Monday, May 24, 2010

What is a Writer's Worst Enemy?

It's not a bad review. It's not writer's block, either. (I don't believe in "writer's block", anyway. It's called "time to take a nap".)

How about obscurity?

Cory Doctorow might agree, and he's a helluva lot more well-known than me (and more talented, too). Yeah, Doctorow is speaking of making money, but we are talking about writers here, and I'd argue obscurity is any writer's worst enemy. (At least tied for first with hubris, but that's another blog entry.) Writers want their work to be read; even if you "give" someone a story for free, they are paying you with their time, so yeah. Every read is a "sale" in my book. And if you're too damn obscure, who can find your stuff, anyway?

How to fight obscurity? God, I wish I knew. I've been publishing stories for a few years now and a few folks (love ya) read my stuff regularly. Thanks. Building a reader base takes's not like you can throw a free novel up on the web and land a six figure deal. (If you do, please tell me how, okay?)

I've mentioned my "biggest day" (in terms of page loads) here at the blog occurred when I got caught in a brouhaha regarding a little bit of snark (from yours-truly) and a lot of fallout. I'm not going to take that path to, er, "stardom". I'll keep the snark in my back pocket from now on. I'd rather be a nobody than infamous, any day.

But...does an author need a big ticket book advance to "spend" his/her way out of obscurity? Could you if you tried? How about stupid pet tricks on Youtube? Posting reviews under false names at Amazon? Doing a cross-over rap album with a zombified Tupac?

How did you hear about your favorite author(s) (who may not be well known to the public at large)?

Well, in the name of keeping it positive, I thought I could do a few interviews and pimp some authors here at my bit o' the web. Cate Gardner had something going for a while called "Somebody Else Saturday". I liked it enough to almost steal it...

If you're an author interested in answering five relatively benign questions, drop me a line at aaron_polson(at)hotmail(dot)com. The questions will be randomly drawn from a collection of interview questions my students wrote for various class projects. How's that for inspired? Or crazy?

Maybe I'll call it "Five Question Friday with ______".


Cate Gardner said...

Twitter, forums, blogs etc have introduced me to a lot of writers I wouldn't have otherwise heard of - unfortunately most of those places only reach out to other writers who are small in number.

'Somebody Else Saturday' was dropped due to laziness and because they seemed to be my least popular posts of the week - that was when I cared about numbers. I don't care about numbers anymore.

Good luck with five questions, sounds like a neat idea.

Aaron Polson said...

Cate - Saturday doesn't seem to be a very popular day to post, regardless of the subject. Mondays are big. Any coincidence that is the day most of us go back to work?

Jamie Eyberg said...

i have to agree with Cate. I have found some of my new favorite novelists through Twitter and have found them to be quite personable.

Good luck with the 5 questions.

Cate Gardner said...

Ah, I do believe you may have a point there. I find Sundays particularly quiet. :D

Kara McElhinny said...

This is a great idea Aaron, good luck with it. :D

Katey said...

I find most of my lesser-known great reads from recommendations. Goodreads and the community and all that, just like I imagine you do.

I suppose certain levels of obscurity can be acceptable depending on what you write and who you're writing it for. Like some novels were made for big press and some for indie; the important thing is getting it to the right people rather than a lot of people.

Don't get me wrong, selling out is great. But if we cared that much about being famous, we'd write more crowd-pleasing fiction by design.

Aaron Polson said...

Jamie - I've slowly come around on Twitter. At first, well...I was kind of "meh". But it seems to have its place.

Cate - Thankfully so.

Hinny - Thanks. I'd be happy to interview anyone. *nudge, nudge

Katey - Man, you are so right about the "right" people and crowd-pleasing fiction. I feel another post coming on...

Anthony Rapino said...

Great idea! I look forward to seeing the interviews.

And yes, i agree that obscurity (maybe right behind starvation caused by poverty) is a writer's worst enemy.

Beating obscurity? Who knows. I plan on attempting to piggyback well-known author's, stealing portions of their fan base. :-D

My best blog day occurred two years ago on Halloween (probably due to my "Halloween Countdown"), when I topped 350 unique page views. I haven't come anywhere near that since.

Anthony Rapino said...

Ugh... I let a renegade apostrophe slip into my last post.

Sue London said...

"it's not like you can throw a free novel up on the web and land a six figure deal"

Isn't that what Scalzi basically did with "Agent to the Stars"? Granted he got some other stuff published first, but since no one would publish "Agent to the Stars" (the first novel he wrote) he put it on his website. Then so many people read it that his publisher asked if they could publish it.

The free website:

Available now in trade size:

The limited edition hardcovers Scalzi made go on Amazon for around $100.

Yes, it's still free on the internet but people will spend $10-$100 (or more) to hold it in their hands. How cool is that?

Aaron Polson said...

Anthony - Piggyback...good strategy.

Sue - Yes. And Doctorow kind of does the same thing. Of course, now the 'net is littered with imitators. And Scalzi can write, to boot. He's good. I'd say it is harder to find that proverbial needle (a good book) in the haystack of the 'net today.

And that is very, very cool (the bit about holding the actual book in one's hands).

Danielle Birch said...

A most excellent idea. Looking forward to reading the posts.

Jaym said...

On the issue of Scalzi, he's also about as connected with his fans as anyone can be. I haunted his blog for a while, and he really takes the time to interact. Besides, he's funny as hell, goes to as many events as he can, and isn't afraid to make fun of himself. He'll also tackle issues that most people find too controversial. He's got it figured out!

It's such a fine line between spamming people and getting a name out there. *sigh*

Fox Lee said...

I take it your students aren't prone to asking saucy questions ; )