Blog: Across the Arts – The Future of Writing

I feel that sometimes, as a writer, more is expected of us for a lot less of the same work. That society in general seems to have the perception that of all the art forms, writing is the simplest. In fact, I think many don’t even consider it ‘art’.

Paintings are art. Comics are art. Games, films, music, all of them are art. Writing is like the water boy of art. We’re technically on the same team, and we train as hard as anyone else, but we’re never the focus of the game. And without a water boy, everyone complains about being thirsty. Wait, what was I talking about again? That metaphor really got away from me.

But you really get the feeling that authors are the underdogs sometimes. As if the craft of turning words into art isn’t appreciated. There’s this sense that the sentence, “The imprints of her steps forever etched into the patchwork dirt.” Is worth a hundred times less than a drawn boot print.

The common phrase is, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’. By that logic, should a thousand words not be worth a single picture?

Slowly, the world is coming around that art can be a legitimate form of work and source of income, with more and more web comics leading the way. These comics are on a weekly basis, much like many of the serial authors on JukePop, like myself.

But one of the major problem is that there isn’t a strong, independent platform for authors that stands out while providing constant source of income. Artists have DeviantArt, comics have Tapastic, videos have YouTube, and even music has SoundCloud and Bandcamp. Writing has, what? There’s Patreon, but that’s a really broad platform with nothing specific. There really isn’t any unique platform for writers where they can get consistently paid for serializing work. The market is still stuck on the concept that books should only sell when completed.

And while I have a rather unsuccessful Patreon campaign running, in the hopes of getting some additional bill-paying cash from my writing, I am surprised that better authors like M. Howalt and Ryan Watt aren’t able to have a small monthly monetary support for their work. Or, as I found out from a few other authors I know, find their work not deserving of being pair for.

Thank you, Maurice Caraway, my single patron! You are awesome!

But I think the idea of being paid weekly for works of art is becoming an increasingly common plan. There’s this new phase the world is going through where people have increasingly stopped paying large sums of money for fully completed works, instead going to smaller payments in return for things they could try and decide if they like.

We see this across the field. From video games where episodic content like Life is Strange and apps store purchase are becoming more and more common. There are individual music purchases, and the recent craze of Kickstarter movies. Of course, comics were the first to be in on it, with issues and manga chapters that adds up to collections and tankoubons.

The written art though has been slow on this take. Print media has not really changed for over hundreds of years, thousands, if you talk about Chinese literature. Years ago, when travel and rate of information took the time of hours and days, where movies needed television sets and cinemas, books were still a viable form of entertainment.

But now, all the other form of media has adapted to readily fit into ones’ pocket. Books are now bulky and obsolete. While eBook are gaining popularity, the lack of a ‘freemium’ function puts the new generation of people who are used to having everything free for them at the palm of their hands, hurts the way the art is received. We are old.

I think serial stories are the way to go. A library of stories whose authors have been given a heavy initial vetting of quality, with an option for monetary support and app for smartphones is a great option. These are the reasons that drew me to writing on JukePop Serials in the first place.

Recently though, JP has been slacking back on improving, despite having a solid foundation to work on. There’s been a lack of update from the site, and even their F.A.Q page is outdated. There used to be options for readers to donate to authors, but that has since ceased (as far as I know), and alternatives were never offered. If there had been multiple monetary payment methods, like weekly/monthly payments or different providers, I think the game would have changed greatly.

The most frustrating thing is the JukePop app. I do most of my readings on the move, and to see the mobile app so underdeveloped is painful. The commenting function is broken, and the updating system is wonky. The font size option is limited, and I would have liked an option to ‘flip’ the pages as well. It’s such a strong platform with powerful potential that sometimes it pains me to see how little it’s evolving. The reviews are also terribly placed. I don’t want to have to flip through chapter by chapter in a 20+ chapter story to search for 1 review. It should be there on every page, since reviews should have a higher podium compared to comments.

The worst part? I have yet to find a better alternative. Wattpad has a crowdfunding for book publishing, but no monthly or weekly payment program. Fictionpress is outdated. Nothing really stands out.

So, until someone, somewhere, much more talented than I am, can either fix or come up with a better system, I think the future of independent writing is quite bleak.

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2 Comments

  1. I have found that to be the case – that writing is far less appreciated than any other form of art – even comic writing (that’s not to say it’s bad, I love graphic novels, but I know many old school former fine art students won’t even consider graphic novels of any kind art). The fact is I think that writing is harder. You can draw a picture and show somebody what a character or scene or whatever looks like. There is no such luxury in writing. You must help them paint a mental picture but also write it well – if you drivel on page after page just describing a scene, people won’t read. You can put as much detail into a painting as you like – people enjoy finding things they never noticed before. On top of needing to be a great editor and knowing your chosen language well, as well as the constructs of what makes a story, well, a story … all in all I think it is the harder thing to do and do well.

    I agree there are so few platforms for writers to sell their work aside from self publishing. Even JP when you could donate you could only do it if you were from the US – their Amazon paying system only worked for US residents, so even if I had wanted to, I couldn’t. There are so many authors on there, as you say, who are just not published and I think they should be.

    So we’re left hoping to find an agent, or publisher along with millions of other authors at once (and frankly it is more down to luck or who you know than anything else!). There us the option to self publish but even that is a gamble – we have all heard the notoriety of what Amazon are allowed to do with books if you disagree with them. Other companies are much the same and it seems you’re expected to pay it forward before you get anything back, and sometimes you might never make all your money back. Even entering competitions to get recognition and make yourself more attractive to a publisher/agent, you usually have to pay to enter (it is fair since it’s what makes up the prize money). Sometimes I feel like writers throw their work in a pile with others in order to raise other authors work to the top, rather than all being in it together.

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    1. I’m not from the US either, so I never benefited from the donation function. But I don’t really agree that we should actually be ‘in it together’. Not all the way, at least. At the end of the day, writers are competing for the same crowd. But that’s not to say we shouldn’t be friends or civil.

      Like everything else in the world, it is entirely possible for artists to get better by stepping on others back, but to do that as an artist is irrevocably damaging, because so much of that will show up in our works. Most of the best artists, writers, painters or otherwise, are some of the nicest people ever.

      But I think this lack of support from the public and industry for writers have eroded internal trusts as well. We’re much more competitive than others, and we don’t pass down our skillsets as often.

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