Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Author Reincarnation

I think I'd like to try this.

The Current Big Thing at Goodreads hasn't been spawned by blog hops or favorites lists or any given publisher. A lot of readers seem to be jumping on a new bandwagon: free online fiction or inexpensive self-published fiction that breaks from genre norms. It might be waaaaaay longer than the usual m/m stories. Or waaaaaay shorter. Often it's written by people with quirky handles like stained_skirt and BrainMassacre. Sometimes it's spawned by fandoms.

So . . . what's driving people to read, rate, and review this stuff (and rave about it, even if it isn't particularly good)? Is it disaffection or boredom with standard genre offerings? Cheapness? Curiosity? A desire to support "deviant" writers (you know, like deviant artists)? Is it a fad, or an indication of where publishing is headed? (Don't sell it; give it away!) In any case, this trend has an air of rebellion about it -- like, "I'm thumbing my nose at the establishment, because they're all wankers. Except, of course, my favorite authors, who can do no wrong."

I'm creeping toward the point where I'd like, or maybe need, to reinvent myself. It would be interesting, very interesting, to find out how an oddball work would be received if it didn't have my usual pseudonym on it, and maybe didn't even have cover art.

I wonder if other authors ever feel this way.


Tam said...

I haven't really hopped on the fan fiction bandwagon. Well, okay, haven't really hopped means haven't. LOL I've not read anything. I have enough to read without it. I suppose people go through cycles of what they read. I don't have any desire to try it, but if you haven some ideas that are different, you could give it a whirl. You'd certainly not be alone.

K. Z. Snow said...

I've never written a word of fanfic (in fact, I still don't understand why people write it), so I have no interest in going that route. But I am intrigued by the idea of anonymity -- you know, just dropping off the m/m radar and coming back in a whole new incarnation, sans publisher.

I figure I wouldn't have anything to lose, because my royalties are crap anyway.

Val Kovalin said...

I'm guessing that stained_skirt and Brain Massacre found a foothold inside this experimental niche within our gay romance niche by being very socially active.

In other words, they worked hard to compensate for their unknown name and their lack of a recognized publisher, and they gathered their own built-in audience.

You need to start with that built-in audience no matter what if your fiction is going to be read in the first place. Then it has a chance to be recognized for its good qualities.

You already have a built-in audience attached to your current pen name and to Dreamspinner publisher. If you wanted to go this other route and try something experimental under another pseudonym, you'd have to build up a whole new audience through lots of online community interaction.

Is it worth spending the energy to do this when you could be pouring it into writing and publishing through your established channels? I mean, you've already done the hard work there (specifically building up the association of total writing excellence with your current pen name).

On the other hand, this niche within a niche might be small enough that you wouldn't have to work that hard to get to know everyone in it, support their work, and invite them to support your work.

Another thing you could try is to brand your proposed experimental work with a name that connects back to your established pen name: Title (Book #1 in the Bizarro series) by skirt-massacre, aka KZ Snow, which makes it clear that it's still you but you're experimenting outside your established style.

Then you could self-publish and offer for free. It's very easy to self-publish if you do it in PDF form. You just finalize your manuscript in Word and save to PDF form. Then you upload it to Goodreads and promote it with a blog post and readers can start downloading.

Chris said...

O hai! I should weigh in from the perspective of someone reading both fanfics (hockey rpfs [real person fics]) and freebie original fics (mostly from the Fictionpress site), huh? :)

To a certain extent, I'm becoming disillusioned by several things going on in m/m romance:

1. Poorly edited or perhaps unedited ebooks being sold by publishers, at the same time publishers are increasing ebook prices
2. Lack of character authenticity in an increasing amount of the m/m I read

If I discover a book I paid $6.99 (or more for) is basically unreadable due to one (or both) of the above, I'm going to be annoyed. If I discover a freebie is unreadable, I'll just shrug, delete it, and move on. I have lower expectations for works that don't go through a formal publishing process... and yet, frequently, I'm discovering that those works are of similar or even better quality than published works.

There's definitely a word of mouth component to these free original fics and fanfics - before I understood the conventions of the rpf community, I was adding those to Goodreads and within a week, lots of my GRs friends were reading the same fics. Now a lot of my recommendations in that fandom are more behind the scenes, through the Freeloaders or email.

Although I'm not really reading outside of that fandom right now, when I see good reviews from my trusted friends for free fics, I'll grab them for later. With published works, I'm work likely to just keep a list of possibles and not acquire them immediately.

K. Z. Snow said...

Hmm. Socially active might account for the notice, Val. But socially active where? At Goodreads? Amazon? Within fandoms?

I doubt I'd be so committed to my new incarnation, and so determined to thrive, that I'd expend the time and energy to integrate myself into (and ingratiate myself with) a whole new network of writers. It isn't ambition that drives this notion of mine so much as curiosity. Would I be noticed if I went anonymous? How long would it take? What kinds of comments would my work receive? Would I develop a whole new outlook on the creative process?

This is all just fancy right now. :) But for some reason, I find a certain allure in dropping out of the mainstream, shedding my identity, and reemerging (without anyone's knowledge) as Writer X.

No expectations. No pressure to produce and, worse yet, excel. No more treading water in the low midlist and feeling the disillusionment that inevitably results. All those psychic burdens would be gone!

The appeal I find in this must come from the part of me that understands why some people fake their own deaths so they can start over. It must be very liberating.

K. Z. Snow said...

Chris, your attitudes exemplify what I mean! Lately, the pressure of being a traditionally-published author is hardly worth -- for me, at least -- the disappointing royalties.

Readers are increasingly disenchanted by stories they find too high-priced and shoddily written. They've become skittish, and very picky. So it's increasingly difficult in this glutted genre for royalty-paid authors to hang on to their audiences. Only the P&E (popular and established) writers with big old fanbases are thriving.

That's what I mean about having little to lose by going anonymous and offering free reads.

Writing for the sheer joy of it? Imagine that! ;-)

Chris said...

Writing for the sheer joy of it? Imagine that! ;-)

Indeed, imagine that!! ;)

But yes, that's definitely what's missing from the writing of authors who are cranking out a new book every other week. :( The fanfic writers (at least in the hockey rpf community) are obviously enjoying themselves and have a blast playing with tropes. Accidental marriage! Secret baby! De-aging main characters! Etc. :)

Val and I have talked a little bit about fanfic writing - it's easier, in a way, because the readers have a shared body of knowledge about the characters and setting, so strips out a lot of exposition required for "regular" fiction/authors. I think that leads to a tendency to info dump when when fanfic authors try to revamp their work for a more mainstream audience.

K. Z. Snow said...

" . . . that's definitely what's missing from the writing of authors who are cranking out a new book every other week."

That's another aspect of the pressure on those of us who are less prolific. I truly can't fathom such a hectic pace of production.

I see what you mean about fanfic, but I've never been able to grasp the appeal of it. I can't imagine feeling tethered to someone else's characters and settings. Or, as a reader, seeing the same ones rehashed hundreds of times.

Chris said...

Oh, even better - you probably wouldn't believe (or comprehend why I would) how many times I've reread some of my favorite hockey fics...

K. Z. Snow said...

Especially since I'm not a fan of hockey. :-D

Chris said...

I wasn't either... until I started reading hockey fics. :D

K. Z. Snow said...

Now that is weird. :)

marilenalena said...

I don't think this 'movement' is as big as you think it is. I run the Freeloaders group on goodreads: we have less than 200 members as opposed to the 9000+ in the m/m romance group.

Whether you make the switch or not is up to you, but, since you seem to be looking way down your nose at the readers of free fiction, or at least their motivation for reading the free stuff, I wonder if you'd get any real enjoyment out of it. Pearls before swine?

We don't rave about bad books, we're not cheap, and we're not doing it to rebel against the establishment. We just enjoy some of the offerings out there and share them with our friends. I'm sorry if that frustrates people trying to sell books.

Before you take the plunge I would suggest reading some of the free stuff out there and see if you can't find a little appreciation for the effort these writers go through in terms of story construction, beta reading and editing. I'd hate for you to make the choice in such a negative way.

The Freeloaders group is a good place to start for both original fiction and fanfiction. If you prefer original fics try websites like fictionpress, nifty and gayauthors. Although many of the best are hosted on author owned websites, like 'Captive Prince;, 'In the Company of Shadows', 'The Last Pure Human' and 'Daron's Guitar Chronicles'. I hope you'll share the good ones you'll undoubtedly find.

K. Z. Snow said...

I'm afraid you misunderstood the tenor of my post, marilenalena. (Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens a lot on the Internet.)

I'm not in the least bit "frustrated" (!) by free fiction, and I don't look "way down" my nose at it -- not if it's good, that is. I've simply noticed a trend that intrigues me, and I've expressed my curiosity about and interest in it.

I'm not sure what your "pearls before swine" remark was about, but I actually have read quite a few free stories. (Not fanfic, granted, because I'm unfamiliar with fandoms.) Some of the pieces were excellent; some were pathetically bad. Such is the way of the world.

And yes, countless readers rave about crappy fiction, no matter where or by whom it was published. This happens all the time. Don't take umbrage. It only stands to reason that readers of free fic are as prone to lapses in taste as the rest of us mortals.

And yes, people can be cheap -- or, if you prefer, frugal. (Hell, I'm cheap. That's why I shop at resale stores.) No stigma there.

And yes, people can tire of convention and bristle at establishment norms. No stigma there, either.

Anyway, thanks (I think) for the suggestions. I'll look up some of your recs.

marilenalena said...

My Bad.

But reread the second paragraph of your blog post as if you're a person that likes reading free fiction. You do sound a bit judgmental there.

Rowan McBride said...

I do this! For exactly this reason:

"No expectations. No pressure to produce and, worse yet, excel."

I don't write fan fiction, but I do go undercover at various niche sites, and from what I understand the dynamic is very similar. I find that once the pressure to excel is lifted, excelling then comes naturally. How weird is that?

It's a lot of fun. I can try new and ridiculous things. I can stretch. Failing is good because I'm learning and I don't stress about the failing hurting my career. Excelling is good because, well, it's always nice to know I rock. XD

Also, I don't put a lot of effort into interacting--the story does that for me. I'm an introvert and interacting is hard enough in my public persona. heh.

I think I'm rambling now...

K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, Rowan! It's nice to hear from an author who understands the impulse and has had positive experiences "going commando" -- so to speak. :)