There is an on-going lament about “Where have all the jobs gone?” or variations on that theme. The single most common aspect of the question seemingly being that “job” is a tangible item which some diffuse other retains control over and to whom you must apply in order to be paid for work performed.
In the now-past Industrial Revolution there was a quite deliberate truth behind that belief. Welcome to the 21st century.
One of the most widely occurring and historically repeated models of attaining economic self reliance is that of the story teller. In the modern world, this most often takes the form of being a writer of some niche application or expertise; technical manuals or instructions, computer code, science fiction (some overlap in those three, I think), poetry, screenplay, music and on and on. This post is about making that sort of work into an income producing job for far more of us than is ordinarily believed possible, and Jobster is its name-o.
In my experience, the hardest part of telling a story is how to begin. Which seems completely silly until you start to actually think about how much of a story actually doesn’t appear on the page (or screen, as you prefer). Known as the “back-story”, these are all the tiny and overwhelming details that combine to give the characters and their actions both context and believability, but don’t achieve direct mention in the actual telling of events except possibly as a bit of background color. The classic opening line, “It was a dark and stormy night …” would quite possibly be the stereotypical example of this, and the Star Wars sext-ology a recent example of failure in this part of story development. What follows is how to create all of this (so as to be better able to tell the good bits to others for money) and how to make doing so into an industry that carries a great many more of us into the 21st century than you might think.
Jobster is a job board/career development site that presently offers traditional job availability/application services mixed with modern networking technology that patches together 19th century employment structures with very-late 20th century labor resources (that last would be a cumbersome euphemism for you and me). In the doing of, Phil Bowermaster and his cohorts at Jobster have in place the infrastructure to re-create an industry that few can find entry into (never mind financial success) and hopefully expand our entertainment and information acquisition experience far beyond our present range of possibility.
All good propositions have a succinct definitional or mission statement; this is as close as I can come to one:
STORY TELLER – A job board that provides all of the support functions needed by successful authors.
Story Teller is a writers development tool for any genre or production format. Deliberately modeled after the straightforward Turbo Tax Q&A process of content development by non-experts, Story Teller provides the structural framework for an author to create a consistent “back-story” environment within which to relate information to an audience. By creating this wealth of back-story detail, the writer builds a contextual infrastructure to support any reference requirements the story might require during telling. Who are the characters involved, what are the circumstances and technology experienced, when do events take place, Where are characters located during the course of the tale, why do actions occur; once these have been worked out as fully as possible in advance (and there will be need for some back-story on-going editing required) finally the how (the actual story or information being offered for sale) can be told by as many authors as the originator can interest in his creation.
The devil is ever in the details (and despite some of my more questionable predilections, I fall well short of that standard), but some of the major support functions Story Teller would need to provide would include:
1) Tax and contract legal advice links. These could take the form of links to “boilerplate” legal contract sites up to a paid member service of retained counsel from legal professionals directly.
2) Reference links. While I like refdesk and wikipedia, this would probably require a more refined search function than is currently available from those two. As a start though, they’re a good beginning as they are (see also: 7 below).
3) Editorial support. This would involve the classical editor functions, but also include links to those wishing to work as “reader”, page/cover illustrator or researcher as well. The possibility of these services being for direct cash or on a limited sales profit-sharing basis needs to be explored and appropriate contracts developed.
4) Co-Author job posting requests. This works from either end of the deal; author needs help or author wants to help (a good deal of specificity would be required for such notices to be useful I expect). In addition to expansion of the existing Jobster model, this is an avenue for Jobster to make a business alliance with an established publishing house (for the record, I like and hereby nominate Baen books for a lot of reasons – only some of which are the cracking good authors who publish there and the management team with a proven history of being willing to look beyond established market and industry standards). Such an alliance would offer new opportunities for the established writers as well as provide vital assistance with the next point of emphasis, to wit:
5) Marketing. In addition to the now-traditional “Hey look, my book is for sale” tug on Instapundit‘s blogospheric cape, the capability to combine the advertising resources of both Jobster and an established publisher’s promotional expertise should result in sales potential far beyond anything either can currently economically achieve independently. This would result in a vast increase for potential markets for all authors as well as increased profitability for both members of the business alliance.
6) Back-story Development. This is the crux of the thing, the point upon which all of the fulcrum above rests. Broken down to its basics, a story consists of the classic detectives line of questioning; who, what, when, where, why and only then can the tale be told as the how. Eric S. Raymond is one of the premier open source software developers alive today, has no idea I’m bruiting his name about this way, and should be the first person Jobster contracts with to develop this concept (OK, second :)). To make Story Teller function as intended will require that the operating code architecture be written such that it can be easily adapted to a variety of story development and presentation requirements. Having an open source menu of roughly pre-formatted options from which individual story tellers can select offers the least demanding entry-level requirement for new story tellers to achieve; the emphasis being on telling their story and not displaying their code-adapting skills. Besides, esr has more contacts in the open source coder’s market than most along with a sterling reputation; his involvement in this project will result in it being accomplished much more quickly – not to mention better – than other likely available options could achieve for a good deal more expense.
7) Story Teller must be at minimum a two-tiered structure. The open-to-all page (see the Baen link in 4 above as example) should provide links to all material available for sale (possible partnership with Amazon or a competitor here) as well as a “New Writer Sponsorship” link. The NWS link would offer a bare bones version of the Story Teller development software for a new writer to display his concept for established writers to consider. The secondary level would by for paid members, which is how Story Teller becomes a business entity. Membership fees should be nominal (US$120/year) but include a modest (10%?) percentage of all sales made of products developed on Story Teller. Members automatically have access to all networking, research and editorial support contractors and receive access to legal and tax professional assistance at a negotiated per-transaction fee. Members can arrange a contract to co-develop a story with an NWS writer by sponsoring the new writer into Story Teller membership (paying the membership fee for a year). There should be a tertiary forum/library in which members can document/debate stipulated metrics for character types (do vampires sparkle or not?) and technology (how does that space drive work?) which should permit members to directly link to stories under development.
8) This software needs to be written in such a fashion that it be readily adaptable to other applications of a generally similar, but discrete, market
This initial proposal is intended to introduce a digital network-based solution for individuals to create an income for themselves in an era of Industrial Revolution-model economic decline. To defile a metaphor, the buggy whip market is going even further away and taking much of the rest of traditional human-centric “manufacturing” with it. I propose we build a new, digital manufacturing industry, initially around the creation of entertainment and education, but adaptable to many other applications also. This is but the first step in that industry developing process, but offers entry into all the rest at a comparatively minimal initial cost that offers considerable long-term ROI potential in its own right.
As I said, Sun Tzu wrote his own job application; this is mine.