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How to kill the intermediary, clean the crime scene and find a credible alibi
Hello, how are you doing?
You'll notice in my voice, as soon as I calm down,
that I have a somehow weird accent, as I've lived in Spain for ten, twelve years
Twelve years ago I went to Paris for fifteen days to receive a literary award
and I met a Catalan girl there, and I stayed to live with her.
Back in Argentina I had a job, a house, and no intentions whatsoever of moving elsewhere.
While in Spain I had nothing: no house, no job, not even papers
to get a house and a job.
Even worse, after living eight or nine months in Spain
only because I was in love, etc...
two horrible things happened in Argentina; first came the 2001 crisis
four, five presidents in one week and social chaos.
And another -even worse- thing, around the same time, was that Racing won the soccer championship.
I am a Racing supporter, and it's horrible seeing your team champion for the first time
while being away...
Far away from your land, but in my case, from my father
with whom we'd always thought
we'd see this event, if it ever happened, together.
These two circumstances, the economic crisis in Argentina
and my team winning the title, happened at the same time
and taught me what I didn't have the slightest idea could ever happen:
that pain and party, tragedy and triumph are the same
when you're away.
Not being able to cry with your loved ones when something horrible happens,
not being able to celebrate with your people when something wonderful happens
puts you immediately in offside.
As I was in Spain sad and alone, I had the idea to create a blog
and I started writing.
I named that blog ORSAI [TR: Spanish for 'offside'],
that means in soccer jargon that you are off the game,
that you're not allowed to play.
In those times I used the Internet mainly to send emails
and to chat with my friends from Mercedes.
So what happened when I created that blog was a huge surprise for me
and I imagine it was so for everyone else at the time.
I started writing short stories, sometimes as myself,
and sometimes disguised as different characters; a housewife, a seer, a princess
and little by little it started to get crowded.
People from weird countries: Honduras, Nicaragua, also from here and Spain.
And so Orsai turned into a kind of involuntary community of readers.
I did nothing to gather them, I mean,
I didn't put banners in my blog saying:
"Come in, feel comfortable, generate a community".
The only thing I did was writing short stories,
I also read the comments the readers made to those tales
and also, most of the time, I chatted with them.
When that community got even bigger because of word of mouth,
and specially became more fervent,
some traditional companies related to culture and communications
started to listen to this babble of voices.
"...Look, there's a guy who writes and people are there..."
And so my phone started ringing, they offered me to work with them.
The publishing companies proposed me to make books with the stories I wrote for free on the Internet
and the press invited me to write columns in their newspapers,
similar to the kind of stuff I wrote on the Internet.
And that was when, and I know this now, I didn't know back then,
I think I made a rather serious mistake.
I went to work with the industry, I ended the direct communication with my readers
and I let them put me intermediaries, an agent, a publisher
a manager, a content editor.
All those people lined up between me and my readers.
The publishing companies also asked me, for the publication of my first book,
to take away all those free articles from the Internet so they could sell them.
The situation got a bit tense there because I told them immediately
I couldn't do such thing for I had given those texts as presents,
and I couldn't go house by house asking every reader if, please,
I could get the gift back because now I wanted
to sell it through white collar guys.
But it became worse as books and time went by, that permanent feeling
that the publishers were robbing me.
One time they close the sales one of my pocketbooks,
(it's an anecdote I always tell and I think it's descriptive)
they stated to have sold about 800, 900 copies in Argentina of a pocketbook
and I knew, because I'm a close friend of a bookseller from Mercedes,
one of the three bookstores in Mercedes, I knew that in one of them
they had sold 750 copies...
800 in Argentina, 750 in a bookstore of a town of Buenos Aires province.
And it wasn't just the feeling of being robbed at gunpoint,
the impossibility of checking sales and printing.
I also started receiving a lot of emails from readers of the blog
telling me my books were not available in their countries.
The industry distributes books in Spanish only where it is profitable:
Argentina, Spain, Mexico, but if a Salvadoran or a Peruvian wants my book
he has no choice...He will never get it.
With the press I was going through something similar: they asked me articles
400-words long, but if there was half a page of advertising in that section,
the editor called me to tell me that this week my column was 200-word long.
When the crisis comes, the European economic crisis, and the companies
stopped advertising in newspapers,
I thought "Now I'll be able to go back to 400 words".
But no, they removed a sheet from the newspaper and I was left with 150.
Last year, when these issues started to get worse,
I got tired of everything and I publicly broke up with the publishing companies
Mondadori from Italy, Plaza & Janes from Spain, Sudamericana from Argentina and Grijalbo from Mexico.
I also publicly finished with the newspapers La Nación from Argentina and El País from Spain.
In 1400 words in the blog, I told them to *** off.
As I did this, and after one year of being in silence, I started communicating
with the people from my blog and I told them I had a new idea.
An idea that could be really fun and especially risky
but that had the secret goal of proving, also to myself,
that the famous crisis of the industry is not an economic crisis
but a moral one, it's a crisis of greed.
The idea was of making an impossible magazine from my backyard, in a town in Catalonia,
without any offices, and with a staff integrated only by my family and childhood friends.
A magazine that would be called Orsai, just like my blog.
One night with Chiri, who's my soul mate, we wrote a kind of decalogue
a sort of promise to the readers. This happened exactly one year ago.
We promised the magazine wouldn't have any advertising, not an inch of it.
It wouldn't have private or state subsidies.
We promised it would have the best graphic quality available
in any of the countries where distributed.
That it would do without any possible intermediaries.
That it would have a paper version, and a dynamic version for iPad and iPhone,
for BlackBerry and, besides, a free PDF ten days later,
so the magazine can be read regardless of the cost.
We promised those to write and draw in the magazine
would be only people me and Chiri admire a lot.
That it would be quarterly and would have more than 200 pages per edition.
That in every country it would cost the equivalent of 15 Saturday newspapers in that region.
We stated at the eighth item that we were to put the money,
and that we were going to make it even if it didn't sell.
At the ninth item we said that we would be happy if we saved the investment
and at the tenth, that if we didn't save the investment, we didn't give a ***...
At that moment an amazing thing happened within the community of the blog.
Something we hadn't foreseen: the readers of Orsai spread the idea,
they told their friends there were some men in their forties, in a town hidden in the mountain
that wanted to make a magazine of popular literature, of chronic narrative, with long texts,
just in the middle of the paper crisis.
Before even telling them what the magazine was going to be about, the readers started buying it massively.
People put a faith that I hadn't seen in a long time in a cultural product.
It was bought by ten thousand people, I repeat: without knowing its contents, in pre-sale, before it was released.
And it was an expensive magazine: 16 euros in Europe and 12 dollars in Latin America.
They bought it from everywhere, including Salvadorans, Costa Ricans, Peruvians,
Latin Americans living in Thailand, in Japan.
Readers from every region decided to distribute it themselves.
We decided that magazines wouldn't be sold per unit but in packs of ten,
so that you could distribute the remaining nine in your area.
This way, we also killed the intermediary for distribution, which is a mafia.
Distribution gets the 50% of the sale price of every publication we buy.
The author gets the 8%...the big stores, the 50%.
The first day of this year the first number of Orsai was released.
And we did so every three months, until we reached the goal of the four annual numbers.
The fourth number went on sale just one week ago.
Every magazine weighs about a kilogram and makes a visual impact; it has no advertising.
More than a hundred invited authors wrote through these four numbers.
Among them Juan Villoro, Abelardo Castillo, Nick Hornby, Agustín Fernández Mallo.
It was illustrated by 'el ***' Cris, Horacio Altuna, Miguel Rep, Alberto Montt, among many others.
They were all paid in euros.
In the middle of all that fervor we discovered that the dream was only possible if we talked with the readers,
and so at mid-year, when we were between numbers two and three,
we decided, in an also rather risky way, to turn into a publisher.
The idea was to take a standard contract from my former publishing companies and write the exact opposite.
The idea was not to defraud the authors; the rights always for them.
If you wanted to leave the next day, "Good night, you can leave, all OK".
And specially, instead of the 8 or 10%, the author is receiving the 50% of the sale's price.
And even more, the author has the possibility of, with a password,
checking every sale and reader online.
And he also has the email of that reader to thank him or to hell him:
"I know you're buying my books and that you're paying to me."
We noticed, as we moved forward, that Orsai was not a blog anymore
nor a magazine, or a publishing house, but it turned into a project of the readers.
Two months ago we thought of the possibility of opening a bar in Buenos Aires,
a meeting place for those who read the magazine, we named it Orsai.
One afternoon I asked the readers of the blog if they wanted a bar to be opened
and I also asked them if anyone would like to join the project as an investor.
We received 204 emails in 24 hours,
with people that wanted to put a thousand or ten thousand dollars, one guy wanted to put eighty thousand.
There were also people who had no money, and they offered to paint the bar,
or to help us with the permits as they worked in some ministry, etc.
Others offered to show their paintings or to play with their bands once the bar was opened.
This occurred in early August this year.
The Orsai bar opened last Thursday in the heart of San Telmo,
471 Humberto 1º, 2x1 beer before 10 p.m.
There were so many people in the opening we had to do it four times:
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and last Sunday.
In March we will try opening another bar in Barcelona, using the same system of investment of the readers,
and the goal for the next year is to keep making magazines,
this time bimonthly, and besides making a lot more books,
the goal will be to open a third bar in Central America to form a sort of
Spanish American triangle of culture, or of the drunks who read, or something...
Two weeks ago we almost had two and a half tons
of our books and magazines stopped in Buenos Aires' customs.
Due to a misunderstanding with the Secretariat of Commerce.
Orsai readers from all over the world --it was a wonderful Thursday--
made a lot of noise in Twitter with the phrase "Free Orsai".
And that was big, because 12 hours later the Argentinian government heard our claim,
and the Chief of the Cabinet of Ministers answered
saying he would personally solve the matter. The magazines were released by the next day.
I believe that that --and it's the last story I will tell-- means something.
I'm sure it's the beginning of something.
Cultural decisions are starting to be more and more in our hands.
We no longer obey to voices in sole speakers that tell us what to do.
It's us who communicate,
we are 400 million people who speak Spanish.
Every one of us, every region, has a different jargon that makes us unique,
but that also enriches us.
We understand each other, the Internet arrived some time ago to unite us,
to tell us we can do things together, specially with culture,
which is the fundamental base of the complexity of the mind.
Almost ten years ago I opened a blog because I felt alone in a foreign country.
I felt in offside, I needed to communicate with my people, and so named it Orsai.
I am sure now that the cultural industry are the readers and the authors.
And nobody else...
and that the other industry, which is afraid of changes, that tries to make us believe
that the Internet is a burden.
the one that scratches and hurts, is dying and we'll watch it die.
Culture has to be free in every way.
I exhort authors and editors to, every time you release a book,
upload a free PDF the same day, because you will sell more.
We depended on a greedy industry for years,
buying what they wanted us to buy. Now suddenly, and more and more,
they're starting to be ORSAI.