by Alison Janssen
Hey, you guys all read J.A. Konrath's blog, right? If you don't, you should, it's forthright and interesting and a huge wealth of information.
He posted yesterday, upon reaching the milestone of over 100,000 ebooks sold, and broke down his numbers and outlined his strategies and basically took everyone to school, in a good way. (Learning is always good, stay in school, kids!)
Joe's last few paragraphs got me thinking, and I figured I'd think out loud over here today. That's what blogs are for, right?! Here's what he said:
I spent 12 years trying to break into publishing, and 8 years doing everything I could to succeed. Now I'm finally able to write full time, which is what I've wanted to do all along. No more tours. No more appearances. No more accessibility to the entire world.
I'm not a motivational speaker. I'm not a teacher. I'm not a salesman. I'm not a dog and pony show. I'm not an outlier.
I'm a just a writer, dammit. And that's all I'm gonna be.
Don't you want to be just a writer, too?
But Joe ... you're not "just" a writer. You're a publisher, too. You contract a designer to do cover work, you make sure your books are formatted (and I think I remember that you do that yourself, right?).You track your sales, you (at least nominally) promote your releases, you work with your agent to ensure your distribution across ebook retailers ... you're doing a lot of work, mostly managerial work, that isn't "just" writing.
So yes, I know, semantics, but here's where I'm going with this: The definition of writer, for Joe Konrath and many others, is changing. And has been changing for some time -- self-promotion isn't a new concept. The wide world of ebooks is providing an opportunity for non-big-6-backed authors to reach out to readers directly, to bring themselves to market without relying on outside companies.
The idea that a writer "just" writes is a fallacy. It was a fallacy back in the beforetimes of publishing, when people say things were so great and different, and it's a fallacy today. A writer doesn't "just" write. A mom doesn't "just" mother. A firefighter doesn't "just" fight fires. Mostly, that is what those people do. But every job has more than one facet, and today's writer-facets are changing and expanding.
So, Dead Guy writers, how much time do you spend "just" writing? How much time do you spend attending to all the business that comes along with "just" writing? If you lived in a perfect world, I assume you'd spend 100% of your working hours on the writing (and revising!), and the books and readers would create themselves and sales would direct-deposit into your bank account and no promotion, negotiation, or travel would be required. But we live in an imperfect world, and it's about priorities and outcomes. If you knew you could achieve living-wages sales, would you devote 30% of your writing time for one year to the business-end of cover designs, file uploads, and ebook sales tracking? Or would you prefer to devote 5% of your writing time for five years to sending out queries, landing an agent, shopping a book, and going "traditional"?
I'm not trying to make any value judgments, I'm just curious about peoples' hopes for their writing future. And though I've set this up as a sort of either-or, I'm sure there are tons of combinations and options I'm not thinking about, I'm just simplifying, like Team Edward and Team Bella.
So, are you Team Bob Dylan (one man band) or Team Traveling Wilburys (supergroup)?
And now, for no related reason except that I love it, here is the new OK Go video: