Friday, June 29, 2012

What makes a writer?

What makes a writer?

That's a question I deal with quite a bit. Am I a writer?

I think the answer is actually easy. I write, therefore I'm a writer. I make a substantial portion of my living as a writer, and the portion is even higher if you count the writing I do for video projects at the day job.

I published my first novel by myself, as an independent publisher. My second novel was put out under the "Silence in the Library" imprint. I followed the model that I took with the comics route and the independent film route. I helped write Pirate Club with Derek Hunter, Derek published the book himself and it was picked up by Slave Labor Graphics. I produced two films, This Divided State and Killer at Large, we made them, and then they were picked up by distributors.

It's a business model that makes sense to me. It's the model for everything but books, but why?

Does that business model make me (or anyone who chooses it) less of a writer?

I write for many different outlets, some of them for free, some of them I'm paid for. I write regularly for Big Shiny Robot!, Huffington Post, Salt Lake City Weekly, The Examiner, and a number of other sites and outlets that ask me to. Am I less of a writer because of the amount of compensation I get per word at some outlets and more of a writer at others?

I think the answer is no. I write, therefore I'm a writer.

I've been running into a few people lately that I'm glad are in the minority. They are people who live to tear others down. They find something they don't like, be it a method of publication, a line in your book, a means of marketing, and they do their best to tear you down. They get it in their heads that they're better than you because they see their path as having more value than yours.

Aaron Allston talked about this on his blog. Some writers are mad at others, or discount them, or don't claim them as peers because they didn't jump through the same hoops that others did. What they fail to realize is that no two writers, published traditionally or independently, fiction, non-fiction, journalism, or anything else, jump through the same hoops as any other writer. We all have a different path, why scoff at paths that don't intersect with ours?

That attitude simply needs to be abandoned, but another attitude that needs to be abandoned is shitting on other writers. Sure, I'll poke fun at Dan Brown or Chuck Palahniuk now and again because I don't like their books, but I would never, never, ever, disparage and attack a writer working their hardest to make it in this difficult life path.

Writing is an art form. It is a very personal art form. And I understand that not all of it is aimed at my tastes or sensibilities and not all of it will be aimed at your tastes or sensibilities. So for me to tear one of them down because I didn't like this line or that line in one of their books or stories, or to call them a con man because an acquaintance reviewed the book at a major media outlet, is not only out of line, it would be downright shitty and unprofessional.

Those of us that have chosen this profession have a hard enough road before us. We don't need to be tearing each other down.

I get offers to read a lot of books from other authors. If I don't like their book, I don't talk about it. It's as simple as that. We need to create a positive echo chamber for each other. If you don't like my book, I can respect that, but don't tear me down. If you do like it, scream from the hilltops about it. I'll do the same for you. Part of the reason that independent publishing has such a bad rap is because all you hear about are the horror stories or the runaway successes.

Be positive for each other and ignore the bad.

Independent publishers put out just as much crap as the traditional publishers, the traditional publishers just happen to have a better, more positive echo chamber.

I would say my first book, Lost at the Con, is somewhere in the middle. I've sold over 10,000 copies of the book, digitally and in print, and I've given away thousands more. It's been read by a lot of people in the last year and of all the bad reviews I've had or heard about I could count on both hands. And there are some people whose opinion I respect considerably that have read the book, didn't like it, and never said a word about it, good or bad. It's because they understand how difficult our life-paths as artists and writers are. What good would it do any of us for them to trash me or my book? Lost at the Con isn't for everyone. It's written in an odd, misanthropic voice. I get that it won't be everyone's cup of tea. But to say I'm a bad writer because you didn't agree with how the story was written? That's not okay, especially in light of all the people who do like it and find my reading a joy.

I've had fan letters from authors that were my idols in childhood. Why should I take the opinion at all of jealous, envious writers who don't have any of their own work to show because they hide behind anonymity?

I'm not asking anyone to be disingenuous. I'm just saying that if you don't like a book, don't give it the time of day on your social media networks, in your conversations, or anything. Send the author a note telling them what you didn't like so they can improve for next time. What you shouldn't do is go on a crusade against an author, any author, because you didn't like their book.

There's too much negativity in this world to spend time thinking about it. All you can do is put your story out, hope people like it, and move on to the next one.

That's what I did with Operation: Montauk. As much as I love the work I did with Lost at the Con, I think Operation: Montauk is a vastly superior book, and the reaction and reviews are bearing that out. Will there be a person here or there who doesn't like it? Probably. But that doesn't phase me. The audience I wrote it for loved it and that's all I need.

Sure, I'll work on promoting it still, I need to recoup the cost of time and money it took to make, but I've already finished another manuscript for a non-fiction book, and I'm 2k words into my next book.

I'm a writer.

That's what I'm getting back to doing.

Writing.

In the meantime, if I like your writing, I'll make sure everyone knows about it. If not, I'll wait until you have something I'm daffy about, then go crazy promoting it. Because I'm not going to tear anyone else whose chosen this path down.

I'll do that because I'm a writer. And that's what real writers do.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Contest and more reviews!

Big Shiny Robot! is giving away two signed copies of Operation: Montauk.

To enter, go over there for details!

Another review of Operation: Montauk came out as well. This one from Nanci over at The Toschee Station.  They compared it to the original Star Wars and also had this to say about it:

Operation: Montauk is a short, fast read, with exciting action sequences and interesting characters.  
Operation: Montauk is a fun read and I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
I also did an interview for the Just Talking Podcast. We talked about all the stuff I do, including Operation: Montauk.

You can listen to it over here.

I've got some great news to report, as well. The manuscript for my new illustrated book is done and the ball is entirely in the artist's court. It's going to be a great book and I'm very proud of it. I'm still working on revisions for two more novels I have completed, but I might get a new manuscript written before I publish again.

We'll see.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reviews, Conventions, and Signings...

As many of you were aware, I've been doing lots of conventions and signings in the last few weeks to promote the release of Operation: Montauk.

First was Origins Game Fair, where I was a guest of The Library. The Library is a collection of writers handpicked by Jean Rabe who teach writing seminars, participate in their anthology project, and sell books. It's filled with luminaries such as Mike Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Timothy Zahn, Gregory A. Wilson, Jennifer Brozek, Steve Saus, Don Bingle, Sarah Hans, and a dozen others.

It was a fantastic time and I learned much as a writer, a bookseller, and as a person. I also met a lot of fantastic people (see the list above, plus some) and interacted with a lot of people interested in being writers and I did my best to keep them on their path.

As soon as I got back I did a pair of hometown signings at The King's English Bookshop (where I read the first two chapters to a rapt audience) and another at Dr. Volt's Comic Connection.

With less than a week for a break, I was off again to the first ever Denver Comic-Con, where I broke my record for books sold and signed in a three day period.

I also ran into this guy dressed as the Goon:


And these guys dressed as the Green Goblin and Kraven the Hunter:


I also met a lot of fans, old and new. Perhaps one of the most satisfying moments was when a gentleman came to my table, bought a book, and asked to shake my hand, thanking me for my years of Star Wars journalism. He, too, was a fan of the prequels and my articles helped him realize that he really is part of a silent majority.

Operation: Montauk also got another review, this time over at The Huffington Post:
The characters are well thought-out and developed with interior lives and histories that indicate Mr. Young's dedication to researching the various timelines they came from, and in the case of the spaceship-traveling pair, making up believable but fantastic details.
(You can order the book in the store, or snag it on Amazon.)

I learned a lot about what you should have ready at signings and convention appearances and I wanted to pass some of it off to you writers out there:
  • Have a giveaway item. It will help you sell books. My freebie for these conventions were small fold-over and stapled booklets that contained a short story from Man Against the Future and the first chapter of Operation: Montauk. It also served as a business card, having my website, pictures of my other books, a picture of me, and my bio inside. I gave away fifty at Origins and it wasn't enough, so I doubled my order and I brought a hundred to Denver Comic-Con. It still wasn't enough, but by the last day of both cons, I had people coming back to pick up copies of the books because they liked the sample so much. And digital sales of my stuff has spiked since the conventions as well, my guess is people liked the sample after the convention and decided to buy later.
  • Don't just sit there at your table. I sat behind my table at Origins, patiently waiting for people to come talk to me. I did alright at the convention, but I didn't make half as many connections or book sales as I should have. In Denver, I decided to change things up just to see how they'd play out. I spent the whole time standing, saying hello to everyone who walked by, and asking them if they were interested in hearing about the books. That one little change helped me more than triple my book sales.

    Example: There was a table across from me with a pair of authors and they weren't selling any books, but they were just sitting there, smiling at people as they walked by. They left early every night, arrived late the next morning, and didn't even show up the last day. I guarantee I made out better than they did.
  • Know your audience and your own work. Be able to adjust the synopsis of your book based on the person standing before you. Don't try to sell your book as something it's not, though. Be able to pitch it five different ways.
  • Have a variety of work. I talked to people who didn't like science fiction, so I told them about Lost at the Con. I talked to people who didn't like either, so I pitched them The Colossus. Some were Vonnegut fans and interested in that kind of writing. The more variety you have, the better you'll do.
  • Don't discount your book on the last day of a con. It's only going to piss off the people who paid full price previously.
  • Smile. Be friendly. Be excited to be there. Even if somebody just walks right on by, a smile goes a long way to better the vibe of the whole place.
  • Thank people who buy your stuff. These people can't buy everything from everyone who tells them about something at the convention. When they buy your book (or piece of art, or whatever) they've invested in you. If you give them a good experience, and make them feel good about it, then when they read the book and like it, you'll have them looking for your next book, too.
Hopefully those are some helpful tips for those of you who are about to go out and sell your book.

And if you feel so inclined, you should buy copies of my books, signed in the shop, on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Denver Comic-Con

This year is the first ever Denver Comic-Con and I will be there, signing books, hanging out with some Big Shiny Robot!s (two are covering the convention as press), and I will find some way to put my skills as a raconteur on display.

I will be at booth 104 in the Artist's Alley, which is the biggest I think I've ever seen. Maybe it's just the San Diego's seems so overwhelming, this looks like they've crammed more comics, art, and writing talent into half the square footage. There are a ton of great people in there and I hope to see them all.

If you come and buy a book and mention this post, I will throw in a signed copy of "The Colossus" which is my Steampunk Adventure novella, which first appeared in Mike Stackpole's Chain Story.

For those who haven't yet read anything of mine and are interested in trying it out, I'll have my Free Comic Book Day freebie to hand out as well. It contains "An Original", which is a short story from Man Against the Future, and the first chapter of Operation: Montauk.

For those looking for a copy of Operation: Montauk, I've brought with me to the convention what is left of the initial print run. If you want a copy, now is the time to grab it.

I also have prints of the cover signed and numbered by the artist, Blain Hefner.

And plenty of copies of Lost at the Con, which seems to be proving more popular as days go by.

Another special: I have a few copies of the Origins Anthology: Time Traveled Tales, featuring stories by me, Mike Stackpole, Aaron Allston, Timothy Zahn, Janine Spendlove, RT Kaelin, Steve Saus, Gregory Wilson, Don Bingle, and many others. They were limited to Origins, but I snagged a few copies to bring to you, dear readers.

At the end of the day, I hope to see you. If I can't see you, I hope you can spread the word and have your friends come see me. Or friends of friends. Or even acquaintances. Or twitter followers you haven't met.

In any case, EXCELSIOR!

Monday, June 04, 2012

Deseret News Review of Operation: Montauk



In advance of my signings this weekend (at The King's English and Dr. Volts (more to be announced possibly)), the second largest newspaper in Salt Lake City ran a review of Operation: Montauk.

It was written by a gentleman named James Joy, and you can read the entire thing on their website here. He really seemed to like it.

Here's the big poster quote from the piece:
Readers will be on the edge of their seats from start to finish as they meet futuristic scientists on a spaceship to World War II soldiers.
 More should be rolling in soon, and there should be more interviews on the horizon as well.

If you want to get a signed copy and can't make it to a signing, be sure to hit the online store. You can also pick it up digitally if that's your preference, both at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.