Thursday, August 30, 2012

Fifty Shades of Post

If you came here because this popped up on a search and you're looking for a serious post... turn back! Turn back and head for the hills! Rant incoming!

The following rant is brought to you by a local Mexican eatery that shall remain nameless. Let's call it El Bar and Grill.

I should also throw this caveat up front: I'm going to try really hard not to make any disparaging remarks toward the novels. That's not the point of this rant. Plenty of folks have already ranted about that. This is about the Fifty Shades advertising movement. Make no mistake, it is a movement. A jumping the shark sort of movement. Each and every shade.

Let me back up. What inspired this?

I live in central Indiana. For those that may not remember map coloring class in middle school (we called it social studies, but it consisted of a lot of map coloring), here's a quick fact about the great Hoosier state. Our capital is smack dab in the middle. I remember this being somewhat unique, and some history book saying how this has worked in Indiana's favor as far as transportation goes. If the state is a wheel, the capital is the axle, and wheels work a whole lot better when the axle is more or less centered. Smoother ride, or something like that. I'm no historian.

The side effect is that we have this "all roads lead to Indy" thing going on. My daily commute finds me starting on the very top edge of the axle, and taking a straight spoke north to the lovely city of Kokomo, IN. Kokomo is a unique city, in that it is sort of large... but I think it lacks a certain urban feel to it. The auto industry has formed the backbone of the city, and the city's demographic reflects that. Very blue collar. Maybe it's just me, but I feel this whole city meets country vibe.

Anyway, as I was motoring into town this morning, I spied a sign on the side of the road. It was advertising El Bar and Grill with a photo of several shots lined up on a bar. The tagline read: "Fifty Shades of Tequila." That was all.

I don't get it. Does the tequila mess with you until your utter the safe word? In my vast experience with tequila, the safe word is "where is the bathroom" and even then it does not relent. You're in for a long night.

But this is part of a larger trend. I feel like I've seen Fifty Shades of Your Product Name Here. It's like, if just slap 50 shades on it, it'll sell. Not just with books, but with, well, everything.

I can't help but wonder about the marketing meetings. How was this discussed at El Bar and Grill? "Well, our target demographic is women who read kinky romance novels. This billboard will speak to them. It will conjure just the right amount of whips and chains that make you think... gee I need a shot of tequila, and maybe some taquitos to wash it down."

Are the words "fifty shades" really that powerful that they can catapult your sales, just by a mere rubbing of elbows? Your product doesn't even have to be related, just slap the words down and, BANG, instant sales. Is that really how it works?

I can't imagine El Bar and Grill was licensing the use of the phrase, either. They're pretty local, as far as I know. This is not a big chain. Same goes for most of the other places I've seen it used. (For the record, I'm cool with it being used with, say, an lingerie line. That makes a certain amount of sense.)

It just all seems so crazy. I don't remember anyone ever being like "We make a tasty tequila... Twilight," or "Have a tequila Breaking Dawn," or "Drink a New Moon... oops, we meant Blue Moon, with a tequila shot." Or, to use another giant book franchise (this one unrelated): "Harry Potter and the Many Shots of Tequila."

To be fair, I'd check out that last place. Just so long as I don't have to experience the sequel: "Harry Potter and the Revenge of Montezuma."
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#ROW80 - Breakthrough

I picked it up this week, as you'll see in a moment. It helps immensely that I got past some mild writer's block. I don't really like calling it that. I never really feel blocked. It's more like writer's-spinning-his-wheels-in-mud. I keep writing and writing the awful feeling of not getting anywhere pervades my thoughts. Then, BAM, breakthrough. Usually I'll go back and winnow out the crap, but more often the spinning my wheels feeling was just in my head. Looking back, I can see that my subconscious was setting me up for the big reveal. Or something like that.

Anyway, the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - Brain needs time to chew on things. So it is. So shall it (likely) ever be. Often times the best way out of the mud rut is to give your brain leave to digest.
  • WIP Progress - 7/5 pages this week! Yep, that's two extra. Also I finished Chapter 3. Working on page 73, ~25k words into the novel. That's probably about a quarter done. Rock on.
  • Blogging - Only 2/3 here, but 4/3 on the gaming blog and I wrote a few football articles this week. Plenty of words, says I.
  • Reading - Finished Wise Man's Fear. Reading is on hold for the rest of this round as I will focus on writing. I knocked off two books. After football ends is when I'm going to pick up a new one... if I can last until then.
Words always flow easier after a breakthrough. A couple of the story pieces came together in a neat way, too, so I'm pretty enthused about writing it (always a plus). Not that I wasn't enthused before, just that there always seem to be ups and downs in any long project. The ups are nice.

Here's the word count:
  • Since last check-in: 6,814
  • New Fiction: 2,250
  • Round 3 Total: 45,215
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Monday, August 27, 2012

On Paid Reviews

I saw a couple articles recently that turned my stomach, both as an author and a reader. The short story here is that there exists a service whereby an author can pay money to have a certain number of positive reviews appended to their books on popular sales venues. The industry is in such a state of flux, that I'm not sure there are any spoken rules against this, but I think it could certainly be considered "shady."

Here are a pair of articles describing the issue. One from Lee Goldberg and the other from the New York Times (as found through The Passive Voice). Both descriptions initially turned my stomach.

I should start by going on "record" as saying: I have not and will not pay for this sort of service. Very simply, it doesn't appeal to me. I would love to be successful, but not at the cost of my principles. There's something to be said about doing things right. It's something my father always used to say. If I'm going to succeed, I'm going to earn it, not sneak my way into it.

Before I get too far up on my soap box, though... let me play devil's advocate for a moment. In a digital world, it's easy to see the draw of such a service. Sales can hinge on the all-important "star rating." A solid stable of good reviews can certainly sell a book.

And haven't big-time publishers essentially been doing this? I'm sure there are a lot of truly independent professional reviewers out there, but aren't a lot on some sort of payroll... a payroll that might be added to by big publishers marketing departments? I honestly am asking this question. How do books get chosen for review in some of these publications? Is it truly unaffected by, say, how many advertising dollars the parent company spends with the publication? All over? Just some places? Does money ever exchange hands?

I know publishers buy shelf space in bookstores. Isn't that sort of similar? Not as shady, to be sure, but still using money to "one-up" every other book that doesn't get front shelf treatment. Does anyone feel swindled by this common practice? I certainly don't.

How many blurbs on the back of books are paid for? Any? All?

What about trading free copies for a review? I'd be guilty of this one, though I've always tried to make the review optional. I know most reviewers feel obligated, but I've only wanted them to review it if they felt so inclined. If they don't, well then they got a free read. There are worse things in life. I mean, we are asking for time, and time is valuable. Shouldn't reviewers be compensated in some way?

There are a whole bunch of questions I could throw out there that would muddy the waters. At the end of the day, I think there needs to be a line drawn in the sand. Sand, because it could shift as the industry and society shifts. So much is going on, that any line has to maintain a certain flexibility.

For me, the line is clearly somewhat before multiple false reviews on a retail site. There are just too many problems with this practice. It's a blatant attempt to game the system with false advertising. If they were honest reviews... maybe. If they were only one review per reader... maybe. If the compensation were clearly noted... maybe. But none of this is the truth. We have one guy, writing a whole bunch of different reviews so as to appear to be multiple readers, and clouding the fact that he has been paid by the author to do so. Does he even read the books?

It makes me sick to my stomach. I think of readers as friends. I am, after all, sharing pieces of myself through everything I write. And I have a hard time pulling a prank on friends on April Fool's Day. Honestly. I can only be a trickster if both parties get something from the trick. A shared laugh is enough, but it has to be shared.

Maybe the ends justify the means here. If every reader that bought a book with one of these fake reviews completely enjoyed the book... then is it really a bad thing? I can't help but think, at the end of the day, it still paints the author in a bad light.

Recently, as an Indianapolis resident and sports fan, we went through a bit of local upheaval. The Indianapolis Colts traded Peyton Manning away and acquired rookie Andrew Luck. The intent was as clear as it was simple. Peyton was nearing the end of his career, age-wise, and the Colts needed to begin rebuilding around a new Quarterback. It seemed to make sense for both parties, but I think many fans would say it left them with a bad taste in their mouth. I would be included in this group.

Now, I know football. I coach it. I've actually been fortunate enough to coach alongside former Colts coaches. I've been able to ask questions of "insiders" and understand a little about the business behind the game. I understand why they did it. At its very core, the decision was a business decision, in the best interests of both parties.

And that's exactly why it left a bad taste in my mouth. The sports fan in me wanted to believe, deep down, that it is only the competition that matters. That football is not an avenue for dollars to exchange hands. That the sport means something. That it's bigger than everyday life. That there is more.

I wanted the Colts to keep Peyton Manning because he was our Quarterback. He was the guy that led the team for more than a decade, and brought a whole bunch of success to our city. It would be appropriate for him to finish out his career here, in Indy. I wanted to believe that meant something.

I was naive. Business is business. The trade was like a big slap in the face. Stark reminders of the callousness of the world are often as unpleasant as they are shocking.

I feel the same way about this Paid Review business. It's not "illegal." Some could probable make a case that it's not even "unethical." But it hits me like a slap in the face. It's a callous way to do business that disrupts the fantasy of literature. I want to believe books mean more.

I probably won't go to a Colts game this year. Similarly, I won't buy a book that I know made use of paid reviews. That's all I can do.

That, and wait for the sting to fade.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#ROW80 - Fly By

Ah! Weeks fly in-season. Also, GenCon didn't do much to slow things down. But... the goals! Let's see how bad I did:
  • Lesson Learned - Writing about sex is fine, but writing sex makes me squirm. Go figure.
  • WIP Progress - Let's see... um... 1/5. Not very good. But I went to the Con! I learned! Grrr...
  • Blogging - Here's where I made up the difference. I didn't have a lot of time for fiction, but I at least logged some words. 3/3 here. 2/3 on the gaming blog. Plus I've been writing a whole bunch for the football blog. 7 posts since last Wednesday. Yeah, I should count those. Some of the writing is done for me, and the rest almost writes itself, but still... (I have a personal post left to do this month, egads!)
  • Reading - Still plodding through the Rothfuss book. Great stuff.
Funny I should mention Rothfuss. His prose is widely regarded in fantasy circles as among the best. A writer's writer, if you will. But I wanted to mention a post I read today from Nathan Bransford. It discusses a question I've often asked myself: Sure, there is good writing, and we always want to do our very best... but how good is good enough? I know, I know... I should be stoned for even thinking that. I blame Nathan.

Despite the failure at the WIP, I'm feeling pretty pleased. GenCon weekend is simply crazy, and I had a good time. Now my schedule settles into a routine and I should be able to bang out more fiction. Besides, I looked at the word count from my novel and realized I'm already 20k words deep! Sometimes the words fly, too. There's so much left to tell (but I'm shooting for around 100k words)... am I really 1/5th done? Pretty neat to think of it that way.

I'm skipping the word count for now. It's late and I barely squeezed this in. Maybe I'll have time to tack it on tomorrow. If not, I'll do it next week.

(Edit: Word count added. I included the football articles that I wrote to make myself feel better. Hey, words are words.)

  • Since last check-in: 4,665
  • New Fiction: 738
  • Round 3 Total: 38,401
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Clothes My Words Wear

Erotica is apparently a bit of a trend right now. Doesn't really surprise me. One of the first things I noticed about my e-reader was that I could now essentially read anything, anywhere without fear of reproach. Not that I was a real racy reader to begin with.

As a long time fantasy and science fiction reader, a bit of reading apprehension is not uncommon to me. I suppose I can't shake the fear that the cover I'm displaying for all the world to see somehow says something about me. I've never let that fear stop me from reading in public, and it has occasionally earned me a comment (both good and bad).

Sometimes, I just want to be left alone. Perhaps I selected a book that was a bit outside the "norm" for me. I may not want to talk to you at length about it. Or maybe it's something I'm embarrassed about. It happens. When I was younger, I devoured every book that I could find. Once, I'd made it all the way through the bookshelf, and only my mother's Nora Roberts books were left. I read one, and was completely terrified of my mom finding me. It was like I'd secreted away a dirty magazine or something.

The point here is that there are nice things about not being able to immediately pick out a cover and know what someone is reading. It makes sense that racier stories might flourish on the digital platform.

My wife suggested that I try my hand at a sexy short story. I've been thinking about it a lot lately. To be quite honest, the prospect scares me a bit. I wouldn't say I'm a prude, but when I contemplate writing a sex scene, it feels as if I'm gearing up to take naked pictures of myself. Sharing that with my wife is one thing. Publishing something like that, though?

Now, I'm not saying erotica authors are like strippers. What I am saying is that it takes a certain amount of stripper-like confidence to get up on stage and flaunt what you've got. Writers can't help but put a lot of themselves into their writing, and sex scenes are no different. You're inevitably revealing part of yourself, and you're baring it to the world when you publish.

Jen Eifrig wrote a good article about sex scenes. It got me thinking. I know I'm going to write one eventually. I can't do the whole "dim the lights" trick forever, can I? I'm not sure I want to.

We could put on our business glasses for a moment. Sex sells. You can stop well short of nudity and still use sex to sell. E-readers are raising the privacy bar. I don't think there's much doubt that the Internet was the biggest thing to happen to adult entertainment well... ever. Digital publishing seems poised to do the same for the literary side of things. I'd be a fool not to consider it.

On the other hand, a writer can't half-ass a story. Your heart has to be into it. It shows.

I guess my question is: Am I talking about shucking my clothes and running around the house naked? Or am I the guy at the beach in a sweatsuit because swim shorts are too revealing for me? Social norms tend to shape our sense of morality. Would taking a nude photo be considered scandalous in a nudist colony? Or would it just be "taking a photo?"

It's an interesting thought, requiring a lot of insight into how my personal sense of morality has been shaped. It's sort of like the clothes my words wear. They don a style that, at a glance, gives a reader some ideas about who I am and what my values are. So, then, are naked words just as sexy?
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Monday, August 20, 2012

My First Con As A Writer

I mentioned last week that I was planning to attend GenCon. Living on the north edge of Indianapolis makes me a local, so it's really a no-brainer for me to hit up this convention. I don't to go to a lot of the bigger ones held on the coasts. Simply too far for me to travel (without scheduling some sort of vacation). I've been to GenCon before, but this is the first time I can honestly say I attended as a writer.

Perhaps that's being a bit disingenuous. I mean, I've always been a writer. It's sort of like saying this is the first time I attended GenCon as a white male (which is almost equally unique in the crowd, mind you). Still, while I may have been a writer at heart before, this is the first time I attended with an eye looking out for ways to improve my writing.

I checked out the book booths, mainly out of curiosity. Someday, maybe I'll get one. A friend suggested that I should have carried a stack of cards with a free Smashwords code on the back and handed them out to all and sundry. Plenty of folks were doing that, too. I guess I fail when it comes to shout-it-from-the-rooftops marketing. I'm still a little embarrassed about my books. Not that I'm not proud of them, just that I don't feel comfortable "forcing" them on people. I wrote what I enjoy reading. I think other people might enjoy them, but I'm a reader first and foremost. I know that not every book is for everyone.

That's a terrible sales pitch, am I right?

Ah, well. It's not all about sales. Even if I sell exactly 0 books from today onward, I will still look back on this time with pride. Publishing a book is an accomplishment, even if you sell nothing. I don't care what anyone else says. It's a Cool Thing You Did. Period. We wish to make it more than "cool," but you're starting from a basis of cool. It would probably serve writers well to remember that.

I promise I didn't just spend GenCon musing about all the marketing things I'm not doing. I attended panels and readings as well. Pretty much anything with Brandon Sanderson. (Though I found out about two other panels he was on that I missed. They were late additions and I didn't hear about them. Bad fan/author!) And I promise that I didn't spend these entire panels thinking about how much better all the folks up there are than me. Brandon was sitting there, gushing about how awesome Patrick Rothfuss is at prose, decrying his own prose as "merely passable," and I'm looking at my shoes thinking: What chance in fel do I have?

Sounds like a common case of Writer's Guilt. Symptoms: uselessly stacking yourself up against anyone and everyone and finding your own work wanting by comparison. It's an illness that likely shares more with Delirium Caused By Spontaneous Fever than Excessive Dosage of Truth Serum.

The comforting part was when I realized I understood pretty much everything they were talking about. If you've ever attended a writer's panel, you know that they can slip into jargon pretty easily. For such smooth written communicators, writers aren't always great and verbal communication. There are a lot of common constructs used to describe complex creative writing ideas. These get bandied about with a certain carelessness that can render a listener baffled at times.

It is perhaps a credit to me when I say that I followed all of the jargon. I even found myself anticipating a remark or nodding when a panelist picked up exactly where I would have. I have no proof on any of this, so you'll just have to trust me. I felt like: These are My People. I *get* this.

So yeah, attended GenCon as a writer. First time. That means something, right?
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

#ROW80 - Con Bound

The rest of this week is going to be pretty full. I'll be at GenCon mostly, taking in the sites and hitting a few events.  I don't expect to do a lot of writing the next few days. I will, however, be attending a Writing Excuses podcast live, as well as a couple other events with Brandon Sanderson. As such, this is sort of a work trip as well. Really the first time I've gone to the con with a learning purpose in mind.

Let's check out the goals:
  • Lesson Learned - StoryBundle exists. I need to get in on it. That is all.
  • WIP Porgress - 4/5 pages. One short, but things haven't really settled yet. After this GenCon week, my schedule will be more regular. I'm actually pretty happy I got the 4 done, coming off of a 1 page week. I'm sitting on page 64... need to finish the chapter before next week's check in.
  • Blogging - 3/3 here. Only 1/3 on the gaming blog. Still have a personal post to do. Blogging suffers when time flies, but I'm glad I was able to at least hit one of my blogs.
  • Reading - Still working on the Rothfuss book. Shouldn't have any problem finishing it by the end of the round.
So, while last week could be considered "red" in terms of goals, this week was more "yellow." That's the right path back to "green." Right now, though, I've got to run to practice. As much as coaching cuts into, well, everything, I think I get a lot of inspiration from it. Our head coach said yesterday how he's always claimed that each week feels like a full season in and of itself. He was explaining how you'll get hit with all the ups and downs, successes and failures, and it can be tough to step back and see the bigger picture. I thought it was a pretty accurate description. At the end of the week, there's definitely this sense of triumph, like: "We made it!"

Before I run, here are the word counts:
  • Since last check-in: 4,022
  • New Fiction: 1,307
  • Round 3 Total: 33,736
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

GenCon 2012!

This weekend marks one of the most exciting weekends in tabletop gaming. Everything from Scrabble to Dungeons and Dragons (and a fair bit of nerd culture, as well) will be represented. I don't get to make it out to a lot of cons (curse the Day Job! Also, coaching in the fall makes travel really tough), so when there's one close to home, we take a staycation.

GenCon Indy is this weekend in Indianapolis, IN. Since we live just north of the city, we'll be attending as much as possible. To make matters more tantalizing, one of my favorite authors--Brandon Sanderson--is the guest of honor this year. I've got tickets to attend pretty much everything he's involved with.

The focus is tabletop gaming, but writing and story-telling is an integral part to most games. Authors and books will be well-represented. It's a pretty awesome time and I love Indy. The city knows how to do a con.

I'm going to try to tweet on my @MattHofferth account. I'll be hanging out with a group of friends downtown, taking in the sights and playing games. If you happen to be attending as well, and want to meet up or introduce yourself, feel encouraged to send me a DM through Twitter. I'll probably be all over the place, but we'll see what we can do. Or, if you just happen to bump into me, you'll probably be able to recognize me as the tall blond guy with a red World of Warcraft hat. It has my gaming name, Fulguralis, on the back.

Okay, so that won't make me stick out. My wife's brain wave cat ears might, though. Of course, these could be super popular, who knows? Like most cons, a lot of folks will be in costume. We're hardly unique looking among fellow nerds.

We're really excited about this weekend. Getting to meet any readers, fellow gamers, or simply lovers of all things nerd would be icing on the cake. I don't have a booth or anything (not nearly that cool), but we do tend to end up at the RAM Brewery. The place is usually packed, but the beer is totally worth it.

Like I said, I don't get out to cons much. This is really the only shot I get, so we'll be living it up. I'll try to post some pictures up on here, even if they're unrelated to writing. We'll see how it goes.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

On Piracy

There was a big scandal out among the Interwebs last week, when a bunch of writers banded together to take LendInk offline. One of my buddies at work shot me a link to the story over at TechDirt. Belong to any group for long enough, and you'll probably find a reason to be embarrassed. (As I've mentioned before, I'm Catholic. We've had entire decades of embarrassment).

LendInk is basically a social networking site for folks with e-readers. It helps facilitate lending between readers. The key word there being facilitate. The site simply acts as an intermediary, hooking up two people so that sharing becomes a snap. It does not sell books or give away books or in any way deliver books. It's a peer-to-peer site, similar perhaps to music sharing programs of the past.

Think Napster. The problem with Napster wasn't the sharing, but the copying. It allowed one legitimately purchased copy to become many more-or-less legal copies (probably emphasis on the less, but I'm no lawyer). E-music devices didn't possess the inherent sharing capabilities that readers like the Kindle support. Sharing with a Kindle moves the file from one device to another, deleting it on the original. It is one copy to one copy, a different paradigm.

I feel like I need to proclaim my stance on "piracy." It's a hot button topic among pretty much all content creators in the digital age. It is just too easy to share information these days.

First of all, I want express displeasure with the term itself. Piracy implies stealing. Stealing requires an item to exist in one location and be moved to another (usually forcibly and without the consent of the owner). "Internet Piracy," however, is closer to copying. The original item still exists where it originated from, and it also exists somewhere else. Heck, it could be copied without the owner realizing it.

Stealing is a "bad" thing, most of us can likely agree on that. I mean, it's one of the ten commandments. It directly harms someone. It is bad news in most every culture that I'm aware of.

Copying, though? It's a bit more nebulous. Sometimes it can be bad, sure. When you copy something someone else did and try to pass it as your own (plagiarize). But what if you copy something and then turn it into a joke (parody)? Or copy something and add a bunch of your own work on top? Or just copy to pass forms out in an expedient manner (assuming you have the right)?

I think piracy is a terribly prejudiced term. It does not accurately reflect the potential crime. Still, it is what we have.

Second, I feel that we need to consider the outcome of piracy. Who does it harm? How does it harm them?

Generally, the case is made that content creators are harmed. That they lose sales due to piracy. This seems pretty hard to prove (one way or the other), yet most folks just accept it at face value. People are making unapproved copies, obviously that's bad. Or is it?

Authors rely a lot on worth of mouth. I think most would agree that it is the primary sales drive behind any and all stories. You can do marketing, sure, but word of mouth kicks corporate marketing in the teeth any day of the week (and twice on 50-shades-of-grey-day). There are plenty of cases where piracy promoted word of mouth. Again, it's hard to prove, but what if the author was earning more because of piracy?

My point here is that I don't see a whole lot of hard data on how piracy actually affects sales. We have whole lot of opinions, but not a lot of logical thought. And we all know the saying about opinions.

Finally, I think we're asking the wrong questions. Perhaps instead of spending so much time trying to stop piracy (like we've all already agreed that it is blatantly bad in any and all cases), maybe businesses should spend more time discovering why people pirate in the first place. Oftentimes, it has to do with availability. People can't find it in the store they shop, the format they need, or for the price they expect... so they turn to piracy. If there's one thing humans have proven in the last 2000+ years, it's "where there's a will, there's a way." We exude that principle as a species. It's what has catapulted us to the top of the food chain.

Sometimes, I want to scream at content providers: "If you would just make your content easier to buy, people would pay." Or, as one of my favorite movies puts it: "People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come" (Field of Dreams).

At the end of the day, I adopt a pretty tolerant view of piracy. My biggest hurdle is exposure, and anything that helps that is probably a good thing. If someone were to nail me down and ask, "how do you prevent piracy?" I'd try not to get peeved at the term. Then, I'd explain that I do it by trying to make my content as widely available as possible. I try to communicate clearly where it is available and for how much. I try to give a reader options. Don't want to pay? Check out my specials. There are plenty of ways to get my book that don't require money, or require less money. I'm constantly looking for new ways to provide content. Sometimes I'm hindered by my small scale and pocketbook, but that's okay. That can only improve with time and exposure (so long as I provide good content). If people are driven to piracy, then I look first to myself... what need of my customers am I not reaching? What platform? What price point?

Putting money where my mouth is... a friend directed me to another article on Lifehacker. This one talks about a site called StoryBundle. As a gamer, I'm quite familiar with the humble indie bundle on Steam. It's a great idea, and StoryBundle brings that to books. Awesome. Great way to increase exposure, and they allow folks to "pay what you want." How can you not like that price point? As soon as I can, I'd like to get my books into one of those bundles. It's a cool idea.

And so is LendInk. I guess that's the overriding point here, if there is one. I would love to see more tools given to authors to help with exposure. Options are great. I would be giddy if someone reads my book and enjoyed it enough to push it on a friend. Or, if they'd heard such good things that they went out of their way to find someone to lend them the book so that they could try it.

All this is figured from my basic belief that if you, as a content creator, create quality content, people will pay for it. It may be a bit of an uphill battle to establish yourself, but dedicated fans will pay. They want to see you succeed as much as you do, a lot of times. I know I feel that way about my favorite content creators. I'll go out of my way to buy stuff from them, especially if I know they benefit directly. I want them to continue to make music, write books, design games, or make movies.

Perhaps that belief is wrong, but it's the one I'm operating under, at least until I'm presented with some solid proof otherwise. As such, piracy doesn't seem a big issue to me. If I'm being pirated and not making money... then apparently my content isn't good enough. I should spend my time getting better, not getting angry.

This is just my opinion, though. You do what works for you.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

#ROW80 - It's Always That First Word

I'm still in the midst of football two-a-days. That means I work for 13 hours, come home, and my brain is done. Only two more days with this crazy schedule though. Thursday represents the light at the end of the tunnel.

Considering how little free time I've had, I was actually able to squeeze in some decent work on the goals. Let's take a look:
  • Lesson Learned - I wrote a bit about passion and how I found some inspiration while watching the Olympics.
  • WIP Progress - Only finished 1 page. The weekend was busy, and I don't have time during the week. I was lucky to squeeze that one in. I knew this was going to be a fail this week, and it's bugging me, but I need to be patient. My schedule clears up after Thursday, and then I'll be back in the saddle.
  • Blogging - 3/3 on the gaming blog. 3/3 here. August just started, so I owe a new personal post, but there'll be plenty of time for that. I'm glad I hit this goal, because I wasn't expecting to.
  • Reading - Still working on The Wise Man's Fear. After I finish it, I'll need to catch up on some Writing Excuses podcasts. I like reclaiming as much of the "wasted" commute time as possible. Audiobooks and podcasts are a must.
The WIP is suffering, but I expected as much. And when I did get the chance to spend some time with it, I wrote (what I think is) a pretty good page. What's more, it was fun. Sometimes, I think I forget that writing is fun for me. That may sound odd, but when you're staring at the blank page at the start of a writing session, you know what I mean. Perhaps it's how folks feel right before they jump out of a plane. It's always that first word that seems hardest.

After that, things flow. The muse wakes up. Writing shifts from "work" to "fun," sometimes without me realizing it. At the end of the session, I find myself excited and smiling. I can't wait for the next session... right up until I remember that blinking cursor and blank screen. It's an odd sort of cycle.

Anyway, time to get back to work. Here are the word counts:

  • Since last check-in: 3,311
  • New Fiction: 348
  • Round 3 Total: 29,714
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic-Sized Passion

It wouldn't be the first time I've been sitting in front of a TV and said: "They should do this for books." Watching the Olympics, I find myself intrigued by the athlete's rise to the top. There are some great stories out there.

One common thread that many of us can related to is passion. Olympians develop a passion for a sport, and then chase after it with reckless abandon. I can't help but feel I bit jealous.

I know, I know. I could totally pursue writing in the same manner. Or could I? Would there be any social support for someone who drops out of school to go train for years... in writing? Who goes on sabbatical to focus solely on writing? Who attempts to raise a whole bunch of money to pay for writing?

The side of the Olympics that I think is given short shrift is the money side. How much money do you suppose goes into each Olympian? Just from my own experiences as an amateur athlete, I can make a guess. And it isn't a small number.

I've always had a bit of a problem with the whole "starving artist" image. I do not believe that one need starve in order to pursue a passion. The Olympians certainly don't starve. They do, however, rely on a whole bunch of help from people that believe in them.

In older times, there was a patronage system for supporting the arts. Artists were developed on a patron's dime, and then flaunted. There were a whole bunch of flaws so the system as well, but when I hear some of these Olympic stories, I think that they basically had sport patrons. A lot of successful authors also had this kind of support along the way. It helps to be able to shut out the distractions of everyday life, and really focus on honing a set of skills.

I guess the point is this: Passion is expensive. Especially an Olympic-sized passion. And the network needed to support such a passion only serves to make the achievement more amazing in my eyes.

So cheers to all the patrons out there. You may go by a different name -- Coach. Trainer. Parent. Mentor. Friend -- but you help turn passion into reality, and that's pretty cool.
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Friday, August 3, 2012

Less Than A Point of Deductions for Irrelevancy

Here's a quick bit of mildly interesting rambling. I'm not sure how I'll tie it to writing or reading, but I figure this is something most folks can appreciate. Apparently, there's this whole thing called the "Olympics" going on. Right, I know, crazy.

There's just enough time between Olympics that I've almost always found myself in a completely different stage of life when each is occurs. In a way, they sort of mark the passage of time.

Also, it's the only time where I turn on my TV and say, "Yeah, sure, I'll watch women's field hockey. I mean, the US is playing." Then, by the end of the match, I'm yelling at the TV: "That should be a free shot! Totally dangerous sticking! Bah!" Like I know what I'm talking about.

Gymnastics is the worst. By the time we've gotten through the team competitions to individual all-around, everyone is a judge. I'm sitting there thinking, "Well, she'll lose 2 tenths for that balance check, but the difficulty is high so it should factor out, right?" And, "1.58572343 deductions! Rough crowd." And finally, "If she doesn't get less than a point taken off, then there is no justice in the world."

Maybe the connection here is that, as humans, we love to judge. It's pervasive in every culture. Sure, our particular opinions may vary widely, but we're united in the sense that we form those opinions. The Olympics are not only a great reminder of the global diversity that exists, but also that there are a lot of basic things that we share as humans.

As writers and readers, we already know this. Look at reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. We're handing out gold, silver, and bronze for a spectacular performance. And, at the end of the day, it may be the books that "win" are ones that capture best our shared humanity.

Just a bit of thought food I'm munching on this Friday.
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

#ROW80 - Two-A-Days

Well, football season has started. For most of the players and coaches in the state of Indiana, this means two-a-days. My schedule is currently Day Job from 8-4, practice from 4-9, squeeze in what I can. The day is so exhausting, that I'm not really pushing myself to write any fiction. I need to be dialed mentally in to football (first weeks generally require the most teaching), so I'm pretty finished by the time I get home. I did write some last weekend, and I'm going to try to write some more this weekend. Two-a-days will end next Friday, and then I'll be back on a somewhat normal schedule. Until then, the goals are pretty much on hold.

In all things, you have to know your limits. Burning yourself out does no one any good, least of all yourself. Here's something pretty cool I can say, though. Because of tracking my goals through ROW80, I know that I've been working steadily to further my writing career for four rounds. That's 320 days of work (and I've not really taken off the time between rounds, either). A couple weeks isn't going to hurt me in the grand scheme of things.

Do what you can. Work within yourself. There are times when you can't force creativity. 13 hour days will do that. Anyway, goals will be quick this week and next. Word counts will be low, but that's okay.
  • Lesson Learned - Writing is like Football.
  • WIP Progress - Knocked out 3 pages over the weekend. Not terrible.
  • Blogging - 2/3 on the gaming blog. 3/3 here. And I knocked out the personal post. Not bad.
  • Reading - Finished the Jim Butcher novel. Still making progress on the Patrick Rothfuss audiobook.
Word count:
  • Since last round: 3,957
  • New Fiction: 910
  • Round 3 Total: 26,403
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