Can I Be an Artist and a Capitalist?

Something that has been going through my mind, other than copious amounts of life sustaining blood, is the difference between being an Artist and a Capitalist. I didn’t begin writing as a fast track to wealth. It was just something to do, something I liked doing. That is the attraction of the arts. Capitalism kicks in after the ink or toner has settled into the fibers of the paper. While art for art’s sake is a noble sentiment it flies against everything that Capitalism stands for. People expect to be paid for their work no matter if that is physical or mental labor, if it produces something we (Capitalists) expect to earn something from it.

People also expect to get paid for their investments. Books represent an investment. However, they are only investments for their publishers. Sure the writer may have spent months or years crafting them, but he or she was going to do that anyway. I completed six novels before I began publishing independently. Technology made that possible after all those filled manuscript boxes and mailed query letters. From the instant my work hits the Kindle Store there is very little to any investment from Amazon so I am free to do what I want with the file in regards to price or using DRM to lock down the file. This is very different from traditional publishing.

Before you wonder where I am going with this let’s now pretend that I have a traditional publisher. They would have paid me some sort of advance on my work, paid for the editing, typesetting, cover design, all the things I did on my own. They have made a monetary investment in my book, so they are going to set a price to recoup that investment. Back when books existed as physical property the publishers had to play by the rules governing such property, mainly, I as owner of said property can do what I chose with it even if it involves selling or giving it away. Technology has changed that. Books are no longer solely a physical entity. They exist as long strings of 1’s and 0’s on a server somewhere. So now publishers have a means to secure their investments in ways the old model would ever allow. So long used book stores and libraries. You, the reader, no longer own your digital representation of a book, but instead lease it and that changes everything.

For me there are books I want to own and ones I would like to read. I don’t value them the same. To me, the ones I want to read are like a fast food meal. I will consume them, enjoy it and move on. As such, I expect to pay fast food prices, or at least prices less than what I would pay for the book I care enough to own as property. I rarely consider buying an eBook priced more than five dollars, about what a paperback would cost. I will never pay over ten dollars for one. As a writer I do not know how much I would be comfortable charging for my books. It is not my decision under the traditional model, but i would still agonize over it.

Basic economics tells us that the more something is in demand the higher its price will be. I have trouble thinking some athlete could get two million dollars for chasing a ball across a field. Yet if 50,000 people pay a hundred dollars to watch him do so shouldn’t a good portion of that money go to the athlete? That is how capitalism works. You charge what the market will bare and reap all the rewards for your effort. It is not greed, though it can look that way and certainly lead to it. For the Artist the hardest part, (and a part I hope to wrestle with one day), is recognizing that your work, your labor of love has value beyond what you have reaped from its creation. You invested your time and talent but already received the payback in the enjoyment and satisfaction of having created something. I will always strive to make my books something people want to value even if it is only 99 cents. Let the economics work themselves out. Perhaps I can be an Artist and a Capitalist.

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2 thoughts on “Can I Be an Artist and a Capitalist?

  1. Michael Bradley

    As you know Vinnie, I have talked often and long on this topic. As a writer, would you rather write the best story of all time, and only ten people read it, or write pulp fiction of average quality and millions read it? I am the latter. I don’t write to make money, because that is so rare nowadays. Everything in music, videos, writing, commentary is going to free content and making money on ads. I write to have readers. My frustration is not with the lack of money, but how hard it is to get your book out there and known by your audience. My novels average 4.5 stars on ratings and people like when they read them, but so few know they even exist.

    1. Vincent A. Alascia

      True the greatest story ever written could be sitting in the back of someone’s closet. Reviews are not a very accurate measure. I know fans of a genre will provide good reviews where non fans will not. A breakout book must find a way past the fans who would read it anyway. That’s where style and story come into play.

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