August and Everything After

I have an appointment with a doctor this afternoon. I have been 'doctor-less' for nearly eight years now but figured I had best get my ass checked over. Well, not actually my ass - that's a figure of speech. You know what I mean. 

Medical stuff aside, I thought I would leave behind some gifts while I was there - see previous post if you have no idea what's going on here.

This for one, which I picked up at Denver airport a few years back:

And this, which I picked up at Philadelphia airport a year later:

Never release a book with a white cover. They collect debris for no reason like there's no tomorrow And then there's this - which I didn't pick up at any airport - that I still haven't made my mind up over whether it was good or not:

I can think of no better place to leave behind a few books of short stories than somewhere where traffic is transient. In fact, they can have this too... which I've owned since around 1993: 

What's interesting about this last book - particularly if you're a writer - is a) this publishing company no longer exists. I think it was a spin-off from Serpents Tail (or at least a joint venture), b) I would wager that everybody who reads this post has never heard of Benjamin Weissman and c) the book is excellent. Consider all the boxes for success ticked and yet...

As writers, we all hanker for such things - write a book, get it published and have as many people as possible read it but I would go so far to bet a LOT of money that none of you reading this has ever read any of these books even though the first three are by people who have done other, sometimes very big, things in the world and are pretty well known out there. I'd also throw a heap of cash into the arena with a rough guess that none of you knew Molly Ringwald had even written a book.

If your next question is "who is Molly Ringwald", it's OK. It just means you are substantially younger than me and that's OK too but you really should watch The Breakfast Club as soon as possible.

So what hope does Writer X have of fulfilling their dreams? This exercise of giving books away has given me the ability to see behind the curtain and there really is an old man sitting on a stool rattling levers backwards and forwards. Writing is a crap-shoot. You might get lucky and you might not. 

So, the answer I have arrived at today is this: you can get yourself an agent and subsequently a publishing deal... and your book will be released and that will be a Big Deal - and so it should be.

But what then?

Tomorrow, somebody else will publish their book and the next day, somebody else will too. In fact, somebody will release their book on the same day as you from a different publishing house and this will be 'competition'. Over the course of the week, dozens (hundreds?) of books will be released and people will have to choose you over the other people.

(How I would hate to have a book out and have it sit on a pile of things 'to be read' - because that happens too. Can you imagine buying an album and putting it on a stack of things you might listen to later? It just doesn't happen. People who by books - and I am one of them - are a strange collective that's for sure.)

Next week, the world really will have moved on - you won't even be a popular social media post - repeatedly telling your social channels you have a book out will piss people off, you will start to look desperate and that's not a good look on anybody.

I honestly believe, here in 2017 and for the foreseeable future, that you must make yourself into your own brand. You have no other option if you want people to buy your book and listen to what you have to say. If you're a band with an album, you hit the road in support of your release - that's the mindset you need to be in to make it as a writer because writing is not enough anymore unless you're happy firing one gun and then staying at home to proudly clean it for the next 30 years.

TV is the new cinema and screenplays will continue to go that way as actors strap themselves to long-term projects... and wisely so. An hour and half on the big screen versus six months week after week on the TV. That's a no-brainer for your 'brand'.

Apparently, nobody buys albums anymore. It's all about the single... or at least individual tracks. Does anybody ever get to the last couple of tracks on an album? People have power now. Your good stuff will find itself on a personal playlist and your not-so-good stuff will be banished to the back-end of the internet. 

So if you're an author and you think a book every few years is good enough for commercial success, you're wrong. I believe you need to be episodic in your writing now. Don't ask me how you can make it work because I don't know but feeding new material to the world daily, weekly or monthly, is what your average person either wants, needs or expects... or at least it is of you're new to the game.. and particularly if you don't write super-commercial airport books.

I am no marketer. I struggle with this shit more than most but I have spent the majority of this year pitching at agents and publishers to find myself sitting here empty handed regardless.

Am I bad writer? Maybe.

Am I a good writer? Maybe.

Those things are not for me to decide. That's the job of the reader and nobody else. It's also important to differentiate between being a good writer and being a writer whose work sells millions of copies. Sometimes you have to decide which one you want to be, but again, these things are not mutually exclusive.

I know dozens of good writers who can't get a break and I have (started to) read hundreds of books by people who should never have gotten through the gate.

All I have is this:

The worst thing you can do is to write because you want to be a success. 

The best thing you can do is write because if you don't, you'll feel like the most important part of you will die.

That's all I've got. Still working on the rest... and by the end of August, by the time I am done with this book purge, I will have come to a decision about how I'm going to approach my future as a writer.


A very short Big Bear Rescue update but an update all the same. Stage Two of the project is underway. With the wind behind me, I'm going to have multiple shirts available in the store at any one time with overlapping end dates so there is always something available at any one time.

The biggest news is that I have some quite brilliant new artists in the wings getting ready to roll - but right now it's a secret simply because if I tell you now, I won't have much to say in the next update. 

End of update... but you'll find better and faster updates on twitter, instagram and as much as it pains me, facebook across the remainder of the year.

Sion Smith