Wednesday, December 10, 2008

next steps...coming soon

I think I'm sort of an anti-Samson. When my hair gets too long I get stupid. I'm getting shaggy and today my brain is as lively as a slug (but I'm getting my hair cut this afternoon so things will look up soon).

Anyway. What this means is I have, as yet, no clue what the realistic and concrete Next Steps might be for our Burning Ted/Creative Co-op group/fizz. Instead, I think I'll restate some things and make some clarifications.

First of all, and most importantly for me, this is a game. It's serious play, yes, but it's *play*. I don't want anyone risking time or money or social capital that they can't afford. (If you're Jeff Bezos--hey, Jeff, if you're reading this--then, hey, yep, we'll take $10,000 because you can afford to lose it. If you're an award-winning writer we'll accept a previously-published story for an anthology because you can afford to not get paid again for this one small thing if the project fails miserably. And so on.) This may end up as hard work but it should begin as a pure, fizzing *delight*. We're gambling, people, but we're not betting the house. Not sweating with stress.

Second, no DRM. Ownership, yes. Copyright, yes. Silly digital protections that treat the consumer like a potential criminal, no.

Third, over the lifespan of the project, every participant's comment content should average out as constructive: if you're good at pointing out problems with particular ideas, try get good at suggesting solutions, and vice versa. Similarly, if you're good at following instructions try offering ideas, and vice versa. I doubt we'll get to a perfect 50/50 ratio on either because, y'know, people are different, but let's bear it in mind.

Fourth, assume good intent. Some of us are more experienced than others, some smarter, some more enthusiastic, some better communicators, but if anyone doesn't play nicely, I'll block their access. So for now we can assume we're all Good Eggs.

Fifth, assume everyone will do what they say they'll do--which means, please, no getting carried away with irrational, unkeepable promises.

Okay, enough of that touchy-feely crap. Now some more concrete restatements.

Whatever we publish I want it to be multi-channel: print, audio, e-book. I want a whole network of multi-media support--free downloadable text and audio exerpts, vid mashups, video interviews, music, live performance, reviews (radio, web, local newspaper, blogs) and interviews (ditto). In a perfect world I'd also really like to see international reciprocity--get overseas publishers/writers interested. (This is already happening to a degree, BTW.) I'd love the full court press of fringe publicity: web widgets, and BookCrossing-type grassroots activity, a delicious logo, temporary tattoos--anything, everything.

So this will be a community effort: we endorse a product, we make it happen, we all piggyback and/or push with our art our skills our experience, we all party, and then we all do it again for someone else or for ourselves. It will be a network game. I talk up your book, your talk up mine. You play your song before my reading, I'll review your album in my blog.

This assumes some kind of artistic parity. You don't want to support someone who can't write well. I don't want to support someone who doesn't sing/sell/design well. We all have to believe, and to be, fucking great at what we do.

So much of this can't be sorted until we have a product to work with that we're all interested in. I see two different ways to go:

1. Something original and beautiful and fabulous that would spark our best interactive and supportive efforts--your best art, your best sell, your best music, your highest enthusiasm. Something we can all truly get behind. Downside: it would take a while to put together because, as Mahler says: interesting is easy, beautiful is difficult.
2. Something interesting and good and solid that could be produced fast as a test run project, for example an anthology of reprint stories by very cool writers (who have been paid so often for each piece they'd be happy to take a risk). Downside: creative people are easily bored, and something like this might not be superfab enough to kickstart the synergistic juices.

Then in terms of production,

I also see two ways to go:

1. Do it ourselves (traditional print and/or POD/lulu as well as all the other channels). Total control. Downside: cost, distribution, fiddly bits (who here runs a recording studio or can get good rates at same?).
2. Profit share, as a kind of cooperative book packager, with an established though risk-taking publisher. The two which instantly spring to mind: HarperStudio and Soft Skull. We design and market. They produce and distribute. Downside: they take half the profits.

We have interest (here and a couple of other countries) from people who are experienced (design, typesetting, distribution, back-end solutions, writing, publicity, tech-stuff [she said brightly], editing) and enthusiastic. I'm not sure how this is all going to work out. I do know that as a direct result of these conversations I am feeling twenty times more sanguine about the business than I was a week ago. Publishing--on both sides of the producer/consumer equation--is seething with energy and enthusiasm.

So now I need your thoughts on the Project and the Path to Production (and, y'know, anything else that might occur to you).

Now it's time to go get my hair cut...

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