Permit me to get a little philosophical today. I was thinking about the fact that my wife and I (about to uproot ourselves from ten years of comfortable, NW living) are trying to pinch our pennies. But then, there I am, in the grocery store looking at all of the fun things for our year-and-a-half son. It’s one of those one-stop grocery stores, complete with toys, camping equipment, and Starbucks.
I like the idea of getting him stuff that he’ll enjoy, and I love thinking about him with all kinds of intellectually stimulating toys as he grows up.
However, things are expensive. I won’t go into a rant about the nature of consumerism (I don’t want to bore you with that), but it did get me sad a little bit that I don’t have enough income to buy him whatever he wants.
And then I thought about the conversation I had yesterday with a would-be author who doesn’t like my idea of low-overhead publishing. No risk, no reward; that was his mantra. All of these thoughts seem independent, but I don’t think that they are.
His take on marketing is the old, tried and true method of advertising, and exposing content to the masses (through ads mostly). I like that optimism, but that contributes the overall cost of the thing. If a book’s budget includes bloated costs of production, someone’s going to pay for that (and I would argue that it’s probably the consumer that ends up footing a lot of that bill). Now, if we were to be able to cut out as many of those costs as possible, each person in the production change willing to take an initial paycut (or investment cut), passing the savings on to the end-user, I think that might have sweeping consequences, consequences that could result in better loyalty and trust for all those concerned.
That replaces the old model of one-shot success stories, the idea that a book deal should be huge, resulting in a blockbuster of some sorts. It turns into a model of work and reward, a living wage that supports continued creation. And potentially, continued consumption.
Walmart has customer loyalty, not from its products, but from its prices. Therefore, they are able to make money because of volume instead of “that one product that everyone has to buy there.” Sure there are magnets (most publishers have something that acts as a magnet), but I wonder if our expectations couldn’t be that magnet…