Going On The Account: Second Thoughts and Considerations

So this morning, the New York Times has a piece about a business that books authors for your book group.  You can now hold a book group around a certain writer’s work, and if you want something special, the writer of the work can be booked to attend for a few bucks.


My first thought was to turn on the snark and write about it, “Hey, if you need live entertainment, I come cheep; I’ll do your room for cab fare and an open bar.”  Joke told, rim shot delivered, move on.


But you know, there’s more than a punchline that can come out of this.  It’s nice that there’s an effort out there to get writers and readers in the same room, because frankly the whole loneliness-of-writing trope does not come out of nothing.  There is a certain isolation that’s required, a need for space to allow a tortured psyche to run around nude in, bouncing off the walls like a club kid at the Limelight back in the 90s.  It’s not easy to achieve, especially in an apartment in New York (particularly mine), and sometimes you can go overboard trying to get that; yes, am looking right at you, JD…


But really, is that a good thing all the time?  How well do writers fare if they lose touch with their audience entirely?


And what are the good options to keep that connection going?  Sure, the Internet has allowed some dialog, and maybe it is a step above post cards and letters, but the form still encourages a bit of a separation between the two sides that’s only slightly above only reading the finished work.  Not every book store is able to host every writer with a book to offer, and not a lot of businesses are in the “meet the author” business.  They might do for incidental greets you organize on the side, but how much craft can you really discuss someplace where there’s an implied two drink minimum, where half the place wants the Rangers game on?   And that’s among the more “slow crowd friendly” places; places like a certain McDonalds in Queens would be even less likely to want to support an author outreach program, no matter how much food you buy…


And try as I might, I can’t seem to make a meaningful connection at a convention, no matter what side of the table I’m on.  Your encounter is one of a whole host of happenings going on at the site all weekend, and the writer or the reader or even both end up pressed to move on from there and not be able to make the most of the connection.  Unless both parties are there specifically for that meeting, there’s too much to do to allow for anything to take place.


About the only fair chance for making such a connection is at a party, which is a horrible long shot.  When most writers throw a party, they usually end up surrounded with more writers, which means people who are trying to kick back don’t want to bring their work with them and talk about how so-and-so’s messing things up for them.  And let’s be honest, most of the parties hosted by non-writers, they don’t think they need to go out of the way to invite a writer.  I keep hoping that someday, when somebody says they booked a clown for their party, that they mean they got someone who recently placed on the bestseller list, but…


So the idea of a reading group with a writer appearing to talk about the work?  Love to see more of that.  I think most writers if asked would jump at the chance to show up and talk about the work.  A few hours in a relaxed environment, to discuss what went into the work, where the writer was (physically and otherwise) when it was written; sounds perfect.


And the feedback; even if the crowd wants to hang me, I’d still go.  I was in a book group where I had a few very choice things to say about Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America; had Mr. Roth been there, I’d have been open about my issues, and unafraid to let him know what I thought.  And were he to turn around and insert in his next work a character who’s obnoxious, overbearing, and maybe a little full of himself as he gives minutae about history and causality, hey, part of the process!


So yes, I’m all for having book groups where you invite the writer if you can.  (And no, I don’t care how good your interpretation of William Shakespeare as a character is, you do not get an invite!  Away with thee, Faux Shakespeare!)  I have a book group I show up for occasionally, the same way the Spectre used to pal around a few times with the Justice League a few reboots ago, which has had the pleasure of being able to invite the writer to attend the reaction to the book.  And I have two books out there, and a few short stories which since last I talked about them have so far remained without a good home, which I would love to discuss should anyone be willing to put up with have me.


Like I said, cab fare and an open bar, though I am negotiable…


POST SCRIPT: And in the midst of trying to post this, there were a few oibleagaidi teaghlaigh that came up where the subject of “businesses in the “meet the author” business” came up.  And apparently, there is a place out there that may be more open to hosting a writer than I had suggested places like that might be.

Open enough that, Fortuna willing,  there might be something to say about regarding the future…

Going On The Account: Can You Hear Me For Now…?

This is not a good day for those who create at the margins…


When I opined the other day about opting for a short at glory last week, I wrote about the positives that encouraged me to go that route.


On the other hand, one of the things that make writing online so appealing, by contrast, is the speed of delivering your work to an audience that’s easier to access without having to go through a gatekeeper.  Those are very enticing features that make online publication such a boon to writers of all levels, from the neophyte to the seasoned veteran.


Which may not be with us much longer after today: The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia invalidated most of the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet.  What this means is that your ability to receive the data you want could soon be subject to caps and limits placed by your service carrier, either a cable or phone company.  People surfing the ‘Nets may soon notice that the waves in the pool may be only a few inches tall unless you start paying more for your bandwidth.


And this is the most benign interpretation of the end of Net Neutrality; there are worse scenarios, all of which assume that your ISP doesn’t allow its hubris to infect it like a terminal cancer; if it did, then these are overly optimistic…


This could impact your ability to enjoy the content from small providers if the ISPs decide to treat access to content as an opportunity to mine for more revenue.  They may decide that the only way to meet the current demand for content is to start capping bandwidth, possibly pushing users to pay for more beyond a limited amount.  They may argue that because the pipes are not wide enough to deal with the demand, that they have a right to charge for extra carriage over a network that just can’t handle it.


Our poor digital network, the laughing stock of the world when seen on a per capita basis, that if history is any guide, ain’t getting an upgrade soon…


And if you the reader might be feeling miffed, imagine how your smaller content provider must feel.  The possibility that online writers, artists, cartoonists, and other creators might have to consider such factors as the cost of buying bandwidth to keep the pipes open, could close off a few folks without the means to keep their pump primed.


The better established creators may not be fairing much better; if bandwidth becomes as precious as water rights in the Southwest, some outlets may be hard hit for space.  What if Amazon decides not to stay in the publishing business as it is now established because AT&T decided to impose a carriage fee per transaction on the site?  Even .001 cents per transaction, with millions of purchases per day through them, would soon add up.  Would they take a bigger cut from an author’s royalties to cover those additional carriage costs?  Would books from smaller providers still be available if Amazon decided to carry only high-volume products in order to justify the costs, dropping these micro-accounting cases from the site?  And if the ISPs decide to control all this content through their pipes for themselves and declare Amazon a competitor, ganging up on the seller along with other such providers (yes, Netflix especially), would the winner in this battle still offer publishing options?  Would the ISPs want to give writers a space in a business they may not consider worth their time.


And even if the business products somehow stay viable, there’s no inherent protection offered for blogging; many writers and other creators may find their ability to interact with their audience hampered, not to mention those in the blogosphere alone without any other outlets.  As  the blogosphere has produced writers like nebulae produce stars, we could lose some potential new voices in such a case.


These are not good times to be on the outside like this, a small voice that could be silenced while bigger concerns throw their weight around.  There are a lot of minuses to a world without net neutrality.  May we never live through so sterile a time and age.


Just in case, should absolute worst comes to pass, I am building a list for folks I can share stuff with through semaphore flags…

Going On The Account: Perish? No, The Other One…

Uh, yeah, it’s been a little while…

I suppose I could make up some lame excuse  as to why I haven’t been over here in a month:

* The holidays took up all my time.

* I’m deeply enmeshed in following the NFL playoffs.

* I was still very wrapped up in all the 50th anniversary for Doctor Who hoopla

* I was frozen in place thanks to the arctic vortex like one of the 76 runners Box received before Logan-5 showed up:

* I was until today in the last car still stuck in Fort Lee after the GWB was closed by Bridget Anne Kelly (acting alone, supposedly…); it was so bad I only just got into Manhattan

I could say that, or I could say the truth:

* I focused on writing and placing some professional sales

I know I’ve discussed in an interview with Susan Rocan my thoughts concerning getting a publishing contract, and I still have core concerns about the publishing model as it now exists.

For long forms.

In terms of short pieces, though, I wanted to take another crack at that.  Why?

* To test myself; having spent close to around 120,000 words to discuss Hope Harvey in Raging Gail, and in the neighborhood of 72,000 on Jennifer DiNapoli in Red Jenny,  I wanted to see whether I can still talk about someone else using 5,000 words or less

* To go back and work in this form again; I started in writing with short fiction, and haven’t had to work within the limits imposed in needing to be that succinct and exact in years, so I needed to refresh that

* To validate myself to me; there’s no one to stop you from going online and publishing your own work, but there’s also no one to pat you on the head when it’s ready to be read, and no matter how good I may get it’d be nice to have someone agree with me about how good a piece is before it hits the wires

Am I that self-conscious?  Asking someone who writes if they’re self-conscious is like asking someone in Buffalo if they’d love a few days in the middle of February down in Key West…

I won’t even bring up the economic question, as rates for short fiction don’t seem to have gone up much since the last time I sold a piece; insert joke about what writers make here…

Actually, screw that; in fact, what helped get me back here was seeing Jim C. Hines’ post about his writing earnings for 2013.  In addition to being a great writer and advocate for those segments of genre readers and writers who don’t get the respect they’re entitled to, he did us all a great service in providing hard real numbers with year-to-year comparatives.  Because numbers can discuss performance with precision, and offer comparative data and accompanying insight, this was invaluable at this point for me.

As right now I have comparative numbers of my own relating to my short fiction endeavors that are much less impressive.

There’s very little to show at the moment since I went back into short forms.  Like zero.  Zilch.  Nicht.  Goose egg.  Nada.  Scott-Norwood-hard-to-starboard kind of results.  Which could be interpreted very badly by people with hard bottom lines and little patience.

Yet, Jim’s listing does include a chart showing year-to-year income, with data tracking starting with 2002.  He also notes in the body of the findings that he started writing in 1995, which means there’s a seven year gap between the start of his efforts and when he has data to report on results.

So coming back into short fiction may take a little while for me, probably.  It’s not going to happen soon, unless I sell my soul to some dark force from the Nether-realms who’s owed a favor by someone at CAA.

Or use the algorithms for best sellers discovered by researchers at Stony Brook University.  A little editing of the manuscript with these keywords at hand ready to insert into the work, and everyone can write a bestseller.

At which point, the average advance for a novel goes down to about $75 apiece, but hey, laws of the market and what not…

Which means a large number of those books not earning money today will result in poor writers discussing their lack of income from that ten years hence if the research done in Britain on the “economic misery index” in fiction holds up…

You’d think with all the science just applied to writing, there’d be a lot more certainty in this business, but no; it’s still the same heap o’ chaos it’s always been.  And until I crack that code (or my head on the table in frustration), I’m just going to keep on working on the short pieces, which thanks to Jim’s data I’m not going to worry about placing until 2021 rolls on through.

And I’m going to work on some longer pieces; those I’ll keep under my aegis for now.

At least, that’s what the data on hand seems to say at the moment…