The Future of Publishing

I read a fascinating post today about the difficulties all of us indie, or self published authors face.  If you just take the basic facts, how many books are being put out, how few copies sell well, how few authors are making a decent income, it looks really depressing.

However, and this was the comment I left on the post, it’s also a really exciting time.  We’re seeing the old system fail to evolve fast enough, unable to find a way to make money in this new landscape and struggle to maintain the status quo.  But all of us looking at them can see the writing on the wall, if they don’t adapt fast they’re going to lose all relevancy.

Right now, publishing is going through a massive shift.  Anyone who has ever wanted to write a book can do so and put it out.  Thousands of books are being published every single day, many of questionable quality, which means that while we’re able to put out books easily the supply far outweighs the demand and it’s only getting worse.

In some ways that’s scary, but in other ways this is the growing pains of all of us trying to figure out a new system.  That means there’s a lot of opportunity right now for all of us to try new things and the ideas that are successful will shape the future of publishing.

What I think is going to happen:

1. Traditional publishers will shrink.  Period.  Even those that can adapt, they’ll never be what they were before.  The self publishing age has come.

2. Working with a different model, new publishing companies will be very successful.  Enterprising, talented people will get together and form new publishing companies that operate in new ways.  They’ll take networking to a new level.  They’ll take lessons from what the traditional publishing companies used to do well, services that indie authors still require, like editing and promotion, and base themselves on providing those services.

3. Talented indies will band together.  Maybe they form a company like in #2, or maybe they just come up with a guild, whatever, but they’ll come together.  Mutual marketing, mutual promotion, advice and networking.  They’ll build a huge platform together out of their combined bases.  Instead of a million authors clamoring for a limited audience, those that band together will have a louder voice and as long as their work is solid the readers will follow them.

4. People complain about the lack of quality in some self published books.  Those authors will either join one of the guilds and improve their work, or they’ll be a solitary voice competing with the groups/guilds of solid writers.  Their books will not succeed in comparison.  The cream will rise to the top.

So, while traditional publishing will never be the same, there is tremendous opportunity right now.  Try new things, get together with other writers, we’re all in this together.  And personally, I’m excited to see how things evolve.

Back to my Roots

When I was growing up I loved to read.  I’d read anything and I’d tear through a thousand page book in a week.  It would go everywhere with me until it was finished.  As much as I enjoyed reading, it wasn’t until I was thirteen that I discovered how much I loved to write.

When I was a Freshman in High School my friends and I used to have an hour long bus-ride home from school.  We were all avid horror and fantasy readers, one day we decided to use that time to write a short story on whatever topic we wanted, at the end of the ride we’d vote on who’s was best.

I wrote a short horror story about the four of us, my three friends and I.  We went camping, told scary stories around the fire, and one by one started to disappear.  We figured that one of the urban legends from the stories was actually real… but in the end found out that one of us was a werewolf (before they were trendy) and had invited everyone out to make meals of us.

It was scary, the descriptions were gory, like the horror flicks we loved, blood everywhere.

I won the little contest and discovered the joy I got from their reactions as we traded pages.  It was a blast to write something like all those stories that I enjoyed and have other people get a kick out of reading it.  Those little story contests became a regular part of our rides from then on.

Fast forward two decades.

This week I’m working on a new project.  As I was writing I realized I had a little hole in my plot, the characters were going to have to spend the night out in this hazardous place.  That wasn’t supposed to happen originally but it was just the way it worked out.  Thinking about that scene I figured I could just gloss over it, “they found an abandoned cabin to stay the night and nothing happened”…  but that’s not what I ended up happening

Instead, I spent the last two days writing over a dozen pages about the characters being haunted all night by creepy visions and monsters.  It just kind of evolved on the page into this huge, scary situation that I had so much fun creating.

In thinking about the project and the last two days it all kind of reminded me of writing those stories on the bus.  Those creepy, gruesome, edge-of-the-seat tales were what got me started writing to begin with because they were so much fun.  Even as a little kid, those R.L. Stein books were my favorites.  As I got older I transitioned into Stephen King and Dean Koontz, as well as a plethora of fantasy writers like Robert Jordan (RIP).

So I’m taking some time today to enjoy the process and remember what makes writing and reading enjoyable for me.  My last few projects have been pretty tame on the scare-o-meter, maybe my next one (or this one) will end up a few marks higher.  And if you find yourself hitting a slump, maybe thinking back to what you first loved about reading and writing will help get those juices flowing again.

Start with a Cover

One of the things that I like to do that probably seems strange to other writers is early on in the process of writing a story I like to make a cover.

The first reason is that I like all the arts, sketching characters or scenes from my stories is just as natural as writing about them in the first place.  It’s fun, it’s creative, it keeps all the juices flowing.  I’m a decent cartoonist-style artist and an amateur with graphics programs but it’s fun to see what I can come up with.

The second reason is something that other writers might consider, a cover is good motivation.  It’s a symbol of the end-goal of writing.  I’m not just playing around, writing something for a lark, this is going to be a book.  It makes me visualize the completed project which helps keep me motivated to finish it.  Out of all the stories that I’ve started or worked on over the last year, I’ve completed the first draft of 80% that I made a cover for (Sadie’s story is still in work).

Whether or not the covers actually get used for the books doesn’t matter, I’ve had fun and they’ve helped keep me going.  That’s something that other writers should maybe consider doing themselves.  Why leave it to the end when there are benefits to doing it in earlier?  Something to think about.

Here are a couple of the ones I’ve done over the last year, newest to oldest.

Geeks-greens-and-guns 3 s cover draft 2.2.1 s cover draft 2s front draft 2 larry's dead cover draft 1.1.1.2

Happy writing!

An Observation

It’s been about a year since I started writing seriously.  I’ve ‘finished’ five big first drafts in that time but have hesitated to publish anything.  One of the reason is that I haven’t had the time or money to put into getting good edits done but the biggest reason is that every draft is a learning experience.  Writing so much, then reading and revising, has taught me so much about the craft.  Every time I look back at one of my early drafts I realize how far I’ve come.  As I want my first published work to be the highest quality I’ve been focused on learning rather than publishing.

An excellent example is my Camp NaNo project.  I hesitate to call it a ‘throw away’ novel but it didn’t have a lot of promise going into it.  Whenever I get involved with NaNo I pick out one of my ideas that light, easy to write, and doesn’t have a lot of depth.  The idea being that it should be easier to keep up the high word count daily.  If it sucks, no big deal, it’s just for fun (I’m even posting it on Wattpad as it gets written).  However, even with the not-so-serious premise and some edits I know I need to make, I can still see how far I’ve come in the last year.  Even writing something I’m not that invested in, the quality of the writing has improved dramatically.

While I still consider myself a student of the craft, it’s awesome to see the difference.

If you’re curious, it’s available on Wattpad (and getting closer to completion every day).  Feel free to leave comments or critiques, I’m always looking for feedback.

http://www.wattpad.com/story/35668423-geeks-greens-and-guns

Where do you get your ideas?

When I talk to non-writers about projects there is one inevitable question; where do I get my ideas?  There seems to be this magical aura around the subject as though writers have tapped into some underground magical force that no one else can find.   Or maybe they think we’re genetically coded in some unique way to boost creativity.  That’s not the way it works, at least not for me.

They want to know where I get my ideas?  I keep my eyes open.  Wherever I’m going, whatever I’m doing, I’m paying attention and keep an open mind.  A dozen times a day, at least, something occurs to me.  The comments people make, how they move, how they look, what’s on TV, who’s at the restaurant.  Words, phrases, scenes, subjects, they’re constantly bouncing around my head and rearranging themselves in different ways.  Hey, that’d be interesting in a story.

I’m sure that isn’t an ability that’s unique to me.  In fact, I’m pretty sure just about anyone can do what I do.  Most people probably have a ton of good ideas for stories that occur to them.  But here’s the key thing: writers do something about it.  When one of these ideas occur to me, I don’t move on and forget about it, I let it wiggle around the back of my head for a while.  What kind of characters would be involved in a story like this?  What kind of plot would it have?  Where would it take place?  What kind of twist can I inject?

Sometimes I evaluate the idea and decide it isn’t that good, not all are going to be, but the ones with any promise get written down.  The really good ones, I’ll find the time to write out at least a page synopsis and notes so I can dig into it deeper later on.

But I’m always paying attention, always thinking.

Here’s an example:

A couple weeks ago I was struggling with the name for a project I was working on.  You might remember that, I wrote a post called It’s all been written.  Usually I have a title before I start writing but that story was giving me fits.  I kept checking ideas online and all the good ones had been taken, so I emailed a friend and asked for her opinion.

She wrote back an innocuous suggestion that didn’t remotely fit the story… But I thought it was a hilarious.  Immediately my brain kicked into gear.  What would that story be like?  What kind of characters would it have?  How would that work?

I could have disregarded her title idea and moved on because it didn’t fit my story.  Instead, I got a really amazing idea for a new one just because I was paying attention and I kept an open mind.

So, there might not be any mythical well spring of story ideas out there (if there is, point me in the right direction) but paying attention and writing things down is almost as good.