X Marks the Spat

Chess Board - TwitterI managed, with my usual aplomb, to find myself in the middle of a discussion that turned into a mild argument– on Twitter. It takes extreme talent to argue on Twitter and I don’t advise it. Better to admit my inadequacies and move on: I need far more than 140 characters to really get my teeth in a topic.

However, the point isn’t the dispute, but the subject of dispute. We were discussing gatekeepers and whether or not indie writers should have them (or writers in general). I’m going to set forth my reasoning here (in far more than 140 characters or even 140 words), but I would love to hear from you as well. Comment here. Knock me up on Twitter (although I do expect help raising the baby). Send me an email if you’re feeling a bit shy. I’ll put all my contact info at the bottom.

Do I think that big publishing houses have too much control over what we read and they tend to be directed more by the almighty dollar than the best in reading material? Yes. Not all of them, all of the time, but a significant enough amount to not ignore it.

Do I still think that published writing needs a gatekeeper? Yes, unless it’s free.  Why?

  • Because we– you and I– spend money on books. Sometimes it’s just the $0.99 e-book. Sometimes it’s the splurgy $19.99 hardback. But our money goes into books. When you’re not Real in the first place and coming by real money can be a bit of a trick, this is a serious thing. I care about where my money goes.
  • Because we spend our time on reading books and most of us have far less time than money. If you have more money than time, please send some to me directly and I’ll solve that issue.
  • Because we invest a bit of our souls in the books we read (or at least I do… one Horcrux per book and I can never die. Voldemort and JK Rowling should be quite jealous).
  • Because the more bad books that are out there, the less expectation there is for anything good. People stop reading. I like people reading.

I know. You’re sitting there thinking “he’s not the boss of me” and very likely taking all your toys and going home. This is, of course, your right. But hear me out: I’m not saying you shouldn’t write. I want every last person on this planet to experience writing. In fact, I want to take writing to alien planets. I even think every person has a right to publish what they write. It is, after all, their sanity. If they want to throw it away to briefly declare “I am Writer”, I can’t judge. My sanity took the bullet train to Elsewhere a long time ago.

However, I don’t feel everyone should be charging for their books. Hey! Stop throwing things. You’ll only damage your screen and I am not buying you a new one. Hear me out.

  • Do you think the Girl Scout with a First Aid and CPR certification should charge you if you are kind enough to let her practice on you?
  • Do you think your child/ niece/ nephew/ random kid who gives you hand-drawn art should be charging you for the free décor?
  • Do you think the singers in a karaoke bar should get tips for singing in public?

Most of you will have answered “no”. Any children, Girl Scouts, or aspiring karaoke singers may have said “yes”. The reason is simple: all of these are amateurs who are practicing their craft. They aren’t masters or even journeymen. They haven’t reached the point where they’ve earned the right to sell their craft.

Once, this was an easily understood concept. A child with promising talent would become an apprentice. Apprentices practiced, all day long, and received instruction, but no pay. Then the apprentice became a journeyman at the approval of a master. The journeyman might sell a few things, but always at a discount because it was widely accepted that the quality wouldn’t be as good. Only a master could promote someone to a master. It meant that the buyer had the right to expect a certain level of quality in the work that followed.

We’ve done away with the apprentice system (unless you’re Donald Trump– if you are, please ask Russia to bring it back for the rest of us). We no longer have any way to tell who is the master and who is the rank amateur without investing our precious time, money, and energy in that person. As I’ve said, I don’t have endless amounts of time, money, and energy to invest. Because of that, I’m very wary of many indie authors, even though I read more indie works than anything else. Reviews are often useless, since finishing a book means five stars. This means I am far less likely to take a chance just after a bad choice.

Read the blurb and/ or free sample. You can figure it out from there.

Sometimes I can. Sometimes a book starts out good and dies, midway, like it tried to storm a beach and forgot sunblock. (There was a logical analogy in there somewhere.) Sometimes you simply can’t tell without reading the book that, although it flows beautifully, there’s no plot to it and the characters are cardboard cutouts.

Follow trusted reviewers.

Then I have to figure out who to trust, which is another investment of my time.

Do you see the issue? It’s not that I want someone saying, “No! Your book can’t be published because it’s not the current zombie/ post-apoc/ romantic triangle/ superhero trend and we can’t be sure we’ll sell it”. It’s that I want someone saying, “Not yet. Maybe go back and practice as an apprentice a little longer. Get some journeyman time. Make some corrections.” Then I’ll happily buy, read, and review the book.

But someone has to say “not yet”… and, as of yet, I don’t know who that should be. How about you?

Comments?
EMAIL: zanzibar7schwarznegger@gmail.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/Zanzibar7Schwarznegger/
TWITTER: @zanzibar7writer
BLOG: zanzibar7.com

 

Being Real

Chess Board - TwitterI am starting to see the effects of my ongoing experiment to be a Real Writer (and Real Person).

First, I’ve acquired one of those day jobs. I like day jobs, as a general concept. It’s something new to do and it provides endless fodder for my writing. But it cuts into the writing time itself. I’ve tried getting up earlier. I’ve stopped rewatching Galavant on loop at night. I even do a little less housework. I’ve learned that I can’t get in huge word counts in any one day any longer, but who needs to do that anyway? By writing 1k-3k a day, I can finish a book in two months or less. Maybe it’s just because there are so many stories in my head trying to get out that I feel the pressure to write faster. I think being limited in my writing time actually improves my writing in the long run.

Second, I’ve attempted some marketing. I attended an in-person convention (in disguise) and have actually pressed my books here and there. I’ve noticed that it works better when others put my book out there than when I do it myself, so if you want to get me a gift for the Day of Birthing or the Reindeer Games, please do some promoting.

Third, I’ve started to get Writer’s Block due to interacting with the world. I mean, shootings. Wars. Heat. Politics. It’s enough to make a Figment despair. My current solution is to rail about the injustice of it all and then move from there into a furious writing session, but fury doesn’t write humor well. I may become a news hermit.

All of this has taught me that Professional Writers have just three things I don’t have:

One, they have more time to procrastinate, because writing is their day job. It would appear, based on output, that most Professional Writers actually produce about the same number of words each week that I do. This leaves them more hours for Netflix binging, silly cat videos, and Pokémon Go.

Two, they have someone who does some of their marketing for them, or they can pay someone to do marketing. If I ever become a Professional Writer, this will be my favorite perk.

Three, they figure out how to deal with all the world news better than I do. You cannot produce a consistent output of work if you are curled up in a ball waiting for Politigeddon to happen. At least, not until they develop psychic paper. (Really, Doctor Who, I think you’re onto something.) So Professional Writers must figure out how to deal with all the other “stuff” in the world better than I do.

Beyond that, it looks like I’m already doing what a Professional Writer does, so I’m one step closer to being a Real Writer.

How about you? How is your quest to be Real going? How do you cope with all the bad in the world? Most importantly, how do you find more time to procrastinate?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Reasons I Self-Publish

Chess Board - TwitterThere are hundreds (okay, dozens) of great reasons to self-publish. After some debate (meaning I went to the bathroom, then came back and made this list), here are my top ten:

  1. No rejection letters. True, it’s a form of rejection when a reader doesn’t buy your book, but you don’t get a politely-worded form letter when it happens. My ego can remain tenuously intact.
  2. Freedom! I can write what I want and not worry about #1. I do try to keep my writing relevant to the market (ie, deciding to try for a second Bobian book this year because my public actually asked for it), but otherwise I have a lot of creative freedom.
  3. Lifelong learning. I like to learn. I waste– er, gainfully employ hours on end learning new things that I might never need to know. For example, while the popular vision of zombies can only happen through a type of witchcraft or magic, there are parasites, spores, and other agents that might allow a type of zombie infestation. You wanted to know that, I know. You’re welcome.
  4. I get to keep all the moneys. While 100% of a piddling is a pittance, 30% of a piddling is pathetic.
  5. It’s all on me. I can’t pass the blame off on my agent, my editor, my publisher, or my marketer. Whatever happens with my books, I have to suck it up and take ownership. (Yes, I do consider that a good reason to self-publish.)
  6. I get to learn how to do it all. I am a reasonably good cover artist. Not the first time around; my first cover never, ever turns out like something that couldn’t be improved on. But sometime toward the end of a book, I get that spark and it seems to turn out. If I were traditionally published, I’d never get to touch the cover. Sometimes I wouldn’t even get to have a say in it.
  7. I run a small business. I’m a business Figment at heart. Since my pre-adulating days, I’ve always had a side gig going. Writing is just another small business. I like being an entrepreneur.
  8. I get to network with other indie writers. I like indie writers. They’re a different breed.
  9. I can flip genres at will. Admittedly, I’ve stuck mostly in the fantasy/ humor range so far, but there’s a SF book, a romantic comedy, something non-fiction, and a mystery in the works. Unless you’re a big name, traditional writers don’t get to do that.
  10. I have a stubborn streak and have always been labelled “independent”.

So, why do you publish independently (or want to)? Why did you choose traditional? Do you prefer to read one or the other?

Who Wrote This World??!

I’ve been here for two days now. People are always spending time on something called Soshal Meedya, so I’m trying to learn.  I Owled yesterday! Owls seem to tweet instead of hooting here.

Since I’m here anyway, I’m going to try my imagination at being a writer. I always wanted to write, but I didn’t feel like going to court.

Time’s up! There’s a lot of rain here, but The Conductor will catch my scent eventually.

-Z7