Tag Archives: free

Free Beer!

I had the pleasure of going to the first Great North Carolina Beer Festival in Clemmons, NC this past weekend. Overall it was awesome. It was hot and there were literally around nineteen-thousand people when all was said and done. I had beer from the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Thomas Creek, and Foothills. There were also big names there that you’d recognize and they all had out what passed for (and in some cases what I’d consider) craft beers.

A craft beer, in my opinion, is a product that the manufacturer truly put some time, energy, and passion into developing. Maybe they take a BIG chance (as one home brewer did with a smoked Weizenbock that was awesome) or maybe they were just wanted to do something a little different (as Newcastle did with their Summer Ale). Regardless, in most cases they tried to put their best foot forward and they were doing it for free.

“So Scott, is this the beer blog now?”

Well maybe from time to time, but this post is about passion. A few of these people had it in spades. I think that the homebrewers that were their had it the most. There was nothing for them to sell. They literally couldn’t legally sell their products even if they wanted to. All they can do is give it away for free. Why? Because they want to share something they made and believed in. So these guys were standing in the only shade around, pouring their beer for the thirsty public (who may or may not give a darn about what they were drinking), and having a grand time.

The next step up were the microbreweries. In quite a few cases the faces you saw at those tents were owners. In some cases they were employees, but there was more of a connection there. They wanted you to know about their beer, their brewery, and in what time they had available would tell you all about it. Yeah they wanted to sell stuff. A few local breweries were selling full pints or glasses and other nick-knacks. They wanted to spread the word and incidentally sell some beer.

There was less passion from the Big Beer tents. The people pulling taps their were likely employees hired just for the day. They had no connection to the process of making the beer or selling the beer. They were just pretty faces. No need to spread the word so much since most of us consumers already know about Guinness or Leinenkugel or Bud. So I guess they were just there as sponsors and in a few cases to get out the word about a particular new product. It was one hundred percent a business arrangement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So here we are, three “tiers” if you will and all giving away all the free samples you were willing to queue up for. Sure it cost you $25, but my feeling is that that went to the music and other expenses (designated drivers still had to pay $20).

This whole day struck a chord in me. There’s a great deal of passion in the podiosphere for giving away stuff for free. Those that choose to do it are doing it for the same reasons that the homebrewers and microbrewers are doing it for. In the one case maybe they can’t sell it (or haven’t tried) and are just honing their craft until they can take the next step. In other cases maybe they have started selling, but they still feel the need to build some name recognition. Regardless, there’s still that passion in creating and putting out their wares for people to sample.

The part that’s missing from this analogy are the big boys. While there are some “big names” out there giving away free samples, it doesn’t sound like that’s catching on with the bulk of big story business. There’s a fair amount of fear (perhaps founded, perhaps not) of things like piracy or watering down the brand. And big publishers put a lot of money into developing and selling what they have and want to recoup those costs. It’s all about the business for them.

So, is there a lesson to be learned in this? I think if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, if there’s a way for you to give some of it away without cutting your own throat, do it. I understand the notion that if you’re writing short stories, you don’t want to give them all away if your short term goal is to sell those particular stories. So maybe you write a story or two just to give away? Share your passion with people and once you’ve hit the “big leagues”, where it most cases it’s still hard scrabble when it comes to making a living from wordsmithing, maybe drop a freebie from time to time. Remember that you got into this writing business not do much to make a million dollars (cause that just ain’t gonna happen for most of us) but to tell that story that made your brain itch. Pour a pint every now and again for your fans and I think you’ll find it will pay off in the long run.

Forging Ahead

So last night I tweeted the following, “Well so much for podcasting any of my short fiction…” Why did I do that?

Well, I was chatting last night with Zach Ricks, a man who I’m proud to be a writing partner with and with whom I hope to continue to build a friendship and the subject turned to, as it often has of late, selling our fiction projects. It seems that according to one very knowledgeable source, podcasting your fiction before selling it to more traditional venues may reduce your pool of choices. Publishers, some publishers anyway, want first publication rights and if you’ve already self published it or put it out there for free then they may not be as eager to snap it up. That came as a surprise (though I’m not sure why). My instant reaction was to pull back and go, “I don’t want to hurt my chances at selling it”, because I do, in fact, want to sell what I write. I don’t want this to be a hobby, something I just do for fun. I want to entertain, but at the same time I don’t want to do it all for free. In this, Mr. Hutchins and I are in agreement.

After an okay night’s sleep, a cup of coffee and a dose of thinking, things look a little different this morning. As I have often said here lately, you need to look at why you’re podcasting. Why do I do this? I don’t do it for the money, obviously. I do it in part to improve my writing and generate feedback. I do it in part because it is indeed a hobby. I do it as a way to get my name out there in the writing world, even if it is “only” in the small pond we inhabit as podcasters. If these are the reasons why I do it then what harm is there in selecting a few stories from the ones I’ve written and use those to do that, while selecting others to pursue more traditional venues with? None, I’d say.

I believe in the “power of free”, but this is not an either or pursuit. I firmly believe that I can offer you, my audience, some freebies in podcast form and give you the opportunity to purchase it in various forms should you so choose. If those stories are less marketable to traditional venues, well I guess that means you can expect me to be pimping those in Smashwords hardcore. Some of you have actually bought my stories sight only half seen and for you I am especially grateful. I also believe that I can pursue print publication with stories that I won’t be giving away any time soon and once those stories are available in the wild, at a price, that some of you will go out and buy those magazines or what have you. Not all of you will and that’s fine, I don’t have that expectation. Once those particular stories are sold and it comes down to selling reprint rights, I don’t see why I wouldn’t podcast those as well.

I guess I say all of this to say that I will be forging ahead. I will be podcasting some of my short fiction in the near future, starting with Bitter Release and Music Box. I’ve already self published those after all and so if any damage has been done (and maybe none has) then what’s done is done. I’m rather proud of both stories and I hope that you’ll listen and if you like them, I hope that you’ll consider buying them.

I will also continue to submit stories to Great Hites. I think what Jeff is doing over there is great and while it’s a strictly “for the love” publication, I don’t think that diminishes its value and that may indeed be the largest source for stories I elect to sell and podcast through this site and Smashwords.

Ultimately what it comes down to for me is this. I have a great luxury. I don’t have to make a living doing this. I have the freedom to give some things away completely, with no expectation of making any money. I have the freedom to elect to try and sell other things without giving them away in the near term, to see if I can indeed one day make a living with words. My friend Dave said, “You need to choose which road to publishing you are going to take.” and while I agree with what I think he meant, I don’t think there’s only one road or that we have to do anything only one way. We’re trying to make our own roads here, aren’t we? There are “rules”, but there’s enough of a maverick in me to want to try and find out which ones of those I can break, or at least fold, spindle, and mutilate.

Thanks to everyone for their continued support of all of my efforts, monetary or otherwise, and be sure to let me know what you think of all this madness in the comment section. Maybe what I’m trying to pull off here is the publishing equivalent of a mullet. I think we can agree that pulling off the “business up front and party in the back” with your hair takes a great deal of moxie only truly accomplished by greats like the Swayze and perhaps the same is true of doing some free and some not free.

Give It Away Now

So none of you good folks that are reading this are likely to be new to the idea that there’s a lot metric butt load of free content out there on the internet. Here I’m talking strictly about the legal, self published stuff. There are comic strips, novels, music, movies and more and all of this costs you absolutely nothing. It seems crazy and a lot of people really don’t understand it. I have been and will continue to be not only a cheerleader but an active participant in this community for years now and even I’m only beginning to “figure it out”.

For some people this seems to be mostly about finding a way to make inroads into the traditional publishing model. The thought being, if I can get a large enough fan base, then I can get the attention of the “gate keepers” at the big publishing houses and they’ll print my stuff and sell it. This has worked with varying degrees of success for authors like Scott Sigler, Pip Ballantine, and JC Hutchins, who all have struck deals with big labels. For others like PG Holyfield, Nathan Lowell, and Tee Morris their efforts have lead to deals with smaller publishers (and in Tee’s case publication of his non-fiction with big houses).

The traditional road is not one that others seem to be striving for. There’s a more “do it yourself” flair in authors like Cory Doctorow and Matt Selznick. While neither would eschew traditional publishing (and Cory has been published by Tor), it seems that they want to use all possible channels to get their stuff out there and cut out the middle man. That’s not to say that the aforementioned authors aren’t open to all ideas, I’m just talking about where their focus seems to be to me at the present time. Matt talks quite a bit about the neo-patronage idea. If I understand it correctly (and he may not have used these precise words), it’s about finding a smaller number of fans and dealing directly with them. I think that’s laudable.

So, why am I writing about this? Well two blog posts have come to my attention recently.

In the first, JC Hutchins let us know that the 7th Son sequels are not going to be picked up by his publishers thanks to the first novel not meeting their sales goals. He also says that he fears that the free model working as it has for some may be a fleeting moment and that he will no longer be contributing to it, at least not for a while. I felt saddened by his news, but I have to ask, is that me being selfish? If I truly want to be supportive of a fellow artist whose work I enjoy, shouldn’t I be more okay with his decision? I should, but I’m soooo used to that teat. Rather than being patient and waiting to purchase the works when/if they come out, the little voice in me wants to lament that I won’t get the fix I’ve come to expect. I mean I purchased Personal Effects: Dark Arts, but I didn’t purchase 7th Son. Intentions to buy it aside, that money still sits in my pocket and not his and I gave him only half of the financial support I could have.

The other blog post was from a source I’d never heard of. Astonishing Adventures Magazine is shutting it’s doors. John Carlucci says, “We deserve to get paid for what we create.” And you know what? That’s a valid way of thinking. The magazine wasn’t generating the revenue it needed to and so it closed. He also said, “I’m tired of killing myself and not making the smallest of footsteps ahead.” That’s worthy of consideration too.

So, is “free” dead, simply dying, or what? Well I think that it’s too early to tell. I, for one, certainly hope not and I intend to continue putting out free content, while hoping to figure out how to get paid in the meantime. But this whole thing raises a question for me. Do we “deserve to get paid”? Should we kill ourselves, spending all of our spare time and energy in shaking our butts and trying to “get ahead”?

I think the answer to that, at least for me, is no and no.

I don’t get to decide that I “deserve” to get paid. Now that’s not to say that I don’t think what I write is worth something. And yet here I be, writing words I have no expectation of earning a nickel for. I think that for me, it’s about writing something that’s worth your time. If you decide that that time is worth your money, well that’s your call. Would I like to get paid? Oh absolutely. Money is great. I’d love to quit the day job and spend hours and hours creating. Even then though, isn’t it the audience that decides whether or not we deserve to get paid? If I don’t buy JC’s book (provided I am capable financially) then isn’t that me deciding that he didn’t deserve it? If I don’t buy it then he didn’t earn my money, did he? (And for the record I do intend to buy it. He did earn every red cent that I will eventually give him.) keep in mind, I’m not certain of everything in this paragraph, this is me thinking.

One thing I think I am sure of though is that I’m not killing myself for anything. Maybe that means I don’t have what it takes. If I’m not willing to shed blood, sweat, and tears and shake my tail feathers as hard as some out there do, then maybe I won’t make it. I think I’m okay with that. I do want to write. I do want to write professionally. I will sweat for that. I will lose sleep over it. I will likely even cry over it at some point. But proverbially kill myself? Sacrifice my every waking moment or very nearly? No, I don’t think I’m in a place to do that, especially for zero/nominal return. Kudos to those of you who make the sacrifice and I hope it pays off.

So all of this said, why do I put out free content? I don’t expect that it will get me published. I don’t think it will get me a lot of kudos/feedback, though it has garnered me more than not podcasting has. This whole podcasting thing started out as and continues to be about me creating more and learning more. I’ve also made a lot of friends and met a metric butt load (can you tell I’ve got a new pet phrase?) of awesome people. I’ve written more as a result and am trying to hone my craft (that doesn’t sound too writerly at all, does it?). So that’s why I podcast and that’s what I expect. That’s why I give it away. If it has any side benefits, like Random House or Dragoon Moon Press offering me a contract or me getting an agent, then I’m not gonna cry. Ultimately though, even if it does, it’s up to the audience to decide what my writing is worth in terms of dollars and cents.

Am I right or am I waaaay off base here?


Matt Selznick clarified his neo-patronage concept. Here ’tis:

Hi Scott — great post; thanks for including me in it. I wanted to clarify a few things.

It’s nice to be included in the same sentence with Cory — yeah, we share some DIY sensibilities, it’s true — and we’re both (he on a larger scale than me, of course) published by third parties. You mentioned Tor with Cory — my first book, “Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era” is published by Swarm Press and hasn’t been available in it’s self-published paperback form since July of 2008.

You mentioned neo-patronage. Neo-patronage doesn’t have anything to do with dealing directly with a small number of fans. Neo-patronage is a compensation model that asks everyone who takes value from their experience of a piece of art to compensate the artist accordingly. The idea is that the audience is the arbiter of value… if you think the experience of reading “Brave Men Run” for free online is worth $5.00, or $20.00, or $50.00… great! If you think it’s not worth anything, fine.

Under neo-patronage, if you enjoy a book, that author did, in fact, earn the right to be compensated by you, since the author provided you with a service — an experience you would not have otherwise had and, presumably, you enjoyed. So I disagree with you there — even if you haven’t paid the author, they still earned the right to be paid.

When someone does work or performs a service, they deserve to be compensated — just like when you go to your day job and do your work, you deserve to be paid whether or not the boss actually pays you. You’d be put out if you didn’t get paid for work you did, right?

That’s the thinking behind neo-patronage. Pay what you think the work is worth, and never assume that something available “for free” has no value.