Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Need to Know the Value of My Work...and Yours!

My Choices as An Artist, A Refrain

The other day I read an article about Lena Dunham's book tour ("a 12-city extravaganza"! -- seriously, book tours are never a big deal), and about how the organizers of the tour were planning to not pay local 'opening acts'.

The author of the article makes a good point -- that 'content creators' as we're often referred to now in business-speak, are always the ones who are shafted for pay. And yet whole industries -- from the movie industry to the music industry, books, newspapers, fashion, and others -- would not exist without us. But we're all supposed to have this attitude of 'a million girls would kill for that job' and be grateful to have the tiny crumbs thrown to us by the middlemen who make their livings off of our toils.

So how does my attitude that artists shouldn't be taken advantage of mesh with my decision to make my own work as freely available as possible? For me, that's an easy answer. By being my own boss.

I don't view myself as devaluing my work by posting my stories for free on Wattpad, nor for planning to eventually make my novels available through a 'pay what you can' model. Rather, I see it as a way to stick to my personal ethics while at the same time retaining power over my work and how it is made available. I have decided not to give over the rights to sell my work to others, and so I am not beholden to anyone to write what they want me to write, or to take advantage of my readers so that another dollar can be put into the pocket of someone whom I'll never have contact with and who may not deserve it.

I realize my tone is slightly inflammatory. And I realize that literary agents, editors, and designers all have their own important roles to play in the publishing of books. But I would much rather work with professionals in collaboration rather than hand over my work to a monolithic company to be exploited. It's the same reason that I won't seek corporate sponsorship for my blogs, and why I don't seek government funding for my novels. I am determined to write what I have to write with no other compass than my muse. That's all.

Again, as I said in my other blog post on the subject, this is a very personal decision, and one that will not work for every writer or artist. We each have to pick our own way. The way I choose is to run my work like a small business, to be as generous to my readers as I can rather than becoming a cog in someone else's machine.

My only publishing expense so far
A Problem

Having said all that, there is a problem with this model. It's a problem that has plagued me for years in the abstract. That is the problem of professionalism.

So far, I think I've done well on very minimal resources. I've attempted to focus on the writing itself and its improvement, rather than on all the pricey distractions. Because in the self-publishing industry (and even in the traditional publishing industry), there are so very many. When I first decided back in 2010 to take my writing seriously as a profession, the first thing I did was research. I had no idea where to begin and I needed some resources.

And in beginning that research, I found out that being an amateur writing could be a pricey endeavour indeed. Luckily, I had no money. And so I had to dig for the free resources.

Over the last four years, I've spent next to nothing on producing stories. I've published on +Wattpad which has been a big help, and other than a couple images that I bought (because they were and are exactly what I needed to help promote RoboNomics), my 'business' expenses have been nil. I did take a writing course, which was a large expense -- but a personal one.

And I'm proud of what I've put out there so far. My images look snappy and smart, I've been able to create this blog and others which have continuous momentum, and I have a website. But I have big dreams, my friends. I envision being able to hire a professional editor before my work goes to ebook in 2015 (spoiler alert!). I would like to be able to collaborate with designers on book covers, merchandise, sketches of robots that appear in RoboNomics, maps of Omorbia, et cetera. I have many ideas that require capital that I just don't have.

A Solution
Henry Wriothesley, Jr., One of
Shakespeare's Patrons. Uploaded by
flickr users LongLiveRock,
used under Creative Commons 2.0

I've dreamed of an artistic patron for a very long time. Patrons, I figured, believed in one's work without trying to control its progress. With a patron, I thought, I would be able to write without having to worry about where the money was coming from. Which is an ideal situation.

The only thing is, the patron system seems to exist nowadays in old movies.

But the other day I was listening to a Creative Penn podcast while cleaning (something I've got to get in the habit of -- so much helpful information there!), and I heard Joanna refer to a website called Patreon.  

She only mentioned it offhand, but I had to know more. And what I've found out is that it's a website that basically allows folks to become an artist's patron for a couple bucks a month or per piece of content.

It sounds like a dream.

It's not like Kickstarter, exactly, which I've always considered and then shied away from. Because rather than a single big project, Patreon is a way to fund artists who are continuously creating small things such as this blog post. It also means that as a writer, I wouldn't have to have funds available in advance for planned 'rewards' like on Kickstarter. There are rewards offered, of course, but they can be something like a Google Hangout rather than say, a leather-bound, gold-lettering embossed copy of my book. So much more doable.

I'm already planning. I'm already thinking about the vlog (eep!) and how I can use Patreon to puts funds into my writing endeavours. I really don't want to use it to 'fund my life' -- I don't want to use any money raised that way to buy one million espressos or moleskin notebooks or anything. I just really see it as opportunity to forward my goals for my art, and to add a professional edge to my works.

And the best part about all this is, that through Patreon folks can fund my art if they choose to, and if they don't choose to fund me, my stories and blog posts will still be free for them to access and enjoy.

Does that make sense? What do you think? Do you have a different plan for funding your art or writing? Have you found any other free resources that have helped you achieve your goals? I'd love to hear about it!