I used to know a guy who came out of construction. Said he was almost a million bucks in debt, and he took a job as a used car salesman to try and pay that debt off (!). When I shopped there, he was nice and honest, and told me he just couldn’t learn all the slick tricks they tried to teach him.
Couple of years later I went back to the dealership. You know what? Not only was the guy still there (which I assume means he didn’t make a millions dollars), he was now the used car sales manager.
And he was the biggest prick I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. He was a jackass and not funny and a smart aleck. A big guy, he tried to use his size to intimidate customers too. He’d leer, glower and sort of stand over you, trying to menace (he wasn’t super-muscular or anything, but he had big bones and stood about six-six or six-seven [which is about two meters, my Canadian and overseas comrades]).
In the end he was a blow hard and he made me walk away from his car lot never to return. I told a couple of other people I’d met not to go there because of it. I don’t know how many of them did or didn’t, but I crowed about that jackass to everyone who’d listen.
He’s probably still there, doing his a$$hole thing, but he’s never going to see a nickel of my money.
I sat in a restaurant and looked around. Rich, plush carpets muffled the sounds. Great amber-wood accents on gleaming metal fixtures. Glittering chandeliers dangling from stamped-tin ceilings, held aloft on marble pillars. Gorgeous. Better be for the cost of eating there.
But the one thing they made happen which kept me coming back over and over again was making me feel as important as the eight-figure income guy from that start-up company in Silicon Valley sitting two tables over with his board of directors. He raised his eyes and someone rushed to his aid. I raised mine, same response. I never felt more served. It set me back a few C-notes every time I went, but I went a few times a year because they catered to me.
What do these stories have in common?
If you’re a writer, you’re doing one of two things: writing to the industry – and I used to do that not so long ago, so I know of what I speak here – or writing to readers.
I have a fan, a true, loyal, die-hard fan. She reads everything I write, and she gives me honest feedback. She’s not a writer and doesn’t pretend to know everything about the craft, but she’s with me in the process and helps me get through it. At the end of it all, she’s the one who’s my first reader and will tell me what she thinks, what other readers are likely to think.
I have another fan, a die-hard loyalist, who loves what I write and loves to read and just can’t wait for the next thing I do. And she tells me what she thinks of my work and how it compares to other works she’s read recently. She encourages me and wants me to keep going and wants to know when I’ll work on the next thing I write.
There are others, I’m sure, but these two leap to mind whenever I sit down to write fiction. Along with all the other jumble of things I have going on in my head, how these two will react is one of the foremost things on my mind. There’s so much which goes into writing a book, a story of almost any length, really, but with a novel more so, it feels stupid to ignore the intended audience when I do it.
You ignore traffic to your peril, you ignore weather to your peril, and if you’re running a business, you ignore your customers to your peril. How many times would I have shelled out those bills to that high-end restaurant if I’d been ignored, or served something I didn’t want, or given something I could get from any other restaurant for less? How many times would that towering used car salesman have closed a deal with me or people I recommended to him if he’d been nice, easy to deal with as he was the first time I met him? How much closer to his million dollars?
Writers are business people in the end. We want to connect our stories with customers – readers. We’re selling something. Our work. We want them to buy it. And if we want that relationship, we want to find ways to consider them, to give them what they want.
If we write to the industry, we ignore readers. The industry doesn’t want to consider readers, boys and girls. It wants their money, but it wants them to shell out that income for a limited, repetitive, and ever-narrowing scope of work. It wants them to pay exorbitant prices to keep covering the high cost of doing things the old fashioned way, because it’s an industry which hasn’t acknowledged a change in time and technology (except as it suits THEM) to make things better. Printing methods and machines are only ONE of those technological changes.
It’s a crooked industry too, full of people who say “trust me” over and over, and make promises upon which they can scarcely deliver. It’s a hypocritical industry, saying different things at different times to writers about how to come into that gate, so well guarded. It wasn’t long ago agents were actively serving the writer. Now they serve the publisher. How did this happen? Why? Both agent and publisher smile shark-sweet smiles and say “Trust me!” to us and we sign the dotted line.
Don’t believe me? Don’t want to take my word for it? You don’t have to. The evidence is clear, the documentation is there for anyone caring to research it. Here’s a great place to start. This is a business-savvy individual with experience in traditional publishing, and reading what she writes only makes me want to run the harder from it.
I doubt, at this point, anything could sway me to write for the industry again. I don’t need anyone to connect me with readers anymore. When I did, I considered it the only way, and despaired and raged at the convoluted, conflicting, contradictory things I read on industry blogs and web sites about how to be granted that special key to that oh-so-special bathroom.
But no thanks, because inside the bathroom it’s just a dirty, dingy, urine-soaked and fecal-crusted tile room with holes in the walls and leaks in the fixture, rust stains on the porcelain and cracks in the plaster. Pass.
I may not succeed at my goal of connecting my story to readers who want it, but I’m going to try it anyway. I get nothing from people who aren’t writers telling me I’m good enough. I know I’m good enough, I just don’t want to. And I know I’m good enough because my readers love my work. That’s enough for me to take a chance and try it.
Have a great weekend y’all!
Copyright 2011 DarcKnyt, All rights reserved
I don’t know if you’ve been gone for a while, or if I’ve just been missing your posts. It’s good to see your name again. 🙂
You must’ve been missing the posts, Laurita. I haven’t been around the Friday Flash circles lately, so there’s that absence. I’m glad to see you here though.
I think there is a lot of merit in what you say. Writing with the reader in mind means your heart and soul are in the story. It’s honest. And that’s what good writing should be.
I just don’t see a point to it if we only tell stories for ourselves. The readers must be those for whom we write, or else we’re diarists. 🙂
I spent way too much time paying more attention to what the ‘experts’ said than I did to what the readers said. I wish I’d made the transition from expert-oriented to reader-oriented sooner; it’s pretty liberating.
Yes ma’am, it is. I can’t tell you how much relief I felt when I discovered ebook self-publishing for just that reason. I can write books to make my READERS happy, not the gatekeepers… who wouldn’t’ve liked my book regardless.
My priority right now is just to write a good story. It’s quite sad that this can only really happen after one stops listening to the white noise out of Expertland, but there it is.
What a beautiful way of saying it: “…the white noise out of Expertland…” Amazing, and perfect.
It comes from long habit, I suppose, so it’s lucky the blogosphere has people like Sir Darc & Kristine Kathryn Rusch to help counterbalance that weight. Keep it up eh? 🙂
Aw, what a sweet thing you are to include me in such grand intellectual company. I’m not quite to her standard, but I can rant with the best of them. 😉 Thank you, Sweet Charlotte, and I’m glad you spent some time with me today.
I had a conversation with my students about shopping. This was when I lived in Bulgaria and taught at a high school. Many of the students were mystified why I went two blocks out of my way to go to a shop that was more expensive. Not way more expensive or anything. Just a few cents more expensive on average for most things. “Because they are nice to me,” I said.
And they reminded me of the shop that was closer and almost always cheaper. “But they are rude. They act as if I’m bothering them.”
Most of my students just didn’t understand why that mattered.
I’ve also learned selling art that some people just decide if they like the art and buy it. That’s it. Other people want to talk the artist and hear the story behind the art. Those people only buy if they also “buy” the story.
I’m curious about what else you do to get your work to readers. I know you’ve got your novel out there on Smashwords, but how do you get readers there in the first place? I mean beyond readers of your blog? You seem to have a lot of readers, and I know you read a lot of blogs, but how do you reach readers beyond that?
I don’t have many readers. And the few who were willing to part with money to support a friend already have. I don’t do the correct promotional things to get my book out there. Why? I don’t have the time right now. Because the right thing to do? It’s to write another book. You can be on writer forums and that won’t hurt. Sign up for FanFiction.net and post samples with links to your work, that won’t hurt either. Pimp yourself out on a page on Facebook, all good. But the number one thing you can do to get yourself noticed is write a really good book (novels work better than anthologies), then release another, and then another, and keep the flow up as best you can. I don’t mean spam the Kindle store in a day, but I mean develop a groundswell following. This comes straight from someone who’s done it both ways, traditional and self-epublishing (I think).
How do you get people looking at your art? You seem to sell some of those, and more people buy books than buy artwork. You get the word out about that somehow. Whatever you’re doing there is worth trying for your books, if you’re a mind to. But I’ve seen staunch resistance to the idea of self-epublishing from you, and it sounds like the gatekeeper system or bust in your opinion. That involves as much work, as much exposure, as much “marketing” yourself as self-epublishing, but if the idea is more appealing to you for that, there’s no harm in going after what you want the way you want. It’s up to you.
For me, the freedom to write my stories the way I want them written, to create my own covers for them or to pay people to do it, to sell directly to readers without having to first appease the gatekeepers — those things appeal to me. But that’s only me.
Just read this and found it interesting.
I think Nate Bransford wrote on this article today, too.
This mentioned something that made me realize what my ultimate resistance to e-publishing is: I like bookstores. I like wandering around the shelves and coming across something I wouldn’t normally see. Or seeing what the booksellers recommend — because I used to be a bookseller, and I loved chatting with customers about books and sometimes getting them to buy a book I love that they hadn’t heard of. This world is leaving us, I’m afraid, but I love that world, and hope one day my book will be in it.
I don’t believe ebooks will ever fully supplant print books, just as records still exist on vinyl while the CD — and ultimately the MP3 — have become the standard. A few staunch supporters willing to pay premium prices will do that to get them. And they’re going to be there. I guess I just don’t see how wandering around a bookstore is different than casually perusing the offerings on the Kindle store, Barnes and Noble’s Nook market, or any other digital outlet. Browsing is browsing, but I speak only for myself in this. And you can even IM if you like the chatting part that much. Heh.
Good luck getting your book in the world you want it in.
Yes, I saw that because of Bransford, and thought it interesting.
Well, honestly, if you were as avidly defending traditional publishing, I’d be finding reasons to self-publish. Sometimes I hear an argument and I can’t stop myself from arguing the other side. My flaky self says that’s because I’m a Libra! ha. Anyway, I could find a thousand reasons to go at it alone. And who knows what I may do in the future. Never say never. I have sold copies of my book in a handmade version. A physical and beautiful edition if I do say so myself.
I find that difficult to believe. I used to drink the Kool-Aid of traditional publishing too, and still steer folks away from self-publishing in print (versus electronically). I can’t be convinced self-publishing, or vanity publishing, or even POD, ever pays for itself unless you have one heck of a platform, in which case the gatekeepers will want you anyway. But you’re not the first person to say I argue so heatedly for what I believe they feel they have to take the other side. My EX-wife said that too.
And maybe this is because I’m an artist, but there is a HUGE difference for me between shopping the Internet and shopping in a store. Seeing it for real, picking the product up, feeling the weight, the texture, in my hand–no. Online doesn’t cut it. And i don’t just buy novels. I buy art books. I buy books because they are beautiful. I bought a picture a month or so ago, and no amount of looking at the images on my computer will be the same as flipping through the actual pages. I guess that makes me a dumb or silly romantic, but I love the stories in books and I love the actual books.
You know what? I’m an artist too. I did pencil comic book superhero stuff, mostly, but I still did it. And I’ve done some stuff digitally too (though I absolutely stink at it). And you know what I found? Neither of these has anything to do with the other. I enjoy the content, the story, of a book, not it’s format. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think it has anything to do with being right-brained.
I’m part of a dying breed though, so it seems.
I think so, yes.
I’ve had, much to my surprise, a much easier time selling my art than getting readers. But again, most of the art I sell, I meet the buyer. I’ve sold art without meeting the buyer too. But many times, I’m standing there, telling the person about the art, how I made it, about art, and then the person buys it. Obviously, I can’t go that far with every story. Or I’d have to really work on that, and I don’t have that kind of time either! Gosh.
I don’t think you should be so surprised. Visual art is immediate. Communicates and conveys quite a lot in a short glance, more as time is invested. But a story requires an investment of time — a very precious commodity as the world moves forward in time — to be enjoyed at all. No, that comes as no surprise at all in my opinion.
And even the art that the shop used to sell for me, the buyer talked to the store owner, got a backstory about me “the artist” and then bought the art. And of course, I’ve posted images online. People could print them out and pin them to their cork boards if they wanted. Maybe some people do. I’ll never know. But people send me emails or go to my shows and buy my work. And it is just the craziest feeling to have a stranger hand me real money for something I made.
And just recently somewhere — Charlotte’s blog maybe? — I said I know that traditionally published work takes a ton of work too. I don’t expect either to be easy. It is all hard work and dedication.
And promotion. The gatekeepers are going to make you promote yourself — “marketing yourself” — almost as much as you’d have to as a self-epublished author. And let’s not forget the investment in marketing THEY make. Do you think it will be the same for you as it is for your favorite authors? Unless your favorite authors are pretty low-list, that isn’t going to be the case. If you get to mid-list, it’s not because they promoted the hell out of your book.
So, I’ve posted a few stories on my other blog, and on facebook I offered to give send people some stories too. 18 people asked for copies, and I know of one person who read the stories online. Tiny. But something.
It has been an interesting conversation, Darc. I’ve liked it, and you’ve given some good points to ponder!
No I don’t take the other side because YOU argue vehemently. I mean, you do, but taking the other side is often the way I work through my thoughts. Just having this discussion has got me to consider points I haven’t before. And I would never steer anyone away from self-publishing. People who feel ready to take that step should do so.
Yes you are an artist too. Actually, to be honest, that slipped my mind. You don’t discuss it much. Maybe saying because I’m an artist is too simplistic. I don’t know why then. But I do buy certain books because they are beautiful in and of themselves. And the online version is incomplete for me. Not everyone feels that way–and more power to them. But the content and the format do sometimes magically fit together. Not always. Most books the format doesn’t matter, and if I see something that has a beautiful format but no content I like, well, the outside loses the magic, so to speak.
I keep saying I know the gatekeepers (though that is your word not mine) will expect me to promote my own book. I don’t expect it to be easy or anything like my favorite authors. I’m not Margaret Atwood! In fact, I rather expect my book would vanish in the waves because I don’t have to time to do what I’d have to do. Being published my way won’t be any magic bullet. I have very teeny tiny expectations of being published. And if I am, I have teensy teeny tiny expectations of being any kind of huge success. I have hope always, but that isn’t the same thing.
But I don’t think I can really explain myself here. It is fine that you think I’ve had the Kool-aid. I haven’t come to my choices lightly, nor do I think my choices can’t change. I see your way, and I don’t see why that way is really better for me. But we need self-published writers in the world. The publishing world would be diminished without them.
I have so many things I can say to this. But I don’t think I’d better. I’m not sure why my posts on self-epublishing stir ire, but before I go too far, I think I’ll just stop here. The only thing I’d like to point out is I didn’t coin the term “Gatekeepers”, but it’s fitting. Very much so. And unless and until someone can demonstrate it’s NOT true, I’ll use it.
I’m not trying to change your mind. I don’t care how you came to your decisions, and I only know how I’ve come to mine. You will do whatever you want, and so will I. There’s a full-stop there. And that’s fine.
Oh, I know you didn’t coin it. I just don’t care to use it. That’s all. And I didn’t think it what you said stirred ire. It is difficult to tell if how things sound in my head sound the same to someone else. You are awesome for doing things your way. If the publishing industry didn’t have independent, self-published writers around, they’d become more moribund than they already are. People like you force industry people to pay attention and learn new things. I mean that in a great way. Every industry, every system, has to have people who want to buck it. Does that make sense? You’ve challenged me–in a good way–to think about why I’ve chosen this path. And you are part of a movement that is a breath of healthy fresh air. The “industry” will be dragged behind you kicking and screaming, but it will discover new things (new ways to do things and new writers), which it desperately needs to do. Well, I hope it does. Maybe it won’t. And if it doesn’t, then yes, it will die the death it will then deserve. Big institutions don’t turn on a dime, and change will take a while.
And I hope that your adventure out into the lands of publishing is what you want it to be. The thing that really matters is that you keep writing.
I assume you read this guy–http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2011/04/are-you-dense.html
But on the off chance that you don’t, I thought you’d appreciate this. If you’ve read it already, then nevermind! Just know I was thinking of you.
Yes, my wife and I both follow Mssr. Konrath’s blog. He’s got some great things to say and lots of stats and data for those into that. 🙂 Thank you.