In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at what the Only Fans controversy means for indie authors and celebrates Black Independent Authors Day.
In this month’s self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I talk about new features being launched on social media platforms that enable users to monetize their feeds. And tonight's #indieauthorchat is a must for those of us with too many things to do and too little time. We'll be asking how much time to spend on marketing. Join us at the usual 3pm Eastern, 8pm UK time.
Only Fans: A Warning About Indie Creators' Reliance on Payment Services
(BREAKING: ONLY FANS BACKS DOWN – after going to press, Only Fans reversed its decision. More here, and the full lowdown on what it all means next week!)
The story that has dominated the news this week has been the announcement that Only Fans will stop supporting the production of and payment for sexually explicit material on its platform from October. This isn’t a story that’s directly about indie writers but it is very easy to see the connection. And it’s an issue we have experience of in our community. The erotica writers at the forefront of the indie movement have consistently faced problems with platforms withdrawing support for their content. The highest profile incident was with Smashwords, the platform where many built their brands.
A History of Payment Providers Driving Policy
What links everything up is part of the hidden infrastructure on which we all rely: payment processors. Smashwords’ ban on types of erotica was driven by Paypal. In 2012 the backlash led to Paypal eventually changing its terms. Only Fans also cite their payment partners as the reason behind the ban. In this case, it seems, the issue is over the rigour of age verification policies, and the enforcement of them.
Is Blockchain the Answer?
These stories make one thing clear. As long as independent creators seek to monetize our work, we will be reliant on the terms and conditions of payment processors and web platforms. But this is where the situation is different now from 2012. One of the responses I’ve seen most to the Only Fans focuses on the role of crypto, built on blockchain technology. Blockchain technology provides decentralisation. There are two sides to this which tackle this twin dependence. First is cryptocurrency – payment that has no reliance upon a provider’s terms and conditions. And as the rise of non fungible tokens, or NFTs, has shown this year, it is possible to create digital content that is not dependent on a web platform’s terms for its distribution.
Of course, blockchain technology has a history of association with unregulated territory. It has tended to be something that made people nervous about it. But the increasing encroachment of regulation on the infrastructure on which we rely means that maybe, in future, this element of crypto will drive its growth.
Black Indie Author Day
The publishing industry has realised in the past few years the extent of the diversity issue it has. That realisation has happened very slowly. It started with the Vida count. This brought recognition that when it comes to the coverage of titles in major publications, there has been a real gender inequality. Books like The Good Immigrant have highlighted the industry’s pretty shabby record on race. And in the past two years scandals with the Romance Writers of America awards, and just this month the response to criticism of Kate Clanchy’s book “Some Kids I Taught and What they Taught Me”, have shown that the industry is only just beginning to get to grips with the problem.
There has been far less coverage of diversity in indie publishing. In a way this is inevitable. While we have organizations like ALLi that advocate and bring us together, the whole thing about being indie is that it’s harder to see our contours as a group. Indie Land should, in theory, provide a home for all. In practice, it doesn’t always feel that way.
So it’s great to be able to cover two related events. Last Saturday was Black Independent Authors Day, an annual event staged on August 21st. It is an online celebration of the wealth of talented black indie authors writing every kind of book you can imagine.
Read Black Fantasy
A much more focused and ongoing campaign is Benu Media’s Read Black Fantasy. The campaign puts the spotlight on Black fantasy writers, especially highlighting the indie community. It is an appropriate genre for such a campaign. The #publishingpaidme campaign of 2020 highlighting unequal pay in publishing for writers of colour was driven by SFF’s N K Jemisin. Possibly because SFF was involved in some really unpleasant episodes, such as the Sad Puppy movement that came out of Gamergate, earlier than a lot of areas it has tended to take a lead, and this is a really fabulous initiative.
Reading Online Continues to Grow
This Friday sees the European Speed Reading Championship. Part of the annual Mind Sports Olympiad, you can enter the competition for free here. I've been lucky enough to win for three years, and one of the reasons I keep coming back is that you get a free advanced copy of a great book. This year, for obvious reasons, the event will be held online. And that's why I wanted to mention it. Because Mark Williams has a great piece about the continued growth of online reading. This means reading actually online – as opposed to downloading material. The latest huge development is DC Comics' partnering with Webtoon. This will bring comics to a much wider audience. What is remarkable is despite the vast size of this audience (Wattpad is just one player) publishers haven't caught on fully.What the Only Fans content ban means for indie authors and other top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.
Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month
Historical Novel Society Australia, Writing Bootcamp, 16-17 Oct (early bird tickets until 24 September)