Back in the day, anyone with personal issues, a typewriter, and a couple thousand dollars could become a ‘published’ author. Simply take your masterpiece to the printer (nicknamed a Vanity Press), and pay them to print you a truckfull of books.
So, you ended up with a truckfull of books that sat in your garage. You gave one to your Mom, sold a handful to friends and family, gave away more copies as Christmas Gifts, and a year or two later you had….
…a truckfull of books sitting in your garage.
The Demand on Print
Fast-Forward to 2008, and although we don’t have any flying cars yet, we have made some fabulous advances in print technology. Digital printing technology has made short runs of books profitable, as little as ONE copy. Pay a setup fee and upload your masterpiece to the publisher over the internet, then order as many (or as few) copies as you need, as often as you need, whenever you need them. No stocking. No warehousing.
So thanks to the technology/business model of Print On Demand, anyone with personal issues, a personal computer and a couple hundred dollars can become a ‘published’ author, and they still have room in the garage to park their car.
Obviously, many authors who subjected themselves to the traditional publishing system (and succeeded) resent this new system that opens up what was previously a gated community. They worked hard to get into the publishing pool, and it pisses them off to see the gates wide open and people of all heights and talents jumping in. They would argue that the self-published author is as much an “Author” as someone who buys a medical degree online is a “Doctor”. They equate this new system of Print on Demand with the old Vanity Press publishing.
There are similarities. There are differences. But what’s pointed out by advocates of the traditional system is that there is no “approval” or “acceptance” of the material with POD or Vanity Presses. I’ll point out that there is no proof that this acceptance procedure makes for better books. I’ve seen professionally published crap as well as self-published genius. But I can sympathize with authors who worked their tail off to get a manuscript published, and now the market has turned into a free-for-all with this new combination of POD/Internet.
And publishers? They see the new system as a threat. And rightfully so, as I discovered…
The Unfair Book Fair
Last weekend I was at an Author’s Book Fair, and I watched a panel of 5 publishers discussing POD publishing. You can probably guess what they had to say. Their mantra was, “You get what you pay for.” They poked fun at the quality, and they cried about how the POD business is cutting into the Real Publisher’s market.
The discussion quickly shifted to how to “bypass” the wretched POD methods and run your manuscript down the traditional route. They proceeded to tell a roomful of hopeful writers that their books weren’t going to be published without some sort of track record, a platform, an image, a marketing plan, and a visionary (or what *the publishers* thought was visionary) manuscript. One even suggested that they expect the author to shoulder the financial burden of the initial printing.
What I didn’t hear was the POD businesses representing their side of the story, because they weren’t invited to attend the panel.
Do the Math
So, let’s add this up – independent artists, working around the existing system by directly targeting their audience through the internet with product of questionable quality, and undercutting an industry which only exists by selling other people’s work?
Wow, are we talking about the publishing industry, or the music industry?
Turns out the two industries really aren’t so different. Getting a book deal with a publisher is similar to getting a record deal with a label. The contracts and advances are based on the same business model. Those with the marketing money and distribution connections make the rules, and they pick what they think will sell. The handful of Stephenie Meyers and JK Rowlings make up for the hundreds of hacks like Conrad Zero who should be thankful the publisher was willing to lose money just looking at their mid-list manuscript.
Meanwhile, the internet came along, gave the authors the power to market and distribute themselves, turning Publishers into middlemen who now hold panels telling people not to publish themselves, but that they have a snowball’s chance in Hell to cut a deal with a real publisher. And if they actually get offered a publishing deal? Well, they better be ready to cut off their own genitalia and sell their own kin for a chance at the big time.
And, um… where does that leave me?
For a while there, I was torn about how to proceed with my own writings. I was waffling about getting an agent, and all the work that the traditional publishing route involves. Making the connection between the Publishing Industry and the Recording Industry made this decision a little easier, and the options now are a little clearer.
I can set up my own publishing company and order books via Print On Demand.
I can follow the publishing industries advice, and start sending out query letters. Or find an agent.
Either way, I still have a lot of work ahead of me. Since ISBNs, invoicing, book keeping, and Schedule Cs don’t frighten me, the first option is probably the best option for me at this time.
And to the panel of “professionals,” I’m disappointed. You meet to rail on your enemies, but don’t even have the balls to invite them to defend themselves? This just advertises your fear and your cowardice. You harp on the negatives of POD, and ignore the advantages, then turn around and tell potential authors that we should sell our souls to you for the honor of a form rejection letter?
Consider this your form rejection letter from me. I’ll make my own way. Thanks for the advice.
If you got rockabillies picking on you, you’re pretty low on the totem pole.
I think it’s some kind of strange quirk of human nature to group together against anyone who is different. Or maybe it’s just Americans? Anyway, in the end, we are all different in some way. I’ve been on the receiving end of the violence, so I know what it’s like to take the long way home just so you don’t run into ‘trouble’.
So as much as I rip on Emo, I want to take this opportunity to clarify my position:
My Emo Brothers and Sisters
I, Conrad Zero, have nothing against Emo Kids. I do not endorse violence against Emos. They are free to dress and act however they like, just like you and me. We’re all free to look and act like freaks. We’re also free to be amused by the way others look and act. But keep your hands off.
The War on Emo Music
I, Conrad Zero, despise the Emo genre of music, and it’s brother Screamo. These are atrocities not only to music, but humanity.
Therefore, the War against Emo stops here, and starts anew as The War On Emo Music.
Don’t believe the mediocre rating on imdb.com, Gabriel is a pretty amazing film. Great story, and fantastic set design, on a tight budget and tighter schedule no less. Ah well, what movie doesn’t cry about budget restrictions when they *only* have two-hundred grand to make a feature film? Ha! In Australia, no less.
The story takes place in Purgatory, where a group of angels is sent from heaven to battle against a group of demons for dominance of this middle-ground. The angel Gabriel arrives only to find that the angels who came before him are doing Very Poorly: those who haven’t succumbed to their pathetic humanity have disappeared completely, and several powerful demons are in complete control of Purgatory.
Fans of Gothic films like Blade Runner and The Crow should definitely see this film. And filmmakers will want to watch the “behind the scenes” on the DVD, which are Real Behind The Scenes, and not Production Crew Kissing The Director’s Ass.
It was great to see the guy who wrote the music score for the film whine about getting ONLY ten grand and a year to do it! They should have talked to me, I scored a feature film in a month, on a budget one-ten-thousandth of his!
Once upon a time, there was a young man named Stuart Davis. He played acoustic folk-rock at coffee shops in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Once upon a time, I stumbled across his first recordings, a self-titled cassette Stuart Davis, and My Baby Is A Snake, two albums that would later disappear as they were simply stepping stones to his first official release, Idiot Express.
Once upon a time, I was hooked.
His music was powerful. Catchy rhythms that would stick in your head long after you’d heard them. The lyrics were deep and meaningful, yet still accessible by an angry young white male from the Midwest. Somehow Stuart was able to write pop songs with heart. Soul. Spirit. Moxie. Chutzpah.The music was intelligent AND catchy. Style AND substance. Yin AND yang. I became his biggest fan, rarely missing a show, and snapping up every new release: Big Energy Dream, Self Untitled…
What inspired me most was that he did it all himself. He had occasional guest musicians join him onstage, but it was just for spice. He certainly didn’t need them. He was able to write great songs with just his voice and an acoustic guitar. Stuart Davis was one of the people who inspired me to become a singer/songwriter. I had lunch with him on two separate occasions, once at Fabulous Ferns and once at Sgt Preston’s, each time trying to tap into the secret of what he was doing.
Once upon a time, Stuart Davis shaved his head and moved to California.
These things happen, and I didn’t feel bad about it. We weren’t friends, and there were other local heroes waiting to be discovered. I did feel bad for Stuart, thinking that there was no place in Hollywood for a Bald-Coffeeshop-Folk-Singer-Songwriter, and I doubted I’d ever hear from him again, unless he started some kind of cult. But he would surprise me with the occasional “Anti-Christmas” show at the Fine Line.
When I saw the listing for a Stuart Davis CD Release of Something Simple at the Varsity Theater, I was surprised. Turns out one of his songs was used in the soundtrack for the new Drillbit Taylor movie. When I saw him perform live, I was even more surprised.
There he was, the Stuart Davis I knew from years ago, (sans hair) wielding his acoustic guitar with as much energy as he ever did before, and full of his trademark witty banter between songs. Only now he was accompanied by a full band – drummer, bassist, and lead guitarist. I can’t say the extra musicians added anything to his work. In the case of the song Universe Communion, his intricate guitarwork is lost beneath the noise. The fact that the song still rocks is a testament to Stuart’s songwriting skills, and not that more musicians = better music.
At first I was bitter about the extra musicians and the overproduced album. But on the other hand, the Varsity theater was packed with fans, and Stuart and co. put on a hell of a show. At the end of the day, I had to admit that the music wasn’t better or worse, only different. Perhaps Stuart’s music had been Hollywoodized, or perhaps this was the natural progression artists call ‘growth’. I’m sure there were people who felt the same way about Bob Mould in his post-Sugar days.
I tried to stick around and say “hi” to see if Stuart would even remember me, but he had his hands full of appreciative fans taking pictures with him, and my friends wanted to go. Maybe next time. I’m happy for Stuart, seems he finally got his big break.
I’m glad I still have those old tapes (and a cassette deck to play them on) it’s pretty cool to be able to follow the arc of someone talented who followed their dream and made a success story out of it.
When my monitor of almost ten freaking years went kitty-wompus, I saved my pennies and splurged on a nice 22-inch LCD monitor. Of course I was eager for something to test it out.
Sifting through my pile of unfinished video games, I came across Portal, a member of Valve’s Orange Box. Wicked addictive fun, and from what I read after completing the game, it drew higher praise than the other components of the Orange Box. You can now purchase Portal separately.
Portal is a puzzle-style game. Your character doesn’t have a truly offensive weapon, simply a Portal Gun, which opens teleport planes to allow you to move things (most importantly yourself) from place to place. The physics of the game are great fun, and often necessary to solve the puzzles and advance to the next test area.
The best part of the game is the dialog of the computer construct which tutors you as you go through the various ‘tests’. The dialog for the game is as quotable as any good movie. Reprinting it here does not do it justice. The affect and tone are just as important as the lines. The promises of “cake” for completing puzzles is hysterical.
The Cake is a Lie
While playing Portal, you may eventually wonder if there truly is any cake at all. Clues left behind by someone who had gone through the test before you say that “The Cake Is A Lie” which lead to a meme among gamers. The Cake is a Lie has become gamer-geek-speak for anything promised and not delivered.
Nine Inch Nails new release, ‘Ghosts I-IV’ has hit the virtual streets. I forked over my $10 (Plus $6.99 for, um, Shipping and Handling, er, I meant “Shipping” and “Handling”…) and downloaded all 36 tracks.
Yes, that’s 36 tracks, and not a vocal on a-one of them. Still haven’t had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet, but I like what I hear so far. It’s the essence of what makes NIN so great. Layers. Textures. Tones. Things that most bands today can’t even imagine, and what makes people like Pink Floyd, Marillion, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix masters in their craft.
The real buzz behind Ghosts is the release format. The first nine tracks are being given away online for free under Creative Commons licensing.
I could go on (again) about how the old Music Industry doesn’t f**king work, and how I think it should be fixed, but this article from fool.com does a better job than I could.
A Vote for Jagged Spiral is a vote for an Alpine Stereo System for Colin’s Truck! Honestly, the man has a portable CD player connected via a cassette-tape-adapter-thingy! What’s that? You haven’t heard of cassette tape? Let’s just say, he could use a new car music system from Alpine, and there is a simple, easy, (and free) way you can help!
Alpine has agreed to give Colin a brand-spanking-new car stereo system! We just need a few cool Jagged Spiral Fans to vote for our songs in Alpine’s Rock The Dash contest. It’s easy, just a couple mouse clicks, and no registration is required.
Simply go to http://www.rockthedash.com, use the remote to play the Jagged Spiral songs: “Let It Out” or “Not Enough Bullets”, then click the “Vote For This Track” button. It’s that easy. You can vote for as many songs as you want, every day until the end of May! If you’re a real fan (or even a psychotic, stalker fan… we don’t mind) you can vote once per day from each computer you have access to.
Both our songs have been moving steadily up the charts! We just entered “Let It Out” and “Not Enough Bullets” two days ago, and they have already moved from their start at 320th place to their current location: tied at 126th Place!
The contest ends on March 31 2008. If Jagged Spiral ends up in the top 5, BAM! Colin has a new car stereo, and our weekly trips to Chipotle can be uninterrupted by CD disk changes! Remember, less interruption while driving means less chance of Jagged Spiral exploding in a fiery crash while changing CDs on the way to our practice sessions!
So make it part of your daily internet-fix-routine thingy:
update myspace profile
check www.vita.mn for cool things to do
check/reply to latest blog posts at www.conradzero.com
Of course, the RIAA says they are ‘working on it’ and that much of the money was used up in legal fees.
So, when the landlord asks for the rent, artists can simply say they’re ‘working on it’?
It’s the hypocritical system I’ve made fun of for years. Anyone who has half a brain can follow this anti-logic:
Fans (via retailers, natch) pay money to the Recording Industry
The Recording Industry keeps the money
Artists get squat, with the few exceptions of those who are uber-famous, or smart enough to hire their own attorney.
So tell me again how the music industry is faltering, and then cry me a fucking river. They are a parasite that people had to tolerate before, but we don’t need them anymore. If I want the new Jagged Spiral album, I’ll buy it from them directly, and the money goes to the artist where it belongs.
In the American Music Business, those who make the product (artists) need to recognize the RIAA for what they are: the middleman, someone who gets inbetween the artist and the consumer, takes all the profit, and provides little by way of value.
Time to downsize, and let them go. Make sure to sue them first.
Once those corporate execs at the RIAA are penniless and living under a bridge, and they come up to you asking for change, just tell them you’re ‘working on it’…
…Nor did I meet her at the now infamous hangout, which I won’t mention here, or people will start asking me to give tours.
I am tired of people asking though.
Coworker: “Hey Conrad, I hear Diablo Cody wrote the screenplay for Juno at [undisclosed location near my house]! That’s right near your house, right?”
Me: Sigh. “Yeah.”
Coworker: “Did you ever see her?”
Me: “Oh, all the time.”
Me: “Yeah, at The Skyway Lounge…”
What bothers me is that people aren’t able to separate “Diablo Cody, The Screenwriter” from “Diablo Cody, The Former Stripper From Minnesota Who Hung Out At [undisclosed location near my house]”.
It’s like people are having a hard time realizing that any talent could come from Minnesota. It’s like saying she’s from Atlantis or something. She’s originally from Chicago anyways, not that it matters. I hope for her sake that she’s able to break away from her own history, and the rest of the world can realize that there are talented people in every state, in every occupation. I suppose this *would* be news to Hollywood.
I also can’t help but to think that the media coverage of Diablo Cody is designed to get a bunch of Would-Be Screenwriters down to Hollywood to flush out all those Whining Screenwriters who dared to go on strike. Nothing against Diablo Cody, she’s talented and deserves credit, but it does seem strange, the timing of it.
It’s like Hollywood saying, “Who needs You! We can pick a Former Stripper From….(looks at map of U.S.)… Minnesota who can writer better than you! So there!”
For the record; if Minneapolis becomes the new Hollywood, I’m moving to Atlantis.