Friday, July 9, 2010

And now, a word from our sponsors...

People have been making a living from writing for centuries, but the way the words translated into money (and food, and shelter, and so forth) has gone through a series of changes over the lifetime of the written word. From patronage to endowments to royalties and advances, writers through the ages have found ways to avoid starvation (though sometimes only just).

I suppose that's part of why I'm not afraid of the current shifting of the publishing business model - as the way we buy and read books becomes about convenience and format (words that would have meant something very different fifty or two hundred years ago). There will always be a place for writers with the determination and flexibility to roll with the changes. (And I happen to be one of those odd people who really like change.)

I was thinking last week about the different ways writers make a living, chatting with a friend who was working as a freelance writer - ghost writing & writing for "packaged" children's books. I don't know much about that side of the industry (and certain aspects make it unlikely I'll delve deeply into that side any time soon), but I was intrigued by the fact that the brand is not the author but the subject matter of the book. Like the Magic Treehouse books.

It got me thinking about the different ways an author can be known. Many of the big authors start out by being "the author of ___" and then progress to being known as a Name in their own right. Fill in the blank - Twilight, Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code. But when did Stephen King stop being "the author of The Shining (Carrie, The Stand...)" and become just Stephen King. When did Grisham outpace "the author of The Firm". Is it about the depth of their body of work? Is it about a level of celebrity?

I was watching golf last weekend (I know, like watching paint dry, right? And I enjoyed it. I just shocked myself with that sentence right there). Anyway, I'm watching golf with my dad (we were all doing the 4th at my g-parents in Ohio) and he makes a comment about how you can tell how famous certain golfers are by checking out the sponsor logos on their clothes. I responded with my usual snark, saying when I'm rich and famous people are going to pay me to write in pajamas wearing their logos. This book written entirely while wearing the Nike swoosh!

But it got me thinking about how few celebrities these days make their primary income from the thing which they are actually famous for. Endorsement, sponsorship, merchandizing, putting their smiling face on a billboard or in the middle of a Right Guard commercial - that's where the real money is.

Companies sponsor webstreaming of television shows... others give large grants of money to individuals that are selected by voting from their members (current Pepsi project, former Visa & Amex projects). Support the arts has gone corporate (because it makes them look good).

Just wait until this trips over into writing. It's a new kind of patronage, in a way, but now instead of being sponsored by Lady Moneybags, this book will be brought to you with limited commercial interruptions by Nissan.

What do you think? Cool new wave of the future or dystopian nightmarescape? Would you buy more wickets if they brought you great literature?


Leah Braemel said...

If you watch the talk shows -- Leno or Conan or Ellen--they often have guests who admit that because they mentioned a product on another talk show the company ended up sending them cases of the product.

So now when I read a book that is big on product placement (Armani suits, Grey Goose vodka, Breitling watches, for example) I often wonder if the big name author has received one of those products too. or if they should.

I know some company (was it Amazon?) who mentioned the possibility of putting ads into their ebooks along the lines of trailers for other movies on DVDs. (To which I say YUCK)

Vivi Andrews said...

Was it Doc Turtle's review of JR Ward's Brotherhood series on Smart Bitches where he said the books read like one long product placement? Cadillac should give that woman an Escalade.

But we're told to write detail right? That knowing whether our character is a coke or pepsi drinker will bring the reader into the story. Is there such a thing as too much detail? Does the reader really want to know that Mr. Millionaire likes the eighteen-year Glenlivet better than the twelve because it has oaky undertones?

Moonsanity said...

I've seen mention of that about J.R. Wards books. I never thought of it that way. I just figured it was a way for her to really focus on her characters and what they liked.

I think it would be sad on one hand, but being a struggling writer with a family, I can see where if you aren't making the big bucks and you are offered a good chunk of money to say your characters drink Diet Pepsi, and you happen to love Diet Pepsi youself, would that be so bad? I'm sure it would really piss off a lot of people. in my ebooks would not be cool UNLESS they offer good ebooks for free, and the authors make the same amount of money???? Still not sure about that.

Vivi Andrews said...

I've written characters who were beer drinkers and I personally can't stand the taste, but I'm not sure I could write a Diet Pepsi drinker. No matter how much you paid me. It would feel like too much of a betrayal. (I say this as I sit here with a case of Diet Coke at my side. Seriously. A case. Next to my desk.) Hmmm... mebbe if I blog about my love for Diet Coke repeatedly, they will give me a lifetime supply?

About the ads... I'm not sure I have an opinion on that yet. Jury's still out.

Vivi Andrews said...

Ooh! There's a Bentley Continental GT in Ghost Exterminator! Am I going to get one of those? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

Moonsanity said...

Cars are always described in books. I've noticed a lot of Escalades. In my one WIP I made the heroine have a beat up Ford Explorer because we have one and I love it plus I'm thinking not every character can have shiny fancy SUVs or cars:)

We are Diet Pepsi drinkers- it's the only diet pop I drink. I hate Coke-- Was that a shoe you just threw at me? *snort*

So, someone needs to find out if J.R. Wards get free stuff for mentioning those brands. Any volunteers? LOL

Vivi Andrews said...

You're welcome to your Diet Pepsi. Drink and be merry. Leaves more Diet Coke for me. ;)