It is always so exciting to start a new year--fresh opportunities and a new start.
As you can imagine, I'm still pretty excited about having my first Regency novel published, although to be honest, my feelings range from thrilled to scared to death as the "rubber hits the road" and the dirty work--editing--begins in earnest. And there is always the fear that people will hate it and you won't find an audience. Or that you'll find an audience of...like maybe two people. Frightening.
The really horrifying part is that it only gets harder. You think now that you've sold your first book, things will get easier, but the reality is that the market gets tighter each year as the Internet (well--you're reading this instead of a book, right?), games, television, movies and books all compete for the same limited attention span. Not to mention other worthwhile activities like just going for a walk.
As part of that trend, books are getting shorter and sharper, which I view as a good thing since to be honest, I'm not much on long books. After a while, I just want the author to wrap things up and move on. Lately, I've been reading a lot of short stories, particularly mysteries like those published in the lovely magazine The Strand. If you've never seen an issue and you like mysteries, I highly recommend in, along with The Mystery Scene.
I keep wondering if the short story is going to make a comeback. There are already e-zines available through the Internet and various publishing companies are experimenting with online offerings, as well as an upswing in novelettes for romance and erotica readers. I'm all for various "length factors" because I figure any medium that gets folks reading is great.
Short stories are an interesting format and I keep toying with the idea of writing a few, myself, but to be honest, they scare the dickens out of me. I believe short story writers are exceptional writers because they have to do all their character development as well as story development in just a few pages. No long descriptive passages, no lengthy backstory explaining how the character got the way they are, just quick and hopefully not too dirty :-) scene setting, character description, and story. Short story writers are the slim, muscular atheletes of the writing world.
I personally like a very lean, tight writing style so I'm very drawn to short stories--I just don't know if I can develop both a character and a good story in just a few pages. But I think in today's market, if you can hone that skill, you're going to sell. I don't know if you could ever actually get rich on short stories, but I believe there is an audience out there for them.
What I'm thinking is some sort of RSS feed subscription (I mean, authors do want to get paid for their work) where you could set up a web page with an RSS feed and then post your stories and novelettes. Anyone who subscribes (and pays the subscription fee--which wouldn't have to be really expensive) would then get automatic notification and download of the new stories via the RSS feed. There are tons of free RSS feed clients and the new version of Outlook from Microsoft (Outlook 2007) will include an RSS feed so you can get your news and junk dumped directly into your e-mail bin. Readers can then read their content on any device, e.g. smartphone, pda, laptop, desktop computer, whatever. You could even do a serialized novel/story that way. How cool would that be? You could even include pictures, like Manga stuff, if you're into that.
Companies such as Harlequin are already experimenting with various serials and e-pubs but at the moment, I'm not sure how they're handling the business (money making) end of it. So much of the stuff on the Internet is free--which is what makes it such a terrific resource--but on the other hand, it would be difficult to make a living as a writer if you never actually got paid for your work. At what point do we start charging and what do we charge users for? If you were a writer and never got paid, would you continue to write? You might, but I'm not sure what kind of quality product readers would be getting. There is a lot of truth in: You get what you pay for.
Still, a lot of writers love writing so much, they may write for free. Personally, I find that a little too depressing to think about, but I guess a lot of socialists would really love that idea. I'm a little too much of a capitalist to appreciate the benefits of working long hours to produce something for someone else and never get anything in return except possibly a plaque or a pat on the head.
Anyway, I sure I don't know the answers. I only know that I regard writing as a second job for now and one which I hope to change over to completely as a primary occupation to help me pay the bills sometime during the next seven years. That means I would actually need to earn money for my novels. Now that I have my first publishing contract, I expect to start earning something, but I can't help thinking there are vast opportunities out there for new stories presented via the Internet, with a fair price that readers find totally acceptable.
We live in an interesting time and I hope 2007 continues the unprecedented developments on the Internet. There is no doubt that we are headed in some unexpected directions.
So Happy New Year to everyone and may we all get our hearts' desire!