Hatch 1

Words Gone Viral An Introduction to the Influence of Technology on the Writing Community and Industry

Cynthia Hatch English 252 21 October 2013 Dr. Karen C. Holt

Hatch 2 Over the last two decades, humanity has become more dependant and engrossed in new technology, most particularly in the Internet. This portal into the digital realm has opened access to diverse cultures, information and speed of light communications. It reaches into eighty percent of American households. Many businesses, artists, and public icons have adopted an online presence to extend their influence and availability. Writers and publishers, the traditional heroes and sponsors of words, have also taken to the high-speed, fiber optic paths to extend their own horizons. With their business depending so much on society at large, our word heroes need to keep up with the times; however, with all the constant changes in technology, it can be difficult challenge. Despite its ever-changing nature, technology can be a boon for writers today, opening up new and exciting opportunities for them, as well asproviding the tools and knowledge, and the support they need tocome out triumphant in the often daunting world of publishing.

1. Power Placement The newest wave of writing heroes have blazed the trails for those just beginning to test themselves against the new technology. The―powers‖ wielded by these writers are the style, voice so familiar to their predecessors. But unlike their forebears, they have the added power of medium.Not so long ago, the world of literature was confined to the borders of a page. Now writers have the freedom of a digital vehicle. Many more options are open for expressing creative ideas than ever before. In addition to the traditional modes of publishing print novels, magazines and journals, writers now are podcasting, producing eBooks, interactive fiction, cell phone novels, and web comics. Many of these avenues bypass the often long, treacherous and tedious route of obtaining agents and endless querying. Each of these forms is unique and very different from one another and appeal to both audiences and writers in very different ways.

Hatch 3 One of the first new media introduced thepocket-sized delight of podcasting. Podcastingcame about around the time Apple‘s IPod hit the market in 2001. In fact, podcasting is a combination of the words IPod and broadcasting (Podcasting Essentials). This version of narrative is all auditory, though video podcasts have recently started to emerge, that allows individuals to share ideas with the world and connect with others that have similar ideas (Strank). The production can vary drastically from cast to cast, but it is primarily based on a written script. Writers can use this medium to share their creative ideas, stories, or give instructions on writing. Also it gives them the special opportunity to write content that is intended to be read aloud.Though podcasting is still a budding industry(Heermann), it is an industry that is certainly growing.Time magazine posted earlier this year that 26% of Americans have listened to podcasts in contrast to 10% of Americans in 2006 (Matthews). However, most podcasts are still chieflysupported by donations, so it is not a very lucrative business (Heermann). But, due to its steady growthin recent years,businesses have renewed their interest in advertising on podcasts (Matthews). This makes podcasting a venue worth keeping an eye on, both for creative expression and self-advertising. Interactive fiction is probably the most complex of the digital media. It consists of a dialogue between the reader and the story in the forms of text adventures, visual novels, and interactive novels(Kaplan, Maher). It acts much like a video game in that the reader gives commands to the character as they travel through the world of the story, exploring and discovering the plot that has been laid out for them(Kaplan, Maher). One of the marvelous aspects of interactive fiction is that there are options for various endings based on the actions of the reader, much like a high-tech version of a choose-your-ending adventure but with far greater variety and range. This makes interactive fiction very appealing to readers who like to get

Hatch 4 involved with what they‘re reading as well as reaching out to reluctant readers. Again, the down side to this outlet is that it is still a small market, and the programming to make the story interactive is complex. Webcomics have really taken off in the last few years, even though they have been around for a decade. Lists of these comics can be found in data banks all over the web,and they come in an enormous variety of genres, venues, art and designs. Webcomics, or graphic novels in general, use images in the storytelling process; the images show the action and emotion, while the thoughts and dialogue are put in words. Something that is unique to webcomics alone is the ability to employ a moving panel, usually a short jiff,a very short collection of frames that create a video,in the comic. Webcomics are a more fruitful venture then podcasting and interactive fiction because many of the comic artists sell printed copies of the books and other personally designed merchandise. Below is an income chart posted earlier this year by Dorothy Gambrell, writer and artist of the webcomic Cat and Girl (see fig. 1) (Alverson).

Hatch 5 Fug. 1. The general income of Dorothy Gambrell from January to August of this year. Reposted by Alverson, Brigid ―A Real-Time Graph of Webcomics Income.‖Robot 6.Comic Book Resources.07 Sept. 2013.Web. 24 Oct. 2013. EBooks are the most prosperous and popular digital form of storytelling. They appear much the same as print books, only in a portable digital form downloaded to phones, tablets, and computers. They often have to be modified for the various devices to handle them. Actually most printed books come in eBook form now. Writers can also publish their work as eBooks only and bypass publishers all together. This does take the professional editors out of the picture too, so writers should be extra careful with the quality of their work, should they go this route. The market for eBooks, though, is much more fertile than the previously-discussed mediums.Last year, eBooks sold approximately 100 million units in adult books alone, and a large portion of overall book sales can be attributed to them (see fig. 2) (O‘Dell).

Fig. 2.Break down of book sales in January 2012.O‘Dell ―E-Books are the Fastest-Growing Area of Book Sales, Especially for Youngsters‖ That is not to say that eBooks are the way of the future. The Book Industry Study Group recently published an article that showed eBook sales slowing down, claiming that the ―percentage of people who buy mostly or exclusively eBooks dropped from 70% in 2011 to 60% in 2012,‖ and that the ―percentage of people who buy a combination of both went from 25% in

Hatch 6 2011 to 34%in 2012‖(Percentage of Consumers). The eBook has become a prominent, and probably permanent, part of the book industry, but it is not the going to be the only option in the future. These are only a few of the new options for storytelling in a digital, and increasingly tuned-in, world. There are many forms of digital media available to writers. With so many options it can be difficult for writers to find their niche. For the tech-savvy, the choices are many. For the less digitally-minded, the options can be daunting and involve a bit of training. The old avenues to storytelling are still viable; technology is only adding more routes to readers.

2. Capes and Catch Phrases Once our word heroes have placed their power, or found the medium of writing they want to present their work with, they will have to draw the eyes of the citizens to reach success. This is done through advertising. The strategies and tools available to writers seem endless; presented here are a few ideas that are in practice now. One of the biggest changes in recent years is writers‘ direct involvement in the advertising and selling of books. Authors are encouraged to create a fan base, engage their readers, and communicate with people. The truth is, people like people who like them. As mentioned earlier, many writers either make a good living off of eBook publishing, or get started that way. Other writers publish traditionally but create engaging online methods of reaching out to their readers through blogs, websites and forums. One excellent example is Pottermore created for J. K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series. There are many virtual networks that have options for group events for writers who don‘t command quite as large of a following as Rowling including Twtvite.com and Meetup.com

Hatch 7 (Rambo). Authors with an online presence, who interact with their readers, who have a face, will a get larger followings than those who don‘t(Rambo). Social networking is essential to success in the digital world and there are many ways to do it. One suggestion is to tweet. Cat Rambo, an editor for the prominent writer‘s blog Writer Beware, says hash tags are a fast, easy way to get discovered. She suggests tweeting about yourself and your book to get attention and to build anticipation for new releases. Writers can also submit works to Twitter magazines like Thaumatrope and Tweet The Meat which can also help generate interest in their works(Rambo). The same approach can be taken on other social media sites. Another way to connect with readers directly is through Facebook. This site gives readers a chance to engage the author on a personal level. Readers today want to know about the creators of their favorite stories and Facebook allows them to do that. Writers can use interesting posts and pictures to hold the interest of their readers on their page (Bunskoek).This is a good place to advertise new books coming out or book tours too.Facebook also has an option for fan pages, where readers can follow specific books and events(Burke). Also, having a Facebook presence makes it easier to pick up new readers through ―Likes‖ and ―Shares.‖ How do our heroes gain a following? Through hooks. One such strategy that has grown recently is book trailers. Like movie trailers, book trailers are a teaser, an appetite wetter to entice readers to seek out the book.Trailers are still a newadvertising technique in the writing industry and can help generate interest in specific books. Clever trailers can captivate readers through their novelty and appeal to the visual and auditory senses (Metz). The catch is that book trailers are unreliable in their current condition, and the general opinion about their efficiency as advertising is controversial at best (Metz). Some people are highly supportive of the idea; some

Hatch 8 are in adamant disagreement. There is a general consensus on one point, if the trailer is good, it hooks readers (Donnolly). Writers should consider this option carefully before shelling out the cost of producing a trailer. Another idea that appealsto the visual senses is a digital banner or poster image. These are placed in the borders of websites that target readers frequent. Images or logos can be very eye-catching and easily remembered. This gives them great power to generate interest in a work. Figure three is a great example of an eye-catching logo. Ifwriters have several online contacts, this would be a good investment.

Fig. 3.Welcome to Night Vale podcast logo by Rob Wilson.Commonplace Books. Welcome to Night Vale. Date of post not available. Web. 20 Oct. 2013 Other places that generate interest for books include sites like GoodReads and LibraryThing where readers can review and recommend books. A practice that has become more common for new writers is to compare their work to an already published, well-known book. Called comp titles, this is commonly done in queries and jacket copy as well as advertising (Eric). Of course, comparing a title to Harry Potter, or The Bourne Identity does no good if the book doesn‘t resemble the comped title. If it is a comparable book in tone or genre, it can help readers and agents know the feel of the work as well as help generate interest in the book with those who are familiar with the published work.Writers should give this angle some serious thought before using it and should not chose a comp title lightly.

Hatch 9 The best form of self-advertisement is having a personal website. Many writers have professional websites where they provide information about upcoming books, descriptions of current books and other information. As part of this site, or often created separately, writers may also have blogs. Blogs tend to be less formal than websites and focus on the personal thought and ideas of the writer, rather than their professional work. These sites can be very powerful because they connect writers with readers and often with other writers. It is essential that there be a space for commenting and that the comments are responded to. Readers are pulled in by the interaction (Sansevieri). Writers can also post release dates, teasers and other material for upcoming books, and readers can easily find them. Other things to include on a web site might be audio book samples or series, book ―events‖ with freebies, podcasts, and book trailers (Sansevieri). Personal websites are ideal ways to reach readers because they facilitate connections and can be used to host many of the other wonderful Internet tools above. With all the options for advertising today, our heros‘ books can be found and given the right ad campaign. They just need tograb their cape, polish their log lines, and get online.

3. Hero Support The digital age offers more than just advertising and new markets for writers. For those who have yet to reach the heights of a full-fledged hero, it provideshope, training, feedback, membership, community and camaraderie. Because of technology, there is more support for writers today than ever before. Whether they prefer the Fortress of Solitude or the Literature League, there is help and support for all writers. Writers are generally very free to share advice and experience. This is often done through blogging and online forums. If a fledgling writer is in need of help on the writing process, getting

Hatch 10 advice from published authors and peers isn‘t farther away than the keyboard. Most websites that offer help on the writing process are blogs. It is important to find reliable bloggers, such as those of published authors or well-known agents, editors and publishers. Yet, newer writers also have keen insights into the business from a closer viewpoint. Often, blogs will give general advice about subjects such as plotting like Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots. Otherwebsites will help inspire writingsuch as Easy Street Prompts or Six Sentences(Kelms, Grace). Every part of the writing process and the writing life is offered up. More formal online classes and workshops (some with fees, others without) are available for a more traditional approach to learning the ropes. Other sites for writer support are social websites. Some of these provide reviews and critiques as well. In addition, they can act as go-betweens in connecting authors for critique partners or groups. This is an invaluable resource. Another pair of eyes can help find problems in plot, characterization or consistency, and two minds—or more—are better than one. These connection sites can also help writers connect with agents and editors, and lead to jobs and submission opportunities. There are many kinds of social websites targeted to different writers. Figment is focused on young writers as well as writers for youth. Critique Circle is open for all writers to post their work(Kelms, Grace). Some sites are limited to specific genres of writing such as Critter Workshop(Kelms, Grace), and others are professional organization sites for members such as the Society for Children‘s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) or Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). No matter which of these sites a writer joins, they all have the same purpose: to connect writers so they can make friends, get advice and have their work reviewed by peers.

Hatch 11 One of the hardest parts of this industry is getting published; everyone knows it, and so people have banned together online to help each other get into the industry. It seems that everyone is trying to help writers get published. Query Shark, for example, is run by agents who accept query letters and review them providing invaluable example and feedback for writers trying to find agents. Agent Query is run by editors who review query letters and let writers know what will catch an agent‘s eye and what won‘t. Predators and Editors is a site that informs writers about the attitudes and history of various editors in the industry. Once a writer is ready for publishing, there are websites like Writer Beware to help them avoid the pitfalls of the business. There are so many tidbits of information writers need to know about etiquette, and contracts that these support systems are indispensable resources of knowledge and guidance. The connections made through the Internet make the writing community stronger and more interconnected than it has ever been. Through social websites and blogs, writers have come closer together and created a community where they can help and support each other. Our heroes can now meet in ―satellite leagues‖and band together to conquer the obstacle course of the writing world. This massive level of support for our favorite word heroes has only become possible through modern technology.

4. Conclusion The heroes of the writing world, both those trying to find their place as well as those who already have a strong presence, have more freedom and flexibility than ever. And this is only dipping a toe into the vast pool of the new technological writing world. The options for writers to expressing their work have burgeoned in the digital age. Reaching readers through blogs, Facebook, advertising and interaction isprofitable, exciting and creative with visual, audio, and

Hatch 12 interactive advertising. In addition to supporting established authors, technology will allow our heroes,and thousands of other newbie writers, to connect in literary leagues to produce better work and find their places in the published community.

Hatch 13 Works Cited Alverson, Brigid ―A Real-Time Graph of Webcomics Income.‖ Robot 6.Comic Book Resources. 07 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Bunskoek, Krista. ―8 Ways to Improve Your Facebook Engagement.‖Social Media Examiner. 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Burke, Fauzia. ―7 Great Ways to Promote Your E-Book.‖The Huffington Post.2013 Web. 10 Oct. 2013. Donnolly, Shannon. ―Book Trailers Go Viral.‖ The Daily Beast.Book Beast. 16 Oct. 2010. Web.20Oct. 2013. ―E-book Sales are Up 43%, But That‘s Still a ‗Slowdown‘.‖ U.S.A. Today.A Garnett Company.May 2013.Web. 15 Oct. 2013. Eric. ―Monday Mailbags: Comp Titles.‖ Pimp My Novel. Pimp My Novel, 27 July 2009. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Heermann, Travis. ―Spec-Fic and Podcasting: Earbuds vs. Books, Part 1.‖ WriterBeware.Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. Kaplan, Harry, JimmyMaher. ―Interactive Fiction, From Birth Through Precious Adolescence: aConversation with Jimmy Maher.‖Adventure Classic Gaming. 17 July 2010. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. Kelms, Brian, KristenGrace.―The 14th Annual 101 Best Websites for Writers.‖Writer’s Digest. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. Lebowitz, Josiah, Chris Klug. Interactive Storytelling for Video Games: A PlayercenteredApproach to Creating Memorable Characters and Storie. Burlington: Focal. 2011. 192– 194. Print. Web. 20 Oct. 2013.

Hatch 14 Matthews, Christopher. ―Despite Being Oh-so 2005, Podcasting is Drawing Listeners andAdvertisers Alike.‖ Business and Money.Time. 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Metz, Nina. ―Super Sad Book Trailers: The Conundrum of Online Book AdvertisementsandWhy They Usually Fail.‖ Chicago Tribune.Lifestyles. 06 July 2012. Web. 20 Oct. 2013. ―Podcasting and Blogging Essentials.‖N.D. Carmelina Films. Films Media Group. 2007.Rambo, Cat, ―The Networks Around Us.‖ Writer Beware. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.2010.Web. 10 Oct. 2013. Sansevieri, Penny. ―Ten Ways to Use Audio to Sell More Books.‖ The Huffington Post. 2013.Web. 10 Oct. 2013. Strank, Yaro. ―What is a Podcast?‖ Entrepeneursjourney.com. 15 Aug. 2005. Web. 24 Oct. 2013. Strauss, Victoria. ―Ebooks Outsell Print! Putting Headlines in Context.‖Writer Beware. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.2012.Web. 10 Oct. 2013.