We want to see your creative vision

May 16, 2013

Today I heard about Zach Braff’s Kickstarter, and it reminded me of a story, and a decision I made before I even realized it.

When I finished the first draft for my novel, some of my friends asked me whether I was going to send it to a publishing house and try to get it published.

Honestly? The thought never crossed my mind.

When big companies get involved in creative endeavors, there’s a watering down effect. Not always, but usually. They dilute the creator’s vision in an effort to make the story more palatable to consumers. They decide what they think readers want, and force you to give it to them. They think of people as “consumers” or “customers”, not as individuals.

That’s a fool’s errand. Here’s what I think: we want to see the creator’s vision.

We want to see the story the creator wanted to tell, not the one misguided marketers (oh how they do disservice to my profession) think we want to see. We want stories with passion and life and spirit. We want stories that are imperfect, because there is personality and humanity in imperfection. We want stories that their creators are proud to tell.

I never once considered sending my book to a publisher because I knew they would take control. I’ll still have editors and proofreaders, and I’ll listen to them and trust them and make more edits than I’ll perhaps be comfortable with, but at the end of the day I’ll never cede control.

If that makes my book fail, that’s alright; at least I’ll have told the story I wanted to tell. At least I’ll be proud of what I made.

As always, thank you for using my Amazon Affiliate link (info).

By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.

6 Comments

  1. Reply

    mac65

    and try to get it published

    I think it’s amazing that you have something and I have a tremendous respect for that effort.

    Today, publisher == distribution channel, it’s really the only value added. Many of the publisher’s tools (editing, proofing, typesetting, layout, mechanicals, etc.) can be performed by the layman on a decent computer. Don’t know how? Look at the billions of examples in any book store.

    You could self-publish. It takes a little cash to print the books, but there are several authors who self-publish. One I met was Rick Steber (central OR). One of his works was licensed to Disney for a movie,
    so you don’t have to be a mega-star to be successful (if you consider Disney a success). Rick maintains a small family operation, but earns a good living from it.

    Which brings up another point, make sure you consider a reversion of rights/licensing after a certain time. If someone wants to license your work (yes, I can (pretty much) guarantee it will happen because, right now, you’re cheap/not famous/a bargain), make sure there’s a time limit on how long they can control/tie up your work. Disney (probably other studios) likes to buy things to build their catalogue, but may never do anything with it (in your lifetime). But it prevents you from doing something with it down the road. Think like Stan Lee.

    You always want to control your work; never sell but license. Be careful (if you use a “publisher”) that they do not try to apply their copyright to your work, and that you have clear language on their performance. Remember, they’re not idiots and they know pretty much how a product will sell and should be able to commit to a sales figure. Watch for Hollywood accounting and always calculate royalties from GROSS, not NET.

    You should have an attorney review any agreements (basically his job is one of legal language/wording (e.g. “time is of the essence”, etc.), but (and this is very important) it should be written in laymen’s terms. A family member should be able to read it and understand it.

    There are some famous (people’s) contracts out there (on the net) and it’s surprising the simplicity of the language used (I think TV has made us think contracts have to be written in this super-complicated legal language that requires scholars to decipher).

    Avoid automatic contract renewals like the plague. Always make sure disputes, if they arise, are resolved in your backyard, not in some far away place that you can’t travel to represent your position before a judge. Binding arbitration is evil, and generally works on the side of the most money (which you wont have).

    Well, I probably went overboard but I hope the best for you Stilts!

    1. Reply

      Stilts

      Yeah, I honestly don’t plan to license any of my work, much less sell it. Like I said, the idea of ceding creative control to someone else is just…ugh, the idea revolts me. I’m fine with inviting others in to work with me, but I always want to be in the driver seat and make sure that it’s still a story I want to tell.

      I actually know someone who sold the movie rights to their first book to a major studio. I kind of rolled my eyes and said nothing…they got very little money (a decent amount, but nothing astonishing) in exchange for losing all control over any movie that ever does (and probably never will) come out. Sounds like a losing proposition to me.

      As such, the only use I potentially have for publishers is for a physical distribution deal if I ever need one. Before that, I’ll make do with ebooks, which are easy to distribute.

      Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to copy your entire comment to my notes, just in case it comes it useful in the future… 😀

  2. Reply

    Shugima

    I somehow feel some involvement in this post, considering I put something about Kickstarter on Randomc.

    But on Kickstarter, I think it’s a great tool to let someone bring out the work they want to bring out. Zach Braff’s is a good example of this. He really has an idea in his mind which he wants to put to work, and through crowdfunding, he can put HIS work out. While his video maybe will be putting things a bit too far, it does give some light on how the publishers (be it movies or books) think about making money.

    Now I’m not saying that the publishers are “Evil” because as somebody who studied company economics, I know that profit is much more important for the publishers than putting an original work out there. However, if you ask me, nothing is more beautiful than someone that can work on something he always wanted to make. When a publisher limits the author in this, it is my opinion that the publisher is doing something wrong. Creativity should never be limited.

    1. Reply

      Stilts

      A good way to put it. They’re not evil, but they are wrong. If some people want to make that deal then that’s their mistake to make, but a mistake I believe it to be. I’d rather see their true vision. Like you said, nothing is more beautiful than that.

      Any Kickstarter I may or may not do in the future will probably be more along the lines of the Order of the Stick one than Zach’s movie. Great webcomic, by the way. Just sayin’ : )

  3. Reply

    Kioku from Laptop

    And then I find my way here from the ‘When filler Isn’t’ Post. Enjoyed the hell out of your Sakurasou posts man. Looking forward to seeing what else you can pull from your mind and put on paper!(pixels?)

    I’ve not heard good things about publishers myself, but most of what I hear is from biased sources anyways. News media, SanCom, ect…

    I’m impressed that you’re not going to a publishing company and opting primarily for ebooks. I’ve read where some random author was printing books, then published a new one thru Amazon’s Kindle service and the original publisher was none too happy about that for whatever reason… It seems like that was a couple years ago though.

    OOTS is awesome, I need to read more of it. I was amazed that the guy has a large enough fanbase that the guy quit his day job in response to the Kickstart doubling(?) his expectations.

    Damn I ramble. Meh. Keep up the good work Stilts!

    1. Reply

      Stilts

      Glad to hear you enjoyed my Sakurasou posts! Writing those is one of the (many) reasons that I realized I needed to get off my ass and finish this book.

      The fun thing is that now-a-days, actually quite a few authors are eschewing publishers in favor of digital distribution alone. You make more money off each ebook, have more control, and less people interfering with your vision. Sounds like win-win to me! Plus you’ll never have problems with publisher contracts if you never have one in the first place 🙂

      Oh, and I definitely suggest reading more OotS. As for its creator, Rich Burlew actually quit his day job a looooong time before the Kickstarter; I don’t think he’s had one since I started reading the comic over 400 pages ago! That’s the power of digital now-a-days.

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