Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Interesting Times for Outdoor Writers
The sporting essay is a rare creature these days. The small dribble that emerges in the end papers of most angling and hunting magazines wouldn't keep a illiterate nourished much less those that consider themselves readers. Solid fiction and non-fiction essays seems trapped in a world of sparse opportunity and questionable commercial viability.
The written word has been changing for some time; accelerating in the past decade. Distribution was the first to change, online buying expanded access to titles. Borders and Waldenbooks were turned over so the new crop could be sown.
Then form changed, wicked fast. E-things are supplanting paper at an accelerating pace. No longer does one need to to actually publish to self publish though that's also gotten easier and cheaper, too.
This shift in medium is the big change. Even though I, like others, still appreciate the heft of a good book electronic media, including blogging, is now the game.
I came late to blogging, like I did to fly fishing, but I think I came at just the right moment. I am standing next to giants, feeling short. This community of writers is diverse in experience, style and talent but it has tremendous passion and the many unique voices make scanning the RSS feed worthwhile.
It's still nearly impossible for a writer to create a bridge across the chasm separating a quality hobby from something resembling, at a minimum, part-time employment. Even the Grandmother hand knitting pot holders can find a market at a local craft fair; not so for the writer.
But that may be starting to change too.
The intersection of electronic ease of publishing and the multitude of payment systems is one such bridge.
Bruce Smithhammer started an interesting experiment with Pulp Fly. It's hard to sort out whose idea Pulp Fly was or how exactly it came together, it's a circle of modest, talented people, but Bruce is the ring leader and editor. This book contains eleven essays, mostly fiction, from various authors. Some names you'll recognize in that, "hey I think I read something by him in The Drake" sort of way. Others are new.
What's also new is that you have to pay the authors $4.95 to read it. Unlike bloggers or the ubiquitous e-zine, writers get paid.
As Bruce readily admits in his forward, this book is a latter day derivation of the pulp fiction novels of the early twentieth century. And it's genius. It is the metaphorical craft fair for pot holding writers.
Of course, now we need more editors and publishers in this new format. It will be interesting to see who takes that on but my gut tells me that if writers can get paid, they'll abandon venues that want to use their work for free and be attracted to venues where there's even a modest likelihood of payment.
I think the supply side is going to pick up steam.
And eventually, some writers will make money the old fashioned way. A ton of very talented, perhaps even the most talented, are going to continue as hobbyists and go no further. But a few, the Hammets, Lovecrafts or Harrisons of our generation, are going to break out and be big.
And between now and then it's going to be a hell of a ride.
Who wants to start publishing house?