Thursday, May 27, 2010



Sound files can be used on blogs and websites or radio stations, or sold like music through iTunes, or put on CD’s, or made available for download on the Internet through a specialized website. You can add music, sound effects, interviews with other people, and it’s all still publishing. You just have to think of it.

“Podcasting” is a way of transmitting spoken words that is assumed to be something like a series radio program or like a written column, but it could be anything. iTunes carries them and so do others. This is as much dependent on mp3 players as anything else, since that’s the mode that makes the medium transmittable and transportable, so you can stick it in your pocket or your automobile player and take enormous amounts of narrative or argument along with you while you commute or drive cross-country. For some people it replaces radio, even Sirius satellite radio.

Spoken words are not for everyone. Even if you like a story program similar to the ones that often show up on NPR, a certain amount of fussing is necessary to figure out how to operate the technology, decide what kind of earphones or ear buds you want, make some kind of peace with safety -- an issue that first came along with the Walkman, the first portable private sound technology, a huge improvement on boom boxes. Some people don’t have the ears for it, some people don’t have the brains for it (I don’t mean stupid, I mean developing the brain's ability to process that specific thing.) and some people simply hate the available content.


Now we’re on YouTube territory. A video camera costs about a hundred dollars and goes anywhere in your pocket, just like a digital still photo camera. Once you master the programs that let you mix media, you’re in Big Girl territory, multi-media, vlogs. Hollywood, here you come! Well, at least maybe local TV. This can’t be so hard. Graduating classes do it every June, though the one I saw just now was still photos in a “slideshow” with an added soundtrack rather than a true video which I suppose would mean moving images and editing, both of which can be done with a hundred dollar camera and a computer rather than the expensive lenses and mixers of the past.

Again, this is a two-level skill: one is mastering the technology and the other is having anything worth communicating to anyone else. It helps to be driven by a issue or a vision and it helps to be young.


Two or more persons can easily split the task (you write a story and I’ll play a keyboard behind you) or brainstorm together. This is a good solution to technology for some people but not for others. It suggests intergenerational cooperation or even rural/urban collaboration, although once you’re on the Internet being rural is not much of a problem as long as you’re willing to stretch your consciousness to worldviews other than the local. Not subject matter -- world view.

Less admired is covert collaboration like ghost-writing where one person has the skill and the other has the story. One could say that all editing is collaboration.


Since it’s possible to transfer anything that shows up on a screen to paper, it is easy to make calendars or family picture books, maybe one-offs for occasions like reunions or conferences. But technology also makes photos improvable -- more intense, more focused, blended or superimposed. Cross-media “writing” of publishable photo and caption means a far greater capacity and sensitivity.


“For those not on Twitter - here's the most popular stat I've broadcast thus far from BEA: "7% of books published generate 87% of book sales. And 93% of all published books sell less than 1,000 copies each."

Of course, this depends a lot on what you consider books and what you consider published. Does this include ebooks or local books (most of which never show up in any statistics) or textbooks? Do you think of publishers as traditional companies in Manhattan? I have a friend who is determined that in his retirement he will publish a book that will make him famous and at least a little wealthier. His paradigm for doing this is twenty years -- maybe more -- out of date. He thinks he will be brilliant, though his ideas are totally dependent on other people, and that there is a paternalist force (maybe an agent) who will take him on, the way his professors did at grad school. He is discovering that writers, like politicians, are now vetted for possible public disapproval and that he has a couple of major political blunders in his past.

The real money is not in publishing. It is not in brilliant scholarship. It is not in some kind of ethnic revelation or societal shocking situation. It is not in a diligent agent or even in an ingenious marketing platform. It’s not in the readers. It’s in serving the very large population of people yearning to write and be published. It’s every bit as good as the market for get rich quick schemes, diet programs, and guides to how to get laid.

I see this specifically in the Native American community. Most of them have a vague notion that if they wrote a book, their lives would be transformed. This is based mostly on the 19th century practice of gents coming to the rez and falling in with an informant. (If these gents are academic people, they look for someone who seems to have a lot of rather formal approval and if they are the adventurous type they hang out in bars.) I wrote in an earlier post about the pervasive idea that NA subject matter consists of Napi stories, ceremonial secrets, or atrocities of the past and present. Almost nothing has been written about the twentieth century, although it’s beginning: code-talkers, basketball, NA law, family history.

What these folks need is the business machinery: people who have knowledge and contacts. A good example might be the local NA individuals who can organize casting for Hollywood, attract good candidates, support their travel, teach them what they need to know. This secondary level of business is coming alive in other fields in contract teaching of skills like flagging traffic or running heavy equipment or organizing fire fighters. There’s no reason why it can’t work for writing of one kind or another except for a few factors that pertain to every author.

You have to think of it in the first place.
You have learn technology, even the technology of grammar and spelling.
You have to be willing to make mistakes, maybe even make a fool of yourself.
You need networking, contacts, go-to people, examples. All this comes from being a good consumer: reading, watching, reflecting.

If you can help people do these things, you can make money. But I think we are beyond the naive, political and market based, undersubsidized “book festival.” Even the BoxExpo America now happening in Manhattan has not grasped it yet.


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