Tuesday, February 22, 2011

writer as artisan

Not long ago, my friend Fran awarded me with a tarot reading, part of which mention that I tend to find patterns in seemingly unrelated things. (I didn't quote her here, but this is how I took what she told me - if you get the difference, which I think is an important one in a reading).

Now, Fran also works at a very cool mystery bookstore in Seattle, which I wish I could visit, especially when they are having a signing. Yep, I get all geeky and excited about stuff like that. Fran also blogs (which I enjoy reading and have given you a link to) and has written several times about the future/fate of bookstores like the one she works in. Here's one such post.

I think that shops like the bookstore where Fran works have to figure out what will keep them alive in a market that is rapidly changing. It holds a lot of uncertainty, but also a lot of possibility. My personal belief is that being able to use the internet as a marketplace will create an upswing of artisans, if the networks can be created. I think that writers can very well be considered among those artisans. The book market has traditionally included agents, publishers, editors, contracts and advances. I don't know the intimate ins and outs, and I won't pretend to, but, authors who's work won't sell enough copies to make the printing profitable (for whatever reason) don't get printed.

Now, along comes the internet, and anyone can write just about anything, and publish it - at least virtually. Maybe no one else will read it, and maybe a few people will. Or maybe - over time, and with marketing of some kind or another - maybe a LOT of people will read it. I think of actor/author Wil Wheaton, who blogs, does podcasts, and sells his books. He sells them from his website, and he sells them at cons. Does he make his living at it? I haven't - and won't - get a look at his financials, but I doubt it. It is just one facet of his income. But he makes a good artisan model. People go to gaming conventions and visit with him, get him to sign a copy of his book for them and then because he has created a certain recognizability, he also gets acting work, which gives him time to write, etc. He sells books, either in print, or download. He has parts or all of his various works also available in audio versions. He has a wide-spread audience, but they can access him, and his work at any time. I think he would be an example of writer as artisan.

Another example might be The Leviathan Chronicles which may have started as a book that the author was unable to sell. It became an audio performance in podcasts. As the audio performance it is entertaining, and the author has found a way to market his ideas to an audience who will appreciate and enjoy them. Another artisan.

There is something here, my friends. Something that I am still working on getting my head around for myself, as I would like to apply it to artisan crafting. It is what I'm considering as my "next job" when I can figure it out. Or get it to take off. I think it is something that brick and mortar bookstores could consider. Do they become the "studio" for these writer/artisans? Do they facilitate the public access to them? What would it look like? How would it work? What about established authors who have relationships with publishers? Would it be a one-or-the-other situation? What is it that these bookstores would be selling? What would keep them afloat and paying their employees? I have many questions. Many ideas, and more questions...

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