My friend and The Damned Highway co-writer Nick Mamatas gave a reading in Wilkes-Barre this week, so Robert Swartwood and I drove up to visit him today and see him off to the airport. We had the honor of being the very first customers ever to eat at the just-opened Maers BBQ, for which we were given commemorative t-shirts. Both the food and the service were excellent, and Nick made it to the airport.
But this post isn’t about that. It’s about Rob, and the current marketplace, and how digital makes possible things that weren’t possible even a few years ago.
Robert Swartwood is a good writer and a smart kid (anybody under the age of 35 is a kid to me at this point). He’s part of that Sixth Wave I talked about a few months ago. I like Rob for many reasons, one of which is that he reminds me of myself back in the day — except that he’s not a smart-ass or a troublemaker. But he does pay attention to the industry, and he’s smart and savvy and able to anticipate trends and changes. More importantly, he understands how to build an audience and market to them. Writing and publishing are very different now than they were 15 years ago when I started out. Many young writers ask me variations of this question: “If you were just starting your career now, how would you go about it?” My answer is simple: I’d do exactly what Rob has been doing, focusing on digital, and especially Kindle.
On the way home, I was grilling Rob about his success and the challenges he’s faced, and the opportunities digital has presented him with, and something occurred to me. About five years ago, a publisher asked me to pitch an ongoing adventure series similar to James Axler’s Deathlands and Outlanders, but with a horror vibe, rather than sci-fi. I did, and as usually happens with such pitches, it went nowhere, because the marketing people and bean counters got involved. But digital makes such a thing possible. More importantly, digital gives me the ability to cut out the marketing department and the bean counters, and indeed, even the publisher if I so desire.
Tonight, I have to finish the script for the latest issue of The Last Zombie. Tomorrow, I have to work on the final draft of The Lost Level. But in between, I’m going to pull out that old pitch, and dust it off, and look at it through a digital lens. More on this later…