Giving it all away


On my social media travels I have encountered artists and creatives getting all tied up and worried about protecting their intellectual property. Three memorable examples are

  • The writer who didn’t want to put up more than fifty words of any one article on his blog for fear that any more would make it difficult to sell anything
  • A photographers who would only provide images measuring 5 by 3 centimetres on her website so that visitors wouldn’t have anything worth colour laser-printing
  • A singer songwriter who only provided small 30 second snippets of three songs from his fifty song repertoire

The thinking behind such stinginess is that if you give too much for free you will not sell anything. The reality online is if you don’t give enough no one will want to buy in the first place.

Writers – miserly versus generous

Writers offering half paragraphs as tasters, the miserly writers, are living in a pre-web world. They have failed to understand and adapt to a new environment where generous writers with the nous to set up a blog happily publish full articles, short stories and even novels.

Generous writers are concerned with building an audience for their work first, rather than hoping like the miserly writers that a mere selection of paragraphs is so mouth wateringly good that readers will pay to see more.

Publishing an entire story, or uploading the unexpurgated travel diary allows the generous writer to really show off his or her stuff. Miserly writers are failing to properly showcase their talents.

Generous writers recognise

  • They can build their audience by publishing their work widely – a grateful audience to which they can eventually begin to sell their work
  • Even while they build their audience with free stuff generous writers know they still retain copyright on all their writing so that its eventual publication in magazines and other formats reaching offline audiences will make them money
  • Online fans of free stuff often translate into paying offline fans. Online fans still appreciate the charm of print and will often want to buy the paper version of a novel or non-fiction work originally published online

Visual artists – new style versus old style

Photography, painting, drawing and printmaking are visual arts. Duh! So why would any artist involved in these mediums choose to set up a website that didn’t properly represent their work visually?

Small images in poor resolution are as good as useless if your intention is to impress website visitors with examples of your huge landscape photographs or 1m2 woodcuts

New style visual artists know how important it is that their website and blogs are populated with beautiful, large, high resolution images. They have no qualms putting their best stuff up online for all to see in epic Panavision. They know…

  • Anyone who takes laser print copies and sticks them on the wall was never going to buy their art in the first place
  • True art fans recognise that photographs, paintings, drawings and etchings can only be properly appreciated in the original
  • Any publicity is good publicity. If images are used widely without permission the more likely they will be seen by true art fans. Artists ‘ripped off’ enough might even make a tidy sum paid in damages by the offender

Musicians – easy-going versus uptight

There are many examples in modern times of the bands that have built a solid fan base via the internet without or before the expensive marketing that comes with a ‘proper’ recording contract. The Arctic Monkeys are a vivid case in point. They recognised that

  • Full versions of their best songs available for listening online would be the best showcase for their talent
  • True music fans don’t just buy into music. They buy into a band and that means concerts (where all the real money is made these days), merchandise and proper copies of music on CD or downloaded with bespoke artwork
  • Offering free stuff builds a solid and loyal audience for websites and blogs where fans will come back for more, and even provide things like contact details and positive reviews


Don’t be miserly, old style and uptight. Quite apart from being a very poor look for an artist (synonymous surely with modern, novel and freethinking) it’ll cost you in the end.

And before you complain let me assure you that I don’t just talk the talk. I’m walking the walk too!

I’m publishing all my writing via tweets and a blog. Check out the regular updates to my blog of my novel ‘The last Viking’ (working title) and accompanying tweets on my twitter account @jrphartley

p.s. all this helpful advice on this blog is free stuff too of course.




About jonhartl

Jon Hartley is a former manager in international online and traditional publishing. He has over 20 years experience in marketing, training, editing, copywriting and translation.Jon Hartley Internet Marketing is a collective of professionals expert in all aspects of internet including design and IT

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