Today was an amazing day. I woke up to this:
That’s our anthology, 2054, right at the top. Bestseller, in the company of Patrice Fitzgerald, Hugh Howey, Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison. #1 on the entire Amazon.com store. My part of 2054 was Deep Ocean Blues – the first of four stories you come across after the brilliant foreword by Dr. Samuel Peralta. I’d earned the orange tag.
It’s a moment I thought would take me some years to earn.
And 2054 wasn’t the only thing doing well. Here’s a screenshot I took of the Hot New Releases chart. At #1 is 2054. At #6 is Future Visions, the anthology curated by Brian Walton, to which I contributed The Writing Contest.
Both of these anthologies are very cyberpunk, a strand of science fiction that is very dear to me (and, if I get my way, a strand that I’ll write in for a long, long time). Deep Ocean Blues is about loneliness, the future of work, and what it means to be human when you’re stranded in an underwater thorium mine. And also about octopuses and IndoChina politics. The Writing Contest is again about the future of work, in a sense – but this time in writers’ markets. What happens to human writers when machine learning gives us a bot that can digest Shakespeare and produce faithfully templated bestsellers by the dozen? When Hemmingway 2.0 and McKillip.Ai dominate the markets? Who will read us then?
Both are the results of months of planning. I can’t answer for Future Visions – that’s Brian’s baby, and he was kind enough to streamline things to the point where all we writers had to do was submit a story and track editing changes on a shared document. But for 2054, this marks a month of four authors getting together (that’s me, JT, Jason and Colby), tossing around story ideas, worldbuilding, building subtle hooks into each other’s stories, figuring out who we wanted to write a foreword – and then figuring out the hard part: getting it out into the world.
This is where the brains of four authors really come in handy. I’m not much of a marketer. I used Facebook a lot, and my version of releasing something has been to make a post and watch it blow up. Every so often I talk to other authors who like my work, and they share it. This time, I got to enjoy a front row seat to JT, Jason and Colby meticulously organizing the marketing, newsletter promo dates, while I went around talking to a few other authors we agreed fit our genre nicely.
This goes very much along what I’ve been doing this year – working with others, writing short stories, building up both my skill in the form and experimenting with the craft and with new ideas. There’s a couple more brewing in the background, making for a total of five to six shorts – and based on this, here’s what I’ve managed to distill as notes for myself:
- Work with other authors you like and read. Not only do you find yourself new readers in whatever genre your work in, it’s a great way to make new writing friend and the mind-meld is amazing. I think I’ve picked up more about ads and experiments in a week than I would have found out on my own in a year.
- Have at least one numbers person in the collaboration and have one person take point on the cover art. Too many cooks spoils the broth.
- Yes, people definitely read short fiction. If our reviews are any indicator, some even prefer shorter works over novels – easier to get into, easier to get out of.
- Multiple stories in a shared world seem more cohesive and better overall than multiple stories where the authors are working in different worlds. I understand the latter is the norm, but so much of the feedback about 2054 has mentioned those little touches where we hooked into each other’s stories and how it made the individual stories fit so well together.