Audible Books seems to be doing all right these days, adding a few more pennies to the vast coffers of Amazon.
Feeling a bit chagrined for patronizing a site owned by one of the mega-companies that are gradually taking over the world? Reluctant to add to Jeff Bezos’ ballooning net worth?
Well, allow me to offer an alternative.
I charge absolutely nothing for these recordings, even though I devote a lot of time, energy and creativity putting them together. There’s accompanying music, sound effects…and the short stories and novel excerpts I feature are a good bit more original, entertaining and literate than many, if not most, of the offerings you’ll find with my corporate counterpart. That I guarantee.
A word to the wise, however: my recorded prose may well be a gateway drug to the rest of my oeuvre. Once you get drawn in, you may find it impossible to stop, unable to resist immersing yourself in my dark, demented visions. Allow me to indulge in a maniacal chuckle as I imagine you downloading an MP3 of a tale like “Daughter” or “Walt Disney in Hell”, with no idea of what you’re getting yourself into, the rabbit hole you’ve tumbled down.
My writing will definitely liven up a long car trip, I’ll tell you that.
Try some of it on for size, see if it fits.
What do you have to lose?
Except a few preconceptions and maybe one or two nights of sleep.
This site sees the occasional troll drop by, looking to unload some abuse before they go on their merry way. Believe me, nothing they say comes close to the punishments I inflict on myself for various real, perceived or imagined sins and crimes. Offenses against literature, my family, fellow human beings, God…oh, yes, I am a serious transgressor. Probably should be burned at the stake: move over, Mr. Bruno, make room for a real bad guy.
This past weekend was one of those occasions when I took myself to task, first raking my personality over the coals (lots of material there), then mounting a sustained attack on my writing ability.
The latter hurt much, much more.
I can live with being pompous, unforgiving, ruthless, cowardly, unkind, cruel…but telling me I suck as an author cuts me to the quick.
Weird. I turned professional in 1985 with a couple of big short story sales, plus I received a Canada Council grant that year to write a collection of tales on the theme of nuclear war. I was riding high, well on my way to a long, successful writing career. Fast forward 27 years and I’m still berating myself for not being good enough, not writing with sufficient power and conviction to earn a decent reading audience. Christ, look at those pitiful Amazon sales—right now my books are scoring lower with readers than the guy who composed the life story of his pet turtle in Alexandrine couplets.
Another part of my brain plaintively opines that it’s not about the money, it’s about writing the books that need to be written, good books, literary offerings not constrained by market trends or readers’ expectations. And then the prissy little voice sharpens, reminding me I’m not scoring very well on that count either, that my books aren’t smart or original or stylistically daring. I’m not an innovator, I’m a pale imitation of my literary heroes.
Books not selling, readers indifferent, preferring to spend their hard-earned shekels on dry-humping teen vampires and spank me-fuck me fan fiction. Not a brilliant stylist, so I can’t even hope for the consolations of posterity.
Why bother? Why keep going on? Why keep subjecting my mind, body and spirit the the daily grind of putting words on paper?
I spent most of Saturday in this mode and devoted all of Sunday to recovering from my self-imposed funk. Yesterday evening my wife and I went for a walk in the hills near our town, just to help me breathe and reintegrate myself. I talked to Sherron about my frustrations, aired some of my fears and complaints. She gave me a fair hearing, then glanced over, smiling. “You know what the final result will be,” she teased. “What, you’re going to quit writing and get a job at a 7-11? Just to prove you’re a bread-winner?”
And I had to grin. Of course, it’s a foolish notion. She cut through my bullshit and subterfuge with a few well-chosen words.
I’ve known Sherron longer than I’ve been a pro writer. I would go so far to say I’m a pro writer because of Sherron. Before I met her my work was inner directed, self-indulgent…really quite appalling. But she opened me up to a wider world of life, experience, art, helping transform me into a better person and a better author. She is my greatest source of support, refusing to acknowledge the possibility that I might not be a literary genius. I am and that’s that. Her faith bucking me up, insulating me against all the insecurity and self-loathing I bring to bear on myself. She knows me better than anyone else so who am I to argue?
Quit writing? What an absurd proposition. It would be easier to quit eating or drawing air into my lungs. It’s my curse, my fate, my destiny to spend most of my waking life isolated, alone, scribbling words in notebooks, arranging and rearranging them until something pleasing suggests itself. And then going on to the next project…and the next…and the next…
I can protest, piss and moan about it, but in the end I will be compelled to enter my small office, plop myself down in this black, high-backed chair and commence work. Nothing else will suffice. There’s no replacement, no substitution, no possibility of a mid-life career change.
Hello, my name is Cliff Burns, I’m forty-eight years old and I’m a writer.
And I always will be.
Sherron has convinced me to offer some of my audio and spoken word pieces on the Bandcamp site.
Didn’t really cost me anything except time (uploads seemed to take forever) and now we’ll wait and see if this draws any more attention to my work. My audio stuff is available for free, as always; while BandCamp offers a decent selection, my complete output is only available here, on this site.
However you read my novel, in whatever format you favor, hope you enjoy my tall, western tale.
Tell your friends, get some word of mouth happening.
Help make this terrific indie release a huge success.
These are interesting times.
Book store sales are dropping, Borders on the verge of collapse, while places like Amazon report an impressive rise in their stats. Fewer people are reading books but there’s been a modest increase (3%) of those reading “literary” offerings. Newspapers are in decline, advertising revenues dwindling; to a great extent, folks now get their news, sports and entertainment info from on-line sources.
Despite their daunting price tags, more and more people are using devices like the Kindle and the Sony e-Reader or related palm-sized gadgets. And employing said gadgets to avail themselves of books presented in electronic formats, downloading and reading them in growing numbers.
I’m an old fashioned lad, a real throwback when it comes to all this technology–miles behind digital sages like Mike Cane, who have seen the future and are showing the rest of us dummies what lies ahead.
But I’m learning. I’ve posted two of my novels and numerous short stories on this site and, frankly, I’ve been astonished by the amount of people who have downloaded them–some of them are reading my fiction and essays on their computer screens, even printing them up to peruse at their leisure. But I’m also noticing a growing number who are coming over from various e-book sites and forums, places like this and this…
Frankly, I couldn’t care less how you read something I’ve written, what format you choose.
Coming up in March, some folks are celebrating the new reality in publishing by sponsoring “Read an E-Book Week” and I’m only too happy to throw my weight behind this event.
Thanks to this blog and the ability it gives me to electronically publish my work, I’ve been able to bypass the gate-keepers of publishing, editors and agents with one eye on the fickle marketplace and the other on their bank accounts. They’re no longer interested in identifying the “best” writers, merely the ones that hold out the most hope of selling the most books and earning them (agents, editors) more money. And that, of course, means producing empty-headed commercial fiction, copycat books and the latest “poor me” memoir.
But, re: the sales figures above, their record of late hasn’t been too impressive. The reading public has largely ignored the authors they herald, the derivative works they champion.
It’s time for a new paradigm and e-books are part of the solution. They put power and control back into the hands of writers, allowing them to publish their work without editorial interference or an unhealthy obsession with what’s perceived to be popular.
Authors can now create their own “buzz” and attract readers from around the world to their work. Others have debated the merits of offering material free, but I have found it has worked wonders for me, raising my profile to hitherto unheard of heights. Tens of thousands of folks from around the world have visited this blog and many, many of them have taken the opportunity to read and enjoy the material I offer.
Hats off to the folks behind “Read an E-Book Week”. I congratulate them for their foresight and the vision they have of a future where authors are granted paramount importance and corporate publishing is, increasingly, marginalized, rendered superfluous, perhaps even obsolete.
That day isn’t far off. And when it finally arrives, it won’t be cause for mourning or despair. On the contrary–and I’ll be one of the liberated, independent artists dancing a victory jig on their graves…