The big news this last week in the writing world is the wild success of Brandon Sanderson’s kickstarter. It’s been amazing to watch, frankly, and despite not having read much of his (Tolkein is sufficient to all of my high fantasy needs, forever, it seems) work, I’ve been over here cheering it on when I could look up from Real Life(tm) and catch a glimpse. It’s at, I think as of time I write this, 22 million dollars. I say again… I’ve seen entire islands for sale for less than that amount of money. Go, Brandon! *wild cheers and applause*
There are, inevitably, the naysayers and detractors who find themselves with a handful of sour grapes and a desire to pull this author back into their crab bucket where they can eat him at their leisure. The usual suspects are heard from with slights and perjorative language… and that makes me sad. They are missing the point. If you follow that link to the snip of an article, and then read the Passive Guy’s comments, you’ll better understand the sort I’m talking about.
And, by missing the point, I mean this: Brandon Sanderson’s success buoys up all authors. His kickstarter is creating buzz about books in a very big way. Sure, this will likely lead to more movies and TV and possibly video games as well (my son and I had a lively conversation last night about all the good movies stemming from written material. I’m not sure that’s entirely true, but it may not be wrong either), but the consumers of written material should be ecstatic over this story. It means books are not dying. They live, and man! Are they popular still! I was pondering this not long ago, as I’m a writer. I love books, and I read almost every day (not fiction every day any more, though, but that’s a different post). My retired husband is a voracious reader, and goes through a book or more a day. My kids? Different story. They read, but it’s more likely to be fanfiction. And many people are switching over to audiobooks (which is also another post for another day).
My friend and fellow author Martin Shoemaker (and you should definitely check out some of his books, he writes some amazing stuff, like Hard SF with heart) was talking about being a microSanderson and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tease him. “Hey!” hands on hips. Looks up at Martin. “I am not micro!”
What Martin meant, and he’s perfectly correct, is that most of us authors don’t have – may never have – the reach that the other Sanderson has. What we can do is take away from this some lessons. One – reach for the stars. To reach the stars, or heck, even low earth orbit, you have to do a helluva lot of work. You have to understand the dynamics of what you are doing – not just writing great stories, but marketing, and engineering campaigns, and so much more. It’s work. We have to put in the work if we want to see our book launches not explode on the pad. Two – find out what our audience wants, and give it to them. The other Sanderson knew what people wanted: not the promise of books, but actual in-the-can just-need-to-publish books, with some sweet backer cookies to go along with the words they wanted to read. I suspect the follow-on afterswell of ‘wow, that’s popular I think I’ll jump on the train’ may have surprised even him. But it shouldn’t have. It’s human nature to either want to join the party… or try to piss on it from the edges and kick dirt. Frankly, I’d rather have some fun than chow down on the bitter fruit covered in ashes of despair. Which brings me to something else… Three – have fun with it. The other Sanderson was doing something he was gleefully enjoying, and that’s infectious, folks. Be relentlessly cheerful, and people will start cheering along with you.
So! Here’s my challenge to you, good friends, fellow authors, and readers who support us. Let’s help out one another, rather than trying to pull down one who is succeeding. I’m not going to ask you to buy a book, today. Nope. I’m going to suggest that you think about what you’re doing, and how you could do it better. Just a little better, doesn’t have to be a big thing. Me? I’m going to celebrate having turned in a story last night just under deadline. Then I’m going to start writing the next one. And I’m going to contemplate how to grow my audience, even if it’s by one person. One person a day? Funny how these things get exponential after a while.
So share your ideas in the comments, and let’s get better together. We can all be microSandersons. At least until I put on my high heels! Ok, Martin’s like a foot taller than I am. Hey, Martin, we have to get our photo taken together the next con we’re both attending!