Writers, long domesticated by publishers, producers, and other men in suits, are now empowered to break through the barriers and take charge of their careers as never before. That was the message writers Jim Sorenson (Transformers Animated: The Allspark Almanac, Vol. 2 ) and Courtney Joyner (Stealing Candy) shared at the Alameda Writers Group (AWG) July general membership meeting, July 9, at the Glendale Public Library in Glendale, California. Former AWG President Brian McCarthy (Brimstone ) hosted the seminar on alternative outlets for writers, including film, traditional books, graphic novels, video games, the Internet and e-books.
Jim Sorensen had been a fan of Transformers toys and cartoons since 1984 and in 1994 began to participate in online Transformer fandom. One of his early contributions was to decipher the Transformer glyphs used in the cartoons, so they could be translated into English. “It was a one-to-one character replacement,” he explained. “Mostly they said things like ‘send help’ or ‘begin the attack,’ but in the fourth program of the second season they flashed a message on the screen which translated to ‘If you can read this, seek help.’”
The help Sorensen did seek was in promoting his books and he received that from other fans. “I contacted Transformer and GI Joe fan sites, and used Facebook and Twitter.” He scored big with Twitter. “I created a user account for the character Sentinel Prime and tweeted as the character. I had over 5000 followers. When these hard core fans like what you’re doing, they’ll tell their friends, re-tweet, and repost. Friend to friend marketing like that is the most effective kind.”
Courtney Joyner used alternate media to re-invent himself several times. His first screenplay sold soon after college and his first produced work was a 1983 sci-fi anthology called The Offspring starring Vincent Price, Clu Gulager and Susan Tyrrell. Joyner went on to pen nearly 25 more scripts for features, TV-movies and episodic TV.
“About ten years ago,” he confided, “I hit a wall. I was considered too old to do re-writes of films I had originally written.” He worked for a while writing videogames and then returned to an old passion. He had always been interested in westerns, so he began a career writing in and about the western genre. Now he promotes through social media and his books sell on the Kindle.
As a film journalist, Joyner’s articles have appeared in Wildest Westerns, Round-Up, Fangoria, Famous Monsters Of Filmland, The Hollywood Reporter, and others. He wrote chapters for such non-fiction books as John Ford: A Life.
“You can do it now all alone without a traditional publishing house,” he said, “but there is still something to be said for having an editor. On the first western I wrote, I received an e-mail from my editor in Spain, telling me that for a horse to injure that part of his body, it would have to be ‘upside down on his back.’ Without an editor,” Joyner concludes, “I wouldn’t have known I needed to learn about equine anatomy.”
McCarthy pointed out that now, the writer can hire an editor, not the other way around.
McCarthy, Sorenson and Joyner all agreed that establishing a reputation and a following outside of traditional publishing companies was a good strategy for success. McCarthy pointed out, “By completing the writing and illustration for all the volumes of our graphic novel, the publisher was glad to take it on. We saved them a lot of their traditional workload.” As for Joyner, now that he has established his alternative media credentials, his career has gone full circle. He has been rediscovered and has a new screenplay in pre-production, Captain Nemo.