("Murdermouth" cover, pencils by Derlis Santacruz) Given the barriers and costs inherent in print publication, I'm going to be planning most of my comic book releases for digital platforms. The Apple iPad has a gorgeous comics application on it, and plenty of other tablets are in development that are going to change the methods of content delivery. There will still be barriers, especially as major computer producers will primarily be interested in Marvel and DC comics at first, but I sense a new Golden Age of comics coming (though I guess we'll have to change the term from "Golden Age" because of collectors. I guess the "Digital Age" is more apt.)
At any rate, I've told all my artists this will be the new goal. I am not quite sure how it's going to affect traditional layout and the all-important dance of panels and storytelling, but I welcome the opportunity to learn.
(ART BY KEWBER) I'll be using this blog for my comics in development, including the DIRT series, coming to Ghostwriter Publications on Feb. 22 in the UK. Check back often for comic art, panels, previews, character sketches, and sample pages, as well as news where you can find DIRT and other Haunted Computer Production titles.
I'm relocating back to hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com. Long story short, I finally figured out how to undirect from my Web site. I'll keep this up a while but I've exported it to the new blog. Hope you follow me over there! I'm trying to keep everything consolidated under the Haunted Computer label.
I am well aware of the number of Patterson books out there, now infiltrating nearly every genre. At first, it was a curiosity, and now, it's something of a horror. I actually like his early Cross books and find them skillful (except once when he had his black detective Cross "hassled by the white cop" in Chapel Hill, which is one of the most diverse and international cities on the planet). Later books, eh. Competent but rather flimsy, and coinciding with the time he was giving most of the work to co-authors.
As a writer, I say "Good for him. He made a name for himself through force of will, and he gets people to buy books and read." As a writer, I say, "This is how publishing is putting another round in its chamber for the next Russian roulette spin." As a writer, I think, "If Patterson takes up all the tables at the front of the bookstore, nobody will need the other few thousand fiction authors behind him."
I understand completely that it makes more sense to sell five million books by one author instead of 10,000 books by 500 authors, or 100,000 books by 50 authors. Despite the deep discounting of bestseller hardcovers, it probably has a much more solid profit margin, with little risk. Sort of like Hollywood shooting for the high-profile remake instead of the stunningly original roll of the dice. I am sure the publisher is doing what's best to keep the doors open and pay employees, and perhaps give the stockholders a smile. And all that has nothing to do with art.
But that's okay. Art never has deserved to exist. And that's not to say Patterson isn't creating art. That's all subjective. What is objective is dollar signs. People make choices. Maybe they have limited choices, but nobody's holding a gun to their heads at the checkout line.
If I had my books packed on every paperback rack, would I slow down so that other people have a chance? I doubt it. If Patterson hired me as a co-author, would I do it? Hmm. Guess it would depend on how much. So I'm just like every other lazy hack out there clinging to art until it gets in the way of a decent meal.
And I fully expect the Patterson machine to keep chugging long after his death, just as the estates of VC Andrews and Robert Ludlum have done. In fact, if there's a future of "traditional" publishing, I'd say that's the future. And it is going to carry over to ebooks, because marketing is far more important than brilliance. In the long run, it probably all comes out the same. Colleges won't be teaching Sidney Sheldon or Jacqueline Susann, and few people talk about them now. New Pattersons will come along, or Patterson-like corporations that just happen to manufacture words instead of beans or widgets.
Maybe it's not the end of anything. Or even the beginning. I don't know how many times I've seen the words "the death knell for books" in the 13 years I've been a writer, yet people still read and write, somehow. Got to go now. Patterson is giving me a run for my money as the world's laziest hack, and I'm tired of typing...
Being the kind who is usually 10 years behind the cultural trends, I'm just now getting around to "The Da Vinci Code," listening to an audiotape from the library. I can see why this is so popular. It's accessible, fast-paced, reasonably well-written, and provides a lot of information. I've known some writers who sneered at the book, considering it hack work. Of course, that comes from the position of assuming that 10 million people have to be "wrong" in a subjective matter. I have to admit, I picked up one bestseller and when I got to the line "I did a shrug," I thought, "Well, maybe I'm not in this book's audience."
But in thinking about my own work, I can't afford to take any kind of elitist position. I thought after 10 years I'd know how to write. The truth is, after 12 years, I am finally ready to LEARN to write. A big distinction. A little unsettling, a little intimidating, but also strangely freeing and transformative. In the last post, I was musing on my past. I can't disown it. Yet I also don't have to be "just my books."
By looking at the kind of books people like, instead of what I think they should read, I am more like the student I say every writer should be. I used to shudder when I heard about writers who calculated their plots and characters on whatever was popular at the time, deliberately copying big beats like First Kill, First Punch, First Kiss. But there's wisdom in it because it is the rhythm of our popular storytelling, and it didn't emerge in a vacuum. The reader completes the journey that the writer embarks upon alone. Everything is not Shakespeare. Sometimes you need some Patterson or Brown or Evanovich or Meyer.
As I finish up the latest novel (the one closest to the end), I look around at the various crossroads, and on most of the detours, it doesn't really make sense to remain "Scott Nicholson." Indeed, I've already submitted one novel under a pen name, and another book I'm working on is in a distinctly different genre. I am very grateful to have published some books and I have some loyal readers. There's nothing as humbling, nor as clear a reminder of why we do this, as when you get a note from someone that says "You're my new favorite author."
Scott Nicholson is a decent commodity and has published some solid work. He is not a bestseller, just a humble hack pouring his heart and lungs out on a keyboard. The word "horror" is on the spines of his six novels but he doesn't feel horrible at all. The books just happened to have some ghosts and creatures in them. They are about faith and love, things Nicholson believes in. He doesn't believe in ghosts and creatures. They contain some darkness. Nicholson has seen darkness. They have some redemption. Well...it is FICTION, after all.
After a flurry of study, research, and inquisition, I've been able to take a more remote look at what I write, how it is presented, and, on the marketing end, how it is categorized out there in the wider world. One thing the online booksellers really excel at is compiling search histories and customer track records and seeing which books you're clumped with. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'd never read the types of books I write, but I'm nowhere near my literary heroes. A lot of that comes to me, and how hard I work at it, and how much I want it. Boy, I love this job. Even though it's a part-time occupation, it's a full-time obsession. It is incredibly satisfying to be published. In the rank of things I wanted to do on this planet, that's probably in third, right after wife and kids (which are really tied for first, I suppose.)
But maybe Scott Nicholson needs to die. It won't be pretty, because I've known him long enough to know he won't go down without a fight. I may have to club him from behind with a shovel, or poison his coffee, or short-circuit his computer. He's got an incredible ego. He thinks what he has to say is important and that the world needs to hear it. Such people are dangerous and tend to persevere.
But if he were gone, I could convince myself to start fresh and never write a scary book. I could write about easy love and blind faith and sincere trust and happy endings. I'd have snappy, likable characters with indentifiable quirks. I'd create a series character. Two series characters, who quibbled over easy love.
But I suspect Scott Nicholson would slide out of his grave at night, dirt spilling from his rotted jacket as he sought his revenge. I'd go down a lot easier than he would.
With self-publishing so easy that now even a lazy hack like me can do it, a lot of the old arguments for seeking the traditional route have moved to the wayside. Why should authors send off their efforts, or at least send queries about the possibility of sending off their efforts, when they can hit "Presto Change-O Publish-O" on their keyboards and immediately join the ranks of Stephen King and Dan Brown and Mary Higgins Clark?
You can self-publish, get the same playing field at Amazon and B&N as most publishers get (one Web page per book), and then do your own promotion, which most authors end up doing anyway. You get more of the money in most cases. Plus, if you're truly timid, you don't have to face rejection. At least until somebody accidentally buys your poorly edited jumble of alphabet and demands a refund. Alternately, if you're assuming you're too (fill in the blank--"extreme, controversial, daring, literate, good-looking, intelligent, Billy Bob Thorntonish") for the mainstream publishing industry, then go ahead and lulu createspace kindle your way to fame and fortune and giving your momma something to brag about during bridge.
The reality is, getting accepted by a major agent or editor is darned hard, takes lots of work, and requires much luck. You have to be not only good but better than the thousands of other merely "good" writers. You have to not only land on the right desk, you have to do it at the right time with the right project. And even if you beat the odds and get accepted, then the real battle begins. Because thousands of writers are pushing from behind, and thousands of great writers ahead of you are pushing you off the shelves. Given all that, it makes perfect sense to slap up an e-book, or cram fodder through a print-on-demand press.
But you know what? The hard way's still worth it. It's a dream that's almost impossible to reach. In other words, the kind of dream worth having. But what do I know? I only have about 700 rejection slips and eight books out there killing trees. It's worth it.
Author of seven novels, including THEY HUNGER and THE RED CHURCH. Comics in development include DIRT, Dreamboat, The Gorge, Murdermouth, Grave Conditions and The Red Church, as well as the kid's comic Little Shivers. More at www.hauntedcomputer.com.