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Distribution

I doubt I am breaking new ground here, but the opportunities for publishing and distribution are growing rapidly and not just for literature.  Amazon does not just let you distribute non-corporeal books, but music, audio, and video as well.  This brave new world we are living in allows us far more access to willing audiences, without a pimp – um, publisher – coming between us.

One sample I came upon a few months ago, though it has been going on for some years now, is Star Trek Phase II.  This group of fans in upstate New York has built sets, made costumes, written scripts and put together new episodes of the old series, with new actors playing the old roles.  They are worth a look.

http://www.startreknewvoyages.com/

You know what?  It is not too bad.  The acting is uneven in many cases and the voluntary nature of the operation has led to a few cast changes.  The stories are good, sometimes better than some of the originals.  The effects are actually better.  The best thing is, they get better with every episode.  They are learning.

You can download the episodes from their site or watch them, in slices, on YouTube.  It all, apparently, runs on donations.  Paramount has said they can do what they do, so long as they do not make a profit on it.  Not sure how that is determined and, just thinking out loud, there are many charities in the world that have professional staff.

If you look out on the Internet, you will find many other fan groups that have put together original series based on Star Trek in all of its forms and you can watch them.  Most of them have pretty low production values and the scripts, from the little I have seen, are not much better.  There was even a Next Generation inspired show from Eastern Europe – not too surprising when you think about the soviet nature of Roddenberry’s later creations.

Still, these series are all labors of love and you have to respect that.  Of course, it isn’t all Star Trek.  There are many other internet-only or YouTube-only series out there for your enjoyment.  One of them, a new series call L5, was put together for about $15,000.

l5-series.com

Yes, most of this stuff is sci-fi or fantasy.  Hey, the geeks built the internet, they get to go first – after the pornographers.  The raunchy comedies and reality shows will be along in no time, I’m sure, although the major networks give you plenty of that right now for free.

On that topic, here is my point, I think.  We started with the Big Three Networks.  Cable added far more choices.  But we didn’t really seem to get that much choice, just more of the same.  The problem, I always thought, was the high cost of television production.  With so much money at stake, studios still wanted to stick with the tried and true.  I had expected the creation of fifty-plus channels to lead to lower production costs, out of necessity, but that did not seem to happen.

Well, yes, it did in a way.  There was a time when just about every show I watched came out of Canada or New Zealand, because it was cheaper to produce there.  Hollywood was just too expensive, because they would not change their habits.  What I thought would happen was that we would get low-cost regional and local studios across the country, putting out shows of moderate quality on lower-than-moderate budgets and that this, in the end, would force Hollywood to economize as well.  Neither of these really happened.

Now it does seem to be happening.  These little groups, creating programming, mostly for themselves, will succeed in lowering the costs of production and, in the process, lowering the barriers to entry.  Local theater groups will make video productions of dramas and comedies and try to get them seen across the country and across the globe.

Which brings us to the problem of distribution.  Sure, I can put my book out on Amazon and James Crawley can put his Star Trek episodes on the internet, but what is going to direct the consumers to come and consume?  If we no longer need the publishers to publish, we still need some mechanism to market our wares.  Sure, the existing distributors might do this in the future.  Random House may very well bring its marketing expertise to bear in selling electronic books and TNT may decide to pick up some internet series and show it on their network.

However, there are other avenues coming open.  I am not a big fan of social media, but maybe that is how we will market in the future, with the “Like” button and the opinions of those in our self-selected groups.  Word of mouth, amplified by the “Forward” button.  This is the piece of the puzzle that is still missing and I do not have a clear vision of how this will work.

And I want to sell books, dammit!

 

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