Again, with feeling: WE DO NOT WORK FOR FREE.

Okay, folks. If I’m making this public, you know it’s something that infuriated me.

More than once, at a show, I’m asked to send my pictures to someone. I don’t mind that. What I take a severe umbrage with is the fact that these people expect my pictures with absolutely nothing in return.

I. Don’t. Think so.

Listen up, people, and listen well. You do not, under any circumstances, ask someone who is in the creative world to work for free, for any reason. Your entitlement does not justify someone working for free. You’re simply not that special for someone to forgo paying their bills to work for you at no charge. That’s not the way it works in the world.

I have seen a rash of ads for musicians where they could “play for exposure” – and that’s a damned travesty. Because what all of those restaurant and club owners fail to wrap their brains around is that their sudden influx of revenue comes from the people who follow the artist. Once the artist leaves, so do the crowds, and they’re back at square one. And why should an artist play for free when he’s shelling out money for merchandise to sell at the gig, gas, backup band, sound guy? What makes that club or that club owner so absolutely overweeningly special that the musician would take a loss – because this is his JOB – in order to play at that establishment? Why should he do that, when at a place a couple of miles away, he’d get all of that paid for?

The same is with photography. I’m very much _done_ with the idea that someone has to shoot “for exposure” or shoot for free, period. Folks, let me break this down for you: over the seven years that I’ve been in the jazz scene, of which I’ve designed for one year and been shooting for three on top of that, I know most of the artists already. If I don’t know them directly, I know them through someone. So please don’t give me the old song-and-dance about “shooting for exposure”. People die from exposure. And the only time I want to concern myself with exposure is when I’m in the Shop and I’m correcting my shots.

And considering that I’m 1. 28 years old 2. in a scene that’s mostly filled with people twice my age, 3. look reasonably cute in a black dress, I’ve had to fight to be taken seriously first. It’s a continuous ongoing battle, to boot. I have no illusions about that being part and parcel of the deal if I’m going to work in the music industry. That’s how it is. I get it. But at this point, my photos and my ability speak for themselves, and I am more than justified in getting paid for my labors. For all the love I have for this genre and the people in it, love doesn’t pay the electric bill, and my photography is not a hobby. It’s a _business_ and it’s a business that I fully intend to cut a profit from. And though I can get creative with my tax returns, I am done taking a business loss just because someone thinks that they shouldn’t have to pay the cute girl with the camera for the usage rights.

Let me break this down for you. This is what an average gig day looks like:
– Admission: $30
– Transit (if it’s an out of town gig)- $25 (on average, depends on location)
– Hotel, if it’s far enough: $125
– Meal: $30
Total spent for me to shoot one out-of-town gig: $210.

I’m taking a $210 loss de facto with an out of town gig, and again: why the hell are you thinking you’re entitled to my photos for free?

This is exactly why I copyright my images. That logo that you see on the bottom isn’t there by accident.

Remember this, people: I own the master rights to every single photo I take, no matter how old it may be, no matter where it’s posted, and no matter who views it. I own these shots. If you want to use them, you require a licensing agreement and a fee for the rights of use. This is how it works. This is how it has always worked. My fault lies in not enforcing this as egregiously as I ought to. I don’t stiff on rights, but don’t think or believe for a second that you’ll ever get an image out of me for free. You want to do a marketing campaign with my shots? Great! You want to put them on the artist’s website? Fabulous! You want to submit them to a magazine! Awesome! – AS LONG AS YOU SIGN THE AGREEMENT. And pay the bill. I can negotiate on the price, but there’s no way it will be zero. I shell out enough money in order to build my brand and expand my product. It’s more than high time for me to get a return on my investment.

After all, I don’t come into your place of business and expect a free cleaning or free medical services, right? So what makes you think you can treat the photographers and the musicians that way?

And while yes, I will freely admit that I’ll do someone a favor and do a freebie then, believe you me: it is not the majority. There are only two, maybe three people in the world who will get free services out of me. And if you’re amazed that I refuse to work for free, then chances are you ain’t one of them.

K.G.

 

Public Service Announcement

No idea who created this, but it gets the point across
No idea who created this, but it gets the point across

Found this on FB, and I cannot begin to tell you just how true this is, and how many times this needs to be said.

If I had a dollar for every time someone had asked me to shoot “for exposure”, I’d likely be able to retire. My answer is and always will be a resounding no. I shot for exposure when I first got my camera and when I first began experimenting with photography. That’s what happens when you’re a beginner. But I’m no longer a beginner, and I take this seriously, and by no means is what I do easy or free.

Now, you know that I do primarily (not exclusively) concert photography. I do it because more than one party benefits. Seriously, let’s look at it this way: these photos that I produce are not just for the artists. The artists benefit first, because it’s their show, and those photos are their faces, and their energy, and their promo. But the same goes for the venues hosting these concerts. How does it look for the venue that someone can turn out photos like that? How does the venue’s appeal change when people see some fabulous concert shots? They’d want to attend more shows there, right? There you have it. This is not just for the artists’ benefit, but the venue’s too.

Consider also this: concert photo is a very tricky thing to execute. You don’t know what lighting conditions you’re heading into. For all you know, you may take 400 frames, and not have a single worthwhile shot if the club’s lighting is odd. And believe me, that has happened to me more than once, where I’d go in, snap a good 300 and spend a week nose-deep in Photoshop to make them passable. But I love it, because it’s a challenge, and because shooting in weird lighting is the best way to learn about photography, lighting, shutter speed, and your camera sensors.

You’re thinking, “Well, if you’re good, you wouldn’t need 3-400 frames!” Bull. Thanks for demostrating that you don’t get it. You do require 300 frames with some concerts. Granted, that’s depending on your lighting and your gear, but if you’re shooting concert, you’re going to get a variety of poses and expressions, none of which are within the photographer’s control. Get it? You can’t ask a musician, while he’s mid-note, “Hey, turn this way, lift the sax a little more!” Nope. You control nothing in a concert shoot. The only thing you control is where you sit, and the settings on your rig. And yeah, you’re going to get 300 frames, most of which capture all different angles of the performer, and all the lighting changes, etc. It’s your job, as the photographer, to weed out the best ones and use them.

So those pictures up on my Facebook page, those pictures on SmugMug? They take work to execute. I didn’t become a good photographer overnight. It took me practice, more than one bad shoot, several conversations with other photographers, reconnoitering manuals, and then, repeatedly, practicing and applying what I learn. Retouching a photo should be the last resort for processing; then you become a graphic designer. Luckily, that’s what I do as well.

And if you want to use my images, then please purchase the rights of use. It’s not just courtesy, it’s business. You’re purchasing a product, a product that I have worked hard to execute, a product that I ensure meets a certain standard. You can also get the rights of use if you – just a suggestion! – contract me to execute the shoot in advance, for a set fee. Moreover, until you have the rights of use, you do not have any control over the images, legally, since you do not own them, one (the photographer owns the images unless they sell master rights), and you’ve not been permitted to use them. It’s simple truth: regardless of where you post them, or how you use them, legally, I’m the one in charge of them, unless you have a license agreement from me that delineates how long you have the rights of use and how they’re abridged, if at all. Don’t worry, I don’t bite. I don’t stiff on use rights. I don’t ever stiff on use rights. But if you’re using these images without my permission, I can, perfectly legally and within my rights as the creator and owner of the photograph, put out a cease-and-desist order to any medium that you send them to. So if you want a photo that I snapped to run in a magazine, then you will either 1. pay for the right to have it there, or 2. deal with the consequences of me bringing a cease-and-desist order straight to the publisher.

You can view them free. Always. You can view them. But if you want to use them, that’s when we get serious.

You think, “But people share your Facebook pictures!” True, but that’s what they’re there for, and by no means are they all my shots. Facebook only sees a small percentage of my work; SmugMug has the rest, and Smug, unlike FB, doesn’t appropriate usage rights without permission. Facebook is open country for photos; if I post it, it can be reposted, and reused as need be. This is why I’ve taken to curtailing what I put up there. This is also why SmugMug, which I am paying for out of my own hard-earned cash, is my primary photo repository. Not only it offers beautiful prints – which are my product, by the by – but it, above all, it has no impact on usage rights. I can share them, and other people can share them, but I remain as the owner and distributor. And, like everyone else in the creative world, I would very much like to be paid for the work that I do. A musician doesn’t get on stage for free, either.

I make money, as a photographer, in three ways: advance contracts for shoots, sale of usage rights, or sale of prints.

So really, if you have a photographer at a show, and they turn out some great images, and you want to use them, pay the photographer. Chances are it’s not a hobby for them, it’s what they do. They, like you, have to keep the lights on. It’s not just snapping pictures; considering some of us travel, we’re also paying serious expenses in order to execute those shots. If I have to travel to photograph you, then please at least make an effort to defray my travel costs. And considering that I’m a bargain maven, then trust me, it won’t cost that much.

The only exposure I care about is the Photoshop setting when I touch up my shots. To ask someone to “shoot for exposure” is ridiculous. You don’t expect your dentist to work on your teeth for practice, would you?

Don’t expect the same of your photographer.

K.G.

The Real Author Solution is Research.

David Gaughran, who is a brilliant and prolific blogger as well as author, hosted Emily Suess in this post about Author Solutions.

We’re in 2013. At this point, self-publication has evolved to where it is not only taken seriously, but is seen as a very viable alternative to traditional publication, especially for new authors. And at this point, we as authors have learned enough about the ins and outs of the publication process, and we learned the cardinal rule. The rule is simple: money flows to the author.

What people usually tend to get confused about is the fact that there are publishing mediums that you pay money for. They are called vanity presses. And again, the effect is the same as self-publication: your name is in print, your book is out there, and you still end up doing the bulk of the work yourself. Problem is, with a vanity press, you’re also out some money.

Seriously, guys. If you’re thinking about publishing a book, I cannot say this enough: you have to do your research. Ask around. Ask people who have published through the press you’re considering. Ask people who did it self. Ask people who have gone small-press, Big Six, anthology, or web magazine for their publication. Ask. Ask often. But do not, under any circumstances, go into something half-cocked. You absolutely must know certain very basic things about publication.

And, considering that this is 2013 and people expect authors to have e-versions of their books on a regular basis, now’s a really good time to get real about self-publication, what it is, and what it isn’t..

Let’s begin with the obvious: a self-published author is a detriment to a publishing house. Why so? Because the same author is showing that he or she doesn’t need the publishing house to release the book. An outside editor can be hired. An outside cover artist. A print-on-demand press that withholds a nomminal percentage to reimburse for costs. And presto! you don’t need a publishing house. Similarly, if you go through PubIt!, KDP, or Smashwords, why in the world would you need to pay someone a fancy upload fee in order to be distributed to the exact same mediums that, let’s face it, you can do at no cost with, again, a nominal percentage held to counter delivery and hosting costs?

Using this logic, why exactly would you think that a publishing house offering a “self-publishing” solution has any of your better interests in mind if you are their direct competition?

Seriously. Beware of Trojans bearing gifts. No one ever disputed Homer, and now’s not the right time to start.

Listen up, people. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if a major publishing house, especially a Big Six, is offering a “self-publishing” solution, go the other way. You have nothing to gain from it. Their logo won’t be part of your book jacket. The publishing house itself will not market your book past offering you another service, which will invariably cost you more money. The fine print in their contract will not benefit you. You will lose more than you will gain, and on top of that, the money that they will take from you is much better off being in your own pocket. I can guarantee you: there is nothing that Author Solutions, Book Country, iUniverse, or whatnot offers that you cannot reasonably to on your own and on your own terms.

If you want a hard copy of your book to be available to print, go to CreateSpace or Lulu. Neither of those will claim rights, neither of those will claim exclusive distribution rights on your hard copies. They will take anywhere from 30 to 50% of your price to cover printing costs, but that half-split on a royalty is yours. Yours and anyone whom you may have subcontracted for a royalty percentage, i.e. editor and graphic artist.

This is the thing about self-publication: you do have to do the work yourself. The money you will shell out if you do not will go for services rendered. Can’t self edit? Pay for an editor. Not good with Photoshop? Pay for a cover artist. This is the real grist of money leaving your hands: services rendered. Not paying an up-front fee to publish, but handing over money in order to have a service performed. If you’re handy with the ‘Shop and know how to self-edit impartially, then hey, you’re saving some cash.

Let’s also get real and acknowledge a certain truth, which a lot of those so-called “self-publishing options” from the Big Six will never tell you: the actual process of formatting and uploading is a one-time thing. It is also free. That’s right: free. If you check KDP – not KDP Select, which does expand your distribution in exchange for having exclusive distrib rights, but regular KDP – and PubIt, you’ll find that they are free to upload and free to host. You get, based on the price you set, either a 30% cut or a 70% cut – benchmark is usually $2.99, which is underpricing for an e-book, really, at this stage. So what does that mean, in terms of your royalties? It means that you turn a profit from your first sale. No up-front money, and immediate profit.

Gee, I wonder why none of those Author Solutions will tell you that. Oh yes, that’s right: it will cut into their profit margin.

As my editor Gayle and I have said before, on multiple occasions, why in the world would someone pay money for a one-time expense that can be done at no cost? Answer: lack of research. Other answer: because they believe that going through a publishing option backed by a Big Six house, they may have something extra. They will get cruelly disappointed. Not only will they be out some serious dough, but they will be exactly where they would be if they would’ve gone the freebie path: with a book, and needing to market it.

I am likely to shell out some money for someone to market my books. Why? Because I hardly have the time, and honestly, I suck at it. I’m a writer, photographer, and designer, not a publicist. So I’ll have to hire one. Still a self-published author, still have turned a de facto profit by not using a vanity press backed by a publisher, still in complete and total control of my distribution, and most of all, still dooing my research before even thinking about going in any other direction with my publishing. So far, KDP and CreateSpace have met both my markets (e-reader and print) admirably. I see no reason to discontinue my current path.

I can’t say this enough. Do. Your. Research. Do your research, and not only will you save some serious dough, but possibly your ownership rights. And in this day and age, your master rights are your holy grail. Under no circumstances, unless there’s a Hollywood movie with your book as a basis and even then put up a good fight, should you give up your masters.

K.G.

Debate and Taxes

Last night’s debate was honestly a lot better. Now I understand exactly why Obama had held back on the first one: he wanted to give Mitt Romney enough time and rope to where he’d spew everything he had to spew, and then leave it ripe for dissection. And oh, Obama dissected. I am very proud of Mr. President today.

And Mitt Romney again proved that he is deeply unqualified for any post that doesn’t involve the letters C, E, and O.

The big buzzword of right now is “tax cuts”. Tax cuts, tax cuts, everyone wants to have lower or no taxes, but guess what: the treasury is gutted, needs refilling badly, and Romney thinks that if he cuts tax rates, reduces certain types of income tax, and eliminates deductions,  it will balance out.

This made me start laughing outright. I spent way too much time working at an accounting firm, apparently, because my bullshit meter went into the stratosphere on this one within five seconds.

I’m about to drop a piece of knowledge, guys and gals, and you’re not going to like it. You’re also not going to like it if you’re a Romney fan (in case of which…please close the blog now).

This is independent of any political party.

Ready?

It’s math. And the math says that Romney is full of shit.

Mathematics does not depend on politics. It either adds up or it doesn’t. Accounting math, specifically, depends on reconciliation across the board to be shown as correct: that a series of numbers add up to a certain percentage or a sum, and add up to the same sum across two platforms. If it doesn’t reconcile, you’re doing something wrong. That’s how you know your accounting is good or not.

First of all, let’s get rid of this ridiculous idea that we’re overtaxed. We’re not. Compare today’s tax rate with that under Richard Nixon, or even Gerald Ford. The difference is palpable. If your taxes were to be computed using the Nixon Administration’s numbers, you would be screwed. It’s simple fact. Look up the archives of the U.S. Tax Code if you don’t believe me. Taxes are at an all-time low.

Second, tax cuts don’t do a damned thing to bring in revenue.

You’d think, “But two-for-one sales bring businesses loads of revenue!” True – businesses, and businesses alone. But a government/treasury is an administration, not a business, and business math, which is centered largely on profit and bottom-lining, doesn’t work here.

This is why it doesn’t work:

Cutting a price to bring on a sale and make up the price cut in volume of sales makes sense – in business. Why does it make sense? Because it is banking on an increased number of consumers paying their money. This is good when you’re selling material goods and certain services. This is how buy-one-get-one-free sales succeed. The catch to that is that you cannot predict your number of consumers. You’re banking on taking a loss, and hope that you break even/make a profit in volume. You have that option because consumers are a variable number in this case.

In taxes, this is the exact wrong approach. Why? The number of taxpayers isn’t variable. People  retire from the workforce and enter it at a relatively constant, break-even rate. The taxpayers are a fixed constant, which means that the money has to come from their wallets one way or another, and it’s a matter of who can pay how much. Their number is the same. What isn’t the same is their incomes, and having an even rate across the board, and a plan that eliminates deductions but yet doesn’t tax certain types of income completely defeats the purpose of the tax rate to begin with. Because what does a tax return depend on, and the amount of tax taken out? The type of income. Because they’re not taxed the same way. Self-employed income gets taxed much higher than W-2 income. Pass-through K-1 income is not taxed the same way as either of the above. C-corp tax and partnership/S-Corp tax aren’t anywhere near the same.

Logically, if X is a fixed constant, and 3x = Y, then 1.5X will simply not yield the full amount of Y if you’re expecting it at the same proportionate rate. They just don’t reconcile. In this case, 1.5X will bring you Y divided by 2. Remember basic division from elementary school? If you have to divide, the same denominator is applied on both sides of the equal sign.

Therefore, tax cuts do not create more revenue. They slice it.

Again, this is simple math. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a CPA to be able to set up an equation and try to work it out. Pencil and paper would do.

Let’s dissect Romney’s tax ideas. He claims that he won’t tax dividends, interest, or investment income (cap gains, accumulated interest on IRAs, etc). This right here should be a red flag. Most people do not make a significant amount of dividend income to have it make an impact on their returns. Bank interest, at the current rates, is laughable as a source of income, to where the IRS dictates you not to bother even reporting if it’s below $10. But this is the thing: if you look at the big picture of what all that adds up to, you will realize that put together, this is exactly how the wealthy had acquired their wealth as of late: all of those types of income are rooted from previous investments. Not taxing those sources of income effectively puts more money into already well-lined pockets and further starves the IRS.

And then, atop that, Romney says he will eliminate deductions. Okay, which ones? Standard deduction is something across the board; for some people, it’s irrelevant because they’d be in AMT because of their amount of income/tax rate (self-employed; or making over 300K/year; or receiving mostly passive income). For Joe W-2, who only makes a certain amount a year and is taxed at 25%, that standard deduction, added up to the tax withheld from his pay, could mean he’d get a partial or full refund of his tax liability. This does mean that Joe W-2 is not paying taxes; he had paid them in the minute he had agreed to have his taxes withheld from his pay. There is a massive difference between receiving a refund and not filing a tax return.

Would Romney then eliminate the first-time homebuyer deduction? Or the mortgage interest deduction? Or property tax deduction? So a couple who went close to broke paying for their first house would now have to shell out on a tax bill from the IRS after they’ve paid their locality tax, which can get steep in some areas, especially if the assessor hasn’t been by in a while.

Or, would Romney eliminate the student loan interest deduction? Which people of my generation will continue to use into their fifties. And sometimes, it means the difference between breaking even on the tax bill and owing on it.  Again, for the upper tier it would make little difference, because with his idea about investment income, that little credit is barely relevant. For someone making 40K per year, that and every other credit counts.

Romney’s plan is mathematically impossible to execute. The money that he will not receive by means of even partially lifting liability for passive income tax has to get made up somehow. Killing deductions does absolutely nothing. Unless you put pass-through K-1 income at a 50% rate or higher, you just will not see even a small percent of the money that will be lost by his tax cuts. If you think eliminating deductions will rectify it, you’re kidding yourself. You can’t hope to collect an extra $300 or so in tax revenue from people who can barely pay their own bills. Someone who receives a dividend check of about $2,000 can pay that $300 much easier than someone for whom that $300 means groceries for a month. So where will the money come from? Slicing defensive spending? Of course not. Eliminating corn subsidies? Nope. His own offshore accounts? Don’t make me laugh.

The math just doesn’t add up. Where will the shortfall come from? The deficit can’t take it, and if you print more currency, as has been floated around in the early days of Obama’s presidency, inflation goes through the stratosphere. Salaries hadn’t kept pace with inflation as it is; Romney’s “solutions” to the shortfall would plunge the country into poverty, one way or the next. Anyone remember Hoovervilles?

But I promise you: if major corporations who outsource their labor to China and India got taxed to hell and back (Mr. Clinton, why the hell did you sign that tax break into law?!), the problems of unemployment and treasury revenue will be rectified in short order. You want to have cheap labor? Great. Pay the hefty tax bill for it, or bring the jobs home and your money will at least tide people’s lives over in the form of paid wages. But if that’s implemented, the CEO brigade will riot. Decisions, decisions.

Oh, and China isn’t “cheating”, as Romney put it. For one, he should be one to talk, he pioneered outsourcing while in Bain Capital. For two, if another country decides to open up a plant and give your country thousands on thousands in manufacturing jobs, what do you say? “Thank you very much”. China’s unemployment is an all-time low because the American companies have exported their factories and according jobs there. China’s economy is thriving because it’s powered by American money, and that American money is a fraction of what it would cost to open and keep the same plants and factories in the US. Smart business investment for the CEOs, and an even smarter one by China to allow it. Their revenue benefits too, because more people are employed and paying tax on their earnings.

Want to make the US attractive to CEOs? Tax the living hell out of outsourcing.

The fact that CEOs don’t want to be bothered to pay the overwhelming minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for American workers is another matter altogether. Because we all know that the real reason that companies took jobs out of the US is because paying that wage is way too much money for them. (end sarcasm)

(Don’t get me started on cost of living and wages keeping pace with inflation. I could go on for weeks.)

I have no idea what Romney was thinking going on about taxes in his debate. Hel-lo, did he not think that maybe, just maybe, people who knew accounting, or worked in accounting, would be listening? Did he honestly believe that if he would repeat the same BS over and over again, it would make it magically add up?

You see, this is exactly why I like math and accounting: it doesn’t lie. It does not and never will depend on a political party. Either it adds up or it doesn’t.

K.G.

I can’t think of an adequate header for this post, because I will start waxing ranty, and fair warning for heated language.

That said, onward we go.

My dear friend and pro percussionist Gary Stanionis posted this recently. If you can’t see it, the best way I can sum it up is that he had an experience with being asked to play…for $100. For his entire group. Yes, venues think nothing of paying their band $100 (for all the guys in the band) for a gig or not paying the band at all, and Gary wrote an analysis of venue/musician relationships, and what that means for both.

I feel for Gary. I really do. Because this happens to musicians of all tiers, from aspiring and talented beginners to seasoned pros, across multiple genres, and it brings up the curious and very disheartening state of how creative services are treated in general

This bit is a slight rehash of Gary’s post, but when a band books at a venue, especially if it’s a restaurant/club-type environment, a large chunk of the crowd that comes in for the night that the band is playing is coming for the band. The venue gets the revenue off the bar and meal sales, but what would it have happening for the other times? And since when is $100 for, say, a five-piece band, an appropriate fee? Let’s be realistic: that barely covers the cable bill. But the club owners will offer that price, with the ever-condescending, “But it gets you exposure” line thrown in for good measure.

To note, exposure leads to frostbite (quote by my beloved friend Bettie, and it’s wickedly on target).

Seriously, what message do those $100 offers for gigs send? It’s eerily similar to having someone publish a writer without paying them for their writing or underpaying them something ridiculous, with the same line about exposure thrown in. It’s patronizing. It’s certainly insulting to the band, because that $100 has to get split between the band members. If that band is playing a two-hour gig at $20 each, the bandmembers would, after the 40% self-employment tax is paid because a large number of musicians are in fact self-employed, be making less than minimum wage per hour. Most importantly, it’s sending the musician that their services aren’t really worth much. Because after all, they’re getting “exposure”, right? That should be enough, right?

No, it bloody well is not enough. Nor is not paying a writer to be published in an anthology, even if it’s a thousand-word short story. Because the time that this short story had taken to get prepped and written was not done with just the love of the craft in mind. If you want to be a writer and make a living off your writing, you write to make money. Same goes with music: if you’re aiming to make your living off your music, then the first thing to do is ensure that you establish a clear minimum for what you and the bandmembers need to make  per gig, and do not back down on it.

But, wait for it… “That’s not how the clubs work!” So tell me please, what do the clubs hope to accomplish by driving away their essential source of revenue? Musicians bring the people in, and in addition to money made through tickets to see them, the additional revenue is from the meals and drinks, which can be equal to or greater than the door cost, provided that every person orders. No music playing = no audience = no revenue. And keeping in mind that, usually, a packed house is packed for the music, rather than the venue, what does this mean for the next night of the club? The same thing has to be done, right? Right. For a club, long-term investment in their entertainment is far more paramount than squeezing the band. Penny wise, pound foolish is the saying.

In other words: invest in the music. The club will have a constant and consistent revenue stream if musicians are 1. playing routinely and 2. treated well routinely. Because guess what: if they’re treated well, they will recommend the venue. Win-win on both parties, yes?

In theory. Practice is another ball game.

I’ll pause here and plug a recommendation: Bob Baldwin, a veteran keyboardist, producer, arranger, and all-around Jack-of-all-trades, wrote a hell of a book on the music world. I’m very lucky to have been the second-edition editor on this project, because apart from editing, this is required reading for anyone in the music world. Not just musicians, but the venues as well. In this very changing music world, where going independent is a very possible and plausible path to success, certain things, like walking a mile in the artist’s shoes, need to be kept in mind. Though I’m no musician, this book was an eye-opener and taught me a thing or two about running my photo/design biz.

I will now restate something that has been said before, both by me and my editor: stop romanticizing independents. This goes for writers and musicians, and not necessarily just independents. I’ll amend the statement: stop romanticizing creative people.

Because this method of business, both in the writing world and in some aspects of music is partly – note, partly, there are many factors that have contributed to this state of affairs and it would take me way too long to hash through them – based on a very unrealistic idealization of what the musicians or writers are living like. They’re seen as doing what they do “for their love of the craft”.  If they’re not in a popular genre, or not popular enough to be on a tabloid cover, then they must not matter, Never mind that they probably took the gig, or the writing assignment, because whatever little revenue they pick up, even if stretched, still pays a bill.

Look: creative work is still work. And it is a metric ton of work. All that 90% of people see is the finished product, and quite a bit of them get the very, very wrong impression is that it must be so easy. It’s not. And in the current climate, there’s a pretty good chance that the musician you see up there playing his/her heart out is taking a financial loss because they’re now trying to recoup the costs of making that new album that you’re hearing. Similarly with authors: you see someone with a new book, and you probably don’t stop to consider that the author may’ve had to shell out money for the cover, for the edit, for the formatting, etc.

Whether in music, writing, sculpture, photography, what-have-you, creativity deserves its dues.

K.G.

Oh, Big Six…foot, meet bullet.

The Big Six publisher companies have declined to renew a contract with Amazon.

Which can also mean that all the trad-pub books available for Kindle can get de-listed.

Seriously? Oh, traditional publishers, what the fuck are you doing.

Very similar to Barnes and Noble deciding to point a 12-gauge at its business-model foot and pull the trigger, the Big Six are doing the same. For the last damn time, people: you cannot hold onto an outdated way of doing business. The key benefit from having Amazon listing your product is exposure. You gain it. Amazon is a great marketplace, and what it claims for a distributor’s percentage is basically couch change to them. The publisher gains something major: revenue. If more people are keen on buying the same book online, then there’s a source of revenue that counterbalances the decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores.

I know that Amazon is starting to look like the Big Business Trust from the 1900s. Well, here’s a question: where’s the competition? Borders and the Kobo market folded, and B&N seems to be clinging to the idea that e-material just ain’t as popular as print books, even though sales of the Nook e-reader are just as popular as the Kindle. The publishing world is having a very hard time accepting that the business model of book publication is changing rapidly.

As a result, bad business decisions are being made across the board on the side of those who are used to the old model; that is to say publishers and bookstores.

Look, I have no love for the Big Six. Their treatment of authors can stand to do better. They shamelessly appropriate the author’s rights to their work under such draconian terms that it is next to impossible for the author to wrestle out their rights from under the Big Six thumb if they want to take the story to another market. And for the trad pub authors who end up going self, they find that there is a lot more flexibility with the sort of stories that they can get published, because the publisher just doesn’t want to take a risk with a book that doesn’t fit the mold. As a result, many books that would otherwise be a smashing success with the trad-pub marketing engine never see outside the slush pile.

However, distributing within the e-medium and with Amazon is possibly the smartest thing that they could have done. It opened them up right to the new and rapidly growing e-book market.

But the fact is, e-books are immensely beneficial for the author, whether self-pubbed or trad-pubbed. It’s quick exposure, easy revenue, and much easier to market. The more mediums, the better. Why, why in the blue everloving fire of Hades’s head, would anyone knowingly limit a distribution medium? Unless there is a massive no-no in the works – which this article is suggesting is the terms of the contract – then I see no reason to limit the author’s distribution. That’s just bad service to the author, whom the publisher is supposed to, you know, take care of.

This is the thing, though. Amazon had been offering this contract to the Big Six for quite a while now, I think ever since the first Kindle had come out. They jumped on board. Did they realize that the authors now see better options for distributing their e-work than to go through the trad-pub medium and see only 15% royalty for e-sales? I understand 15% for print sales in trad pub, but e-sales…come on. So what’s changed? Why are the Big Six digging their heels on something that will easily benefit them more in the long run?

The other side of that same coin is if Amazon’s terms really are that draconian, then I want to see where. Are they taking a larger than previous cut for their distrib? That could be solved by cutting the publisher’s own overhead costs on e-editions, which will 1. keep the author royalty the same and 2. not hamper distribution, so that 3. the publisher can recoup losses in volume of sales. Amazon needs things to distribute, if its main purpose is to be a distribution engine. They benefit from the arrangement too, and again – I want to see their terms.

I am well aware that the publishing world is in disarray right now, but we can all agree on one thing: cutting out e-books and wider distribution options is not a good idea. So can someone explain to me exactly what benefit the Big Six have from doing what amounts to exactly that?

I also want to know what the trad-pub authors, who are losing out on revenue, thinking about this.

K.G.

Announcement

I have been thinking about this long and hard.

While on the CapJazz cruise, I spent a good amount of time with a friend of mine who, in addition to his day job, has taken his talent for graphic design and made it work. I’ve also done a lot of heavy thinking about my life as it is, my writing, my…well, everything else. And I realized that, if I don’t start making this happen now, for real, for honest, I likely never will.

So, I am announcing the beginning. I’ve cut back my hours at the Day Job; the pay cut will be negligible, but what I will be getting is a most crucial thing: time during the week wherein I can conduct my meetings, and/or devote towards networking and designing.

I am happy to announce that K.G. Creative Enterprises is open for business.

There will be a separate page put up here. You may see my skill set in Hire Me! but KGCE is a bit…more than that. There will also be a Facebook page, and I would hope to get my clientele through that. I will also evolve and update my LinkedIn profile, and basically…let’s get this show on the road.

I will be offering writing, editing, graphic design, and various consulting services. Prices are commesurate with complexity of the project.

K.G.