Monday, January 25, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

Don't worry. I haven't forgotten about the blob in Curt's kitchen.

This post is mostly about what unchecked expansion means to writers: you, me, most everyone who reads this blog.

If you want to be read, at whatever level, you must learn to brand yourself. It's one of the first lessons I learned when I started. It's the reason I purchased my domain ( before I had anything worthwhile to slap up there. Being read may (or may not) translate into cash someday. Someday. Meaning, this is about making money. Which, much to my wife's chagrin, is not my favorite topic.

People who know a lot about money like to talk about growth. (hence, "Unchecked Expansion")

I used to work at a bookstore. We talked at length about "expansion". New stores in the chain, new sales in the existing stores, blah, blah blah. Beat Last Year! (i.e., did we make more sales than the same day last year?) Yeah, we checked these things all the time.

I also took calculus in high school. I learned that things do not expand without limits.

A bookstore chain cannot continue to build new stores and sell more each year. It. Is. Impossible. Stores close. Sales drop.

The opposite of expansion happens. Big publishing's revenues are contracting. They've stripped themselves to the bone, merged, hostile take-overed, and now, now people still aren't buying books like they used to. The $9.99 e-book will kill us all. Go ahead, run shrieking into the ether.

As mid-list authors, Brian Keene and JA Konrath have their own models of expansion. I read their blogs. I like to see how these things work. Both are hardworking writers who must continually expand their reach because other parts of their revenue stream constantly contract. A vicious situation, to be sure.

Unchecked expansion doesn't exist. Except in fiction. (Yes, the blue sponge is still growing)

I stepped into two new arenas last week: I listed my Friday flash with #fridayflash and sold two reprints ("Catalog Sales" to Ghostlight and "The World in Rubber, Soft and Malleable" to Triangulation: End of the Rainbow--I love what they did with Dark Glass). I guess you could call it "expansion" or "branding". I just want more people to read my stories. The money (sorry, Aimee) is negligible right now.

So choose your own adventure. Decide how hard you want to work (my hat's off to those making a living at this writing thing). Nothing expands forever.

Writing is nothing if not choosing your own adventure. This is what I chose for Curt:

Curt waits for the gun. The blue mass changes. A shape presses against the skin...a face, fingers.

Gail screams. "Sophia...Sophia's gone!"

Guess she shouldn't have tip-toed downstairs to check on her cow-sponge, eh?

Fucking cows.


K.C. Shaw said...

Congrats on the sales! I like reprint sales; they make me feel thrifty.

The whole branding thing alarms me a little since I'm not really sure how to brand myself. Fantasy writer, sure, but that's a very broad category and I like to experiment with new subgenres and different styles. I guess whatever sticks (i.e. what I get on the bookshelves first) will end up being my brand.

Jamie Eyberg said...

In the markets we call these "Bubbles". We had the housing bubble, the dot com bubble, and now we are on the cusp of the money bubble (the govn't can't keep printing without something to back it up). You are correct about things not expanding forever but if you can get to a comfortable limit and maintain that it is possible. I think that is what most of us are looking for.

Aaron Polson said...

K.C. - It is like being thrifty. Having a broad palate is a boon and a curse. Right now, I'm enjoying it.

Jamie - Comfortable limit. I like that.

Karen from Mentor said...

Congrats on the sales!

.....DAMN! Why did the thing have to eat Sophia????? Why can't we all just get along....humans and giant purple expanding sponge things???

Karen :0)

Katey said...

It's mostly about providing people with a reason to be interested. The long tail theory definitely has a lot to say about that, but it's not totally hopeless. Was talking to my husband (who talks about this shit a lot, since he's Mr. MBA just now), and he reminded me of this:

Cate Gardner said...

I can't believe my favourite story of yours is the one you've sold to Triangulation - doubly happy now.

Aaron Polson said...

Karen - There were so many options, but, well...Sophia was a very curious girl.

Katey - Great article, thanks for that.

Cate - I'm thrilled, of course. (and stoked to read your entry!)

Barry Napier said...

Jeez Aaron...a sponge? You Do have one of the supercoolest imaginations around!

Unknown said...

Okay, I'm going to go ahead and say it. If you started doing seminars like that guy with the teeth and the curls - oh, hold on, let me check... Joel Osteen!!! - except that you talked about writing all the time, I would TOTALLY buy a ticket! :)

Seriously though, congrats on the sales and thanks for the insight.

Elana Johnson said...

Ah, author branding. I'm posting about this tomorrow... Did you crawl inside my head over the weekend? Hmm...that seems like a short story you could actually write. *grins*

Aaron Polson said...

Barry - No. Just too many sponges. ;)

Jeremy - Now I know I've arrived: Joel Osteen. Awesome. ;)

Elana - It wasn't me (in your head), but some of my agents. *evil laugh*

Fox Lee said...

It ate the kid? Yay!