I have been writing since the mid nineties but I only started doing it seriously when I needed it as catharsis just over 10 years ago. My future wife and I started doing YouTube six months ago because I thought it would be fun. I was right. It is.
Coming to YouTube from the world of fiction and humor writing has blown my tiny mind. If you put a gallon of thousand island dressing into a tuba and then had a giant with normal sized lips blow into that tuba for all he or she was worth, the flying goop, not to mention the noise, might give you some idea of how blown my mind is.
I don’t know what writing fiction is like for MFA types. I wish I did. I’m a college dropout, self taught. Trying to get people to read my work is hard. I fully accept and/or disclose that this might be because my work isn’t good. I’m proud of my books, but then, my mom was proud of my finger paintings and those were highly derivative.
Up the Tubes
Our YouTube channel is tiny by internet standards, but so far, most everyone has been kind, encouraging, and often hilarious. People who run other channels much more famous than ours have been crazy helpful and welcoming. They’ve provided advice and shared their audiences with us for no gain whatsoever other than they are nice people.
We’ve even been offered free products worth many thousands of dollars. We haven’t accepted yet because it hasn’t felt right, but the right relationship and time might coincide in the future.
Meet the Author
The authors up the famousness ladder from me whom I’ve met at conferences and festivals have not been interested in me or my work. This is an understatement on par with saying that cats are not interested in having ice water spritzed into their eyeballs.
Authors at or near my level have been great, but people up the ladder know they’re up the ladder and appear to want me to know they know. I’ve tried again and again to network with them, talking at length about their work that I like, and receiving, in return, the warmth one might expect from a marble statue’s ass.
On behalf of all writers who aren’t famous, I apologize to you, famous writers, if I made you feel like I might want you to read my work. I’d like to think that if I were making a living at this I’d make some effort to give back. Mind you, I’m at the end of the list of speakers at a given conference, but I am on the list. I’m not ambushing these people in the bushes outside their house and rattling my manuscript at them when they come out to get the mail.
I have met and interacted with a few literary agents. Some of them I’ve even paid to take a look at my work. Not even my money could make them pretend to give a shit about anything other than the size of my mailing list. Which, you might as well know, is nothing to write home about.
The message I have received from agents every time I have spoken with them has been that your work must fit into a clearly defined area that they know and understand — dystopian YA, for example. If it doesn’t, you, the author, can head off down the street, disappear from sight, and fuck off forever from there.
I don’t begrudge agents that attitude. They are in business to make money, not help writers make a living. If they can find a way for the two to coincide, I’m sure that’s best, but at the end of they day they have rent to pay just like anyone else. Nobody wants to spend their day looking for a diamond in the rough only to end that day with nothing but a bunch of worthless rocks.
Better to look around for stuff that looks like stuff that already sells.
If social media is any yardstick for writing success, I’ve had a couple of minor viral hits. But evidence suggests that most of the time people share what they share based on the strength of headline, not the content. If people trust you not to have porn (e.g.) on your site and they like your headline they will share it. It’s nice to have that vote of confidence, but without them clicking through to your site, you don’t make the fraction of a sliver of a penny you might have made from the ad view.
I know from the analytics YouTube provides and the jokes people post to our videos that our viewers actually watch. That’s all I’m asking for, folks. I just want to make something people can enjoy. I don’t expect to be great every time. I just want the opportunity to try.
Speaking in Conference
As a writer hoping to build a following, I have submitted myself to and attended various conferences and festivals. These are fun, but generally expensive. I am responsible for my own travel, lodging, food. I can sell books, but given that I stand to clear somewhere between $1-3 USD on one of my books and typically sell between 1 and 3 per weekend, it’s hardly a moneymaking venture. I wreck that profit within the first ten minutes at my temporary office, a.k.a. the lobby bar.
On YouTube, we have something called Patreon, where we ask people to support us each month monetarily. Here’s the crazy thing: people do. As YouTubers, we don’t really have a deliverable other than our content. People become our patrons simply because they like what we’re up to and want to see more of it. It is incredibly inspiring and humbling to have that support. I am a little misty reflecting on it.
To sum up: As an author and a lover of books, I wish I could make a career out of being a novelist, but after a couple of years of yelling and screaming to anyone who would listen about my writing I am overjoyed to have found some people who are listening, even if it turned out to be a different medium altogether.
If you are like me, and you are a novelist compelled to make work, take your novel, print it out, put it in a manila envelope, and throw it the fuck off of a cliff. Then go get it and put it into a recycle bin. And then start a YouTube channel.
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