Exploring: Dutch SFF into the mainstream

I am preparing things for tomorrow.

The main question of the past months was and is: how to get the Dutch SF and Fantasy more in the open?

“There is no market”

The main thought seems to be :”that there is no market” for Dutch SF and Fantasy. Sales are poor. Interest is minimal. Running organizations like Holland-SF and SF-Terra seem to be stuck in low publishing numbers.

Then again, I checked the Dutch box office numbers for three SF movies.

  1. “Oblivion”: $2,060,940
  2. “Star Trek: into darkness”: $1,913,528
  3. “Total Recall (2012)”: $1,174,249

Around 200.000 visitors per movie is not really a lack of interest

With tickets of roughly 10 euro each and a margin for the theatre, we talk about roughly 200.000 visiters per movie.

These people do not go to this kind of movies because they dislike the genre and think SF in general and SF movies specifically suck big time.

30.000 people showing up on Elfia

Elfia is a yearly festival once called “Elf Fantasy Fair”. On this fair, people (mostly D&D players) over 30.000 people show up in a period of several days, most of them dressed in one way or another. Many dresses are home-made.

Walking around in normal clothing (as I did on a less big fair this year 2013) makes you the odd one out.

These people do not make all this effort (to make or compose their own dresses) because they think Fantasy is stupid and mainly meant for children.

So what is wrong?

I will write a separate post about this.

What I have in mind for the short and longer run

  1. A good soil — Like any crop, writers and artists need a good soil to grow on. This soil needs to be worked. The basics are: good training and good guidance
  2. A steady production of good quality — To reach an audience you need material. To keep that audience, this material needs to be of good quality
  3. A professional attitude — It is easy to write, draw and publish things. It is incredibly hard to lift this to levels that match and even surpass that of commercial and professional publications. One thing lacking is a professional attitude.
  4. Good education based on solid models — To write, to draw, to publish things on higher levels of quality means to involve technique. Of composition, style, story-building. Theory. Practice. Practice of that theory.
  5. A platform — Without a platform only a small group will read and see your work. This platform is useless when it stops at a reach below 10.000 people (in the Netherlands).
  6. New models of collaboration — Much more is possible in the Netherlands than currently is happening. New models of collaboration between different parties should make breakthroughs possible.

My ideas now

  1. Train writers — To write and use techniques. To listen to feedback. To be able to work with professionals, editors. to edit and coach each other. To form collectives and create collaborations. To understand what to focus on and to understand what is needed to break through.
  2. Involve artists — Involve talented artists. European based to begin with, but moving more and more to Dutch artists only. Pay them.
  3. Fuck print — Print is out. Printed material is no longer the way to distribute your work.
  4. Make your own platform — I am slowly opening talks with existing semi-pro publishers in the Netherlands I believe could help create a platform for the emerging writers in the program I try to setup for 2014. One is the (currently print-only) WonderWaan. But if these existing platforms are not able to make the next step I think is needed, the writers will do it themselves.
  5. Collaborate — To get anywhere, collaboration is the key. Collaboration on the whole chain from content production to publication and presentation to the audience.
  6. Aim for 50.000 people and more — I am done with the small-scale thinking. Our market is over 100.000 Dutch SF and Fantasy loving people.
  7. Do not avoid growing stages — There will be growing stages. We will produce work not yet suited for the big audience. This is something we need to pass.
  8. Make it damn good — The audience at large is indifferent. A good purpose is nice, but when a story is weak, when an illustration sucks, most people will not give a shit about the work. “Good” means “mainstream good”. Stories that can match and overthrow Dan Brown, Stephen King and Star Wars. Artwork that will blow away “Oblivion”. Work that can be translated immediately to English and will appeal to the big publishers out there.
  9. Make it visible — You become visible by being awesome and knowing where to sell the results. . Awesome comes from understanding what you do, knowing how to improve that to the point of perfection and how to exploit  whatever else is inside of you. This means using any form and any visual and content-related opportunity to reach an audience

Concrete

  1. Coaching/training — Of writers by more experienced writers and critics
  2. Involvement — Of illustrators, publishers and people with audiences we can hook into.
  3. Publishing — Either via a self-created platform or via existing platforms. Minimal aim is 30.000 people reach. Mostly gained by collaboration with existing organizations and platforms.
  4. Collaboration — It is useless to try and create yet another platform ignoring all others who already have an audience. So collaboration is the key. In any way possible that makes sense.

My own actions

In the next year I will start (and stimulate others to start) more conversations with people doing other and related stuff in the Netherlands. Creating content in other forms (like the people doing cosplay with their own fantasy-characters to name one thing).

I will contact illustrators in The Netherlands and Europe to have awesome artwork to accompany the stories.

Quality is key

Nothing will happen when the basic quality lacks. Damn good stories. Damn good art work. Damn good productions.

I know the next years will offend certain people who believed they already reached their top within their current play field. And honestly, my priority or focus is not with or on them.

Time line and elements

  • 2014 – Kickoff Coaching.
    • Trial and error
    • Production of good work
    • First publication platform
  • 2015 – Implementation of learned lessons
    • Jump in quality
    • First show of consistently good work in large enough quantities
    • Deliberate aim for audience larger than 30,000 people
  • 2016 – First breakthrough
    • Consistent stream of quality work
    • More than 30,000 people reach
    • Constant stream of translated work published in EN market

Breakthrough probably in 2016 / 2017

I also think it will take 3 years to reach that level. I believe and hope that 2016 will be the first year in which the group of writers and content-producers is so large, so consistent, so good and so productive that it will be able to produce 4 books that year, showcasing the best Dutch SF and Fantasy can offer, on levels that easily match the best American, British and Japanese works.

Less is nothing

In the past 30 years, close to nothing really happened for SF/F writers in the Netherlands. The genre still moves in a ghetto it should no longer be.

Aiming for less is simply to remain stuck where we are now.

Closing: create something other people care about

You do not get to the hearts of people by doing what you like most. You get to the hearts of people by creating something THEY care about.

In most cases this is work of quality. Readable. Good. Enjoyable. Beautiful. Marvellous. Visible. With wonderful illustrations and a proof that the people who created it really walked that extra mile.

Doing this (commercial and outward bound work) includes remaining true to your own values, your own vision and your own heart.

The main difference is that the selection process is a bit more specific and some works will have to find other routes.

I close this post with “Whatskebeurt” which reflects all of the above. The commercial success of the Dutch: “De jeugd van tegenwoordig” almost 10 years ago is completely deserved, even if you might not like them.

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