You must perform. That's what the pulps are for us. It's like an actor who takes a job as a carnival barker to work on his ability to project and engage the crowd.

I really hate to says this (because I went to grad school in creative writing and I have done my share of it) but the reason "literary writing" is unpopular these days is because most modern literary writers are just not very good. Because they neglect learning their skills in favor of personal expression.

There was a young and brilliant violinist who told Itzak Stern that she didn't want to be a "mere virtuoso" (that is someone who played flashy, crowd-pleasing works), and the old man told her quite bluntly - "Before you can be more than a virtuoso, first you have to BE a virtuoso." In other words, the skills come first.

And I'm sorry, but your model implies that art is a commodity, and it just isn't. Never has been, even in cash-free societies. Supply and demand is and has always been irrelevant.

Camille
My model merely implies that if you want to make money then you have to treat your craft as a business, nothing more. I'm not talking about art at all. There is no art at all in what I'm proposing, only quick and dirty craft. Supply and demand means a very great deal in economics, unless you're implying that in business you can ignore this fundamental economic theory?

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Old 06-30-2010, 01:31 PM   #64
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I have to say I agree with ALL viewpoints on this. Every single poster in this thread has a good and valid point.

I have been writing for two years now. Learning the craft. I'm part of a writers group in my town. It's been a great adventure. E-books are what really re-kindled (no pun intended) my love of writing. I always thought about it, but lacked confidence and I took the traditional route and got a 'real' job. I've wasted a lot of valuable time trying to do the sensible thing. No more of this common sense nonsense for me!

There have ALWAYS been really great authors that didn't make money. There have always been really bad authors that made loads of money. I don't think it's any easier or harder now to make money off of writing fiction. It's always been a marketplace that's dominated by a few popular works, while other good stuff struggles to be found.

I think it'll always be hard to make a living from writing fiction. I think it's much easier to get ones work out there, but making a living doing it is just as hard as it's always been.

Some people may complain that they aren't making much off of their e-books. But sometimes these people would never have been published at all in the pre-ebook publishing model days.

I aspire to be a writer that writes stuff people enjoy. Stuff that people will read. Of course, I would love to make a living at it. That's my dream. But the possibility of not making a living at it doesn't stop me from wanting to write some really great stories.

Ray Bradbury said that there is no room for self-consciousness in writing. He said you can't stop and think about it too much, or you won't do it. Puke the ideas out, then clean up the mess later. I've been using this as a model for my writing behavior. I wish I would have done this 20 years ago. But I'm only 40, so I still have time.

Steve, I was surprised to read that you make so little money off of your works. You do really great work. I love your books. I've bought your books. It SUCKS that you don't make a huge amount of money doing this. You are a great writer.

I hope that your lack of financial success in writing (so far) doesn't keep you from writing. That would be a shame.

I don't feel that I've really added anything to the conversation, but I just wanted to say my thoughts. I have no desire to toil along in obscurity, but I'm working very hard to write a really good story.
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Old 06-30-2010, 03:31 PM   #65
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I don't feel that I've really added anything to the conversation, but I just wanted to say my thoughts. I have no desire to toil along in obscurity, but I'm working very hard to write a really good story.
I'd say you added a lot... and thanks for the kind words, BTW. Your points are well-taken (and I like the Bradbury quote, especially as he was my first inspiration in reading, period).

Personally, I am of two minds when I get compliments like that. On one hand, being told "you're good, and you should be able to make money at this" is great to hear. But on the other hand, when you don't seem to be able to turn that good product into money (and I'm not talking about mortgage-paying money, but enough to pay off the SJB website once- or twice-over each year would be okay), it can be frustrating as you try to figure out what's wrong with this picture.

Of course, I readily admit that I do not have what anyone would call an advertising budget... in fact, my activity on this site IS my ad budget! But so far, my advertising attempts (outside of MR) have been utter failures. As others have pointed out, you need others to do the jobs you're not good at, and in my case, advertising may be the thing I need the most.
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:25 PM   #66
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I also doubt my ability to contribute anything constructive to this thread :-).

My answer to the question is that yes, it's hard to make money from writing novels, but it has always been so. That's the impression I get from published authors, like the recent post "The Full-Time SF Novelist: Probably Not as Endangered as You Think" on Scalzi's blog, or Stross's "common misconcetions about publishing" series of blog posts. Also Diane Duane's podcast (specifically the one on fanfiction).

For more general glass-half-empty vibes, see "1000 True Fans. I found the original article very appealing, but followups by the same author (and elsewhere) indicate massive caveats as to how relatively few people have made real money in this way.

It may be very disenchanting to find your work on a torrent site, but you can't assume that's why you're not selling.

<rant mode=on>
Spoiler:

As for the rest - 1) I don't believe in DRM. 2) The laws are strong enough to support DRM already. 3) If your idea is that someone else should be pursuing enforcement action for you - I just can't see where the resources come from.

Perhaps DRM can be made to work, once it's supported in hardware. I'm biased; I'm politically opposed to it. If you really want DRM that makes sure no-one can upload your work to a torrent, you need to control the reader software. You can't do it without imposing lock-in. You either have to have multiple incompatible systems, which is bad for consumers - or a monopoly (ditto).

And even then I can _still_ point my webcam at the screen, put a brick on the "page down" key, and OCR the lot. Ebooks are just about the easiest media to copy. If you genuinely want to prevent that, what you want to do is actively filter the internet - i.e. the torrent itself.

And again, that is perhaps possible, but I would be even more strongly opposed. Restricting "innovation" in ebook readers and the ebook market is one thing. Demanding that any internet protocol which could violate copyright must have filtering designed-in would impose a massive freeze on innovation.

More realistically, you target the directories / search engines that let complete strangers browse and search such torrents. Guess what - that's already happening.
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:37 PM   #67
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Perhaps DRM can be made to work, once it's supported in hardware. I'm biased; I'm politically opposed to it. If you really want DRM that makes sure no-one can upload your work to a torrent, you need to control the reader software. You can't do it without imposing lock-in. You either have to have multiple incompatible systems, which is bad for consumers - or a monopoly (ditto).
I agree that hardware needs to support any security system. I disagree that such a thing would be that bad for consumers. I liken it to the government action to force copier companies to build in a circuit that would automatically detect someone trying to make copies of legal tender, and shut down the copier until the authorities could pay you a friendly visit. Most consumers didn't even know it was there (many have still never heard of it), and it didn't impact copying of anything else.

I think a hardware/software combination could be relatively unobtrusive and easy to use, enough that consumers would quickly get used to using it, and eventually wouldn't give it a second thought. It would require quite a bit of across-the-board standardization in electronics and document HW/SW, but I don't see standardization as a bad thing, either... I think too many proprietary systems are one of the things souring the digital experience at present.
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Old 06-30-2010, 04:46 PM   #68
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so far, my advertising attempts (outside of MR) have been utter failures. As others have pointed out, you need others to do the jobs you're not good at, and in my case, advertising may be the thing I need the most.
<not a writer>
<not even a facebook user>
I would make one suggestion - create a simple Facebook page, and link to it from your site. (Ideally using facebooks "I like this" button, but I have no idea how that works).

If you have fans, and they use facebook, and your fans can very easily indicate this on facebook - some of their friends will notice this in their "friend feeds". And may in turn become fans.

There's no guarantee it'll help. And I guess it's not completely trivial to do if you're not already familiar with Facebook. But you don't need to do anything fancy - it's possible to just create a page and see whether people start becoming "fans" of that page.

<small print: this post should not be interpreted as an endorsement of facebook>
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:20 PM   #69
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<not a writer>
<not even a facebook user>
I would make one suggestion - create a simple Facebook page, and link to it from your site. (Ideally using facebooks "I like this" button, but I have no idea how that works).
It works by setting up a "page" for the entity you want to "like." To set up a page, you must agree that you have the right to represent that entity, and you then become the moderator for that page. Such pages are different from your standard profile, although when you are working as the administrator of a fan page, you essentially post as that entity.

Feel free to check out mine (see the blue Facebook link below) and ask questions, if you want to know anything more detailed about how to get a page set up.

- M.
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:34 PM   #70
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Here's my answer and I can't say it any less bluntly than this.

If you're a writer working with profit in mind then you are royally, unstoppably, irrevocably f**ked.
I disagree. J.A. Konrath is *raking* in money with kindlebooks. Most of which are also available for free on his website. And while he's potentially writing for the joy of writing, he's also very very much wanting to get paid--that's why he releases them to the world instead of to his friends. Konrath found that (1) LOTS of people will pay half the price of a double-cappucino for an ebook, if (2) the cover is eye-catching & the description is compelling, and (3) he doesn't fret over free copies floating around somewhere.

The problem isn't "writers can't get paid;" it's "writers can't expect to get paid for the same actions/products that used to be profitable."

There are more opportunities to get paid for writing than there were 20 years ago. Lots more. But they're not the same ones that used to exist, and some of the old ones are falling off, and "more opportunities" doesn't mean "more than 10% of would-be pro writers are ever going to make a living at it."
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Old 06-30-2010, 05:53 PM   #71
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The draconian DRM (publishers controlling my computer hardware?) you envision is simply Not Possible, even if it wasn't morally suspect.

You are forgetting one simple thing: In order for an ebook to be read, it has to be displayed in some fashion. Even if that ebook is DRM-locked to the reader's DNA and can't be read without a blood sample, it still has to be visible. If it's visible, it can be screenshotted, photographed, even just transcribed if someone cares that much. It's even easier if it's on deaed trees. For the last few Harry Potter books (which I should point out have never been available in a legitmate electronic form) ebooks of them were on the darknet before the pbooks were in the bookstores. When all they had to worry about was photocopiers and mimeographs, and when they had ruthless secret police and punishments ranging from decades in the Siberian gulags to a bullet in the back of the head, the USSR still could not keep control of the printed word. Words are just too hard to hold on to.

You say that people will get used to your ideal of rigid controls, of having no rights, of every word they read needing to be authorized and monitored and, of course, paid for ... probably on a rental basis, one would assume, since isn't someone who reads your book twice but only pays you once stealing from you, too? They'd get used to government and corporate intrusion into, and total control of, something as simple and personal as reading. And perhaps they will. But let me ask you this: If you wrote about such a world as science fiction, would your characters -- or you -- consider it utopia?

You're trying to solve the wrong problem.

You think the problem is "How can I force everybody who so much looks at a word I have written to give me money?"

The real problem is "How can I use my skill at writing to make a living?"

They're not the same problem.
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Old 06-30-2010, 06:08 PM   #72
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I disagree. J.A. Konrath is *raking* in money with kindlebooks. Most of which are also available for free on his website. And while he's potentially writing for the joy of writing, he's also very very much wanting to get paid--that's why he releases them to the world instead of to his friends. Konrath found that (1) LOTS of people will pay half the price of a double-cappucino for an ebook, if (2) the cover is eye-catching & the description is compelling, and (3) he doesn't fret over free copies floating around somewhere.

The problem isn't "writers can't get paid;" it's "writers can't expect to get paid for the same actions/products that used to be profitable."

There are more opportunities to get paid for writing than there were 20 years ago. Lots more. But they're not the same ones that used to exist, and some of the old ones are falling off, and "more opportunities" doesn't mean "more than 10% of would-be pro writers are ever going to make a living at it."
I did go on to say that you could make money if you approached the whole thing with a pulp approach, which is everything that Konrath is doing, and more. He's got 23 books out there, some co-authored, he's pumping them out regularly and has a series under his belt also. It's the only approach that will work..for now, but as I've mentioned before (and not just because of my distrust of the object value model), I do not think the pay-up-front model has more than a few years left before it collapses.

So, yes, you can make a tidy pile of mula right now if you're willing to put in the grunt work. At 10k a week (significantly less than the old pulp writers) you can do half a million words a year. Put your work on every damn place where it'll sell (and all the places where nobody pays as well), at $2.99 (which seems to be the new average price) and you'll make some dosh. But it's not a plan for life.

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Old 06-30-2010, 07:33 PM   #73
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I do not think the pay-up-front model has more than a few years left before it collapses.
I think it'll stick around. The pay-up-front model for entertainment far predates books, and artists (or "producers of entertaining content," if you don't consider what they make to be art) are going to demand some level of recompense to keep making what makes other people happy.

The public will *find* a way to pay them. I suspect that, over the next decade or two, we'll see a drastic erosion of middleman companies. They won't go away, because there'll always be a use for editing and marketing skills that some artists can't or don't want to acquire. But we'll see a lot more "small business" artists of all types, setting up their own websites & using their promotional skills to get people to pay them in a multitude of different ways.

We'll see pay-by-chapter, and social DRM, and "enhanced" paid packages (for free you get an image-only PDF or a string of blog posts; for $4 you get a collection of ebook types with color book covers & a personalized message from the author), and tie-ins with physical sales ("licensed ebook purchase gets you $2 off the cost of the t-shirt") and all sorts of other marketing methods. A lot of them will flop. A lot of the artists will actually be really lousy at their chosen craft, and think that since they're happy to spend an hour a day typing, they are authors, and someone will pay them to put out 80,000 words of navel-gazing ramble.

But in the scrambled mix, I expect we'll find new *effective* marketing methods. They may be a lot more varied... which opens opportunities for individuals & small companies to do the legwork of finding out which one will work for which artists, and charge for the results.

I don't expect "more effective DRM" to be part of the eventual solution pack. I'm with Doctorow in believing that things will *never* be harder to copy than they are right now; the new digital economies won't be dependent on preventing copies. They may be dependent on discouraging copies, but they'll use different methods for that, not something that keeps customers from reading their previously-purchased ebooks on their new tablets.
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:40 PM   #74
Steven Lyle Jordan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worldwalker View Post
The draconian DRM (publishers controlling my computer hardware?) you envision is simply Not Possible, even if it wasn't morally suspect...
You're breathing a lot more into it than I'm proposing. (For more detail on exactly what I am proposing, read this essay.)

I won't spell out the rest of my opinions here, they are covered in the essay. I will say that the points you mention have been addressed by other security systems, which have been accepted by the public... they are not show-stoppers. And yes, I realize people will still be able to go to a lot of trouble to reproduce the text, page by page, and re-release it. The key is to make it not worth the trouble to do so, nor to bother to accept such a file. With the right combination of good product and acceptable security, this is very do-able.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Elfwreck View Post
the new digital economies won't be dependent on preventing copies. They may be dependent on discouraging copies, but they'll use different methods for that, not something that keeps customers from reading their previously-purchased ebooks on their new tablets.
Exactly.

Last edited by Steven Lyle Jordan; 06-30-2010 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 06-30-2010, 08:20 PM   #75
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as i explained here: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...9&postcount=32

the DigitalRestrictionMechanics problem is that it grips in every form of use be it fair or not. DRM is data dependent, thus equally to fair and unfair users; the question if a way of usage is (still) fair is person dependent.

a short sum up: DRM hurts those most who doesn't deserve it: the honest owner of a copy of the data.
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