Back in March of 2010, I attended a panel discussion at the Writers Guild called “Untangling the Web: How to Use the Net to Advance Your Writing Career.” As with most of these types of events, the panelists ranged from an A-list screenwriter to a former executive turned entrepreneur, to a best-selling author, to a couple of indie web series pioneers. The common thread was that each one of them had achieved a considerable degree of success either promoting themselves through their websites, or creating content to be downloaded or consumed directly online.
The entire evening was very informative, but the one moment that stuck with me was when one of the panelists asked a simple question that went something like this: “The Internet is a writer’s medium,” he said. “It’s mostly words. So why aren’t more writers taking advantage of it?”
Having been involved in the creation of various interactive games and experiences since the mid-‘90s, I was no stranger to the rapid advance of technology. Nevertheless, that statement was a major eye-opener for me. With all my experience, both writing and working with programmers and artists, I should be able to take advantage of this opportunity, I thought. But how would I do it? Should I try to make an online game? Write interactive fiction? Create a digital comic book?
The answer continued to elude me, until the proliferation of smart phones, tablets and e-readers eventually led me to write and self-publish a non-fiction book about the thing I knew best: creative writing. Now, having gone through the process, my head is absolutely exploding with all kinds ideas for new projects (both fictional and non-fictional) that could potentially harness the power of the Internet.
We’re coming into a revolutionary time, when technology is enabling us to create and deliver our stories in so many new ways. As I write this more people still buy physical books than e-books (currently e-book penetration is at about 15%), but that equation is equalizing more and more every day, and is sure to reverse itself in the next few years.
Self-publishing, which was once a very difficult hill to climb, has now been made far easier through online authoring and print-on-demand services, as well as digital delivery systems such as Apple’s iBooks and Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Overnight, self-publishing, which was once a stigma associated with failure, has come to be regarded as a badge of honor.
And here’s the best part. The technology driving this new digital publishing revolution is also enabling individuals to both create and market original stories in truly unique ways. New mediums are being invented and old ones are being re-invented. Whether it’s blogging and using the reach of social networks to spread the word about a traditional book, or using a combination of interactive technology, motion graphics, animation and hi-def live action video to tell an entirely new kind of story, it’s truly a great time to be a writer.