Connecting With Readers

Media, Reading & Writing

twilight_fans_1_by_raventhepenguinninja-d311if3

Here’s an interesting quote:

“For the first time in human history, a writer – or group of writers and editors – can instantly reach readers – even hundreds of thousands of readers across the planet – with no intermediary at all. And they can reach back. We want to create a place where readers – and readers alone – sustain the site. No bigger media companies will be subsidizing us; no venture capital will be sought to cushion our transition (unless my savings count as venture capital); and, most critically, no advertising will be getting in the way.”

The words are from former Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer, who raises the money for tours and albums from her fans, and acts responsively to them – so that they and not her music publisher control her career. It’s an extreme example of what’s starting to happen in the US, where fans want more than just content; they want a relationship to the artists and to help shape that content. Part of what Palmer has done, in addition to carefully itemising what the money raised is used for, is to turn what could have been a regular tour into a series of personal events.

It’s an extreme example, but elements of her approach could have a knock-on effect for writers. Already, there are Kickstarter-style sites like Unbound that allow you to contribute to the publication of books and talk to authors, but what if an author wanted to give a talk to a group of readers and couldn’t afford to hire a venue to speak in person? Could that be arranged if there was proven interest? Most writers who don’t sell a million copies a book (that’ll be me then) never get offered tours from publishers even when there’s clear interest – could readers help arrange such things themselves? And where do you draw the line at allowing readers to influence say, story lines?

What about something simpler and smaller? Offering a new short story for sale through Kindle for just one penny? Or writing a tale to a theme suggested by a group of readers? Surely this is no different to accepting a commission on a job. There’s a tricky line to toe here – nobody wants to compromise creativity – and yet that’s exactly what Hollywood does every time it spots a great new talent. I already fear for the career of Gareth Edwards, who made the brilliant ‘Monsters’ and got dragged off to remake ‘Godzilla’ in Hollywood. Then there are the scary fans – no, not you Stalky – the really weird ones who turn up at places you had no idea you’d be visiting. Is it a good idea to encourage them?

One of the things I ask from time to time on this site is your advice – what you think I should write next. Some time ago several people suggested a supernatural thriller, so that’s what I’m doing. In fact, I’ve already sold it unwritten. But this new world may be only just beginning – so long as the creators stay in control of what they create…

20 comments on “Connecting With Readers”

  1. Mike Cane says:

    >>>Offering a new short story for sale through Kindle for just one penny?

    Don’t.

    And did you ever hear about Macklemore?
    http://waxy.org/2013/01/indiepocalypse/

    Look, music is an entirely different thing. Don’t think what’s happening in that industry is *all* applicable to writing.

  2. Vivienne Cox says:

    I’m an optimist and this does sound good: getting people together to be mutually supportive without intermediaries. On the other hand, there’s only one of you, and you seem to keep yourself pretty busy. How many fans, some with not much to do, could you cope with?

  3. Cid says:

    There’s never enough entertaining London fiction to go around, so there’s probably a good market for a story that’s not horror, not supernatural, not a detective story, but…entertaining and set in London. Narrows it down eh?

    And not involving gangsters either or loads of people going about calling each other facking cants like Danny bloody Dyer.

  4. graham says:

    As a side note to connecting with readers. I just wondered what your opinion of the americanised style of book adverts that are becoming more common. Where they feel the only way to sell a book is to get actors to play the main characters and basically do a movies trailer version. For example lets just say James Paterson’s Private Berlin, personally I have a great dislike for these as I feel that it somehow dumbs the whole reading experience down, if someone wants to read they will go to a book shop look around, find one themselves, and will visualise the story as they read it. But I was interested to know what you felt as an author.

  5. John Howard says:

    I’m gad you added that last paragraph admin and I couldn’t agree more. To me this whole blog seems to be inclusive and encourages the fans of your writing and I am constantly quoting littles bits and pieces that have come up to friends and family. The very last part about creators staying in control is the most important bit.

    I just feel as though any little comment could be picked up by any of the readers including you, and potentially from the other side of the world.

    I am not aware of anything similar from any other author who’s books I read. More power to your, and our, elbow.

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    I like the idea of “group sponsorship”. It is happening in other arts, too.
    And I whole heartedly second John’s comments above. The topics are always ineteresting, the signposts to other sites are, too, as are the many comments and extended discussions, and the on-going tone which is outstanding. Truly inclusive and encouraging.
    You once talked about starting up a pub group for writers. Well, I think you have one here for readers and writers – that is the people who care about books, what’s in them and what might be. Now, for the drinks bit.
    I look forward to what others have to say.
    PS: You know your site is addictive. As Helen once wrote, you have to keep going back to see what other people have said. That’s addictive.

  7. Helen Martin says:

    As for group sponsorship: I am a studying calligrapher (have been studying for 40 years) and a member of a local guild. There are many artists with whom we’d like to study but they live in Brussels or other such distant places. They will sometimes send out a letter saying that they would be willing to do a teaching tour and outlining the material. Guilds talk to each other and work out the costs so everyone pays toward the travel costs, especially the initial and last flight, and then a routing is worked out to keep travel costs and exhaustion as low as possible. The teacher is hosted by each guild, which includes housing, entertaining and feeding him/her. It works extremely well and means we get to work with fantastic artists we would otherwise not be able to. Would that work for this sort of interest? No problem about finding hosting families, but I wonder how much admission fees would have to be. Would publishers be prepared to ensure copies are available at locations once the route is set? (Those are ‘roots’ by the way as we don’t want our favourite author ‘rowted’)

  8. Russ Varley says:

    Perhaps this is simply the next evolution of art. Control over art in all its forms has shifted through time from being the preserve of patrons who could afford it and influence it, to a mass market model where many more more people can enjoy an art but the expense of accepting what was provided. Now, with publishers, editors, film studios, and broadcasters having their control diminished, the production of art becomes more like an exchange between creator and audience. This in some ways makes it more like the old relationship between artist and patron.

    You were lamenting the decline in the short story form a few posts ago, a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. Could the future of the short story be in self published individual titles rather than collections? A number of such stories could be grouped into a narrative arc but with readers buying each item separately. Again this would return us to a more traditional way of publishing them where they have been previously been published in various other places and could then gathered together into a collection rather than being first released in that form.

    Admin, I think you have already taken some steps down this road yourself with the works produced by PS Publishing because I imagine their contribution to your books was minimal apart from the publication of the work. Is it many more steps to self publishing works on Kindle? Amanda Palmer is inspiring and other people who have done similar things (although not to the same extent as Amanda) are author Cory Doctorow and musician Jonathan Coulton.

  9. snowy says:

    Re:Talks

    There are readers that would like to attend readings but are unable, not least because they are in another country.

    I’ve seen this solved, by having the live event, live streamed, and taking questions via email and ‘social media’, the last had 2,500 viewers.

    Expensive? Not at all, apart from a few bits [like microphones], all the kit necessary can be found in most homes, [and those missing bits can usually be supplied by the venue].

    (There was longer, more detailed post covering this but it vanished, and I’m going to look like a ‘right narna’ if it pops up later).

  10. FabienneT says:

    Yep, it is the way to go… Amanda Palmer is rather awesome, her blogs are quite formidable. BUT! And she always repeats this again and again: it’s HARD WORK. So are people ready to put in the hours? She absolutely works her socks off and has for years and years.
    A good example of an inspiring small venture is Ignite Books (http://ignitebooks.co.uk/), set up by two writers who wanted to take things into their own hands. They do everything themselves with a DIY punk attitude.

  11. Alan Morgan says:

    There is something of this in what I do for a living, and have done for some time. A large customer base have created their characters and say what they intend to do. They get circa 750-1000 words of narrative prose back advancing their story. They say what they’ll do next as the story advances. It’s been going for fifteen years now – it was originally printed out and posted way back then. This is what I do full time and there’s always more work to do. It’s not published so probably doesn’t count as proper-writing. Yet it’s supported a family, pays the rent, I have no boss. I have a lot of customers.

    This blog, more properly in keeping with the post, does engage with your readership. Certainly there’re a hard core bunch of regulars that do engage, and offer suggestions if asked (but don’t view such suggestions as demands). To blow the general trumpet I’d suggest that here at least you are able to muse freely. It’s a polite, interesting, constructive bunch without the usual hubris and awfulness of the wider-internet. You come for the posts, you stay here for the replies. There is about this site something of the genial pub.

    As for Amanda Palmer? Good for her.

  12. Stephen Groves says:

    FANS

    FANS, FANS WHAT CAN YOU DO? .THE DANGEROUS ONES WIDE EYED AND SMELLING OF POO AND THEN THERES THE SHY ONES WHO GAZE FROM A FAR, WHO STAND BEHIND BOOKSHELVES, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

    AND LET’S NOT FORGET THOSE WHO QUITELY SIDLE UP CLOSE , WHO BRING ON HEART FAILURE UNEXPECTED AT MOST.THEN THERES THE ONES WHO WILL RUMMAGE IN BINS ,WHO COLLECT YOUR UNWANTED BAKE BEAN TINS AND THINGS .TOGETHER WITH THOSE WITH NIGHT VISION GOGGLES ASKEW, WHO HIDE IN YOUR BUSHES, BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO?

    AND LEAST WE FORGET FANS WHO’S COLLECTING JUST GROWS, WHO JUST LIKES THE STORIES AND THE WONDERFUL PROSE AND COVETS EACH ONE PUBLISHED, YES I’M ONE OF THOSE.

    DO WE ALL NEED TO MEET YOU? I SOMETIMES THINK NOT, THE STORIES SAY MORE WHEN AN APPERANCE MAY NOT.
    ALTHOUGH TO BE SURE
    WHEN ALL SAID AND DONE, WHEN THINGS GET TOO HOT IT’S NICE TO HAVE ONE.
    STALKY

  13. Helen Martin says:

    My word, Stephen Groves, that is quite the poetic outburst, well, versiform at least. You have a good point about the other types of fans, though. Some form of live streaming is a good suggestion and certainly easier to manage than a physical presence.

  14. admin says:

    Okay, I’m really scared now.

  15. Alan G says:

    Admin – why did you pick on Stalky in your post? I’m still nervous about Snowy and his unhealthy expertise in assassination techniques.

  16. J. Folgard says:

    I’m going to be off-topic, but express my fan happiness anyway: I just got two copies of the ‘Casebook’ at my excellent comic shop today, and I’d like to thank you & Keith, and congratulate the folks at PS Artbooks for putting out such a brilliant and gorgeous comic(-book)! I love all the extras, and seeing Keith’s interpretations of favorite PCU characters, all under that classy dustjacket (Having also bought that second tome of ‘Witches Tales’ did hurt my wallet, but it’s worth it). The extra copy will travel a bit to one of my best friends’ house, and I hope to see ‘the Deptford Demon’ very soon. Cheers-!

  17. Alan G says:

    J. My “significant other” and I both use the British Museum as a memory palace. But she uses more and more convoluted routes when we go there. She seems it necessary to keep me away from comic shops.

    I see no problem in spending a hundred or so pounds on a comic that I’m not about to unwrap since I have it in a graphic novel anyway. She does.

    Call me Sheldon but women just do not seem to get the point.

    (cue Helen)

  18. Why not try blending some of your work/characters into the real world web – would welcome a comment or even an argument from Bryant or May in the Kings Cross Environment website. Or if you ever want to use it as a place for arcane messages in a future plot be my guest.

    I did some work with the Archers scriptwriters to help them create a website for Ambridge in the voice of Jennifer Aldridge.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thearchers/2010/11/ambridge_village_website_-_ext.html

    They couldn’t pursue my favourite idea, unleashing Linda Snell into the comments section of real village websites – ‘Do you call those 5 beans alike? Disgraceful – they would never have won at the Ambridge show.’ Apparently BBC ethics were against it.

  19. Helen Martin says:

    What is the point of spending good money for some…. I’m sure there is some sort of parallel in women’s world but I can’t think what it would be. No one will ever even actually see whether what is supposed to be in there really is. Nope, don’t get it.

  20. Alan G says:

    Helen. My wife thought it would be funny to use my Miracleman issue 5 as a placemat at a dinner party. I financed a friend for a trip to New York to get that. Ex-wife, now.

    My “other” does spend staggering amounts on next to nothing things – have to confess that I really cannot complain there.

    I know. Shoes! What’s that all about?

Comments are closed.