5 min read

Writing Launch Month

Sharp medieval sword with rainbow-coloured blade and purple handle-wrap, displayed on an outdoor table
Bi-Frost, the official sword of Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly. Made by Angus Trim.

So called, because I've decided September is my official start to writing professionally, after a month of prep.

Spending this week in a week-long online writers "webinar" for scifi writers. It's a nice little perk that comes with getting a lifetime pro subscription to the AI editing software I use. I'm glad I spent the "Lifestyle" benefits well when I had them. It sucks to have lost a job I loved, but I really invested well in my future while I was there. I'd rather have the income back, all things considered...but if I'm going to give writing for a living a go, I'm lucky to be in a good spot.

The last month has been rough. I've found that I can't just jump from being full-time employed to being self-employed. I'd planned on tripling my writing output, but I stopped writing all together. That's okay, though. Every job has an onboarding phase, and the more complex the job, the more on-the-job training you need. With Shopify, I started with a 6 week onboarding, and didn't start doing the job itself until the last week of that training. When I moved up to the new position, it was another 2 weeks' training. And there was usually an hour or so of additional or update training every week.

And  that's where I am now. Working from home worked well for me when I had a solid structure, and rebuilding that is difficult. I'm lucky to have all the hardware I need, and the space. But scheduling myself? Building a tech stack that I can maintain? Much, much harder.

I mean, writing shouldn't involve tech, really, right? Just words on a page. I can use a pen and paper, or notepad or google docs or anything, really. Computers do word processing pretty easily these days.

However.

Being a writer means a hell of a lot more than just words on pages. Writing completed works not just core the job, it's the bare minimum entry requirement. It's not even really the job...aside from the fact that it occupies your brain constantly.

Publishing has changed dramatically. The ideal of being a writer used to be that you would write a novel, submitted it and struggle with rejection, but eventually get it published and then roll in the piles of cash that came your way. This was never true for most authors, but it was the common impression. Growing up, if you were an "author" that had a powerful cachet. Being published meant you were made.

It was never that easy, but it's gotten a lot harder. Publishers are consolidating, and an average writer has less and less chance of making a living the old way. Self-publishing was the bright and shiny alternative for a while, and tremendous money was made...and more importantly, it offered a path for the average writer to almost replace a regular job with writing and not much else.

New things change fast, though. The self-pub model is evolving rapidly, because it's not built on a predictable path, but by reactive marketing. The easy money is long gone. The second-wave model of "rapid release/social marketing" is also starting to fade a bit. We are now moving into the third-wave, and nobody really knows what that means. We know the causes, which is changes to the platforms and how ad-tracking works (very simplified!), but no one really knows what the next big thing will be.

I don't think there will be a next big thing. We've now had decades of watching how the internet has transformed media consumption, and we've had almost as long to see how different monetization models react to that. Books are different. We have to look not at the loss of opportunity, but the change in opportunity. I can't make money with traditional publishing, and it's looking less and less likely to make a living via Amazon for newer authors.

The issue has always been reaching potential readers. Advertising and marketing has a bad rep with everyone, because it usually means having things foisted on you that you have no interest in, with demands for your money. It usually means profit for someone, which intrinsically means you get little or no value for your money. And that is bullshit. What marketing should be is a better path of communication for you to discover what you enjoy, to connect you to creators that can add meaningful experiences to your life. I don't want people reading my books that are going to hate what I write. That's no fun for anyone.

I think the next thing in books will be smaller, steadier change. Readers can be more engaged with an author now, but that engagement will change. I think the author will mean as much as the work. What I mean by that is that we as readers will consume and engage with authors in more significant ways, and this will solidify into communities. Genre's will lose significance. Genre's work for advertising, but they don't communicate to me whether or not I will actually enjoy a book. The cover, the blurb, the other books the author wrote, those are other forms of advertising. They are inaccurate forms of advertising. If they were accurate I would love every book I buy, and I surely do not.

Building trust will be the next thing.

Readers will start to use a combination of social media to become informed about an author and their fans, and they will find ways to congregate with readers with similar tastes. This will reach farther than the current scattered methods, but it won't be centralized. No one is currently offering centralization with sufficient trust.

None of this can be managed or controlled. It's just going to happen. But I believe authors can prepare for this. Lots of them are already. It's kind of like the old "Brand" paradigm, but more engaged. More honest. I need to know an author so that I feel like they are an acquittance, if not an occasional friend. I want to invest in the author and their interests first. From this, buying their books feels like a way to support their interests, and a way to learn more about them as a person.

Books are a form of art, and like all art, context can allow us to better appreciate the art. I think that the way forward for authors is to find better ways of intentionally providing context.

So my tech stack is my way of finding out how I can share my context. This blog is one of them. Maybe later a newsletter. Maybe a shop with stuff that has stuff I'd like and want to buy. I need new t-shirts... Probably not TikTok, but maybe. Facebook is falling off the radar pretty quick. Twitter is getting better. Dunno. But I know that if I want people to read my books, enough that I don't have to go back to working as a security guard? I'm going to have to write enough works for them to buy that they like, and I'm going to have to let them know who I really am, so they know they can trust that any time spent reading those books will be a worthwhile investment of their time.

So yeah, rambling blogs posts. If you're okay reading these, you'll probably like my books. They may read differently, but the same kind of thinking goes into them. Exploration, wondering, mistakes, learning...and taking the next step forward.