content creator

Creative Control and Red State

John the Rouge Demon Hunter asked me on



What is your thoughts on Kevin Smith's Red State Tour?

To which I replied:

Anything a content creator can do to take more control over their work and its distribution is a good thing.  I long for the days when the movie studios, television networks, and book publishers all go out of business and we get our content directly from those who made it.  I wish him luck.

I probably shouldn't be talking about this right now.  I watched a documentary today about Harlan Ellison called Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth.  God of I love Harlan, and he really gets my blood boiling.

He talks a lot about how bad writers are treated by the powers that be, and all I could think was, "Thank God for the interest!"  to which he would reply, "Fuck you, there is no god."

We are living in a magical time when technology is allowing creative people to reach out directly to the people.  We can cut out the middle man, and I think that is a wonderful thing.

Harlan would probably disagree with me about this, but I think the creative business is changing.  We still need to get paid for our work, but I think we have more choices now than ever.

Kevin Smith is doing what he can to cut the studio out of the distribution of his film, and that can only be a good thing.  I live in a town where, if we are lucky, we get his movies for a week or two.    I can only hope that his efforts will be a vanguard in the tearing down of the chain monopoly on theaters.  That is probably too much to hope for, but I like to dream big.

I am working on a new novel, and we are debating what we want to do with it when it is done.  Should I seek out a distribution partner or not.  Right now, I just don't know.

I have a few ideas, but everything is difficult when you have to consider bank rolling it yourself.

Creative Independence is something I think we should push for every day.  We just need to know that the audience is there.

Crowd Sourced Franchise

I am a big fan of Franchise Fiction: Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate et al.  As a writers, I've dreamed about starting and running my own.  That is the financial goal of most creative folk: continuing characters and setting you love and an exploration of an idea to its fullest with a committed fan audience who really want to participate in the project.

If that is the dream, how can I (or any writer) make it into a reality?

Learning from the past

Franchises are accidents...

Damn!  With the exception of Babylon 5, I cannot think of a planned franchise that succeeded, and even Babylon 5 survived on a healthy dose of luck.

I wish I could pin point a formula to share (and follow), but there really doesn't seem to be one.  But I think that is a big part of the problem.  It puts the cart before the horse.  There is one really important question we have to ask before we can move forward:

How to define Success?

Franchises fall and collapse into themselves like dying stars long before anyone every gets to see them.  Most, especially the ones produced for film and television, suffer under the weight of unrealistic expectations.

When I say I want to have a successful franchise/series, I mean:

  1. I want it to support me
  1. I want to enjoy working in it
  1. I want readers/viewers to enjoy it
  1. I want readers/viewers to participate in it

It does not have to:

  • Make me rich
  • Be a bestseller
  • Be bigger/more popular than Series X
  • Please everyone

Realistic or Delusion?

That is the real question isn't it.  By now we have all heard the argument:

A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.

A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans (Kevin Kelly).

Is that doable?  Yes, but there is one giant flaw with the model:

Producing Enough Purchasable Content

At dashPunk, we rely on advertising, affiliate links, donations and sales of my books to pay to keep the lights on.  I look at it this way:

  • Ads cover the cost of lurkers and folk who are too cash strapped to pay to products
  • Affiliate links bring in people who like the same things we do
  • My books sell to people who love my fiction
  • Donations are for the kindhearted folk who want to support the work we are doing

We don't rely on any one solution, but if I want to have a successful franchise, I have to produce enough content to support the salary I want to have.

I talk to a lot of writers who seem to think that making money is a form of magic.  They will sign a mystical contract, send their work out into the ether and have paychecks come in.  They get really frustrated when they learn the truth.

The problem is, I think a lot of media companies have the same idea.  They produced the show/movie/book/game and the money should magically appear.  It may have worked like that once upon a time, but those days are dead and gone.

Content creators need to learn how to be fans of their own work and involve their fans in their projects.

To Crowd Source?

This the beauty of the Creative Commons license to me.  I want my fans to know they have the right to play in my settings and with my characters, but there needs to be an easy way to bring fanac into canon.

I've been working on a new setting for some time now, and I plan to build a site for it and involve my readers in the process.  I am not sure exactly how I am going to do this, but I would love your input.  Comments and ratings will be a part of it, but I am not sure if that should be all.  I want more interaction.

If we creatives are going to have a future, we have to learn how to move forward with our projects in a way that will involve or fans.  We go forward in community, or not at all.