Monday, 16 November 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful Part One.


Last week I invested the proceeds from my experiment with Cory Doctorow.

Actually I gambled them, but then that's all investing is anyway isn't it or did I miss something ?

I gambled that some of the people I've not been able to access via Twitter (or any other of the traditional social media methods) might speak to me if I knocked on their door (old school).

I booked a flight, a couch and then whored my services as a photographer, an assistant, a re-toucher and a speaker, in order to pay for my stay.


"Sir, is your trip business or pleasure?"
"Sir, my Dad said 'Find a job you like and you'll never work again'. So I'm here strictly on pleasure."



The people that I met, fell broadly into four categories;

i. Those who saw their practice/business as being in terminal decline and/or out of their control.

ii. Those in denial (the true Radicals).

iii. A precious few who were excited and pro-active (the Visionaries).

iv. And the fish.


(i) One of the photographers that I spent time with described how he was struggling on his reduced editorial fees, that he wanted to fund new projects and he'd been trying to set-up a book deal for nearly two years without success. This very established photographer then explained that the book is a valuable aspect of his promotion and one of the vehicles that he employed to generate new commissions.

So I asked him why he wasn't publishing it himself and at the same time earning the proceeds ?

Answer; 'Because it's not that simple. Funding, design, storage, distribution - and there's no money in books '


What about if you minimised the upfront costs by say, using a print on demand company ? That way you can have it designed by whichever designer you want to work with (rather than being saddled with whichever one is at this elusive publishing house).

Likewise we just removed the storage issue (because they'd be printed on demand), leaving only Money and Distribution.

So I asked him; why he usually did both hard and soft-back versions of his books.

Answer - because one's better and more expensive, thereby catering for different buyer's budgets.

Great, but only two different budgets? Why not ten or twenty ? In fact, why not cater for everyone's budget? Why not have one virtual version that's open and available at no cost, one small softback version that's $5, one better quality at $10, another hardback at $20, another larger hardback at $30 and yet another limited edition with signed for $50.

$100 could buy you a hard-back with a signed print - some of these could go out to your commissioning editors and so on, until ultimately you make a unique handbound set of fine prints, stitched together by elves and delivered by you in person on a unicorn for $100,000.

Then follow that up by making yourself available for commission at $10,000 a sitting.

That just leaves distribution.


So I asked him; were there any people repeatedly interested in his work, like a fan-base? Or did he sell to different people every time one of his books was published? In answer to which, he showed me the vaguely terrifying list of email requests from assistants, students, enthusiasts etc all requesting an audience, work, advice, donations and so on.

Ummm.... so what about if you sort of provided a virtual forum for those people to congregate? A place where you could (for want of a better phrase), herd them towards other virtual environments to experience your magic first hand ? Like for example, which publications are showing your work, what campaigns you've been working on, what projects you're thinking about, perhaps even give these loyal fans access to behind the scenes footage and the odd contact sheet. Maybe even reward their commitment by offering advance copies of those books, special rates etc ?

Well there's this thing called Social Media and it allows you to do all of that and probably a lot more too. We're all still waiting for the Fish to work out and show us it's full potential.

And here's another thing about the "new commissions" part. What about if there was a way of gathering this loyal 'fanbase' and asking them if they'd fund your next project? In gratitude for which you'd reward these new 'patrons' with special treatment and access to some of the afore mentioned magic.

Well there's a website for that too.

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