May 122010
 

There is in every person who has a talent for creation a real, concrete need to make.  To do.  To extend existence beyond the person and in to other things.  Whether it’s stories, sculpture, code or paint – whatever the medium the drive to create will ensure there are always new creations.

In the past, throughout many cultures there existed a relationship between an artist and a patron.   The artist would create and the Patron would ensure that the artist had food, money, security and shelter.  Often the artist would take direction from their patron or dedicate works freely created to their patron.  The wealthy had at their disposal some of the greatest artistic minds and the artists had a steady supply of money, food and boots without holes in them.  Damn, I knew my Medieval History degree would come through for me some day.

Jess Harley is certainly one of those talented people.  She’s a familiar name to many gamers and has an impressive resume when it comes to designing and writing for the RPG industry and can also be heard on the Pulp Gamer Out of Character podcast.  She’s also recently launched the Shattered Glass project.

With the Shattered Glass project Jess is using an experimental business model similar to the medieval patronage system.  Instead of a single patron to artist relation, she’s invited any one who wishes to take up the role of patron by providing a payment of $5, $25  or $150.

Rather than simply providing a promise of some art in the future for her patrons, Jess has a specific goal. She’ll create a short story.  This story will be available for the Virtual Patrons ($5) as an PDF.  Artisan Patrons ($25) will receive a limited edition physical copy of the story along with “custom-addressed, hand-signed letter of thanks from the author.”  Personae Patrons ($150) will receive a physical copy like the Artisan Patrons but will also be able to include themselves in the story.

For those who would like to play a more direct role in Shattered Glass, for a donation of $150, a character with your name and physical characteristics (actual or idealized, subject to the author’s artistic license) will appear in Shattered Glass. Alternately, a Personae Patron may choose to have the name and likeness of a friend, relative or loved one used instead, making this a unique gift opportunity. Personae Patrons will receive both the Virtual and Artisan Patronage benefits as well.

Unfortunately for us but fortunately for Jess, there are no Personae Patronages left, as she’s reached her limit.  Which is too bad because I could have literally been the Troll in the corner.

This experiment is similar to crowd funding projects that are increasingly becoming a popular way to raise the money necessary to complete a project (look to the right for mine).

What will the Shattered Glass project result in? A short story that I’m sure will be a great read, and Jess is also classing it up by parchment envelopes, an original poem and a thank you letter, hand written and with beautiful wax seals and lots of other personal touches.

Shattered Glass is the splintering of reality that happens when a person realizes that the world is not quite as they believed it to be. It is destruction, from which both damage and opportunity may arise. It speaks of magic mirrors and ice queens, of vandalized store windows and shattered windshields. It’s the fragile nature of everything precious, and the value both of protecting that which we hold dear and knowing when to move on to something else when what we love is no longer good for us.

I’m really interested in creators who take initiative and reach out directly to their audience.  We the fans get a very cool way to interact with the artists we enjoy but wouldn’t necessarily get a chance to ever meet or talk with.  The people who are talented enough to have fans get the same experience with their fans and they get paid directly for their efforts.

I think it’s a great trend and personally, I can’t wait to get my wax sealed letter and a copy of Jess’ story.

I was lucky enough to be able to ask Jess a few questions about the project and her writing.

How long have you been able to make a living as a writer/designer?

I’ve been working professionally as a writer for almost a decade now. As for “making a living”? Well, let’s just say, like many freelance writers, I’m very grateful for the support of my spouse (and his job which helps with such luxuries as food, shelter and health care.

Artists of all stripes have begun to move their work online, giving away content, charging a sliding fee based on their audiences willingness to pay or setting a fixed price.  Has technology become pervasive enough that new, up and coming artists (author/musician/painter/etc.) could exist solely on the web, without the backing of a parent company or publisher?

Almost anything is possible, and certainly the technology available has vastly opened the realm of possibilities. And there definitely are creators whose marketplace is the Internet and who deal directly with their consumers without any middle-men. But it’s hard enough to create good marketable work as a creator; direct-marketing to your readership means that you’re not only a writer or an artist or a musician; you’re also your own PR department, publicist, marketing firm, advertising agency, sales department and secretarial staff. That can take a big chunk out of the time you have available, sometimes more than the actual creation process does.  I know that, for the Shattered Glass Project, I’ve put easily more than a hundred hours into the Project in the last 5 weeks – and I’m only just beginning the outlining of the story itself. Everything up to this point has been on the marketing/advertising/coordination/communication side of the Project, rather than on the “creating the product” side of it.

As for whether new artists can make such a model work? I think that depends on what they’re wanting to get out of it, and what they can put into it. For those who are just starting out, no matter how talented, I think the challenge comes in building the kind of readership or fan base and communication network that can support a given project. Certainly, there are those who strike the right chord at the right time and leap to instant popularity, but for every one of those, there are thousands and thousands who will struggle to build recognition for themselves over years rather than overnight.

How has your experience with Patronage and the Shattered Glass project been over all?

Absolutely wonderful. It’s been a lot more work in a lot of different areas that I didn’t anticipate, but the response to everything – the idea, the poem, the hand-written letters I sent to the Artisan and Personae Patrons–it’s all been wonderful. Every Patron (and all those who have supported the Project through publicity, word of mouth and offering their experience and advice) has played a part in making the Project a success, and I’m boundlessly grateful to each and every one of them.

What. . . is the capital of Assyria?

Well, it was Nineveh.Since the country doesn’t exist any more, I don’t know that it really gets to have a capital. It’ s now Iraq, if my geography isn’t failing me.

Are you going to do something like this again?

I definitely hope to! Since this is really an experiment,  I hesitate to say “Yes, we will be doing a second story in the Shattered Glass Project” until I’ve actually got the finished product in hand – especially as we’re considering hand-binding and hand-crafting all of the stories individually. Depending on how many Patrons are a part of the Project by the 20th of June when we close the Patronages, I may never want to look at another book again! But I’m an optimist. If it turns out well, we may consider future Shattered Glass Project works. A lot of it depends on whether there’s a demand for it from the readership.

[tags]literature, fantasy, fairie, rpg[tags]

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About Ben

I'm a geek. A nerd, a dweeb, whatever. Yes I owned garb, yes I still own medieval weaponry. And yeah, I could kick your butt in Mechwarrior the CCG. I love video games, role playing games, tactical board games and all forms of speculative fiction. I will never berate someone for wanting to be a Jedi and take everything Gary Gygax ever wrote as gospel. Well, all of this but that last bit.

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