Here’s the money quote from Seth Godin’s interview with Digital Book World:
Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? I gave hundreds of speeches before I got paid to write one. I’ve written more than 4000 blog posts for free.
Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word–over.
But don’t just focus on the idea that it’s getting hard to make money from writing.
Godin doesn’t say that you shouldn’t make money. Just that you don’t have the right to.
Creativity has become a frictionless market.
Writing is abundant. Look at abundance from the flip side: when we create we’ve invested our time and energy to something. Economists tell us that its our time and energy that has economic value. So we’ve made a real investment out of our own personal economy.
I’d say that making a commitment of time & energy, without any clear economic return, is a simple definition of passion.
If writing has become abundant there is a reason why. Hundreds of thousands of people are investing in their own creative economy.
They aren’t constrained by the rules of someone else’s economy — the balance sheets of publishing houses and distributors. They aren’t constrained by someone else’s notion of quality. In a frictionless creative market, quality is defined by the interaction between creator and consumer.
Godin’s observations are a roadmap for those of us who write and want to connect with an audience. We’ll carve our spot out in the age of abundance by building relationships, getting permission to engage with an audience, tending to that audience so they are ready and excited to read what we write.
The surest way to build an audience is to adapt to the connection economy.
In the connection economy, what’s really clear to me is that there are more opportunities to be generous and to lead and to curate than ever before. If you spend a year or two or five doing that, in your spare time, with no real focus on getting repaid, sooner or later people are going to want more of you … and then you can’t help but get paid.
He gets it and put it more simply than anyone else.
He also sees the role of the literary agent clearly.
I don’t think the goal of the agent is to maximize the size of the advance (which is what it was, as evidenced by what agents talked about and how they got paid). I think the goal going forward is to represent every element of an author’s impact on the world, including their permission asset, the way they build a following, the approach to building a tribe.
Few writers are going to have the skills and the time to build the personal marketing engine that maximizes their impact on the world. Service providers can offer those tools. There will be value in it. It is the only place that agents have to go over the long term.