Interview with Alexandra Erin
The writers' space I belong to asked me to write up an essay about this wacky new publishing model I
stole borrowed from AE, and which she pungled together from intuition and watching web comic artists. She graciously allowed me to interview her via email for that essay. Here's the full interview.
MeiLin Miranda: Without divulging specifics, how are you doing financially with this, say, on a scale of illegal immigrant dishwasher to rock star?
Alexandra Erin: I'm doin' alright. I'm getting by. Somebody who had a mortgage and a car payment and kids to put through college probably wouldn't be able to live as comfortably as I do. Living in the midwest rather than on one of the coasts probably helps. I've seen some pretty dismal statistics from "professional" authors who've never actually made a living on their writing, and I'm doing better than that, anyway.
I'm actually making pretty close to what I was making seven years ago, when I got my first "adult" job, so in some ways it's like starting over. I used to have a troll who'd try to guess at my financial situation and mock at the fact that I called myself a success, but I look at what I've got as a decent start for an "entry level" type position. I forward to building on what I'm making.
MLM:How long have you been at this?
AE: Well, I first started writing and putting it on the internet in high school. It was pretty lame and nobody saw it who wasn't already my friend. I saw a bit of the potential there, but there wasn't any blogging software (the word "blog" hadn't even been coined yet) or PayPal or anything like that. At that point, I was still thinking in terms of the Fairy Tale... some random high-powered editor would see my story and snap me up. I was fifteen.
Seeing the way the internet was maturing (so to speak), I quit college in 2000 to focus on my writing. My focus kind of wavered over the years, but in 2004 I started writing seriously and posting it on the web. I experimented with formats and with marketing techniques. I ended up scrapping most of what I wrote and starting again, more than once.
Summer of 2007 was when everything sort of clicked. I'd been ignoring the bog format... blogs were for journals, not for stories! But I wasn't making any headway and I felt like I was spinning my wheels, so I started Tales of MU out of the blue and I started it on Livejournal. It was an instant hit, and I'd soon moved it to its own Wordpress blog.
Within a couple months, it was clear that it was financially viable. By November, I'd quit my job and was writing full time.
MLM: How the hell do you manage to juggle FOUR of these web serials at once? (I suspect you have no children. You haven't lived until you've written an anal sex scene with a 6-year-old hanging over your shoulder. Don't call family services, she can't read yet.)
AE: Yeah, see above. No kids. I'll confess I don't yet have it down to the point where I can do all four reliably, but the way I see it, there's only so far I can go with one story all the time. It may be that some of the other ones will wither away and die, or I might end up alternating... do one arc for Void Dogs, and then one arc for 3 Seas. I'm still experimenting.
MLM: Is it my imagination or is this form exploding? I don't think it is, which brings the follow-up, why?
AE: I believe it is. I take credit for some of that, in all modesty. I've had too many people tell me I inspired them, or gave them the idea, or the courage, for me not to believe I've had some impact. I've also ran into people who came up with it on their own. I'd say it's simply an idea whose time has come. The technology is here. The demand is here.
MLM: Did you try to go the usual route and chose this as "second best"? And I say that as someone who looked at the usual route, up which so many of my friends are thanklessly slogging, looked at your trail meandering off into the woods, and thought, you know, that one looks like way more fun...
AE: Oh, hell no is this second best! I've been looking at the "traditional" route for years and I just did not like what I saw. I like it less and less all the time. Everywhere you look it's the same story: lost revenues, shrinking royalties, major bookstores selling books at a loss... honestly, why would anybody bother? The publishing industry claims they can't pay their writers more because they're losing money to free content online. That means the free content is where the money is... and the audiences, too.
Also, when I talk to some people within the publishing industry--and I'll stress that this is only some of them--the thing that strikes me is the elitism, the arrogance, and the utter disconnection that some of them have with their audience. It borders on disdain. I don't want to end up another High Priest living in seclusion in a towering fortress, looking down with contempt on the people who pay my wages. I want to be in the thick of things. I want to connect to my readers. The internet does that.