I hope you will visit and enjoy the pretty at dusk old city picture on my author’s homepage. (It could be my favorite city: Bratislava.) It looks like this, and the link to it is above on the right.
It took me a while to figure out how to access the “statistics” section on this site, but after finding it, I noticed that 34 people have visited since the site went up. Unless it counts my visits, and in that case maybe four or five of you had a look. Thank you all half-dozen, or all 34, depending.
Speaking of big numbers: Got my first royalty check for Blossom yesterday: $12.02. That was for the print edition (thankfully the digital versions are doing much better), and I think it must represent two books. (Thanks to you two book readers.)
That induces a thought: These days the digital versions of my work outsell the print versions in truly significant numbers. One might wonder if it is worth much effort making print versions at all? Well, yes, they do look pretty nice on their special “these are my books” shelf, and it isn’t as easy to show your guests a Kindle or iPad or Nook and say “Yes, I have some books inside there,” as it is to stand at your bookshelf where their lined up pretty spines are quite decorative, not to mention tangible evidence that you have indeed published some books.
(That’s a good way to answer the perennial question — Oh, you’re a writer? What have you written? All you have to do is point at the shelf. Then you don’t have to give a dumb answer to each dumb question of what you do: “Oh, I haven’t heard of it.” So you see? There is some value in the real thing, the tangible book in itself.)
Which leads to wondering about publishing: No wonder traditional print publishers are locking the doors and dimming the lights. If my experience is common now — digital editions vastly outselling print — how are they going to stay in business? Unless they begin using their digital sales to subsidize print. That is essentially what I am doing now with B&B Books. I have almost no costs publishing POD print editions via B&B Books, no inventory to maintain, no staff to employ. The digital versions are how I make a (meager) living, and the print editions decorate my shelf and help me prove that I do indeed have a job, more or less.
This is probably the future for writers and publishers. It is almost the now.
What self-publishers do not have is an established, built-in, marketing and promotion system. Farming this out is astonishingly expensive — a mediocre publicist will charge you at least five grand. Therefore the rise of and proliferation of people in creative fields using “social media,” which is free but for the time-effort, is obviously the best (or is it the only?) viable option.
So I twit.
This is a good logo. It represents what twitting feels like to me: birds chattering on a drooping wire. I’m not trying to piss anybody off here, but probably will. Franzen is right about Twits. But Franzen doesn’t need it. I do. Franzen’s work does not rush directly over the cliff of oblivion, mine does. In spite of how often embarrassing it is, I twit because it is one of the few free avenues unknown artists have to get even a shred of name recognition for their work. The five or six or eight or twenty Twitterers who are tempted to read something of mine because I twitted about breakfast or the weather are that many more readers I would never otherwise attract … and maybe they have friends … ? So I gird my loins and try to find little bitty trivial things I can put in a little twat.
The other social media I use is Facebook, and for the same reason.
Although FB seems to have more uses than Twittering. You can see lots of pictures, some of them stimulating, and the flagrant way some people make utter fools of themselves on FB is on-going reinforcement of the belief that the vast bulk of the human population is really, sadly, dumb as a rock. Although the wacky politics on display can be pretty damn scary for the few people still capable of forming logical thought patters. Regardless, I have no facts to support this, but I do believe that 90% of my books sales can be traced back to Facebook. So I use the hell of it.
Then there is setting up and maintaing one’s own author webpage. I think mine is pretty, and it was entertaining (and sometimes maddeningly frustrating) to set it up. Does it sell books? Maybe a couple. Here’s the rule, if you need an author’s webpage for name recognition and to attract readers, it will probably do neither. If you are already a recognized literary name with gobs of readers, it also isn’t going to make much difference, except a bit of personal flattery. (Franzen, for example, does not need an author webpage; I don’t know if he has one, I haven’t looked.)
Blogging seems to me a reasonably effective way to find your audience. It is also a productive way for a writer to spend time in Cyberspace. It’s writing. Most literary bloggers work hard at getting their posts right, because they reflect on their overall literary talent. Someone who writes dull or mediocre blog posts is likely to also write dull or mediocre stories. I have seen countless blogs that did not induce me to seek out that writers work. The salvation is, I have come across a few (countable using only my fingers) that happily did send me to that writer’s work.
Finally, since I brought him up by example — Jonathan Franzen. I had no idea this writer had such vicious, vehement enemies until I started Twittering. Whoa! I was mystified. I have read three of Franzen’s novels and a book of essays. He’s a damn good writer, I read his books avidly, and I look forward to whatever he writes next. I do think most literary awards (most artistic awards of any kind) have inexplicable conditions and dubious origins, but I certainly never begrudge those who win them; even, if maybe especially, those who win and then disdain them (Wood Allen playing clarinet in a bar during the Oscars leaps to mind).
I don’t have a dog in this fight, either way, and I look at this Franzen hysteria with reasonable objectivity, and I say that to me it looks a whole lot like whining jealousy. It is not flattering to the whiners.
Yes, I know he has made public remarks that some people, some categories of people, find offensive. But Franzen belongs to a miles-long list of artists with a public following (we never hear about the dumb comments made by unknowns, obviously) who are opinionated and unhesitant expressing their opinions. No point in wasting space making the list, we all know who they are, and in their number we will find every single major novelist over the last 200 years. Every one of them. So let’s be fair. Franzen pisses you off. Fine, just in fairness admit that every major writer you’ve ever known about also pisses you off.
(In the name of fairness, I think Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher make comments in kind, and if one is condemned, so should both. Although socially and politically I disagree with Limbaugh entirely and find myself in nearly universal agreement with Maher. But if calling a woman a slut is objectionable, then so is calling a woman a cunt.)
My inability to write anything new and hopeful this morning has been assuaged. Thank you blog, for turning on the spigot.