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2.18.2011

Shifting Topography

In the wake of Borders restructuring and stories like these, about the venerable Powell's Bookstore and its profitability prospects in the face of an ever-expanding digital marketplace, publishing is following the exciting developments that have reshaped the music landscape in the last decade.

I'm reading Peter S. Beagle's The Line Between right now, and I'm struck by how different the writing life is for contemporary authors, as opposed to the many decades of Beagle's fine career. Beagle, like Toni Morrison (who turns 80 today--happy birthday!) and Ray Bradbury and Elmore Leonard, published the vast majority of his work in the Twentieth Century Model. These authors became literary stars, writers whose output made Weyerhaeuser rich and forests frightened.

They excelled because they are wonderful storytellers. They write beautiful, interesting stories. That will always be the key to building an audience, but the means of reaching an audience is definitely changing.

Push-button publishing allows everyone a voice, which is kind of a double-edged sword. There is just so much content out there that the trick to getting your work read is to write well and get it to the right audiences. Writers like Joe Konrath have seized on that, putting lots of quality content online and in print for their audiences. Konrath's formula (write a good book, have quality formatting/cover, price the book low) is clear, and he's making a good living by following it.

It's kind of liberating to consider how Joe has made it all happen, but it's also a little intimidating. It's a mighty big pond out there, and it's often on the writer alone to write well, package the work effectively, get the word out, and cultivate the content.

The way I see it, I've still got pretty traditional goals.

I want to work with Bernadette to get a book into the hands of a publisher that will pay us a fair sum and promote the book.

But I'm taking other aspects of my writing into consideration as well. I'm thinking about taking a graphic design class at the college to learn how to do my own covers. I'm taking some steps to better understand web formatting. I'm still submitting short stories to traditional markets, but I think the Internet markets (there's a list of my favorites on the right side of your screen) offer a clear advantage over the print venues: instant feedback.

I've been playing around with an idea for a series of short stories that I'd like to release digitally. I've been thinking about how a participatory narrative might work out, and what it might look like online.

These are exciting times for writers, to be sure.

At the end of the day, though, it always comes down to the writing. I read all the success story's on Konrath's website, and the one commonality that I find is that these folks are telling entertaining stories.

I'm thinking about getting an i-pad, whose primary purposes would include grading on Blackboard and using it as a reader. It's a major shift, to sway the bulk of my reading toward that one little device.

It's a major shift, but the digital ink is on the screen, I suppose...

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