Sunday, April 15, 2007

New Blog Dust-Up

There's a big fight going on involving the sitting VP of SFWA and "Pixel-Stained Technopeasants" (or, as he would call them/[us?]) "webscabs," I came across it here, but apparently it orginated there (a long way into the post, btw.)

I was suprised Hendrix (SFWA's VP) included bloggers among those "rotting the organization from within" with our webscabbing. Interestingly, I just co-instructed a workshop this weekend at the Loft about authors and the web. One of the things we touched on very briefly was the amount of "content" that writers, in effect, give away for free as part and parcel of author self-promotion. I have to admit that despite the somewhate over-the-top union rhetoric language Hendrix employs in his rant, he raises some mighty thorny issues that I don't think should be so quickly ridiculed. What about content we provide for free? I think about this a lot when I read some of the interviews bloggers post; I *sell* my interviews. Are they undercutting my ability to do that? (I don't think so necessarily, but an interview is never something I'd chose to "give away" on a blog.) Many of the posts here could just as easily sell to writing magazines as articles, yet we give them away. The National Writers Union took the New York Times to court over the issue of whether or not it was okay for them to post printed articles on the web without additional compensation to the writer (reprint payment), and the Supreme Court said, in effect, "You must pay writers seperately for on-line writing. Those are seperate rights you're buying." Yeah, Hendrix comes off as a loon, but these are serious issues for writers everywhere.

Comments? Opinions? Rants?


Eleanor said...

I don't put new work up, except poetry; but a number of my published stories are on the Internet. I don't see it as a big issue, as long as the person posting is the author. The Times case was about publishers ripping off authors. If authors -- like many musicians -- think posting on the web is good form of promotion, it seems okay to me.

Anonymous said...

First, let me recommend that everyone read on down through the comments. I particularly found Patrick Neilsen Hayden's comments intersting, since he is clearly vested as a publisher of hardcopy.

Second, this letter from Hendrix certainly adds a bit of post-script to the original text.

And last, I'd like to note that Hendrix does appear to be speaking specifically about the full text of novels, though in several places he loosens up that language a bit, which serves to dilute his argument into a much more untenable form.

I tend to see writing on the internet as a taste-tester for what an author's work is like. Granted, there are always thieves out there, but making the packaging impossible to open only serves to frustrate the real end consumer; the thieves just find a different way to take what they want.

I don't think this is an all or nothing issue. The points raised have some merit, but they are also terribly unrealistic about where we're headed. The entire text of novels may be overboard, but I can see posting the first four or five chapters, and encouraging readers who want to continue the adventure to find my work at their local Dreamhaven.

Kelly McCullough said...

See my note on this on the front page—2 above this one.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Ah, shades of Wiley Miller and Scott Kurtz. Comic strips had their own to do in 2004 over the issue of free content on the webs. If Mr. Hendrix had spent a little more time online, he might have seen how a similar snark went over then. (Best quote: "Click on the thumbnail for full sized hubris.") He might have then seen that this free content is selling ad space, a monthly comic collection since 1993, paperbacks, an animated series, and a Think Geek store.

One interesting thing I've noticed about this debate. I'm hearing a lot of people say, "I sold this after I posted it." I've yet to read one comment saying, "Oh, woe. I posted this and an editor said they loved it. They'd have bought it instantly if only they'd seen it before I devalued it so." Makes me think, especially since I know the business model works for webcomics.

As for the second letter: It would have worked much better if I hadn't read the first. As it was, it makes me think of Imus and "I wasn't speaking for the record." You're really only as nice and well-reasoned a person as you are when you think you can get away with it.