I'm getting a lot more of that irate e-mail about the stories I write for my readers and make available online for free. The general misconception is that I've just started doing this, when in fact I've been doing it regularly for the last seven years.
It's true that I have certain advantages over other writers: 1) I write quickly, 2) I write every day, 3) I produce a huge amount of work and 4) I enjoy playing in the worlds I create and hanging out with my characters on the page.
So I'm fast, prolific, and I basically write my own fanfic. Those are pretty much my only advantages in this biz. Since I turned pro, I've used them to help me achieve a modest amount of success. Until last year, no one ever complained to me about the free stories I posted online. Frankly, no one cared what I did, which allowed me a lot of freedom to experiment, give back to my readership for their support, and become the writer I wanted to be.
I didn't follow the herd. I did what I wanted to do. Some of it worked, and some of it didn't, but I learned a lot. I'm still learning.
Over the years I have been pressured to make the con rounds, enter contests, maintain a web site, hold booksignings, pay for book videos, trade advertising, blog tours, and other expensive forms of promotion that come and go as trends. I was told -- repeatedly -- that I would never be a bestselling author unless I did all those things.
I did a few things early on in my career, but I couldn't afford to do most of them, so I said no. A few years ago I quit doing everything but what I wanted to do, which was write an online journal, give away books, and write stories for my readers (and became a bestselling author anyway. Go figure.) Even though I'm still regularly pressured to do the latest trend thing, I still say no and do what I want. Oddly enough, they haven't thrown me out of publishing because I say no to them. In this business, believe it or not, you are allowed to say no.
Despite that pressure, not once have I ever said "That's unfair" to writers who produce clever book videos, or whose work wins important industry awards, or who attend conferences and dazzle readers with their wit and workshops, or who have a gorgeous pricey web site and thousands of readers posting on their discussion boards. They're simply making choices, using their advantages, promoting their work and competing with me for readers. If they get more readers and sell more books, I'm not going to suggest that by doing so that they're selling out and/or being unfair to me because I don't do those things.
I understand how promo trends drive the herd. We've seen hundreds of authors start blogs, create MySpace and FaceBook pages, produce book videos, do podcasts, not because they wanted to, but only because it seemed to be working for another author. If you're going to try something, don't do it because everyone else is. Do what you're comfortable with, what inspires you, and what makes you happy. Use the advantages you have, and be the writer you want to be, not the writer you think you have to be. Maybe you'll come up with an idea that will get you a lot of irate e-mail seven years down the road.