This is sort of what I was going to write Sunday for my Do Some Damage post before I was rendered even more useless than normal by a car accident (I’m fine, and very pleased to have AAA auto insurance). It takes a couple of increasingly well-worn topics of discussion and hopefully takes a new spin on them. Because as a writer, we’ve got nothing if we can’t put a new spin on well-worn topics, right?
So mostly it’s about working for free, but also includes some hints of e-bookiness. I’m thinking about this because I took a couple of weeks this month away from working on my novel (which hopefully will be the money generating creative work of my repertoire) to work on a couple of pieces I will not receive money for (at least not initially, but more about that in a minute). Why?
Well, for one, it was fun. One piece was a short story for a Kung Fu edition of a new crime magazine that I’ve had in my mind for a while. I’ve been looking for a way to write a real cheesy, raw, B-movie type revenge story and this presented the perfect opportunity. The other piece was a play I’ve been working on since college, but only recently gained enough perspective on to make it work. This is (hopefully) for a one act play festival in my new hometown at their gorgeous new theater. But these are the only two I chose to pursue out of the many, many ideas I have that would probably net me no income. So why these two?
In all of the discussions of working for free, exposure is mentioned as a capital almost as lucrative as cash. And in the crime field there are a number of examples that pop immediately to mind of people who published stories for free in highly respected magazines, only to see those stories picked up by larger anthologies for good money. And in some cases even, the stories led to bigger money through book deals (Scott Wolven) or screenwriting gigs (Mike Maclean). I know writers who have picked up agents based on a great story in a great magazine. So there are plenty of opportunities for cash to be had by publishing in the right places. And that’s sort of where the e-book discussion comes into play.
Because as the business changes, those who find the most success, I believe, will be the ones who can write across many genres, and many mediums. A guy who spring quickly to mind is Victor Gischler. He had some early success with his crime novels, then not so much, but then he had some success with comic books. Then he had some success with science fiction and fantasy novels, then not so much. Now he’s looking for some success in screenwriting. If all his eggs had been in the crime novels basket, he would have had a harder time keeping his name out there and making money from his writing. Same with Duane Swierczynski. He was having a little success with the novels but was able to quit his day job because of his comic book writing and script work. So that’s why I chose to work on these two projects. The Kung Fu issue is loaded with star names and will generate great buzz and hopefully I’ll be able to leech off of a some of it. It’s also a story that I think shows a different side of my writing (it’s way more action oriented than any of my other stories) and that’s always good. And with the play, there’s always the hope that somebody in the audience has a ton of money and is looking to get a film project off the ground and the last piece they need is a great script writer. And honestly, here in Metro Detroit with all of the new film activity going on because of our generous tax credits, it’s not a big of a pipe dream as it would be some other places.
Another guy whose doing this, albeit in a different manner is Joe Konrath. Everybody likes to talk about the ridiculous amounts of money he’s making with e-books and they like to talk about how to replicate his success. The current wisdom is that he’s having success because he had books traditionally published before going e-books. I don’t buy it. I think the main reason Joe has been so successful is because he was the first to see not just the money that e-books could offer, but the freedom. He didn’t start out looking to make money, he started out looking for a new way to get books he wrote, and liked and thought other people would like, into readers hands. The same is also true to a lesser degree for someone like Lee Goldberg. He started out, again, looking to get some of his favorite books that had been ignored by the established publishing systems (like the criminally under appreciated Man With The Iron On Badge) into readers hands. But he’s mostly stuck to out of print novels and short stories as opposed to generating new content that exploits the benefits of electronic publishing which is why I think his income isn’t as great as that of Joe. If you read Joe’s current blog post, he’s not talking about money, he’s talking about all of the cool projects he’s got in the works that could only be done through e-books. His enthusiasm comes through and gets others excited.
It reminds me of my own self back in 2004 when I was new to the internet writing scene and looking to make a name for myself. I wrote stories and blog posts and novels and screenplays and plays and hyperfiction and blog story projects all just for fun. A lot of that spirit has been lost as my attentions been split between the day job, my family, and keeping my house from being condemned for poor maintenance and I have to focus on writing that stands the best chance of getting me paid. But in the new e-book world, there is a greater opportunity to accomplish both and that’s very exciting.