Last week @thewritersblock wrote a post called Introducing STEEMHOUSE PUBLISHING (or at least the idea. . . .). The post outlines some of the reasons why steemit authors may need a specialized publishing house if they wanted their work published to ever get published by a traditional publishing company. Not going to rehash the whole article, but besides a bit of over the top indie publishing bashing, the post makes a number of excellent points from the perspective of those steemit authors who would prefer traditional publishing over self-publishing. The end result though that @thewritersblock proposes would be a full-size rigid publishing house that hardly leverages the steemit economy at all.
In this post I want to talk about a few ideas that I believe, with sufficient backing from the steemit finction writing community could not only form the basis for allowing a lean and agile publishing house for those of us wanting their work published in that way, it could also serve as a boost to the quality of steemit as a fiction publishing platform and to the quality of work of those of us who prefer self publishing, either because they want their work to be available for the absolute minimum price possible (and by doing so promote the steemit platform), because they know or feel their work is too niche market, too provocative, too multi-genre, too long for the genre, or whatever silly templates tradpub makes up, to be traditionaly published, or because they simply don't like the concept of traditional publishing companies.
If you haven't read it, the amazing Leonard Read essay I Pencil is I believe a must read for anyone wanting to understand free market economics, but also for anyone wanting to understand why many conspiracy theories are both spot on and completely miss the mark at the same time. The assay describes how much seemingly coordinated work is needed for the creation of something as (superficially) simple as the creation of a pencil.
If I read the essay, one of the things that comes to my mind is: why doesn't this work for publishing? And when I then think about the steemit platform, i start to think; Damn, this could actually work for publishing.
Plagiarism versus writing as a resource
There are many reasons why true plagiarism is horrible. Plagiarism is about stealing someone's work, not about cooperation or coordination, not even about free market mechanisms. Pure plagiarism is just bad. If I write a short story and publish it on steemit, maybe I'll make $10.- SBD if I'm lucky. I have only a few hundred followers and most of them are minnows like me. So if some dolphin with dolphin and whale followers was to just copy my work as is and post it to then make $400,- of a story I wrote, I would be outraged and justifiably so.
But what if instead of posting my work as is, what if my work was just an unedited second draft, as much of the work i am currently posting is. What if instead of posting my work as is, the other person would have done amazing editorial work on my draft chapter, improved on it. What if he also gave credit to me as an author and linked to my original post? I would argue that in that situation he would have earned the whole $400,- he made. Basically I would have gotten a free professional edit of my work and the editor would have gotten paid for his work through the $400,- worth of upvotes. Quite seriously I would have zero reasons to complain. In fact, I will thank him for his great editing work.
So how about an artist that gets inspired by the edited work. She might create some great illustrations, do a repost of the work with illustrations in it, earn $900,- in upvotes and the same would be true. No plagiarism but use as a resource with improved quality work as a result. A voice artist making a youtube movie using the artist depiction and his voice to narrate the movie with the edited story? Same thing. Cover artist. Type setter. Etc etc.
Everyone is making money, improved quality, and improved traffic to the original author who will now probably get more and possibly more influential followers so his next post would end up making more than this one did as a result. Basically, everyone wins.
The lean publishing house
See what happened above? We ended up with amazing content on steemit and youtube. Content that didn't require a publishing house to get done. In the process, the work as published on steemit has had its quality lifted up and as such has helped making steemit a better platform with increasingly valuable content. Now compare the non-lean publishing house. They would have made the author sweat for weeks on improving the initial quality. The intermediate results would be kept from steemit as not to interfere with the high-quality version that needs to be sold. They would make expenses fully separated from the steemit economy. Rigid, painfull and everything that a free market ecconomy is not.
But let's keep the publishing house idea. it's definitely not all bad. Let's keep it and see what we can do to make it lean. To make it agile. Basically the core of what it would need to do would be streamlining the above process. Allow authors, editors, illustrators, cover artists, voice actors, typesetters, etc to find each other. Basically, the steemit community could do all the work at zero cost because the authors allow their work to be used as a resource within the context of steemit based book development. No coordination, no! Allow market economics to do their work there. Trust that Leonard read got that part right.
But that part is the easy part. The tough part that a publishing house should do is arbitrate in out-of-steem publishing. Remember everyone got paid already within the contours of the steemit economy and steemit based publishing, but that shouldn't mean some publishing company can just transplant the work to another economy without paying royalties to the author, royalties or other types of payments to the editor(s), etc etc. While the publishing house would have very little work left in regards to quality, they do need to get the arbitration part just right so everyone is happy. It might be possible to trust market forces by doing everything publicly. So if the cover artist blocks publication by asking for 80% of the royalties, a second cover artist might come along and accept 8%.
So basically the lean publishing house would need to do just three things:
- Facilitate in making the writing as a resource economy bloom within the confines of the steemit economy.
- Arbitrate between the different contributors to the work so each gets its fair share of out-of-steem publishing revenues.
- Out-of-steem marketing.
I hope the above makes some sense to the STEEMHOUSE people, and if not to them, to other enterprising people who think they might pull something like this off. I am in no way trying to sabotage the STEEMHOUSE PUBLISHING idea, there are some great ideas there. It is just that i feel that steemit and the free market economy together would allow for a much leaner tradpub alike publishing company as I hope the above shows some of the contours off.