Bundle Up, It's Harsh Out There

[Editor’s Note: after the jump, this post contains strong language].

It’s f***ing freezing here. I was walking up First Avenue wondering how the hell people could be outdoors with no hat or scarf on. There were plenty of people looking perfectly stunning without the bundling that I am so comforted in. And then I arrived at my building and there are a half dozen fools huddled like zombies with no f***ing jackets on, smoking, no jackets. Ew.

So it got me thinking about going out unprepared for–well, anything. How could anyone step outdoors without preparing for the weather or traffic, making dinner reservations, bringing your Duane Reade coupon card, and the list goes on. (Sorry to non-New Yorkers, but these are essentials here.) And then I realized that MOST people launch into things unprepared, not just going outdoors or to a restaurant without reservations, but bigger things, like writing a book or launching a website.

I trained as a boxer, and I am also neurotic. So I have a leg up on the preparing-for-the-worst thing. But others–those of you who are, sadly, optimists–you might not have prepared to get punched in the mouth. While those punches may not always come, you still need to be prepared. And without preparing, you can’t possibly have enough wherewithal to take the offense with your work.

So that’s what my message is here today. I’ve seen so many aspiring authors launch into writing without the business plan to support their objectives. Or, worse, no objectives. They launch a blog with "ramblings," "random thoughts," "musings," and other shit. Here’s your first punch in the mouth: NOBODY WANTS TO HEAR YOUR FUCKING RAMBLINGS, asshole. Don’t speak up unless you have something to say of value–our googles are clogged up with half-assed blogs and websites regurgitating blather and spewage of verbal sewage. If you’re a writer, you most likely have more meaningful messages or short fiction–write it and you’ll earn readers.

This complicates things for the ever-increasing catalog of content swimming around our internets. It’s an inordinate challenge to find what we’re looking for now because of a general lack of organization; and because the current technology platforms for showcasing talent really only allow for the loudest voices to be heard, not necessarily the most appropriate, deserving, or talented ones.

Boo hoo, you say, the hard-working artist is ever the underdog. Well, buck up cowboy.

  • Readers need to speak up and help define how content must be organized. Readers need to get smart really fast and figure out how to grade the shit writing out there and let the good stuff emerge more visibly. No more mainstream book reviews, because they eliminate the independently released features altogether, so you have to find another way to trust recommendations. That’s what social media is for, right?
  • And writers aren’t off the hook. Look, agents and publishers aren’t superheroes. You can figure out what’s shit and shouldn’t be marketed. It’s like all of a sudden once someone becomes a writer they lose all sense of how their work compares to everything else out there. Come on, don’t tell me you can’t step back and get a perspective on your work and be a little more critical?
  • And as for the technology? We have to do better. "They" will only know what we need and want if we tell "them." Customer support and letter writing can have a profound effect on new products. SOMETHING has to be done about the haphazard bullshitty way platforms like Authonomy are headed. Goodreads has a better handle on it, but there still it’s clunky. We’re grownups, we don’t fucking need "friending," "following," and "fans," for chrissake. There’s got to be a better way.

(And yes, I’ll put some serious thought to it and make some proposals, myself, so I’m not just sitting here throwing bags of shit from behind a tree.) 

Writers all need to put their business plan in writing, realizing that writing a book that they want people to read is equivalent to launching a business. How many books do you want to sell? Print? Independent publisher or publish it yourself? Format it yourself for both electronic and print? That’s really hard but good luck. Where will you print it? What’s your wholesale discount? Who will sell it? Non-bookstore venues–and if so, which ones: schools, business premiums, cafes, others?

Learning as you go isn’t that hard. I’m doing it now. But knowing that preparation for the next step is what will keep you above water is vital to the survival of your own esteem; since knowing that few friends and family will purchase your book, you are most likely relying on total strangers to give you a pat on the back and $10 for your book.

This is a cross-posting from Jenn Topper‘s Don’t Publish Me! blog.