Episteme

Mike's random thoughts and ramblings

"How do you define a whore?"

That was a question asked by Anne in a recent post on Enthusiasm. In context, Anne stated:

"So it all comes down to this: how do you define a whore. I guess you define one as somebody who sells themselves more cheaply than you’d be willing to sell yourself. And where you draw the line depends on the opportunities before you. So those that have tons of opportunities look at those that have only a few and think: “they are whoring themselves” because they’d never sell themselves for so little."

Obvious Anna Nicole Smith jokes aside, the actual post is really quite an interesting read, and speaks a lot about the difficulty bridging the gap between the monetary economy and the non-monetary one. And she really makes a simple point: there's no easy answer to valuing what a single person is willing and able to contribute within a less structured economy.

And that got me to thinking about the way that the world is changing: we're seeing disintermediation in all facets of the world these days. Bands (like my brother's) are going straight to their customers through MySpace. People (like me) are selling their own books online. As the publishers and record industry becomes less and less important, I'm reminded of the old Marx concept that control in a society is related to who controls the means of production.

In that case, it seems to make sense that the act of selling oneself is really that of transferring control of your means of production and losing control. Which is what we've been doing for the past 100 years - selling our means of production (at a generally bargain price) to large corporations for "job security". However, as we are able to more easily control the means of production, the necessity of "whoring" oneself to some entity (whether a boss, a publisher, a record company, etc.) decreases significantly.

Unfortunately, the disintermediation, as Anne points out, is causing a difficulty in valuing that sale. I recently went through that problem in trying to price Forget the Parachute. $27.95 was really a guess on what the market would bear, but I found e-books priced all the way from $4.95 to $97. And everyone I asked had a different thought on pricing - but, most interestingly, most of the advice I got came down somewhere above $40. And some of those people would undoubtedly think I'm selling myself for too little (i.e. Anne's definition of a "whore").

It's an interesting problem: pricing oneself is a combination of what the market will bear against what you, yourself value your work as. While most people overestimate the first, we often significantly underestimate the second (because we're experts in it). And, lacking the structure of intermediaries and "pimps" (the bosses, publishers, and record companies who would tell us how much to charge), pricing is one of the most difficult things in the new world of work.

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Michael Murray

Michael Murray