Insurgent Creative: Huge Increase In Independent Musicians

Insurgent Creative

Insurgent CreativeThe rising trend of creatives moving to independent production and distribution — what I’ve called the “Insurgent Creative” life — has been going on long enough now that we’re starting to see measurable data coming in. Techdirt has just posted a great article which dispels a commonly-cited claim by the Recording Industry Association of America (and repeated by media and politicians) that there’s somehow been a 40% decline in employment for musicians over the past decade — apparently due to “piracy”, which is trotted out as a reason to try to legislate away the open internet which is actually allowing creatives to end-around traditional gatekeepers, like the RIAA, in the first place.

In the article, Mike Masnick provides data that shows that there’s been an 510% increase in independent musicians making a full time living, in just the past decade.

Five hundred and ten percent.

He points out that, yes — very few people are lucky enough to do it as a full-time job, so the numbers aren’t that big at all. But this graphic, compiled from Bureau of Labor Statistics data, tells it all:

That’s the change that’s been occurring in music, which was the first creative industry to be hit with disruption from the internet, and its ability to allow artists to directly reach their audience. That disruption has now firmly hit publishing, and is beginning to hit film/television. Expect to see the shape of this graph reflected in those industries as well over the coming years.

Grab your opportunity. Create your work, and find your audience.


Insurgent Creative – Kindle Worlds Opens The Doors On Tie-In Fiction

Insurgent Creative

kindleworldslogo._V383881373_The internet is abuzz this morning with Amazon’s announcement of Kindle Worlds, which is a new program that allows writers to produce officially-sanctioned fiction for sale in any of the intellectual property story settings that Amazon licenses under the program. The work will be made for sale on Amazon, with both the writer and the rights-holder getting a cut of the income. They’re rolling out with licenses from Warner Brothers for Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries (all fan-fiction favorites), with licenses for more Worlds on the way.

The full press release, with more details than the announcement, can be found here. The details for interested authors can be found on the Kindle Worlds Authors Page. In short, there will be content guidelines provided by the rights-holder for their setting, which must be adhered to. Amazon Publishing will be the publisher of the work, and pay a standard royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) of 35% of net revenue. Short works (between 5,000 and 10,000 words) will pay 20% of net revenue. Royalties will be paid monthly.

Insurgent CreativeEven though this is being described by everybody (including Amazon) as “fan fiction”, what we’re really talking about here, since people are getting paid, is tie-in fiction — which, as any reader of the myriad Star Trek paperbacks released since the 70s can tell you, is a pretty big field… and Amazon has just blown the doors wide open, potentially making it bigger.

As with any Amazon announcement, there’s a ton of pearl-clutching and chicken-littling going on out there: Amazon is “destroying another avenue of creation” by “monetizing fan fiction”, which will mean that free fan fiction will be subject to Cease & Desist letters from rights-holders who now see they can make money from it… y’know, the usual fretting about things which haven’t happened yet. I see it far more likely to be a situation like fan-films, where some rights-holders (Lucasfilm, for example), went from issuing C&Ds to instead enabling fan filmmakers by providing source material (sound effects, etc.) and even centralized hosting space, in return for filmmakers agreeing to a set of guidelines.

I see writers worrying about whether or not ‘fan fiction rights’ are going to be something they need to cover in future contracts — to which I say: you should be covering ALL subsidiary rights in your contracts already, in a world of transmedia application and constantly-evolving media formats. I suspect that Kindle Worlds will remain largely focused on large-corporation TV and Film franchises, rather than being open to individual creators as licensors (just on the basis of scale), but if you’re only just now thinking about how the shifting media landscape impacts your contracts… well, better late than never, I suppose.

I also see writers also complaining about the terms of the deal, which give the rights-holder a license to use your originally-created elements (characters, plots, etc.) in other works without further compensation to you. You can tell that these writers have never worked on licensed product before, because — speaking here as somebody who crafted material for an RPG supplement that was later used, without compensation or credit, as canon in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise — this is absolutely bog-standard. You play in somebody else’s sandbox, they get to use the castle you built.

In my opinion, the biggest problem that I see coming for Kindle Worlds is the reluctance of rights-holders to sign on (or for those that do, to sign on fast enough for the demand that will exist). I guarantee you that people will be clamoring to write material for big geek-genre properties like Star Trek, Doctor Who, Firefly, etc. — and the question will be whether those rights-holders will heed the call, or leave money on the table.


Insurgent Creative – Required Reading: “Let’s Get Visible”

Let’s-Get-Visible-and-Other-Stories-by-David-GaughranFirst things first: Let’s Get Visible: How to Get Noticed And Sell More Books is not something you should jump in and read first thing. It’s an advanced guide, a companion volume to David Gaughran’s 2011 release, Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should. If you haven’t read Digital, you absolutely should — it is an absolutely critical tome for anybody looking to do digital publishing, whether running a small publishing operation, or putting our your own stuff — and it’s on sale right now for 99 cents as a tie-in promotion to this release, so you should go grab it immediately. I’ll wait.

Let’s Get Visible is the sequel — a more advanced guide which tackles the most critical issue facing independently-published content: How to get more people to see your work, to discover it among the myriad other options available, and hopefully, how to get them to buy it. It assumes that you already know the nuts and bolts of how of digital publishing — producing professional-quality material, well-designed, attractive, and making it available for sale. The focus of this volume is on increasing the visibility (and therefore the sales) of your books once they’re ready to go.

Insurgent CreativeThere are, as a rough estimate, eleventy-bajillion “CRACK AMAZON’S SECRETS AND SELL TONS!!!” self-publishing cash-ins available for purchase. This is not one of them. This is a sober, honest breakdown of tactics and strategies for increasing the visibility of your book, whether it’s been previously published, or if you’re launching from scratch. It concentrates largely on methods to improve your books visibility on Amazon — which makes sense, since Amazon represents an overwhelmingly large percentage of the digital market. Your best efforts focused there will have the most direct impact on your overall sales. Gaughran also covers sites like Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and Smashwords, but spends most of the time giving you information that will do you the most good.

Gaughran presents the current best guess as to workings of Amazon’s algorithms for its Recommendation Engine, it’s sales rankings, it’s top lists. He sources this information with links to blogs and articles where the detective work has been done by himself and others, with the up-front caveat that Amazon does change these formulae, so the information that is presented in this book is only current as of May 2013. By providing the links, however, he insures that the reader can keep up to date on any further developments. He is honest about the fact that since the algorithms are proprietary, nobody but Amazon knows for sure how they work — but he clearly spells out the evidence for the methods he presents. This isn’t get-rich-quick one-true-wayism, but rather a evidentiary examination of logical conclusions, with the caveat that the information will change — but that those changes will be easier to adapt to once you have a basic grasp of how the process has worked historically. This is a breath of fresh air for indie publishing, which too often draws cult-of-personality gurus, heavy with the stink of hucksterism.

From examination of how Amazon recommends books to customers, Gaughran presents the logical methods for presenting your work so as best to take advantage of those suppositions, some of which is common sense, but much of which presents a new way to think about things (for example, a counter-intuitive method of launching a book which goes against the instincts I have developed over 20 years of working in publishing — but which makes perfect sense given the evidence provided about how the various recommendations and lists work).

I could go on — but honestly, you are far better served by reading the book than in reading a recommendation for it. Make no mistake, that is what I am unreservedly offering here: a recommendation, in the strongest possible terms. Despite my experience, this book gave me valuable advice, gave me new information that I hadn’t considered, and an entirely new way of thinking about promotion. Both books (linked below) should be an essential part of an Insurgent Creative’s tool kit — and I’d recommend adding David Gaughran’s blog to your regular reading list as well.