Needles and Kindles

I’ve been thinking about a few things and I’m not sure how much detail I want to go into until I start writing so that should be fun for you. If it turns out to be a truly excessive amount I’ll probably break it up into a couple posts.

First, Paul Guyot is always telling me to get my priorities straight so instead of leading with one of the two writing issues on my brain, I’ll start with the parenting issue: vaccines. With one baby under our belts and another quickly on the way, Becky and I have been receiving recommendations regarding vaccinating or not vaccinating our new baby. My initial reaction was, eh, y’all are nut jobs. The doctors treating my child are almost always parents themselves and if they thought there was any danger in it they’d let me know. Also, the hospital where our kids our born (and where I work) is always at the front of the pack when it comes to pediatric research. But some people made me feel guilty or made out like I was a bad parent if I didn’t research the topic a bit so I did.

It didn’t take long to reinforce my initial reaction. Almost all of the material supporting vaccinating children comes from peer-reviewed scientific journals, respected pediatric hospitals, and government agencies. With little exception, the stuff against vaccination came from nut jobs, non-medical experts, family members, celebrities, and disgruntled scientists using amateurish web pages with names like vaccinesarethedevil.com or dontmurderourchildren.com I won’t go into all of the specifics here but in summary, vaccines are safer than they’ve ever been, show absolutely no link to causing autism, and are the best bet to keep your child from suffering from some unholy oldtimey disease like whooping cough. If you’re interested in more research I direct you to the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia or the Vaccine Safety Page for Every Child By Two.

Now to the writing issues. First, I have a new short story out called “Word Games” in the anthology UNCAGE ME edited by Jen Jordan. It doesn’t seem to be in any bookstores near me but I got my contributor copy in the mail and that’s always a cool feeling. I had a little promotion going to try and build up some interest in the anthology, and my story specifically, but that seems to be dead in the water after getting only about six requests. This, mixed with my failures in the Great Kindle Experiment, has got me thinking about the future of writing. I do believe that e-books, and electronic publishing and all that new technoblooey is eventually the future of the publishing industry but there seems to be a catch. To truly make the most of the techno future of e-publishing you need to be established in traditional publishing first.

Almost everyone who has had any measure of success experimenting with the Kindle or electronic publishing did so because they already had an audience built through good old fashioned traditional publishing. Right now, and even more so into the future, any writer looking to make a good living from writing is going to have to have a platform that they can extend into a variety of other fields. And right now, the platform that still works best is to have novels published by traditional publishers. Once you have a book out there, even if you only get a miniscule advance for it, you can parlay that validation into gigs writing comics, or television, or movies, or video games or whatever other venue offers more financial incentive than book publishing.

From a writer’s standpoint, the best thing traditional publishing has going for it is respect. I suspect this will change in the far future, but I don’t see that change coming too soon. You can really see it with playwrights. It’s become nearly impossible for a writer to make a full living writing for the stage, but the bulk of the top names in theater bring in other income by writing for more lucrative, if not prestigious, mediums. It won’t be long before the same is true of novelists. Like I said, I really don’t know what sort of business model will emerge to compensate prose writers in the future once the weight of traditional publishing’s decades long stupidity finally causes it to collapse in on itself, but I know that for me, and writers of my generation, the best bet is to pursue a traditional publishing contract through traditional means and build a traditional audience, and then use that platform to branch off into more experimental or more lucrative markets.