In this final part of the Karl Alexander interview, we talk about the web - good and bad. But just before going to press with this, I received an email from Karl alerting me to the fact that his latest novel, Time-Crossed Lovers, was selected as a finalist for the 2013 International Book Awards. Congrats, Karl! May it kick off another phase in your writing history.
So, do you think that with both sides of the double-edged sword that is the Web, has it helped or hindered in the best interests of an author?
I think writing in all different genres will hinder a young writer. I do know a couple of people who have just recently joined creative writing programs, MFA's and such. I see exactly the same behavior that I recall when I was starting out. I think that's a mistake. Granted, you have to learn somewhere. But they're worried about character. They're worried about: is their fiction any good? They're worried about structure and all those things that we kind of take for granted. I think they should realize and think about (A) marketing and (B) who their audience is going to be. Without those two things their writing is onanism. They're writing for themselves and that's it.
The best part of the writing process, in my opinion, is actually sitting down and writing. Somehow, if you consider it your profession, you have to make a living doing it or you have to try. So as far as the Web goes I don't know what's going to happen because I don't think the publishers know what's going to happen. I think things are changing so quickly that nobody can predict it. I know I would much rather read a book, a physical book, than I would pick up my Kindle and read it electronically.
Do you think that’s because you’re “Old School?”
Probably. That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that. Bookstores keep going out of business. Hopefully that will change. The one good thing that I think Amazon did when it came along was increase the number of people who are actually reading books. But then I talk to someone who told me they just bought a Kindle and had 5,000 titles on it. Isn't that great? I'm thinking "When are you going to read 5,000 titles... or one title?" The problem with electronic books and the problem with the internet is that it cheapens what a writer does. The fact is that the person who puts their own book up on the internet to get 70% of the $2.99 sales price, once his friends buy the book, is invisible.
It seems like some of the best-selling authors online are the people who have already established themselves as a best-selling print author.
That's exactly right. The other ones might as well go to Vegas play the Mega-Bucks jackpot. Which isn't a bad idea.
What about the lack of vetting or absence of a gatekeeper online to help strain out the crap that would never have made it into print? There was a reason that most of that stuff never made it into print.
I agree with you. I'm sure we'll have an answer soon but then again maybe... no. The self-publishing industry is just going to get more prolific because it is so easy to do.
One of my great pleasures as an individual book buyer is browsing. It's not browsing online.
That's true. We may be old school, but the process of browsing... I don't think a teenager is going to be able to browse through Amazon any better than you or I because they are invisible. Whereas you can go into a book store and walk down an aisle and look at titles and read jackets. Maybe the color of one jumps out at you and you pull it out and read the flap. That's what I do. Doesn't mean that there aren't going to be great books written. It doesn't mean that there aren't going to be bestsellers. But it means that for the vast majority of writers that they'd better have that trust fund or a day job or they are going to be scrambling.
Unfortunately, the gatekeepers disappeared first. Now where does that leave the major publishers? I don't know. I guess they think about that every day. Unless they can find a way to keep print books going, they're not going to be around much longer. People will say "Why should I buy a book for $15 when I can get it for 99 cents?" Or for nothing. 70% of 99 cents is not a whole lot.
Instead of being entitled to having your book printed, you should hear the word “No” occasionally, which this current generation isn't used to. As a writer, it will make your next book better if the one you have just written isn't good enough to publish. Because you're not going to make those first mistakes the second or third or fifth time around.
I was thinking of a student in a MFA program who writes a book and submits it to his class or workshop or his professor and they say "This is awful," or words to that effect. If he's really got the desire to be a writer then he's got to go back and either jettison the first manuscript and sit down and try and write another one that is worth reading. I think what we are talking about are people who don't want to go through that process and yet they have the same access to us (the reading public) that the good writers have.
As a writer that's a scary thought.
That's true and it is our reality. What do we do? Roll with the punches and keep writing, I guess. We need a generation of Medicis.
So how about one line of advice to somebody just dipping their toes in the writing pond?
Think long and hard. Have a day job that is interesting or a trust fund. Don't think too hard about a family, because if you're writing on the weekends the wife and the kids aren't going to be too happy about it. Other than that? Hey man, go for it.
Karl Alexander can be found on Facebook.
Del Howison is a journalist, writer and Bram Stoker Award-winning editor. He is also the co-founder and owner of Dark Delicacies, “The Home of Horror,” in Burbank, CA. He can be reached at Del@darkdel.com.