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Chaos Has No Friends

I want to be explicit, because fair is fair, that I am not talking about or begrudging Brandon Sanderson his money. I say the same thing about professional ballers, whether they are worth it or not, get your money! Brandon is getting his and largely due to hard work. But also a lot of luck. Its complicated, I get it, but I am not coming for his $$ or saying he is not worth it. As a capitalist, and a writer who wants some of my own hard work $$ when I earn it, the market is the market. Brandon has put in the work as a business person and as a writer. Take nothing away from his success. My only complaint with Sanderson is that he may not have thought this through all the way to its conclusion.

Sanderson's success in this venture exposes larger issues and will have a great many unintended consequences. It also exposes (again) deep biases in how consumers spend their cash. Here are my thoughts.

  • I think it is highly suspect to think an author as popular as Brandon, but who was Black, Latinx, or Asian would have the same success even if they built a similar strong brand and back end business. Race is one of those market forces that exist and people are rarely willing to admit it plays a part in their purchasing. Even the most progressive of readers.

  • I think the same thing about a writer who was a woman. I can think of one author, but that person is sadly, a garbage human being. Otherwise I still think the bias towards women/female authors would limit their success. And non-binary authors as well. Gender-privilege is alive and well in the consumer's hearts. No matter how hard an author worked, they would not get this level of success.

  • I am watching writers and artists who have a strong brand within smaller communities still struggle to get their projects funded, while those same communities throw money at Sanderson.

  • I do not think the traditional Big 4 are going to worry about this, though they may also be wondering where the book-buying public got all that sweet KS money to spend on this. Will they change their own method of publishing or add some kind of crowd-funding? I cannot see that, but I did see some conversations regarding whether or not a trad publisher might be curious if you have or could run a successful Kickstarter of your own as a means of determining if they will publish your book.

  • I do think this could make issues, dare we say more issues, for small and medium-sized publishers. I do not know much about the business and have not spoken to any of my friends in it yet. It is still in the first week of the kickstarter, so those consequences may not be seen for a while.

  • As a (presently) indie-author, do I now have to measure my success by launching a kickstarter of some kind? Will you judge my ability as a writer based on that?

People have a habit of defending the wealthy and the privileged. They want to defend their own consumer choices. When you get defensive and start building a case for why your favorite author isn't succeeding on just privilege, I start to wonder about you, not the writer or artist. Do you feel attacked for pledging $$ to the kickstarter? Why? I did not say don't back it. I am just saying let's stop a look at the situation.

By constantly bringing up how hard Brandon works, you are implying that other people do not work as hard. In fact, that is not true and it takes nothing away from Sanderson to admit that others work equally as hard and that there is an element of luck in his success. Luck and privilege, which are not the same thing.

This is good for Sanderson and his fans, but I wonder if its good for the rest of the writing / publishing world.


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