Tag: writing life

Antisocial Media

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Based on Mike Stackpole’s recommendation I picked up an interesting little book by Gary Vaynerchuk about promotion (and other things) called Crush It!. I expect to write up a review of it in a day or two, but I will say I recommend it for anybody whose job involves a lot of tooting your own horn (like, say, writers). One of the things Crush It! recommends is creating a Facebook “fan page” alongside of your own personal “profile” page.

I admit, I’m still a little stumped as to the reasoning behind this setup, but I’m nothing if not adept at learning-as-I-go, so I went ahead and set up the fan page and invited a few folks to hop on board to get it started.

This, combined with a snarly LJ post from Vince (who is always cranky this time of year, poor guy) got me to thinking about how very intimate people’s relationships are with their social media of choice. Like the recent backlashey reaction to the iPad, there is a lot of very personal reaction to social media outlets. Vince hates Twitter with a passion, even though it’s just as happy to leave him alone. Other friends of mine are very proud of the fact that they’ll never, ever have a Facebook page and relish telling you all about it.

For myself, I’m a longtime LiveJournal devotee, although there are times when it’s a troubled relationship at best. As such, it does sorta pain me to see people flock from LJ to Facebook or wherever, or even just flock to Facebook after having ignored LJ for a decade. But the thing of it is, it’s not the platform I care about, not really — it’s the people on it. I’m a communicator and a storyteller, and there’s no point in talking to an empty room! So if people are on Facebook, I’ll post to Facebook. If people are tweeting all over, I’ll become a big ol’ twit! Or at least, more of one than I already was. My personal posts will stay on LJ, because that’s where I’m comfy … but there’s no reason for me to exclude my friends who happen to be on other platforms.

With the ready availability of plug-ins that alert everybody and their brother of a post no matter what the media, it’s particularly pointless to avoid a message stream. As soon as I hit “publish,” this post is going to show up on my website, my LJ, Twitter, and Facebook automatically. And I know for a fact I have readers on Facebook who aren’t on LJ, readers on Twitter who aren’t on Facebook … and few if any people subscribed to gneech.com’s RSS feed. But they all get the message.

That’s the key: connecting with the readers. Removing degrees of separation. If they want tweets instead of status updates, tweets they shall have! There’s just no good reason not to.

-The Gneech

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When Distribution = Promotion (The New Writer’s Dilemma)

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Mike Stackpole, who always has interesting things to say about Writing-As-Job, has another article on The Huffington Post today about the inevitable doom of Print Sales As We Know Them.

…once ebook sales hit 20-25% of book sales, print run numbers will fall to a point where the current consignment system for sales will break down. Under the current system, most books can be returned for credit, so for every book sold, two are printed. Those “returned” books have the covers torn off, and the guts discarded, so they cannot be put out into the market again. Ebook sales will create smaller print runs, driving up the unit cost, forcing higher prices which, in turn, will kill sales. Game over.

Note that he’s not predicting that books will go away — but that the publishing industry is going to have to make some serious changes to cope with the new reality of ebooks. Having already been through this story with comics -> webcomics, my view is that he’s absolutely right. Mr. Stackpole has long advocated that writers embrace electronic publishing as a means of controlling their own fate, and it’s true that with the ebook, it’s easier than it’s ever been.

However, there’s an important aspect of the writer/publisher relationship that self-publishing leaves as a big hole, to wit, getting your name out there to the public. While I have only myself as a poll sample, I know that I discover most of my new authors by browsing in a bookstore, and I suspect I’m not the only one. For somebody like Rowling or King, it may be that self-publishing is practically printing money from your computer. But what about somebody who’s more obscure, say a person who has a couple of mid-tier webcomics and a few decades-old RPG credits to his name? (Just to pick an unlikely profile at random.) If I were to jump right into the ebook arena, who would notice?

As much as writers chafe at their editorial overlords, publishers do provide something that a beginning writer can’t provide for themselves: a marketing machine. That a fledgling writer will get only the barest attention of that machine is undoubtedly true — but even that much is infinitely more than one can provide themselves when they work all day, write all night, and recover on the weekend. Fortunately, Mr. Stackpole is aware of the problem and provides some suggestions.

On the other hand, there’s one final aspect of the issue that ebooks simply cannot address, which is that part of “the dream” of being a writer is seeing one’s own work actually in a bookstore. For those of us who, despite the business’s sordidness, still love to go into a brick-and-mortar building stacked from floor to ceiling with books and long to see their own name enshrined on a tablet in that temple, ebooks will always be somewhat unsatisfying.

-The Gneech

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Gettin’ Serious

I’ve mentioned (here and elsewhere) that with the wrapping up of Suburban Jungle, one of the things I intended to take on was “getting serious” about my writing … and indeed, the recent revamp of gneech.com was part of that. But among other things, getting serious is also going to need to include a pretty drastic inversion of the way I even think about my writing.

For the most part, over the course of my life, I’ve written what I felt like writing and then looked for people I thought would be interested in it. This works to a certain extent and is perfectly suitable for writing-as-hobby. Certainly it worked for Suburban Jungle, which I always looked at as a labor of love and assumed would never “make it big.” Very valuable as a learning experience, but something of a 10-year-detour from a professional point of view.

But to start getting somewhere as an actual, y’know, paid writer, I’m going to have to flip that model around: I need to find things that people want written and are willing to pay for it, that also match (or at least closely overlap) my skillset. I mean, I could probably pull down six figures a year writing proposals for government contractors, but I would hate my life.

This is going to be a whole new set of skills for me to learn, watching markets and keeping an eye peeled for opportunities. But hopefully, it’ll also open up a lot of nifty new experiences. For instance, in response to my recent bemoaning the lack of pulps, Phil Brucato recommended Steampunk Tales, which until then I had never even heard of. That led to: “Steampunk? Me? Hmm … I might just be able to come up with something there…” I probably would never have thought of trying to write steampunk if I was just noodling around with story ideas — but upon being told “here are people looking for steampunk stories,” my brain started coming up with interesting notions and it wouldn’t at all surprise me if I toss something at Steampunk Tales in the next couple of months.

At lunch today, I bought myself a new dry-erase board to mount in the studio, next to my computer. On it I intend to write lists of things like target markets (ranging from ‘zines to guest blog spots to The New Yorker), project due dates, topics to research … anything that I want to keep Up Front and Visible in order to stay focused on it. I have until now been scribbling such things into notebooks or word processing files, which leads to them being out of sight and out of mind. Woody Allen once said that 80% of success was just showing up — and as a corollary to that I’d add that in order to show up, you have to remember that you’ve got someplace to be!

-The Gneech

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I Miss Magazines

What can I say? I miss magazines. Not that there aren’t magazines still around, of course, but there are so few that are worth the trouble of actually looking at. Wired is good, and if you feel like heavy lifting The Economist might do the job, but there’s nothing like, say, Punch, there are only a handful of fiction magazines and you have to dig under rocks just to get to those, etc.

The reason they’re gone, of course, is that people stopped reading them. They were supplanted by radio and TV for a long time, and nowadays the closest thing in the same niche is blogs.

Now mind you, I like blogs. I’m a texty sort of guy and finding a good blog is a joy. I’m not sure yet how blogging fits in to a writerly income, although I’m told there are people who pay their rent with it so I’m eager to learn. And with the advent of the tablet, I can foresee a world where reading comes back into vogue — done in your bed (or comfy chair, or on the bus, in the waiting room at the dentist, etc.) as in the days of old, but with a screen instead of glossy paper.

But I still miss magazines. I miss flipping pages and seeing two-page spreads, I miss finding funky stuff advertised in the back or little bits of light verse tossed into a corner because an article came up 250 words short. Most of all, I miss the sense of the “vetted writer” that magazines created. If somebody gets published (meaning, by someone other than themselves), that instantly says that their work had value in the eyes of the publisher. Not to knock self-publishing — it’s a great way to go if you’ve got the moxie — but it does have to overcome the hurdle of blowing your own trumpet. If you’ve been chosen by a publisher, that means a more objective (and certainly a more profit-oriented) party has looked at your writing and decided that it’s worth taking a risk on, even if it’s the moderately small risk of a single column in a periodic magazine.

I also miss there being a wide and ready market for short fiction. I’d be off like gangbusters if only the pulps were still around! But hey, Benny Goodman wanted to be in a jazz quartet instead of a big band, too. The world is what it is, not what we’d have it be, and one must learn to cope!

-The Gneech

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