Thursday, October 14, 2010

You And Technology: Mega Bros

There's been a lot of hand-wringing going on in the publishing industry regarding the rapid technological developments that seem to be constantly besieging it. More specifically, the wailing and gnashing of teeth has been going on for nigh six hundred years now, and every time something changes, The End is presumed near. To you I say: not so!

Whether you have your jerkin in a twist over movable type or are hyperventilating into a paper bag at the prospect of dealing with e-rights, have no fear: technology is, despite the insistence of some in the book world, your friend, and the better you know how to make use of it, the easier it will be for you to sell your books. Things are ever changing, mes auteurs, but the written word isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

First: if you don't know how to use a computer, now's the time to learn. Incidentally, I have no idea how you're reading this blog if you don't know how to use a computer, but I imagine someone might have made a daguerrotype for you and sent it by horseback, or maybe they printed it out and made mimeographs, or perhaps they're just reading it to you from the next room. Regardless, computers: learn how to use them.

Second: if you don't have a website, seriously think about getting one. Where else are you going to provide links to your book(s), aggregate your Facebook/Twitter/Blogger output, brag about your accomplishments, announce future events/readings, &c &c?

Third: writing requires research. Where does one conduct research? If you said "the library stacks," I have some news for you: ironic flannel is in, Grey Flannel is out, and anything acid-washed is super out. The Internet is the single most powerful and complete repository of human knowledge, useful and non-, ever invented, and the scholars at the legendary Library of Alexandria would have given their frontal lobes to browse through it for thirty seconds. Use it! (Both the Internet and your frontal lobes, that is.)

Finally: while I don't recommend it, if you absolutely insist on going your own way and self-publishing, there's a veritable panoply of options available to you now. You can print on demand! You can sell an e-book through Amazon! Your options are not limited to Usenet ASCII rants or .pdfs you made and linked to on your LiveJournal. You (perhaps with help) can create really great-looking POD books and/or e-books these days for very little money; if you're going to go solo, at least do it right.

I'm not saying any of you are Luddites or technologically illiterate, meine Autoren, but it's easy to be swayed against the rapid electronic evolution of the industry by a (very vocal) minority of myopic, stodgy publishing folk who are going into the twenty-first century kicking and screaming. Keep your eyes, ears, and minds open, seize any opportunities you find, and always look for newer and better ways to sell yourself and your writing.

18 comments:

  1. Very well said, Eric. I still run into writers who refuse to befriend the new technology out there and then complain when things don't happen for them as they do for others. My first reaction is to hand out copies of this blog post to them, but that defeats the whole point of your post. If they're interested, they get a URL.

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  2. Here! Here! I'm not kicking. I'm not screaming. Great post, much appreciated.

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  3. Actually, the beginning of your post made me chuckle. How long has it been since we actually used movable type? If the print-side of publishing was as visible as the distributable product, would people have freaked out when printers gave up movable type for lasers?

    I demand genuine leading in my books! None of this QuarkDesign line spacing. I remember when book making was a craft! And here you come with lasers and your jibbajabba. You kids don't know what a book is!

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  4. Right on. I'm a computer klutz, par excellance. But. I am reading you on the web and even stumble around with the social networking ... stuff.

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  5. Mimeographs!

    Great post, as usual, thanks.

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  6. Would love you to elaborate on the down side of self-publishing.

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  7. It kind of annoys me that those cool self publishing options are available- I've almost ordered a couple of books now (all with oddly bad covers, vaguely interesting synopses and stellar ratings, of course) before realizing that they're self published. It's getting frustrating.

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  8. Personally I blame it all on the Sumerians ...

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  9. @Wendy: Self-publishing has been discussed repeatedly here. The subject tag marks all such posts for your convenience.

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  10. Eric, why, might I ask, don't you recommend self-publishing? I did it. I still want to get published "traditionally," still working hard to get there.

    Would love to hear your reasons.

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  11. As a librarian-in-training, I'm going to contest your point a bit and say that the Internet isn't always the answer, and libraries are still useful and valuable places in society. Sure, tons of information is freely available on the Internet, but how much of it is trustworthy? Depending what you're researching and how good your research skills are, going to a library is not a bad idea. Many even have databases you can use from home now as well, and all you usually have to do is log in with your library card number. If you have good research skills, then yes, you'll probably be efficient at doing research on the Internet, but parts of it are a cesspool of misinformation and it pays to know the difference. And sadly, a lot of people seem to lack information literacy skills that allow them to find, evaluate, and use the best (or at least accurate) information.

    Obviously the importance of library vs. Google research is going to differ depending on your topic and the depth of knowledge you need, but please don't contribute to this pervasive societal attitude that libraries and information literacy aren't important anymore.

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  12. I feel like I should add that my conception of the "library" isn't just tied to the physical place anymore, and this is a societal change. Libraries are moving online, but they are still staffed by people with a lot of expertise and knowledge in the process of finding and using information, and often in specific subject areas. So yes, since many libraries are moving virtual, technology plays an important part in research! But I don't think that was reflected here, and "use the internet" is often interpreted as "just Google it". Google and Wikipedia have their uses, but for intense research, libraries offer many resources that aren't freely available on the web.

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  13. You know, it is really, really nice--i.e. a nice change--to read positive, optimistic blog posts about publishing. Thank you!

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  14. Yay for entering the 21st century, kicking and screaming aside! :) And I try using the frontal lobes, but sometimes they just don't behave.

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  15. So true. There's no going back to the 'good old days'. (And who wants to? I for one am very happy to edit and proofread without having to retype it all and/or use whiteout!) Now i'm really dating myself ...

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  16. Great post Eric, but I have one question. If we're going to a paperless society, where am I going to get the paper bag?

    Also, Kristin has an excellent point. (I would have said the same thing, but she did a better job.) You can definitely do most of your research electronically, but it takes some wisdom to find the good sources. That's what the library is for.

    Word validation is couppi. Is that the Latin plural for coupons?

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