Friday, October 7, 2016

Pulp's and Pixelry

I've got a few scattered thoughts I thought I'd jot down here while it was fresh on my mind. Partly inspired from a  couple of conversations and blogs posts from friends - like Paul McNamee and Jay Barnson  but its also something I've pondered for awhile now.
As huge fan of the old school pulp fiction I pay attention anytime I
hear someone say something like a resurgence is coming like say in perhaps the sub genre of grimdark or new collection like Skelos magazine - which I heartily approve of. But while grimdark is just a new repackaging of sword and sorcery its not quite what I'm thinking of today.

The "pulps" were pulps by the very nature of being printed on cheap materials as opposed to the "slicks" with their fancy glossy paper.

We don't have that anymore - what do we have - what has exploded in say the last five years? The ebook.

I've been listening to a lot of marketing podcasts lately especially the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast - loads of great thoughts - I caught upon an episode from almost a year ago with Moses Siregar and he mentioned how back in 2009 some of the bigger names he rubbed shoulders with at conferences said that ebooks wouldn't amount to anything. Kinda funny and shortsighted now but that was the attitude of BIG 5 or 6 writers and publishers just a little while ago.

I remember when I got my first publishing contract I asked about ebook rights and was told they wouldn't even bother with it. They later amended the contract (very good rates by the way) and nowadays anytime I get a royalty check from them its from ebooks sold. At the time I didn't want to try and do the ebook by myself either - hindsight is worse than 20/20.

In any case it got me to thinking that the real revival of that pulp stigma was the despised delivery method. Cheap pulpy paper back then and nowadays the independent writers pixel.

So many ebooks are being uploaded and you don't have but to turn around and careen into a dozen terrible titles - and by terrible titles I mean poorly made covers, horrendous descriptions and wretched grammar - and I am by no means a grammar nazi I'm pretty loose with the rules myself.

The challenge then is to find the diamonds in the rough. They are there but it can take some looking and of course the tried and true friends recommendation. On the plus side NOTHING should be out of print anymore, its surprises me when something actually is unattainable even in in ebook. But anyone can share their book and ultimately that's a good thing.

This may be a whole lot of scattershot thinking on my part but I thought I'd put it down somewhere.
What do you all think?


Charles Gramlich said...

Interesting, we had just this basic conversation, about what is pulp, at the CONtraflow con.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I keep thinking ebooks would be the savior of short stories and novellas. And there has certainly been a novella push lately (Look at TOR last year and any number of small presses.) But I haven't seen what I would call a full resurgence. eZines and magazine still come and go, or go stagnant (current weird Weird Tales, anyone?) KICKSTARTER is helping some of that .. but many of those are funded issue to issue. The climb back has been sporadic, not steady.

I talked with someone a few years ago, and mentioned my hopes/thoughts. They had read an article that stated, with our short attention spans these days ... the opposite occurs. General readers don't like short stories because they need to invest time learning all about a world, only to have it go away at the end of the story. Next story, they need to start all over again.

This is why novel series can be successful. The reader learns about the world & characters through the first book, and then when the next book arrives, they no longer need the ramp up time.

What is interesting about that concept, is that recently I was at a writers' coffeehouse and there was much talk of indie and self-pub. It was pointed out that now, if you want to self-pub/indie, you should (could / perhaps) go for a shorter burst because - just as we binge on t.v. shows now - there is a rise in binge readers, especially on ebooks. They read one, click for the next, click for the next.

Th advice now being - write the first two or three before you publish the first, because readers are going to want quick turnaround on their reading satisfaction. A year, even six months, is too long to wait.

So .. I sort of see an opportunity for short novels/ novellas in a series being released at a pulp-ish rate with potential good returns. But, it very much sounds like doing the legwork yourself because trad. publishers would take too long on the turnarounds.

David J. West said...

I'd love to hear more about that Charles.

That's exactly what I've been hearing Paul.

Along with seriously contemplating trying it out with a couple of books/series myself.
Either way, I'm still going to be trying to do the hybrid thing with a foot in each publishing world and trying harder than ever to produce, produce, produce.

Keith West said...

I've heard both of the things Paul mentions, long books/series where readers can get lost in imaginary worlds and shorter works that come in bursts for binge reading. In a lot of ways, the latter reminds me of paperbacks in the 50s and 60s. They were short, and in the crime field there were a number of series. I was surprised to learn that the first (roughly) half of John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series were all published within a few years of each other, with IIRC 4 or 5 being published in one year. In fact, MacDonald wrote the first two or three before any were published so the series could build an audience by publishing the first few in rapid succession. Seems to have worked, since the books are still in print 30 years after his death.

I think David's approach is the right one. Try to have a blended career. I've got some ideas for series that I want to try out, two of them S&S, a space opera, and one a hard-science sword and planet blend. Some life stuff is getting in the way of reading, writing, and blogging right now. I'm going to try to hit a few traditional short stories markets. I've got a horror short I want to try as my first ebook, mainly as a learning exercise. Hopefully something will take off.

David J. West said...

I look forward to that Keith! Keep on rocking!
For myself as much as I love shorts I may give them a pass for a good long spell while I work at essentially doing what you just said - trying to churn out a couple of quick series - these will be similar to the old paperbacks (at least to my mind) and not the big phone book type fantasies.

Keith West said...

I look forward to seeing what you come up with series-wise.

David J. West said...

I feel like its ambitious but I want to give it a helluva go and see just how fast I can crank somethings out!

I'm thinking the Dark Trail Saga - a bunch of Porter Rockwell weird westerns (that I'm working on now)
and then
The Bastard Prince - a series about Madoc leaving Wales and coming to the new world - it will have a lot of fantasy mixed in with the historical stuff.

Frank Coffman said...

I thin Walter Benjamin's, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reptoduction". Is relevant -- at least tangentially.

David J. West said...

I missed that comment Frank, sorry about that.