Sunday, November 17, 2013
This post's title is a parody of Shakespeare's famous "To be or not to be" line. What brought it to mind was a question on whether one should write what they feel or write what sells. My answer is below.
I'm not sure of the answer. If you write what's close to your heart and the stories you really want to write, you better have a way to reach like-minded readers. If you're a literary kind of writer or poet, you should hang out in those circles online. Otherwise your book will sink like a lead balloon. Whatever you write, have a nice cover. But even then I don't know. This medium doesn't support great writing that might be kind of quirky and off the beaten path. If it's free, you'll get one-star reviews generally along the lines of "huh?"
A few weeks ago I was looking at all of the hundreds of reviews averaging 4.5 of a certain genre. I got angry and decided to do a parody story. Turns out it's so much like the genre in question, I decided to do a few more during NANOWRIMO. I'll publish them under a pen name of course.
In a way, writing is kind of like acting on paper. It's true, that you have some actors who will only do classical works of Shakespeare. While others can take on any type of Broadway and off-Broadway role. So for writing, it all depends on the voices in your head. If you do step out of your normal box, use a pen name if your story is of a different gender or ethnic group than your own. What do you think?
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Sunday, November 3, 2013
Saturday, November 2, 2013
Writing has become much like gambling these days. Who are the gamblers? Those individuals slogging in the world of self publishing. In the days before Kindles and Nooks, publishers were the gamblers and risk takers. An author spent their time, but very little money doing what they loved. When the manuscript was completed, he shopped it around until it found someone who loved it. Those were the good ol' days. The casino was small and a very private affair that included Agents, a few handful of Publishers, and of course perhaps a thousand big name authors. Oh yeah, and Bookstores.
Now self publishing has invited everyone into the casino. We're all authors now and potential marks for the system that the eReader has spawned. Thousands go into the casino, lured by the news that Joe Block self-published their book at 99 cents and became a millionaire. What lures folks to Vegas or the many copycat versions of Vegas? The pictures lining the walls in Casinos of folks holding those million dollar checks. Wow that could be me.
Now whether planned or not, the beginning of Kindle was the beginning of the huge publishing gambling empire. All were invited in. The more who came through the door, the more devices got sold. Of course the big time operators of the publishing casino don't charge you to play. No casino does that. But you and thousands of you are invited to bring your books and leave them on the counter. At the very least, you're going to buy one and of course your dear old mom too. If you have a decent sized social circle, you can convince five of them to buy also. In the meantime, while they're checking out your book, they're seeing many more by authors whose names they know. So basically, you're good advertising.
Author sitting at the kitchen table, also heard through the grapevine that Cindy Sue got mega rich by giving some books away. So you scream for the same privilege. Now big time Casino doesn't even have to pay you if you "win" with all of those thousands of downloads. And they've got more content they can attach advertisement to. And folks are going to pay for those books "also bought" below your book priced at "$0.00".
So far all you've spent is time chasing your dream. But then you realize the formula isn't working for you. What could be wrong? Someone hears your plea and writes a how-to book. Thousands buy seeking to crack the code. Well the answer is ... more how-to books, more book cover/graphic artists types, more "editorial" services, more formatting and proofreading services, and more folks selling advice. Oh yeah, twitter, and facebook get a lot more traffic. So they scheme to limit your reach, but will charge you for reaching all of those people whom you've convinced on your own to follow you. Money money money.
So now the advice is to gamble more--well write more. Just like that slot machine, if you run a thousand dollars through it, it's bound to pay back a million some day. It just has to. Well let's keep trying and see. I like to play slots and I love to write. It's all the same to me. But I'm not going to pay for the privilege to do either.