9 September 2015

Weird Things About Being A Digital Author

The cover of  The Elias Anomaly. You could read it
on Wattpad if you wanted. But you'd be the first.
It has often been my contention that I was an artisanal author before I knew what that was. Not for me the hassle of sending stuff off and waiting for the rubber stamp of mid-list approval. Not for me the irritation of people actually reading what I write or caring about it. No. I write for me. I know I am a good writer. I live in the hope that one day someone else will agree with me. If it doesn't happen, well, the world's loss frankly.

Nevertheless it's no good writing things in this day and age and letting them fester on a hard drive. To show intent of actually publishing something one should "get out there" and "build a fanbase". One should, at least, make the attempt, I feel, anyway.

With this in mind I have put a few things up on Wattpad like my spiffing Kafka meets cyberpunk meets Douglas Adams affair The Elias Anomaly. Now complete and available through this perfectly wonderful online e-book delivery system.

At some point soon I shall make paper and electronic (e.g. Kindle) editions available also. This brings us to the point of the weird things mentioned in the post title.

Writing with this method, in these channels, changes the business of writing after a certain point. If you are writing something fresh, i.e. drafting out, then nothing has changed there. Likely it never will. You bang out the words, you get through the material. You write. No problem.

After that it gets tricky.

For a short while (Just over a century?) it has been accepted that authors may not edit their own work. Many reasons are given for this but chief among them appears to be that editors like to eat. Now, in an ideal world where every book was to be given the respect it deserves this would be a no-brainer. If I could be assured that everything I wrote would make enough money to pay for my time and the time of an editor and a cover designer then I would happily pay for these things.

This, however, is not the case. This leaves an author with few choices. One is to admit that writing is a hobby that they like to spend money on. Pay the cover designer, pay the editor, eat the losses. That's cool if you want to do it. No problem with that as an approach.

The other is to find workarounds. This is my approach. I realise I am not a great artist and I am a mediocre cover designer. But hell, mediocre professional cover designers get paid. If I'm doing what they're doing for free I'm a winner, right? Additionally tools like Hemingway help me do a serviceable job of editing. I've read some very poorly edited small press stuff recently, not that I am one of those editing pedants.

The age of meticulous editing on everything we read is over. As the means of production come down in cost and the available stories expand to every conceivable taste it is inevitable that some things you read will have less than perfect editing. My stuff has typos in it, for sure. I have to admit this. I have done the best that I could and I can't do more.

However, I've read stuff recently where there are malapropisms, blatantly wrong uses of words, words added that don't exist AND typos. These things were edited by third parties. It turns out all those copy editors with high and mighty arrogance about how undervalued they were had a point all along. Being a super-editor takes some chops.

I am a good editor, not a great one. Compared to this other stuff I've read that purports to exist in a semi-legitimate state my stuff is golden. Sad but true.

So I am a one man band. This I have become used to.

The really odd thing is that I have evolved working practices to optimise the flow of work going out and they introduce bizarre tasks at weird times.

For example, the best way to edit alone is to go a chapter at a time. The best way to ensure that you are concentrating to your very hardest on that one chapter is to bang it out via Wattpad as part of a serialization. So you take the chapter, Hemingway it and then "publish" it for the delectation and delight of young adults writing mopey, awkwardly eroticised post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy. No, really, I've just described 95% of what's on Wattpad. Check it out if you don't believe me.

The only problem with this process is that in order to make it look nice on Wattpad you must design a "cover". You don't have to but if you don't take it seriously who else will? No one. So you must have that cover ready before you're even ready to re-edit for public consumption. That's weird.

What's even weirder is that if you have, oh, I don't know, some kind of Patreon thing going on then you might want to promote what you're doing in that medium. Before you can though you really ought to have some sort of video.

I know, mental. You've written a first draft, then you have to design a cover and bang out a video before you're even ready to drip feed your work onto the web. In addition the commercial version of the work won't even be ready until after the thing's already been serialised onto your digital platforms.

In addition you've just graduated from cover designer to short film-maker in your efforts to go it alone.

Never mind weird, being a serious independent author is just a hell of a lot of work. Oh well, off to my editing software I go. Time for me to produce some actual content.