Friday, June 24, 2016

Each Writer is a Publishing House To Himself

Earlier this week, I took the time to watch Vox Day and Stefan Molyneux talk about (among other things) the recent history of Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing. It mirrors what I've heard from Mike Cernovich, in that the publishing game is now such that the existing institutions are moribund, rotting, unsalvagable, and therefore worthless. In short, writers are on their own.

With Amazon now being the biggest bookseller in the world, and making it very easy to publish independently through Amazon's outlets, what would have been a terrible tragedy for the cultural development of the world's nation is instead an opportunity for those bold enough to go for it to be in the vanguard of the movement that sweeps away such a wretched old publishing paradigm. It is no longer a place where the writer is an atomized cog in a vast publishing machine; it is now a place where each writer is a publishing enterprise until himself.

That's not hyperbole. Mike Cernovich proved it with the spectacular release of Gorilla Mindset, with over 10000 copies sold within six months. Mainstream publishers shit their pants over such number these days, especially in fiction (including genre fiction), and this is becoming the norm for independent writers who see as Cernovich does: they they are businesses, not just skilled workers, and act accordingly.

Cernovich takes every opportunity to market himself, his books, and his brand to cultivate his audience. Even after striking a deal with Vox Day's business, Castallia House, he keeps at this with the steady pace of a jackhammer. This means that he operates his writing as if he is a publishing house to himself, and that is what you should shamelessly copy and implement for yourself.

That includes me. It's time that I up my game, organize my shit, and be that business to myself. It's the mindset of a professional, and the professional that succeeds has to adopt and internalize the winning mindset that Cernovich's brand bases itself upon. (So, yes, I did buy myself a copy of Gorilla Mindset; gotta start somewhere.)

So, I'm going to take the next few weeks to assess what's what, and then organize a practical schedule that gets shit done and out the door. The covers will not be pretty. Format launches will be separated by necessity. I'll gladly use my existing outlets to get the word out, so expect more posts where I hype my own material. This Autumn in particular should be very productive for me, with Winter being a finishing phase before I get the first of material out the door and available for sale.

You're on your own now, Fellow Writer. The houses of old are slowly collapsing, and there is nothing that can save them. Nor should they be saved, as the rot is too far gone now. You want to succeed? Choose yourself, make the time, build up your own brand, and use the tools available to you to be your own publishing house. Go for it. Fortune favors the bold for a reason.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Writing Update: The End of "The Burning of Hugo" Revised

"Please, Ken!" Hugo said, dropping to his knees, put forth his hands together as if beseeching an angry god. "You've done enough. Stop!"

About them, though the walls muffled them, they heard the crises of the slain as Ken's allies cut them down with disciplined fire and the terror of flame.

"Hugo, you know better than that. You've published my stories for 25 years. You know how this ends."

Ken put a gas can on the floor, hitting with a clear THUMP! to show it to be full.

"What gets me is why, Hugo. You did the very stupid things that you've heard me talk about, made your fortune writing about, became famous for publishing. You did it. Why?"

"Why?" Hugo said, his hands now balled into fists and slamming the floor, "Because I never got any respect! No one took me seriously until I got on board with this. I went from endless mockery in the literary press to getting Hollywood studios burning up my phone. My original fiction finally got some fucking notice, and it got pushed!"

"So, all you had to do was to stab me in the back and renounce what made you great and now you had the good word of a bunch of useless parasites and some two-faced whore in your bed."

"I had to grow up, Ken! So do you."

Ken shook his head as he drew a lighter from a pocket. "You are beyond saving."

Hugo looked up as Ken popped the cap on the gas can. "No, Ken. No. No, no, no..."

"I never needed you, Hugo." Ken said as he poured the gasoline over Hugo. "You needed me. Your decline after betraying me shows that clearly. This is not the first betrayal for me, but it is the last for you."

"Just fucking shoot me!"

"No. You shall be the example for others to avoid. Burn, traitor."

Ken poured out a line across the room from Hugo and stood at that end. He held up the lighter, waited until Hugo looked up at him, and bent down to light the gasoline. Moments later, Hugo lit up and Ken used his phone to stream it live.

"You should have listened to The Dark Lord, Hugo. He is merciful. I am not."

Hugo burned to death as Ken turned his back and walked away.


  • Ken is a dick. This is intentional. It's what leads to his post-apocalyptic transformation into Ken the Zombie-Eater.
  • Ken and Hugo have had a long personal and business relationship. This is what allowed Ken to operate as he has. Hugo got rich telling people Ken's stories, which in genre terms is "Men's Adventure" and thoroughly disrespected by both the Literati in Academia and in Big Publishing. Hugo, like many college-educated writers, is status-obsessed and anxious to the point of dysfunction. Ken not be around for months at a time is why it took a betrayal for him to notice.
  • Ken's life is a serial of revenge-taking. His events are as predictable as an action movie, and therefore by this time he's already killed enough people to equal the great heroes of antiquity across all continents. Hugo resents this because the reliable income doesn't translate to the respect he desires.
  • Hugo got lovebombed into a cult rather easily, and the cult's leaders (dead by this point at Ken's hands), one that dominated his field and thus wielded major influence (e.g. Scientology). They kept him on a leash as a money spigot by handing him a woman, in classic Honeypot manner.
  • "Stabbed in the back" is metaphorical; the cult used Ken's previous enemies as catspaws. "Left to die" is literal, and is why The Dark Lord intervened.
  • This is at the cult's annual convention. The rest of the cult's core members are slaughtered by Ken's allies.

I expect a few more goes at this until it's right.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Respect the Formula

On YouTube there's a user by the name of Razorfist. When he's not talking about videogames and comics, he's talking about movies. He's often mocking in his tone, and rightly so, but he's also not wrong about what he says. However, out of all his action film videos the one he did in 2011 for Segal's Out For Justice most directly hits the salient points I'm after here- how to make commercially-viable genre fiction.

With all the hatred RazörFist has been hurling at the video game industry, we were about due for a good old fashioned '80s / '90s action flick, and this time Steven Seagal provides the ammunition with his 1990 classic Out for Justice. Watch in awe as we witness the mustache bandit's violent homicidal rampage, Steven Seagal's fake Italian accent, and Gina Gershon's perfect melons.

Again, Razorfist's taking the piss, but he's not wrong. What you need out of an action film is this:

  • An obvious villain for an antagonist. (No moral ambiguity here.)
  • A signature action sequence that sticks with the audience well after the fact.
  • A protagonist who is Iconic in nature.
  • Protagonist engages in righteous slaughter against the villain until he kills the villain.
To which you can, and whenever possible should, add: a hot chick for the protagonist to deal with. "Story" is irrelevant; the audience demand here is to watch Iconic Hero do Heroic Deeds (which routinely do revolve around righteous slaughter, and have since then Ancient World; read your mythology), kill the bad guys, and get their just rewards (which, often, is what the girl is for- but not always). It's the secularization of old and sacred drama, and you're a damned fool to not see it as such. Same applies to Romance, Horror, and other genres with known formulae at work.

Yes, it's a formula. Yes, it's been lampooned plenty of times. Yes, lots of people deride it as low-brow and crass.


The definition of a professional is someone who make a living doing it. Professionals DO NOT BALK at reliable gigs. They may use psuedonyms or some other cover to avoid "tainting their literary credibility" or some such bullshit, but they do it because they like Civilization and want to enjoy its benefits- and that requires paying for shit, which means money. That action movie formula? That's a reliable gig, and plenty of folks who now get Oscars once hustled in the genre film trenches hustling to get fucking paid.

That's you, right now. No sales. One sale. 42 sales, 15 Hugos, and a TV series or two. Whatever, you need to get paid and that means not shitting on reliable forumlae for commercial viability. Being "arty" or "literary" is reserved for people with Fuck Off money or patronage.

This is the practical end towards the "know your audience" maxim. You need to know that audience so you can deliver the goods and get paid. You're not some fru-fru bullshit artist. You're a craftsman, a fucking working-class work-with-your-hands craftsman, and your craft is story-telling. Your job is to make stories that others will spend money to buy from you. You wouldn't shit on a proven formula for making a chair, a shirt, or Mac & Cheese, would you? Fuck no, that's retarded. You'd leap at that shit and be grateful for it.

Respect the formula. That's what makes you the money, because that's what's proven to be what the audience wants. It also takes a lot of work off your shoulders; you can focus on making a very good work of that sort--on your execution--than wasting time on reinventing the wheel making characters that readers don't want to see, or conflicts that get readers to use your work as toliet paper, or other failures to provide the value that your audience expects out of you. They want a bolt-action rifle. Don't fuck around; just make the best fucking bolt-action rifle your skills can manage.

And if you aren't looking to go pro as writer? Respect it anyway. If no one reads your writing, then you might as well not write at all.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Your Future Competition: R. Author

Automation, far more than immigration, is the real threat to the social order of the world's nations. We've been feeling the effects for some time, as robots took more and more menial bitch work away from human hands in manufacturing. Then they took the skilled work, de-skilling it into bitch work, until now where a plant operates on a fraction of the labor it used it. Other heavy labor sectors are feeling that pinch, and now it's coming into the services like a tsunami.

"But Walker, I'm a professional writer! I'm safe!"

Like Hell you are.

Writing is a craft, and that means it has predictable structure to it that can be and has been codified into a program. While it is currently automating the bitch work (Do you see the pattern yet?), once the software is sufficiently refined it will begin deskilling the knowledge workers who currently do analysis reports and similar fact-based (but predictably solvable, due to pattern-based logic) work. Now that one such robot suite is free, expect that time to come sooner than later.

"But Walker, I write fiction professionally! I'm safe!"

Oh please. Go look at that GIF again. The vast majority of fiction, "literary" (what bullshit) or "genre", is just as predictable and tied to a knowable structure as news reporting. That you can sell books on writing fiction, focusing on structure and other craft elements, also means that you can turn all of that into a useful algorithm that takes input like a Mad Lib and spits out commercially-viable fiction. The future crap Syfy Originals will be where this starts, followed by the better horror films, and then blockbusters will come forth that are mostly or wholly written by robots.

Ten years, easily, until R. Author is a real and immediate competitor. Twenty on the outside. The variables aren't even with the software, but wholly external factors behind the scope of this blog post. A child born today will come of age in a world where his new entertainment is robot-written, both the story and (for games) the coding.

Where, for most of us who write either professionally or as a sideline hobby, does that leave us? Don't expect the quality of robot copy to be crap for long; if the Associated Press can plug in their style manual into their bot and get the reliably good results that they do, it wouldn't be hard to do the same for fiction. Polishing may be something left for humans, but most of the dredge work? Robots. Yes, including that first draft and making the covers.

In the end, we may become nothing more than folks playing with online forms filling in blanks and polishing the results before feeding it into the robot audiobook creator and formatting it for Print On-Demand and E-Reader, something that we may be doing for whole manuscripts multiple times per day. It'll be like the days of the pulp magazines once more, only digital and worldwide: still making the same shit pay, while hustling even harder to get it.