Brian Keene: I write novels, stories, and comic books for money

The artistic recluse has given way to a new breed of creator, the hyper-connected artist who takes advantage of the myriad ways of interacting with fans online. Increasingly artists are taking extraordinary steps to find new ways of connecting with their fans. In fact, that’s what they are encouraged to do to develop their craft, promote their work, and find new fans.

Emphasis is often placed on that notion alone: that if the artist is very real with fans and spends a lot of time connecting with them, then that connection will sell t-shirts, concert tickets, books, and films, and thus, the artist will make a living. Gone are the days when an artist’s work spoke for itself, and the artist could choose to stay out of the limelight. Now the artist must choose between connecting with fans, and finding time for solitary creative time.

And yet, many (in fact, most) artists embrace this new ideology, finding new avenues to reach their fans, make their work accessible in a variety of formats, and utilize the far-reaching capabilities of the internet and social media.

One such person is Brian Keene, an award-winning horror, crime fiction, and comic book author, who has published over thirty books, with a variety of publishers in multiple formats, including limited edition print-runs, leather bound books, and signed copies.

In addition, Brian participates in all the social-networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Google+, Library Thing, WhoSay, Spotify, 8trax – to name a few) and maintains a very active and thorough blog which he pours hours into, revealing intimate details of his life, his recent musings, and of course offering insights into his current writings. It’s no secret to a regular follower of Brian’s, that he recently suffered a heart attack, that he has two kids (one in college and a toddler) and that he lives in rural Pennsylvania. It’s also no secret, that he makes about $35,000 per year, has no health insurance, and has no 401K plan.

Yet, despite the many hours of work for what would seem to many of us like little financial return, Brian continues to write and offer new opportunities to his fans. In fact, he so appreciates his fans, that he wrote a novel, Deluge: The Conqueror Worms II,which he offered for free on his website. He told his fans that when it was finished, he’d remove it from his site and sell it in book form. As he prepared to offer a second book for free to his fans, he suddenly announced that he was hesitant to do this, because, he was alerted to a digital pirated edition of Deluge available online. “That didn’t hurt. I’m used to piracy.” Writes Brian, on his blog, “ What hurt was the pirate’s identity. It’s someone who has been a long-time reader. Someone who was an active and valued member of the old Keenedom forum, and indeed, who is active and valued as a reader in the genre.”

As he contacted his attorney and prepared to file a DMCA takedown notice, he found that many of those who associate with the pirate are also fans of his. Though clearly upset by this form of betrayal, Brian didn’t call the pirates out by name in his blog, nor did he seek revenge. Instead he made a compelling argument about how he earns a living and how piracy impacts his job. Through the blog post, discussions, and email exchanges, some of the pirates actually realized the impact their decisions had on Brian’s life and offered Brian an apology.

About 24 hours after Brian posted the initial blog, he posted this update: “I’ve now heard from several of those involved, both via the comments and via email. In fact, I just heard from the main offender via email and I believe his apology to be sincere. Like many young people, I don’t think he quite understood how such a thing impacts the artist. Now he does, and hopefully others do, as well.”