My Online Literary Experiment: Okay, Am I Stupid?

Deep breath…

So a few weeks ago I got called out by a writer/editor/publishing professional on Twitter questioning my goals and my thoughts behind this experiment of mine, Permanent Spring Showers. My little book inspired by Dickens.

Twitter, in its limited word span, can make things seem harsher than the writer may actually have meant it to sound (I did feel like he was condescending) but it threw me a curve.

Was I jarred? Yeah, I was jarred. I still am jarred.

I also like the word “jarred,” but let’s continue.

Basically, his argument was broken down into this point:

What publisher would publish or consider a book that people were getting for free?

Before other bloggers and writers take to my twitter site (@sdsouthard) to find the guy and twitter attack, let me say that about two-years ago I would have agreed with him. Yeah, I was in that camp then because I was trained in writing grad school to think of the publishing world in that black-and-white way. Heck, every book on writing and publishing would agree with him!

But the fact is that while this argument once made sense to me, it is not that way today. The world has changed, I have changed.

A Jane Austen Daydream was first shared via a literary website some time ago. Over the course of an entire year, each chapter (or part of a longer chapter) was released in installments. When I agreed to do that with my book, I was a frustrated writer, sitting on a pile of unpublished books and I just wanted one less responsibility to deal with. (Yes, I think of an unpublished book as a responsibility, doesn’t everyone? The characters are depending on me!)

Upon starting to be shared on the site, my opinion of social media completely changed. I was hearing from Austen blogs, fans on twitter, and I was receiving e-mails about it. This attention led to me creating a query letter for the book that besides selling the manuscript could also point to number of readers and quotes from actual readers. That is something I would never have had if I didn’t share it on the internet first. And now the book is set for publication next month. I can’t say directly that point A led to point B, but, gosh darn it, it didn’t hurt the journey at all.

As I said to the twitter writer in response, it’s a brave new world. And it is.

Now, I know there are few other works of mine that would work like Permanent Spring Showers and A Jane Austen Daydream. For example, my two unpublished novels (Maxmillian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare and Cassandra on the Island) would lose something in being broken down by installments. And, when it comes to my other finished screenplays, I can’t imagine one which could be a starting point for a new novel like this. Of course, that might simply be because my mind is so clouded right now by the writing of this that I can’t think of other possibilities yet. (And for the sake of Permanent Spring Showers, I hope my mind stays that way.)

Yet, while I understand where the writer is coming from there is one BIG misconception that he is making that tosses almost his entire argument to the wind. It is that the same number of people that would read my book in print (or eBook, etc.) are the same people that would find my blog and read it there… or here, I mean.

Now, come on, all us bloggers know this- not every reader out there also reads blogs! If that was true of blog readers, George R.R. Martin’s personal blog would be crashing every day he puts up a post about his favorite football team (it is the Jets by the way and he does this a lot).

See, what I know that the writer doesn’t is that the number of readers and followers on my site are only a percentage of the market I could have with my work when it is published. (And yes I do plan to seek out publishers for it after completion, more on that in later editorials).

I’m also willing to bet some money as well that someone who is following my experiment from chapter one to the end will buy the book when it is published (fingers crossed) at a later date. How do I know this?

Because I know that everyone who is reading Permanent Spring Showers (and reading this post) are the coolest people in the world. That is how I know.

It Finally Happened

Life caught up to me, and no matter how late I was staying up each night, I couldn’t keep ahead any more.

  • I’m editing A Jane Austen Daydream right now with the editor from the publishing house. It is almost a five hundred page book and written in a unique voice. I can’t just turn my “Austen voice” on and off. It takes work to edit something like this.
  • I have two little kids.
  • It is the holidays.
  • I have a day job as an editor.
  • I have this blog where I like to have two to three new posts a week.

So this week is the first since the beginning (when I made the genius mistake of writing a chapter that was actually supposed to be two) where I am working directly on the bit that will be going up on Friday (chapter 19). The buffer is gone, people!

I am not ahead of the curve! I am right here with you, and I haven’t even started chapter 20!


The one thing I have going for me is, thanks to a late evening and a stunning revelation, I was able to map out the remaining chapters.

Yes, I know how this book will end and every step I need to hit to get to that path.

You have no idea how much of a relief that is. The writing of this has been so organic that many times I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going, only assuming I would make it to an end that might (but probably not) reflect some of the original screenplay’s ending. Yet, with each character change, each new relationship, each new plot point that possibility became thinner and thinner to me.

I can toss that worry aside (and trust me, it kept me up worrying some nights). This book will have an end that I can see. It is right over the hill, right there, do you see it?

Now I just have to complete the blasted task of writing it.

Chapter 19 will be up on Friday.

If you liked reading the editorial, why not check out some of my published books? I had two novels published in the last few years, My Problem With Doors and Megan. You can find them via my author page here, or as an eBook on Google eBooks here.  My new book, A Jane Austen Daydream will be released in December. Thanks for reading!

7 thoughts on “My Online Literary Experiment: Okay, Am I Stupid?

  1. Keep your chin up. Also keep in mind that “writer/editor/publishing professional[s]” are not only your peers, but your competition. Take it all with a grain of salt. Also keep in mind that Daniel Pinkwater first published “The Neddiad” as an online serial. He even read parts of it over the air. It was great, and never once did I think “oh, I’ve read that online – what’s the point of the book?” Instead, I thought “I’m hooked…I wonder what the cover art will be like…this should be on every shelf…etc. etc.” When you write for money, it can sometimes change your motivation and sap your creativity. I’m glad that you just happen make a living while you do what you enjoy, rather than sacrificing that creative mojo for the almighty buck. It will pay off.

  2. Actually, “What publisher wouldn’t be attracted to a book whose author had demonstrated the ability to reach and please a nicely targeted reader group?”

    More to the point, “What author, having demonstrated how to secure readers and motivate them towards loyalty should even care if a publisher has an interest or not?”

    Twitter certainly has its limitations.

  3. Who published Fifty Shades of Grey? That seemed to work out pretty well for them.

    Glad you’ve figured out what to do for the rest of the book! I know what a relief that is. (>^-‘)>

      • Hehe, nah (at least I doubt it, not having actually read Fifty Shades) – I just meant that it was, as far as I recall, all posted online before getting picked up and becoming an international bestseller.

        And of course! Yours is one of the few ‘blogs on here I make sure to keep up with regularly.

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