Dueling Columns 2 – Print vs. Online
Print vs. Online – The great debate
So Larina and I are once again at it. We’re going to try to be a little more regular about this, but things got in the way in the past month – birth, death, work, alcohol, nudity, football, kids, and beef jerky. Not necessarily in that order.
Take a gander at my thoughts here, speak up, add something to the conversation if you want to, and then see what she has to say over here Larina Print vs. Online
I am taking the online side of this debate. SO…let the games begin.
STIGMA NO LONGER
It used to be that publishing your fiction online was frowned upon. But things have changed. For many reasons, online publishing has gotten better, has expanded its audience, and in the process, has eliminated much of the stink. It has changed, for the better. And I’m pretty excited about it.
Here are some reasons why online fiction has blown up.
1. COST: Many print journals, whether at universities or independent presses, have decided to change to online publishing only. The recession has hit everyone and it is much more affordable to post up short stories and host it online, even if you spend money designing a really cool site. There are also many FREE or cheap sites out there, such as WordPress.com. Print costs, postage, and declining readerships have forced many publications to move online.
2. EXTENSIONS: Many respectable presses, journals and magazines have added an online aspect to what they already do in print. The New Yorker has been publishing fiction online for a long time now. Dzanc just rolled out The Collagist, a new web presence to add to its already compelling Monkeybicycle, Dzanc Books, OV Books and Black Lawrence Press. It’s happening all the time now. And that lends an air of credibility. When a publication that already wins awards, publishes the authors you love, and generally does good work decides to move online, why wouldn’t you trust that their online work would be just as good? I haven’t seen any drop off in the writing.
3. EYES: There are many reasons for publishing online, but getting new people to read your work, and getting a LOT of people to read it, is one. I recently had a story posted up at Troubadour 21 and it has over 200 hits, as we speak. Now, I doubt that all of those are unique visitors, and I promise that I did not click that link 199 times, but even if HALF of those people reading my work are new to me, I’m very happy with that. Most of us are not novelists, nor do we make a living as writers. We are not selling a million copies of our books. Yet. So for now, we have to take what we can get. You could publish in a print journal, and maybe 100 people would pick it up, maybe a couple hundred, but with the internet, there is always the possibility or more, an ENDLESS number of people that could read your work. And it’ll never go out of print.
4. IMMEDIACY: You run into somebody on the street, you chat somebody up at AWP, or a reading, or run into an ex-girlfriend at the grocery store. Honest, it was a coincidence. I don’t personally carry around copies of my work. And I wouldn’t, even if I HAD twenty copies of Gold Dust or Vain or the upcoming Shivers VI from Cemetery Dance. Not to mention the cost involved with that. BUT, I do carry around business cards with my blog on it, and my contact information. I can refer people to this blog, and subsequently, to my online fiction. I can post up in forums. I can Facebook you to death, Tweet in your ear until it bleeds. The point being, I can get you to my work, NOW. If you want to go there. If my work were ONLY in print, that would be much harder. Publishing online is a good alternative, a way of showcasing your work, and as fast and easy as a mouse click. I’ve had agents and editors read my work online and ask for a story or full manuscript before. It can be a great resource.
5. QUALITY: Like any book you pick up in a bookstore or at the library, the quality will vary. There are certainly terrible websites out there with weak writing. Just like there are published books that are empty and vague. Places like The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, The Paris Review, Granta, The Atlantic, we all know those are great places to publish. But what about the lesser known journals and magazines? The overall quality of online fiction has really improved. All you have to do is chase down your favorite authors, and see what they are publishing online. You’ll see that many established, as well as emerging authors, are publishing online now. Take the following sentence and fill in the blanks. It is your new mantra.
If _______________ is good enough for _______________, it’s good enough for me.
Maybe those authors are Brian Evenson, Stephen Graham Jones, Blake Butler, Steve Almond, Benjamin Percy, Amelia Gray, Roy Kesey, Joe Meno, Matt Bell, Holly Goddard Jones, Stephen Elliott or Mary Miller.
6. TECHNOLOGY: These days, we are a digital society. We are fast and furious in everything we do. We update our Facebook status, we Tweet, we build our profiles on a million forums, we blog. So it only makes sense that we publish online, that we download podcasts and ebooks. Printed books and printed magazines or journals will probably not go away. Ever. BUT…there is a demand for everything, now, in my mouth, give it to me, stick it in. Why should that be any different with our fiction? Don’t get me wrong, one of the simple pleasures in life is holding a book, be it a paperback, or a hefty novel bound in leather. I like it. I like to touch it. To hold it. But I also find myself with down time at work, a spare moment in a coffehouse or stuck at an airport with my laptop. And I’ve read so many great stories while I’ve waited. I’ve tracked down my favorite authors, such as the latest George Saunders at TNY. I’ve run across a new voice, and Googled that name after reading ONE compelling story, only to fine more online, and then a collection of shorts for sale, bought it, and attended a reading in my city. It’s all connected, and it can be very exciting.
As a reader, somebody who enjoys good fiction wherever you can find it, you wouldn’t be here at my blog if you didn’t agree with me to a certain degree. You ARE online, aren’t you? And while this isn’t FICTION, there are tons of stories over there under my Table of Contents, under the Short Story section, as well as links to other authors and their work, and some fantastic presses and online journals. So go read. Check it out. Have fun.
To the writers – don’t be afraid. If you’re such a good writer, go out and write more. And put it online. Write to a theme issue, write to a particular aesthetic, stretch yourself. Make us laugh so hard we piss our pants. Make us gag. Make us a little bit horny. Make us tear up a bit. Maybe even touch a nerve. Write a horror story or an erotic tale, dabble in noir, or the surreal, write a fairy tale, or serialize your novella. But get your work out there. I think that’s one of the best things about putting your work online. It’s OUT THERE. For people to enjoy. You can’t get discovered if people can’t find your work.