Saturday, April 30, 2011

David Wakes Up!

The datelines on my most recent posts show that I haven’t kept you, my readers, or the world at large informed about my life or work. In large part that’s because of my need for privacy. Also because I don’t believe people, even my readers, are much interested in how I live my life. And finally because I’m not really convinced that social media and self-promotion have much of a positive effect on my career. Some SF writers seem to bubble over with news, opinions, and facts and still have time to put out a fairly decent novel a year. I’m not one of those writers. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. Nothing ever happens, so there’s no news (with a few notable exceptions. See below). I’m opinionated, sure, but don’t consider my opinions especially worth airing, except when they come out of the mouths of my fictional characters. As to social media, I just don’t get it. Call me a social grinch, but I’d rather spend five minutes breathing the same air with someone than an hour reading their updates online. As to promotion, I’ve always felt that that was my publisher’s job. After all, they take 85% of every dollar in sales of my books.

But that’s all about to change. Why? For two reasons. First, my longtime agent, Ralph Vicinanza, died unexpectedly last November. I was lucky to have representation by a person of his caliber. He steered the course of my first novel, Counting Heads, and I will be forever in his debt. Now I am faced with decisions of how to chart my future course, which leads to . . .

Ebook publishing has exploded. Ebooks had been a tantalizing possibility for years, but no one knew how to bring them to the market. Amazon changed that with the Kindle. There had been ebook reading devices before, but Amazon put theirs together with the largest online bookstore in the world, making it easy and relatively cheap to find, download, and read books. IMO, the Kindle has done for books what iTunes did for music. And with Barnes & Noble and Apple jumping into the game, it seems clear that ebooks are the next step in publishing. Moreover, e-publishing has the potential to cut out the middleman, the traditional publishers, from the process. In five years, if such giants as Macmillan and HarperCollins are still in business, that business will be unrecognizable by today’s standards. In the meantime, we authors have the ability, like indie musicians, to cater to our fans directly.

Of course, that means we’re responsible for getting the word out ourselves and to build and cultivate our own fan base. In other words, self-pubbing equals self-promoting, and at long last I accept the challenge.

What does that mean? First off, it means that I’m committing myself to letting you know what’s happening with me and my work on a more timely basis than once every six months. For the last 15 years I have counted Saturdays as just another work day for writing fiction. Now, and for the foreseeable future, Saturdays will be my “social network” day. I have to admit, I still don’t know how to do it, and I’m hoping that some of you reading this can give me some hints. What’s the best way to get the word out about my fiction? Where do YOU go for news about your favorite writers? What do you want to know about me? How can I best use my time? Come on, give me a clue. I’ve had a Facebook account for years, but I never updated it, using it only as an easy way for people to find me. Now, I will at least copy these blog postings onto FB, but what else is FB good for? Do you follow Twitter? Does anyone really care to read tweets from me? What else out there should I be using?

It also means that I will begin to self-pub some of my short fiction as ebooks. I’ve already got “She Was Good—She Was Funny” up on Kindle for 99 cents. This was my second-ever published short story, and the only one that’s not science fiction. Actually, it’s a kickass story about love and murder in the Alaskan bush, and it appeared in Playboy magazine. It’s never been collected (except as a premium feature in the Subterranean collection, Getting to Know You) and is pretty much unavailable, until now. I’ll get it up on Nook next. After that I’ll do a mini-collection of three stories: “Osama Phone Home,” “A Hard Man to Surprise,” and “Timed Release.” The first of these appeared in MIT Technology Review, and the other two are flash fiction stories that appeared in the British journal Nature. These three stories have also never been collected or anthologized. They are available online but only behind a paywall. And then, if I can secure the rights, I’ll do an ebook edition of my most popular story, the novella, “The Wedding Album.”

There’s a lot of work getting all this put together. A lot of administrative hoops to jump through creating accounts, not to mention the formatting of the ebooks themselves. I’ve been forced to update a bunch of software (plus I need a new computer! I need broadband!) and to learn the finer points of .mobi and .epub formatting. More on this in coming weeks.

My big news

The biggest personal news I have to share is the fact that I’m a new grandparent! Here’s my little darling only three hours old, fresh from her water birth at home. If my daughter and son-in-law allow, I’ll be sharing more pix in future weeks.

Well that’s enough for now. But check back next week for more. I’ll tell you about the novel I’ve been working on for the last three years. And please leave comments (or send email) about things you’d like to see here.


Sue Ann Bowling said...

David, it's possible to set up a blog so if feeds automatically to Twitter, facebook, Goodreads, your Amazon author page--probably others, too. Facebook seems to get the whole thing in notes, and twitter gets only the start plus a link to your blog. Not sure I know how to do it, but that's the way mine is set up.

Allara said...

Nice to hear you'll be keeping us up to date more frequently! I know many sf/f readers like to follow our favorite authors on Twitter, so I recommend doing regular blog posts and then linking them on Twitter. Also: don't be afraid to give us your occasional witticisms over Twitter! Based on your novels, I'm guessing you have them to spare! ;)

Dale said...

Ditto, Nice to hear you will be keeping the blog/facebook updated more often. IMHO, Twitter might be a little overkill, blog and facebook updates on a daily/weekly basis would be Awesome! Though, I look forward to another book of course. I'm a regular reader of Patrick Rothfuss's blog and I think he has generated LOTS of loyal followers just from his blog (and 2 books) alone.

Again, good to see you are active again. Congrats on the new Grand-Baby! Cheers - Dale

Nicholas Whyte said...

Good to hear from you again, David! I developed my twitter approach basically by looking for people I already knew and adding them; and then adding others who they seemed to be having fun interacting with, rather like I did with livejournal many years ago. It's a more public forum than facebook, which has its good and bad sides. Anway, look forward to reading more from you.

Anonymous said...

Dear David, I wouldn't dare advise you on Twitter, facebook etc.. But frankly, I wholeheartedly agree with what you wrote about your opinion, namely that it only matters IN your writing. To stretch that further, I'm not interested in what mundane things happen to you, I'm interested in the brilliant way you incorporate that in a novel or story. I once read on Peter Hamilton's website ramblings about the renovation of his kitchen... - I now have great difficulty removing this unwanted image from my mind whenever I read something from the man. I therefore do sincerely hope that the social media or e-publishing won't distract you from writing your next novel for which I've been waiting for 3 years now. I will buy it immediately as e-book (Epub for Sony Ereader) provided it costs less than the paper version. Mr Hamilton's latest paper book is on sale here for about 10 Euros, and as e-book it still costs 25+ Euros. Such greed has killed the CD, and it can kill the e-book. I can't wait until you manage to put your 2 Nature-stories up for sale as e-book, because it's really frustrating to read that you have just finished a new story, and oh you have to take a subscription to Nature. All the best and don't forget that there are a lot of people waiting ! Respectfully yours, Aris.