Tag Archives: podcasting

Free Beer!

I had the pleasure of going to the first Great North Carolina Beer Festival in Clemmons, NC this past weekend. Overall it was awesome. It was hot and there were literally around nineteen-thousand people when all was said and done. I had beer from the Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, Thomas Creek, and Foothills. There were also big names there that you’d recognize and they all had out what passed for (and in some cases what I’d consider) craft beers.

A craft beer, in my opinion, is a product that the manufacturer truly put some time, energy, and passion into developing. Maybe they take a BIG chance (as one home brewer did with a smoked Weizenbock that was awesome) or maybe they were just wanted to do something a little different (as Newcastle did with their Summer Ale). Regardless, in most cases they tried to put their best foot forward and they were doing it for free.

“So Scott, is this the beer blog now?”

Well maybe from time to time, but this post is about passion. A few of these people had it in spades. I think that the homebrewers that were their had it the most. There was nothing for them to sell. They literally couldn’t legally sell their products even if they wanted to. All they can do is give it away for free. Why? Because they want to share something they made and believed in. So these guys were standing in the only shade around, pouring their beer for the thirsty public (who may or may not give a darn about what they were drinking), and having a grand time.

The next step up were the microbreweries. In quite a few cases the faces you saw at those tents were owners. In some cases they were employees, but there was more of a connection there. They wanted you to know about their beer, their brewery, and in what time they had available would tell you all about it. Yeah they wanted to sell stuff. A few local breweries were selling full pints or glasses and other nick-knacks. They wanted to spread the word and incidentally sell some beer.

There was less passion from the Big Beer tents. The people pulling taps their were likely employees hired just for the day. They had no connection to the process of making the beer or selling the beer. They were just pretty faces. No need to spread the word so much since most of us consumers already know about Guinness or Leinenkugel or Bud. So I guess they were just there as sponsors and in a few cases to get out the word about a particular new product. It was one hundred percent a business arrangement. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So here we are, three “tiers” if you will and all giving away all the free samples you were willing to queue up for. Sure it cost you $25, but my feeling is that that went to the music and other expenses (designated drivers still had to pay $20).

This whole day struck a chord in me. There’s a great deal of passion in the podiosphere for giving away stuff for free. Those that choose to do it are doing it for the same reasons that the homebrewers and microbrewers are doing it for. In the one case maybe they can’t sell it (or haven’t tried) and are just honing their craft until they can take the next step. In other cases maybe they have started selling, but they still feel the need to build some name recognition. Regardless, there’s still that passion in creating and putting out their wares for people to sample.

The part that’s missing from this analogy are the big boys. While there are some “big names” out there giving away free samples, it doesn’t sound like that’s catching on with the bulk of big story business. There’s a fair amount of fear (perhaps founded, perhaps not) of things like piracy or watering down the brand. And big publishers put a lot of money into developing and selling what they have and want to recoup those costs. It’s all about the business for them.

So, is there a lesson to be learned in this? I think if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, if there’s a way for you to give some of it away without cutting your own throat, do it. I understand the notion that if you’re writing short stories, you don’t want to give them all away if your short term goal is to sell those particular stories. So maybe you write a story or two just to give away? Share your passion with people and once you’ve hit the “big leagues”, where it most cases it’s still hard scrabble when it comes to making a living from wordsmithing, maybe drop a freebie from time to time. Remember that you got into this writing business not do much to make a million dollars (cause that just ain’t gonna happen for most of us) but to tell that story that made your brain itch. Pour a pint every now and again for your fans and I think you’ll find it will pay off in the long run.

May You Live in Interesting Times

Ordinarily this is called the “Chinese Curse” and is looked on as a bad thing. As artists we do indeed live in interesting times and I suppose it can be good or bad. Let me ‘splain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

On the writing side of the house royalties are going down as are advances. Slush piles are going up, up, up. It can be difficult to cut through all the noise and make yourself heard. I can only assume based on what I’m hearing that the same is true in the other disciplines. So it may be tempting to say that it’s more difficult to “make it”, all of course depending on what you mean by that.

However, interesting times such as these often separate the adults from the children (to update the adage). I can point to a few people in my sphere that are coming down squarely on the former side of the knife.

Ed Talbot – He had joined the growing number of folks using Smashwords to publish some of his content. To that end he had a “Mayday” promotion (that I missed participating in) to launch two collections of short stories. While using Smashwords isn’t particularly new, he’s the first author I’m aware of to promote publishing there in the way he did. I’ve read a few of those stories and can highly recommend dropping at least $.99 on one or the other if not both.

Jennifer Hudock – Jenny is another author I’m aware of using Smashwords to get her stuff out there. She’s building a short story collection there called Dark Journeys. She’s also putting together an anthology called The Dark Side, releasing a podcast novel called Goblin Market and she and future hubby James Melzer (no stranger to self publishing and soon to be published by Simon and Schuster) have put together The Creative Alliance.

Zach Ricks – The Mad Poet himself has self published his Mad Poet Files short stories through the Amazon Kindle store. This collection is certainly one for you to buy. It’s got great science fiction and fantasy stories and while I haven’t read them all, I can say that “Blood Red Sand” is my favorite Martian short since Bradbury’s Chronicles and that plus a fantasy story where the main characters are inspired by the A-Team earns my seal of approval. He and a few other forward thinkers are also jawing about a new way of delivering content that, if it all works out, will blow your doors off.

Seth Harwood – While I haven’t waxed poetic about him here, Seth’s crime novel Young Junius is coming to print very soon. Taking an idea from the FDO himself, Seth is releasing the novel in a beautiful, limited edition print, which he and his publisher will then use to kick off a standard full scale print run in the Fall.

Phil Rossi – On the music side of the house, author and musician Phil Rossi is in the midst of pre-selling an EP called Radio Silence. I’ve pre-ordered it and I think you should too.

Brand Gamblin – A vidcaster, podcaster, and author, Brand has done just about everything with his young adult, science fiction novel Tumbler that I can think of. He’s used CreateSpace to put it in print. He podcast it. He’s got it in a variety of e-book formats. You can get it now on Amazon, but if you love him you’ll get it here. Or if you’re gonna be at Balticon in two weeks (W00T!!!!!!!) you can buy a signed copy there.

And just in case you missed it, there are two authors whose work I respect and admire that have used social media/podcasting to get their books published and they will be available in the near future.

Honorary Admiral (in my mind and that of many others) Nathan Lowell is getting published by Ridan Publishing. Apparently they, unlike many publishers, work very well and very closely with their authors to find the most mutually beneficial path and according to Nathan cooperating with them has been beautiful.

P.G. Holyfield, whom I consider to be a good friend, will be launching Murder at Avedon Hill THIS WEEKEND!!! It’s being published by podcaster friendly Dragon Moon Press and all I can say is it’s about time!!

So these are just a FEW people who have used, are using, and I hope will continue to use the interesting times afoot to really break the boundaries of traditional publishing and are redefining what it means to “make it”. Sure, self publishing is nothing new, but all things considered I believe that it is gaining a certain amount of ground and losing the stigma long attached to it by many. I hope this is a launch pad to great things for them all and I hope that I’ve dropped some new names on your plate and that you will check them all out.

Forging Ahead

So last night I tweeted the following, “Well so much for podcasting any of my short fiction…” Why did I do that?

Well, I was chatting last night with Zach Ricks, a man who I’m proud to be a writing partner with and with whom I hope to continue to build a friendship and the subject turned to, as it often has of late, selling our fiction projects. It seems that according to one very knowledgeable source, podcasting your fiction before selling it to more traditional venues may reduce your pool of choices. Publishers, some publishers anyway, want first publication rights and if you’ve already self published it or put it out there for free then they may not be as eager to snap it up. That came as a surprise (though I’m not sure why). My instant reaction was to pull back and go, “I don’t want to hurt my chances at selling it”, because I do, in fact, want to sell what I write. I don’t want this to be a hobby, something I just do for fun. I want to entertain, but at the same time I don’t want to do it all for free. In this, Mr. Hutchins and I are in agreement.

After an okay night’s sleep, a cup of coffee and a dose of thinking, things look a little different this morning. As I have often said here lately, you need to look at why you’re podcasting. Why do I do this? I don’t do it for the money, obviously. I do it in part to improve my writing and generate feedback. I do it in part because it is indeed a hobby. I do it as a way to get my name out there in the writing world, even if it is “only” in the small pond we inhabit as podcasters. If these are the reasons why I do it then what harm is there in selecting a few stories from the ones I’ve written and use those to do that, while selecting others to pursue more traditional venues with? None, I’d say.

I believe in the “power of free”, but this is not an either or pursuit. I firmly believe that I can offer you, my audience, some freebies in podcast form and give you the opportunity to purchase it in various forms should you so choose. If those stories are less marketable to traditional venues, well I guess that means you can expect me to be pimping those in Smashwords hardcore. Some of you have actually bought my stories sight only half seen and for you I am especially grateful. I also believe that I can pursue print publication with stories that I won’t be giving away any time soon and once those stories are available in the wild, at a price, that some of you will go out and buy those magazines or what have you. Not all of you will and that’s fine, I don’t have that expectation. Once those particular stories are sold and it comes down to selling reprint rights, I don’t see why I wouldn’t podcast those as well.

I guess I say all of this to say that I will be forging ahead. I will be podcasting some of my short fiction in the near future, starting with Bitter Release and Music Box. I’ve already self published those after all and so if any damage has been done (and maybe none has) then what’s done is done. I’m rather proud of both stories and I hope that you’ll listen and if you like them, I hope that you’ll consider buying them.

I will also continue to submit stories to Great Hites. I think what Jeff is doing over there is great and while it’s a strictly “for the love” publication, I don’t think that diminishes its value and that may indeed be the largest source for stories I elect to sell and podcast through this site and Smashwords.

Ultimately what it comes down to for me is this. I have a great luxury. I don’t have to make a living doing this. I have the freedom to give some things away completely, with no expectation of making any money. I have the freedom to elect to try and sell other things without giving them away in the near term, to see if I can indeed one day make a living with words. My friend Dave said, “You need to choose which road to publishing you are going to take.” and while I agree with what I think he meant, I don’t think there’s only one road or that we have to do anything only one way. We’re trying to make our own roads here, aren’t we? There are “rules”, but there’s enough of a maverick in me to want to try and find out which ones of those I can break, or at least fold, spindle, and mutilate.

Thanks to everyone for their continued support of all of my efforts, monetary or otherwise, and be sure to let me know what you think of all this madness in the comment section. Maybe what I’m trying to pull off here is the publishing equivalent of a mullet. I think we can agree that pulling off the “business up front and party in the back” with your hair takes a great deal of moxie only truly accomplished by greats like the Swayze and perhaps the same is true of doing some free and some not free.