Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Instant success, just add water and stir...

It was, I thought, a good idea. A company wanting to provide some free children's story downloads to customers for long car trips. Authors would receive a free audio file professionally produced to use as they saw fit. They would retain all rights and get some free promotion through folk being able to listen to their stories (a huge bonus when promotion can be such a hard slog). But the company hadn't planned to 'pay' for the stories they chose to record. Fair enough, I thought, they are not selling them. I thought about the stories I had written that might fit the bill and sent them in. But I was somewhat surprised to hear some folk thought this was a terrible idea. As far as I can tell its not a scam. I always think of a scam as the situation where things are nothing like you think they are. Or where you have to pay them to accept your story. Neither of these things was true in this instance. If my stories made the cut I would be getting a return on them but not one instantly quantifiable in dollar terms.

I believe I should be paid for the creative work I produce, but it is hard to know what I am worth. Who decides? The market? The market is saturated with books; many very, very good ones. Plenty of great writers get ignored by the market and it has nothing to do with the quality of their work. Publishers? They want to reward writers but must do so at the behest of the market. They are, after all, commercial operations. Award judges? Sure! They select stories they believe are of a high quality and it can only help to be talked about in this way. But ultimately it is the everyday purchasing reader I have to impress. In my opinion I have to earn the reputation I want to be rewarded for. This doesn't happen overnight. I can't wash it in Pantene and have instant success. Sometimes it does happen overnight to people (I want the shampoo they're using) and good on them but it hasn't happened to me. I have to write the best stories I can and send them out into the world. And then I have to keep doing it. Because if someone does find one of my books among the many, many others and then discovers they like it, I want them to like my next book even more. They might remember my name. Next time they venture out to the bookshop or the library or onto Amazon they might ask if there are any other books by me. When a new one comes out they might get that too. Building a readership can be a slow painstaking process. I have to win people over with my writing cos most of the time that's all they see of me. I can't make them love me. And with children it can be extra challenging as our target readers are always growing up and moving on. "Hey, I just won you over, stay 8 a few years longer!" And then we have to do it all over again with a whole new group and who knows what they will like. If having a story on audio helps win people over to my writing then that sounds pretty good to me. And having that recording to help sell my other stories sounds even better. I like the idea of expanding the formats my stories are available in. That's part of the reason I signed up for The Half Life of Ryan Davis to be published by Pear Jam Books. It's already in 2 formats and a third is in the pipelines. Four formats is the goal for all Pear Jam Books.

So I am willing to give my story to that company to help build my name. So its building their name as well? Good for them. I know how important that is. And if I get no financial return on a short story today its not the end of the world. If one kid likes my story on a car trip who knows where it might lead.


Anonymous said...

Which are the 4 formats e-book, CD, paperback, e-audio, hardback?

Anyway keep up the good work - looks like you are winning- well almost.

Melinda Szymanik said...

Thanks Bookbrainz - the formats vary depending on the book. At the moment The Half Life of Ryan Davis is in digital and print formats and will be in audio soon. The fourth format will hopefully be tv or film. Some of the Pear Jam Books are likely to be a computer game :)

kim said...

I just found this post, how did the audio go? Is the company still accepting submissions? Thanks Melinda

Melinda Szymanik said...

Hi Kim

Production of the audio for 'The Half Life of Ryan Davis' is currently temporarily on hold. I think the in-car story downloads submissions are closed now (it was only a brief opportunity) and they were wanting very, very short stories (2-3 minutes in length?) so my submissions were all too long (by a long shot) unfortunately.