Writing in the Digital Age: What To Do When Pigs Fly

Traditional Wisdom Only Goes So Far When the Future Beckons

picture of pig flying with man-made wings

This does not look like fun for the poor pig!

When I was a child, I once knew an adult who loved to say, “When pigs fly.” He said this to any request that he deemed unreasonable or irrational made by a family member.

I used to find the image funny, a winged pig snuffling through the air.

But lately, given the digital evolution, I’m seeing signs that farmers need to go check the pigpens for signs of wings.

Two random examples:

  1. Hugh Howey signs a print-only deal with Simon and Schuster for his highly successful ebook Wool series. The short version: Hugh wrote a science fiction short story about a dystopian future where the population is contained in the sealed environment of a silo, and put it up for sale as an ebook. It did well. He wrote more in the same world. They did well. He got famous-ish. He got an agent to sell foreign rights (neither of them expected to sell to traditional publishing because “it wouldn’t be prudent” to quote SNL sister). Traditional publishers came knocking, offering lots of $$ for lots of rights. Hugh and his agent said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Traditional publishers came back a second time. Still offered lots of $$ for lots of rights. S&S honcho broke with tradition and asked, “What would you like?” Hugh and his agent told him. Hugh and his agent sold print rights only. [Look! Up in the sky! Is that a winged pig I see overhead?]
  2. Jane Friedman guests hosts a blogger who suggests (most) authors should stop blogging immediately. The short version: hard to get an audience, better ways to spend your time, who cares what you have to say? Read the comments, they’re the best part. [Attention publishers who are urging authors to begin blogging. Read this post. Find a way to let your authors post once a year on a big-eyeball site you manage. Win-win. For most authors.]

As little as a year ago, agents and publishers were busy explaining why a print only deal for successful ebook authors wasn’t feasible. I know of many authors who took down successful ebook series books (i.e. stopped earning money) for six months before the print publishers got them up again. To be clear, they voluntarily gave up six months of earnings for a traditional publishing deal. Because (watch out for those pigs overhead) traditional publishers would never do a print only deal.

I know of many authors who dislike blogging, dislike FaceBook, and despise Twitter. And yet, because their publisher (or some other expert) says they should, they do. Is it the right thing? Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s good to see a few pigs fly now and again. Reminds us that there are no barriers a determined group cannot surmount. Eventually. Sometimes.

Have you seen any unidentified pig-like flying objects in the news lately? Do you have a pig-poop proof umbrella just in case?

Kelly McClymer has written historical romance, young adult fantasy, short stories, and is about to launch a cozy noir mystery series about a secret shopping mom who stumbles across a serial killer. She continues to thwart established wisdom, new and old, to blog on her own website in the random manner that suits her best. She also semi-enjoys Facebook and adores Twitter.

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Writing in the Digital Age: What To Do When Pigs Fly — 4 Comments

  1. I love the Hugh Howey story and it is definitely worth clicking on the link you provided to read it all. Not only did I read his article about his journey into traditional publishing, I showed my mother the link. Now, she is reading Wool, and I can’t imagine she’s ever read any science fiction before.

    It is a brave new world in publishing and I’m thrilled to be involved.

  2. I regard blogging as akin to convention appearances – if you enjoy it (and I do) and it nourishes your creative spirit, and you love the communities – then go for it. But don’t expect either to make you an instant best seller.

    I have met so many wonderful people through blogs and other online communities, even if I didn’t sell a single book that way, it would be more than worth it.

  3. Have to disagree re the value of blogging.

    Yes, it’s a commitment. However, it’s also a way for readers to discover you, and for you to interact with readers. Although a Facebook page can serve the same purpose, who knows how long Facebook will be popular? MySpace came and went, as did AOL and many other companies.

    Bottom line — if you’re writing books, you need to build your platform (readership.) A blog can help you to do that.