Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The One Man Publishing Band - coming soon to your town.

Yesterday my neighbour Buggeroff made an interesting point. (There's a first time for everything.) He was asking how my book project was coming along and I mentioned I was flat chat (he didn't take the hint) preparing my own art for the paperback edition, and formatting for the e-book. Buggeroff said, 'You're a regular one man band.'

I'd been thinking the same thing lately.

In centuries past the one man band was a street performer with a pedal-operated bass drum strapped to his back, a multi-instrumentalist who slid easily from cymbals and banjos to ukeleles, while a monkey in a funny hat sat on his shoulder for comic effect.

With the rapid advance of digital technology over the past few years, giving us print-on-demand books and multiple e-book formats and e-readers, a new kind of solo operator has emerged. The one man publishing band has become a reality.

The OMPB can write/self-edit/self-publish/blog/guest blog/podcast/beat their won drum/go virtual touring/make "live' in-store appearances (no monkeys required)/sell movie rights/sell all kinds of rights/everything, in fact, except the vocals (and some will even do that - karaoke has a lot to answer for.)

In the early '70's, there was a sudden wave of what the media labeled "singer/songwriters." Guys like Cat Stevens, Elton John and Billy Joel. It was a new trend for solo performers to compose their own material. And the film community has long had its indie writer/directors - launching their opuses at film festivals, then negotiating deals with distributors and studios.

A similar thing is happening now, literary-wise, with the indie author/publisher. John Lennon sang, 'Power To The People.' He might have had something else in mind, but guess what, power to the people is staking its own little claim in the book world right now.

On 'Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy,' Elton sang that he and his co-writer Bernie Taupin had come "from the end of the world to your town." That is exactly what the internet has enabled authors - and not just authors - to do.

It's all very entrepreneurial. We tend to think of entrepreneurs as multi-millionaire heads of far-reaching enterprises. But entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes.

Authors who create an original work, prepare a finished manuscript and set about selling it to an agent or publisher, or self-publish direct to the public, are entrepreneurs. Just not very big ones.

Your market might be a niche one. Or you might be aiming at a broader readership. Doesn't matter. Richard Branson might not have anything to worry about, but you're an entrepreneur with a capital "E".

Self publishing has always had its own stigma, fast fading now, but I've often wondered why, given that creative industry entrepreneurs aren't new. They've always been out there.

Walt Disney never worked for a boss. From an early age he devised his own animated shorts, headed up his own team, sold rights, handled distribution and promotion, and ultimately built his own distribution firm, Buena Vista. He formed his own studio, made the first ever full-length animated cartoon film, built his own theme park (the first one of its kind) and produced and hosted his own weekly TV series to tie together all his other endeavours. Whew!

If he'd been put off by the stigma of producing his own work, there never would have been a Disneyland or a Disney empire or the legions of others who imitated his works.

Mark Twain wrote, printed and published his own books and had a team of salesmen selling his titles door-to-door. (I'm thinking he really would've appreciated the internet.)

Author/publishers like J A Konrath, James Swain, Scott Westerfeld and a host of others are out there doing it for themselves and they're not even sisters.

Bestselling writers like David Morrell and F Paul Wilson are publishing some of their backlist titles as e-books, as well as some new material.

Indie author/publishers like thriller writers Mary MacDonald, Sean Patrick Reardon and many, many more are launching their own ebook titles and marketing them on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and Smashwords and other online retailers.

I'd say the OMPB's are here to stay.

I'll be entering the fray shortly with my suspense novel, 'The Delta Chain,' (warning:shameless plug) a mystery about drowning victims whose identities cannot be traced. More about that another time.

The era of the one man publishing band is just, it seems, getting started. Like many others, I'm curious to see where this authorpreneurial wave of change is going to take us next...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Introducing the next generation (insert alphabet letter here)

After a long, cold winter we're having a mild Spring in Sydney, as good a weather as any to have, I expect, whilst I'm putting the finishing touches to publishing my novel (plus a whole lot of research on format, promotion, all those nasty bits.) In fact I came across an article recently that speculated on what kind of reading is preferred by the different generations.

My novel is mystery/suspense, aimed at fans of the genre rather than any particular age group, which is the case, I would think, for most novels. There's exceptions, of course - YA novels, obviously aimed at teens, and certainly some chick-lit that's primarily marketed to a young, sassy, urbane female readership.

This got me to thinking about the various generations and our desire for placing labels on them.

Since the 1960's the world has, for some unknown reason, been doing just that.

So after the post-Second World War Baby Boomers, we've had Generation X, then Generation Y, and then...I'm not sure if we're up to Gen Y-Not, or Z, but I do know we're about to run out of the alphabet. No-one though that one through.

So does everything deserve to have its own generation recognized and labeled?

Book fans, for example? If you're a reader who only likes to read a specific genre, be it thriller or s/f or romance, should we identify you as one of the Genre-ation?

Have you ever encountered one of those older gentlemen, perhaps himself once in the Armed Forces, or just a guy with an interest in all things military, who mainly reads wartime fiction and non-fiction? Generation W, I'd say.

And then there's Generation SAS (Short Attention Span) who love their flash fiction, their blogs, the newly emerging phone text fiction, but whose cut-off point is around 100 words or less. They've already stopped reading this and moved on.

Generation E for those who exclusively download their books for their Kindle or their Kobo or their Nook or their Ipad, Iphone or IRiver, or any of those devices that start with a K or an I or an N...

How about Generation A for those alpha males and females, always scanning for the latest tome on how to become a super-successful so-and-so in the mad-dog, cut-throat, greed-is-good corporate world, or Gen N for those nerdy, nervy, nocturnal fans of fantasy realms - those epic tales set on mystical, faraway worlds that look suspiciously like parts of Europe in the Middle Ages?

Perhaps this is a doomed cause. With so many books, so many genres and sub-genres, so many reader interests and reading devices, we'd soon run right through the alphabet even if we started with A.

In hindsight, that can only be a good thing. The alphabet, after all, has much better things to do with its letters.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

An Interesting Bunch Of Weirdos

I once worked in an advertising agency with a copywriter who thought he was Hemingway, an art director who mistook himself for Michelangelo, an account manager who through he was Richard Branson, a studio artist who believed he was God's gift to women, and a Managing Director who, for some reason never fully explained, thought he should've been one of the Great Chefs of Europe with a string of restaurants and his own personalised line of gourmet sauces.

Watching a recent episode of TV's 'Mad Men,' I was reminded of those ad agency guys. They were a bunch of weirdos, but the fact is they were an extremely interesting bunch of weirdos.

That's one of the elements that makes great fiction - great characters.

Doesn't matter at all if some of them are complete oddballs. Adds interest. And, after all, we all have our own peculiar quirks anyway. Don't we?

One of the most popular characters on British TV (and worldwide) is the last of the Gallifreyan Time Lords, a witty, wily, nerdy, heroic, tragic, moody, brilliant, slightly unhinged alien who travels the universe (but mostly London and Cardiff) in a time/space machine that looks like a 1960's police phone box on the outside (for the uninitiated, it's bigger on the inside.)

At the time of this post, eleven different actors have portrayed this character in the tv series (he regenerates on a regular basis, Time Lords do that) and there's no doubt the longest-running s/f tv series, 'DrWho,' owes much to its weird but wonderful main character (whoever he happens to be at the time.)

Dickens' classic novels boast an unforgettable cavalcade of lovable, detestable, eccentric characters who have captured the imagination of one generation after another: sneaky, grubby scoundrel The Artful Dodger; the cunning old fox, Fagin; resentful, manipulative ice queen Miss Haversham; the upright Mr. Pickwick; the everyman David Copperfield. The list goes on and Dickens' insights, delivered through his characters, provide us with a timeless snapshot of Victorian-era English society.

Greedy, irritable Ebenezer Scrooge, who saw no good in anything, had such an impact that his name has become identified with the word, "miserly," and is recognised as such in dictionaries.

That's the ultimate aim of all of us who craft fiction - characters so strong, so believable, that they take on a life of their very own.

The world's greatest tales wouldn't have had the impact they had, without the creation of such characters as Atticus Finch, Scarlett O'Hara, Sherlock Holmes, Jay Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, Captain Ahab, Jane Eyre, Gordon Gekko, Hercule Poirot, Norman Bates, Bill Sykes, Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter, Harry Potter, Hermione and Ron...

We all love great heroes and great villains. But when ordinary people are thrust into extraordinary circumstances, we see the makings of heroism and of evil, we witness close-hand the psychology of what makes us who we are, and it's impossible not to be drawn in and follow the story.

As for those ad agency weirdos with their petty obsessions and their delusions of grandeur, their loves and their "pet' hates, their egos and their spin...maybe they weren't so weird after all.

Maybe they're kind of "normal."

Either way, one thing's for sure, they're so vain they probably think this blog is about them...