Saturday, January 24, 2009

running the gauntlet as a form of self-promotion

I'm sick. Not very--just got a thickness in my throat and a general feeling of malaise. The SP has it too, but he mega-dosed himself with vitamin C at the first symptoms and he seems to be fending it off. My gut doesn't tolerate raw C very well, so until we get some buffered stuff I have to make do with tea, oranges and sleep.

But I'm up now, it's Saturday and I skipped class to sleep in; now I'm a bit bored. I was perusing the blogs on my sidebar, some of which I haven't visited for a week, and Danger Gal had up a bit about (--sorry guys, but lousy title), a sort of public-filter Pop Idol-esque reality blog for aspiring authors, sponsored by HarperCollins. It's similar to what Baen's Universe was doing with their message-board submissions: authors post their stuff, other members get to read, comment, and recommend; if a work garners enough attention, the first readers ferret it out and pass it under the nose of a real editor.

I still have mingled scorn and admiration for this kind of system. The scorn comes from the idea that anyone should let the public-at-large be arbiters of taste in anything. And a bit of self-hatred for wanting to post there and be voted Most Popular.

On the other hand, scratch a reader and find a writer, right? And this is truly trial by one's peers--you have to be registered to comment and promote. Furthermore these are people nominating what they like and enjoy, and I'm a firm believer in the highest common denominator; the cream will rise to the top. And, uh, "End of the Line" got selected and bought via this method. So it must work, right?

Anyway, it's free, and the fact is I've got The Curse of Jacob Tracy half finished, if I can just work out the second half of "Printer's Devil." The first four stories, Sikeston, EOTL, Parlor Games, and Horseflesh together total 71,000 words, and Printer's Devil is looking to be another twenty thousand; 90k is enough for a skinny novel, if I and my hypothetical editor decide to break it in two volumes. I figure I'm about halfway through the plot, so figure 140k, maybe 160? That's a little fat, but these days the publishers like them that way.

And like I said, I'm bored. So I slapped "Sikeston" and "Parlor Games" up there for public consumption. I may put up Horseflesh, too, since it provides a sort of resolution to the first half and a lead into the second half.

The difficult thing about Trace is what genre to put him in. "Supernatural Western--?" Whoever heard of such a thing? I selected four categories: fantasy, science fiction, horror, and historical novel. That about covers it, hm? I'd have selected "Steampunk" if that had been an option.

I was intrigued to notice how many of the featured novels were cross-genre works. Editors have a hard time with cross-genre works because they're difficult to market--at least I say that based on a couple of rejections I've had. So even if Trace wins popular acclaim, it doesn't mean anyone will buy it.

Hmm. Now that I look back at my title I'm struck by the aptness of my sarcasm to describe contemporary celebrity, or at least wannabe celebrity--people getting infamous from reality TV and so-on, usually by offering themselves up to ridicule and slander. Again I say, is it really a good idea to let the public arbitrate taste?

Call it the Mencken principle: Nobody ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public. So maybe HarperCollins is onto a smart thing, here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sick again, eh? I have a stock remark covering such situations, but I've already posted it twice on this blog. I shall not emulate the Heathen and indulge in vain repetition. I do wish you a speedy recovery.

I have wondered what you were doing with your stories. My curiosity on that point is satisfied within acceptable parameters.