Friday, October 01, 2010

The Halloween Extravaganza Begins! Also, Book Fear!

Welcome to October! There's a new banner up top and a ton of obscure Halloween content sloshing your way in the next month. There's also a new chapter up on Hero Go Home today, and it's finally leading into the real action of the book. I'm realizing two things about this: number one, this is becoming not just a serialized novel, but more like a multimedia experience. Every week brings an Extra, and every Extra adds a new aspect to Digger's world.

And they're not just illustrations: there has also been a screenplay excerpt, for example. And in coming weeks, there might be even more variety--ideas I'm tossing around are audio clips, Champions character sheets, flash fiction or bonus short stories, even another comic strip or two. I'm even playing with the header to reflect the turn the story is currently taking, and I'm debating whether to make that a permanent feature, with the header changing with every new chapter (probably not, but you never know).

But number two: I really suck at promotion. Hero Go Home has about as close to zero readers as you can imagine. I get maybe 10 hits a week, if I'm lucky. Which tells me that the story is boring. And as much extra value as I try to add, if the central story is boring, I lose.

There has not been a fast-moving plot so far, I admit; I've been taking that Lords of the Rings-like approach of introducing the world and the main characters gradually, gently, letting the reader get to know them as they're getting to know each other. Things start to kick into a higher gear with today's chapter, and I hope that as that happens, readership picks up.

And on a separate note, there's the idea of marketing. Here's the deal: the business of publishing has for years followed a pretty standard template, exemplified by the advice you hear from professional authors at conventions and conferences all the time. The conventional wisdom is this: "Money flows to the writer."

That is to say, if your work is any good at all, you will find a publisher willing to pay you a fair advance and royalties for the rights to publish your work. This relationship benefits everybody: publishers get quality new material to publish, authors get (hopefully) a decent sum of money for their work, and readers know that what they're buying met some minimum standard of quality and professionalism in order to have been printed at all.

But there are disadvantages to the system, as well. High expenses and declining readerships mean fewer books published, therefore fewer opportunities for new writers. The hit mentality means some books will receive little to no support after publication, and few chances for authors who aren't immediate bestsellers to continue their careers. And every time a coveted slot is given to an author based on celebrity rather than on quality of work (Washingtonienne, for example), it makes the argument that books are published on merit that much harder to swallow.

Which is a long-winded way of getting around to saying this: I've been struggling with whether to continue serializing the story, or pull it and try to sell it conventionally. Because on the one hand, the donation box may never make me a dime, and I would love the respectability and cachet of a traditional publisher. And there are people, like a certain outspoken publisher who recently posted on Facebook about this, who believe that a book that has not gone through the filter of a publishing house must be shit.

But on the other hand, I've also read some posts by another fairly successful up-and-coming author on Facebook who is relating some really scary news about how the publishing world is being upended by the new realities of the Internet (in the same way that the definition of news and the business of journalism is being permanently changed). The fact is, the standard model of the publishing world is becoming more and more rare, and may soon vanish altogether. My free webnovel with its myriad multimedia extensions may be the model of the future, if only I could get the confidence to push it out there into the wider world.

And then, of course, there's the part of me that whispers evil in my ear at this time of night, the part that say it's not worth trying to market the novel because nobody will buy it anyway. After all, if it was really any good, I would be getting readers from links and word-of-mouth. The lack of traffic is simply an indication that I'm not giving people something they want or value. Trying really hard not to listen to that voice.

No comments: