2020/01/07

Neo-Patronage

Lately a lot of folks have been asking me where I think the publishing industry is headed next. It's a fair question. After all, our society is undergoing runaway change, and publishing is a subset of the whole.

Many of these questions are prompted by the ongoing censorship campaign sweeping across Big Tech platforms. Here's a screencap from a reader whose reviews are being hidden behind Amazon's sensitivity filter. The dichotomy between which reviews are hidden and which aren't displays the usual biases.

Fiannawolf Reviews

Of course, it's not just readers who're getting muzzled. YouTuber Devon Stack recently announced that Amazon has removed his book from KDP and Audible.

Black Pilled DOTR

This renewed censorship push shouldn't be surprising. We know that the top brass at Google had conniptions over Trump's victory in 2016. A big part of the reason for their hysterics was that they'd gone to great lengths to prevent his election. The Silicon Valley bugmen know that grassroots support on social media helped get Trump over the finish line. They consider his win a personal failing, and they're determined to correct it.

The closer we get to the election, expect Big Tech to crack down ever harder on users who don't toe the official party line. Leftists shouldn't get too smug, because many of them are on the chopping block, too. It's often lost in the shuffle whenever a new round of deplatformings breaks, but lots of Leftist accounts get caught in the crossfire. The YouTube shooter, for example, was hardly a Trumpist.

And that was just friendly fire. As the Democrat primaries get underway, expect the Silicon Valley oligarchs to actively suppress Leftists who support anyone other than Joe Biden. Bernie Bros beware!

All of this is to say that our rulers have contracted censorship out to the Big Tech firms that control most mass communications and markets. Amazon stands at the forefront of the tech oligarchy, which means that in the long run they're only going to allow people with approved politics on their platform.

What's the future of publishing, then? Projecting based on current trends, I see it splitting three ways.

The Big Five become the Big Two--or One. Barnes and Noble's demise will force another round of New York publisher mergers. The remnant of oldpub's paper distribution cartel will shed the last of its midlist authors and exclusively cater to A list clients whose books reliably sell at Costco and Wal-Mart.

Amazon eats itself. By now everybody's figured out that the formula for success on Amazon is cranking out what are essentially the same books in a small cluster of high-selling genres on a monthly basis. The midlist oldpub refugees who will migrate to Amazon when their contracts are cancelled have proven unable to follow this model. At the same time, the newpub authors who are making a killing on Amazon tend to hold unapproved opinions.

Look for Amazon to go they way that YouTube is now. The best creators will be purged while attempts to prop up people with the right opinions fail since woke creators still can't make content anybody wants.

Neo-patronage takes shape. Ironically, Big Tech's efforts to enforce cultural totalitarianism will foster cultural tribalism as more and more people realize that the approved manufacturers of culture hate them. People who liked to read masculine adventure yarns won't stop liking those kinds of stories just because they're socially verboten. Like-minded groups of such people are already pooling their resources to fund books they enjoy, and this trend will only grow as the Death Cult consolidates its pop culture hegemony. If you dissent from the hive mind at all, directly patronizing creators who don't hate you will become your primary means of consuming stories you enjoy.

At this point, I usually get a couple of common objections, so I'll go ahead and address those now.

First, you get people who point out that the major subscription and crowdfunding platforms are just as pozzed as Amazon. That objection misses the point. Nobody's advising authors to set up shop on Patreon because it's less woke than the alternative. The point is that sites like Patreon and Kickstarter are in fact alternatives that have proven viable for indie creators.

Sure, we're probably going to get kicked off those services, too. That's just the short term. What matters in the long run is that readers have shown a willingness to follow their favorite authors somewhere other than Amazon. Various dissident entrepreneurs are always cooking up subscription and crowdfunding alternatives. One of these days, there's a good chance that one or more of them will stick. If not, there are guys right now making a go of it by accepting checks mailed to their P.O. boxes. Where there's a will, there's a way.

The second objection I get is people scolding me for still using Twitter/Indiegogo/Google despite those platforms' egregious wokeness. Besides, don't I know how Big Tech Firm X totally screwed over So-and-So?

Not only is such purity spiraling beside the point, it's a form of reverse virtue signaling. Making money I need to live by exploiting a platform whose employees hate me is a far cry from wasting money on agitprop vectors made by those people's fellow travelers.

The correct approach to dealing with woke platforms is:

  • Milk them for all they're worth.
  • Make them kick you off.
  • Make the rubble bounce.

The biggest adjustment will have to be made by writers, who will once and for all have to jettison the fantasy of becoming a Name author feted on cruises and signing tours. That paradigm was always a historical anomaly, it will soon be the sole domain of the Costco Club, and you ain't in it.

What you can do is build a relationship with your readers through your blog, establish a loyal group of patrons, and make a decent living by providing them with the stories they can't get anywhere else.

For a gripping mecha thriller you can't get anywhere else, check out the latest installment of Combat Frame XSeed!

Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming

16 comments:

  1. Building a relationship with your readers is a really big deal. I've found myself buying books from authors based solely on the fact that I visit and enjoy their blogs on a regular basis. The books always end up being great reads, but without the blogs I wouldn't have considered them.

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    1. And then if you expose someone else's work, that leads to more than casual interest. John C. Wright exposed Brian, Brian's exposed (and recommended) Adam Smith and others I have enjoyed.

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  2. This fits with everything I've been observing. Even the most successful "build your own" campaign I've seen is a modified form of neo- patronage, openly and deliberately reliant on subscribers. It's a good system, one that has worked for literal millennia, but it can make getting the word out difficult.

    I would imagine that some of the best advice to new or prospective authors in this paradigm would be to network with other authors and start a blog.

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    1. Spreading the word is the main challenge. And yes, networking is vital. See Chris' and D.J.'s comment's above.

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  3. As with all things, the only way forwards is backwards, towards the future.

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  4. Brian

    Mike Shatzin has consistently pointed out that libraries are a repository of both content creation and publishing expertise. He argues they could become micropublishets.
    So complementing neopatronage we'll also see localist reintermedization through micro publishers (libraries,bookstores,universities etc)

    xavier

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  5. Tangent: Lovecraft once said he didn't think Christian supernatural horror writing could be quite the (later? termed) cosmic horror he envisioned - could not quite capture the feeling of the horror of the revelation of the unknowable strange.

    The Soul Cycle IMO neatly disproves that by being, once complete, very much a Christian horror, yet also permeated with a sense of the dreadful strange more powerful, in my experience, than anything else I have read - though I admit to not being a horror reader generally.

    Just passing this on before it flits out of my head again. I got to it thinking about how you set up your neo-patronage run. Delivering not merely a novel but a complete and complex series - not just writing the number of books and saying "the end" but really DELIVERING - set up the confidence for the next step, at least, I feel it did. Given the scope of the ambition of the Soul Cycle it was hard to imagine Brian biting off something he then lacked the wherewithal to chew his way through.

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    1. The praise you lavish on my work is all the more gratifying because I labor for you, the readers!

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    2. Lovecraft's horrors are basically "What if Christianity wasn't true and the unknowable wanted to destroy you" which requires a Christian grounding to even conceive of in the first place. He is reacting to it.

      The second half of his idea isn't even wrong. There is an unknown that wants to destroy you. If you look at Lovecraft from that angle his stories make a bit more sense.

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    3. Yep. HPL's horror--as much as I love it--isn't parallel to Christian horror. It's parasitic on it.

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    4. Well I think HPL was referring to the feeling he sought to evoke by inverting the symbols and assumptions of the modern rationalist, including the respectable idea of a rational but largely absent God. However the working parts of modern and rationalist thought all derive from older Christian philosophy. But I am no expert on HPLs fiction or his notions of fiction!

      Just commenting that the feeling of disorientation-reorientation I got from the Soul Cycle was probably the best visceral Cosmic Horror Thrill of my experience.

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  6. I had to go into my own Amazon settings, manually flip my own sensitivity filter so people can see those reviews on my public profile once more. I had to go here to find out how to disable the dang thing.

    https://www.quora.com/What-does-review-hidden-by-sensitivity-filter-mean-on-Amazon

    I didn't even realize profiles had this until this whole type of shenanigans surfaced. Like I said on twitter: Let readers choose what they want to read. Otherwise how can people be expected to grow. Or find more interesting books.

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