Archives for posts with tag: indie writer

The Internet was designed as a robust communication network — not as a commercial medium. “Data” can be anything passed between two computers. It just so happens that music, books and movies can be digitally encoded as “data”.

Since the Internet is merely a network (not a market), and can transport any data via its networking protocols, is the Internet also cannibalizing all forms of data, including music, books and movies?

All future generations will potentially be able to download any accessible data for the price of an Internet connection.

Life is short. The creation of anything valuable requires time-intensive work. This effectively shortens your lifespan by the number of hours it takes to finish a project.

Many children now learn to use file-sharing apps and networks before they learn the scarcity and value of time. Time, energy and effort are never free, but many people who are not “creative” seem not to recognize the potential value of time unless it has an hourly wage attached. If they did recognize time’s value, how would anyone seriously claim that someone else’s creative work could be free?

Given the scarcity and value of time, the mantra that “information is free” is immediately shown as false. Massive corporations can afford to use major marketing and PR to their advantage; hence, they will survive and get bigger. Individuals and independent artists/scientists who are working after-hours from their garage simply cannot compete with companies that can pay to have their upcoming products spammed across millions of screens, billboards, radio channels, and Internet advertising platforms (including paid ads on social networks).

More importantly, the farther a company’s reach, in terms of marketing, the smaller percentage they have to earn in order to turn a profit.

Imagine that you can realistically hope for 5% of people to buy your work after they hear about it.

At $7 per copy, an indie film made for $100,000 would need 14,285 viewers to recoup their budget. You would have to reach approximately 285,700 people in order to break even if 5% of them paid for your film. To make a $100,000 profit would require over half a million people to know about your film. And that’s only if you could reliably identify a target group of people who might plausibly be interested in your particular work; otherwise, you might not even get 5% to care.

Even in the age of the Internet, a half-million is a lot of people. And the $100,000 covers only the production costs — not the years spent crafting the concept, bringing together a group of skilled people, and then managing the project.

Enter the Internet. You’ve sunk years of effort and $100,000 of funds into the film. Within days, someone buys your film, rips it, and posts it online. People who would otherwise have paid for it can now download for free because they’ve convinced themselves that accessibility is equal to morality. People who wouldn’t have needed a “moral” stance before doing the right thing (i.e. paying for a creative work) can now say that “information wants to be free” and thereby ignore the human cost entirely.

This is like a clerk leaving a jewelry store unattended, and as people crowd in to clean off the shelves, they get caught — then complain that “diamonds want to be free” or “I own the diamonds because this ring weighs practically nothing” or “this diamond ring sucks. I wouldn’t have bought it anyway, so now that I have it, I should be allowed to keep it”, or “it’s not fair. The jeweler didn’t make all these diamonds. He didn’t dig them from the Earth or cut and polish them. He’s trying to make a profit by selling them for more than he bought them. Diamonds want to be free. So beyond an arbitrary amount, he shouldn’t be able to make any more money from them. He should give them away for free to anyone who wants them.”

Making copies of data is “free”. Creating information — the meaningful shape of data that gives you science, films, music and songs — is never free.

A major studio can afford to buy exposure to millions of people and absorb massive losses in revenue in order to get five (or six, or ten) percent of potential customers to buy. So even in the Internet era, big players can make a tidy profit on blockbusters and superstars. And then the big players aim for the lowest common denominator in creating mediocre “safe bets” like yet another Transformers movie or another string of comic-book franchises rather than anything more risky or artistically viable than “Guardians of the Galaxy”.

Meanwhile, indie artists and scientists don’t have the luxury of such a wide loss-margin. The trick is in the percentages: five percent of everyone who looks at a screen that you can reach — that’s a far bigger pie if you can reach most of the screens. It’s practically nothing if all you’ve got is e-begging on Kickstarter and panhandling for “Likes” on Facebook.

Not every work is amenable to the “value add” that many are desperately trying to use to entice people to buy. “Buy my new album and you’ll also get to have a drink with me, only if you pledge [x] amount” is a ludicrous way to try to substitute for lost revenues over the span of a career. These are all strange ways to compensating for the fact that your fans are simply stealing from you, and refuse to even acknowledge it unless you sell them an “experience” that’s not so easy to download.

And that’s why I don’t get the idea that the Internet “should” make everything free, as if this were some kind of “natural” evolution. There’s nothing “natural” about telling people that** they shouldn’t be able to earn a living because their work can be made into a stream of data, and data “wants to be free”.

** …unless they work for a massive corporation that can carpet-bomb the planet with a marketing blitz, that is…

Life is short and nothing is free, unless you steal it. The definition of stealing is that someone suffers while another person gains from that person’s misfortune. The World Wide Web is over fifteen years old now. The lack of alternatives means that access to art and science is now, more than ever, the exclusive domain of large corporations that can thereby exert even more control over what is and isn’t produced, promoted and sold.

This is the larger issue that very few people seem to even see, much less care about.

It’s also hardly the outcome that anyone could tout as a benefit from stealing someone else’s work under the banner of “freedom”, but that’s exactly what’s happening. The problem isn’t only that information is “free” — the problem is that it still isn’t free (and never was, and never will be). Artists lose a livelihood, scientists lose funding, and corporations make a killing based on the greed of the average person’s desire to get something for nothing, while being conned into using fake moral arguments that also make them accomplices in the crime.

Sounds like business as usual? It may be. Only now thievery is instant, worldwide, and even has a convenient pseudo-moral ideology to rationalize it away, rather than inspire people to work toward a better approach that would give artists and scientists a way to make a living. You may say “screw the corporations” or not, but at the very least, don’t screw the little guy. Or maybe at the very, very least, don’t give him the short end while pretending to do the world a favor.

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(Also known as, “appreciation for those who read”)

I wanted to take a quick moment to celebrate the first subscriber to my science fiction readers club.

As you probably know from reading the news for any appreciable length of time, Amazon is engaging in some sketchy practices, from their “warehouses staffed by human robots” (note: humans are not robots) to employees tagged and tracked like human cattle (note: humans are not cattle, although they often think and act like sheep).

Rather than feed Amazon’s dystopian model of neofeudalism by gutting the publishing industry the same way that it has destroyed small retailers worldwide, I’ve decided to create an experiment in entrepreneurship.

The experiment: use readily available Web and Internet technology to raise a middle finger to Amazon and give people an ethical choice to support an independent artist.

I’m working on the honor system inspired in part by Stephen King’s ancient foray in self-publishing, embodied in the quote “my friends, we have the chance to become Big Publishing’s worst nightmare.”

My goal is to revise the nightmare scenario. The goal here is to give Jeff Bezos a reason to re-think his imperialistic attempts at destroying small entrepreneurs, as Amazon undercuts, undersells and centralizes anything that can be bought online (and eventually delivered by drone, no doubt “in partnership with the NSA”…)

Note that I might sell my work on Amazon as well [since their customers comprise a massive group of sci-fi fans, too]. The aim is always to break them away from the herd. The grail here is to guide them toward an awareness that they can support the individual artist rather than subsidize the worldwide hypercapitalist ambitions of yet another too-big-to-fail corporation.

Indie artists and writers would do well to step out of the shadowy Get Rich Quick illusion of “self-publishing” as the Next Big Thing. Once we walk toward the illumination of complete ownership, people will finally be able to see that piracy actually _is_ stealing. Useful information weighs nothing but it costs time to create, and life is short for all of us.

When your favorite writer isn’t backed by a parasitic multinational conglomerate retail monster, you realize that we all have only twenty-four hours in a day. If you want cool stuff, you have to help artists afford to live _their_ lives, too. That means paying for their work so that they can keep working on art, paying their own bills and enjoying their lives — just like you can because of your (hopefully) steady-paying job. The myth that artists should starve in noble silence is both insane and obviously unsustainable in reality. In fact, the dystopian cyberpunk world that we’re starting to see in the rise of companies like Amazon is largely because we are _all_ being treated like “starving artists”, also known as “unpaid interns” and “just-in-time consultants”. We’re seeing the consequences of that broken economic model accumulate every single day. It’s time to fix it, and at least as a writer, this is how I’m doing my part.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for being a member of this community and for nurturing the kind of person who became my first paying subscriber. This is a symbolic turning point in my life as a writer, artist and entrepreneur, and hopefully as I succeed as an indie writer, I’ll be able to create a personally ethical, financially viable, socially responsible business model to help others with similar aspirations do the same.

P.S. The written works referred to in this entry can be found here (click here).