7 minute read
In July I read two articles that really challenged my perceptions of the creative writing business. It was like going from a mind-set that had two or three dimensions in black and white; suddenly realizing there are multiple colors and multiple dimensions and multiple ways to approach my writing career that I hadn’t even begun to explore.
As many of you know, I am a technology person from way back. I started programming in the 1970’s using punch cards. I’ve always been comfortable with technology and felt like I could keep up — for the most part.
However, I’m also a people person. In addition to my computer science background, I have a Master’s degree in counseling and spent a good chunk of my career (about 8 years) doing counseling with families with special needs children. This dual need to move forward with technology and yet reserve the intimacy and beauty of good human relations has sometimes warred within me. It is why my career went back and forth several times between technology-oriented positions and people-oriented work — as if the two were exclusive of each other. Eventually I found a career that combined both in educational technology, providing individualized learning experiences through technology and good teachers to deliver education for a diversity of abilities.
Marrying Technology and Human Interest in Writing is Critical in Today’s Publishing Environment
I’ve always seen my creative life as a marriage of technology and a very personalized human experience. The process of writing a book — whether fiction or nonfiction — is the personalized part. I write character-driven stories that reflect on the every day life and challenges we all face — whether that’s in contemporary times like today, or in a fantasy world with magic, or in a world thousands of years in the future.
Humans still have the same wants, desires, needs as they have forever — connection, love, work or learning that challenges and reinforces the purpose of existence. I enjoy writing those stories and celebrating the glory of humanity to persevere and overcome obstacles, to grow and change and become better in the end. It appears those who read my stories appreciate them as well.
However, I am equally enamored with the technology side of my creative business. Creating my website, connecting with people on social media, formatting books to make them beautiful, and working with other creative technicians (like my cover designer) to present a beautiful package or with an audiobook narrator who infuses the spoken emotion and nuance into my stories that I heard in my head but could not necessarily manage to do myself with such finesse. I consider myself a pretty good reader, but not a seasoned actor like the narrators I’ve engaged so far.
Again, in my mind, the technology side and the human side are two different sides of the brain and exclusive of each other. Even when I’m doing the work, I am in two very different spaces in my approach and attention. But I don’t think I can continue to keep them separated any longer. I now believe the more I am able to meld the creative and personal with technology, the more I’ll be able to deliver my messages and give voice to my creative endeavors.
In July, two articles pointed out how fast things are changing and how I haven’t been paying attention. One, by Joanna Penn — a well known author and creative entrepreneur — summarized all the changes happening with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it is already disrupting the creative process and publishing. See the full article here: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2019/07/01/ai-disruption-publishing-authors/
Some of the things she discussed I already knew and have tried to embrace — metadata, the concept of content being broken into its parts and reused or repurposed. The rise of audio in podcasts and audiobooks, and upcoming automated translation capabilities. I’ve seen all of these and used them myself to a small extent.
The one I didn’t see was the next step in publishing AI — the learning, compilation, and remaking of content— perhaps without my input. That’s both intriguing and really frightening. That will need to be a separate article down the road when I have time to do more research.
What I’m Thinking for My Investment in 2020
How Might Short Audio Connect with People on a More Personalized Level?
I also didn’t think about the extension of audio to connecting with people on a regular basis and getting more audio available for people to access and use and search. You’d think a technology person and someone who writes about the future would see this. But, no. I am blinded and stuck in a process of the book as everything.
So, one of the things I’ve decided to begin doing in 2020 is to start posting short audio (less than 30 minutes). I have some ideas as to what they might include: 1) Reading from my books; 2) Talking about things I’ve learned that are interesting, or things I am thinking about in concern or anticipation; 3) Talking to other authors about what they are doing, what is exciting them in their work; and 4) Talking about the impact of all this in our lives on several levels — not just as an author.
I’m wondering about the efficacy of even reading my Medium articles as another way for people to access this content. I’ve only listened to podcasts or short audio as a way to learn something specific. If you are an audio listener, I’d love to hear what types of short audio is worth your time. Perhaps all my ideas are duds and don’t deserve my investment of time and energy.
Extended Licensing of Existing Intellectual Property (IP)
The second article that opened my mind was one Kris Rusch did on licensing in late June/early July. Kris is a very prolific writer and was one of the first mentors I had as a writer back in the 1980’s when I was producing short stories for SF magazines. In addition to having more than 100 books published, she also writes regularly on the business side of writing for authors. Last year she attended the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas. This year she went prepared to learn everything she could about licensing and she is sharing it on her blog. Start here: https://kriswrites.com/2019/06/26/business-musings-rethinking-the-writing-business-part-one/
I admit, I am one of the many writers who thought that licensing at this level is only for the bestsellers — people who already have at least one movie deal or a large platform with hundreds of thousands of followers. I believed that licensing, for me, was only about my books, my short stories, and perhaps translation rights and audio rights. I really didn’t think beyond that.
It turns out, I was wrong and licensing is a huge part of the creative business even for the small to medium indie author if they are willing to do the work and understand the huge need for content. If you are an author, or any kind of creative entrepreneur it would be worth your while to read this article and the next one and follow Kris’s blog for quite some time.
To really get into licensing means a LOT of work on my part to catalog my IP, understand the possibilities beyond what I already know, and then make decisions about what I’m willing to do, to research, to learn to take advantage of a multitude of licensing possibilities. It’s also not an easy or quick decision process to be able to say I’ll stop doing this (e.g., writing four books a year or getting out audiobooks or doing in-person events) and start doing broader licensing all at once. It takes preparation and thinking, and decision-making about my career and what I want it to be.
I have zero answers right now except to pay attention and learn and consider everything. It’s mind-blowing stuff and at this moment my mind is scattered in a million pieces trying to find a new paradigm that will allow me to take it in and analyze it. I suspect it is at least a one-to-two-year project to just get a handle on the opportunities.
There are days when I say to myself: “I’m too old for this. I don’t want to change. I don’t want to remake everything I’m doing.” But then, there is a part of me that loves the challenge, that loves learning new things, that loves the possibilities. Who knows what “old” is these days. Certainly 65 is not old anymore. I may live another 30 years. That’s plenty of time to learn, change, and take advantage of opportunities.
I take it back. I may need to live to 120 to feel I have a handle on this It’s huge. Hmmm…cryogenics is looking pretty good right now. 🙂