Let’s Talk About Attention Economy!

Yeah, that’s a pretty big, fancy phrase I’m throwing around – attention economy. Fear not! It means pretty close to what it sounds like. 

The attention economy is the coined term used by some to define the economic system of the internet. Michael Goldhaber points out in his 1997 conference presentation that the internet primarily funnels information to people. In this sense, information is a product of the internet, an abundant one.

Why do we care about this? Well, that’s what I’m selling right now, information. Hopefully it’s in an entertaining and digestible format so you, the reader/viewer/audience, can understand what’s going on in the world.

I’m not really charging for this information, though. There’s no reason to. You could go google and read up on attention economy just as easily. There’s something else I’m (and every other internet user) is after with this blog: your attention.

Attention is the currency of the internet, or so attention economy theorists claim. It’s something I’m inclined to agree with, and it’s important that you understand this economy as a struggling young writer/blogger/youtuber because it’s what makes your paycheck. That’s right. Attention is what makes the money thing happen. Why else do we pay Facebook to generate likes for our pages? If you’re an independent writer, there is nothing more valuable in the world than other people talking up your book, mentioning it to others, or generally just posting a link to something related to your work anywhere on the internet.

Generally, people need to be entertaining in order to hold onto that attention. Something boring and educational like this little blog probably won’t generate a lot of interest (sorry reader who finds this fascinating!), but is good to get out there when the creative mood strikes you.

So! What can you, an indie writer, do to get some interest generated on the internet? Well, there are a few immediate options. My favorite one is fanfiction.

MeGustaFinal

Yes, fanfiction is a very good way to generate attention as a writer, and it’s so freaking fun! It also lets your readers share a fandom with you and brings you down from that “untouchable paragon” status that a lot of writers get awarded. I don’t really like being an untouchable paragon. I wrote my original fiction because no one else was writing epic fantasies with lesbians and I WANTED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ABOUT THESE FEELS! It just so happens that along the way, someone else decided I was kinda worthwhile as a writer and rolled me up into their little publishing company. Still, you see me out here, shouting into the void at you guys, begging for your attention.

All internet celebs do this. Every blog, tweet, vlog, or tumblr post is an attempt to connect with another human, and some of us just happen to make money out of making those connections possible. More often, I see community builders getting rewarded for providing a public space of interaction. Livestreamers on twitch.tv can get donations from subscribers and people in the chatroom while they play their games. Artists solicit donations for comic panels and site maintenance. These creators, comedians, and entertainers are making an epicenter for human interaction.

So, dear writer, I suppose what I’m saying is that you should make yourself an epicenter, put yourself out there a little bit. Give people something to discuss and stop hoarding away every story you write in the hopes that some agent will pay you for it one day (spoiler alert: I kinda dislike the concept of agents). Share a short story, write a rant, post that fanfic you had an idea for, make photo collages for tumblr, be part of a community! Give your readers your attention. Have a conversation with them. Listen! They might just give you some of their attention in return.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Talk it up with me! I love responding to comments, I promise 🙂

What do you all think of this new internet economy?

Also, I’d like to thank my readers for keeping Warrior in the top 100 for lesbian romance all week now. Y’all rock. Leave a review when you’re done!

Legit Publishing

So a little over a week ago, I published All The Pretty Things with my coauthor Rae D Magdon. We went through Kindle Direct Publishing figuring that it would be the fastest, easiest way to reach the few fans we managed to collect over the years. Fast-forward nine days and we’ve sold over 500 copies and are listed as #1 seller for kindle sales in Lesbian Romances. Crazy, right?

We did all of this ourselves, though. We didn’t send out query letters. We didn’t talk to agents, didn’t pursue publishing companies, didn’t do anything my writing professors advised. It was just us and the supportive community of the interwebs. Now the question is: are we legitimately published?

I think the answer is yes. I think this new form of indie publishing has gotten a bad reputation from the abuse of anyone using it, but I think if a professional approaches it in the right direction, it is just as legitimate as any other form of publication. That being said, I think indie publishing opens up authors to some shortcuts I do not advise them to take.

To begin with, there’s no one but you running the operation when you self-publish to an online format. That means that if you’re not looking for help, no one is going to edit your story but you, and that is not acceptable. I don’t think authors should go out and pay for a book doctor, but I think now more than ever writers need to network with one another and exchange resources with one another. Writers in groups will get access to five or six competent editors, some of them more often than not with degrees or real world experience. Someone asked me one day if I thought there was a loss of quality in writing through the self-publishing route. I think as long as a writer is working with other quality writers and editors, they have the potential to be just as high quality as a book that was published through a company.

Honestly, indie publishing is going to become a serious form of getting your book out there, just like kickstarter can be a legitimate form to fund serious projects. If writers get lazy, their work won’t sell. It’s as simple as that.

But it’s a hard gig. I sit here panicking once every few hours that I’m not doing enough to make sure it stays successful. I got into writing and publishing because I wanted to reach a wide audience. I wanted people to read my stories and find something worthwhile in them, and waiting to see what will happen in the next few months is tough. It’s the toughest thing I’ve had to do as a writer.

So, I hope I’ve provided some food for thought. If you like what I said, or disagree, go ahead and comment. I’m always happy to have a conversation about writing. And if you like lesbian romances, you might consider checking out the novel All The Pretty Things. You can comment on it through goodreads or amazon if you feel like. If not, Rae and I are always providing new and interesting fanfiction, always for free.

Indie Publishing – A How-To

Now that I’ve published a novel, I’ve gotten to reflect on the whole process of actually writing one and getting it out there in the world. I’ve also gotten the chance to spiral into panic attacks every now and then whenever I stop to think of what people might think of the writing.  I mean, it’s a little bit of a big deal. I wrote a romance novel. With lesbians. And BDSM. And one of the lesbians is a Republican! OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?

But so far, the feedback has been positive, so apparently it has been a good thing. The novel has been selling better than my coauthor or I could have predicted, which is a little astounding, and even trying to think of what future sales might be is unfathomable at the moment. So why is indie publishing working for us? Why are we so lucky to be doing well when most indie books never sell over 150 copies and we’ve doubled that in a matter of days? (BTW, it’s All The Pretty Things. Check us out on amazon or goodreads!)

I think the answer lies in fanfiction. Now listen up class, here’s the lesson for the day.

Fanfiction is a legitimate form of writing. I honestly believe this. People constantly put it down as being a lesser form, or not real writing, but I think Rae and I have only done so well in our publishing adventure thus far because we have supported the fanfiction community so much over the years, and thus we have a built-in following. If I had any advice to give to writers looking to self-publish, it would be to start writing fanfiction. Write it now.

Fanfiction does an important thing in that it allows the exploration of otherwise impossible scenarios in certain worlds. It also allows a writer to work with a world that has already been built and focus on the character dynamics instead of world-building, which can be tiring and tedious work. It’s a good form of practice, and I think writers should be flattered when people choose their world of fiction to write a fanfic in.

Let’s go with a metaphor. You, the writer, are a young child. Your story, the world you have built, is this vast, ultimate sandbox that you have stumbled upon. The sandbox starts out empty, but you soon bring supplies to it like buckets and shovels, and perhaps the garden hose to make those structures stick together. If you ask your mom real nice, maybe she gets you those special molding kits for super castles.

Either way, as the time goes by you’ve made a pretty kick-ass castle in your sandbox. All the other kids think it’s the coolest thing ever, the perfect start to your new fiefdom. Some of the kids stop and comment on it, tell you how nice it is. You’re beaming with pride because your creation is being enjoyed by others.

And then one kid stops and asks if they can play in the sandbox with you.

You look around and see there’s some room left, but you’ve been thinking maybe you want to construct your village a certain way, and what if this kid messes up everything? What if they make a complete wreck of your newly constructed world? Well, too bad, because in the world of fiction, no one is going to stop that kid from getting in the sandbox and playing with you.

No one is going to stop a writer from producing fanfiction about your work if it’s good enough. And as long as they’re not earning a direct profit from it, what’s the problem? You might have an awesome time with that kid in your sandbox. You might have a whole bunch of kids help you complete the sandbox city you’ve planned out. Maybe you’ll exchange ideas. Maybe these kids will take note of certain ideas and take them home to use in their sandbox. Maybe you’ve just helped them become a better writer without even trying.

Fanfiction is the other kids wanting to play in your sandbox. You can invite them in, or you can be the brat on the playground and tell them to shove off, but the community of writers is a loving one, and doesn’t take kindly to uptight jackasses. I’m not saying everyone has a right to steal ideas, but I am saying everyone has a right to write. Fanfiction is a perfectly acceptable form of writing. It’s just as good as other writing, just as legitimate if done properly. The only difference is you will not earn a direct profit from writing it. You will, however, gain a loving and supporting community of eager readers.

So, find yourself a fandom. Read up on the popular fanfics. Get to the writing. If you don’t wanna write fanfics, then you better be a clever blogger or be the world’s most popular guy on twitter or tumblr, because these social media sites really are the only other way to draw readers to your indie book. I wish all indie publishers out there the best of luck, and invite you all to share your thoughts on writing, fanfiction, indie publishing, or whatever happens to be on your mind.

Published?

Where have I been, internet? Possibly living in a dark cave and writing thousands upon thousands of pages of unpublishable material? Maybe. A little bit. Basically. Yeah…

But I’m published. That’s the important part. All The Pretty Things started out as an incomplete, all-but-abandoned draft by my coauthor, Rae D Magdon. After coauthoring several short pieces with her, we decided to revisit this older, promising manuscript and revise it together. The result was a published e-book as of today, August 7.

Warning, shameless plug imminent:

All The Pretty Things is a self-published novel available to download for the kindle or any kindle reader app via the amazon bookstore. Since the kindle app goes on anything, you theoretically can read it on what you’re reading this post on. Just search the title plus the author names, either Rae D Magdon or Michelle Magly, and it will pop up.

End shameless plug.

Okay. Now to dish. How was self-publishing? Pretty great, actually. With a coauthor and horde of writing friends all armed with degrees in English, composition, or a variation on either, we had quite the editorial staff at our disposal. Self-published books have a reputation of being unprofessional. We worked hard to make it very professional. 

Formatting was also a large process. We spent hours upon hours of formatting. I read two guides on how to format properly. This story looks nearly identical to any other professionally-produced e-book, minus the extensive front-matter of legal jargon. 

Is self-publishing for everyone? No. Rae and I have an extensive following online, and we work hard to advertise our writing. It takes a lot of work and a lot of writing that you might not be paid for. It’s a tough gig, but if it works for you, it’s an excellent method of publication. Totally recommended. If you choose this path, make sure to use the resources available. Read the free information available about publishing by yourself. Smashwords has an excellent guide.

As for our story in particular, it’s primarily a romance novel housed within a crime drama. There are lesbians, and there are scenes not appropriate for younger readers. You’ve been warned. If there’s anyone with questions about the kindle direct publishing service, ask and I’ll answer to the best of my abilities. Thanks for reading.