Friday, February 27, 2009
Have I mixed the metaphor sufficiently? Maybe I should just get to the point(s). I do have good news:
1) Effective immediately, IGMS will be released on a bi-monthly basis, publishing for January, March, May, July, September, and November.
2) The number of stories published in each issue will be reduced from 7 to 5; however, the total number of stories published each year will increase from 28 to 30.
3) Instead of writing a new story for each issue (which he was having a hard time keeping up with), from now on Orson Scott Card will record a story as an audio file for each issue. If you bought issue 9 or 10 with the expectation that there would be a new Orson Scott Card story in it, fear not; that commitment will still be met (and hopefully soon, now that the latest screenplay for the Ender’s Game movie has been completed). However, having an audio file takes advantage of things a print magazine cannot do, and also allows Orson to stay active in the magazine on a more timely basis, with a commitment that takes a few hours of his time instead of a few weeks. The audio story he records might be one of his own previously published stories; it might be a story by another author published in IGMS; or it might be something from a novel-in-progress, as will be the case with issue 11 when he reads an early chapter from The Lost Gate (to be published in the future by Del Rey). The story/chapter is titled "The Man in the Tree,” and the audio presentation will be accompanied by the full text.
4) There will still be an author interview in every issue, and the monthly columns will still be free. Each story will still come with its own custom illustration.
Issue 11 should be out the first of next week. In addition to the audio story by OSC that I already mentioned, the table of contents will include a great new story by Peter Beagle called "Vanishing," as well as "The Urn of Ravalos" by Rebecca Day, "The Sin Hypothesis" by Liz Lustig, "Tekkai Exhales His Avatar" by Tony Pi, and Part Two of the novelette, "The Absence of Stars," by Greg Siewert. You'll also find an interview with Tanith Lee, and a short essay by our own Orson Scott Card in response to a reader question.
Well, that’s what’s happening at IGMS. As much as I like to ramble on and on and on and on, I think that’s enough for you to digest in one sitting. If you have any thoughts or questions about any of this, please drop us a line via the contact page on our website or comment right here.
Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show
P.S. As usual, I've collected essays from the authors in the upcoming issue and will post them here on Side Show Freaks. Feel free to drop by next week and catch The Story Behind The Stories, where the authors talk about the creation of their tales.
P.P.S. If you've a story submitted to IGMS, please give me a little extra time to get to it; with the changes we've made to the publication schedule, we should have already started work on issue 12, so I've got a bit of artificially created catching up to do. It's a good problem to have, but still one I have to prioritize.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
On other notes, I'm doing a 90 minute workshop on the Business of Writing, followed by a reading and signing at the City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC (just west of Asheville). The bookstore called yesterday to say they've already got 35 people signed up, so it might be smidge crowded, but if you're in the area, please stop by.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Edmund posted recently on this blog about podcasters getting publishing contracts. He then invited me to guest blog here, and I wanted to discuss this in more detail.
I am a podcaster who built an audience of over 40,000 via free giveaways of audio podcasts and PDF podcasts, so you can guess I'm rather gung-ho about new media. Podcasting my book led directly to it being picked up by a small press and released in print.
Yes, print publication, or "old media" is my ultimate goal. Giving work away for free is not a way to directly make money, obviously. But new media allowed me to connect to an audience, make them care about my work, and then ask them to help me with the marketing of the small press book. Many bought copies of the book for themselves and to give as gifts. I received one email from a woman who appreciated the free podcast so much that she promised to buy several copies for Christmas gifts. I'm never clear on what number makes a small press book a success, but I earned out my advance and had a strong showing on Amazon for several weeks after the release, so I'm pretty pleased with the sales numbers of a book that never hit the bookshelves.
New media is not a fad or a gimmick. It's not a pipe dream or a crazy idea. It's a way to connect directly to an audience in a way that just a website will not do. Established authors with existing audiences can afford to look down on new media, but new authors with no audience would do well to consider audio or ebook releases of their work.
The relationship with the community is what it's all about. What I've discovered from the listeners who hear my voice talking to them in intros and read me on blogs and Twitter, is that they want me to succeed. I'm not an author in an ivory tower to them, I'm a person trying to climb a pretty big mountain and can't do it alone. (Yeah. Sometimes I mix metaphors.) When these people see my book, they don't think, "Oh, a superhero novel by that author I heard of once." They think, "Mur's book came out! Awesome!"
I had a man approach me at DragonCon last year. The conversation went something like this:
HIM: You're giving your PDF book away for free?
HIM: The whole book?
HIM: I read ebooks exclusively. What's to stop me from downloading your book and putting it on my reader and never paying you?
HIM: But I won't buy the print version. What are you getting out of this?
ME: Hopefully a new fan. And someone who will tell a friend, who does buy print books, that there's a new author they should check out.
I'm not the best advocate for Creative Commons or giving work away - if you want to read some fantastic arguments for this, check out this Cory Doctorow's essay - (or his collection of essays, Content, which is available in print and, yes, as a free ebook. ) I will say that I've experienced nothing but good things using new media, and I can personally vouch for everything that Cory mentions in his essays (that apply to me, of course.)
I'm only a small example of the power of new media. Scott Sigler hit the New York Times Bestseller list with his latest book, Contagious, this past January. Scott built his career on podcasting as well, and has vowed to always have a free version of his work available (usually audio podcast). His legions of fans are rabid and dedicated and do a lot of his marketing heavy lifting for him.
For me, new media is a key part of the foundation of my writing career. I am hopefully building an audience who will stay with me for years, evangelizing my work whether it's out for free or in print. "Old" media is not dead; it's vital if you want to feed your family on what you make as a novelist. But it's becoming more and more important for new authors to consider new media as a way to engage their audiences, build communities, and get that zealous fanbase. Marry the two, as it were.
How do you do it? Here is a small checklist, but it doesn't cover everything:
1) Contact other authors doing the same thing. My audience already knows about this whole "they give it to you in one form and hope you buy it in another" situation. They're also already built in to receive and appreciate audio podcasts.
2) Network, offer to play other podcasters' promos if they play yours or talk up your book.
3) Connect with your audience. Intro your book with a personal note. Doesn't matter what you talk about, just let them know who you are and what you want out of podcasting your book. If you want them to buy the print version, SAY SO. If you want them to tell others via blog, word of mouth, or Twitter, then SAY SO. When they email you, email them back. Thank them for listening. We've been completely honest with our audiences, telling them what our goals are, and hoping they can help us.
4) Get a Twitter account, announce the Twitter account on your podcast and ask your listeners to spread the word. Make sure you use it - whether to talk about your breakfast, liveTweet the Oscars, or talk about your latest book. Just don't use it solely as a way to shill your stuff. You're trying to make people get to know you; you're not using it as a bullhorn about your work.
5) Keep putting out content. This is the hardest one; we all have issues with time management, and managing new media is no relaxing hobby. But if you want to keep up with your podcast audience, just like your print audience, you need to keep putting out content.
6) Enjoy yourself. The thrill of getting fan mail that your book in someone's ears moved them to tears, or got them through a tough time, or just that they usually hate [insert your genre here] books, but they loved yours, is unparalleled. And it's been proven many times that it will increase sales, but you have to work your audience (go back and re-read #3.)
Thanks a lot to Edmund for letting me play on his blog about new media. If you want to ask questions or continue the conversation, comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find my many projects at http://www.murverse.com.
Friday, February 20, 2009
Some of my February has been spent writing a new novel, but not as much as I would have liked. (Never as much as I would have liked.)
I thought I was going to sit down and start writing the first draft on February 2nd, but found myself terribly blocked. After a couple of frustrating days I realized the reason I was blocked was because I didn't know enough about my characters or the world they lived in.
So I pulled out a flip chart and started taping pages up on the walls of our guest room, until I had covered just about every available inch of wall space with blank pages. I labeled one for each of my main characters and started writing what I knew about them. I had another page for plot points I knew I wanted to hit, for characters and situations I wanted to bring into conflict. Conflict is one of the main things I'm looking at/for right now. Where can I bring opposed viewpoints together to clash in the story? It's been an interesting process.
For the first couple of days the kids would walk into the room and chuckle (after an initial wide-eyed response). And the wife doesn't mind at all. In fact, I think she's hoping that when I take these sheets down the tape will peel off some of the paint so that I will then have to repaint the room. She's never been happy with the shade of green it is now. And yes, the whole room is covered with pages.
So anyway, technically that's writing. I'm not really drafting any text for the story, but I'm writing down everything I know and using that to figure out what it is that I still need to figure out so I can get to writing. Right?
Thursday, February 19, 2009
A friend of mine who is friends with one of the local morning news TV personalities gave her a copy of my novel, Dreaming Creek. That's the way of the world, right? A little ‘friend-of-a-friend’ networking. She reads enough of the book to decide that she likes it (you know they never read the whole thing) and then invites me to come on TV to talk about it. Cool beans. I’ve done plenty of print interviews, and maybe a half-dozen podcasts, but this is my first time with a major media outlet.
So... I get to the TV station this morning, get buzzed in the door, and am greeted by a producer whose first words are "Who are you and why are you here?" She honestly has no idea.
Much scurrying and scrambling ensues. Computers and logbooks are consulted. Finally the news anchor who invited me is pulled off the set during a commercial break. "I swear I wrote it in the book," she says three or four times, all the while poring over a book that clearly doesn't have my name written down anywhere in the schedule for this week (or next, or the week after that). Numerous apologies are made on their part; I smile and just keep saying "It's no big deal." What else is there to say?
An hour later I’m at home, working on various magazine stuff, when I get an email from the TV producer saying they finally figured out what happened. Apparently my friendly neighborhood news anchor wrote me in for March 19th, when she meant to write it in for February 19th. Oops. These things happen. (Though I’d like to know why I’m such a magnet for them; they may happen, but they seem to happen to me with disproportionate frequency.)
I'm scheduled to try again next week, Wednesday morning. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
Oh well, could have been a whole lot worse…
Assuming it comes off this time, I’ll post a link to the interview when the station adds it to their website.
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
There are a problems with that logic, though, specifically in that there are some things it fails to recognize. And I think the main thing it fails to recognize is that the means of distribution is not the key to the success. For every success story that can be found in the realms of self-publishing, podcasting, etc. etc., there are thousands upon thousands of people who have tried the exact same path and failed. And failed miserably. Failed spectacularly.
The reason for the successes is because of three main things, two of which the author controls, one of which the author does not, and none of which are the means of distribution.
The first controllable factor is that the author wrote a good (or great) book to begin with. Just because an agent or editor rejects a book, does not mean it isn't a good one; sometimes editors (or agents) just get it wrong. The publishing industry is rife with stories that bear that fact out. But if an author has done their best work and believes in that work, they'll keep trying.
That brings us to the second controllable factor: that the authors of these books worked their assess off to promote them. There are so many books out there that it takes a tremendous amount of effort to get noticed, much less succeed. This is not news to anyone; you hear it all the time. But if you look at the story of the people who made it, you always hear them talk about how hard they worked, how many events they appeared at, how many signings and reading they set up, how many blogs they guest-posted on, etc. etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. That effort, more than anything else, is the single biggest key to their success. I firmly believe that if an author who enjoyed success with podcasting their novel had put equal effort into self-publishing that same novel or releasing that same novel as an e-book (or whatever other means of distribution you care to name), they would have enjoyed comparable success. It's about the level of effort put into the book's promotion.
And for better or for worse, the third factor in determining success (or failure) is luck. Being in the right place at the right time has made or broken more careers than there is time to list. Of course, you increase your odds of being in the right place at the right time by being in as many places as possible as many times as possible (see previous paragraph on the subject of working your ass off), but in the end a little luck goes a long way. You can't control it, though, so stick with items one and two.
The last thing I want to mention is somewhat related to this topic and somewhat not. I've been hearing a lot of chatter about the potential demise of the traditional means of publishing and the revolution that's imminent. But before you dismiss traditional publishing, bear this in mind: The "success" of people who tried their hand at self-publishing or podcasting their novels is usually success in the very traditional medium they started out circumventing. They may not have arrived by conventional means, but they still arrived at the same place everyone else is angling for, for the same reason everyone is angling to get there: a good contract with a major publisher. Why? Because that's how you get you book into as many hands as possible. And because that's where the money is. And at the risk of having my membership revoked by the Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Fine Artists, that is still the kind of "success" we are all looking for. We want as many people to read and enjoy our books as possible, and we want to be paid well enough for it that we can afford to stay home (instead of going to a regular job) so we can do it again.
Anyway... I didn't mean for this to turn into a PhD dissertation, I just wanted to say that getting as many people as possible to read your book is a good way to get noticed by a major publisher, but I think it is a mistake to confuse the means of distribution (podcasting, self publishing, whatever) for the cause of success in achieving wide distribution.
Monday, February 02, 2009
"The Tale of Junko and Sayuri", by Peter Beagle (InterGalactic Medicine Show July, '08)
"From the Clay of His Heart", by John Brown (InterGalactic Medicine Show April, '08)