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"So, effectively, making money in the arts is and always has been something that happens to almost no one." Doctorow on #writing and #income

In our trip across the country, I happened to see Cory Doctorow on CSPAN Book TV in the lobby of a hotel. That's it -- I only saw him.

This morning, I thought I would track down the interview. (Click the picture or here to watch the interview.)


Cory is promoting his book, Information Doesn't Want to be Free. A cursory search brought me to this Salon interview: "Cory Doctorow: “We’re all sharecroppers in Google’s fields for the rest of eternity In it he says:

"The way that artists used to make money was — say, if they were a writer — to write books until a publisher published them and the publisher’s salesforce convinced the multiplicity of book-selling channels to take their work, and so on. What you have to acknowledge is that almost nobody succeeded at doing that. And of the people who succeeded at finding a publisher, almost none of them made any money from it. And of the people who made money from it, almost none of them made very much money from it. And of the people who made some money from it, most of them didn’t make money in the long term."

Finally, someone is telling the truth about making money in publishing. He continues to say:

"So, effectively, making money in the arts is and always has been something that happens to almost no one."

This is the truth. In the current publishing market, authors are pitted against each other. Everyone has a position and everyone is sure that someone else is taking their profits from them. Some believe that the Internet has ruined their profits. Others attack those who give their books away for free. People who are traditionally published bicker with those who are independent.

Authors do not benefit from bickering with each other. This author infighting only benefits those in the publishing chain. It allows publishing houses to reduce author fees. It enhances the idea that authors need agents to negotiate these waters. More than anything, the author infighting enhances the idea that the only legitimate work is work published by the Wall Street traded publishing houses.

According to Doctorow, there are only a few ways for an artist/author to make money:

"As far as I can tell, the way artists make money today, although there are some high-tech wrinkles to it, is pretty much the way they’ve always made money from the arts.

  1. They sell stuff, so they embody their art in some physical thing and ask people for money for it.
  2. They sell things around the thing they’ve done — in other words, merchandise.
  3. They sell tickets to performances or displays of their work.
  4. They seek out patronage. Of course, that last is the one that has shifted most since the pre-Internet days... and,
  5. Advertising." (Formatting is mine)

If you're an author, you need to take a good, hard look at how you're making your income. It's not something that's just going to magically happen.

Yes, it happens to some people. But some people win the lotto as well.

If you want to make a living in this business, we have to stop bickering and blaming each other and start building wealth possibilities.

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