Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Artist as Cobbler

How does one really make it big in the RPG market?  How does any artist make it big in an age when we have the most perfect copy machine ever devised?  (Death to Copyright!)  ahem . . . Simple, you set up your audience to be your distribution point.

Really, as Authors of RPG products, we really should have the gumption to stand up to Wizards of the Coast and the others and flip them off.  Figuratively.  Although there is at times when I want to actually give them the bird for stealing our work.  The question is, why does an Author need to give away his rights to something when there is this Internet thing sitting there, just waiting and wanting to be used?  And people use it, let me tell you!

One of the complaints I frequently hear on DAZ 3D from a certain published artist is simply that people steal his work and put it up on warez sites and they have competitions to see how much they can steal.  Really, such an attitude is one that is either ignorant of the internet or ignorant of what Copyright actually is (a monopoly of distribution over a particular piece).  As an author, it is our blessing to make up stuff and translate it into a readable form.  As an artist, we are blessed to imitate nature or life and to translate what we see onto canvas or the computer screen.

When we publish our work on the Internet, we are either taking a gamble and hope that the "thieves" don't steal our work (naive as that is).  And as authors, publish our work through Wizards of the Coast, give up our rights, and let them steal our work through the rigamarole of legal agreements and contracts.  Or we can publish our work on the Internet and let the audience distribute our work.  The first one, where Wizards of the Coast and other companies buys our work for pennies of what its actually worth, used to be the only way we can be published.  But then there is this instant copy machine built by copy machines across the world.

So the second, and scariest, option is to cobble your work together and have your audience distribute it for you.  However, the second option obviously involves you selling your work to your audience.  Using a free license, and giving your audience the option of actually being your publisher often goes against everything we are taught.  However, it is human instinct (if men have instincts) to actually release your work for free and to copy another person's work; making small changes as it goes.  Copyright is an artificial invention that goes against this instinct.

So going this second option means endless promotion of your work in order to make it big.  It can be done, but the scary part of it is flying to conventions, setting up your own merchandising, setting up your own physical copy of your books; selling t-shirts, coasters, buttons, mouse pads, everything you can think of.  Being a cobbler means releasing your work for free and promoting yourself and your work in order to make it big.   Sure, Wizards of the Coast offers some psuedo-fame.  But only a few RPG designers out of Wizards of the Coast are actually household names among our community (Monte Cook and Jonathan Tweet for examples).  And Stonemason is one example who has made it big among the Poser Artist world.  So, as I see it, you either gamble with the fickleness of a company; or you do all the hard work of promoting yourself and your work.

Which would you choose?


Vincent Diakuw said...

Even through traditional publishing, and with a large fee, what an artist is paid per unit sold is little. If the publishers rights are asserted for decades then the what you are paid per unit of "rights-time" is also small.

Live by the sword, die by the sword.

Live by copyright... die by inches.

Elton said...

Ah, very correct Vincent. Look at what happened to the creators of Superman?

I believe that Creative Commons is the best policy until this Copyright thing is resolved. One way or another.

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