State of the Art

I was out of the house for four hours today, and we had a houseguest (though I’m cheating by counting him, since he left before I got up), so my daily four-page writing quota doesn’t apply, and instead of attempting to meet it anyway, I’ve decided to type up a summary of the state of my art, i.e., my writing career. Because it’s gotten kind of complicated, and there’s some news in there.

I have of late been reading up a little on the current state of fiction publishing; a good example of what I’ve found is “Escaping Stockholm”.  (Actually, it’s not typical; it’s better than most.)

What Judy Tarr describes here is quite close to my own experience — decades of publishing successfully, and then a few years ago everything blew up. I’ve been trying to find my footing in the new world ever since, without much success.

There’s also Tobias Buckell’s piece on survivorship bias.

And Harry Connolly’s reactions, starting here.

What do I conclude from this? That I’m probably never going to settle back in to a comfortable niche with a New York publisher, and I’m not going to get rich self-publishing. Which I’d already suspected.

But I am, in Harry’s terms, a lucky guy — I throw lots of stuff out there, seeing what sticks, hoping something will take off. Sometimes something does stick, as the Ethshar serials have, though nothing’s really taken off.

So what have I tried since Tor dropped me, what am I trying, what might I try in the future? Anything and everything, pretty much.

I’ve been writing in several genres, some of which don’t really even have names, and I’m thinking that maybe I should try even more, as more of that luck-seeking behavior. I wrote a dark urban fantasy, One-Eyed Jack; a 19th-century adventure novel, Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship; a science-fantasy detective/revenge story, Vika’s Avenger; and a YA contemporary fantasy, Graveyard Girl.

All of these, by the way, stand alone but could become series — I wasn’t about to close off any avenues if something took off.

I’m also working on more traditional SF and fantasy, though I haven’t yet finished any of those except the Ethshar novels, The Unwelcome Warlock and The Sorcerer’s Widow.

Oh, and there’s non-fiction, in the form of Mind Candy.

Those last three went to Wildside Press, because that’s an easy and comfortable solution and I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to get rich off any of them anyway.

I self-published One-Eyed Jack. Everyone was talking about how much potential there is in self-publishing now. Well, I’m with Tobias Buckell on this one — even as an established author, I’m out on the low end of the curve, along with thousands of other people.

So I figured I’d try Kickstarter with Vika’s Avenger, and I’m still planning to, but I am not at all optimistic about it, because I’ve looked at the numbers. Novels have been one of the least-successful categories on Kickstarter, and tend to not bring in much money over goal even when they meet their targets. That’s why I didn’t push ahead with my original plan to launch in March — I looked at the numbers.

There’s been an interesting side-effect there, though. I talked to a social-media expert back in December, who pointed out something I already knew but hadn’t thought about very much, i.e., people browsing the web are attracted by graphics, not text. I need graphics if I want a successful Kickstarter campaign; the video, in particular, is important. So I’ve been working on my video (in iMovie), kludging it up in my spare time, and I asked my fans on Facebook for volunteers to provide images I could use. I got a couple — and one of them was so much more visually imaginative in its depiction of Ragbaan than what I’d had in my head that I’m seriously considering writing another draft to incorporate some of that cool imagery.

I’m now hoping to get the video done in the next week or two, and to launch the Kickstarter campaign in mid-June; then as soon as it’s done I’d launch the next Ethshar serial, Ishta’s Companion, on my own website. Maybe find a way to cross-promote them. I may not get much writing done for awhile; I’ll probably be spending all my time on the web.

Meanwhile, Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship is languishing on an editor’s desk, and I’m debating whether to withdraw it (it’s been there for several months, which I assume is a pocket rejection) or not. If I do, I’ll be looking for some non-traditional way to publish it; don’t yet know what.

Graveyard Girl came back from my agent with a long missive pointing out the weaknesses in the story, and I really ought to revise and expand it to fix those, but I haven’t yet figured out what the new ending should be.

So, my writing isn’t going much of anywhere; what about publishing? I’ve been self-publishing under the name Misenchanted Press, and maybe I should try publishing other people’s stuff. I came up with the idea of a line of “Misenchanted Classics” — obscure SF/fantasy novels I’d loved as a kid that had been out of print for decades.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the first or even second person to think of that; every novel I wanted for the line but one is either back in print or about to be, from one small press or another. The exception is represented by an agent who has ignored my emails.

But on the other hand, while I never landed any of my childhood favorites, I am pleased to announce that I’ve just signed a contract with Stuart Hopen to publish a new, revised edition of his novel Warp Angel. He’s gotten the rights back from Tor, finally, and I have the revised text (he reworked the ending) in hand. I may also eventually be publishing a new novel by Christina Briley, The Raven Coronet, though that’s much less definite, as she’s rewriting it again.

I’ve also recently signed a contract to co-write a game-based serial novel, but I can’t say anything more, because the contract included a page or two of non-disclosure agreements that I haven’t yet read in detail. The pay on this isn’t much, really, but I’m hoping it’ll be fun, and the first check arrived and has been deposited.

Another minor item: My article “The Other Guys,” about pre-Comics Code horror comics not published by the infamous EC Comics, which was originally published in The Scream Factory and recently reprinted in Alter Ego, is going to be split in half and used as the introductions for two books reprinting pre-Code comics. These nice little windfalls do turn up sometimes. We’ve agreed on terms, haven’t yet signed a contract or check.

And as I’ve reported online, I have a score or more of novels in progress. It’s just today occurred to me that if I’m going to be ignoring genre restrictions and not even pretending to try to sell it to a New York publishing house, I could even write Fast Times — that started
out as a proposal I sent DC Comics for a “Flash” spin-off mini-series,
but it mutated, as my stories usually do, and wound up a weird, impossible-to-classify thing.

Anyway. So far, I’ve had my greatest non-traditional success with the Ethshar serials, so I’m thinking maybe I should just focus on serials — not just Ethshar, necessarily. Maybe Tom Derringer would work as a serial. (If I could find an enthusiastic illustrator, I’m pretty sure it could — airships! Mexican jungles!)

I dunno. I’m just trying everything I can think of, hoping something will take off. We’ll see what happens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *