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#145896 - 01/29/13 02:55 PM Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer
Dan Simmons Administrator Offline
CEO of the Hegemony


Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 11115
Loc: Colorado
Dan S. comments:

Those of you who know my books and Writing Well essays and comments know that I agree with very little of Keene's view below on being a "full-time writer" -- either in expectations/ambitions or achievements (or even many of the seemingly universal negative side effects) -- but it's his life. I'll let him tell it as it is for him. To me, it's mostly a road not taken. (Quite deliberately so.)

http://www.briankeene.com/?p=13466

ds

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#145899 - 01/29/13 03:28 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
Ransom Offline
enthusiast


Registered: 03/20/10
Posts: 329
Loc: Lafayette, CO
I saw Mr. Keene's post earlier today via a link on Facebook and I found it, well, uninspiring. He seems to simultaneously be miserable in the full-time writer's life and boasting of the misery it brings--or rather, that it has brought to him.

I suppose he earns some points for candor, but my reaction to reading it was to think, So help me God, if it ever gets that bad for me, I'll go back to the corporate life to earn my stable living writing about women's shoes again, and write novels for myself, for free, maybe one book every 4 or 5 years. The amount of slogging he describes, the self-promotion and misery, to earn $30,000 a year writing 2 or 3 . . . uhm . . . not (in my humble opinion) superlative horror novels per year, plus various novellas, shorts, and what have you . . . just so one can call oneself a "full-time writer", would not be worth it to me.

There are smarter ways to go about it, in publishing, in managing one's financial affairs, relationships, and in one's commitment to the craft.

Ransom

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#145900 - 01/29/13 03:44 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Ransom]
Lasombra Offline
Terror


Registered: 11/21/07
Posts: 6903
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
 Originally Posted By: Ransom
I saw Mr. Keene's post earlier today via a link on Facebook and I found it, well, uninspiring. He seems to simultaneously be miserable in the full-time writer's life and boasting of the misery it brings--or rather, that it has brought to him.

I suppose he earns some points for candor, but my reaction to reading it was to think, So help me God, if it ever gets that bad for me, I'll go back to the corporate life to earn my stable living writing about women's shoes again, and write novels for myself, for free, maybe one book every 4 or 5 years. The amount of slogging he describes, the self-promotion and misery, to earn $30,000 a year writing 2 or 3 . . . uhm . . . not (in my humble opinion) superlative horror novels per year, plus various novellas, shorts, and what have you . . . just so one can call oneself a "full-time writer", would not be worth it to me.

There are smarter ways to go about it, in publishing, in managing one's financial affairs, relationships, and in one's commitment to the craft.

Ransom


The article, rant, whatever was fascinating to me in that Keene was essentially rationalizing his lack of success as a writer out loud, in front of an audience. I don't intend to knock on the guy, but his presentation of his own situation as typical of authors of genre fiction is just plain wrong. I recently read about a British author, well-known to science fiction fans but far, far from a household name, who signed a $1 million deal with a large publishing house to put out several novels over a five year period, with royalties and other compensation attached. Having read the work of both Keene and this other guy, well, there's a reason one is paid roughly $200k a year and the other is paid $30k. Again, I don't mean to speak ill of Keene, but it is what it is.

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#145901 - 01/29/13 04:24 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Lasombra]
Dan Simmons Administrator Offline
CEO of the Hegemony


Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 11115
Loc: Colorado
Dan S. asks:

Is it just me, or does anyone else here feel that Mr. Keene did quite a bit of boasting while sharing his miseries?

I may have to review my long-held policy of not discussing my work, awards, mentions by famous writers, etc. on my own web site and forums. Obviously the new rule is to tout one's achievements, such as they might be, whenever and wherever possible. Half of my Facebook "Messages" and postings by others on my page are, without exaggeration, bits of self-promotion by fringe writers about their (usually) self-published stories and novels. Recently someone I've never heard of messaged me about me writing an introduction to his new novella. (An introduction to a novella???))

I keep finding fewer and fewer "published writers" who seem to understand how things are done in this profession (small example, have one's editor, publisher, or publicist ask another writer if he or she wants to read an ARC and possibly blurb your novel . . . NEVER announce that you're sending a MS a writer's way or contact her directly). I've found the truly professional authors I've had the honor of spending time with -- the Kings, Straubs, Koontz's, Asimovs, Wolfes, Ellisons, Pohls, Bradburys, Aldisses, Blochs, Bryants, Martins, O'Nans, Teppers, et. al. -- are/were no slouches in promoting their work, but they NEVER do/did so to one another.

But perhaps I'm talking about an era and set of professional sensibilities that have been left behind.

ds

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#145903 - 01/29/13 06:08 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
Ransom Offline
enthusiast


Registered: 03/20/10
Posts: 329
Loc: Lafayette, CO
With each passing year, I find myself wishing more and more that I had been fortunate enough to write and publish in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, when so many of the gentlemen Dan mentioned above were making their way into the game and the game was still a gentleman's game. This era of publishing and self-publishing—when agents, editors, publishers and all the marketing folks in the business EXPECT you to flog your own work to anyone who will listen, on Facebook and everywhere else—is truly depressing.

When my first novel was creeping toward publication and the ARCs were being sent out, my publisher at St. Martin's told me to hit up Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, Joe Hill and a few others on my own . . . because "It will mean more coming from you." So I wrote half a dozen sincere letters to these folks mentioning how much they had inspired me and about what a great honor it would be for them to read my novel, but it felt wrong. I had always dreamed that my publisher would handle this somewhat demeaning and shameful task for me, and that a letter from a Sr. Editor at St. Martin's Press would mean more than any missive from just another author out begging for change.

I've come to the conclusion that most of those authors chose not to read or blurb my novel because my first novel was not up to the standards of excellence each of those authors holds dear. But Dan's comments above and my own queasiness at groveling for such praise give me pause from time to time, making me wonder if we blew a chance to go about things in a more professional manner. It may not have made a lot of difference, but it might have made some difference.

Regardless, since then I have not solicited a blurb from a single author for any of my novels, by letter or Facebook or at a convention or by any other means, and I don't intend to. Plugging my own wares on Facebook to regular friends and fans already feels like a shameful act to me. I'm sick of the entire social media latticework of me me me me me me me please read my book!, but I do that part because my readers seem to appreciate it, and I am grateful for their support.

All in all, though, it's a sad parody of the good old days. I really wish I had been born earlier so that I could have published in an era when writers could focus on being writers, doing the occasional dignified tour stop, not hearing their agents and editors complain because the writer's own social media efforts are lacking. Writers have created this, amateurs and pros alike, but publishers, editors and agents have encouraged it by putting so much of the marketing in the writer's hands. We're all scared shitless the books are dying, the bookstores are closing, that the hacks are burying us on Amazon with 99 cent giveaways of trash, that we are circling the drain before we even got warmed up. If that happens, we have only ourselves to blame.

But reading blog posts and speeches like Keene's remind me that I'd rather go back to being broke and unpublished than become a true social media whore and self-promoter of truly obnoxious proportions.

Ransom

p.s. Dan, I meant to tell you that I had the pleasure of running into Ed Bryant at a reading I did in Denver a few weeks ago. It wasn't for me. It was a small gathering of crime writers (a group I had no business tagging along with) doing a tawdry little thing called "Noir at the Bar". I was astonished when he walked through the door. I was able to recognize Mr. Bryant because, as I'm sure you know, he still looks exactly like Ed Bryant. I introduced myself to him and "reminded" him that we had met at the Pike's Peak Writer's Conference in about, oh, 1997. He was polite and asked about the book I was reading from that night. I signed a copy and gave it to him and then said, "No, I am NOT asking for a blurb. I'm just honored you would consider looking at a bit of my stuff. Thanks for your support of Dan Simmons many years ago. Your blurb for him led me to your own work at a time when I was in need of good role models."


Edited by Ransom (01/29/13 06:10 PM)

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#145905 - 01/29/13 07:25 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
Cramer Offline
addict


Registered: 06/18/10
Posts: 401
I love Brian Keene, and I have always appreciated the candor in his blog posts. Observing Brian's trials and tribulations is one of the reasons I decided being a pulp-fiction writer wasn't for me. (That, and actually trying to do it for a while.)

One of the reasons I hang out here is because writers like Chris and Dan showed me the you don't have to be a pulp-fiction writer. You can strive to be a great writer, and maybe someday become a very good writer along the way who gets paid decent money to write. Or, you can just write part-time.

I just wish somewhere in Brian's speech he would have said: "You don't have to be like me. There are other ways to become a full-time writer."



Edited by Cramer (01/29/13 07:26 PM)

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#145906 - 01/29/13 08:08 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Cramer]
Dan Simmons Administrator Offline
CEO of the Hegemony


Registered: 09/02/05
Posts: 11115
Loc: Colorado
Dan S. to Chris Ransom:

I understand and appreciate what you're talking about in your post. I'm not convinced that it's a generational thing, either. New writers of quality fiction -- imaginative fiction or otherwise -- are making good money and reaching smart audiences. If editors or agents push one to become a "social media whore", then perhaps it's time to find new agents and editors. They're out there. Ones who still care about the work in and of itself and who don't believe that peddling yourself likea $1 magic elixir on the streets is the road to any real career.

Meanwhile, I know -- and you know -- that your choice isn't between "going broke and unpublished" or becoming a social-media whore or even a wholesale pimp for your own work. You've reached professional status that can be, will be, your ultimate leverage for your career and more ambitious creative goals.

I envy you your time with Ed Bryant. It's been too long since I've spent time with him.

Dan


Edited by Dan Simmons (01/30/13 09:19 AM)

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#145908 - 01/30/13 12:15 AM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
MrArkadin Offline
addict


Registered: 06/28/06
Posts: 496
Loc: Los Angeles
 Originally Posted By: Dan Simmons
Dan S. asks:

Is it just me, or does anyone else here feel that Mr. Keene did quite a bit of boasting while sharing his miseries?


This, exactly. You're not alone. Through the entire missive I sensed the smirk of the egoist who couches his boasting in woe. I found the whole thing rather unctuous, and revealing.

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#145913 - 01/30/13 04:50 AM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
Craig_Wolf Offline
Pooh-Bah


Registered: 09/28/05
Posts: 1844
 Originally Posted By: Dan Simmons
Dan S. asks:

Is it just me, or does anyone else here feel that Mr. Keene did quite a bit of boasting while sharing his miseries?

ds


Yes, he did.

I have to first say that I in no way think ill of Brian Keene as a person. He went out of his way once to do a kindness for my daughter that I will never forget. I honestly wish him well.

Nor do I think him without talent. His novel Terminal was an inventive, well-written, and harrowing cross-genre exercise. It died commercially, and Keene allowed himself to be gulled into writing cheap, quick, slapdash horror novels because that's what Leisure Books rewarded, at cut rates, and that's what his loyal band of fanboys demanded. I still think he has the potential to be a fine writer, but he'll have to leave the comforts, such as they are, of the small-press horror ghetto that punishes ambition and inbreeds itself into irrelevancy.

But yes, there is a more than a little battle-scarred-warrior-in-the-trenches machismo going on in this . . . rant.

The problem is that showing off your battle scars is pathetic when they're mostly from self-inflicted wounds.

Craig
_________________________
"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
--Steve Prefontaine

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#145943 - 01/30/13 11:28 PM Re: Briane Keene On Being a Full-Time Writer [Re: Dan Simmons]
Ransom Offline
enthusiast


Registered: 03/20/10
Posts: 329
Loc: Lafayette, CO
 Originally Posted By: Dan Simmons
Dan S. to Chris Ransom:

I understand and appreciate what you're talking about in your post. I'm not convinced that it's a generational thing, either. New writers of quality fiction -- imaginative fiction or otherwise -- are making good money and reaching smart audiences. If editors or agents push one to become a "social media whore", then perhaps it's time to find new agents and editors. They're out there. Ones who still care about the work in and of itself and who don't believe that peddling yourself likea $1 magic elixir on the streets is the road to any real career.

Meanwhile, I know -- and you know -- that your choice isn't between "going broke and unpublished" or becoming a social-media whore or even a wholesale pimp for your own work. You've reached professional status that can be, will be, your ultimate leverage for your career and more ambitious creative goals.

I envy you your time with Ed Bryant. It's been too long since I've spent time with him.

Dan


Thank you for this, Dan. It's nice to hear you still believe that there are agents, editors, and writers who can and are succeeding by focusing on quality work, not self-promotion. I believe it too, most of the time, and I'm waging my career on just that strategy, such as I am able to.

But it's always encouraging and re-invigorating to hear that your faith has not been shaken.

Cheers, amigo.

Chris

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