He who pays the piper…

…Calls the tune. It’s something people in our profession tend to forget… and not just our profession, of course. It’s understandably confusing if you’re a Big Five traditionally published author. Your publisher is (apparently) calling the tune. Without him or her your tootle-pipe went unheard. That was who your check came from. Pleasing them and your agent (who got you in the door with them) was life and breath to your working author.

It didn’t actually MATTER where the money for that check came from.

Or so many authors – and musicians, and actors, and NFL football players thought (and still do think). Their money comes from the publisher, the record label, the Hollywood financier or their team contract. Yes, they might make more if they’re popular – but actually making them popular is not their skill, or quality… it’s that proximal payer, the publisher or whatever who does that.

Or so they would have you believe.

But facts keep proving them wrong.

In actual practical terms these people are really little more than gatekeepers – increasingly – in our profession anyway, keeping gates where the walls have fallen around them – or are crumbling (rumor has it that B&N is circling the drain – one of the last few walls). Sometimes, yes, those gatekeepers can – and do – keep quality out, and, if it gets in, down. That is true – but it works to their and everyone’s long term detriment, something many gatekeeper fail to realize, believing the own myth. It doesn’t end well. Sometimes they can indeed give a sow’s ear a temporary lift…

But unless the public actually WANTS sow’s ear… they still eventually call the tune. And if the publisher, record label, Hollywood financier or team owner think differently, well, they either learn… or ride their industry into the ground – taking down a lot of pipers who didn’t realize that they had to please the public and that the ‘very important’ gatekeeper was really little more than a beneficiary of the piper’s skill and popularity. Often an overpaid and over-valued beneficiary, at that. The gatekeeper’s real job was to make sure that the people who paid the piper got EXACTLY the tunes they wanted. It wasn’t to please the gatekeeper, or educate the public, or support the piper’s ability protest whatever the piper wanted to protest about.

We’re in the entertainment industry, and our customers (and that’s not your publisher, or, in most cases, the people in their NYC bubble they live in, or that their camp-followers admire and aspire to, any more than NFL customers are the Hollywood elite and various left-wing celebrities loudly encouraging the players to protest at the US Anthem and Flag) are paying to be entertained. There is, I am sure, a small market where people find abuse entertaining… but it’s not much of a market, and doesn’t pay many people.

You can ‘educate’ people, or highlight whatever injustice or cause you like… but if the paying customer doesn’t like… he won’t remain your customer. You can please whichever political faction or social group you desire to… but if those aren’t your customers (or only a part of your customer group, the rest of whom dislike them) – it might help your ego or your psychology, but not your bank balance. We’ve seen this in sf, we’re likely to see this the NFL – it’s been about pleasing a section of the population, not even a major section – to the irritation of the bulk of the punters.

Audiences are often slow to build and/or require a special set of circumstances to develop. You can be lucky and in the right place at the right time… once. Doing so twice is less likely and, as many an author has found alienated readers don’t give you that second chance.

You may think you’re important, and what you say is of value and should be read. BUT you’re asking people to pay to read it. And they pay because they want to be entertained. Yes, I know, they should be far more noble and be eager to pay to be lectured about injustices and how bad they are…

But it just doesn’t seem to work that way.

Always remember who pays the piper.


  1. GRRM may not be your b****, but we are. We don’t have the luxury to be otherwise.

    Too many artists are under the impression they’ve already reached the state where they can mock the fans with impunity.

    1. Maybe… when you have made a shed-load of money, the loss won’t hurt you much. But… people WILL walk. Some – will walk towards you because of your stance. others will walk away. It’s – no matter how famous you are, possible to get this wrong and fall.

  2. I know I’m done with the NFL.
    Come to think of it, also with quite a few authors, and the entirety of Tor.

  3. It’s easy to forget that the money paid by publisher/team/studio what-have-you comes from fans/viewers first, then is processed through the gatekeeper. And there is a difference between gentle humor or satire that entertains while nudging foibles, and being in-your-face offensive.

  4. Caleb Howe pointed out that the reaction to Trump’s reaction makes the case that it is also failing to meet the ostensible needs of the original activist goal.

    Trump’s reaction brought publicity, which could have been used to reiterate the case that cops are too hard on specific groups of poor people. (Most of the examples which were widely reported involved drugs. 1. I remain convinced that there are mostly unreported cases of police misconduct which would have been more persuasive and less divisive if they had been widely reported. 2. I don’t see the problem as giving poor people too little slack on drugs, I see it as giving rich people too much. I apparently see things very differently from much of the NFL playership.) The messaging strategy could have been planned, organized, managed and focus grouped better.

    This may have worked out well for Trump, as it gives him coverage, and is not as negative for him as some of the other possible coverage of him could be.

    As for the players, if it costs them popularity, it may cost them some of the insulation from consequences that popularity had bought them.

    1. I saw on my Twitter feed earlier today that someone was suggesting taking a knee anytime Trump was in the room. Someone else replied that Trump had just succeeded in getting his enemies to kneel before him.

  5. Great minds think alike, Dave. I just finished blogging about this.

    This phenomenon of everybody finally quitting the media is the reason why Trump is President and Hillary isn’t, despite her recent explanation book.

    Trump did not cause this wave. He’s surfing it. He’s hanging ten for the cameras in front of the massive swell of “GET OUT OF MY FACE!” that is seizing Western civilization as a whole.

    Personally, I think we have Osama Bin Laden to thank for all this. The Western World saw 9/11 go down, and we were all enraged by it. The very next day, the world-wide media started telling us that we didn’t see what we saw. That 9/11 was -our- fault for being so White, or so Christian, or so Western, or some shit. Whatever, it was -our- fault.

    Which is an obvious and heinous lie. 16 years later, they’re still selling the same lie. All outlets the same. All anti-Western propaganda, all the time. If you are married and have 2.5 kids in your suburban house, a car, and your wife (who is female) stays home with the kids, you are literally Satan. If you go to church too, you are Super Duper literally Satan.

    Well, that’s finally gotten through to all those millions of people who aren’t paying attention. Now they are, and they’re mad. They told the NFL to cram it, and did not pay $90 each for tickets to the Big Game.

    That’s a big deal. That has something to do with why Christopher sold 50 books in 10 days at a con/fair. That’s a general, population wide shift in attitude.

    Time to wax that surf board, my friends.

  6. “But unless the public actually WANTS sow’s ear… they still eventually call the tune.”

    This seems to be breaking out all over lately … along with the NFL’s increased level of idiocy, we have comics pros threatening a critic http://tinyurl.com/y6utmsee
    (and how are sales for trad pub comics? don’t even ask!).

    There are always going to be die-hards who see the trads as sources of quality, who would rather pay for pro sports tickets instead of going to high school or college games … but I expect that number will continue to shrink as more and more people get “woke”.

    1. Sales for trad pub comics are sad. as the post stresses, the guy they were planning on harassing has more subscribers than the average comic’s monthly circulation…. keep in mind that this is down from the early 90s when a comic selling only 20,000 issues would be on the verge of being cancelled and big books like the X-Men titles commonly sold 600-800k issues. (Now they rarely clear 100k)

  7. Heck, even Tom Brady managed to annoy me severely, and I’m a Pats fan. At least NASCAR still has patriotism! Even if it’s because they offered any team member NOT showing respect for the national anthem would be given an immediate bus ticket home.

  8. I’ll have you know that a properly prepared pig ear is a fine southern delicacy. Entire restaurants specialize in pig’s ear sammiches. Just make sure to get all the hair off and clean well before cooking.
    And recently a dear friend who is a rabid football fan remarked as to how he’s more inclined these days to watch college ball instead of the posturing of overpaid jerks that pro ball has become.

    1. I’ve recently learned about including risk assessments in my planning. I’m trying to bring this into my planning. One of my plans involves a local school, and I’m wondering a bit about what I will do if their team gets on this bandwagon. What impact will it have? Haven’t nailed that down. Quite possibly none.

  9. Not a football fan myself, but I’ve reached the point where I’m boycotting things I might actually like due to the political grandstanding of the artists. I used to be very live and let live, judge the work, not the artist, but it’s just not possible anymore. Not when people are literally being attacked and beaten for having the wrong opinions, and these artists praise these scum as heroes.

    I was intrigued by Rogue One, then the creators put a safety pin on the logo: how scared everyone was of being attacked by Trump supporters, when it was the Trump supporters who were/are BEING attacked. That’s a movie I’ll never watch.

    I’ve pretty much sworn off Stephen King. And Ron Perlman. Stranger Things too, after the “Just Punch him in the face” crack.

    Do I even need to mention Marvel?

    As for the NFL kneelers, how many of their martyrs are attempted cop killers ala Michael Brown? Screw em all.

    It looks like we’ve got a new crop of Jane Fondas.

    1. I’m the same. Just tired and sick and tired of SJW spazz-outs, and seeing anyone who doesn’t toe the party line being attacked relentlessly.
      Reacting with our pocket book may be the last best way to get through to them by hurting them financially. May take a while, but I think it is already starting to bite.

      Say, anyone remember what the Dixie Chicks are up to these days? Or care?

      1. I live in the hometown of one of the Dixie Chicks. She was recently (within the last…18? months) given some sort of honor by the city. Other than that, I think they’ve dropped off the radar. And good riddance.

        1. They show up in the rotation for Amazon Prime Music country channels occasionally…. or they did before I finished removing any of their songs from my possible picks rotation.

      2. I was curious a few months ago and looked. They’ve still got a career, but it’s mostly in Europe and occasionally Canada; they seem to have lost their US fan base enough–and kept them lost–that they haven’t been able to headline a tour here basically since The Incident, as of when I looked.

        Which oughtn’t really matter, right? I mean, everyone knows Madrid is the heart of country.

  10. The players/actors/writers seem to have gotten themselves confused. They are entertainers first and foremost. Any activism they want to do must either be done in a thoroughly entertaining way or in a completely different setting.

    Fans don’t plunk down their hard earned coin to be lectured and scolded. They want to be entertained for a few hours, take their minds off their daily troubles. If the show starts with a lecture on how racist/homophobic/misogynist/etc the fans are, the fans are likely to find other entertainment.

    When I saw what was happening this weekend, I flipped over to women’s soccer. Today I packed up all my NFL jerseys/T-shirts/hats and stored them away. Should the NFL remember that they are a Sports-Entertainment business I may return. If they insist on being a Political Activist Organization with a rigorous exercise regimen I won’t come back.

    Customer service, and that includes providing a good product as well, can make or break your business. Gordon Graham talks about how he and his wife haven’t been to a Sears in three and a half decades because of poor customer service. My grandparents refused to donate to the Red Cross because of how they treated my grandfather in WWII. After the MLB strike in ’94 I boycotted baseball. I can count the number of games I’ve attended, watched on TV or listened to on the radio (partial and complete) on one hand with fingers left over. I think these people think that they can play with fire and never get burned. Good luck with that.

    1. Prediction time.
      For the rest of this season, the NFL and media will have a mutual back patting session on how “brave” they are.
      Sales will decline, but there will be a fair amount of palaver about how sales aren’t really declining, about “trufans”, and how everyone is on their side.

      Next season, the decline will be very obvious. Much ink will be spilled wondering why there was a decline in sales. Non of the sports media will make a connection.

      1. I wouldn’t bet against that prediction…
        And – just like the Hugo Admins there’ll be ‘we never did anything wrong’ and ‘let’s let bygones be bygones’ (but we aren’t going to change our behavior, or admit anyone (specific or general) on our side was wrong). You can come back… as penitent third class citizens as long as you accept it was all your fault and you bear your daily castigation… and of course… pay up. Not going to be many takers in either case, methinks.

      2. Whether or not you are a fan of Rush Limbaugh, bear in mind he’s been a fanatic about the NFL for decades. I saw the transcript of his opening monologue, and for the first time in 45 years(!), he made the conscious decision not to watch any NFL game, even with his (formerly) beloved Pittsburgh Steelers. My take on this is that the NFL is becoming yet another example of Sarah’s “Roll left and die”. I suspect the decline is going to be fast, and helped by a bunch of ticked-off taxpayers. “My tax money went into That Stadium! I want it back!

        (My “favorite” take is Goodel’s comment about President Trump “not showing respect to the NFL”. Tell me, sir, just who’s more worthy of respect? The USA or the NFL?)

        1. You know, in all this NFL crap, the one guy I feel sorry for is Rush Limbaugh. I have never cared a damn about football, or any team sport, since I was a small boy, so they can fall to ruination and bankruptcy for all of me.

          But Limbaugh did. That guy has been a True Believer all these years. Even after they kicked him off TV colour commentary, which he -rocked- at, incidentally, he stayed true to the NFL.

          Now here they are, and poor old Rush can’t even watch the frickin’ Steelers game. He’s out. It’s over. 45 year love affair, done. Not his fault, nothing to be done about it, moving on now. That’s a sad thing.

          This is EXACTLY HOW I FELT about the Hugos. I felt like Rush Limbaugh on Sunday. We’re done here, moving on.

          That’s why I think the Sad Puppies have an opportunity and a -responsibility- to at least contribute to what comes next. What that looks like, that’s not up to me. But collectively we should build something cool to replace the dead empty skin the SJWs left behind.

          1. Best thing to do: write what lots of people want to read. And when we build – be it awards or cons – don’t let the damn Cowbirds back in.

            1. “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”

              The parallel is apt. But a cowbird can’t help being what it is. Humans make choices.

              For those who make that choice, to steal what others have done and turn it to their own ends, their own unpleasant lives are the best punishment. I refuse to let my efforts be dampened by their hate and cowardice. Onward, and upward.

      3. When does the NFL start arguing for more immigrants to do the Fanning that American Fans won’t do?

    2. This: ‘The players/actors/writers seem to have gotten themselves confused. They are entertainers first and foremost. Any activism they want to do must either be done in a thoroughly entertaining way or in a completely different setting.’

  11. Personally I gave up on pro sports years ago. Even college football is all about the money these days, although the college sports that don’t get the big bucks are well worth supporting. As far as football goes, maybe Texas is on to something with the small town love of high school ball.

    1. It’s no better. Rich districts have stadiums that rival college or even pro facilities. There are certain districts where all energy in the fall is geared towards going to the state playoffs; it’s the number one priority. Football is a religion around which school districts revolve and all are forced to worship.

        1. I was on a search committee to fill a minister of music position at my church about 15 years. While checking references for one of the candidates, I was told that one of the main reasons he was let go was because he didn’t really fit the community. Upon inquiring what that meant, I was told “he didn’t attend the high school football games. Here everyone attends the football games.”. In some small towns in Texas, there’s not much choice if you live there.

  12. There is a YUGE difference between using coercion to change government – which is a monopoly – and those organizations whose product we do NOT have to buy.

    If we can say, “No, thanks”, you can’t MAKE us go along.

    And, we CAN choose to bypass many of those purchases.

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