A very famous play by William Shakespeare ‘The Merchant of Venice’ had once propelled a personal perception for me, about the world being Venice, and its inhabitants similar to a group of merchants and the varied roles they played in bringing important matters together. Although Antonio, a merchant, was the protagonist of the story, Shylock, a very efficient and clever moneylender was also a merchant of sorts. One of the focal points of the story was that some merchants could be good and some could be not-so-good and could even extricate a pound of flesh in return for money lent.
In today’s world, money is a value of exchange; it is a need and a requisite. In a world where money is considered quite important by the majority, or at least where it drives everything we do, we have, we possess, even our relationships at times, money’s worth cannot be denied. However, money cannot and should not come above humanity. And if most live with this thought, then the value of money could change—not otherwise. I do not see the value of money changing anytime soon.
Regular currencies are here to stay and for a long time, although alternatives may continue to develop, too.
Meanwhile, merchandising at all levels puts money into circulation. Every working individual has a service or product they have to offer, which they offer in exchange for money. Proper merchandising should, however, have rules, guidelines, where people should ideally be paid rightly for their hard work, skill, experience, knowledge and time. The right idea behind merchandising of any kind should be to provide to all parties involved and at the end of the day also be human, even if money issues were involved. To have a win-win situation should be the right way to proceed.
Merchants and Merchandise
Every trader or business person is a merchant at the end of the day; everyone has to give something to receive something, and all sides should ideally benefit from this. No matter how non-materialism is encouraged in spiritual spaces, the importance of money, in whatever measure, cannot be ignored, elsewhere. You require necessary merchandise even if your lifestyle is spartan, and you need money to buy that required merchandise, whatever form it may take. Everyone has to behave as a merchant, at the core of it all.
A world of merchants, offering a service or a product—this is a perception, but not the only understanding, of course.
The World of Written Form
The world of written form, literature, text, which is the foundation of communication, based on which the world is evolving and moving, is a product and hard work of journalists, writers across genres, poets, sharp editors and leaders, who guide the process—could be associations, organizations or a group of leading individuals, who provide for and promote creative relationships and also allow originative and textual communication to support and organize varied on-goings within the globe. Writers, too, are then merchants and so are editors, offering their services, and leaders, as well, who produce various publications.
Traditional Writing Merchandise Models
Generally, in the case of traditional newspapers, magazines, journals, book publishing houses, literary magazines, and other outlets of publications—journalists and writers submit ideas, work-in-progress, or completed works to editors, or receive direct commissions from them. The publications then feature a news section, report, story, article, or entire chapters depending on whether it was commissioned or approved by the editor, or higher authority within the organization, and on the quality of the work produced. In certain countries, in the case of a manuscript or a book, the writer finds an agent who in turn promotes the book to several publishing houses for acceptance. Once accepted, these articles, books and other projects undergo various stages of production and finalization, after which they reach the readers through channels such as distribution networks, book stores, e-bookstores, quality online mediums, home delivery and such.
These models allow the reader to have access to stories chosen by the editors, News organizations, magazines or other publishing platforms. The readers cannot really choose what they wish to see in particular or have access to. The same is with books—readers choose from the titles they see in book stores or e-book stores or elsewhere. These traditional models have published some creatively written masterpieces many times. Their importance cannot be ignored. Therefore, some of these merchants are quite strong and have survived over the years. How they pay their merchant writers, editors and others on the team varies from one merchant publication to another—some pay well, some don’t. So, monetarily, it isn’t always a win-win situation.
Innovative Writing Merchandise Models
However, changes have happened and new and innovative publication and writing merchandise models have evolved. Those who want to bring more transparency to the method of bringing news, text, literature in its many forms to the readers.
They want readers to have a say in what they read or what they wish to know about.
The purpose behind a fresh writing merchandise model is creating new stories, collaborative journalistic work, or new work related to new fiction and other non-fiction areas, and it is also to provide platforms to independent writers and journalists, and give them a chance to put forth ideas, which readers will accept and support according to specific methods followed. Editors have a vital role to play in these models. Writers and editors on these platforms share a symbiotic relationship and drive each others’ work.
Any new writing merchandise model also has the task of having a developing compilation of written work in many forms—could be news features, features, short-form journalism, long-form journalism, short stories, flash fiction, essays, research projects, novelettes, novels or books from various writers and authors, from possibly a particular location or from around the world.
Once the primary issues, proposals or plans are approved by the editors, they are then crowd supported or backed by readers and other supporters, after which these articles, books and various projects are written, collaborated upon, edited and published. For some writing merchandise models, not all models though, once these short pieces or longer works are published, they are open to other publications to see and to republish if they want to, this, as per a set of terms and conditions conducive for all concerned. This generates a lot of monetary and developmental possibilities for the new-age publication groups, editors and writers.
There could also be new writing merchandise models that work on the traditional methodology of editors approving the topics and deciding upon their final publication, without any collaboration in place, or readers deciding what they wish to see and support.
Crowd-Funded writing models hope to bridge the gap between readers and writers. They are very good, perhaps even fabulous merchants who want to bring more transparency and yes, profits to all sides - the side which writes and the side that edits and brings everyone on one platform and connects writers to readers, through indirect alliances, as well, and yes, the founders, who could be the editors themselves or patrons. The writing models get to keep a certain percentage of the funding-of-the-project whose target funding goal has been reached. The third side, the readers, also benefit in this innovative assimilated form, because now they can choose what they want to know and also at times have a say in what is being written.
Community funded models are a positive for many journalists and writers and can be a source of reliable and quality voices that can bring news, knowledge, information, original written work, in its many shapes and designs, to interested readers, who thereby benefit, too.
From the crowd-funded platforms like Inkshares, Beacon, Kickstarter, to other writing merchandise models, writers are given support and an outlet to put forward their ideas and work. Contributoria, at present, is an Independent Journalism Network and follows a slightly different process.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are also involved in supporting projects other than writing. Although some of these writing projects and other projects are brought into form for profitable purposes, some of them could also exist only for charitable, non-profit or for political reasons.
Coming back to writing, these supported-ideas-turned-further-into reports, articles, short or long-form, along with books and other writing forms, become writing merchandise, which could be sold further to other publication platforms, directly offered to readers who had initially funded or backed the original write-up ideas, and also to new readers.
The new merchants are definitely aiming to create path-breaking layouts.
Strengths and Weaknesses of Writing Merchandise Models
The writing models have a robust collaborative synthesis. They have a mostly supportive environment, which is based on innovation, creativity and focus. They provide a publishing outlet to new voices, new writers, in addition to the views of established journalists and writers. From a profit point of view, where earlier traditional models were giving writers and authors’ 10%-35% profit, these merchandising models offer more.
The writer may have a particular plan of action or a creative framework in place within which they want to frame their work, but outside involvement, though most often it is very constructive, thoughtful and needed, could distract the writer from their directed plan of action. Most often though, additional knowledgeable and positive ideas and suggestions go a long way in strengthening a piece of written work and help the writer. So, this relationship is more of a strength and at times, necessary, too. However, to settle any contrary opinions that could keep the final article or any resultant written work from reaching a consensus, editors have a significant role to play and have to take the final call.
Active editors help shape the final piece and guide it along, but the writer has to be their own quality controller and a lot depends on what they do and give the editors to work with. In writing merchandise models, where a variety of articles and other written material get published and stored for republication, quality control is something, the writer must take the onus of, right at the onset. Writers in such models are primarily responsible for the quality of their written work. Even if you go to a traditional book publishing house, a magazine, or a newspaper, they expect a writer to have their work in order, to be their own best editor and proofreader. This should be the first rung and must be taken care of.
Editorial quality control is, therefore, also in place for such crowd-funded writing models.
Editors are the strong pillars of such models, because they also approve projects or topics they feel are feasible and would invite funding and backing from readers and the community. There are other responsibilities that the editors have to fulfill to maintain high quality standards of the structure and organization.
To be crowd-funded, it is important to rely on the merit of the story being covered, the plan that is being tackled. To have initial support from friends, colleagues, immediate, present or even new readers are beneficial starting points and are helpful, but a good writer will always get support from interested readers across channels. For example, we have heard stories of how an unknown author becomes a crowd pulling bestseller in bookstores—it is not because the readers are his acquaintances, but because the author wrote something that a majority identified with. A certain amount of requisite promotional-work and advertising are also healthy activities that individuals can work with.
The original idea and the quality of writing are fundamental – and this will attract interested readers and even funding bodies or publications. Value and creativity-wise, this then becomes a win-win situation for everyone concerned. Readers, too, benefit the most because they can choose who they want to read and what they want to read.
However, the entire process has layers and it is always going to be a work of continuation and exertion.
Another point which needs mentioning is, if a project or topic is supported or backed by readers and supporters, then the author or journalist should ideally finish the writing project. In the case of an emergency though, the deadline perhaps could be extended or some other alternative can be thought of. Once a writing project is backed, it needs to be written. Readers and supporters are part of the project journey. The writer must share the journey with them, update them about what is going on with the project, and then finish it for them.
Crowd-Funded and Traditional Models
The intention behind creating crowd-funded writing merchandise models has been to give readers direct access to writers, to support what they wish to read and fund it, too. The intent has also been to bring independent new quality work into existence. Some of these merchandise models are also profit-oriented, such that everyone benefits, including the readers, editors, writers and other hierarchical roles.
Traditional models, on the other hand, have access to regular distribution networks that provide magazines, journals, newspapers, books and other writing material to readers through bookstores and other channels. The new models are not likely to take over from traditional models in all respects, but may move alongside traditional models, offering new opportunities for writers and journalists and creating a profit generating system by providing innovative and alternative sources of news generation and written work. They will access the readers who are online and indirectly, offline readers too, through republication in print, wherever applicable. Readers who still prefer going to the bookstores to pick up what they want to read, would still do that, or access digital editions of newspapers or books, non-fiction or fiction, or have them delivered home in print, wherever applicable.
Nevertheless, innovation and creativity could just usurp tradition, so one can’t really say anything with surety. The new structures might just edge past the conventional ones.
Marketing and Publicity
More publicity is always required to develop support. Bringing established writing names to such ventures can help initially, but it is not going to draw the readers in the long term, if they do not stick around. Quality and good work will find readers everywhere and new and established writers must support each other. Marketing and promotions could also strengthen such structures. Some promotions would work, some won’t, but it would have to continually take place.
The biggest edge that new writing merchandise models, those which support book publishing, have over traditional methods is that traditional models sometimes expect authors, journalists and writers to spend on their own book promotions—this could include expenses related to attending book signing events, promotional activities, speaking at forums, travelling and many other such expenses.
Writing merchandise models could change this. If an author has a book or written work already funded by readers, then the payment of goods beforehand, could help them cover any costs for promotions and publicity.
Success and Gains
Quality of writing is primary. The subjects chosen, what interests the readers, what people want to see and read, are essential factors. At the end of the day, good readers want to read work by good writers and reporters. Persevering quality writers will generate strong ideas and readers will be drawn. Options that interest them will be accepted and funded. Writers cannot do without editors and readers and vice versa, so each one is a critical element of new writing merchandise models.
New writing merchandise models are already gaining a lot of following from writers and readers—this goes to show that something is definitely right for some of the models. Setting up new write-ups in one place for publications and readers to have access to, or to deliver written projects as books or in other forms, alternatively, is a successful endeavoring in itself.
The fact that so many writers and readers are already part of quality writing merchandise models clarifies that a lot of success is already coming their way and will continue to. Further success of these models will also depend on their popularity, ease of use, acceptability by the readers and the new and old writers themselves. They will definitely reach more and more people across the world.
The monetary and creative role innovative writing merchandise models are likely to play is to give everyone involved in quality writing structures more opportunities to showcase their work; provide quality creative projects and therefore, have more flexibility to work together with readers. Even readers could earn from being a part of such projects. New innovative ideas alongside good quality merchandise will create more value. Persistent efforts to create more interaction between readers and writers are also going to be necessary.
As in the play ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ the final word is that good merchants, traditional or new, in Venice, with good plans and actions in place will succeed and continue to. Those who want a pound of flesh, won’t.
Author website: www.trishabhattacharya.com
Photo Credit: Canaletto: Grand Canal in Venice. Picture in public domain at Wikiart.