What I Learned About The Value of Joy From Amanda Palmer

I summed up a lot of how I felt about the recent furor around AFP’s “beer and hugs”-gate last week; there’s only a few things that I’ve been adding over the last few days.

First I made some observations (and resolutions) as a publisher. Then I talked about some things I observed from a sociological/economic point of view. Now, I’ll sum up with a personal example.

I tend to think that if people have information equality about risks, potential benefits, and value, then they can make an informed decision. Over the last three months, I’ve had several different conversations about the services I can – and cannot – offer as a publisher with prospective partners. I tried to give the most accurate information possible about my abilities, my strong points, and my weak points. Sometimes it means I get more work, sometimes not.

And that’s okay. Some people will choose not to do business with me because I cannot offer them enough (by whatever measure is important to them) to be worth their while. And I totally and completely respect that. For some people, they’ve framed it in terms of how much of an up-front payment they required. Others requested different terms for exclusivity. I had personality conflicts with others. And yet others did not think I offered as much exposure to a larger audience that they could manage themselves. But they made an informed choice about what they would give up, and what it would be worth to them. And I can respect that choice – because I’m making a similar evaluation.

When I decide whether or not to do business with someone, I factor in things like name recognition, potential audience they can bring (both for that project and future projects), the quality of their work that I’ve seen so far, how much it will cost me (in time, money, and stress), how working with them will impact my reputation, and how much I want to work with them out of the sheer enjoyment of working with them or promoting their work.

And for me, it’s not all about cash.

Case in point: Matt Betts’ book of humorous genre poetry See No Evil, Say No Evil. I really, really like this book. I also like Matt, he’s a great guy, and has been a pleasure to work with. I pestered him for about two years to be able to bring this book into print and digital formats, simply because the book gives me that much joy. (Don’t believe me? Go check out Matt reading “Instructions for Converting your Deathbot to a Gardenbot”.)

I don’t expect to get rich from this book. I would be foolish to think it was the next “Shades of Grey”. I may not even make my money3 back – I simply don’t know. But I was determined to both publish the book – and to make sure that Matt got his share of the royalties from the first sale onward.

Why publish it? Because it is totally worth it to me to make sure that others get to enjoy this book too. I enjoy the book, want to support Matt creating more of this stuff that I love, and hope that others also get enjoyment from the book.

With any degree of luck, this effort will gain him several more fans than he would have had otherwise… so when he finishes his next collection, it will do even better. And so on, and so on.

Doing this fulfills a need for me – perhaps toward the top of Maslow’s hierarchy instead of the bottom – but it’s still a need.

I know that the vast majority of the human population is nowhere near the top of that pyramid. I want to be as high up that pyramid as possible. And I want as many people as possible to be able to journey there too.4

As always, feel free to disagree with me in the comments!

3 Or what I would charge for my time plus advertising, and so on.
4 And again, this is where I’d disagree with AFP’s original decision – providing even a token payment helps deal with the immediate lower needs while still providing a chance at a means to move higher up that hierarchy. But as mentioned with the discoverability bit yesterday, it’s not hard to make an argument about “teaching someone to fish” instead of just giving them a fish.

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