A man walks into a bar, and tells the bartender to line up seven glasses of his finest whiskey. The bartender does so, and then watches in astonishment as the man quickly goes down the line, downing each with one gulp.
The bartender says: “wow, I’ve never seen anyone drink like THAT”
The man replies, “You would drink like this too, if you had what I have”
“Why… What do you have?” said the bartender.
Man: “Sixty-five pence”
Now then, you might have heard of William Boyd. (Who so far as I know always pays for his drinks.)
He is the author of ten novels which won lots of prizes and at least one of his books is described as ‘best selling.’
And now he’s written another book. It’s a 76 page story and it’s published by Jaguar Land Rover USA. It’s free on kindle. Apparently the book was commissioned by Landrover and features a Landrover Defender (as well as the more usual main characters.)
And people are asking, should writers be doing this?
The problem I have with the whole thing is that I’ve been a freelance journalist/writer for over thirty years. The money that it brought in was necessary, because trying to make a living out of livestock on a small farm is real bed of roses (sounds great but get too close it’s all thorns and sh*t)
Earlier today, reading the paper, I read an article on the Publisher, Emap. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/mediatechnologyandtelecoms/media/11314679/Publisher-Emap-recovers-after-10-year-slump.html
Things are looking up for them. That’s nice, over the years I’ll undoubtedly have made money out of them for various articles written for various editors. One set of figures did come as something of a ‘wake-up call’.
“In 2008, digital represented 12pc of our revenues,” said Ms Christie-Miller. “Print publishing represented 69pc and events 19pc. Today, print is 38pc, events are 40pc and digital is 22pc.”
Where’s the money? It’s not in writing, whether digital or in print, it’s in events. I’ll come back to this.
But should writers take money for ‘product placement?’
One issue is that the boundaries between advertising and ‘art’ have been fuzzy for a while, way back there was that ‘romance’ that was done as part of a series of coffee adverts (Nescafe was it?)
And look at Meercats! Advertising hasn’t done them any harm
I know there have been times when people have said to me that the adverts are the only thing on telly worth watching.
So perhaps we’re moving back to patronage. You want your chapel ceiling painting; who are you going to call?
You splash out serious money and you get this. (Eventually)
OK so it’s perhaps a bit exclusive and not everybody can see it all at once, but eventually word leaks out and the great unwashed get to stare at it as well
We have a problem. There seems to be a long term trend. You see, if the actual viewers/readers aren’t willing to pay for books, or music or whatever and expect stuff cheap, then somebody has to fund it; because otherwise the best stuff won’t happen.
Great writers who could turn out good stuff will end up working overtime to be able to afford the family holiday/help pay off the mortgage/whatever, rather than writing another book, because whereas ten years ago, that book made a contribution to the family finances, now writing it is just dead time. A luxury you allow yourself when you have a bit of free time and the kids don’t need chauffeuring somewhere.
So what can we do?
Well musicians have it easy, they can do live performances. Everybody likes a good gig, and if you’re lucky you might make a few quid extra selling a couple of CDs you had made.
The problem is, whenever I’ve heard of people wanting authors to do readings, they’re not expecting to pay them, because they assume that the author will perform free, ‘because they’ve got a book to sell.’
So perhaps William Boyd has squared the circle. Perhaps he has spotted the way forward. A friend of mine who is an erotic novelist has already been selling ‘bespoke fiction.’ He has occasionally been commissioned to write ‘one off’ stories which will never be published but will exist only for the person who has commissioned them.
I could do that. At my standard freelance rate, you can have your own fantasy or SF book for £200 per thousand words! Throw in an extra twenty quid and we’d probably be able to get it done as a print on demand hardback for you. OK so it isn’t the Sistine chapel but it’s an art work entirely of your own.
And then there’s the whole field of events. I said I’d get back to this topic didn’t I. Well rather than writing the book, or in parallel with writing the book, for discerning clients, we would offer not merely ‘Swords for a Dead Lady’
but perhaps ‘An evening with Benor Dorfinngil.’
And they thought product placement was getting a writer into something of an ethical dilemma!
If you’ve not met Benor, then perhaps you really ought to read this?
As a reviewer said, “These are four excellent short stories introducing the early days of Benor. Each tale pulses with humour as the well-drawn characters engage in various adventures. Each story features great dialogue, lots of good food, wine and ale, all taking place in a believable and well-drawn world where the streets pulse with life. The reader gets a powerful sense of being there in a real world with real people going about their real lives.
I look forward to reading the next book and wish I’d read this one far sooner.”