Shifting the Paradigm without a Clutch

Paradigm is one of those terribly overused buzz words that I have come to hate.  In fact, it’s a word I try never to use, but for today, it is appropriate.

For you few who haven’t ever heard, used or know what it means, the dictionary definition is:

“an example that serves as a pattern or model for something, especially one that forms the basis of a methodology or theory”

Great.  “So what?” you ask.

Let me explain.

In writing, the established model (or paradigm, if you will) is to have writers write, editors edit and publisher publish.  Traditional publishing is done on paper by publishing houses who distribute books to the masses.  Said masses purchase the books and eventually the writer gets some form of compensation.

That’s how it was done in the past and that’s how it will always be done, right?  Right?

Maybe not.  There is a growing movement where writers write, edit and publish their own work, often for free on the Internet.  As you may guess, this movement has ruffled the feathers of more than a few of “the Establishment”.

Words like “Webscab” have been coined by “the Establishment” to denigrate these writers whose only crime is to dare and give their personal intellectual property away.  “The quality of this work is poor!” they scream.  “People will stop reading books,” they argue.

I suspect some are even predicting the end of the world.

The truth is even more alarming.  Authors (SWN’s own Terry included) are generating audiences for this online free prose (gasp!).  They are getting people enjoying their work and getting feedback on said work.  In some cases, they are getting publishing contracts too (wait, isn’t that “the Establishment”?).

Give me a second to pull my tongue out of my cheek…

OK, now let’s look at this logically.  Most writers want their work to be enjoyed.  Some expect to become instant successes, but they are (I hope) the deluded few. 

Publishers, on the other hand, want to print books that will sell.  The story between the covers is, more or less, irrelevant.  New authors are a risk to publishers; a publisher can never be completely sure if a new writer can generate an audience.

Here’s where publishing on the Internet comes in…

Authors who have work that’s been enjoyed on the Internet often have a following.  Take Tee Morris, or Mur Lafferty or Scott Sigler or JC Hutchins or Terry McLean (just to name a very few)…  Mur Lafferty’s podcast book “Playing for Keeps” had something like 10,000+ listeners subscribed when she was half-way through the book.  The others have enjoyed varying degrees of success (some more, some less) too.  If I were a publisher would I be feeling less risk putting one of her books into print or a book from someone who has never done anything before?

Not a tough question.

In today’s reality, writers must put considerable effort promoting themselves and their books.  The Internet is just another way to do that.  If that means that you, as an author, must give something away for free to build an audience, I say do it.  Sure, it might mean that you have to put off purchasing that yacht a year or two longer, but it may also mean the difference between being published and not.

You may alienate a couple of the Publishers who still believe monks should hand-write every volume of literature on parchment, but the smart ones are going to sit up and listen.  The smart ones will see the potential and ignore the fact that tried-and-true process has been ignored.

As a writer I know that I’ve got an uphill battle to succeed.  Shouldn’t I employ every possible trick available to me (short of homicide)?  I know people who aren’t interested in doing anything that isn’t paid and I respect that.  Writing is a LOT of work, so take what compensation you can.  However (and this is a big one), if I’m trying to get established, I’ve got to be willing to do the free-be’s where necessary.  That means web-publishing, public library readings, contributing to writing sites (didn’t see that one coming, did you?), attending conventions and networking and any of a hundred other activities.

To ignore or refuse to do otherwise would make it clear to me that this is a hobby and nothing else.

30 in 30 Update

  • February 28:   A Disturbing Trend                    Words:     978 
  • February 29:   Responsibilty                             Words:     16 
  • March 1:         The Power of Can’t                    Words:     501
  • March 2:         Explosion                                   Words:     6
  • March 3:         Of Men and Mermaids               Words:     1387
  • March 4:         Our Friend the Poisonous Gas   Words:     590
  • March 5:         In Search of an Opinion             Words:     391

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