In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at Wattpad Brand Originals and what it means for the relationship between authors and products.
In this month's Self-publishing News podcast, Howard and I talk about Amazon's battle with libraries. We also, inevitably, discuss whether non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are an opportunity or a minefield, or both. On tonight's #indieauthorchat with Tim Lewis, at 8pm GMT, we'll be talking show don't tell with Louise Harnby. And for everyone following Audiblegate, please visit our latest update on that essential campaign.
Wattpad Launches Brand Originals
Wattpad are always up to interesting things, but their new Brand Originals is something that will raise many eyebrows. I recommend, as always, you read Mark Williams’ excellent commentary. Wattpad Brand Originals offers, in short, a way for brands who want to reach a wide Gen Z audience to team up with writers on Wattpad who can weave the brand into a story. It sounds a bit like the Lego movies. What interests me is the way this mixes fan fiction, the trend towards influencers, patronage, and creativity. I think a lot of people will be quick to dismiss it. But a lot of the intended audience probably won’t be. Which means we should pay attention!
What Does the Satan’s Trainer Story Mean for Creatives?
It’s rather appropriate that this happens the same week as the biggest story to raise the creative industries’ brand question in some time. Nike is the latest firm to take umbrage at the repurposing of its brand in the name of art. Boston based collective MSCHF and rapper Lil Nas X dropped a limited edition run of 666 (of course) pairs of “Satan Shoes” based on the Nike Air Max. The air bubble in each pair contains red ink and a single drop of blood from a collective member.
Needless to say this has caused an outrage. Nike’s particular lawsuit is based on the allegation, “MSCHF and its unauthorised Satan Shoes are likely to cause confusion and dilution and create an erroneous association between MSCHF's products and Nike.” Confusion and dilution are, of course, technical terms for the stuff brands not only don't like you to do to them, but for which they have legal recourse.
Controversial uses of brands for commercial artistic purposes has a long history. As writers, we’re only too aware that including a Beatles lyric in our books could cost us a lot of money for permissions. Using Coca Cola, on the other hand, could cost us damages if the company doesn’t like how we’re using them (like Nike). Yet Andy Warhol, the most entrepreneurial of all creatives, used brands any way he wanted. And many creatives who are internet-native are used to the concept of “repurposing”. To them, “adding value” or simply “changing” a brand image is sufficient for it to be art, and so exempt from copyright law. This is a principle embedded in the Creative Commons licence so may use for their work.
Are Libraries Cannibalizing ebook Sales?
Talking of “dilution and confusion” in the sense of “losing brands money”, the rumblings continue about whether library ebook lends cost publishers sales. Guy Gonzalez of the Panorama Project used this as an interesting backdrop to Penguin Random House’s latest sales figures. Sales rose 4.6% to nearly $4.5bn. And the driving factor behind this? Strong ebook and audiobook sales. “Yet another data point suggesting libraries aren't cannibalizing sales,” as Gonzalez noted in a thread well worth reading in full.
Society of Authors Contribution Publishing Survey
Back in the day when I started self-publishing, vanity presses were big news. For indies they occupied a special circle of hell because they were what people thought about when they thought about self-publishing. These days we’ve broken that stigma to a large extent. But the problem hasn’t gone away. Like particularly persistent leeches, vanity presses still make a living by exploiting people’s publishing dreams.
The Society of Authors is running a joint survey with the Writers Guild of Great Britain to try and capture information on people’s experiences of paid publishing services. Much kudos to them for shouting out the work ALLi and John Doppler do as our Watchdog on this. Please do take part. The more people who get involved, the better the picture we will have of what the landscape is currently like. And the better that picture, the more all authors’ representative bodies can work together for change. You can take the survey here.Wattpad Brand Originals blurs the line between art and commerce in challenging ways and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy… Click To Tweet
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