It’s Business Time


I decided to order business cards to take to Asylum, so that when interesting steampunk people give me their cards I can offer them mine in return, and so that in everyday life when people ask me what I do I don’t have to scribble the name of the website on the back of a receipt. These business cards just arrived from Beanprint and I couldn’t be more pleased with them – high quality printing, good solid card, very fast delivery and best of all an easy to navigate ‘design your own card’ app on the website which I took advantage of. I’d recommend them highly.

And once again I am having feelings of ‘Yay, I’m a real author’ interspersed with ‘Oh fuck, I’m a real author’. I suspect these happen to all authors all the time, but particularly to self-pub people who have to cope with a real or perceived barrage of ‘But it’s not being properly published, is it?’ from the sidelines.

I think there are two closely entwined but separate phenomena going on here. Firstly, there’s the feeling that there are two opposed writer tribes, the Trads and the Indies, engaging in turf wars like some much less well-coordinated version of the Sharks and the Jets. I know enough people who have gone back and forth between independent and traditional publishing, and enough setups involving cooperatives or tiny presses with very specialised catchment areas or whatever, to know that it’s all more complicated than that. But it’s all very new and very much in flux and not everyone pays attention to trends in publishing any more than I, say, pay attention to developments in Ruby on Rails, and sometimes a bit of gentle explaining is going to be called for, followed by a restorative beverage of one’s choice.

The second phenomenon is what happens when people start trying to police who counts as a writer, with occasional side scuffles about how you define a writer as opposed to an author. My views on this are defined by having been involved for years in the goth scene, which functions as a very effective boot camp for knocking sense into anyone who’s inclined to tell other people how to define themselves.

In explaining this, it’s not really possible to do any better than the venerable Tao Of Goth by Count von Sexbat, but basically, you absolutely cannot tell whether someone self-identifies as a goth by whether they dress like one. Also, every single goth or goth-dressed person you meet will tell you that they dress this way to express their individuality, and pointing out that they’re expressing their individuality in the same boots and the same longsleeve as three other people in the room is kind of missing the point; there’s a context beyond the room full of goths, and that’s where it all makes sense.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who write professionally and want to differentiate themselves from hobbyists, particularly when it comes to getting it through to well-intentioned friends and family members that working from home really is working and therefore you can’t just drop everything and go do something else for an afternoon without notice. I have a lot less sympathy for people running around putting up home-made barriers saying ‘You only count as a writer if you make money at it!’ or ‘You only count as a writer if you fit my criteria for good writing!’ or ‘Hey, let me tell you how you can discover whether you qualify as a writer – pay me to critique your work!’ (There are good critiquing services out there who provide an excellent service. It’s just that there’s the odd bad apple in every barrel)

So, here’s my definition. Are you real? If you are actually a logical abstraction or an imaginary number, write a memoir anyway. People who buy popular science books in the hope of finding out what the hell quantum entanglement actually is will buy it, I promise you. If you are real, pass on to the next question.

Do you write? If not, you’re not a writer, though if you worldbuild for years or invent conlangs or whatever, I would still love to sit down and talk to you. If you spend a lot of time talking about how you’d like to write but you don’t think you’re good enough, you might want to check out NaNoWriMo. If you spend a lot of time talking about how you’d like to write but you don’t have the time… eh, there are a lot of worse hobbies out there.

If you do write, congratulations! You have the Ankaret Wells Seal Of Being A Real Writer and have my official permission to go and order yourself some business cards.

Wow, this got long. Anyway, I am not associated with Beanprint and am not getting any freebies from them, and this is not a sponsored post. In fact I’d be kind of surprised if I ever did a sponsored post, though if someone wants to send me a 3D printer to see how it stacks up against an imaginary Retort, drop me a line.

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