Monday, October 31, 2011

An Analogy: The Blair Witch Project

Back in 1999 the horror film The Blair Witch Project was released. Even though it was all shot with amateur video cameras, it had phenomenal success. One of the things that I remember reading at the time was that it was the death of the movie industry. Aspiring filmmakers could use amateur cameras to bring their movies to fruition and the internet to market their films. The film companies would be no more, fallen under the onslaught of aspiring filmmakers with cinematic vision but no connections or money.

It didn't happen. The big film production companies are still here and making movies. One look at some of the amateur videos on youtube and it is easy to understand why. It takes more than access to a cheap camera and the internet to make a good movie that people want to watch. It takes talent and skill and luck.

And so here we are with Kindle Direct Publishing. It's going to revolutionize the publishing industry. The publishing industry has been democratized. It's a death knell for the big six. They're going to die under the onslaught of those with artistic vision who have been denied publication by the gatekeepers...

It takes more to become a successful author than access to a computer and uploading your story to Kindle Direct. It takes talent and skill and luck.


  1. On the other hand, there are some web series like The Guild that do pretty good business, and some regular video podcasts and you tube presenters that get quite decent ratings, as well as a whole mess of fan films that can't, for legal reasons, make money. The web is also a really great venue for short artistic animations, and indie movies that don't get large theatre releases have long tail marketing available to them through services like netflix and to a lesser extent the linking and review services at IMDB. And big name creators like Whedon have the option of releasing low budget stuff directly onto the web and then making up the DVD sales.

    I feel like perhaps the better model for this is comics- where there were basically newspaper syndicated comics and comic books, both of which were in the hands of few companies and really hard to break into. And then you had web comics and thousands sprang up, took a stab at it, and faded into obscurity. I think there are less than fifty in English where the guys or gals running it make a living off their work. But then again, fifty or so people who never could have sold in newspapers or on the same shelf with X-men in 1995 (I think that's when Sluggy Freelance started, wasn't it?) now get to do their dream job for a living, while a large number more get supplemental income from their hobby. It doesn't replace the big guns, and honestly I'm not sure how big a piece it takes out of their pie, since the audience I think tends to favor subject matter not well served by the established companies, but it does diversify the field and lets people in who'd been shut out before.

    Self-publishing certainly doesn't preclude talent, skill, and luck.

  2. Apparently, I wasn't clear.

    None of those things has put the big motion picture companies out of business.

    I don't see all the other publishing options putting the Big Six publishers out of business either.

    That's all I was trying to say.