A cool new world!

This is a post by Michael Stackpole on the Passive Voice--I'm linking to the PV version so you can read the comments. He (and others) are remarking that they write so much more now that they don't have to run the gauntlet of traditional publishing. I find it really delightful to read things by authors who were previously traditionally published but who now self-publish--they seem to be enjoying themselves so much more.

Writing is a lonely business, and you're often dealing with no feedback or really weird feedback or feedback that you just can't trust. And that can really take the stuffing out of you--if you're basically being punished every time you write, you'll stop writing, even if you once found it gratifying.

Remove the punishment, and things change. That, I think, is the point behind things like Dean Wesley Smith's story challenge--the enjoyment he takes in writing a story, putting a cover on it, and distributing it is just palpable. He's so happy to be making them--it's the joy of creation. He's not writing a story in exchange for being pissed on and having his story never see the light of day--he's making something real. The barriers are gone, and he's free to run!

I went through this opening of possibilities in a small way recently when I was talking to some friends I hadn't seen in while. I used to work with this one woman who was crazy and horrible, but in a way that I knew would become funny once I had some distance on it (unlike the sexual compulsive I used to work with, who remains terrifying and pathetic--we worked with children, I cannot emphasize that enough, and to the best of my knowledge, she still does). I used to regale these friends with tales of the (first) crazy woman, and they would laugh and laugh, which was actually pretty frustrating at the time because she was driving me insane.

Anyway, they really, really want me to put her in a book (and indeed, the only way I could cope with her was to view her as material and take notes). She is the basis for the villain in my planned fantasy novel, but I also vented my (at the time) considerable ire by outlining a comic novel with her as the protagonist. Once I quit that job and calmed down a bit, I decided against writing the book because I didn't think there was enough material for a full-length novel, and novellas were a hard sell. I also knew that comic novels were a hard sell too, so a comic novella was just a non-starter.

I was telling my friends that--and you know how sometimes the penny doesn't drop until you say something out loud? My conversation went something like, "I didn't think there was really enough there for a novel, just a novella.... Buuuut nowadays, with self-publishing, novellas and short stories are having a real renaissance, because people like having something quick to read on their phone while they're waiting for the dentist. So they do quite well."

And, hey! That book is back on the table! I think the original outline vanished last year when I got a computer virus, but I can reconstruct it. I may or may not actually go through with it--sometimes past trauma is best left in the past--but it's possible. It has moved from the realm of the impossible to the realm of, I could do that!

It's not just writers benefiting: I leave you with a story in the New York Times that is both heartening and infuriating. It's about how comedian Louis C. K. is selling videos of his shows directly to viewers for $5 a pop. It's just like self-publishing: He's making lots of money and has control, so he loves it; his fans don't pay much and it's convenient, so they love it. So of course a major theme of the article is how those poor, poor cable companies are being cut out of the revenue stream! (Sniff!) Forget that: 1. They aren't actually providing him with a service at this point, so why is he supposed to pay them? 2. He made no money off his cable specials, so it sounds like they got their pound of flesh already. 3. He hasn't been coasting off cable specials, he tours a lot and I'm sure does other marketing on his own. 4. Cable providers typically also provide Internet service, so if he's selling over the Internet, then they are, in fact, profiting off his efforts.

Remember: It's good when corporations make money. It's bad when artists make money. Or that's what certain corporations would have you believe....