Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tivo is MAGIC and Other Stories

Cable update: After three weeks of Tivo not working with two Motorola devices crammed into it, NOW it works. Actually, it started working right before the latest tech came out. Which is how these things go. But it keeps working, thank God, and the tech who came out was like in the super-secret spy-tech division, so now I have his card and can call him if the thing goes out, or if I need a guy whacked. And having jettisoned the mindlessly awful TWC cable box and replaced it Tivo... ahhhhh. If you've never used Tivo then you don't understand. If you have Dish network and use their DVR, you almost understand.

When -- not if, this is an inevitability -- you have a technological problem that can't be solved by rebooting whatever horrid piece of equipment a company has saddled you with, there is no force on this EARTH that should keep you from getting past the phone answering people and to the techs who do more than just check your cable signal. PEOPLE, YOU CANNOT COMPLAIN ENOUGH. They DO keep track of your calls so if you call whenever your cable goes out, or whenever your Motorola box doesn't work -- okay, maybe not EVERY time because then it would be a full time job -- then they will elevate you because they will be sick to fucking death of you.

And also, if you complain to the FCC, they write you a letter and then a person in corporate calls you. My contention is that way, way higher up than the phone grunts are people who are actually paid to care (hey, it's a gray area) when customers are dissatisfied. But since most customers just give up in frustration (the system is designed for this), only the real troublemakers get through, and it is they who must be handled carefully. Be one of those people!

I've added a few new scripts to the Pilots folder (look to your left), including a MAD MEN spec that didn't go anywhere because people stopped reading specs. While I've been checking out some of the new fall shows, I'm not going to give any opinion on them. I will say this, though, and this speaks to the fact that the networks were closed to development to anyone who didn't have a deal and wasn't one of the approved twenty white guys who always sell pilots and make shows. Television is not film. And while an exciting concept will get you an audience initially, if the show isn't compelling in a story/character kind of way, the audience will not stick around. This works for film because if you can get an audience into the theater opening weekend, success. But for TeeVee, you need them to keep coming back week after week. And according to the ratings, this isn't going to go down as one of the most successful fall seasons. In fact, the networks don't seem to realize this and have decided to go even FURTHER in that direction with the big-name deals they're making for next fall. So it doesn't seem possible that a smaller voice is going to break through anytime soon, which means that TeeVee writers are pretty much going to have to figure out how to make their voices heard in other ways. And no, I don't know what those other ways are. But I think we're stuck here for awhile.

Maybe later, when they've bought the last of their giant ape projects, I'll pick out a few that are exciting. There ARE a few.

Thanks to anyone who bought my book on the Kindle! But no reviews so far? Really? Sigh. I'd even take a bad one, because my page is so bare and sad. Wait no -- I would rather not take a bad one. I haven't done much with marketing the book because the whole concept mystifies me, but it's pretty obvious that marketing in every arena, not just e-publishing, can be as important than the work itself. It's about branding and packaging and because we have a zillion things coming at us every second, something needs to break through the noise.

I did look into book bloggers who review books. That seemed like a good idea. After all, shouldn't they be people who love books and want to review them? You'd think so. You'd be wrong. It's harder to get a blogger to read your book than it is to get an agent! The myriad rules and qualifications are kind of stultifying. What a BIZARRE little cottage industry. They only seem to read books published by a big publisher, which seems the antithesis of the exercise. But they've become important and I guess I can see why. Publishers are corporations, and corporations are confused by social media. This probably has something to do with the unalterable fact that social media is an individual sport and although Mittens Romney asserts that corporations are people, they aren't to the degree it's necessary to Tweet like a human being. The success of book bloggers was probably begotten because one of them made a book suddenly popular. So the publishers treat book bloggers like record companies treat the CW -- a confusing thing that does their work for them.

There's so much white noise in forums that it doesn't seem viable to pimp a book there, either. So I guess I'll take a slightly different route -- keep writing books and putting them on the Kindle. Hell, I like doing the covers and the book trailers anyway. And while I've gone beyond "keep writing well and someone will take notice," it's not hurting me to keep doing it.

With all the attention paid to the few successes in e-publishing, it is inevitable that published authors keep losing their fucking minds over it all. The latest example is Chuck Wendig, a real Renaissance man of writing. He recently ranted on his blog about self-publishing, and how perhaps self-published authors should focus more on the actual writing than on making billions of dollars. No argument there. But he ignores a few things, like the fact that there are bad self-published writers making money, just as there are bad traditional-published writers making money. About good writers who aren't selling a lot of self-published books he says:

In fact, if they continue to sell as they appear to sell then I would suggest these books would have done much better had they been published — gasp — traditionally.

But Chuck doesn't appear to be at all aware of the state of the publishing industry and how it is really, really, REALLY not interested in publishing anything. The publishing industry isn't looking for good writing. Not right now. It's looking for big, high-concept books that can be instant smashes. Midlist authors are being squeezed out, and it's mostly the midlist authors who are turning to e-publishing. This is the same thing that's happening in TeeVee and film. It's entertainment gigantism, and the problem is that if one corporation does it, then all the others have to as well. So if you're expecting someone with a non-high concept book and without any connections to actually get an agent and sell a book, you're a fucking loon.

The thing is, if self-published authors read stories about shitty writers who are making piles of money because they market well, what do you think the lesson is there? Presuming that all traditionally published books are terrific because they've been through "the process" is a little bit naive, and also dead fucking wrong. Has nobody read A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES?? That got published and pushed and marketed because of its concept, not because of the writing. What this attitude does is take the writer out of the equation, and it hands the power over to the agents and publishers and editors. Because they accept you, that means you are a good writer. Look, this isn't true in television or film, and it isn't true in publishing. I know traditionally-published writers are threatened by self-publishing but one doesn't preclude the other, and if you feel that you needed to "pay your dues" in order to become a real writer, that's fine. Others may not feel that way and for the first time in history, they have a real, viable path to get their work to the public. Yeah, you're no longer special. Deal with it.